Rick's Journal

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Southern Man

Well, Ariel Schloss, Ryan Smith and I are at Warren Wilson College, here in Asheville, North Carolina. Walking around the campus, we have been warmly greeted by students, and welcomed by Tim Manney and Rachel Williamson. Danielle Emmett, a Hawk Circle Alumni from several years back, is a student here and it is so nice to reconnect and see how she has grown.

Being here, though, brings to the forefront my feelings for Austin Wright, who was a student here until his passing earlier this spring. His presence is strong and I feel more connected with him and his life through being here and seeing the trees, land, mountains and spaces that he loved. I usually only saw him at Hawk Circle, during our Earth Skills Semester or the summer camp programs, and it is a good feeling to be in one of the environments he loved.

We are staying in the Eco-Dorm, which is an awesome building that uses recycled rain water for toilets, solar energy, edible landscaping and so many other earth friendly technologies. It is truly a gift to be able to stay here and experience the technology first hand, rather than through articles in Mother Earth News or various books on Natural Building, etc.

We are here to connect with people/students and talk about the work Hawk Circle is doing in the areas of wilderness skills, mentoring, awareness, personal growth and native arts, so we are busy talking with everyone and sharing stories. Meeting people can be very tiring!

We have to go do a presentation by the cafe, so I will write more about our trip later!

Have a good week, y'all!


Monday, October 10, 2005

The Hunter's Moon

I took a walk yesterday afternoon, and before I had gone fifty yards from our house, saw two beautiful, healthy whitetail deer. There was a light misty rain falling, which brought out the colors of the maples, cherry, sumac and the viburnum, and the image of the deer surrounded by the colors and shrouded mist was exquisite. Such is the situation with autumn, here at Hawk Circle!

This fall, our students have been learning some excellent fire skills, including making hand drill fires, fires in the rain, fires with rock tools, cooking fires and bow and drill fire making with naturally gathered woods. There is so much more to know and to do, but it is great to have the time for all of the students to practice these skills, not once or twice, but daily, during our morning fire sessions.

We have also made a great stacked debris wall shelter, and an awesome camp, which will be fun to use later this fall, when the snow flies. We are all excited to see how well it works to hold the heat and provide a home for us in the wilderness. The shelter is partially underneath a couple of large white pines, and the carpet of falling needles are so soft and colorful that we all just stop and stare from time to time. It is a true gift.

Many of our students and staff this year are practicing their bow making, arrow making, shooting and camoflage in preparation for bow hunting for deer. This has been a powerful process, with lots of intensive learning and commitment required. The Hunter's Safety Class. The Bowhunter's Safety Class. The many miscellaneous expenses (targets, broadheads, clothing, gear). And above all, the time needed to honor the deer, and honor the hunt. We are planning a Hunter's Lodge, with games, skills and a sweatlodge ceremony that will help us be ready physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

I find that there is so much thankfulness among our community here, just for the gift of being able to focus on these skills and that they are supported by so many people in our community. Everyone has approached the idea of taking a life with such concern, care, heartfelt emotion and respect, that we have all grown as a result, without even getting out in the field and hunting yet. It is truly a gift, to be able to share this in a society that for the most part, is reluctant to talk about or even see death. There is much healing and inner growth weaving among us all, here, under the mountain of blazing trees.

Have a great fall, everyone, and be well.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Indian Summer, Adirondack Dreams

Well, I have to say first off that I never expected that life would be so busy that I wouldn't have time to update this journal since March! Wow! That pretty much tells me what kind of a busy spring/summer I have been having this year.

I will gather no moss this season.

(Unless it's sphagnum moss, which can be used for many different wilderness living needs! )

I just got back from the Adirondack Expedition, where we ventured into the Pharoah Lake Wilderness Area, and spent our days climbing peaks, swimming in crystal clear lakes, hiking through hemlock groves, listening to the calls of the loons and making great food. I was sick for about two of the days in the middle, but it was nothing serious, maybe just a sample of the flu that then morphed into a cold, so I was ok.

Being in this wilderness area was very intense for me, in several ways. One was the intense feeling of silence, of quiet and being surrounded by nature sounds, all day, all night. Especially at night, as the stars were reflected all crazy and wild, in the mirror of the lake, I just started to feel like I was losing the grip of human form. The owls call seemed to come from a deep place inside of me, and I could feel the wind in the treetops in the ends of my fingers.

The other way that the wilderness affected me was found in watching our group. Watching how each person changed each day, slowly, methodically, moment by moment, dropping away cares and worries and opening towards the beauty that surrounded them constantly. Of course, if you were not watching for it, you would probably not see it right away, because we had our share of jokes, bad jokes, constant chatter and playful banter that permeated our daily interactions at times. The change was there, and our last day of hiking out was one of power, sweat, beauty and closeness to each other and nature.

