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Friday dawned cloudy and breezy, but was slated to be dry at least. I packed two rubbermaid boxes of stuff for Steve to ship to Maryland to make more room in the van. And really, how much fun is it to send yourself a present of damp dirty clothes? yay! Mildew and sand!
In reality, it rained a bit on and off and the temperature fluctuated wildly, so that we were always peeling off or piling on the layers. I went to a talk about harvesting and using sumac. It was pretty cool and I’ve even used that knowledge since coming home. I pulled off to the side of the road and stepped into an unseen ditch and staggered up the other side and picked a whole bagful of heads. I processed it while watching Project Runway, just like our Native American forbears.
It warmed up enough that I decided to brave the cold lake waters. Emily had gone in once a couple of days ago. The girls had gone in nearly every day. but it was cooooold. I went in slowly, exclaiming rather a lot, but I did it. The Minnesotans mocked me.
I must admit, though, that once in, it felt good. And getting out, I felt so CLEAN, like I sparkled (probably just the nerve endings waking up again). Of course, that was all out the window as soon as I squelched back into Camp Soggy Bottom, but I at least got the street cred from going into the lake.
Then it was time to start cooking for the potluck. I opted for chili- one pot vegetarian, one pot containing venison jerky. Michael cooked some of the bear and some chanterelles that were harvested from the woods that morning. Yes, we made him double check with several people that they were, in fact, edible.
The potluck was great, as usual. Like last year, most dishes were either vegetarian or wild game. I even got to try woodchuck, which was identified by a ripped piece of paper with “wOodChuCK” scrawled on it with charred stick. I am embarrassed to have not taken a photo. For the record, it was meh, not something I’d request, but good to know I could eat one if I had to. Lord knows we have plenty. Lots of bear dishes, of course. And, like last year, there was barely a groundnut left when it was over. Om nom nom!
I skipped the next morning’s closing circle. It tends to be teary and long and I needed to get us packed up and out. Hardening my heart for the trip back out to the World, you know. Ben had finished his bow at last, so he and Steve and Michael went to the archery range to give it a work out. The mosquitoes were apparently epic, so they weren’t there long.
We piled in and were on the road by 11. I had washed one pair of my nylon pants in the lake and wore themthem on Saturday for the drive out. I was just off the property when it became clear that the pants were filthy by non-camp standards. The kids were likewise nasty. Luckily wie didn’t need to go into any restaurants. Or gas stations. We headed home via the Upper Peninsula. I was, once again, staggered by how BIG Michigan is. We didn’t even make it out before nightfall. America is large and mostly empty. Most of the UP is for sale. Old Howard Johnsons that have become Knights Inns are a little creepy. But cheap.
We got home at 8:30 on Sunday night and the kids were out the door for the first day of school at 8:30 Monday morning.
A few side notes, and then pictures:
–on the beach, you can find “grandfather stones” these really oddly beautiful rock formations. I can only find this web entry about them, an excerpt from Weird Wisconsin. They are sacred to the Bad River tribe, so they ask that you leave them there. It’s hard to do b/c they are SUPER cool, but the thought of angry Native American spirits hanging around my house is a pretty good deterrent. Even if they would be helpful to have around at sumac processing time.
–One of Buckskin Brad’s kids was peeing literally every time I saw him. I came to suspect that he was not an actual child, but one of those weird “time out” dolls that were perversely popular a while back.
–There were 200 folks at the Gathering, and 70 of them were kids. Or 60. Can’t recall. Loads. Many of them in the one year-18 mos range. Most of them bare bottomed and apple cheeked. So. flippin’. cute.
Wednesday was cold and rainy. It was hard to believe that just the day before, I’d been sitting on the beach in a bathing suit top, feeling overheated. I’d made wool mittens that day with little idea that I’d wear them the very next day. I didn’t sleep well because I had a weather-ear open all night and awoke with each new thunder clap. We weather-proofed a bit, hanging up old shower curtains as walls around the kitchen canopy. It was allll class. That morning at circle, a member of the local tribe’s Bear Clan spoke to us all, pointing out that folks weren’t really as respectful of the bear as they should have been. She was clear that she wasn’t offended, but felt like the bear’s death and gift of meat weren’t taken as seriously as they might have and that we should be mindful of this. It was good for all to hear, and she asked us to be sure to offer up bear dishes at the potluck on Friday.
