"Seton Castle...on the last rampart of the Rockies where the Buffalo Wind is blowing."

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lobo, The King of Currumpaw Returns

Super Moon of 2016 (dlw photo)

Dear Lobo,

This is my annual letter to my favorite wolf, my Letter to Lobo, Year 124 EE.

Lobo, the great gray wolf of Union County. Lobo, the wolf who changed Seton from wolf killer to wolf protector. Lobo, The Wolf that Changed America, as stated in the title of the 2008 film about you. 

You will recall that I have abandoned the standard calendar in favor of a new system of dating with the first day of the first year starting from the time of your demise. The Environmental Era, EE.


According to an even older calendar, today is Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish New Year for trees. 


The heavens commemorate the anniversary of your death with an early morning lunar eclipse. I’ll had to get up early in the cold pre-dawn to see the moon in its copper color reflecting endless sunsets. This apparently was the second full moon this month, and one that is closer than usual to earth making it look marginally larger than usual. Not that I was able to tell. Maximum moon darkness took place a bit after first light, around 6:30am in northern New Mexico.

On this date 124 years ago you were hours away from your final end, already caught in traps from which Seton would release you, although too late for you as it turned out. We don’t know for sure when you were caught, only that you died on January 31st.

Seton asked himself WHY?

We are still asking that question about our destructive relationship to nature. And while we can’t exactly make it up to you, we can do something in your memory. We will turn Seton’s account into a graphic novel and gallery exhibition, inviting 55 visual artists to tell your story in ink, watercolor, oil, acrylic, or whatever other medium they choose.

You are not forgotten.

Sincerely yours,

The Author 

Lobo, The King of Currumpaw

The World’s Greatest Wolf Story!

A Novel Graphic and an Exhibition

in pictures and text

Original Story by Ernest Thompson Seton

Original artwork by Invited artists

Reception Sunday, August 12, 2018

Seton Village, New Mexico

Academy for the Love of Learning

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ernest Thompson Seton Peace Message

Seton in Prague from film still


In days like these one can accept or assume no higher or better mission than that of peace messenger, a personal messenger of peace and understanding among the nations.
Ernest Thompson Seton

This is a partial transcription from “Ernest Thompson Seton: A Scout Appeals for Peace,” broadcast on Radio Praha by the journalist David Vaughan in 2015. It is documentation of an original radio speech by Seton given during his European trip of 1936.

I have been unable to contact Vaughan, so I hope that he will not mind too much my sharing part of his broadcast with you. Eighty-two years later, the words still resonate. I don’t take this as a call for tolerance. Instead, it is a plea for acceptance, both for accepting the humanity and personhood of others, and for finding it within ourselves. Seton describes how he himself went through this process. Important to note is that in 1936 Seton was working on a monograph describing his interpretation of Native American ethics, The Gospel of the Redman. After stating his mission, he continued:

During the Great War many soldiers were taken prisoner by the opposing army. These prisoners were sent afar into military camps and prisons. They were fed, sheltered and, if wounded, had medical care. They had in short everything but freedom. Incidentally, they and their captors got acquainted, and although they had been taught to hate each other and to seek each other’s destruction, they now were subjected to other influences. They got acquainted, they began to understand each other. Understanding ripened into respect and respect into friendship. There can be no doubt that thousands of lifelong friendships were in that way founded during the war, all evidencing the great principle that understanding is the best remedy for misunderstanding.
Of course, such work would be less expensive and more effectual if brought about by peaceful activities, and this is the wise thought which is at the back of all such undertakings as international expositions, world tours, Rhodes Scholarships, Olympic Games, Peace Ambassadors and whatever tends to make foreign travel easy and contact with foreign countries the great privilege within the reach of all that have moderate means. If I may speak of my personal experience and observation, I have never yet known a man to go and live with a foreign nation without wholly reforming his previous concept of them, especially if that appraisal had been unfavorable.
Every American student who spent a few years in France or in Germany came back saying, “I have learned to love those French or those Germans now that I understand them.” Every Rhodes Scholar goes back from Oxford with a new and high appreciation of the old land and something like affection for its sterling qualities and even its eccentricities. I know of several men who spent years among the Negro tribes of Africa and came back in each case with a deep-rooted admiration of these so-called “primitives” and a real personal affection for many, if not all, of their black acquaintances.
Fifty-odd years ago I went West to live on the plains of America in contact with the North American Indians. I was attracted by the glamor that Fenimore Cooper and other romanticists had shared about the red man. And yet I was warned and distrustful, because of countless alleged histories of Indians’ cruelty, Indian massacres, Indian cold-blooded atrocities. I had to live with them many years and accumulate a library of thousands of records, talk with hundreds of old-timers, who knew the truth, before I learned that all these stories of wickedness and cruelty were pure fabrications, wicked slanders, invented by the white men to justify the invaders in seizing the Indian lands and dispossessing him of all his property, his gain, his horses, his liberty, as well as his home and children.
I came at last to the same conclusion as General Miles, Buffalo Bill and a score of outspoken leaders, who assured me that the Indian was the most heroic and noble type the world has ever seen.

