Monday, March 17, 2014

Teaching Drum reflections

I have been reading writings I found online written by someone who was in the yearlong at Teaching Drum in 2001-2002. It's called
The Edge of Grace. Here's the link:

Below is what I picked out from some of what he wrote that I connected to in my
experience there.

"I remember being driven nuts during the summer by the mosquitoes, and
how it was impossible to stay still for very long because there were
always mosquitoes to avoid, unless I was hiding in my mosquito net or

I remember rainy days, sitting in the wigwam with nothing to do,
knowing that simply going to the bathroom meant walking out a ways in
the rain, getting drenched, squatting in the woods, doing my business
while those mosquitoes attacked my bare bottom, and wiping my butt
with clumps of sphagnum moss.

I remember the monotony of my days, how ill-suited I was to the
physical labor of building different lodges, which was a major focus
of the program, how I chafed at the lack of structure and the lack of
my own inner direction.

I remember suffering numerous aches from needing to be up and mobile
all the time, and wishing that I could just lie down on a warm, dry
sofa and forget all of my troubles for a while.

I remember being depressed when the snows hit us, at the prospect of a
long, cold, grey winter.
There were days when I never quite got warm
or dry.

Sometimes whole days in the winter would consist merely of getting
water, going to the bathroom, and making food. Everything required
walking and work, even those little things.

I remember walking back to my wigwam across the frozen-over lake at
night, by myself, in the middle of a blizzard that made it impossible
to see anything. I felt so lost and frightened and cold, so alone.

When I finally spotted some familiar landmarks I was so grateful,
never mind that I was a couple hundred feet off from my mark. When I
got back home -- nothing but a chilly, lonely wigwam in the middle of
these dark woods -- I stripped off my wet clothes and slipped into my
warm sleeping bag and lit a candle, and cried for a little while.

I remember my intense emotional struggles. I never become completely
comfortable. A year in the woods sounds romantic, but I must have
visited the nearest Chinese buffet an average of once every week or
two, and gorged myself silly each time. I suffered from tremendous
addiction and emotional pain.

But I also remember the wonders.

I remember sitting around the hearth with these people who had become
a second family to me, who understood me better than my own family
did. I remember laughing with such abandon with them.

I loved that my friends were within a few minutes' walk and that we
could go investigate otter tracks or discuss the weather or
fire-making in meaningful ways.

I remember quiet summer evenings when I took my canoe out on the lake
and listened to the loons cry their eerie cries, and heard the slap of
a beaver's tail as he dove into the water.

I remember swimming naked in the pristine waters of Woodbury Lake, and
then sitting on the bank and watching the sun set amidst glorious
colors, as the gentle breeze dried my body.

I remember that I got to the point where the woods were home, and even
if I spent a day eating sugary foods and watching a movie in town, I
didn't feel right until I started down the trail to my wigwam and knew
that I was home.

I remember intense circle talks with my community, where I cried and
told all that was in my heart and knew that I would be heard no matter
what I said, that I could speak my truth without fear.

I'd been stewing in the difficulty of my experiences at the Drum, and
the process of writing it made it all make sense for me--why I felt
hurt and confused, why I fell victim to forces beyond my understanding
despite my best efforts.

I see a number of friends returning there time and again because
there's just no other place like it, and it makes me feel good to know
that they're still doing that good work. I hear from other friends who
left and are troubled or confused about their experiences there, and I
understand being in that place too."

Woodbury Lake

Ricing Lake-August 2013

Winter Camp at the Family Yearlong 2013. Photo by Marcus.

summer lodge

February 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Weaving a Basket

I just finished making my 3rd basket with Martha Younkin.

