Monday, February 21, 2011

Another Cycle Complete

I have recently realized that I have been blogging about this MooseBoots journey for a bit over a year.  The reminder was this itching little feeling in my whole being ... it is time ... time ... time to tap!  Last year, we tapped a bit earlier.  It was an early season.  We hope this one is better.  I must admit though that we did have enough syrup for the year ... even with our little backyard rig.  This year may be better ... I should have a bit more time to boil things with the job change.
So, how have I grown?  Where do I need to focus to continue this growth?  I leave it to you to reflect on the details.  I am trying to live in this moment on this path.  I find myself growing in incredible ways and along the way I find reminders, way points really, that I am moving in the right direction.  Sometimes, these can be merely a calm "knowing".  Sometimes, they are a reassuring passage in a book by an author I respect.  For instance, I just completed "The Vision", by Tom Brown.  While reading the last few pages of the book, I found myself shaking my head vigorously in agreement.

Where am I going?  Perhaps, the best way to tell you is to show you my plan.  Of course, plans have a way of being modified.  Here is the stack of books on my desk to be read, or re-read.

Book of Nature Myths for Children Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki No Word for Time: The Way of the Algonquin People The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology  Nature's Way: Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth Deerskins Into Buckskins: How To Tan With Natural Materials, a Field Guide for Hunters and Gatherers Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman (Compass) Secrets of the Talking Jaguar A Year In The Maine Woods

These books, coupled with spirit guides, have become my elders, my teachers.  While I have native ancestry, from both the Midwest plains Indians and, in all likelihood, more local tribes, I do not have contact and was not raised in these traditions.  In spite of this, I am always surprised to find how closely my beliefs parallel those in native cultures.  And with all this, I agonize at the pace of learning, but know that it is as it should be.  At some point, I hope to expand out and work with actual elders, but for now I do as I must.  Perhaps, I will have to opportunity to work more closely with the folks at the Maine Primitive Skills School.

I intend to continue working with our nature group(s).  I have been pondering for some time that there must be some basic skill set that allows one to live with the Earth for extended periods.  This was confirmed for me when I ran across this video.

This simple project uses several skills (coal burning, cordage making, carving) combined to achieve a goal.  That sounds exactly like I was thinking.  So, what are these skills?  I am working on it.  I reviewed Tom Brown's description of going into an extended survival situation in the back of Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth.  I started making a list of the tasks.  Then, I will break those down into skills.

I will continue learning to braintan.  I still have hides left in various states of completion that need to be finished.  These have been salted and stored.  Of course, I have already put out there the desire for more hides to work in the fall, including moose hides.  I also need to finish my series of posts on braintanning.  Perhaps, it will expand into using the leather as well.

In addition, I will continue working in all of the other things.  I will be continuing on to a more advance Shamanic Apprenticeship this fall.  We hope to expand our foraging efforts.  I need to work on integrating our herbal remedies into our daily life ... we were all recently sick and it completely slipped my mind to gather white pine tea to help combat the flu.  It appears that the knowledge is there, but the wisdom to use it could use some work.  We will be re-starting our hive this Spring.  We will continue brewing, perhaps even a bit more of the maple stuff.  We are working on learning to make soap, tallow candles, and incense.

As you can probably see, there is a lot to do, much to learn, and a lot of growing to do in this next year.  I  find myself so fulfilled on this journey.  I am doing what needs to be done and am much happier for it.  Wendy and I have created many good things in our life together, her book, Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs, our amazing children, our growing wisdom, and, perhaps, a small change for the better in the world.  Thank you, friends, for sharing in my growth.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Productive Day - Last Fall

Today, as we all rest, recovering from the illness that has been passed from family member to family member, I took the time to reflect a bit on the amazing path I am following.  Last fall, for instance, Wendy and I took a walk in the woods.  The girls were all at various classes and we had a bit of time to kill.  We were at the theater where Precious was taking an acting class, so we were in unfamiliar woods, not completely unknown, just not completely familiar.  I have been back in there a few times previously and found cat-tail and a large chaga mushroom.  I was eager to show Wendy the chaga I had found.

We wandered around checking out various plants and just soaking in the feeling of the forest.  It was beautiful.  At one point, Wendy asked if I knew what this plant was.

The exchange that followed was something like ...
W:  "Do you think that is a winter green?"
DEM: "Wintergreen?  Do you think so?" 
W: "No, a winter ... green."
DEM: "Oh ... I don't know."  Then I stooped down, picked a leaf, broke it in half, and sniffed.
DEM:  Grinning ... "What do you think?"
W: "It is wintergreen!"