Seton clearly saw himself as having been inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy, identified as the “White Roots of Peace” by anthropologist Paul A. W. Wallace. According to Wallace, and quoted by Seton in Gospel of the Redman, peace was attained through statesmanship, “by a profound understanding of the principles of peace itself. They knew that any real peace must be based on justice and a healthy reasonableness… Peace was not the mere absence of war…peace was the law…so inseparable from the life of man that they had no separate term by which to denominate it.”

Please send the Seton and Wallace quotes to your political representatives in Washington, D.C. I think they need the guidance.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

First Boy Scout Camp at Silver Bay with Ernest Thompson Seton

Seton outdoors, Library of Congress

Here is another find from the Seton archives at the Academy for the Love of Learning—an account by William W. Edel (1894—1996) of the first Boy Scouts of America camp which took place at Silver Bay, New York at the end of August 1910.* Organized by the Y.M.C.A., the camp was an experiment for the nascent BSA and an early competition between the very different approaches to Woodcraft by Seton and Dan Beard, who were both in attendance.

Mr. Edel must have been an interesting character as well. He held a J.U.D. degree (in civil and canon law in the Catholic church) and served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy for thirty years from World War I through World War II. After the wars, he served as president of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Edel’s remembrance of Seton, dated January 17, 1995, was in the form of a letter to a history scholar, Dr. D… The following is a quote from that letter:

My story with its headline “First Camp, an Old Scout Remembers” was written by me in 1979 when I submitted it to a number of publications only to have it returned as being “too long.” I suppose that I really did write more than most publications wished to use.

My story does not really need any addition but I will write a few things that I did not cover fully at first.

I wish that I might describe Ernest Thompson Seton in a way that he appeared when he was the first Scout, to me he seemed almost to be more than human, his attitudes, his comments, his teaching of woodcraft and campcraft and related things were done with an ease and kindly presence that showed him as perfectly equipped for the job he had. He never failed, no matter what question was put to him he always had the right answer at the right time.

I think I ought to tell you a little more about the “dog soldiers.” They were selected from the leaders of the various delegations by Ernest Thompson Seton and other leaders. The Baltimore delegation had a leader whose name I cannot remember, who came with us expecting to remain in his position during the entire encampment, but without saying anything to any of the boys in his group, he left on the third day and never returned. The result was that I was selected to take his place, largely because I had YMCA camp experience for three years, which no others in my group had. As a result of my taking responsibility as leader of the Baltimore delegation it fell to my being listed among the “dog soldiers.” With a little instruction from Seton himself I soon learned to take this semi-official place. On the day when I served as “dog soldier” I wore a red headband with one feather which I believe was worn also in Seton’s Young Indians, of which I have [sic] been a member only by mail. It was the duty of the dog-soldier to be alert from the end of one Council fire to the beginning of the next one. There were always two dog-soldiers whose duty it was to see that all the rules of the camp were observed. In my “First Camp” I give a general idea of the rules which the dog-soldiers had to administer. Their authority came directly from Ernest Thompson Seton.

