As a hermit, I'm not overly fond of places like malls, freeways clogged with cars, public schools, or even the grocery store at 5:15 pm or within about 3 days of any major holiday. I'm ok with silence in the car while I'm driving so I can process my thoughts, and certainly ok with working in silence with you if it doesn't creep you out. I confess to owning an invisible cloak. Yeah, I'll own up to it.  Its been mine for many many years and I still use it to escape the noise and notice of a bland public. I never really thought about it, never really gave it much attention until I noticed myself pulling the cloak over myself (and my car) on a recent night when I was heading back to the Hermit-stead, wanting to avoid being seen.  I can just slip away.  Moments before eyes rest on me, I can somehow move myself out of the line of vision, skirt the gaze of the viewer and be gone.  In a moment or a series of quiet steps, darkness can swallow me up and I am invisible.  If I am driving my car, there is a point where I know I've passed into invisibility and I have vanished from your radar. I was never there.

'My Coat', 2003

Thinking back, I do remember doing this when I was much younger, and in a very bad part of town, at a very bad time, being pretty reckless, with certain catastrophe looming right in front of me.  Realizing my mistake and bad timing and foolishness to be in so much the wrong place at the wrong time ... without even knowing what I was doing, somehow I managed to vanish and escape certain evisceration. So while I will never be an extrovert, and never dominate your conversations, pollute facebook threads with photo after photo of myself modeling new yellow high heel shoes or talk you into a stupor ... I am fine with being a hermist, an observer and flying through the fringes. A look behind the cloak though exists:  

What Are You Doing, Hermist?

The beauty is in the art of doing. When the time is your own, its your own hands grating and chopping and smoothing, building, shading. There is no depth when everything is done for you. When you move into a house someone else built, wait for the pizza delivered that someone else made and watch the entertainment provided for you, there is nothing for you to do. When you build it with your own hands, etched with your own human imperfections, grow it under your watchful gaze, you have created beauty, motion and purpose.

A Hermist.

Regretable Human Behavior

For the most part, I like to keep it positive.  However, once in a great while, I believe a venting, a purge or an honest assessment of how I feel, is not only healthy but allows for a good mental exfoliation.  A dump-truck drop of all that nags at the corners of my mind means I can move on. I am a hermit.  I like it that way. Hermits often are observers of human behavior. Being a little quieter than most; this allows me more room to take note of what happens around me, how people treat each other and how relationships ebb and flow around these 5 annoying games that people play. This isn't directed at anyone but if you see yourself here, change it already.  I am sure the people around you that love you now, will love you just a little bit more if you could at least be conscious of when you're doing these things. 1.  Passive Aggressive Bullshit.  This also falls under #5, but deserves its own heading, nice and prominent.  I attribute this increasingly-common trait to a lack of communication. This is something that seems to plague more and more people. They don't know how to tell others they are upset, feel angry, are confused, don't like something or feel generally unappreciated.  So instead of saying, 'hey, you know what?  you are really pissing me off', or something that allows the air to be cleared, they let it fester. They let it grow into something it isn't and then they let it rot.

Not my image, but brilliant! And it really gets the point across.