I spent the morning finishing up my mittens, huddled in my tent. Sounds more depressing than it was, it was actually nice to spend some time by myself, stitching carefully, listening to the waves crash and the rain patter. Also had to periodically push the water off the tent, EZ up, and tarp that Michael strung up to give us a dry place to sit other than our tents. Those spaces, of course, were always full of chattering children, hence my being in the tent. Also, no mosquitoes in the tent. Last year, the skeeters hadn’t been that bad. They were slow-moving and not particularly numerous. I didn’t even bother with bug spray. This year, there had been a lot of rain all summer and the mosquitoes were as big as sparrows, speedy, and great in number. The upside to all of that was that there were also scads of dragonflies that were just gorgeous. Huge with a blue tile-like pattern on their backs. I had planned to take a fermented foods class in the afternoon, but it was called on account of skeeters. That bad.
With no class to attend, I just hung out by last year’s cob oven. It was fired up for people to cook in, so in this weather was a center for chatting and cooking and warming one’s tailfeathers. While I was there, I got to taste bear cooked in woodchuck (groundhog to some of you) fat. Roadkill bear in roadkill groundhog. It’s a new day. Bear, for those that have never had it, is beefy, but a bit sweeter. The raw venison (meat laundry) was ready, so I tasted some of that. No maggots that I could see. I left those for Roach. I wasn’t crazy about it raw, so I saved the rest to put in a stew.
We had more bear at dinner, this time cooked in regular old non-road-kill olive oil. My kids were uninterested in trying it, but the other kids were excited. Square dancing in the lane after dinner. The ground was too boggy and since it wasn’t actually raining at the time, we didn’t go into the roundhouse like last year. It was very fun, even though it was oppressively humid and buggy. I realized I couldn’t recall a time that I camped and it didn’t rain. Perhaps I could hire myself out. If you need rain, I’ll come pitch a tent in your yard. Just let me know. Anyway, Ben ditched dancing to play foot tag on the beach (I have no idea what it is, but the kids played almost every night and loved it). Julianna and Lily danced with us. Roach picked up Julianna’s sweatshirt from the side of the road and stuffed it in his shirt to serve as fake boobs (there was a blonde afro wig that was making the rounds in all manner of hijinks). She seemed a bit scandalized and afraid that her shirt would get whiffy. A reasonable concern, as by Wednesday, the under-the-arm moves of square dancing start to get a bit sketchy. Once it was released, though, she was relieved to find it was fine.
After a while, it started to rain and we dispersed to our tents. The tribal elders were somewhere on the property preparing for the next weekend’s pow-wow, so there was constant drumming to accompany the thunder. It felt really sinister to my ears, untrained to the nuances of Native American drumming. I read for a while and fell into a light sleep only to be awakened to the sound of our dishes crashing from the shelves. The weight of the rain on the tarp and joined with the weight of the rain on the EZ up, causing it to collapse on one side. It was VERY loud, which brought out our neighbors to help us rig it back up to get it through the night. As we scurried through the puddles, rescuing our stuff and McGuyvering the canopy back up, the kids said “Well, at least the rain is letting up.” Nicholas (Buckskin Brad) said “Or it’s just…well, we’ll just leave it at that” in this way that totally freaked me out. So with my fear that we were just in the lull before a much worse storm, a worry that the canopy would go over completely, the thunder and the drumming…not much with the sleeping that night, either.
We woke to a lovely day, though, with the canopy still holding. We spent some time getting things set to rights a bit, shoring up the broken spot, moving our shelf out of the puddle to higher ground. I made bacon and both Ben and Lily tried it. Lily declared “I like bacon!” and requested it in her lunch box every day. She’s not eaten it since. Ben, on the other hand, awakened to a love of cured and/or smoked meats and has since enjoyed summer sausage, hard salami, beef jerky, and ribs.
I spent Thursday in wet felting class with Julianna. I’d wanted to take it last year, but the whole week was consumed with wool dying. I made a point of getting in this time. Julianna made a very cute felted hat, I made a bag. Oklahoma Joe, the instructor, wouldn’t take any money, so I paid in pistachios. Ben made a bone knife. Lily ran around. Steve walked on the beach. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention Steve’s deerskin book–he made a really pretty notebook from a deerhide. Johnny Rock tanned the hides and taught the class, apparently he’s really something in the world of the deerskin-clothed folk. He makes gorgeous garments. Steve said he read aloud to them from Women Who Run with the Wolves and discussed Jung and opera.
At night, in the roundhouse, a guy came to talk about his 1000 mile trip in a birchbark canoe. I missed most of the talk as I was trying to figure out where all my kids were (they were in the roundhouse. Which I never imagined). While it was pretty interesting and looked amazing, it was, in the end, someone else’s vacation photos. Oh look, it’s his dog again. I did stand at the back, though, and think “I like these people.”
Went to bed to the sounds of ANOTHER thunderstorm.