Wilderness Awareness Blog
This past week I had the opportunity to join a small group of my classmates on a voluntary, 3-day walkabout. A walkabout is a semi-survival situation in which the group is traveling, hopefully towards rescue, as opposed to setting up camp in one location and waiting for rescue to come to you.
While this wasn’t meant to be a full survival situation, is was set up as more of a day hike gone wrong kind of scenario. We were told to bring only a day pack, with no sleeping gear, and a maximum 1 liter container of food. We would attempt to eat off the land as much as possible.
It all began on Tuesday morning, when our group of 12 (3 instructors and 9 students) were driven about an hour away from the school and dropped at the end of a forest service road.
As we walked, the instructors would point out different wild edible plants, which we would pick and either eat on the spot or put in our “gathering bags” for a communal dinner later that evening. We soon left the trail and headed off into the heavy brush, bushwalking our way across the landscape. After a few hours of the hairiest hiking I’d ever encountered we made it to a beautiful canyon with a small river. We took a break there to gather some more food, nap, and a few of us tried our hand at fishing with just a line and a lure.
We spent the rest of the afternoon bushwalking across creeks, over fallen trees, through Devil’s Club, Blackberry, and Salmonberry with intermittent rain. We continued learning about and picking wild greens, and were treated to animal sign like a River Otter scent mind by a creek, deer bed sites, a Bear cambium feeding site, and fresh Mountain Lion tracks! We finally made camp near a bog and its outflowing creek in late afternoon as a wet, exhausted and sore bunch.
We chose to build a group shelter for all of us, rather than individually. The bed was made up of layers of hemlock branches, moss and sword fern fronds. The roof was a patchwork of small tarps we brought, and used paracord to string them up to nearby trees. We were lucky to have a large fallen tree which we could use as a windbreak, and attached the low side of our tarp roof to it.
As we built the shelter other students worked on getting a fire going, and stringing some tarps over so we could enjoy it without being rained on. We all emptied our gather bags of edible greens into a pot, added some yummy dressing, salt and pepper and feasted on the bounty of the abundant land we had crossed. The salad included yummy greens like Stinging Nettle, Daisy greens, Dandelion greens and flowers, Salmonberry flowers, Siberian Miner’s Lettuce, Plantain, Fiddle heads of Lady Fern, Dock, and Weavers. We also made up a broth of Nettle to give us something to warm our bellies for bed.
We slept that night in a relatively dry manner. Some of us colder than others depending on how much we decided to push ourselves. A few students even foregoing the acceptable wool blanket we were aloud to bring. I was warm and dry enough, but the bed was lumpy and uncomfortable, so I didn’t sleep much.
The morning brought us together again around the fire, enjoying a break in the weather and some sunshine, sharing stories of our night, which apparently included one student’s account of watching a large Mountain Lion stalk through our camp, not 7 feet from him!
While enjoying the warmth of the morning fire, our instructor’s let us know we would stay at this camp another night, and that we could spend the day doing whatever called to us, whether that be improving on our shelter, gather edible plants, fishing in the bog, or catching up on some sleep. I chose to try my hand at fishing, eager to provide and enjoy some meat with my little tribe.
We hiked over to the bog, which was absolutely spectacular! Made up of vegetation that seemingly floats over the top of the water, with a large area of surface water in the middle, it was quite a marvel to walk about its squishy shore. A few of us broke out our fishing line and lures and practiced the finer points of hand line fishing, eager to catch a Trout. A couple of the instructors were with us and gave great instruction and coaching to help us improve and increase our success rate. After some frustrating attempts, I finally started to find my groove and actually caught a fish! I cast a few more times and caught a few more fish, 4 in total! I hadn’t caught a fish since I was a kid, and here I am, in a semi-survival situation, and I discover I can actually harvest meat for my tribe!
I then collected all of the fish our group had caught and headed back to camp to clean and prepare them for dinner. After settling down by the fire with a flat rock to process the fish on, I was joined by Leah, a fellow student, who had spent the day collecting a ton of Cattails. We worked side by side, each preparing our offering for the evening’s meal.