It isn't a bad thing to have disagreements, if you can talk about them and work them out.  Its human nature. We are competitive, combatative and generally ornery. But as a species, we really ought to try to work on that. So, just like taking spoiled food out to be composted, the hermist recommends playing with the big-kid set of playground rules. Learn how to tell others how you feel, learn how to have a disagreement, air it and then move the fuck on, and let others know they can talk to you and vice versa.  Its not that hard. 2. Lack of responsibility.  The hermist loves nothing less than someone who says they'll do something, PROMISES they will do something, and then they fall through. Repeatedly.  My hermisty heart also detests watching a person blame shortcomings, failures and fuck-ups on any and all outside circumstances.  Who knows why?  Is it a perfection-driven society that demands we are all immune to saying 'I'm sorry for blowing this/that'?  Does it involve a critical flatlining of the ego to admit guilt or to work on flaws?  I make mistakes all the time  ... and I imagine that I probably always will. Oh, and if you can't do something, don't say you will. Thanks. 3. Teamwork.  When I am not hermitt-ing it up in my hobbit-land, I work around folks who are trained to work together in teams. It is a thing of beauty.  Watching one anticipate the needs of another and witness those who pick up right where the other leaves off makes the heart swell.  Teamwork is the essence of community, if you think about it.  When I witness the birthing of the rogue Amelia Earhart that steps to the front of the line with their own groceries instead of helping the little old woman whose produce has gone askew ... well, that pisses me off. Are you not part of this mess? 4. Too much ego.  Pride can be lumped in here too.  Imagining greatness, inflating the self to proportions where there can be no questioning of integrity, no evaluation of self, no willingness to be challenged or to be plunged open like a pomegranate.  That eggshell is only so tough. 5. Games.  Humans play games all the time.  We are masters of saying-one-thing-while-meaning-another.  We play games on Facebook, we send out texts that we 'meant' to send to someone else with poisoned barbs in them, we include/exclude, pit friends against one another and do these with a competitive shrillness.  Its probably where the term 'the ugly american' came from, at least in part. There you have it.  A big heaping laundry basket of human tics, digs and gouges that are out there every day.  These are the ones that bug me and these are the ones I see repeatedly, unfurling like a big hopeless snarl of yarn that you know you'll never be able to untangle. So. Don't pretend to be someone you're not. Don't say you'll be there if you won't, do something if you can't, or meet a deadline if you know you won't.  Don't turn off your phone to avoid a call and for a change, have a conversation instead of avoiding it. Oh, and adopt a dog.  Saving a dog's life helps to redeem regretable human behavior.          

Howler Monkeys, Gallo Pinto and Nica Time.

A year ago, I documented my first impressions of Nicaragua and how it changed my perspective of preparedness, living with not much and sustainability in Living La Vida Nica. Here I am now, about a year later, relaxing in what feels like a cavernous house while waiting on pork chops to finish baking in the oven, while sipping hot apple cider that is laced with immuno-stimulating herbs and pondering a good hot bath later on, having just returned from my second trip to Nicaragua. For most of us, we simply don't realize how GOOD we've got it until you've got nothing but a hammock in between you and the great unknown howler monkey in the dark (are they hungry? do they eat people or just poop on them?) and a belly ache from drinking not-quite-good-for-you water. We spent 9 days in Nicaragua, 5 of them going into a remote village named La Uva, to bring herbal medicine and self-sustaining water purification to the good folks that live in a village that doesn't have little modern conveniences like cars, electricity or phones.
check out my ride

check out my ride, ya'll!

  Better yet, imagine if you will, hesitating outside the latrine (called a pon-pon) at night because you KNOW once you open the door, either a bat is going to fly out at you, or, even better, once you remove the new lids on the cement toilets, you're going to hear some ominous fluttering, some wings beating, some comin-your-way-right-now noise from the depths of the pon-pon to invade your personal space. the pon pon of my nightmares Yes, you have it good.  You've got it good because you can walk to your faucet and turn it on for a glass of water.  You've got it good because you can eat something other than rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner; you have a stove to cook food on instead of a fire that will fill your house with smoke that will coat and corrode your lungs;  and because you could, if you chose to, see a doctor, an herbalist, an acupuncturist or a magician, if that suited you.  You don't have to stand at a well to give yourself a sponge bath, wash your clothes AND trot home with a bucket of (contaminated) water to drink and cook with.
outdoor washing machine

A Nica washing machine named Mark. From Texas.

  So I had some observations on this trip.  Since there are other blog posts about the herbal clinic our group did and the water purification our team introduced to the community, I won't repeat it.  This is more of the hermist-eye-view of a land that was dunked head first in a vat of color, heat rash and gallo pinto. Hermist Obervations. 1. Gallo Pinto.  Speaking of.  The most common Nica staple, you'll be seeing it breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are wearing your lucky socks, you may see fried plantains with it. After Day 2, you will wolf those plantains down just like Walmart shopper that takes out a small child in the way of a doorbuster sale tv.  Some people can't get enough of it ... others?  Well, lets just say for some, rice and beans won't be on their plates any time soon....
nica dinner time

Hey, whats for dinner? I dunno. Nooo idea.

