Looking out, seeing in

I wrote the following in support of an organization that strives to connect youth with wilderness. I feel even more strongly now in these days of turmoil that if we can ground our children in the strength and gifts of wild places, as wild as we can get them to, they will have a chance to discover the strength and gifts in themselves that they will need as they go forward. It's a window that opens onto my deeply held beliefs about nature, about parenting, and about the well of possibility that bubbles in our young people.  I'm sharing it because as parents, sometimes we need to look through our children's eyes.
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     I think it was the car ride home when she said it. Jo was in the back seat gazing out the window, far from her canoe's stern seat on the Missinaibi River. But I think that's what she was seeing in her mind's eye, the long view over water and scrubby vegetation that opens up to the sky of the far north:

“You know, the more beautiful stuff you look at, the healthier your eyes get.” 

"Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing."
~ Henry David Thoreau ~
      All summer this theory, proposed by her bowman Annie, had been a guiding point for them. Living with the land, following the water, reading the sky, their journey took them far from the ease of home. With each sunset or waterfall, I imagine them turning to each other knowing that yes, their eyes were growing stronger, and so was their friendship, their inner strength, their physical endurance, their freedom.

     This is why I support the work that organizations like Wabun do. They do what I as a parent can't do. A journey into wilderness with capable peers, supported by a base of experienced and tested staff, strips these young people of the noise and stress and temptations of their home world and adds the self-knowledge, surety and confidence that comes when life is simplified to its most basic – and beautiful – self.

     I've been a camper on wilderness journeys myself. I've led them. It was with awe and hope that I watched my own children leave me to embark on their own journeys. And Jo, my daughter in the back seat? Now she's head staff at Wabun leading young women on their own journeys towards Hudson Bay.

"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."
~ John Muir ~
      Friends of Wabun* was formed to support these kinds of organizations and the youth who seek these opportunities. I give out of gratitude for what I consider the most important, self-defining, and empowering experiences my children have had. I give because I believe that these organizations need to stay alive. I give because I know that young people from all walks of life need this, and their world will be a better place for them and their peers. I give because I want their inner-looking and their outward-seeing eyes to be strong. 

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*The organization I support is Friends of Wabun. Whether it is through urban-based programs working to get youth into natural settings for a meaningful experience, partnerships with indigenous communities, camps like Wabun, or other organizations sharing our goals, our work is to support the confluence of youth and wilderness. A statement of our guiding beliefs is here

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