I do not believe there were many campers who were younger than I was and since I am now one hundred years old plus six months, I think it is extremely unlikely that there are any other persons living today who camped at Silver Bay in 1910. If any still exist I would be glad to know who they are and their address and telephone number. If it is your judgment that I am the only survivor of the first camp I trust you will depict me as such . My birthday was the 16th of March 1894 and by the time you have carried your plans into completion I will be a few months more that [sic] 101.

My book entitled “MY Hundred Years” was published on the day that I reached by 100th birthday and for your information I am sending you a copy of the book.

Very truly yours,
William W. Edel

* The YMCA’s Edgar M. Robinson, a strong Seton ally, was in charge of BSA at this time.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Bearly There: An account of an Ernest Thompson Seton 1906 Lecture


Here is an unattributed article from The Winnipeg Telegram, Saturday, September 1, 1906. Seton traveled a great deal to giving paid lectures and in later years (probably earlier ones as well) selling his books. This is an account of one of those appearances. Source: Archives, Academy for the Love of Learning. (Note that ETS had published under both forms of his name: Thompson Seton and Seton-Thompson.)

The article:

Whatever way his name may be twisted, Ernest Thompson-Seton of [sic] Ernest Seton-Thompson, is among the luckiest of mortals. A successful artist, a litterateur of note, a naturalist of world-wide repute, a trained if merciful hunter, a skillful taxidermist, an accomplished man of the world, an eloquent lecturer, the official naturalist of the province of Manitoba without a salary, Mr. Seton is also more. He is a theorist whose theory is verified before the echo of the voice that gave it forth has died away.

In a lecture delivered before a delighted audience in Winnipeg the other evening Mr. Seton advanced the plausible theory that various carnivorous animals popularly supposed to lose considerable sleep in efforts to obtain good, substantial meals of defenceless human beings, do not attack of their own initiative the said human being unless provoked or in their own defence. In other words, Mr. Seton fearlessly makes the assertion that man is the aggressor almost invariably nowadays, and that if we would not attack wolves and bears, these hitherto dreaded denizens of the forest and prairie would leave us severely alone. Mr. Seton, who, varied as his accomplishments are, does not profess to be a logician, says also, that this disposition has been particularly evident in the world since the discovery of gunpowder and the invention of quick-firing long range rifles and the knowledge that wild animals have obtained in various ways of their deadly effects.

However, Mr. Seton’s theory has been substantially verified this week by the dispatch from Fort Williams yesterday which announced that a big, black bear tired probably of the monotony of the long August day in the lonesome woods, sought with the playful disposition that black bears are occasionally known to display, the playground of a Fort William public school for the means of joyously spending the noon hour with the youngsters. The dispatch states that with the accommodating disposition of children, and in defiance of maternal injunctions against undesirable playfellows, the children romped with him to their mutual delight.

Mr. Seton, with others, will regret that upon the news being reported of the coming of an animal, a considerable number of the male population turned out and chased the practical evidence of a theory of Mr. Seton, into the wildwood at the points of a variety of guns.

Mr. Seton may be right but it will take several more lectures, several more delightful books and several more generations before the mothers of the land will approve of the bears and wolves becoming the playfellows of their children in the intervals of school. The bear at Fort Williams probably meant well and missed a good deal of fun by the hasty action of the armed populace, but there is a marked prejudice still existing against wolves and bears strolling out in their idle hours and joining in the games of the infant classes of our public schools.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Advanced Topics in Lifecraft #4 User's Guide to Ernest Thompson Seton Stories

 Rabbit at Night from ALL collection

In the three previous Lifecraft essays, I have discussed the Nine Principles, the Fourfold Path, and Learning as Transformation. This time I want to present a brief discussion of several Seton short stories. Seton vividly illustrates the lessons of Lifecraft through the biographies of his animal heroes. The stories are filled with action (chases and escapes) and emotion (triumph and pathos). Based on Seton’s observations and imaginings, we see nature described in a highly descriptive manner. He can veer into the fantastic (do animals really commit suicide?) but also stick to the highly realistic—wild nature, overall, while it may often emphasize cooperation over survival of the fittest, generates stories of kindness less often than others of unconscious cruelty. A hard lesson for the children the stories were aimed at, but that is life.

