“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.“John Muir
Here at Ironwood, residents in level 4 are challenged to spend 24 hours alone in the woods. They are required to independently prepare for all of their needs for this activity including camping gear and food for which they will prepare and cook over a fire. Throughout this 24-hour period, the purpose is for students to have space to reflect on their previous months and prepare for their future life.
This aspect of the program is one that not many people will experience outside of Ironwood. Most people would never even think of sleeping outside and alone! Level 4 residents are required to complete this goal to graduate the program. The time alone really gives you time to be truly connected with yourself and to be able to hash out different thoughts that may seem troubling or confusing. The time to think is relaxing and the freedom of the outdoors feels rejuvenating and refreshing.
The resident on their solo experience is supplied with a tent, food, sleeping bag, water, and a radio to stay in communication with campus when there is a need. The task may seem daunting and nerve racking to approach, but the feeling of having completed it is rewarding and leaves the resident feeling better about themselves.
The impact that the solo experience had on me was one that truly made me realize the progress that I had made while in the Ironwood program. Thinking back on days in the past let me know how much better the future looks. The woods seemed scary at points, but I eventually became comfortable with it and I was able to build a fire and sit with my thoughts through the darkness.
When it was time to fall asleep, I put the fire out and after doing this I realized just how comfortable the fire made me. Without the fire, the woods seemed more unknown, when just a few moments earlier, the woods seemed comforting. I realized the impact of the small things in life and how even one thing that changes can alter your entire mood and outlook on things. In the end, the experience was both eye-opening and calming, with a new sense of self confidence to take back with me when I return home.
This Weekly Update was brought to you by a student who recently received his Level 4 Blues! Students have the option to write a general update of the week, or focus specifically on one aspect of our programming. The “Solo” experience is a right of passage for our level four students who are preparing to transition home and is a powerful tool for them to reflect on their progress and plan for their future. Wishing all family members back home a nice weekend.