Winter Camping Teachings on our Frontier – from Adjul

I remained in the base camp with moms, kids and a few other single men as a dozen or so of the gaurdians (young, tough, and single type people) embarked on their nomadic wolf tracking camp, pack frames packed with only their sleeping gear, some cabbages, and a deer hide full of congealed bear fat.  Over the next six suns I watched as they trickled back into camp: tired, hungry, but ultimately relishing the contrast of cozy camp life and carrying their beds on pack frames through knee-high snow, setting up a new camp every night, and life becoming so much about immediate needs of warmth, hunger, sleep, and movement that small talk ceases to be all that captivating.

The whole time I was telling myself: I’m not all that into Wolf tracking, I’ll be fine here.  And I was, for the most part.  I even got some new experiences in my own way.  But when the trackers returned, something clicked in me when I saw their appreciation for our comfortable lodgings, hearth, and plentiful food, and the chance to rest their wearied bodies.  I know that feeling – I love that feeling!

I wanted some too, so what better opportunity than a camping trip with the kids?  Ha!  None, apparently!

After some initial canvassing 5 children and 6 adults were enlisted.  And then, little 3 year old Julia voiced that she would like to come as well (her mother and father would not be coming).  There was a bit of hemming and hawwing on our part: winter camping with a 3 year old, without her parents to default to when her needs required patience and presence.  But can we really say no to one of our clan with the passion to do and be with us on our adventure?  No, we cannot.

After rendering some bear fat the night before and letting it cool to solid-ness, a few members prepared 12 “bear fat bombs” in cabbage leaf-cups, later packed and tied into a spare t-shirt for travel.  The kids and adults all loaded up their pack frames with sleeping bags, a deer rug, a couple wool blankets, 5 frozen suckerfish, and a hankie full of dried Basswood leaves.  A 13th clan member had already headed out early for a dentist appointment, and would be tracking us to our camping spot with the 3 cabbages he was carrying, in addition to his own sleeping gear.

Last minute – err, nutcrack – mittens had to be found, kids said goodbye to their favorite snack of well-boiled wild rice – and we were off.  And then a drink at the water hole and we were off.  And then readjusting Julia for a ride on a pack frame and we were off.  And then a small break and….okay so travel is touch and go with kids, we remember.   Nonetheless, the trek across 2 frozen lakes, through hardwood forest, alder bog, and forest road is enchanting.  The warm sun hangs overhead and the weather is downright balmy for what we are used to.  Someone mentions its too bad there’s no lens to capture our snowbound flotilla of big ones and little ones carrying all that we need on wooden sticks on our backs.  But there are memories, and the now, we remind ourselves.

Little Julia rides on someone’s shoulders for most of the trip, only to be traded for a pack-frame to someone else later on and carried hipside through bog for the final stretch.  “Why do many adults carry me,” she asks.  I tell her because she’s heavy, and she reassures me: all kids are heavy.  Her self-assurance reassures me.

We answer “almost there” a number of times to the age old question.  While a couple of stragglers go poop and the rest wait on a hillside, a child notices a piece of snow kicked over the side of the trail roll downhill and grow into a larger and larger cylinder of snow-balledness.  An eggroast to a half-mealtime of play ensues.  Adults look on, ranging on the continuum of feelings from amazed and glowing at the ease of the children’s inspiration to impatient and grumbling inside about the soreness of our backs.

Almost there becomes there as we arrive in a string of meadows adjacent to an alder bog.  Immediately (the sun is getting low) we choose a site for our hearth and kick it (relatively) free of snow, as well as a location for sleeping 13.  I show everyone the Ash bog where there is a spring fed stream to drink from.  The blackness of the water contrasts beautifully with the snowy bog as we lay on our bellies and rehydrate.

Back towards camp we quickly powwow about boughs and wood.  We’re all tired but know we have work to do to feed ourselves and sleep comfortably through the night.  Back and forth from the woods around us for the next 2 mealtimes as a pile of Balsam boughs and softwood grow and grow in our new temporary home.  As the sun dips really low someone gets out their bow drill kit and pumps a sticks into coals and flame.  Someone else begins meticulously setting up the quadruple king-sized bough bed.  Everyone finds their role.  Someone else breaks up wood and feeds the growing fire as it sinks into the snowey hummock of our hearth.  The kids plug in here and there with our encouragement amongst their play and warming themselves by the fire.

We’re all eager to eat and have comfortable beds.  We rally a final effort with the bough bed, and negotiate some differences of opinion in bough laying techniques, and we’re…done!  Sleeping bags are laid out, some joined together for cosleeping and sharing body heat (something I was eager to try out).