The violence in “Lobo” (wolf) is unapologetic. The life of Krag (bighorn sheep) is tragic. Even the triumph of Billy (another wolf) comes at a price—his life will never be one of security. Nature must be taken on its own terms, and not portrayed as less brutal or less magnificent than it is. Seton presents two radical lessons. One is that wild animals are not fundamentally different from us, only different by degree. The other is that we humans are a part of nature, and that by causing environmental destruction, it is ourselves that we attack.

Many of these stories are available as free on-line books or through Project Gutenberg. The stories are taken from Wild Animals I Have Known (1898), Lives of the Hunted (1901) and Animal Heroes (1905). Seton aimed his stories towards young adult readers (defined by the publishing industry as being between 12 and 17), but younger children as well as adults also have a lot to learn here. I have included story descriptions and discussion guides.

“Lobo, The King of Currumpaw” is Seton’s signature tale of the wolf hunt that transformed him from predator killer to predator protector. This is the lead story in Seton’s first best-seller, Wild Animals I Have Known, a first-person narrative about his efforts to trap wolves in Union County, N.M., during the winter of 1893-94. Based on real events, the story focuses on a remarkable wolf who could not be caught until Seton uses the most extraordinary treachery against him. The wolf is the hero of the story, while Seton casts himself as the villain. It is one of the most unusual hunting stories ever written. It is also a story that captures the larger American experience of man and nature.

Seton referenced it in one of his next books (Lives of the Hunted): “I have been bitterly denounced, first, for killing Lobo; second, and chiefly, for telling of it, to the distress of many tender hearts.  To this I reply: In what frame of mind are my hearers left with regard to the animal? Are their sympathies quickened toward the man who killed him, or toward the noble creature who, superior to every trial, died as he had lived, dignified, fearless, and steadfast?”

Use these questions to generate conversation in a discussion group:
  1. People have to make a living through honorable undertakings such as cattle ranching. Wolves have to make a living as well, by killing their prey. Land owners have the right to protect their livestock. What rights do wolves have, or what rights should they have?
  2. Lobo proves to be an animal of exceptional cunning. What do you think of him?
  3. Seton uses a trick to trap Blanca. Was he unfair, or was he justified in the measures taken to trap her?
  4. Seton describes Lobo’s last hours in considerable detail, what do you think he might have learned from this experience?
  5. How does the death of the wolf make you feel?

“Krag, the Kootenay Ram” is an in-depth conscientious exploration of animal behavior set in the Canadian Rockies. In this story, Seton set out his ideas on environmental consciousness and the complexity of animal behavior. The magnificent bighorn sheep, Krag, finds himself in a lifelong battle against the degenerate hunter Scotty MacDougall. In their final encounter, Scotty’s pursuit is such that he gives Krag no time to graze, and the great animal begins to starve. The journey is equally harsh for Scotty, whose physical deterioration soon matches his mental collapse. The story is an allegory about Western civilization’s self-destructive treatment of nature.

Quote from Seton at the beginning of Lives of the Hunted: “My chief motive, my most earnest underlying wish, has been to stop the extermination of harmless wild animals; not for their sakes, but for ours, firmly believing that each of our native wild creatures is in itself a precious heritage that we have no right to destroy or put beyond the reach of our children.”

Use these questions to generate conversation in a discussion group:
  1. What do bighorn sheep have to learn in order to survive in their mountain environment?
  2. What are some of the rule of bighorn sheep life?
  3. Krinklehorn nearly kills Krag by unfair fighting, but pays a terrible price. Do animals have a sense of morality?
  4. Krag must battle against both dogs and wolves. Krag prevails in these encounters, but sometimes the predators must prevail because they too must feed their families. What is the relationship of predator and prey in the wild?
  5. Scotty relentlessly pursues the ram. Do you think Scotty represents something more than himself in this story? What lesson is Seton teaching us?
Badlands Billy: the Wolf that Won. Long before scientists understood animal intelligence, Seton identified it in this story. Badlands Billy is Seton’s remembrance of a wolf hunt he observed in 1897. Seton uses the story to explain the natural history of wolves. He invents a life history for this hero wolf who survives the greatest hardships. When the normal prey of wolves (such as bison and antelope) are killed off by human hunters, the wolves of North Dakota, like those of New Mexico, are forced to kill cattle, putting them into conflict with humans. Unlike Lobo, Billy outwits all the hunters. In addition to instincts, animals learn behavior by watching others of their own kind and through personal experience. Although these ideas are now accepted among animal behaviorists, when Seton first suggested them, they were highly controversial.

