This past week I made my annual pilgrimage to recharge my soul at the Ontario Nature Youth Summit. It was my privilege to be invited to workshop at the first Summit held at Cedar Glen YMCA four years ago. Now utilizing the incomparable Geneva Park YMCA site on Lake Simcoe, the Ontario Nature staff continue to bring together an increasing number of intelligent, passionate, and environmentally literate young leaders from across the province of Ontario to protect and conserve our incredible planet.
I must be doing something right, because they keep inviting me back. These are not the inspirational keynotes of old, but a simple opportunity to be children in the woods once again. We walk through the meadows and forests of whatever site is hosting us, and celebrate the wonder and mystery of the natural world, including ourselves. Then we take home the challenge – what next? What do I do in my own life to use my voice, with my own passion, to pay back the gift of being lucky enough to live and learn in Canada. But for a roll of the dice, every participant is keenly aware, they could have been born a young girl in Afghanistan with a totally different future.
I think I am for them the living proof of the old Barry Lopez adage: that sometimes it takes someone much older and wiser to affirm for children, without a word being spoken, what a deep fierce pride we can take in all is, this celebration of life that is all around us, and that we can grow old knowing that it will never be lost.
Two decades ago I had a children's story published about a frog and a snake who just wanted to be friends – it is a wonderful old West African folktale that Annick Press published as In the Great Meadow. As we explored our environment, one student walked in from the meadow with a leopard frog perched in the palm of her hand. Another approached from the other side with a garter snake coiled in her hand. They held their hands together and the frog and snake nestled in beside each other. "You make a wish and I'll make a wish too, and may your wish and my wish both come true."
I can now grow old, knowing that this will never be lost.
Skid Crease, Caledon