Thursday, February 4, 2016

Birchbark baskets - teachings in disguise

Been off schedule a bit here with a big ice storm and sick kids.  However, this week did include two visits to Kumik to learn how to make a birch bark basket.  The workshop was led by Chuck and Janet Commanda.  I expected this to be a normal kind of workshop, but being situated in the Kumik and led by these two people, this was really more of a teaching time.  My first impression, as a process improvement person, was how they could do this workshop so much faster and more efficiently.  But this would lose the experience and the teaching element.  Sitting for a moment, waiting for your turn with the teachers, listening to them work with the other students, having them take time to talk with you. these were all part of a greater experience. 
I learned not only the physical act of constructing the basket, but learned about who they had learned from, about the process of gathering the materials, not to close a knife someone else had opened and the other uses of these medicine.  I also got to spend time with people enjoying each other, taking the time to learn and being real about life.  I don't know what brought it up, but Mr Commanda said something like, sometimes you don't want to go home.  Those words have been with me over the past few days.  What a comfort to know that we are not alone in our difficult relationships.  Not a freak.  Sometimes we have made our own homes here.  Sometimes that home has a lot of hurt.

Runa was very impressed with my basket and took a bunch of pictures.  She wanted to be the one to decorate it with the names of all the ancestors.  She spent most of Wednesday morning, a snow day, working out the family tree and how to spell everyone's names.

I took her back to Kumik to decorate the basket and she was delighted by the whole experience.  She wanted to make her own but was ok when she couldn't.  Mrs Commanda showed her how to scratch the bark and she made a bunch of designs with little fish and animals. She was so impressed that the bark could do that. She was totally absorbed for over and hour.  I completed the top of the basket with a turtle and did some bark scratching to use as pieces in jewelry.  We stayed while Runa continued to play with the bark and I did some drawings.  It was so good to spent that time with Runa creating something, sitting in communion with the ancestors. Runa wants to get more bark so she can keep working.  She is very keen to go to more workshops like this.  I am too.  In speaking to Mr Commanda he had not heard about people who made baskets out of pine needles, so I brought in the ones I made in the fall.  It was interesting to see the two side be side, seeing people be creative with what they had around them.  What are you learning about this week?

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