World Communion, St. Francis and Laudato Si’

World Communion, St. Francis and Laudato Si’

Sunday, Oct. 2nd this year was World Communion Sunday. Today, Oct. 4th is the day marked by Catholics, some Protestants and even a few post-religious folx as St. Francis day, or the feast of Saint Francis. St. Francis of Assisi is known for his love of nature, a life lived in service, preaching even to the flowers, and a celebrant of poverty. In 1979 St. Francis was recognized as the patron saint of ecology.

Francis considered all nature as the mirror of God and as so many steps to God. He called all creatures his kin and inspired millions of people to step away from the mainstream and into contemplative, service-centered life.

From St Francis’ CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.

If you have not yet, I invite you to take the time today to read LAUDATO SI’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment in which he calls all people, especially people of faith, to rewild their understanding of our place in nature and our responsibility to care for our common home, earth.

Though I am a far-left process, transcendentalist, universalist Christian-ish gal, I am energized, encouraged and wildly grateful for the Pope’s pointed and clear paper on our human responsibility to one another in and through our commitment to the environment.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children.”

To truly be in communion with the whole world, to share in the body of the Creation and incorporate the heartbeat of the Eternal into our own lives, we must include our kith and kin of the plant and animal kingdom in our yearning for liberation and justice.

What might communion that includes a call to environmental justice look like?

As as start, I’d like lift up a professor, preacher, theologian and new friend, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade who is doing wonderful work offering congregations the tools they need to discern faithful ways to be in full communion with the created world.  Dr. Schade’s book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit is a powerful resource for leaders at every level of congregational life.

And finally, you are invited to offer your own whole-world, fullness of creation, communion prayers and practices in the comments.

Forest Bathing in Amsterdamse Bos

Forest Bathing in Amsterdamse Bos

Join certified forest therapy guide, Kimberly Knight for a walk at the Amsterdamse Bos to slow down, tune into your senses and reconnect with the natural of which we are a part.

Light refreshments and a handmade, upcycled journal are included.

We’ll begin with fully arriving in the forest and grounding our connection with nature. We will then slowly share in invitations to experience the forest intentionally and reciprocally. We will even enjoy some tea under the trees and have plenty of time to just be still and notice our noticing.

These walks are always slow and easy-going, not a hike; not naturalist tour of plants or trees.

Walk length: 2 hours; please wear comfortable, sturdy shoes for walking outdoors. Bring whatever else you require to feel comfortable.

Participants will be asked to silence and pocket their phones, so let folks know you will be unavailable for a couple of hours.

All participants of Wildwood Wisdom activities are personally responsible for their own fitness, safety and welfare and must be equipped accordingly.

A minimum of three participants is required for a walk to take place. If the minimum registrations do not happen, registered guests will receive a full refund.

Slow down

Reconnect with nature

Notice your noticing

Realign your inner compass

“Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart.”

― Robin Wall Kimmerer

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. 

Forest Bathing with Your Dog

Forest Bathing with Your Dog

Forest bathing with your dog is an intentional and shared experience that can be relaxing and enriching for both dog and human.

Forest bathing is a practice known in Japan as ‘shinrin-yoku’ that focuses on fully immersing yourself in nature using your senses to experience your place in the natural world. This is not a rigorous hike or a naturalist examination of the forest. Forest bathing is a slow, intentional walk that is good for the mind, body and spirit.

The being who has taught me the most about being fully present to a walk in the woods is my four-legged friend Sookie who is never, ever distracted by to-do lists or troubling thoughts while sniffing her way through the forest.

The benefits of forest bathing with your dog?

Instead of having a set idea of what the walk will look like, you will allow yourself to be led by your dog. When they stop to sniff something, you will take that moment to really absorb your surroundings, rather than hurrying them on. Allowing our fur friends to have their own noseful moment is so good for their bodies and minds too. By slowing down the pace of your walk, or even taking the time to sit or stand still with your dog, you’ll have an opportunity to notice what they notice, be fully present to their experience and feel a sense of mindful presence to the forest yourself.

This will be a slow walk so it’s a good idea if  your dog has burned off a little energy in a dog park or nice romp with you before you arrive.

Human and canine participants will be led on a guided walk led by an ANFT certified nature therapy guide.

Humans will receive a hand-made, upcycled mini-journal and enjoy tea and light snacks.

