I was picking them up from their last day of Coyote Camp, an exquisite day-camp they’ve been attending up in the magical coastal highlands of West Sonoma County, learning wilderness skills, hiking, swimming, archery and animal tracking, singing and storytelling in a village-like environment guided by inspired and passionately energetic young mentors. This was Arayla’s 5th Summer attending, and Ezra’s 2nd and I’ve rarely felt so delighted by any educational program.
After I had helped them gather up their wet towels and water bottles and mud-covered shorts, Ezra Star (5) said with clarity and determination: “Mama? I really, really want to show you the Redwood Canyon.” Arayla(9) nodded enthusiastically. I asked: “How far is it from here?” They both said: “Just a short hike.” I hadn’t planned on this extra excursion, so had to pause a moment to surrender my own agenda. It seemed especially important to Ezra to share this special place with me, so we headed towards the Redwood Canyon, stopping briefly on the way to chat with a llama named Pele both of the children were familiar with. I didn’t know as we approached the forest that they would be sharing with me some of the true value they had received these last weeks in the hours they were away from me.
We had just barely entered the mouth of the forest, when Ezra, who was in the lead, stopped suddenly in his tracks, spreading his arms out wide, saying with confidence “Shhhhhh”, modeling the opening of his whole body into listening. Arayla, in between us, naturally stopped as well, opening all of her senses alongside his, clearly accustomed to this kind of sacred pause, and after a moment whispered instructions back, kindly in my direction: “Listen to the silence of the forest, Mom. See what sounds and creatures might appear.”
Several strides later, Ezra made this gesture again, stopping, spreading his arms and fingers and opening wide his eyes and ears. This time he tracked through the crinkling sounds of nearby leaves, a small, short-tailed newt, finding its way along. “Look!” he whispered loudly, grinning with awe-filled respect and endearment: “It’s a little newt!”
It was getting later in the day, and close to dinner time, so when I suggested we head back, Arayla said to Ezra: “Let’s find a Redwood to embrace before we go.” They both ran over to a nearby ancient one, and threw their little sun-browned arms around the trunk, leaning their heads back as they peered up towards the promising treetops. I heard Ezra say softly to the tree: “I love you.”
Not long after, we were driving the narrow, winding road back to civilization, and a car behind me was tail-gating aggressively, pushing up against me energetically with fierce urgency and intensity. There wasn’t a safe turn-out for a while, so I just had to focus, drive as fast as I was comfortable with. and breathe through it.
When I could finally turn out, and the car raged forward, racing ahead, Arayla sat up straight in the passenger seat next to me, put up one palm towards the car, like a superhero or high priestess, and said to the car, her voice strong and clear: “May you be safe and may you not cause harm. And if you cannot be safe and must cause harm, then may you very soon get pulled over by a cop and given a *very* expensive ticket so you can hopefully learn your lesson and change your driving ways!” She thrust her hand forward, directing her chi as she completed her prayer, then lowered her palm into her lap and smiled, nodding quietly, clearly pleased with herself and her inspired moment of energy work. I was impressed, and then I said to her quietly: “Well done, Love.”
And I couldn’t help but marvel in awe, reflecting on these two experiences with my children, respectfully listening with our feet in the gentle forest, and driving in our car along the hazardous road. Such different moments, and yet both revealing how much these young ones can harness their own perceptive presence and clarity of attention in response to the world around them. Whether humbled in the forest by the power and majesty of the ancient silence and order of things. or humbled in the car by the dangerous power of machines and reckless humans, the children are watching and listening and responding with their whole hearts and beings. <3