This late summer/early fall I'll be heading to Maine for Bushcraft School. Here's my application essay.
My family has a running inside joke about the Beach Family Compound. We talk about where we would want to make camp and start life fresh, living off the land after the apocalypse. Should we stay by the Great Lakes? Fresh water is such valuable resource. Pick a spot east of the Andes where the rising oceans won’t submerge the land? We’ve talked about what skills each family member would bring to the compound. My father can grow vegetables, and fix almost anything. My mother is a skilled seamstress and cook. My sister brews kombucha, one brother keeps us in stitches and trains youth athletes. He’ll keep us fit. The other brother is a welder and fabricator. He builds things that work. He uses his hands.
He and I have had so many talks about how people don’t know know how to do things anymore. Our economy has allowed us to go to the store to buy packaged foods, throw away broken appliances and buy new ones, and take our cars and bikes to the mechanic instead of learning to fix them ourselves. He is a craftsman and an artist. He worries that people are out of touch with their bodies, with how things are made. The knowledge economy keeps people in chairs, indoors and disconnected from the earth.
I live in Laos, which is one of the least developed countries on the planet. The majority of people here eek out a living subsistence farming and foraging. I’ve joked that it would be the safest place in the world after an apocalypse. A cash economy where many people already live without electricity and running water, they build farm equipment from branches and old bombs and cook over charcoal stoves. I’m equal parts inspired by the ingenuity of Lao people and dismayed that development prioritizes modern luxuries like cars and pulls people off the land and into the cities.
Who am I? I’m a beer brewer and a knitter and a writer and above all I am a voracious reader. I love learning. I will be the encyclopedia of the Beach Family Compound when google ceases to function. I am an educator. I am an artist and a graphic designer. I spend a lot of time on my computer and phone. I want to disconnect. While searching for advice on how to pick “what’s next,” I came across this gem, “What did you love when you were 10 years old? Go out and do that.”
When I was 10 my dad and I were in a father-daughter bonding program called Indian Princesses run through the YMCA. Cultural appropriation aside, I loved being “Nightingale” to his “Firesong.” Through Indian Princesses I learned to paddle a canoe, to search for firewood and build a fire. I learned to shoot a gun, ride a horse and hit a target with a bow and arrow. I loved the campouts, the camaraderie and waking up to the smell of the woods.
In the summers I went to day camp at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center. On our expeditions we walked through the river searching for crayfish, walked to the beach looking for shells and lucky stones: sheepshead fish bones engraved with the letter L. I ate mulberries off the tree and learned the identifying characteristics of sassafras, poison ivy and poison oak.
When I was 18, I spend two weeks kayaking the Kenai Fjords in Alaska. I learned about tides, how to shoe black bears out of camp and that I’m stronger and more resilient that I ever thought possible. I still talk about that trip with surprising regularity. Now, 13 years later I’m asking myself, why can’t I have more experiences like that one? The answer? I can.
I recently made a bucket list. I am in love with the stars and I want to sail across the ocean. I also want to spend at least 50 nights per year sleeping outside. Eventually I want to buy a ranch, a real life Beach Family Compound where I’ll offer yoga retreats, courses on natural medicine and meditation, and help people connect more profoundly with the earth. I’m not scared of the world any more. I know I can do anything. I choose to stretch my mind and body to its limits. I am seeking Eudaemonia, the Aristotelian concept of achieving ones full human potential. The Wilderness Bushcraft Semester is my next step in doing just that.