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Kambo: Frog Healer of the Amazon

Dreamer and amara profile squareAt Wildheart we are dedicated to providing a space for children and adults to explore their wildness. In today’s culture, so much of our reality is centered around staying in our comfort zones, keeping our minds occupied, working hard within societal constructs, and dissecting the world around us to extract what we believe will offer us relief from our suffering. I am passionate about expanding beyond what feels easy into the wildness of life. Therein lies the potential for true healing, peace, and happiness.

I would like to make a confession: Being a role model isn’t always easy.

There are times when I want to curse, spit, scream and cry. There are things I perceive to be very out of balance in the world around me and I have to be careful in addressing these topics so as not to offend others. It can even feel like I’m being less than authentic when I can’t appropriately share my feelings. Sometimes, that is the reality of what it takes to be a compassionate mentor. 

MarcawasiToday, however, I am confronting that belief. If there is anything that a role model ought to represent, it is Truth. In that spirit, I would like to share a story with you about my own truth. In full disclosure, telling this story makes me a bit uneasy. Some might consider the topic taboo and others might find it strange or bizarre. Regardless of what your opinion may be, I’m sharing this story because it reveals a deeper insight into the truth of my path and how I am expanding my work with adults.

When Amara and I met eleven years ago at Prescott College, we were both fascinated with natural healing methods practiced by indigenous cultures.

First Peoples all around the world turn to nature for their food and medicine. In Western culture our bodies generally do not experience the environmental stresses that many indigenous people face on a daily basis, such as prolonged exposure to cold, periods without food, loads of insect and snake bites, and many more. Manageable doses of exposure to harsh elements can lead to hardiness of the mind and body. This hardiness is what Amara and I were deeply interested in understanding.

Modern medicine is highly effective for physical trauma related injuries. If I were to break my leg tomorrow, there is no place I would rather be than the emergency room at St. Charles. When Amara and I met, however, we were both experiencing health imbalances that Western medicine did not have answers for.

We were also looking to see if our health issues could be addressed with non-western modalities of healing.  

Macaw squareShortly after we met, Amara and I did an independent study through Prescott College in the Amazon rainforest. There, we studied plants used for a variety of illnesses. The indigenous people shared with us a very different view of healing than what we had previously known. Their modalities tapped into a web of energy that could be influenced by song, prayer, smoke, flower water, and much more.

We had the opportunity to dive deep into our own healing, question our belief systems, and soak up the vibrant energy of the rainforest. That initial journey to Peru build a solid foundation for our future work with nature connection and environmental respect.

From that point forward, our view of reality felt markedly different from the culture in which we had come.

Pisaq marketThree years ago, Amara and I traveled back to Peru for our anniversary. The journey was, like all of our Peru excursions, profoundly memorable. We visited sacred sites, gushed over the myriad of textiles found everywhere, and fumbled through many broken spanish conversations. Every day was a new adventure (our beloved ‘stuck-on-top-of-a-mountain-in- Peru’ story also happened on this trip).

We spent the last days of our voyage in the town of Pisac along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley. There, we met a fellow traveler who was staying at the same hostel. He was a kindred soul and we spent several afternoons in his company. One evening, while cooking dinner together, he informed us about his plans for the following morning.

His intention was to partake in a ceremony where he would be administered a frog secretion, called Kambo. The ceremony would involve burning his skin, putting the frog’s secretion on the burns, and then swelling, pooping and vomiting for some time after. His motivation for putting himself through this hardship was to experience a detox and profound healing.

Kambo SquareThrough listening to our friend and by summoning the powers of Google, we learned that Kambo, also known as the Giant Monkey Tree Frog or Phylomedusa bicolor, is an amazonian frog that has been used for thousands of years to heal a broad spectrum of illnesses. Traditionally, tribes people treat infections, snake bites, and malaria with Kambo and also use it for hunting, strength, stamina and removal of ‘panema,’ or bad luck.

Over the last several decades, this amazonian amphibian has become more widely recognized for its incredible healing potential. Pharmaceutical companies are actively studying the frog’s secretion in the hopes of making medical breakthroughs. Some of these companies have taken the frog out of the jungle for study. Unfortunately for these companies, the frog will not produce the secretion in captivity outside of the jungle. There seems to be something important about the places in which the frog lives. Anthropologists have been scrambling to document its origins and traditional uses. Practitioners working with different tribes have taken the secretion (not the frog) out of the jungle and into the lives of the mainstream public. Kambo is legal in every country in the world. 

Amara at ruins squareAfter hearing this colorful description of what our friend was about to willingly experience, Amara and I looked at each other with the most serious FOMO faces imaginable (FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out). Neither of us wanted to be rude and invite ourselves to his vomit party, but neither of us wanted to miss out, either! I took the heat and casually asked if there was any way we could get in on this amazing opportunity. To our delight, he expressed how much he would love for us to join (in hindsight, he was probably very scared to be alone in the experience and was fishing for friends to join, but that’s beside the point). My mind was reeling and asking for some kind of assurance of safety, but my heart was dead certain that this was happening.

Sometimes, you know when you’re called.

The next morning we awoke early, skipped breakfast, and meandered down the dirt road to the practitioner’s house. He was a bit of an eccentric human, but the same could be said about many of us traveling in Peru. We were given the crash course on what this medicine does, how it works and what to expect during the treatment. The more information I received, the more nervous and excited I became. Apparently, when done correctly, Kambo is extremely safe, albeit a bit uncomfortable.

The after effects, however, can be profoundly beneficial and last for days, weeks and months. It has been reported to successfully treat depression, chronic pain, anxiety, Lymes disease, candida overgrowth, arthritis, high blood pressure, and many more illnesses.

Kambo simon pic edited

Photo with our kambo practitioner, Simon, in Pisaq, Peru

We all had one last chance to back out, but none of us did. The experience was intense, quite painful at times, and utterly disorienting. There is nothing psychoactive in Kambo and no one I know would ever describe the experience as ‘psychedelic.’ The sheer discomfort and bizarreness of your body reacting to the secretion is all that’s necessary to put you in a different state of mind, much like the immediate moments after serious bodily injury. There were times when I genuinely regretted my decision to partake in this event. The rest of the experience I couldn’t think of much because I was too busy vomiting in a plastic bucket while simultaneously trying not to poop my pants (harder than it sounds, let me tell you). To be frank, there wasn’t much about the experience of having frog secretion put in my skin that I enjoyed. That is to say, nothing in the first thirty minutes or so.

After my final purge and having had all of the secretion removed from my burn points, something deeply significant happened.

First, I felt calm. Really calm. A calm I’ve never felt in my adult life. Second, I was happy. Wholly and simply happy. Every memory that came to my mind made me smile inside. I could find earnest love and joy for painful memories that arose, easily able to glean a simple lesson from the challenges. This state of mind was so natural, humble, and fulfilling. It was as if someone turned on the ‘positive’ switch in my brain. I had never experienced anything quite like it.

Kambo AltarThe glow of the experience lasted for weeks, and I became a dedicated student of the Kambo frog. I found it to be one of the most potent and effective tools in my growth. I do not make this statement lightly, as I have a fairly heavy bag of tools that I draw upon frequently. Kambo stands alone, however, as being uniquely capable of bringing me back to the simple truths and how I’m choosing to live them. I love that it doesn’t alter the mind, so there is no running from one’s thoughts. I love how it clears the body and purges it of toxins. I love how it resets the emotions and allows one feel the calmness that is our natural state. There was a time when I disliked (maybe not strong enough of a word) the physicality of the medicine rushing through my blood and making me feel like death, but I’ve grown to even love that.

I’m sharing this with you now because it is one of my deepest truths. It is something I am called to work with myself and to share with others who are called.

Dreamer with kambo altarAs such, I just completed my practitioner training with the IAKP (International Association of Kambo Practitioners). The IAKP is a group of practitioners who seek to support and encourage the safe, responsible, and legal use of Kambo through training, awareness raising, knowledge development, research, professional behavior, and best practice. They are a non-profit organization that works closely with the indigenous people who care for the frog and land upon which it lives.  Amara and I have dedicated ourselves to connecting people to local nature and we stand firm in this practice as a foundation for all other nature connection/healing work. At this moment in time, however, we are a global village in need of the most powerful healing tools that our planet has to offer. What is incredible about the Amazon Rainforest is the vast biodiversity that supports unique lifeforms, like Kambo. Many of us have deep emotional traumas, toxins, and ways that we run from ourselves.

We are passionate about providing a natural healing modality that has the potential to root out some of our deepest pains and reconnect us with the vital force of nature.

Marcawasi lightingCompleting the training was a huge accomplishment for me and I am so happy for the opportunity to learn amongst experts in the field. Thank you for hearing my story of discovering Kambo and thank you for seeing me. As a mentor, I am committed to following my passions as I so readily advise others to do. My work in these realms has has informed so much of my journey and helped immensely along the way. If you are interested in Kambo, please join us at Hawthorn Healing Arts Center for our free talk, Kambo: Frog Healer of the Amazon. The talk is November 2nd, 2017 from 7pm – 8pm.

Kambo AltarIn this free talk we will be exploring and offering:

  • Kambo’s healing potential
  • History, traditional use, and Western influence/use of Kambo
  • What a typical Kambo treatment looks like
  • Who would be a good candidate for Kambo
  • What contraindications exist
  • Supporting amazonian medicines such as rapé and sananga
  • Kambo songs
  • Complimentary healthy macaroons and tea

 We will also be posting about upcoming ceremonies on our Kambo page. 

Thank you for reading,

In Joyful Service,

Rainbow Dreamer

Dreamer profileFounder / Instructor
Wildheart Nature School
wildheartnatureschool.com
541-410-8301

 

Falling in Love with Kaua’i

Kaua'i OrchidThe earth is a magical place, filled with life and joy and beauty. Every little corner of this planet is overflowing with exquisite gems and treasures that are freely given to those with the eyes to see. Each space has its own unique alchemy of inhabitants, its own temperaments of weather, and its own peculiar way of reflecting back a deep part of our soul. Our relationship to a particular area of Earth is often more intimate than many of our human-to-human relationships. Arguably, our kinship to this planet it the longest relationship any of us will ever have, as we were born to this Earth from day one and will likely die upon it, as well. Our whole lives we are in relation and connection to this Earth. We can marry deserts, have affairs with islands, yearn for the harsh beauty of tundras, and cuddle with mossy mountains. Every land welcomes our outpour of emotion with a spectrum of compassion; the reception may be cold, rocky and hard, or soft, warm and comforting. All of them nourish our soul with a distinct flavor; sometimes like mother’s cooking from childhood, other times like a pill to be choked down. Like all relationships, our bond with the places of Earth can be messy, ecstatic, beautiful, painful, and uplifting. What matters is that we have them and we are aware they exist. If this awareness is present, then we can strive to strengthen our connections for the betterment of ourselves and the protection of the place.

Kauai beachI am sharing these thoughts with you today because of my experience in Kaua’i this winter. While on the island, I was pulled into what might be called an ‘Earth-relationship therapy session.’ Unbeknownst to me, I was not in balance with my relationship to the island and was given a most beautiful reminder of how to be in reciprocity.

The story begins from our first step on the island. As soon as I felt the warm tropical air, my heart burst open and I was back in love. This was my second trip to Kaua’i and I have been infatuated with the place ever since my first visit. With one breath I could smell the sweet scent of vegetal decay, the salty brine of the ocean, the subtle fragrance of floral blossoms, and overtones of brimstone vog (volcanic fog that occasionally drifts through Kaua’i). My winter tension was dissolving and I was feeling the need to get some sun on my deprived skin. Amara and I collected our luggage, picked up our rental car, and made haste to our friend’s house.

