Seven Teens Went Into The Woods, Towards the Unknown

Published May 26th, 2015

rite of passageVenturing into the unknown

This weekend Wild Earth brought seven teenagers into the wilderness to meet the unknown. The teens were invited to sit alone in the forest, tending a fire continuously through the day and night.

While the teens were out on their solos, a central fire was held and tended by adults who had experienced similar rites of passage themselves. As long as the teens were out in the wilderness, the central fire was kept burning. More than a dozen adults came to the fire, each holding the teens in their hearts. The central fire was kept burning all through the night. As one of the adults tending the central fire, I felt so blessed to be a part of this life-affirming event.

Benefits for all of us

With each moment of shared time around the central fire, invisible strands of connection were woven between us.

Sitting beside the central fire, my busy mind calmed, anxieties fell away. Every hour I spent in the forest brought my peripheral vision more to life and surprisingly as this happened my life also came more clearly into focus. Surrounded by Hemlock, Yellow Birch and Musclewood, listening to the endless songs of the birds, it became easier and easier to connect and to be present. As I soaked up the campfire scent, my perspective shifted and I looked at my life from a different vantage point.

Almost without effort, I found myself taking inventory of how I spend my moments of downtime. As a father of two, downtime is scarce, but how do I use what little time I have to regenerate and reconnect to myself? In my regular life, how many hours was I spending on my phone or on my computer? Sitting beside the fire in the forest, I found myself relishing the quiet joy of simply being with myself and friends in the forest. Why would I ever choose anything different? Sitting quietly in the woods, I felt as though a great thirst was being quenched.

Invisible ropes of connection

Our goal was to create an experience that would call upon the heroic part of the teens. Ultimately, the rite of passage made all of us into heroes.

As visitors came to the central fire, invisible strings of connection grew stronger between each of us. Young men and women that were once Wild Earth campers shared openly and honestly about their challenges and joys in their emerging adulthood. Wild Earth instructors and administrators, shared stories of how their own lives were changed by teachers and time alone in the forest. With each moment of shared time around the central fire, invisible strands of connection were woven between us.

Gratitude and connection flowed through so much of our conversation. At countless times throughout the weekend, my heart overflowed with appreciation for the adults I might usually not have connected with.

Meanwhile, twenty miles away, a handful of the parents of the seven teens were sitting beside their own campfire, tending their fire all through the night.

A gift for us all

Through the simple act of showing up all of us were immersed in abundance and the joyful satisfaction of being connected.

Upon welcoming the teens back from their solo experiences, one of the elders spoke to the teens about how the teens were giving the adults a great gift by showing up. As I reflect on my experience, I see that indeed, each of us received such wealth as a result of the teens and their willingness to step towards the unknown. As we feasted on a delicious, abundant meal prepared by the parents of the teens, so many of us were thanking one another. Parents thanked instructors, instructors thanked parents and all of us thanked the teens.

Whether the challenge was preparing food for 12 adults, facilitating a teen program in the forest, or sitting alone in the woods for 24 hours, each of us met the challenges presented to us and all of us were and still are reaping the benefits. Through the simple act of showing up all of us were immersed in abundance and the joyful satisfaction of being connected.

Our goal was to create an experience that would call upon the heroic part of the teens. Ultimately, the rite of passage made all of us into heroes.

All of us at Wild Earth look forward to welcoming another group of teens into a rite of passage next spring.


Simon AbramsonSimon AbramsonSimon Abramson, Deputy Director

As a child Simon spent countless hours exploring the forest, streams and wetlands of his neighborhood in NJ. Simon has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont where he focused on the relationship between a healthy human psyche and a vibrant natural world. He has staffed and studied with various wilderness schools throughout the Northeast including the Institute for Natural Learning, White Pine Programs and the Vermont Wilderness School. When he’s not in the woods, Simon is designing and building websites and other internet solutions. More about Simon's work.

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