We have a saying here at the MVCS, which is “can you help me?” We practice it in our morning circle as we greet each other and the new day. Each of us has gifts to share and needs to be met. On our walk through Twisp Ponds on the way to our river camp out, we asked the trees and woods: can you help us? And they did. They gave us some of their wood to make into cooperation-walking sticks. Each stick was adorned with a piece of red yarn. So we crossed the river, which, even though it is low, is still rocky and flowing and deep in places. We held hands and held sticks and slowly made our way across to the land stewarded by Nate Bacon and Christina Stout where we made our camp for the night.
In teams, the children put up big group tents, one for the boys and one for the girls. Parents arrived with delicious dinner contributions. Because there is still a burn ban, we made a circle of candles inside the fire ring, and we drew our chairs close and sang songs celebrating the earth and its elements.
Dark came quickly with no moon. We sat briefly in the darkness and gazed up at the stars. Then, one by one, the headlamps came on, and children made their way to the tents. Some parents stayed, and some went home. Teeth were brushed, pajamas donned, and tents gave off golden light and giggles and shrieks. But not for long. Soon enough, the quiet fell along with the dew, and we slept to the song of the river.
With the sun came the sound of voices and running feet. We ate our breakfast and played by the river before holding our closing circle. Back at the river, we listened to a story about the way Seed arrived on Earth and became Tree, and how Tree fell down to Wood, that went back into Earth and nourished the resting Seeds, who once again became Tree. We each took a small stick and tossed it into the river saying “have a good trip to the ocean!” We used our trusty cooperation-walking sticks to cross back to the Twisp Ponds. There, we removed the yarn to take away as a reminder, and we left the sticks to do their work.
Everything we do is a lesson if we pay attention. We want to keep things that we love, and we are always being asked to let them go. The poet Mary Oliver says in her poem “In Blackwater Woods:”
To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal, to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends upon it, and when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
As the summer season winds down toward Autumn, we will have a chance to see how nature practices this with such grace. May we be observant.