A Dramatic Hybrid Life

by | Nov 25, 2022 | Blog

Dear Boundless Families:

I came into my office this morning with a laptop in one hand and a chainsaw in the other. Greeted with snickers and eye-rolls by my colleagues, I am not sure if what they saw was irony, absurdity, or the perfect metaphor for this hybrid life we live at Boundless.

Your kids are becoming experts in this dual existence. Learning on the left, outdoorsy living on the right, their lives harken back to the days of the country schoolhouse. Although, the learning and living here are in hyperdrive. 

It was Mary-Michelle (our Program Manager) who grabbed the vroom vroom slasher from me to lead the kids on a hacking mission, to create a brand new wilderness trail for current and forever use in our Conservation area. They will be equipped with hand-saws – admittedly far less alluring than a chainsaw, but losing fingers is not our thing at Boundless.

What is fascinating to me with this mission, and the tree-planting, and the soil rehabilitation, is that the students won’t ever really behold the fruits of their labours. How are they reacting to this?

This elegant collection of hims, hers and theys are shining bright in work ethic and selflessness. They impress. They are proud to contribute.

In the evenings they debrief philosophy class over chess, or play silly board games (I really do have to teach them Bridge one day), or sketch gorgeous things. My oh my, there are artists here. Last year it was music. This year we are adorned with colours and drawings and handcrafts and clothing they made themselves. 

There have been hiccups. In baseball we see the phenomenon of the “Dog Days of August”, where the athletes feel the wear and tear of a daily grind. At Boundless, it was the dog days of November the past ten days. About a half dozen succumbed.

What does this look like? Sometimes pushback. Grumpiness. Challenging rules. For these kids, the polite acceptance of authority has long since eroded. They are comfortable enough to indulge in some “screw-you” attitudes.

Of course, at Boundless, we hold firm. But gently. We try to be patient.

Slowly, these kids are emerging from this quagmire. With a few of them, I found myself saying, “Being at peace is more important than being right.”

And for these spirited students, when they reckon with this adage like it’s a Zen riddle, true and enduring buy-in slowly starts happening.

It’s quite beautiful to watch. But it’s also filled with drama. Oy, oy, oy.

Which is all to say that the personal and community growth here is profound.

I am heading back to the city to be a grown-up until the very last day of this session, so this will be my final letter to you for a while. While there are still many days to go to get to the barn, I can’t wait for you to see the changes in your kids when they return for the holidays.

Thanks for sending them here.



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Steven Gottlieb
Steven Gottlieb