Monday, December 24, 2012

What Christmas is for me


What Christmas is to me

          It’s interesting to be a person of faith and watch how actors on different sides of the playing fields of belief try to communicate to each other.  Each perspective tries to dissuade or coax another into seeing things in a similar light.  The problem is they each use a language native to their own ‘system’ and therefore often fail to reach any ears other than those of similar interest.  Of course, ‘preaching to the choir’ is what most writing and speaking is all about these days with very little genuine effort at crossing the political and religious divides that affect our world.  Religious folks talk about how it’s not really religion but they see things through the lens of tinted glasses, and they forget what it was like before they found the substance of their faith, and subsequently how to talk to those who have not shared that experience.  Those of a more independent belief system have a color in their own lens, often trying to chip away at religious fervor with various stories that run counter to the history learned by those in church; facts that seem to disprove the faith that others hold dear.  I get a chuckle when folks turn to me and rant a little about so and so group, waiting for me to agree and share their narrow minded accusations or muddied interpretation that some trend setting media outlet is pushing, and I decline.  Sometimes I even offer the zealot of cynicism some bit of insight, “You do realize I am that person you speak of, hahaha, would you like another perspective on that issue?”
            Well this Christmas I decided to write something about my faith in a casual manner, sharing my excitement for the mysticism of Christianity and this holiday, celebrating the birth of our Lord.  Oh but haven’t I seen the addendum to Zeitgeist, the end all dis-prover of Judeo-Christian roots?  Or perhaps I neglected to listen when my college history teacher attempted to explain the parting of the seas before Moses as actually meaning a change of the tides! We could go back and forth arguing this and that for a thin slice of eternity but for me faith is an experience.
              As I grow still and embrace the sublime around me I can’t help but glimpse the reality of a world beyond this world, or within it, a perceptible realm of things beyond mortality and flesh.  It’s nothing special really, no special gift, just a willingness to be sensitive to things that my aging body tries to ignore in its insatiable quest for comfort, contentment, and pleasure.  Many have approached or glimpsed that world-beyond-sight through ascetic denial of the body, fasting and harsh living conditions.  Some have used mind altering drugs, or perfection of behavior (or at least attempting such).  Some have meditated for years and others harnessed energy that exists naturally and cultivates within the soul for profound influence on the world around them.  Ah! Mystical you say?  What’s mystical about angry church-goers screaming against soldier deaths because of gays in America?  What’s so profound about a racist homophobic woman hollering, red faced against the ills of modern society?  You probably watch a lot of TV first of all, but secondly distracting the masses from a different example of religious folks is a critical step in marginalizing Christians in America.  You see, Christianity is deep in its mystery, it is profound in its effect on the heart, and the experience is one of peace, joy, and love, regardless of how short of those qualities I fall in daily life!
        For me, the bridge to that unseen world is always open.  It requires no plant or chemical, needs no perfection of the soul before I’m worthy to see it.  That bridge is almost silly in simplicity.  In fact, the bridge chases me when I turn away, reaches out when I am laid low, and refuses to close even when spit and cuss and glare.  The bridge has personality and seeks me out, like a shepherd pursuing a lost lamb at pasture.
           Being the person that I am, I am one who needs some extra support for belief of any claim.  Many times I have said with my heart and my mouth, “Creator, God, whatever, whoever you are, speak in a way that I can understand, so that I can know you, know you exist in some way, show me something, kindle this little seed of faith that would otherwise die for lack of food and water”.  And as if on cue a wide variety of miracles small and large have answered my request.  Just as a monk should begin to feel and see the supernatural come into being as an answer to their drastic step away from the ‘world’, calling on God with sincerity, no matter how doubtful one is, yields results.  And the greater that small seed of faith becomes the more expectant one is of the answer, and the greater the answer is!  It is mystery!
           There are many instances where the answer was so loud and clear that I made a promise to share the story with others over time.  One such story was when my friend Roy and I were driving back from Boone on HWY 221 toward Marion in his Trans-Am, “Koga” (Crow in Cherokee).  Roy and I lived in the woods together at the time and had landed some very minor gig teaching something, survival or martial arts, at a girls camp up near Linville.  Roy, also known as Wayah (Wolf), was someone who shared this idea that faith yielded results, the spiritual world was accessible and tangible, and that gratitude and thankfulness were key elements of this pursuit.  Moreover, Roy loved God.  Neither one of us were any kind of squeaky clean figure, being tarnished in all number of ways haha, but on our drive home we were consumed in a discussion of how awesome is the spiritual and supernatural protection of our God when we listen to the subtle presence of spirit.  We recounted times when we were snatched from a nasty fate by some intervention beyond our ordinary senses, and we took turns reading Psalms in the bible, all the while jamming to some gnarly heavy music in this rusted out car.  A few times the wheel jerked to the right when he’d brake, and we even examined the steering system finding nothing.  