Ah, Dinner!  With some seriously-stoked fire, we sit on blankets and boughs and dig into our goodies.  Rather than the hectic cafeteria-line we are used to at camp, sharing our meal is simplified to passing that piece of cabbage, or “will you pass me a fish head”, or “I can’t finish all of this bear fat”.  We all get thoroughly filled and are looking forward to sleeping.  Someone comments on the weather; it seems awfully warm and I wonder if this is a low-pressure system (note: this is foreshadowing).  A couple of adults and the youngest children walk in the dark to the creek to get a last sip before bed.

Into the sleeping bags we go.  Julia is shuffled into the bag I share with another mother and child, where there is the most room.  Stories are told.  We laugh and yawn.  I’m colder than I’m used to and appreciate the warmth of the little body next to me.  I lay my clothing under me to insulate from the cold ground and curl myself up to keep the warmth in.

Some mealtimes pass.  Then a pattering begins on the plastic of our sleeping bags.  Some murmurs about snow and we all hunker down deeper in our bags, set our footwear and clothing out of harm’s way, and I attempt to continue making my way towards unconsciousness.  It does not come.

Louder murmuring along with louder pattering.  There is some half-conscious debate about whether this is rain or snow.  I summon the courage to peak my head out and decide its hail.  I hunker down again, determined to sleep.  I’m getting colder and colder now; my cosleeping experiment is teaching me I’m inadequately prepared with not enough boughs and not enough body heat to share in our double bags.

A little later:  now there’s something happening.  Wet spots, drips, and (I heard) even puddles are forming in some of the bags, including ours.  Finally, someone gets up, starts pacing around, and announces they are not getting back in “that sleeping bag”.  I realize my strategy of suck-it-up and wait until dawn without sleeping ceases to inspire me.  With some groggy reactiveness we debate over what to do.  Some want to run to our storage space at the school and retrieve a tarp.  Another idea is to escort the children in for their NadMad visit (our remote camp is nearer the school than we usually are) to get them out of the rain.  A couple dynamics play out through all of this: one, of projecting the adult’s discomfort on the kids (they were mainly warm but grumpy about snowy hair) and two, of not relating to each other’s different needs.  The adults in 2 bag systems (where the outer bag hadn’t soaked through to the inner) were dry and cozy and couldn’t understand why the other adults were antsy and fearful, and vice versa.

Many are uncomfortable with arriving at NadMad before our agreed-upon time with the guides.  A compromise is presented that those not on their NadMad visit only do the escorting of the kids to NadMad, and return back to our remote camp to pick up their own bedding along with anyone wanting to stay and sleep it out.  So we get up, and get dressed, slowly, in the dark.  I stoke the fire up.  After some time, everyone has decided to join the trip and get out of bed.  We all take pieces of the kids gear and head off into the darkness in a line.

After a short while, it dawns on me that this is enabling.  We know we’re supposed to rely on each other, and the resources we have with us instead of falling back on the school’s.  I could sense we were blurring the line between need and convenience, especially with the (almost) grey area of getting the kids in a teensy bit early for their NadMad visit.  I voice this, and there is some disagreement about it all.  The kids certainly don’t want to give up the prospect of a warm, dry room to sleep in at this point.  We continue on.  I get to practice my own self-assurance and let go of others agreeing with me.

We’re almost there when Julia’s feet are getting cold and we have to stop to warm them on our skin.  Then it dawns on me: this doesn’t make sense.  We have a meeting with Julia’s mom at sunrise on the lake (in the other direction) and will probably need to turn around and walk her back the moment we get to NadMad.  Meaning she would be out in the cold the whole time, which is inappropriate when her comfort needs are the most urgent.  We discuss this quickly on the trail, and decide to leave the kids and couple adults going to NadMad with their gear to carry and the remaining 4 men head back to our remote camp to keep Julia warm by the fire.

I’m weary now from lack of sleep and carrying heavy loads, and walking the half-melted trail is tiring.  Stumbling back into camp we keep wondering at the sky, “is it almost dawn yet?”  The fire is stoked once again and I head out into the woods in the dark to gather wood, a first for me and I’m excited to test my intuitive firewood gathering skills.

Soon we’re sitting by a roaring fire again with Julia, waiting out the dawn.  Julia misses her mom and says so, and cries for a bit.  Someone helps her warm herself by the fire.  We tell her she will see her mom when the sun comes up, which we can now see will be very soon.  Quietly, the 4 of us repack our pack frames and shake out our ice-y bedding.  The profundity of our trip and the need to be of service and ready hits us during all of this.  Someone says, “Wolf tracking is nothing to this, this is being a real gaurdian!”  We laugh, still a bit nervously.

