“We live, we die, and like the grass and trees, renew ourselves from the soft earth of the grave. Stones crumble and decay, faiths grow old and they are forgotten, but new beliefs are born. The faith of the villages is dust now … but it will grow again … like the trees.”
-attributed to Hinmuuttu-yalatlat / Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
We began the Buckeye Gathering in Northern California because…it’s about time. There is a rare density here of talented instructors, students with that eager glint in their eye, and intertwining movements, so we gather this first spring to offer a week of practical classes on time-honored living skills. Seasonal harvests and celebrations are a hallmark of human culture; we offer an open invitation to folks from all corners to join us in making Buckeye an annual tradition for networking and inspiration. California, for its resources and diversity, also traces its historical roots as an area of trade and travel along the Pacific Rim, so it is no wonder that it still gathers us.
“Buckeye” is both a native tree, named de-sa’ ka-la’ by the Pomo, and Aesculus californica by Linnaeus, as well as being a native butterfly. The buckeye tree is a seasonal indicator, blooming early in the spring, and a first harbinger of autumn here in Northern California. The wood is prized for its use in friction fires. Many beautiful flowers bear one fruit: the buckeye nut which has been boiled & leached as a survival food as well as used to shock fish to the surface of pools. Some carry the nuts for good luck; the palmate leaf resembles the human hand.
Primitive living skills are our original technologies. All of us, every human, has ancestors who made fire and tools from plant, stone, & bone. Because reconnecting with traditional living requires knowledge of the local ecosystems, of the bioregion and its resources, we emphasize local flora and fauna. Although all of our forebears lived earth-based cultures at some point, California Indians tended this land for millennia before European arrival, so we at Buckeye place their particular technology and history at the forefront. We cannot roll back time to a pristine past, but we may learn fundamental lessons from the people who have come before, teachings integral to our healthy survival.
We have moved in clans, communities, tribes, and villages, as the fish in schools or birds in flocks; it is our own natural formation and how we are most fully nurtured. Families, elders, and children, all play a part in the whole of life, the handmade life. At the dawn of what makes us human are song, story, and music. At the heart of human society and culture are tradition, myth, and ritual: more than an assortment of living skills, and yet woven into the technologies of daily and seasonal living. We humans hold a unique appreciation for beauty, a utility once indistinguishable from art. Whether young or old, there is a particular joy in watching your first friction fire blossom to life, in the dawning knowledge that we thrived long before factories began blowing smoke.
We are at a unique juncture in history, with an increased awareness in the possibility of our own extinction from not living responsibly and in harmony. Relearning to tend the land will take patient, imperfect steps. As elements converge that lead to collapse of systems, so converge streams of reawakened instincts and increased consciousness. Many of us long for the clans and tribes that we know in our bones, long to re-indigenize. To reconnect with our shared roots we offer a space hopefully enlivening and productive, to cross-pollinate our cultures and generations. We give birth to the Buckeye Gathering, as a sign of what has been and what may be, in service to our deeper instincts.