Jeb’s fourth grade class recently read Gary Paulsen’s Newberry award-winning book Hatchet. My son has always loved survival stories, whether in print on the movie screen. With Paulsen’s book, Jeb was transfixed by the thrilling tale of thirteen-year old Brian enduring the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet to aid him.
Jeb’s enthusiasm for the book encompasses so many of the core values I appreciate, starting with the fact that he’s enjoying reading a good book, words bound and printed on old-fashioned paper. Add to it elements of nature, self-reliance, and ingenuity, and as a parent being bombarded by the technological age, I am pleased to see my son inspired by some of the tried and true.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s no throwback. I am constantly monitoring his time on electronic devices, and attempting to stay ahead of him by educating myself on parental controls, online games, and the latest YouTube video that’s gone viral. Now that’s a wilderness of another kind, and it cares not for the mind and soul of my tender ten-year old, wide-eyed and eager to explore.
So, the other evening we were five adults sitting around the fire pit in my friend’s back yard. Yes, it was a real fire. A primal practice that Jeb’s been fortunate to have throughout his upbringing. There were some new friends gathered at the hearth, and when the fire master began shaving some kindling with a hatchet, they caught their breath, afraid he was chopping too close to his own hand.
Tis true, these natural fundamentals aren’t without risk, though it looked to me like the fire master had his chopping under control. Perhaps the fear coming from the onlookers stemmed from the fact that seeing sharp blades make close cuts wasn’t a part of their everyday experience. When was the last time they saw someone chop wood?
The situation sparked a memory and I share with the group the moment I had with Jeb, not long ago, as we wandered the tool aisle at our local hardware store.
“So, Jeb says to me, ‘Mom, when can I get a hatchet?'”
The fireside group sighs in unison, “Uhhh…,” understanding the danger implied, empathetic of my parental plight.
“I know,” I smile. “The thing is, I have to wonder which I fear more: the hatchet or the Internet.”
“Ahhh!” the group concurs, with more resounding sympathy, reverberating in an even deeper fear.