The whole trip something was a little off in the linkage system but we couldn’t find it.  After an hour or so of twisting roads, sheer drop offs, oncoming trucks and hair raising passes around slow moving vehicles  something popped.  Loud.  The wheels slammed hard to the right, skidded, and threw the car off the road – straight into the only gravel pull off available for miles in that area.  A little shaken we got out and discovered the tie rod nut had fallen off, was likely missing the entire ride, and the steering wheel was completely disconnected from the wheels except for a small bit of tension on the right side.  At first we were flooded with thoughts about how neither one of us had any money, we lived in the woods – literally.  No jobs, no friends around, it was late and on the weekend so no shops were open.  We walked a ways to and from the car hoping to see some sign of a junkyard or parts store and almost despaired.  As we took a rest on the car hood the test of faith came, and instead of swearing about our predicament we began to be filled with praise about where the car landed, how it happened at a slow spot, that it didn’t happen earlier, and how the whole thing had turned out rather wonderful even if we didn’t see any way forward at this point.  Right then I saw a piece of metal sticking up out of the sand and felt pressured to kick it.  I dislodged a rusty old nut from the mud and had that feeling that can’t be described – I knew it was a gift.  Sure enough as I climbed up under the car and tested the random find it was a perfect fit for the tie rod mechanism.  We found a few washers, cut a piece of rubber for a fitting, and locked the wheel back using a piece of ‘perfect’ trash buried under rubble from the roadside.  The car cranked up and we headed home with that intense burning energy, reflected in that amazing sunset ahead of us, that there was more to reality than the eye sees, and that somehow there was an echo to our spiritual quest, an answer to our praise and our prayer.
                Like that rusty old nut under the sand we are each uniquely and wonderfully made to fulfill some creative expression of the divine, like a snowflake, that is just what it is for a reason.  When we use our own desires or others’ expectations to craft our character and shape we may still find usefulness in this world but we risk missing out on what we were made for – perhaps a destiny beyond anything we are able to imagine.  Often it’s not the perfect diamond, polished and beautiful, that the world needs anyway but a rusty old nut; discarded, forgotten, buried on the roadside.  The effect that God has on us is similar, it’s almost like He enjoys taking what is the lesser in life and making great things out of it.  He will find us and take us just as we are, with all of our flaws, and use us in some critical way that shows the handiwork of our special nature.
                But how does one find the map, or in my earlier example, the bridge?  People have found enough results to continue pursuing various rituals and fads.  They balance chakras and release the breath and burn the incense and imagine the shapes and listen to the sounds and recite the words and eat the foods and so on.  Within my faith it is simple.  It’s a little odd, no doubt, and I understand from the outside it seems bizarre.  I get quite a laugh out of those references to Christianity as a zombie religion where we worship a dead dude and eat his blood and flesh! Haha.  Offense usually stems from insecurity.  I’m a hard man to offend.  If you want to find out more of what Christmas means to us, or you’d like to see what this bridge is that I speak of, or you can’t believe that the Creator could display personality and have a relationship but you are interested enough to try it’s this simple.
                With your heart and mouth one simply says, “God I’d like to know you better.  I’ve had doubt in the past but I want to see you, hear you, and know if you are real.  I want a relationship with you.  Show me your personhood through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Forgive the many sins I have made, make, and will make, make me spiritually clean through the sacrifice of your Son on the cross.  I accept you Jesus as my savior.  Bring your holy spirit into my life to show me, teach me, comfort me, and reveal to me this spiritual world.  Give me eyes to see the spiritual behind and above the physical.  Accept me as your son.”
                It can be a secret at first.  The bridge is not through some special person, or a system, or a building, or a political party.  It has nothing to do with anything in this world that claims importance.  It is direct to the source.  And on this day, Christmas, we Christians celebrate the birth of this person, this individual who was displayed as the physical manifestation of the Divine, all the qualities and characteristics the creator would like to see in us.  And how did he behave?  What did he teach?  Did he condemn and scream hatefully to others?  Did he celebrate the powerful church leaders of the time?  Did he lay blame and guilt on those around him?  Or did he love, and heal, and teach, and point upward to the father in heaven?  Don’t think the behavior of many who call themselves Christian reflects the actions and attitude of our example from whom we derive our name.
                Honestly it’s hard to claim this faith when I see how different I am from the example that Christ set, but it doesn’t mean I can’t try.  And in the end, no matter how short I fall, it’s not my behavior and actions that gets me across the bridge anyway.  He will seek me out, that’s called grace.  And my heart of thanks cries out on this day, and my praise is for Him.  And I am happy that the holiday most widely celebrated in association with Christianity is about one thing; giving.  Give to others, be thankful, share love, allow grace, and be a light for the world no matter what the world returns to you.  That is awesome.  That is my faith.  Merry Christmas to all my friends and family!




