Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Junior Cody: Why Catalysts Matter (Chapter One of Anthill) by Sarah Gannon-Nagle with the National Conservation Training Center

Raff’s cousin Junior is in many ways a catalyst for the beginning of Raff’s own lifelong connection to nature. By daring Raff into “borrowing” a skiff for a trip down the Chicobee River, Junior gets Raff to accompany him on a grand adventure that ultimately leads the boys to a new level of independence. They are completely on their own as they head out in search of serpents and frogmen.

Although Junior was not a mentor the way Frederick Norville is (we will meet Dr. Norville in the next chapter), in many ways, Junior was equally important. He provides the activation energy necessary to get Raff out into the great outdoors, resulting in Raff’s discovery that he has within himself the courage to explore on his own.

As you reflect on the early stages of your connection to nature, was there a Junior-like catalyst who encouraged YOU to strike out on your own in the outdoors? In what ways is your personal “Junior” similar to – or different from – Junior’s character in the book?

The next section of Anthill will be moderated by Bill Finch, the Director of Conservation for the Nature Conservancy in Alabama. Bill is a nature writer whose works have largely focused on Alabama's rich natural heritage.

27 comments:

Eliza Wallace said...

For me it was bible camp. Every summer of my childhood, I went to a day camp with no indoor buildings: just a pool, pavilion, tennis courts, a creek and a woods with endless possibilities. My secular, scientist parents didn't send me to this camp to grow up with God--they sent me so I would be outdoors all summer doing un-health-department-regulated activities and getting muddy. At camp, aside from prayers, I learned how to canoe, kayak, and swim, but also to laugh instead of bawl when my boat rolled and dumped me into the creek. I learned during massive games of capture-the-flag and fortbuilding in the woods how to stalk silently through the undergrowth, aware of each leaf and twig, following the lessons of rabbits and deer in ways of silently moving around the woods. I learned to not cry out when my ankles seared with stinging nettle--you just slap some cold mud on your legs and grit your teeth and keep playing. I learned how to take risks and be dangerous and truly experience the outdoors as a kid. I learned how to get covered and scratched and filled with nature, not to stand back and coo at it from afar. Camp made me a tough, not-afraid-of-snakes-and-spiders little girl and I value the uninhibited and unsterilized nature of my early experiences so much now, that when I find myself sticking too close to the well-traveled trail in the woods, I remind myself that it's better to walk on the wild side.

Heather said...

I just finished writing a piece for Refuge Update called "Growing Up Wisconsin" and what is was like for me to grow up in a state with such rich conservation legacy. I talk about my experiences as a child; Girl Scout summer camp, fishing with my dad, camping with my family. But I think the biggest thing for me and lot of people my age, was the parent-factor of being pushed out the door when it was nice out and my mom or dad saying, "Go find something to do". When it was nice out, we would spend sun up to sun down, playing outside, building forts in the woods, biking the trails along the river, swimming, etc. And when I was a kid, that's all I wanted to do. I loved spending time with my dad fishing for bluegills, or being outside when my mom was gardening and working in our big backyard. Our favorite memories as a family are the ones where we got to go camping as a family, away from all the distractions. And I guess having my parents as a catalyst to get me outdoors was a major factor in me spending last year doing a 10 month AmeriCorps program with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota working on a field crew team in rural northern Minnesota. It was the experience of a lifetime, being away from everything, and I mean everything, including internet and cell phone service. I got to spend the summer camping in the woods, working in the parks, and really just getting a chance to connect to nature like I never have before. It was the best 10 months I have had and I think because of my parents always "pushing me out the door" led me to be independent enough and in love with the outdoors enough to get to fulfill a really life-changing experience.

Margaret said...

There was a fellow where I summered in New Hampshire who would take all of the pre-teen and teens around our summer community up above treeline at dusk and walk the ridgeline during the August moon - we would walk most of the night and have mighty adventures rock-hopping, huddling in the col one stormy, moonless night, and general bold and fearless night sky mountain adventuring. His gift was to make us feel safe and see the moon-full mountain night as a time to share, stay close, follow the trail, and be brave. Sometimes our Junior-like companions are mentors and sometimes they escort us into sheer fun and adventure with a dare!

