The Peace in Wild Things

Beth Black - Co-Founder Cherokee Creek Boys SchoolThe 50th anniversary of Earth Day has come to a close. I found it a challenge to shift my focus from the immensity of the pandemic to the challenges facing our Mother Earth. During the past weeks I’ve been comforted by the guidance of the CCBS mission and the lessons of the medicine wheel. We are all on a lifelong journey “to discover what is real and true about ourselves and the world around us.” … to understand our inner Warrior, Healer, Visionary and Teacher.

Even amidst the tragic deaths of thousands, we have seen, like the cycles of nature, the miracle of renewal. We have witnessed the emergence of leaders, expressions of love and compassion from strangers, amazing creativity as people share ideas coping with the stress produced by the unknown… and the brilliance of scientists as they work around the clock to create treatments for this disease. We’ve seen the Warrior, Healer, Visionary and Teacher all around us.

The Earth Day celebration also highlighted an unexpected gift from the epidemic… a reunion with nature. In a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times, journalist Alan Weisman, author of numerous classics on the state of the global environment, said:

“People are suspended between terror and wonder. They’re terrified that this is all so fragile, but they also realize there are things we have been missing — the birdsong everyone is noticing, the beautiful skies — and that those things are important.”

One goal of the CCBS experience is to immerse our students in the wonder of nature and build a deep respect, if not reverence, for our planet. We are blessed to be able to keep our boys nestled in the woods of Cherokee Creek, away from the “terror” of the pandemic and surrounded by trees, birds, rivers and fishing, hiking, canoeing and playing outdoors! They are amazingly resilient… being rambunctious and yet, simultaneously, at peace.

We’re grateful to you for your trust in us. We all eagerly await the moment with you can have reunion with your son. Until then, take a deep breath and give gratitude to a tree for the gift of the oxygen we breathe. Take care of yourself and take care of the planet! Blessings to each of you…



Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least of sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and like down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of the wild things
who do not tax their lives with for thought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

posted by jleslie in Nature and have Comments (2)

From STOP and GO to MEDIUM to SLOW

by Beth Black, Co-Founder, Cherokee Creek Boys School

Beth Black - Co-Founder Cherokee Creek Boys SchoolI took a walk today… my usual coronavirus exercise. Partly cloudy, pleasant breeze… perfect. I stopped halfway to tie my shoe and decided to sit for a while and on a bench to enjoy the grey clouds racing across the sky. It reminded me of my childhood in West Hartford, hiding in the tall grass in the field behind my house… just watching the clouds and being in a world of my own imagination.

After a few minutes of musing I thought “time to go”. Then I stopped myself! No, you have all the time you want…nothing pressing, no place you need to be… coronavirus has put a pause button on all the “normal” events of my day and given me this gift of time. A great blue heron landed near me… a fish jumped in the lake near me… a moment of clarity.

Angeles Arrien tells us to live our life in “nature’s rhythm which is medium to slow.” I realized that my life was really more like “STOP AND GO” than “MEDIUM TO SLOW” … Go, go, go, then completely shut down. Gear up and do it again. Sound familiar to any of you?? It’s a pattern learned over years of working against deadlines, raising two children and, frankly, enjoying the activity. But the gift of this pandemic is a new pace and I need to remember it when the “real world” returns!

most important things in life I created a little mantra for myself:





For years I have loved the StoryPeople books by writer and artist Brian Andreas. The illustration to the left is a “story” that sits on my desk as a daily reminder.

From now on, I will pay more attention to it and move more slowly.

How about you…what are your “medium to slow” stories?

posted by jleslie in Uncategorized and have Comments Off on From STOP and GO to MEDIUM to SLOW

Celebrating Our Elders

Beth Black - Co-Founder Cherokee Creek Boys Schoolby Beth Black, CCBS Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board

We just finished a wonderful family seminar that was devoted to the importance of family storytelling. Below is a story that was shared with me by my friend Jack Levine, and inter-generational advocate with 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee. With his permission I am reprinting it for your enjoyment. I highly endorse his final statement which is to record your family histories. They are truly the legacy that you leave for your children.

