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  • This journal is dedicated to the beauty, mystery and power of Numinous Nature, and is meant to encourage a renewed love-affair with the Wild as found in our forests, prairies, mountains, deserts and back-yards.

Regardless of perils at large…

Another way I brace up to abounding foolishness is to visit folks who have admirable goals and who wrap their lives around them. A goal, perhaps the gold-standard of goals, to me is sustainability. Can things done a particular way be passed on for generations with the plot of earth they’re done on remaining no worse for wear?

The Hewitts; Ben, Penny, and their sons Fin and Rye walk this particular talk as much as anyone I know, the bottom line being producing something like 80% of their own food through growing, wild harvesting and barter. They also live in intimate relationship with their surrounding wild lands, deriving food, shelter and fun from same.

Ben is also a really good and prolific writer, and Penny a fine photographer with a lovely tuned personal eye, and all are fine and skilled at crafts, giving the lie to the particular conceit that farmers must be somehow lacking in intelligence, refinement and aesthetics.

Their skills can be seen here:  Ben Hewitt Blog

Their photos and writing describe a life that to my mind would be a tonic for much of what ails us these days. Not least on the list would be a childhood with the promise of a rich and varied initiation into adolescence and adulthood, drawn from deep connection with the land.

Seeing the Hewitt life choices, I think many people react thinking it is based on a survivalist mentality and that they must endure hardship and deprivation from the usual societal needs. I can tell you their pleasures are many and varied, and I believe it when they say they would choose this life regardless of perils at large.

I don’t mean to imply there is no hardship or moments of exhaustion in their lives. Reading of blog posts reveals freely admitted thorny paradoxes and an evolving philosophy.

Technology holds out the carrot of an earthly reality that can never be: endless supplies of a magical energy to power itself. The irony is of course that Gaia has it worked out, if we can but merge with it, rather than impose some sort of power-centered, wealth-creating hallucination.

I take heart in watching these guys…

Photos are roughly in order of newer top/earlier bottom:

 

 

 

 

 


 

Embracing Beauty

It’s been a little tough the last months to find a lot to be encouraged about. The centuries-long trajectory of linear, reductionist thinking aspiring to be a legitimate world view seems close to clunking to its own demise. The major thing I do to keep grotesque worldly shenanigans at bay is to keep doing the stuff that has reliably filled my tank over decades.

American Indians say “Walk in Beauty”. What this means to me is to attend, in what ever way you can, to the underlying Infinite Mystery. For me, in terms of practice, one major part of this is being in Nature as much as possible, and working at the conveyance of that experience through my art/craft.

I don’t hold to a narrow, glamorous, contemporary urban view of beauty. Give me the forest floor with all miraculous life forms giving themselves up to soil-building, and the perennial wealth flowing from that. Admittedly my taste runs toward the dry; what the Japanese might term wabi or sabi (please note: these are two terms having two different meanings. It’s not correct to think of them together as one word).

Please embrace the beauty in your life whether it is dry, wet, sensual, austere, auditory, visual, conceptual, imaginational or any of the ten thousand manifestations. As to giving into fear, none of us have that kind of time.

 

Passing The Torch Of Hand-made Fire

I have long been fascinated with fire generated by wood-against-wood friction. Some years ago a friend and I  blundered along, pre-internet days, gleaning what we could from Bradford Angier’s Living Off The Country. We were at least able to gather some proper woods and after much effort, to generate smoke with a bow drill. We had, though, a fundamental lack of knowledge of specific details of how the process works. Essentially the goal is to create through friction, a quantity of wood powder, that is heated by the friction of its own making to a degree that it fuses into a small glowing coal or ember. The coal is then transferred to a nest of tinder which it ignites into flames. These flames feed successively bigger fuels.

To produce enough powder at the right temperature requires a developed technique. Regardless of whether one uses a bow-drill or a hand-drill, the mechanics at the friction point of the two woods is the same.

So, three or four years ago I chanced upon a skilled practitioner and was subsequently drawn into the company of a number of adepts. I must confess that while my technique and knowledge have improved, I have not been diligent enough to produce a coal, though tantalizingly close.

The still photo below shows excellent form and the concentration required, along with highly skilled tutoring.

Clicking this link:    handfire          will play a video that shows excellent fire-making skills. Both photo and video demonstrate a fine-tuned mentoring between generations.

 

 

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Bow-fire Mentoring

Bow-fire Mentoring

Wild Parsnip Caution

I had an encounter with wild parsnip (Pastinica sativa) Identification Key  September 4th in the field by the parking lot for Chickering Bog, at the corner of Lightening Ridge and George roads in Calais VT.

Not knowing much about this plant, I had contact without knowing I had brushed it. I know a lot more now. Not everyone is so sensitive.

It contains furocoumarins which cause phyto-photo-dermatitis or plant-sun-skin inflammation. When you get the plant juice on you, the rash does not begin until it is activated by sunlight. In my case I was not aware I had contacted the plant and went out the next day (Sep. 5th Labor Day) and got lots of sunshine. A couple spots started to develop that day. I’d also had time to spread the juice further around my body with contact on my clothes, hands, camera case , steering wheel etc.