Dreamer and Augie playing chessIt must be stated that our friends on the Island were a big reason for our visit. They are absolutely soul family and we always part ways with that strange mix of sorrow and gratitude. The first few days we spent visiting with our most amazing hosts, lounging on the beach during the day and talking late into the nights about the cosmos and Spirit. We ate coconuts, chikoos, rambutans, and bananas. I had quite a few fun adventures with the noni fruit, but that may be the topic of its own blog, altogether. To paint a clear picture: we were relaxing in paradise with good company.

Something was off, however. At first, it was too subtle for my caveman mind to notice. All I knew was that ‘tropical ocean’ was currently beating out ‘snow packed desert’ on my priority list. As the first few days passed, though, I began to notice myself getting agitated easily. There was an unsettling feeling, like I wasn’t really there yet. I ran through a list of possibilities: jet lag, adjusting to a new climate, being in someone else’s space, having trouble getting into the ‘island flow,’ etc. Any of these could handily explain my sense of unease, but the feeling remained.

Kauai sunriseOne morning I rose very early to catch the sunrise on the beach. I had been in this pattern for a couple days and loved the epic sunrises that I had been gifted. On that day it was raining and windy. I considered not making the journey, but something within me stirred and I knew this was not a morning to miss. I threw on my shorts and departed in the dark toward the beach. By the time I reached the ocean cliff, the grey light was drearily waking up the sky and sea. There were no cars in the parking lot, a first for me, and I lazily strode down the red dirt trail. On my way down it began to rain lightly and I pressed on. I don’t remember specifically what I was thinking about, but I do remember being caught up in my thoughts, staring down absently at the slippery trail of increasingly sticky mud. At this moment, when I was fully distracted from my present surroundings, the sun found a hole in the clouds and shone brilliantly through. I looked up to witness the angelic light cascading from the clouds. To my delight, there was also a magnificent rainbow over the sea. As if on cue, a large humpback whale made a full breech just beneath the rainbow. It would have been inappropriate to hold my emotions back, so I let the tears of awe flow. The gratitude and love I felt in that moment were overwhelming. I stood watching in the rain for half an hour, as two pods of whales danced in the ocean and air beneath a spectacular Kaua’i sunrise-rainbow.

Palm tree in KauaiIt was magic in the truest sense. A space opened in my heart and consciousness, and I remembered that this place, like all places on this Mother Earth, is alive. It is a being, a presence, a companion to be appreciated. In my narrow-minded relief to be momentarily free from the grueling winter in Bend, I had forgotten to arrive in my new location. I had not taken a true moment to stop, listen, and ask the place to reveal its presence to me. I assumed that I knew this land, because I had visited one time before. Like a lover who is treated with common regard, the Island was reluctant to meet to my consciousness. I had arrived telling her all my troubles, my pains and struggles. I demanded her comfort, compassion and care as if they were things I had earned by paying my ticket fare. I had not asked her how she would like me to be, nor how I could court her beauty and offer her my love. I arrived with a selfish attitude, thinking of only what I could take and not what I could offer.

In the time I stood watching the whales and rainbows over the sea, something softened in my awareness. I remembered that lands can talk to us in languages more profound than visions. I remembered that we can intimately know a place in ways that can never be spoken, but all of us understand. Most importantly, I remembered that this relationship is not difficult to cultivate. All it requires is that we listen and ask to be shown. I continued down the trail to the beach and sat in mediation for some time, filled with the ecstasy of my experience. I listened deeply to the sound of the waves, took great care in noticing the texture of the sand and breeze, and reached far into my consciousness to let my soul be a mirror for this Island. It was at once magical and natural. I finally felt welcomed.

Sunrise ShellOn my way back home, I stumbled across a small shell that seemed somehow special to me. It was white and looked like a clam shell, but as far as I knew, there was nothing exceptional about it. Yet, it felt like this was a little gift from the place for taking a moment to listen. So, I asked for permission to bring this shell with me, just as we’ve taught so many of our students to do when they want to take from nature. When I arrived back at the house, I showed my little shell to our friends and their eyes widened like full moons. Much to my surprise, I had found a sunrise shell! Apparently, they are the highly coveted quintessential shell of Kaua’i. Finding one can be quite difficult, even if that is specifically your goal. For me, it was an inside joke between two beings in love. I had not been giving with my presence and the island was withholding of her own. When I finally allowed myself to open and dropped my preconceived ideas of this beautiful location, she met me with her own mysterious presence.

Shells on Larson's beach in KauaiHow many times have I played out this lesson in locations across the earth? Too many times to comfortably count, for sure. It is my experience, however, that the moment I remember to listen, the land is already there to meet me. I won’t pretend that I will be perfect from this point forward, as no relationship is flawless. But I can say that I’m inspired to continue working on my side of the relationship.

Thank you for reading and hope you are enjoying the spring!

Sincerely,

Rainbow Eagle Dreamer

Hidden Power of the Turkey

turkey-faceGreetings Wildheart Families! We have been spending a lot of time in our classes this fall discussing the importance of kindness and compassion. In that spirit, I want all of you to know how much we love and appreciate you and your beautiful children. This community of wonderful people is what makes Central Oregon our vibrant home in the desert. I’m telling you this because I believe the world would graciously open its arms to more compliments, gratitudes, and kindness. Thank you for supporting our work with children and for supporting the growth of your beautiful and gifted little ones. And please accept this invitation to share a compliment, gratitude, or kind words with someone you meet today.

Thanksgiving has inspired us to not only share more compassion with the world, it has also got us thinking about the American staple of Thanksgiving symbolism: the Turkey. For most of us, we rarely give a second thought to the bird that has captivated our nation’s feasting. After all, it is a domesticated animal and we like to assume that this means it is a common thing. However, when investigated more thoroughly it becomes apparent that the turkey is no common bird, by any measure.

Turkey feather on rugFirstly, the turkey is unique bird to North America. No other place on earth has turkeys roaming naturally. They are extremely smart and clever, as any hunter can likely tell you. I once watched a couple men leave on a three-day turkey hunt in northern Arizona. Twenty minutes after they left, a flock of nearly one dozen turkeys popped out of the exact trail the men departed from and hunted bugs in the field. The turkeys hung around for about three days, roosting and strutting on the property. Before the hunters returned, they vanished back into the thicket and did not show themselves for the rest of the season. The men came home empty handed, convinced that this was a bad year because they did not see or hear a single turkey. Tales like these abound when it comes to this impressive bird.

Turkeys have a very strong association with the masculine. The males strut and face off in battles similar to a grouse, though not usually as violent. If you have ever encountered a gang of turkeys on a farm, you probably know exactly what this strut and ‘gobble’ sounds like. They are also associated with the feminine, as they live most of their lives on the mother earth. These two energies find a great balance within the turkey.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of the turkey people is one of giveaway and abundance.

Successfully hunting a turkey in the wild means several meals for you and your family. On days of big holiday feasts, a single turkey is enough to fill a whole family’s belly, and leave plenty for the days to come. When we are blessed with the gift of a turkey, we understand how much it has to give away. The sacrifice of life was considered to be one of reciprocity in many cultures, meaning they felt a successful hunt was partly due to the animal choosing to offer itself. Turkeys were thought to be one of the greatest gifts because one hunter could carry several birds to feed many families. This was a rare thing in ancient times, for sure.

Not only would a turkey feed your family, it also offered it’s feathers to fletch arrows. To this day, there is no better and more often used fletching (for traditional archery) than a turkey feather.

Digging a little deeper into this truth as a metaphor, turkey feathers send an arrow of our prayers straight and true to the Spirit. Ceremonial arrows are often created with turkey fletchings because it is believed that this will give them a true line toward whatever intention they are created for. One of the reasons they work so well as fletchings is because they are tough as nails, at least in comparison with other feathers. Many who have feathers for ceremonial or religious purposes will use turkey as their ‘work horse’ feathers because they can take a great deal of abuse and are thought to hold an even greater deal of power.

Turkey feathersFrom a symbolic standpoint, I could talk about turkey for days! Their feathers often have a black and white stripping which symbolizes light and dark, the void and the manifest. In addition to black and white, there is a good deal of iridescence and rainbows in their plumage. This is a powerful symbol of the illusion, and their ability to master it. For example, did you know that they are excellent flyers when they want to be? If they had you fooled, don’t feel bad, they are masters of illusion! The turkey people remind us to cut though the illusion and see the truth our life’s gift and beauty.

Their willingness to offer themselves (when they are not outsmarting humans) for our survival teaches us how to let go and surrender the give and take of life.

Many have called upon turkey medicine to help them let go of some situation or energy and call in a new phase of abundance. They are so invested in helping us as a species that they have allowed themselves to become domesticated for our benefit. Not only does a turkey in your flock mean a great deal of feasting to come, but they also will protect the other birds from predators. When confronted, they can be fearless and fierce, showing how a balanced warrior acts in the face of opposition.

Reflecting upon all of this, it is hard not to feel a deep sense of reverence and gratitude for this humble bird that is so generous to us humans. Just because they are commonly seen in the stores and during the holidays does not mean they are an ordinary being. On the contrary, they are perhaps more incredible and awesome when we realize how much they bless our lives.

Whether or not we choose to eat turkey this Thursday, we can honor its gifts as we come together with friends and family this time of year. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and we look forward to seeing you again you when the time is right.

In Gratitude,

Rainbow Dreamer

Dreamer profileFounder / Instructor
Wildheart Nature School
wildheartnatureschool.com
541-410-8301

Anything is Possible

Greetings Wildheart Families!

We hope you are all taking ample time to stop and appreciate the beautiful colors that are emerging this Fall season. Change is the one constant in nature, so it can a be a wonderfully grounding practice to stop and witness the churning, rhythmic flow of the seasons. I would like to invite you to take few deeps breaths the next time you’re outside, and feel the brisk air searching for dried leaves to rustle. Let the feelings of coziness and gratitude swirl within like a warm fire. Fall is a great time to feel deeply all of the changes and growing edges you’ve encountered in the last few moons, and to settle into acceptance and gratitude for this growth. The summer months flew by this year, and I feel like the brightly lit trees are reminding me to see the fiery phoenix that has been invisibly waking within.

As many of may know, I spend a lot of time sitting and contemplating nature. There is so much to be in awe of, so many presents to be unwrapped. While gazing at a tree dressed in the most vivid crimson and oranges, it occurred to me how bizarre this spectacle really is. These magnificent beings spend months sprouting leaves, flowers and fruits. Their green canopies, providing homes for so many creatures and shady retreats from afternoon sun, seem to be a permanent part of skyline. When taken from a purely visual stance, the green leaves that adorn each tree seem to be the only living part. And then they all fall off. First they turn radical shades, as if pretending to be spring flowers, desperately warning the approaching cold that the timing is all off. As the cold presses on, the leaves succumb, turning brown and finding their way to the earth. The tree then stands in apparent defeat, dead and cold. If you lived in a tropical zone and had never seen something like this before, it might seem as if the forest was dying. If someone then told you that it was totally natural and in a few months all of the leaves would return and the whole thing starts all over again, you might think it impossible. That is, you might disbelieve it until you saw it happen. Once witnessed, it seems not only possible, but completely natural. This is the power of experience.

Brain tanning demonstration with children watchingIf we reflect upon it, I’m sure all of us can find a moment in our lives when we believed something was impossible, only to be proven wrong by our experience of the truth. I can remember seeing a dried and crusty piece of rawhide laying against a shed in Arizona. My friend informed me he was going to make leather from this hide. I felt very sad for him, because I ‘knew’ that once a hide had reached that point, it was well beyond leather. It seemed completely impossible to me that something so hard and brittle could turn into a soft and supple piece of material. Fortunately, I learned that this impossibility was completely possible and it has changed the course of my life. Seeing this hide turn into brain tan was a most wonderful dissolution of my limiting belief. I not only learned how to make leather, but I was also given an invaluable reminder about my beliefs: they are not always correct.

