The Hike Back to Camp from a Nadmadewening Dead Moon Visit

By Alex S.

It was about mid-sun as I decided to walk back to the camp. I told that to the guides. They asked me to wait for a special meeting. I did, and became more and more frustrated because it became late and I knew I would need to rely on the sun for finding the direction.

After the meeting Tamarack told me that I have to walk first straight east, and he drew me a  small map of the area. I started immediately to run. I knew from Tamarack that I had about 3 mealtimes of light. I ran and met a creek. I was confused about that since we did not meet the creek on our way to Nadmad. I followed the creek north, but this direction was different than what Tamarack told me. I traveled through a deep bog, and once I decided to pass the creek to walk on east. As I arrived at the creek I sank into the ground to my chest and decided to return and to walk on farther north. I had also lost my small map.

While running and feeling panic, I poked myself in the eye with a stick. I was panicked because I knew I only had so much light. I ran about 1 mealtime through a bog with cranberries and a nearly impassable area. Suddenly a lake appeared that I knew from stories. I was so happy. At this time there was still light on the tips of the trees to orient myself. I ran close to shore because I knew I had to follow to the eastern shore. I crossed a creek without sinking in again and drank a little bit from the lake water. As I arrived on the eastern shore, it was nearly dark and I was lucky to see some clouds with the sun on them. I knew the camp was south from there.

I ran down some trails not knowing where I was, only following the four directions. At one place a big deer looked at me. I am sure she was wondering what I was doing. Later, the sun was way down. With my few skills I felt unable to orient myself and felt panic again. Finally I arrived at a street that I knew and followed it to the camp. An egg roast before dark I arrived.

Home!

The Gift of Mama Deer — Seeker’s Post

Originally posted on Rose’s website, http://metraylor.com/.

“Hello?”

Alex?

I stare up at the dim ceiling of my tent and blink. The name that belongs to the voice does not belong here. Maybe I imagined it.

“There’s a wawaskeshi!”

Oh no.

“Alex?” I fumble with the zipper of the tent.

“Hey!” I hear his long lope beating through the earth. “There’s a deer.” Palming my eyes, the full realization that I am going to have to deal with this and no one is going to want to get up settling over me.

“I do not want to deal with this,” I tell his kneeling silhouette, pulling on a shirt over my head.

“Yeah,” he says, “I feel a little responsible, even though I’m not.”

“I know how busy things are at the support center,” I tell him, remembering all the times when I was the one bringing the unexpected news. “Okay, who do we have here… Brum.” My brain stutters for names.

“Marcus,” Alex points out.

“Yeah.” The gears are working again. “Maybe we can wake all the men. We’ll have to carry the deer back, gut her…”

“Brum needs his sleep,” Kerstin calls from her tent. I know she’s been concerned that he has enough energy to help her with their daughter. I realize the same concerns strike two more men off my list. “Okay, all the men except the fathers.”

“I’m going to take her out of the van and leave her at the trailhead.”

“Gimme a hug. We’ll take care of her.” I finish struggling into my pants and cumbersome belt and crawl into the night into a comfortingly familiar embrace, being enveloped by someone as wide as a bear and skinny as a toothpick.

I start at the edges of camp.

“Fridolin?”

Fumbled words, all the edges blunted by a taste of the Old World.

“What is it?”

“There’s a deer. We need to go take care of her.”

Silence.

“Fridolin?”

Moans.

“Can I get an answer? Fridolin?”

Irritated, I tell him to meet us at the hearth if he’s coming. Marcus appears, visible as a cloud of hair stuck under a cap.

“I hear there’s a wawaskeshi.”

“Yeah, I’m thinking we get all the men who aren’t fathers. Maybe we could carry her on a pole.”

“We could probably just gut her and hang her in the sweet forest,” Marcus points out. “Then we’d need fewer people.”

Relief as the idea takes hold.

“Okay. Yeah. I tried to wake Fridolin. I don’t know if he’s coming. I’ll go get Alexandros.”

Alexandros’ tent is on the opposite end of camp, and I feel self-conscious crunching and crackling around the tents of a small family and our resident grandmother. I find an empty tent, and I know that if Alexandros isn’t there he’ll be in the other one not a canoe length away. But somehow in two circuits I can’t find it, so I loop back around to meet Marcus.

