By: Kristian Boose
Recently Raven’s Roots reached out to make some new connections and attended the Rainingman Festival put on by the fine folks at CascadiaNow! The festival was held outside of Olympia, Washington near, and practically on, the Mima Mounds. Pronounced M-eye-ma, these mounds are quite the geological mystery. They are being continually studied, and debates are unsettled as to quite how these mounds formed. 8 – 10 low circular dome shaped mounds are clustered every acre in this prairie ecosystem and explanations range from Indigenous belief that it is the land showing expression of waves left over from a great flood, European settlers originally thinking them burial mounds, to theories of seismic activity, sediments blowing around vegetation and creating dunes of a sort, or even the burrows of extinct prehistoric pocket gophers. However they got here, they are beautiful and powerful, and this is where we found ourselves for a special weekend of making and revealing connections. Our CascadiaNow! hosts are a visionary grassroots nonprofit social movement for the bioregion of the Pacific Northwest known as Cascadia. They are raising positive awareness of the region’s identity and helping to highlight connections between culture, economy, geography and environment. We went there to connect with them, and they welcomed us in kind.
All day Saturday Jamie and I hung out at a table decked with Raven’s Roots swag and examples of wild crafting, plaster casts of animal tracks, and tinctures from some of our Immersion courses. We talked for hours with dozens of interested folks about the school, our classes, tracking, making bows and friction fire, medicinal plants, and our connections to this place we call home in Cascadia. Jamie taught a cordage making workshop which was well attended and led to lots of smiles and people working on cordage all the rest of the day and into the night while bands played live music in the barn. People gathered around the community campfire and in the community kitchen sharing stories of connection. There was an unconference to discuss priorities facing Cascadia and the priorities needing to be worked on moving forward together.
Our school Raven’s Roots is located in Cascadia, a region not defined by lines drawn on a map or by politics. It’s a region defined by connection. A region defined by ecosystems, by fault lines and tectonic plates. Cascadia is a bioregion stretching from sea to mountains. To the west is the Pacific Ocean and its undersea plates, faults, and coastlines and to the east the crest of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. Stretching northward up to the Gulf of Alaska and Mt Logan and southward to Cape Mendicino in Northern California. Cascadia is a place of distinct character where water and mountains have a voice. I think that those who live here and call this place home feel it and instinctively know it once they begin paying a deeper level of attention. I know this is happening for me. The flora and fauna of these ecosystems, the patterns of weather, and the people all have a distinct character. Cascadia is as much culture and social value as it is about landforms. It is a connection of all these things.
When you think about what you are connected to, you’ll probably find yourself thinking about many different people, animals, places, events and experiences throughout your life. For me, friends and family come immediately to mind. The places I grew up, spent time learning valuable life lessons, and where I met certain people or have certain special memories. I feel connected in different ways to where home is deep in my heart and where my body, mind, and life are now. Central Pennsylvania where I grew up is the land of my heart and is made up of mountains, rivers, and forests, all of which I feel a connection to. Mount Nittany, the Susquehanna, Black Moshannon, the PA Wilds. Where I call home today is the land of my mind and body here in the Pacific Northwest and it’s also mountain, river, and forest. Cascades, Olympics, Skagit, Duwamish, Okanogan. As I actively explore this question of connection I discover it is of an ever-increasing breath and depth. It includes new places like the high-steppe sagebrush desert in eastern Washington. There are now connections to certain species of trees and plants in those prairies, on those mountains, along those rivers, and within those forests. Cedar, Sitka Spruce, Salmonberry, and Camass. There is connection to the wild neighbors that live on the land with me. Salmon, Wolf, Raven, Sage Grouse, and Osprey. I am connected to so much here in my new home in an ever increasing and deep way. When we start to pay attention, we start to see and feel how we are connected.
An important part of what Raven’s Roots wants to do is help our students begin discovering and feeling that connection. To each other, the community, the land and wild life, and to these lessons we teach. It already all exists within us and all around us, so we’re not so much creating it as we are teaching some of the skills necessary to recognize it and become more comfortable and familiar with it. To embrace it. From that place of recognition come a greater and deeper understanding, pride, and of course…more questions.
We spent this recent weekend celebrating and exploring known connections and also making new connections…to each other and to every person who stopped by to talk with us, to Brandon and Naomi of CascadiaNow!, and to the land where the festival was held.
We encourage everyone to look more into CascadiaNow! (http://www.cascadianow.org/), into the Mima Mounds (http://www.dnr.wa.gov/mima-mounds-natural-area-preserve) and into the courses we are teaching here at Raven’s Roots (http://www.ravensroots.com/immersioncourses/ ). We encourage everyone to explore and deepen his or her connections.