Spring Approaches

Spring Approaches

By Luke Kantola

Each year, I slowly mourn summer as it creeps into fall, and fall into winter. The days grow shorter and the weather grows more hostile. The leaves fall and the birds fly South unwilling to participate in what is to come. When I was younger, say ten or twelve, I would bask in the ability to stay inside during this season. I would build forts with tiny slits so that I could view the T.V. or I would build massive structures with every Lego piece that I owned. If I grew bored I would press my face against the window and feel the coldness of the rain as it ran down the outside of the glass. At some point, in the time between then and now, something shifted. I no longer feel comfortable allowing my days to slip away in front of a screen or distracted by toys. Winter has gotten harder since life has grown more serious.

This past summer was one of the best I have ever experienced. I spent almost every night of it under the stars and I was constantly exploring. When winter finally arrived in Washington I remember feeling trapped in the limited hours of daylight. I blamed it on the latitude until I returned to California and found the sun was setting at almost the same time. After fully experiencing summer there was nothing to do but fully feel the effect of winter. At first it was difficult. I felt my days were just blackness punctuated with periods of overcast skies, but it gradually became the new normal. The stillness of winter penetrated so deeply that I eventually forgot the sense of loss that arrived when the leaves fell. As the days kept passing my memories of summer were more and more obscured by time.

It wasn’t until the first buds started showing on the elderberry and the first flowers hung down from the salmonberry that I remembered what we lose every fall. The birds are returning to the land here at Wilderness Awareness School and they are singing again. The leaves that initially helped me to identify so many of the species of plants and trees are also budding and returning to life. I see that spring is a time of remembering as life washes over this land like the return of a seasonal tide.

Winter is a hard time in the natural world. Food sources are sparse, and the sun doesn’t offer as much warmth. Birds sleep with barely enough heat to survive each night; spooking a bird from its roost during a cold night might be fatal for the animal. As my connection to the natural world has grown throughout this past year it is only natural to feel the effects of the seasons more strongly than before. Winter is more real to me than it has ever been, but it’s harshness allows the bird song and flowering of plants to emphasize that the earth continues to insist on life. I am seeing my world through a clearer lens; one that is more compassionate for the hardship that the winter brings to nature and one that is more appreciative of the relative ease that comes with the sunny seasons.


Gifts for California

Gifts for California

By Luke Kantola

One of our assignments this winter was to craft gifts for the community we would be visiting during the annual trip to California. Honestly, it wasn’t something I was giving much thought to. I had too much going on in my own life to be creating gifts for a group of people I had never met. I felt slightly uncomfortable voicing that sentiment though. I know how potent heartfelt gifts are in the process of human connection. I wasn’t that person though. At the time, I didn’t knit. I don’t particularly enjoy basketry. What kind of trinket could I produce and offer? It just wasn’t my place. Someone else would do it.

A fellow Anake was over one night and we were lamenting about how we had little to do and a game of chess would be the perfect way to engage our minds. I had been playing chess almost every day over winter break with my mom, and we had even gotten a phone app that would let us play even though we weren’t together anymore. I searched chessboards online and found them to be more expensive than I had expected.

In classic Wilderness Awareness School fashion we started filling the time not with an actual game of chess but a detailed plan of how we would construct our own board. There is an inherent beauty in creating a chessboard. The wood is organized into a very simple pattern that then facilitates the expression of human intellect: sometimes playful, sometimes agonizing, and potentially elegant.

At some point the community we were to visit in California, Quail Springs, came up and the passion for woodworking and chess easily melded into our assignment to make a gift for them. It was hardly more than a cerebral fantasy at this point and we only had a single weekend before the trip began. We felt a sense of co-creation with the community at Quail Springs as if the board’s story would only be introduced by our construction of it. The real story of this chessboard would be fleshed out in the movement of the pieces across its squares — over the years the board would come to life. The excitement was there. We were motivated to be the gift givers.

The project’s execution seemed possible given the plan we had drafted, but it wasn’t easy. We wanted to use materials that were all harvested from the land here at school. We started with a big cedar round that we wanted to embed the squares of the board into, but we were quickly deterred by a more experienced woodworker who demonstrated how brittle cedar is in the form of a round by lightly smacking a smaller cedar round and having it practically shatter in his hand.

We scrambled to find a new plan and ended up buying local wood at the last minute. The baseboard was a beautiful alder with a live edge and it would be inlayed with a rich walnut and a glossy maple. No dyes were needed. The wood was going to provide the contrast in color. If it wasn’t for one of the community members here at Wilderness Awareness School we never would have been able to complete the project. His expertise with woodworking and help with different tools accommodated our initial failed plan.