To my surprise and gratification, Fridolin is there, dressed and alert. We grab a sheet of birch bark for cargo and set out for the trailhead.

There is no moon to paint our path, just a glare reflected downward by an overcast sky. Marcus and I have walked this trail for Turns, a narrow, three-quarter mile winding channel of packed duff as easy to navigate as a straight, paved road. I can feel my resignation lightening.

I am reminded of every book I ever read about elves or other fantastic, wood-savvy folk. I’ve ready hundreds of pages, written thousands of words, played video games of what I’m living right now. I love my life. I love it more each time I leave behind a little more of my conditioning about what comfort and effort really mean.

Fridolin, it turns out, is almost completely night blind. He can’t even see the silhouettes revealed by the cloudlight. Gamely he plunges on as we periodically stop to wait, guiding him back to the trail with pseudo bird calls. As the wood opens up into the sweet forest, I lose the trail, the duff suddenly springy with last autumn’s maple leaves.

“Wait, I’ve lost it.” Fridolin bumps into me. “Back up. Back, back… Okay. I’m on it.” I feel around with my feet, toes pointed like a ballet dancer until I feel packed earth. “There you are.”

We wander along blind to the trailhead, and can’t find the deer. I pull out the beeswax candle and matches I stuffed into a breast pocket. We’ve walked right past Mama Deer, and Fridolin holds the candle as Marcus and I drag her off the road, one of her legs shattered through by the force of the car that ended her life.

I step aside as Marcus pulls out a slender cord we hope will be strong enough to hold her weight, and step out of my clothes. In a world with no soap and no washing machines, clean clothes are valuable. Naked, I buckle my belt around my hips, bonier from the transition of sitting at a computer typing most of the day to walking three to ten miles hauling loads of fir boughs and firewood. I hear the drone of a handful of mosquitoes zeroing in on our carbon dioxide trail.

Marcus loops his string around the deer’s neck and he and Fridolin hoist her up far enough that I can wrap my arms around her bloated belly.

“Okay, one, two, three–”

We heave, she rises, we heave, so close but not high enough–

Something snaps, and darkness rushes in.

We contemplate.

“Well, it was either the branch or the string.”

“Can you find the candle?”

“I haf de candle,” Fridolin says.

“I left the matches by a root over here…” I self-narrate, feeling around in the dark, naked but for a knife.

A rattling box, and the candle blooms to life, Mama Deer staring up at us.

“Looks like it was the string,” Marcus says.

“Ve can use de legs, no?” Fridolin asks.

“Oh yeah! I forgot all about that.” Squatting, I slip out my knife. I’m so used to hanging deer by the neck with the luxury of strong rope that I have blinders to other possibilities.

Taking her foreleg, I cut the tendon away from the bone and try to pull her other foot through. It takes some hauling, and finally I have to brace both feet on her leg to pull her hard, black-tipped toes through. We resume our positions.

“On three, one two three. Little more, little more– There! Okay. You can let go.”

There she hangs, neatly, no rope.

Stripping to the waist, Marcus takes the lead, always so surprisingly reedy under a bush of hair and beard and cheekbones that remind me of chipmunks. He delicately slits the thin skin over her sternum and I help peel the flaps back. A spurt of blood splatters my leg as he cuts open her belly, a bulge of stomachs and coiled mounds of intestines, blessedly intact.

Fisting his hands around the connective tissue holding the organs inside, Marcus tells me, “So if you can grab the liver so it lands on top…”

I take the sold, rubbery shape between my hands and the whole GI tract lands in a neat pile at our feet. We cut the liver off and place it on the birch bark.

“We’ve got one kidney… Where’s the other one?” I poke through the candlelit tangle, mystified. “… Maybe we can find it in the morning.”

Next come the heart and lungs, and nestled in the belly, a gift.

“Oh, baby.”

There’s a sadness there, and a reverence, as I see the tiny white hooves peeking out, for a life cut short as we gently pull the fawn out.

The night is cool enough to leave Mama Deer until the morning. We don our clothes and try to wrestle the organs onto our birch bark platter only to find they keep wriggling out. Finally I pull the fawn out of his placenta and tie his little legs together into a suitcase. He is such a perfect little deer, writ small and spotted, his hindquarters underdeveloped just like a newborn human baby’s. Abandoning the birch bark, Fridolin and Marcus take fistfuls of organs and I lift the candle.