Once done with food prep, I joined a group of students in upgrading our shelter and bed. Personally, I added more hemlock boughs and armloads of moss to the uneven spots of our bed, giving it more spring and a nice flat place to lay our weary bodies. We also chose to build a small fire near the opening of our shelter, and built a heat reflector (wall of branches) to reflect as much of the heat as possible into our shelter.
As the sun dropped lower in the sky we filled a pot with water, fish, cattails, and some greens to create a delicious and filling stew, which we all enjoyed around the fire as we told our stories.
Telling stories around the fire has always been one of my favorite ways to spend my evenings, and these opportunities on this trip where no different. I loved getting to know my small tribe better, and sharing myself in ways I hadn’t previously. We laughed quite a bit, enjoying the boost of energy and spirits a full belly of stew gave us.
I went to bed considerably warmer than the previous night, with the toasty fire keeping my feet and legs heated. My bed was flat, and had a little cushion to it. It wasn’t plush, but it wasn’t far from it. The rain returned early in the morning, still a few hours before dawn. Our group kept the fire going through the night, and kept it from being drowned out by the rain.
I awoke just after the first glimpse of light peeked into the sky, and the birds were singing their new day song. Taking my place by the fire to keep it fed and putting out heat for my slumbering compatriots.
After we were all awake, our instructors asked us to break down camp and scout our beds and fires, so no one would know we had been there. We packed our things, said goodbye to this wonderful place that had held us for a time, and were hiking across the bog within 30 minutes. The instructors had prepared us that this day would involve a lot of hiking. We had a long way to go to get back to the school land.
We alternated between forest roads, hiking trails, and bushwhacking, for hours upon hours. Around midday we stopped for rest at Cherry Falls, a stunningly beautiful waterfall that many locals enjoy hiking to. Some of us explored the area, others just sat and took in the beauty of the falls, and many of us took an opportunity to nap in the sunshine. Finally, our instructors called us back and we set off for the final leg of our journey. The literal home stretch.
After another couple hours winding through the thick forest and its underbrush, we finally made it back to the school and a warm reception from the rest of our class. They had even gone as far to cook a feast for us to welcome us home. We sat around eating delicious, calorie rich food we didn’t have to harvest ourselves, and told our stories of the week.
Looking back on the experience, I feel like I’ve deepened my connection to the land further. I’ve gone into the woods, asking to be sustained by its literal fruits, and found myself in a beautiful flow-like experience. I felt closer to my ancestors and how they lived. Basically, I just felt closer, to the land, to my fellow tribespeople, and to myself. I learned a ton about edible plants. Amazing how much information you can retain when your dinner relies on it! One of the main reasons I went on this trip was to push my limits a bit, and get uncomfortable for awhile, so I can expand that comfort zone. I was successful, and that expanded level of comfort has brought me a new level of intimacy with the world.
I began this program with a relationship to fire similar to others who have grown up camping and enjoying the occasional winter night by the living room fire. I loved playing music with friends and family around a fire pit at the campsite. I loved making a fire in the fireplace on a chilly December night. It’s always been more than just warmth or ambiance. It just felt right, and until this program, I never explored why that was.
There were a couple of things that attributed to this deepening. The first is simply the sheer amount of time we spend working on and sitting around a fire in the Anake program. Nearly every class day is spent in the presence of fire. This increased face time has given me a lot of opportunities to stare into the flames and be hypnotized by the flickering dance of this magical being.
The second thing that has deepened my connection to fire is the ceremony of bringing fire forth. Before this program I would have called this process, “lighting a fire.” Now I know it as a much more intimate and connected processes, that doesn’t always succeed in bringing fire.
By learning and practicing friction fire with a bow drill or hand drill kit, I have created a relationship that occurs for me as one of calling forth a deity through a ceremony of gratitude and sacrifice.
Think about it, I start by selecting the proper natural materials and then shaping them to my needs with rapt attention and intention. I practice my technique for utilizing this kit made of my own hands, so that I may better know the proper way to address and call to this Fire deity. Before I begin the ceremony, I prepare the ceremonial space to call forth and welcome the Fire, making sure each piece is in its proper place. Then I give gratitude to the Fire, fixing in my mind’s eye and sharing with my words, what Fire means to me and my desire to be in its presence this day.
