The Explorers met at the 100 Aker Woods ready delve into the Art of Fire by Friction. This outing would mark the EC’s first ever coed skills day. It was exciting to witness the elder Girls and Boys of the program standing side by side. Unwavering they stood in the rain; they were neither discontent nor uncomfortable. These individuals have cultivated a deep resiliency and appreciation for the landscape in all its seasons. They welcome the rain and wind because they understand its connection, its importance, and the opportunities and growth it offers them.
Heading into the woods we sought shelter under a few Cedars and Doug Fir. Looking around there was a need to break the ice and bring our group together. We played a couple of rounds of Name Tag and began to bond over laughter and goofiness. Once we were acquainted we headed to a tarp shelter that the mentors had set up earlier and focused our attention towards fire making.
Under our tarp the mentors explained that the first step in making fire is to understand its importance in our lives and in our history as a people. Fire has allowed us to make tools, cook, purify water, warm our shelters, regulate landscapes, and provided a harth for us to gather around. Fire comes with a great responsibility and it is our job to pass down this ancient skill from generation to generation. It demands focus and attention, and if we let our guard down or allow ourselves to get careless we have the potential to do great harm.
With strong intention set the mentors pulled out a bow drill and hand drill kit and passed them around the circle. The art of making fire is a hard skill to wrap your mind around until you see it in action. Once the group was oriented to the components of a fire kit they gathered close as the mentors demonstrated the process. Slowly through the friction of the spindle a small coal started to form as the smell of smoke rose into the air. Dropping the coal into a Cedar bundle the mentor gently blew the coal into flame. There was a resounding “awe” around the circle.
At this point the group couldn’t contain themselves any longer, anxiously awaiting the chance to start working on their own fire kit. Passing around pieces of Cedar and Red Alder the Explorers started to carve away on spindles and top boards. The group must have carved for an hour and half straight, creating some amazing spindles. Some sat under the tarp and others planted themselves right in the rain, too focused on the task at hand to even notice that they were getting wet. When some had finished with their spindles we searched the surrounding area for downed Vine Maple and Cedar limbs for our bows. The Explorers modeled excellent EC culture by using their knives as tools and respecting each other’s space. One of the older boys was even able to get a small, but hardy fire going with a flint and steel method and a tinder bundle!
The group gathered around the fire and relaxed into its warmth and glow. Listening to the Explorers laugh and share stories around our work area made it clear together they are creating a community of balanced, engaged, and caring youth. As mentors we provide the container for this experience to happen and the Explorers do the rest. Watching the many groups practice and share traditional skills and stories showed us that it clearly fulfills a deep need inside of them to create. Being out on the land for these skill days is crucial because it provides a environment that is free from distraction and offers the Explorers a chance to refocus, decompress, connect, and process.
As our fire smoldered we made sure to put it out, bury the cold embers, and return the duff over the mineral soil. After some lunch we packed up and headed out to play a few games and search for a shelter that one of the girls had built seasons ago. We found the shelter in good condition and examined its inner workings. Circling up the Explorers tried to make a decision on which game they wanted to play. The decision-making process was tricky to navigate because both the Boys and Girls EC model it just a little bit differently. It was not until our first game of Hide that the group found that decision-making process was not the only thing they did differently.
Apparently the rules to our EC games of Hide and Spider’s Web are quite varied. As we played it was powerful for the Explorers to recognize that each other’s versions were not better or worse than one another’s, just different. The mentors encouraged the group to learn from each other’s variations and look at the new rules as a welcomed challenge. Being flexible and adaptable is a skill that will continue to benefits these Explorers throughout their lives. As they played any tension about the rules faded away and the Explorers ducked, darted, and dived trying to escape off the spider’s web.
Navigating back to our tarp shelter we sat down again to work on our fire kits. The mentors passed around a few bow drill kits and the group got to test their skills with the spindles they made. As they oriented and adjusted to the process the mentors reiterated our motto Slow is Fast and Fast is Slow. The mentors explained to the group that it took us a few months to learn how to properly harvest the right materials, craft the tools necessary, and learn to make and harness fire.
In the end the Explorers walked away with a lot more knowledge and appreciation for fire, as well as some partially finished kits. Circling up for a closing meeting the group gave thanks for the opportunity to learn and grow, for the rain and winter, for the boys and girls joining forces, for warmth and shelter, games, and all the resources that it took to make our fire. It was the mentor’s pleasure to co-guide this group of elder Explorers in the 100 Aker Wood. They are maturing and growing into exceptional leaders and skilled craftspeople.
Parents, if your Explorer is searching for more information and/or guidance in the Art of Fire by Friction please see the document attached on the Outing Report Posted email. For more pictures from the outing please visit our winter photo gallery.