I love luxury camping. My background as a former wilderness survival guide and canoeing instructor has taught me just how rough things can get. From being out in the wilderness for 40 days with only a 35lb pack, living off the land, and building super luxury camp sites; camping offers some rich experiences. So when a few colleagues of mine offered me a one way ticket to tour lake country and reservations with some of the most unique Native teaching seminars I said, “Where can I lay my boots!?” What at the time seemed unfortunate, was that due to another work commitment I could not shrink out of, I had to decline the get-away offer. As it was, I dodged the trip from hell.
This camping trip was unique not only for it’s Native education, but because 6 Elders were in attendance and accompanied by a team of Government Mental Health Workers, and a few Native Society Workers, they trudged along with them a slew of 14 youth all with varying diagnoses and trauma. The Mental Health team were essentially their workers. I knew the workers pretty intimately save for 1-2, and I was even familiar with the youth. For some time previous in what seemed like another life I had worked in collaboration with the MH Team and the youth would always stop by my office for chit-chat, and of course a cookie and candy. But when you really want to get to know someone?- take them into the wild, and the wild in them will most certainly turn from embers into flame.
I got a phone call one night, “Aw man, this shit just got real.” I was wondering if it was a really dark humoured joke or serious. No, it was serious. One of the TL’s had quite literally run off like a rabbit with another worker into the brush, and you know what rabbit’s do right? Right. They were at it worse than rabbit’s, as I was told. I asked the holder of the receiving line, “What happened?” To which they replied, “Frank’s gonna commit mutiny!” (Frank is a lead Social Worker, second to TL) “He’s hunting geese!” (Haha, oh dear.) The conversation continued… the pyromaniac had just walked into the woods with a match, two workers took off with the only emergency vehicle and returned hours later smelling of sweat and shame, the sex addict propositioned another minor and got cuffed by her boyfriend, the addict was somehow quite convinced he could get a high by drinking liquid glue, and the elder’s decided that they shouldn’t have to make dinner and went on a drumming march to protest their hunger. This, dear friends, all happened within an hour.
Upon the return of the worker’s in need of mental health, and the client’s with active mental health, I got shang-hai’d into a meet and greet of debriefing and counseling support. Thank goodness it involved Greek, the food that is. We sat at dinner. The MH TL, the Social Worker, the Addictions Worker, Roots Practitioner, and elder. “So, how’d it go?” I asked nonchalantly. “Don’t you give me that shit.” The elder said as the waiter poured me iced water. I smiled at the waiter and said, “If it’s clear, it ain’t water tonight.” He looked surprised for a moment, smiled back, and said, “Gotcha. Be right back with a round.” The next 3 hours that followed entailed stories of magic and horror. Drugs, alcohol, sex, women, vandalism, fights, blood, tears, and grief over having to make their own meals. Would you believe me if I told you this wasn’t even dramatic? Nor Freddy or Jason could out crazy this group. In fact, they would feel a tad out of place.
I was relieved after all of this to have skipped out on this cultural journey. Originally I had been encouraged to join them, I just might “find myself”. Yeah. I’ll bet. Something tells me I would have found my inner crazy if I went. No thanks. Best rational decision I have ever made. And for someone who makes few rational decisions, and more crazy instinctual ones, this paid off.