At the beginning of the week, we got a pretty heavy snowstorm here in Vermont. The snowfall was wet and heavy and took out a lot of trees in the area. This caused power outages nearly statewide and required the power companies to bring in employees from as far as Quebec to help get the grid back up. Our power just came back on late last night.
I spend a good portion of the year living at the field school, which has no wires or pipes coming in our out of the property. We get by with simple but stand-alone systems like wells for water and solar for our limited electrical needs. What always strikes me when I leave the school is how much extra work is created when convenient modern systems stop working and there isn’t a backup plan. More telling is seeing how difficult it is for people to even know what a good back up looks like if they’ve never really known any system besides the one that’s stopped working.
In talking about the work I do with people that I meet, the inevitable question that arises always starts with “why”. Not in flabbergasted disbelief, but with genuine curiosity about the programs and what people get out of them.
There are plenty of reasons to participate in a long-term, immersion style outdoors program. A deeper understanding of the natural world, a break from the constant hubbub of modern life, even using it as a place to see a different approach to education than a classroom setting. All of these have validity and a poetry of sorts to them. However, I would argue that seeing our systems, and living with them is an undertone that doesn’t get nearly enough lip service.
Not all of our students are going to be bushcraft instructors, or guides or buy property and homestead. That’s not a dig at anyone. As I said before, people come to our school for a myriad of reasons, and our programs are much more enjoyable for students and instructors alike because of those diverse backgrounds. Regardless of where students end up after one of our programs though, they will at some point lose power or experience some other temporary removal of convenience. Which is why this undertone our courses have involving systems for living and self-knowledge in the sense of physical needs such as safe drinking water or managing your body’s waste is something all students, regardless of their future plans, benefit from.