A Guide’s Harvest

A Guide’s Harvest

I began my journey as a nature therapy guide long before I found the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy guides, but have found my people and myself through the hospitality, process and connections in this wise and gentle community. My reasons for searching and finding this community are plentiful – layers upon layers like the forest herself, some hidden from the casual observer and others reaching heavenward for all to see. My well rooted past, tangled with wounds and gifts, my calling to pastoral care, my daughter’s wild love for the natural world, and a still small voice calling me deeper into the natural world to experience a divine presence in every being I encounter are part and parcel of what has led me to and moves me forward on the way of the guide. 

I recently wrote this blog post which was inspired by the invitation to create a Threshold project:

A long time ago, in a mindset far away, I planted and served an online church in Second Life. I’ve served as the minister of digital community at the UCC denominational level and even traveled the States leading “social media bootcamps” for clergy. For about 4 years I worked as the director of digital strategy for a liberal arts college in the south. All this after I graduated from seminary with a focus in social justice, pastoral care and digital ministry. I was about as nerdy as theologically progressive gal could be. 

And then just before the world turned upside down and tuned into all things virtual (meetings, game night, karaoke and church), the universe with her delightful sense of humor, plopped Braiding Sweetgrass into my heart, shook me to the core and called me away from the screen and into the woods.

Now I am called to (and trained in) nature therapy, outdoor life coaching and eco-chaplaincy, as far removed from technology as possible. Of course I still hang out in digital spaces, the public square of our age, and even build websites for folx in helping professions. But every day I more fully inhabit my wild love for the natural world – of which we are all a part – to invite others into this (re)connection with creation of which we are all luminescent, interdependent parts.

More and more research around the world verifies the positive physiological, mental and spiritual benefits of intentional time in nature.  

But it’s not all about humans and how we can use nature for our wellbeing. When we spend more time (re)connecting with the natural world through activities such as forest bathing, nature retreats or guided nature meditations, there are positive impacts on our environmental attitudes and behavior. A spirit of reciprocity invites each of us to be in and with nature, recognizing we are of nature and to do what we can to be for nature in a world that only sees what can be consumed. A walk in and with nature is the first step to remembering we are of and for nature.

I hope to have the honor of sharing a walk with you one day.

The above reflection is only a tiny glimpse of how profoundly my encounter with the Way of The Guide has been and continues to be in my life. I feel more at home in my own skin as I more full inhabit the evolution of my calling to accompany others on their own journey of rewilding. I feel most keenly alive when I step into guiding others through the doors of perception through each aspect of guided walk. And when a walk is complete, the impact lingers will after the experience so that my heart is so tender and open that I can suddenly weep with delight upon seeing sunlight through a glass of sparkling water. What an amazing gift! 

So too am I grateful for my companions in the Wild Tulip cohort who’ve brought their full selves to the co-creation of our little, digital community. I have learned a great deal from everyone and feel connected to our merry little band of guides in ways I cannot yet fully articulate. I do feel a growing sense of – gosh, I don’t know what to call it – to be set out on my own to continue this journey without the support and celebrations of the Wild Tulips. I only hope that the way I guide others will honor our shared experience and our leaders Ben and Kat who so deftly wove together the many threads of this learning and the diverse spirits entrusted to their care.

With a hopeful heart I will never be done sharing what I need to make this experience complete. For now, I have a small slide show of just a sliver of things I experienced along the way.

Urban Foraging in Amsterdam

Urban Foraging in Amsterdam

Before I moved to Europe the only kind of tea that would pass these lips was iced and sweet. Tea made in my mother’s house was brewed and served according to very strict guidelines:

  • There was one small aluminum pot used to make the tea. No other other pot would do and NOTHING else could ever be cooked in that pot. I learned this the hard way after warming up a chef boyardee after school snack.
  • After the water is at a rolling boil, put in one pinch of baking soda, turn off the water, immerse, two Lipton family-size bags, cover with a thick, old saucer and wait at least 10 but not more than 20 minutes.
  • Add two large scoops of Dixie Crystal sugar to a large, glass pitcher
  • Pour hot tea over the sugar and stir until all sugar melts.
  • Top up with cold tap water until pitcher is full
  • Serve immediately over glasses filled to the brim with ice. If the ice floats, add more. Never serve first cups with floating ice.
  • Finish entire pitcher and never store over night, not even in ‘fridge.

It’s not often that I drink this kind of tea anymore, even if I could find it outside of Georgia. And as for hot tea, well that’s one of those things like free jazz that I really want to like, but alas my tastes are slow to mature beyond the days of sweet tea and bluegrass.

Until recently.