Astonishingly we had a completed project by the late hours of the final evening. Our classmates had been recruited to carve pieces for the board and without the help of the entire class creating the chess set would have been impossible. We even had a few students knit a beautiful bag to keep the pieces in.

Giving the gift to Quail Springs was the real treat. They had given us an amazing experience over the course of our stay there and treated all of us with heartwarming hospitality. All of a sudden it felt like anything less than what we were offering wouldn’t have accurately expressed our gratitude to the people we had met there. I was honored to be a part of presenting the final project which was such a team effort. I usually am not the type of person to put the time into a gift like this, but it was the infectious generosity of my friend who suggested we make the board not for ourselves but for the community in California that opened me up to the experience of giving.



A Life in Transition

A Life in Transition

Drew Duckworth


I remember back to our Opening Week at Linne Doran when we were creating our group culture and being introduced to Anake and one of our instructors stated, “You will not be the same person in June (at graduation) as you are right now.”  Initially triggering fear and excitement, this statement has stuck with me throughout the year and was reverberating loudly in my head before our Spring Break.

A few times throughout the year I have felt that there is something missing from Anake.  Whether it is that we could go deeper into specific lessons, learn more skills, or introduce more subjects I often found myself reflecting on these thoughts with no action.  When I recognized the need for Rites of Passage, and it being a passion of mine and a subject in which I have previous experience and training, I could not just sit by and let the opportunity pass.

There is a strong aspect to Anake of protecting your learning journey and individualizing your experience, which leads to unique experiences in each class of Anakes.  With these in place, along with the platform that has been created for students to add their contributions to the learning experience, I felt it was important for me, and for the class, to offer a Wilderness Rite of Passage based off of the traditional Vision Quest model for my classmates that wished to participate.

Over Spring Break the ten of us (8 Questers, 2 facilitators) began the first stage of the process with Severance as we headed East, over the Cascades, to what would be our Quest site and home for the next week.  As we introduced ourselves to the land around us, shared our intentions, and offered prayers, I realized how a lot of the work we were learning and doing throughout the year directly correlated to this experience.  Using the Thanksgiving Address, Walking in a Sacred Manner, Sense Meditations, Sit Spot, and so many more practices were easily and habitually transferred over to the Quest experience.

Through these practices and our councils in camp, the Questers found their solo sites and prepared for the next phase of the process, the Threshold.  For three days and nights, alone in their site without food, they integrated themselves into the local environment, forged relationships with the world around them, made sacrifices and offerings, and listened intently for their calling, gift, and/or “Vision.”

As they returned with their glowing smiles and clear eyes, they ventured confidently into the third and final stage of Incorporation.  During this time, they shared their stories, joined in the revelry of other humans, and prepared for the return to Anake, Wilderness Awareness School, Duvall, and the other communities they are a part of.  As we finished our final council and said our goodbyes to the land, there was a sad and happy feeling throughout the group along with an overall readiness to integrate our experiences, lessons, and full selves into our communities.

Less than a week after our return, there was a storytelling council on the land in Malalo for the Questers to share their stories with the larger community.  A beautiful gathering of people included Anakes (present and former), apprentices, instructors, other WAS community members, and elders that were all there to hear these stories, support the Questers with their integration, and be inspired.  Through this council, our close-knit circle of ten broke its barriers and was held within the larger community of which we are now more prepared to serve.

By marking this stage in our lives through this Quest, I have acknowledged that there is something different about where I am now than where I was back in September.  I now fully understand what my instructor meant by her statement during our opening week.  Anake provides the framework for individuals to make powerful changes in their lives.  This transition occurs throughout the nine months involved in the program, the community, and the personal growth.  For me, there is no longer fear that surrounds that statement, rather a sense of relief and joy, knowing that I was searching for that change in my life, and grateful for the shift that Anake has gifted me.


California Dreaming

California Dreaming

by: Drew Duckworth


Over a thousand miles of southbound driving I stumbled out of the van with tight legs and was immediately welcomed to Cuyama Valley Canyon, home of Quail Springs.  The warm sun and cloudless sky was a gracious welcome committee in itself, and were not the only ones anticipating the arrival of our Anake class.  At the gate was where we exited the vans, but our journey was not yet complete.  The final half-mile would be on foot, to truly land in this polar opposite environment from our soggy, foggy homeland of the Pacific Northwest.

