Feeling Community

From Alexandros

More and more I get a feeling for the spirit of community. To be with other people is maybe more connected with being happy, than I expected it to be! Now I see the word “community” with different eyes.

As soon as I come together with my partner, my children, family, friends, plants, and animals, as well as natural spirits, I live in community. And yet I am not able to feel a sense of joyful communion all the time, why?

Why is there sometimes a feeling of ‘non-connectedness’ and the need to escape from relationship? Perhaps community is more of a general attitude, a recognition that we are already connected in the heart. Some Indians say MITAKUYE OYASIN for ‘all my Relations’ and ‘we are all connected.’

My personal answer to the ‘why’ for my feelings of disconnection is that I close up. Because of my woundedness I find myself unable to trust. When I am able to open up to the people and to my environment, it no longer matters where or with whom I am because then I feel, and live, and am community!


Full Moon – second quarter – dead lake/orange hat moon – From Dakota

Epiphany #577: Tracking/Dreaming/Multi-dimensional vision.

Looks like snow is here to stay now and it’s hard to remember that it ever wasn’t freezing. Some of our most entertaining (and humbling) moments find us whittling at frozen carcasses or jumping around a fire half naked (one half at a time) with a washcloth full of snow. I’m still wondering how I had the idea that we would have access to showers on occasion.

Daylight is short and the long nights are filled with moonlight and insight. Dreams, visions, and epiphanies are rampant as the line between worlds becomes increasingly obscure.

One of the many blessings that came with the advent of snow is the enormous expansion of tracking opportunities.

I am quite a beginner when it comes to tracking. I have always considered it just a cool hobby for anyone whose livelihood didn’t depend on it. Two experiences this sun have completely changed my mind.

At breakfast we were discussing how to cultivate telepathy – a skill that native cultures tend to far surpass our own in. I realized that this ability is exercised by repeatedly challenging oneself to decipher ‘what is happening?’ without the use of speech. Tracking is one of the best ways I know of to transcend space by developing this awareness. When we are telepathic we give up the belief that thought happens inside our brains, or that our perception is limited by the confines of our personal, physical bodies.

…So, all that was kind of a headfull already…Then, I went out in the snow to gather firewood. I left off wolf-walking a clanmate for a moment to discover a simple scene, my awareness of it slowly unfolding into story:

“A deer came by this morning. It lay down in the snow for a time. Then it got up, pooped, and walked back in the same basic direction that it had come.

Now, I have always imagined that deer lay down in the snow…of course, they must…but I have never seen a deer lying down at all…it was just an assumption. However, there it was, right in front of me, clear as day. I was able to see that scene as though standing there! Deer comes, lies down, poops, leaves. Suddenly, I realized that a tracker transcends both space and time. This is alchemy. This is cultural evolution. This is a ‘hobby’ to wrap my life around.


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.



Post from Sarah

Last spring I started on an 11 month wilderness immersion
program in northern Wisconsin near the Nicolet National Forest.
I embarked on this adventure with my two children, ages 5 and
12, but without their father—my life partner Chuck. My older son
returned home after 2 months and I thought I would also return
then, but have been learning so much, I have stayed on. After 5
months in the woods away from computers, cars, time pressures
and all the other conveniences and demands of modern life, I am
finally ready to try and make a dead-line and write an update
about my time.

First I want to say: Riverwest, I miss you!!
Being away has helped me see even more clearly what a wonderful,
beautiful and vibrant neighborhood we have!

So what am I learning?

I helped build a wigwam I now live in! And I am now part
of a team building a lean-to: all with knives and tomahawks as
our only tools. It is true beyond a shadow of a doubt that we
can live without our modern conveniences and be comfortable,
healthy, and happy.