I then begin the action of spinning the spindle, either by bow or by hand. I breath, and feel my body warm up through its movement. If the deity is smiling on me this day, a tendril of smoke begins to emanate from the friction point. My body seems to rise in temperature along with the tip of the spindle and the socket of the Fireboard. As the smoke increases, a drop of sweat leaves my forehead and falls to the earth. This is my offering to the deity. I offer my sweat, my words of gratitude, and my devotion to the practice of calling it forth. I continue to breath and to move, increasing the temperature and creating the conditions for Fire to join me on the physical plane.
The smoke is billowing now, the dark brown/black dust is filling the socket’s notch… and then it happens. A tiny glowing coal emerges, as if through some magical portal. Fire has come to visit! The ceremony is not over though, it is now time for the second part, encouraging Fire to stay and be comfortable. If I do not succeed, Fire will leave me, and I will have to begin the ceremony again.
I grab my fist sized bundle of tinder, made of scraped cedar bark. I tap the coal into the bundle of cedar, and begin to give it air. It glows brighter as I blow. I feed more of the cedar fibers close so it has plenty to eat and grow strong. I continue this process until the the second magical moment of Fire’s visit occurs… flame bursts forth.
All I need to do now is continue to feed the Fire, making sure it has plenty of food to eat, air to breath, and heat to stay warm. I have prepared a small structure of kindling and usher the flaming cedar bundle into its center so that it may feed on the dry wood now surrounding it. I begin to feel Fire’s warmth as I feed more and more wood to sustain its voracious appetite. I breath a sigh of contentment and gratitude. Fire has come to visit, and will stay a while with me.
I am grateful this day, because I am to be joined by my friends, to share in the warmth of this Fire. We will come together to share. Food, stories, songs, dance, love and gratitude. Fire brings us together and holds the space for us to grow closer.
For many indigenous cultures, Fire is a connection to one’s ancestors. I like to imagine generations of my ancestors gathered around this same energy, telling their stories and singing their songs. Through Fire, I experience this deep connection with my lineage. No matter how modern my life has become, and how foreign it may seem to those bygone generations, I will always have this time to share my words and song with the Fire, just as they did. The content may be different, but not by much.
Through Anake I have to come to know, not just intellectually, but spiritually, that Fire is the source of all life on this planet. Without the big Fire (the sun), life on this planet, and possibly elsewhere would be possible.
Now when I look into those dancing flames of a warm fire, I feel all of this connection. That feeling I used to experience around a fire, before being in this program, is so much clearer to me now. I can understand and celebrate this new depth every time I kneel on the earth and begin the ceremony anew, every time I add a log to the Fire and smile at my friends sharing its warmth with me.
This past week I had the awesome opportunity to participate in 3 amazing days of training in the ways of the scout. The scout is a member of any tribe who acts as a protector for their people. Not through direct physical confrontation, but through reconnaissance, awareness, and stealth.
In modern times, we might try to compare the scout to a CIA spy, or sniper. The true task of the scout is to gather information about the surrounding area and it’s inhabitants. The scout does this by developing the skills of camouflage, stealthy movement, and awareness.
After some instruction in camouflage basics and stealthy movement, we played some games to develop our sensory and movement skills, which included a giant game of 4 way Scout Capture the Flag.
For our final day, we were given a mission that would test our skills to the max. We broke up into 2 teams, and were given maps and orders to get to a house marked on the map, without being seen, and collect as much information about what was going on there as possible, then report back.
We applied our camouflage, and headed out. Moving quickly at first, and slower and lower to the ground as we approached the intended house. Fanning out to collect as much information as possible, we each belly crawled into position and dug in for the day.
I won’t give away too much of the mission, for those of you who may participate in this event in the future. I will say that the exercise evoked emotions from exhilaration to utter boredom, sensations of damp cold to the tickling of insects, and an overall experience of the kind of fun and excitement that can only come from a day spent pushing your comfort zone and testing your abilities.
