Well, I've lead the hikes, all three days of them.I think I did ok.
We came up five days ago and that gave me two full days to practice before the yearlings got here. That isn't very much time, especially as there were a handful of plants species I was supposed to be able to answer questions about that I'd never actually seen before, except in pictures and herbarium specimens. But we spent all day both days hiking up and down mountains with Charlie constantly grilling me, and that helped. And I'd learned the scripts for all three hikes using maps, so I had the basics already.
There were two full-day hikes and one half-day hike, but there some overlaps in the routs that the three hikes took and parts of the hikes included no programming, just walking from one place to another, so we could get in all the parts where I was expected to do something--and we did some of them twice. And the whole time Charlie was asking me questions about every plant and every bump on the ground we passed.
I don't mean that I had to memorize everything. In fact, Charlie said not to. He said to learn it, that there is a difference, and if I learned all my material I'd be able to regenerate the words every time as I needed to.
"People who memorize speeches have to memorize every speech, or they have nothing to say," he said. "If that's the way someone works, then that works for them, but it seems more difficult to me."
I also didn't have to be able to answer every one of his questions, just most of them. One of the things he wanted me to practice was saying "I don't know."
When the yearlings arrived he let me tag along on his morning program on tide pools, in part because I was interested in seeing it again, and in part because my hike in the afternoon would build on a lot of the themes he had introduced in the morning. I suppose he wanted to remind me what all of those themes were.
I ate lunch with the group that day, and then Charlie pulled me aside.
"Are you nervous?" he asked me.
"No," I told him. "Yes. Yes, a little." He smiled, briefly, in understanding.
"You don't need to be," he told me. "Do any of these people know you've never done this before, that you've only had two days of practice?"
"Then don't tell them." Another smile and he returned to the group and introduced me as his assistant (not that I was a stranger to anybody, he just needed to explain what my role was). He set out on the hike and about half the group followed him. We waited ten minutes and set out on the trail in our turn. And really, the whole thing, all three days I was leading hikes, worked.
Except now I'm tired. I've been hiking up and down mountains for five days straight and I've been kind of stressed out the whole time, though I've had a good time. Charlie says I'm going to spend the rest of my time here learning about the Island more generally so that next year I can be a more independent tour guide--he didn't say, but of course he also intends that my getting to know this place will have something to do with my getting to know places in general. There is no way this is only about my being able to do a favor for him.
But he did say that tomorrow I can rest. I can, if I want, do nothing at all.
The serviceberry trees are just coming into bloom.
[Next post: Monday, May 12: Moonlight]