I have also learned:
• to see each moment as an opportunity,
• to go slow and to act with care,
• to make sure I am listening.
• that natural living (sitting without chairs, walking,
canoeing…) is the best physical fitness program there
is. I have not been so fit or flexible since I was a 24
year old dancer. 🙂
As an urban gardener and practitioner of permaculture, I
am excited to be growing a deeper relationship with the trees,
plants, and natural systems.
My list of lessons could go on, but today I feel an even
deeper lesson. Many nights we have story telling around a fire
or in a lodge around a candle. Last night a story was shared by
one of the more experienced participants in the program. It was
about his first time “hiking” at night. The story was about
fear; fumbling through the woods carrying a canoe that banged
into trees making an enormous racket, getting lost, a heart
racing with fear because he was imagining that a huge man
carrying an ax was chasing him; scaring an animal that screamed
like fighting cats, falling down hills, more fear, owls
screeching from above, a bear running by breaking down trees,
exhaustion, and in the end a task that was not completed. As the
story closed many of us were rolling with laughter. Then one of
the children asked how big the man with the ax was and if he was
real. Chris, the story teller, said yes, he was real: real in his mind.
Once a month we walk into our support center to use the
phones and computer. This morning was one of those mornings so I
woke up before the first light was showing in the sky and walked
with four other participants (including a 6 and a 9 year old)
through the dark woods and miles down a dark road. We started by
holding hands and laughing as we went down a path we could only
feel but not see in the cloudy night with no moon. We talked
about how we felt like we were part of a ten-legged organism. If
the head of our chain went off the path the back of our chain
was still on it and could feel the path underfoot. In this way
the rear could help the leader come back to the path with little

Near our support center we saw our first houses, many
which had lights that appeared to have been on all night and I
thought about the story of the night before. I also thought
about the electrical “energy drip,” a constant slow loss of
electricity that no one is really using but that is flowing
through our energy grid and being wasted—such as all the little
red lights on appliances that are on 24 hours a day all year. I
realized that we as a nation are cutting down whole mountains to
mine coal to power lights that are on simply because many of us
are scared of the dark. I know I have left the lights on when I
was alone and scared.

Just thinking of all the houses in the United States with
lights on because most of us are scared of the dark is mind
boggling. And as I walked I realized the fear goes beyond the
literal fear of the dark to fear of our vulnerability, the
unknown, and fear of death. I thought about how fun the dark
could be when you did not fear it, when you shared it with
Upon my arrival at the support center I learned that a
friend passed away from breast cancer. And as I cried for her,
missing my own family; I realized I could feel my pain and not
be scared of it. I suddenly knew that the pain and fear, the
dark inside me, could be felt and embraced and I would be fine.
Living away from my son and partner for most of a year to
be out in the woods with no running water does sound crazy to me
and yet we are all living in a crazy world. The fact that I have
helped destroy mountains because I have been scared of the dark
is also crazy. The news I read as I arrive here seems crazy.
Today, in honor of Alisa and her family and all in my Riverwest
community whom I have not seen in so long, I recommit myself to
being in the moment, and to releasing fear. I will live as
simply as I can. I will not harm our planet or any of the other
people and creatures I share it with because of fears. I commit
to sharing the dark and to loving unconditionally those around me—knowing that is the way to work with the dark.
Let us all remember the dark is always there. If we let
our fear of the dark overcome us, then we go out of balance, but
if we live in the moment and support one another in the
darkness, then we can handle it.


The Feng Shui of the Child

“Gio, these shells need to go into the nutshell basket.”

I glance pointedly at the overturned cast iron lid filled with shards of fire-blackened almond shells.

“Those aren’t mi-ine,” Gio squeaks, somewhere between a bird and a mouse, one of the plethora of voices in his estimable repertoire.

“Gio, I watched you roast the nuts, crack them, eat them, and put your shells in there.” Squatting with his tummy sticking out between his knees as he helps Zander saw off chunks of bearfat into a pot, Gio gives me a serene smirk, and ignores me.

Something hard and sharp starts to rise out of my inner depths. I take a breath and let it go, my waters receding, calm, still. There will be another opportunity.

The children are a culture within our greater camp culture, and for the next eight suns I have been granted a visa into a strange, foreign land. I’m in the children’s food drop. My allotment of the food we don’t forage, which is provided by the support center, is divided with theirs, apportioned by their rules, cooked with theirs, and eaten on an entirely different schedule. A few adults are periodically rotating in to experience the children’s culture and support them around the hearth –help them motivate themselves to gather their firewood and fresh boughs, cook, wash their hands and take out their compost.