Karen Leggett said...

I also grew up as a Brownie/Girl Scout/church camper, with all the accompanying outdoor activities and my mother as the leader. I realized fully only as an adult that while she enjoys gardening and walking outdoors, she never cared for the camping/bug collecting/tromping in the mud type of activities. Yet she felt all these experiences were important for children so she made sure they happened. We sometimes need to think out of our own boxes to provide opportunities with life-long impact for kids.

Sarah Gannon-Nagle said...

What wonderful comments - thank you for sharing your experiences! From Eliza's walk on the wild side to Heather's early connection and later Conservation Corps, and from Margaret's moon-filled mountain nights to Karen's scouting activities: your awareness of nature as well as the way you value your connection to it are inspiring. I appreciate Karen's comment about the need to think outside of our own boxes when it comes to cultivating ties to the outdoors in younger generations.

To build on Karen's comment, here's another question to contemplate: in what ways are you a catalyst - like Anthill's Junior - for others?

Harper said...

I haven't been as active a "Junior" as I'd like to be to younger kids. However, I find myself striking up a conversation with families hiking along a trail. I will offer up random "Did you know" type of tidbits. I see the younger ones eyes light up. They really are like sponges and just maybe they will remember how to make a jewelweed seed case pop and pass it on. I hope little moments add up. I really like the comment about the moonless night walks (previous stream) and would like to start doing that with the neighborhood kids.

Mark said...

My main "Junior" role has been as a parent. Family time outdoors and sharing the experience of nature's surprises putting on a "show for free" every day. The sense of wonder engendered for a lifetime.

SE 16 from seneca east high school said...

When we look our fear of the unknown and the wild in ourselves directly in the eye we feel better about ourselves. We feel braver and accomplished for facing our fear. To not know what’s going to happen in the future is a scary thing, but taking chances and being brave going into it makes us stronger as a person. For example in the book “Anthill”, the boy takes a risk by going to see the Frogman when everyone knows he shouldn’t be messed with. He is taking a risk and going into the “wild side”. By taking this risk he finds out information on what the two boys were searching for, the “monster” in the water.
No I don’t think there is a connection between “Green Fire” and the nature of the “Frogman”. The “Green Fire” is referencing the wolves’ eyes, and the nature of the “Frogman” is said to be mean and that he’s scary. I think overcoming fear inspires supremacy. After we face our fears and find out it wasn’t that bad we find a sense of power. We feel accomplished and relieved to find out we can be strong and take our fears head on.

se13 from seneca east high school said...

When we look our fear of the unknown, the wild in ourselves, directly in the eye we either take off running or take it head on. For example when the two boys went to see the Chicopee Serpent, Junior was brave and wanting to challenge his “wild side” this is why he wanted to find the Loch Ness Monster, he didn’t care if the boys got in trouble or not. But for Raff, he always want to quit looking for the Loch Ness and go home, he was scared of what would happen next so not challenging his “wild side”.

There is a relationship between the “Green Fire” and the predatory nature of the “Frogman” because the green fire is talking about the soul of the wolf leavening its body and the frogman is talking about the mean man and his personality, his soul. Overcoming fear does have a place in establishing our sense of connection and purpose because when you overcome a fear you feel you can do anything and this gives you a sense of purpose.

se14 for seneca east high school said...

Due to the fact that people deal with different situations indifferent ways. Some people storm their fears like a rush attack in a war. Others won’t even look at their fears in the first place. But in a general sense we become stronger people and in the end we all benefit from this course of action.

When a child grows up nature does as well. Nature develops in totally different ways nature takes a more physical perspective as opposed to mature and mental ways. So basically nature and humans grow and develop into what they are commonly known as. Just like nature can be destroyed due to an outside interference just like a child’s well being can be destroyed.

se6 from seneca east high school said...