Even with ample amounts of reminders, this can be a tough reality to integrate into our daily world. We need to understand certain limits of possibility in order to survive. Humans do not do well when confronting a moving train, for example. Eat certain plants and you will likely die, for another. However, there are examples of people who have been hit by trains and eaten deadly poisonous plants and lived to tell the tale. So while it isn’t wise to attempt either of the above examples, it may be wise to become aware of our beliefs of what is and is not possible. People used to believe that running a mile in under four minutes was entirely impossible. As was the goal of creating a machine that could fly and carry humans like birds. Today, many have broken the four-minute mile, and airplanes pass over heads at any given moment. All it takes is one person to do the impossible for it to become real. When many do it, it becomes normal. Then we all forget how it seemed insurmountable and move our boundary of impossibility out a little further. I’m pretty sure this has been a story of humanity for many thousands of years.

Beautiful river sceneFortunately for us, we have the freedom to choose which stories we want to believe. As adults, this can be easier said than done. We like to see the feat preformed or somehow experience the reality before we’re willing to let go of our belief. Once this happens, we gladly choose to change our minds, as that is the rational thing to do. Children, on the other hand, do not share in our rigidness of intellect. They have a special gift that allows them to be more open to possibilities. They allow themselves the freedom to entertain impossible ideas. This openness is often encouraged by adults to create joy and magic. Santa Claus is a perfect example. What adult mind would allow for such a possibility to occur in our reality. No one can visit every house in the world in just one night, right? And that doesn’t even address the flying reindeer or weight capacity of a sled. Yet, tell a child this story, show them the presents in the morning, and you have a true believer before you.

What if we used this magic of an open mind to inspire a new way experiencing the world? We have plenty of evidence to suggest that our ideas of impossibility are not founded in fact. What if we allowed our minds to explore the outrageous, to invite the improbable? How many boundaries would we break free of? Where would we go as a people if we opened to every potential we have as humans? I imagine a world where there is no such thing as impossible. Imagination would be our only limit. Your children live in this world right now. I invite you to join them, if only for a moment. You may find that deep down in your heart, you’ve never let go of the belief that anything is possible. It may be buried by hard lessons and disappointments and despair. The world may have conditioned you to forget. But inside a small flame has continued to burn. Anything is possible, and you’ve always known it.

fall-season-along-riverAhhh! Doesn’t that feel good to admit? You can still be responsible and make wise decisions. You can be an adult and take care of your family. You are also aware that anything can happen and you won’t block yourself from seeing something completely new and unimaginable. The impossible is totally available to you.

Our children live in this magical space of possibility. Nature opens them to see that their truth is not only founded in reality, but is a natural state of awareness. Only through conditioning and the challenges of failure and defeat do they learn to suppress this inner knowing. Our task as adults is to help them navigate the challenges with grace, strength and courage. To help them maintain their spirit of innocence and belief while learning the ropes of maturity and wisdom. This may seem like an impossible task, but we know what that means. It means we can do it.

At Wildheart we spend a lot time with children exploring imagination and awareness (while in nature, of course). This is because we understand that our only limitation is our belief. If we can inspire kids to continue to believe in themselves, to believe in the world, to believe in the impossible, then we are creating a healthier planet for everyone. At the end of our last week of summer camp a parent asked her daughter what she took away from the four weeks of camp she attended. She thought for a second, then responded with full confidence, “Anything is possible.” It was a magical confirmation for us as instructors, because we often don’t get that direct of feedback about our work. Moments like these keep us going!

Girl with raven featherThe other evening, we shared a similar sentiment with parents who signed up for our eight and nine-month transformation programs. We invited them to envision the positive changes they would like to see for their children and for their families as the result of going through the process with us. One of my favorite sayings from our business mentor, Katie Cavanaugh is: “If you can envision it, you can create it!” Increasing the wellbeing of our children and our families is not only something we can imagine but something that we can make real. Can you think of one tiny shift you could make in your state of mind or in your actions to bring more joy, love, harmony, and compassion into your family life? A tiny change might look like taking three deep breaths before responding to a family member during a stressful conversation. It could be planning a technology free family outing. I invite you to choose one small realistic shift and actually do it today. It may seem unlikely that one small change could make a large impact in your life and the lives of others but we invite you to open to the possibility that it can. Please write to us or comment on social media what your tiny change was and how it felt to do it so that we can inspire each other as a community! If you and your children enjoy connecting with other families with similar values, going through a group process can be quite rewarding. Although our Sacred Arts 8-Month School of Wizardry is full, we have two more spaces available for Wildheart Girls’ Empowerment and for Wildheart Warriors for ages 10 – 13. Registration closes on October 14th.

Group of children and mentor walking with wizard staffsThe more we can break from old patterns and make small powerful changes in our mind and actions as a collective the more we will see our world shift to a more harmonious reality. What do you think will happen when more people start giving their valuable energy to thoughts, feelings, and actions that will create wellbeing for all? If we really understand that anything is possible we can observe the aspects of our world that are rooted in fear and unconsciousness without believing that those things are set in stone. In focusing on other potentials, we stop feeding the unhealthy patterns in our minds and in the world. Let us encourage this natural understanding in the children that the world is never static and that it is always full of potential.  Let us remind them that they have everything they need within them to find a path that will bring them joy, health, and happiness in their lives. And let us be the examples of that starting with that tiny change that we will enact today.

Thank you for opening your mind to a broader view of what is possible. I look forward to hearing about your tiny changes and the ripple effect they have in this world.

With Sincerity,

Rainbow Dreamer


Founder / Instructor
Wildheart Nature School
wildheartnatureschool.com
541-410-8301

Adolescence is like learning how to swim!

Girl in tree branchesDo you remember what it was like to be in 7th grade? Were there volatile emotions, tricky friendships, and urges to push away anything that was associated with childhood (maybe even your parents)? Was it a time when having a tribe of friends felt absolutely essential to your well-being? Did you ever get picked on or did you ever find yourself picking on someone else?

Right now I am reading am insightful book called, Untangled: Guiding teenage girls through the seven transitions into adulthood by Lisa Damour. In the book, she compares adolescence and one’s teenage years to learning how to swim. She explains,

“Consider the metaphor in which your teenage daughter is a swimmer, you are the pool in which she swims, and the water is the broader world. Like any good swimmer, your daughter wants to be our playing, diving, or splashing around in the water. And, like any swimmer, she holds on to the edge of the pool to catch her breath after a rough lap or getting dunked too many times (Damour, pg. 21).”

Girls can get so wrapped up in their social lives, school, and extracurricular activities that they forget about the importance of quality family time. Parents often feel that their daughters are pushing them away. Every so often, however, girls get tired from a long swim and need to rest at the side of the pool. In these instances, girls might come to their parents for emotional support but before long they push away again and may even do so in a less than compassionate way.

Taking the metaphor to the next level, when girls are in the deep end of the pool they are looking around at other swimmers to see examples of how to move gracefully through the water. There are many essential elements that will help a successful passage through this phase of learning and in this blog I want to discuss two of the most important:

  1. Girls should be given the opportunity to get to know themselves through time in nature, journaling, mindfulness, or going through some process that helps them become more self-aware. In the swimming metaphor, girls should take time to swim where they can be by themselves for a while. That way they can connect with their bodies and move intuitively in ways that feel harmonious to them. No matter how much they look on the outside for examples that will show them how to dress and how to act, the journey is ultimately one that will be unique to them. It is as though there is a crystal within them and through pealing back the layers of outside influences we will see their inner light start shine clearly through. Certainly they will still be inspired by others, but in order to find genuine confidence they will need to step into their own power that is sourced from within them.
  2. The second element that will make for a graceful passage is a mentor or a counselor. A mentorship can be formal or informal and may even be the seventeen year-old runner who takes a girl under her wing in the track meets. It could be an empowerment program or sessions with the school counselor. When going through a transition into young womanhood, it is extraordinarily helpful to be guided by someone who has gone through something similar and who has wisdom to share about the process. This could be akin to a swim coach. Although a girl should strive to feel comfortable with spending time by herself in order to get in touch with that inner crystal, she will be much more likely to succeed if she is well-supported and truly seen for the deep inner work that she is doing by someone she can look up to.

Adolescence can be challenging, but with quality support it can also be potent and enlightening. My intention is for the 9-Month Girls’ Empowerment Program to provide girls with a mentorship and many opportunities to get to know the deeper parts of themselves. I invite you to watch my video below to hear more about it! Aside from the program, there are plenty of additional ways that these two elements can be fulfilled and I suggest exploring them.

Thank you for taking this time to reflect on this powerful time in a young person’s life.

May we support them in learning how to swim!

Sincerely,

Amara Dreamer


Founder / Instructor
Wildheart Nature School
wildheartnatureschool.com
503-680-9831

Helping Kids Avoid the Technology Addiction

Two kids walking and one jumping in the airHello and Joyous Summer!

Amara and I just returned from a most nourishing retreat in the rainforests of the Washington Coast, where we spent 10 days detached from our technology, contemplating life, and giving thanks for all our blessings (Wildheart families being a huge part of our many gratitudes!!!). We returned to a hot and dry Central Oregon reflecting on what it means to be in relationship with nature in so many different environments. What stood out to us was how deeply we had fallen into the trance of Mother Earth after only 10 days in a new environment. Both of us agreed that such a shift would not have happened were we to have had contact with our cell phones, computers, and all that comes along with those tools of society. Thus, we felt inspired to reach out and share some words of invitation.

Let’s be clear, as I’m sitting in front of my computer typing this message to you, I have no judgment or condemnation of our most beloved technology. It is a tool, and like any tool it can be used and it can be abused. In part, our intention, actions and mindset determine whether the outcome will have a positive or negative effect on our lives. If you are on a computer all day, or carry and use your cell phone everywhere, I honor and respect your choice to do so. For many of us, it is not possible to make a living without this constant companion. For the purpose of this blog, however, I would just like to invite you to examine your family’s habits and see if it is something you like, or something you may want to revise.

The best way to teach children about responsible use of technology is to be good role models ourselves. The warm weather makes it nearly irresistible to venture out into nature with our loved ones. These are prime opportunities to separate from our technology. While it is wise to have a phone in case of an emergency, a phone on airplane mode inside of a backpack is a great way to hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ note on your consciousness. It can be wonderful to have phone conversations with friends and family in nature, to look up plants or animals on the internet, snap a photo or two for social media, or get some work done in a natural setting. It is equally wonderful to simply say ’no’ to technology and ‘yes’ to nature. Disconnecting from tech in such a way has profound implications on your natural connection, and I promise you will feel better afterward.

If it feels right, I invite you to intentionally create an outing like this for you and/or your family, where phones are not allowed to be a part of the experience for the day (save an emergency, of course). Pick a beautiful place to go, bring the essentials to have an adventure with your family or alone, and turn the tech off until you return to your home. As a parent, your children are conscious of your behaviors and will emulate them in the long and short term. If you draw the line with yourself on technology limitations and show them you are not willing to use it, you will be leading by example. How many of us have ever actually turned our phones off when we go outside to visit? How often do we refrain from capturing that perfect Instagram/Facebook moment on our phones instead of being fully present with it in the moment?