Annika, our pioneering predecesor in the children’s food drop, is a vivacious and child-like graduate of the Yearlong Program who has seemingly endless energy to play Pied Piper with the boys to accomplish all their tasks of daily living.

I do not. It’s exhausting, something like herding reluctant statues.
I drop the issue of the nutshells and go back to chewing my squash. I watch Zander’s mat of sunlight hair dangle over the pot as he concentrates on cutting bearfat with what I don’t doubt is a profoundly dull knife.

Finished munching my squash, I eye the chipmunk making furtive forays around the edges of the children’s hearth, and stash the rest of the cooked squash in a pot. Looking around the squalor of withered boughs littered with eggshells and squash seeds, I can’t find the lid– until I realize it’s exactly where we left it, full of nutshells.

“Gio, I need that lid to cover the squash, so I really need you to put your nutshells away.”

Glancing up, Gio stands wordlessly, wipes bear grease off his little hands, and goes to pour his nutshells in the bin.
Watching him, there are no thoughts in my head. Then my eyes narrow faintly. Something is fighting to click into place in my brain, as if I am just on the cusp of understanding.

Miigwetch,” I tell him, puzzled, not at him, but at the jigsaw puzzle within myself. “That was really helpful.”


“Do you know where the boys are?” I ask Dakota, realizing how quiet camp is.

Rocking back on her bare heels at the intersection of the trail with the log bridge to the drinking spot, her closed face and the slight shake of her head suggest to me harried exasperation.

“I believe Zander and Ishi are across the lake picking berries,” she tells me in her precise diction, hands on hips over baggy pants, “and Jason might be with them.”

I understand her resignation. Berries are one of the few areas where the children have any self-motivation whatsoever. That and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Thing is, if we don’t get firewood, we’re not going to have much to eat.

The gears in the creative chaos fermenting in my mind fracture and shift, reforming a new picture.

“This may work out perfectly,” I inform the world in general.
Dakota cracks a smile, the light back in her hazel eyes.

“What’re you up to?” she asks me, eyebrows quirked quizzically.

“I’m going with the childen’s flow,” I call over my shoulder, already hurrying through the fragrant zhingob corridor toward the canoe canal.

Paddling furiously across the sunlit lake, I start tying the pieces of my idea together, entirely unsure if it’s going to work, and insecure in the face of seven- to eleven-year-old rejection. What if they just think I’m stupid? The boys responded well once before to this tactic when I took them on a camoflaged stealth strike to the armored vessel of the visiting dignitaries (picking up moccasins from the car at the trailhead), and I don’t know if I can score two for two.

I head first for the berry hill directly across the lake from the canoe canal, and as I approach the shore I hear Ishi and Jason’s voices carried across the water a little to the south.

“Guys! Thank Paladine I found you!” I call, hurrying to the tiny landing where they’ve stashed their canoe. “I bring new intelligence!”

“What?” Zander yells back, all three faces appearing at the shore.

“What you haf to tell us?” Jason calls.

“Wait! Our voices may carry over the water. There might be spies.”

“What is it?” Jason insists blankly. I swear, they have no appreciation for suspense.

“I’ll tell you when I’m on shore. We don’t want to be overheard.”

“What is it?” he asks again, same tone, same inflection, same blank face.

“Jason!” I huff as my canoe bumps the shore and I hurriedly climb out. “I told you, there might be spies.”

Bemused, they follow me inland over a thick carpet of umber pine needles. As we sit down in a clear patch amid a tangle of tipups I tell them, “Comrades. Two ravens came to me and told me of a mighty battle between the god of the North Wind–” I glance at the direction the tipups are laying. “–actually, looks like it was the god of the South Wind, and the dryad soldiers of the dragon god of light, Paladine. There are dozens of the slain, and among the bodies of the fallen there are spoils to be had.”

All three children stare at me dumbly.


Treasure,” I emphasize.

“What means dryad?” Jason interjects, studying me intently from beneath his tangled bangs.

“Tree people,” I tell him. “And look! You’re already here!” I throw out my arms to encompass the tangle of tipups. A more perfect location I couldn’t have imagined. “Did the ravens already tell you?” I ask incredulously.