2. You need livestock.  The Nicas have this one figured out.  Everywhere we went, we were either tripping over a pig, a chicken, having a cow suspiciously give us the stink eye or we interrupted a steady stream of ducklings, chicks or piglets squealing after their mama. Entire families of fowl, fur and cluck lined river beds, minding their own business, guarded by skeletal family dogs and eating bugs. The Nica in this region do not have refrigeration, so when they harvest an animal, its a community thing and everything down to the bones, pelt and fat are used right away.  Up here in the good old US of A, if we used more of these basic homesteading and community concepts, we'd be on our way to some sort of food self-reliance instead of a full panic every time there's a hurricane that rolls through.
nicaragua backyard homestead

No, this pig is not part of a misguided airline idea.

  3.  Older Nica men are the bomb.  Trying to figure out how to drill into plastic without a drill?  If you've got a match, a stick and a nail, you're about to be schooled by a total bad-ass named Don Luis -- who, before you can turn around, will have a fire started, a nail hammered into the end of a stick and that heated up nail neatly slicing through plastic like a hot knife in butter.

Don Luis. There is nothing this man can not do.

4. Pinata parties are scary.  Hand a stick to a small capable child or an excited grownup, and then make sure you stand back because there are going to be flying Hello Kitty body parts pretty quickly.  Are they an excuse to bash the living daylights out of cartoon creatures, a creative way to get a lollipop or a way to blow off steam -- who knows.
nica pinata party

Yeah buddy, you'd better stand back there...

It is pretty obvious that more than just the kids relish the carnage though. It brings out the delight in all ages.

I think they enjoyed the disembowelment of Mickey Mouse a little too much...

Just sayin'.  See this guy? I don't think he was even aiming for the pinata. 5. Nica girls get to wear the BEST dresses.  It makes me wish I was 8 years old again.  Of course I was just a mess of band-aids on both knees, mud from the garden in my hair and ... awww hell. Dressed in their Sunday best, these little visions somehow manage to stay clean, crisply ironed and have totally cute hair even while running around decapitating pinatas.  And our group?  We looked like someone had pushed us off a ravine with a mile to fall.  And that was after we woke up and got freshly showered and dressed. How do they do it? 6. The Nica are a beautiful people.  Whether they are young or old, they have a certain simple and quiet grace.  To be around them for our trip was a treat. They found happiness just by being around eachother, without cell phones, video games or other distractions.  Its a sweet addiction. Nicaragua, so much about your rough and jagged edges makes me walk the edges but the more I watch and learn, the more I want to return and step closer. Until next time.  

Shabang. The Pantry.

Next year i will know exactly which month i should be heavily investing in oats and/or almonds to make almond treats for the whole year ... actually, since i buy everything like that bulk anyway, whenever the mood strikes me, its a moot point. but for those of you who don't, check this out and may it help with perfect alignment of coupons and such. Month-by-month spend-thriftiness

Baby, its cold outside.

(written a few days ago when it truly was a bit cold) I grew up where my summers stretched into late October and Trick-or-Treating was a  hot and muggy experience. By Easter sunday I was running barefoot through the yards again and had been known to go skinny-dipping as early as March. At night only, of course.   Fast forward to February of 1992, with me carefully trodding up a snowy and ice-packed trail to an inconclusive winter location on a piece of sheer rock face in Colorado that my then-sweetie Sam owned.  Teeth chattering, I couldn't recall ever being quite ... so ... cold.  After he examined my icy feet while shaking his head and chuckling, he handed me my new best friend, the Army-issued green wool sock.  Since that day, I've never had less than 2 pairs in my sock drawer, even now that we live in nearly tropical San Antonio.   Back then, I thought all I needed to keep warm was the heater from my '69 Ford pickup. Granted that heater could melt glaciers in other states without leaving the driveway.  Guess I got spoiled.  I quickly learned that thin cotton socks, even in hiking boots and one humble long john shirt under my flannel (it was all the rage in the early 90s yo) jacket were all I needed.  Oh  how I learned

