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June 29, 2011

While in Yosemite, I looked for a book in the bookstore as a “souvenir” or “remembrance” that was very relevant to the place. I wanted a book that was extremely specialized so I could learn something specific to the place. And not just a guidebook of hikes or the general history of the place since it has been a National Park, but something more. The book that called out is: It will Live Forever by Beverly Ortiz. It is a detailed and spiritual story about making acorn in the old Yosemite Miwok way. The story is told by Julia Parker, a Kashia Pomo woman who came from Graton, CA and married a Yosemite Miwok man. She lives in the Yosemite National Park and carries on the traditions of the Yosemite Miwok as well as those of her own family, which are closely related, traditions that include acorn making and basketweaving.

One thing I love about this book is how closely it ties in with what I tuned into as a child. Miwoks in our area used acorns too and when I was small, I played beneath a black oak tree, wanting every year to use the acorns and even trying to pound them in a mortar, but not knowing how to do it or having any resources to learn. It has stayed with me, the memory of that desire. Now I have finally found words that reveal, in language I understand and connect with, the process to work with the acorns. It seems rather miraculous. Also the fact that Julia herself comes from the area we live in seems like a connection.

Tuning in with what used to be the main food source for the people who lived here sustainably seems so integral, like it’s a step towards true sustainability, using resources abundant to the area, instead of importing grains like wheat that we have been taught we need. It may sound extreme but I have always wondered why we can’t at least try to make use of these acorns. Plus, the tannic acid that is leached out of acorns during preparation is used in natural dying of vegetable fibers for more colorfast and vivid colors, contributing to our own fibershed.

The acorn making process is complicated and takes days to do and a lifetime to really learn. I have no hopes to become any kind of acorn expert. But as Julia says, “The elders told me when it comes to get out and pick and gather, even if it’s one basketful, so the acorn spirit will know you’re happy for the acorn, and next year the acorn will come.” It can’t hurt to gather one basket in the Fall …

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marilee Ford permalink
    July 1, 2011 9:09 pm

    lovely lovely oh that our lives were slow enough to work with acorns…

    • karen hess permalink*
      July 1, 2011 10:11 pm

      I’m working on it! Maybe if we work with acorns, our lives would slow down…

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