Thursday, April 30, 2009

Core-distal contemplations

There's a lot for an IslandWood grad student to think about this time of year. I don't know if I am jumping the gun or not, but I've started thinking a lot about what's next. Up until now, our program has focused mostly on outward motivations, energies, and influences--learning from one other, making friends and forming a community, teaching the little IslandWood squirts, mentoring one another, etc. But recently, in our last quarter of the program, I've noticed this shift toward the inward focus. We were overwhelmed last quarter with groupwork and collaborative projects; and now we are swinging back into ourselves to work on our independent study projects, grant proposals and non-profit business plans, teaching practicum portfolios, and generally thinking about our individual futures.

It makes a lot of sense. We are definitely in the home stretch of the program, and it's hard not to ignore all the other stages we are rapidly approaching in our lives. It reminds me of a few things: The analogy of core-distal movement in our bodies to the rhythms of our days. We stretch out to the world and get all the information and nourishment we need throughout the day, then we shrink back in and say "hello me!" and figure out what to do with all this newly gathered material. (I learned this by taking a workshop on "Brain Dance", a theory of movement that works to enhance learning). And it reminds me of our Coyote Mentoring workshop, where we learned about the "medicine wheel"--the different energies of the day and how that corresponds to children's learning patterns, daily routines, and almost anything in nature! A person moves through a pattern of going out to the world, working hard, coming together to share and celebrate, then slowing things down and reflecting on what one has done, all to feed into the imaginative, dreaming phase where you get ready to start again, get inspired again, and work again.

But it's not the end yet! We have a whole month and half left. Remembering this makes me excited to make the most of it. Where's my planner? How many weekends are left for exploring our beautiful starting-to-be-sunny mountainous surroundings here in the Pacific Northwest? How many more chances do we have to come together and laugh about life and be our happy little community? Not a lot, but enough to make it a memorable ending that will then morph into a new, inspiring beginning.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring things

It's a windy, rainy Monday here at IslandWood, and I'm on a non-teaching week. That means I'm sitting inside looking out the window at the cold wet woods instead of traipsing around trails with ten kids in tow. It's funny though, somehow the rain seems much more miserable than it actually is, because when you're out there teaching in it, it's one of the last things on your mind in the course of a busy nature-filled day.

I'm remembering all the wonders of last week, though, when I was in the thick of it. All 27 of us grad students were out there teaching in teams, and we were all lucky enough to have sun shining on us most of that time. I remember being able to just feel all the things growing around me, and my skin was soaking up the rays just as voraciously as the baby-green buds and fronds and leaves. Indian plum shrubs were heavily laden with green spurts of leaves, crabapple trees at the harbor were bursting with white blossoms, alder trees were bedecked with long strands of catkin pods, which have started to spray pollen like fairy dust in the sunkissed breezes. Stinging nettle is shooting up like wildfire, and kids can't get enough of their salty spinach taste (despite the inevitable stings they get on their forefingers when folding the leaves). And my favorite, the odd little fiddlehead stalks that are subtly pushing their way through detritus on the trailsides speak to the many more changes to come.

More and more I'm coming to think of this place as an ever-changing playground where people of all ages can come to learn and play. All of us who can come here are so very very lucky, I realize. It makes me wish there were more places out there for people of all ages in which to discover nature + themselves. Then after all, that's why I'm here: Learning to make nature experiences more possible and wonderful for everyone, both now and in the future.