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Let’s wrap this up, nearly a month later, shall we?

On Friday morning, I joined the adorable Zach to make a buckskin pouch.  I’d about convinced myself that I should totally get a hide and make a buckskin hoodie.  I could dye it and then it would be more wearable in the not-Gathering world…But it turns out buckskin is a pain in the butt to sew and even more expensive than I’d thought.  Also, once you’re away from this setting for awhile, it seems less reasonable to walk around in smoky buckskin.  Like at the Renfest, where you’re sure you’d wear that pirate shirt all the time! it’s okay that it’s $150 ’cause you’ll wear it!  A lot!  And then, you get back to the 21st century and realize what a silly idea it was.  So I’m just going to go with the pouch.  It came out well and it smells like camp.

After lunch, I went on a plant walk.  Every other year, Emily and I had trailed along after Sam Thayer who write The Forager’s Harvest books.  Sam couldn’t make it this year, but Joe (of my beloved botany classes) was there for us.  It was such a funny contrast between the two.  Sam just walks along, shoving crap in his mouth as he goes.  Down on the beach, Joe showed us the beach peas and said not to eat them.  Sam was suggesting we could eat them fresh or grind the dried ones to flour or whatever.  I said something about Sam eating them and Joe replied something along the lines of “Sam eats a lot of weird stuff.” (not a quote.  He was far more diplomatic than that).  Joe’s walk was more science-oriented, because, you know, that’s his job.  I felt like I crammed a few more plant names into my head.  I learned that the trees I’d thought were birch were mostly aspen.  The fantastic rustling is Aspen.  I think I’d just decided those were all in Colorado.  I really appreciated his helping us see the little differences in closely similar plants and wished I could have spent more time learning that stuff.

I spent the late afternoon trying to read the Dungeon Master’s Guide on the beach, as making a pouch made me remember that I was supposed to lead a D&D group once I got home…It quickly became clear that my ability to learn by reading (never my strongest pathway anyway) is eroding.  I need to find a group to watch.

Michael convinced the kids they needed to go to a presentation about a proposed mine that will likely quite wreck the ecosystem there.  He thought it would be short and energizing, but it was an hour long and PowerPointy.  Even he fell asleep.  The kids were outraged that they’d left their Capture the Flag game for it.  And when it was over?  The cute boys had already gone home!

That night was the potluck.  Wonderful as usual.  It’s so nice to have a full spread of food cooked the way I’d cook it, with ingredients I’d use.  Sadly, corned venison was the weirdest thing I got to eat.  I thought I had stumbled upon a real mystery meat for a while, though.  I’d gotten some kind of ricey stew.  It was slightly sweet, spiced with desserty spices–cinnamon, cloves.  the meat was of an odd texture–dense but soft.  As I was trying to figure it out, Emily said something about a rice dish with bananas in it and it clicked: Ah, it’s dried, stewed, banana.  Not meat at all.  Hey, I’ve only been back on the meat wagon for a year.

The sunset behind the roundhouse was amazing.  I was only able to not feel despondent about leaving b/c I knew we’d be back next year.

The girls decided to sleep on the beach that night, which seemed cute.  Ben went to sleep with Steve, so the second tent was empty.  Until there were fireworks in Ashland, which the girls thought was lightning, and they came scurrying up.  And my other-side neighbors seemed to be pulling an all-nighter, too.  I got a little cranky.  I’m a stickler for quiet hours.  I’d managed to doze off, thinking the neighbors were asleep.  But no, they just weren’t home.  They rolled in and started with the ZIIIIP! and the farging air mattress pump and the talking.  I seriously would have punched them all.  Even the cute little girl.  And then the teen gals came up of the beach and chattered.  I started muttering audibly.  I heard Grace go “Hi, Deana…” but my sleep-rage was directed mostly at the adults.  I realized that the Gathering cannot be more than a week b/c you cannot sleep right next to non-relatives any longer than that and not need to strangle them. My goodwill towards my fellow man was running out.  And it was time to go home.

Saturday dawned bright and clear.  We mailed some boxes of stuff home to make room in the car for the tents.  Zach came by to say good bye and amazed us all by eating a hardboiled egg whole, shell and all.  On our trip back, we ate our eggs Zach-style.  It’s crunchy.  And no mess!

Once again, it was move-in weekend at local colleges, so we had trouble finding a place to stay, but we made it nearly out of Michigan on Day one.  We’ll not go through the UP again, though.  It’s pretty, but if you get behind a slow driver, you’re just stuck.  And we were.  So next year, we’ll just come and go through WI.  Sorry MI.

School started later this year, so the kids had a whole week between arriving back from camp and going to school.  The weather stayed dry so I could air out all our stuff before putting it away until next year.

Picture time!


For the past two years, an artist has made these amazing scultures on the beach

Pictures just can't capture it, sadly. It's all found objects, arranged and woven together

This year, he led a class in fairy house-making, helping others make smaller-scale sculptures

I find them enchanting

I would totally live here, if I were a fairy.

