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November 19, 2012

By Martha Bouchard, Operations Director

The holidays are coming upon us. It may seem slightly early, but let’s face it, there have been “winter holiday” decorations in the stores since long before Halloween. Holidays have always been such an interesting and rewarding time in working with adolescents and children for nearly fifteen years. Admittedly, there are times that it has felt like double duty; just this past year I marked the first time I took a holiday to be with my family and not to be at the “office” as well.

This is one of the many things I must share my appreciation for regarding my “work” and my fellow employees. The holidays are a time when we make space for our loved ones as well as for the students and families we have dedicated our careers to. We celebrate two Thanksgivings, a winter extravaganza and many of the individual winter holidays as well; it is one of the most pleasurable times of the year.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramA few weeks ago, a member of the community had the opportunity to begin the preparations for these special times of celebration, of thankfulness, of appreciation for all we have and all of those whom support and love us.

A group of students and staff headed down to the coast to harvest kiawe (prosopis pallida) for the upcoming imu that will be prepared for our Thanksgiving celebrations. This wood has been drying in the gardens and soon will start the fire that will burn throughout the night, heating the stones upon which our food will be placed before the hot oven is covered to steam for many hours. Some of the students who participated in the wood harvest will no longer be at Pacific Quest when it is time to start the fires. This legacy they have left will be appreciated by us all, as we share our feast. For those students who did participate they will be able to tell the story of the adventure with members of our dedicated and committed logistics crew that most students do not have every day occasion to interact with and whom have the inside knowledge of the best trees to harvest from. This all day trip was topped off by a dip in the ocean at a secluded cove we visit only a few times a year.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramThus, this season gives us many opportunities to come together as the unique community that we are. As students tell the story of the adventure to gather wood, they will tell the story of a community that put intention behind each activity, a community that does not rush the process and that takes the time to ensure that things are done right and the proper amount of care and attention is given. These students will likewise tell the story of a community that is dedicated to them and to honoring our traditions and their role in creating those traditions as they participate in the community.

Story is such an integral part of the work that we embody at Pacific Quest. We take ownership of our stories, of our roles in the creation of our new stories and in understanding that our actions help to influence the stories of those that will follow in our footsteps; this is the essence of legacy. The legacy of the imu is not just that of a Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Programgreat meal and celebration of thankfulness. Don’t get me wrong, it is undoubtedly all of those things, but it is also the coming together for a common goal and the learning of a different way which helps to strengthen and magnify the sense of community that is created in this time of year.

When I first started working in this field, I would sometimes dread the emotions that I perceived would accompany this season, both for me in my work and for those I was working with in being away from their families. What I have come to realize is that this sense of dread was not warranted. I have found that contrary to these fears, the sense of community and appreciation has always grown as we come together to celebrate, and that student’s ownership in this process not only supports their growth, but mine as well as I head into my second celebration with my ohana outside of Pacific Quest.

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