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Awakening Wild: Nature Immersion for Adults

We're currently restructuring this program for Fall 2018–Spring 2019. Please check back or e-mail us for updates!

A nine-month program meeting one weekend per month, September through May.

For NYC residents, we provide a free shuttle to and from the Wassaic Metro-North station.

$2,250 (payment plan and financial assistance available)
Flying Deer: Naturalist Training, Deep Connection to Nature, Self, and Others
Flying Deer: Wilderness Subsistence Program
Flying Deer Wolf Camp

"I joined this program as an outlet for connecting deeply with the natural world and the nature in humans. This we did, in spades. I came away with renewed connection and vision, as well as hard skills in tanning a buckskin, making acorn flour, listening to what the birds are saying, and so much more. But the biggest gift of this program is a strong sense of sowing the seeds of a new culture—one that is based on the true nature of humans and our relationship to the world as conscious participants in the web of life."
—Sarah P., 2016–2017 participant

Reclaim Your Connection

As the urbanized world expands and the natural world shrinks, there is an emerging longing to experience the wilderness around us and the wild within. Foraging edibles from forest and field, tending crackling campfires, slumbering quietly within a handmade shelter … these ancient birth rites await your return. Awakening Wild offers a slower, richer time and space in which you can awaken senses, bolster confidence, and strengthen connections with land, village, and self.

Awakening Wild is a nine-month adventure in wilderness living skills, nature awareness, backyard subsistence, and community building. Each month, our intimate group gathers for a weekend of forest camping as we explore these four curricular areas and share meals, songs, laughter, and stories. Each weekend offers a special focus in wilderness living skills, putting our hands to work to create useful survival crafts, prepare wild foods, and construct sleeping shelters. The balanced combination of group time, solo time, work time, and relaxation time calibrates mind, heart, and body, and returns us to our lives refreshed and inspired.

Wilderness Living Skills

Wilderness living skills comprise the primary curriculum of Awakening Wild. Wilderness living skills prepare the body and mind to embrace the forest as a home. We approach these skills in the spirit of excitement, fun and collaborative work. We explore modern and primitive fire-making methods, construct single- and multi-person primitive shelters, harvest and prepare delicious wild edibles, turn deerskin into buckskin, and other survival skills. Whittling and knife-sharpening, knot-tying and tarp-setting, cooking over fires, and other camping skills are also covered. Each month highlights a different wilderness living skill.

September: Wild Edibles

  • Harvest edible greens, roots, seeds and fruits
  • Identify dangerous look-alike plant species
  • Preserve and store surplus food for the winter

October: Bowdrill

  • Learn useful local tree species
  • Carve your own friction fire-making set—a “bow drill”—from hand-harvested material
  • Practice creating your own primitive fire

November: Primitive Shelter

  • Harvest sticks and leaves to assemble a compact, one-person “debris hut”
  • Design and construct a large bark-covered group shelter
  • Spend a night in one or both

December: Acorns

  • Crack, shell, chop, leach, and grind this nutritious local food
  • Prepare an acorn dish and study wild foods nutrition
  • Examine the Oak through the lens of cultural perspectives worldwide

February: Wildlife Tracking

  • Learn the traits that distinguish each animal’s track and sign
  • Explore effective journaling techniques
  • Discover just how far you can follow the trail of a single animal in the forest

March: Bark Baskets

  • Use the score-and-fold technique to create a watertight bark container
  • Twist fibrous inner bark into natural rope
  • Transform a slab of bark into a sturdy pack basket

April: Hide Tanning

  • Experience each step, from skinning and fleshing to softening and smoking
  • Complete your own finished piece of buckskin
  • Craft a fire pouch, bow drill string, pack basket straps, and other useful items from your buckskin

May: 3-Night Survival Challenge

  • Embark with your Awakening Wild village on a primitive camping adventure, leaving behind many-a store bought camping supply
  • Bring your pack basket, bow drill, wild food stores, bark cooking pot, and other primitive supplies
  • Set learning goals as an individual and a village to discover the lessons that living closely with the earth can offer

June: Graduation

  • Honor the journey with an end-of-year celebration
  • Feed your community a sumptuous meal and hard-won lessons from the year
  • Plant a secret gift for the next group of Awakening Wild participants

Nature Awareness

Deepening our connection with nature is the heart and soul of this program. Nature awareness practices help us deeply root into our natural surroundings and foster a sense of natural belonging as we:

  • Exercise fun, dynamic ways to expand the senses
  • Develop fluency in the language of nature through listening for bird language
  • Hone keen observation and interpretation skills through wildlife tracking
  • Cultivate a sense of belonging through regular visits to one place in nature—your “sit spot.”

Community Building

Like other social species in nature, human beings possess the power to work together toward a common goal. Discover the spirit of cooperation within a nurturing village atmosphere as we:

  • Give voice to authentic gratitude
  • Approach projects, tasks and challenges with effort and laughter
  • Share songs and storytelling around the fire
  • Explore a nature-inspired, roles-based system of collaboration.

Neighborhood Subsistence

As humans, we each and all must subsist. Neighborhood subsistence is the practice of tending land around your home to nurture biodiversity and abundance, both for humans and the larger natural community. What gifts might your neighborhood offer in food, medicine, and craft?

All it takes is time spent observing nature at home, an inspired vision for your neighborhood and a little work!

  • Learn techniques to keenly observe the natural world around you
  • Conduct simple experiments with wind, sun, soil, hydrology, topography, and more
  • Design and implement a neighborhood plan to grow food, medicine and/or craft materials

Our Time Together

Weekends at Awakening Wild are spent amidst hundreds of acres of vibrant forests, lush fields, and enchanting streams within the Taconic Mountains of eastern New York. Arriving Saturday, we exchange stories over lunch about the emerging wildness in own awakening lives, and then dive into the weekend’s wilderness living skill. Evenings, we cook, sing, eat, and laugh together, then conclude our day with an exciting and meaningful nighttime activity. At night we fall asleep in the cozy glow of our woodstove-heated wall tent.

Sunday mornings, we rise to sit and soak in the dawn world around us, then share our nature observations over breakfast. After getting our blood pumping (often with a game or two), we dive back into that weekend’s wilderness living skill to bring our efforts to completion. We conclude our weekend with a session on neighborhood subsistence, inspired lectures and experiential lessons fueling our own ideas for bringing Awakening Wild skills, routines, and awareness into our home and neighborhood.

Returning to the World

Awakening Wild is a transformational journey that helps us see the world with fresh eyes. It gives you an expanded awareness of nature, greater comfort in the out-of-doors, a deepened sense of belonging to community, and a refined sense of purpose in life. The Awakening Wild experience is an adventure in discovery, and is open to all levels of experience in and knowledge of nature, open to every background, age, orientation, race, and ethnicity. We each have a unique place in nature and unique gifts to share. We look forward to creating a world that is ready for these gifts!

Tuition Information

Tuition: $2,250. Save $150 when you pay the full tuition upon registration.

Payment Plan: Three payments of $750 each, with a $10 processing fee added per payment. First payment upon registration, second payment due November 15, third payment due February 1. 

Financial assistance available: Apply now.

Contact us for information about registration.