By the time we made it back to camp to debrief the exercise and complete the week, our group was buzzing as we shared our individual stories, trials and triumphs.
When I look back at the week and what I am walking away with, I am present to the increased level of self confidence and trust I have in my expanded abilities to focus all of my senses for long stretches of time. I was able to stay on task without becoming distracted for hours on end. My mind was quiet and alert. My body was able to be comfortable enough in damp, cold, and dirty conditions. I surprised myself in my ability to move through a dense forest
undetected, and to pick up on very subtle sights, sounds, and intuition to evade others, or to find them.
I think one of the greatest abilities that we as human animals have lost through the process of our own modernization, is our awareness. The amount of time we spend zoned out or going through the motions of life on auto pilot is extreme. So to take 3 days and sink into the mindset and skills of the scout. Where our survival, as well as the survival of our people relies on catching extremely subtle clues at unexpected times.
When we are that present and aware, we feel truly alive. If I could share only one thing with you from my week, it would be my overwhelming experience of aliveness. I endeavor to continue my practice of these skills and expand my comfort zone, so that I may continue to experience my aliveness.
In week 12 of my Anake Outdoor School adventure, we practice cooking on a coal bed, learn a ton about trees, and close out the Fall quarter together.
We learned all about tracking and trailing this week. Tuesday we practiced aging tracks and trailing a fellow classmate through the woods by tracks alone. Wednesday we played in the forest enjoying some time together and indulging our curiosities in nature. Thursday we learned about sketching and plastering tracks, and got to go out and plaster our own!
Build a shelter with nothing but materials from the forest and sleep through freezing temperatures and rain with nothing but the clothes on our back? What a wild ride!
This week we studied Plant Medicine, Land Stewardship and Conservation, and got to listen to our founder Jon Young tell amazing stories about how the Wilderness Awareness School came to be!
I’ve been posting some videos on what I’ve been up to in my Anake program, but wanted to write up some of my recent experiences as well.
Those of you who know me, know that I am a movement nut and have worked professionally as a natural movement trainer for the last 3 years. As you can imagine, the natural movement portion of the curriculum is right up my alley!
The core of the Anake natural movement teachings are called Animal Forms, which are essentially mimicking animals movements. We started with a mobility series imitating about 10 different animal movements to open up our joints and warm our bodies up.
Next we mimicked a handful of different animal walks and crawls, from deer to raccoon, coyote to panther. What a workout!!! Especially the forms that get us down on all fours.
Later in the day we learned some Earth Gym staff techniques, Brazilian Ju Jitsu rolling techniques, some basic Tai Chi mobility movements and some parkour vaults, all in a sample platter type format. It was so cool to experience the breadth of techniques and approaches to natural movement available today.
There was a very visceral connection I experienced when moving my body in these different ways around the landscape. I really found myself connecting with the natural world around me in new ways, and connecting to the animal spirits that I was mimicking.
We did a day on learning how to navigate around a landscape without a map or compass, and definitely not a GPS! One activity we did was to mark our spot on the trail, then head straight out into the brush at a 90 degree angle for 150 paces. Next we were to turn around and head back. Once back to the trail, we noted how far away we were from our starting point on the trail. Some of us were very close or dead on, others found themselves 50 feet or more away from their starting point. This posed an excellent demonstration of how far off we can get from the direction we think we’re traveling in.
We then discussed different techniques for navigation. Things like using landmarks, creating a trail as you go so you can follow it back, or a really fun technique called storylines or songlines.
This involved creating characters out of distinct landmarks along your path, like a unique tree or log. Then create a story or song about that landmark and how it relates to the next landmark/character. We then had fun splitting up into groups and creating a storyline for another group so that they could follow a route just by reading the story and following along.
At first, I had some reservations about navigating without modern tools. Its scary just thinking about it. But after learning the techniques, I feel more comfortable with the idea, should I need to rely on them in a situation without my trusty modern tools. I particularly liked the songline technique, it really allowed me to interact with my environment in a new way. Instead of seeing “the forest” I was able to see interesting and unique characters in colorful and engaging stories.
