Girl in Camouflage

Headwaters Teaches Compassion, Paul Dirks

There was a time when I thought that what made me as a person was my job, my possessions, and my financial success. To be the best mechanical engineer, to own the best boats, and to make tons of money. Then I started to spend time outdoors; no not just "camping" when I was a Boy Scout, hiking around a lot, or going on major backpacking trips. I mean really spend time "being" outdoors.

There was this time that I thought what made life was drinking with my buddies and working hard to meet my boss's demands. But, for some reason, I kept finding myself pulled back to just hanging around somewhere, anywhere, out in the woods. I thought I understood the reason for the outdoor attraction; things like learning how to catch more fish, kill more deer, prospect for more gold. I thought: "That's what the outdoors is for; to learn how to take more!"

So it naturally followed that if I can learn more outdoor wilderness skills, my life would be even that much more fuller and richer. These skills could make me a better fisherman, hunter, or even a better prospector. My interests in advancing my outdoor skills began with an interest in tracking and survival. As I explored these interests, it also made sense to learn what plants made useful tools and munchies. This is about the time Headwaters Outdoor School enter into my scene. I wanted someone who could enrich my life with plant knowledge so that I could be a better person. Little did I know that what was ahead of me was far more than just more knowledge; ahead of me lay growth as a human being.

Oh yes, I gained a ton of knowledge with just the first Useful and Edible Plants class from Headwaters. In one short weekend, I was taught over 100 plants. My brain wanted to explode after just the first day. I have since gone back and enjoyed three more of these plant classes; always learning more stuff each time and never tiring of the subject.

And yes, I gained many outdoor skills from Headwaters at Tim's Winter Class and Skills Class where I've had the opportunity to go so far as to sleep in snow caves, build a shelter in the mountains and not even need a sleeping bag, make fire by rubbing sticks together, make hunting weapons, track coyotes on ancient lava beds, and drink tea made from pine trees. These skills, plant knowledge, and much much more have increased my enjoyment of the outdoors immensely but there's something else that the Headwaters Outdoor School provided.

If I was to sum it up into one word what the Headwaters Outdoor School can provide, I would call it compassion. Webster defines compassion as: "…a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another's suffering or misfortune, accompanied by a desire to alleviate the pain or remove its cause." You might ask yourself: "How can a person like me with a successful career, plenty of toys, and a bunch of money need compassion?" and "How can Headwaters help?" The answers come from the fact that the people at Headwaters saw not only a person who could easily learn the skills, but also a person open to learning about themselves and their relation to nature.

My experience with this school has been deeply enriching. I started out as a person just wanting to do more and take more. Headwaters did provide those skills to "do" and "take" but they did it in such a way as to make me understand what it is to just "be". Headwaters uses the outdoors as the stage for teaching individuals the relationship they have with nature, our planet, the animals, the plants, ourselves. And the most important part is their own skills at doing this; THEY HAVE COMPASSION! All of the staff at Headwaters have the natural ability to understand the student's feelings and respect the student's desires. Their skills have attracted staff individuals that create a family atmosphere. Students are warmly received into this family and the family embraces the new members with a deep respect for how involved the student wants to participate in the relationship. I have witnessed the pure "survivalist" attend the classes and enjoy it as much as the next student who just wanted to feel what its like to be the coyote by placing their hand in the track. This school has covered this whole spectrum for me and now my life is so much richer; it's hard to describe it in words.

I never imagined how much further I would go on this journey when I took my first class at Headwaters. It has been and continues to be a remarkable experience. My thanks goes to all the staff at Headwaters Outdoor School.

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