Continued reflections from Tammy, Chris Lemying’s mom from her visit in the Falling Leaves Moon…
Breakfast is a nut roast with fruit. Each clan member gets 16 walnuts each day (protein). We all sat around 3 different hearths (round camp fires) and roasted a few nuts at a time. Chris taught me how to do this. I then used a rock to crack the nuts and ate them. They really were wonderful! I had a small apple and a small banana, and that was breakfast. I didn’t think this would fill me up…but it did and there wasn’t any other food until late
– time references – a day is a sun, a half hour is roughly a nut roast, an hour is roughly a meal time, a week is a quarter moon, two weeks is a half moon or 2 quarter moons, and a month is a moon, a year is a turn. I found this lack of precision to be frustrating and wonderful at the same time. When I wanted a good estimation of time, I
couldn’t get it, but on the other hand everyone was so much more relaxed about making plans. Plans were made, but if we had to wait for others to be ready or to join us, it was not seen as a problem.
– calling people together was done by howling. One person would start the howl and everyone else would join in. It is quite a joyous sound. So when dinner was getting close to being ready to be served there was the first howl that let folks know. When it was ready, there was a second howl.
-Chris and I spent much of Friday walking all along the many paths at Teaching Drum. The school owns 50 acres and sits adjacent to a national forest that they can use for hunting and foraging. We walked in the beautiful forest and he told me many things about his clan mates, his personal journey, and the traditional ways they are learning. He is gaining a vast amount of knowledge about traditional ways and is able to apply what he
is learning in such a gentle way. One example: when we were gathering more pine boughs for my bedding, I pointed out the fuller soft pine needles on the spruce bough and asked if that would be better. He said, “You can try anything you like, but most things have been found to be tried and true for many years.” I went with the boughs he suggested.
-Chris showed me the winter lodges that are all being rebuilt before winter. Three of these lodges have an underground ventilation system that allows them to have a fire going when needed for warmth. The winter lodges are wigwams that have a wooden frame, birch tree bark on the inside, about a 1/2 foot coating of peat for insulation, and then an outer shell of birch bark on the outside. Standing inside, I again felt so much like I
was back in time. I could imagine the people sleeping on their animal hides, telling stories, and making food around the hearth. The winter lodge poles are tied together using Spruce sprout roots.
I got to join 5 others for a lesson on how to gather the sprout roots. We walked about a mile to a Spruce forest and the Guide showed us how to use a long stick digging tool to start digging a shallow trench a couple feet from the base of a Spruce. We were to look for roots that were around as thick as a finger. Once one is found, you work
to follow that route and keep it in tack as long as possible going over and other roots. The Guide made this seem very easy. He told us he generally sets goal for himself of gathering 50 sprouts before he quits. Chris and I worked together for about an hour digging, found maybe 6 good sprouts that we dug out, about 15 not so good ones, and called it a day!! It was very, very cool to look up and see the others spread across this area digging in
One mother was there with her son named Gio (short for Giovanni). He chatted and chatted with her during the whole walk out about dragons and “what if’s”, he worked along side her and kept up his imaginative talk the whole time. She never seemed to bore of his chatter and kept walking and working. I was amazed by both the son’s willingness to walk through the woods for this distance without slowing down or complaining,
and by the mother’s loving way of being with her son while contributing to the work of the clan. I know that learning how to dig for Spruce sprouts was a skill she was happy to learn.
-Chris and I had been asked if we would cook the fish for dinner. Someone else took on the task of cleaning and scaling the 15 large fish. While that was being done, Chris set about making a fire that would produce a large, hot bed of coals. Again, he worked so effortlessly. He gathered a bit of twigs and sticks from the arbor, a coal
from the other hearth, and started the fire. When the fish arrived, he laid 4 long, straight, thicker sticks (about 4ft) across the hearth stones to form a natural grill. He then proceeded to cook the fish, using a bowl with some water to sprinkle out the flames that would arise. Two deer scapulas were used as cooking tongs to remove the
fish when they were cooked and placed upon a large flat piece of birch bark. We used a second piece of bark to cover the fish in an attempt to keep them warm. While we were doing this, others were steaming vegetables and heating rice. The squash was already prepared and the bear fat was being heated, too.