“Noooo…” says Zander, dirt-smudged face mystified.

“Then how did you know?

I can see Ishi’s literal mind is already at work decoding my story, the same way he did with the stealth strike scenario.

“Sooo…” His down-turned chocolate eyes regard me seriously. “The fallen trees are the dead dryads.”

“Here lie many of the slain,” I agree solemnly, squashing any frustration that his unraveling might kill the opportunity for Zander and Jason.

“And the treasure is… firewood?”

“The bodies of these dryads are imbued with the power of the god Paladine, who is the god of light and warmth. Right?” I glance at Zander for confirmation.

“He’s the dragon god of light,” he recites from his mental encyclopedia of home-brewed D&D.

Exactly. So we may take back his treasure and release its magic in our hearth.”

“… Fire?” Ishi guesses.

“If we want to eat this sun,” I agree.

Then, to my surprise, “Okay.” They pad over and start snapping off branches.

“This is almost like real life!” Ishi says, half puzzled, half cheerful. I suppress a smile.

“Nooo it’s not!” Zander rebuts, probably just because his brother said it. “I’m gathering these twi-igs!” he giggles, taunting me in his constant quest to follow the letter and not the spirit.

“If you only gather twigs I’m going to serve you two twigs worth of squash,” I threaten, and he giggles again, scraping his mat of sunlight hair out of his dirty face.

Abruptly, Jason hauls a dead pine sapling upright.

“Look! De tree mans are coming back alife!”

Handing Jason a stick Zander squeals, “And this is his sword!” as I exclaim, “A survivor!”

Jason, now a ravening, PTSD-stricken dryad, rumbles threateningly at us, towering high above.

“Faithful servant of Paladine, fear not!” I drop to my knees in front of the sapling, my hands raised in supplication. “We are friends, come to help!” And rob your dead… “I am a healer!” Wilderness EMT surely counts. “Allow me to tend your grave wounds.”

The dryad wavers, torn between smashing us in a beserker frenzy and accepting a little TLC. Jason pokes his lips out, considering, then the dryad slowly sinks to the needle-carpeted forest floor. I lay my hands on the sapling.

“Brave servant, by the power of the dragon god, be healed!” An aside to the boys: “There’s a ring of light expanding from my hands.”
Jason hoists the sapling upright again, rumbling again.

“Please!” I entreat. “We have come for the gifts of your people. Who are the most powerful of your warriors that we might gather from them?” Jason considers again, then the dryad points with its sword at two tipups.

“We thank you!”

“Okay, de tree mans again dead,” Jason announces and drops the sapling.

“Did you make up that story?” Ishi asks me as we scale a mother tipup and I start passing him branches. His round face is full of his unique innocence, framed by his Beatles bob and bangs.

“The ravens told me,” I tell him, watching him process that illusory line between fiction and reality. Jason, to my complete surprise, is even breaking up firewood, and he and Zander start to bicker about who’s going to carry it to the canoe.

“I liked it,” Ishi says after a long silence.

“Would you like to hear more stories like that?”


“Okay. Let’s go cook lunch.”

The Power of the Sun

Breaking out the bowdrill kit again, I arrange my instruments on a flat patch of grass, fighting myself the whole way. I’ve been complacent about starting to make fires by friction, and now that I’m in a smaller camp to begin the rice harvest and we’re determined to not use matches, if we don’t use bowdrill, we won’t have fire.

I place the fireboard in front of me, settle it under the arch of my bare foot. Tighten the tension of the string on the bow, keep my knife ready to the side. I twist the spindle into the string and meticulously adjust my posture for maximum efficiency.

I don’t want to do this, I want to be able to flick a tiny wooden stick and feel the burn of sulfur in my nose and just know that I’ll be able to have fire and cook–

The resistant chatter ricocheting through my brain fades into the rhythm of the bow, the constant flow of tiny adjustments. More speed here, less pressure there, until I hit the sweet spot, the thrum of friction that my body remembers even after two turns of the seasons, and fragrant smoke drifts into my face.

Consistency, I remind myself. I don’t need to be stronger, I don’t need to be faster, I just need to be smooth, consistent.

