Fall Equinox – turn, turn, turn

Fall Equinox – turn, turn, turn

I was shuffling around the garden shed looking for my crate of dormant tulip bulbs when images of my childhood surfaced in the cool darkness of the Dutch dawn. 

I remembered tumbling into the kitchen, grubby from school, grabbing a floppy slice of bologna to run back out and play Swinging Statues with the twins next door.  Dad was in the backyard, after a long day of welding Atlanta’s skyline, picking the last of the summer pole beans while mom was in the kitchen, phone cradled on her shoulder talking to granny, canning more tomatoes and okra than we’d eat in a lifetime. 

What I can see this morning, all these years and a continent away, is that it wasn’t just beans and okra they were preserving. Mom and dad knew what we kids didn’t, that the coming winter was more than twinkling lights, pretty packages and paper snowflakes. Winter could be a bitter season for a man who spent his days astride iron beams high above a city quickly outgrowing itself. Work could be wanting, so dad and mom would harvest, preserve and pickle to keep our bellies full all winter long. Hope is what they were harvesting. 

The equinox, a moment each spring and fall when the earth and all who dwell herein cross a threshold where light and darkness are equal as the earth tilts neither toward nor away from the sun.

In the process of writing my first book, Wildwood Wisdom, I am lingering between the light and dark as I harvest, preserve and share what I’ve sown across 5 decades. It is not always easy work, and Lord knows many days work at my desk is wanting, but I am thankful for this season to look with wonder at a life tilted on the axis of hope. 

As the wheel of the year turns, I invite you to take time at this threshold of seasons to linger and look tenderly at the balance of dark and light in your life. May you harvest with hope what is nourishing and compost with compassion that which does not feed you.

Welcome to the pack, Butterbean

Welcome to the pack, Butterbean

Some of y’all know that we lost our dear Louie this summer to cancer.

Beautiful people, it is my honor to introduce Butterbean, the newest member of our family who arrived this weekend.

No paws will ever fill the Louie-sized hole in our hearts, but we are deeply grateful the rescue folx (thank you Astrid Ufkes) who brought this little light into our lives all the way from the streets of Cypress.

Welcome, Butterbean! We look forward to sharing many Wildwood adventures and snuggles.

#rescuedog #adoptdontshop

A wildwood book deal!

A wildwood book deal!

Friends and kinfolx, I am excited to finally share that I’ve signed a book deal with WildhousePublications, a vibrant new imprint that aligns with my verdant vision and values.

Good grief, y’all, for over 50 years I’ve been on a crooked and branching path from magnolia groves to tulip fields, from digital diva to tree hugger, from seminarian to nature therapy guide.

And now, thanks to Wildhouse, especially acquisitions editor Rev. Suzanne Woolston Bossert (clearly called to this sacred work), I have an opportunity to do the hard work of writing about how I’ve encountered a bit of wholeness in all of my wandering and wondering.

If you’d like to sign up for email to stay tuned for news as this wild new path unfolds, I promise…

a. to NOT spam your already overworked inbox

b. to NOT give or sell your info to anyone, most espeically not to anyone pedaling more junk that none of us need.

c. to definitely share a weekly, brief nature connection invitation to enrich your experience of the wild word. 

Sit Spot – be still and know

Sit Spot – be still and know

“The first good thing is the goodness of nature.”

– Julian of Norwich

How many seconds has it been since you checked your phone? How long is your to-do list? How are culture wars treating you?

Maybe it’s time for a sit spot.

Taking time to regularly rest and reset in a sit spot is a gift to yourself and the world around you. Sit spot is a gentle practice that opens the doors of perception and presence in your day-to-day life. It is a radical departure from the glorification of busy to give yourself permission to simply sit, look, listen and experience your place in the natural world and as Mary Oliver said, “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

What is a sit spot?
A sit spot is a natural place that you can visit as a regular mindfulness, bodyfulness practice. Sit spots can be lush and deeply wild, neat and tidy in the burbs or tiny patch of green in the city.

If you’re not sure how to pick the “right” spot, that’s okay. There is no such thing as a perfect spot in nature. If your first choice turns out not to be ideal for your practice, even better because you get to explore more natural settings!

There are a few essential elements to selecting your sit spot. Safety first, friends! Your sit spot should be a place where you feel and are safe. There should be some presence of nature. Outdoors is ideal, but a lovely spot by a window or in a house-plant nook can work wonders too. Ease of access to your sit spot is pretty important. The more accessible your sit spot is – the closer to your home or easier to set aside in your home, the more likely you are to visit it with intentionality on a regular basis. Ideally it should be less just a few minutes to get to and settle into your sit spot.