“Are we ready?”

A puff of breath, and darkness swallows us again.

It’s darker now, an iron gray sky barely distinguishable from the tree tops. In consideration of our precious and ungainly cargo –and the fact that Fridolin is essentially blind– Marcus and I start narrating obstacles.

“Knee log… Ankle log… Eye pokers… ‘Nother knee log…” The fawn weighs surprisingly heavy against my arm.

As we circumvent the sweat lodge, a cry rises across the thick night from camp. I think I know who it is, a three year old who has woken the camp nightly for the past quarter of the moon.

The water at the swim area is a rippling sheet of black as we crouch to wash our bounty. The wandering bridge through the bog, two poles wide, feels too ambitious after our adventure. Ready for bed, we walk the last trail to camp, passing silent tents through a brushy corridor of young, anti-septic smelling balsam fir. In the bog near the canoe canal we pull back layers of sphagnum moss to bury our meat and keep it cool. A green glow reaches across the open hearth, a candle in a tent as two parents read from a journal to their wakeful toddler.

“I’m turning in. ‘Night guys.”

“‘Night, Marcus.”

I lead Fridolin as far as the trail to his tent and hopes that he makes it, and crash in my sleeping bag, content.

A Post from the Seekers – Rose’s Stories

This week we have a bunch of posts from the Seeker’s themselves, so stay tuned for more. The following is from Rose’s chronicle of the yearlong. They were originally posted on her website, metraylor.com.

From My Year in the Woods

So my year in the woods living with twenty-five adults and seventeen children commences tomorrow morning. 

So, for those of you who’d like to know a little more: I live here. I’ve been volunteering at this school and editing for the director for the past three years, and I was finally ready to do what I originally wanted to do, which was take the yearlong wilderness immersion program. This year’s going to be different, because the focus is going to be on families.

Twenty-five adults, seventeen children, eleven months, in the heat of summer, the dead of winter, living in the woods. We’ll start out in tents and with matches, and graduate to bark and thatch lodges and bow drill fires. Our food will be supplemented with mostly organic fruits of agriculture, and we will have no sugar, no coffee, no processed foods, no media. We’ll be learning how to forage, collect and prepare craft materials, tan hides, make fire, and most importantly how to work as a community. I’ll be living a lot of what I write into Alan’s culture of origin, and Efeddre and Toney’s people, the ldridrisy and limdri.

The most challenging thing we’re going to be doing is not pooping in the woods while covered in mosquitoes, or running around in -20 F temperatures. We’re going to be facing a lot of things in ourselves that are easy to cover up with TV, reading, comfort foods, movies, music, sugar, caffeine, and drugs. We are going to be forced to look at how we relate to other people, food, the natural world, non-humans, and ourselves. We’re going to be discovering our gifts and our challenges (and having witnessed this program for four generations of students, I know there’s a lot of challenges) and how they all fit together. We are going to learn how to operate not just as isolated individuals, couples, and nuclear families, but as a community. We’re going to be constantly reminded to take responsibility for our own feelings and our own actions that have put us exactly where we are in our lives. We’re going to be examining and coming face to face with the unpleasant reality of the unspoken contracts we have with the people in our lives that allow everything to seem to run smoothly when there’s so much more underneath.

“You don’t do that, so I don’t feel this.”

“I give you this, so you don’t feel that.”

“I didn’t tell you that, because I was afraid you’d do this.”

We’re going to be learning how to communicate consciously, how to listen to what’s really being said underneath, how to say what’s really going on for us. We’re going to learn how easy it is to say we’re saying what’s really going on for us, when really we’re not doing it at all.

Michel Scott, the director of The Horse Boy, is going to be doing a documentary on our experience. So. Movie. For real.

I am utterly terrified, and I know that I am doing exactly what I need to. This is the cliff, and all I have to is jump. I’ll learn how to fly on the way down.

From Arrival

The lake wears a new face each morning.

Neon pink and lavender kissing the mist rising from the water, or the bowl of the lake capped by a rippling, iron gray sky, ten thousand cloudscapes. I used to take hundreds of pictures of the sky, trying to preserve each stunning, sensual instant, and I was so busy taking pictures I had no time to see. The the lines of the overhanging branches of a cedar, a pine, and a wave-worn log frame the swim area, for all the world like a landscaped natural picture window.