Many native cultures utilize songlines to help connect younger generations to their land, and to help them stay oriented.
We spent a day down by the Tolt River in Carnation to learn some techniques in making stone tools. We mainly focused on techniques to help us create sharp edges for knives or hatchets.
Practicing these techniques was a TON of fun! It mostly consisted of banging rocks together or throwing one at another. An excellent way to release some tension!
The second half of the day was about hafting the blades to a stick or branch and lashing with thin, flexible vines and branches.
Learning these techniques has some special significance for us, because we will need to be able to fashion tools from stone on our survival week at the end of the year in order to build our shelters and fire kits. Without these skills it will be a very wet and cold go of it.
It was also really great to imagine our waaaaaaaay back ancestors fashioning and utilizing tools of stone millenia ago, as I sat by the river, chipping away on my rock.
In this video I share about making crafts like cedar bark baskets, connecting with Ancestors, Natural Movement like Earthgym with Mick Dodge and Animal Forms, and finally making stone tools! Check it out!
I haven’t posted since starting the program because I just haven’t had the space or energy to sit down long enough to do so. Please forgive this ultra long post, but I have so much to share with you! I hope to get into the rhythm of posting regularly so future additions should be shorter.
If you’d like to start this blog from the beginning, go to my first post here.
What This Program Is
I am now one month into this amazing adventure, otherwise known as Anake Outdoor School, and it has been the best month of my life! Since beginning the program with an intensive weeklong campout on the school property and the subsequent 3 day per week classes, I have come to understand this program and why I was drawn to it with deeper clarity.
The Anake program is designed to guide students as deeply as possible into nature connection, primitive skills, and tribal living, based on common practices and teachings found in indigenous cultures from around the world. Why is this all important, you ask? Well I’ll tell you.
Nature connection is important because through a deeper understanding and relationship to our natural world, we come to appreciate and experience our sameness and interrelationship with everyone and everything on this planet. Learning about trees, medicinal plants, bird language, and animal behavior teaches us the knowledge that our indigenous ancestors passed down from generation to generation. Learning skills like creating friction fire, tracking animals, creating medicines and food from local and natural resources all give us practices that guide our bodies and minds towards the ancient motions through which humans have followed for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years.
The best way I can summarize the program for you is to say that the Anake program is a training and education in being a human animal on this planet that can exist in harmony within this amazing ecosystem.
What We’ve Done So Far
Opening week was a Monday through Friday campout on the school’s 40 acre forested “campus”. The week was kind of like a sampler plate of the program. Each activity we participated in gave us a taste of what we’d be learning and doing in the following 9 months. We did a baseline test of our knowledge of local animals and plants, which I failed miserably, but was amazed to confront how little I know about the natural world around me. We did a little tracking, a little bird listening, a little mindfulness training in a practice called “Sit Spot” which I will talk much more about in the future, and a handful of transformational ceremonies around a sacred fire. Laurie and I came out of the week with an entirely new perspective on the world and our place in it. We also were absolutely floored by the life changing opportunity we have stepped into with this program.
Weeks 2 and 3
In the two weeks following opening week we sunk into the normal class rhythm of 3 class day weeks, Tuesday through Thursday.
One of the first things we studied were Birds and Bird Language. We did a pre dawn bird sit, where we went into the woods near the pond and sat down before the sun had risen. We then listened to and looked for the birds as they awoke to greet the new day. What we were listening and looking for were patterns in their behavior. We identified different species and what each bird was saying based on what we had learned of their different vocalizations. After about an hour of listening and taking notes, we all got together and drew group maps of the area. We then plotted out the different birds and what they were saying/doing over time. Each map was compared to the others so we could begin to build the story of the morning. We could piece together when a hawk had flown over, or when a ground predator, like a bobcat, likely walked along the pond’s edge. I used to make fun of people who got overly excited about birds, but my eyes have now been opened to the role birds play in the wild. They are the messengers and alarm system of the wild. Understanding their language gives us an opportunity to extend our awareness, and more deeply connect with the happenings around us.