When some people look fear in the eyes they usually do two things. They either turn to their fear, and they don’t back down. The other thing people usually do is when they look fear of the unknown in the eye, is they run away with their tails between their legs.
When a child grows up and has a natural connection for a land, they will fight for that land. They have that connection with the land they will learn to care for the environment, and feel a sympathy for it. As a child without this connection will have no reason to like or dislike the environment. They will have no reason to protect the environment unlike a child with that connection.

SE15 from Seneca East High School said...

The thing that happens when you look the fear of the unknown directly in eye is you figure out how you will act to face your fears. You figure out how you will react in the time of adversity. You will figure out if you will fold or be able stand up to level that is needed to survive.
It is very critical to have a good connection between a child and a natural place to incite action because people need to be able to respect the land and Earth that they live on. They need to learn to respect the environment and everything else in life and this is a great way to help them do this. So, yes it is very critical that children have a good connectin to the environment.

se19 from seneca east high school said...

When we look our fear of the unknown, the wild in ourselves, directly in the eye, there are two possible outcomes. You can begin to think that your fear isn’t so bad or you can dislike that fear more. One personal fear that I have is riding roller coasters. One positive outcome that could come of me riding roller coasters is being able to ride them with friends. The negative outcome that could come of it would be not liking them more than I already did.
The connection between a child and a natural place to ultimately incite the action to protect that land is when a child wants to protest an environmental issue and takes steps to get his or her point across. An example would be cutting down on CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

SE3 Superman!! said...

Some people will take their fear on and conquer it, but others will run from it. The tough people will rise above and not let the fear consume them. The people that run from fear will never overcome it and will run from it their entire life.
The strong connection between every child and nature is very critical. At a young age children should be taught to respect the power of nature and how to treat it. The more a child knows about nature the safer they will be and they will be able to live and have more fun.

Se5 from Seneca East High School said...

For some people, when they look their fears directly in the eyes, they are scared. They sometimes hide from their fears and want nothing to do with them. However, for other people, they stare right back at that fear and want to do something about it. These people become confident in their selves and want to overcome their fears. When they do, they are proud of themselves and aren’t afraid of their fears anymore.

I don’t think that there is a relationship between the two. I believe that overcoming our fears usually has a place in establishing our sense of connection and purpose. When we overcome our fears, we are proud and feel like we have accomplished so much. Usually we do not establish a feeling of supremacy, however, because overcoming fears doesn’t make us feel higher than anyone. When Raff got over his fear of the “Frogman” he felt very good. He came to like him and wasn’t afraid of him anymore.

SE8IsABaller said...

What happens when we look our fear of the unknown, the wild in ourselves, directly in the eye?
It depends on the type of person to determine what they will do. Some people will both embrace the challenge and take it on, or they will back away from the fear. People that are tough will look at this fear directly and try to conquer it. They will go at this and try to overcome it. Other people will back away from this fear and run away. They will not try at all to overcome it, and they will continue to let this fear haunt them forever, or at least until they overcome it. In the first chapter, they overcome their fear or Frogman by going up and talking to him. This is taking on the fear and conquering it.


How critical is the connection between a child and a natural place to ultimately incite action to protect the land and build a strong environmental ethic.
I think it is very critical that each and every child should have a strong connection with nature. When they are young they should be taught all about nature. They should learn how to treat and respect nature. The more that they are connected to nature, the better chance they will have to protect it and build a strong ethic. If they do not know much about nature, they are less likely to take care of it. In the end, I think that it is very important that children learn about nature so that when they are older they will better protect it and respect it.

se4 from Seneca East said...

1. What happens when we look our fear of the unknown, the wild in ourselves, directly in the eye?

The reaction of looking our fear of the unknown directly in the eye depends on the person. Some people are willing to try to overcome heir fears and actually want to look them in the eye. While others may not want to even attempt to accomplish their fears and would rather avoid their fears because they are intimidating. Therefore, the result of looking fear in the eye depends on the situation and the person.

2. Is there any relationship between that " Green Fire" referenced in " Thinking Like a Mountain" and the predatory nature of the "Frogman" character in Anthill? Does overcoming fear have a place in establishing our sense of connection and purpose or does it inspire supremacy?

