Life As A Camper

By Green River Preserve

Yesterday, the first day of Mentor Hikes, a group of eleven campers gathered around a smooth stick of pine that was missing its bark and that measured about twelve inches long. They looked at it, picked it up, broke it to hear it snap, smelled it (“It smells like dirt!”), and one child even licked it (“It tastes like dirt!”).
“Is this stick interesting?” I asked.
“No,” said one camper. “There are a billion sticks like this one.”
Others disagreed. “What about humans? There are billions of us, too, but we’re still all individuals. That stick is an individual, too.”
We thought about these differing opinions – is a stick interesting or not? – and we decided that it is both, depending on whether we choose to be interested.

From that point on, for the rest of the Mentor Hike, we tried to look at the world with interested eyes. This led to campers pointing out salamanders and red efts, partly eaten mushrooms, a dark, spiky spider in the process of spinning a web, a bright blue fungus, a recently destroyed ant’s nest indicating the presence of bears, and a pink-and-yellow moth that appeared to be dead until it was suddenly, inconceivably, alive. We crossed a creek on a rope swing, ate sourwood leaves off a tree using only our mouths, hiked silently, sat high up in a treehouse, and fed the trout behind Sandy and Missy’s. “This is like having friends over and talking about nature,” observed Zan from Big Laurel 2 as we ate our snack.

Here at Green River Preserve, kids live similarly to the way they might have lived if they had been alive seventy or eighty years ago. The way we live here challenges our campers not just to put away technologies, but to interact with the world in wholly different ways than they are used to – to use not just their sense of sight and hearing, the senses that electronic screens engage, but also to touch, taste, and smell. We encourage them to get down low, lean in close, reach out their hands, and breathe deeply.
Our group reconvened in the treehouse after the silent portion of our hike, during which campers had walked a path strewn with notecards prompting them to do such things as, “Put your belly against this tree and look up,” and to consider “What does this place remind you of?” I asked how everyone was feeling.
“Content,” said Mirielle from Whippoorwill 2.
“Sleepy,” said Mason from Fireside 2.
“Ready,” said Eric from Fireside 1.
Though entering the GRP realm is certainly an adjustment from the ordinary world, your children are ready: ready for the joy, wonder, and peace that this place brings. We are ready, too: to fold them into this place and, once again, to welcome them home.

- Holly, Whippoorwill Mentor