Rick's Journal

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Living without Fear: Swine Flu and the Natural Person's Strategy

Well, if the stock market and economic reports haven't got you down, the worry about the up and coming 'pandemic' of swine flu should send you over the edge, right?


Because you are smart and you know you need to put everything in perspective before you get crazy.

The fact is, normal flu virus/illness kills over 36,000 people every year in the United States. That's a lot of people, most of them with pre-existing medical issues such as impaired immune systems, diabetes, premature birth or elderly decline. The idea that we should panic over one or two or even three deaths doesn't add up. At least, not yet. H1N1 is probably going to be here to stay for a little while, but we don't have to panic.

Death is part of life, and my heart goes out to everyone who has died, and to their families who live on beyond them. It doesn't matter if someone dies of swine flu or cancer or a car accident, I can empathize with the loss and grief that all of us feel when there is a loss to our circle of family, friends and community.

Perspective doesn't mean we don't care, but we can't cower in our basements and hide either. We have to find a way to live, and be smart and reduce our risk. Like in a wilderness situation, we always want to be safe, and not do crazy things that are unnecessary, so it is great to stay informed as things progress.

So, what can you do to stay healthy? We know that viruses and bacterias are around us daily, constantly, and our bodies keep us alive and functioning naturally. We just need to keep this system working in optimal condition! Here are a few ideas:

One: Take off your shoes and socks and walk barefoot on the lawn. Studies have shown that getting your feet in contact with the earth directly has a powerful effect of boosting your immune system by many percentage points, as the ground stimulates your nerves in your feet, which are connected to all the other nerves in your system. Get out there when there is dew on the ground, and move slowly so you don't hurt yourself if your feet are tender.

Two: Gather some dandelion greens and make a salad. Dandelions, chickory and other 'bitter greens' are often the first plants up in the spring, and they are loaded with all kinds of vitamins and nutrients that act as a tonic to our bodies immune, digestive and circulatory systems. It is kind of like a 'flush' to the system, as well as a stimulant through it's bitterness to our livers, gall bladders, pancreas and other internal organs. It is a good idea to make sure you get a few leaves in your mouth and to chew them slowly, to achieve the full benefit, as an important part of the stimulation of your internal organs comes from messages that your body recieves as you chew and taste your food. If you smother them in sugary or intensely spiced dressings, you will be missing out! (Note: Only gather and eat plants that are in areas that aren't sprayed for poisons, or other chemical or pollutants, and avoid gathering on roadsides where plants can concentrate the exhaust and other chemicals. Be sure you can positively identify every single leaf of the plants you are gathering and make sure there are no other species of plant hiding in the foliage!)

Three: Stay Positive. Your attitude is huge in this. It is a known fact that people who are happy, lighthearted and positive have much stronger, healthier immune systems than those who are depressed, negative and fearful. Put a note on your refrigerator or make a drawing that you can put on your steering wheel that reminds you to be positive each time you see it. Maybe put something on your computer or a leather thong around your wrist... Smile as much as you can. Take negative thoughts and turn them around until they are positive. Give other people compliments and give your self a few when you look in the mirror once in a while, too.

Four: Wear Clothes that Help You Feel Good. This is self explanatory, but don't be afraid to show a little color, and be bold! Get your mind and your families' or friends' minds off of fear and worry and let them focus on you and your crazy hat or whatever!

Five: Pomegranates, Cranberries and Blueberries. All of these foods are amazing super foods, that can help you stay healthy and support your bodies attempt to be as strong as it can be. Make pomegranate juice popsicles for your kids, or blueberry smoothies, or cranberry teas... You can even nibble on dried cranberries or blueberries, too. They are delicious and amazing and even a handful will make a difference in your life and the lives of your family and friends.... Share them with your co-workers, too! We all need to stay healthy!

Six: Take a Walk Outside. There is nothing that helps our bodies stay healthy than good, vigorous movement, or a relaxing stroll in nature. It helps the mind stay positive, it feels great, and awakens our senses of smelling that fresh spring air, all of those growing plants and listening to the blasts of birdsong. You don't have to go far to get the benefits, either, and it helps to put everything in perspective, too. Enjoy the sky, the stars, the moon, the sun, the trees, the perfect beauty and symmetry in a leaf, a stone, a feather, in life itself...

Seven: Meditate on Perfect Health and Strength. Find a spot where you won't be disturbed, and take fifteen minutes to run through a guided meditation. Imagine yourself relaxed, in your favorite natural place, with perfect health, getting stronger with every breath you take. Take the time to thank your body for doing so much work for us, for carrying us throughout our day, doing so many tasks, and taking whatever we dish out and trying it's best to fulfull our needs. Sometimes your body will talk to you, and tell you to eat a specific type of food, or to get more sleep. Sometimes your body will let you know things that will help it become better and healthier. Listen carefully to those indications and remember to be thankful and appreciative for all it does. Our bodies are beautiful and amazing and we need to give ourselves some real, outright love, because sometimes, we are the only ones who will! (That is modified from a quote the John Stokes, director of the Tracking Project, likes to share about how one of his native elders loved to tell everyone who would listen. I love it!)

