David and Bunny4lighter

Looking Ahead After Anake

Looking Ahead After Anake

by David Wolbrecht

And now, it is over. My time as an Anake Outdoor School student has come to a close. Wow.Similar to my my classmate, Rachel, I find that the story of my time these past nine months is one longer than I can tell. Full as it was with learning, failing, growing, laughing, and crying, this chapter of my life is one that I will cherish deeply and reflect upon often. For now, though, I find myself eagerly looking ahead at the various ways in which the threads of my life are weaving together to create the rich and supple fabric of my time here on Earth. I’d like to share a few of those threads.

I’ll be continuing my naturalist studies by enrolling in the Kamana Naturalist Training Program. During Anake, I eagerly deepened my knowledge and connection to the nonhuman world by fully accomplishing the Anake Naturalist Certification, an optional level of completion for the program based on fulfilling a set of journals, essays, and other written assignments. I find myself drawn to a book-learning style of study as an accompaniment to my experiential naturalist journey, and Kamana is as good as it gets. My goal at this time is to complete the entirety of Kamana, which I’ve since learned is fairly uncommon. Time will tell whether I reach that goal.

Cyber TrackerOn a similar vein, I’m eager to continue my learning journey as a tracker. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ve become enraptured by the stories of the landscape, specifically as expressed through the evidence of nonhumans moving and living in and around our human communities. I took the Cybertracker Evaluation last month and received a score of 89 – one point shy of Level III certification. Although realizing it was a lofty goal, I’d been aiming at a Level III score. Ultimately I’m very pleased with my performance and learned a ridiculous amount about track and sign in the process. Nonetheless, I’m planning on getting out there to track, journaling what I find, and taking the Cybertracker Evaluation again in a year, and my goal at this time is to reach the level of Specialist (the next step up from Level III, requiring a perfect score on an especially hard, special test).

I’m currently working as a summer camp instructor and director for Wilderness Awareness School for my second year in a row. In many ways, working for WAS Summer Camps is the fourth and final quarter of Anake, as I’m employing the Coyote Mentoring style of nature connection to my time with 6-12 year olds. Tiring at times, yet overall deeply fulfilling, it’s incredibly fun to apply so much of my experience, knowledge, and skills gained in Anake in a direct way that inspires and excites young humans. I’m planning to further my development as a mentor by being an Anake Apprentice next year through the Anake Leadership Program, and I’m excited to be of service to this transformative experience.

IMG_1426Yes, this is a time of endings. Yet, as with all endings in life, I’m stepping into a new chapter that’s full of beginnings. At times in my life, I’ve resisted new beginnings because of the unknown, but I trust myself enough now to proceed with courage to confidently face whatever life throws my way. Besides, like the fledgling kinglet in the hands of my colleague, Chris Smith, and the baby cottontail in my own, beginnings are just so fuzzy and cute. I’m unsure where these new trails will take me and what tales I’ll tell when I’m done, but I find myself exhilarated, nervous, and inspired by the open skies and fields ahead of me.

Come and see what adventures might be in store for you when spending a year connecting with nature at the Anake Outdoor School

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Looking Back on Anake

Looking Back on Anake

By. Rachel Shopper

We do so many things throughout the year at The Anake Outdoor School  it’s hard to answer the question, “what will I get from Anake?”

Here is a recent graduates reflection on the year.

How was your year?  I just returned to North Carolina, and everyone wants to know about my experience.

How do I even begin?  It’s a story longer than I can tell.  It’s a spider web shaped like a double helix.  It’s a dream that happened in real life.Anake fire wood plank

I left my home and went to live in a land where the maple trees weave themselves like baskets growing out of the ground.  They are covered in moss and when the sun hits them just right, they glow.  With thirty-eight other people, each of whom had a totally different life story, perspective, and set of expectations, I walked into a little building with an earthen floor and a fire pit in the center.  We went on a journey.  Many journeys, in fact.  We got dirty.  We asked questions.  We covered our eyes.  We opened our eyes.  We moved through the landscape.  We quarreled.  We found deep respect.  We were vulnerable.  We told stories.  We made fire.  We shared food.  We stepped into our power.  We stepped into our senses.  We took responsibility to create a culture among ourselves that was meaningful.  We did more than can be told or understood.

