I'm sensitive like that.
I belonged to an Explorer Scout group all through high school. I think they are called something else now. Venture Groups? Venture Posts? Anyway. It's a co-ed, "high-adventure" branch of the Boy Scouts (they also have programs for Police, Fire, and Rescue), and it was based out of the Nature Center at which I volunteered every Saturday morning from the time I was 12 until I was 18 or so. I even went a few Saturdays during breaks in college, but I stopped when I aged out of it. No one wants to be the creepy college kid, hanging out with highschoolers.
The Nature Center was small. An old farm house converted into a gift shop, a little classroom, an animal room full of local critters. Turtles and snakes and rodents, mostly. A mean raccoon who lived in his own little house outside. A skunk and some geese and a turkey, all not well enough to live in the wild. From time to time we'd get injured animals that were found somewhere and we'd keep them until the Game Commission stepped in and found a placement for them. We did a lot of nature hikes for scout groups and school groups and church groups that would come through on a Saturday morning. Letting them touch the friendlier animals before taking them for walks and pointing out trees and plants and bugs and habitat kind of stuff. There were big events, like the Maple Syrup Festival when we would boil down the sap from the tapped trees and eat pancakes and do crafty stuff with the little ones. Smaller events like Owl Calling Nights in the summertime, snowshoeing in the winter. Nothing major, but it was fun. A few of my friends from school worked there too, and it was a great way to hang out without getting in trouble. The Center was owned and run by the school district, so there was always something to do, and never a threat of having it taken away. My dad worked there when he was a kid. I went to Summer Camp there for a week each year when I was in grade school. If I stayed in Erie, Jake would be involved in what is offered there. That's the way it was there. Generations of people just hanging out and enjoying a beautiful space they were familiar with.
This post is going in three different places right now. I'm going to stick with the Nature Center. Then I'll go back to the Explorer Post, then I'll get on to the third little piece of squishiness. I'm having a hard time focusing today. It's 800 degrees in my office because it's practically tropical outside right now and they must've shut the heat off for the long holiday and then cranked it up big time to warm the building before we got here. I'm soupy. I have one of those Hurry Up and Wait days in the office, where everyone needs info NOW but no one is around to give it to one another. Social workers don't work in August and they don't work between Thanksgiving and New Year's. We are always given huge amounts of time off but we never have time to take off. So, the agencies that lose the time they don't use 90 days after the end of the fiscal year take it all in August. The ones who lose it at the end of the calendar year take it off now. Problem is, Social Work Administrators (hi! that's me!) need everything those times of year. So, it's frustrating. And now this post is in four different places.
Anyway, we went to the Nature Center and it was completely re-done and absolutely amazing and better than some of the zoos and learning places I've been to. Because I still pack a tiny bit of pull there, Jake got the behind the scene tour and got to hold a bunny and touch a snake and stuff. It was great having him there, even if it is nothing like I remember it. We didn't get to go back on the trails because of the
And the Explorer Post. That was amazing. If they have something like that in your town, definitely look into it for the kids. Hiking and backpacking and spelunking and white water rafting and rappeling and all sorts of outdoorsy stuff. One time we camped with horses down in Kelletville right off Rt666. It was amazing. Pack up the horses and hit the trails, set up camp, sleep, and do it again the next day. I remember watching the sun setting behind the ridge the horses were bedding on and it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
We all got along and we all helped one another out. Something happens on Day Three out on the Appalachian Trail that you just don't get hanging out in town. Makes me want to reconsider my career, apply in Outward Bound. That's what I would do, you know, if I wasn't a mom. Did I ever tell you that? I looked into it a few years ago. The hours are long and the pay is low but man alive, is that ever what I want to be doing. Maybe if I still have it in me when Jake leaves for college.
The Post was run by the Boy Scouts, yes, but it was totally devoid of anything Boy Scouty other than annual dues. No badges or oaths or secret handshakes or gay bashing or anything like that. And there were Athiests there too. I remember wondering if the BSA caught wind that there were kids there who didn't believe in God they would shut us down. I forgot to ask if the Post was still active. It doesn't seem that it is, I can't find anything about it online. Maybe that's why?
Do any of you allow your kids to be in the Boy Scouts? I come from a Scout family, but I just can't see myself putting Jake in the Scouts. I love most of what they do but hate their standards of admittance. Is it wrong to hate haters? Doesn't that make me one of them? I guess to avoid being a hypocrit I'll say that I love most of what they do but I'm not tolerant of spiritual persecution and discrimination based on sexual preference.
I'm really big on freedom, and can't open my wallet or my son's heart to an organization that isn't.
Thirty years ago I don't think that people thought about things like that, but it's different now. At least different under my roof. Some people don't mind a little bit of something they don't agree with here and there peppered into their child's life. I certainly don't, on a small scale. But Scouts is such a huge part of who a boy becomes. I just can't do it.
So what do you do with boys these days? If the scouts are out, I guess we just send them to sports all year round? Buy them an Atari or something and hope they don't get fat?
I really miss doing adventurous stuff, and I can't wait to teach Jake how to trailblaze and take care of himself out in the woods. I got a taste of it out West this summer, but hardly. We stayed in a hotel. Jake is still a little delicate for anything that I want to do in nature. And I hate half assing it in nature. If there's a toilet? I want no parts of it. Maybe wait until he's five.
So, when I go (went, it's been one hundred years) camping, I leave (left) little altars, little place markers, little cairns to commemorate where I've been. I gather pretty things from along the way and set them up nice at the end of the trip as a way to say thank you to the Earth for letting me be here, to show it what I love best about the place I stand. I'm weird like that.
I think we as a species don't appreciate the ground we walk on nor the things we pluck out of it and off of it to shove down our throats. I think we don't recognize the water we drink nor the air we breathe nor the beauty that surrounds us, even in the ugliest of times in the awfulest of places. So I do my part to make sure that the Earth knows someone does appreciate and recognize and care. I'm not hugging trees, or making sacrifices, or wearing hemp or anything. But I take a moment with my planet every now and then and build a little
I took Jake to the park yesterday. A typical City Park with a ground made of rehashed tires and play equipment that was probably donated with some sort of urban beautification grant. There are some largish saplings and some overgrown and flowering bushes, par for the course. Nothing special.
But to someone, it was:
I love things like this.
I love imagining little fists gathering the flowers and the rocks and the leaves and the pinecones and arranging them just so. A head cocked in concentration, a pink tongue sticking out the side of a slightly parted mouth.