As I strolled along, my senses soon caught up with me and assisted in bringing me present.  The aroma of Big Sagebrush, taste of California Juniper berries, calls of Red-Winged Blackbirds, glimpses of Desert Cottontail tracks in the sand all swirled around me as the hot sun on my back urged me forward.  As I came out of an arroyo, I caught the first sign of the inhabitants of Quail Springs; the cob buildings at the base of the mountain, the large yurt that housed the kitchen and community area, the vegetable garden and food forest, the goats returning from a wander up canyon, and of course the circle of residents that anxiously awaited to greet us at their home.

After the circle of introductions between this years Anake class and Quail Springs residents that continued the history of the gathering between these two sister communities, we were guided on a tour of what would be our home for the next week.  Brenton, the land manager, then took us on a farm tour.

Even more impressive than the Permaculture oasis that has been created at Quail Springs was Brenton’s relationship with the land.  His love for the land he tends was moving to witness.  Along with his abundance of knowledge on how the landscape worked, it was evident that he was not working on the land or with the land, but, rather, for the land.  It is this deep relationship with the environment that he has developed over time that is inspirational to me.  This inspiration continued to grow inside of me the longer I stayed at the farm.

Warren Brush, the founder of Quail Springs joined us to share stories near the end of our stay.  A magnificent storyteller and true elder, I found myself intrigued from his first word.  As only few storytellers can do, Warren managed to touch on themes that I experienced as being so personal to my life, creating hope and encouragement to carry my one unique gift forward for the benefit of my human communities as well as the natural world.  Leaving Quail Springs was difficult after forging meaningful relationships with the land and the people involved in tending it, yet I was grateful for the clarity and strength I was heading home with.

Over the thousand mile return journey North I had ample time to reflect on the visit to Quail Springs.  The clarity I felt was powerful and I realized that in order for my vision to unfold in the world I must transition from the inspiration of the Southeast shield of the medicine wheel to the task oriented South.  By acting on the inspiration I felt I will be able to bring my gift out, otherwise it will only become just another dream concocted in California.


Village Week – A Path to Self-Reflection

Village Week – a path to self-reflectiorn

By: Luke Kantola

A few weeks ago I had a feeling of dread growing inside of me. I had chosen to spend a week learning to make a bow, but as my elective week approached there was a clear visceral protest going on in my gut. This week of bow making was to be part of the Anake Village Weeks where students get to pick activities based on passion and dive into the skill-sets more deeply than the curriculum could offer without specialization.

These two weeks offer a wide range of choices including plant technologies, bow making, arrow, trap and atl-atl making, scout skills, and even self-reflection – also known as soul tracking. I was wishing I had chosen something less tactile and more introspective.

I remember during my Pacific Crest Trail hike listening to a tape by Jon Young, the founder of Wilderness Awareness School. On the tape he said that after hard work people naturally want to take a break. Nothing new here, I thought. He encouraged listeners to relax and even fall asleep as he spoke. I stopped hiking and took a nap as he went on about how energy naturally progresses through different stages in people.

The Medicine Wheel is a concept at the core of the Wilderness Awareness School teachings and is how Jon Young contextualizes his ideas about energy flow through people. For someone to get back to a place where they are truly primed to do hard work they need rest, reflection, introspection then they need to get excited and motivated to dive back into hard work. In regards to the village weeks, I felt like I was not in a place of excited motivation to make a bow.

I relayed this feeling to one of my instructors and was able to shift my village weeks to soul tracking for week one, and scout skills for week two. The accommodation and flexibility of the staff is such a comfortable experience here. Changing my village weeks was the right choice and for the first time I had a way to speak about the cycle of energy I was experiencing through the model of the Medicine Wheel. I felt primed to explore my individuality and the gifts I bring to the communities I am a part of through soul tracking.

After the second day of exhaustive and rewarding introspection I went to hear a story being told by an Anake graduate who had just taken a deer in a sacred hunt. His story felt like the antithesis of our disconnection from the food process in America. Around the glow of a primitive fire he told of crafting his bow and arrows by hand and stalking his deer on bare feet before taking a shot and meticulously tracking the blood trail to find his deer.

The story was loaded with connection, moments of despair and exaltation, and a deep gratitude for the animal he was hunting. I left the fire that night with a buzz of energy about me. By sharing his experience the graduate had shifted me from a place of introspection to a place of excitement and motivation for the sacred hunt. Thinking of a bow as a weapon is so much less attractive to me than thinking of a bow as a means to connection with the animal and our food process.

With the help of Wilderness Awareness School, I found the means to motivate myself to put in the hard hours it takes to make a wooden bow by hand. I am currently working with a mentor outside of class that is helping me craft a bow. The Anake program is flexible, and is all about putting in the work to prime students to be fully alive in the activities they choose to pursue. Some people come to Anake already excited to deeply learn plant medicine, or animal tracking, or fire skills, but it is an amazing reward when timely motivation comes in a way you do not expect.


