Category Archives: Thought-Provoking Contemplations

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

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!

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