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The Invaluable Lessons of Today

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
-John Muir

Last night on my drive home from work, I had to slam on the brakes when a large creature emerged from the trees and ran across the road in front of me. At first I thought it was an odd looking cow, then I thought it might be a Warg (from Lord of the Rings). It was a wild boar. It was massive. 

I saw two wild boars once before, while mountain biking in Hawaii. They were relatively small, but aggressive. They made noise and moved around like they were ready to attack me. The boar I saw last night didn’t appear to want to attack. It ran across the road more like it was late for dinner and worried that it would be in trouble for being tardy. For how big and intimidating they are, boars have tiny little legs that don’t seem very efficient. They run like they are wearing Ugg dance slippers that they don’t want to get wet. Last night, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could follow the boar to a stash of truffles; or how many barbecues a boar that size would provide. 

I have been fortunate to see many different animals in the wild. In the wilderness of the U.S.A. and Canada, I have seen many bears, moose, wolves, porcupines, otters, beavers, coyotes, countless deer, elk, orcas, dolphins, a variety of whales, owls, sea lions, and many more. I have never seen a cougar (aka mountain lion or puma), but I know they have seen me. In Bulgaria, I have also seen many animals including foxen, more deer, a badger, a behemoth wild boar, a plethora of bats, and my personal favorite: the fire salamander.

In early December, I wrote in the Weekly Howl about how having a pet can help bring balance to life. Getting out into natural areas and seeing wild animals is also a powerful way to get a healthy dose of balance. Quick tip: in my experience, you only see wild animals when you are not looking for them. You have to be in the places they are, be patient, and be aware.

I had not planned to write about balance this week: my boar encounter has put it back at the center of my thinking. I have also been thinking about balance in the context of our work with children. I have recently read articles addressing the issue of how the world will “catch kids up” from the school they have missed during the pandemic. Such articles are disheartening to me. Of course we want our children to learn and succeed academically, but it is essential that we recognize that they are living through an unprecedented time that has disrupted their young lives. Their life stories are being written in a way that we could not have anticipated, and we have responsibility to help them write those stories in a positive and supportive way. 

Our children are also learning invaluable lessons that we could not have predicted. They are learning resilience, patience, empathy, and more, in ways that I did not learn at their age. In this respect, they don’t need to catch up at all: they are already way ahead of where I was at their age. Don’t underestimate the power and value of these lessons. 

Back to the boar for just a moment: if you have had an interesting, funny, or scary experience with a wild animal, please let me know. I’d love to hear your stories too.

“When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned.” 

-Teresa Thayer Snyder

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