Monday, December 3, 2012

2012 LOTSWild: Year in Review

The 2012 Land of the Sky Wilderness School - Year In Review Featuring pics and vids from summer courses, regular classes, and our Jamaican adventure! Students from age 2-70 train and have fun in a variety of studies including martial arts (Tang Soo Do, ninjutsu, jiu jutsu, JKD, filipino knife and stick, kenpo, kung fu) as well as wilderness survival, navigation, edible and medicinal plants, Sailing, and much more. Thanks to everyone who made the year possible.

Knowledge, Skill, Strength

"Without Knowledge, Skill cannot be focused. Without Skill, Strength cannot be brought to bear and without Strength, Knowledge may not be applied." - Alexander the Great's Chief Physician

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turtle Island in Danger

If you read my background page you'll see mention of my apprenticeship with Eustace at Turtle Island in 1998 and 1999.  It is there that the very spirit and character of Land of the Sky Wilderness School was forged.  Eustace's unique vision is a carryover from his grandpa's program, camp Sequoyah, a program for boys that operated near Asheville from 1923 until the 1970's.  This vision is one that encourages challenge, healthy physicality, and hands on work to develop character and qualities in young folks that our current educational system fails to do.  Outdoor camps do it with excellence!  In addition to the instruction and experience available to kids Turtle Island, in the nineties, was the only place I could find to learn Appalachian building techniques, gardening and preservation methods like my family used, horse care and riding skills, hunting, and more stuff than I could ever list.  Now that opportunity that I had, as well as all the campers for the past 26 years of Turtle Island's history, is about to end.

The late night drums, thunderous storms, daily swims in pristine waterfalls, the smell of food prepared on wood stoves and over glowing open coals, the sound of hooves and a crowing rooster, the bark of a distant dog and the laughter of kids around a storyteller - these are things more rich in the memory than any bank account.  They are a treasure to our state!

Eustace has been featured in our state magazine and his preserve Turtle Island is one of National Geographic's top 10 places to visit in the nation!  Recently the show Mountain Men showcased a dramatized version of his life near Boone but for many of us the farm and camps are so much more.  Eustace taught us to think outside the box, to problem solve impossible issues in group settings, to fix with whatever is on hand, and honor our elders and teachers. 

A ridiculous invasion of county authorities (as if they just found out he was there), complete with satellite photos and four wheelers, sidearms and badges, recently shut the gates to our Preserve - a non-profit organization.  Citing building code violations, for buildings that are made of solid timber using historical and effective Appalachian methods proven over four centuries, agents have cut off outside access to the living history world known as base camp.

Eustace has made huge steps to accommodate health codes for primitive camps, always working out necessary changes with officials to keep the Preserve open.  This sudden action is more like an attack than an interest in safety and could be motivated by any number of possible issues.  As one of the inspectors said, paraphrased, "This is coming from higher up", and wasn't really a problem for him personally. 

Please take the time to sign a petition that helps protect ALL historical North Carolina buildings and primitive camps, including LOTSWild, by allowing negotiation and exemption from certain building codes for historical buildings. 
http://www.change.org/petitions/north-carolina-building-codes-council-alter-nc-building-codes-to-exempt-structures-at-turtle-island-preserve

The Watauga County office website is here;
http://www.wataugacounty.org/main/Default.aspx

Please share the word with as many people as you can the time frame is short.  Contact State officials as possible as well.  Thank you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"The physically bound go for puffing and straining and miss the delicate way; the intellectually bound go for idealism and exotics and lack efficiency and actually seeing into realities." - Bruce Lee

Sunday, November 18, 2012

woods movement

"The biggest killer in the wild is agitation combined with lack of awareness. If you can pause at will and still your mind, while being at peace and prepared, then you have already gone a long way towards being hard to find in space and hard to track in time. " - Fevrier

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bo Staff (6') seminar this weekend, Asheville

Saturday, November 17th. 10 am to 5 pm.  $65.
Space Limited. Preregistration recommended.  
Call 828-333-3298
We will be examining basic techniques as well as the 10 traditional and combative essence Katas from Kukishinden Ryu.  Students will learn both the Bo and Sword movements to complete the two person drills.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Best Foot Forward; practical foot care for the wilderness way finder



In basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri there was a saying, “If your feet go bad you go bad”.  I have repeated it to countless campers and students over the years but like so many things the severity of old time advice is only learned through experience.  What did those psychotic drill sergeants mean anyway?  For starters your feet are the one interface between you and planet Earth.  Other than the occasional crawl or fall our feet are our primary method of movement – hence the term bi-pedal, which we are.  Our ability to influence and change our environment, or adapt to it, to travel through and across it, to escape or pursue, is all made possible by healthy feet and legs.  It’s something most of us don’t even think about when everything is fine but it’s all we can think about when there’s a problem.
                Healing is impaired by the distance from lower legs from body core, so circulation is reduced, even more so when standing.  Pressure and swelling can be aggravated by the rest of the body above the feet.  Shoes are often breeding ground for bacteria and they hold moisture and heat, all of which can lead to both primary problems and complications.  During cold weather the toes and feet get cold quickly and further reduce circulation, robbing vital blood and nutrients from damaged tissue.
                Many of my readers have heard the story of the Jamaican who tried to pee on my sea-spine injured foot so perhaps I’ll skip that one, but I have plenty of others to illustrate warnings and possible solutions.  Do you remember the tales of Washington’s revolutionary troops at Valley Forge and how soldiers marched through winter with rags on their feet?  The first time I found growing rot on my toes my heart stopped for a second and I imagined having my limbs severed by a hacksaw from a Civil War surgeon.  Most of life I’ve been without any sort of health insurance so my first thought whenever I have a problem is usually, “how much is this going to cost?” followed by, “well, can I fix it myself?”  Remarkably I’ve become a pretty decent self-care giver for mild and moderate issues.  That’s one reason I’m writing this short essay.  That, and to say I’d rather be poor and free than a well cared for slave.  Keep in mind I’m not a doctor and this is not a how-to; any perpetration of backwoods foot fixin’ is your deal and at your expense.
                One harrowing adventure that turned out just stellar was on a sailing trip off the NC coast with my good friend Kaitlin.  Much like me, Kaitlin likes to go fast.  And going fast on a sailboat is a rush you just can’t imagine.  We were hitting the open ocean on a 14’ catamaran, with an extra jib sail, the day before hurricane Charley arrived.  It was smoking!  Some series of decisions, however, including me picking her up in the surf mid-session and heading back out, resulted in us having one life jacket which she donned.  We were catching air every so many waves until we hit a rogue crest that buried the boat bow and flipped us end over end.  The ship mast was grinding into the ocean floor as the 8+ foot swells rose and fell.  Not having a life jacket meant I could get around much faster in the righting process, and I’m so glad it happened fairly quickly.  I have since hit total fatigue on a capsized boat and that’s no fun.  As we walked away from the landed craft, safely on shore, I noticed a small puncture in my foot.  A wire cable had penetrated the skin on the bottom side as I scrambled around trying to get the boat turned over in the heavy wind.  That wound gave me no end of trouble for many, many weeks, even months, proving difficult to close and heal and I was constantly battling against severe infection.
                Another tale almost saw my foot lost, for real.  After wrestling and having my ankle ground away basically to the bone, on the inside of my right leg, I cleaned it with water and went on about my business.  The ensuing infection knocked me down and out.  With greyish tentacles reaching outward from the throbbing and inflamed wound site I was unable to walk, even hobble much, and the initial medications received from the school nurse at UNC-A were ineffective (despite her valiant attempts at ‘abrading’ the tissue, a term I loathe to this day).  Some mix of prior knowledge and primitive intuition brought me to the right pharmacy, which happened to be in my backyard at the time.  The window of opportunity had almost closed as I was unable to drive and barely saved my foot.  Do you want to know what substance it was?  I’ll tell you, but keep reading.
                Back in the day when I spent every day under the trees and stars, that wonderful time of my life I call “living in the woods”, which I did, there weren’t many socks to go around.  My old shoes were constantly wet and my habit of changing socks every couple of days (mostly without washing) seemed to be adequate.  I’d occasionally rinse and dry them in a creek, most of the time this process was fine.  The danger happens when an abrasion or skin break occurs, even a small rub between toes, and bacteria can find a place to set up shop.  People often ask what kind of shelter or cabin I built but often times I found a log suitable enough.  Lay a tarp or rain coat over a downed log and in warmer months you have an instant dry place to lay your head.  The problem was my feet would sometimes stick out in the weather.  One particularly bad night, as I snuggled my new pup (one of the original ‘two dogs’) on my chest, the steady rain poured down and my feet got quite damp.  I noticed a day or two later how the leather on my shoes was turning green.  That’s really not a great sign when the feet inside haven’t seen the light of day since the storm.  It starts like an itch - a scratchy feeling with a little burn and tingle between the toes.  Ignore it for even a day and you’ll have a bubble of rotting flesh on your foot.  Beneath the blackened surface is raw tissue that becomes painful and the whole thing smells like a dead, wet dog.  Dead, wet dogs smell gross.  Having no health care options except my own body, my mind, and the forest, I discovered an effective way to rid my human vehicle of that pesky condition known as ‘foot rot’.
