Saturday, April 14, 2012

Update 10

It’s like when you greet the day and it actually works.  As in, your brain shuts up for once and all of a sudden the trees and the wind and the sky are all BAM! In your face! Then is when the being out under and in it all is real and living. Not when you go for a whale watch or some removed way of being immersed in nature, but when the civilized educated human thing turns off and the trees actually start talking. 
I love having conversations with trees.  Sometimes, it’s the best kind of medicine for internal confusion or cranial distress of any kind.  Just sitting up there in a crown of magic-filled buds, with your arms wrapped around its trunk, feels like the best kind of hug. All the social nuances and people’s opinions about stupid crazy tree-huggers fade away.  Al of a sudden it’s just me and the tree, ready to converse.  But being alone is completely necessary, so everything can be described without self-consciousness;  “Hey tree, I’m leaving for 5 months and I’m so confused.  Can you listen a minute? And then keep a good eye on my family and kitties for me while I’m gone?  Thank you.  I love you.  I’ll come chat with you a while every day until I leave, I promise. 
Conversations like that are a bit silly.  But really, they happen because I feel like humans and trees are compatible and possibly even able to think at each other and understand each other’s thoughts. I want to always be able to feel how I do when I’m splayed out on a warm rock as though it’s absorbing me.  I want to know how those little buds feel when the sun is knocking on their outer casing, asking to be let in, making everything inside the bud want to burst and dance and glow in the radiant light.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy to put so much trust in the trees.  But maybe I’m not. I used to carry an acorn around in my pocket, pressed up against my leg all the time, so that the seed of hope and rebirth for that tree could always be with me and touching me, sort of.  Now that acorn lives in my sleeping bag. That one tiny nut was often enough to get me through the day at school, when I felt my soul being leeched out from inside of me, stripped of all its tree-induced spunk. But I wouldn’t say everyone feels like this.  It’s something you have to want, or need, and then sustain.  Not everyone cares, or is able to let go of society enough to actually listen to their gut and let themselves talk to the trees.

Hello again to all families and friends of the 2012 Kroka Vermont Semester.

There’s been a lot going on here at NorthWoods with Kroka as of late. Guest teachers continue to come and go, but the lessons and skills left by each one will resonate forever.

Chris and Ashirah, who had come to teach basket making, left on Friday, April 6 after we had completed our pack baskets. It was tough to say goodbye after spending a week with them, their kids, and the brown ash, however, their impact was immediately felt. We’ve made our pack baskets an indispensible part of our daily lives, using them to carry our day-to-day supplies to and fro around NorthWoods. Without them, we might have continued to be organizational messes (not that we ever were).

During the afternoon on Friday, parents and families began arriving for Parent Weekend. We were all very excited to see them. We showed them around and got them acquainted with our new lives. There was a lot to catch up on, between showing off our recent projects and being briefly reintroduced to the outside world by our families, which felt almost like a little blast of culture shock.

For dinner on Friday, our families participated in a beautiful and delicious Seder (traditional Passover meal and ceremony) that was led by Michal’s family. We all went to bed with full stomachs after a good day.

On Saturday, families came to a traditional Kroka breakfast of kasha, cheesy eggs, potatoes, yogurt, jam, and milk. Afterward, everyone set out to spend the day with their loved ones, some choosing to relax and enjoy the day at NorthWoods, others choosing to leave briefly and explore the area. Evening rolled around and families gathered for dinner and a presentation from the students. After feasting on a wonderfully prepared potluck, everyone settled down for the presentation, to which the public was invited. We divided into two groups and performed skits. Everett, Conor, Dean, and Adam performed a skit about the “two inner voices” heard by all semester students. Adam was faced with many day-to-day predicaments and the voices that accompanied them, played by Everett and Conor. Dean narrated and played the roles of snow, sun, and log. 
Malcolm, Josia, Noah, Michal, and I performed a skit about “betting hills” from the first leg of the expedition. Malcolm went from audience member to audience member making bets on how each skier (Josia, Michal, Noah, & myself) would fare as they skied down the icy slope. Several audience members won pieces of chocolate. Along with the skits, we sang a few songs, talked about the trees we’ve learned about, explained our new Large Jobs, and answered questions. A slide show containing pictures from the winter expedition and our stay thus far at NorthWoods followed. After that, everyone got up, moved the chairs out, and got ready for the contra dance. It was quite interesting and amusing to watch our families (and ourselves) fumble and stumble while attempting to dance. That night was a very entertaining one.

On Sunday morning, we ate breakfast with our families and enjoyed the last few hours to be shared with them during this visit. When lunchtime came, everyone gathered in a circle. My family and I introduced cascarones, confetti-filled eggshells used for breaking on people’s heads, to the group as a way to celebrate Easter. On the U.S. – Mexico border, this is a popular tradition. My own Easter experiences are covered in confetti from having fun cascaron wars with family. After viewing a demonstration of my sister cracking one on my head, everyone under 20 years of age received two cascarones for use as they pleased. From that point on, a good number of people had confetti stuck in their hair. We shared another potluck meal together and finally said our goodbyes. Goodbyes like these can be emotional, but we anticipate seeing our folks again at graduation.

On Monday, Scott, our canoe-building teacher, arrived, as did Polly, a wilderness guide and dog musher who brought us the canoe mold we would be using. She also presented a slide show of pictures from her wilderness experiences in Canada, Alaska, and Maine. 
On Tuesday, Elisa, our paddling teacher arrived, and we got working on the canoe. At that point, we began to realize just how quickly the spring expedition is coming up on us. As of today, we’ve finished the frame, planking, seats, and ribs. It’s really coming along.

And now, here are a couple entries from a recent session of Pushups and Poetry.  I hope you enjoy them!

We have lived on this earth for thousands of years and have spread across it into vast civilizations. From nomadic tribes of hunters to the people of the cities we subsist in some form or other off the earth and what is or once was wilderness.  These days, there is an abyss between most of our lives and the earth.  We have forgotten that we need it to live.
But for some of us, the wilderness is life.  The birds chirp there and the sun sets more beautifully.  It is a place where, under stars and moon, we can sleep without the worries of the modern age.  Even as it is a temple of great magnitude and beauty, it is even more what we need to survive.
Our food and water comes from the earth’s wilder places.  This is where I have felt a connection with the earth, in its beauty and grandeur and in the water and plants and creatures we consume.  Taking the life of a creature with whom we share the planet is where I feel the greatest bond can be formed.  Using everything, from its meat to its hide and blood.  It creates something stronger and brings me closer to the place and the land it came from and the wild life it lived.

 Many people view the natural world as something to be dominated and taken advantage of. We clear forests to build farms and cities.  We use resources until there are very few to be used. We expect the world to give and don’t repay it in kind.

I am learning the importance of living alongside nature. My experiences on this journey have brought me closer to nature than many people will ever find themselves.  My teachers have instilled within me a consciousness of the world around me.  Even more importantly, I have learned the great importance of the single act of giving thanks.  I now think to thank the resource I am using, whether it’s a tree or a beaver.  I realize that it is a gift.  These are simple thing, yet they are critical to my relationship with the natural world.
There needs to be a balance. Take only what you need and give back, even if all you can do is say thank-you.

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