My own personal heating system, via a 1969 ford pickup

I hate to be cold.  I'd rather be near passing out from heat, with sweat trickling down my back and the siren of the cicadas making me hallucinate.  I have learned of course, to disguise my teeth chattering ("boy is it BRISK out here, yes sirreeeeeeeee"), to walk faster in order to build up body warmth, and of course, and most important for me, to dress right. Poly-pro shirts and leggings along with wool socks are my mainstay.  Gore-tex sleeping bags ... I'd kill you if you had one and I needed one, thats how awesome they are.  You can practically cook your dinner in one, they are so toasty.  And of course, any combination of wooly mammoth layers that is necessary to keep the feeling in my feet, fingers and ears.  And as long as my lower back is covered, snug and warm, I can deal with getting everything else warm.

Tuck in, zip up and sleep tight.

It's been about 4+ years since we packed up and moved down to San Antonio. I remember putting out my old Sorrel-style snow boots upon our departure and singing them a goodbye song that went something like "so longggggg you WINTERYASSMOTHERFUCKERS!!!!" before putting on my flip-flops and heading off to the triple-digits of Texas. It must be about the high 40s today, with grey rainy skies and a chill that runs through this house along the floorboards.  Outside our chickens are fluffed up to comical proportions and one of the dogs does NOT 'wanna go' check out the squirrels. It's windy, its gloomy, I can feel a vampire-television-series marathon welling up... Granted, if the end of days is going to strike us; I'd rather brave it out in the wilds of Nicaragua, where we just returned from, than in any sub-freezing locale.  In the Nica, cold is defined as putting on a t-shirt to go out rather than a tank top.   I learned something important about myself that I am always careful to consider when making plans of any sort.  I don't like to be cold.  Breezy drafty, thats all fine, but if there's a freeze and my name is apparently on it, I make changes.  A warm hermit is a happy hermit and I'll be donned in the fuzziest abominal snowman attire that i need to, if thats what I have to do.

at least i am warm!

Because then, if I can be warm, I am happy.  

The Hermist Essential Cold-Weather Buster Guide

"Baby Its Cold Outside",  sung by all satin and maple sugar awesomeness, Ray Charles and Betty Carter. There is no better version. Recipe, Hot Buttered Rum.  Don't like rum?  Spiked cider. No?  How about mulled wine?  Don't tempt me, I could do this all day.  The army surplus store. Where else can I buy the treasured green wool socks, rain gear, freeze-dried hot dogs and nose plugs at the same time?  

The Adventures of A Hermit: Year 1 Retrospective.

We should be just about done with all the ''Best of" and Top 10 Most Spectacular Vomit Moments of 2011  that clog practically every newspaper and magazine in the land. But I wouldn't be a contributing member of blogger-society if I didn't put the Hermist's fondest adventures on record.

I've come into myself this year, owning up to the role of the Hermist, and no longer trying to force the social butterfly bullshit that simply wasn't me.  Once I did that, I found, much to my surprise, a feeling of relief and also an abundance of good things.  Let's look, shall we? 


A new and entertaining friend, Cheffapetta came to visit the wilds of Austin from the Land of the Sophisticated Palate (Denver), so I had to show him a thing or two about gritty-Coke-In-The-Glass-Bottle-With-Yer-Brisket barbecue.  Wood paneled walls, duck decor, plastic plates and a roll of paper towels. You've been schooled.

they wish they had something so divine in Colorado as the Smokehouse.

 This was the year of canning. I canned practically anything I could get my hands on, from boozed-up strawberries to grilled corn to watermelon rinds and lime-slapped kiwis. I actually killed my nice stove in the process and never had so much fun. The highlight of all that sweating and domestic syrup were the get-togethers with my hermitty friends who weren't afraid to step into the kitchen with me. Now, I'd post photos of the gooey leche quemada, the swimming-in-whisky strawberries and the rows of jeweled fruit in jars, but there are other sites that do food porn so much more justice.   
Can it.
Here was our first canning party, with myself in a feverish state, surrounded by my beautiful domestic-lovin' friends. God love ya. I barely remember anything thanks to that penicillin, what a hell of a party!   

