“Sometimes destiny
places something in your path so truly wonderful,
it leaves you a better
person for having experienced it. Your
love and generosity
seeps through every
single thing in this place, making it a haven of warmth, creativity and
spirit. Thank you for
sharing and for being
such an inspiration...The beauty of the land, of
the wildflowers...will
always be in our hearts.”


 Re-Enchanting Nature & the World
 For School & Youth Groups
 Earth & Wilderness Skills

 Arts & Natural Crafts Retreats
 Nature & Arts Conferences

Upcoming Retreats


Our Personal Approach to Nature-Based Learning & Creativity

The greatest gift of [nature]…will not be what you find there, but how [nature] changes you…to stretch your limits and become acquainted with yourself and your gift on a deeper level….The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it. It’s not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift—your true self—is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs.

                                          —BILL PLOTKIN, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche, 2003

I spent my younger years growing up in the wilderness of Northern Ontario. The forest was our backyard, and our closest neighbors and friends were about 2 km down a dirt road. My parents have many stories about being out in this wilderness with me, including one about how under no circumstance would they ever let me anywhere near the main dirt road. They were worried that people drove too fast along there, and wouldn’t be watching for children. In order for my friends and I to meet and play safely, then, my dad cut trails through the forest, away from the road, in between our houses. I love to think about how I was protected by and safer in the forest than near civilization. In some ways I guess I never really left the trails of the forest. Nature became a “home” for me; not something scary, dangerous, dark, or forbidden to be more cautious about than a neighborhood, just respected. Now, you certainly don’t need to have this sort of relationship with nature in order to learn or “find your true self,” however, in my experience, it greatly helps to reveal things a little quicker, and that can turn out to be a lot more profound and meaningful. Just think of all the incredibly influential thinkers and “do-ers” in history that had to walk, or spend time, in the “wilderness” before they could really begin to contribute to the world in their hugely powerful ways—Moses; Lao Tzu; Buddha; Socrates; Jesus; St. Augustine; Muhammad; Hildegard von Bingen; Gallileo; Isaac Newton; Jean-Jacques Rousseau; William Blake; Mary Shelley; Immanuel Kant; Henry David Thoreau; Black Elk; Rachel Carson, and Al Gore, just to name a very few. Whether you agree with these people or not, they have all left an immense impression on our world, and the root of many of their thoughts and future actions was an awareness of or encounter with—a learning from and within—the landscape. 

That is it, there is no structured formula or curriculum here; all we are happy to do through the Wilderness Centre is help people feel more “at home” in nature again, whatever that may look like for them. Just to be out here opens doors you might not be able to reasonably imagine, like magic. We can show you to the door, but each person individually has to choose for themselves to walk through it or not. This nature-based education, then, is ultimately experiential, it needs to be. We don’t know exactly what will happen at any given moment, but discoveries come only from the edge. And in the “wilderness,” we are continually pushing ourselves right up to that edge, there is no hiding from it. Furthermore, these discoveries may not seem particularly profound in the moment, they don’t need to be, but each experience is a gift that keeps on giving, and is the perfect one for that person at that time nonetheless. From then on, it becomes a part of their life, even if it takes a week, a month, or years to fully understand it. We are not saying that everyone has to leave the cities for peace and more positive paths to progress—absolutely not—what we are getting at is that opening your world up to a community that is far greater than the narrowly human one around us everyday also enriches and empowers us in the cities. The two—nature and the city—are not exclusive opposites in our minds, but complements within the whole experience of life. In this way, learning about nature, and learning within nature—our original classroom—whether through our “Voices of Mother Earth” music and meditation experiences; a school or youth group opportunity; a wilderness skills course; or a natural crafts or painting retreat, is simultaneously a learning about and within yourself, wherever you are; thus, an integral wellspring of creativity, sharing, and leadership. Sometimes it is riotous amounts of fun, sometimes challenging and frustrating, sometimes downright scary, but ultimately, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, and for your life—exactly the gift that the world needs most.

Troy Patenaude, December 2007



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