I stop, arms trembling, and the smoke holds, winding steadily upward from a tiny pile of black powder, its heart breathing red. Shaky, I sandwich the living ember between two pieces of charcoal and blow, watching the nascent fire spread like lava between my hands. I blow and blow and when she is ready to give birth I hurriedly set her down in the ashes of the hearth and place a bundle of tinder and blow again. A flicker of blue and yellow, then a lick of flame, hungry, reaching, consuming, crackling, fire.

This is solar power at its most basic, most powerful. Solar radiation from a fiery star reaching across the vacuum of space, filtered through a gaseous soup of atmosphere. Drinking light and carbon dioxide and water, the trees in an act of alchemy convert it to carbon, to living wood. The wood dies and ages, and a dance of friction and heat releases the very power of the sun.

I breathe one word of awe and gratitude, a reverence matches never taught me.


Rice Rains Into the Canoe

It’s the most satisfying sound I’ve ever heard. I can barely describe it, a sweet rain of plops as rice lands in the water, then a musical wooden sound as the rest lands in the canoe.

I push the paddle against the shallow bottom of the lake, finding purchase on rice and lily roots, a wavering gold and green corridor that embraces us under a hot, open sky as Kerstin sweeps the rice over the boat with a cedar stick and give the ripe heads a decisive knock.

I am always amazed at the variation I find when foraging. Why is this rice tall and this rice short? Why do these lush green heads fall so easily and these ripe purple ears cling so tenaciously to the stalk? Why are these burgundy heads empty, and others filled with long, dark grains?

All these questions and more pop into my head and I make no conscious effort to solve their mysteries. I can feel all my conscious and unconscious observations being sorted and filed, amalgamated and reconfigured in the 90% of my brain most of my life hasn’t had a use for. I have this instinct that the knowing will come as I open myself and simply let myself experience, season after season.

It was the same with the blackberries at Hazelnut Camp. Why do these shrubs that come only to my knees give small, hard berries that taste miraculously ripe and sweet, while these swooping vines draped over with huge, plump, juicy berries taste bland and bitter? Why is this patch still white-green blushing red, and this thick with black? Is it the direction of exposure to sunlight? Afternoon or morning sunlight? Relationship with other plants? Soil nutrients?

Some of this I will discover through research, but largely I find myself content to let all the information drop deep into my complex human brain. An ancestral ferment has been passed down to me through thousands of generations, from a time when the average human had the depth of knowledge about their ecosystem that I have about Pern, Arrakis, and Middle Earth.

In an open pocket of lilypads and water I ponderously begin turning the canoe around to start another row in the rice bed. Amid all the vegetation the long, narrow boat has the turning radius of the Queen Mary. My hair is finally long enough to tie back into a high club, and with a Swedish military surplus bandana to guard me from a skin-crisping sun, my silhouette suggests either desert princess or viking warrior.

Swish, knock, rain, as Kerstin twists to the side to gracefully sweep more stalks over the boat. Swish, knock, rain.

On this tiny rice lake I can envision back a thousand turns of the seasons, each wheel of time layered on the other, every one the same and every one unique, a palindrome of the continuum of rice that has lasted for a millenium.

We are movement within the greater movement. And the rice is moving, moving through time. The Mother provides, and she does not wait. It doesn’t matter our preferences, the projects we wanted to do, our mood. The rice is now, and we are ricing.

Poem from Sabrina

Sunrise, sitting on the lake,                                                                                                   silence all around and                                                                                                              the whole picture on the surface.

Sunrise, walking through the woods,                                                                                     awakening in the all things and                                                                                             the amazing beauty of this place.

Sunrise, looking high towards the sky,                                                                                      holding space for all of us and                                                                                             the blessings freedom in my eyes

Sunrise, the covering fog is gone,                                                                                             heating energy now in between                                                                                                 and the day starts–we go on.

From Andrea at Thoroughfare Marsh Grass Camp–Coming to One Voice

It’s not that we have to adapt to the heartbeat of each other.

It’s that we choose to adapt to the heartbeat of the Mother. Listen into yourself. How the rhythm of our/your heartbeat fits to her heartbeat.