                And before I give away all these wonderful secrets as to how to care and clean a damaged foot I have to mention the bigger picture here.  What’s the bigger picture?  The bigger picture is diet and daily activity choices.  Sometimes it can be frustrating just how radical folks can go with the barefoot doctrine.  As in, “I and my kids will not be yoked to imperialist powers and separation from the Earth by a sweat shop made synthetic petroleum based SHOE!”  I have known Rastas who are quite determined not to ground out the connection they feel between their living bio-energetic self and the great bio-electrified rock we call Earth.  The rubber sole is indeed a major separator between ourselves and the ground we walk upon, but I have also known hippie kids with severe foot injuries and parents who were at a loss as to how to get the embedded glass shards out since they insisted on wandering around without foot protection.  Common sense goes a long way.  Being barefoot and in the Sun is critical to health in my mountain boy opinion.  The muscles of the foot need training, our sensitivity increases when we feel where we are going, and toes can really dry out and get clean rubbing through grass, dirt, and sand.  Combine that with the overall emotional effect of sunshine and air and the physical nature of being outside and you have a recipe for excellent overall health.  Add to that moderation of sugars and foods that weaken the body’s immune system and lead to diabetes and you are approaching the big picture.  The big picture is our foundation as warriors, as human beings.  For too long our society has treated the problems and ignored the root causes of just about everything you can name so forgive me if I indulge in a minor rant about foot health starting with Food, Sun, Activity, and Attitude.  And as if you needed another reason to skinny dip in some forgotten water hole the sand and water is a scrubber into every foot crevice, keeping us clean and, uh, abraded?  I hate that term.
                Some foods even increase circulation! Can you imagine?  And have you ever tried putting powdered garlic in your sock under the sole, soul, of your feet and then tasted it in very short order?  The feet are intake points to the entire blood stream.  Think about that next time you step through some toxic substance in a parking lot or a pile of chicken poop.  If you find you have cold fingers and toes munch on Almonds and keep plenty of spice in your diet; it will warm you up.  Edgar Cayce said an almond a day keeps cancer away so why not try.  The cold extremity issue is more pronounced in women than men due to a difference in circulatory systems – coldness means less blood flow, which means less healing of tissue and injury, which means more infection and complication from injury. 
                So as we zoom in from the big picture and begin to look at foot care at the middle level, I call this the strategic level in my teaching method DST (Doctrine, Strategy, Tactics), we begin to realize anything that promotes circulation is good.  So, regular stimulation and rubbing is good.  Foods that aid are good.  Hot water/cold water repetition is powerful; but as a warning, I once froze to some socks on High Windy with a Boy Scout Troop and burned my toes trying to thaw them out.  Moderation is the key here.   Mild and temperate is better than frozen and less damaging than hot when thawing toes. 
                Moisture leads to cold! So take those socks off that you hike in and put them down in the sleeping bag where they will get dry and warm for morning use.  If you want to sleep in socks, do like you SHOULD with t shirts and any sleep gear; have a set only for that, dry and warm.  It’s so worth it.  And instead of super-duper water proofer commando boots on the rainy portion of an outdoor adventure; go sandals.  I just had another flash from basic training that’s relevant.  Oh the trauma of having everything you brought thrown out on the ground stomped on and tossed in the trash all to the chorus of maniacal drill sergeants with electronic bull horns in your face.  The first thing they threw out? Any shower shoes that were other than rubber thin strip flip flops.  Why? Bacteria.  Foot rot.  Useless men.  Contagion.  But really, those hard core boots are going to get wet in the rain, sorry.  Put them away in a pack where they will stay dry for later and put on sandals and go without socks.  You’ll be soaked.  But then you dry, and when the Sun comes out guess who has dry socks and shoes to put on?  Do it, you’ll thank me later. 
                Ok ok, so how did I stop my foot from falling off?  Imagine you have been adapting to the environment for say, I don’t know, millions of years, have one leg, and are yummy.  You can’t move or walk or shake off bugs and have a circulatory system that moves slower than my old Datsun 540 hatchback.  In fact, you are a tree.  What brilliant defense system has the Creator given you to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic? Sap.  Pine sap.  Awesome.  Collected in a plastic bag it can be placed in hot water and made very soft.  So a wounded foot immersed in hot and cold water, abraded (ACK!) to remove dead and nuisance tissue, and then packed with soft pine sap and wrapped and elevated – gets better!  And fast.  The foot rot is much less dramatic, you just pee on it.  Wash and scrub, immerse in piss (yours is really ideal here), leave for 15 minutes, then wash again with natural cleaners from the forest or at least warm water if possible.  It gets better.  It goes away.  As for the puncture wound; that was just a constant process of keeping dry, airing out, keeping clean, not re-opening the wound, keeping clean, keeping dry, not letting it dry out too quickly (hydrogen peroxide etc.), elevating, eating healthy, and repeat.  Keep clean (no sweaty socks, nasty shoes, etc.)  One final problem that pops up for me is peculiar to martial artists.  We train barefoot often an a variety of surfaces.  Sometimes repeated twisting and turning leads to a build up a huge callouses which can dry and split.  The broken skin can run downward and into the foot, is painful, and can be difficult to treat because the outer layers are essentially dead tissue.  After bathing sand the area with a fingernail buffer and work down as deep as you can stand it.  Then treat as a typical surface wound with some anti-bacterial stuff and a bandaid.  Never underestimate the potential of super glue and duct tape used correctly in tough situations.  Use shoes during training for a while (which we should do anyway for practicality training), and avoid rubberized floors!  They are bad for the knees anyway.
                I’m sure after I finish this and put it up for ya’ll to read I’ll think of the best story of all but this is long enough.  I appreciate your attention and hope you gleaned some useful information in a context of humor and adventure.  I am so over survival books that are the literary equivalent of a remote control manual.  It’s a fine line then to also not be too self-aggrandizing and patronizing to an awesome audience of learned folks.  All I can do is just be myself, share some information, and put my best foot forward.  Take care!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

