Alex Van Nostrand, March 6, 2017
As the seasons transition between winter and spring, we at Wilderness Year have turned our attention to baskets.
Baskets connect the cultures of the world, weaving with as great a diversity of styles and materials as the people who shape them into beautiful vessels.
Justin's goal was for each of us to be able to understand the making of any basket we might meet, that we could try to recreate patterns based off of the knowledge he passed to us. With gifts from the Palm fronds of Florida, the watery Willows of Arnot, and the strong Black Ash of Salem, NY we have learned the work of preparing our materials, of over-under weaving, of going backwards to find our mistakes, and of focused intention with gratitude for the gifts of the Earth. For me, the joy of imagining my baskets full of bountiful plant harvests and my beloved camping gear is so exciting I can hardly contain myself.
I envision my smooth split wooden weavers gleaming through dappled woodlands, with my clay bowl and coal burned spoon nestled safely in a patterned embrace during our upcoming Spring walkabout.
There are precisely zero automated basket-making machines in the world, which means there are infinite ways of shaping each final product depending on the weaver and the materials they have available. Each basket is a teacher, ready to show you the patterns of strength, or perhaps acceptance of your process even when it is imperfect, and maybe the patience and humor to unravel until it feels right again.
The simple truth is that every single basket passes through the "ugly basket phase," a time when you find every fault imaginable to be as loud as a blue jay while you're trying to sneak through the woods.
Likely you will always be the harshest judge of your own work, and easily recognize beauty in others crafting. Sometimes this means taking everything apart and restarting, or maybe the feeling of serenity knowing that you will create more perfect baskets in the future with this as their proud, slightly misshapen elder sharing stories of its maker.
Each basket we weave has its own journey, from the mineral-rich ground that held the seeds, to the sunlight that provided their nourishment, to the water that flowed through them, to animals that sought them for refuge, to the appreciation with which they were harvested and then the intentions they were crafted with. Woven with this rich history are also the stories of our Wilderness Year community, of rhythmic log pounding and laughter on a sunny hillside in February. Our baskets have the potential to outlive us as their makers, ready to continually receive the wild goodness of the Earth.