A Deep Sense of Place

At Anake Outdoor School, a focal point of the program is developing a deeper sense of place.  Throughout the fall term we learned and experienced many practices to facilitate that relationship. As Winter Break arrived, I anxiously headed home, back East, to visit family and friends for the holidays.

I had not seen my family and friends since beginning Anake. Even though I looked forward to sharing with them everything I was experiencing through the program, I was also worried about their reception of my ongoing transformation that is being expedited through my participation in Anake.

During my visit I held the intention to carry my Anake experience with me, undeterred by others’ perceptions. I planned to do this by practicing the Core Routines, completing naturalist journals for my home environment, and spending a lot of time outdoors. As I had been doing in my new home in the Pacific Northwest, I desired to develop an awareness of place in the environment I grew up in.

Little did I know that the Anake experience I would carry with me differed greatly from my expectations. I failed to get outdoors as much as I planned to, thanks in large part to the blizzards and sub zero temperatures that swept through the Northeast coast, and I did not complete one naturalist journal. What I thought would be a visit spent identifying the trees in my parents’ backyard, tracking animals in the muddy tidal zones, and listening to birdcalls during sunrise was in reality not what occurred.

However, even without all of these outdoor experiences, I still had plenty of opportunities to develop a sense of place in my home environment. A break immersed in nature quickly turned into a break spent connecting with family and friends.  Aware of my fears, I did not let my worry of others’ perceptions of me deter me from fully investing in the relationships.

I found strength in myself through sharing with others from my heart: openly and honestly. Through this I discovered deeper connections with my family and friends and they felt more comfortable around me to do the same. My sense of place in my home environment certainly deepened through these interactions and I discovered that without an awareness of myself and a true portrayal of my emotions, passions, beliefs, etc. that none of this would have occurred.

Over break, I learned that a deep sense of place is not always externally motivated by my surroundings, but can be internally motivated by connection to self. Not knowing what will come for me after Anake, where I will end up, and who I will be surrounded by, I feel confident knowing that whatever I’m doing, wherever I am, and whoever I’m with I will always carry with me a deep sense of place.

Campaign Extended…Oh so close to goal!

Campaign Extended…Oh so close to Goal!                              Donate Now

Dear Friend,

With your support, we have raised $121,555 toward our $125,000 Fall Annual Fund goal, with only $3,445 to go! Your generosity has laid a solid foundation for us to connect even more kids of all ages with nature, community and themselves, and we are deeply grateful.Will you help us finish our 30th year on a high note and reach our goal?

To reach our goal we need the following donations:

1 at $1,000

3 at $500

6 at $100

10 at $35

I hope you will be inspired to contribute at one of the above levels – or, if you have already given, perhaps even offer a second gift. Your generous donation will help give more children the opportunity to experience the joy and benefit of a connection with nature.

With gratitude,

Warren Moon
Executive Director

P.s. As we usher in the New Year, please join us in celebrating our 30th year by helping us reach our goal – only $3,445 left to go.     

 ”Thanks for all the amazing work you do for humans and our beautiful natural world“ 

- Sanna, Portland OR


Final 2 days to help celebrate 30 years

Dear Friend,

As of today, together we’ve raised $106,847 toward our $125,000 Annual Fund goal - we are grateful for your support!

Will you join us in celebrating our 30th year by helping us reach our goal?

One way your donation will help is by supporting our scholarship fund which provided over $75,000 to 117 students in scholarships last year. All kids deserve the opportunity to experience the joy and benefit of a connection with nature. Your support will enable more kids of all ages to have that opportunity – an incredible gift that lasts a lifetime.

With only 2 days left in the year, in your year-end giving decisions, we hope you will consider a generous gift – or, if you have already given, perhaps even a second gift – to help us reach our goal and raise $125,000 to connect more kids of all ages with nature.

P.S.  We have only $18,153 left to reach our goal. Please uncap your pen or click on this link, and donate today or tomorrow.

        “The quality of instructors is excellent! All of the instructors are kind, enthusiastic
and well-trained. The activities are very well thought out and engage the kids
thoroughly. They have so much fun and learn so much. But I can’t stress enough
that the instructors are truly wonderful and create the most welcoming and
supportive environment for the children.”

