at school reading crow and weasel is an odd experience, mostly because barry lopez uses a rather formal language, which my students don't much like. but they do like tom pohrt's illustrations. and they like the idea of vision quest, though most of them are very fearful about such a thing. their ambivalence has been somewhat mitigated by the introduction of my asking them to search for an animal spirit or totem that somehow represents themselves to themselves. they've thought about it, written in their journals about it, and today i gave them their introduction to soapstone, from which each of them will birth their animal. i use the zuni fetish as a sculpture guide, because i have a little collection of them, and because i know when i was a girl how i loved little animals. (and still do)
these are tough but hurt teenagers, not city kids, but nevertheless pretty battered by life and circumstances. and they just took off, touching the stone, drawing sketches, making connections. it is my belief that we sit at the table together as learners, so i am carving as well. i tell them about my way of working, and invite them to do so, but mine is different. i let the stone tell me what it wants to be, and i joke that otherwise all i would ever make is horses! as we move more into this project i will tell them about sourcing this soapstone, harvested from quebec, our neighbor just north.
when i first harvested local plants for papermaking, i found milkweed everywhere. see the little fibers coming off the stem? they are bits of bast. (you can also see seed fiber) i harvest handfuls everytime i walk in my overgrown meadow. now, after much winter, the bast is field retted, bleached white, almost luminous. i will take home pocket after pocketful and in spring i will make milkweed paper. i must remember when i am anxious about non-productivity, that i am gestating many things, paper, books, and a tiny sculpture. the thinking of young minds, too. and it will, in time, become something meaningful.