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?