While wandering, we also found our first ever live cedar tree.  We know about using cedar bark and wood for bow drills, but they do not grow very prolifically in our area.

As we gathered the girls, one by one, we completed our usual routine.  But, we added a few stops ... I had spied a mullein plant that I wanted to gather for a hand drill.  In roughly the same area, I had also seen a basswood tree that had blown over.  And, in that same place, I had seen red willow, which is smoked by the natives in our area for healing.  So, as we passed, we stopped and gathered a mullein stalk, basswood bark, and many red willow staves.  The basswood is for making cordage.  The red willow bark was peeled and dried.  And, of course, the mullein stalk was cleaned up and hung to dry for a hand drill.

In between the trips, I also took the time to gather the dried milkweed stalks we had around the yard.  I tried to twist a bit into cordage and decided it needed to really dry out.  So, I bundled it in the house.  Finally, I carved a sharpening stone holder out of a piece of birch log.

If all my days could be like that one, my MooseBoots journey might make faster progress.  Of course, I believe that things move as they should.  I know that I must take each step on this path, there are no shortcuts.  And, even if there were, I am not sure I would take them for fear of missing something incredible.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Little Voices

I was reflecting back the other day, thinking of the blessings in my life and my budding awareness.  It occurred to me that some of the skills I seek now, have been with me my whole life.  I have begun my MooseBoots quest, my journey to rediscovering native wisdom metaphorically symbolized by a pair of hand-made boots of hand-tanned  moose hides, moose boots.  Of course, before that, I knew things intuitively.  I have always considered myself intuitive, perhaps a bit psychic.  Now, I believe that it is all simply being in touch with "the Spirit In All Things", the Universe, our ancient ancestors through genetic material, or whatever you need or want to call it, perhaps even God.

In particular, two examples stood out clearly.  In the first, I did not listen to a very clear suggestion.  Let me paint the picture ....  One morning, I was driving to work.  The route I took was a series of back roads to a point where I joined one of the main roads travelled by many southern Mainers.  I travelled in the opposite direction.  The last in the series of little road is Cressey Road, in Gorham.  Cressey Road, at the time, teed into Route 25.  Route 25 is a major commuting road into Portland.  At this particular spot, Route 25 had two lanes of traffic heading eastward and one heading westward.  I needed to make a left turn into the westward lane across the two lanes of eastward traffic.  Anyone who knows this spot knows that this place was dangerous.  I sat at the stop sign watching a lumbering high-walled truck coming up the hill in the right lane to turn onto Cressey Road.  I looked around him as best I could, I could see no one.  "DON'T GO!"  It perhaps was not a loud voice, but it was clear.  I semi-negotiated and thought it will be fine, as I released the clutch and stepped on the accelerator.

The other was not a clear spoken voice, but a feeling, a knowing.  Of course, being human, I was stubborn with this one, too.  For several years, I had been unhappy with my job with a small start-up company.  I knew that the management was not going to be able to make the company a success within the first two years.  The problems were broad ranging, lack of leadership ability, poor planning, non-existent marketing/sales ability, and under-bidding every job in terms of time and money.  I believed, however, that I could change all of that.  While I am not experienced in all of these things, I have a fairly good dose of common sense and I can lead.  The problem was, after several years of trying to "save" the company, that the management could not see its own weaknesses and did not see a need to change.  I became very combative with the president of the company, but was so valuable that they tolerated it.  I knew after two years that I needed to find another job and that it was not healthy for me to stay.  I stayed with it for almost six more years, even with repeated hints - my mother's stroke from work related stress (amongst other things), persistent shoulder pain (from stress), my personality changing from one of optimism and happiness to anger and frustration, lay-offs, my aunt's heart attack and passing, and my grandmother's passing.  All of these signs reminding me to live, really live, my life!  Happily, January of this year, I started a new job.  My attitude has reverted back, although I still have my moments.  More importantly, this new job will allow me to focus on those things that a most important, my family, my friends, and my personal growth and development.

How many times have you ignored that voice?  Do you feel guilty for it?  I have to make amends to these helpers.  I do appreciate that they are there to guide me.  I have started to actively listen again.  Of course, I have conditioned myself to ignore them and must now work hard to re-establish the link.  This is part of my MooseBoots journey.  I am humbled by the fact that they are with me and willing to help.  Thank you, Universe.