When I woke at 5:30am the bedroom was filled with daylight. I don’t know exactly when the sun rose, but it seemed like it had been up a while.
I was supposed to go on a walk-about with my friend Jackie, on this Summer Solstice, but it looked like we’d be walking in a downpour so we postponed till Friday. We decided we’d still have a Solstice ceremony of some kind though.
It hasn’t rained much here, but it’s been overcast all day. I think we’ll still be able to have our Solstice fire. We certainly have enough wood to burn. I’ve been piling it up in the barnyard and collecting cardboard to start it with since our Winter Solstice fire.
I also have some shavings of wood I saved from my Walk-About with Zach. We carved chopsticks out of a piece of cedar to eat our lunch with. (Although I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I used the chopsticks when I ate the Nettle greens we harvested for dinner that night.)
I collected the scraps to use in the Solstice Fire. I’m not sure why I did that really. I’m not certain of the connection between the two. But I think it has to do with coming closer to nature in a way I hadn’t before.
We weren’t long in the woods when Zach saw the pile of pine branches on the side of the trail. We stopped and he took out a pink-handled Mora knife from his wicker backpack.
He teaches kids all the time how to use knives and make fires. “Mostly,” he said, “they just want to be trusted.” He’s found that when you give them your trust, they are careful and responsible with both.
It made me think of our Amish neighbors and how their children are expected to work, with the rest of the family, from a very young age.
I watched as Zach cut a line around the pine branch, then another about 6 inches from the first. Then he cut another line into the bark connecting the two.
He slid his knife under the edge of the bark and lifted it up.
It separated from the branch surprisingly easily. When he couldn’t find the blunt tool in his backpack he wanted to use to remove the rest of the bark, he broke off another smaller branch removed the bark, and sliced the top of the branch to make a wedge.
Using his fingers and the wedge he removed the piece of bark. It came off in one piece. Then I did the same with another branch, making the cuts and using my fingers and the wedge to peel back the bark.
The smell of pine seeped into the air and my fingers were sticky with sap. Although I’ve seen bark baskets before and heard of Native Americans peeling bark off of living trees without damaging them, I could never quite understand how it worked.
Now I knew.
After the bark was free from the branch Zach showed me how to fold the corners to shape the bark into a small vessel. But we didn’t have the clothes pins needed to hold the corners in place, so he let the bark roll up as it naturally did and put it in his backpack for later.
It wasn’t until we got back to the trailhead, where conveniently there were some picnic tables and another pile of pine branches waiting for us, that we finished making the pine vessels.
First, we had to make some clothespins to hold the folded sides in place.
Zach found a couple of branches just the right size and we cut them up into pieces about 4 -5 inches long. Each piece had a knot on the top. Then he placed the knife legnthwise at the center of the bottom of the branch and hit the handle lightly with the side of his hand. The knife easily sunk into the tip of the branch and with little taps, it moved down the branch splitting it until it reached the knot which stopped it from being split completely in two.
Then we folded the sides of the pine bark and put the clothes pins on the ends to hold it in place until it dried.
It wasn’t until the next day that I could remove the pine bark and the folded ends stayed in place. I’m not sure what I’ll use them for yet. But I can imagine myself collecting bark in this way and making more of them. Before they dry Zach said they’re easy to sew through too.
There was something so simple and almost familiar about peeling the bark from the pine branch and then reshaping it to make the small vessels.
Maybe it’s the sculptor in me. Or maybe is just a part of being human. Like working with clay or weaving. Humans have been doing it for so long that I can’t help believe it’s still a part of us lying dormant, waiting to awake again.