Emily and I at the potluck. Note my cool pouch.

Ben and his buddy Zack

Sunset behind the roundhouse. In person, it looked like the woods were on fire.

Lily gazing at the amazing Letty

My grass mat, my spoon, my earrings, my pouch, and my needlefelting

home base

Eli, Ben, and Ezra. This probably ended badly.

Michael, in the cowboy hat, helping Roach with the bent sapling structure, which was really lovely when finished

The hide tanners

Hex weave baskets that made grown women cryRoaming packs of semi-feral children

Julianna, Ezra, and Grace



ARGH!  I had a long and lovely post.  Went to publish it and WP hiccuped and away went everything I’d written that day.  So I still had a previously saved first half, but have to recreate the second half.  which I’ve put off and put off b/c I hate to write a thing twice.  I don’t even proofread, let alone rewrite.  So grr.  But here you go.

While we went to sleep Tuesday night to an impressive storm–tent walls heaving in and out, torrential rain–I was so tired I sacked out cold and woke around 11:30 to utter calm.  No wind, no rain, no waves.  Wednesday dawned bright and clear.

Frederick Joe came by for breakfast and we chatted about the places we go and things we do.  He turns out to live near where the kids went rock climbing with 4-H.  Really, how weird is it that two vans from Frederick drove to this tiny spot in Wisconsin?  150 people, and 6 of us are from the same town, two days’ drive away.

After breakfast, Emily, Grace, Julianna, and I did a porcupine quill jewelry class.  The instructor, Ginny, had no idea what she was in for, bless ‘er.  She’d placed no limits on age or number and just got flooded with folks.  She took kids first, and I helped out a bit since I have made jewelry in the past (albeit not with my Leatherman pliers).  Once we got the swarm of kids cleared away, I got to make my own earrings.  They were simple, but very pretty and surprisingly light.  Ginny had “harvested” the quills from the THREE roadkill porcupines she passed on the way to the Gathering.  (She says she came upon them.  I’ll just push that image of her swerving her car on a porcupine hunting expedition out of my mind…”I need more QUILLS!”)  Sadly, we did not get to eat roadkill porcupine.  PORCupine, the Other White meat.

Rockin' my earrings. Better photo to come

Shortly after starting my earrings, it became clear that we could use more scissors.  I volunteered to pop back to camp and get mine.  I returned minutes later to find Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl in my spot.  My spot that contained my stuff and my water bottle, wedged between two other people.  Emily assures me that she just plopped her skinny ass down with nary a “is this spot taken?” or “is this your stuff?”  Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl (HNDG) is half of a new couple at the Gathering.  Her beloved, Dreadlock Egg Sac Boy, has his enormous blonde dreadlocks pulled back in a manner that makes his head shaped like the Alien from Alien or like he has some manner of egg sac on the back of his head.  Also, pointy goatee, suggesting he’s an Evil Twin.  On the first day, she was cavorting topless in the waves.  Nudity is a no-no here, but we’ll give them a pass b/c they are new and we hadn’t had Opening Circle (it IS in the rules on-line though.  but I’m being all laid-back and chill).  After that first day, she had the grace to wear an open-weave crocheted bikini top all week (with an attractive tapestry vest over it if it got chilly).  I’ve said that there are no hippies at hippie camp, but these two have that vibe.  They were more Burning Man than Gathering.  Like a catalog-order version of a real attendee.  They irked me.  can you tell?  She showed up late for most of the classes I took and assumed she’d get immediate and personal attention.  She was never mean or anything, just entitled.  She had that Rich Girl obliviousness that can be rawther off-putting.  Trustafarians.

Lunch, then needlefelting.  I’d done it before a couple of times, but Lily wanted me to join her in it, so I did.  She was needlefelting a little cat, I decided to put a design on one of the sweaters I’d chopped up and re-made.  I adore the instructor, Maria, who I think started coming the same year we did.  She’s sweet and young and crafty.  Also has trouble telling kids “no.”  It’s okay to insist that your tools be used properly.  Really.  The kids will get over the trauma of not being allowed to do whatever they want.

Today’s swim was short, as I just couldn’t get into the groove needed to really enjoy that water.  The wind had a chill to it that kept me from relaxing.  So I just sat on the beach and read until it was time to make dinner.  The sun felt soooo good on my skin.  I turned part lizard and just basked.

After dinner, I knitted on the beach for a bit and then headed over to the trading blanket.  I thought I’d take a hat I’d made to trade in case I saw a knife for Ben.  I had avoided the trading blanket like the plague after that first year.  It seemed more laid back and less…mimey now.  A person puts out, say, a jar of preserves.  The people who would like that jar take up the things they are willing to trade for it and leave them on the blanket.  The owner of the preserves then looks over the offers and chooses one (or decides not to trade), and exchanges goods with the winning bidder.  Next person takes up something and so on.  Some of the antics of folks trying to “describe” their item w/o talking were funny and the small children who’d just run up and snag a thing they wanted were cracking me up.

