It's been a long time in coming but the day finally arrived last week on March 23rd when we raised our new camp totem pole! She is now flying high in the sky and proudly looking over all who walk the trail near her path.
This is a very special totem pole for many reasons. For beginners, it was a sad occasion the day before when we had to remove the original totem pole that has towered over our camp for 17 years, since the spring of 1993. The pictures below show it just after removal last Monday and being hauled away. In a future posting I will most assuredly retire it here on the blog with the full story and with the respect that it deserves.
The story of the new totem began more than a year ago when the local power company donated a fine utility pole to our camp with a $400.00 value and a 30 year in-the-ground life. At the time I didn't know that it would become our new camp totem pole and the only thing I was thinking about was the generosity of the power company. Heck, there's a million and one uses for a utility pole.
During the fall fellowship last year I was studying the totem pole at Camp Raven Knob which was obviously made from a utility pole. The idea began to brew in my head of the possibilities and before you knew it I got my gouges and a maul for some experimenting on our utility pole. I was amazed at how well the wood carved so I then began sketching my own totem designs in a note pad until I had it all figured out. About Halloween of 2009 I had the pole on the back porch of our dining hall and the carving had begun!
As you can see from my original design to the right, all of the characters were my own but I did love the upward slant of the wings of the totem pole at Camp Raven Knob. I've carved many totems over the years but this upward slant of the wings was very appealing and gave the Thunderbird a powerful look. By the way I will shortly be posting a detailed video of how I made and carved the wings for our new pole... that will be part 3 of this series so check back soon.
So all of the carving was completed between Halloween and Thanksgiving then between several other high priority projects and the many blizzard snows of this winter, the finished pole sat patiently for 4 months on the back porch. Finally a two-day window of opportunity was opened last week and with the help of a group of 12 boys, the new totem pole was set into it's hole. The following are the meanings of all the characters carved on our new pole:
The Bear: On the bottom is the bear which symbolizes strength and thus the counselors in our program because they build the foundation (see the hammer in the bears paws) upon which all else stands. Without our counselors we would be nothing so sometimes the most important character on a totem pole is on the bottom and for good reason.
The Beaver: Next is the beaver which represents the program directors since they always seem to be gnawing on wood seeking the sometimes elusive trail to a safe and effective program for the kids.
The Frog: This little creature represents the family workers who do a lot of "hopping" around between the kids, families, counselors, and everyone on property as they mediate various problems and solutions that make our program work.
The Wolf: Indian symbolism sees the wolf as having great wisdom and knowledge so this magnificent creature will represent the teachers who make sure that our students stay current in their school work and are well prepared to succeed in the future.
The Raven: This bird will represent the campers family who are also working hard to make the necessary changes in their own lives and preparing the home "nest" for their son to eventually return and flourish into the future together again.
The Thunderbird: The Thunderbird with his wings spread out tall and proud at the very top of the pole will represent the youth and the successful people that they are capable of becoming. If a strong foundation is laid beneath then every kid will have the opportunity to succeed and that will be the real story of our totem pole as they "fly" into their future.
The following are two videos of the totem pole that you might find interesting. I am currently editing another video that will show how I made and carved the wings so check back soon for that one.
Living in the mountains of North Carolina I have spent almost 30 very
rewarding years working with at-risk kids in a wilderness camping program as a counselor, outdoor educator, and woodshop teacher. To learn more about what my blog is all about, just scroll down this sidebar to "About my blog..."
1. Woodcarving/Woodwork: Working wood has been a lifetime obsession for me and I enjoy sharing what I know. It is my belief that hands-on and experiential learning has a direct and profound effect on the development of a child's intellect, confidence, and character. Projects of mine (and my students) will be posted as they progress and I will occasionally include a video tutorial. All of my videos can be found here .
2. Bushcraft/Primitive Living Skills: Finding ways to live closer to the land has always fascinated me. Whether it's building a shelter, fire starting, animal tracking, or just making rustic furniture... you'll eventually see some of it here.
3. Long Distance backpacking, canoeing, & bicycling: Some of my long distance adventures include thru-hiking the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to Canada and I solo paddled the 1,800 mile Yukon river across northwest Canada and Alaska to the Bering sea. More detailed accounts of these and many other adventures can be found here
4. Sustainable Living: I'm always looking for better ways to do more by using less. It's not so much an "environmental" thing to me as it is a quest for personal independence from material things and finding a path to more substantive living .
5. Scouting Activity: As a scoutmaster of 6 years (and currently assistant scoutmaster) I'm actively involved with the troop and "Order of the Arrow" where it is a joy to volunteer hundreds of hours each year because investing in the next generation insures a better tomorrow for everyone. In an era when most schools don't value hands-on learning, outdoor education, and the arts... scouting soars in meeting these critical experiences for boys.
6. Profiles: Behind everyone's success you can usually find a trail of some very significant mentors and teachers along the way. And sometimes you don't completely understand how someone affected your life for the better until many years later. You'll find some of those stories here.