Dawn comes, rewind, and we walk backwards through our last sun’s tracks, with our loads, with Julia and anticipation of returning to camp.  Julia gets cold again in between the frozen lakes, and wants fire.  We realize by the time we made bow drill fire we could be back home in base camp again, but know too her need is real.  We ask her to walk, which she is resistant to, but our solid reserve to rescue her from her tantrum gives her what she needs to begin walking and warming herself.  She finally cries out a real need: “Will someone hold my hands,” through her tears.  One of my campmates turns around, and for over a half-mile (okay: many canoe lengths) takes stutter steps, walking backwards while holding her bare hands with his warm ones, telling her a fantasy story about her and another toddler that used to live in our clan.  The other 3 men walf forward a bit, and then wait, until we all feel confident Julia is warm and safe.  One of us cries a bit at the beauty of it all.

Over the last lake, and at the watering hole is Julia’s mother.  We all drink and walk the last little bit into camp, where we slump down with our pack frames, eat some warm food, and stoke up a fire in the bark lodge to dry our wet sleeping gear.  I am a Northwoods zombie for the whole sun, but that feeling of freshness and appreciation that I knew could be mine: I’ve got it.

Some suns later, the clan gathers to feast Julia’s rite of passage: her first night camping away from her mother and father.  The celebration rings true to her, she understands she has made a step in growing up, as is evidenced by the excited and serious look on her face when she speaks of her feast.

