My life is dedicated to being of service to those called to encounter depths of wisdom and healing through active participation with the interconnected web of life. My purpose is to support people through life's transitions by facilitating nature-based experiences that provide a space for personal transformation to occur. Through deepening our relationships with nature, may we create a world of empowered people, caring for each other from a place of wholeness and deep connection.
Growing up nestled in the Loess Bluffs of Northwest Missouri, my early life was profoundly shaped by quests into the forested land surrounding my home. As a youth who experienced early trauma, I took refuge and counsel in my relationship with wild nature. A cool perennial spring and pond in the forest held my deepest stories of pain and vulnerability. Unknown to me at the time, I developed an identity that was inseparable from the wild nature that enveloped me.
As I grew older, however, I underwent a long period of trading time in nature for failed attempts to initiate myself as an adult. In these attempts, I burned my world down and injured those I loved. Yet, having innate inner wisdom, I concluded my adolescent years with resolve to ally with and advocate for nature as a biologist.
Traveling as a wildlife biologist led to interesting adventures and personal growth. During one of these travels a pivotal moment in my life occurred. While working on a research project in the Peruvian rain forest, I discovered the sincere power of enacting rituals for healing. Taking five medications for various physical ailments, I was on a path to living an abbreviated life and knew I needed to transition out of my old way of living. Serendipitously, one of my research companions was also an adept healer and spiritual teacher. She worked with me and another friend to co-create a ritual to dive deep into our wounds and through to our soul.
We stood on a rock at the edge of the Las Piedras river in the pouring rain and performed a simple ceremony of healing and empowerment. We howled like wolves and laughed like hyenas as we spoke truth and witnessed each other step into wholeness. Although I had participated in many rituals through the Catholic Church, it wasn't until that moment that ritual had conscious meaning in my life.
By the time my Peruvian research was complete, I was no longer taking prescription medicines for my ailments. Unable to explain the phenomenon with my rational mind, my body had clearly changed at a deep level. From that day in my early twenties, I shifted my life to include the power of ritual.
One Foot in Each World
Interwoven with my practice as a ceremonialist, I spent the same decade working as a wildlife biologist, tracking the effects of the industrial growth society on endangered species. Although my work as a biologist played an active role in conservation, my personal consumptive choices were out of step with the vision of my life as an ally to nature. I began to earnestly question my everyday choices and explored ways to more fully embody my role as both ceremonialist and conservationist. This inquiry, coupled with my beloved father's death, led to my first Wilderness Rite of Passage.
A Rite of Passage
With my intention in mind and heart, in the summer of 2011 I crossed the threshold of my first wilderness rite of passage. Held by a community of compatriots, friends, and family, I spent three days and nights fasting alone in the mountains near Stillpoint, Colorado. Eleven of us fasted alone but also together.
The spaciousness of the time was full and empty. A black bear meandered through my site daily. Ravens circled above and thrushes sang their chorus. On the last night I stayed awake in vigil and as the final dawn broke I proudly claimed my right to grieve.
After returning to base camp our guides gracefully mirrored our stories from the land, reflected the myths (emergent truths) and extracted salient symbols. We returned to our respective homes, jobs, classes, and families as initiated adults, as people who deliberately marked a significant transition in life, and ready to inhabit their new vision.
For the Women
We were taught it takes at least a year for the experience to incorporate after enacting a wilderness rite of passage. My first passage, however, opened the door to a four year underworld journey that uncovered depths of unspeakable, undigested grief. To support the journey through grief, I undertook three more wilderness fasts of varying lengths.
During one of these subsequent fasts in Death Valley, my direction as a wilderness guide became clear. I was ready to guide men and women through wilderness fasts, but was also specifically awakened to the voice of sexual trauma. Since that fast, I now also serve women who are seeking to reclaim sovereignty after experiencing sexual trauma.
Living A Vision
Experience has shown me that a supportive way to live a visionary life is to regularly step out of ordinary time and into sacred space. In this place of ritual, we can empower our soul by deeply listening and speaking our truth. Depending on our intent and purpose we can heal, make meaning, and mark transitions. By enacting ritual within the context of wild nature, we can broaden our identity and live our fullest story. Rite in the Wild is a vision born from ceremonial space and deep communion with nature. It is my sacred service and my gift.