Bringing the world together around a pressure cooker...

 Part of my hermit transformation was learning a lot about how to fend for myself.  And part of THAT includes a pressure cooker, which I was afraid of, and now, am only slightly afraid of.  Just a little bit.  Thanks to David Alexander, for the story about his grandmother blowing up her stove top/roof... but that is another story.  *Do take a special note of the Mistress of Ceremony, the lovely Milan, parked directly in the center of all the quick-paced and high-energy action in the kitchen.   She knows who's in charge.

Too much canning can only lead to drunken moments like this... (drinking cold stew)

Here's Russ. The man makes an excellent elderberry wine, which he creates himself of course, along with above-pictured beef stew, and can fully stock his own larder single-handedly.  The man has amazing potential for  Hermit status...   

Where The Wild Things Are.

My role this past year was the designated wielder of the knife and spatula, cooking up outdoor meals for the people crawling through bushes, being chased by zombies, and living the primitive life.  My inner hermit got much joy out of witnessing moments like these.

This wood elf will find you. Track your ass down and find you.

I loved watching the process of Human Pathers evolving into crafty, independent diy-ers who weren't afraid of getting dirty, doing it from scratch and taking care of themselves.   

Girl kicks man's ass soundly.

  Honestly, and I know everyone agrees on this one. There is nothing better than a girl who can kick your ass.  

No, I promise you I am totally normal.

When we hosted the 1st Annual Zombie Apocalypse this past October, it was an awesome experience to watch how zombies can really put a crimp on carefully planned disorder. 

Zombies and the People That Love Them.

Plus we got to witness zombies who barely stumbled, barely moved, barely accessorized. Zombie baby, zombie kid, zombie bride, zombie gung-ho dad.  And one zombie, who was a streak of darkness, running after pathers in the pitch black.

The Fastest Zombie We've Ever Seen.


A Drill. A Vat of Glue. And An Apron.

One of my outward expressions of happiness is to create textile installations.  Its a surreal Dr. Suess meets The Stepford Wives world, with my alter ego, the Kitchen Goddess.  Somehow, working with fabric and lots of laborious applications of string, stick-pins and nails, has become my defining mark.  My college art professors would be so proud. (probably not)   

Noche De Recuedros with my buddy Rick

  Here is the floating altar, year two, that Rick and I set loose in the Woodlawn Lake.  After an intense summer drought, 'setting loose' might not be the right term, as it grazed the murky bottom of the very low casting pond.   The highlight of the year for me was the day I could step out of Vi's hair salon with my hair sprayed so fastidiously into a beehive that it took me almost a week to get it out.  I stuck two shellacked forks in my hair, put on my pink flirtin' gloves and my favorite blue chiffon apron, was handed a never-empty glass of wine and out I went ... the kitchen goddess.

There is nothing more divine than a kitchen goddess that knows her place. In the home.

 Who says art can't be fun?  With the indispensible Rebecca Coffey fronting the kitchen lines, we opened up a alternate reality of frozen housewife smiles and pickles on a stick.  View the exhibit photos here!  
The Kitchen Goddess, April exhibit

Are You There Dog? Its me...

Not a day goes by that I don't have the company of my dogs; constant companions, artistic consultants and snuffler-of-ears.  We fostered 3 dogs this year and all found great new homes, mostly with other pathers.

Fozzy Leo.

It is a great life, living out here on the hermit-stead with these fine beasts.  This final image though, is my favorite.  It has been exactly 2 years now that Milan came home with us on the day my beloved dad-in-law Joe died.  She came broken down and tired.  Since then she's slowly recovered and is now our elderly dragon-growling matron, the mascot of the hermit.  Milan the Beautiful.

Sam brings Milan up from the pond at the quarry to help her make the trip.