Our canine friends will be offered pup-friendly biscuits and plenty of time to experience the forest in their own way.

Please Note:

The event is limited to a maximum of 8 participants and their dogs.

You know your fur-baby better than anyone. Please only sign up for this experience if you are sure your canine companion enjoys the company of other dogs and people. If your fur baby feels anxiety or aggression around other dogs, I am happy to take y’all on a walk designed just for you.

Dress for the weather with comfortable, waterproof footwear. Please also ensure you have your dog lead and poop bags with you. A

Please dress for changeable weather. As we will be walking slowly, stopping and sitting, it’s good to have an extra layer if you’re feeling chilly. We may be walking through long grass so waterproof shoes and long pants are also recommended.

 

Slow down

Reconnect with nature

Notice your noticing

Realign your inner compass

Unplug and Recharge Retreat

Unplug and Recharge Retreat

Is it time to realign your compass?

Then maybe this brief retreat in the Amsterdam Bos is just for you. You are invited to this time to step away from whatever your normal is and invest a little time in a craft new, more mindful normal.

Spend Whit Monday weekend in the delightful little campground on the south side of the Amsterdam Bos.

Accommodations

Book your own accommodations at the Europarcs campground.

Transportation

Here are the Google Maps coordinates to find the park. There is a bus stop right outside the park.

Although it is recommended that folks make plans to be present for the entire weekend in order to personally gain as much as possible from the immersive experience; if you would like to come up for just a portion of the weekend, reach out and let me know and we will figure out how to make that work.

Cost

Costs for accommodations and transportation are the responsibility of participants.
Kayak rental is €9 an hour and we will be on the water for 2-3 hours.
Participants should bring their own food and perhaps a bit to share for potluck dinners Saturday and Sunday night.
A donation of €50 for the nature connected activities will be greatly appreciated, but please do not let that amount prevent you from participation. Sharing as your budget allows is a generous gift from the heart and will be received with deep gratitude.

General outline of the weekend – subject to changes as the Spirit may lead.

Saturday, June 4th

4 p.m. – Welcome gathering & setting intentions

5 p.m. – Nature Mandalas

7 p.m. Potluck Dinner

Sunday, June 5th

10 a.m. Morning Meditation

11-1:30 – Forest Bathing in Amsterdam Bos (pack a light lunch)

3 p.m. – Kayak trip

7 p.m. – Potluck Dinner

Monday, June 6th

9 a.m. – Morning walking meditation

10 a.m. – Closing gathering

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.

Forest Bathing in the Panbos

Forest Bathing in the Panbos

You are invited to join certified nature therapy guide Kimberly to connect more deeply with the created world through a gentle, contemplative walk in the lovely Panbos with morning of shinrin yoku – forest bathing.

There will be a short hike at the beginning and end but very little physical activity overall, with plenty of time to just sit and be. Light refreshments are provided but please come prepared with whatever you need to be comfortable over a 2ish hour timeframe.

A good portion of our time together will be in silence. This offers you the opportunity to experience the forest and to connect with others who want to experience nature fully and deeply. By choosing to stay away from friendly chit-chat and explore what it’s like to walk in nature without speaking, we have a chance to engage our senses more fully and to truly connect with the natural world.

• Be Prepared

Dress comfortably for walking on natural terrains. Bring a water bottle, but little else so you are unencumbered for your walk. Participants will be asked to silence and pocket their phones, so let folks know you will be unavailable for a couple of hours.

All participants of Wildwood Wisdom activities are personally responsible for their own fitness, safety and welfare and must be equipped accordingly.

• Meeting Place

The bike racks in the carpark of the Panbos

• Meeting Time

We will leave the parking lot at 10:00 sharp and we finish around noon.

In the event of cancellation due to severe weather, participants will be notified by 8 a.m. the day of the event.

Space is limited to 18 participants.

——-

Did you know that in 2018 the National Health Service of Scotland started prescribing “birdwatching, rambling and beach walks in the Atlantic winds to help treat chronic and debilitating illnesses for the first time.”

“Forest bathing” originates from a Japanese practice called shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest.” This will be a slow paced, mindful time spent in the woods and an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world.

A minimun of three participants is required for a walk to take place. If the minimum registrations do not happen, registered guests will receive a full refund.

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.