Lynx Vilden, a barefoot blonde in buckskin clothing, has carved her own unique path in the world—a path that used to be natural to all of us, but is no longer is. While most have us have grown more and more distant from our roots in the Earth, Lynx has intentionally grown closer. She has explored the natural environments and indigenous cultures of arctic, mountain, and desert regions from Hudson Bay to the Red Sea. She has lived in a Sami village in Scandinavia, in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, and the North Cascades of Washington. She has been practicing and teaching primitive living skills in both the United States and Europe since 1991. An instructor at Boulder Outdoor Survival School in Utah for several years, she has also taught workshops at primitive skills gatherings such as Rabbitstick, Winter Count, and Saskatoon Circle. At her own Living Wild school in the Methow Valley, Washington, she teaches participants “how to live in the wild, rather than ‘survive’ the wild until they can get back to civilization.” She does this through intensive hands-on wilderness living skills training, teaching people “how to harvest and transform the gifts of nature for everyday needs such as tools, fire, shelter, food”—in a conscientious and sustainable manner, as the ancients did. A regular contributor to the American publication, Bulletin of Primitive Technology, her goal is to form a group prepared to live for a full year in the wild with only Stone Age technologies—no knives, Goretex, or other manufactured materials.
I first met Lynx at Saskatoon Circle Primitive Skills gathering a few years ago, where she offered workshops in felting simple garments from sheep’s wool and working with small draft horses using only a small piece of twine. Demonstrating, she turned to the palomino horse at her side, jumped upon its back, and cantered around our speechless group, grinning broadly.
For this interview, Lynx spoke with me on the grass outside her cabin at Living Wild. Stretched out in the sun, clad in belted deerskin pants, a T-shirt, and simple bone earrings, she wore no shoes, hat, sunglasses, or touch of make-up—at home in who she is, how she is.
The MOON: Why is it important for people to learn to “live wild”?
Lynx: I don’t know; maybe it’s not important. We certainly can’t all live wild. There are too many of us. What is important is for us to have a connection to nature, and urban people are so tied into their TVs, computers, smart phones, and gadgets that they’ve essentially lost that connection.
The MOON: Yes, but most people who want to renew their connection to nature take a walk in the park, or go to the beach, or perhaps go backpacking for a week or so. You’ve taken your return to nature a lot farther than most people.
Lynx: There’s something that happens somewhere between the tenth and fourteenth day out in the wilderness. You finally let go of the life you left behind and drop into the rhythm of the natural world in the place you are now. You become present to the moment. In fact, you become one with it; you realize you belong to all of it. You literally feel your place in the universe—probably for the first time in your life. Once you’ve experienced that you want to keep experiencing it.
Then, about a week before you’re going to return to civilization, you start living in the future—anticipating your return. So, if for two weeks you’re living in the past and one week you’re living in the future, you pretty much need to be out in the wilderness for at least a month in order to have any time at all in the present!
The MOON: What compels you to come back to civilization at all?
Lynx: Blood ties, mostly. Hunger. Winter.
The MOON: Family I can understand, but I thought you taught people to forage and hunt for their own food, and to build shelter suitable for harsh winters.
Lynx: Yes, but we’re all beginners, really. It’s quite difficult to sustain oneself for months at a time as a hunter-gatherer. And surviving a harsh winter is very hard. I teach seven-day classes in the winter, and after seven days we’re all very happy to come home and get warm.
The MOON: What’s the longest you’ve ever stayed out?
Lynx: Forty consecutive days. Then I came back in for ten days, and went back out again for fourteen days. My Stone Age Project group typically goes out for thirty days.
The MOON: You have set a goal to take a group of people out to live in the wild with only Stone Age technology for a year. Do you think that’s possible?
Lynx: I think it’s possible, yes. It’s a matter of finding the right location—permission to use a big enough piece of private land. And then we’d have to figure out how to feed ourselves for an entire year. You can’t just shoot a deer every time you need one, you know. There are rules about that, just as there are rules that restrict what you can do on public land…which is why we’d have to be on private land.
I do have some leads to big ranches in Montana—10,000 acres—with buffalo herds living on them that we might be able to hunt for food. Lately I’ve been thinking that maybe we should spend six months in the fall and winter preparing enough dried meat to take into the wild with us and then spend six months living in the wild.
The MOON: Why is it so difficult for people now to sustain themselves by hunting and gathering now, when our ancestors did it for millennia?