I’m half way through the stone age immersion or prehistoric project preparation at Lynx Vilden’s Living Wild School. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve been here this long. I’ve been struggling pretty hard not to run away back to my community in Portland. My girlfriend came up and stayed with us for a few days and that felt reaffirming and helped ground me to the people here. It’s weird – I feel more connected to them now that they have met my girlfriend. They no longer feel as a foreign community to my own community.
I’ve had a few problems up here. The major ones have been physical and psychological, the minor ones have been social. My diet has been amazing. Everyone here has been super supportive of my crazy dietary needs – which we’ll be having to follow on the project anyway, as we’ll be eating only wild, paleo foods. This definitely helped the group help me. In spite of all this… I’ve still been having diarrhea every time I go to the bathroom. I’ve still had bad urgency problems in the morning and throughout the day. This problem is generally not too big of a deal, but when combined with lots of wiping my ass with rough leaves and sitting on hard logs for a few weeks, I now have a case of severe hemorrhoids. I don’t usually use over the counter medicine when I get these, but this time I’ve made a new best friend in Preparation H. This seems to be doing the trick. Now if I can figure out how to get rid of the diarrhea I’ll be all set.
The psychological problems come mostly from pain and suffering from the health problems. Often I notice I’ll be super irritable, like a cat with a sliver in its paw, when I’m experiencing fatigue or pain. There is a voice in my head that is always trying to get me to quit, to go home. I know myself well enough now that this usually just means I need to drink water, eat some fatty meat or take a nap. Still though, it can be a very loud voice sometimes and I’ve come close to packing up my shit once or twice.
The social problems are more interesting to me than I thought. Lynx, and many of her former students, have said that the hardest skills are not the primitive technology and crafts that we are creating, but the social dynamics. Lynx does not give us a social model to use for the class, but rather lets the social structure organically take shape as conflicts arise. At times this feels either completely genius or like a total cluster fuck. Either way I have come to understand a lot about people who have no social structure imposed on them and how they create one from nothing. I personally would have preferred us to have a social system in place to minimize conflicts and speed up our group processes, but I’ve come to enjoy watching the drama unfold. I used to say that the interactions between people in RealityTV shows was played up and fake, dramatized for entertainment. Now I realize that, no, it’s actually pretty much real. Our group is awesome and works together fairly well… Fairly well. There are still many face-palm moments that make me cringe or feel like “blowing my brains out” – which I blurted out to the group a few days back, causing some to thank me and some to scorn me. When I run my own program, I’ll have a social governing/decision-making system in place, but this has been a great learning experience for me to see how people work together to create their own.
All in all this experience has been amazing so far in so many ways. I know how to do a lot of the stuff we are doing up here, most primitive skills are so simple to learn. The education I’m getting is in the little nuances. The little things that come from a collective knowledge of working on these skills for decades. Accumulatively, the knowledge here is unbelievable and well worth the experience alone.
I’m feeling very ready for the project now. I was worried about the time frame and if I had time to finish everything I need for the project in just one month, but now I’m certain that I’ll be ready. I’ve been felting a blanket for the last couple days in sweltering heat. Today I hope to finish or at least get ready to roll it tomorrow morning. This afternoon I am also fleshing and scraping a sheep skin to use as a ground cloth. Tonight I hope to sew the soles onto my shoes. Then it’s on to fish camp where I’ll make fishing line from Nettle fiber and hooks from deer bones. Then I need to re-soften two deer hides and start making my pants while re-softening some bark-tanned strips of raccoon hide to make my raccoon vest longer than a belly shirt (although I am tempted to leave it that way). After that I’ll patch up my shirt and felt some inserts for my shoes and then maybe, maybe make some mittens out of those rabbit hides. Somewhere in there I’ll need to slaughter a llama and gather and dry a bunch of Saskatoon berries. Best. Summer. Ever.
If I’m not helping Lynx run another project next year, I’ll be running something similar through Rewild Portland.