This is an extremely simple and small invitation, but not all simple things are easy to do. Our hope is that you try it and see how it feels. If you like it, then you can incorporate this small behavior into your practice of being outside. If you do it once in a while, but not all the time, GREAT! Small steps are easier to accomplish than giant leaps. This can be a small step in releasing you and your family’s energetic dependence on cyber reality.  Should you feel the call to try this small gesture of commitment to your time outside this summer, I trust that it will ultimately lead to a greater depth of connection and experience to the world around you.

This same principle also serves to remind us about our dependence upon computers in the home. It is not the scope of our blog to get too much into the intricacies of technology usage in the house and life of families, but it is something we would like to bring awareness to, as it directly affects our willingness to disconnect when we are able (like hiking a trail). We recently listened to a wonderful podcast on the SoundsTrue Network with guest, Christopher Willard, called “Growing up Mindful.” It is a very insightful discussion on our technology behaviors as families and how we can shift those behaviors to be more connected with each other and the real world around us. If you are called to listen, we highly recommend it.

Some of Christopher’s suggestions to raise kids with healthy attitudes towards technology include:

  • Designating times of day when technology is being used and when it is not. For example, not turning on phones or computers until an hour after everyone wakes up in the morning and turning them off an hour before bedtime.
  • Not bringing technology into one’s bed at all as this can disrupt sleep, especially for teens.
  • Keeping phones concealed when they are not being used instead of laying them out on the table.
  • Choosing to leave the phone at home or on airplane mode for things like short walks, park outings, play dates, etc…
  • Doing a mindfulness practice with social media where you look at your feed and notice how you feel with each post you read. Studies show that we are happier when we look at our own posts because people tend to present the best of themselves on social media. When you look at other peoples’ feeds you may notice feelings of envy, jealousy, or judgement surfacing.

We hope this has found you feeling joy as the summer is just getting started, but we hope even more that you haven’t read your email for days because you are too busy being swept up by nature and disconnecting from the cyber sphere. :-)  Either way, no matter how it looks for you, get outside and have some journeys in this beautiful land we all share together.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, a few of our summer camps still have a few precious spaces open. Now is the time to jump in as we often fill by the time the camp arrives. If your desired camp is full, please sign up for the wait-list as cancellations and changes in family plans often happen. We are so excited for the biggest summer season in Wildheart history and can hardly wait to play in the summer sun with your kiddos!!!

We’ll see you soon,

Rainbow Dreamer

Legend of the Ice Queen

Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and it marks the time when the days will start getting longer. The earth sleeps this time of year in preparation for the new life of spring. Gather ’round as Dreamer shares, “Legend of the Ice Queen!” We invite you to bring this story to life in any way you please. Below we have also included a simple Winter Solstice Ritual to accompany the story.


Simple Winter Solstice Ritual
Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and it marks the time when the days will start getting longer. The earth sleeps this time of year in preparation for the new life of spring.

For this ritual you will need:

  • Pieces of paper approximately 3 X 3 inches and a pencil
  • Toothpicks
  • An abalone shell
  • Four candles
  • Lighter
  1. Light each one of the four candles to honor the four seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall.
  2. Write or draw what you want to gently nurture this season so that you can bring it to life fully in the spring and summer months. Examples could include balance, new friendships, abundance, and love. Make one or more per person.
  3. Pierce the paper with the toothpick and hold over the candle that represents winter.
  4. Quickly drop the toothpick and paper into the abalone shell.
  5. After everyone has done this, collect the ashes and sprinkle on a plant to fertilize it for the coming spring.
  6. Thank all of the seasons and blow out the four candles.

 

Mysterious Sighting on the Oregon Coast

There is nothing more frightening to humans than the unknown. The dry crack of a twig in a silent forest night is enough to send our mind racing for answers, our heart pounding for oxygen. Knowing that a predator was approaching would be preferable to remaining in the metaphorical dark, for at least we could formulate an intelligent reaction. We fear the unknown because it beckons us to consider the worst possible scenario, for our survival could depend upon it. Were our ancestors to have assumed that every sound in the night was a harmless mouse or a clumsy deer we may not have arrived at this point in our history.

The unknown is also the force of Nature that we most crave to experience.

How many people would visit the forest if we knew what birds we would see, which animals we would encounter, what plants we would find, or exactly which adventures awaited us? We may have a general idea of such things before we trek into the wilds but it is the potential for surprise which leads us to return. Our journeys into Nature are rewarding and dynamic because we never know what will meet us on the path. Our love of Nature comes from the very heart of its intimate relationship with the unknown.
At the beginning of November, I left on journey to recharge my spirits and venture into the unknown. I had no particular destination in mind, only an intention to follow my heart into the wilds and seek the silence and mystery of communing with the forest. The Cascade mountains held my attention at first, so I drove in that direction. Though I found the beauty and inspirational awe I was questing for, something compelled me to drive on. Before long I was cruising down the 101, basking in the radiance of the ocean landscape. It was clear to me that I needed to spend some time near the mother waters of Earth, and I continued south toward a favorite secret camping location. For some unexplainable reason, I didn’t consciously notice the zoo of parked cars along the highway, or the myriad of people holding up cell phones and taking selfies on the side of the narrow road. I was in a zone of contemplation, reflecting on the life giving powers of the sea. This meditation was rudely interrupted by a most disturbing sight.

To my right, just out of reach of the outgoing tide, was a giant lying on the beach.

I could only begin to grasp the enormity of this creature in reference to the many people standing near it on the sand. The cars parked haphazardly along the strained highway shoulder suddenly entered my awareness. I saw the people everywhere, crossing the road with expressions spanning the spectrums of confusion and horror, awe and intrigue. In moments, I joined this audience and slowly approached the leviathan resting dead on the shore. I was unprepared for what awaited me. Some experiences cannot be shared, no matter what attempts may be made to do so. Until one witnesses the vast expanses of the Grand Canyon with one’s own eyes, it cannot truly be understood in any appreciable sense. Similarly, until one stands before a blue whale, The Giant of giants, its magnificence cannot truly be grasped. To imagine that this creature before me was once alive, that there are more of them still living, was to push the limits of my perception of life. So many questions sped through my mind about the story of this being, about the possibility of such a story existing, and about the eventual death of this largest beast to have ever roamed the earth.
I sat on the beach for some time, staring at the beached blue whale and losing myself in a wave of inquiry. A man approached me and asked if he could sit. Together, we watched a most unusual sight of people flocking from their cars to take a picture of themselves standing near a giant mass of odorous flesh. Under any other circumstance, such a smell would drive most people as far away as possible, not the exact opposite, as we were witnessing. Without breaking his glance and in a tone usually reserved for confessional booths, the stranger sitting next to me said, “I’m not sure why, but I feel this horrible empathy for it. It’s probably just a mammal-to-mammal thing, ya know. Still, I can’t help but feel guilty. What have we done?”

His statement and question hit me deep in the gut. What had we done? Was this our fault? I couldn’t deny that I felt an unusual guilt staring at the creature before me. I also felt a sorrow so deep that it defied any rational explanation. Mammal-to-mammal empathy? I’ve seen many dead mammals lying on the side of the road and no one stops to look at them, if they even happen to notice. Sure, a dead raccoon or deer may be commonplace in the city, and a blue whale hasn’t been seen on the Oregon shores in over a hundred years, but there seemed to be something more here. There was an empathy. I felt it, too.

Seeing such a being in the flesh stirred an emotional well that somehow felt ancient; so ancient it was almost alien. I could not grasp where it came from or why it was there, but I felt so horribly sad and guilty and sorry that this being was dead. What have we done?

The stranger eventually disappeared into the crowd of people and cars, as I eventually would too. Locals later informed me that the skeleton of the whale of would be preserved and displayed in a museum. On my way home several days later, I saw this process in progress, as the skin and blubber had been filleted off the sides of the whale’s body to speed the decomposition process. I wondered if this skeletal display would have the same effect upon viewers as the sight of the creature with its flesh intact, rotting on the beach. Unlikely.

At the onset of this journey, I left the warmth of my little home to find a sense of peace and connection by venturing into the brisk expanses of Oregon’s wilds. During a moment of deep felt gratitude for the aliveness of this world, I was blasted with the truth of Death. In sitting with the sorrow that a Giant of the Sea evoked, I discovered a well of compassion that I didn’t know existed. I thought I was going to find the usual sense of excitement and adventure. I thought I would be filled with happiness and love for the outdoors. But I was surprised by the unknown that nature delivered. What I found was more nourishing than anything I could have predicted. It put me back in touch with myself, with the dark truths that I was avoiding.

In that moment, I was so grateful to be feeling sorrow, for what other emotion would be more appropriate?

When I arrived back home in Central Oregon, I tried to share my experience with family and friends. Yet, I noticed each time I told the story I felt a pang of uneasiness, as if I had robbed the truth of the experience by trying to explain the fullness of its impact upon me. How can you explain the awe of the Ocean to someone who has never been there? The excitement of your first snow to the uninitiated? In trying to do it, you must crystallize the raw power of your experience into mundane words that are wholly inadequate for the job. It ends up sounding and feeling different that you remember. Soon, the magic of the memory fades. This is the moment when seeking the unknown becomes a calling we can no longer ignore, because we crave the power of being surprised. Nature awaits us once again and we venture into the wilds to find our calling, whatever it may be. This time however, you are different because you have changed since your last journey into the unknown. You carry with you more information and depth, and are thus capable of receiving even greater gifts.

So, I implore you to seek out your own mystery in the outdoors. Venture into the snow and listen to the profound silence that so rarely accompanies us in our lives. Explore the rivers and waterways to find what surprises are there. Enter your excursions with an open mind, even if you have a particular intent for being outside. What you will find cannot be imagined, but your stories will inspire others to seek the same wildness. And then, maybe then, we can welcome the unending mysterious flow of life as it comes moment to moment from a place of fearlessness and gratitude.

Thank you for joining me on this journey to the ocean,
Sincerely,
Rainbow Dreamer

P. S. The next opportunity for children to join us in an adventure into the unpredictable wilds will be Winter Break Camp December 28th – 31st. Adults can join us for an all new Spring Class Series this April and May. Hope to see you soon!

Pachamama


Pachamama means “Mother Earth” or more accurately, “Mother World” in Quechua
Pachamama I’m coming home – Am, Em
Back to the place where I belong – D, D7, Am
Pachamama I’m coming home – Am, Em
Back to the place where I belong – D, D7, Am
I wanna be free, so free – Am, Em
Like a flower and a bee – D
Like a bird up in a tree – Am, Em
And a dolphin in the sea – D
I wanna fly high, so high – Am, Em
Like an eagle in the sky – D
And when my time has come – Am, Em
I’m gonna lie down and fly – D
Pachamama I’m coming home – Am, Em
Back to the place where I belong – D, D7, Am
Pachamama I’m coming home – Am, Em
Back to the place where I belong – D, D7, Am
I wanna be free, be me – Am, Em
Be the being that I see – D
Not to rise and not to fall – Am, Em
Being one and loving all – D
There is no high no low – Am, Em
There is no place else to go – D
Except inside a shining star – Am, Em
Telling you just who you are – D
Pachamama I’m coming home – Am Em
Back to the place where I belong – D D7 Am
Pachamama I’m coming home – Am Em
Back to the place where I belong – D D7 Am

Turning off Tumalo Falls

Photo of child sitting on rock along Tumalo Creek in Central OregonLife on earth cannot exist without water. Of all the strange and bizarre life forms that we have discovered, not one can live without its presence. Water is not only an essential element to life, it is also an element we share with every other living thing. This may not be mind blowing information but how often do we take this fact for granted? How often do we think about how our life in arid Central Oregon affects the living beings with whom we share our most precious resource? Have you ever wondered what this land looked like before irrigation and human population changed it? Do you often think about where the water in your faucet comes from when you need to quench your thirst? And what kind of earth future generations will inherit?