Happy New Year to all of you.  May good things happen. Eat good food. Pet your friends and hug your dogs.  Live that life with intention and gusto.
-The Hermist.

Livin’ La Vida Nica.

  The Hermist in the Nica It's unexpectedly cold here, after returning from 12 days in rural Nicaragua.  Of course I didn't notice it was cold before we left, having grown used to the winter 'chill' of South Texas, but I sure feel it now that I've been extracted from the humid and balmy embrace of the Nica. Nicaraguan scouting expedition It was a scouting trip of sorts, an excursion into the poorest country in Central America, where everything is double dipped in saturated color, sooty beauty, and noise.  The Nica does not sleep. nicaraguan life Part of the trip was about the medical needs of the Nica's poor. We spent several days helping out in quickly-constructed rural clinics and the area's primary hospital.  A team of 21 medical students and doctors from Michigan descended with an arsenal of pharmaceuticals and a state-of-the-art ultrasound machine, Sam with his tinctures and herbs, and me with my two hands for soft tissue massage.  medical care in nicaragua I hadn't done any massage in almost 12 years, since I burned out and threw myself into the life of an artist.  But I found that once I put my hands on all the preggo mamas and tiny toothless ladies who explained 'todos' (everywhere, to you gringos) for the location of their muscle pain .... that it was as familiar now as it was then. 
showing massage in nicaragua

working in the Rivas hospital

But I digress.  I can talk about all that some other time.  I wanted to talk about how the Nica people, in their simplicity and pared-down lives, are so much more prepared than we are, with our bomb-shelter stockpiling and accumulation of things to keep us safe.  Huh?  How can some of the poorest people on the continent be relatively unaffected if the lights 'go out' and don't come back on? Well, half the time, the lights are off anyway, with winds frequently tripping off the power and plunging the Nica into a slower but relatively unchanged pace.  life in nicaragua Think about how it is when there is a power outage in your neck of the woods.  The fridge stops its hum, there is no internet, if it was cold outside, its suddenly much colder ... otherwise the temperature of your world starts to rise quickly.  You can't cook dinner because the stove won't work.  Maybe the water purifier on the fridge won't work.  And the chargers for your phone, ipod and other electronics gives you the cold shoulder. And. THERE IS NO INTERNET! In the rural Nica, not much changes. Most of the stoves are propane, so they warm up gallo pinto (rice and beans).  If its hot (because its never cold), they just go outside to sit on the porch and cool themselves with the breezes off the coast. No car? No problem. They get on their horses (or on the I-kid-you-not, ox-drawn cart) and get going. Or they walk.  They adapt easily and don't spend any time stressing over the small stuff.  Half the time I suspect they don't even notice when the power is interrupted. 

the family 'car' scratches itself under the trees ...

I started thinking about how the US seems to be lumbering towards a nervous panicked state regarding food, resources and safety.  We worry what happens if there is an emergency and the stores might run out of food and water.  We worry about electrical shortages due to an over-taxed power system. If there is a gas shortage, we wouldn't be able to drive.  Most of us are completely unprepared for anything greater than a couple of days without life's comforts.  As a culture, we've been largely stripped of our abilities to improvise, survive and thrive as we've slipped into the comfortable embrace of convenience and security.  That is really too bad.  A nation of scrappy balls-to-the-wall miscreants is now the over-fed and clueless. 

"ok, now you don't want to eat this. this would be bad..."

On a hike up one of the amazing Nicaraguan volcanoes, I was humbled immediately by our guide, who probably hiked the damn thing, up and down, 4 or 5 times a week.  Before he started doing the hikes for wimps like me, he harvested coffee and beans from the volcano hillsides.  He could identify not only the types of trees, the dangerous snakes (and monkeys that sounded pretty uh, scary, in the background) and insects with their habitats, but he also knew which trees had the edible berries, when to pick the beans, where they grew and so much that I felt pretty much like a walking marshmallow of ignorance. 

gallo pinto. its whats for dinner.

