Sharpening with Dennis Chilcote - Sharpness is relative. Listen to the sound of the blade on the stone. Look for reflected light along the edge. Flip the burr until it falls off. Some things “don’t make a penis worth of difference” (in the words of Dennis).
Turning Bowls on the Lathe with Marybeth and Jess - Shaping a moving object requires ultimate focus. The maker must retain a stillness and sturdiness in her approach to stay safe and consistent. You will lose track of time in the turning and will leave class with every pocket of your clothes and crevice of your body full of wood shavings. Jess says there’s a beauty in turning green wood bowls: warping while drying is inevitable; the tree has the final say.
Concrete Sink Form Construction - Having space to work and the tools to get the job done is a gift. Have confidence in yourself and others will have confidence in you. Take initiative. Work overtime. Seek out and accept help. Embrace opportunities to experiment/challenge yourself. Don’t expect to succeed, and don’t expect to fail.
Wednesday Set-Up - Nia, Jake and I mused on how we all look forward to the weekly break-down and set-up of classes. Between the deep cleans and sweeps and endless moving round of tables, chairs, and stumps we learn the nooks and crannies of campus. It feels great to be useful and help restore order. I have found friends in the folks who come every Wednesday -- Joni and Nathan, Brody, Nikki and little Osier, plus the extended work study students. I always feel energized from their high spirits and good humor.
Bowl Carving with Jon Strom - There is doubt that creeps in the cracks between work and play. In the idle hours I often wonder what I’m doing and what to do next. But when the axe strikes the log, all doubt disappears. I am as solid as the stump and sure of my movements, aware of my body: hands holding and heart pumping. In this carving class, I felt at once out of place -- a young woman amongst a slew of older menfolk -- and at the same time, I felt at home in the work.
I watched wood chips flying and Jon Strom watering his kale seedlings in the sunny window. His wife was out of town so he decided to bring them along and tend to them while tending his class.
Wood Week Lectures/Carving Nights - I learned to keep asking questions and seeking stories. Conversation is the way we whittle each other down and the stories we share shape us. Questions are our carving tools and can reveal beautiful and rewarding results if used with finesse. But connecting with others is a craft that also requires patience and practice.
Leisel’s Lecture - The Maori believe we are all given three baskets of knowledge: the knowledge before us, the knowledge within us, and the knowledge beyond us. I believe this to be true.
Many nights I wake up dreaming that I’m weaving the blanket above me. I flip back and forth restlessly moving over and under and through.
Black Ash Pack Baskets with Ian - Since arriving here at North House I have become deeply interested in baskets. Ian’s pack basket class resolved many of my questions and, of course, inspired new ones. Since that class, I’ve been flipping through basket books, processing material, and continuing to weave more baskets. The steps are often satisfying and intuitive and the end result holds great potential.
Community Cabin Dance Party - There were fourteen of us who showed up to Ben’s monthly dance party. The cabin was lit with colored lights and banners that read “Dance Dance Dance” and dance we did. North House staff, artisans, interns, instructors, and community members from all walks danced in lone circles expanding ourselves fully in the space. Releasing tensions and taking room to stretch our souls.
There’s great value in dancing alone and equal value in dancing together.
Contra Dance - Though I was tired from a long day of pounding out and processing black ash splints for our basket class, I went to the community contra dance. At the start I was clumsy and stiff, but by the end I improved and could follow the steps with ease. I danced circles with friends and strangers ranging from seven to seventy years of age.
I stayed after the dance to join the old time jam. I played along on the guitar by watching the fingers of fellow guitarists and challenged my ear to pick up the tunes. We strummed and stomped late into the night.
Punk School Square Dance - When the Chili Potluck was cancelled because of the Coronavirus, I went with Elise, Ben, Jenny, and Eric to a square dance at the Punk School in Finland. Elise passed around the whiskey and we danced the tiles off the floor of the old school house. I was again grateful for the chance to let loose and swing in tangled circles -- to give rhythm and reason to the spinning of an already dizzy world.
Sledding without Chickens (Dinner at the Wrights) - The Wrights live in a beautiful timber framed home they built together years ago. Their homestead was a wonder to explore. There, I learned that one should not sled with chickens in icy conditions. Always take a running start with a plastic sled. The more people you can pile onto one sled, the more fun. Aspire to be as brilliant, curious, engaged, and adventuresome as the Wrights.
Full Moon Hike and Sauna with ADP - Elise invited interns and artisans to hike along the Superior Hiking Trail up to Pincushion Mt. At the overlook, we gazed off at Superior’s shoreline and watched the sunset and the almost full moon rise. After a good sweat in the sauna, we shared food, drinks, advice, and lots of laughs in the kitchen of her cozy abode. Lessons learned: be grateful to be amongst incredibly kind and creative people, make fresh salsa more often, and wear socks when running naked in the snow.
Menogyn Field Trip - Also wear socks when jumping through holes in the ice to submerge in icy lake water between sauna sweats. It was so nice to finally get up the Gunflint Trail. We had a great day touring the impressive YMCA camp, petting sled dogs, studying maps, exploring cabins, and sliding down icy trails on our bums.
COVID-19 - Campus has been quiet since the cancellation of classes. We have made good use of the time thus far -- sledding at Sweet Heart’s Bluff, learning carving grips from Mike, cleaning classrooms with Ben, building blogs with Jake, and constructing shaving horses with Rose. Although the future is uncertain, I am thankful to be here and feel fully prepared to be a useful set of hands and a steward of this school and its mission.