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  • Sofia Jain-Schlaepfer

Living With the Earth


People who know I went out in the wild for 5 days greet me back with "Oh it must have been hard. It must feel good to shower. Welcome back to luxury." Yes, we went out with only our wool cloths, a knife and things prepared from nature by our own hands. But it was the most at home I've ever felt. Sleeping tucked into the earth, eating living food off the land, being washed by the river, in a group all moving to the rhythms of our bodies; we harmonized.



Wet felted woolen boots. Handmade leather covering adjusts to boot or bare foot.
Wet felted woolen boots. Handmade leather covering adjusts to boot or bare foot.

Every night I slept on a bed of mossy sticks, under a canopy of branches holding up dead fern leaves and hemlock bows, to keep off the rain. I snuggled into the sheepskin I had spend weeks processing. Wedged between warm bodies, scuffling for little more space like little birds trying to find a roost. I always awoke in the quietest darkest hour of the night, cold and waiting for day. As light began to fill the sky and the birds began to sing, I would doze off again. Until I woke to go down to the river, lacing up my hide shoes. There I watched the sun peak over the trees and the water rush by.

The river taught me its healing ways. Watching the water flow gracefully until meeting a block, where it would churn, or pool and stagnate with mosquitoes. I realized that where I dam my energy I churn with anger, or stagnate allowing things to fester. I realized that the pains in my body were places where I put stones; to protect, to slow, to compensate. I realized too that rapids have their own beauty, as does the wildness of a rampant heart. That mosquitoes feed the birds. What will the fruits of my wounds feed? Are not my blocks and my hurts as beautiful as river rapids, and pools reflecting the passing clouds?



Buckskin leather pouch made from goat hide rescued from compost. Other pouch hand sewn from leather offcuts.
Buckskin leather pouch made from goat hide rescued from compost. Other pouch hand sewn from leather offcuts.

Each morning I lay in the river, letting it wash me. Allowing the cold in, I came out enlivened. Then, finding my friends we lowered our willow basket of food, hung with nettle cordage, and picked out some things to eat, carefully wrapped in leaves. We lay out a beautiful spread of dried saskatoon berries, hawthorn fruit leather and deer jerky, and spoke to each other of all the things we were thankful for before taking small mouthfuls. With the acceptance of hunger every morsel was a gift. A life given directly to our hands to be preserved for this moment. We ate in complete awareness of the beings to which we owed our energy.


Baskets woven from willow.
Baskets woven from willow.

After our meal we explored for food and learned of our surroundings. The usual thoughts of self criticism, of hurry, of achievement, were replaced by the beauty of new plants discovered, the smell of wild onion, the wonder of Kingfishers flying over the river. Eventually we would find ourselves sinking to the ground for a nap. Upon waking we would start a fire. Some would gather materials, while others worked on a friction coal using bow drill kits we made. The coal would be transferred to a nest of down and grass and blown into flame. Once alight everyone's spirits would rise and there would be stories told about the day as we prepared food. Acorn pancakes toasted on rocks, salmon and mushroom soup boiled with stones in wooden burned bowls. Food was passed around and around as we all took small nibbles of nourishment.


Cedar bow drill kit.
Cedar bow drill kit.

There was no separation, and so there was no lack. Nothing missing. No plastic packaging, no floor, no door to separate me from earth, sky, brother, sister. No separation, only Real Happiness.


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