Reflections from Coyotequai

Aaniin family,

My offerings to the blog have been scant, of late, mostly due to climatic conditions not conducive to writing. Wielding a pencil with mittens and choppers is not something I have mastered yet. We’ve been engaged in all sorts of endeavors, though: The dream work has become more involved and refined, as has our flagging efforts – recognizing, reminding and helping each other work through unhealthy habit patterns. We have had workshops and explorations into dodemic connections and how we are gifted/guided by the plants and animals in our circle. For the last moon and a half we moved about 2 miles off to Shelp Lake to establish our snow camp… one step further from life as we used to know it… even leaving behind what few conveniences we had at winter camp. Storytelling has reached new heights. Some of my most precious memories of this experience are of a fully occupied winter lodge… all snuggled close and in laps, hair brushing, massaging each other; warm fire in the middle, fed constantly, casts a glow on the storyteller’s verbal illustrations, as story and dream come to life. We had many feasts: 2 for iik, moving from the ‘toddler’ to the ‘kid’ phase of life; one for me, moving through the ‘changing woman’ time which is deep upon me. It is a powerful thing to celebrate these transitions with the respectful, joyful support of clan. We also had naming feasts which were outrageously funny, light and insightful events. During these 3 spontaneous ceremonies 2/3 of our group, and even one visitor, found new address. I spent the last 2 moons as coyoteqwai, the feminine version of coyote (with special spelling meant to defy the laws of written English). Our final feast was the night before the first group left – honoring the guides and staff who have led us through phenomenal transformation. This feast was the biggest of all – dancing, singing, drumming, diggeridoo, rapture. The last moon of our experience in the N. woods was transition moon. Bit by bit, we eased our awareness back in to the world we would re-enter, guided by circles, workshops and meetings. We talked about how we wanted to move in the world, what we hoped to manifest, and identified our individual strengths, weaknesses and needs. Our intention has been to keep present and strong in the program to the end and beyond. Out of the year-long, into the life-long. The last sun: I awoke this first light ensconced in our snow lodge thinking of the first Ishi (Izaiah having become the 2nd): a native Yani man whose small family clan survived undetected in the N. California wilderness for many years. After the rest died off, Ishi remained, walking alone and hidden, for several more moons until he felt called to reveal himself to the rest of the world. The sun of this writing seems poised in a surreal limbo. Two thirds of our clan walked out on their journey ‘beyond’ yesterday. Next sun the rest of us will follow. We will scatter like the wind to all corners of the earth. I sit now in a ghost camp of snow hills – the fleeting ruins of a momentary, thriving culture. I think of what a glorious, wild, deep, persistent ride this has been. The large group felt at first unwieldy and chaotic, then powerful and transformative. As the final moon passed, it seemed that we were just finally starting to get into a natural rhythm. Early on in this experience, our clan elder, Margaret, shared a poem with us which seemed an appropriate final blog entry. I will end with this sharing of depth, mysticism and power, though what I feel mostly at the moment is sad and fragmented. Canto (Waagosh – fox) told me tearfully last night that he would give up anything to continue with this same group for another year; a powerful statement from someone who has been fantasizing of reuniting with pancakes, friends and dogs for the last 12 moons. But the dream goes on… shifting to scene after scene… the limitless images of Self reflected back change and change again.The circle remains, unfailing and absolute, embracing us always and reminding me that the earth has no corners. Did Ishi feel this as he watched the life and family he knew pass away? I wonder. Two suns later: I sit in the Three Lakes laundromat, clean and fed on my first town food in 12 moons. I had to hunt through the lining of my spark-pocked coat to retrieve the 3 bear claws that had given my pocket the slip… and now the scent of a full turning of the seasons is mechanically slooshing away… but I am quite permanently stained. Balance is here in the laundromat, too. The circle holds me, as always. One quarter moon later: I sit in a hot spring in northern Idaho. The voices of my clan, my circle, my waking dream still wash through me. My inner Sky guides me on dumpster diving the 1st donuts Canto and Zander have ever had. My inner Wolfgang has me clean and organize the car at each stop… not something I was in the habit of doing in the past. Sun Eagle speaks to me of gentleness and trust in my difficult parenting moments; Susan (and Canto, too) flag me relentlessly when I get too controlling. Each person, every character who has played a part in this experience (including all of you, dear relations) sings loud and clear, guiding my every moment. I am so blessed. After the hot springs, Vedrica Community in N. Idaho. Another circle, the same circle, to fall in love with again. As I leave Vedrica the song comes to me that filled my tears as I left Teaching Drum… and when I left our last clan member in S. Wisconsin: Round and round we go we hold each others’ hands and weave our lives in a circle. Our love is strong. The dance goes on. And on… And on… One moon out: Back in California, reunited with Pixy’s family for a sweet moment (maybe more, but I am staying in the present)… we’ve come full circle. Patterson Creek is dancing and alive. A heavily attended ‘occupy Patterson Creek’ movement has been staged in the drawers of the yurt in our absence. Twelve mice caught so far… a feast! Eric returned from his counter-balancing experience in Baja. We have new gifts to offer this reunion and so far our beginnings feel balanced, loving and strong (mostly). Ishi (the 2nd), Canto (Waagosh) and Zander (Bagwaj Baca Akwe – Wild Chicken) are delighting in sunshine and re-connection with people and things they have longed for. For the month of May we will be on a visiting tour of California and hope to see many of you. After that, my intention is to permanently re-home our car, rein in some of our animal friends and start walking with goats and donkeys, back northeast. It looks like we will find home in Vedrica. There is a very convenient system of trails that can bring us quite directly there. While I walk, Eric can come and go with the boys on their summertime blitz (camps and other adventures). I am hoping to be joined by more folks on this next adventure up the Pacific Crest and Lewis and Clark trails. Please let me know if you are interested! Right now, it seems that Pixy will remain in N. CA building tribal connections here. I imagine that we will be the furthest branch of that network. It is no accident that this new home base is about 1/2 way back to Teaching Drum. I’m not done there. But if I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s fresh perspective on my favorite old lesson: Things are not as they seem… stay present… change happens… be open… aware… trust. The Return written by Geneen Marie Haugen Some day, if you are lucky, you’ll return from a thunderous journey trailing snake scales, wing fragments and the musk of earth and moons. Eyes will examine you for signs of damage or change and you too will wonder if your skin shows traces of fur or leaves If thrushes have built a nest of your hair and if andromeda burns from your eyes. Do not be surprised by prickly questions from those who barely inhabit their own fleeting lives; who barely taste their own possibilities, who barely dream. If your hands are empty, treasureless, if your toes have not grown claws, if your obedient voice has not become a wild cry, a howl, you will reassure them. “We warned you”, they might declare. “There is nothing else. No point, no meaning, no mystery at all, just this frantic waiting to die”. And yet they tremble, mute, afraid you’ve returned without sweet elixir for unspeakable thirst, without a fluent dance or holy language to teach them, without a compass bearing a forgotten border where no one crosses without weeping for the terrible beauty of galaxies, and granite, and bone. They tremble, hoping your lips hold a secret. That the song your body now sings will redeem them. Yet, they fear your secret is dangerous, shattering, and once it flies from your astonished mouth, they, like you must disintegrate before unfolding tremulous wings.