the SCOOP on Hillbilly Blood, TV show


_____________________________________________

(re: season 1)

The scoop on America’s best TV show ever.  Ha!  Hillbilly Blood.  Well, the whole thing has been fun and well worth it but because of a variety of issues I am compelled to make a short statement on the show.  I, Spencer two dogs Bolejack, am an outdoor enthusiast and have been my whole life.  If you read my background page that’ll get you started but there’s plenty left out.  I’ve taught North Carolina history and my family goes a long way back to the organ builder at Old Salem, NC.  I was approached to do the show because of my expertise on survival and Appalachian history; living history.  These are skills I have both lived with and taught to others at my school in Cruso, NC.  Eugene is one of those fellows that just makes you feel like you're back in school - he's a living library on primitive technology, plants, tools, and has worked as everything from a cook to auto body builder and has mad skills that are creative as they are scientific. 

The TV show was called “Secrets of the Mountain People”, and as a documentary sort-of reality sort-of show, would both show Eugene and I demonstrating a variety of fixes, tips, and skills, as well as showcasing locals from ALL backgrounds doing what they do best – making do.  Appalachia is very diverse.  We have retirees, old family, hippies, transplants, rednecks, radicals, backwoods fellers and smellers, hillbillies, etc. The heart of the show was showing the grit and resourcefulness of Appalachian people, something I’m very proud of.  A secondary goal was to share great information with the growing community of preparedness minded individuals.  A lot of these skills and knowledge are dying out.  Younger generations may act proud of being from some cultural place, but the reality is they are often too busy to actually live by the skills their parents and grandparents had.  Much of the knowledge is being lost.  The show was a way to preserve this knowledge.

We filmed a variety of things which was challenging due to the constraints of 3D technology, conflicting direction, and very limited time.  It turned out suitable enough for the one hour show.
I was bothered by the cuts to a half hour episode which did away with much of the teaching of how things were made and done, but it’s wasn’t terrible.  The name change, however, was completely out of our control and seems to have more to do with gaining an audience than representing our people or the original intent of the show.  And it worked! In the end who cares what the name is, honestly. 

