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