Kids playing near Tumalo Creek constructionOur thoughts are particularly open to water issues at this time as we have spent the last two summers running our programs at Skyliner Lodge, where a major water-related construction project is underway. As we did our camouflage games, hunted for faeries, and opened our senses it was clear that there was a major disturbance in “the force of the forest.” We would sing our songs of deep connection with Mother Earth over the loud and abrasive sounds of machinery digging up stones, manipulating the river’s flow, and laying down pavement. The kids understood that what was happening with the construction was not compatible with the ways we were encouraging them to interact with nature. Some of them even asked if the construction workers had asked nature for permission to do what they were doing.

A large portion of Bend’s city water comes from Tumalo Creek, a stream which flows water through the famed Tumalo Falls, beneath Skyliner Lodge, and through Shevlin Park. Several years ago, the city proposed a plan to utilize the flow of this creek for hydroelectric power. This plan called for a significantly larger amount of water to be taken from the creek than is now used for our city drinking water. Fortunately, opponents of the plan, namely LandWatch and WaterWatch (environmental groups located in Bend and Portland), forced the city to reconsider the impacts of such an action. Instead, the city decided to replace the current pipe that drains water from the Tumalo with a much larger one and build a larger more expensive water treatment plant along the creek. The cost of such a plan has been predicted to cost over $70 million (that is the most up to date estimate according to the Bend Bulletin; originally it was expected to be much less).

Construction along Skyliner RoadConstruction for this plan began without much public notice. With only a few days warning, it was announced that Skyliner Rd. would be under construction indefinitely until construction was complete. Again, LandWatch and WaterWatch moved in to oppose the action. A lawsuit was filed and construction was halted. Environmentalists claimed that the Forest Service, upon whose land the creek runs, did not fully analyze the impacts of the project to the health of the creek and ecosystem, which is required by federal law. The city claimed that they had properly applied for special permits and a comprehensive analysis was carried out by the Forest Service. Ultimately, the judge would agree with the city and allow construction to continue. LandWatch threatened to file an appeal the 9th District Federal Court, and now both groups are in mediation to settle the issue. At this point, however, the project is nearly complete.

In this debate, there are a few things that are noteworthy to consider. First, the new pipeline is significantly larger than the old one (critics also claimed the old pipe was not as crippled as made out to be). The city of Bend assures us that the same amount of water will be taken as before, which is true for now, at least. Before more water can be taken from the creek, a new analysis must be done to access the impacts. However, the forecasted future use of the pipe is clear: as Bend grows, it will need more water. Why else would they spend millions of dollars more than necessary for a pipe that is bigger than currently needed?

Construction on Tumalo Creek in Central OregonSecondly, the organization doing the analysis is the US Forest Service. They are also the ones issuing the permits to the city. In other words, the group making the money on special use permits is the same one in charge of determining the safety of such permits. That would be similar to putting Monsanto in charge of food safety guidelines. Though it is not the scope of this blog, the Forest Service has had some major debacles of judgment in the past. Many blame their timber management practices for our current problems with yearly forest fires. However, the judge officially stated on record that the Forest Service is allowed to be in charge of its own standards on ecosystem impact. The conflict of interest in this situation is clear.

Bridge across Tumalo Creek under constructionFinally, I found it most interesting that city representatives repeatedly stated that LandWatch’s goal was not to protect the creek, but rather to set a legal precedent regarding water usage. To make a complex legal issue simple (forgive us for not wanting to weigh you down with legal cases and history on the topic), the city now has a legal ‘right of way’ over a natural watershed’s secondary rights. Put another way, the city gets first dibs on water, the ecosystem gets second. Both are legally protected, but when push comes to shove, the city wins. However, city planners claimed that LandWatch’s ultimate goal was to reverse this relationship. Nature first, city second. Strangely, they made this claim in accusation. As if that was a bad thing. Where have we come as a people when Nature takes a secondary position to our needs? Need we be reminded that everything we have comes from Nature in the first place? How many lives of other beings have been ended in favor of human city growth?

At some point, we will need to face the challenges of human expansion and water usage. Here is a visual that might help you realize the eventual reality of taking water from Tumalo Creek: Imagine the river drying up before it reaches Tumalo Falls. Then which water system will we go after? How long before it, too, dries and becomes a vacant creek bed? How long before our children will not remember when Tumalo Creek once had water? One need look no further than the Southwestern United States to see that this is a reality for many communities. The attitude of our children toward water and conservation may be our only chance in reversing this alarming trend. Do you talk about water with your children? Here are three things that could help expand your family’s knowledge about water issues:

  1.      Visit dams and explore the impact of water table management
  2.      When fish die offs are being reported in the news, go investigate in person
  3.      Visit the river enough to notice the irregular and extreme fluctuations year round

Photo of Tumalo Creek ConstructionIt’s time we collectively begin thinking differently about water. The city of Bend spent 70 million tax dollars on a new pipeline so we could secure enough water for our community. What if that money was put toward rainwater catchment systems? Simple set-ups for rainwater collection can cost only a couple hundred dollars. More advanced systems, however, can range as high $10,000. For estimation purposes, let’s use a conservative figure of $5,000 for an average home to have an advanced water catchment system installed and operating. With the amount we spent on the controversial new pipeline project, we could have outfitted 14,000 Bend homes with rainwater collection systems. How much would that save us in the long run? How much less water would need to be taken from the river at that point?

This brings up a root issue, however, because the city would not likely subsidize rainwater catchment any time soon. Why? One of the main revenue sources for the city is charging for water. If people are collecting it from the air, the city isn’t making a profit from it. Instead, they spend tax money to collect river water, purify it, then pump it to us for a cost. The river is the one actually paying a price for this operation, as it has no say in the matter. The river’s caretaker and protector is the Forest Service, which incidentally charges cities for permits to take water. Nowhere in this equation is there motivation to come up with creative solutions, like rainwater collection, to our water usage problem.

All of us are caretakers of the land but some of us actually have a physical piece of Earth to call our own. What a privilege and responsibility! There are so many ways that we use water on a daily basis but we want to highlight one in particular for this blog. Most of us rely on water taken from the river to keep our gardens and lawns healthy, but did you know there are alternatives? First of all, choosing what plants are growing in your yard will play a big role in how much water you need to sustain them. Native plants to Central Oregon will need less water than plants native to moister regions. Lawns consume a large amount of water and there is a growing sentiment in some regions (i.e. Portland) that says “Food not Lawns!”

Rainy day Kids at SkylinerHowever, ripping up the lawn and replacing it with food is not always a realistic option, so at least there is rainwater catchment! There are three people in Bend we know who do landscaping specifically geared toward native and edible landscapes and rainwater collection. Their information is at the bottom of this blog. Did you know that if you were to simply collect the rainwater that falls on your property you would have more than enough to have a green and healthy lawn and garden? You may need some slight adjustments in landscaping but it is completely possible. There is an author named Brad Lancaster from Tuscon, Arizona who has a plethora of resources on shifting from water scarcity to water abundance all through simple landscaping techniques and rainwater collection systems.

The purpose of this blog is not to be depressing or accusatory but rather to encourage awareness of these issues and an ability to think outside the box. We will touch back on this topic of water in Central Oregon in future articles but for now we encourage you to pick at least one action item from this blog and do it. Most importantly, don’t do it alone; include a young person in the process so that they learn the importance of this as well.

Hobbit & Faerie CircleAlong the lines of awareness, we were asked by LandWatch to share a survey with you all about the recent plans to expand Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary. The proposed plan would greatly affect not only our water usage as a city, but also the riparian zones where the boundary will be expanded into, like Shevlin Park. If you are interested in being a part of this important discussion, please send your comments to brankin@bendoregon.gov and ask for your comments to be included in the public record.

May we learn to live in balance with the flowing waters that give life to this piece of Earth we call Central Oregon. May we let go of ignorance and greed and instead act from love and awareness. Let’s imagine the kind of earth we want to leave for our children and do everything in our power to create it.

With Love,

Dreamer and Amara

Resources

Sustainable and Creative Landscapers in Central Oregon:

Sundog Gardenworks LLC
Native & Edible Landscapes
Matthew Thoensen
sundoggardenworks@gmail.com
541-912-0496

Ephemeral Designs- Innovative Design Solutions
Rainwater Collection. Permaculture Garden Design. Creative Composting. Upcycled Material.
Chip Dixon
EphemeralDesignsBend@gmail.com
(603) 208-9287

Garden Specialist
Horticultural consulting, labor, and small scale design for residential and commercial clients specializing in perennials, native plants, wildlife gardens, cut flower gardens, specific color combinations, easy care/low maintenance, xeriscaping (low water use) and year-round interest gardens. I’m great at specialty pruning.
gardenspecialist@gmail.com

Resource for Rainwater Catchment and Water Abundance Landscaping:

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster

Send your comments on urban growth in Bend to:

brankin@bendoregon.gov

The Superpower You Didn’t Know You Had

Summer camps are completed for the year and Amara and I have a little time to relax, enjoy the beautiful space we call Central Oregon and reflect on all of the magical experiences we’ve had this dry (so very dry) season. One such reflection has been our focus this summer on the deeper aspects of nature awareness. Each week we spent a fair amount of time examining our own inner nature in the form of our ‘mind’s eye.’ As we’ve gotten several questions from parents about this topic, I thought it’d be wise to touch on the subject with a blog post.

Simply put, your mind’s eye is akin to your imagination. If this isn’t clear enough, follow along in this simple exercise: close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now, with your eyes closed, imagine yourself standing in a forest with a very large tree in front of you. Look up and see the branches of this tree way above your head. See the texture of the bark and examine if there is anything beneath the tree with you. Now take another deep breath and open your eyes. What did you see? Could you see the branches and the bark? If not, it’s okay. With practice you can. Most of you, however, were likely able to see a rather detailed scene, despite having your eyes closed. This muscle that allows you to ‘see’ such things is what we call the ‘mind’s eye.’ It is akin to a superpower because it is outside of the five senses that we normally use to obtain information from the world.

This may seem like fairly elementary stuff, but let me assure you, it is quite profound. For example, if you do the simple exercise above with 50 people in a room, every single one of those 50 people will see a different scene. They may see a different species from one another, a different shape of the same species, a different bark pattern, or something completely unique joining them below the tree. Whatever the case, every single version of the tree in the forest will be different. This is important for a couple reasons. Like a dream while we sleep, the content of the mind’s eye can be externally generated (the prompt in our exercise or daily events in a dream). A great deal of the experience is also arising spontaneously from the depths of our sub-conscious. Thus, by examining and using our mind’s eye we create a pathway to this normally inaccessible region of our nature. There are various avenues to analyzing this content, which isn’t within the scope of this blog, but it is valuable to note. (If you want a quick investigation into what may have been revealed, look up the species of tree you saw and see if its qualities match your character.)

Our mind’s eye is capable of creating unique results with the exact same input. That’s pretty amazing if we contemplate it. Enter a prompt into a computer and you will always get the same result. Even a random number generator will average the exact same outcome as a random generator next to it, despite the order presented. Yet, it would be quite unusual and significant if two humans arrived at the same exact tree within the same exact forest. The ability to think freely and creatively on the same topic is one of the elements that confirms our consciousness.

Beyond conjuring up dream like messages from our inner depths, our minds eye can also be trained to retrieve data that we never consciously took in. Spies, for instance, are trained to be able to access details that they have only seen in passing for a fleeting moment. The subconscious is constantly storing this information, like a hard drive, and can be called upon at our demand. Well trained spies need only look into the event with their mind’s eye and get an accurate picture of what happened.

