I got on the email list for Earth Native Wilderness because they offer classes in flint napping and knife building which Bob is particularly interested in learning. The idea was that I’d register him for one of their classes as a gift. I also have this hypocritical desire to go back to the old and simple ways of my ancestors.
That’s not two-faced; it’s more like three or four faced. I would be sad to lose the easy communication tools of a smart phone and the internet. I have a refrigerator that, despite my efforts at clean eating, is more than 40% stocked with processed foods. My 4-year-old car has more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. I want a simpler life as long as I have grocery stores, sewer treatment, internet, gas-powered vehicles, wifi. Oh, heck. The list goes on and on. If the revolution ever comes, I’ll be stuffing snack bags with peanut filled pretzels and chips as I post to Facebook.
ENW sent an email offering a class in making coiled yucca baskets. Since I have a crafty family, I sent out email invitations to my daughter, sisters, and nieces to join me in the class. Nobody else could go. When I told Bob that I was going to the class alone, he offered to go with me.
This is one of the things I like about Bob. He wants me to sit in a deer blind with him at 5 AM and join him kayaking across the Aransas Pass ship channel. And his excitement is endearing and inspires me to go even when I hesitate. On the flip side, he’s made baby sock rosebuds and cut out pineapple hearts and watermelon stars to help me get ready for showers. We are a team. A weird team, but a team nonetheless.
The class was in the country outside of Bastrop, down a red dirt road. Because we’d had rain the night before, the road was slickery. It was easy going for Bob’s big truck, but it would have been more exciting in my little Cruze.
Our instructor was a young man, energetic and enthusiastic. Of the fourteen folks who were in the class with us, most were women. I was saved from being the oldest in the class by a retired elementary school teacher. That’s a guess. I often describe people as older and find out they are years younger than me. I still see a 45-year-old woman when I look in the mirror.
More than half the class had been to a class with Chris before since he teaches clay pot and bow making as well as brain tanning of hides. That is as gross as it sounds.
As instructed, we brought knives, chairs, and snacks along with notebooks and pencils. Chris handed out awls while conveying a safety lesson about the tools. I mentally scoffed at the warnings until Bob reminded me that I’ve sliced my thumb when I was cutting glass while texting. Mindfulness is elusive.
Chris gave us a brief history of the baskets which originated with the Anasazi tribe and described the challenges of maintaining the tradition. He passed yucca leaves to us, warning us that we were entering the frustrating phase of basket construction.
As we endeavored to make the center basket ring without a tantrum, Chris checked on our progress, helping where needed, complimenting when appropriate.
Historically, yucca baskets were fashioned with needles made of bone. We used the awl to stab into the yucca and push the pointed yucca end through the hole to bind together rows. The puncture sealed quickly so I had to be focused. I also found that calmly guiding the end through the hole worked better than jamming or forcing the end. That could be a guiding motto for my life.
While we worked on our baskets, a norther blew in with rain. Chris hauled over logs and impressed us by starting a roaring fire without matches. In peaceful companionship we built our baskets around the campfire.
Bob was one of the star students since he got it right away and proceeded to help those of us around him. There were a couple of students who completed rock star baskets. I managed to hold back the eye rolls when one of them held up her perfect basket and said, “Does this look ok?”
Our baskets were less than adequate but the class was such fun that we left with the desire to build another. Bob’s already planning to gather yucca leaves on our next trip to Montell. And if we need to carry water in a survival situation, we can make a yucca basket. After we learn how to make a bone needle.