I will never see this face of the lake again, and I treasure the gift as I treasure the loss.

“High definition reality,” Marcus calls it.

“I’m stealing that,” I tell him.

The camp is waking up.

We’re crazy.

Twenty-five adults, seventeen kids, three generations, four languages, and all our different beliefs, opinions, biases, experiences, triggers, wounds, living in the woods together for eleven moons. There is only one explanation: We’re all insane.

It’s amazing and fantastic and terrifying and uncomfortable.

We sit around the fire cracking nuts and roasting eggs. A mother translates her delicate toddler’s exuberant outbursts, like closed captioning for the Swedish impaired. Her little girl plays chase with one of the boys and she scrambles over mom, screaming in one part hysteria, one part triumph.

A few of the boys are playing something they call “Dungeons and Dragons,” and I have no idea if it means the same thing to them as it does to me. We have no dice, no books, and not much paper. I smile to myself as I overhear a five-year-old from my tent, “And I told him I was a god and he didn’t want to fight me anymore.”

In our ranks we boast three people who know Thai massage, three who know myofascial release, a smattering of energy workers, and a lot of people who just know how to give with their hands. Almost every sun there’s one or two people in the quiet, sunny spots by the wigwams giving and receiving some kind of massage.

Everyone is basking in novelty and gratitude as the whole camp comes together to help level ground and erect tents and tarps. This is the honeymoon phase, when everyone loves each other and I wonder what it will be like when all our idiosyncrasies and habits start to snag each other like thorns.

But this is the Now. I decide to enjoy it while I can.

 

Last of Turtle Egg Laying Moon

To all of you have written blog comments and well wishes to the Seekers, many have gotten a chance to read them finally—now is their Dead Moon Visit—and their next one is a moon from now. In this post, we’re going to explain a few of the traditions of the Wilderness Guide Program, including the Dead Moon Visit, to help everyone with family and friends out at camp to understand more about the Wilderness Guide Program’s unique aspects and how it works.

You may have already noticed that we use untypical words for the passage of time, like sun for day, quarter moon for a week, moon for the 29 day lunar cycle, along with quarter moon, meal time, and egg roast for shorter periods of time. From the moment the Seekers step foot in the forest, they begin the process of tuning into their environment. Discovering first-hand what it is to be a creature of the Earth, they look to her to keep track of time’s passing, rather than relying on the clock. They connect their inner concept of time directly to the environment they inhabit.  Even though there are no timepieces in the forest, not even man-made sundials, we still carry clocks in our heads.  To help support the transition to earth time, we use terms that reflect the new relationship. Tamarack’s recent blog post, Beyond Clock and Calendar, addresses the topic and discusses the benefits, along with offering examples.

The Dead Moon Visit is a Teaching Drum Wilderness Guide Program tradition that the Seekers are newly initiated into. Every new moon, which we call the dead moon because there is no moon to light the night sky, the Seekers will hike in to Nadmadewening , or Nad’mad, which is the main campus, to call family and friends, e-mail, and do research in the school library (there are no books at camp). They also stock up on supplies and necessary gear. Four groups will be coming in on successive suns, in order to give everyone adequate time on phone and computer. You can watch the moon, just as the Seekers do, to tell when they are coming in.

We’ve put up a new page on the blog called the Glossary of Terms, which includes many of the words used at camp that you may not be familiar with. You’ll find English terms used for communicating and time reckoning, as well as Ojibwe words the Seekers use as part of their immersion in the local ecosystem and culture. We’ll post some of their original terms as well. Language is fluid and ever evolving, so they are encouraged to come up with their own terms for units of time, the names of animals and plants, and even each other. In doing so, they develop a sense of ownership in their language and a relationship with what they name. Their communication takes on a new relevance, probably similar to the experience of those who first came to this land and constructed their language based on their growing connection with this special place on the Earth’s bosom.

Gigawaabamen! (Yep, you’ll  find it in the glossary.)

 

The Dead Moon (Beginning of Blueberry Moon)

Right now, amphibians of all kinds are out sunning themselves, singing, eating bugs, and generally having a grand time. They are an important part of the ecosystem here, helping to control insects and provide food for animals from snakes to bears, not to mention larger members of their own kind.  Although frogs may be small, the Seekers follow in the footsteps of the Natives by not snubbing their noses at them. Many Native peoples subsisted more on small animals such as frogs which were caught by women and children, than on large game. After a workshop on frog hunting—in fact, right after—the Seekers went out and put their new knowledge to practice. Taking their cues from Heron, a master frog stalker, they became proficient in no time. And they got a lesson in respectful hunting.