                                                                   – Lisa, mother of Niki and Sophia, Seattle WA


Connecting with old things in new ways

Thanksgiving Break

By: Luke Kantola


Thanksgiving break represents different things for different people in the WAS community. Some people are celebrating Hanukah. Some international students are experiencing the American tradition for the first time. For me, this thanksgiving represents a way of seeing old relationships with fresh eyes.

I flew home for the weeklong break with some goals in mind: I wanted to connect more deeply with my family, friends and also the area surrounding my home in Marin County, California.

This has taken many forms over the break including a close encounter with a Cooper’s Hawk and giving a good friend the proper space to vent the grief and sorrow of a lost loved one.

It may seem like these are two very different things. Wildlife and the trials of the human condition are necessarily exclusive after all. The truth is, though, that both of these events occurred because I was willing to deeply listen to what was going on around me. The anxiety of the sparrows by the oak-bush tipped me off that something was awry almost a full minute before the Cooper’s Hawk swooped in. Similarly, I keyed into my friends need to express her feelings and was able to make a safe space for her to do so before the moment passed. If I hadn’t noticed these signs, in both cases, the opportunity for connection might have been lost.

The Anake program has given me not only the tools but also the courage to powerfully shift old relationships this past week with my friends, family and place. I have ‘made friends’ with the deer by my home and now walk with less disturbance through the woods just as I am learning how to better connect with my sister and assist her on her life’s journey.

Gratitude has played a major role in my experience this break. I am really grateful for the opportunities to see old things in new ways.

I’m extremely grateful for the health and well being of my family. I’m also, perhaps to the chagrin of the smaller birds, grateful for the Cooper’s Hawk whose lessons in bird language have been invaluable this week.

I hope some of these gratitude’s are shared, and I hope the holiday has been good to those reading in whatever capacity it was celebrated.


Shelter Overnight

Shelter Overnight

by: Drew Duckworth

            Upon receiving the fall schedule on the first day I was immediately attracted to a few weeks in particular, but none more so than the Shelter Overnight week.  I shared my excitement with an apprentice, who responded coyly, “That’s a night you’ll never forget.”  My intrigue only grew and as we rapidly passed through the fall session the week I was looking forward to was finally here.

Other than helping the Foxes with their shelters a few weeks prior, I had no experience of actually making a shelter from natural materials and had never slept in one either.  I had seen many in books and on film, but most of those were for one person in a survival situation and we were to build something different.  We were to build debripees.

After a short instruction briefing on what they were and how to generally construct them we were sent off in clans to find a site for our home for the next two nights. A debripee is a circular group shelter with thick debris wall insulation, a sword fern piled teepee ceiling, a deep leaf bedding, and a fire pit inside.

With the sun setting early in late November we knew we had to get working quickly and before that we needed to plan out and decide on our vision together.  After coming to a decision and breaking up tasks we set out to work.  The collection of sword ferns, debris, firewood, teepee poles, and sticks for the wall frame kept us busy all day.  The tempo of the work varied throughout the morning and afternoon as hunger, thirst, and energy levels fluctuated, but it was a consistent squirrel energy of pacing back and forth; not rushed, but busy.  That all changed as the sun began dwindling down towards the horizon.

It was now wolverine energy time.  The anxiety surrounding a cold, miserable night inspired us.  The pace quickened, the rests shortened, and the loads were heavier as we raced to finish our shelter before night fell. As the last light lingered we finalized our firewood gathering and prepared for the night ahead.

We sat proud, and surprisingly comfortable, around the fire as we shared stories, smiles, and laughter after an exhausting day of work creating our home.  As the night wore on and some of us were able to steal snippets of sleep, the bitter cold of nearby winter set in to a low of 26 degrees.  With just the clothes on our backs we huddled closer to the fire and to each other.  It didn’t work; we were all cold and tired when the sun finally crested the eastern horizon.

The second day provided us with an opportunity to fix our shelter.  Eager on not being cold and miserable for a second night in a row, we set off to work again.  We harvested more sword ferns to better insulate the ground, cover holes in the ceiling, and for a clan mate’s construction of a dropped ceiling.  We also chopped Bitter Cherry for firewood after figuring out it was our best heat source.   The extra work paid off and our second night was comfortable.  It was surprising to experience the difference between the two nights.

The week really brought our clan together.  The spectrum of emotions that we all shared together was incredible.  The sadness of missing a fellow clan member, the pride of making the shelter, the exhaustion from hard work, the joy of stories shared, and so much more.  Our conversations throughout the long nights were remarkable too.  The building and sharing of our shelter helped mold the culture of our clan that we each want as we move forward with the rest of the year.  I suppose that apprentice was correct in his response to my excitement for Shelter Overnight.  This certainly was an experience I will never forget.

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