My book is complete! I’m excited to be moving on with the process and wanted to give you all an update on life here at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. I bet you’ve been wondering what it’s like to live here and what I’m learning. I’ll be giving up all the juicy details with this entry. Before we get into that though, I think a little background story on how I came to be here might be beneficial information for my readers.
At the end of the Summer (2013) I was miserable, working a horrible job and stuck in the rat race. A coworker at the Hyatt downtown knew about my passion for nature, riding my bicycle and my ambitions to write a book. He encouraged me to take a long distance bike tour saying, “When I was 30 I biked all over Europe reading and writing and I did it with barely any money at all. Jobs like this will always be available. Go out and see the world and do what you love while you’re young and strong.” It became an idea that I couldn’t shake from my thoughts and I found myself daydreaming about it at work constantly. I started looking into a route and before I knew it, I’d quit my job and made the preparations to leave my home in the Cities on a bike with a trailer and my camping gear in tow. I’d be departing with a measly $120 in my pocket.
On 9/11/2013, the evening before I left Minneapolis, we celebrated my Day of Birth and a night of music with the soul songs of my brother, Dustin Thomas. He reminded us all of the decision he made not so long ago, choosing between either staying with the familiar comforts of home or leaving on a journey that would take him to Hawaii and into the unknown. I think it was about two years ago when he asked me what I would do in his situation with such a huge choice to make. I encouraged him to walk. He remembered that moment in front of the audience and thanked me on my night of celebration and farewells. It pleases my soul to see him shining his light all over the world, touring right now and sharing the message of Love everywhere he goes. It was a powerful, symbolic moment for me, hearing him talk about that memory of our conversation in front our family, especially knowing that with the morning, my time to walk would be arriving.
I left town with the next Sun, unsatisfied with my lifestyle, frustrated with modern society’s institutions and unfulfilled by our civilization’s disconnection with nature. I wondered what I might discover with the River by my side as a Guide and the yearning for a more natural way of living. Traveling through 10 states on bicycle, in a very intimate way I was able to observe the impact we’ve had on the land and the great distance we’ve strayed from the Old Ways of attunement. The book Ishmael spoke of the Takers that came and conquered and I saw evidence of this to be true down the entire Mississippi River. I did my best to be a Leaver, attempting to leave every place I passed through brighter and a little more inspired than when I came. I made many friends and left a positive impression on the majority of the kind souls I encountered along the way. By the time I reached Louisiana though it was clear that my definition of success was different than most of the people I met on the journey and I wished for a new way of living after the trip’s conclusion on reaching my destination in the delta.
After my time in New Orleans, I went to Jackson, Tennessee to stay with my grandfather and to write this book about my experience on the road. I worked another unsatisfying job while I stayed there, typing up the Lion’s share of my memoir and preparing to come home. I started to search for writing jobs in the Twin Cities and from the very first time I saw the advertisement on Craigslist for this position at Teaching Drum, I knew I’d be here one day soon. It seemed almost as it they posted the ad specifically for me and it was only a short 2 weeks after returning to Minneapolis with the New Year that I found myself in Three Lakes.
I’ve been blessed with the inspiration to finally finish the book I’ve been dreaming to write. It’s done and this was the perfect place to complete my work. Here at the school, I have one foot in the modern world with access to computers and cars as I learn about publishing and the business of being an author, while the other foot is firmly planted in the wilderness with a simple way of living on the land in harmony with Nature. I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be in this balance and I’m so thankful that I chose to take that giant first step the day after my birthday, walking down the path of the heart. Thank you Brother Dustin, for reminding me of what it means to walk, as I once reminded you. Giving is receiving and sometimes we teach what we need to learn most.
“All that is known and all that is to be known is contained in the book whose pages unfold as we walk.”
–She Who Walks With Loons
~So what is Teaching Drum Outdoor School and what exactly am I learning?~ Teaching Drum is a one of a kind native lifeway school with the purpose to bring back the craft, foraging, and cultural practices of our native ancestors. Being immersed in a wilderness setting with a small clan of people helps us to return to a balanced way of life. We learn the qualitative skills of the Old Way- customs and traditions, social and earth awareness and the sensory attunement that helps to peel back fear-based patterns and shake off the numbness that keeps us from being fully present, -so we can nourish our relationships and connections, deepen our awareness and bring our unique gifts to light.
Tamarack Song founded The Teaching Drum in 1987 and it’s grown and evolved ever since. He writes, “The Drum is the universal musical instrument and the center of tribal people’s lives. Joining the beats of their hearts with the rhythm of the Earth, the beat of the Drum calls them together to be of one voice, one heart.”
We have 3 functioning circles here at the school. The first is the Wilderness Guide Program, a year-long wilderness immersion intensive. The second is the Wild Moon Program which serves as a 1-3 month sojourn at a functioning primitive camp. The third is Nadmadewining (where I reside) which houses the staff community supporting the programs above, distributing Tamarack’s writings and watching over the Children’s Culture.
