There is something archetypal, maybe even mythic about rocks and stone. They seem to beckon, call, and draw me closer in. Whether it is a rocky crag, a glacial erratic, or a polished white stone underfoot, I become mesmerized, as if a spell has been cast upon me. Maybe it is my Celtic lineage, or maybe it is the seeming immutability of stone that is alluring to this mortal being. Whatever the case, I am a sucker for stone.
When I purchased my first home, I found myself called to erect stone walls, standing stones, build cairns, and even installed a stone spiral in my front lawn. After getting married, my wife Gayle and I purchased a new home with 18 acres, and the fever ensued. From the moment you enter the drive, to the trails out back you will find that the calling of the rocks has meta-morphed into a passion that some might deem bordering on madness.
Over the past few years, I have been wandering the woods behind my home and found myself serendipitously encountering a number curious stone structures. They are dry laid stones stacked in a “U” shaped pattern. They are several courses high and usually about four to six feet wide at the opening of the “U”. The second one that I came across was on the day before the Spring Equinox of 2017. I happened to be out there about an hour before sunset and realized that the sun was going to set in perfect alignment with the opening of the “U”.
I returned the following day, on the equinox, with my dog Tannin and had the fortune of a perfectly sunny day. As the sun got lower in the sky, I felt myself excited and wondrous, as I was witness to this magical event happening in the woods behind my house. This did not seem to be a coincidence that the sun was casting its beam directly into the mouth of this structure. Who, when, and why, were questions that were swirling in my mind, while at the same time feeling awe, and gratitude for having the fortune to have been called to this spot. I love the woods for so many reasons and this was, for me, a unique and unparalleled addition to the catalogue.
Upon returning home, I began attempting to find answers online. I came across a book called “A Guide to New England Stone Structures”. I readily ordered it and had it shipped express. As I pawed through this amazing book, I did not come across anything that looked like the structures that I was finding. I decided to write to the author and see what he might have to share. He wrote back quite quickly and let me know that the archaeological consensus seemed to be that these were ceremonial prayer seats built by the indigenous peoples of the land.
I continue to seek answers to this mystery and hope to call attention to these structures with the right people and at the right time. They feel precious and sacred and I feel strongly that they should be preserved and protected. As I learn more, I will share more. Until then, enjoy the photos, ponder the mystery yourself, and get out in the woods!
Dear Adventure In Adventure Out Staff and Clients,
I heard recently that the shortest distance between two people is a story. If this is true, then what must make community is the intersection of layers upon layers of stories that draw people closely together. Over the last eight years, AIAO has been that point of intersection for me. Be it the very first expedition I led for AIAO seven years ago (Hey, Camp Ramah Niv ’11!), getting my feet wet (figuratively and literally) roaming the woods of Western Massachusetts with the AIAO outing club, or collaborating with an amazing group of people to send 140 college students off into the woods for three days, each memory has built upon the other to teach me something about who I am, what I value and how I want to be in the world.
As I step out into new adventures, I realize there is a gift I am carrying with me. One that you all have given me. It is the gift of understanding how our stories can create meaning that matters. That when we share our stories… courageously, vulnerably… we offer up strength to ourselves and to others. It is being witnessed in our stories that allow us to see our own capacity, individually and collectively. To see that we are significant in the world around us. And, as each of you have offered me the gift of your stories, of who you are and what you have been through to get here, it has buoyed me in my courage to rise to the occasion of my own story. This is the magic we have created together, and the gift you have given me as my community.
So thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your story, and for choosing to be a part of mine. Thank you for eight unforgettable years of meaning making. And, thank you to our director, James, for believing in me all those years ago when I first knocked on his door. I will carry the love, laughter, memories and learnings for the rest of my life. And, I will be cheering you all on as you continue to change lives with your own brand of magic!
With great love and gratitude!
In the course of a year we work with dozens of schools and organizations, and many hundreds of young participants. Invariably, some of these young people have an ADD or ADHD diagnosis. It would be all too easy to lump these folks into some sort of confining category – unfortunately this is sometimes something that we witness – and let that negatively affect the ways in which we relate to these young people.
Thom Hartmann’s Hunter & Farmer breakdown of ADD has been an invaluable tool for us at AIAO as we try to understand and work best with some of our own staff, as well as the young people we serve who have ADD/ADHD. In its simplest form, Hartmann’s hypothesis states that what are now labeled as maladaptive and disruptive traits (i.e, disordered behavior) has had tremendous value in humanity’s evolutionary past. It’s just that culture and society have shifted so quickly that these once highly-valued and necessary attributes that allowed individuals and cultures to thrive, don’t fit as easily into the slowed down, modern farmer’s (agricultural) society that most humans now live in.
We all know that unstructured play is of the utmost importance for kids. Especially in these modern times where kids days are highly activity structured, they have benchmarks to meet in relation to academic standards, and technology has an amazing capacity to mesmerize their attention.
