Last Friday at Fire Tenders began like any other: games, making a fire, and feeling the rain fall from the sky. It soon became apparent that this was no ordinary day in the woods.
We were visited by a group of wise and magical beings, whom we call Elders. They are one of the strongest parts of VWP, often sharing their wisdom and experience with the staff, the board of directors, and we are lucky to have them when they visit us during programs. They bring a perspective that no one else can, and the gift they give to the children is not really measurable.
The day was filled to the brim from the get go. While the Elders sat in discussion around our fire, the Fire Tenders were invited to one of our favorite challenges: A Blindfolded Drum Stalk.
They follow the sound of the drum through salal, through huckleberry, feeling their way along trail edges with their feet and hands, holding onto the firm shapes of trees while they wait for the next sound to give them direction.
For some, a Drum Stalk is a quick affair, with some self-selected peeking to feel safe. Some request a special challenge, being placed farther from the drum, even being placed in a dense thicket. What benefit could there be to having to navigate a dense forest without sight? What could that experience bring out of someone?
While much of the group was finished and were led silently back to the fire to eat, there were some students still working their way through the most difficult of areas. They went slowly, carefully, taking in information and responding to their senses.
When those last individuals rejoined the fire circle, they had looks on their faces that seemed calm, centered, tired, and full of satisfied effort.
From the isolation of a personal challenge like the Drum Stalk, we rejoined the group and shared our stories with the community, speaking our experiences, difficulties, successes, surprises, wonder, and joy. The day went on to bring Fire Tenders even more into a community of beings, dependent on each other for success, and in some games, even survival!
Fire Tenders became geese! Which goose makes the high pitched sound and which makes the low? Why do they make that sound at all?
Fire Tenders became entangled in a Human Knot! How did they get out? What tools did they use?
Fire Tenders became predators and protectors! How does it feel to be prey? How does it feel to hunt?
Fire Tenders became ants! How many Fire Tenders would it take to lift you up? How many did it take to life Instructor Hawk? How did it feel to be carried through the air by your fellows?
And lastly, Fire Tenders heard some words that were shared with the community by Paul Che oke’ ten Wagner, of the Vancouver Island Saanich tribe. At the end of the Storytelling Festival last weekend, he raised his hands to the VWP community. He implored us to remember that the motion, often implied as gratitude and respect, has a literal meaning as well, showing that, “We lift each other up.” That’s what communities do, and that’s what we strive for at VWP and Fire Tenders.
I certainly see that among these honorable beings we call Fire Tenders, and so, I raised my hands to them, and told them so.