Monday, June 11, 2007


I’ve never been so happy to have blistered hands. I’ve caused myself such irritating injuries more times than I can recall, between a childhood of gardening and putting myself through school by working as a groundskeeper. But Friday, I earned this pain building a fire from scratch- no matches or lighter, no gun cotton, no 9-volt + steel wool, no lens aimed at the sun. Rather, at this year’s MAPS Meet, like in years past, we used scavenged hand drills, bow drills, and fire ploughs.
For the reader who has never tried this, I fear that while the "how" will be perfectly comprehensible, the genuine "what" will remain a mystery. I’ll leave those details of the experience in the shadows until a later time (although, this may remain one of those mysteries that forever confounds my pen).
Instead, I’ll focus on what emerged. Making tools and building fires, one of which handily survived a raging downpour, wove a community. I was a stranger to most of the other students and teachers at the event when I arrived. But, in a few days, and in many cases, in only a few hours, these became my little brothers and sisters, my aunts, my uncles. Each personal strand became part of a greater fabric.
The event underscored again some of those fleeting human qualities and pursuits that many of us don’t realize are gone, because we’ve never seen them. Knowledge, like how to speak Yucatec or Gaelic, how to fashion tools from simple materials, and how to predict weather, are vanishing; those skills don’t buy anything. The awareness of where water comes from and where it goes, or why we grow certain plants for food is already lost on many of us. Many of us assume that because these ways of thinking, observing, and interacting are dissolving into history that they must not be of value. Though most of us make this judgment without any firsthand knowledge of what we are losing.
The truth is that these thin streams of knowledge bear directly on many pressing problems. These pursuits encourage understanding of other people, other cultures. They promote an understanding of the fundamental connection between ecology and economy. And they teach people to recognize the difference between the illusion of abundance and the joy of genuinely having what we want and need.


Pat Jenkins said...

e.r. How about the feeling of personnal accomplishment? i know for me if there were a time i had to survive in the wild, God forbid, i would fell extremely satisfyed!!!!

Kit said...

how enlightening :) reading your post made me suddenly want to at least hear yucatec or gaelic being spoken. or learning it. maybe i shouldn't have given up latin so easily when it was forced on me, even though latin happens to not be as dead as those that you've named..

ooh, on the other hand, i have some recommendations, if you're interested. and i am glad to know of the news that keith donohue has another manuscript :) angels huh? i'm already dying to read it. anyway, here are a few recommendations worth mentioning that i've been through in the last two months:

silent in the grave, deanna raybourn
the meaning of night, michael cox
the name of the wind, patrick rothfuss

unfortunately that's all i have for recommendations lately :( i've been spending too much time buried in victorian mystery/romance since finishing 'silent in the grave' and dreading not having another like it. though you might or might not find 'silent in the grave' a bit too feminine for you, since it is published under a branch of harlequin. sorry i haven't responded as fast as i would have liked, since i always manage to put off any tasks at the pc nowadays--too many books to curl up with :) i would love to hear any recommendations from you, knowing your great taste :D

by the way, beautiful shot. did you take it? and have you noticed how beautifully it compliments your banner at the top?

E. R. Dunhill said...

You’re absolutely right about a sense of accomplishment. Though, this feeling was overshadowed almost immediately by something more profound. In some cases, the act of producing artifacts of primitive technology- a fire from a scavenged hand drill, vessels from locally collected clay, rhyolite blades, &c- seemed to excite some area of the brain that most of us never use. In reflecting on this since, I’ve thought of Jung’s idea of a collective unconscious. For me, the insights from this continue to shake-out in their own time.
Thanks for reading.


E. R. Dunhill said...

It’s good to see you’re back. Thank you for the book recommendations. I have no fiction titles to offer in return, though I did recently read Turtle Island (Gary Snyder) and Honey and Salt (Carl Sandburg). Personally, I preferred the former; Snyder is a kindred spirit. Sandburg’s poetry offered an interesting contrast in its use of images from the human environment, vis-à-vis Snyder’s natural environment.
As for Gaelic and Yucatec, these are still spoken as a first language by some, though perhaps in decreasing numbers. I was a little surprised when I was in Mexico last summer to see Maya languages in such broad use. It got me thinking a little about languages indigenous to N. America. Some readings on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in a course on organizational communication got me thinking about how I might gain some new insight by learning something of American languages. These languages evolved in biomes closer to my home than my native tongue, which began across the Pond.
Regarding the picture, no, this is not my work. It is a great image, though. If you follow the link, you can see where I scavenged it. As you surmised, I chose it to match the design of the rest of the blog.
Thanks for stopping by.


kiki said...

hmm... maps sounds like a pretty cool organization. i'd love to participate in a similar event in oregon. thanks for the idea- i'm going to go do a little research now!

E. R. Dunhill said...

Thanks for stopping-in. MAPS and Ancestral Knowledge are both great groups. Some of the instructors at the recent rendezvous in Thurmont, MD participate in events all over the country. I'll ask around and post something on similar groups. If you run across anything of interest, I'd love to hear about it.

kat said...

lines are subjective...