Later that second week we built our first bow drill kit (pictured below), and learned to make fire by the process of friction.
I was actually able to make my first “coal” and start a fire! Let me tell you, there is no feeling in this world quite like the sense of power and magic you experience when you create your first fire by primitive means. It’s simply amazing. Here are a couple pics of my friend Deborah making her first coal
In the third week we dug into the world of plants, specifically for edible and medicinal uses. We spent a day foraging for these kinds of plants, and learning a TON about the uses for each plant we found. The following day we took our bounty to an amazing place called Hawthorne Farm, an 8 acre farm in Suburban Woodinville. There, we learned what to do with everything we had harvested. We learned to smoke fish in the primitive way (pictured below)
We learned to make dehydrated fruits, medicinal honeys, and press apples for cider (my friends Deborah and Tom pictured below)
And we learned to gut, clean, filet and skin a fish (pictured below)
All in all it was a pretty incredible homesteading kind of day.
Oregon Dune Trip
This past week, we travelled to the Oregon Dunes near Lakeview, Oregon to study and practice animal tracking. All I can say is WOW! If you’ve never been to the Oregon Dunes, you should make it a priority. It’s like visiting another planet and is also an incredible place to learn the art of tracking because there are miles of undisturbed animal tracks all over the place. While we were there we saw tracks for everything from Raccoon to Bobcat, Red and Grey Fox to Coyote, and River Otter to Black Bear. We learned how to identify which animal left the track, and we learned all about gait to discern how the animal was moving. Was it walking slowly, or trotting quickly, or running at full speed? Amazingly, all of this can be gleaned just by a few prints in the sand! We also had a lot of fun with our fellow classmates, apprentices and instructors playing some incredible nighttime games and participating in some moving ceremonies.
One major highlight of the trip was on the first day out on the dunes when we visited what’s called a Tree Island. These are dense, ancient forests seemingly poking out of the sand, but in reality are the high points of the ancient forest that is now under all that sand. A group of us took the opportunity to explore one by following the game trails through the dense foliage. Before long the game trails turned into small game tunnels which we crawled through on our hands, knees, butts and bellies. It was an amazing opportunity to get into the spirit of the animals that call the tree island home and navigate around the forest.
Here’s a great pic to give you an idea of the landscape:
Here are the peeps from my clan checking out some awesome tracks:
This is a cool pic of some Common Raven tracks, I love how they drag their feet which makes their prints look much longer than their feet actually are. The best part of this pic though, is that you can see a spot where the Raven’s Primary feathers left marks in the sand as they took off. Look to either side of the tracks for perpendicular claw mark looking prints:
This is a picture of a little mystery we found while tracking a Grey Fox. At the bottom center of the pic you’ll see the Fox’s prints leading up to what looks like a giant swipe mark moving forward and to the left, with no paw prints near it, and then the paw prints continue on after the swipe. What was that crazy fox doing? Belly slide?
I love this bit by George Carlin. It so eloquently describes our obsession with our stuff. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it, do yourself a favor and watch it now.
Laurie and I have been dealing with a lot of our stuff for the past couple of weeks in preparation for our move to a 16 foot diameter yurt in Duvall, WA. It’s barely over 200 square feet, which is about 100 less than our Tiny House was.
We’ve been selling off things, giving others away to friends and family and dumping lots of stuff at Salvation Army. As we’ve been going through these things we’ve reflected on how attached to our stuff we get, whether through sentimentality or the illusion of usefulness. One of the interesting things we’ve been noticing is how much we buy stuff in preparation for a need, and how often that need never actually arises in reality. In our case, most of that was because we were really planning on living in the Tiny House for a long time and had purchased lots of things to make it functional and comfortable. Our lives just had other plans.
