March 4, 2014 § 17 Comments
Speaking of workshops, our friend Todd is holding a few at his organic orchard just up the road. He’s super-knowlegeable and a real nice guy, to boot. For more details, check out his website.
The first annual Beaver Hide Tanning/Skeet Shooting/Monster Truck Rally Rodeo went off without a hitch (minus the skeet shooting and monster truck rally because, as it turned out, everyone was too tired to shoot skeet by Sunday afternoon [besides which, no one had any skeet, though we figured a lobbed tennis ball might do] and, furthermore, I was the only one in attendance who even owns a truck that might, from certain vantage points, approach monstrous status. And one truck does not a rally make, especially when it’s a nearly-two-decade old diesel that won’t start when it’s as cold as it was this weekend).
The workshop was hosted by us and led by our dear friend Nate, and I was some skeptical anyone was gonna show up to learn how to tan a beaver hide, but lo-and-behold Nate turned ‘em right out, and we had a packed house. For three full days, the entire first floor of our humble home was given over to the scraping, brain tanning, softening, and smoking (this actually happened outside, thank goodness) of beaver hides.
From my perspective, as a non-participant but frequent observer as I went about my usual routine of pretending to be doing terribly important things, it seemed like a tremendous amount of work for a finished hide that might end up being barely big enough to make a proper lap throw. I doubt anyone had anything less than 16 or 17 hours into their hide. But then, I suspect the work itself was much of the reward, as everyone seemed to have themselves a fine time of it. There was much merriment amidst the constant bustle of scraping and softening (which requires a vigorous back n’ forth rubbing against steel cables for literally hours on end). There was laughter and story telling and eating and, in the evenings, a little music playing and warbling. I even danced a little foot-shuffling hoppity jig, and lemme tell you, that’s a some-rare sight, and for damn good reason.
It was fun to have the house full of good folks, in large part because the sort of people who are interested in spending three full days tanning a two-foot diameter circle of wild animal hide are, generally speaking, not uninteresting. And it was the precisely the right time of year to wring a little extra joy out of life. I mean, any time of year is right for that, but the beginning of March, over a weekend that continued the trend of zero and even below-zero nights (12 below this morning, yikes), is particularly right. Penny and I have a small fantasy of hosting more such workshop-like gatherings in the future, although it might not be a fantasy. Our house is in many ways just right for it; large enough to accommodate a good number of folks and also messy and worn enough to feel comfortable. Around here, you ain’t gotta worry about damaging the furniture; indeed, the only real threat is that, via collapse or the poking of a malformed spring or splinter of wood, the furniture will damage you.
The other thing is, it’s real nice to every so often to surround ourselves with people who are at least as weird as we are. I don’t mean weird in pejorative sense, not at all, but rather simply to acknowledge the frequent sensation we have of being isolated from many of the socioeconomic/cultural mores of our time. We are incredibly fortunate to live amongst a community of friends and neighbors who accept and even respect our choices; the sense of isolation we sometimes feel is more on a societal level, than a personal level, and that is certainly far easier to bear. But it is still a fine thing to be amongst a larger gathering of people who, for lack of a better word, “get” what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Who dig right in to the beaver liver pate alongside us, who don’t even think to ask us if we’re worried that Fin and Rye won’t be admitted to the college of their choosing, who we can immediately fall into easy conversation with because, even if the exact particulars of our lives might be unique to us all, the overarching desire to live a humble life connected to the wild and abundant world outside our respective doorsteps is shared and tacitly understood to be shared.
That is all for now, although I did want to mention that all the great comments relating to my Winter Reading post really got me thinking. So, fair warning on that account.