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A Few Wilderness Therapy Night Sky Lessons

Wilderness Therapy

There are many modes of learning and many ways to convey teachings. One of the best ways to both teach and learn is through analogy and metaphor. In wilderness, one of the ever present features is our canopy of stars. If utilized well, great amounts of both teaching and learning come from stories from the sky.

The Offended Badger and Wolverine

Badger and Wolverine, two old friends, were walking along together one day. Beaver, busily building his house, fell a large tree near the two as they were walking. On its way down, a branch broke off the tree and fell to the ground. The branch pierced Badgers tail, pinning it to the ground. Since Wolverine was near Badger at the time of the accident, and since Badger tends to be short tempered, suspicious and angry, he immediately supposed Wolverine had stuck the stick through his tail. Badger also had a proclivity for assuming the worst of other’s motives. After being screamed at by Badger for what he thought Wolverine had done, Wolverine, not unlike Badger in his temperament and anxiety, screamed back at Badger in defensiveness. Wolverine lunged toward the stick to show that it had fallen off the tree without his own involvement, Badger assumed Wolverine was up to some additional evil, so he spun around, also in defensiveness. The two went on fighting, Badger spinning around with his tail pinned on the ground, Wolverine running around Badger trying to prove his innocence. The two continued this way for hours until Beaver finally walked up, grabbed the stick and began to walk away. Beaver then turned and commented, “Nobody gets anything good done while blaming the other or defending the self. Anger doesn’t get done anything good that matters.” Beaver then quipped off a mumbling remark of a practical nature to the two as he waddled away, which is typical of Beavers. Badger and Wolverine didn’t hear the remark… but took offence anyway.

You can see Badger spinning around his own tail which is pinned down by Polaris. (The Little Dipper) Wolverine is running around Badger. (The Big Dipper)

The Bow Hunter’s Aim

A young bow hunter decided he would practice and practice until he became the best bow hunter of all the tribes. He started off shooting at close range targets. He put the targets farther and farther out until he was shooting very accurately at great distances. An old man came by one day as Bow Hunter was practicing. “You should practice the short shots too,” the old one said. “Why,” asked Bow Hunter, “If I can shoot accurately at far objects, close objects should be simple.” “It is always a matter of perspective,” the old man said, “you get used to seeing in the ways you have practiced looking.” Bow Hunter thought the old man was talking nonsense, he didn’t try to figure out what the old one meant, instead he continued on, looking for the perspective he had grown used to.

One day Bow Hunter went out hunting and was walking up a trail, he happened to look up and saw perched on a rock a few feet above and in front of him, a Mountain Lion ready to pounce. Bow Hunter quickly drew his bow and an arrow. He aimed and shot, but the arrow flew over the lion’s head. Bow Hunter was both surprised and horrified at having missed, now that Lion was in the air flying towards him… Bow Hunter looked up from having ducked the pounce to find that the lion had jumped right over the top of him. He looked back to see the lion blunder down the trail while making frustrated noises… Bow Hunter continued his hunt… On the way back he heard a noise off to the side of the trail near where he had been attacked by Lion. He peeked through the bushes to find Lion… practicing short jumps.

You can see Bow Hunters bow and arrow aimed just off center of the main part of the Milky Way, following an alternate trajectory, a lesser branch of the Milky Way, showing Bow Hunter’s inaccuracy. (Cygnus)

The Eagle, the Sparrow, and Patience

Eagle sometimes flies too close to Sparrows nest. When he does, Sparrow will attack with great veracity and speed. The air is thick at these elevations, where Sparrow nests. Eagle’s wings are heavy and slow here. Sparrow can swoop in and out, and in again, pestering Eagle worrisomely. Being as veracious as He is, Sparrow will follow Eagle great distances of pestering torment, to prove the point of the smaller bird’s advantage, and of the warning to stay away.

Oh, but patient is Eagle. He climbs ever so slowly, knowing far better, the not-so-subtle variances in the air. He keeps Sparrow close, glancing back at the nest if Sparrow recedes in his fury of harassments. Eagle waits…for the right moment… and when the air changes pressure and thins… ever so abruptly… at the correct elevation… advantage now switches… ever so lethally. Eagle’s wings are free in the scarcity of air, while the Sparrows tiny wings can no longer gain loft. But of course, Eagle knew this all along, having seen afar off in all directions, a perspective only discovered in the loftiest places above the clouds. “Respect those who are patient with you, for you have no idea what awaits behind their placid disposition, if your harassments last too long.”

You can see Eagle in the Milky Way. His head is Altar. He is the constellation Aquila. Sparrow is the constellation Delphinus, right in front of Aquila.

The Horse, the Hawk, and Attacks

Horse was walking upstream. Hawk was flying overhead. Horse and Hawk were not the greatest of friends but were on this occasion traveling companions. Horse was typically annoyed by Hawk with all his squealing, and Hawk thought Horse was entirely too slow. On this afternoon Horse stooped to take a drink, Hawk plunged in just as Horse was about to drink clasping Horse’s nose with his talons and then releasing again. With this onslaught of pain Horse withdrew his lips from the water and quickly lurched up angrily in an attempt to flail Hawk with his forelegs. Hawk barely made it out of Horses kicking range in time to escape a sure death. Horse clambered toward Hawk threateningly as Hawk flew back into the sky. “Try to hurry me will you,” Said Horse to himself.

Later that day horse went back to the water to drink. Again, Hawk pounced on Horse’s nose as soon as his lips reached the water. The same interplay was repeated, Horse was clawed as Hawk barely escaped with Her life. Horse guessed that Hawk attacked when He seemed more vulnerable, with His nose in the water. Horse didn’t know why Hawk was attacking so viciously, but He was determined She would not do it again. A few minutes later horse went to drink again, but this time He was ready for a possible attack from Hawk. Sure enough, as Horse went to drink Hawk approached with a readied strike. Horse popped up quickly, hammering Hawk with a front kick, sending Hawk dead to the ground…

Horse took a long drink, unmolested and unhurried by the obnoxious bird. Horse then continued up the river on His way… Several minutes later Horse started to feel ill. He felt pain, first in his stomach, then all over his body. He began to feel nauseous, then faint… He fell down at the water’s edge, looked across the stream to find a dead elk rotting in the middle of the water. He wondered, as he lay still from the pain of poison, “Hawk meant to help me, not hurt me? For surely, she was able to see the elk long before I could. Her warnings were far less painful than the pain I feel now. I attacked what I perceived to be an attack. Oh how wrong I have been…”

Horse is the constellation Pegasus. Right at His nose are the talons of Hawk, at the star Enif. Hawks wings are spread back from Enif, as she warns Horse.

Shayne Gallagher - Wingate Wilderness

Written By: Shayne Gallagher, Founder/Executive Director of Wingate Wilderness Therapy

For Help Call: (435) 215-0500 Kris Archer- Director of Admissions/ Outreach
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