Wednesday, June 29, 2011
I grew up plotting ways to escape from Vacation Bible School. I did not like it, Sam-I-Am. I did not like it in a boat or with a goat or…….never mind. As a child, it always seemed goofy to me.
The big one was always held at First Baptist Church. You had to line up outside, march in with a flag, go through some rituals I never understood, sing songs that seemed babyish to me, the whole nine yards of let-me-out-of-here!
The worst was the craft time. I loved art, being able to imagine and create. But, you know what I’m talking about, VBS crafts were not vaguely related to art. “Here. Glue this pea onto this popsicle stick. Not there….., here! On this exact spot! Now repeat that a thousand times!” I wonder if they incorporate Chinese water torture into the curriculum these days. Drip…..Drip…..Drip…..”There, good job!”
To this day, I try to avoid VBS. When my kids were young (I made them go to build their character), I felt obligated to participate. So I volunteered to keep the nursery for the workers. I can get creative with the newborns. Just don’t let their mothers know.
Brownie camp was no different. I remember in great detail making a sit-upon. Yep, that’s what they called it. It was a pillowcase stuffed with newspaper. That’s about it. Do I need to say more?
So this past week in Alaska I have made a birch bark basket and an agate necklace. What am I thinking?
I’m thinking this: I am overcoming my aversion to "crafts" to accommodate a real need to get down and dirty with nature. It’s not enough here to just observe it. I can watch the eagles soar past my window and hear the surf whipping the shore, but I need to be a participant somehow. It just feels like a need.
This is nothing new. Think of Thoreau and, even earlier, William Wordsworth. They got it. They had to get out there and be a part of it; living in it, living off it. It nourished their souls and gave them life. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. The elders here know about it.
So when Al said, “The women used to make baskets from the birch bark,” I said, “Let’s do it!” Al is going to learn to keep his mouth shut. He was on his knees in the dirt digging up a five foot rope of spruce root that became my sewing cord. When I complained I had no tools, he reluctantly handed me his Swiss army knife-looking thing and told me not to lose it. There was a forlorn look in his eye, like he was handing over his first born to Rumpelstiltskin.
I was up past midnight (with the sun still shining in), sitting on the floor making a glorious mess of water, bark, dirt and root. The prototype is pretty primitive, but if it were thought to be a hundred years old, it would be in a museum. I’m going with that thought.
I’m trying to stay outside as much as possible, now that it’s summer, and drink it all in. I have mosquito bites in my hair that feel like goose eggs, a big infected blister on my finger, a knife cut on the other hand (Al should have warned me!) and lots of mud and blood stains on my clothes from pulling fish. The poets would be proud!
Two days ago Al started showing me his firearms and said something like, “This one should be just right for you.”