Thursday, October 22, 2009

an introduction by way of a small rant

in my young adult life i have done a fair amount of bitching about people's dependency on modern industrial convenience and the social ills and failures this dependency propagates. yet for all the complaining i really have no alternative and in the end i am just as dependent and lost without modern industry as anyone else. now dont get me wrong; i love modern industry and the convenience it provides and i dont think that the world would necessarily be better off without the industrial apparatus. i dont plan on running off to live in a cave or a hut somewhere in the woods. listen, i will get down on some greasy fast food after a night at the bar. i have also shopped at the gap. i love having a warm house. im using a computer for god's sake. im not unfamiliar or even uncomfortable taking advantage of the comforts of modern western civilization.  

what i dont like is the complete and utter dependence on this system. it makes me very uncomfortable that without the grocery store and the utilities company i am totally helpless. 

i think we take for granted the stability of our modern convenience and we take for granted this notion that the industrial machine will provide for us, uninterrupted and indefinitely as long as we play by the rules. history shows this is not at all the case. 

so what are the alternatives? 

i mean i recycle and all that. i try to be a responsible consumer for the most part. but that doesnt seem to allow for true independence. and often i see these positive ideas becoming marketing campaigns and buzz words for the very things they were designed to provide alternatives to. they become dependencies in themselves. in the worst case they become excuses.

so how do i go from simply complaining to actually, truly alleviating some of this dependency? or what if, on the outside chance, it all comes crashing down around us?

or hell, what if i DID decide i wanted to go live in a hut in the woods?

about a year ago i became interested in "wilderness survival training". i have come to not like this term very much as it seems to conjure  up images of chronically lost campers, radical militias, rambo movies, crazy british men drinking their own urine and a host of other extreme situations i dont necessarily want to find myself in. surviving in the wilderness is very much a by-product of the skill sets i hope to familiarize myself with. however, ive come to see that it can be surviving not because im in a desperate or extreme situation but because there are amazing gifts to be had when not tied to the nipple of modern convenience. incidentally ive also come to realize that the "wilderness" is not the only place to find these amazing gifts. sometimes its literally as close as your own backyard.

i prefer terms like "wilderness self reliance","primitive skills" or even better,"bushcraft". these terms define a more cooperative relationship with the wild. they describe a set of skills which turn the wilderness into something that can provide, nurture and sustain as good as, if not better than, the modern industrial mechanisms.

now, there are a few extremes you run into within the world of wilderness training. 

there are the types who want to learn how to run into the woods wearing nothing but their underwear and a bowie knife to see how long they can "make it". you will often hear these people setting arbitrary goals for themselves like, "i want to spend a year in the woods living off the land with nothing but what i can fit in this little backpack. what should i do to prepare?" as if there are a few pieces of advice which will miraculously give someone who is completely inexperienced the ability to take on such a task. 

then there is the bunker dweller. this is the person who has a remote "bug out" location stockpiled with provisions not the least of which is a significant amount of weapons and ammunition. in a modified form a lot of camping and backpacking enthusiasts take on this  same mentality. they want to enjoy the woods and carry their apartment with them simultaneously. i can relate to this mind frame a bit better than the first but it is still a bit extreme for my tastes. 

then there are the tree dwellers. dogmatic liberals trying to save the world one tree at a time. that is not meant to sound derogatory. some of my best friends are dogmatic liberals. these are generally really nice people i just think some of them are a little...doe eyed. in this world view man is a cancerous invasion that threatens the natural world with poison and destruction. capitalism is viewed as this disembodied external threat "out there" somewhere visiting its evil upon us. there is a significant amount of guilt in this outlook and these people spend an unhealthy amount of time pre-occupied with how they can make up for all the vile and disgusting things done by other people. and its always other people.

the common thread amongst all these is that mans relationship with nature is adversarial. "man-vs.-wild".

while seeking a road between total dependency and a degree of self sufficiency i navigated through a fair amount of wilderness training programs in the US of which there are many (hundreds if you include the small, one man operations.) but many seem to be large and impersonal, set up for high turn over and often catering to one or more of the mindsets described above.  finally i came across Earthwalk Northwest.  this one seemed to offer the most of what i was looking for. a good mix of practical survival skills as well as a means to lift some of the burden created by modern industrial dependency all delivered with the view that humans should be responsible stewards as well as recipients of bounty.

i was offered the chance to sit in on a class and was immediately won over by the instructors. there are only 2, Frank and Karen and they take at most 12 students every year to maximize the hands on experience and the personal relationship with the curriculum and the students. they seem to create a perfect symmetry. she is very much the gatherer and he the hunter. the course is provided in a kind of classroom environment. classes are held 2 days a week. on their property in western washington where skill sets are learned and practiced. class time is punctuated by many field trips for practical, real world application of classroom teachings.

after sitting in on a class i knew this is what i was looking for.

the following will be a journal of my experience in this class. a lot of it will be photos i take and a place to re-type and catalogue the notes i take. or, if im feeling particularly intelligent there may be a rant on various political or philosophical topics. in the case of re-typing notes i apologize in advance for the poorly structured quality those posts may have. the first few entries will be fast and dirty to get the blog up to date from the start of the class which was 3 weeks ago. then if all goes well there should be an update about once a week or so.

i realize the road i have chosen is not the only way and im not promoting it as the solution. i dont think im better than anyone(well...). this is just what i like. and its fun.

fair warning: if you are uptight about grammar and spelling this is going to really get on your nerves.


1 comment:

  1. ...your gonna come back doing tattoo's with bamboo needles and earthen dye's. F*@#ING HIPPY! All joking aside, really good skills to have if your away from the comforts of city livin'. Well written...grammar and spelling, pish posh.