I just finished today a wonderful book by authors Jim Horton and Don Bowak called Marking Life Stages which describes how New Zealanders offer opportunities for their young people to engage in safe and secure rituals that assist them in their transition from being children to being adults. They describe a thoughtful and intentional process wherein parents, guides and elders lead young people through their passage from childhood to adulthood.

We all have many transition points in our lives – going to school, graduation, first drink, first kiss, first job, marriage, – that powerfully influence the rest of our lives.

Shooting a coyote on my fathers farm was one of those transition points for me. It may be the reason that I never became a hunter. The coyote was not harming me or our farm. In fact, he had followed me for several days as I cultivated the field.

I never told anyone about what I had done. In hindsight, I wish I had talked about it with someone older and wiser. But I did not.

Now that I am old, it occurs to me that in our society, we do not place enough attention on having rites of passage, for our children, but also for men and women my age. A retirement party, some speeches and off we go. I used to think that adolescence was the most challenging time of a person’s life. But now, the data says that older men have the highest rates of suicide. And in the subset of men with prostate cancer the rate is higher still.

I am interested in developing ways that elders can assist children grow into adults as well developing ways that we older people can assume more elder roles in our communities

I think we need to talk about this. A lot.

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  1. I love this post, and I love this poem!

    Rings to me like a giant gong… gives me courage to speak to other men about killing animals when we’re boys, and to pursue a bigger conversation with my male peers about offering a rite of passage opportunity for boys here in Northwest Lower Michigan.

    Thanks, Bill. Timely and pertinent as usual.


  2. Bill, that is an important confession and it is a shame that we didn’t and generally don’t have those rituals and ceremonies and elders in our communities. I think that is one of the main reasons that I am attracted to the Culture and Ways of the Canadian Indigenous ceremonies that honour such transitions and honour such great diversity in their communities. Eurocentric institutions such as the Christian churches did not really offer a personal way of providing these transitions except for some pretty rigid rituals that had very binary perspectives on good vs bad and binary heterosexual relationships. The Indigenous approaches are more loving and accepting in my experience.
    a book came to mind as I read this blog and I wonder if you read Fire in The Belly back in the early 90s and other such books? They certainly were exploring “what it means to be a full-summed and spirited man.”
    Thanks Bill, Tim

  3. Yes indeed we do need those times of meeting and commincating in meaningful ways. Establishing traditions to ease transitions. Again I am reminded of how Dad did not allow hunters on our land only the neighbours so he could snare rabbits because I believe his family were not that well off. He also spoke in an angry tone of some farmers who beat their horses. I am glad to have seen that he had a heart for those weaker creatures and people too. I remember how he sought to help another neighboring family down the road who really struggled. Lending them farming equipment was one of the things he did.There is much we could share about our folks that would be so meaningful as siblings and I hope we can doore of that dear bro.

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