Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hiding in the woods (just the beginning)

When I was in grade 4, our class went to Bronte Creek forest for an "eco-adventure." Each child was given an animal persona and a bracelet of "lives." There were herbivores (5 lives), carnivores (3 lives), and the teacher was "man." Most of us would be herbivores, and I desperately hoped I would not. But what other assignment would a teacher think to give someone like me, who seemed so quiet? I was a rabbit.

Herbivores were sent out into the forest with a 10 minute head start. The idea was for us to run around, find the "food" stations and gather up tokens for our bracelets through the course of the exercise. Carnivores, who came next, could take our lives by tagging us.

Desperately, we vulnerable herbivores ran around for 10 minutes trying to gather food and find a place to hide. Suddenly, we heard them crashing through the woods, whooping - the carnivores were coming! Panicked, we scattered. I was chased by a rather large boy (wolf), tripped over a root, and he landed on top of me. He grabbed one of my lives and took off. As I nursed my ankle, another carnivore ran up and took my life. I only had 3 left.

I hobbled to hide behind a pile of sticks, and I heard something inside. I was afraid, but I snuck around and found 3 other herbivores holed up, hiding inside what was clearly the abandoned living space of a larger animal than we were meant to be. They reluctantly let me in.

We listened to the terrifying sounds of our fellow herbivores being chased and losing their lives to the exuberant carnivores. We realized that we didn't have enough food tokens, but we were all too afraid to leave our "safe place." We piled what we had and split it evenly. One boy offered to take the first turn in getting more - when he didn't come back, we were all too afraid to be next. We spent most of the exercise there, wide-eyed with fear, not collecting food tokens, waiting out the game knowing we'd already lost. When the carnivores found us, we each lost two lives, and we realized that we weren't safe after all.

With my last life, I wandered deeper through the woods where the sounds of the others grew faded. I didn't collect food tokens. I hid from anyone I heard - I didn't take a chance on finding out if they were actually carnivores. The woods were dark and damp; I noticed the noises of the other kids and all I thought was, I hope they don't find me.

I heard shouting on a megaphone. Assuming the game was finished, I headed towards it, only to discover that the megaphone was Man. Man didn't need to tag us to take our lives - Man just had to name us. I handed over my last life, and I'll tell you, it was a relief.

Sometimes I wonder - am I living my life holed up in a pile of sticks that was never meant for me, waiting out the game knowing I've lost, afraid to venture forth in a world stacked against me? Is the alternative wandering alone, hiding myself from strangers, hoping I won't be caught? Or walking towards my ultimate demise thinking it's the path to safety, no longer caring if I'm out of the game?

I don't even know where to go with this line of thought.

(I've borrowed the photo from Vanilve)


  1. The not knowing where to go is fine, it is having the thought in the first place that matters.
    A rough game, for children, but, I suppose, a valuable one. We are all in this life, in one of those roles, and all of those roles. The bonus is the we ARE Man, and that allows us to think and ponder and play more than one role when we want to. To hide when we want to. To hunt. To cry, and to wonder why we are here.
    I don't want to know the answer, I just want to keep asking the question.

  2. I share my raw, very personal feelings with you - my tears of sadness, the ache in my soul as I read your words. I want to take you into my protective arms and hold you close, your head on my shoulder and whisper "it will be all right!" To quote one of my favorite songs - "in a different place and time".

    For now, let me just offer you the bright light of peace and hope that exists beyond the dark door you describe. It is a journey of rebirth and the birth canal is very painful. Once liberated though the soul, mind and heart may soar and grow.

    Do not sink into the darkness, take my hand and I will pull you up!

  3. I'm not sure what I am thinking, really, other than we all need each other. What separates us from "animals" per se is our ability to know when to reach out, when to pull back, and when to give. It's no the ability to "reason" as some people are so proud to say. It's the ability to share with each other this whole mixed bag of what's called "experiences". We never know if a path we wander along is a safe one. We just know it is immensely archetypal... it hasn't been traveled only by us. It is traveled by people before us, and will be traveled by people after us. There are unknown people traveling side by side us. It's just a matter of opening our eyes and realizing that we are not as unique as we hope are, and we are not as unique as we don't want to be.

    We are, after all, uniquely human.

  4. Mrs. M - I wonder a lot about wonder. And I'm glad we're asking questions together.

    Mike - I'm not sure how to respond to that, so thank you. I wonder how many rebirths I can handle. At least, like labour, when they're fast and furious we know we're closer.

    Cristina, if you were in my stick pile with me, I think we would have the courage to venture forth.

  5. This is such a powerful post - I honestly feel myself grappling with the higher concepts that I sense are permeating throughout it.

    Like Mrs. M ~ part of me responded with "what a horrible teaching technique for some children". I would have hated that game too - and would very likely have missed the teacher's 'lesson' completely, I'll bet most did actually.

    As often happens with me when I'm reading something that my inner Self deems significant, a song starts to play in my head. It comes out of nowhere, and in it (I've learned) is a message.

    Here's where your post has taken me:

    "There's a place for us,
    Somewhere a place for us.
    Peace and quiet and open air
    Wait for us



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