There were lovely hides on display to sell or trade (they sell for over $100) and they’re soooo soft and I want them.  But 44 year old suburban white lady in a buckskin skirt?  I don’t think so.  74? no problem.  24? sure.  But I’m in that REI zone, I think.

Usual hunt for children at dusk.  That is a big part of what the Gathering is, for me.  It’s almost dark, I can’t see, I have no idea where at least one, usually two of my kids are.  I know they’re fine, but there’s always that part of your brain that says ‘what about the lake?” or ” what about those dense woods?”  I send out a thanks to all the parents and kid-friendly folk who so kindly took in my kids and kept an eye on them.  This freedom to meander is important enough to my kids for me to get past the lost-kid anxiety.

On Thursday, Steve, Ben, Julianna, and I were all signed up to take a spoon carving class with Yuri.  Lily went off to finish needle-felting her cat and to felt a gazillion other things (bless Maria’s patience and aforementioned disinclination to say No).  carving was both harder and more satisfying than I expected.  When Yuri showed us what to do, it looked like he was carving a bar of soap with a hot knife.  When went to do the same, it was like I was trying to carve the wood with a plastic spork.  But it was enjoyable.  I felt very butch to go to bed that night with a bruise on my chest, just like Yuri said he often got.

We took a lunch break, and while waiting for Yuri to come back again, I sat in on Joe’s botany class.  It’s the class I loved last year, using a botany key to identify plants.  It was still fun, and I was still able to Win at Plants so yay!  I was the only of our family to go back to carving that afternoon, but you don’t Win at Spoon by going swimming.  It was hard to tell how I was doing, as Yuri has that Scandinavian taciturn thing going on.  “‘S good.  Just take it down some more here.”  “‘S good.  You might want to take in the handle some.”  But when I declared it done and had him put it into the oil to soak, the other spoon-carving guy, Rod, said “Wow, who did that one?” so Win!  And on Saturday, when I went to pick up the spoons after their soak, even Yuri told me what a good job I’d done.  Gold star!  He also said that Julianna’s was really good and that Ben’s was impressive for his age.  Steve’s was coming along nicely, but he over-carved and ended up snapping it in two.  He’s game to try again, though, so I got some blanks to carve more.  But let’s be clear: I won.

Steve and Ben at their spoon carving

Julianna cuts off everything that isn't a spoon

After dinner, we went to square dancing.  it was humid and buggy again this year, but still so much fun.  I was inspired to maybe learn to call dances (and, you know, Win at Square Dance) just to be able to make that much happy happen.  Great music, dancing with rules, lots of silliness.  What’s better?

My camera doesn't like low light OR movement. But there are Steve and Lily

I bid Steve goodnight and walked down to the beach to fetch our teenagers.  They were all sitting around a fire and begged to stay until 10pm, quiet hours.  Making them swear to come back at 10, we left them.  It was such a good space of the teens, they have freedom, but lots of adults around.  They were constantly playing games together, the sorts of games that let them tussle a bit, have a safe physical outlet–capture the flag, red rover.  The first year that we were at the Gathering, there was this little group of teen girls who walked around dressed as if they were at the mall.  We noticed at the time that there were very few teens, it really went up to about 12 and then jumped to 20somethings.  Now those 12 year olds ARE the teens, and they fit in very nicely.  A lot of the teen boys were new this year, but I bet they come back. Wouldn’t you?

Even with her tongue out, Grace is cute

As we walked up the beach, I voiced regret at having to go back and face responsibilities, esp. the heavier 4-H load I’d agreed to take on.  Michael asked what the 4-H’s were, so I recited the “Head, Heart, Hands, Health” pledge.  Andrea, sitting near our camp as we arrived, asked “Do you know the Girl Scout pledge, too?”  So I told her that I was never a girl scout, but had been an Indian Princess.  She guffawed, “A what?”  And so I explained it to her and told her how I was in the Blacklick tribe (“the WHAT?”  No, really, it’s a real tribe.  I think.) and my dad was Big White Oak and I was Little White Oak (oh, I assure you, I lobbied HARD for a horse-related name), and my mom made me awesome pants with an orange fringe down the side and we had vinyl fringey vests and we could work to earn feathers for our headbands (“You did NOT!”) or wampum beads (“Nuh-UH!) or patches for our cool vests.  She declared “that is the most un-PC thing I have ever heard of.”  And yeah, pretty out of touch–and I’m stunned that it still seems to exist–but it was always respectful (albeit in its own anachronistic way) of Native American culture and it was father-daughter thing, which meant the world to me.  But man, did that ever make me feel like I was old enough to have seen a minstrel show.

Oh, and also on Thursday?  Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl and the beloved took their canoe out onto the lake…backwards.

Capture The Flag "jail"

Lily rocking the sandals she made


September 2011
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