“So you’ve been out fishing all morning, following the creek up into the mountains. You’re catching a few of them native speckled trout, but after a while the stream gets too small. So you call it quits and head up to the ridge for the long walk home. There you run into the biggest patch of ripe huckleberries that you’ve ever seen! You’d love to haul some of them berries home, but you ain’t got nothing to carry ‘em in….Well, if you knew how to make a berry basket, you’d just find you a young tulip poplar tree, make a poplar bark basket and tote them berries home, buddy! ”
—Paul Geouge as quoted by Doug Elliott, in Primitive Ancestral Skills, edited by David Wescott.Huckleberries are definitely worth the effort. But this was not your everyday woven basket nor an easy endeavor. It was a bark basket that involved wrestling with a young poplar tree, collecting the bark to shape the basket and then lacing it up with hickory strips.
I read that passage and thought, we’ve forgotten how to live. The image of that day is so full of sensory depth, so rooted in the moment, so alive. Not an easy day, an alive day—a day to remember. Its a reminder to not fade away, to stay connected, to commit yourself to each day, whatever challenges it brings, and give it all you have to give.
The tulip poplar is blooming, but most blossoms are so high above us, we often don't notice until a storm comes through and brings them down to our level. Also known as the American tulip tree or yellow poplar, this tree is the tallest hardwood tree in North America, reaching its largest size in the southern Appalachians and the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, where they have been preserved from logging just across the TN border in North Carolina. The tree is known for its straight trunk that can reach heights of 150 ft and diameters in excess of eight to ten ft, and has both tulip shaped four-lobed leaves, as well as, tulip-like blossoms.
For the Love of It...
...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.