Angry From Manchester and the Good Life

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP imageRecently, I was reminded of something which happened 15 years ago, it made me chuckle so I’m going to share.

At the time I did some work for an outdoor clothing manufacturer. They had received a letter and thought that I ought to read it. “Angry from Manchester” had invested some real time in penning this missive. She obviously felt strongly. She had seen a brochure that I was involved in creating and wished to tell readers that  it was unrealistic.  She went to great lengths to say that no one smiled this much, no one had this much fun, no one looked this good and no one really did these things. She also went on to suggest it was immoral to use fantasy to sell clothing.

EPSON MFP imageMy laughing more and more as each sentence unravelled did nothing to assuage the concern of the gentleman who had given me the letter to read. Eventually he asked what I found so funny. At this point I felt I ought to come clean and so I asked if he remembered calling me asking if I knew any models that they might use. I had queried if they had a plan for the brochure and photoshoot and when the response had suggested that they did not I had seen an opportunity. We had talked about their first popular jacket being called the Torridon and how this might be a good location, we had then discussed how the mountains on the island of Skye were iconic and finally to round things off canoeing on some remote Scottish loch would provide balance to the imagery. He thought this sounded great and did I know of anyone who might be able to do it. I told him I did. What I did not tell him was that this was the vacation my then girlfriend and I had planned.

EPSON MFP imageLet me tell you being paid well for going on holiday is living the dream. Handing your expenses over to an accountant to repay is wonderful. Swopping out a tent for hotels because someone else is picking up the tab is sublime and then being given some R&R time in the most amazing hotel after the photographer has left is genius. “Angry” was never going to know just how real this brochure was. We were smiling and having fun for a reason; we had chosen to. I do not want to assume too much, however, I am guessing that “Angry” fails to understand the practicalities of this simple idea, consequently she misses out.

EPSON MFP imageWhat I have come to realize and yet sometimes forget is that when I know what I want then others will often help me achieve it. When I look for opportunities for mutual gains (win-win scenarios) we create an incredible “happy energy”.

As I look at friends on Facebook who still live “the dream” I am thankful the tradition lives on. Time for me to start spell making again and bring some more potent magic into our current good life. What are you doing to make your “good life”?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Adventure and Learning

IMGP0046

The second question of three.

In your experience, how does adventure learning contribute to a student’s academic and personal growth? Please address both types of growth.

Expeditions can greatly contribute towards building strength of character. Joseph Conrad in Lord Jim tells us that it is necessary for a youth to experience events which ‘reveal the inner worth of the man; the edge of his temper; the fibre of his stuff; the quality of his resistance; the secret truth of his pretenses, not only to himself but others.” Kurt Hahn

IMGP0046Recently a colleague has been dealing with a lot of bad luck. Following bankruptcy he had been clawing his way back by building a branding consultancy, just as things were starting to fall into place his partner ran with the money and accounts. Why am I telling you this in regards to adventure education? Well this gentleman used to sail big yachts and seeing him peering over the precipice of depression I decided to have a chat with him about his passion. We shared stories of dealing with duress outdoors and failing in life as depicted by a modern consumerist paradigm. We talked about how being in “adventurous situations” we did not whine, we just dealt with whatever circumstances were thrown at us. We did not find people to blame, we lived as our best selves. When we are functioning well we bring the lessons that we have learned outdoors into this modern conundrum that we call living. As we talked about John the outdoorsman vs John the business man a light started to shine in his eyes. As he remembered who he is outdoors he recognized who he can be in any other situation. He left our conversation with a renewed resolve that was wonderful to watch.

B Tech 1008Kurt Hahn was particularly impelled to bring Outdoor Education into his pedagogy because he believed that society was becoming diseased and that expeditions were one of the best form of therapy for the post industrial malaise he saw growing in Nazi Germany. The Salem School; Hahn’s first opportunity to practice his thinking, set out to to train young people to have moral independence, an ability to choose between “right and wrong,” and an improvement in their physical health. It strikes me that this is just as necessary today in America as it was then in Germany.

