Friday, November 7

I killed a rabbit two days ago. It was a farmed rabbit, male, darkly furred, and very cute. I clubbed it at the base of its head while Shaun, an instructer with Trackers, held it caringly but firmly by the hips. Before we slaughtered the rabbits, Shaun led us through a small Thanksgiving address, making sure everyone present was of one mind in gratitude for the world surrounding us and for the rabbits we were to eat. That bit right there is the most ceremony-like ritual that we do at Trackers. I really appreciate it. We stroked and petted the rabbits before killing them, and as they died. It took me a couple minutes it seemed to work up the courage to move on from taking aim with the club to taking that massive swing. I struck, and I immediately pulled back, pulled my hand to my mouth, almost in surprise or shock at what had just happened. I looked to Shaun to see if that one thump had been enough. Thankfully, it had. The rabbit's eyes were wide as it died. His tongue was sticking out of his mouth, bright red with blood. A small thick puddle of red also formed below his mouth. He kicked a bit, but his spirit left pretty quickly. Shaun felt deep in his chest to make sure his heart had stopped. After my friend 'matt! killed the other rabbit, we skinned and gutted them. Shaun showed me how to gut the one I killed, and then I showed 'matt! and Gabe how to do theirs. We washed the carcases in the stream and then they were made into stew. I ate my portion without spice, so I could really taste the meat. It was a solemn meal for me. I had a bit of trouble falling asleep that night.

I told Stephanie, a fellow student who happens to be vegetarian (and who was not present for the slaughter), as the time drew near for the slaughter, that I didn't want to kill the rabbit,  but I did want to experience killing the rabbit, if that makes any sense. 

I've eaten meat almost all of my life, and this was only the second time I've been present for the death of the animal that would go to feed me, first time that the animal died at my hands. So much of how I live my life leads directly to the death of life far away from me where I never see it directly, and so I never have the opportunity to feel empathy for that life, to feel the effect of my actions or my choices, to act and to choose with full knowledge and intent. Never have I had that opportunity until now. And in the future, I never want to proceed without that opportunity. I am very grateful to that rabbit for giving me its life and I feel blessed to have been moving towards the competency to raise my own domesticated animals and to hunt the wild ones.

Here's 'matt!'s account and take on all this.

Sunday, October 19

Tumblr has a super easy user interface, so I've been using that more than blogger lately. Check it. You'll have to email me directly to comment, if you care to do so.

Mostly, it seems people use tumblr as a space to copy and paste data, gather links and organize thoughts, and then move to their main blogs for a more polished post. I just know I want to wire into my body a habit of generating, and right now I need to use the easiest tools available.

(rest assured, I realize pen and paper is easier, and talking and singing even easier still. maybe once my voice is strong enough that my family back home can hear, I'll abandon this silly thing.)

Saturday, October 11

I have a tattoo. I finally went through with getting one at the beginning of this past summer, just a few days before I went on my bike trip. I wanted to get it then as a kind of rite of initiation to help usher me into the next phase of my story. My friend Mary gave it to me, stick 'n' poke style (that is, a never-before used sewing needle that has been sterilized by flame is stuck into the eraser end of a pencil, floss wrapped around down the length of it, and dipped in black india ink. and then it's just a lot of poking. she went over it five times. my skin took it really well, she said). It didn't hurt nearly as bad as I was expecting, but it still hurt a lot. It was interesting to feel the difference in the sensitivity of skin as she got closer to the (apparently very delicate) crook of my arm.

The tattoo is of the word "beast". It is placed on the inside of my right forearm, right where I can see it all the time, if I'm not wearing long sleeves. I didn't decide on what to get indellibly marked on my body until right before I had it done, but of course, I had been brainstorming for a while. I wanted to have something that would remind me that I am alive and that I will die eventually, so I need to live it up in this moment. I was thinking about several options- "memento mori" (remember that you are mortal), "memento vivere" (remember that you must live), simply the words in english "you will die" (which is a bit grim), and the word "animal". I finally decided on beast via looking up the etymology of the word animal, because I knew that animal was a latin-based word, and there must have been another word for animal in the english language before latin invaded it. And beast was that word!

I really like it.

It does what it is intended to do for me. And it has the connotation of referring to someone who is powerful and a force to be reckoned with, which is something for me to aspire towards, haha! And something I didn't consider at the time but is kind of cool is that I have the mark of the beast on me. Hah!, I've left myself behind. Thanks but no thanks, heaven. This world is good enough for me. I'm having too much fun doing my beasty thing.

Monday, September 15

So, here's an overview of some of the things I did during the Nature of the Village open space:

