Tuesday, July 16, 2013

California Wilderness: Growth

On July 1, the Summer California Wilderness group departed on their six-week journey. The group faced many challenges: several students were backpacking for the first time, everyone was just meeting for the first time, and no one knew what to expect!

As one of their assignments, each student has been asked to submit a reflection from the field. Some may write about their engagement with the course material, others may focus on their relationship with nature, their fellow students, or themselves. What better way to start of than with a post that touches on all three?

From Kai Lee Herbertson:

How am I to communicate what the Sierra Institute has done for me? Although I have only completed one leg of our six-week long trip, I already feel such a connection to the subjects we have discussed, my own personal development, and the growing identity of the group as a whole.

Oftentimes while doing the readings, I laugh outright thinking: this is CLASS! The educational component of our experience is an almost bizarre contrast to what is normally viewed as academic. How lucky we are to sit on a stony riverbank with our toes in the water, and read the words of authors who truly speak to us! Many of my classmates are passionate about the subjects we explore, and whether that is environmentalism, social justice, or just plain great writing, it makes for powerful discussion.

Being in the backcountry has been an important part of my life, and retaining a strong connection to the natural world is something that I wish to carry into the next chapter. Sierra Institute allows for a safe place for that development, both physically and emotionally. A powerful positive regard for each individual in the group allows for everyone to satisfy their own personal needs, everything from alone time to think, meditate, and explore, or opportunities to bond as a community. Teamwork is practiced when we make dinners in pairs, group decisions, or fireside music. The safe, non-judgemental space that we hold for each other here is a huge part of what makes the experience so comfortable for so many different kinds of people.

It has been beautiful to watch the tribe develop, even in this short amount of time. I know for a fact that every person has had their boundaries pushed in a healthy, supported way. For some, that has taken the form of the physical act of packing in; for others, it has been learning how to listen to a new friend with an open heart, or having the courage to speak their truth during council or in our day-to-day interactions.

I didn't really know what to expect when I applied for the Sierra Institute, but so far I have certainly gotten a lot out of the experience. I can only imagine what the coming weeks will bring, but I know already that whatever it may be, it will certainly further each of our development--intellectually, personally, and as a thriving community.

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