Once you’ve selected a spot and settled in, you are invited to spend between 10-20 minutes unplugged and tuned in to the world around you. While sitting, look around to get to know the space and the beings with whom you share this place. Notice your noticing by lingering with what draws your attention. Are you curious, let your attention linger a bit longer.

After you’ve introduced yourself the spot and the beings around you begin to make themselves known, invite your senses into deeper connection. Reach out and see what you can experience with your sense of touch. What sounds are nearest to you, and which sounds are the far away? What is the smallest things you can see; what is really close or super far away? What does the sky feel like on your skin?

What are you noticing?

And that’s it folx, it really is that simple. Think of your sit spot as a tiny slice of sabbath you can experience any day of the week. Sabbath is a gift, a may not a must, where we are invited to step out of the unnatural, dehumanizing industrial growth society to slow down and connect with our true nature, others and the numinous mystery of life. A sit spot, when visited regularly over time, can begin to open those doors in gentle and surprising ways.

If you begin this practice, and I really hope you will, I invite you to come back here to share a photo of your spot and maybe something you are noticing now and over time.

Sometimes it is helpful to reflect on a prompt at your sit spot. If you would like to receive weekly sit spot prompts, please sign up below. Sit spot prompts will begin Friday, August 26.

If you’d like to schedule a walk with me and explore sit spots in Leiden, The Hague or Amsterdam, you can connect with me here.

Back to School and Back to Nature

Back to School and Back to Nature

I woke up before the alarm clock on Monday morning, fresh from another stress dream prior to the start of school. In this dream I was in charge of taking our two aging, black and white dogs to the dog park for an afternoon romp. When I got there I was greeted by no less than 20 large black and white dogs running and tumbling happily – all without any fence surrounding the park. My dream self saw no problem with this scenario and and quickly unleashed Louie and Sookie to join the cacophony. Within seconds both had bolted and I spent the rest of the dreamscape running and yelling their names (and the names of dogs from previous chapters of my life).

When I woke up and realized it was not real I was relieved and exhausted. Stress dreams are part of the fleeting days of summer for many who serve our world in schools around the world. The anticipation of the demanding days and a desire to bring our very best to our students and colleagues is just the beginning of the high pressure of working in education.

In addition to working at an international school, I am a certified nature and forest therapy guide. Because of my vantage point of serving the faculty and staff in the elementary division of our school, I see how mush passionate educators give of themselves and the toll that can take on their wellbeing.

As educators juggle a multitude of tasks and demands from creating engaging lessons to managing thoughtful differentiation to learning the latest buzzwords and technology (and in America, the latest lockdown protocol), it is important that school leaders create accessible avenues of support for faculty so that they can, in turn, support students.

“A new Gallup poll shows that 44% of K-12 employees say they “always” or “very often” feel burned out at work, including 52% of teachers who report the same. Moreover, 35% of college and university workers say they “always” or “very often” feel burned out at work – making K-12 and higher education the two industries with the highest rate of burnout, according to the new poll.” writes Lauren Camera at U.S. News

How can a walk in the woods increase faculty and staff well-being and resilience within an educational setting? How can forest and nature therapy help mitigate the stressful demands of the classroom?

Nature and Forest Therapy Supports

 

Forest & Nature is a research-based approach for supporting health and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. Usually offered as a 2-3 hour immersive experience in nature, participants are guided through a series of gentle invitations to awaken their senses, slow down, cultivate presence and deepen their relationship with nature. Inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which translates to “forest bathing,” it is a practice of spending time in nature-lush areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness.

An abundance of growing research indicates over and over again that spending time in nature supports human physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It is also known that when teams engage in shared nature-connected experiences it opens up the possibility for creativity and cultivating genuine connections that inspire teams to tune in to their individual and group potential.

Certainly, the wellbeing of students is at the forefront of every educator’s mind. Unfortunately, the overwhelming nature of caring for students in the 21st century often leaves teacher and staff wellness out conversations about school wellness initiatives. Healthy teachers are the foundation for healthy classrooms.

This year as you plan for back-to-school nights, parent teacher conferences, professional development and implementing the latest learning platform, I encourage you to set aside intentional, regular time to get of the school building into a natural environment.

The forest is the therapist, the guide opens the doors.

When you are ready, I am here to serve as your nature and forest therapy guide. And if you are not in the area, or if I’m  not the right guide for you, you can search for a guide in your neck of the woods via the ANFT’s Guide Locator.

 

Sources

Educators Report Highest Level of Burnout Among All Other Industries

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams (find it on Bookshop.org)

Nature: How connecting with nature benefits our mental health

Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy:
A State-of-the-Art Review

A collection of great resources on the ANFT website.