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And then we said goodbye.

As I drove back across the country, I carried so much with me.  Buckskins, herbal medicines, fire kits.  Songs on my breath.  Memories in my muscles.  A new way of seeing, a new way of speaking, and a new way of questioning.  I carried huge love in my heart for so many people.  People who are patient, and loving, and beautifully flawed, and courageous.  They taught me so many ways to look at the world, and to love it.  I carried with me experiences that transformed who I am and how I walk in the world.  I believe in myself more.  And I believe in the future more, that it can be beautiful.  Although I will miss them, I am glad that my classmates have been flung across the world like stars across the sky.  Every time I call one of them to share a story, or ask advice, or invite them to challenge themselves, I am weaving a constellation.  Every time one of us contributes to our communities, or spends a half hour looking at the plants and counting flower petals, or helps someone get their first bowdrill coal, we are weaving a constellation.

 

It is an honor to have been part of my class.  It will always be an honor.  I feel I have been given a gift too big to repay in any other way than by living a life worthy of such generosity. I hope I can pay it forward.

Come join us and see what adventures might be in store for you at The Anake Outdoor School!

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Wild Edible Community meal

Dirt Made My Lunch

A story from one of our students at Anake Outdoor School on harvesting wild edibles for a community feast:

Dirt Made My Lunch

By Rachel Shopper

As I step onto the smooth, dry log, it sinks a foot under the water of the swamp.  I’m going to go for it, I tell my classmate Nick.  Twelve harrowing steps later, I make it to the other side of the log and step onto the “bank” of hardhack, water iris, and cattail root mass.  I squat down and follow a tall dry stalk to the base of the water.  Its side flatten to an oblong shape.  No good.  I feel a couple more until I find one that is circular all the way down, and I begin to dig my fingers through the network of roots and decaying grasses until I come to a rhizome.  It is a long root that connects this plant to a network of other cattail plants, and I work my hand about a foot along the root before I yank it.  After numerous indelicate grunts, the root snaps and I almost go flying into the swamp.  Nick and I each gather a few more cattail roots, and I also pull several young shoots that are poking up out of the water like long thin ice cream cones turned upside down.  Oh, no. Let’s not think about ice cream.

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We go back inside to boil two pots of water and turn on the toaster oven.  We wash the roots and shoots. Into one pot of water, we cut the roots into two-inch segments.  Into the other, we place nettles, dandelion greens, plantain leaves, waterleaf, fireweed shoots, and salmonberry shoots.  Much like leeks, we cut the cattail shoots where they fade from white to green, and peel off the tough outer leaves.  Then we lay them in the toaster oven.  I scarf down three handfuls of dried wild blueberries like they’re the invention of chocolate, and then I sit down and take a big sigh, feeling like Indiana Jones at the end of a long day.

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When I was a kid, a frequent refrain around bedtime was my parents’: everything is harder when you’re tired.  I never really believed them, but they always seemed to think that whatever difficulty I was having would slide into perspective once I realized I was freaking out with exhaustion.  My new refrain is, everything is harder on wild edibles day.  This spring, I have been challenging myself to spend one day each week eating nothing but wild edibles.

Why would I do this?

  • Because wild foods are vastly more nutritious than cultivated foods.  We’ve bred the flavor and the nutrients out of our foods.
  • Because eating wild foods helps me feel connected to the natural life cycle that is my birthright as an inhabitant of planet earth.  I am made of the things that grow out of and upon the earth.  They become me, and someday after I die I will become them again.
  • Because eating wild foods connects me with a clarity and vitality that I also feel when I am fasting.
  • Because so many times when I am eating I am eating for pleasure or distraction.  A wild foods diet breaks that habit pattern.
  • And, because in eleven days, it’s all I’m going to be eating for five days straight during survival week, so I had better get used to it and learn about how I function on a wild foods diet.

