Friday, March 2, 2012

Update 6 - February 26th, 2012


4 PM
We are standing circled round in the middle of a long day at the grey end of the day. Our shoulders are slumped and our packs are swollen heavy. Our faces are stiff and we are looking straight ahead at Chris, who called us together. We do not want to face this or deal with it any longer…

8 AM
The sun is just up over the horizon and we are dancing while working in beautiful dry and deep powder. For the first time the forest’s boughs are truly white and drooping all the way up, and the tent is backed into this winter wall, but still open to the blue bright morning and gold rising sun in front of us. This is the day we’ve been teased and wow it’s really here!

11 AM
We’ve never had to break trail before but it seems pretty fun! It’s not actually that much snow compared to other winters but it is still tiring when we take turns plowing far ahead, clearing the path, for as long as we can. We’re not moving too much slower either! It’s almost midday already and we haven’t done much yet but we’ve never done this before so of course that’s where we are!

1 PM
The forest is rushing by but we can float just standing still. As the trail curves and the land undulates we see glimpses of tall and mighty Mt. Abraham between the spaces, from our skis and flat white road. It is bigger every time we see it and we chatter excitedly, but suddenly we stop moving. He is still so far away and we are climbing him tomorrow.

3 PM
We don’t think we can make the twenty kilometers we were supposed to but the alternate camp is too far behind and the goal is still too far ahead. That mountain is too tall.

3:30 PM
I don’t want to do this and don’t talk to me like that.

4 PM
We are standing circled round not looking at each other and just too far from where we wanted to be. Chris is standing tall and looking at each of us in turn. And then he starts changing something.

He asks us if we want to be excited, if we’re going to climb up to the very peak of Mt. Abraham tomorrow, and if we are ready to transform this long hard day into a good end. He asks us if we want to finish the distance. We do, we know we do, so we say yes, yes we do.

It is a while later and I’ve been singing off and on but it hasn’t yet caught on. The group is moving but the good steps are outnumbered by dragging feet. The mood wants to be there but it is so hard to change on your own will alone.

And then I heard Conor yell back to me.




I couldn’t stop smiling.


Love the Earth!
            Love the Earth!
Love the Sky!
            Love the Sky!
Heat a Fire!
            Heat a Fire!
Drop of Water!
            Drop of Water!

I can feel it in my Body
In my Spirit in my Soul

Hey-Ya Hey-Ya
Hey-Ya Hey-Ya
Hey-Ya Hey-Ya
Hey-Ya Ho
Hey-Ya Hey-Ya
Hey-Ya Hey-Ya
Hey-Ya Hey-Ya
Hey-Ya Ho
Hey-Ya Hey-Yaaaaa
Hey-Ya Hey-Yaaaaa
Hey-Ya He-Yaaaaa Hey-Yaaaaa Ho…

We made the full length of the day before the sun set, all singing our own songs because the music finally caught and was kept. Not everyone was where they normally are within the group, they needed time, but they were singing and letting others sing louder. That night the sunset was a late night’s stove red across the sky and resting among the mountaintops, and our camp was well set along a ridge with the most beautiful view.

There have been many days where we have been strong and happy throughout, but I felt they did not show quite how powerful our group is. We want to and do our best to change when we are struggling, rather than let the day end and just try again, ignoring the challenges.

The next day we got to the top of Mt. Abraham, and looking back down the side we had just traveled from I saw the picture that had really captured me back when I was deciding whether or not to come here. Realizing that suddenly I just walked through it, am living it, and can see beyond it, it was a wide and wonderful world at the top of that mountain.

We have been listening to The Education of Little Tree most nights. Chris reads aloud beautifully and I have been practicing when I read to the group. He is gone now, but we will see him again at NorthWoods. He is such an inspiring figure, and his home and school is known as Koviashavik, or a time and place of joy in the present moment. We’re getting closer; it feels like he’s as close as you get to being there.

Many of our reflections are about the Fire or Shelter Solos. For the Fire Solo we were sent out alone to spend some time with Old Man Fire, and we cooked a small amount of deer meat that tasted like melting butter. For the Shelter Solo we were sent out in groups to build both shelter and a fire, this time to cook us dinner, keep us warm, and last us the whole night through. I think it is best to let each person share his or her own experiences.

 Shelter Experience
- Dean

I fed you
I watched you drink the wood
and pour heat over me
I saw you got hungry but I wanted to see what you’d do
So I waited
you grew quiet, looking, then burned a new way
you can change your form when your meal is like this
I kept you like this because it suited me better
I could hardly imagine sleeping next to you safely
and know you are no less wild and will last for some until I wake up
but I don’t want to sleep
I haven’t for a while
I just watch you and remember to look out for now
My clothes are wet
I’ll dry them
I’m hungry
I’ll take some butter to eat.
Malcolm has woken up cold and damp a few times
I’ll move the fire over and I’ll watch the sparks
When I had to pee I came back and just looked at the home.
Smoke and embers floating up by slow falling snow
I’ve been living in there and it hasn’t even been a full night
I haven’t been living another memory while the fire burned
I fed Old Man Fire from my hands and that’s exactly what I was doing

Fire Solo

I see you up there
But where are you, really?
I can’t even fathom
How far you are
Your real location
But you just keep on going
Unrelentlessly working
Shining your light for us
So I will do this thing for you
All I can offer
It’s a sun salute
I reach up for you
Hold your tickling fingers to my heart
Between my palms
Then welcome your beauty in again
Down to the earth
My feet
The snow
Hide from you, just a little
Close my eyes in pure reverence
And then curve upwards
My body yearning for the feeling of you upon me
Then again
With a deep breath
I will point down again
Bow to you
The strength you put in all of the trees
Bestow upon them the potential
The desire, even
That they have
For that strike
And to Burst!
Into flame.

