“At times I include marriage, religion and profession among the choices we ought not to make; but from-ness is always crucial.” –Bill Holm
Archaeology is a discipline of digging. Its intent is to bring the past up to the surface, to make it visible.
Experimental archaeology is also a discipline of digging, but it is not satisfied with looking. Experimental archaeology seeks to understand the past by enacting it. It is a discipline of digging a hole and making a pot.
I am not a very good archaeologist. I am not even a very good experimental archaeologist. I don’t endlessly obsess over the finer details of the making of stone-age axe heads or analyze the chopping pattern on centuries-old hand-hewn logs. But, like you, I live in a world that has a past. Or, more appropriately, I live in a place that has a past, among people who have a past.
It is the habit of our society to flit across the surface—snapshots, jet planes and fast cars will whisk us anywhere we wish to be quite regardless of what lies beneath us. Digs, in an archaeological sense, do not flit across the surface. They choose a spot and delve downwards, digging through time, the sedimentary layers built up into a rich soil. They require the specificity of place.
I am not a good archaeologist because my digging is not intended to preserve or analyze. I am not particularly trying to imitate the actions of those who came before me. I simply wish to enjoy the fertile soil. Perhaps, together, we could learn to drink a little more deeply of the richness beneath us that we might grow toward the sun. Let’s take a moment, dig a hole and plant some nettles—or flowers, or a tree, or whatever, like us, grows both down into the soil and up into the light.
Title: A Short History
Materials: Missing pieces, frustration, several tries, hard work, a lot of help, a little success, still trying
Title: Hemp Lace
Materials: Curiosity, observation, a mallet, some pounding, gentle fingers
Title: Nettle and Other Paper
Materials: Curiosity, patience, a new lawnmower, philosophical differences, determination
Title: Hemp and Hackle
Materials: a walk on a cold day, a cat named Franz Ferdinand, there’s never as much as you think, a bruised knee, waiting, snow, water, a little help and advice
Date: ca. 1940-present
Title: Hickory Nuts
Materials: A walk on a Sunday afternoon, memories, some curious heifers, rose-bushes, a shirt-sack
Date: ca. 1920-present
Title: Nålbinding and Needles
Materials: Curiosity, several YouTube videos, a visit to Ewetopia, mistakes, starting over, stubborn determination, a pocket-knife, a scrap of wood, some whittling
Date: ca. 6500 B.C.-present
Materials: Woody Leslie, a couch, deep cleaning, new boots, a summer road trip, a new friend, a losing battle
Title: Wooden Spoons
Materials: Idaho, a borrowed knife, a log of green maple, some good instruction, sore fingers
Title: Lena’s Confirmation Book
Materials: the Lutheran catechism, explanations, a few friends, a discovery, interpretations
Title: Powder Horn and Needle Case
Materials: A need, an idea, carving, fitting
Date: 19th Century, 21st Century
Title: Ered Ven Hans
Materials: Buck Creek, tobacco suckers, unrequited love, a lonely Sunday afternoon
Title: Nils Sandal
Materials: a name, a question, a self
Title: A Man Concerned with Form
Materials: Nils Sandal, social conventions, hungry critters, two languages
Date: After he developed his signature
Title: Music Book
Materials: Good intentions, a promise, one dollar, a hole, no music
Date: It happens to the best of us