WILDERNESS AWARENESS WALK
by Lanie Johnson, M.A., and Ken Fischman, Ph.D.
Now, let’s all walk to the fire circle (or meeting spot). When we get there we’ll tell you what we’re going to do next. Please just bear with us this morning – what we do now will become clear to you later on.
at Fire Circle (Meeting Spot)
One of the most important elements in lost proofing is awareness. . . so what we’re going to do now is a Nature Awareness Walk. Let’s just amble down this path (start walking) What do you notice as you walk?
(Now, let me tell you ABOUT THIS WALK. an Awareness Walk is different from a regular Nature Walk. We won’t be identifying trees or plants; instead you will be learning some new ways to be aware of things around you, things you may not usually see or hear in the woods, like birds & animals & location of water.. How? we’ll be teaching you some special skills or tools — like SUPER HEARING, EXPANDED VISION & SILENT WALKING.
Question: First, let me ask you to name a few different professions – such as what you or your parents do (did) for a living, or, what you do or want to do.
Hundreds and thousands of years ago, ANCIENT PEOPLE had no specialized professions.
They had to be IN TOUCH WITH NATURE to live.
Nature Awareness was one of their most important living skills — no one had a particular job, but each one could do just about everything they needed to do to
live in their environment, to find everything they needed in Nature (“Wildness is a state of complete awareness” said Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize winning poet, and author of the book, “Turtle Island”)
Question: How were they in touch with Nature? Through the 5 SENSES (and maybe more)
The Ancient Ones used their SENSES in a different way
We’re here to help you learn how they did it, not by book learning, but your own EXPERIENCE — you can’t expect to become EXPERTS in a few hours but we can show you the skills and you can PRACTICE them on your own.
Nature Awareness skills help you get CLOSER TO NATURE & also NATURE WILL GET CLOSER TO YOU. (Whipporwill/lizard stories from Pine Barrens)
(One instructor goes over the hill with bear bells. At a signal ( howl), he/she will ring the bells; that instructor then moves to different spot and rustles leaves, breaks sticks, etc.)
The first sense we talk about is hearing.
• I would like to talk about hearing in the woods. Ancient people even heard in a different fashion — Do this: stop, listen for 1 minute (signal). What did you hear ?
(list. . . .)
• I will teach you a simple technique in which you turn into a wild animal.
1. Stop, cup your hands behind your ears, and listen.What do you hear? Now, turn your torso left and listen. What do you hear? Now, right. Again?
demo Be like deer feeding & listening (they can turn their ears independently)
2. Now: listen again for 1 minute with eyes closed, using your Super Hearing
(signal again. other instructor does same noises in same places again)
What’s different? (kind of sounds, loudness, direction, wind?) What else is different?
(Emphasize efficiency – (a) Loudness and (b) Direction)
Next, we’ll learn how to walk the Ancient Ones WALKED, using your sense of TOUCH.
Many civilized people walk heel first, weight forward, leading with the head & looking down. You can’t see Nature if you are just looking at the ground, and nature’s creatures will certainly hear you if you make that much noise!
So, we’ll walk like this – put one foot almost directly in front of the other. Feel the ground, first with ball of your foot, Keep your weight back and head up, so you can look around as you walk. This is called the FOX WALK.
The fox walk is like a slow dance, with rhythm:
1) standing still, place alternate feet forward
2) Do the same, but place alternate feet forward, on the balls of the foot on their outside edges and roll them inward until flat.
3) Continue for a few steps – STOP! Where is your weight?
4) Move forward, (down a gentle hill if possible)
Walk close to an invisible line between your feet (not one foot directly in front of the other)
6) Keep your eyes ahead (pick a tree, rock, etc. to look at)
Feel the ground. (It is as if your feet have eyes!)
If you feel a sharp rock or twig, you can change course before fully committing your weight.
Another stop (after walking to an open area)
How did the Ancient Ones use their eyes. How can you use your eyes in the woods? We call it EXPANDED VISION
let’s try an experiment:
1) Spread out with arms sideways, not touching your neighbor. 2) Look straight ahead at something small in the distance.
3) Hold your arms straight out sideways with hands a little behind in front of you so that you can’t see them.
4) Take a deep breath & let it out slowly.
5) Wiggle fingers; slowly bring arms forward backward while looking at that object.
6) When you are barely aware of your fingers on both hands, STOP.
Keep looking ahead and at your fingers at the same time
Notice how much more you see now – out of the corners of
eyes. You also see motion more easily – wild animals see this way most of the time (If you are very still, they usually don’t see you)
EXPANDED VISION works better without glasses, if possible (glasses inhibit expanded vision. They act like the frames of paintings. You learn not to look outside them)
Now you can sense even more when you do the FOX WALK
Let’s practice doing both at the same time — look at the woods like a painting, which you enter like Alice going through the looking glass
Question: What did you notice this time? (list. . . )
(walk ahead again)
Now that you have become familiar with the FOX WALK, I’ll show you how to expand this so that you can get closer and observe animals (Don’t try this on a bear or lion): STALKING is difficult to do in boots – sneakers, moccasins, or barefoot are best.
story e.g., I got 20’ from a wild deer in the open; my teacher actually touched a deer
Has anyone ever seen a dog or a cat stalking? Then you know how slowly they do it.
• Kinds of stalk:
cat (4-footed), heron (2-footed). people are also 2-footed
• There are three main rules: stalk slow, stalk slow, stalk slower .
My teacher made us take one step/minute. I’ll ask only you to do one step/15 seconds.
• Steps of Heron Dance
1) lift knee with toes pointed downward (so as not to catch them on anything as you lift)
2) Bring your foot down with toes up.
3) Touch the ground with outside edge of the ball of your foot and roll it to the inside until flat.
4) Let your toes down and compress.
5) Only then, commit your weight by leaning forward. (Then your rear leg comes up automatically).
(*Never pivot on ground. It may make noise)
• Practice for a few minutes. Do not look down. Look at something in the distance. Learn to see with your feet, as in the fox walk.
• The 4 main elements of the Heron Dance
Slow – one step/15 seconds.
Flow – have you ever seen Tai Chi ?
Compress – do not commit your weight at first.
Freeze (hands on chest with arms at your sides) – wait until animal resumes what it was doing before you continue.
Animals learn that movement = danger. Unless you move, they think you are a tree, a stump, etc. If you raise your hand ( = rifle); the animal flees. If the animal sees you, try imitating a harmless grazing animal, even to kneeling down and nibbling grass.(yum, yum!)
• TIPS: Stalk when: wind blows; animal’s head is down. Use expanded vision to pick out easiest pathway and keep your eyes on the animal at same time (It is much easier to go around a thicket than to stalk through it. Use a Quick Stalk when feasible (e.g. behind bushes and trees, etc.) Vary your height. Look up, down, and in back of you.
Let’s walk a little more
One instructor sits blindfolded with apple (or other object) five inches in front of her/him.
The participants stand in a semicircle (circle if it is a big group) – They stalk to the apple.
The seated instructor points to the noise (use super hearing at times) – The perpetrator of the noise must freeze for 1 minute (count to 60) – Another instructor is the umpire, and if he/she points to you with stick, you freeze)
The stalker who gets to the apple first, gets to eat it
You’ll get to try out some of your skills again when we do the Un-Nature walk