This fall has been a lightning storm of activity and growth for me, and with this recent snow on the ground begging us to listen to the still quiet of winter, I thought I’d take a moment to slow down and check in with you all.
As many of you already know, I spent two weeks in September and October attending primitive skills gatherings in Idaho and Washington. Both of them were spectacular and changed me in ways I could have never imagined. It would be rather difficult for me to recap all of the heart opening experiences I had, and to even boil it down to highlights seems quite daunting. Thus, I will share with you some of the more relevant topics to our near-future work with Wildheart, and I will encourage any of you to speak with me in person if you want to hear more or are perhaps interested in attending a primitive gathering, yourself.
First off, I’d like to sing from the top of lungs, WILDHEART IS ON FIRE!! Don’t panic, this was sung in a sweet melodic tenor voice of joy, though perhaps I could have said that Wildheart now has fire. One of the most magical experiences of my journey was learning the practice of friction fire. I intentionally used the word practice rather than skill, as making a friction fire is a continual road of learning and humility. My first fire with a bow drill was a breeze; everything went quite smoothly and gave me the false impression that I’d acquired the knack for this through some blessed genetic ancestry. I even went home and did it a couple of times to make sure it was still possible. Then, the first time I try and make a fire for our students (with eager eyes watching and anticipating my grand build-up) everything hits the fan. My spindle popped about seven times (this is bad) and the first two attempts produced a lot of smoke, but no coal. Finally, I humbled myself and asked the Fire Beings to take pity on me. Eventually, the coal manifested and we were in business. Since this time, I have been completely unable to predict what will happen. Sometimes the fire shows up like it was waiting for an excuse to join the party, others it arrives like a reluctant guest that didn’t even receive an official invite (if it arrives at all). I just do my job and watch what unfolds with as much suspense as my audience. Despite all of this, I’ve seen that friction fire is possible and I’m committed to practicing this art, which means I’m super excited to share this with our students in more than just demonstrations. My dream is to get all of our students (those who are old enough, anyway) to be making fire by friction. It is sure to be in our curriculum for future classes, so stay tuned.
Equally as inspiring as making fire with sticks was seeing children running around with bows as if it were a natural right of every human to wield a projectile weapon. Now, I’m not saying I think every child should be shooting a bow willy-nilly whenever they want, and that was precisely what I found to be most impressive. Not only did most of the kids have bows at these gatherings, but they knew how to use them responsibly. They all followed the rules with their bows and no one got hurt. Parents could be at ease, and kids got to use their bows on the target range. What a brilliant concept! Through talking with a couple of kids bow teachers, I learned about a fantastically functional material for making bows that is also cost efficient. This inspired me to get my act together and put a bow class on our calendar, where children can walk away with a hand made bow and the knowledge of how to use it responsibly. Again, stay tuned for the announcement of this class, as we expect it to fill quickly.
Most of you know that I am a tanner by trade. What you may not have known is that one of my greatest failures as a leather tanner was my inability to bark tan a single piece of skin. For any of you who are wondering, bark tanning is a technique of making leather using tree bark and oil. I tried many times to make it work with absolutely no success (I pretended like one of my fish skins turned out okay, but in my heart I knew it was a joke, which is perhaps why I eventually threw it into the river so that it could ‘return to it’s family.’) Unexpectedly, as teachers are far and few between, one of the classes offered at Saskatoon Circle was on bark tanning. Throughout the week, I participated in the class and successfully tanned a Dog Salmon skin. I have since been going to town with bark tanning and producing beautiful fish, deer, rock chuck, and sheep leather (all of which I acquire from ‘unwanted’ leftovers). It is quite the art and I hope to have some awesome belts, hatbands and wallets made from this unique leather this coming spring. This was, perhaps, my biggest geek-out moment of my Fall journeys, as I’ve been a closet bark tan failure for so long.
Finally, as I know this newsletter is getting outrageously long, I’d like to share that I’m inspired to open the door at Wildheart to older age groups through, initially, workshop type classes. For adults, and young adults, there will be several offerings this spring, starting with a knife and sheath workshop. I’ve been passionate about these types of DIY primitive projects for some time and I finally feel confidant enough to share them with the greater community.
There is so much more to share and it will have to be in another letter or in a face to face meeting. Enjoy the silence of this snow blessing and I encourage you all to spend some moments truly hearing what is perhaps the quietest time in our neck of the world.
Many thank you’s to all your wonderful families and I hope to see you soon!