At 5pm Friday March 9th, an old friend, Aly, picked me up on the rainy streets of Seattle. After a strong embrace, waves of information started to flow back and forth as we tried to navigate our way out of the city. On the way out, we picked up another long lost friend of Aly’s who just so happened to be visiting the same weekend, heading down from Whistler towards Death Valley, Nevada. Instantly I connected with the new friend and settled back in my seat, excited to head out of the city with these two inspiring women.
Aly has spent the past six months mostly in the forest outside of Duvall, WA. She lives in a beautiful house shared with past graduates of the same program, and spends 4 days of the week on field studies related to nature awareness and survival skills. Unlike many wilderness training programs that feature a ‘get-tough’ mentality, the Anake school is “grounded in a powerful, community- orientated philosophy of learning.” The teachings combine powerful spiritual practices learned from indigenous cultures across the world with lectures, exercises, and team activities. “[They] blend hard skills necessary to journey into nature without modern gear together with naturalist awareness and spiritual inquiry to cultivate profound relationship to the world that is sustaining us. “ – Anake Outdoor School Website
I had the blessed opportunity to meet almost twenty of Aly’s classmates, teachers and past graduates of the school over the weekend. The first night she invited a big group to her house to celebrate the end of their third quarter, and the arrival of her other friend and I. Each introductory handshake I offered was replaced with a hug. Huge smiles, welcoming words and thoughtful questions from each person made me feel instantly at home. We spent the night singing everything from gospel to camp songs. The night began with a “Thanksgiving” address, which was common place in the school to start their activities. Aly welcomed everyone to the party, laid out her intentions for the night and thanked everyone for coming.
The next day Aly took her friend and I to the land where they do most of their teachings. We had a beautiful walk around the area, practiced some ‘Animal Forms’ (mostly deer and raccoon), and finally went to Aly’s sit spot in the forest to have a form of open meditation. Beautiful babbling brook – fresh mud – wild women – light rain drops – catcalls and wolf howls.
That night we went to another house for a round of storytelling. Despite nerves, I was the first storyteller to take the chair, inspiring others around me to follow after. A hilarious Norwegian fellow even had a tale of Loki! I must be on the right path.
That weekend was extremely cleansing for me. I feel at peace in the forest, and admire those who have actually created homes there. Although I have a strong support system in Vancouver, of those who love each other and love openly.. the weekend has reminded me that home can be found anywhere. I have so much to learn about community building, alternative living and nature appreciation.