Like I said, there is clarity and vitality.  Paradoxically, there is also total brain fog.  Accomplishing tasks is hard.  Making decisions is downright outrageous.  And so I connect to a slowness and a presence much yearned for in the coconut-oil-and-bacon-fueled hysteria that passes for my life most days.  I also have to pause whenever problem-solving or patience is in order, take a deep breath, and remind myself that evCommunity Wild Edible mealerything is harder when I’m tired.  Wild Edible Community meal

Nick and I sit down to eat our big meal.  The soup is a symphony of flavors, floral and bitter and rich.  The shoots taste a little like bamboo shoots, and have been compared to asparagus, although I don’t taste much resemblance.  We chew the starch out of the roots and spit the fibers back out.  They taste like a combination of potatoes and sugar cane, and as the only starch I’ve eaten all day, it’s like heaven.  Gratitude wells up inside me, that so much of our planet is edible.  It’s all around me, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

*For a great article on cattails as food, check out Eat the Weeds:

http://www.eattheweeds.com/cattails-a-survival-dinner/

*Click to Apply or find out more information about the Anake Outdoor School

Anake Student Wood Carving

The Tracks We Leave Behind

The Tracks we leave behind
by David Wolbrecht

Anake Tracking Sandpiper
I’ll be an Anake Outdoor School graduate in three weeks. I’ve been paying attention to the unfolding of growth this spring, have witnessed the migrations this past winter, and felt the retreat of chlorophyll last autumn. Yet, despite tracking time as expressed in the cycles of the natural world far more closely than ever in my life, it still feels surreal that my time at Anake is coming to its end. How can a time so rich and overflowing with aliveness still feel like it passed in the beat of a hummingbird’s wing?

As I write this, we’re on the eve of plunging into the culminating experience of the program, an intense three weeks known for being a Anake tracking Muskrattransformative crucible of connection and expansion. I don’t quite know what will come in the coming weeks and thus find myself reflecting on what has been in the previous months. What have I learned, what have I done, what will I carry forward?

One tangible difference in who I am now versus who I was when I entered the program is my newfound passion for the art and science of tracking – that is, reading the various large and small signs that animals leave on the landscape. There is a story embedded in every set of muskrat tracks, every sign of sandpipers feeding. I’m hooked on sleuthing the subtle clues left from these happenings, and I find fulfillment in piecing them together to help me understand more of who else is living in this great tangle of life that I find myself in and what sort of lives they lead. Having spend a lot of time studying tracks, journaling various species, and regularly attending tracking club, I’m eager to take a Cybertracker Evaluation for Track and Sign Interpretation a week after graduation. This test is an international standard for competence that originated in Africa, and I’m looking forward to learning much from a focused two days of tracking.

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This past year I also explored a curiosity I’ve had with wood carving. In addition to our naturalist home study materials, we were given the option of creating self-defined projects that explored an area of interest related to some piece of the curriculum. I was drawn in learning more about the history and function of carved cedar poles in the cultures of various native Pacific Northwest coastal peoples, with a focus on experiential learning (i.e. carving a pole). Possessing no experience with carving, I opted to employ a style that was more approachable for my newness. I decided to create what I call a Lineage Pole, a roadmap of sorts that illustrates Wilderness Awareness School’s influential founders and evolution of its programs through symbolic forms of my own creation. The result was a ten and a half foot story of the school that I handed over to their care and which now resides affixed to the southwest corner of Cedar Lodge on the school’s land.

I’m still processing all that I learned from the many hours I spent sketching, chiseling, and sanding, but one of the major themes I see is legacy. That which is left behind is an emphasis of both tracking and carving, and I find it fascinating that these two areas were how I spent the majority of my time during the winter and spring sessions. Animal tracks and sign are among the most obvious direct reminders of their lives on the land, just as carving is an obvious remainder of focused human life. Just as tracking helps us better understand the stories of the landscape, I see now that I was hoping my carving would similarly help us better understand the stories of this place, Wilderness Awareness School.