The most interesting phenomena I’ve been going through recently is the desire to buy new stuff to replace the old stuff. My ego cleverly disguises these desires as newer, better, smaller, more efficient and effective versions of what I’ve had before, but at the end of the day it’s still more stuff I don’t need. Some of the stuff we do actually need though. We recently bought a ton of outdoor gear like backpacking stuff, and warmer clothing which are necessary for our new lives in the wilderness. On the other hand, I was able to sufficiently justify to myself (and to Laurie) that I needed a new guitar (because I need a cheaper/smaller one that’s more suitable to life in the wild) and a new bike (also more suitable to the climate and conditions of Washington). See? Perfectly justified!
I think at the heart of it all, my ego does this as a sort of safety blanket. We humans have extended our sense of identity to our stuff. Be honest, if someone compliments or ridicules a piece of your stuff, you take it personally. I know for myself this is especially true when it comes to bikes and guitars. These are my favorite things, so I put a lot of thought and personality into my choices. If someone compliments my bike or guitar, I instantly like them. If they dislike either, I instantly assume they have horrible taste. Aren’t we humans funny?
So it makes sense that when we give up some of our stuff, that it feels like a piece of our self is going along with it. This perceived threat triggers the ego to obsess about new, bigger and better stuff (or in our case, new, smaller, more minimal and rugged stuff).
This is why we are happy to be moving into smaller and smaller spaces. It forces us to do a series of reality checks and ask the important questions like, “have I used this in the last 6-12 months?” or “do I really see myself using this in the future?”
So what’s the benefit of releasing all of this stuff? Peace of mind. It’s amazing how much mental clutter our stuff causes. Last weekend Laurie and I cleaned out a bunch of junk we had stored in the hull of our houseboat in Sausalito. We’ve had the place rented out for awhile now, but hadn’t gotten around to clearing all the storage stuff out. We wanted to deal with it because we could actually feel the weight it placed in our minds. This is junk we have had for years and just kept moving from place to place. A bunch of it was left over storage from my parents after they sold the family home, as well as old audio gear I stopped using a very long time ago. After spending the weekend pulling it out, going through it, and organizing into piles (keep, trash, thrift), I felt like I had actually lost weight. It was like all that stuff was an anchor, slowing me down.
So now, we are feeling trim and light, looking forward to our adventure up north. Lots still to do. We’re still selling and cleaning out the last remnants, but are very close to our optimal amount of “stuff”… for now.
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I am writing this blog entry to share with you a recent breakthrough I have had in discovering the next step on my life’s path. Before I launch into all of that, I want to take a moment to share with you where I am currently and the work I’ve been doing which has provided the fertile soil for this next stage of life to sprout.
Past to Present
This past year has been full of transition, as my wife, Laurie, and I settled into a new chapter of life in Santa Rosa, living on a 12 acre plot of wild land with my sister and her family. We created this family “compound” with the commitment to live off the land as much as possible and to do so in community with our “tribe.”
Last August we purchased a Tiny House, bought a compost toilet and learned the ropes to use it effectively, added an off-grid solar system and did the groundwork for building a rainwater harvesting system. I’ve been living in the Tiny House nearly full time since February, and Laurie joined me full time in May after completing her job in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, I spent the last year transitioning my Natural Movement business, Wild Play Fitness, to the Santa Rosa area. As I adapted the business model to the unique culture and community of Sonoma County’s Wine Country, I spent a lot of time examining what it was exactly that I wanted to provide my clients and how I wanted to live my life as a demonstration of what was possible and available for them.
At the beginning of summer some thoughts and ideas started falling into place. I had been considering enrolling in a highly respected Permaculture program, but as I listened to my intuition and felt for guidance for which direction to head in, it became clear this wasn’t my path.
The overwhelming feeling I had when considering permaculture, or gardening in general, was one of laziness. It all just seemed like so much work!
You should know, I am a lazy person by nature, but as I’ve matured I’ve come to realize that when I experience laziness when confronted by an opportunity, that it’s actually a subtle bump from my intuition to look in a new direction. The reason I believe this to be the case is that nature never works hard. Nature always follows the path of least resistance, requiring the least amount of effort to achieve what is required.
