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Rewilding Through Practicality
Gifts of the Green Nation
This last weekend we hosted the apprenticeship group once again. In spite of overcast skies and following rain and drips through a well used tarp overhead we made tulip poplar bark baskets. May into June are the time of the year to make these berry harvesting baskets. The sap is rising in the tulip poplar trees and the bark is easily removed from a newly harvested log. The peeled logs are so slippery that in the days of old fashioned axe logging you had to be careful that the cut tree did not end up with the butt end facing downhill as the log could come shooting out and squash everything and everyone in its path. I personally have had a difficult time trying to sticker (placing up on top of small perpendicuar logs in order for the log to be up off the ground so it could dry) newly peeled logs that kept slipping away from my log hooks. A slippery 10 foot log is no joke. Luckily we were using a tree that was only about 6 inches across. We also harvested paw paw saplings that we used to make the lashings for our baskets. All trees were harvested with permission asked and acknowledged by tobacco offerings.
There are so many teachings involved in this practice. The practical include how to use a knife, how to harvest plants, how to peel bark, how to fold said bark, using an antler awl, making lashings, etc. I, myself demonstrated knife safety in the time tested way of don’t do what I do. Amazingly I was the only one to draw blood which I tried to pass off as dyeing my basket but I don’t think anyone really bought it. You really can’t learn everything by following example but by making little mistakes which teach you why you do things in a certain way because of the buildup of consequences. Every basket you make is different because of your skills and the material itself. Each time you make something you invariably say, “next time I would do this differently” and I do. I find that the idiosyncrasies of each basket endear them to me. I dearly love the whimsical and to be totally honest every basket I’ve made does hold berries and is practical.
The spiritual teachings take a little longer to tease out. Making tulip poplar bark baskets can be a deeply spiritual act. There is the understanding that the natural world is abundant and ordered - basket making time occurs right before berry harvest time. The generosity of the natural world leads us to think about what we can do to give back - the teachings of reciprocity. We learn how to ask for what we need and listen to the answer. Most of all we learn that we have a place in the web as we are just another form of animal. We survive because of the sacrifices of the others in the web. We too will do the giveway when our time comes. Most of all it seems to me that we can learn to go deep into the spirit world when we learn to place our prayers in our creations, when we manifest spirit. One of my favorite moments of the day was listening to the beautiful sound of someone singing to their basket.
I know that our stores are full of ready made baskets that will do the job but the beauty of connecting; of living in relationship; of learning how to not only survive but thrive in the natural world; of sitting in companionship with both humans and nonhumans as we create; of passing down the lore of our ancestors; of walking in the world in a good way - these things are of incomparable value and can’t be bought.
Thank you for listening
picture of the lovely Liz Henke of Dreamseed Apothecary and my love and awesome teacher David
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