It’s no coincidence that comprehending story ended up being a big focus of my time here at Anake, as I’ve been actively exploring stories of my early life and my family heritage for the last couple years. In my searching, I find myself wondering: What’s to learn from the stories of our lives? What do we leave behind? What tracks define our legacy? I don’t know that I’ll ever find answers to these questions, but I hold them close nonetheless.

Learn more about Anake Outdoor School or apply today.

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Anake California Trip Part 5: Adventures in the Redwoods

The Anake California Trip was coming to a close as we left Quail Springs and headed north towards home. We had one last major stop, The Humboldt Redwoods.IMG_1264

After almost 12 long hours of driving and traveling over 500 miles, We found ourselves surrounded by tall, dark towering giants you can barely make out, so late into the night. Everyone pretty much just ate dinner and went straight to bed, hoping to get an early start for the adventures that awaited us on the landscape.

I woke up the next day to discover I was surround by these magnificent ancient giants. I quickly rolled out of my sleeping bag and prepared for the day. We had only a few hours to explore this land so efficiency was crucial. I synced up with one of the other students, Colin, and we set off into the woods.IMG_1292

We first found ourselves in deep conversation reflecting on the journey so far. Then we were both mesmerized and by the stark contrast of the open desert we left the day before and the dense forest of the Rredwoods. We then found ourselves drawn off trail by a fallen tree that made a lovely path towards the river.

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As we explored the thickets along the river our attention turned to the animal trails that skirted the river’s edge. We very clearly saw raccoon trails and grey fox trails going in opposite directions. But there was another much larger track that drew our attention. It had 4 toes with claws showing and an “M” shaped heel pad.

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We looked at several tracks and asked ourselves lots of questions, trying to refrain from jumping to conclusions of what we both thought and, hoped it was. We surveyed our surroundings following the tracks up river and back tracking down river for a few hours to confirm what we thought it was. Finally we came to the conclusion that it was in fact, a Mountain Lion!!

We came back to camp with pictures to confirm with Marcus, our lead instructor, that it was indeed a Mountain Lion. He too, found the tracks of this animal and added that you can see the sexual dimorphism in the tracks and not only was it a Mountain Lion but a Female. We were both blow away.

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It is so amazing to see how just a little knowledge of animal tracks can turn a short wander in the forest into an epic Sherlock Holmes mystery, interpreting the stories of the landscape.

Check out other stories from our California Adventure. Check out our Website for more information or Apply Today!

 

 

 

 


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Anake California Trip Part 4: Village Life

Village Life

by Kyle Koch

Excepts from my journal during the Anake Outdoor School’s California Expedition in February;

“I’ve just been informed it has been 5 days since we’ve entered this desert oasis and will be leaving in the early morning…”

“I found myself and others feeling a great sadness to leave this place, but at the same time filled with so much gratitude that a place like this exists in the word…”

“We now travel North for 3 days before we arrive to Linne Doran, the place we call home. Our first stop will be to visit the towering ancestor Redwoods.IMG_1269

 

Then to greet the ocean to rejuvenate our bodies and spirit before traveling through the Willamette Valley up into the Klamath Mountains. and finally home, in the forests below the Cascade Mountains. We ask for safe travels as our kindred spirits sing us off into the Sunrise…”

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Living life as an intentional nomadic village was such a powerful experience.IMG_0946
There was no need to keep track of time. You knew it wastime to get up when you heard the voices of your peers gently singing you awake, Lunch and Dinner were marked by the ringing of the bell, and you could sleep or nap whenever your body called for it. There were always people ready and willing to support your needs.

During the day work was done joyously with laughter, silliness, gratitude, intention, and play. Or you could wander the land with friends and strangers. Then every evening we would all gather together to share food and our stories of the day. The dinners were made with so much heart felt love that nourished my body and soul. At night we would retire under the stars for restful sleep. The timeless and connection to people and place on this trip was profound.

