The Earth Skills Correspondence Course is a ten block course that leads students through the skills of wilderness survival, in your own bioregion. It emphasizes the mastery of shelter, water, fire, camp skills, plants and trees, cooking, safety & hazards, attitude & philosophy and instructor training. Ricardo Sierra mentors the course through e-mail, this blog and a private Facebook Group, and students are self-guided. The course provides a wealth of skills and a powerful foundation from which to build and grow in any personal or wilderness study direction.
Get more information about this learning tool here: The Earth Skills Correspondence Course

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Journaling, Taking Pictures. More Valuable than Gold, with a little Time.....

One thing you will notice about my blog, or the website or my Facebook page about Hawk Circle is this: I have a lot of pictures. Okay, they aren't all magazine quality, but they tell a story in way that shows very quickly, what Hawk Circle is all about, the flavor of our place, the colors of the land, the way the sunlight shines on the beams of the new cabins, etc...... They help a lot.

Story: When I first started studying wilderness skills in earnest, it was 1984, and I was a young pup, with a composition notebook and a thirst to learn. I had a camera that I reluctantly took pictures with, being short on cash for film and developing, and a traveling lifestyle that wasn't compatible with having lots of boxes for storing photo albums and so forth. It was a pain not having a good flash on my old Minolta X-700, so my woods pictures always came out blurry and dark, but I did try. However, I had something in the back of my mind that always seemed to make me even more reluctant to pull out the camera. It was the words of many different native peoples, who seemed to resent people taking their pictures, because in some cases 'their spirit would be captured' or 'it takes a person away from the moment, removes them from experiencing life first hand'. I can relate to that, because in the summer of 1984, I was in Sequoia National Park as part of a BackCountry Trails Program, working for the California Conservation Corps. We were camped in the Big Arroyo, about 20 miles into the heart of the backcountry, building the trail on Kaweah Gap. Our weekdays were filled with rolling stones, building water bars, switchbacks and laying riprap, but our weekends were a time to head for the peaks, or find a lake where we might catch the fabled 'Golden Trout' the region was famous for. One day my friend and I climbed a small, un-named peak, just to get the lay of the land, and when we arrived at the top, we just rested and enjoyed the view. All of a sudden, a gust of wind hit me in the face and a huge golden eagle drifted in the updraft from below us to our eye level. I was staring face to face with a soaring, floating, golden eagle, not fifteen feet from my face. My friend dove into his daypack, trying to find his camera, pull off the lens cap and turn it on, so he could get a picture. I knew he was moving around slowly behind me but I couldn't take my eyes off of the bronze bird still in front of me. Her eyes seemed to pierce right through me, and gave me a strange sensation in my whole body. By the time my friend got his camera ready, the bird dropped and flew away, instantly a hundred yards away, a speck against the granite boulders, cliffs and bristlecone pines. He had missed the magic of the whole scene.

I never took a lot of stock in taking pictures after that, for some time. It just seemed to steal the magic of the moment for me, and I didn't bother as much as I should have, looking back now.

However, I wish I had taken a picture of me with my first shelter, or my first coal burned spoon (it was made from sassafrass, and it was awesome!) or my first class at the Tracker School with all of the instructors (Bear, Frank and Karen Sherwood, John Stokes, Rick and Ruthie, Kurt Folsom and of course, Tom). Having a photo of those days would be so nice right now, to show students of the early days of learning skills and how young we all were as we were learning and teaching, etc.

Your photos are not neccessarily for you, but for your students. For those who will follow in your footsteps, and who will learn and be inspired by the risks and adventures you have. That's why it is important for you to document things, through journaling, too, where you can write down your thoughts of what it was like to track shrews through the Crucible, or swim in the Medicine Waters, or gather milkweed in Indian Valley. Many years from now, you will appreciate your own words in ways that right now, you might barely understand. As a mentor, you will thank me, and I would be remiss if I didn't beg, nag, bother and demand that you do it! In this day of inexpensive digital photography, you just need to do it. And don't go crazy, but find a way to get some good pics, (of you!) and get action shots, or posed shots, whatever you have to do, with close-ups, too.

Journal the date, the time, the weather and the location, and then write from the heart. What was it like to do whatever it was. How did you feel doing it? What did you learn from it, at the time, in the moment? What do you think you learned now, looking back? What would you do differently, if you had to do it again? All of this and more can help you write great entries that are both illuminating and powerful to read, even years later. Your stories will inspire others, believe it or not. Having them documented is very powerful, too. It anchors them, for you as well as your students.

In addition to my lack of photos, I lost a box of about ten journals of nearly ten years of study in one flooded basement. Always store your journals in a safe place, and if you can make copies of them, do it! Don't rely on computers to save the data forever, either!

Anyway, I hope I have made my point, and inspired you in some ways to get started again on your journals and picture taking!

By the way, there is still, like, two spaces left in the awesome wild foods program with Sam Thayer called "Becoming a Gatherer" happening at Hawk Circle September 22-26. Check it out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer Update

Hey all!

Summer is finally winding down here at Hawk Circle, and we are getting ready to head into fall. The goldenrod is starting to turn yellow, a few maples are starting to show color and it won't be long before the apples sweeten and the elderberries are ripe for picking.

The past few months have been busy here, with many campers, guests, great staff and a ton of projects that are slowly transforming our land step by step. We raised two cabins and are in the process of enclosing them and building bunks and beds for everyone to sleep on, and the list of other accomplishments is too long to list. But all were worthwhile and make either the participant, or staff experience more rich and rewarding.

Skills-wise, I have done some flint knapping, carving, some wood craft and lots of tool sharpening among other things. I have also been teaching quite a bit at times, from quick sapling bows to drying meat over the coals of a fire.

I haven't been able to work on my book or get a lot of personal projects done, but that is what the fall and winter are for! And if you are interested in learning more about wild edible plants, as staples for gathering real food sources, check out the workshops we are having here at Hawk Circle with Sam Thayer: Becoming a Gatherer. It's coming up in a little more than a month, in September. Or, if making super soft, strong and luxurious buckskin is more your thing, or you want to tan your next deer hide, check out the Art of Braintanning Buckskin Intensive at the end of September!

Barry is running an intensive too, called The Art of Ash Splint Packbaskets, in mid October, so you chould check that out if you want to go traditional and make a beautiful, strong and amazing pack basket. Barry is the best and you won't be disappointed!

I will have to post some more things here, just to keep this flow going, but until then, I hope you are all enjoying the summer and working on your earth skills!