In "Thinking Like a Mountain", the author refers to the " Green Fire" in the wolf's eye and something that symbolizes the special bond between the wolf and the woods. The " Frogman" is a character who is very protective of his land and does anything to keep it safe. Yes, I believe that there is a relationship between the "Frogman" and the " Green Fire." I think that overcoming fear has a place of establishing our sense of connection and purpose because people are always trying to do something that is bigger and better than everybody else. Overcoming fear makes people feel more important and confident in themselves.

se17 from seneca east high school said...

Question 1: When we look our fear of the unknown in the eye, we are standing up to our fears and are more likely to discover something new. Sometimes the greatest discoveries are made when we face our fears and go somewhere or doing something we aren't used to going to or doing. An example to describe this is, in the novel, when Fredrick tells the story of how Raff used to search for bugs and other small creatures around Lake Nokobee. He would pick up anything he found, even the spiders, even though he didn't know if they were dangerous or not, just so he could have Fredrick identify them.


Question 3: When a child has a sentimental connection to a natural place, they are more likely to want to conserve that place. Along with this the are more likely to appreciate nature in general. This builds a strong environmental ethic that they are likely to influence their friends and family with. The more people like this in the world, the greater the benefit is for nature.

se18 from seneca east said...

To respond to the first question, when you look at fear of the unknown directly in the eye, you never can expect what you’re going to find. In the book, Raff is fearful of meeting Frogman. He fears that Frogman will try to harm them or even possibly kill them. Raff tells Junior about how Frogman doesn’t like people on his property, and how he murdered some people and got away with it. When they finally came across Frogman, they were a little scared at first, but then they eventually realized that he really was not as mean as they thought. They realized that he is a little grouchy, but he shows that he does care for things, such as his landscape and his alligator. Frogman tells them how Old Ben, the alligator, only comes out at night and how he stays near and is watched over by Frogman. This shows that Raff and Junior can not always rely only on what they hear, but that they need to find out on their own, what someone or something is like.

In response to your third question, it can be critical depending on how much a child cares about that nature place. If they care for that place a lot when they are younger, they will grow up to still care for that place as adults. They will want to protect that place now more than ever, if they have good memories of this nature place. This place will be special to this person and they will want it to be special to other people as well. So this will encourage people to help build a strong environmental ethics, by keeping their special nature place clean and safe for others to enjoy. If the person didn’t care much about a certain nature place when they were younger, but they do care a lot for it now, they will still try to help protect this place, but probably not as much as they would have if they cared for it when they were younger. Making that special connection to a nature place when you are younger is easier and it helps you become more protective of that place and other places.

SE11scotty4250 said...

I think facing a fear is the only way of getting over it. Our fear of the unknown is nothing more than a discovery to be made. Everyone has a fear of something. When facing it you can either overcome it or you can’t, but either way you come out of the experience as a different person. You have become wiser through facing it. Facing a fear is a learning process. If you don’t overcome it the first time you at least learn to accept it and move on. You can always face it again later, but I think the main thing that comes out of facing your fears is the experience.

It is important for a child to make a connection with nature. The child will become emotionally vested in nature and want to invest the energy to protect the ecosystem. That child will have memories with that area. That part of nature will become a part of that child and will never die.

SE9 Seneca East High School said...

When we look the fear of the unknown right in the eye we have more of confidence. We have more confidence because after we look are fear in the eye it is no longer a fear. Raff was afraid to go to the “wild side” because his parents wouldn’t agree with the idea and he was afraid of the Frogman. When Raff goes to the wild side he doesn’t think about what his parents would think so he gets over that fear rather quickly. His fear of the frogman goes away once he meets the Frogman. The Frogman is a little grouchy when they meet him but they soon realize he is not as bad as what people made him seem to be. Raff learns that you can’t always trust what other people say and you can’t make something a fear until you saw it yourself.
I think there is some relationship between the “Green Fire” and the predatory nature of the “Frogman.” The relationship is that the green fire represented the fight and hunger in the wolfs eyes as he hunted for food and the Frogman had determination to take care of and feed the alligator.
I also think that overcoming a fear inspires supremacy. When we as humans overcome a fear it gives us a boost of confidence making us feel a sense of dominance or supremacy. After we overcome that fear we act like it was never a fear at all and we soon find a new fear that we need to overcome. Every time we overcome something it makes us feel like we have accomplished something and as humans that is what we hope for. That is why I believe overcoming a fear inspires supremacy.

se12 from seneca east said...