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When I returned home I had trouble readjusting to my modern schedule. My phone and the clock became foreign objects I had to relearn how to use. Grocery shopping, traffic, and laundry became new priorities in my life. I am now back and readapted to technology and responsibilities of my life. But I still leave those all behind when I head into the woods or wander off to my sit spot.

I feel this trip really taps into an ancestral part of ourselves. Living in a village, telling stories around a fire, wandering the land in searchIMG_1234 of animal tracks, tending the plants, building homes for family and so much more. This is an experience I feel we can all benefit from. I am really grateful for being a part of our California Adventure and will carry these lessons with me wherever I go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out other stories from our California Adventure. Check out our Website for more information or Apply Today!


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Anake California Trip Part 3: The Village in the Van

The Village in the Van

by Rachel Shopper

A reflection of our trip from to California by Anake Student Rachel Shopper…

In mid-February the Anake Outdoor School Class of 2014-2015 packed up all of our crafting supplies, sleeping bags, and costumes, and drove down to southern California to visit Quail Springs permaculture farm.

Along the way, we listened to podcasts, told our life stories, played “dingo” [naturalist bingo] and word games, and stopped for frisbee and parkour breaks at probably every rest stop on the west coast.IMG_1313

It was magical to see the landscape change as we drove south.  The terrain was drier and the plants and trees were different.  By the time we reached our destination, we were in the high desert, among sagebrush, yerba santa, juniper, and lupine.

Quail Springs is a settlement of about fifteen people.  Their land receives water from a spring flowing down through the canyon in which the people’s gorgeous earthen homes are nestled.  We were blessed to have come on a year when rain has graced the landscape more than usual: when we went tracking, it was the first year in three that the same tracks that had been locked into the dry sand were gone, with new ones in their place.  For the six days that we were there, the weather was sunny and warm in the daytime, and cool at night, with a sky sprayed with an array of stars only available in the ruralest places.IMG_1224

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Our hosts gave us a tour of their homestead.  We learned about how grazing animals on a landscape can increase soil fertility, how to establish a forest garden in the desert, how to apply principles of fluvial geomorphology (try saying that ten times fast!) to waterways for watershed restoration, and the benefits of  safely returning human waste to the landscape through composting toilets instead of contaminating our drinking water.  All forty-something of us squeezed into a beautiful cobb house, the first coded natural building in the county.  The owners worked with the city officials to legalize the house, an endeavor that required diplomacy and some education of the officials about earthen buildings.  Cobb buildings can last for centuries, whereas a house built by conventional means nowadays is guaranteed to last thirty-five years: five years beyond the mortgage payments.

IMG_1072While away from our computers, cell phones, and normal schedules, we entered into a timeless experience governed by the sun, and life felt more like a village.  We ate together.  We built cobb benches and rock retaining walls.  We rerouted the water in the river to increase the flood plane and prevent erosion. We made bread and cheese from scratch.  We exchanged stories and songs from Washington, California, New Mexico, Tajikistan, and Bosnia, among other places.

What struck me most about Quail Springs was the respect people had for the land.  There was a profound ethic of giving as much–or more–as you were taking.  People were invested in this one place, in watching the land change from season to season and year to year.  They asked her what she needed, and with her they co-created something beautiful.

When we returned home, many of us felt a nagging unease, or even an anger, about the lives we have been living.  It can be painful to taste community and then return to the scattered independence so characteristic of modern life.  Marcus, our lead instructor, told us something that stuck with me.  He told us, “What you were feeling at Quail Springs, they wait all year to feel that, too.  That sense of community that you felt there, it wasn’t just the ecovillage.  It was the community of the Anake class.  The magic that you were feeling: that was you.”

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If you want to apply or need  more information please check out our website: Anake Outdoor School:Connect with Nature change your life


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Anake California Trip Part 2: Returning Water to the Desert

Returning Water to the Desert

David Wolbrecht

We milked the goats and collected chicken eggs. We made (and ate) fresh goat cheese and sourdough bread. We dug ditches and built cob benches. We gave gifts and shared stories. We laughed and ate and stargazed and sang. And then we left for home.

