As the summer begins winding down and we all begin stepping back into our Fall routines, I would like to send my dearest gratitude for supporting us and your children in having a most awesome of summers! So much has happened here at Wildheart over the course of the season, and as Fall approaches, I’d like to celebrate in a traditional manner by reflecting on, and giving thanks for, all of the abundance that’s been cultivated over the summer months.
As many of you who joined us for this year’s summer camps know, we had very full and exciting adventures! We built enough faerie houses to fill a small park, learned how to camouflage ourselves and disappear into the forest, created an army of nature wizards and magicians, mixed natural potions, and built a shelter paradise, to name a few. On top of that, Wildheart was featured in the Bend Bulletin and made a stage appearance at the Summer Fest. Whew! I send a deep and heart felt ‘thank you’ to all of you who participated and supported us in this most wonderful time.
During all of this, unbeknownst to many, I was also undergoing a deep transformation in my journey with the ways of primitive skills. Back in the beginning of June I attended a small gathering of primitive bowyers, with the intent of making my very first bow. I stepped into this experience, as many of your children have in our programs, completely new to the field. I had never shot a bow, knew nothing about archery, and was terrified to embarrass myself in front of ‘experts.’ Yet, I knew in the core of my being that I had to go. In typical fashion, I was waiting for the instructors to show up on the grounds at 5 a.m., as I was told to be there early if I wanted to finish my bow over the course of the weekend. A groggy older man by the name of Buffalo greeted me and said everyone was still sleeping, though they’d be up soon. As I waited, I told myself that this was a one time deal. I’d made it there, despite my best efforts to talk myself out of it, and had already made a fool of myself by being an overly-early bird. After all, the last thing I needed was another primitive skills hobby that takes up more of my free time than I already dedicate to leather tanning, clothing making, wild crafting, tracking and many more. I was there to make one bow that I could shoot and that was it. In fact, I even told this to the experienced bowyers who patiently guided me through the magical process of turning wood into bows. All of them smiled, a bit nostalgically, and said, “Sure, sure. I remember saying that, too.” The weekend turned out to be truly life changing, and though I can’t say that I didn’t embarrass myself many times (i.e. I put my string nocks in backwards because I was too excited to ask or think that they should be a particular direction), I can say that I will be back next year. It made me appreciate what some of our students go through in coming to our program for the first time: not knowing what to expect, and in the end coming out transformed, empowered, and with many new friends.
In an attempt to break myself and temper any future endeavors in the art of bow making, I purposely chose an extremely difficult wood to work, Osage Orange. It is the King of bow woods, and you have to earn its performance as a bow via time and labor. I didn’t finish my bow in the course of the three day weekend, even with my daily 5 a.m. arrivals (I worked while everyone slept the last two mornings). I did, however, make some wonderful new friends who helped me finish over the summer. They all laughed as I signed up for another bow making workshop shortly after the first. Carson Brown, with Echo Archery, was the instructor and I highly recommend him to any who are interested in learning about primitive archery. It was another magical weekend that opened me more than the first.
All in all, I finished two bows this summer, one made from Osage Orange, and the other made from Pacific Yew. On a deeper level, I was opened to the joy and beauty of community. Being around like minded individuals was so inspiring and powerful for my soul. I fell in love, all over again, with primitive skills and natural technologies. Through my conversations with Carson, I decided that it was time for me to begin opening my horizons to the greater primitive skills community. Up until this point, I have had some amazingly gifted and wonderful teachers in the ways of earth skills. I have also taken a hard and trying road of teaching myself many of my crafts, such as leather tanning and moccasin making. I now remember the enormous value in being a humble student and surrounding myself with many teachers and peers. Thus, this fall, I will be attending two amazing primitive skills gatherings, Rabbitstick and Saskatoon. Both of these take place during September and I will not be able to teach class during those weeks. However, we have some awesome and experienced instructors filling in for me, and what I will be returning with will open our program to even greater depths. I am so excited that I can barely sleep some nights! I have visions of friction fire and archery classes this Spring, so please stay tuned.
With all of this expansive energy filling my life, I would like to again thank all of the families who have trusted us to bring their children into the woods and allow us to do the work that feeds our hearts. With that, I encourage you to take advantage of the ‘Forgotten Month of Summer’ that is upon us. Give gratitude for what has blessed you this Summer, and reap the magic of what harvests you have made in your life.
I can’t wait to see you all soon!