Celebrating Our Elders – A Legacy of Living History

Jack Levine - 4 Generations InstituteAs Sunday September 11th is Grandparents Day, I’m eager to reflect on the importance of grandparents in the lives of our families.
For most of us, no one provided a more vital link to our heritage and family history than our grandparents. Wherever they were from, and no matter their background, our grandparents provided a first-person connection to our past.

Whether by birth or through adoption, grandparents are treasures deserving of honor and respect. Like all of us, none were perfect, but most were there for us when we needed them most.

The wisdom of our elders is irrefutable. I distinctly remember so many ways my elders, especially my dear Grandma Minnie, influenced me by example.

Here are a Baker’s Dozen Life Lessons I learned at Minnie’s kitchen table….

“Love knows no boundary.” Keeping close to the people you love, and learning to love them without having to love everything they do, is the key to family strength. “You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.” Minnie held tight to those she needed and those who needed her.

Grandparents Day“An open door is an open heart.” Minnie’s kitchen table was a place where others came to eat and be fed spiritually. If a neighbor or their family had a problem, she was there for them. “If I needed them, I’d hope for the same treatment.” The golden rule does not tarnish.

“Waste not; want not.” Finishing our meals or saving leftovers for another time is one of the most compelling constants for our elders. Many remembered the pangs of deprivation, so therefore valued the food on their plates and the treasure of having enough to eat for everyone. Minnie always made a little extra, just in case an unexpected visitor came for dinner.

“Charity begins at home.” As little as they had, our grandparents always seemed to find a way to help others in need. Minnie had a tin can in which she would drop coins…”a little something for those with less than us.” Their example of giving, both through volunteer time and money provided the family a clear sense of appreciating the value of what we had. Reaching across the street as a way of helping others is good for them and us, too!

Grandparents Day“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” A clean home is the symbol of how we should conduct our lives in the sight of others. Minnie swept the sidewalk in front of her house almost every day. “When our guests come to our door, they should have a clear and welcoming path.” Picking up after ourselves so those who follow us have a clean path is a great lesson personally and environmentally.

“Progress comes in little steps.” Expecting too much too soon is unreasonable. “A drop plus a drop fills up the pot” was among Minnie’s favorite phrases. Every day is another opportunity to take positive steps…for family and for community. Her crocheting and knitting prowess proved that each stitch is essential to make a beautiful garment.

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” It’s a pleasure to enjoy the company of others and to hear a good joke, tell a witty story, and listen to the folk tales of the old country. These are among life’s great gifts. “Frowns make more wrinkles than smiles,” Minnie would say with glee.

“Honest compliments are among our most valued possessions.” Giving credit when credit is due, and honoring the leadership of those whose energy and enthusiasm helps others, is important. “People shouldn’t assume you know about their good works. Tell them they are appreciated.” And if someone compliments you, accept the gift with gratitude and grace.

“If there’s a problem, try to fix it.” Minnie knew that “you’ll sit a long time with your mouth wide open before a roasted chicken will fly in.” Ignoring a problem is neither smart nor sensible. Even a failed attempt at solving the problem is better than not doing anything.

“Don’t leave politics up to someone else.” As an immigrant girl, Minnie felt the sting of discrimination and injustice. She was a suffragist as a young woman, and upon becoming a naturalized citizen, she voted for the first time in 1920. Minnie celebrated that right by never missing an election in her life. Even into her 90’s, when she had to helped into the voting booth, she did her duty with dignity. “Power is not given, it’s won with courage and hard work,” she said.

Boys Boarding School helps Dot's Kitchen“Words without deeds are empty.” Someone who makes a promise and doesn’t keep his word is an emotional thief. ‘It’s better to keep quiet than make a meaningless offer.” How many people set others up for disappointment by saying rather than doing? Our children learn from us not so much by what we say, but by what we do.

