Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's All About the Wood

It's a cold winter (relatively speaking for the bay area). Days like today I want to have the wood stove going all day. Having enough wood is still an issue, though as of right now we are fine. Another huge branch fell from an oak that died from Sudden Oak Death, which will provide us with more wood for a quite while. My goal is to never have to buy wood but to get by means of scrounging from fallen trees. I don't see them as a hazard or detritus that needs to be cleaned up but as a gift...

Wood packs an emotional punch for me. I discovered this last summer. I'm still sensitive about it. Here is the story how it came about.

This summer as in the last I participated in a vision quest up by Crystal Lake across from Mount Shasta. Last year I was a questor (imagine HUGE deer in the headlights), but this year I was a supporter. Knowing the routine and what needed to be done I focused on helping out more. While the questors are sitting in their spots for four days the supporters are keeping a fire going 24/7 during this time. Thing is, where the fire is, is not where the wood is. The path to the fire is a winding one, up and down over rocks and tree roots to an area by a stream.

So this one fellow and I take upon us the task of hauling the wood to where the fire will be. Think at least one cord of wood, possibly two. We are 50 and 49 respectively, not the oldest ones in the group but the third and fourth. I even bought a log carrier for this (the one we have for home disintegrated from "real" use) because I knew I wasn't strong enough to carry a backpack of wood on my back and front. This was not a task for the faint-hearted or easily bored. You are walking back and forth and back and forth over this rocky and root-ridden path. Meanwhile other people are helping out by where the fire is going to be because the stream needs to be dammed up a bit and the sweatlodge needs to be build. Mostly sedentary work. So 20 people are essentially standing around while we are walking back and forth and back and forth carrying all this wood ourselves for a fire that will last four days and at times be large enough used for the rocks we will be heating to take into the lodge...

20 people are watching us carry this wood back and forth and make no offer to help. When asked for help (many hands make the work go by quicker) we get excuses. A few people do take a token piece or two but then quit. Meanwhile Bob and I are getting more and more irritated. We didn't realize the other was building up a killer rage until we happened to stop in the same place passing each other. We compared notes. We were both pissed. WE knew it was all about the wood. WE knew there would be no quest without the wood WE were carrying because no wood, no fire, no sweatlodge. Oh yeah, it would get built but there would be no fire in which to heat the rocks to carry into the lodge to sweat.

I saw a little chickadee in my rage carrying the wood back and forth. It broke me out of my state. I realize there and then hey, "chop wood, carry water." It wasn't about doing some lofty meditation in the woods. Even Zen Buddhist monks needed to keep warm. They had to do the same thing to survive. THAT was MY task, not someone else's. THAT was the spiritual work.

It got much better after that. I was able to look at the whole situation with a little bit of humor and value myself what I was doing, not worry about getting praise from others. It wasn't about them. It was about what I needed to do.

I've talked to my teachers about this because wood "as an issue" still comes up, twice in fact since last summer. Must think on this some more. Unconscious survival? Connection to a plant relative that is personal? I'm sure all will be revealed in good time, all in good time.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Two Seasons

Folks from other parts of the country who move to California often complain about the lack of seasons. Au contraire! There are two seasons. This is what my druid mentor would say: there is a dry season...and there is a wet season. Wet starts late fall and goes to spring when the rains cease. Then the hills turn to that lovely golden brown California is so well known for (hence the name "The Golden State.") Then as soon as the rains start up again late fall everything turns a brilliant emerald green again.

This is quite opposite of the Midwest where it is brown in the winter and green in the summer. When I've visited there it always struck me as odd being so hot and being so green, being a California girl. I've grown up associating hot with brown. Today, with it being in the 30s this morning, all along the path to the house it was so green with new shoots, encouraged by the recent rains. Is it Spring? Nope. Nearly Midwinter.

The acorn crop is very sparse thus far. We'll see how wet the "season" ends up being this year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Autumn Holiday

Fours days off from work, the first vacation in a very long time, if only because of seasonal workload. Time spent at home doing cold weather chores. Breaking up oak branches to use for kindling, enough to fill three bins as well as changing the bowls of waters for "the critters" out back and at the grove site. It looked like someone or something threw up carrots in the bowl at the grove site so I don't know what that was about.