Rangers call their shelter the trees, mountains, sky, stars and the moon herself.
–From Scáth: The Dairies and Wanderings of an Early Ranger
“Rangers Revive the Village,” that’s what I told my group of Rangers Apprentices one weekend before they headed out to sleep in their survival shelters for the night—without sleeping bags. Someone might say:
What’s the big deal about sleeping in a well organized pile of leaves?
I have plenty of adults who are not ready for it. Blankets, cloth, spun fiber—in the grand scheme of things, these are relatively recent conveniences. Yet we cling to them, shuddering from cool nights and immersion into the elements that offer the thin and thoughtful sleep guiding us into the twilight of dawn.
Where we sleep, where we dream, defines us in more ways than we know. That weekend, our Rangers Apprentices were actually quite warm, yet some made it longer in their shelters than others. This was their first time. Your modern thoughts wear at you, itching away like the unfamiliar yet familiar bed of leaves, trapped in the necessary snugness of the shelter as you are forced to sleep on your belly, chin to the Earth.
These elemental limits are important opportunities. We build more than the ability to craft a solid shelter that keeps you alive, though that mission we accomplished. We cultivate stillness and calm in the debris of the wild; cool leaves, dark, and woody fragments.
As every good Artisan will inform you, this story is best told, or lived, in stages. Small and grand, rites of passage represent a transition between Acts. When they walked into Fire Watch after sleeping hours or the entire night in the hut, our Rangers instructors welcomed them to another transition. “Sit with us and keep Fire Watch for your village.”
Some kept vigilant sentry with the starry sky for the rest of the dawn, while others woke-up to find juncos foraging near them, near invisible to the morning birds while resting in their “well organized pile of leaves”.
Stillness through Fire Watch. Stillness through sleeping in the most elemental of beds. These are the fundamental yet powerful goals for our Rangers. This rite of passage becomes the first step in the first Act of the story of a village.