Remembering the Small Things

2011 Instructor Exchange Dam Walk
When you bring 40 environmental educators together to share stories, songs, ideas, and experiences, the outcome can be amazing. On January 15th, instructors from IslandWood, Wilderness Awareness School, and Olympic Park Institute joined North Cascades Institute graduate students from Cohort 10 to spend a weekend of sharing knowledge, food, hugs, skits, songs, and stories.
For me, this weekend was an opportunity for renewal: to be refreshed and inspired to press onward with my goal of saving the world in my own small way.
When trying to tackle the world’s enormous and complex environmental issues, it is easy to feel discouraged and lost, to feel small and alone. But the weekend of the Instructor Exchange offered solace; being surrounded with a group of caring environmental educators struggling with some of the same issues is comforting.
2011 Instructor Exchange Pizza Dinner

Instructors enjoy good conversation and a delicious pizza dinner.

Recently, I have felt increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in the development of renewable energy, sustainability, and population growth. These are gigantic issues and, at times, I have been so caught up in trying to wrap my head around them that I have forgotten to enjoy the small things in life. It is these small things that center me, that bring me to a place of peace.
While the Instructor Exchange incorporated natural history lessons, group discussions, and exploration of the landscape near the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, it was the music and the unspoken words held within the eyes of my new friends that inspired me the most that weekend.
On the last night of the three-day exchange, we held an informal campfire program with participating instructors sharing skits, songs, and stories. After a period of rowdy and energetic presentations, Matthew McKinney from Wilderness Awareness School played an original song entitled Dandelion. I don’t remember the lyrics, or the story he told to introduce the song, but I remember it was beautiful. It moved me deeply. It felt right.
2011 Instructor Exchange Musical Jam Session

Instructors participate in a musical jam in the Wild Ginger Library.

But it was not just that song that stirred my emotions. The good music, good food, and good conversation made the Instructor Exchange the special weekend that it was. These small things reaffirmed my belief that I am in the right place, with the right people, doing the right things, at exactly the right time. For awhile my doubts and troubles floated away on the soft, warm flow of air that is fellowship.
And while I floated on that high for a time, I had to come down. Back down to face the problems of the world. Back down to classrooms and computers. Nevertheless, the Instructor Exchange had succeeded in reminding me of the joys of stopping and looking up from my sore, traveling feet to enjoy the view and the cool mountain air of accomplishment, and perhaps sample the sweet, sweet huckleberries just off the beaten path.
I eagerly await traveling with the rest of the North Cascade Institute graduates to visit with our friends from IslandWood and Wilderness Awareness School next month. I am sure we have much more to learn from each other, much more to share, and many more small moments together that will just feel right.
2011 Instructor Exchange Eagle Watching

Liz Crain, from Wilderness Awareness School, and Ian Schooley, from Islandwood, look for eagles on the Skagit river.

Lead photo by Chris Dalla Santa. All other photos by Theresa Song.

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