Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Wonders of Grass

Ha! I wonder how many hits (I meant search engine hits you guys!) I'll get off of that title? Just kidding. I really mean Grass, the stuff that grows all over the ground:

Hooper Bay is famous for its grass baskets that women weave.  These baskets, that are in our school's display case, have been referred to by an elder as "modern art" because the truly traditional baskets were big, functional food-holders.
They're still pretty.  The smell is the best part -- it's like fresh-mown sweet hay smell inside the basket, no matter how old the basket is.

So, anyway, the grass that can make these baskets has been a mystery to me for a while -- which grass? There are so many different grasses on the beach and tundra. Well, a kind Hooper Bayer took me under her wing this past weekend and showed me which kind it is:

and it's totally easy! It's everywhere! Here's Esther picking her first grass:

 We took the grass we picked that day to Esther's great-great Aunt Helen -- since it was our first grass we ever picked.  I know it's only traditional to do that for the first catch of an animal, give the catch to an elder, but I like the tradition, and Helen was very happy to hear about our day and grateful to receive the grass. This is the auntie that waxes long about how many uses there are for grass, how invaluable it is to survival and quality of daily life.  I like to think about what of my things I could replace with natural materials.  I like to think of how long I could subsist at my camp, making the things I need with stuff found around me.  Learning all of this about grass, a very simple plant that is plentiful around me, is a step in that direction. 

 We had such an awesome day; it was warm and sunny and calm enough that we could just loll around on the tundra.  This grass is all over our camp, so we spent the afternoon picking grass there and just being relaxed, spending time with the dogs and each other.  It was like saying goodbye to our camp for the winter since it was the last time we were able to hang out there before it was covered with snow....

Learning to weave it, however, will be another story.
Next up brewing mystery:  which moss did the people in earlier times use for seal oil lamps?  How did they make the moss into a wick?  How did the lamp function?


Liz said...

Very interesting! And the baskets are beautiful!


Liz said...

once you figure all that out-you could be on LOST and really survive! Good for you :)

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