Quote from Seton in Animal Heroes: “A Hero is an individual of unusual gifts and achievements. Whether it be man or animal, this definition applies; and it is the histories of such that appeal to the imagination and to the hearts of those who hear them.”

Use these questions to generate conversation in a discussion group. Special note: the hunt for Billy took place in 1897, three years after the death of Lobo.
  1. Long ago, antelope and buffalo roamed the grasslands of America. Eventually, many of these animals were hunted to near extinction and replaced by cattle. The remaining wolves had nothing left to eat but cattle. Does this change your perception of wolves?
  2. What do mother wolves need to teach their pups?
  3. Why does Billy survive when Lobo did not?
  4. When Billy escapes the dogs, Seton cheers him on. Seton seems very different than three years earlier during his encounter with Lobo. Why do you think he has changed?
  5. What are the attributes of an animal hero? Which of these traits are demonstrated by Billy?
Silverspot, The Story of a Crow is Seton’s classic look into the secret lives of birds., the subject that began his interest in natural history. Birds, especially large ones such as crows are relatively easy to see. Birds of the Corvidae family (crows, jays and ravens) are known as animals of exceptional intelligence. Silverspot is a natural leader and teacher, wise in the ways of his own kind, and the object of Seton’s attention over several years when he lived in Toronto.

Quote from Seton in Wild Animals I Have Known: “How many of us ever got to know a wild animal? I do not mean merely to meet with one once or twice, or to have one in a cage, but to really know it for a long time in the wild, and to get an insight into its life and history.”

Use these questions in discussion of the story.
  1. Seton interprets the calls of crows as a kind of language. Are the crows really speaking to each other?
  2. Crows can reason, plan, and learn. When Silverspot drops bread into a stream entering a tunnel, he knows to wait for its reappearance at the tunnel’s other end. How much are we like them or they like us?
  3. Are there absolute differences between the behavior of crows and of humans?
Raggylug, The Story of a Cottontail Rabbit. Seton shows how animals, like people, do learn by watching their elders. He was one of the first naturalists to develop a scientific-based understanding of animal behavior. He wrote that animals (including rabbits) learn through instinct, but also by watching adults of the same species, and through personal experience. As we watch them go through their daily routines, we find out just how dangerous the world can be. 

Quote from Wild Animals I Have Known: “Those who do not know animals well may think I have humanized them, but those who have lived so near them as to know somewhat of their ways and theirs minds will not think so.”

Consider these questions.
  1. Which of Rag’s learning moments falls into which of the three categories (instinct, watching and imitating others, personal experience)?
  2. Time after time, Rag’s mother shows a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice (that is, giving up her own life) to save him. How do you feel about her?
Bingo, The Story of My Dog is a tribute to man’s best friend. Most of us have owned or been around dogs. The human-dog bond is unique. Bingo saved Seton’s life at least once, perhaps twice. 

Quote from Wild Animals I Have Known: “It is wonderful and beautiful how a man and his dog will stick to one another, through thick and thin.”

Here are some things we might ask about these relationships.
  1. What remarkable experiences have you had with dogs?
  2. What have you learned from dogs?
  3. Do you think they really know what we think and feel?
  4. Is there such a thing as a “bad dog” or are do dogs react to us in developing their own behavior?

The Springfield Fox. At least until the advent of televised nature programs, few were privileged to observe the secretive fox as closely as Seton. This fox made an appearance in Raggylug’s story as a predator passing through. But here we see that the foxes have families of their own to care for. They react to changing situations with both emotion and intelligence. A fox can consciously choose to resemble a rock in order to escape attention. This suggests they are, at least in some ways, much like us.

Quote from Wild Animals I Have Known: “For each kind of prey they [the fox pups] were taught a way to hunt, for every animal has some great strength or it could not live, and some great weakness or the others could not live.”

