As we explore our Spirituality theme of Stewardship and Service, teachers and students have been talking about the importance of taking care of the earth, and sharing ways in which they enjoy being in and around nature. Mr. Guzman shared this story in assembly this week, and I was so moved by it I asked if he would be willing to share it as a guest blog. As a child who grew up in the city, and often felt stifled and trapped in the heat of the summer, Mr. Guzman’s words really resonated with me.
I am a part of nature. For each of us humans there is no denying that. We are connected to its many complex structures in the most basic yet essential ways: it is a necessity that we are able to breathe oxygen and it is essential that we consume water. It is ideal that we receive Vitamin D through sunlight and yet unlike any other living organism in nature, humans seek out ways to separate ourselves from nature, most typically under the guise of progress or distancing ourselves from baser instincts: we are humans not beasts. However as we invent, innovate, create and orchestrate, humans have a tendency to overlook nature, in spite of the necessities I just mentioned. Perhaps I failed to mention one more necessity: immersing oneself in nature and the environment.
When I was eight years old I attended sleep away camp for the first time. Growing up in the city and having spent every previous summer in the city, my parents wanted something different for me, something better. Summers in the city are rough. It’s not just hazy, hot and humid. Puddles and overflowing garbage cans reek, the streets are over crowded with tourists, daytime television is atrocious and overall as a kid with working parents it was downright boring. But was I excited to get away? No. I had never been away from my parents for longer than a sleepover, let alone two weeks, plus I was going to be celebrating my ninth birthday at camp. But I wasn’t going to be alone, my cousin Micah had been there before and he was going to be there again. I was nervous, but at least I had my cousin. Sure I was homesick at first, but camp was fun and I made friends really quickly. But then nature stepped in and Hurricane Hugo hit. I am a part of nature. And it is terrifying. In the aftermath, massive trees were down all over and there was no power, but thankfully no one was injured. We all left camp two days earlier than planned because there was a state of emergency. I was relieved everyone was okay and happy to see my parents, but I had been a part of nature. Where others may have said I’m done with nature, I’ll take summers in the city again, I was left with an appreciation for my experience as well as inspiration.
I returned to my summer camp for the next ten consecutive summers. In my time there I learned how to build one-match fires and build stretchers to carry wood. I chewed on birch branches for the first time and drank purified water from a stream. I learned how to do a front flip off of a sand dune in a rock quarry. I canoed down the Connecticut River from Kings Falls, Vermont to the Hydro Electric Dam South of Brattleboro. I even convinced the foreman that she should give a friend and me a tour of the dam. All of these experiences can be sought in the city I suppose - at a gym or a park or even a really immersive video game or IMAX movie. But in all of those settings there are boundaries and predictabilities. They are canned and manufactured. I want to feel the texture and grit of rock formations, taste the air after a rain storm and see thick globules of fog rest gently above still lake water creating the illusion of endless sky. I am a part of nature.
Questions? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org