Tales from the Hebridean Adventure Camp.

Six nights in, it was a calm, contented evening at the Camp of the Shieling. The old stones, tarpaulin and bracken providing shelter from the light breeze, and a fire flickered from the hearth.

Within the enclosure, the bracken clan laughed, told stories, shared solutions to natural mysteries and sang songs from the day whilst whittling their spoons and weaving cordage for fishing line from their foraged nettles. (T)here, above the enclosure of the peat moss, It felt like home.

Suddenly a fisherman, clearly distressed, emerged at camp and cried out:

‘Help! the Pirates are coming into the bay; they’re going to destroy everything!’

The teen Bracken Clan rallied, donning camouflage and courage, and headed off in search of a solution to the fisherman’s plight.

A tale of challenge, invisibility and the transformative art of hospitality ensued; as they sought the help of dead ancestors, woodland fairies and items from the landscape to complete their quest. By the end of the night, both heroes and foes were shaking hands and toasting health; as the larger clan danced around the fire.

‘We spent a long time getting into character, dressing up, drawing on tattoos and creating pirate personas. As we waited for the kids to arrive, we floated around in our canoe, fully in character, singing pirate songs. As soon as they arrived, the action began, we jumped ashore and gave chase, their eyes lit up as the world of make believe became real and 3 swashbuckling pirates chased them through the bracken. We caught up with them whilst they climbed a wall and excitement reached fever pitch. The game had begun.’ [Joey; Camas Volunteer]

Dropping into natural time

Our week began with the group answering a Call to Adventure. Each inhabiting roles, we set off with the aim of a self reliant adventure into the unknown. We practiced routines of listening to the birds, paying attention to hazards and animal tracks and signs, shared skills of navigation, self care, and the art of staying warm and dry.

We skirted remnants of Atlantic rainforest and avoided being seen, shared wonder at lichens on ancient standing stones; passing old fortifications and shielings on deer paths. It was nightfall by the time we made camp, the rain cleared and a fire was struck; kindled from wild plants collected and dried on the move.
The next morning heralded a surprise, as the Bea Marie entered the Treagh Ghael Bay in Tieroagan. The group boarded, and headed off into lumpy seas with the hallion raised. Later they found shelter in nearby coves, cast lines and fished for their evening meal.
 
Later that day, as they rounded the point and entered Camas Tuath, the conch sounded to welcome their return and a great cheer erupted from the boat. They had made their return. Around the shieling fire that night, the young people revisited their intentions for the journey; and claimed their learning in both their journals and in a crafted hazel wand.

‘a crucial element to any expedition is nap time, and we were able to this in a beautiful remnant of Atlantic rainforest; the ancient hazel trees giving us shelter. I love how the canopy of leaves can break up the light and as I lay back to appreciate this I thought about how we had all gotten there – scouting our way past houses without being noticed, stopping for flapjacks at a solitary standing stone. I felt grateful to the young team for their infectious energy and enthusiasm for the trip and lucky to be having this adventure with them.’ [Kat, Camas Volunteer]</blockquote

Travels on dark feet and dark wings

Nature does not give her teachings away, wrapped in a processed bun and served on a plate. Learning has to be earned, through being prepared to encounter an ordeal. Experiencing cold, dark, soil on skin, hunger, midges, and being alone can provide powerful encounters with yourself. The strategies and tools we use in response to these encounters can yield potent metaphors for the journey and direction the young people are moving towards with their life choices.

Placing their intention with conviction in the ground as they stepped over the threshold, they donned a black mask over their eyes. Blindfolded now, they were led to their site where they would stay through the night. Alert to the sights, sounds, nuance and timelessness of the landscapes.

Time passed, the sun set and rose again and in between, experiences were had.

The conch blew to signal the return and as they entered the red granite walls of Camas, their hands and face were wiped clean with warm water and sweet oils, as we welcomed these wild creatures, and their wide open senses of peace, calm and connection, back into our human community. We were hungry for their stories…

‘‘when they returned, I was struck by the powerful sense of quiet, contented calm they carried with them, alongside their sleeping bags. Their faces, although tired, radiated with a deep sense of achievement. They had left camp the night before, led blindfolded to their individual spots, each with a clear intention for their solo journey. Each and every one of them had survived the night, along with midges, frogs, creepy crawlies, cold, dirt, wilderness and their own thoughts for company.’ [Angela, Camas Volunteer]

Paying attention in nature offer means to track the inner as well as outer landscape and the young people examined any ruts in their own lifestyles ad their capacity for dealing with the unexpected.. Through journaling, and the Art of Questioning from their mentors at camp; each claimed something true about themselves.

‘Beyond survival, I sensed a significant shift. Somewhere between dusk and dawn they had become ever so slightly different people, and I was lucky enough to witness their eyes now shining that little bit brighter.’ [Angela, Camas Volunteer]

Wrapping the bundle.

All heroic journeys involve a return. For the final phase of the camp, we invited parents to join the Bracken Clan to have an embodied experience of what their children had been up to. The young people spent the day teaching parents their crafts, how to make fire, how to pay attention and play games in the outdoors.

The family camp was about what it feels like to integrate. Ropes of connection to the environment, to others and to ourselves that were weaved during the week became stronger. Sitting on the fishing net on the final evening, we emphasised that these ropes; so beautifully articulated by the young people in their presentations; can become strong baskets that contain life. Deep connection, throughout so many societies in the world, is not found on an App, but experienced in community and facilitated by culture.

The parents and young people spent time setting goals for themselves to strengthen their home community, strategized who would hold them accountable to their resolutions; and identified strands they wished to weave in to their lives when back at home.

‘In some ways, the whole week had been leading up to this time together, this opportunity to integrate the experiences of our week, and express to our guests what it was about this week that made it so special. Even in the minutes leading up to the sharing time, the young people were hard at work preparing what would be said. In hearing the young people share of their week at Camas, it showed the unique power of stories, and the ways that they can hold so much truth for both the storyteller and the listener.

Our stories reflect a piece of ourselves, in a way that often can’t be expressed through any other means. Not only did the young people have an opportunity to craft and create these stories, but they were also able to share them with the people who love and care for them most. I walked away from this time together feeling deeply grateful for the many different experiences held in that room, and with a renewed appreciation for the power of the stories that captured them.’ </[Joel, Camas Volunteer]

Adventure Camp 2018 & Trainings.

If you would like to receive details of future Hebridean Adventure Camps, please subscribe to receive a bulletin in the right hand menu.

Additionally, please email your interest to: camascoord@iona.org.uk.

[With thanks to Douglas MacKay for his continued dedication for planting this impulse firmly on home soil.] 

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