The first day of a cycle when Learners are meeting new Learners or Facilitators tends to be a bit anxiety producing for some. But the second day is usually much more relaxed as the Learners have had the chance to be around each other the day before. Yesterday was our second day of the second cycle and it certainly seemed as though that was the case.

We started the day as we always do, with people writing down their intentions as they trickled into the meet up location. Everyone but one Learner showed up on time, other than the Learner who won’t be with us until Friday, so I put own the notebook where we record the intentions and we moved out to a grassy area where we stood in a circle for the morning meeting. In the morning meeting we checked in with each other and focused on the question of what was the one intention we wrote down that we want to make sure happens that day.

Hoping to help Learners let down their guard and trust allowing their authentic selves to take center stage, I took us into the flocking exercise. We tried this once last cycle on a day when only a couple of Learners were present. The exercise requires four people to stand in a diamond, all facing in the same direction. Whoever is at the head of the diamond gets to move however they wish and everyone mimics the movement. When the person turns 90 degrees whoever is then at the head of the diamond becomes the leader. At about this time the other Learner arrived late, and stood on the outside looking in with another Learner. The other Learner was present the day we did flocking the previous cycle, but he made it quite clear that he was not going to participate that day. After one group finished I encouraged those who sat out at first to replace people in the diamond so they could experience it. One Learner did, but not the Learner who said he would not, and neither did the Learner who showed up late. It was unfortunate, because I felt that those two Learners would have gotten the most from the experience.

One Learner found a great spot to paint

One Learner found a great spot to paint

Another Learner found a great spot to write

Another Learner found a great spot to write

After flocking we had a short conversation about how we would spend our day. I said that I would prefer not to go straight to the lake, again, as several people were burnt out too quickly the day before sitting out in the sun without much shade. We agreed to walk uphill to a really nice area with a small waterfall. Three of the Learners moved out quickly toward the waterfall, while Katie and I hung back and walked more slowly with the other two Learners.

By the time we got to the agreed upon location one of the Learners who got their first had set up a spot to paint, with all of her supplies and paints and even a palette spread out around her. Another Learner began to set up her chair, while another Learner found a great rock to sit at and write underneath some good tree cover. The two Learners who earlier opted out of flocking said they wanted to go on a hike, so I gave them a walkie talkie and they took off.

The three Learners who stayed behind each took time to get to know each other over the next couple of hours. The oldest Learner asked the painting Learner all about her different works and followed the Instagram account that was set up to exhibit her work. Later the oldest Learner engaged the writing Learner and said that she would buy the book that she had just published. She then asked if the writing Learner would help assist her as she wanted to write a book. The writing Learner and the painting Learner also spent some time chatting with each other but I was too far away to hear what they were talking about.

Three of us went through an exercise to help us create personal mission statements

Three of us went through an exercise to help us create personal mission statements

At some point a Learner and I made a run to the bathroom, and while I was gone the painting Learner grabbed a walkie talkie and left to join the other Learners who left on a hike. When I returned I began a goal planning discussion that I had proposed at the morning meeting. Katie and the oldest Learner opted into the exercise. While we discussed our various goals it became clear that we should probably take a step back and ask what our goals were in service of. This led us down the path of creating a personal mission statement, something I had done before but that the others had not.

Being outdoors has many benefits, but one drawback is that I don’t have access to many of my written notes, my hard drives, or the Abrome library. I did not have access to the mission statement exercise that we had used previously at Abrome, so I did a quick web search to find a sufficient replacement. The one I found slowly led us down the path of introspection and resulted in, for me, pretty much the same mission statement I had prior. My personal mission statement is to challenge, undermine, and create alternatives to oppressive systems so that we can move toward a freer, healthier world. As we discussed, each of us will need to refine it over time, but it certainly provides a good guidepost that can help us when it comes to vision and goal setting.

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A Learner cleaning the site of a possible spider bite

At some point, one of the Learners who took off early came back and said that he may have been bitten by a brown recluse. So we broke out the first aid kit and our notes, had him wash off the area where the bite may have taken place, and then had him apply an antibiotic and a bandaid. I then gave him a frozen bottle of water to place over the bandage. It was all precautionary as he did not feel a bite and it did not look like a bite. At the same time it was getting later in the day and we had said that we wanted to go to the lake around 2:00 p.m. So we gathered our stuff and started to make our way back toward the pickup point where the Learner who may have gotten bit was picked up and taken home so he could rest, and then the rest of us made our way to the lake.

One Learner stopped by the restroom to change into clothes she could swim in, and then proceeded to very slowly find the courage to jump in a wadable area of the lake. I chose to jump into the same area before her to demonstrate how deep the water was, but once she got in I decided to go jump into the deeper part of the lake off the dock because I rather be up to my neck in cold water than up to my waist. The two other Learners came back from their hike and one of them jumped in, shoes and all. I then tried to do a cannonball near the Learner who jumped in with her shoes on, but I hit a wet spot on the dock and slid, my feet kicking out in front of me, and I landed perfectly flat on my back in the water. And it hurt. But if anyone had been getting tired in the afternoon sun that woke them up. It certainly brought some extra life to me.

After a good laugh was had by all, especially everyone else but me, we decided to hold our afternoon roundup right there, with three of us in the water and three more on the dock. We wrapped up the day a bit late, and one Learner needed some extra time to get out of the water and to change back into dry clothes, which resulted in a pretty late return to the pickup location. All that extra time needed was a great reminder to me to be mindful of the accommodations that each Learner needs, and at Abrome we really care about centering the needs of others. By the time I dropped off the Learner with her dad I had completed my daily check-in with Facilitators Jennifer and Lauren, and I did a recap of the day with Katie, and asked her what else she would need over the rest of the week to make this trip worthwhile for her research. By the time I got home I was really feeling that back splat in the water, but I was also really feeling good about all the time I was spending outdoors with the Learners. This really is the life and I hope the Learners are loving being outdoors as much as I am.