° * ° * ° * ° * ° * °

There is so much more to talk about, with the summer, my trips to San Diego, CA and Baltimore, MD as well as all of the camps and programs.... I just don't know where to start. I am glad to be heading into the fall season, and I know we must have done something right this year, becase we are all so tired! The Fall Instructor Training Program Semester is starting in a few weeks, and there are so many things to wrap up and get ready that I know there is no real rest in sight. But it is good work we are doing here, and I am glad we can do our part to bring nature and leadership opportunities to all these children.

Have a great fall!


Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Glimmer of Spring

Our Instructor Training Program Spring Semester just started this week, and we are already deep into several projects. We have each person doing two-three hides for making buckskin, and they are all moving along nicely. We are making bone hide scrapers, too, which is fun and brings us a little closer to doing it in nature, rather than relying solely on steel.

I am enjoying this group because I am able to teach them more from a native approach, more free-form and less of the structured college style classes. There is a mix of conversation, stories, teachings, fun, and appreciation for the returning birds, as we all worked together in and around the barn. It is both relaxing and hard work at the same time.

I am also excited because I am taking our group out to go trout fishing on opening day. We don't usually do any hunting or fishing unless it is primitive style, but when I realized how many of the students didn't know how to fish with modern style, it looked like a good opportunity to have a field trip to some new areas, explore the trees and see if we can find some fresh trout! I think it will be a fun learning experience that can help us all be better fishers in the long run. Besides, how often do you get to fish the East Branch of the Delaware River? Any respectable fly fishermen know what an honor is get to fish these world class waters, so tomorrow should be an experience we can all remember. I just hope no one falls in! That water is cold!

We are getting ready for a survival trek which will be coming in a few weeks. There are lots of skills to practice, learn and develop, and many of our students are fairly experienced so we should be able to enter the woods with just the clothes on our backs and be able to survive for five to seven days, no problem! (We always bring back-up gear for safety and emergencies, but that is a given.) I am excited about this and I think these students will do a lot better than they expect out there. The earth will help us and provide for us, if we take the time to listen and go with the flow......

I have to get to class, but check back soon to find out how we did on our buckskin and fishing! Have a great Spring!


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Mid-Winter Days,

The bright sun felt good on my back as I walked to the office today, and it helped me to feel warmer than the 23 degrees F! The wind was a little gusty and blew through the trees here and there, freeing them of the powder snow that fell last night.

The shuffling tracks of a skunk wandered in a crazy line along the driveway, looking like a weaving drunk driver. I could see where the fur on his or her fat belly pushed the snow out away from the sides, with the short feet making tiny, bear-like tracks that compressed the snow nicely. There was no odor at all in the tracks or snow and I could almost feel the hunger moving this little creature along.

I got into the office and the woodstove was hissing nicely, with plenty of heat. I am totally excited about our new website, which should be up by Friday and fully online. It will be a huge relief to have that up to date and happening, so everyone can find the information about the camps or instructor training stuff they need.

Barry Keegan arrived shortly after one and we all headed up into the woods to peel birch bark for some birch bark cooking containers. His work at the Farmer’s Museum and Fenimore House involves demonstrating pre-Contact maple syrup processing using rock boiling, birch containers directly over the fire and clay pots. We had mallets made of wood to pound the bark, and our knives and the usual warm clothes.

The first trees we chose worked ok, but it didn’t come off even close to easy. Peeling birch bark doesn’t kill the tree if it is done right, and the best time to do it is in late June or July, when the tree is growing and expanding. Barry showed us how to get started, how to pound and how to pull it off so that the sheets would be thick enough to use for cooking containers. My sheet had a few lenticil holes and separated into different layers, so it can be used for other things, but not for holding water. I might use it for a basket type of container or a quiver or something else like that.

We got back to the farmhouse and Barry had brought some black birch tea, sweetened with maple syrup, which was excellent. He showed us how to fold and bend it into good containers, and then Brian demonstrated how to make and use an Egyptian style bow and drill. He used some dogbane cordage he had made a few days ago, and was able to get a coal very shortly, with a bow of about only 12 inches in length. He learned it by reading my copy of Wilderness Way Magazine, so I think I am going to have to start reading it AND practicing stuff in order to keep up with my students!

Tonight should be in the single digits again, but the warm days are so awesome, I don’t even care. I hope to get outside tomorrow too, but for now, I will just say, hey, today was great. Eli has been packing up his gear and stuff for his trip to California, and then when he returns in April he will no longer be an instructor here for a while. It is great to know he is doing the things he needs to do, and that he will be having some good adventures, but sad too, knowing how many years he has been a part of our place and our programs. It will be strange not to see him here on a daily basis. I know I will miss his presence on many occasions throughout the spring and summer, in the middle of programs when his steadfast approach was strong and constant. Good Luck out there, Eli!

It is getting late and almost time to head home for family time. It has been a good day!