The Ideal Passion of Youth

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.

Frog and SnakeTwo 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

One thought on “The Ideal Passion of Youth

  1. My wife and I lived and worked as educators in Gjoa Haven, Northwest Territories but when we went south for our holidays we taught our first born daughter Kaitlin what trees were all about because we didn't have any in the high arctic. She was only two and we had answered at least a million questions about everything under the sun that second summer – what the various parts of a tree were; what was an insect and why they were so good for us; why was the sky blue, and urine always yellow. When we returned from our summer vacation we went for a walk on the beach and the seagulls were flying overhead as usual when one of them lost a feather and it came floating down to earth from side to side. Without a moments she looked up at me and said, "Is that a bird leaf Daddy?"
    Whenever I remember this I well up with emotion inside because it makes me realize what a wonderful gift being young is; how amazing my daughter's thought processes were (and still are) to put the two concepts together, and why it is so important to be close to nature. To ask questions and search out the answers no matter what age you are or what language you speak. Kaitlin and Erika spent hundreds/thousands of hours travelling with me on our three wheelers, snow machines, sleds, dog teams, ATVs, boats, canoes; climbing, rapelling, walking or hiking over the years and I am thrilled that we spent the time learning together.
     

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