More than a Certification
By: Luke Kantola
It’s been nearly nine months since I finished the Anake Outdoor School program. The dust has continued to settle and my perspective on the experience has broadened a lot. I’ve had some pretty wild encounters with the natural world since finishing the program that I never would have had access to had it not been for my time spent at the Wilderness Awareness School.
Growing up I spent every summer playing in my grandmother’s backyard in Idaho. I had no idea that I could track wolves just by walking out her backdoor until this winter when I trailed a pack of wolves for miles across the snowy hills behind her home. My connection to that place where I have so many cherished childhood memories has amplified greatly since returning with a new lens to view the landscape through. I spent countless hours this winter trailing deer, elk, raccoon and fox. Their stories and the answers to countless mysteries have literally been written on the ground by their tracks and sign my whole life. I just needed to learn how to see it.
It was bird language that originally got me to apply to the Wilderness Awareness School over other programs, and since graduating I’ve been able to seek out predatory animals just by what the birds are saying. I was sitting in the woods early this fall and heard a mob of Stellar’s Jays off in the canopy. They sounded distressed and I decided that their anxiety was enough to get me out of my comfy seat. I followed their cries right to a Barred owl who was actively hunting the squirrels in the maple trees. It was so beautiful to watch the squirrels seemingly play hide-and-seek with this menacing predator, and I never would have seen this dance with death without being tuned in to what the birds were saying!
I think it is fair to say that someone applying to Anake can expect to be able to do things like this upon graduating. Anake teaches primitive skills and the arts of tracking, bird language and plant medicine. This much is true, but this is not all that Anake has to offer. By drawing on the individual strengths of the students, staff and apprentices.
When next years Anake class arrives for the first day of class next year there will be people from all over the world who have come to the same place for a nine-month journey. The people will have stories, and past experiences. They will have gifts and they will have wounds. They will have enlivening and difficult lessons to teach each other, and Anake knows how to hold that. It will be wild and the unexpected will occur. All the time. It will be painful and difficult. It will be exhilarating and maybe a little boring at times. But the people who show up will be in it together, and they will be expected to hold one another up when times are tough and to allow themselves to be held in turn
I came to Anake to learn about the natural world and I got those experiences. I’ve followed bird alarms to animals I have never seen before. Multiple times. I’ve unraveled mysteries by reading the tracks on the ground. I’ve felt what it is like to make a fire from the land when my friends are cold and we need to boil water. These are amazing experiences and capabilities that can’t be quantified or have a monetary value placed upon them, but I think the threads of Anake that are most alive in me today are the ones that I didn’t even know were waiting for me in Duvall. Those threads came from all over the world and they were people.