It is also possible for the mind’s eye to tap into the collective consciousness. There are beyond numerous accounts of people knowing things about a place, time, incident, or person that they have never seen or known about. Have you ever heard a story about a person who woke up in the middle of the night and saw a relative in their head and knew they had just passed? Or a person who dreamed of a place only to go there and discover he/she somehow saw it correctly? There are thousands of these stories, probably a lot more. Amara herself has one such chilling story from when she was only a year and half old recounted by her mother at the very bottom of this blog.

The mind’s eye is a rarely utilized sense in today’s world. What if it was a muscle we developed, as it is a birthright of our nature? How far could we take this sense to perceive greater depths of reality? Ancient cultures and many indigenous cultures highly valued this skill and considered it essential to life. Why have we let it fade to mere imagination, which is often discouraged?

One way you can continue developing the mind’s eye with your kids is to make a game out of testing each other’s skills of observation. For instance, you can be walking down a road and all of the sudden say “Stop and close your eyes!” Then test the other person on the color of the car that you just walked by. Alternately, you can take several objects and arrange them on a napkin or bandanna. The other person only gets a short glimpse and then they must recreate the exact same pattern on another napkin or bandana. You can adapt this concept to many different places such as restaurants, in nature, while shopping, or even at home. Games like this not only develop the mind’s eye but encourage presence and alertness.

Because we have had so much interest in this topic from both kids and parents, we have decided to make it one of our primary focuses in our Sacred Arts 9-Month Program and our Wildheart Girls’ Empowerment Program starting both this September. The reason we are incorporating it into our 9-month programs is because, just like a muscle, the mind’s eye needs to be practiced on a regular basis for a substantial length of time in order to develop.

Our goal at Wildheart is to rekindle this inner flame of awareness in the youth. We want them to value the power of their mind’s eye, so we exercise it regularly with imagination games and activities. Unsurprisingly, they have little trouble getting into this world of internal visioning. I can only look forward to the day when they begin to teach me about the untapped power of this human sense. What a bright future that will be!

Thanks for reading and I hope to connect with you again soon,

Sincerely,

Dreamer

Rainbow Eagle Dreamer

Founder/Instructor

Wildheart Nature School

RELATED STORY FROM AMARA’S INFANCY

Recounted by Carolyn Morgan (Amara’s Mother)

Amara was born in March of 1988. About a year and a half later, a man named Buck Helm was traveling across a bridge in San Francisco on October 17, 1989 when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Northern California area. Buck, or “Bucky,” as he was referred to in news reports, was trapped in the bridge collapse for 4 days, and there was a frantic rescue effort going on to free him from his car before he died of lack of food/water. They were able to rescue Bucky but he was in critical condition.

Sometime the next month after the quake, Amara was taking a nap. I was in the bedroom at the same time when she suddenly awoke, sat bolt upright in her bed, opened her eyes, and said in a sweet and soft, toddler voice, “Bucky.” Her tone was one of recognition, sort of like she knew him, or “there you are, Bucky.”

Later that day, news reports announced that Buck “Bucky” Helms had died of complications from the earthquake. So, she could have overheard the news reports a month earlier mentioning Buck, but there’s no way a 1 1/2 year-old would keep that memory in mind for more than a minute (if that, since she didn’t know what it all meant). And she said, “Bucky” before the news reported his passing.

House Fire Erupts: Photo Op or Rescue Effort?

House Fire FlamesWe spend such a great deal of time navigating the challenges and demands of the 21st century that carving out the space to spend still moments in nature can seem like a most burdensome feat. There are the obvious obstacles like work, endless to-do lists, maintaining the house, feeding ourselves and our families, taking the kids to practice, picking the kids up, shopping for necessities, taking care of bills, and…well, we all get the point. Aside from the direct monopolizers of our attention, there is also the very real inconvenience of getting ourselves physically into a natural setting. For those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to live in a country home along a pristine forest with a stream running through it, we must spend more of our precious time traveling to get to nature (as Bendites, in all fairness, this isn’t an enormously difficult task, but it does still take time and energy of which we are already stretched thin). Even those who live in the forest with a stream out back may spend a majority of their time inside the house, catching up on the ever quickening pace of modern life. I don’t know about everyone else, but this can leave me feeling drained and guilty. Drained by stresses of keeping myself afloat, and guilty that I don’t have the energy to walk ten minutes to a park and sit in nature to rejuvenate myself (or at least take a conscious breath). It is easy to perceive a most unfortunate predicament of having to balance our contemporary needs to live in the 21st century with our more primitive needs of feeling connected to the natural world. In other words, how do we live in the city, and all that it entails, and still find time to interact with nature, which is essential for our well-being?

During the first day of our Beaver Builders summer camp, I asked our students a similar question: When did humans stop living in nature and stop building shelters out of natural materials? To my delight, they knew exactly where I was headed with this trap. They immediately chimed in, all at once, with assertions that we never stopped living in nature, and that everything we build is made of something from the earth, and thus ‘natural’ (which opened the discussion of which materials were sustainable vs. which ones were harmful). The days of being able to trick them that easily are over, it seems. But I wonder what the response would be if I asked that same question to adults. Would they take the bait? Do we really still live in nature? Surely, it is not a nature that our ancestors would recognize. Of course there are some trees, some animals, quite a few bugs, often a couple creeks or rivers, and some plants. There is nowhere near the abundance of these elements that ‘true’ nature has, though. And these things aren’t nearly as healthy as they are without the hordes of people, buildings, streets, cars, pollution, etc. So, from this angle, we really do still live in nature, albeit a grossly sick version of it.

edited planet earthWhy is this something that is important to understand? For one, it is a truer version of reality. As a species of this planet, we have yet to escape our confines upon it. So, everything we do here is done in the one natural place we all share. This understanding opens our eyes to an expanded awareness of our actions. Throwing away trash in the city garbage can is still littering somewhere in nature. Defining one area as ‘natural’ and another as ‘man-made’ gives a false impression of separateness. We are misled into believing that we are ‘leaving no trace’ when we pack our gas stoves into the back country and pack our trash and waste out. Our trace upon the mountain trail may be minimal, but somewhere else there are gaping holes in the earth where the gas was mined and the garbage is dumped. Those were once called ‘natural’ areas, too. And truthfully, they still are. Ugly, sick, abused natural places.

With this in heart, we can ask ourselves how we are taking care of our own little pocket of nature that we live in daily. Do you let native plants thrive in your yard? Do you have trees and plants that feed you and are good for the soil? Is there suitable habitat for animals and birds in your pocket of nature? In tending to our little piece of this whole, Amara and I have found a great deal of nourishment returned from our efforts. We spend time walking out behind our house and interacting with the plants, birds and animals. When the Evening Grosbeaks stop by during migration, we notice. When the Mariposa lilies bloom, we soak up their beauty, and even feast on their bulbs. When the deer stop showing up, we wonder why. We’ve come to love our little pocket of this city-nature, and have found ourselves feeling connected again without having to go anywhere (though we still love getting out, too). Perhaps this is a taste of what our collective ancestors felt in living without cities.

House fireAs a brief story of tying all of this together, I’d like to share about a recent scare that Amara and I experienced. Shortly after coming home from camp on Wednesday, July 8th, we were alerted to the fact that our neighboring quadplex was on fire. I was in the shower when I smelled the smoke and Amara was already banging on the door of the burning unit to see if anyone was inside. Dripping wet with only a pair of shorts on, I ran out back to see a horrifying sight: flames pouring out of the complex twenty feet from our own, having already consumed a back porch and much of the roof. Even more alarmingly, the fire was spreading quickly toward our unit and had already ignited our backyard hill full of grasses and junipers. I knew several calls had already been placed to the fire department, but I could not hear a single siren. Amara and I set to work with a garden hose and five gallon buckets, first dousing the flames close to our complex, and then making runs up the small butte to gain a foothold until the professionals showed up. As I was dumping bucket after bucket of water on the flaming junipers, grasses and sage brush, a man dressed in slacks and a button up shirt appeared on top of the hill. I was grateful to have his help and motioned toward a shovel I had brought on one of my water runs. That gratitude turned to disbelief when he shook his head and revealed a camera in his hand. He had walked all the way up there to take pictures. What boggled my mind even more was that he was the manager of the green space that was on fire. He wanted to take pictures of the fire that was burning the land he was in charge of. Fortunately, I was in an altered state of trying to protect my home and pocket of city-nature to give too much attention to this outrageous behavior.

Burned groundAfter some time, the fire department showed up and took care of business. I was eventually told to leave the still flaming hill by several police officers, just after being given the thumbs up by a fireman stomping the grasses (the fireman seemed thrilled to see a barefoot, shirtless citizen lugging water up a hill to put out the flames while his team was taking care of the house). I ignored the police and carried several more loads of water as they became increasingly annoyed that I wasn’t listening. Finally, they made it clear that I was violating a police order and I threw in the towel, so to speak. Most of the hill was contained at this point, and the forest service had just arrived to help out. In the end, our house was spared by the graces of the wind blowing gently away from us, our humble efforts with a garden hose and five gallon buckets, and the heroic efforts of the Bend Fire Department. Our little hill out back got scorched in places, but remained largely safe from the flames. The neighbor’s complex was not so lucky and will have to be entirely rebuilt. Luckily, no people or animals were seriously harmed.

Afterward, I lay awake late into the night, unable to sleep from the excitement of the evening’s events. I contemplated the reactions of all of the people in the area. One of our neighbors went into a pre-drilled fire evacuation and fled with all of their valuables. Another raced home to grab their dog. One just jumped into their car and left. Dozens of people lined the street and watched, even before the fire crew showed up. And then there was the camera wielding land manager. Why did Amara and I react the way we did? It occurred to me that fire is a force of nature, and that most people were entirely unsure how to react to it. How long ago was firefighting a community task that most citizens had at least an understanding of, if not experience with? How long ago did living require intimate knowledge of fire and how to be with it? How complete is our illusion of separateness from nature that we are unable to react to a natural disaster with anything but a snapshot on our phone? When some force of nature strikes our city lives, we ought to be painfully aware of our connectedness; viscerally cognizant of our inability to separate. Yet, as I saw on Wednesday night, many of us will just stand by and watch, wondering what caused the fire. Did Amara and my connection to the space we call home, as a city dwelling and as a natural space that deserves our love have anything to do with our reaction to save it? Does our work with fire on a regular basis give us a sense of capability in dealing with it that others less experienced lack? I don’t know.

Group of kids with fireI do know that as a community, we seemed wholly unprepared to face a fire that, despite our fancy technology and modern safe guards, is a continual reality of life in the city-nature. I’m not talking about the fire department. Without them, who knows how much of Bend would have burned to the ground. I’m talking about the rest of the people who live in this city-nature. What if we understood the responsibilities, as a whole people, of living in a city that is nature. How would we function differently? Not just in the face of natural disaster, but in every realm of living. I can only imagine the answer, and this is something I do often. Perhaps it is time that I invite others to do the same.

With the prevalence of technology in our everyday lives, it is important to have a solid grounding in physical reality. Interacting with the world through a camera lens has its limitations, especially in emergencies. I hope that teaching children how to safely and skillfully interact with natural elements such as fire will encourage them to take responsibility for the health and protection of the city-nature they call home.

Thank you for taking the time to explore this matter of great importance and I hope to connect with you soon,

Sincerely,

Rainbow Eagle Dreamer

Finding Home in Nature

Dear Friends,

Have you ever had a peak experience in life only to find the excitement and the inspiration fade over time? A few days ago, Angela Morrill from Camp Fire asked me a really potent question about finding connection with nature on a daily basis. This is a vast topic and I talk about one helpful practice in this video.

