December 3, 2007
My wife’s garden clippers broke a few weeks ago and she asked me to fix them. The clippers were irreparable, but as I examined the long, tapered blades, I thought there must be some utility in them. Of course! Spear points!
Self defense has been a preoccupation during my solo hikes into the wild canyons behind my house on the Frying Pan. Occasionally, I have encountered mountain lion tracks and felt conspicuously unarmed. I don’t own a gun, so a spear/walking staff combo seemed like the right thing.
Now that I had spear tips, I needed a shaft, so I glanced at an old swing set I was about to haul to the trash and noticed several aluminum tubes about five feet long ” light and strong. Perfect! Now all I had to do was to connect the tip to the tube.
I kicked around my wood pile and unearthed a stout willow I had once cut for a railing. I jammed the willow into the aluminum tube, cut a slot down the middle of the other end, inserted the clipper blade, glued it, screwed it and had my spear.
The spear had a good heft, and the point jutted menacingly out of the willow shaft. A few file strokes on the tip of the clipper blade made it a deadly point. I pondered how a few strong hunters could bring down a deer, and that’s when I got concerned.
My drive to fashion a spear is not what you might call “normal” for an aging writer, and yet the pieces came together with a simple utility that spoke of something intuitive. My concern was that I had become a survivalist whacko, even though there’s nothing whacko about survival; it’s our deepest human instinct.
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My compulsion to make a spear is the same compulsion I have to accumulate a huge stack of firewood and plant a garden. A few weeks ago, I dug a hole in the middle of the yard and planted an apple tree that will one day spread branches laden with apples.
I have two solar panels on my roof heating my domestic hot water, and I just acquired two more panels that I plan to install for heating my house ” or, perhaps, heating a new greenhouse in my garden that will one day flourish with organic vegetables.
The feeling I get from the spear, the firewood, the apple tree, the garden and the solar panels is a sense of independence … from the oil industry, the energy grid, the prevailing corporate culture and the national food chain. My foremost desire is to diminish my reliance on a top-heavy system of goods and services that I view as fundamentally unsustainable.
Part of this might come from where I live on the edge of the wilds. I work on a computer all day, totally in touch with the world, but, when I step out my door, I am suddenly in the wilds, which prompts in me an innate pioneering drive for self-sufficiency.
The more independence I can create at my home, the easier I sleep at night. Shelter, food and heat are the key components to holding down the fort, so to speak, in the event of interruptions to the tenuous supply chain that makes it possible to live at 7,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains.
It might seem like a strange proclivity to declare independence from the overarching sociopolitical order, but it’s the direction I’ve been moving for years. A spear is either total insanity or it’s a culminating symbol of independence from a culture that coerces conformity.
My 14-year-old son thinks the spear is “cool,” and he dashes through the woods with it like a Masai warrior. My wife is less enthused about the spear, though she likes the idea of eating tomatoes grown in a solar greenhouse. I just hope they can adjust to the mule team, the root cellar, the chicken coop …
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