And we consider ourselves to be the evolved ones, right?  If he had to get by for a month without electricity or trips to the grocery store, I doubt he'd notice it.  Life is abundant there, with mango and orange trees incubating hordes of fruit in every conceivable spot; and with sugar cane, rice, coffee and red beans growing on hillsides, backyards, fields and practically everywhere you look.  Chickens, pigs and cows are in every yard with horses, goats and oxen ready to move.  Meanwhile, our culture has sold off these same survival skills for technology and consumerism.   I am certainly not denying there are things that would be very hard to do without, here in the US.  I think I'd probably prefer being in a US hospital over the one I spent time in at Rivas ... but in all honesty, I'd actually prefer doing a holistic solution at home to any hospital if it was an option.  Just food for thought.  It was an eye-opening experience and I was incredibly humbled by a world that on one hand seemed so simple and rural, but ultimately, had just about everything they needed, right there. Got an opinion on the matter?  I wanna hear it. Start typing now. A couple of recent discussions about gettin' by with not much and being just fine:  The Self Sustained Lifestyle, Part one and Part two.    

The. Chomp. Zombie Apocalypse.

**by the WAY ...these photos are copyrighted and are not available to be copied or reproduced. If you want to use one of these photos, please contact The Hermist.  We'll set you up with the photographers. Some people run marathons to test themselves. Some lose weight or climb Mt. Everest or go back to school for a new vocation or get married and settle down ... all in a pursuit of a new personal best or to better themselves, to live that life fully, inspired and rich.  Others, like our group of 27 Pathers last weekend, scale their own mountains. They endured discomfort, uncertainty and hunger while trying to evade a horde of barely coherent but ravenous flesh-eating zombies that constantly tracked them down as they tried to navigate a barren abandoned rock quarry. In the dark. With no equipment. 

Its the apocalypse and we're all hungry...

Armed with basic survival skills, the Pathers were testing themselves to see how they would react in a pandemic event.  Messy, disorganized and chaotic, it was an exercise designed to push them, expose their weaknesses and help them find what they needed to work on for their own self-improvement.  Time was against the students; they were scattered as their leader was 'shot' and killed, and they had to run, unprepared, into the bushes and away from a shuffling swarm of undead zombies that re-appeared each time they thought they could pause and re-group.    Sitting on a rock and disoriented as his brain starts to slowly ooze out of his head and onto his neck, this zombie had only one thing he could focus on.  Through a cloudy haze, he can make out the shape of a Pather.  When the Pather turned on his headlamp, the zombie could then see him clearly, hear the quick drum of his heartbeat and almost smell the blood pumping through his veins. The light drew him like a moth to a flame, and in a flash, he stumbles to his feet with a thick gurgle and a hiss.  Although the shouts from his maker, El Salvador, were only muffled bleats to him, he knew what the command was.  Chase. Eat.   

sniff. sniff. sniffsniffsniff .... brainsssssssssssssss.

So why did 27 Pathers choose to do this test?  Joining a book-of-the-month club is markedly more pleasant, and its easier to track transformation by a dipping scale that shows progress.  As temperatures plummeted that night, no doubt they were cold, hungry and worn down from hours of constant running and stress.  From the start, the students were pushed off balance.  Their keys, cellphones and wallets were taken from them by a gruff  post-apocalyptic beauracratic rescue worker who then abruptly ran away, leaving them unsure of where to go or what to do. 

"remember your numbers .... remember your numbers..."

They were forced to crawl through heavy brush and were then met by rescue workers who promptly turned guns on them, searched them, took away all of their gear and ultimately offed their leader in a paranoid frenzy. 

zombie apocalypse turns nasty...

The pathers then spent the next 18 hours running. They ran from zombies, ran from El-Sal's 'minions' who were armed with the zombie virus in their guns, and they ran to beat time as the sun began to slip away and all their gear remained out of reach. They had to read cryptic maps to find gear and juggle the constantly evolving team dynamics as members of their team were captured, infected by the zombie virus, or dealing with the effects of the harsh environment without proper gear.  The students planned well in advance for what they thought would be needed for a pandemic event. They arrived in latex gloves and dust masks to prevent inhaling virus spores or skin-on-skin contact with someone infected. 

fully prepared for the zombie apocalypse? guess we'll find out!

