I am enchanted by tactile connection with my environment. Sometimes that looks like petting very soft leaves on a plant. Sometimes that looks like running on trails or lifting heavy things. Sometimes that looks like climbing on things or jumping in water. Sometimes that looks like letting slugs crawl on my face!
One of my other favorite things is mentoring kids. On the first day of a year-long program, I met my kids, and immediately sensed a challenge. This gaggle of nine-year-old boys wanted nothing to do with… anything! After a few hours of trying desperately to get them to engage, we came across a slug. I started asking them questions about this magnificent creature on the forest floor. They were having none of it! One boy smirked, and said “if you like that slug so much, why don’t you put it on your face?” Always up for a good challenge, I happily obliged. “Ok, that was my challenge, what’s yours going to be?” I gleefully retorted. For the rest of the day, the boys engaged in challenge after challenge. How could you possibly argue with your teacher while she had a slug stuck to her face? About an hour into my slug facial, I started to feel a gentle scraping on my cheek. The slug was licking me. Well, trying to eat me, with it’s abrasive, toothed tongue. I naively thought I had plenty of time before any damage would be done, plus that slug was my only leverage with this pack of maniac boys! Eventually, the scraping shifted from gentle, to mildly irritating, to downright painful. That’s how I knew it was time to take it off. I gathered the boys around and made a big show of peeling the slug from my face. The boys abruptly fell silent, their eyes widening. After a solid minute of quiet, my original challenger whispered, “Teacher! You’re super bleeding!” Sure enough, the slug had eaten all the way through my skin, leaving a quarter-sized abrasion and a trickle of blood. From there, we had some great teachable moments about slugs’ potential to carry parasites, and which plants to use to stop bleeding and disinfect a wound. It was a start of a glorious year with that group. Talk about establishing a mentoring relationship!