I live in the quiet house. It’s heated with a wood stove and I stay in the loft with sky lights and a view of the moon as she passes through the night sky. There’s a desk in the editor’s room downstairs where I do most of my work and research. So far my focus has been on finding new places to sell Tamarack’s books, adding my findings to spreadsheets on Microsoft Excel. We’ll be mailing out hundreds of books this coming week. Along with an office, wood shop, library, food freezers and storage spaces, there’s also a number of other natural wood cabins on the property that house staff as well as a family house. In all we have about a dozen adults and 4 children living here and we all contribute to the circle with our unique talents. I live with writers and an illustrator, a videographer and a tech guru, crafters and hunters, an organic farmer, guides and philosophers, healers and mothers, brothers and sisters alike. We all help in co-parenting and the way the children interact with the circle has been a wonderful chance for learning. We practice the knowledge of natural consequences and non-violent communication which is quite different from the way most of us were raised. If you can imagine walking the edge of the woods and stepping in to harvest some berries as a hawk flies off and sounds into the forest, notifying the other animals, who in turn make their calls with a ripple effect and how that chain reaction continues on through the entire ecosystem…even the smallest of our actions can affect the circle in a similar manner. If someone has the tendency of enabling others or another feels victimized, these dramas have an immediate impact on everyone. Living in such close proximity with others has brought many lessons in accountability and the chance to embody the communication of truth speaking as we come together and heal our old patterns of behavior that continue to rise up to the surface. I’d love to expand on that psychology in later entries with examples but for now we’ll move on with a description of my daily activities…
I wake up usually around 5 a.m. and spend an hour of gratitude and write about my dreams and journal or add to my personal collection of writings and philosophies. At 6 a.m. we all meet in a circle at the family house and take turns discussing our personal itineraries for the day, individual dream messages and delegate what needs to be done to further support the progress of our circle’s goals. There’s always work to be done in regards to general maintenance and specialized areas of responsibility that keep our community operating efficiently. I’ve taken on the role of Fire Chief for instance and recently installed smoke alarms and CO detectors as well as inspected the fire extinguishers in the buildings. After the morning meeting, we have much autonomy in what we choose to do with our day. Our backyard is a forest with trails surrounded by lakes and the woods are teaming with wildlife. I have my bike here and look forward to all the explorations that the Spring will bring with the green season.
I’ve been reading a ridiculous amount of books from our library, writing, playing music and studying adamantly. We get together in small groups to share breakfast, usually a variety of organic fruits and freshly cracked black walnuts which were foraged from Southern Wisconsin. I often spend a couple of hours in the morning doing book research for Tamarack. It’s been fascinating to learn about all the work an author has to do on the business end of things even after obtaining a publisher. Having access to all this information, the book proposals that got him the deals, the query letters and a behind the scene look at our relationship with agents, editors and publishers will be a great help in my education on what I’ll have to do to get my own writing distributed to the world.
I bet you’re wondering what we eat. We have a partnership with local farmers and most of our food is organic and falls under the Paleo diet (basically wild meat, fish, eggs, nuts, fruit and vegetables). A portion of our food has been foraged from the local area or harvested from the land we live on. Major seasonal foraging of wild rice and fish camps happen in the Spring and Summer months. For dinner we all come together and share the evening meal in our circle at the family house, chipping in with the preparations and cleaning duties. The holding of hands before our feast is a magical moment of gratitude and I feel the energy pass through the circle every time we unite to do this.
I’m totally sober and clear minded, focused and thankful I’ve been able to invest February with such an inspiring community of people. On March 1st and 2nd the school will be involved with the town gathering known as Klondike Days here in Three Lakes. We’ll be hosting and exhibit with demonstrations on Wigwam building, birch canoes, wood carving, storytelling, buckskin clothing and hide-tanning, along with a merchandise table offering Tamarack’s writings for sale to the public. I’m looking forward to being a part of that and meeting some of the local artists from around the region. I’ll take some photos at this event and pictures of the school’s facilities to share at a later date. After Klondike Days, my month trial is over and I’ll be taking a week long vacation away from the school. I’m planning for a Vision Quest/Solo Winter Camping adventure before returning to see what the circle has decided in regards to my extended stay. I have confidence that my deep engagement and contributions thus far will allow me to be welcomed back with open arms. I can’t picture myself doing anything else right now and I know there’s much to learn here still. This is Ojibwe land and these trees have an ancient story. I plan to see the pages of this book unfold slowly as I walk.
I’ve utilized some of our mission statement to write this post. If you’re interested, you can find more information about the school and our programs by visiting the website –https://teachingdrumoutdoor.org The FAQ’s section is especially intriguing. I’d love to answer any and all questions you might have so please do ask and comments are definitely appreciated and highly encouraged. I’ll be adding a weekly update and posting occasional photos and excerpts from my book so check back or follow the blog if you’d like those sent to your email directly. Until next time, Aho