Yesterday I took Eli to his first book club meeting at the Cincinnati Nature Center. The book they have chosen to read is “My Side of the Mountain”, by Jean Craighead George. It is about a twelve-year-old boy who runs away from home to live in the woods in the Catskill Mountains. It is a coming of age tale about survival and determination. I thought this was a great fit for Eli and that it would mesh well with our upcoming travels.
Eli has some social anxiety and is always nervous when entering a situation for the first time. Yesterday was no exception. I watched in the rearview mirror as he wrung his hands. He kept repeating questions about who would be there and what it would be like. His bottom lip began to quiver as we pulled into the main entrance of the Center and he was fighting back tears as I parked the car. While he was gathering his snack tote and book, I found a small blue post-it note and wrote “I AM BRAVE!” in big letters and stuck it in the pocket of his jacket.
The outdoors has a way of healing, sparking curiosity and inspiring change.
The outdoors has a way of healing, sparking curiosity and inspiring change. After a walk in the woods and a brief talk about the book, Eli learned he would be using flint and steel in order to start a fire. His eyes lit up. He has always enjoyed watching John make fires around the campsite and took great pleasure in collecting wood and kindling. Now he would get a chance to start his very own fire.
He listened intently to the instructions given by the group facilitator. He made a nest out of jute by unraveling the rope and forming it. This would make good tinder and is also biodegradable. He then put on protective eye gear (safety first!). After finding a good piece of flint and learning how to hold the steel properly, he began practicing his strikes. It took him several times to work up a spark. I wish I could have captured his face the first time he saw the flash from his flint.
After a few minutes, he added some char cloth to the flint and steel combo. The red embers glowed on the char cloth once he connected the flint and steel. He added it to the jute tinder he made earlier. Very carefully, he blew on the makeshift nest, until it caught fire.
He beamed. I watched Eli transform yesterday. He started our journey making me promise that this was the last book club I would make him attend and he left excited about their next meeting. He walked a little taller as we wandered down the trail back to our car. He had a bounce in his step and a new found confidence.