As winter winds on and the snow piles up outside the windows of my small cabin, it is easy to appreciate the wonder of the natural world. There is the ruffed grouse that scurries around the perimeter of my clearing, hiding in the shadows of the cedar and fir trees. A red squirrel has taken up residence with a long tailed weasel on my back porch making an acorn mess in my storage boxes and eating the grouse feathers I had saved to tie flies with. When the sun comes out, the sky radiates a deep blue that is a great tonic after so many damp and cloudy days, cloudy days made warm by the hard maple I harvest and burn in my small woodstove.
I know that not everyone has been given the opportunity to learn to see nature in the same light as I do, and I feel very fortunate. For me, my reverence for nature is based not purely on an aesthetic/spiritual base, but also on a utilitarian level as I am fully aware it is those snow covered woods that provide me with firewood, food, and fresh water. Because of that hands-on relationship I know those resources must be protected, as they form the foundation of my ability to exist in this corner of the world. It is through developing this lifestyle- based necessity for nature that there is hope for the next generation to do a better job taking care of our home that this generation and those who have come before us have done.
We need the next generation to have a direct relationship to nature, not just an emotional connection. As Roderik Nash said “In the American past, wilderness advocacy characteristically took the form of highly emotional and often frantic defense of particular places, species, or experiences: “Save the Grand Canyon!” or “Stop Slaughtering Baby Seals!” Such exhortations passed for argument. No one, at no time in the movement, was supposed to ask “Why?” Wilderness appreciation was a faith.”
We at Jack Mountain look forward to another summer in northern Maine working with children and young adults helping to instill a hands- on appreciation for the natural world. Our goals are to give our students the instruction to insure success and the space to encourage growth. Although, I can tell you after many years working with students of all ages, I feel that we get just as much out of the experience watching kids be kids (and adults be kids too!). This year we are offering a teen bushcraft week as well as our popular family bushcraft week and have a little space left in July and August for any person/group wishing to plan a private program with us.
Our hope is simple: by bringing the next generation into nature we can build the foundation for a lifetime of appreciation and love for the natural world, an appreciation and love based on direct interaction, not just a romanticized idea of what life in the wild is. To us, we consider any of our youth programs a success when there is dirt under fingernails, wild food on the menu, well cared for tools on hand, and talk of seeing each other next summer to continue on the path of relearning what it means to be a human living on Earth.