Martha's Natural Fiber Baskets

I feel more confident in my weaving abilities now, and had a lot of fun. I did a few days of work trade before making my basket. Martha and I spent hours outside gathering rattlesnake master from the prairie to use as cordage and twining in the basket.
A rattlesnake master seed head.
We gathered the long, slender basal leaves, and bundled them up.
I wanted a practical basket to wear over my back and use for gathering. It became a lot more complex than I imagined it would be. I ended up working with a triple weave on a couple corners, and finishing with a "Swinomish" weave around the rim.
The Swinomish weave in progress, above three rows of rattlesnake master twining.
I felt pretty happy with the results. The basket is a beautiful combination of juniper(eastern red cedar) black walnut, american elm, and rattlesnake master. I attached a leather strap from an old purse to loop around my back.

If you want to see more photos from the process, check out my basket making album on flickr: Basket Weaving 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

A few photos from the white season

Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan
Carrying a heavy load of deer hides from
the wild moon camp for the year-long camp.

Bryan, of course.
A note I found.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

processing sinew

Northern Wisconsin has reached the middle of the coldest time of the year. To know that I am halfway through feels like a bit of a relief. The sun is gradually rising earlier every morning, giving a very subtle sign of the distant spring. Right now, it's hard for me to see the beauty of winter. My hands are cold, and my face is cold, though I feel incredibly alive in the discomfort.

a photo from the ice storm in Michigan

We've been eating a lot of fish lately, which I've been enjoying, but it's nice to have a change sometimes. Yesterday, we picked up a a very young deer that got hit by a car. I spent the morning skinning and butchering the deer, outside in the cold. I cut off the backstrap for dinner-it's the most popular part of the meat because it's so tender and tastes the best. While in the process, I decided to save the sinew. Sinew is the tough piece of tissue in the meat that can be dried, pounded, and used as a really strong thread for sewing. The backstrap and the achille's tendon contain the best quality sinew.

I laid the sinew on a board to dry by the woodstove.

pounding dried sinew from an achille's tendon

Sinew can be used in leather working for sewing items such as knife sheaths
I was really happy to share a dinner of wild meat last night; wild meat from a deer that I helped carry off the road and then process with my own hands, while taking a moment to pause and feel the sadness of mourning its death, and thanking it for nourishing my body.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013, for me, is...

An ice storm in Michigan.

 No electricity, in a candlelit cabin in the woods.

Lots of vegetables cooked over the fire in the woodstove, long walks, and winter craft projects.

...and warm fuzzies from the holidays this year, to keep me warm through the rest of the winter.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

walnut harvest

A bunch of us piled into a van, last week, for a 6-hour road trip down to southern Wisconsin, to gather black walnuts from trees that line the roadsides. We camped out in a friend's yard, and gathered walnuts all day, every day, for a week. It was an adventure that was filled with friendly farmers and small town folk. The most memorable parts of it were when a group of teenagers TP'd the trees around our tents in the middle of the night, and when we were on our way home, our trailer broke down from being old and overloaded with nuts.

I found this nut while gathering, and noticed its heart-shape.

some of our nut harvest
the end result!

It was really warm during the day, with cold nights, and when we arrived back at Teaching Drum, I settled into chilly rain, and after a week passed, we got our first snow of the white season-which was today! It felt strange to experience snow already. We had a big feast for some guests who were departing. There were multiple dishes contributed by different people. There was a greens salad, fire roasted deer ribs, baked cisco fish that we caught last year, mixed veggies, and I made a wild rice pilaf with cranberries and nuts. We sat in a circle on the floor and held hands, the elder sharing blessings, and then one by one, we passed our bowls. I watched the snowflakes fall onto the ground. The weather and the food felt reminiscent of Thanksgiving.
I thought about my family in Missouri, and then I thought about what I'm grateful for.

 I'm grateful for/happy about:
-An NVC (Non-Violent Communication) course I'm taking in town. I'm really enjoying it, and learning a lot.
-The delicious and healthy food that is healing my body.
-The healing circle; living with people who are all dedicated to emotional healing work.
-Living in the woods, right up against the national forest, and getting to see deer almost every day, and hear the birds, and view the stars so clearly.