Update from Dakota

Aaniin Family and Friends,

The white season is fully upon us … ice on the lake is thicker than the length of my forearm.  We carry on with our life:  frightful, amazing, glorious and daunting… even occasionally mundane.  We have passed midwinter, passed the ‘apocalypse’.  As are many things here, the apocalypse was a clear and personal process for me.  I was left with the awareness:  Before apocalypse, chop wood, carry water.  After apocalypse, chop wood, carry water.

Our numbers continue to grow less as the process grows deeper… we are now 24.  All those who have left have been families with children.  At this point, our family yearlong contains only 4 blood families (and 13 other individual seekers).  With each departure, I find myself even more committed to this process, though there is certainly still struggle.  Last night, pitch dark inside the lodge, a confused child wet his bed and mine.  The morning before, two woke up puking.  The children don’t drink enough (sucking it in through an ice hole is unappealing to them) and have problems related to dehydration.  One child got a bad case of frost nip on his feet… none of us has yet perfected human relations and there are the usual temper tantrums, even amongst the children.  Surely, we are far from flowing as the tribal culture we strive to become… and yet, each sun brings us closer, learning and growing in sync with each other, and I know the distance we have already traveled together is great.

We continue to tomahawk away with a fury at unhealthy habit patterns and mental constructs… most recently by ‘flagging’ each other and ourselves when we notice externalizations, victimization, defensiveness, enabling or other facets of co-dependence.  It was pretty clumsy at first and played out a bit like a bad psychotherapy flick… but as in all things, our commitment and perseverance are paying off.

…Pause to listen to a distant coyote jam and the rodent that lives in the wall next to me…

A few suns ago, the clan enacted a ‘banishment’ and we are still reeling at the raw profundity of this process.  I have previously read stories of banishment, and realize that I had only the most superficial glimpse of the “why’, ‘how’, and ‘what’ behind such an action.  It is clear that the tribal cultures who practiced banishment were coming from a very different mindset than our ‘western’ culture today.  Also clear, is that this clan is only starting to unify to a point that such a tool can be used (as a last resort) for healing the human circle.  I expect to write more for the blog in the next few moons regarding banishment and its effects… it will certainly be unfolding for us for a long time.

A half-moon ago we feasted and celebrated this season of the cold, darkness, snow and ice, as well as the reflecting changes in ourselves.  I have backed off a bit from the wild, glorious, cutting edge of the honed guardian and moved into ‘mama bear’ role to accommodate my natural tendencies and family/circle needs.  A moon ago we were offered the advice: “train like a cat, move like a bear”, and I have found much insight in considering those words.  One of the trickiest and most vital skills we are developing here is to know what type of effort or response will best serve a given situation.  It is time now for me to “move like a bear”.

One of the other progressions advented by the cold season is our moving more deeply into dream work, which I am excited and inspired by.  We are told that some cultures view the dreaming state as more real than the waking state, and I have come to appreciate and share this perspective.  It is in the dreamtime that we experience our non-linear, unlimited selves.  It is an opportunity rich with healing and awareness building.  It is also what we do with the majority of our time here, during these long northern nights.  Chris, our ‘guide in residence’ has been leading us in a series of workshops and exercises for recalling, relating and utilizing our dreamtime experiences.  I appreciate being present for all of life, as a flow of various states of consciousness… all rich with guidance and healing symbolism.

Regularly, I imagine that I have learned so very much here that I’ve finally ‘got it’….only to find that it just keeps coming.  Obviously, awareness is growing exponentially and the ‘year-long’ program is really a misnomer.  Even calling it the family life-long program seems poignantly limiting.

After this sun I intend to stay out at winter camp in our somewhat cozy winter lodge and at snow camps (if it snows again) until the program ends.  I wish to make the most of these few remaining moons by completely submersing myself.  I will send in more blog entries as they surface and, as always, delight in receiving and responding to your written correspondence.  My final email from this experience will be “12 moons out”, as the snow and ice melt.  It will be sent as we pack our things to move into the next dream sequence, beyond the shore of Woodbury Lake.

This last 1/4 moon was outrageously warm… practically tropical!  Rain in the North Woods in January!  Must be global warming… oops!… ‘outside’ flag.  Correction:  The gods must be crazy!

Migwech again for all your thoughts, dreams, prayers and many levels of support.  Much love and light to you all as we welcome back the sun!

Dakota

The Move to Winter Camp by Fridolin

First quarter of Snow Falling Moon

The Move to Winter Camp

The night was long; the stars mirrored the clear dreams of the people in Waabanong. The first light brings movement into the sleeping bags—long johns…jackets are put onto the shivering skin. The snowflakes sink down gently to cover Mother Earth. The spirits bring clear silence in this dark time.