If you have any other suggestions of how we can stay healthy and positive for ourselves and our families, please add them to the post, with a comment or two, especially if you find that these are helpful!

Late Additions: Have a joke of the day and send it to your friends/family. Tell a funny story to someone. Have a game night each week and connect with your family. Make a point to say something positive to each person you see tomorrow. Make a healthy meal and take it on a picnic to someplace you have never gone before....

More to come, people! Stay healthy and positive!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sean Rowe: The Troubadour Scout of Hawk Circle... with new music, too!

Check out this article in the current issue of Metroland in the Capitol District, featuring our own Sean Rowe, about his experiences with music and wilderness, with much training from here at Hawk Circle.... Way to go, Sean! Can't wait to hear the album and sample some of those mushrooms, too.

(You can get a copy of the CD Magic here.)

Sean did an extended survival stay here in the fall of 2007, and worked hard at his fire skills, foraging skills, plant identification, shelter skills and so many more skills of awareness, tracking and survival... He also blew us away with his music and depth, and just overall presence and strength.

Check out the post and I will try to get the audio file that Luke Gaillard did with Sean after his trek, so you can listen and hear it all for yourself! More to come, people!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Signs of Spring, in Upstate NY

I knew spring was coming when I saw a flock of robins descending from the sumacs across the lawn, in a red-breasted frenzy, searching for the first worms...

I knew spring was coming when we were tracking by the stream, and the heavy back feet of a doe told the story of the fawn she was carrying, as she headed for the rich meal of alfalfa shoots and sharp pointed blades of grass.

I knew spring was on it's way when I heard the ladder backed woodpeckers chasing each other around and around our sugar maples, fighting for the prime nesting place and the best territory to win a mate... They made a huge cackling and melodious racket, hammering on dead trees and then flying in their undulating patterns, like three teenage boys jockeying for position at the dance...

I knew spring was coming when the curled, purple-red-green tops of skunk cabbage poked up in the dead grass by the river, with their shiny smooth skin and pungent smell.

I knew it was spring when the snow comes in thick from down south of the valley, covering the trees with wet clumps of gray-white snow that will last for an hour or so before slowly sinking into the earth and the tannic brown vernal pools where thousands of tiny frogs peep and croak in rhythm, in an orgy of mating and egg laying and exploring their watery world.

I knew it was spring when I walked outside and didn't need a coat or even an extra sweatshirt.

I knew it was spring when the snow melted and I could see all of the crap that accumulates after a long winter of covering snow, all over the yard and the trails and lawns. Sticks, small bits of peeling paint, wood chips, ashes from the woodstove, bits of bark and scraps from the wood pile, or the occasional lost mitten or glove.

I knew it was spring when I saw my first woodchuck of the season, licking salt in the side of the highway. A hundred yards further, my first dead woodchuck of the season....

I knew it was spring when the camps begin to fill up, with friends and students and the promise of summer begins to awaken like a seed, ready to take root.

You take a long time to get here, Spring, but we are sure glad you are getting closer!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting behind the Social Media curtain: Rick's Journal, for real!

Navigating social media is tricky. There aren't a lot of rules, but you can read lots of blogs or e-Newsletters with people who barely have been on FaceBook or Twitter for three weeks, giving out their professional opinions. And we have all heard of the college student who goes looking for a job but gets turned down when the boss Googles him or her and sees pics of drunken debauchery in the photo albums. Blah, blah, blah.

But what good is all of this Social Media crap if you can't be real? If you only get the slick, brochure version, the media massaged and scripted Rick? I mean, how do you get behind the facade?

I wouldn't call Hawk Circle all that bad of a facade, really, and it is pretty much from the heart and all that. But let's face it, it is still tailored to a larger audience, not wanting to offend anyone and perhaps turned down a notch or two, just to be, well, maybe a little more relaxed. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

But when people who run organizations, or businesses, or causes are on Social Media, how do you know when you are getting the real person, and not the "safe Rick"? When is it just a line from Madagascar, you know? "Cute and Cuddly, Boys, Cute and Cuddly!" (The penguins. For those of you who are living in a debris shelter, forget it.)

So, here is where it gets real. I don't need to misspell a bunch of words to let you know that I am real, either, and I am going off the script, and skipping telling you about my thoughts on American Idol, or how Javi and I like to look up at the night sky for the moon or shooting stars. We are going off road.


I have been driving to a couple of schools in Delaware County, where I teach kids in an afterschool program twice a week. It is probably an hour and a half each way, so I have a lot of time to think, to drive, to scout for spears or arrow shafts, or fresh road kill, or any number of great wilderness resources that you can find along a country road side if you keep your eyes open. But mostly, I've just been listening.

Collapse, by Jared Diamond. Among other things. But mostly the audio version of his book.