Discuss the following ideas.
  1. When people and animals (such as foxes) encounter one another, the result is often tragic for the animal. What steps might we take to avoid or non-violently resolve conflicts with wild animals?
  2. Have you ever seen a fox or other secretive wild animals?

The Pacing Mustang dramatizes the plight of wild animals by having a mustang choose between captivity and death.  Seton set this story concurrently with his hunt for Lobo. In order to create a sense of drama, he has the Mustang, in its final moment, chose death by suicide over captivity. Most scientists have doubted this could really have happened, but it is clear that animals have an emotional life.

Quote from Wild Animals I Have Known: “Up, up and on, above the sheerest cliff he dashed away into the vacant air, down—down—two hundred downward feet to fall, and land upon the rocks below, a lifeless wreck—but free.” 

A group could discuss these questions.
  1. If we could tune into the feelings of wild horses (or wolves or rabbits), what might we learn?
  2. In the late 1800s, the western United States was lightly populated and thinly fenced. Have you visited areas that were vast and open? What did you experience and how did you feel about that place?
Redruff, The Story of the Don Valley Partridge is a poignant look at the extreme impact humans can have on wild nature. This is a particularly sad story where harmless animals are relentlessly pursued until they are exterminated. We will let Seton write the first discussion question from Wild Animals I have Known:
  1. “Have the wild things no moral or legal rights? What right has man to inflict such long and fearful agony on a fellow creature, simply because that creature does not speak his language?”
  2. Seton does not apply these questions to the way people treat one another. But do you believe these questions are valid in questioning how all the peoples of the world either do or do not get along?
  3. The back-page art in the original edition (and in many editions of the book) shows a man, a wolf, and a bird together. A rising sun comes up behind them (shining its light on all equally). A river or lake flows in front on them (from which all must drink). Swirling lines of energy connect all of them together. Was Seton correct in his vision, is it possible that all peoples, animals, and plants can someday achieve some level of harmony? 

Through his stories Seton examined the relation of humankind to nature and its wildlife. Should we preserve wildlife for our sake? For the sake of the animals themselves? Or in our more ecologically minded time, can we make the case to do both? Lifecraft gives guidance for how to live, but also for how to question. We become fully alive when we take on the arduous responsibility of thinking for ourselves.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Advanced Topics in Lifecraft #3 Learning as Transformation

This deep sky is for me a visual representation of the possibility of  deep learning

In this essay, I am taking a somewhat different tact, using by permission, the Learning Model of the Academy for the Love of Learning. This has been developed over many years and is explored through the Academy’s programs. I believe Seton would have understood this approach since observation and experience were key to his view of learning.

We can enter the Learning Model by referring to events from Seton’s life, and then follow up with questions that we can ask about our own. Learning Model components create the basis of all programs offered through the Academy. Even in its simplest form, it brings personal engagement to the learning process, invites creativity and insight, and the establishes the potential for deep learning. Four key elements of the model (below) are also inherent to the meaning of Seton’s Lifecraft.

The Academy’s founder, Aaron Stern, while he was developing the fundamentals of his organization’s approach to education, had no knowledge of Seton or his ideas on Lifecraft. It may be too much to claim convergence of the two sets of ideas, but there are parallels which I mentioned in the previous essay (Lifecraft #2).

When Aaron made an agreement with Dee Seton Barber (Seton’s daughter) to provide the Seton Legacy with an institutional home at the Academy, he saw that Seton’s life illustrated one of the Academy’s core principles: one can become the change that one wants to see in the world. To learn more, we invite you to visit the Academy’s web site (the link is above) as well as the campus at Seton Village to take part in its programs. (In the meantime, we are happy to hear your thoughts on all of this.)

While there is no direct connection between Seton’s Fourfold Path and the four aspects of the Academy’s Learning Model (the number of four being coincidence), you may wish to join me in consideration of the parallels. The Fourfold Path (or Lifecraft Way) summarized:
1.     Service of Love (a waking up of consciousness about oneself, and one’s place in a larger context.
2.     Spirit of Fortitude (courage arising from self-reflection and empathy)
3.     Body of Beauty (recognition of the sanctity of life and standing for the well-being of all life)
4.     Mind of Truth (accepting honesty, reverence, and reasonableness as core guiding values)

As an adjunct to this, I can add, that although Seton was a romantic (in reaction to the mass-war, mass-industrial age), at the same time he specifically rejected the irrational as a legitimate means of interpreting meaning in the world.

