When I posted on Facebook that I’d gotten back from the Traditional Ways Gathering, several friends demanded context in the idea that this loudmouthed queer weirdo in a distinctively non-traditional family might go to anything labeled ‘Traditional.’ Several other friends pointed out that I hate hippies.
(I don’t, as a matter of fact, hate hippies. I just like to make fun of them because my parents were hippies. This seems like a harmless hobby.)
Anyway, I went. My feet are covered in bug bites. I did not bathe for an entire week, although I did take an accidental dunking in Lake Superior when I was bent over, vigorously washing my felted wool pouch I’d just made, and a large wave overtook me.
The Traditional Ways Gathering is on private land in the Bad River Reservation on the south shore of Lake Superior near Ashland, WI. A bunch of folks get together to share skills and knowledge. You sign up, camp REALLY closely next to other people (since half of my neighborhood was up there, we weren’t next to strangers), and sign up for classes.
A sampling of classes:
- My friend Abby made a canoe paddle. MADE IT. It is stunning and beautiful and awesome.
- Other people make their own shoes. They were also gorgeous.
- Bow drill fire making.
- Hand drill fire making.
- Tanning deer hide. Making knife sheaths from rawhide. Making pouches from tanned deerskin.
- Spoon carving.
- All sorts of weaving classes: some making baskets, some cloth. One folded bark pouch class.
- Song circle. Dance classes. Drumming. Acro Yoga.
- Wild edibles.
- Astronomy (best astronomy lecture I have ever heard in my ENTIRE DAMN LIFE.)
Apparently this post will be all about making lists.
Favorite moments at Traditional Ways:
- The aforementioned accidental dunking.
- Felting a pouch. You pound soapy wool for a long time with your fingers, then you roll it up and knead it like hell for a long time. Then you HURL IT VICIOUSLY DOWN repeatedly on the table. Favorite crafting method by FAR.
- Realizing I made a weaving mistake at least ten minutes ago. Luxuriously, gloriously undoing it to start again from that spot. Not being in any hurry. Just doing it.
- Playing bodhrán while my little sister Noe fiddled and listening to all of the other wonderful musicians around the fire. Singing singing singing.
- FINALLY learning how to sing Ho Ro Haradala.
- The enthusiastic joy with which my children showed me the frogs and froglets they found in the frog pond.
- Huge fires on the beach.
- “Ice runs” and long talks with a friend I’m getting to know better.
- Making new friends over looms, wool, and damp cedar bark. (Most of them live in my neighborhood or in adjoining ones. Kind of hilarious to meet so many neighbors so far from home.)
- Seeing my kids bond with their cousins.
- Not caring what I looked like or smelled like.
- The potlock at which I had wild rice, bison, salmon, homemade Kim Chee, delicious salads.
- Watching my friends turn chunks of wood into beautiful art.
- The hypnotic rhythm of weaving, weaving, weaving. Listening to the waves roaring like the ocean. Peace. Sleep.