People, friends, past students and campers, family, I've got to tell you: We've got some serious changing about to happen, and it is coming up very fast.

I know this isn't that ground breaking. I mean, anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention in the past six months to the financial collapse knows what I am talking about. If you watched an Inconvenient Truth, you know what I am talking about. If you have paid attention to the increasing rates of extinction, you know what I am talking about. If you think Monsanto is a bad idea, you know what I am talking about.

Do I need to go on?

But, what do we actually do? I mean, what can we do? When do we get up off the couch or table and begin to make changes? What changes should we make first? What is the best way to make the most impact? How should we do it?

If there is one thing I have seen a lot of in the past five years of teaching that is new and scary, is the 'deer in the headlights' syndrome, where students, when asked to do something that they might not be sure of how to do, will exhibit. They will freeze, and just wait until told what to do. They won't take initiative, and their fear of doing something the wrong way, or making a mistake, is so great that they will instead do nothing. They will wait and wait and wait.

Isn't that the same thing that is happening now? Aren't we waiting to see what someone else is going to do, to be inspired, or instructed or told so we can be sure to be on the same page and not make a mistake?

Why don't we trust our own inner voices, that are probably pretty hoarse from screaming at us, to get a move on, little doggy? Why can't we just make the jump and, if, five years, ten years from now, someone says, ha ha, wow, aren't we glad that the world didn't end yet, we can just smile and laugh along with them, while we pick our own beans, corn or apples? Heck, we can talk all the way to the root cellar, or the cider press, or whatever.

There is one thing that I got from reading his book that is particularly chilling: The concept called Creeping Normalcy, where the changes are happening but they happen so slowly, over so many years, that everyone sort of just goes along with the crowd and by the time they begin to fight against the current of society, it is too little, too late.

Maybe it is too late already. I will hold that that could very well be true. Seriously. There may be nothing that we can do to stop the events that are set in motion. In that case, all of the preparation in the world can't help you feed five hundred thousand hungry refugees and take care of your own family when the collapse happens.

I struggle to write this and put this out there to all of you, because for a long time I have not wanted to create fear in people. To have everyone think I am against society, or using fear to get people into programs or whatever. Because maybe, I just didn't want to admit that the inner voice I have is right, and that I am scared myself for the future.

I do know that the skills we offer can help, so I trust that. Skills are like a vaccine against fear.

But I am just sending this out there to say that it is time to start listening to your own inner voice, in whatever way you choose, and then, act.

You know. Do Something!

And then listen some more and act again.

I can't say it will save the world, but it just might. And I will add that in any case, it will feel good to listen to your own inner self and that is not a relief taken lightly. Listening and acting will bring you into alignment with your own personal vision, your purpose for being here, on this world, right now. It gets you on with why you are really here.

Okay, I guess I am done for now and my inner voice needs to go to sleep.

Good luck, to all of us. I think we are gonna need it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Barry Keegan's Friction Fire Intensive April 3-5, 2009

You know, most people don't really know Barry Keegan. This guy surprises me all of the time, even after knowing him for about eight years! Barry is a very unique kind of instructor, combining extensive knowledge of survival and native skills, with detailed research of historical references of these same skills.

Take canoes, for example. I mean, we've all heard about the native style birch bark canoes, right? Sure. Got it. No problem.

But Barry, well, he makes Elm Bark Canoes. Hickory Bark. Spruce Bark.

Spruce Bark? Really?

Really. I mean, we have an elm bark canoe upstairs in our barn right now, that he made with our Earth Skills students. It is the coolest thing ever.

Barry loves to track down the earliest known references to those canoes, or stone celts, or the original shape of bows made with stone tools. The bow he helped me make, which I just finished tillering two weeks ago, is styled from a stencil he made of a stone tool made native bow in Sudbury, MA, which he was able to view first hand in his research on bows and native hunting implements.

It's obvious that he loves learning, and he loves to make stuff. Everything. You can feel it when you hold anything he's made in your hands. Smooth. Functional. More than just a stone or a piece of wood, if you know what I mean.

He also loves to share his knowledge in classes with students, and while much of that information goes over the heads of beginner students, they come to appreciate it after the fact too.

Barry works harder than anyone I know to perfect a skill in every detail. His pottery is exquisite. Barry's bows just gleam with rich lustrous wood grain, strength and form. Don't even get me started on his arrowheads and projectile points!

It's not easy to get all of the knowledge that Barry holds in one place. I'm not just saying that, either. He doesn't teach what he doesn't know, and he provides meticulous references, too. They aren't the same old recycled books, either, but articles, journal entries from early settlers, even archeologists and researchers in Europe and beyond.

If you get a chance to come take Barry's Friction Fire Workshop, or the Native Clay Pottery Workshop, or the upcoming Flintknapping Intensive in September, you won't be disappointed! Write us for more information, or check out the Hawk Circle website....

Gotta run, but I will write more about the Spring Earth Skills Semester and other news as soon as possible!