Fear can lead to many unknown places, but when we look our fears directly in the eye. We can learn to overcome and face our fears. Just like Junior and Raff did when meeting the Frogman. Their fears led them to be afraid of the Frogman. When in reality he isn't that bad of a person.


Making a connection between a child and nature is critical, but not to an extreme amount. Its easier at a young age, but can still happen as they get older. Making a connection at a younger age can lead to a career and lifestyles protecting and supporting the environment. Many people still make a connection as they get older. So in my opinion a connection is not very critical as a child.

WILD READ Team said...

Seneca East High School students, YOU ROCK!!! We are so impressed with the new ideas you have presented about wildness, fear, and early connections to the natural world. You have all just enriched our conversation twenty-fold. Thank you for sharing and we plan to hear your voices again and again as we continue to read!

Jim Siegel said...

What is the relationship between the "Green Fire" and the Frogman character in "Anthill"? The students discuss confronting fear in Anthill - which is not a major theme of the book. Instead, Raff often displays the quiet confidence that comes from self knowledge and knowledge of nature. He generally is not a frightened person either as a kid or as an adult. In Green Fire, the deer fears the wolves, and the mountain (actually its vegetation) fears the deer. This is not the fear of human beings confronting the unknown as when the boys go to visit Frogman in Anthill. The truth revealed in Green Fire derives from millions of years of co-evolution between predator and prey: That the unwary, the slow, the unprotected get eaten. The deer do not live in overwhelming psychological terror of the wolf; the knowledge essential to their survival is in their instincts expressed by their genes. The knowledge is simple: If they can run fast - they live - if they cannot - they die. They don't worry about it There is no existential fear in a deer, a tree or an ant, only in mankind.

SE1 from seneca east high school said...

The statement made in the first question in my opinion has a very strong meaning. We as humans are not taking care of the things we should take care of. We also do not want to include ourselves in the wild because we are aware that we have been destroying our beautiful ecosystems. There is no mistaking that we have not always been as domestic and advanced as we are now. We know we are destroying the wild and being a part of it I believe that this is expressing we are going to destroy ourselves.

I believe you need to connect a child with nature at a young age. They need to learn to appreciate and respect nature. Also they need to realize what nature and all of the life on this Earth provides for them. If a child does not understand this they will not see how important it is to treat the Earth with great respect. If generations are continually not taught this our world as we know it will steadily decline in diversity.

Jane said...

I have a fond memory of our first camping trip at the Jersey Shore when I was about eight. My brother Tom, who was nine, woke at the crack of dawn to gather wild blueberries for our breakfast while practicing bird calls. He woke everyone in the camp ground! Tom loved the great outdoors and was my ‘junior’. He fished in the stream near our home, cooking up the fish or crayfish over a small fire. He hunted deer in the forested hillside adjacent to our home. When we were young, our parents designated the woods off limits because of the snakes and skunks. As we grew, we were allowed to venture in along the perimeter. Tom ignored that rule and came to know those woods intimately. He also had the distinction of being the only one of my seven siblings to be sprayed by a skunk! I remember fishing with him in a rowboat on a lake in a state park where we spent hours in silence so the fish wouldn’t be disturbed. He was similar to Junior in his willingness to ignore our parents’ warnings about the dangers of the forest and also in his willingness to use a gun. He told stories to other less daring kids, including me, of a neighbor threatening him and his buddies with a shotgun when they ventured onto his property. This elderly recluse owned many acres and was our ‘Frogman’.

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