In the workshop, they were informed of poisonous species and given guidelines for determining when frogs can be gathered without interfering with their life cycles. The frog chorus at this time of year is unimaginably loud. Why? Because they are mating. The Seekers learned how to identify species who have already laid their eggs and can thus be collected, and how to identify those who have not yet reproduced. Frogs species breed in order through the season, from small to medium to large. If they’re calling, they’re mating—so leave them be. Additionally, the Seekers learned which species are rare and protected, and how to tell if a species has an adequate enough population to safely hunt them.

The Seekers came back with 25 frogs, and every single one of them was a female full of eggs, which they found out only after they had killed and cleaned them. It was a sad day, and a potent lesson, as frogs only live 1-2 turns of the seasons, and those 25 were given no chance to reproduce. The most potent lessons often come at a cost, and this one about disrupting a fragile ecosystem’s life cycle will not likely be forgotten anytime soon.

And then there are the lessons being learned from venturing outside of their social and emotional comfort zones. The Seekers are now moving from isolated nuclear-family units toward clan-based extended family. Even though this is what they have been looking for and desiring to create, it is a difficult transition to make. Different, often-conflicting parenting styles are tossed together, creating turmoil for parents and children alike. Right now we’re working with three fundamentally different parenting styles:

  1. The child acts out to manipulate the parents, and the parents placate the child so she’ll discontinue the behavior. This leaves the child in charge and the parents at her mercy. Parents end up feeling victimized, and children are left in control of situations they are not capable of managing.
  2. The parents give the child choices, all of which the parent has predetermined are acceptable. The child feels content and empowered by being part of the decision-making process. With the parents  guiding rather than imposing, the child is able to learn decision-making skills and the effects of choices.
  3. The parents control the child, often making decisions for the child without her input. The child usually grows passive and dependent upon the parent or develops a rebellious pattern.

All three of these styles can come into play in any parent-child relationship over the course of time. When one style dominates a parent-child relationship, it can be highly uncomfortable for both if another style is used with the child by other adults. Along with confusion, there can be defensiveness, anger, shame, and guilt.

However, the opportunity to live together sun after sun, coupled with a strong desire to work through parenting issues in order to create an open, clan-based relationship where parenting is shared, have moved some parents to make changes. They have gained tremendous insight , not to mention the relief and renewed energy they have for their relationships with their children. One couple with a 2½ year old were struggling with their child’s behavior during dinner. His bowl had broken and he had to use a smaller bowl. He rebelled every time, and the three of them struggled while the entire circle’s meal was disrupted.

With suggestions from a couple of the guides, they came to see that there were other options than what they had always done. They chose a number of things to do as a circle to help empower him. First, the most important thing was to switch the serving order so that the smaller children went directly after elders with their mothers. They also switched the mealtime to much earlier in the day, so that the small children are not so tired.  They gave him a bigger bowl, and it was decided that all children need to take a small amount of every dish served. Then, they could decide which pot they wanted more from. Empowering! He was given the option to walk from server to server and get his own portions, like everyone else does. He was given small servings, to encourage him to finish his bowl like everyone else before going for seconds.

There was an immediate change in his demeanor: he was happy to get his own food, and he sat and ate it with everyone else with none of the fuss. Mom felt instant relief and enjoyed watching her little one take care of himself.  When there are questions about what he chooses to feed himself, he is given acceptable options that encourage him to make his own decisions rather than having them made for him.

Now he even has his own little knife, and he delights in helping to scale fish with it. This family is an example of what’s possible—radical change can happen with just a few modifications that help our children thrive and at the same time lovingly embrace them. Empowering changes can be made anywhere at any time; children usually respond pretty quickly. In a clan situation such as ours, the parents can discuss and come to agreement on options, and then parent together. This is the clan way—working with one voice for the benefit of all involved.