  • bird language sits (I now know what a wren tit and a stellar jay sound like, but more importantly I understand that songbirds are either content (referred to as baseline) or alarmed, that they only sing when content, and they use more simple chirping for both other contented activities and alarms, that it's the intensity of those more simple chirps to listen for that will tell you if they are alarming. Oh, and that's all important because bird alarms can be used while hunting both to let you know what other animals are in the area, and conversely, whether or not those animals know that you are in the area or not. Songbirds are the security systems of nature. You've got to be careful, or you'll trip the alarm and every deer or rabbit or whoever will immediately sprint away.)
  • We slaughtered a sheep, which provided the meat for most of our dinners for the week. I witnessed the kill, and I helped in the skinning and quartering parts of the processing (I also helped render fat). So strange to have eaten meat for 20 years and to have this be the first time I've directly witnessed the death of the animal that goes to feed me. I look forward to taking an even more direct role as time goes on.
  • I made progress on the carving of my first bow. It'll be shootable in the next couple days, hopefully.
  • I picked and ate a lot of evergreen huckleberries for pemmican making (they're everywhere at Cedar Grove!), with the occasional salal berry found and thrown in for good measure.
  • I assembled a bow drill fire kit and got sore trying to start a fire. I think I'll get it down pretty quick as I find more refined materials. I need a wider drill and a smoother bow (I'll probably just carve down the one I have). I also need to find the best position for my gangly self to hold the drill steady so it won't wobble and so I can put as much pressure as is necessary to get that coveted black smoking powder (if the powder is grey or brown, it's not enough pressure)
  • I learned the very basics of flintknapping- stone breaks at a 45 degree angle from the direction of impact. also, you need to strike on a face of the stone angled towards you- it doesn't take much force, just the right angles. Also, obsidian shards are really really sharp, the dust from knapping can give you silicosis, and improper technique can give you tendonitis and/or carpal tunnel.
  • We looked at some tracks and scat- deer, fox, elk, bobcat, and bear
  • Went out on the umiak, and paddled a kayak for the first time, both of the skin on wood frame design.
  • played bamboo swordthrowing games, and spolin games - very good medicine for me. both work on building one-mindedness and sensory awareness. cut the pauses, and magic happens in the space between you and the people around you.
  • harvested mussels from the beach; played giddily in the freezing cold surf of the pacific ocean
  • ate and helped cook amazing delicious meals. 
  • ate ripe figs right off the tree (yet another first; certainly not the last first . . .)
Also, our group will be keeping a blog where we will be documenting what we are doing. I might end up cross posting either from there to here or vice versa. The name we chose for our group is Earth Ninjas.

I got back saturday from the first week of the TrackersTEAMS adult immersion program, during which we travelled to Cedar Grove Farm, a working permaculture homestead (with lots of goats and chickens and fruit trees, tons of huckleberries, a big garden, and thousands of disease-resistant cedars that have been planted out) just outside the small town of Port Orford on the southern Oregon coast. 

We camped for 6 nights there during our Nature of the Village open space. 

Open space gatherings (I'm using Mythic Cartography as a reference here) are based on four principles-

  • Whoever comes are the right people, 
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, 
  • When it starts, it starts, and 
  • When it ends, it ends

and one law, the Law of Two Feet-

  • If you are neither learning nor contributing where you're at, use your two feet to move somewhere that you can

and an assortment of understandings-

  • be prepared to be surprised
  • open space needs passion and responsibility to work

The law of two feet leads to a couple phenomena, labeled butterflies and bumblebees- different styles of participation in the gathering beyond the standard of active and steady- butterflies can just sit and observe intently, and bumblebees may bounce around from one group to another, pollinating along the way.

Basically, there's a big board set up in a central location with time slots and locations delineated, and anyone at the gathering can plant the seed of intent for an activity or a workshop or a discussion, whatever. So there's all sorts of things going on during each time period, and you have to choose. It's beautiful and chaotic, but also not very coherent.

And that's where another piece of the puzzle comes in- agile retrospectives. The agile retrospective is a social technology that aims to allow a group of people to work together as efficiently as possible. At regularly scheduled meetings, you evaluate how things have gone so far and what needs to change/happen next. The model we followed this week was using sticky notes to contribute on a board, optionally announcing what the notes say verbally, first just observations, then feelings, and finally needs or next actions. Then, all of the needs are read by the facilitator and each one is asked to have a volunteer (who feels passion and responsibility for it) take on making sure the next step towards fulfilling that need is taken. We did slightly different variations on this theme three times each day. 

I enjoyed the open space format because I got to tailor each moment to what I wanted to do, but it became exhausting by mid-week as I didn't make taking down-time (and thereby missing something) a priority. For me, I think it would work best for just two consecutive days. Maybe three. Seven was a bit much. 

And the retrospectives are going to grow into an amazing tool. It's still very unfamiliar territory to me, being constantly asked how I'm feeling and what I need, so I'm glad that we'll continue with this model throughout the program. 

As Tony (our facilitator) reminded us all week, all models are wrong, but some are useful.

Friday, September 5

Oh! One more thing. A quote from a zine by Ran that has put the weight of my fear of failure into a new perspective:
Cynics say that people like me are foolish idealists, because we're fighting according to our values and not according to what seems possible. But these cynics are the real idealists, so fixated on the ideal of "success" that they become paralyzed, unable to act without the appearance of likely success. And anyone who controls the appearance of what is possible and what is impossible controls these people utterly. That's how a lion "tamer" is able to abuse and humiliate an animal that could kill him in seconds, by giving it the illusion that it can't win. And people who have been given the illusion that they are powerless in what they really care about, like the lion, become depressed and lethargic, and stop caring, and just go through the motions waiting to die.

In our culture this is called "growing up," and these mature and sensible people are always telling us that we're "wasting" this or that because we can't succeed. Even if we can't, what's more of waste, a trapped animal that fights to the death, or one that dies without a fight?
I'm totally tamed right now. But I think I'm finding my way to the cage's door.