Archive for August, 2011

I’m convinced that there are unseen forces at work in my life giving me little gifts and pulling me  along on my path.  Here is an example:  I put out the intention and even wrote it into the lesson plan that for the Hunting Skills class we would skin and cook an animal.  I was hoping to find a fresh squirrel or rabbit but nothing turned up.  Then the night before the class I was driving home and passed a coyote that had been hit by a car just minutes earlier.  We put it in a cooler with ice and brought it to the class the next day.  As a tracker, any opportunity to build a stronger relationship with an animal by holding its feet, tanning its hide, or eating its meat is very valuable.

The skinning process is fairly simple.  I decided to “case-skin” this coyote so that we could use it for a quiver.  The first step is to poke holes in the heel underneath the tendon and hang it up.  These holes hold really well which is important because it takes a lot of pulling to get the skin off.  Next I cut around each of the legs, the anus and the tail.  From here it is just a matter of pulling the skin down and peeling it over the head.  The tail and the ears are tricky spots and required some careful slicing.

Some people might think that it is weird or cruel to do this to a coyote.  In my opinion, those feelings come from a loss of nature connection.  A few hundred years ago everyone grew up butchering animals and knowing where their food came from.  We learned a lot by skinning this coyote.  The students in my class will now be much more comfortable preparing and eating wild meat should they ever need to.  Observing a wild animal so intimately- looking into its eye, holdings its feet, seeing its muscles and tendons is a powerful experience.

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Imagine the smartest minds on Earth went to work building a robot that could survive on an alien planet.  Suppose they spent millions of years creating the most perfect robot that was made to interact with the animals and plants that live on this planet.  They would perform billions of tests to make sure the robot was just right before they sent it out into space.  Well you know what’s cool?  We are actually driving this robot, only it is designed for Earth.  I think it is funny when people say “Oh, I’m not an outdoor person… I could never survive out there.”  They don’t realize that our bodies were fine tuned over millions of years to survive in the wilderness.

I feel something happen to me when I’m alone in the wilderness.  My instincts suddenly kick into gear and start to tell me what to do.  Like I said in a different post, our instincts communicate with us through feelings and it works in a beautifully simple way – by making us feel good when we do something right and feel bad when something is wrong.  It feels good to have a clean camp, to be hidden but have a good view, to clear a flat spot on the ground to sleep, and it feels really good to have a fire at night.  Another thing that feels really good is knowledge.  Already knowing the ecosystem and its hazards, sources of food, water and other resources, and knowing the patterns of humans that use the area.  Knowledge and training make me feel safe and this carries over to the modern world.  I think a lot of the anxiety we feel in modern society is our bodies telling us that we aren’t safe.  Even if our conscious minds don’t realize it, our bodies know that we don’t know how reliable our food, water and resources are.  That’s because we don’t know the land that our resources are coming from.  When you know the land your food is coming from, you know if the food is going to keep coming.  Our food comes from so far away, we have no idea if the land is healthy and going to keep providing.  I think our bodies are onto this and give us bad feelings.

I’ve created a new routine for myself that makes me feel very good.  It is to spend one night every month camping out by myself.  There is land near my house that I can go spend the night and practice surviving.  It reminds me what my body is made for.  And the practice of survival on a regular basis erases the anxiety I normally feel living in society.  I know that if I need to, I can go to this place and have all the resources I need.  There are thousands of rabbits, lots of deer, and even a good water source.  I can tell that my body likes knowing this in a deep way.

My first night in my new place was wonderful and rejuvenating.  It snapped me right out of the dull, stale world I normally live in and brought me back to the world I love.  Full of life, beauty, deep satisfying feelings, and truth.  I got to sit and be still and relax without feeling like I should be doing something.  I had a barn owl scream and circle right over my fire, woodrats scurrying all over the place and coyotes howling close by as I went to sleep under the stars.

I was scared being out there alone in a new place.  I’ve never camped alone in mountain lion territory and I know they are in the area.  And I don’t know how sleeping on the open ground works in rattlesnake country.  But facing fears like these makes me feel strong and free and of course, nothing bad happened.

Sun is setting, time to light the fire.

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