The Anake class recently returned from a road trip down to Quail Springs, a permaculture community in the high desert mountains near Santa Barbara. For six days, our class worked alongside the twelve residents, assisting with daily chores and special projects. Living and working together amidst a tight-knit community enriched our identity as a class, as it evoked a deep recognition of what it could mean to live as a village.

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Our time there was focused on four main threads that the community at Quail Springs is weaving together: holistic food production, natural building experimentation, watershed regeneration, and doing all the above in a functional and thriving community. Although the entire trip meant a great deal to me, the work they’re doing on regenerating the watershed struck me the most profoundly.

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The main hands-on work is being done by an inspiring human named Brenton, and the passion and dedication by which he undertakes his work as a fluvial geomorphologist was palpable and contagious. I was lucky enough to spend our second-to-last morning working in a group alongside this giant-hearted landhealer as he used the patient flow of the thin creek to slowly reform the valley’s watershed. We were, in his words, “playing in the mud.” I remember as a child playing legos in the backyard with the hose on, and how the erosion slowly created a new microlandscape for all my figures to interact with. This is exactly what Brenton is doing, except he’s working at a scale an order of magnitude larger. And the figures aren’t legos; they’re bobcat, western toad, sage. And he’s not doing it for fun, he’s doing it to heal the land in which they are in relationship.

Like many of us, I’ve felt in my bones that something is terribly wrong with how Western civilized humans have interacted with other humans and more-than-humans for generations. I’ve desired a fundamental and profound change and have been stumbling towards a way to intervene in the complex human systems that aren’t serving all of life. It’s an overwhelming prospect that I regularly struggled with.

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I can’t say that I’ve yet come to terms with this longing and calling to work for regenerative justice, but, as I stood in that deep creek bed watching Brenton flinging mud, listening to him speak about the geophysical and social theory behind his actions, the fire of my hope was rekindled. I was witnessing change happening, literally in front of my eyes. Brenton, this healer working in the field of Earth-massage, was sweating alongside the others in the Quail Springs community to bring back a year-round creek in their desert landscape. Slow and steady work, this watershed regeneration has already helped, as the spring at the source of the creek has been running continuously for the last few years, despite single-digits of rainfall inches per year. Year-round running of the spring is something that hadn’t been seen in the decades since over-grazed cattle ranching altered the valley.

As I stood ankle-deep in cool spring water, something shifted in my outlook and worldview. The best way I can describe it is that I had an experiential realization that altering humanity’s course is not only possible, but it’s in progress. I realized that I had undermined my search for how to make a difference by unconsciously ascribing to the popular myth of the Lone Heroine, the Singular Hero. It’s a myth that permeates mainstream culture. I was stuck thinking about how I can affect change, instead of realizing that my “I”-ness needs, and is amplified by, joining a “we”. Further, I realized that all movement towards regenerative justice is healing, not just the big and glamorous. Indeed, the work I’m doing in Anake, to reconnect with the land, my self, and my communities, is healing for the Earth.IMG_1189

As Paul Hawken describes in his book, Blessed Unrest, millions of human are responding to environmental, social, political, and economic injustices in small pockets around the world. Similar to filling ecological niches, humans are responding to the needs of all life in as many ways as there are needs. Whether moved to action by empathy, rationality, or both, these legions of humans are Earth’s immune system: decentralized, adaptable, and dedicated to the health of the larger entity. One cell can do little to combat systemic disease, but, en masse, we can change the world.

Like many of my classmates, I left Quail Springs with a longing in my heart to live, work, and play in a community like theirs. They are doing work that needs to be done and are doing so in a soulful, integrated way. As my life continues to unfold, I do not yet know in which community I will add my sweat, tears, and laughter, but I feel hopeful knowing in my bones that my work is enjoined to that of millions. This healing is not my burden to bear alone, and together we are returning water to the desert.