To the occupant of my fire solo clearing

I apologize, didn’t mean to stare
you were standing so peculiar there
most of your flesh has been long gone
and your tattered dress is just hanging on
ghostly, it wraps you from head to toe
fitting loosely, far too much fabric to sew
you looked like a mummy who stood straight and tall
with really nothing left under your skin at all
In a sunny small clearing you hide from the light
Under your tattered garment so white
I know it was rude to disturb your attire
but I just wanted a small piece of your dress for the fire

Ode to the Yellow Birch

A young yellow birch wears a beautiful gown
it’s a glimmering silver, a yellow beige brown
the queen of the woods, she reaches for the skies
and holds in her fingers the sweetest surprise
what a minty aroma surrounds her small buds
as she watches with splendor over mosses and muds
but an old yellow birch is even more regal
she knows that vanity is a thing that is evil
she shredded her white gown, her branches twisted and turned,
for the respect of the forest,
she has already earned

Fire Solo Reflection

I walked into the winter woods today, more than a little nervous, but I walked out feeling more at ease than ever before.  I may be still a stranger amidst these trees and hills, but I am no longer a foreigner there.  In spending time alone with a fire, I realized I had learned so much and was putting it to good use.  I felt strong and calm all at once.
To have learned the four cardinal corners of the world, and to know them by the sun, is to carry a compass rose in your center. You begin to grasp your place in the world, where you stand in wider scope. 
To know how to build a solid bed for fire is to know how to build a house for yourself, anywhere.  This ability can only grow, ad it sustains the fire you carry in your being, even in the dark and cold of the bitterest winter nights.
To be sheltered by familiar evergreens is to be nestled in the lad, to feel the security of shelter where there was none before.
How strange to be human, just another animal yet totally peculiar too, one that cannot survive long without all the trappings of modernity.  But today, armed with knowledge, matches, an axe and little else, I felt more at ease in strange woods than even the familiar woods and paths I know and have trod many times before near my home.
Today I befriended Old Man Fire.  He’s a wily, hungry old boy, and I think we’ll only become better friends from here on out.


As I looked and found my spot, I began to dig and thought
“What a decent day today to go and pick this game to play”
I can still remember a time,
Now it feels like such a crime
When I needed far more than just a match
I burned up the entire pack
So I sat and dug my hole
Then I set out to fulfill my goal
I gathered fuel from a fallen tree
I must admit, I felt quite free
I set my twigs and birch bark down
Opened my matches and I found
My striker was deep inside
I would have to improvise
Two matches I struck together
It all went well, thanks to the weather
I had a fire so beautiful
Bright flames bucking like an angry bull
I connected with those flames
I’m pretty sure it had a name
We got deep in conversation
Neither of us had any reservations
I popped a squat a few feet away
I know Mr. Fire thought it was okay
We had enough time to not be shy
By the time we said goodbye

Living in the Moment

It’s true we live nearly all our lives thinking about what we did or anticipating what is to come.  Is it bad to look forward to things? Is it bad to look back? Living in the moment takes focus. Going down a frozen stream, over rocks and holes and frozen waterfalls, through ice, as fast as possible takes concentration.  Living in that moment there is no room for anything else. To truly do something well, you absolutely must be entirely there, grounded and attentive to what is happening.  Yet without what we have done and without knowing it we are nothing. Animals live in their moments, looking for food and shelter.  Are they more perfect than us? Looking back and looking forward is a gift and we should accept that and meditate, letting our minds drift. but when the time comes we should be there to throw ourselves into anything with all our minds and presence.

Fire Solo Reflection

Hello old man fire, I have some wood for you to eat
as long as you cook this piece of deer meat. 
Oh hey, you burned it.
Well, that’s okay. 
I’ll just have to eat it anyway. 
My feasting is done, and its time for you to leave. 
And to make sure you go out, I’ll spray you with my pee.

- Malcolm

Every night I awake with fright 
and an awful dread for soon, I know, I'll have to go
and get out of bed 
when outside
I'm petrified
and I feel frostbitten 
I wish I had thought and stopped and gotte
my soft warm wool mittens
but its too late
I have a date with the far off pee tree
the snow is cold but I can't hold off all this urine inside of me 
well now I'm done so back I run
and lord I am quite glad 
as I breath deep and fall asleep 
I think 'cold ain't so bad'

Old Man Fire

The bed is made
Finder awaits his survival
Shrouded by tipi’s shade
A spark enters the twiggy hall
Fast comes old man fire
Waiting no longer,
A flame crackles hotly
That’s when I ponder
Will the wood run out shortly?
Hungry is old man fire
More fuel is needed
I dash to and fro
Yet not enough is gathered
Showing his displeasure, he sinks low
Almost out the door is old man fire
At last I find bigger wood
On top it goes
Now he can stay if ever he could
The rising flame warms my toes
Happy and at home is old man fire

1 comment:

  1. Aloha Everett and you mountaineers,
    What a great experience with Mt. Abe. We waited to hear how it was going and are now glad to read the many thoughts from along the way. Thank you for some great photos to look at, too. Yeah, Everett! Keep on trekkin', you all.