Tools for integrating powerful experiences will be a primary focus in our Wildheart Girls’ Empowerment program for ages 10 – 13 this coming school year. Please help us spread the word about this brand new offering through sharing with friends in person or on social media.

Thanks for watching!

Sincerely,

Amara

Fun Easter Egg Hunt with a Twist

Dear Friends,

It’s almost Easter! I remember Easter being one of my favorite holidays as a kid. I would wake up to an overflowing basket of candy next to my bed, decorated with ribbons and smelling like chocolate. Immediately following, I would get straight to the hunt. Eggs had been hidden all around the house and outside in the front and backyard and my challenge was to find them ALL. After this, I would indulge in a scrumptious breakfast of eggs, bacon, orange juice, and cinnamon rolls. This tradition lasted until I was about 9 at which time I still appreciated an Easter Basket, but wasn’t excited to do the egg hunt.

In our Otter Clan Homeschool class this past Tuesday, we recreated the idea of an egg hunt but added a couple challenging components that made it a blast for the kids ages 8 – 11. The first was using essential oils and the second was using maps. Below I have outlined the activity in a few easy steps and have included a couple variations. It’s also great to adapt this activity for birthday parties any time of year.

How-To

Overview

In this activity, two teams are given a set of one to five eggs (eggs can also be replaced with round stones if you don’t have eggs or are doing it at another time of year) and a boundary in which to hide them. A different essential oil is drizzled on each egg. After each team hides their eggs, they draw maps (using the four cardinal directions as a guide) and they label where the eggs are hidden on the map. Each team then trades their maps and searches for the eggs. Alternately, you can be the only hider and draw the map for your child. Once they find them they must place the eggs in front of the matching essential oil.

eggSetting the stage

Get the kids excited about the idea of creating a treasure map and searching for treasure. Ask them if they are ready to put their skills to the test and see if they can successfully hide their treasure, draw their map, and find the other team’s treasure.

Treasure

Prepare the eggs by applying one or two drops of essential oil onto them. Handle the essential oils yourself so that the children do not apply them directly to their skin. Advise kids not to touch the surface where the essential oils were applied or wrap them in a cloth so the children do not get the oils directly on their skin. You can also dilute the oils using a non-scented oil such as sunflower or safflower. If using stones and hiding them outside, be sure to wrap a piece of string or yarn around them to make it clear they are treasures.

Maps

Orient the kids to the four directions. Depending on their level of experience, you may offer them compasses to help them navigate and create their maps. Help them draw a basic map of their surroundings before you set them loose to hide their eggs and label them on the map. Hide a treasure with the entire group and show them where you would label it on the map to give them an idea of how to think in terms of two dimensional navigation.

During the Activity

Make sure the boundaries of the two teams do not overlap and provide sufficient privacy from the opposing team. The eggs should be in plain view of someone walking by the area, so make sure teams do not hide eggs completely. Keep an eye on both teams during the activity to make sure they are labeling accurately on their maps.

Grand Finale

At the end of the activity, teams trade maps and search for the treasure. Once they find each egg they must bring it to where the essential oils are lined up. They then place the egg in front of the essential oil they believe is a match. Once all the eggs are found and placed in front of the oils, each team checks to see if the other team got the eggs in the right order. It is not a game to determine which team gets more right or wrong; the goal of the activity is to engage the sense of smell as a direct route to important information.

essential oilsReflections

This well-rounded game combines the excitement for Easter, the thrill of a treasure hunt, teamwork, and the therapeutic properties of essential oils into one fluid process. Hiding and seeking is a natural urge in children; it’s an evolutionary throwback to our ancestral need for hunting and gathering as a means of survival. Adding the component of the map takes it a step further and challenges them to develop their spatial awareness and map drawing skills. It also attunes them to the four directions which is an essential component of navigation.

This game encourages cooperation and working as a team. Kids get excited to revel in the knowledge of their secret treasure locations. Bonding occurs naturally.

Using essential oils is one of my favorite things to do in outdoor activities. Each scent has a different effect on the mind and mood of people, particularly children. Always check with parents to see if kids have allergies to particular oils. For instance, despite it’s amazing health benefits, tee tree oil is known to cause allergic reactions in a high percentage of the population. In this activity, kids are not supposed to apply essential oils directly onto their skin, but rather smell them on the egg. The aromas not only have a therapeutic effect on the participants, they also challenge the kids to exercise a sense that otherwise does not get much conscious attention. Exercising the senses in this way gets kids playfully engaged with the surrounding world and can bring them into a heightened state of presence.

We hope you enjoy this activity and please tell us how it goes!

Hope to connect soon,

Amara

Epic Adventure in Peru

Amara sitting at ancient door in PeruDear Friends and Families,
As many of you know, we have been in Peru for the last few weeks, celebrating life, making many ceremonies and filling up our souls with the amazing magic of the Andes. It was a most spectacular journey and we are feeling so blessed that we can return home to this beautiful land we call Central Oregon. Truly, we’ve come from one paradise back to another!

We have so many stories to share and we actually spent most of the journey home recapitulating our time in Peru, officially making it our longest ever ‘story of the day.’ One stood out, however, as perhaps the most pertinent for our Wildheart work. This was because we were placed in a situation that forced us to practice what we teach: Emergency Survival.

Monument to Humanity 2It all began with our sincere desire to visit one of the strangest places in Peru. It is a destination that many attempt to reach, but many also miss due to random happen stance or seemingly bizarre interference from the universe. With all of the allure and intrigue surrounding this place, we had hoped, if not expected, at least some adversity to meet us. And meet us it did.

The initial travel by taxi and bus to get to a small town near the site was nothing outside of ordinary travel for Peru: everybody tells you a different bus schedule, anyone is willing to take you themselves for the right price, and somehow you end up where you want to be. We slept in the small town for the night, and woke up early in the morning to meet our porters (two donkeys) to take us up the mountain. As a bit of background, we traveled from sea level to over 11,000 feet in less than 6 hours, and still had to climb another several thousand by foot to get to the top of the mountain. Put another way, it felt like we were missing a lung and a half, the air was so thin.

Walking up the mountainThis is when things started to get weird. Despite arranging it the previous night, we were informed in the morning that there were no donkeys to take our stuff. This was terribly unfortunate, as we had not packed light, knowing this was the only few days of our trip that we’d be camping. After a bit of hustle by the towns folk, a lady who must have been in her 80s came down the road with one donkey. We packed what we could on the four legged friend and carried the rest on our backs, which totaled about 60lbs for me and two heavy day packs for Amara. Despite her age, the woman was some kind of freak of nature and was seemingly unaware of the reality of inclines and slopes. She maintained a grueling pace up the mountain and refused to rest or wait for the lagging gringos (white people) behind her, save one time to talk to a passing acquaintance and another to go to the bathroom. Occasionally she would glance behind at us and mutter something in quechua, then turn without emotion and keep walking. Hours and hours later, I felt my body cursing me and threatening to vomit my lungs out my mouth if I didn’t stop (this was not a thought, but a feeling. Conscious thought had long been abandoned, as it required far too much energy to maintain). By some miracle, we reached our destination at the top and collapsed in relief. Our painfully fit grandma unloaded the donkey and said she’d be back in four days to get us, at 7 in the morning, no less. She disappeared in a matter of seconds and we were alone on the top a mountain in Nowhere, Peru.

SunsetWith no food in our systems (we didn’t have time to eat that morning) I quickly began preparing some rice and canned fish, ignoring the onslaught of bodily pain that was tightening its grip on my awareness. And this is when it all came apart. As Amara was setting up camp and I was helping make the area look nice, she noticed our stove was melting. I rushed over to investigate and tried to turn it off which ended it the gas can exploding gas everywhere (thankfully, I had the sense to snuff the flame out first). Amara and I ran for it and managed to escape the flying can of gas without harming ourselves. Our largest gas can was totally done. On the plus side, we had a second smaller can and another stove. Lucky us! Unluckily, however, that one malfunctioned immediately and we replayed the exploding scene over again. Super bummer, as I like to say.

Now we were way up on a mountain, all alone for four days, with only a little fruit, a couple cans of fish, raw green beans, two plantains, and tons of uncooked rice. Effectively, we had enough food to make it through two or three meals without fire to cook, and then we are looking at eating raw rice and raw plantain. Yuck.

Dreamer at SunsetSo, we went through our options. It was just like during class when we do our survival days. We played out every scenario we could think of: hiking down the next day and calling it a wash (hopefully taking the right turns in the trail on the way down and not getting lost), rationing our food and fasting for much of the time but still enjoying the heck out of our location, eating raw rice and seeing how it went, etc. I then spent several hours trying to make a makeshift rocket stove out of some cans I found laying around and some extra foil we had. It was very hopeful and lifted our spirits, but in the end, the rain, fog, wet sticks and wind dampened any attempts at the stove functioning correctly. We finally munched on some fruit and fish and hit the sack. I might mention here that the sunset this night was perhaps the most incredible I have ever seen.

CookingWe finally settled on a plan of rationing our food and staying the course, as we both knew we wouldn’t starve in the four days, and fire was still a possibility with predictable sunshine in the early mornings. We slept in late the next morning, more out of necessity for life after the previous day, rather than laziness. Fire didn’t happen that morning as the rain and fog moved in early. We did collect sticks and placed them in our shelter, to at least give them a chance to shed a little moisture during the day. I also took to splitting the larger pieces with our kitchen knife, as it was the only sharp thing we had to split wood and larger pieces didn’t stand a chance of burning in this foggy, wet climate. On the third day, I got up very early and put every prayer and hope I had into getting a healthy fire going. After several failed attempts, I gave it one last shot. The flame took, and kept going with plenty of encouragement. After half an hour, I had some decent coals and was able to cook rice, green beans, and plantains before the fog rolled in. It was one of the best meals I can remember in a long time! We ate this for the rest of our meals, which were only a few, but it was a blessing that we did not take for granted.

SunburnOur porter did indeed arrive at 7 in the morning on the fourth day and she mercilessly herded us down the mountain and into town with only one break to go pee. At this point, all we could do was laugh, and cry a little because our faces and hands had third degree sunburns. In all of our blissed out survival doings we didn’t realize that sun penetrates fog with a fiery vengeance that is exponentially aggravated by elevation. So we burned. Badly. So badly, in fact, that Amara’s lips swelled to super model status and she couldn’t smile. My lips were bleeding so we covered our faces in a healthy layer of zinc-oxide and together we laugh-cried our way down the mountain, looking like sad, swollen ghosts. Somehow, it was still one of the greatest memories we’ve ever created. That’s Peru, for ya! So the moral of the story is that unexpected things can happen in nature and it’s good to have some knowledge to make informed decisions when they do happen. Another moral of the story is that challenging situations in nature build character and make great stories.

We are feeling refreshed and very excited for everything coming up this spring. We hope to see you at one of our next events. Thank you for reading about our epic adventure and there will be more stories to come, we promise.

Sincerely,

Dreamer and Amara

 

3 Upcoming Adult Workshops

Skills WorkshopsHappy 2015!

What a year it has been! Dreamer and I just completed our Winter Break Camp out at Skyliner Lodge and it was really fun. In fact, we have been having a lot of fun this year and it’s looking like there is an abundance more to come in the next.

We love teaching earth skills because they are so empowering. In our modern culture, we have become so accustomed to finding what we need in stores and online that we often overlook our fundamental connection with the earth. We often support large companies that use plastics and artificial materials that have a negative impact on our planet. In practicing primitive skills we are interacting directly with the natural elements and in the process we are activating an ancient understanding of who we are and where we fit in the grand scheme of things. We have now taken the power back into our own hands. And we no longer overlook the earth that gives us everything we have to eat, breathe, create, and walk our human walk.

