Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A walk inthe woods...

Testing a travois
We are having unseasonably warm weather in Arkansas and today we had an unusual high temperature in the 60s F. This AM I took my chain saw into the woods to clear our nature trail and prepare it for short hikes with my first, second and third grade students who are studying American Indians in class. They've made dioramas in boxes made in wood shop, built a small teepee in their classroom campus and studied tribes from all across the US.

Playing horse... or dog. Men and women also pulled travois.
Tarrah went in the cave to the end, touched the wall and came out
While we have a forested area of the main campus, it is overrun with kids. And when they get out of class and are permitted to go in the woods, the children are whooping savages in comparison to the more reverent way we would like them to address the woods and wilderness.

Today my experiment was be to get them to walk more carefully, more quietly, and with greater sensitivity through the woods, with greater attention paid to observation and reflection. Do you know how difficult it has become to be silent? To have the capacity to maintain silent focus, to be still  in mind and body is of immense value. To listen, to observe closely, unimpaired by the chattering monkey mind can be the way new insights emerge, and can offer a path to transcendent understanding.

I believe that the internet age has made things worse for all of us. We are in a hurry for our information, and read only part way through things before we frame our response. For instance, this morning I got an email from a reader of my book Simply Beautiful Boxes. He is a very capable cabinet maker but had not understood a sequence of photos which he could have understood if he had read the text.  Also, I got a response to an email in which the correspondent had missed the primary point my earlier message had made. If our minds are too full of constant chatter, there is no-one listening, and there is no capacity for observation. How can we listen if we are full of ourselves?  And so there is a need to slow things down.  A walk in the woods can do that.

I asked my students to be silent. I asked them to walk with attention to quiet feet, as though we are on the track of wild game that must not be frightened. That is one of the better lessons we might learn from our nation's tribal heritage. Today they did well. As shown in the photos, we also made a travois, and tested it.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are, among other things, teaching mindfulness, which is not an easy job. If your students can begin to learn that, they will learn a very valuable lesson.

Mario