I have been enthralled by what some call “Ancestral Health” for years now. The guiding principal of Ancestral Health is that we humans, as a species, evolved in a natural environment, moving our body in certain ways, eating certain foods, communing with our people in certain ways, and regularly participating in certain activities. This is an important field of inquiry because today’s modern world is so far removed from the environment in which we evolved to live in, until a comparably short time ago, that our bodies, minds, and spirit can’t catch up and it’s causing all manner of disease and detrimental behaviors with ourselves and our world.
As I considered what my intuition was trying to tell me, I thought more about the practice of gardening, which is basically farming on a smaller scale.
Many experts agree that the seeds of modern civilization were planted along with those first crops by the original farmers. It was during this transition period about 10,000 years ago that life changed dramatically for the human species. Rather than foraging and hunting for the food provided by nature, we planted, tended and harvested crops. We domesticated animals for eventual slaughter. Rather than live a nomadic lifestyle, following the herds of animals and the blooming, ripe foods of the landscape, we put down roots and stayed put to tend our domesticated crops and animals. We built permanent structures which grew into towns and cities.
It is my honest belief that the closer we can model our lives on our hunter-gatherer ancestor’s, the more healthy, happy and fulfilling life we can enjoy. I don’t expect everyone to quit their job and abandon all of their earthly possessions to wander the forest eating bugs and sleeping in makeshift lean-to’s. However, I think the more we can incorporate nature and natural living practices into our lives, the more harmony we can discover and enjoy.
I realized, rather than study farming practices (despite the fact that permaculture is a brilliant model of farming which mimics the processes of nature, thereby cutting down on the amount of work required, it is still essentially farming) I should be studying hunter-gatherer practices! That wonderful spark of insight and intuitive guidance was lit!
Creating the Future
I immediately got on my laptop and started Googling wilderness survival schools. I found a few great schools, but only one had what I was looking for. Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, Washington (outside of Seattle) has an amazing curriculum by the name of the Anake Outdoor School, which spans a full school year. The more research I did the more I recognized what a perfect fit this program was for me. The curriculum includes everything from tracking, stalking, trapping and hunting animals, which plants are edible and which are useful for medicinal purposes, how to build shelter out of natural materials, building fire with only what the forest provides, and so much more. The intention of the program is not just to learn these primal skills, but to learn how to mentor and teach the invaluable lessons inherent in this kind of education to others.
As fate would have it, Laurie and I were just about to take a trip to none other than Seattle Washington for a friend’s wedding. I scheduled a tour of the school while we were there and within 10 minutes of stepping foot on the 40 acre campus of lush forest, I knew I had found my place.
To my pleasant surprise after the tour, Laurie found the program calling to her as well. She is less interested in the primal living aspect of it, but is very interested in the native american roots of the teachings, as well as the leadership, communication and group facilitation training available.
After a lot of discussion and soul searching we made the choice to move forward and apply for the program. We were accepted last week. The program begins September 11th and we will move up on September 1st.
In preparation for the move, we sold the Tiny House and are minimizing life even more than we already have.
We’re not really sure what we’re going to do after the program completes in June of next year. We both expect the program to be highly transformative, and don’t think the version of us that exists today can properly plan the future for the June 2016 versions of ourselves. We may stay close to the school and pursue further education or employment. I may come back to the Bay Area to start a Survival Transformation School, or we may become nomadic and travel the world leading programs, who knows!?!?
Please consider this as your formal invitation to join me in this adventure and read along! I will be blogging along the way to share the amazing experiences we go through on this new path.
This post is the first entry of a new blog I will be updating throughout this life changing time, so that I can share the experience with you. I have titled the blog Thrive Tribe. This is a name I’ve been kicking around for awhile and really like. I picture this blog sparking a community of people (Tribe), interested in and committed to living an amazingly abundant, happy and healthy life (Thrive).
Please comment with questions, suggestions or encouragements so the Tribe can hear your unique contribution. I would also be incredibly grateful if you’d share the blog with your friends so we can grow our new tribe!
I want to leave you with my deepest gratitude for who you have been for Laurie and myself. You may be a family member or friend, former coworker, client or complete stranger that we’ve yet to have the pleasure of meeting. It doesn’t matter. If you’ve read this far, you are my kind of people and I am so thankful for what you provide in the world!