The fire tells the story of how a seed developed into a proud Maple Tree that was rocked to sleep by the Moon. The story tells of how the tree was uprooted by strong winds long ago.

But this sun, a pack of humans run synchronized in the footprints left by the leader in the snow. While the birds sing their winter songs in the depths of the woods they collect blown down branches and stack them onto their pack frames (self-built wood carrying devices). On the walk back some of the many tracks left by birds and animals reveal their stories and leave questions that beg to be explored. It may take some time until the wood finally arrives at the hearth to warm our bodies, the full pots and dry our clothes.

The sounds of the crackling moist fire wood, the cracking of walnuts and the smacking lips of the inhabitants who are enjoying juicy apples and the left-overs from the night before, create a feeling of home.

Many things are still to do before we can move into the winter lodges. Behind the trees rises a big cloud from smoking the tanned hides in order to make them weather proof for our lodge doors. The last trees are being cut by Rab, Scott and Jeff with the tomahawk until they kneel down and crash onto the ground. That will let more light into our hearth area and every ray of sunlight will bring warmth, joy, and happiness into our everyday life.

Alexandros, Migizi, and Susan prepare the venison, bear fat, and vegetables into a delicious dinner.

The children slide down the hill in the snow. Canto and Diindiis come back into the village each loaded with a bundle of wood on their backs. Ishi and the rest of the kids prepare their own meal. Vegetables, rice, fat, and wild leek bulbs are boiling in their pot. Adults passing by their hearth are not convinced of their cleanliness standards. Therefore we have a buddy system to support them with their hygiene. The children become more and more self-confident and it is beautiful to see and guide them on their way. They also have buddies for carrying water, gathering firewood and cooking.

Dakota and Susan lay out the floors of the winter lodges with birch bark and fir boughs in preparation for comfortable evenings and nights.

In order to support our motivation to make fire, half of the Guardians create a flame primitively each morning. After three days it’s the other half’s turn. No Guardian eats anything until every designated fire-maker has gotten a flame. Sometimes that can take a while-just like today ;o)

The sun goes down and the last wood gatherers and trackers return home to enjoy dinner in the Circle around the fire.

In sync with the Now – From Dakota

Recently, the youngest member of our clan, Julia, received a card in the mail. We all marveled at how clearly the picture on front depicted our life here:

There was a girl (Julia) witnessing the arrival of Tamarack, who was delivering a mountainous food drop in his sleigh (apparently, there hasn’t been enough snow here yet to pull out the sleigh). Tamarack was wearing a bright red coat and hat, so it was obviously hunting season…and he had even rounded up eight waawaashkeshi himself and tied them to his sleigh to bring us at a later date! (yum!).

Who knew Hallmark was so in touch to portray our funny life so clearly!

Optimism explained and a Funny Email Address – From Dakota

2nd quarter of the too cold, too soon moon

Rumor has it that some of our blog readers have expressed dissatisfaction with the suspiciously upbeat reports of our experience here. I hear that the entries have been romantic and poetic, omitting the obvious sufferings that our lives must contain.

This is an understandable perception coming from the world that we do… The world of black and white, good and bad… but here we live in a different world.

We are told that the mindset of the Ojibwa is embodied so fully in their language that becoming fluent in the language will shift one into an entirely different view of the world.

I have witnessed many struggles here, but I can honestly say that amongst the adults, I don’t know of one difficulty that did not evolve into a welcome teacher. Truly, the members of this clan are that committed to creating healthy culture. Likely, the riffles don’t become blog entries until after their gift is recognized.

Also, being immersed in nature, the experience goes far beyond the limitations of the English language. This life is poetry. We simply write down as we can.

I am reminded of two songs I have heard the Seekers compose. This by Alexandros, this green season, was 2 revision of another song: Humbly and with gratitude

 

Hungry we walk here, hungry we sing here

Hungry we walk this ground

Hungry, and in bad mood

Hungry and in bad mood we walk this ground.

…And Rose’s composition of this morning as she prepared to start a bow drill fire in the cold with an unfamiliar Kit:

“Threshold, threshold, threshold

I don’t have to do this,

I just want to have it done”

 

…On a further contemplation I have uncovered a pocket of unresolved angst. This is with the Seekers who have left the program. So far, we have lost 15 due to inability to work through these challenges. Fortunately or unfortunately, they bring these teachers with them to surface and guide them another sun.

Balance (at) teachingdrum (dot) org

“I need more time with the elders,” I complain “ or time in the wild, alone.”.
They are one and the same, I am reminded.