Here is a video that speaks to the limitless expression of outdoor play and nature connection, and which makes us here at the office reflect on how we choose to engage or not engage in our surroundings and how we all, large and small, can enjoy and benefit from play……
When was the last time you spent a day by a river?
For those of us that live in the Pioneer Valley, the Seven Sisters Range is a common sight from many vantages. This lovely range is an anomaly in that it runs roughly east west and was created as molten rock erupted through fissures in the bedrock. I have hiked these hills many, many times and never tire of the views that can be beholden from the many vistas along its 9 plus miles. Another delight here in the valley is the depth of talent in the musical realm, as well as dozens of venues in which to experience it. Brooks Williams lived here in the valley and recorded many recordings on the valley label Signature Sounds. Please check out his lovely song – “Seven Sisters” here.
The movement started in 2011 by a Washington DC pediatrician by the name of Robert Zarr as a means to fight obesity, chronic disease and ‘nature deficit disorder’, doctors are sending folks outside.
Parks Rx, which is a program under the National Park Service’s Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative, includes a newly created database that chronicles some 350 parks and helps match patients to local outdoor venues. The care providers and patient discuss what might be an enjoyable outdoor activity that would have strong health benefits – this information goes into the database as well to help determine the actual prescription.
This is both a wonderful development and a somewhat disturbing testament to how separated many people are from being physical in the natural world. How about getting outside to play, recreate and exercise BEFORE the doctor tells us to?
We can call it prevention.
Every once in a while I have a vision – I am suddenly transported to a place in my mind where I can picture the banks of the Connecticut River swarming with large, bipedal dinosaurs. Did you know that the “first dinosaur tracks in recorded history” were found here in the Connecticut River Valley? (Or at least the first European person to take special note of them…)
The story goes that in 1802, a farm boy by the name of Pliny Moody plowed up a slab of rock with tracks in it which he described as being “three-toed like a bird”. He brought it home to use as a doorstep. Local religious figures attributed the track to “Noah’s Raven”. Later the tracks were thought to have been made by a large, crocodile-like reptile and paleontologists named the creature Otozoum moodi in Pliny’s honor.
It was an 1835 road paving project in the Greenfield area that got the attention of scientists, after a large volume of tracks were found. Dr. James Dean is credited with recognizing the scientific significance of the tracks. Professor Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College began to study the many tracks, thinking at first they were from some kind of “unknown ancient birds”. Hitchcock’s intensive study of the tracks essentially started the field of Paleoichnology (the study of fossil traces). And so it began.
You could spend your whole life learning about dinosaurs, of course. There are many places to learn about the history of dinosaurs in the Pioneer Valley and even visit tracks still in the ground outside. One of the most amazing places to visit is the Amherst College Museum of Natural History, since there has been study of these local dinosaurs since thye 1830’s! There is an incredible array of tracks as well as passionate staff who will impress you with their knowledge. This Yankee magazine article has a great list of “Places to see dinosaur tracks in southern New England.” The Nash Dinosaur Track Site and Rock Shop has a some great information as does the
If you have a few minutes or a lifetime, drop into this little rabbit hole of amazing history and see the place you live with new eyes.
If you are looking for a great gift for an outdoor enthusiast on your holiday list, look no further. I have been a subscriber to this fabulous magazine for four years, just gifted all of our staff with a subscription, and ordered about 40 back issues.
I find this to be one of the best resources that I know of to keep me learning about the natural and cultural history of our New England forests. The magazine is full of beautiful pictures, well written articles, and all in all a great resource.
The deer hunting season in Massachusetts is the most popular and concentrated hunting season of the year. Monday through Saturday, the woods and forests are full of folks hoping to fill their freezers full of meat and engage in an age old pastime that has been happening in the state for many, many years. I have attached a document that reflects the “when” of the hunting seasons, though not the where. Please inform yourself as to where in your area hunting is occurring, and keep yourself safe by wearing orange, sticking to the trails, and using common sense.
Have fun and stay safe!
Hunting season Doc:seasons-summary-2014
Does the media fuel an illusion that our children are in danger? How does reality compare to our fears? Tulley asks these questions and others.
And, the answers may surprise you. For example, regarding the fading concept of ‘stranger danger,’ did you know that kidnapping by a non-family-member doesn’t even make the top 5,000 dangers that children face?
Maybe walking to school isn’t such a bad idea, since it increases situational awareness, improves character judgment, and increases fitness (and thus memory and overall well being).
Then there are activities we can do with children with some actual risk involved, like playing with fire, whittling, driving a car, licking a battery, and more. According to Tulley, by exposing children to small risks we teach them about safety, and we equip them to challenge fear and address real risks in the world.
Or, as Tulley says, “The most effective way to keep children safe is to give them a little taste of danger.”