Rick's Journal

Friday, November 26, 2010

Earth Skills Semester Program student goes Bark Crazy!

It is always great when a past student gives you an idea of what they have done with the foundation of skills you provided years ago, and let's you know how you have impacted their life and those around them through your time spent together.   Stefan Thompson is just one such student.   He has made all kinds of bark shelters that are more than just a structure.  They are works of art, a labor of love and actually create community through their building and daily life.   There is a magic to them that you can feel as you sit and warm yourself by the fire, drink a cup of herbal tea or cook something good over the coals....

I don't think most people really get how much work it is to gather and peel the amount of bark you need to have to make a shelter like this.   It is just massive, and getting long, wide, thick sheets of birch bark is just so precious!   I am looking forward to getting some pics of the insides of these places, and the people who put them all together, too...

I just wanted to let you know that while most people aren't going to build a wigwam to live in through the Canadian winters, you could!   That says a lot for the type of training Hawk Circle students get when they spend a longer time here, exploring their natural world and their place in it...  These shelters look like they belong here, and like they are part of the living landscape!   The natural artwork is really great, too.

Nice work, Stefan and thanks for sharing this with us all!    Very inspiring!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

View from the tree stand: A bow hunter's story

There are a lot of things that happen when I go bow hunting. First, there is getting up early. That in itself, is a change of routine for me, as I am usually more of a night owl. Then, there are the clothing/scent issues. Staying clean, warm and smelling like the woods is important. I try to dress quickly, and check to see how cold it is, to see how many layers I will need to stay warm while sitting still for those cold hours.

Once outside, I figure out which way the wind is blowing, as this will help me determine where to go. I head out along the trails, moving as silently as possible in the dim light. When I get to my spot, I either climb my tree stand, or I will sit at the base of a tree, or jumble of logs and branches and settle in. It is important to get comfortable as I know I am going to be there for a while.

Then, I drift in and out of sleep, my awareness moving from the direction of the wind, light tendrils of dream consciousness pulling me to relax, the smell of the woods, the sounds of the red squirrels waking up and chickadees trilling in the ironwoods. If I am by a small stream or spring, I can hear the steady trickle of water that can sound both faint and loud. I am not sure why it suddenly can seem so loud that it is all I hear, and then it can almost disappear.

The forest lightens as the sun rises, and trees and branches come into sharp relief. The colors of the November woods is beautiful, with greys, browns, black and tan colors melding together so softly, waiting for the snow that is sure to come soon.

I lean against my tree, and feel my heartbeat, my breath rhythmical and deep, and the forest begins to envelop my senses, accepting me as part of the whole system. It is a good feeling and it makes me happy, knowing I belong and am home again.

The sound of hooves crunching through leaves comes sharply, startling me, and my heart jumps. Tiny twigs break as a deer approaches. My senses come alive as I strain to see the first glimpse of the forest ghost, the white tail. The direction of travel, my scent trail, the wind and shadows all come into play as I sit up, and ready my arrow. Any discomfort, cold or cramps are gone, and there is nothing except the pure focus of the predator.

I wait perfectly still, heart still pounding. The deer pauses, hesitating, and nibbling on raspberry canes, waiting for something. There is no sense of fear, of warning or stress, and I imagine myself a shadow along the tree, or a slight, drifting mist, no longer human hunter but only benign forest elemental being.

The deer steps into the trail, coming closer, step by step. I see that she is a yearling, a small tiny deer, hardly bigger than my dog. She is stout and strong, but I know that this is not my deer. It resonates deep in my chest, my gut, and I lower my bow, ever so slowly. The deer turns to look behind, and I see her mother, walking along the river trail, away from my stand, and the little deer runs to catch up. They both move quietly and slowly, and in a flash, they are gone.

The woods return to their winter stillness, with the occasional cawing of crows, the honking of geese, the rustling of leaves in the breeze and my heartbeat, slowing down again, and I sit back, and drift off to dream again, listening for the crunching of leaves...