Recognized in many cultures, this time of year seems fit for focus on introspection, of looking inwards towards one’s inner landscape, and I turn and reflect back on the last three months that consist of the first third of my Anake year. Skills and songs, projects and observations, stories and explorations – it is hard for me to sum up my experience thus far. I am changed, and I have grown, but how? Does the cedar recognize the formation of each ring within itself? Or does it take the tempering quench of time to allow it to see it’s own growth?
I remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine back in August. She was curious about my interest in attending this program. Very curious, she asked earnestly, “what’s the point, why learn this?” We’d been talking about friction fires, but I believe her question extends to primitive water purification, survival shelter making, tracking. It’s a fair question, and she genuinely wanted to understand.
I tried to describe this desire in me to connect with nature, with the ancestral human experience, and to be prepared for some sort of emergency scenario. Although true and real for me to some extent, these answers felt hollow to my friend, and to me. Yet I didn’t know how else to speak of this subtle and powerful draw I had to shift my pattern of living and learn some of the skills and practices that Anake covers.
A belted kingfisher screeches across the pond, and I’m brought back to the present. I look over what I’ve learned, done, and made these past few months, and, if I were to answer my friend again, I’d say that I wanted to seek out a bit of humility about how vulnerable contemporary Western humans are when we’re taken out of our industrial systems. I wanted to understand on an experiential level that there is much of our basic survival and day to day living that we take utterly for granted. I flip a switch, and there is light and heat. I open the fridge, and there is unspoilt food. I turn on the faucet, and there is clean water. Before coming to Anake, I didn’t truly respect the ease with which the majority of us live in Western society. Now I have an appreciation for these marvels of the mundane that comes from living the effort involved in replacing them with handmade versions, if only for a day.
It’s hard to put into words, but this knowing has shifted the way I trust myself. It’s changed the way I face the daily challenges and struggles that life brings. I feel deeper and breath slower. I see more and walk softer. I feel more patient, more caring, more curious. Becoming acquainted with the extent of my own vulnerability has allowed me to be more vulnerable with friends, family, and strangers.
In short, I’ve become more courageously me.
For this, and the kingfisher who brings me back to the present again and again, I am grateful.
Photos by Rachel Tomczek