-I was again very interested in watching how the adults and the children interacted. The children got attention, they liked to tease and play around, but none of them were demanding.
-the wind was very cold that early evening. We decided to make our way back to our wigwam and spend time there out of the wind. Clair wrote letters, Chris finished one letter and then joined me snuggled on a sleeping bag and we talked for quite a while. We lit a candle that evening using matches they aren’t supposed to have at
this point. But neither Clair nor Chris has learned how to start fire yet using a spindle and bow.
I am now adding to this Teaching Drum journal 6 days after returning. Already my vivid memories are fading.
But I have a few more things I want to add.
One morning as we were walking I commented to Chris that I was surprised at the lack of plain talk about the spiritual ways of native people. He replied that they were living the ways, and there was not the need to talk about it. When he said that, I think I mostly disagreed. Now, I think I have a better understanding of what he was telling me. Spirit/God connects us to everything else in the universe. On a physical, close level this
means learning to see ourselves not as individuals but as integral parts of the Whole. This group of Seekers is learning how to honor each person’s thoughts and contributions to the whole clan. They practice giving thanks to the Creator for the trees, water, fish, insect larvae, etc… They are able to live more in the moment and are not
distracted by all of the gadgets we have in our modern lives.
The clan was experiencing a challenge around food (one of their major challenges). Fruit was being stolen from the earthen storage pits. In order to be fair, the clan decided that it wants to count out the amount of nuts and fruit each person gets each day. Rose, one of the Guardians, called a Talking Circle on the spot on Saturday morning. Talking Circles are mandatory meetings that the clan had already decided everyone would honor when one was called. The children were asked to attend and speak at this one as well. Everyone is expected to speak their Truth on the topic. They are to state they opinions and desires on the topic. No one makes comments on each other’s statements until everyone has spoken. Rose started and about 30 minutes later everyone had had a
chance to share. Some people wanted to stop counting the food out and to work together to support each other through better interpersonal connections…..sharing their needs, understanding each other, and loving each other more. Some wanted to try to help the hoarders to get in touch with their feelings about food, the emotional scars
that might be at the root of their fear around not getting enough food. It was a very interesting process to watch.
Chris shared with me that they had had many Talking Circles. Each person is learning how to communicate honestly with themselves and others. They work to stop tendencies to be co-dependent. Again, I was fascinated by the presence of the children and their in-put. They wanted people to stop taking fruit. Interestingly, some shared the belief that the children were the ones taking the food. I wonder if they feel they are getting enough to
The temps were most likely in the low 30’s at night and 30’s-40’s during days while I was there. We had some snow on the ground Saturday morning and some rain. The wind was very strong half of the time I was there. This was the first cold to deal with that is on the front end of winter. When clan members talked about their days, many of them expressed anxiety about the upcoming 5 months of cold weather. This came across
as fear by some of the mothers of the young children. I can understand their anxiety about braving a northern Wisconsin winter living outside. I heard one of the Guides telling a mother that the children were going to be able to spend their days/nights in one of the large winter lodges where a fire will be kept burning. But think about the about of firewood this will take for so many people! Keeping clean in the winter season will be a big
After spending 2 ½ days at Teaching Drum, I feel a bit like my everyday life is fake. I am so out of touch with our natural world on a day to day basis. I do not have a desire to go live at TD for a year; I value the work that I am doing too much to leave it. But I do want to find ways to simplify my life, to not be some distracted from myself by our culture
Congratulations if you have made it to the end of this five page reflection/journal!! Please keep your letters going to Chris. Keeping in touch and knowing that he is thought of and loved is of great comfort to him. This is a very difficult lifestyle he has chosen. I continue to be so proud of him!!!
Love to all-