Adults engage in the same patterns with each other as they do with their children, but they are often more subtle. We can look at our relationship with our children as a metaphor for how we treat ourselves and each other. How often do we not offer ourselves choices and back ourselves into corners without even realizing it? Even though we might see instant results with children, changes to treat ourselves with respect and follow through consistently with our children can take time and require continual effort. As they say, old habits die hard. Although the couple we just talked about has made a huge change around meals, the shift will have to sift through every area of their parenting. This takes the support of others, which is one of the beauties of clan living. And in return, the couple and their child are a shining example and inspiration for their entire circle.

Adding to the mix recently is Wilderness Guide Program graduate Annika, who is here to join the family yearlong for an entire moon. She is the first of a number of graduates who will be coming to help support the yearlong this turn of the seasons. We’re very much looking forward to other alumni coming to share their experience and passion with the Seekers who make up this very special clan at Nishnajida.

 

Life at Camp, in Photos!

A few more photos from camp.

Photos from the Family Yearlong

The Gear Check

The first group is ready to go and blaze the trail, and set up camp for the rest of the Seekers.

Lety helps Brum get his moccasins just right for the long hike out to camp.

The first group rests up a bit after their hike, tuckered and excited.

Here is the second group all ready to go on their hike.

Finally, group 3 is ready to go and will join everyone else at camp.

After days of walking with gear and small children, all of the Seekers got to Nishnajida, their new wilderness home.

Waning Crescent – the end of Turtle Egg Laying Moon

Lately we’ve been watching the turtles slowly make their way to sandy, sunny spots to lay their eggs. Initially we called this the Strawberry Moon, but that was wishful thinking—it’s been dry and the strawberry crop didn’t amount to much. However, the early harvest of greens such as spring beauties, musky leaf, and wild leeks was bountiful. Their season is over, yet the green season (summer) staples such as basswood, nettle, and milkweed are just as abundant. In fact, last quarter moon (week), the Seekers decided not to get any greens in their food drop, so they are on their own to forage every day to get enough fresh plant matter, which is an important digestion aid and vital nutrient source. They are doing well with the challenge!

It has been quite an exciting time lately with important survival skills being learned. The high point was a very popular bug eating workshop. Some were immediately inspired to go out and make Ant Tacos, which are made from hundreds of ants from an anthill rolled up in a basswood leaf. Knowing that insects are one of the richest food sources, the Seekers  crunched and munched away. Some bugs are up to ¾ protein, whereas mammals and birds are about half that. Many insects, such as wood grabs. which they found in the wood and under the bark of downed trees, are great fat sources.

Hunger is the motivator for many to begin stretching their horizons for food sources, and as active as they are during these long, sunny days, the Seekers are working up appetites. Another motivation has gotten the children moving in an entirely different direction: they’re setting up their own hearth. The inspiration seems to be the example of the adults. Just like children everywhere, they yearn to learn about themselves and the world by emulating the adults utilizing their own strengths, faculties, and skills. They are organizing, storing, and cooking their own food, in addition to building and maintaining their own fire hearth. They have a separate food drop now, and we’ll be watching from the other hearth to see how they do.

Fear can also be a powerful motivator, which might have been what was behind this year’s first Seeker leaving the experience. Just before he turned to go, he was told he had only two days to return or he would not be readmitted.  He got about 30 miles away, where he slept in a pine grove behind a Wal-mart. The next morning, the Circle welcomed him back. He explained how the experience helped him to see himself and his life journey more clearly, and to realize that at this point in his journey he was intended to be here. He has rededicated himself to the clan and the adventure.

Although the Seekers don’t quite know it yet, something is notably lacking in their experience at this time. It’s a vital component of any Northwoods wilderness immersion—something they’d typically be very connected to, and the Guides are concerned that they will not get the full benefit of their time here without it. We’re talking about mosquitos (zagime in Ojibwe). It has been an unusually dry spring, and the ephemeral (temporary) meltwater ponds where zagime breed are all dried up. The eggs accumulate till the ponds refill—and then watch out!  We haven’t heard a peep from the Seekers about zagime haranguing them, and were concerned they’re going to start feeling cheated.

Though they don’t have to deal with zagime buzzing in their ears all night and making pin cushions out of every inch of their exposed skin, there is another big challenge looming: rumblings of trouble in the clan. As is typical of an intense immersion experience, conflict arises. It is setting the stage for invaluable lessons in truthspeaking and conflict resolution skills, which include getting in touch with their personal truths and expressing their feelings in the moment. They are learning not to blame anyone for their feelings, but to take full responsibility for them. In the time-honored fashion of a wobbly toddler, they are learning how to take strong steps by working with each other through intense personal dynamics. We’ll keep you posted on how they do with the undercurrent of tension, so stay tuned for updates, which very soon will include more words from the Seekers themselves.