Here I sit with the elders: trees, wind, stars… The ancestors of all life. Here, the relentless ego chatter stops; resting, reflecting, listening. What I see in this mirror is not physical form, nor the actions, reactions and interactions of fledgling humans (humans practicing/remembering to be God). This reflection of the elders is deep – the center of the center – the heart of the heart. They sing the song of circle consciousness; the wordless voice of the world.

The Buddhist tenant “life is suffering” needs modification (or likely, it has already been modified from its original intention). Life is changing, and adjusting to that change. “Suffering” is the result of resisting adjustment. If we live with open hearts/minds, we experience: thought, shooting out from center – creation – imbalance – and immediately, life attempts to restore balance.

Simple natural science I learned in grade school – the principle of homeostasis.

Balance (at) teachingdrum (dot) org

Long I wondered about this…funny email for a school/business. I don’t wonder about it anymore. The intention that moves this school is as far as one gets from “business.” It is an egoless immersion in restoring natural balance.

In the world where I come from, much is exerted into preventing adjustment (creating suffering) – light to prevent darkness, shade to prevent light, heat to prevent cold, cold to prevent heat, walls built to keep out dust, weather, trespassers, and to define and contain what is “ours.”

Here in this life without walls we learn balance. Mosquito comes; we adjust; come to balance. Reaction/insult comes; we adjust; come to balance. Food comes in different flavors, textures, quantities; we adjust, come to balance. This is what the elders have called to me to hear this dawn. I am grateful to receive it and happy to pass it on. May it continue to move, serve and restore balance in us all.

 

 

Continued Reflections from Camp Guest–Tammy

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
afternoon.
– 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
this way.

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
eat.

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
task.

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-
Tammy

A Visitor’s View–Reflection from Chris Lemying’s Mom

Things to Remember from Teaching Drum Visit Falling Leaves Moon

– written by Tammy Day, mother of Chris Lemying, known at camp as Lemying.

-Walking through a cranberry bog
-Chris surprising me by walking behind me for a while on the trail before I realized he was there
-Chris with beard and beautiful smile, his welcome hug
-the autumn beauty of Wisconsin woods
-the lakes
-the Wigwams, as we came to a clearing there were 4 wigwams, small hearths (campfires), and children and
adults milling around. I felt like I was on a movie set….in another time period.
-the warmth of the other Seekers/clan members
-how dirty their clothes, hands and faces were
-How their eyes shown
-how tangled and unkempt their hair was, especially the children
-The children- So free, so independent to play and explore the woods from sun up to bedtime. There is a group of about 5-6 boys between the ages of six to ten. The spirits are unlike that of any children I’ve ever known. They have energy to be engaged, curious, creative, playful, and quite often helpful members of the clan all day. How different from most American children.

I have no memory of these boys ever seeking their parents (mostly mothers) attention. They would sometimes say, “Mom, have your seen my gloves, tomahawk, jacket.” But never, “I’m bored” or “Can you do something with me?”

I saw a group of adults that were available to easily offer a child a helping hand, a bit of conversation and acknowledgment. When work groups went out to dig out the new lean-to, any child that came along was allowed to work alongside the adults. Sunday a.m. the whole clan walked to the trailhead for the bi-weekly food drop. ALL of the children, even the 3 yr olds, joyously participated in carrying the food back to camp. No
complaints, no whining, no directions were given by the adults! It was amazing to watch beautiful, 3 yr old Julia and her parents. Julia was given the freedom to roam around
the hearth (3 first pit) areas. She would speak in very clear English—she is Swedish and also speaks Swedish.
Many people in camp are whittling different projects—adult and children. Saturday evening, Julia was also holding a knife and stick and was trying to whittle. The only direction from her father was, you must be still and not walk around with the knife. Early Sunday morning she was holding a dead mouse and petting it like a pet. She had the ability to roam around, interact with children and adults alike. At 3 years she had the self-direction
and confidence of a child 2 times her age. She was a delight to watch.

-There was a feast Thursday evening to celebrate the completion of digging up a peat bog. The peat will be used to insulate the winter lodges. As a guest I was asked to be the first served.  The menu was Basswood tree leaves and raspberry leaves,
kombocha squash, mixed cooked kale, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, wild rice they had harvested weeks earlier, and Cisco fish. I chose the tail end half of the fish. (Chris choose the head and offered me one of his fish eyes…I declined.) Bear fat was drizzled over the whole bowl. Since I was new it was advised I only take 1 scoop of bear fat to start off with. Most adults were having between 4-7 scoops of bear fat each evening
meal…and wishing for more. They say the bear fat helps them keep warm and gives them energy. I did not really like the taste of the bear fat….an acquired taste I think. I was surprised by the amount of food everyone ate during the evening meals—then I learned how important this meal is.