I thought we have to adapt to the baseline of another, but if we each adapt to the baseline of the Mother, we get into a flow together.

When we all adapt to the heartbeat of the Mother, we naturally fall into the same flow.

It’s somehow like a big orchestra before the concert. Every instrument finds its own voice by itself first. The tuning before the symphony is not harmonious at all. Much ego can be found there!

But at the point where the conductor lifts his stick, the attention of all players move towards him. And when he puts his hand down, all the different instruments come to one voice. To one rhythm. They pick up the rhythm of the Mother. Then the beauty of the symphony can unfold itself, and all the players are fully aware of the movement of the Mother and give their own very different gift to complete the melody.

This is the beauty that can happen if we come to one voice.

Every part falls into place and it feels just natural to contribute your special instrument and special voice to the circle, because you know who you are.

–Migizki (Andrea)


Ricing Camp

Autumn is picking up speed here in the Northwoods and rice season is coming to an end. The various camps are slowly returning from the local rice lakes back to our main camp at Waabanong, each bringing many stories.

Ricing was one of the most looked forward to activities here by my family–surpassed, perhaps, only by fishing. We set out enthusiastically a half moon ago in search of Hiles Mill Pond, a couple of suns east of our Woodbury Lake.



We were 16: Dakota, Ishi, Canto, Zander, Susan, Diindiis, Sara, Geo, Elka, Baldur, Andrea, Alexandros, Fridolin, Rob, Wolfgang, and Jeff. Brum helped guide us the 1st sun.

It took us four suns to find the west side of the lake. During that time, Jeff challenged a hornet’s nest and came out looking like the loser in a prize fight (eye swollen shut and hand swollen to twice its normal size). He, with head and arm swathed in rags, might have been part of the reason we were mistaken the next morning for a band of Guerilla Mexican Pot growers…or it might have been Andrea darting of the road into the bushes, hair-feathers and cape flying, not quite in time to be unseen by a passing vehicle. Whatever the reason, we were met by 2 cops that morning as we started breakfast, armed to the hilt with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests. “Oh, it’s just campers,” they said.

It took us three suns to find a campsite with reasonable access to the lake. This is a particularly tricky lake to access (lots of sink-to-your-hip-in-muck bog) and we had a lot of group processing to do.

The process, the guides often remind us, is what this is all about. Good thing, too, because after another sun preparing our site and one sun ricing, a hailstorm took out the remainder of the rice crop and our camp was finished…but the processing goes on without end. What I learned by this experience was:

  1. When a group polarizes into mommy/daddy (criticism/avoidance) energy, I personify both in equal measure.
  2. If you want to find water, look down a drainage. If you want to find Hiles Mill Pond, go with someone who has been there before.
  3. Rice worms taste nutty and yummy but too many raw can give some people a stomachache.
  4. Trying to hide from motorists who have already spotted you inspires suspicion.
  5. No matter where you go, there you are.
  6. If one is truly choosing love over fear then it is easy (but surprising) to ask for help from the very person one is furious with.

We were told that wild harvesting rice is done like this: two people per canoe, one standing and slowly poling the canoe though the rice beds. The other uses 2 cedar sticks to whack the rice into the boat. The collected rice is then hauled across the bog and up to a clearing where it is laid out to dry.

I hear ricing is lots of fun. Some day, I hope to try it.


Canto and Diindiis had an adventure with the guardians picking up the canoes on the first sun at Hiles Mill Pond. The following words are from Canto:

We canoed to the boat landing and picked up the boats. We brought a little food but by then it was getting dark so we couldn’t make it all the way back to camp. Instead, we canoed to a penninsula and camped there. We had no clothes on (they had been playing in the muck when this adventure began). We had a fire to keep warm. We had to cut the food with a tomahawk because we had no knife with us. The next morning we ate frogs, clams, and a few nuts for breakfast. Then we brought the canoes back to camp.

Hiles Millpond Ricing Camp didn’t get to do much ricing, but our Guardian Scott Lake Camp and Thoroughfare Camps did get to gather bags of it. Here are a few photos from their time out on the ricing lakes.