Friday, July 30, 2010

KSTF Summer Meeting: Turns Out I Voluntarily Left the State of VT (!?!)

Albeit for a very short while...

Not too much to say at the moment since it's past midnight, and I'm definitely tired :P but I'm hanging out in Philadelphia at the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation summer meeting: the first KSTF meeting I've voluntarily attended since my fellowship ended last year. What can I say? I just couldn't stay away. I love these people. Tomorrow I'm presenting with two other fellows in a seminar called "Off the Grid" in which two guys were inspired by my bike generators of a few years ago, and went on to build super sweet bicycle generators to take their classrooms off the grid. Very nice. They drove to the meeting so that they could bring their bike generator to the meeting, so people have been donating energy so that the presentation itself can be run off of the human-energy-filled battery. Best of all, these guys made shirts for us. Pictures to come.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Survival or Simple Living?

So I just got back from the Roots School Core Skills 1 class, which was about survival skills and wow. I just had my mind blown, and I need a place to digest it all before I can move on. (Specifically, I need to finish the sermon I'm supposed to give tomorrow at St. Andrew's, but I can't really get there while there's still Roots School stuff floating about in my head).

It would be too much to write about all the different pieces because we just did SO MUCH! Something I absolutely loved about this class was that pretty much with every topic we learned about we then actually tried. We got time to put into practice the things we learned. For example... We learned about how to catch animals through specific snare and trap designs and then we built them (and then unbuilt them, or caught sticks in them, cause apparently it's illegal to actually set traps and snares unless you're in a survival situation). We learned about boiling water with hot rocks, and then we made water-tight containers using only material from a white pine and then boiled water with rocks. Sweet. The entire week was like that. Everyday was something new centered around the themes of Shelter, Water, Fire, and Food.

Some highlights for me: skinning a rabbit (a sacred, serious, but important act), learning about natural springs, plant drawing & identification (yay for white-man's-foot aka wide-leaf plantain), starting my first bow-drill fire.

But I guess what I'm really interested in writing about is the transition back into modern civilization, because it's not what I expected. Honestly, I haven't been much of a camper, so being all dirty and smelly and grimmy was somewhat of a new sensation, if you will. I slept quite poorly about every other night in the tent (temperature, turning my brain off, getting comfortable all active players in that issue) which made me look forward to coming home to my bed all the more. That's one modern comfort I seem to be stuck to.

But as I drove to Essex from the Roots School I had quite an unexpected reaction. I had the urge to stop and examine roadkill... (!) cause... well... i would know what to do with it and I could tell if it was fresh enough to bother. I had a new appreciation for the tank which is the groundhog that lay dead on the side of the road. I couldn't bring myself to drive faster than 60mph for some reason, so a lot of people passed me, and it was really hard not to judge them... or at least quietly think to myself "My gosh, they probably don't know how to survive. They probably can't make a fire without matches." Well, of course, if someone told them, and gave them an opportunity, I'm sure just about anybody could learn. But still, I thought about the society I was entering: air conditioned, comfortable, full of sugar and noise, and it seemed to me that I preferred the woods. The hot but shady, mildly uncomfortable, incredibly rich and deep woods. I don't really want to use matches now that I know i don't have to. And now that i've had 3 maple cookies, a macaroon, and blueberry jam in my cereal, I think I'd prefer the rice and beans we ate in the woods. (It should be noted that the cooking at the Roots School is worth the price of tuition alone. It's delectable, mostly local, organic, and very happy meats. Very happy. (Thanks Sarah and Benny!)

Already I miss the smell of the cedar campfire, the background noise of the thrushes, the filtered green light that came with being outside pretty much all day. I miss the water. dang.

This class has taken "simple living" to a whole new level, and I'm not sure I'll ever be the same. I hope not, actually. :)