I am in the last stretch of certification as a nature therapy guide and one of my final projects is to identify with 110% certainty between 4-6 plants that I can forage and brew into a tea served on a nature therapy walk. And though I am getting to know the names of the trees and plants around me (I call the Japanese Maple in my garden Ruby), the goal of nature therapy is less a naturalists’ endeavor of classification and far more a somatic experience with the more-than-human world. I’m rightfully wary of serving folks what I pluck from the forest because what looks tasty is often poisonous and what seems dangerous can turn out to be incredibly healthy!

So, rather than relying on books and handy Youtube foraging videos, I recently reached out to the incredibly wise Lynn Shore, founder of Urban Herbology in Amsterdam, and spent a lovely morning wandering through her “River of Herbs” gardens in a city park learning about delicious plants that grow in abundance in The Netherlands.

As we walked and talked and touched the tender plants, Lynn plucked herbs and placed them in thermoses filled with piping hot water. I picked and tasted a bit of Wild Garlic, Stinging Nettle, Lemon Balm, Sweet Cicely, Garlic Mustard, Sweet Woodruff, Cleavers and Wild Geranium. Each plant I met was bursting with fragrance and flavor and my tastebuds were beyond thrilled with the invitation to experience the delights of the wild world.

We sat on a path strewn with pink blossoms and sipped the steeped tea and talked about the benefits of the plants, respectful foraging and how a love for nature inspires a genuine care for the environment.

This new way of getting to know tea, looking for the friends in the field that we can forage and share under the trees, is the tea-making tradition I hope to share with others on our journey of falling more deeply in love with creation.

Unplugging In, With and For Nature

Unplugging In, With and For Nature

A long time ago, in a mindset far away, I planted and served an online church in Second Life. I’ve served as the minister of digital community at the UCC denominational level and even traveled the States leading “social media bootcamps” for clergy. For about 4 years I worked as the director of digital strategy for a liberal arts college in the south. All this after I graduated from seminary with a focus in social justice, pastoral care and digital ministry. I was about as nerdy as theologically progressive gal could be. 

And then just before the world turned upside down and tuned into all things virtual (meetings, game night, karaoke and church), the universe with her delightful sense of humor, plopped Braiding Sweetgrass into my heart, shook me to the core and called me away from the screen and into the woods.

Now I am called to (and trained in) nature therapy, outdoor life coaching and eco-chaplaincy, as far removed from technology as possible. Of course I still hang out in digital spaces, the public square of our age, and even build websites for folx in helping professions. But every day I more fully inhabit my wild love for the natural world – of which we are all a part – to invite others into this (re)connection with creation of which we are all luminescent, interdependent parts.

More and more research around the world verifies the positive physiological, mental and spiritual benefits of intentional time in nature.  

But it’s not all about humans and how we can use nature for our wellbeing. When we spend more time (re)connecting with the natural world through activities such as forest bathing, nature retreats or guided nature meditations, there are positive impacts on our environmental attitudes and behavior. A spirit of reciprocity invites each of us to be in and with nature, recognizing we are of nature and to do what we can to be for nature in a world that only sees what can be consumed. A walk in and with nature is the first step to remembering we are of and for nature.

I hope to have the honor of sharing a walk with you one day.

1. Amy Novotney, “Getting Back to the Great Outdoors” American Psychological Association, (2008)

2. Dr. Qing Li, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, (2018)

3. Kyoung Sang Cho et al., “Terpenes from Forests and Human Health,” Toxicology Research, (2017)

4. Claudio D. Rosa & Silvia Collado, “Experiences in Nature and Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors: Setting the Ground for Future Research,” Frontiers in Psychology (2019)

Don’t Meditate

Don’t Meditate

Meditation can be daunting. 

Perhaps, don’t meditate.

Just try being still and quiet for three minutes, maybe five. 

Don’t wait until the dishes are done or the laundry is folded or the inbox has been emptied. Just choose a quiet place and time and give yourself a few minutes.

Maybe sit at your table where you’ve gathered over the years with friends and loved ones.

Or in your favorite comfortable chair where a book or film has moved you to tears.

Or even on the foot of your bed…

Near a window is particularly nice.

Just be still and quiet for five minutes with no device, book, craft, chore or even lover at hand.

Don’t try to meditate. 

Don’t try to count your breaths. 

Don’t try to do anything. 

Just be still and quiet for mere minutes;

allowing your mind to wander any which way it will. 

Be gentle with yourself. 

Notice your noticing. Has your mind wandered to a task that needs doing? 

Thank your mind for its concern for the work of the world.

Breathe. 

Notice where you are sitting, are there sounds or sights distracting you?

Thank your senses for being alert to the world.

Breathe.

Notice how your body feels. Are your legs feeling wiggly? Does your nose itch? 

Thank your body for giving your spirit access to this world.

Breathe.

Quietly whisper “thank you” into the room.

Breathe.

Say thank you again.

Breathe.

When you are ready, welcome yourself back to movement and activity.

Next week, if you are ready, sit again, perhaps for 10 minutes.