|Effort and Attitude
by Ruthie D.
Having just moved here last April, and not hardly an expert at anything yet, I was
hard-pressed for subject matter for this newsletter. Then I remembered that Tom noticed me
initially because of my attitude, not my finesse or expertise. While skills must be
learned and perfected, how many times have we all heard Tom say that the most skilled,
well-equipped person will not be able to handle a survival situation if he panics? But
what about the beginning student? How important is attitude here?
Over and over again with the students who come here, one sees this as the crucial
element. Let's take the first day - bow drill. The quiet, calm student goes about carving
his tools, confident his efforts will be rewarded. They are - fire! The excited, sparkly
ones who already see that flame, throw themselves into it with a joy that is transformed
into reality. The very careful, not-too-sure-of-themselves but nevertheless determined
ones, also reap the benefits of their labor. Some of all the above students will behold
that spark in the first hour of effort; others, not for days. But, they all have one thing
in common: they have faith in Tom, in the method taught, and in themselves. And, they want
it. They will push themselves without despair because somewhere inside, they know they can
The few who can't seem to get that fire are the ones who either despair initially and
can't overcome this feeling, or lose their determination and eventually give up.
My personal experience was a great lesson for me. After being here a few month;, It
dawned on me that I should become more effortless in my bow drill technique. So, every day
would see me up at the barn cranking out a fire. The first day saw almost instant success
as did the second. The third day, with a cocky attitude, I decided to carve a new
fireboard and spindle. No problem. But as hard as I tried, the spindle kept popping out,
the hole kept deepening and slipping toward the edge, and my determination gave way to
frustration and snarls until I finally threw the whole works across the barn and stomped
away. Hours later, I returned fortified with a sunnier, refreshed attitude and some
helpful hints from Mike. I felt like a kid who had thrown a temper tantrum after falling
off her bike, yet with a little encouragement from an older brother, was ready to get back
on that seat and give it another go. The equipment was retrieved and with the string of
the bow slightly loosened, the spindle angled toward the center, and with sweat pouring
from my brow, smoke poured from that very same hole; and the fire erupted through that
tinder pile. The mice all scampered in various directions as I danced and yipped a victory
celebration across the floor. Skills and attitude - they walk hand in hand.
During one class this summer, there was a small 'group of students with what is usually
described as a poor attitude. They started off well, but soon succumbed to frustration and
despair. Day by day went past, and their firemaking sessions gave way to bitch sessions.
Tom was too brass, the pace too hectic and hard to handle, the food was lousy and gave
them no energy, there was not enough time to sleep. The more they complained, the less
their skills improved. They kept telling each other to slow down and work at their own
pace. There was no need to push themselves. One even expressed disappointment that we
weren't all sitting under an oak tree hearing Tom tell stories about Stalking Wolf. It was
pointed out that we were, after all. a survival school. In a survival situation there are
things to do, and our part to play. We have a responsibility, and effort is required to
live in harmony with our Mother Earth. If a thunderstorm is brewing and the temperature
fast dropping, can we afford to "at our own pace" mellowly build a debris hut?
If starving, do we simply sit and wait for a deer to approach and offer his life for ours?
And for one instant, can we assume that Tom learned all his skills only by listening to
Stalking Wolf spin yarns about his own teachers? Besides, Tom had years to listen to
Stalking Wolf, while he has us for only a week.
So how did Tom attain the ability to start that bow drill in five strokes? Well, I
guess Tom did have a big edge in being exposed to all this as a child; when the
possibilities are endless and no one had told him yet that he couldn't do it, nor had he
told himself. And let's not forget, he's been practicing so long now that the effort
itself is minimal. For him, it's like striking a match!
As I write this, it seems effortless to have the tools of spelling, punctuation,
reading and writing. Yet, I look back and can remember the hours of reciting the alphabet,
tracing capital letters, and hesitantly sounding out simple words. But mixed in with all
this effort, was the simple attitude of taking it for granted, as did those around me,
that I would certainly be able to read.
So perhaps that's a helpful key. "Become as little children." Sure we are
adults, so we have less time, and must push ourselves harder to overcome the insecurities
and other walls we have erected over the years. But don't be afraid of the effort that the
skills take. Use your determination and simply know the results will be achieved. If we
see ourselves as children of the Earth Mother, then eventually we will be living in
harmony with all her creatures and as naturally as the rest of them.
Think about it. It's as easy as reading a newsletter! We're just learning this alphabet
at an older age.