Eugene and I both hope you have enjoyed it enough to get a chuckle, and perhaps were inspired to get more outdoors yourself and see what you can do with both nature and your own hands.  Find out how people live without daily or weekly, or ever, trips to Wal Mart.  Ask questions about how you’d fare if gas was unavailable, food was scarce, or a sudden crisis robbed your wallet. 
If you have any questions regarding the show feel to contact myself or Eugene, we are easily discoverable on Facebook.  Check the links to the right of this post for our public channels, Windrider and Trapper Jack.   You can also email me from my website at www.lotswild.com
Thank you,
Spencer

ps - I'll be doing my thing at the nation's largest living history festival, Hart's Square, near Hickory NC later this month.  You won't be disappointed come check it out.

update 4/25/13 - come support Camp Hope in Cruso NC this weekend.  See post.

update 2/3/15 - search recent blog posts for answers to common questions; things like "Why didn't you roll start a manual transmission?"  Answer: logging roads are often blocked by buried logs, placed vertically to stop vehicle traffic, in our mountains.  The truck was stopped up against a row of these, and the hill behind was steep with huge roots.  I'll do a video on that spot soon just cause so many ppl ask!  Also Hemlock is not poisonous.  Poison Hemlock is poisonous.  Hemlock trees are awesome and useful for so many things! Sadly they are almost all gone now.  Even fewer than when we filmed.

another UPDATE 9/26/16: Someone asked me how Hillbilly Blood got started.  Here's a short answer since this is the post most people find when searching.  Steven Miller of Superfine Films contacted me and shot a short trailer for a show called Secrets of the Mountain People over a year before anyone else contacted me.  It was originally shot on my property with buddy Adam.  After being picked up by Destination America and Discovery networks the show added an additional character, Eugene Runkis, known for his survival vids and fun personality.  Gene and I were surprised to see the final name when the show actually aired, and continued to work together through the completion of 59 episodes total.

 so many people keep reading this post that I feel inclined to let you know about - MY MUSIC for sale, cheap, awesome, original! Please see the store page at this website.  You'll probably like most the album called Brother Wolf by Spencer Ray (that's me).  It's on amazon and iTunes and lots of free lower quality samples on youtube thanks!

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Some martial arts are very popular, real crowd pleasers, because they look good, have smooth techniques. But beware - they are like a wine that has been watered. A diluted wine is not a real wine, not a good wine, hardly the genuine article. Some martial arts don't look so good, but you know they have a kick, a tang, a genuine taste. They are like olives. The taste may be strong and bitter-sweet. The flavor lasts. You cultivate a taste for them. No one ever developed a taste for diluted wine." -Bruce Lee

Friday, August 31, 2012

Now enrolling for all area martial arts classes

*new location*  Canton, NC - full schedule TBA, starting Mon/Wed after school and Fri/Sat speciality classes
Black Mountain - Tues/Thurs 3pm, 4pm, 5pm options per experience level
Arden @ Hahn's Gym - Mon/Wed 6pm Tang Soo Do (striking), 7pm Taijutsu (ninjutsu)
Hendersonville with Brian Adams - Acu Na Wellness Tues/Thurs 7:30pm IMA

for more information on any location call 828-280-0847

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Evolution, Creation, and Noah's Ark; a response to Tyson


Original quote:

“People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not scientific and that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.' - Neil deGrasse Tyson, New York, Dec. 19, 2006. "Letter to the Editor" New York Times published December 21, 2006 in the Read section”