 

Full Moon – Turtle Egg Laying Moon

The newness of wilderness living is just beginning to fade away for the Seekers, who are now quite settled in and on to exploring the surrounding wilderness. The suns (days) get longer and longer, which means sunrise comes earlier and earlier. Yet the guardians start their training in the pre-dawn with woods running, shadowing, and other awareness and attunement exercises to help them get in shape and connect deeply to their environment (for more on Guardian training, see this chapter from Tamarack’s Journey to the Ancestral Self). The rest of the Seekers are up with the dawn, rising to the songs of the morning birds. It gets light at about 4:30, and shortly after at sunrise is the morning meeting, where everyone connects about the day’s activities and the needs of the circle.

This leaves many hours of daylight to gather firewood, tend to the hearth and cook, craft, canoe, bathe and do laundry, fish and gather wild edibles, and take care of food processing and storage. The lake and the urge to hunt have been calling adults and children alike as they take the line and hook they’ve been given and make their own rods, bobbers, and sinkers. The children, who got a canoeing and fishing workshop, were ecstatic and immediately set about hunting worms. In short order, Diindiis (10) caught the first fish, which he cleaned, scaled, and baked on the open fire himself, then shared with everyone. It was quite a celebration, and soon others were catching fish as well.

With plenty of greens to harvest, the gift of an entire wawashkeshi (deer) to skin, butcher, and eat, and fish for the catching it seems to the seekers to be a time of abundance in the Northwoods. The bountiful meat created an opportunity to explore ways of preservation and storage—very important with the warm days we’ve been having. Some methods worked, and others didn’t. They soon found that the surrounding bogs, which are cold and high in acidity, keep meat quite well when buried deep in the peat.

However, with all the enthusiasm for fishing, the Seekers ended up with even more of a surplus of meat. The abundance brought lessons in scarcity as some of the food spoiled and Seekers learned to take only what was needed. The Wilderness Guide Program offers the opportunity to transition from “cupboard mentality,” where food is constantly available in abundance and can be taken for granted, to trusting in the Mother (our earth) to provide. With trust, they become actively engaged in providing their own food when they need it, rather than constantly stocking up. The transition is a gradual process, taking considerable awareness and intention as they gradually become more adept at gathering their own food. Issues around scarcity and deprivation are sometimes triggered. Fishing when already having five days’ worth of meat was done from the cupboard mentality, where there is abundant space and energy to store food. In the wilderness, there are few options for dealing with large food surpluses. Often people will overeat and food will spoil—both dangerous habits to get into when surviving in the wilderness.

The Seekers studied Tamarack’s article, Old Way Food Storage in the North Country, which provided them with some of the keys to working with scarcity and abundance. They saw that they had a multitude of options when faced with either abundance or scarcity. For instance, one way to avoid food spoilage is to let the Mother hold it, such as leaving the fish in the lake and catching them when needed. Another easy way to deal with abundance is to give it away, rather than spending the time and energy to process it. This encourages good relations and trust with others, which engenders compassion and giving during times of scarcity.

During this time of tension and reflection on abundance and scarcity, the Seekers called upon each other to communicate from their hearts, speak their fears, and trust in each other, the earth, and their circle. One of the communication tools the school offers is a guide on Truthspeaking and Truthlistening, which are traditional ways of respectful communication practiced by hunter-gatherer and tribal communities. With the help of the talking circle and talking stick, the Seekers sorted out fears they brought into the experience, supported each other in facing them, and made great strides in coming together and trusting in the Mother. In future posts, we’ll be sharing more about the Seekers’ use of the talking circle and other communication tools. If you are interested in learning about Truthspeaking, you can read the opening chapters of the Truthspeaking book Sacred Speech here or purchase the entire self-published book here.

Transitioning from the cupboard mentality to trusting in the Mother to provide for our needs sends ripples through our lives and relationships. Once we learn to trust, our energies are freed up to feed our relationships rather than to protect us from imagined harm. It is in this mindset of abundance, trust, and contentment that we can connect, grow, and become more of who we really are.