As promised, we will be teaching three new primitive arts workshops for adults this winter. The first is the Rattle Making and Song Workshop that will be happening this Sunday at the HarmonyHouse in Sisters! There is still room to sign up – the cut off is noon in Saturday. In February Dreamer will be teaching a Knife Making Workshop and in March we will be teaching a Knotless Netting Water Bottle Carrier Making Workshop. There are plenty of classes coming up for kids as well! We have Homeschool Classes, No School Days, Spring Break Camp, Bow Making, Drum Making, Mommy & Me Classes, and Summer Camps all up on the website.

Dreamer and I are so excited for this new year and we wish you the very best with yours.

Sincerely,
Amara

WILDHEART IS ON FIRE!

Fire CollageHello Central Oregon Families,

This fall has been a lightning storm of activity and growth for me, and with this recent snow on the ground begging us to listen to the still quiet of winter, I thought I’d take a moment to slow down and check in with you all.

As many of you already know, I spent two weeks in September and October attending primitive skills gatherings in Idaho and Washington. Both of them were spectacular and changed me in ways I could have never imagined. It would be rather difficult for me to recap all of the heart opening experiences I had, and to even boil it down to highlights seems quite daunting. Thus, I will share with you some of the more relevant topics to our near-future work with Wildheart, and I will encourage any of you to speak with me in person if you want to hear more or are perhaps interested in attending a primitive gathering, yourself.

First off, I’d like to sing from the top of lungs, WILDHEART IS ON FIRE!! Don’t panic, this was sung in a sweet melodic tenor voice of joy, though perhaps I could have said that Wildheart now has fire. One of the most magical experiences of my journey was learning the practice of friction fire. I intentionally used the word practice rather than skill, as making a friction fire is a continual road of learning and humility. My first fire with a bow drill was a breeze; everything went quite smoothly and gave me the false impression that I’d acquired the knack for this through some blessed genetic ancestry. I even went home and did it a couple of times to make sure it was still possible. Then, the first time I try and make a fire for our students (with eager eyes watching and anticipating my grand build-up) everything hits the fan. My spindle popped about seven times (this is bad) and the first two attempts produced a lot of smoke, but no coal. Finally, I humbled myself and asked the Fire Beings to take pity on me. Eventually, the coal manifested and we were in business. Since this time, I have been completely unable to predict what will happen. Sometimes the fire shows up like it was waiting for an excuse to join the party, others it arrives like a reluctant guest that didn’t even receive an official invite (if it arrives at all). I just do my job and watch what unfolds with as much suspense as my audience. Despite all of this, I’ve seen that friction fire is possible and I’m committed to practicing this art, which means I’m super excited to share this with our students in more than just demonstrations. My dream is to get all of our students (those who are old enough, anyway) to be making fire by friction. It is sure to be in our curriculum for future classes, so stay tuned.

Equally as inspiring as making fire with sticks was seeing children running around with bows as if it were a natural right of every human to wield a projectile weapon. Now, I’m not saying I think every child should be shooting a bow willy-nilly whenever they want, and that was precisely what I found to be most impressive. Not only did most of the kids have bows at these gatherings, but they knew how to use them responsibly. They all followed the rules with their bows and no one got hurt. Parents could be at ease, and kids got to use their bows on the target range. What a brilliant concept! Through talking with a couple of kids bow teachers, I learned about a fantastically functional material for making bows that is also cost efficient. This inspired me to get my act together and put a bow class on our calendar, where children can walk away with a hand made bow and the knowledge of how to use it responsibly. Again, stay tuned for the announcement of this class, as we expect it to fill quickly.

skin Most of you know that I am a tanner by trade. What you may not have known is that one of my greatest failures as a leather tanner was my inability to bark tan a single piece of skin. For any of you who are wondering, bark tanning is a technique of making leather using tree bark and oil. I tried many times to make it work with absolutely no success (I pretended like one of my fish skins turned out okay, but in my heart I knew it was a joke, which is perhaps why I eventually threw it into the river so that it could ‘return to it’s family.’) Unexpectedly, as teachers are far and few between, one of the classes offered at Saskatoon Circle was on bark tanning. Throughout the week, I participated in the class and successfully tanned a Dog Salmon skin. I have since been going to town with bark tanning and producing beautiful fish, deer, rock chuck, and sheep leather (all of which I acquire from ‘unwanted’ leftovers). It is quite the art and I hope to have some awesome belts, hatbands and wallets made from this unique leather this coming spring. This was, perhaps, my biggest geek-out moment of my Fall journeys, as I’ve been a closet bark tan failure for so long.

Finally, as I know this newsletter is getting outrageously long, I’d like to share that I’m inspired to open the door at Wildheart to older age groups through, initially, workshop type classes. For adults, and young adults, there will be several offerings this spring, starting with a knife and sheath workshop. I’ve been passionate about these types of DIY primitive projects for some time and I finally feel confidant enough to share them with the greater community.

There is so much more to share and it will have to be in another letter or in a face to face meeting. Enjoy the silence of this snow blessing and I encourage you all to spend some moments truly hearing what is perhaps the quietest time in our neck of the world.

Many thank you’s to all your wonderful families and I hope to see you soon!

Dreamer

Ancient Practice of Gifting the Earth

Despacho CeremonyDear Friends,

As some of you already know, Dreamer and I have a passion for travel and one of our favorite places on the planet is Peru. There is such rich cultural history there and many people still live very close to the earth. Driving through the country side, almost every hill or mountain you pass has patches of crops growing. The Q’ero peoples are the descendents of the Inca civilization that thrived from approximately 1438 – 1533 and they still live in the Andes.

As we gear up for the start of our Sacred Arts Circles, we wanted to share with you what we will be doing on the first day. There is a very special ceremony they perform called the Despacho that Dreamer and I have had the privilege to not only witness but also to learn how to perform.

The Despacho ceremony is a beautiful tradition of giving back to the Apus (mountains), the Earth, the stars, and the waters. By creating a bundle with many different offerings, we are showing our gratitude and appreciation for what we have been given in our lives.

We are cultivating reciprocity with the elements and the earth. We are also attuning to the love (munay) that exists between all things in existence. What we have found in doing a modified version of this ceremony with children from this culture is that it brings them into a place of excitement, contentment, and creativity. They love adding the different layers onto the bundle and they are excited to have the chance to make a gift for the earth. This experience can help us all focus on the overflowing happiness and abundance in life, resulting in a feeling of true peace. We have a couple more spaces in our Sacred Arts Class series. We hope you can join us for the Despacho and the many other powerful activities we will be sharing in the coming months. If you are interested in taking part in a Despacho ceremony feel free to contact us.

Hope you are soaking up the wonderful warmth that we are still experiencing outside!

Sincerely,

Amara

Sneak Peak at Brand New Upcoming Skills Classes

DreamerMakingBowHello Central Oregon Families,

As the summer begins winding down and we all begin stepping back into our Fall routines, I would like to send my dearest gratitude for supporting us and your children in having a most awesome of summers! So much has happened here at Wildheart over the course of the season, and as Fall approaches, I’d like to celebrate in a traditional manner by reflecting on, and giving thanks for, all of the abundance that’s been cultivated over the summer months.

As many of you who joined us for this year’s summer camps know, we had very full and exciting adventures! We built enough faerie houses to fill a small park, learned how to camouflage ourselves and disappear into the forest, created an army of nature wizards and magicians, mixed natural potions, and built a shelter paradise, to name a few. On top of that, Wildheart was featured in the Bend Bulletin and made a stage appearance at the Summer Fest. Whew! I send a deep and heart felt ‘thank you’ to all of you who participated and supported us in this most wonderful time.

During all of this, unbeknownst to many, I was also undergoing a deep transformation in my journey with the ways of primitive skills. Back in the beginning of June I attended a small gathering of primitive bowyers, with the intent of making my very first bow. I stepped into this experience, as many of your children have in our programs, completely new to the field. I had never shot a bow, knew nothing about archery, and was terrified to embarrass myself in front of ‘experts.’ Yet, I knew in the core of my being that I had to go. In typical fashion, I was waiting for the instructors to show up on the grounds at 5 a.m., as I was told to be there early if I wanted to finish my bow over the course of the weekend. A groggy older man by the name of Buffalo greeted me and said everyone was still sleeping, though they’d be up soon. As I waited, I told myself that this was a one time deal. I’d made it there, despite my best efforts to talk myself out of it, and had already made a fool of myself by being an overly-early bird. After all, the last thing I needed was another primitive skills hobby that takes up more of my free time than I already dedicate to leather tanning, clothing making, wild crafting, tracking and many more. I was there to make one bow that I could shoot and that was it. In fact, I even told this to the experienced bowyers who patiently guided me through the magical process of turning wood into bows. All of them smiled, a bit nostalgically, and said, “Sure, sure. I remember saying that, too.” The weekend turned out to be truly life changing, and though I can’t say that I didn’t embarrass myself many times (i.e. I put my string nocks in backwards because I was too excited to ask or think that they should be a particular direction), I can say that I will be back next year. It made me appreciate what some of our students go through in coming to our program for the first time: not knowing what to expect, and in the end coming out transformed, empowered, and with many new friends.

In an attempt to break myself and temper any future endeavors in the art of bow making, I purposely chose an extremely difficult wood to work, Osage Orange. It is the King of bow woods, and you have to earn its performance as a bow via time and labor. I didn’t finish my bow in the course of the three day weekend, even with my daily 5 a.m. arrivals (I worked while everyone slept the last two mornings). I did, however, make some wonderful new friends who helped me finish over the summer. They all laughed as I signed up for another bow making workshop shortly after the first. Carson Brown, with Echo Archery, was the instructor and I highly recommend him to any who are interested in learning about primitive archery. It was another magical weekend that opened me more than the first.

All in all, I finished two bows this summer, one made from Osage Orange, and the other made from Pacific Yew. On a deeper level, I was opened to the joy and beauty of community. Being around like minded individuals was so inspiring and powerful for my soul. I fell in love, all over again, with primitive skills and natural technologies. Through my conversations with Carson, I decided that it was time for me to begin opening my horizons to the greater primitive skills community. Up until this point, I have had some amazingly gifted and wonderful teachers in the ways of earth skills. I have also taken a hard and trying road of teaching myself many of my crafts, such as leather tanning and moccasin making. I now remember the enormous value in being a humble student and surrounding myself with many teachers and peers. Thus, this fall, I will be attending two amazing primitive skills gatherings, Rabbitstick and Saskatoon. Both of these take place during September and I will not be able to teach class during those weeks. However, we have some awesome and experienced instructors filling in for me, and what I will be returning with will open our program to even greater depths. I am so excited that I can barely sleep some nights! I have visions of friction fire and archery classes this Spring, so please stay tuned.

With all of this expansive energy filling my life, I would like to again thank all of the families who have trusted us to bring their children into the woods and allow us to do the work that feeds our hearts. With that, I encourage you to take advantage of the ‘Forgotten Month of Summer’ that is upon us. Give gratitude for what has blessed you this Summer, and reap the magic of what harvests you have made in your life.

I can’t wait to see you all soon!

Dreamer

Kids Performing on Stage at Summerfest!

10553625_750386305025126_2153895307675825727_nThis last Friday at Hobbit and Faerie Hunter Camp we had a very special guest join us. Max Ribner from Max Ribner Band and Youth Music Empowerment met us at Shevlin Park for a song and sharing circle. He taught us about two part, four part, and eight part beats, tuning into our inner truth, and voicing our beliefs to the world. Later that evening he invited our students to join him on the jazz stage at Summerfest in downtown Bend. What happened onstage was truly touching, inspiring, and magical. We are very thankful for Max and the way he empowers the youth!