Last Saturday I participated in the graduation for the First Class of our Rangers Apprenticeship. Upon seeing our Apprentices stand before over 200 friends, family, and community members, I finally realized what this special program was about, and where it might possibly lead.
This past year I’ve watched teens craft their own bows, sleep in debris shelters with no sleeping bags, track herds of elk, and make fires with no matches. Yet these skills were not the most vital part of the program. I recognized a very specific quality of character developing in these students, an ethos only the wilderness offers.
Certainly “outdoor education” can “build character,” but any member of our Rangers Guild takes wilderness immersion much further. Nature becomes a soulful teacher of resiliency, empathy, and true personal strength. In a week of camp we can touch upon these truths, but a full shift in perspective requires a commitment to time and reflection.
Rangers see the wild places they visit as part of their family. They even establish a personal “Rangers Camp,” a place where they sit and listen to all the “other people” who live in their village: Wrens, Deer, Elk, and more. One morning this May, while training to sit stone still at the edge of the old-drained lakebed, our teens heard a single Coyote yelping joyously as it moved through the willow thicket only 12-paces away.
In my day, I’ve heard plenty of wild coyotes chatting, yet I’m sheepish to admit that this time caught me off guard. I could physically feel a change in the air as our kids born to the fields, suburbs, and city finally slipped into the realm of the deeper wild.
And we needed the 9-months to get there. We needed them to sleep in just leaves and sticks through one dark night. We needed them to feel the cold rain while welcoming the fire they made. We needed them to softly ask forgiveness from the vine maple as they worked with almost blistered hands, crafting the knotted branch into a bending bow for arrows. And we needed them to puzzle out life and death through the tracks of a family of elk and one stalking cougar.
If they didn’t, I guarantee you, the Coyote would not have come that morning.
Way of the Ranger
I was a fortunate witness to a very unique crossing, one I hope they’ll never look back from. Everyone noticed a small part of it at graduation. Now, the question remains: how is that primal character, that wild reserve, useful in this modern world? What lies ahead for our Rangers?
The complex embodiment of natural strategies might help in academics or careers. Balanced outdoor activity may lead to a healthier life. Wilderness living skills could even provide for a hearty pursuit of adventure and creativity.
But I sensed another possibility with our Coyote. I realized it again on the day of our Rangers Apprenticeship graduation. It was the quiet edge only nature can provide; the same potential I sought out when I left school at 14 years old to make the wilderness my only way and study. It was the course that lead many of us to Trackers.
And it is a path far easier to walk together, as a village exploring what it means to be fully connected and free human beings.
Trackers Earth, Founder