January 2010 Blog Post by Intern Kate Hensley & Imaginal Cell Story

January 2010 Blog Post by Intern Kate Hensley & Imaginal Cell Story

150 150 Strawbale Studio

 Strawbale Studio blog entry by intern, Kate Hensley:


Welcome to 2010, our dear friends, lovers of natural building! Your favorite cob slinging studio members have been enjoying the first several weeks of the new year with a couple of familiar activities. First of all, we all received and took advantage of the opportunity to surround ourselves with family members and friends during the holidays, making sure to stuff our bellies with good foods, telling stories and taking gentle naps. Deanne, Abbie and myself (Kate) reconvened here at the Strawbale Studio to begin the warm labors of winter.

From Interns 2010

From Interns 2010


We began with hearty work in the fields, almost everyday the first few weeks of January, collecting and harvesting phragmite, a reed grass, for thatching roofs later in the year. This is very satisfying, physically intensive work, even in the cold January Michigan temperatures. Sunny days are the best for venturing into our dense jungle of reed. We like to pack little snacks of dried fruits (apples from the wild orchard in Strawbale’s very own back property that were picked last fall) and walnuts and chocolate, and thermoses of coffee and dandelion root tea. After collecting several bundles apiece, we sit for a few moments surrounded by cattail and reed, telling stories or jokes or maybe relaying a song that we might have in our heads. The three of us are unconcerned with how much time passes while we cut and pile, sort and tie, reed in the fields. So, we maneuver by the light and if the sun is setting we begin to pack our things in the truck over the course of a long, evolved discussion about what our mouths and bellies desire. We carefully wrap the phragmite in tarp, and hop in the truck, oohing and aahing at the ripe neon sunsets and the deer posing so starkly in the snow-covered farm fields.

We have also re-heated the rocket stove in the red shed workspace! Deanne showed Abbie and me how to fire up the stove and we were amazed at the simple yet intricate details of the process, the pickiness of the stove to what size and type of wood it will successfully burn. Then, though, with our new found knowledge stirring in our idea pots, the information gained beside that inferno of a rocket stove began to make sense. We collected wood from around the studio for keeping the fire going so to heat up the workspace, so to make cob, so to add on to the details of the earthen bench. The work is gratifying, exciting, and also nurturing, calming to the mind’s wandering eye. It’s perfect hard work for the winter restlessness.

As far as welcoming the new year in general, however, the year of the tiger (that’s one rowdy animal we happily and joyfully welcome!), we are all thinking about our own plans and our own wishes for the future. Some of these plans we know we can accomplish within the year, others are more distant desires and goals for ourselves, lifelong dreams that we’re looking at more squarely in the eyes, affirming what we can do to get closer to them over the next year. One fascinating place of refuge the three of us here at Strawbale Studio have noticed is that we support each other’s ideas and help one another out when needed, and gladly. I sense, further, though, that we’re all suppressing a giddy desire to move more prominently and vigorously forward with our plans. We are allowing January to slow our tempos a little, so we can catch our breaths for all that 2009 was, and all 2010 will be. It reminds me of a beautiful story I’ve heard Deanne tell two times, of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. This, however, is a story she tells so well, I will stop here so she can tell it.

Deanne writes: Thanks, Kate.  Here goes…

  Metamorphosis of a Butterfly ~ A Metaphor for our Times ?

The voracious caterpillar which outgrows its own skin over and over  ~ it suddenly comes to a moment, a state of maturity, or perhaps the end of one way of being and the beginning of another, when it simply stops.  It stops eating, stops consuming … and looks for a place to hide, usually under a leaf. By creating a sticky pad made of silken threads which are generated by a gland (conveniently) situated by its mouth, caterpillar is able to hang down from this attachment point with hooks (conveniently) located near the end of its body!  The caterpillar appears to wriggle, as it again outgrows its outer skin one last time…but instead of revealing a new “exoskelton” as in previous moltings, this new inner skin is a hard-cased “chrysalis”. It looks a bit like a butterfly all wrapped up.  And inside the chrysalis a yet more amazing process is taking place as “imaginal cells” who have the DNA “knowing” of the butterfly, become awakened, communicate with each other and increase in number.  These embryonic cell clusters are beginning the process of imagining the butterfly, while the caterpillar is dissolving itself, from the inside out, by it’s own digestive juices ! Caterpillar almost completely decomposes down to “ooze” in this process, and from this rich resource the imaginal cells are able to apply their vision and build a new nervous system, a new digestive system, a new heart…new legs and wings !  

Perhaps we are seeing the natural ending of the voracious caterpillar cycle and the emerging creativity of a new vision, a new way of being, so radically different…thatit would be impossilbe for caterpillar to even imagine it. And yet this transformation comes directly out of the resources and maturity of the caterpillar.  So in this metaphor there is no reason to hate or work against caterpillar … but to focus our attention on going forward, using our innate knowing, coordinating with others and bringing forth that which we have been ready and waiting for: new wings and a new heart !

This information comes from the research of Norrie Huddle who wrote “Butterfly”, and my own research to verify the concepts she presents. It is my best understanding of this process to date.                  Deanne Bednar

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