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Anake California Trip Part 1: Our Journey South

Our Journey South
by Kyle Koch

Every year the Anake class takes a pilgrimage down to the Cuyama Valley of southern California to study permaculture and natural building with the Quail Springs community. Students and Staff, totaling 45 amazing humans, pack into 4 vans with 2 trailers ready to embark on this incredible 11 day journey. This post is the first in a series about the trip–if these stories resonate, click on Anake Outdoor School to learn about joining us for our 2015/16 school year.  Meanwhile, here was my experience during the first leg of our adventure…IMG_0726

(February 11, 2015) We’ve been traveling south now for 2 days, through treacherous rain and traffic in the I-5 corridor. The feeling of the people in my van (osprey) is a mixture between laughter, tension, and a bit of craziness. At every rest stop the tribe piles out for the opportunity to stretch their limbs, relieve their bladders, and interact with folks in the other vans. The Frisbee and the rat hack comes out for play in the parking lot. At the same time the students in the grassy areas are moving on all fours, doing acro-yoga, handstands and imitating all forms of animal life. I was actually asked by an older couple if we were Cirque du Soleil performers. Finally we arrived at our first destination. The feeling of joy and freedom is expressed through movement as we sprawl out across the landscape.

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Tucked in a bowl of rolling green hills, next to a beautiful body of water surround by oaks and gray pines is where we will make our camp. As we settled into this place the sun sets and the blue sky is replaced by bright stars lighting the night sky. We gather around a fire, started by a bow-drill, to fill our bellies and share stories of our adventure so far. We gave thanks for safe travel, and the abundance of our lives and set intentions as we retired for the evening. As the sky turned from night to a wispy pink we were sung awake by the angelic voices of our classmates. We wiped the crust from our eyes and are greeted by the warming of the morning sun. We ate our breakfast and packed our packs for a day of wandering adventures. But before we set out on the land, one of our apprentices, Quinn, shared with us his experiences of what it is like to walk through a land with intentions and questions in our heart. What does this places have to teach us?

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Today I felt truly what it was like to be a wild free human. Spending the early afternoon hours stretching and moving my body in ways that felt animalistic and enlivening after being crammed in a hot, stinky van for 847 miles. We took turns, running, flipping, and rolling in the grass and climbing trees and jumping over picnic tables. The feeling and sensations I experienced were something ancient and primal. Thoughts of the modern world, my life and responsibilities back home were no longer with me. I was fully immersed in my senses and aware of my surroundings as I journeyed into the open forest. After only a few steps I noticed tracks of wild and domestic animals, saw a great abundance of beautiful birds, milling about the tree tops. We spent the rest of the day exploring all the neatness nature had to offer; Cooper’s hawks hunting through the tree’s, ground squirrels fighting over territories, cubbies of quails flushing into the brush and countless other stories of this land happening before us.IMG_0875

 

We gathered around the fire, again in the evening to hear the stories of the other tribe members sharing the incredible experiences they encountered that day as well. I am truly grateful for this place, these people, and the Anake experience. It continues to remind me that I to, at any moment, can tap into what it might have been like to experience the wildness and freedom of my ancient ancestors.

Tomorrow we continue our journey south, destination Quail Springs.AOS_CA Trip 2015_001c

 

Look for new posts on Wednesdays…

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The Kenya Expedition

The Kenya Expedition

 

By Marcus Reynerson –

Anake Outdoor School Coordinator, Anake Grad ’06, and Way Leads to Way Instructor

 

As I sat in the high desert of southern California wrapping up the Anake Outdoor School California expedition in February, I was struck by the beautiful relationship that has developed between two villages over 8 years with our sister organization, Quail Springs Permaculture Farm, north of Santa Barbara. I have seen connection created – and culture build – over time as the way in which our two communities engage deepens. Thankfully, reciprocal connection with people and place is no longer a fringe thing – communities are building it across the continent now. What would happen if more communities connected in this way?