-Before we started eating the entire clan -42 counting me and 3 support staff that were there for the feast, sat in a large oval, cross-legged, held hands and offered an Ojibwa prayer.
-Then guests, elders, mothers, men, children, and lastly the Guardians got to be served in that order. Chris and 6 other young adults are Guardians (also known as scouts).
-We all ate everything. The clan members even ate the fish spines after roasting them on stones in the fire.
-There is no drinking during the meals. It is believed this helps with digestion.
-Clan members drink directly with their mouths from the lake. I bought a filtered straw to drink the clear, crisp water from the lake.
-After everyone had their 1st serving of food, the members of the clan started telling everyone about their day (or sun). One by one, kids included, everyone listened respectfully as they stated what they had done that day and how they felt. If they needed support they asked for it. They could also make announcements. Ex: I had
a really good day. I woke early at first light, after my morning meal I worked on helping to dig out the new lean-to, I am feeling good about how people are coming together to work on the building projects. I have lost my knife, please be on the look-out for me. Aho (an Ojibwa word that means-“I have spoken”). The whole clan then replies, “Aho” which now means “I have heard” And it is the next person’s time to share.

-Everyone has their own bowl and spoon or chop sticks. People are encouraged to carve their own bowls. They get every speck of food and bear fat out of the bowls. After the meals the bowls are stored in tree boughs or on the top of the wood arbor—nothing was washed.

-There is a type of conifer tree here that is very important to the clan for its antiseptic properties. I do not remember the name of the tree. Pine needles are rubbed on hands after eliminating, boughs are used for bedding in wigwams for warmth, the boughs are also placed around the hearth for cleanliness and comfort, the trunks of
these trees have sap/pitch sacks in them that easily pop and the liquid runs out like an ointment to be applied to cuts and sores.

-When Chris greeted me he had a large amount of these tree boughs attached to a rope around his shoulder.These had been lovingly gathered to add to my bedding in the wigwam. This was very attentive and indicative of how he would tend to my every need during my whole visit.

-The Guardians camp is about a half mile away from the main camp. We walked out there after dinner with Clair. She is a sweet, quiet woman that shares a wigwam with Chris and Rob. Rob slept somewhere else during my stay giving me his spot. Being inside the wigwam was so cozy and comforting. One feels as if they are being held by Mother Earth.

-It turned cold the day I arrived to TD and sleeping warmly was difficult, even with the extra pine tree boughs Chris collected for me. I was uncomfortable and cold. The following sun (day) we put my ground cloth from my tent under my sleeping bag, more pine boughs, and a warm wool cape from Chris. I was warm the following 2 nights.
-We rose before sunrise, near first light, bundled up (First Chris went outside the wigwam and did 16 burpee exercises. He and another guardian are trying to add one a day to reach 100 burpee’s each morning). Chris showed me where his di’yai area (where to take a dump in the woods). Like Chris has written to us, the Ojibwa people think of this as a time to “give back” to the Mother. We walked a good distance down a path in the
woods, Chris showed me a couple landmarks, waved his arm and said, “This area here is mine. Mark you poop with a stick pointing straight up!”
-walking along this trail that morning I came within 4 feet of a porcupine on the trail. I wondered if I was about to be shot with quills. The porcupine looked at me and slowly moved off the trail.
-every morning there is a brief meeting around the hearth before breakfast. All of the adults would go around and state what they hoped to accomplish that day. If they wanted help they could ask for support. One couple would ask for someone to take their 3 yr old for a couple hours in the afternoon to let the parents do other things
at camp.
-after the morning meeting Chris and 3 other Guardians steal away into the forest for some hard physical training. They have decided amongst themselves that they want to do this training to get stronger. Chris has built an outdoor area for pull-ups, dips, and other exercises. They each did over 200 push-ups, then many other exercises.
-This first morning Chris and I took a small canoe down a canoe canal to the lake to get water. This canal was so cool. The black dirt walls were about 3
feet, there were poles about every 3 feet sticking up on both sides so one can reach and pull themselves and the canoe out to the water. One of the times I felt like I had stepped back in time. The wind was howling and cold, the water was choppy so we quickly got out water and went back to shore. This was one of my favorite parts of
my visit. Chris was so confident and capable.

…more soon!

 

Last of the Pictures from Green Season at Wabanong – A finished lodge

Here are the last few pictures from Wabanong this green season–the lodge was finished! Get ready for more updates from the Seekers and Guides coming soon!