As the parent of a 15 year-old son, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the journey we are on together and how to best support him on his way to becoming a man. Having an obedient child would be easiest, but many children that are complacent as pre-teens become angry terrors in their teen years. Besides, obedience is a quality that I value in a dog, not a man.
I looked at the adults that I admired and enjoyed spending time with. What characteristics did they have in common? These individuals were confident, open-minded, decisive, compassionate, positive, grateful, intuitive and had a great sense of humor. And more to the point, these people knew themselves deeply, knew what they wanted to get out of life, and knew how to have fun doing it. They walked their own path. They didn’t ask for permission or wait for help or for someday to arrive before beginning the process of living their life to the utmost.
I realized that my son needed support to grow into this and that the typical public school focus on intellect, obedience, schedule, differences, and judgment would not give him all that he needed.
Fortunately for my son, much of the guidance he needed came naturally. He was born in a house with no electricity on an island off the coast of British Columbia. He learned to walk on uneven ground and most of his toys were rocks and sticks. Though we moved inland eventually, he was almost always in nature, attuned to the rhythm of the land and sea.
He learned about natural consequences. Sitting quietly meant that animals would approach curiously; being loud and unaware meant that the animals would leave. Patience yielded fish. Attention to detail brought beautiful agates from amongst the thousands of stones we walked over. Awareness and presence kept his small fingers safe when carving with his knife. Persistence enabled him to eventually catch fish by hand and touch a deer. Every success gave him confidence in his ability to achieve whatever he wanted most.
Eventually, he and I moved away from the wilderness and small towns of the remote places we called home. We moved to Los Angeles, and a nature boy was dropped into a totally different sort of wilderness, one characterized by concrete, people and the sounds of traffic. Would his “bush skills” serve him here?
The answer is a resounding “YES”. After nearly a year in LA, he is happy, focused on doing well in school, looking forward to driving a car, dating, starting his own business, and popular with both his peers and adults. He is coming to know himself deeply, what he wants to get out of life, and he is definitely going to have fun doing it!
When a person knows WHO he is, then his behaviors will be a natural consequence of that knowing. Every action will flow from choosing out of all of the options the one most in alignment with that inner knowing. From those actions will unfold a life in alignment with his core. He will have a career, friends, lover, car, house and all the rest that he wants because they are natural consequences of his actions, just like the natural consequences he learned in the bush. Being leads to doing leads to having.
I’ve been teaching Stone Age skills and nature connection for 27 years. I do so because I love seeing people succeed. Every quality that a child needs to learn to get the most out of life is easier to learn in nature than anywhere else because our instincts are still alive within us. We remain instinctual beings, covered only by a thin veneer of sophistication.
Nature and the skills of ancient gatherer-hunter peoples (your ancestors) help to fill in the pieces that are missing from society today. Understanding one’s place within nature as a “member of” rather than a “master over” provides a sense of community and stability. Knowing how to meet one’s needs directly from the land instills confidence during uncertainty.