“We discovered that expedition training and expedition tests counteracted the unhealthy effect of undeserved hero worship. Not a few specialist athletes revealed in adversity a certain flabbiness of will-power which was well hidden in their ordinary life. The expeditions were sometimes of an arduous nature – long treks in the Alps, exploratory expeditions to Iceland and on the Payenne and the Seima Lakes in Finland. Again and again the average and even clumsy athlete excelled on such expeditions…” Kurt Hahn

IMG_0688This is a large part of my motivation to teach in the outdoors in that not only am I a “clumsy athlete” I also appreciate the contemplative nature of outdoor folk. Nature shows us that we are part of something much bigger than ourself which leads to the Eastern thinking that we are all connected. Anything I do to something or someone else ultimately affects me. This fosters a desire to nurture as ultimately I will also be nurtured. I feel this is the best way to bring about social justice and heal the evident issues we face in the West as demonstrated in an Aurora movie theater last year.

626546211_MzSPU-LA number of years ago Robert Fulgham wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I feel the same way about the outdoors. Relevancy and reality are amazing motivators when it comes to learning and the outdoors caters to both. I have yet to meet a student who having been advised to bring a jacket because it will be wet and cold, shown how to cook a meal and praised for a cooperative behavior and its benefit to the group does not open to my teaching.

A shared experience outdoors inevitably develops meaning that is understood and a connection between the teacher and students involved. I still feel strong ties to all the teachers who took me outdoors.

IMGP0695The raised level of engagement and cooperation that adventure demands opens a door to explore concepts that may normally be shut out by cultural demands. The idea of “I am not a mathematician” is usually left behind when we introduce math for navigation. Understanding the current group dynamic is brought alive by history and the stories it contains, even if history is deemed useless in another arena.

Adventure though is so much more. Students have to learn to deal with feelings of uncertainty (I argue that this is the very definition of adventure) and the cognitive dissonance it creates. The vulnerability that is felt emotionally is the very same state that creates significant learning and this learning transfers to other areas of life both personal and academic. As soon as someone believes they are a learner they gain the self confidence to learn anything. In particular we focus on problem solving skills, value clarification, communication, cooperation, leadership, decision making and continuums like the distinctions between right and wrong or needs and wants. All of which define both a person and that person as a life long learner.

IMG_0001b (39)I once taught a Canyon Orientation class. In the interest of transparency I need to disclose that not only did I know very little about canyons and traveling through them I also felt completely uncomfortable in a desert ecosystem. When I thought of the arid lands of the South West I was filled with dread as everything appeared prickly, cruel, uncomfortable and full of venom. Obviously this feeling is based on my perception because I knew plenty of people who felt the polar opposite to me. The course was taught over two long weekends and as I drove the bus to Delta for the first time I was worried. What did I have to teach these people when I was a fraud?

IMG_0074We rose early the first morning and walked to the entrance of the Dominguez Canyon. Prior to entering I asked the students to sit silently for half an hour and just be. We talked about the sensations and feeling we experienced in this time and it was obvious that others had felt the same as I had. It was also evident that none of those negative emotions existed any more. Knowing nothing about the natural history, I told them the story of William Smith and the creation of the first geological map, how when he started there were no names or published ideas and yet how observing patterns he had made sense of the earth’s formation. I asked them to walk alone, then in pairs and finally in fours to observe and reflect on the patterns that they saw in the geology. We then came up with questions we wanted answered and expanded those to other areas of the natural history. That week they were all tasked with researching some of the group’s questions and preparing presentations and handouts before our return. The result was incredible.

“It is the sin of the soul to force young people into opinions – indoctrination is of the devil – but it is culpable neglect not to impel young people into experiences.” Kurt Hahn

Enhanced by Zemanta

Attractive Images: Finding your way with dreams

ric16

Prepare yourself there are a lot of “I”s in this post. Hang on in there though it is a pretty good story. I alluded to the fact in the last post that I never really thought I would live in Nepal; what I did not say was that I dreamed of it constantly. From the days when I first started climbing and even before I was drawn to mountain literature. The stories are all human and involve great courage and endurance, there is a gritty realism where bad things happen and the protagonists have to deal with them. Inevitably there is an exploration of relationships, what makes a good partner, a fine leader and how we define ourselves by the landscapes we choose to visit. The word-smithing is often beautiful too and conjures incredible images. With these filling my mind I was drawn to the Himalayas like a pregnant woman to ice cream.

When I made the decision to spend time in Nepal I wrote so many letters and really had only one response. One line stood out in the missive, “What do you know about Permaculture? If you know nothing about Permaculture you are no use to us!” So off I went on a quest. I started to learn about Permaculture in the UK and when I found out it had its origins in Australia I chose to go there to study. Following courses and a stay with the founder, I travelled though South East Asia, doing voluntary work along the way until I arrived in Nepal.

