Staying Grounded in Isolation

The coronavirus has many people feeling a bit ungrounded at best, and near panic at worst. The most important skill we need for survival though is to remain calm and be able to assess our situation. Although most of us are safe in homes, with food, utilities and everything we Need, we are still left feeling ungrounded and unsure of the future. Following are some suggestions of things we can do for ourselves and families to help us stay grounded and positive during this difficult time.

  • Stay informed, but don’t obsess on the news. I get my information from sites I trust and read the information. I saw the news once and can understand why people are panicking who watch it. Remember their job is to sell news. It’s sensationalized and focuses on the worst case situations. Learn what is really going on where you live and what you need to do to remain safe. Then let it go- don’t make the virus the center of your world.
  • If the virus has exposed you to the reality that you wouldn’t know how to survive and care for your family if things fell apart, use this time to learn. There are countless resources online to learn about wild edible and medicinal plants, survival skills, books you can order. Choose a topic and begin learning. Remember, the sacred order of survival: Shelter, Water, Fire and Food. Focus on these skills. There is nothing more grounding than actually taking action to make yourself more self-sustainable. I’m part of a group who created a website, www.centralfire.us. It has a wide variety videos, articles, books and recommendations for a wide range of primitive living skills.
  • Use things around your home to practice these skills. Just from watching a video, you could try your hand at making cordage from string or corn husk. You can practice making a coil pot from playdoh. You can make a model debris hut or shelter. Use the information you’re learning and create something! Making things, using our hands, being creative are all very grounding. Involve your whole family.
  • If you need entertainment, consider shows like Alone where you can observe and evaluate how the skills and mental attitude of the contestants helped them thrive or fail. Read books about survival, spirituality or other topics that help you think through survival situations. Might be a good time to re-read Seeds of Hope!
  • Slow down. What a wonderful opportunity this is for many. If we step away from the fear and worry, we are left with time that is not usually within our grasp. I keep hearing about boredom, but that is a choice. Consider this time a gift and meditate, breathe, go outside if that’s possible, walk slowly and become aware of everything around you. Take the time to access your life. Are you really happy? Are you doing what you love? Is your life just a routine that you find boring? What is it that you really want to be doing? What gifts do you have to bring to the world? Use this time to find your inspiration, to find your connection with the Earth, to find the path you want to be walking.

We can look at this pandemic only as a curse; see only the pain and suffering, look only at the inconveniences its brought. Or we can use it to see more clearly the world we’ve created, the damage we’ve done to the Earth and tremendous need there is for us to change. Just look how nature has responded to the pandemic- cleaner water, more wildlife, sea turtles laying countless eggs undisturbed, air is clearing, CO2 levels are dropping. In just a few weeks we are already able to see evidence of the tremendous negative impact we’ve had starting to improve. What can we learn from this? Will we just go back to the way things were? Or will we join together to change the way we, as a society, live our lives? Hope can be the most grounding force of all.

Winter is the time for Cordage

Living in a shelter with only fire and lamps for lighting, not to mention the short days, winter can be quite dark. Cordage is the perfect skill to work during the winter months. The same is true if you’re living in a house. No matter the weather, you can still sit and make cordage, if you’re lucky, by a nice fireplace!

When things are busier during the other seasons, it’s difficult to find the time to make the cordage you need for projects, construction, bow strings and all the other needs you’ll have for rope and string. In the winter, when you’re not active, you’ll spend much of your time near your fire to keep warm and you might as well keep your hands busy. I always find making cordage rather meditative, so it fits very well with the spiritual and physical quieting of winter.

Ideally, you’ve gathered many materials already, but if not, it’s not too late to get some of the plant fibers such as dogbane, nettles (they’re dry now so there’s no sting) milkweed, or any other plant that grows in your area. You can also get inner bark, even though it’s not the ideal season. Whether you think it’s good or not, try all kinds of things. Some may not be strong, but you don’t always need strong. If you don’t have gathered materials, anything like raffia, jute or corn husks work for practice. If you don’t know how to make cordage, this is a great little video that provides instruction.

Once you’d tried one thing, start experimenting. How strong are the different types of fiber? Don’t be afraid to break a few by pulling as hard as you can. It’s the only way to learn…and better now than when you need it to work. What fibers are strong enough and hold up to the friction of the bow drill? Which fibers would be strong enough with a very thin string for fishing?

One thing you’ll quickly learn is just how long it takes to make usable amounts of cordage. When I finish a piece, I wrap it around a small length of a branch, creating a ball of cordage. I’ll add other pieces as they’re completed. I also keep several sticks with different sizes or strengths of cordage, just like you have rope, string and thread in your house.

Cordage is an important skill. Even in modern living we use lots of string and rope. In primitive living, you’ll use even more. So start twisting and have fun!