However, they were taken by surprise once their gear was removed and all the careful planning went out the window.  An intentional move, catching them by surprise and unprepared for events that piled up in a big pile of 'not-in-your-favor', its much like life.  The teacher who came out in an 'unscripted' bellowing tirade to push them in the right direction was the slap that life gives you when the chips truly are down and every mistake matters.   Pathers were treated to double helpings of compounded difficulties well into the night, until they could figure out a way around it. Working together as a team turned into a crucial component. Never was it so important to be able to rely on eachother, both physically and mentally.

ok, you push and i'll pull. an engine block. up a cliff. no problem.

The Zombie Apocalypse was a novel approach to testing the skills each of the Pathers aquired by completing the Core Basic curriculum of very basic survival skills.  However,  a greater goal was in play behind the mad warlord dictator 'El Sal', the testy rescue team headed by Dr. Honeycutt, or the constantly creeping hordes of zombies that came from bushes, ditches and hillsides. 

If Dr. Honeycutt tells you to cough, you'd better cough.

The group signed up for more than they'd anticipated from previous scenarios.  This scenario was designed to test skills under stress. There were moments with no clear leader in charge, other planted spies giving bogus directions, and time running out to find their needed gear before dark set in.  The pathers had to learn a vital survival skill. To become flexible.  Participating in a pandemic virus scenario that spawned an apocalypse, the Pathers had to decide how best to protect themselves and reach their goal of finding an anti-toxin that could stop the march of the zombies.  With normal societal rules out the window, the rescue groups that they would normally trust became violent and paranoid and behavior became irrational.     

Are YOU talkin' to ME?!

Students had to adapt, to re-evaluate and to change their goals.  In a real-life emergency, scripted plans might be nice and minimal contact with life's unpleasantness would be the ideal outcome.  However, when that bus stops in the middle of nowhere with no one to protect you but yourself and your wits, how prepared will you be?  The Zombie Apocalypse concluded at dawn the next day, with a deep October chill over the rock quarry.  Pathers found their way back to the main camp area to de-brief and talk about their experiences with the end of society and the advent of chaos.  The zombies, squinting in the daylight, began their fade out of sight. Free from evil impulses and the raging effects of the zombie virus on him, the warlord El-Sal finally took off his always-present black leather gloves.  Students found their sequestered gear at last, and one by one, began their trips home to a non-apocalyptical world. In the pursuit to challenge themselves and their skills, the Pathers took on the uncertainty of post-apocalyptic life where all of society’s rules were changed and life happens on unsteady footing in a hectic pace.  Miles away from that book club, the Pathers took and climbed that first summit, zombies and all.  But be ready. This was only the beginning...   For more information about the Zombie Apocalypse and what is coming next, visit The Human Path. For the Video introduction coverage For an awesome slideshow page. And special thanks to the many MANY volunteers that stepped up to fill the shoes of the undead, the documenting media and so many other crucial parts of this scenario. The Hermist was tickled to work with all of you and loved every bloody minute of it. **A special thanks to Jessica Qualls and Amanda Nicole Villarreal for lending their photography skills to the Human Path.

zombie. chillin'.

Where The Dead Things Are.

Here are a few images from the recent Zombie Apocalypse at The Human Path. To see larger images, just click on one of them to start the slideshow. There will also be video that captures more of the action released shortly. Not every human and zombie are shown in the following slideshows. There will be a series of slideshows. Here are the first three, documenting the initial daylight hours of the zombie apocalypse.  Please remember that these images are not for reproduction. If you want an image, just follow up with us and we'll put you in touch with the photographer.  **A special thanks to Jessica Qualls and Amanda Nicole Villarreal for lending their photography skills to the Human Path.

Slideshow 1: In The Beginning...

Slideshow 2: On The Way To El Salvador ...

Slideshow 3: I was a Teenaged Zombie...