Arriving with a tourist visa I was expecting a three month stay so I decided to embrace where I was and did all I could to engage with situations and people. In the first week in the office I involved myself with writing newsletters, designing programs and farms and even helped a random stranger with their resume. The following week I attended the first national workshop of regenerative agriculture, I also presented my work groups findings. Even better I was able to tour farms and communities in various settings. After nine weeks I started to wonder if I was going to be able to perpetuate my stay. When I went to my boss asking for ideas I was not really expecting much; I asked anyway. Bhadri’s response was rather surprising. The resume I had written had gained its owner the new title of Acting Director of Imigrations. We went to him, cap in hand, asking if I could change my visa from tourist to non tourist – being typically Nepali he did not want to lift his head above the parapet and was not willing to help unless I had a letter from a government official. I was crestfallen. Bhadri however smiled and told me that I knew someone in government. I laughed until he told me that the quiet gentleman in my work group at the workshop was actually the secretary of the ministry of agriculture. A quick visit there and I was able to return to the Department of Immigration armed with an official letter with a government seal.

All of a sudden I was able to live in Nepal indefinitely, I could buy property and cross country flights cost nothing. Again, I am not sure how this all happened and I never did meet anyone else who managed to pull this stunt off. All I know is that I had wanted to spend an extended time in that wonderful country since I could remember and somehow it became possible. The only solution I have aligns with the law of attraction. By creating a strong enough image you can make it happen.

My time in Nepal was amazing. What are you going to attract?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Creating your roadmap: dreams and futures

ric8

A couple of years ago I was reflecting on the places that I have lived and trying to figure out if there was any reason why I had been attracted to those places in particular. At the time, there really seemed to be no pattern. Each of the places seemed unlikely for different reasons. I never really wanted to spend an extended time in Australia because my mother had emigrated there in her twenties and I did not want to follow in her footsteps. Nepal always seemed to be a hard country to gain a visa for. The States was the place of movies rather than somewhere I was going to end up living even if Colorado has the perfect climate and incredible mountains. Alaska, now there is a far flung frontier, what does anyone want to do moving there?

During our sojourn in Alaska; which really is an incredible place, I wrestled with why. One day it suddenly struck me. On the wall of my room at school I had placed posters and a few pictures from magazines. In particular there were four large images of climbers and guess where the climbs were; Australia, Nepal, Colorado and Alaska. Now I have never done any of those routes but something must have resonated. A seed must have been sowed and nurtured which led to my following through and all this was done at a sub conscious level.

My conclusion is that dreams really are powerful. Creating images of where you want to go is far more productive than looking at roadblocks.

What do you want to do and how are you going to create the images that will take you there?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Growing up “social”: Misdemeanors in a small world

Menai Bridge (in Winter) Anglesey North Bridges Transport
Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I am so glad that I grew up before computer screens lit up the faces of young people. Needing a scalpel to be removed from a gameboy was not an available affliction to folk of my age and I shudder to think what my life would have been like. Can you imagine every mood of your adolescent years being the focus of attention on Facebook? I am particularly glad that peers could not point a phone at my misdemeanors and immediately record them to you tube.

Good fortune has provided me with a number of vibrant and youthful “friends” on Facebook and seeing their antics broadcast on the web causes me to smile and also ponder how things might have been different. I am certainly glad of having few witnesses to a number of my “social experiments” and explorations into finding out what it is to be human and truly alive.

At college I was also lucky in that I had great friends who through adventure sports knew what it was to be truly focused; they had glints in their eyes borne from pushing boundaries. While some might see this needle sharp concentration as selfish and disruptive it was the essence of young people who were on a journey of finding themselves. Many went on to become stalwarts of the community and their skills were developed through “play”. The thing is that most of this behavior was best unheard of and even better unseen.

So here is a quick story that I am willing to share. As a student I lived by a body of water called the Menai Straits and from our dorm rooms we could see the island of Anglesey. Spanning this briny channel is an incredibly beautiful bridge suspended from chains more than a hundred feet above the water. Built by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826 it is an incredible example of aesthetics and how there is an extreme elegance in sound engineering.

We often used to cross over to the town of Menai Bridge which had a good collection of pubs and after dark it was not unheard of for us to return over the top of the chains. The view from the eerie at the apex on the towers is amazing and the feeling of freedom provided by the airy journey is (was) quite sublime.

One evening we had gone out in fancy dress and elected to return by the “high road”.

Unfortunately, a passer by had called the police and while most of us scattered, one brave young man chose to stand on top of a building on the mainland that housed one end of the chain. The policeman decided to try and talk our superhero down, I need to also tell you he was dressed in tight red and blue with a flowing red cape and a large red “S” highlighted by a yellow background.

