I have spent the day inside a primitive shelter with two different wood fires going for 6 hours or so. I smell like smoke; I’m covered with dirt; I have ashes in my hair and smeared on my cheeks; I have roasted garlic and smashed remnants of sweet potatoes, carrots, and yucca root under my fingernails. I am exhausted. A co-teacher and I have spent the day teaching 30 fifth graders about flintknapping, rock-boiling, cordage, and primitive cooking methods. It was a blast, as always, and it was so much work, as always.

Anna and I started the day a couple hours before the kids got there, since we needed to have a fire going and the rocks heating for long enough to do the rockboiling before the kids had to leave. We started the fire using a bowdrill. Anna worked the set while I put together the tinder bundle and layed the fire for her. As she got close to getting a coal, she asked for my help. I knelt on the far side of the fireboard from her, and she had me support her handhold hand while she continued to drill. I love working a joint friction fire; seems like a really effective way to bring two people’s minds together. With two fires going in Malalo (the shelter on WAS land designed based on traditional Akamba shelters), we split wood, gathered rocks for knapping, and caught up with each other since we haven’t talked since the end of summer camps this year.

The kids were great, engaged, funny, excited. The parents were impressed, as they always are by our curriculum. We taught them how to make cordage with raffia, everyone sitting on the dirt floor of the shelter by the central fire, had them each make a stone knife to chop vegetables with, made roasting sticks for everyone, and roasted carrots, bell peppers, garlic, yucca root, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, and apples. For the grand finale, we boiled water in a coal-burned wood bowl, using glowing rocks from the fire. With the boiling water, we make cedar-hemlock tea, which the kids mostly don’t want to drink because it has ashes in it. After the kids left, we drink the tea ourselves, while we clean up the masses of mutilated vegetables from the stumps and dirt floor in Malalo, scatter the stone knives and roasting sticks, debrief our day with each other (and okay, maybe talk a little bit about our love lives also), and I hit the road to drive the three hours back home.

The sweat and fire smoke permeate the truck on the way, and my back sticks uncomfortably to wrinkles in my layered shirts against the back of the truck seat. My joints stiffen, sitting in the truck after squatting in the dirt all day. My eyes are dry and red, scratchy from all the smoke and dirt, and droopy from just being worn out. Stepping out of the truck at home feels great, and the thought of a warm shower is just about orgasmic. At the new apartment, the bathroom is bare. There is one towel on the rack, my toothbrush and toothpaste next to the sink. The shower curtain, decorated with little yellow ducks and the words “chics rule”, is held up with two nylon belts until I remember to move the shower curtain rings from the old place. But the water pressure is perfect, and the water is hot. There is Bath and Body soap here, wonderful smelling, although I’ve long forgotten what kind it was. There is no shampoo moved yet, so I use soap on my hair. After steaming in the shower for as long as the hot water lasts my face feels clean, my pores loving the steam. I feel like I have washed off so much dirt and ash that I’m visibly lighter than I was. If I had a bathroom scale here I would be tempted to check. I feel really good after spending a day teaching kids how to sit in the dirt and play with plants and rocks and sticks. I can’t think of a more rewarding way to spend a day. And I feel so refreshed after the shower that, standing there in the steam with my hair all higgledy-piggledy from the towel-drying, and steam everywhere, and feeling just so alive that I’m smiling goofily, I realize that this is about as glamorous as I ever feel. This is about as glamorous as I have any need to be.

bathroom self-portrait

If you’re not familiar with the Self-Portrait Challenge, you should check them out. Here’s the challenge for this month:

Lets ditch those imperfections and go all out GLAM. Yes lets glam it up with some disco, diamonds and glitter.

I suggest some gorgeous shots – really over do it on the posing and makeup and dressups and show us the extrovert you. The sexy mama in the kitchen with the peek-a-boo apron or how about some diamontes on those dungarees, stillettos, feathers and lycra. Looking for ideas then go no further than Glam Rock as your inspiration, KISS, David Bowie, and Queen and Garry Glitter. Glam means dressing androgynously in make up and glittery, florid costumes such as David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Get Glam everyone!