Peter J. Bergen, grew up in South Plainfield, NJ.
Between the years 1960 to 1967 I had the privilege to spend approximately 30 weekends per year on my Uncle Charles and Aunt Mildred's farm. So between the ages of 6 through 12, along with my siblings and friends, I had free run of the farm and the adjoining fields, woods, lakes, and streams, under the watchful eye of my Aunt and Uncle. Looking back I now realize they were my greatest nature mentors. At the time, I thought they were just fun adults who showed me neat stuff, like cooking over an open fire, hunting, fishing, tending to farm animals and making my own fun. Lot of rich stories here.
During the same time period, the Boy Scout Troop I was in had a two year goal to camp once a month, that we fulfilled, rain and shine (ice and snow). My mom, being the regional director of Girl Scouts in Northern NJ, and avid camper, had her sons, behind the scenes at all the G. S. Jamborees and camp outs. I still have kids cook my mom's favorite campfire meal...bacon & eggs in a paper bag!
Closer to home, we spent countless hours in Spring Lake and the near by swamps catching all manner of turtles, frogs, toads, snakes, fish and any other thing that moved. It was common on many summer nights, long after the sun had gone down, for the parents of my neighborhood to be holding flashlights, ringing bells, honking horns at the edge of the swamp, looking for their children, who would emerge from the swamp with tadpoles in our pockets. I took this lifestyle and these experiences for granted. Without really thinking about it, I assumed all kids grew up, as did the kids of my neighborhood.
Fast forward to 1980, Cloverdale Ca. on 24 acres outside of town, raising a family. We did the pioneer routine. Moved on to bare land, lived in a trailer with no electricity and used composting toilets. Cooked on an open fire and used solar ovens until we built our house and out buildings. We raised sheep, pigs, chickens, and planted an orchard and gardens. Cut firewood to make ends meet, using the log puller I inherited from Uncle Charles. Even managed to slip in 6 seasons of being youth soccer coach from under age 5 to under age 12.
One afternoon I was in town talking to a friend about tracking the wild pigs that roam all over that part of the county. He said "You must know Tom Brown Jr, the *Tracker, since both you guys are from Jersey."
Between the fall of 1986 and summer of 1990 I traveled to NJ, of all places, and took all the Nature Awareness and Wilderness Survival classes Tom Brown Jr. had to offer. Each time I returned, I experimented on my family and friends. Convincing them it was a good idea to crawl into sweat lodges and sleep in holes in the ground filled with leaves and grasses. At this time, I was helping out at some of Tom's classes in NJ and, as it is known today, interning, with *Frank and Karen Sherwood, head instructors at The Tracker School, when they would run their own adult programs in Sandy, Oregon.
I began doing primitive skills, and tracking workshops at my place in Cloverdale, and close by Lake Sonoma, for groups in the area, interested adults, young and old, boy scouts, girl scouts and others.
In 1994 a good friend of mine introduced me to *Audubon Canyon Ranch, Bolinas Lagoon Preserve's nature program for school children. A short while into this amazing program, a team of us designed and implemented the existing School Overnight Program. This gave me another outlet to experiment, hone, and share my accumulated bag of nature connection tricks with children and adults. And I continue to do so with ACR, to the present day.
In 2003 while helping at *Victor Wooten's Bass/Nature Camp in Nashville Tenn. I ran across *Jon Young for the first time. Victor being an accomplished musician and Tom Brown alumni and Jon Young being the very first person to be mentored in the way Tom Brown had been mentored by Grand Father Stalking Wolf.
The following summer I attended an Art of Mentoring weekend sponsored by *Wilderness Youth Project and JonYoung in Santa Barbara Ca., with my son Rusty (adult) and my nephew James (12yrs). Here was my first exposure to the *8 Shields Mentoring Model. The ideas expressed in the adult lectures were very interesting and inviting. The actual impact, on my nephew, of the practice of the model in real life, (James was in the concurrent youth program) was, nothing less then amazing...(ask me about it, I love to tell that story)
The Circle begins to close.
A few month later Rusty, my step-son, who grew up as my wilderness awareness experiment, was now living at The Field Station in San Gregorio, Ca. Home base for Jon Young, his family, and the 8shields team. Rusty arranged for me to become a part time soccer coach at the *Riekes Center for Human Enhancement in Redwood City, Ca.. An organization that also practiced this cultural mentoring model. Allowing me to spend time with him and to rub shoulders with the 8 shields crew.
One morning over coffee, Jon was describing a new program that he was excited about. A nine month residential intensive nature connection adventure. Sounded great, just not for me, I thought. Over the next summer, Jon described the cultural engineering aspects of the mentoring model, at a series of talks at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, in Petaluma, Ca.
I was in with both feet! This idea, is what had made such an amazing impact on my nephew, the summer before ...in a single weekend. I needed to get a hold of this and get a firm grasp on how to implement the model for different age groups. I signed on to the IONA 9 month training and the following year, the 9 month *Regenerative Design and Nature Awareness Training.
Since then I have continued to be connected and work with the 8 Shields Community in different capacities;
Native Eyes, Bird Language, Art of Mentoring, Riekes Center, Youth Programs. As mentor/"uncle" with RDNA adult programs. Involved in the conversation of Rites of Passage for youth into adulthood and adults into elderhood.
When I do programs for other organizations or on my own they are firmly rooted in the 8 Shields mentoring culture:
Out Side In Nature @ Tara Firma
Wild Harvest Kids, Middletown/Avalon Springs
Audubon Canyon Ranch, Martin Griffin Preserve, Overnight Program, Advanced Docent Training
Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua
Clem Miller Ed Center, Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes Field Seminars
Muir Woods and Muir Beach Events
Urban School, San Francisco, Ca.
Credo Waldorf High School, Rohnert Park, Ca.
Friends of the Petaluma River Camps
Other groups, families, and individuals.