The photos will tell a thousand word story. The rash continued to get worse over 9-10 days. I took a short course of Prednisone augmented by various herbal treatments topically and internally. I will not be specific as you should contact your health care professionals. Treatment is for 2nd degree burns and is not the same as for poison ivy although there may be some overlap.

I also do not have enough praise for our local herbalists who have a wealth of knowledge and experience. I highly recommend cultivating and utilizing this branch of health-care options.

Please note that if you have a serious reaction and it gets in your eyes, there is a risk of blindness.

I am including photos of the plants around the area mentioned above. The plants shown are on the road but you can see others in the field. Also, at the time of contact the plants were seeding and mostly brown on top with green stems. Obviously still quite potent. I have not see a lot of this plant around, but I would highly recommend becoming familiar with it. It seems to be restricted to open fields and road-sides. The upside is that learning to identify even a single new plant enhances your relationship with habitat in manifold ways.

I am healed now.

These are the best websites I found with more information and photos of various stages of growth.

New York Invasive Species

 

Wisconsin Natural Resources

 

Happy hiking!

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EarthWalk in Balance

If humankind is to recover its balance on the Earth I’m convinced that it will require a profound rekindling of our collective love for and intimacy with nature. It is, of course, impossible, despite our best efforts, to separate ourselves from nature; it is writ in our DNA. However, we have gone very far down the road of denial and exploitation.

About two years ago I was invited by some dear friends to attend a family day at EarthWalk which their son attends. I was very taken with the program and was honored to be invited to participate as an elder. I was never told what the qualifications for being an “elder” are, but from my side, coming away from each visit filled with kinship and a smile on my face are all I need.

Much has been written about the benefits of immersing children in wild nature. My hunch is that most people still view the idea as an amendment to real life. To me, regular, near daily immersion in nature is as essential as food.

EarthWalk is exactly the kind of program necessary to rekindle the tinder of Earth-based knowledge, skill and community, so that we may yet again walk in balance.

The Village School program is for ages 7-12 with kids attending one day a week through the school year. The Teen Land project is for ages 13-17, again with one day a week attendance. There are a variety of summer programs, including mentor training.

Information on curricula, philosophy and programming can be found at   EarthWalk website

What could be better than:

1. Teaching of earth based skills, knowledge and respect relating to the practical as well as the mysterious
2. Engagement in multi-generational community
3. Sensitive adult guidance with unimposing universal behavior codes

A few photos speak volumes. (arranged roughly in seasonal order)

 

Winter community day photo: Angella Gibbons

Winter community day
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

Winter Community Day photo: Angella Gibbons

Staff morning gratitude circle
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

Village School - Atl-atl photo: Angella Gibbons

Village School – Atl-atl
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

Village School -sit(lie) spot photo: Eve Bernhard

Village School –  sit(lay) spot
photo: Eve Bernhard

 

Village School body sliding photo: Eve Bernhard

Village School body sliding
photo: Eve Bernhard

 

Village School photo: Eve Bernhard

Village School
photo: Eve Bernhard

 

Village School photo: Angella Gibbons

Village School
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

Playful, creative storytelling Village School photo: Eve Bernhard

Playful, creative storytelling
Village School
photo: Eve Bernhard

 

Summer Campers photo: Angella Gibbons

Summer Campers
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

Wild summer camper in camo photo: Angella Gibbons

Wild summer camper in camo
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

More summer campers photo: Angella Gibbons

More summer campers
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

Streamside Village School photo: Kelso

Streamside Village School
photo: Kelso

 

Bow-drill firemaking Village School photo: Kelso

Bow-drill firemaking
Village School
photo: Kelso

 

Tinder into flames Summer Camp photo: Angella Gibbons

Tinder into flames
Summer Camp
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

Copper Engraving 10th Anniversary Celebration photo: Delia Gillen

Copper Engraving
10th Anniversary Celebration
photo: Delia Gillen

 

Ash basket making 10th year Anniversary Celebration photo: Deiia Gillen

Ash basket making
10th year Anniversary Celebration
photo: Delia Gillen

 

Village School photo: Kelso

Village School
photo: Kelso

 

Elder Jane sharing how to harvest Goldthread medicine photo: Angella Gibbons

Elder Jane sharing how to harvest Goldthread medicine
photo: Angella Gibbons

 

10th Anniversary Circle photo: Jane English

10th Anniversary Circle
photo: Jane English

 

The following five photos show the Village School ritual Drum-stalk in which three groups are blindfolded, led to a distance and make their way blindfolded, individually and silently, to a drum-beater who is stationary in an undisclosed location.

Village School DrumStalk photo: Kelso

Village School
Drum-Stalk
photo: Kelso

 

Drum-stock photo: Kelso

Village School Drum-stalk before drumming starts
photo: Kelso

 

Drum-stock returnees photo: Kelso

Drum-stalk returnees & drummer
photo: Kelso

 

Drum-stock drummer photo: Kelso

Drum-stalk drummer
photo: Kelso

 

Village School last day 2015 photo: Kelso

Village School last day 2015
photo: Kelso

 

Village School jump photo: Eve Bernhard

Village School jump                          photo: Eve Bernhard