There was a phrase that we had come back to so many times over the years, that Suzanna had developed in response to a trend of particularly worrying adult risky play-enthusiasts. “You can’t go from zero to chainsaw,” she said. It meant: start where you’re at. It meant: don’t hurry things along because it seems ‘cooler’. This also meant: eventually, you’ll still get to wherever you need to be.
So it is with particular delight that we introduced the latest free public workshop in our Play Free VT series (with funding by the Community Health Equity Partnership). The intention with this project was to explore the intersection of adult play and mental health, by providing a range of activities for people to try. First, we made zines. The next one, after much discussion, was called:
The exclamation point was on purpose, as were the bubble letters on that banner. That’s because Chris Olsen, workshop leader, wanted to make chainsaw skills and confidence far more accessible to anyone who didn’t see a place for themselves in what can be a bro-heavy culture.
“Like Robin Hood. But gayer.”
Chris Olsen (he/they) is a queer, semi-domesticated forest faerie who has been working with chainsaws for over a decade, largely in the contexts of habitat restoration and trail construction, with a few years of working in the commercial forestry/logging industry.
“My hope is to share skills that empower queers and folks of color, skills that are frequently gate-kept by white cis-het men. Like Robin Hood. But gayer.”
For this workshop specific, Chris outlined intentions “to welcome in and hold open a space for folks who feel excluded or prohibited from opportunities like this; to meet participants where they are and encourage them to grow; to foster a sense of community and camaraderie; and to ensure this learning experience is fun and engaging.”
“May all your chainsaws dreams come true, safely”
I’ve had the personal good fortune of learning chainsaw safety from Chris. I was nervous, aware that I only had bad information about how to use the legitimately dangerous object in front of me. Chris was so kind and patient, making sure that people had lots of options in terms of how they might engage with the tools and equipment. At our last event (Make Your Own Zine with Kegan Refalo) Chris also made an incredibly cute Chainsaw Safety mini-zine. Without spoiling anything I need to let you know that it includes a Hello Kitty in a pumpkin helmet.
Here’s the crucial info:
April 1, 2023
10-4 (Bring Your Own Lunch)
Near Exit 5 on I-91
This introductory workshop provided a hands-on overview of how chainsaws work and established safe working habits. The fundamentals of crosscutting and de-limbing and a brief discussion of saw maintenance were also be included. Cutting standing trees (“felling”) was also demonstrated and discussed as a means of introducing the complexity of this skill set. Plus: snacks, check-ins, time for Q&A, and some fabulous forest fashion.
Spaces were Limited
Our Chainsaws! workshop was limited to 8 participants. People were asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot. Precise details (i.e. locations, recommendations for workshop) were available once we had confirmed their spot at the workshop. We suspected there was likely a far greater number of people who would like to learn. Even if the course was full, people were encouraged to reach out so we could be in touch if we had enough interest for future courses.
Let me know if you have any questions about the event, want to geek-out on play and mental health, or just want to say hi!
And be safe out there.