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)