10352292_10153021715448943_7658595653076002777_nLast July, these questions lead Wilderness Awareness School (WAS) from arid lands of California to arid lands across the globe. WAS pursued this cultural exchange in Ingwe’s childhood homeland in the Rift Valley of Kenya. What’s more, WAS saw a long-desired opportunity to support Anake graduates’ work in these efforts by partnering with Kirkland-based Way Leads to Way Expeditions (WL2W). Founded by Brent Coyle (Anake Graduate ’04) and co-staffed by Casey McFarland (Anake ’02) and myself (Anake ’06), WL2W has strong friendship with a community of Maasai people in southern Kenya. Musa Seno, WL2W Kenya coordinator, was born and raised in a small Maasai village called Suswa, located in the Rift Valley, and comes from a long line of traditional leaders. Ingwe was raised outside of Nairobi in and around the Rift Valley where his deep love for the African wilderness and the tribal spirit he encountered there guided Wilderness Awareness School’s vision. With this in mind, the trajectory of this trip was guided by two main intentions: 1) to explore the natural and cultural history of an amazing country and, 2) to build authentic connection to a wonderful community of people.

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Upon driving away from arrivals at Nairobi Airport, our group was immediately welcomed by a small herd of Giraffes in adjacent Nairobi National Park. Amazing and epic wildlife encounters only increased from there as we made our way to Amboseli National Park where we had the fortune to spend some amazing dirt time following the tracks and trails of numerous species: Giraffe, Mongoose, Hyena (Spotted and Striped), Zebra, and Baboon to name a few. The birding was off the hook with ridiculously colored and feathered jewels flitting passed us constantly (so many different Kingfishers! and Bee Eaters!). With Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background we measured the strides of Elephant, we watched Cape Buffalo and Wildebeest roam, and we tracked myriad species of Antelope.

After a potent naturalist introduction to the land, we then we landed in Suswa located in the Great Rift Valley. While this country was nothing short of heaven for the curious naturalist and tracker, both WAS and WL2W place high value on not simply “consuming an experience”, but creating an opportunity to give as well. Students certainly walked away from this trip with new knowledge and insight, but the true gold in this experience was found in cultural exchange and reciprocity. During last summer’s expedition, we started the groundwork for a project aiming to reduce air pollution in Maasai houses, or Inkajijiks. Our hosts have long noticed that cooking fires – a staple of Maasai tradition – along with poor ventilation, contributes to intense indoor air pollution and chronic respiratory ailments. With the Suswa community’s oversight, we are hoping to make stoves available in the future that will reduce pollution while also maintaining the customs and traditions in which the Maasai cook. If the reflections from our hosts and from our students were any indication, this truly was an exchange between two villages. After a day of helping herd livestock, learning how to cook Ugali, learning about edible and medicinal plants, or getting a first hand look at how HIV is affecting the Maasai, I’ll forever remember sitting around a fire in the evenings and trading stories with an amazing group of people that we’ve come to call friends.

 

Our last evening in Suswa

Our last evening in Suswa

Ending our 16-day trip, there was a feeling that any Anake graduate might recognize. We stood in a circle. Appreciations were shared.  Reflections were spoken. The Elders spoke last. They sent us on our way with blessings for health and safety. We were 10,000 miles away from Duvall, taking part in a simple ritual – one that these Maasai still value as a universal human experience. Upon leaving, the village elder, Joshua Seno – a man whom killed a lion with a spear identical to the one hanging on the Cedar Lodge hearth – spoke to us in Kimaasai with a salutation. His son translated: “Thank you for coming here.  Know that this place is always your home now, and we hope that you return soon. You are family now.” Just like the fires of village we are tending here at home, we are kindling another flame with a village across an ocean.  While WAS will not officially be running the expedition with WL2W this summer, we are excited to support our graduates’ work into the future and see connections that build from this.

WL2W Participants checking out a Hippo dust bath

WL2W Participants checking out a Hippo dust bath

Stay connected to the work that Way Leads to Way is doing in Kenya - www.wayleadstoway.com

 

Registration for the 2015 Kenya Expedition this July is now open!