“Patience pays dividends.” Whether it was baking her famous cinnamon buns or preparing a full holiday dinner for 16, Minnie knew that the process required patience and persistence. Traditional food preparation may seem archaic, but the beauty of yeast-raised dough, simmering spices, and closely watched pots gave the family an appreciation of the love that went into so many meals. “I like to cook because when I see the faces of satisfied eaters, I’m happy.”

“Resting is a reward for working hard.” Minnie earned her rest, and made the time to relax, listen to music, observe nature, or read for pleasure. “Too much of anything isn’t good…including work.” When the Sabbath came, Minnie understood that rest provided the emotional and physical renewal she needed for a productive week ahead.

I’m not alone in receiving the gift from my elders’ life treasury. Family history is a living legacy. It’s not only the story of who our elders were, but it defines in many ways who we are.

Over the centuries, our nation has been and continues to be populated by those whose life’s story is worth telling.

Whether they came for freedom or by force in slavery, the values our grandparents brought with them are heirlooms which our children deserve to inherit.

Their sacrifices fueled our freedoms. Those who survived became advocates for causes and people who needed them…..their life’s mission was to make the world a bit better than the one they experienced.

While I’m not yet a grandparent, my appreciation of family history is translated to our sons, and I’m confident that someday, they will in turn have the opportunity to pass along the generational gift.

Never hesitate to exercise your advocacy voice…in respect for those who paved our path to a better future….our valiant veterans, ardent activists and champions for causes which deserved their passion.

I recommend you consider recording your family history, share the stories with your children and grandchildren, and make sure that treasured family photos are duplicated and records are kept safe and out of harm’s way.

posted by jleslie in Grandparents and have Comment (1)

Holiday Videos

Holiday Web Greetings (click here)

Dear friends and families… The spirits are bright at CCBS as we approach the holiday break and the boys return home for family festivities. The team and I want to wish you all the very best of the holiday season and blessings for the new year! Please enjoy our “home made” holiday video… With love and joy! Also please be sure to view and “like” our new video that was recorded during our last family seminar. We have some movie stars in the making! We hope you enjoy it as much as we have and share it with others in your life who may need to hear a message of hope.

CCBS: The Small School with the Big Heart

All my best to you and your kin, David

posted by jleslie in Bear Tracks Newsroom,Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments Off on Holiday Videos

Living in Gratitude

Dear Friends and Family,

The year is quickly drawing to a close and I’d like to take a moment to extend my greatest blessings to everyone and share a quote from Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life by Angeles Arrien.

Thanksgiving is a time to harvest, appreciate, and celebrate those things that have come to fruition in our lives during the year, in both external and internal ways. Perhaps a valued relationship has deepened. We may have seen a project through from the idea to reality, become confident in a new skill, or noticed that we have integrated an important experience that has made us wiser. As we answer the question “What are you thankful for today?” it is important to appreciate the work we have done to bring us to this point in our journey. This is the time to celebrate our sustained intention and efforts, for they have borne fruit.

As my mentor and teacher, I have learned many important lessons from Angeles. Reflecting on her blessing, I know that I have continued to grow in many ways during this year. One of my greatest rewards is hosting the Women’s Retreat twice a year and sharing heart-felt stories with CCBS mothers. We inspire and support each other and this is wonderful. We witness each other grow in courage, love, truth and wisdom in very real ways. I can see that my journey with my son has borne fruit that I could never have imagined so many years ago when we were in the throes of struggle.

As Angeles reminds us, “it is important to appreciate the work we have done to bring us to this point in our journey. The journey to Cherokee Creek has been a challenging one for most. I want to thank you for having the courage to bring your son to Cherokee Creek and being a partner in the process of healing. I am so blessed to meet and befriend so many of you. Happy Thanksgiving and may we all celebrate those things that have come to fruition this year!

With gratitude,


Beth Black, Founder of Cherokee Creek Boys School

Beth Black, Founder of Cherokee Creek Boys School

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments Off on Living in Gratitude