The Learning Model of the Academy for the Love of Learning summarized:

Seton hunted wolves, and eventually trapped Lobo. He came to see the nobility and intelligence of the wolf and, as he watched Lobo’s dignity in dying, was profoundly touched.  His understanding of animals was forever changed.

Begin with the experience—either an experience in the moment, or one that can be remembered…
  • Experience could come in many forms: drawing or painting, storytelling, movement, group activity, time in nature, going for an outing
  • Pretty much anything you give full attention to could be called an experience
Can you recall an experience that was transformative for you?

Seton spent much of his time alone while he was in New Mexico trapping wolves. He kept a journal of his experience, and thought deeply about what he was seeing and feeling. Writing Lobo’s story was a powerful form of reflection.

 Take some time to think and feel into the experience…
  • Reflection can be alone, or with another – can include journaling, drawing, going for a walk
  • Tell the story of the experience to a partner
  • Include feelings, emotions, memories that were evoked
When you reflect back on your transformative experience, what do you remember most clearly? What were the details, including feelings and emotions, that seem particularly meaningful to you now?

To find meaning from his experiences in New Mexico, Seton made an extensive study of its birds and animals as an artist and naturalist, and also learned from Native American friends and mentors. Over time, Seton formulated an understanding of the interconnectedness of the natural world, including the role and impact of humanity.

Explore learning from the experience and what meaning can be made from it…
  • What personal or shared learning came from the experience?
  • What other sources of information can add insight?
  • How can this learning be applied in life? How can it be explored further?
What meaning does your experience hold for you? What did you learn from it about yourself, and about the world?

Seton’s life of activism as a conservationist, naturalist, and educator, grew out of his experience with Lobo, and the resulting transformation of his understanding of the natural world.

Try out the learning…
  • Follow curiosity, see where this learning leads
  • See if it invites another cycle of learning…
How were you changed by that moment in your life? What actions, or new ways of being in the world, resulted from your experience?

Four Ways to Support the Learning Process

1. This way of learning involves the whole person:
Thinking is only a small part of the picture. Invite the whole of each person into the inquiry.
  • Physical movement – can you dance your experience, or explore it with your body?
  • Sensations – what textures, tastes, tones are in your experience?
  • Emotions – how do you feel? What do your feelings want to tell you about your experience?
  • Imagination – what colors are in your experience – what could you name your experience
2. Slowing down helps bring awareness to reflection:
Often our need to reach completion overwhelms the richness that comes with savoring the journey.
  • Invite participants to stop for a moment and listen, or feel, what is happening inside themselves, and in the group.
  • Encourage participants to relish their stories, take time to speak, and really get into the telling.
  • Listen slowly, too. As a facilitator, listen with depth, and experiment with reflecting back what you hear when a participant says something that touches you. Let him or her know how you were affected.
  • If things are going too fast, suggest everyone takes a breath, feels their weight on the chair, looks around the room.
3. Follow your curiosity:
What catches your attention can bring guidance as you work with the group.
  • Ask questions that deepen and invite feeling: “Can you say more…?”
  • Invite the unexpected: “What might happen if…?”
  • Allow yourself to be transparent at times: “When you said that, I felt very moved. Thank you for being so open.”
  • When strong feelings come up for you, as facilitator, can you follow the thread internally – what is being evoked in your own story? Be curious about that, too.
4. Attend to what goes on in the ‘field’:
When the unexpected happens, it may bring a key insight to the group.
  • Notice the tone of the group – is it alive, sleepy, all over the place.  Can you play with that, and make it part of the experience? “Let’s get up and run around the room.” “How about a five-minute nap?” or, “What do you think our sleepiness is trying to say to us?”
  • Are there themes coming into the group through reflections? Stories?
  • What’s happening outside the group? Are there interruptions? What’s the weather doing? Was there a powerful headline on the news?