Let me begin by saying it's not the separation of church and state I am arguing here but the idea of being intellectually superior and purging those who disagree (something which radical liberals and the far right have in common).  And that, in specific reference to creation/evolution and Noah’s Ark, as well as a variety of mythologies about the origin of life and Earth.
First of all, no one really knows anything.  Beyond that, when anyone approaches a question with a predisposition, religious or anti-religious bias, chips will fall in the direction of that bias.  So Noah’s Ark as folks interpret is pretty far out as is women coming from dude’s ribs.  Let me throw out a less religious version, explained in more new age vocabulary for the biblically hindered. 
Let’s assume for a moment, nothing out of the ordinary for any of the theories, that there is an all pervasive meta-intelligence.  This force of universal consciousness is geared toward generative, creative, and life giving properties.  It permeates all matter, space and time.  Its presence aligns chemical and biological processes based on mathematical systems to allow the indwelling of its presence, life, or spirit.  The designs of the Universe reflect these mathematical structures from the smallest subatomic levels to the grandest perspectives we can see in the Universe.  It’s a fingerprint pointing to the effect of this vibratory presence of a unifying force of some sort.  Now be very careful before you think sounds plausible because you are, in effect, believing in what some people call “God”.  Oh! You thought he was an old man in a chair?  Wake up and quit using the lowest efforts of your intellectual enemies to combat with ancient overused clich├ęs!
To consider that some mud and acid laid around on a rock and sprung into life to me is far more preposterous.  Someone once said it’s like letting paint drip from a bucket – let it drip long enough and surely the combined works of Shakespeare will appear!  To put this in biological perspective let me quote Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA. Speaking on nucleic acid tape or RNA – messengers he says;
“Suppose the chain is about two hundred amino acids long; this is, if anything, rather less than the average length of proteins of all types. Since we have just twenty possibilities at each place, the number of possibilities is twenty multiplied by itself some two hundred times. This is conveniently written 20200 and is approximately equal to 10260, that is a one followed by 260 zeros!
This number is quite beyond our everyday comprehension. For comparison, consider the number of fundamental particles (atoms, speaking loosely) in the entire visible universe, not just in our own galaxy with its 1011 stars, but in all the billions of galaxies, out to the limits of observable space. This number, which is estimated to be 1080, is quite paltry by comparison to 10260. Moreover, we have only considered a polypeptide chain of a rather modest length. Had we considered longer ones as well, the figure would have been even more immense.    Life Itself  (1981)  p. 51-52. 
He then, in passing, describes the creation of life as nothing short of a miracle – that this immense line of material should self-organize in such a manner as to produce the systems necessary for organic maintenance at the simplest of levels.
But the numerous holes in contemporary evolutionary theory aren’t the worst problem here.  It’s when we fail to see the truth in Myth and rely on apparent, or ‘taught’, evidence as the new religion.  The saddest part, to me, of our reliance on so-called science is that we justify our superiority while entrenching deeper and deeper into a very unscientific approach on the possibilities that may exist with our own developing abilities both within science, and our evolving bodies/perception/sensory systems.  When kids are taught evolution as fact there is no room for any extra-terrestrial intervention of any kind in the DNA coding of species and systems on planet Earth.  There is no merit given to the numerous and reputable accounts of human interaction with rather large reptiles (Draco, Dragon, Dinosaur), and there is no room for discussion of previous advanced civilizations and mass ecological catastrophe!  All this despite evidence that such could have occurred. 
            The beauty of Myth is that while they may get some metaphorical details twisted around the essence of the events, the only record we have as a civilization and species is in our ancient and Holy texts.  From around the world we hear stories of beings from the sky, fallen angels, star people, previous advanced cultures with technology even beyond our own.  We hear echoes of interstellar calamity, world upheaval and flood, beings far beyond us, and lost knowledge.  In this way the essence of Myth more accurately records our ancient past that our arrogant and limited science. 
            As for Noah and his Ark; let’s just pretend that somewhere along the line a certain human had access to that all pervasive meta-intelligence.  Let’s imagine that somehow a human being was able to speak to, to hear, to interpret correctly, the subtle information flows from that wellspring of life affirming energy.  Let’s say the designer of subatomic vibratory frequency, a force within every cell of every being spoke truth and someone heard it.  The truth was a warning and a need to prepare.  Perhaps Noah wasn’t some cloaked fellow with a wooden ship but an ancient wise man with advanced technology - even the ability to preserve DNA code, samples of life from as far and wide as he could gather?  What if genetic engineering had gone awry and the host of monsters and parasites following the failed experiment were destroying the fragile Earth biosphere and this man “Noah” selected the ‘heirloom’ seed of Earth’s stock?  A great calamity ensued destroying much of the world, told still in the stories from tribal people on every continent.  But because of this man, and his ability to ‘hear’, to gather, and prepare, life continued and grew again, renewed, unmolested (until Monsanto).  What a treasure that the account survived to be retold again and again, sung about on Sunday morning and revered in abo tribes around the globe in a variety of forms!
            We will never know the details.  We will likely never understand the great events of our past.  But to march around legislating against the ‘ignorant’, purging those who retell the ancient myths because we hate religion, or faith in general, is indeed a mirror.  The modern radical Progressive has much in common with the Christian zealots of America’s past, the fanatics in the middle east, the inquisitors of old Europe.  So convinced that they have all truth they first seek to change everyone else into their own mold and, upon failing that, remove them from the system they have created.  Who is this Neil deGrasse Tyson? Who are you, any of you to prance around like you are the source of all knowledge and history and then look down your nose at simple people who have learned to love the old stories.  And if by any chance the theory of evolution is flawed, fails to explain the whole story, then what you are legislating is nothing short of the teaching of lies.  And in 200 years how will the lie change to meet the political needs of that era? Who will control the school systems and pillars of belief?  What great good do you do by removing faith in the unseen and replacing it with a very dead atheism? 
            I’ll close with a final quote from Crick;
 Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved. It might be thought, therefore, that evolutionary arguments would play a large part in guiding biological research, but this is far from the case. It is difficult enough to study what is happening now. To figure out exactly what happened in evolution is even more difficult. Thus evolutionary achievements can be used as hints to suggest possible lines of research, but it is highly dangerous to trust them too much.”   What Mad Pursuit  (1988)  pp.138-139