All in the Circle: Council of the Wild Forests

We’ve had a wonderful first two days of our All in the Circle Camp! Thank you! We began with an opening circle to invite the wisdom of Forest communities to teach us about kindness in community with each other. A great Eagle puppet flew around us as Fatawu drummed and AJ blew her Eagle whistle. Read on for more on our adventures. This year we are exploring the secret life of trees, the wisdom they have to offer us, and our special connection to trees and forests, and the critters who call them home.


In nature class we have our circle of blankets nestled amongst walnut and white pine trees with views of majestic old oaks, and Wirth Lake glistening in the distance. Today Dakota Elder Bob Klanderud opened each class with a smudge ceremony and sharing wisdom from his culture about our connection to each other, plants and trees and how we can be in a helping relationship with them. We learned about how trees through their roots are in constant communication and collaboration with the trees around them, all caring for each other- and how the health of one affects the health of all.

Everyone went off amongst the big trees to find one that they were curious about and wanted to make friends with. They used their senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell, and heart listening and imagination to learn about the tree and to have an experience of being with themselves in a quiet way sitting with the tree.

When they returned, we heard intricate descriptions of the patterns of bark, the shapes of leaves, the health of the trees, particular trees who were in close proximity to others and the way they had their own separate space and leaned on each other. Campers reported feeling peaceful, quiet, and connected, of becoming aware of bird song that had always been there but they had not noticed, of a feeling of wanting to be a protector of the tree, of creative songs and poems that came to their minds as they sat there.


With that experience, we turned to making our group agreement. The three rules of camp are Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind. This seems simple- but as we discussed on the first day- we need only look at the adult world around us to see that Being Kind is not always so easy to do. It takes learning, practice, skills, and intention. One of the reasons we spend time and invest so much in creating a strong group based on connection and real sharing at camp is so that we can have a wonderful time while we learn skills for creating a culture of kindness that we can take with us.


Each person shared in the circle ways that they want to be treated and treat others in their group that will help them to feel welcome, safe, and able to be themselves and have fun. The sharing was meaningful and included among other things- including others, asking how people want to be treated, setting boundaries in a respectful way, listening to people’s requests, taking healthy risks of self-expression, being accepting of differences instead of expecting people to be like us, encouraging each other, if someone makes a mistake to forgive, if we make a mistake to see how we can make amends and repair the relationship, accepting ourselves and taking care of ourselves, realizing all creatures have a place and protecting them (not squashing spiders that crawl on the blankets, or picking bark off of trees and putting trash in garbage or recycling). We used our hands, dipping them in paint and putting them on our hula hoop cloth circle to demonstrate our agreement to work to treat each other this way.


This sense of kinship with the natural world unfolded on its own during lunch time over the last two days. Some campers discovered the remains of a crow, lovingly collected the feathers and bones and made a memorial. They found a rock as a headstone and slowly invited people over to sit quietly and contemplate the crow’s life.

Bob came by and offered us tobacco to hold in our hand as we gave a prayer of gratitude to the crow and all of the birds that we may help them have a healthy world. Soon half of the campers were gathered around the memorial,

signing the rock that sat as a memorial, quietly offering their attention to the ceremony and each other.

In Art, groups continued building their own miniature forest, having sewn with burlap and other materials the soil yesterday they began painting the foundation for their Wild Forest. Campers for a second day gathered in a circle with Fatawu and continued learning rhythms on the djembes. Playing drums in community is based on listening to each other, being aware of what others are doing while staying focused on our own rhythm or role in the overall melody. It very much resembles the way a forest talks to itself.


Chris brought hemp, string, wooden beads and centerpieces and beautiful beads and taught bracelet and necklace beading. Group A played with water in the sprinklers and with a slip’n’slide while A and C ate in a big circle at the park and then played with hula hoops, balls, soccer, and general exploration.

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Tomorrow will involve woodworking, a nature hike adventure through trails in the woods, more drumming and dance, and the return of Emily for forest music on Orff instruments.

Redeemer Lutheran Church is a community dedicated to engagement and the uplift and empowerment of the surrounding neighborhood (they employ local young people, have a community garden, a bike shop coffee shop, affordable housing, and ongoing programming. We are honored to be hosted here and the campers have all been welcomed by and welcoming of the rich community at Redeemer and in the Harrison neighborhood.

We are so delighted to by the creative, open, gifted, intelligent, sensitive, kind and unique community of campers, families, volunteers, and staff who have gathered together to make our Council of the Wild Forest possible.

Thank you.