“Come down son.”

“No!”

“OK, what’s your name?”

“Superman!”

“Don’t get smart with me sonny. What’s your real name?”

Clark Kent. I come from Krypton, and I am going back there now.” With that he leaped off the back and ran down to the beach never to be caught. Meanwhile his audience in the bushes sniggered.

So yes there are some scenes from my past I would love to see on youtube and this is one of them. Your homework today is to think of things you want people to see that you do and also to happily reminisce on memories you know were kept from the public eye.

Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent
Image via Wikipedia
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tall Tales – thoughts on stories and using them:

As a teacher I use stories all the time. Painting images of archetypes truly allows a concept or lesson to be picked up, played with and felt at an emotional level. Recently there seems to be a recurring theme in the conversations I have been engaged in. “We talk about authentic, do stories need to be true?” If you know why you are telling a story then you are always going to know the truth in it and to me this is the foundation of authenticity. I particularly like stories that challenge the status quo and commonly held norms. Even tall tales can have integrity, you merely need your audience to know that the message of the story is what is important. The disconnect occurs when something is passed off as real which isn’t and then we have to contemplate the story of the boy that cried wolf.

Some years ago I was working building trail, groups of five to twenty of us would go out into mountain parks and create and repair routes through the foothills of Colorado‘s Front Range. One of my colleagues was a young man named David. David had a penchant for stretching the truth, his motivation seemingly to create something incredulous out of a normal life. This was so much the case that he had earned the nickname, Liar Liar. One morning he came in claiming sickness, we tended to think it was the result of a late night. Following walking in to our site in extremely hot weather he proceeded to go and lie under the tarp we set up for shade at breaks. While the rest of us sweated, David snored and to say the least sympathy was the farthest thing from our minds. Just before lunch there was a scream from the tarp and David came out running, looking distraught and cursing about a snake. Now it should be noted that David the bull riding, sky diving, extreme fighter was terrified by snakes, even so we certainly were not inclined to believe his latest story of a large rattlesnake slithering over his chest while he slept.

Out of curiosity and armed with a suitable excuse to down tools we meandered over to the tarp to witness the site of his newest escapade. Imagine our surprise when we saw a big old snake curled up by the backpack which had obviously served as a pillow. David had told the truth; this was a shock, especially when the snake was the largest rattlesnake I have ever seen. It was a beautiful and unusual green color and sat at the end of it’s tail were 16 globes which made the most incredible sound when we tried to move it on with a lengthy stick.

The point of my story is that David’s intention in telling his story was entirely lost due to the previous pattern of his behavior. While he was digging for sympathy we were all laughing. Rather than believe his story we had believed he was going to tell us an untruth.

On another note we often disbelieve stories because of our perceptions of them. Fish tales are never true right? So here is a shameless plug for my wife, the woman some know as a prissy cheerleader and others a mom. Here is the result of 4 hours in the Kenai River while I was away working and that is no lie. This may tell you something about who the provider is in this household?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Who gives you food for thought? How do they supply material for the messages you want to share?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Some of the best advice I was ever given

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
William Wordsworth

Taken from martindriscoll.com

Somewhere on the Burren in Western Ireland there is a fork in the road and a signpost. Towards the end of a two week long cycle trip we were confronted by the paradox it proposed. Surrounded by white rough rocked walls and open limestone escarpments we stopped. Larks were singing and wildflowers waving from the lush grass of perfect grazing land.

From the post sprouted two pointed and opposing plaques of metal each suggesting that Ballyvaughn was 12 miles in the direction they indicated. Stood perched by a gate not ten yards from the sign was an evidently content farmer. Dressed in a tweed suit with a matching cap and chewing on a long piece of grass he leant quietly watching us and the cows in his field. We all nodded acknowledgement of each other’s presence and then I greeted him and asked a question.

“So which is the best way to Ballyvaughn?”

He looked at me obviously amused while taking in my colorful attire and Lycra shorts. Then in the a lilting accent he responded with a question. “So what will you be doing then?”

“Well we thought we would take it slow and cycle around Ireland”, I offered in return.

He looked me in the eye and said, “well you could go this way…” pointing to his left, “then again you could go that way” signaling to the right. Then swiftly he pointed out. “To be sure you would be walking if you were taking it slow.”

Sometimes it is the most obvious things that I need help with.

What is some of the best advice you were given?

Enhanced by Zemanta