News & Updates
On Sep. 12th I guided a half-day Nature and Creativity Retreat which was a beautiful collaboration among TEALarbor stories, Bloedel Reserve, and Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network. It was the third offering in a series (see the Sep. 10th events summary below) and participants could choose to register for one, two, or all three events. We spent the afternoon in a reverie of connecting with the land, creating, being nourished by poetry, sharing, chocolate and tea, and seeking insights from the more-than-human beings and landscape of the Reserve. There was ample space for everyone to pursue their respective creative projects (which they brought with them), as well as to support one another in pursuit of the inner/outer landscape connection. When the rain began to fall early in the afternoon, retreatants continued in their outside activities; they told me later how nourishing it was for their wellbeing and that they wouldn't have swapped it out for a sunny day. In our closing circle, retreatants expressed strong interest in doing this retreat on a monthly or quarterly basis. I was deeply gratified by these retreatants' capacity to find soothing inspiration, deep insight, and forward momentum on their individual visual arts and writing projects.
For our Sep. 12th session of Cultivating Belonging to Transform Conflict we had a mini gathering with service providers within supportive housing in the Bay Area. We did a simple check in, got grounded via guided meditation, shared where we are with work, and set a tone of self-care, wellbeing, and peacefulness for the upcoming week and month.
On Sep. 10th I had the beautiful experience of guiding two workshops in collaboration with BARN on the exquisite grounds of Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre forest garden where I spend a lot of free time grounding and relaxing. The morning workshop was focused on nature-inspired writing, the afternoon on landscape collage. The workshops included guided experiences on the Reserve grounds to gain inspiration for creative pursuit. Using TEALarbor stories' signature practices and processes (rooted in Spiritual Ecology, overcoming creative blocks, and inner/outer landscape exploration), participants had an opportunity to engage their work and play through new perspectives. The writing workshop offered information about and experiences of the nature/creativity connection, how to incorporate these practices into writing projects (regardless of genre), and how to use nature-based inspiration in service to our inner life as well. The collage workshop offered some basics of landscape collage-making, an opportunity to connect outside with the natural landscape for inspiration, and a vast stretch of time for participants to create their own collage inspired by photos they took during guided time on the Reserve property. Participants at both workshops fully immersed themselves in the creative as well as land-based activities. What a lovely opportunity we all had to connect to one another and to the more-than-humans who held such beautiful space for us all day!
The Compassionate Spiritual Ecology course that I've created and taught twice over the past year for the Charter for Compassion's Education Institute has just become available on-demand and people are already enrolling! I'm thrilled to be offering this through my upgraded online course platform. It is one of the prerequisites for the new Spiritual Ecology Training mentorship program. Please check it out here.
On Aug. 31st I made a presentation about nature altars to a group of Sufi practitioners. A student from my Compassionate Spiritual Ecology course asked me to talk about nature altars (one of the many topics in the course I created and teach) to her group of pilot program participants. They're focused on empathy for Earth and all beings impacted by climate change and the ecological crisis. Their session's theme was "Prayer and Sacred Ritual." It was an honor to offer this piece of my work to my student's spiritual community, who graciously engaged the slide show, topics, and practice I offered.
The week of Aug. 14th - 18th, I attended the 2023 Parliament of the World's Religions, and presented The Interconnection of Rights: Humans and the Environment in Sacred Relationship in Chicago. My workshop focused on how humans and the natural environment are bound to one another for survival, with the rights of both interdependent upon the other. In this interactive program, I guided participants through auditory and visual meditations, various activities, Q & A, sharing, and discussion. (This nonsectarian offering was intended to support people of all faiths in finding and deepening their own relationship to self, nature, and others through peaceable, interdisciplinary practices that they created consistent with their specific beliefs.) I met some very beautiful people from many countries following a huge diversity of faith traditions. At this global interfaith gathering I also attended an array of workshops, plenary talks, performances, a women's water ceremony (to which we all contributed water we'd brought from our home geographies), walked indoor and outdoor labyrinths, and more. Highlights included: the Sikh offering of langar (a free and delicious lunch served every day of the gathering); meeting colleagues and friends from all over the world with whom I will collaborate on future projects; grappling with issues of justice, climate change, climate refugees, peace building, water rights; sacred ceremonies for the more-than-human world; a very moving and sacred whirling dervish performance; and serendipitous meetings with like-hearted folks I've encountered in other places online and was finally able to meet in person. I can't wait for the next Parliament!
August's Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Conversation was a very compelling one as we discussed how we each regard natural resources in our creative and spiritual lives. Some participants have been joining these discussions since their inception in 2020 and it often feels like a "coming home" to sit in depthful, engaged, ongoing conversation with this global community. In October we hope to talk about permission-seeking in the more-than-human world.
We held our second Cultivating Belonging to Transform Conflict session on August 8th. Our focus was belonging and container building and I did a focused piece on how the ecological concept of niche relates directly to how we can more effectively and peaceably engage our work in the world. It is gratifying to hear how the participants in this training series are translating the ideas we present into actionable transformations in their daily lives.
During the week of Jul. 31st - Aug. 4th, I facilitated TEALarbor stories Annual Retreat. It was such a full experience of creative pursuit, guided exploration of the wilds outside our homes, and depth of spiritual insights. Our time was filled with painting, various types of writing, collage, poetry and quotations, meditation, walking and sitting on the land, nature altars, and more. The activities culminated in a bookmaking project to capture the themes of the week. I am continually heartened by the myriad ways in which a retreatant is able to connect inner and outer experiences, feel their oneness with the web of all living beings, and somehow transform these into visual beauty and a more whole engagement with everyday life. It is an honor and pleasure to bear witness to this process and to offer ways that folks can more readily receive and respond to the bountiful messages that Earth and more-than-humans have to offer.
Join us if you have been craving restorative retreat time. With nurturing guidance, practical suggestions, and the intimacy of a group with shared interests, move forward with your creative ideas. Whether you’re a writer, artist, dreamer, or beauty-lover, this retreat will hold you as you ease into your fertile edges. No project is too small or too large for this retreat. Alternatively, if you just want to be nourished by the retreat activities (rather than pursuing a specific project), you are very welcome to join us. Learn more.
Hooray! My photo Finch Fledgling was just published (July 2023) on the EarthSky site. (Click the photo title to read the story.)
On Jul. 11th we convened our first Cultivating Belonging to Transform Conflict training session for service providers within supportive housing in the Bay Area. The wonderful participants were engaged with, interactive, and receptive to this body of work. This month we focused on mindfulness and wellbeing with a strong focus on practices (creative, nature-based, self-care) that are foundational to maintaining equilibrium in situations that are stressful and/or conflictual. The three of us worked well as a collaborative team and we are excited to see what unfolds in coming months.
I'm absolutely thrilled to be working with friend and colleague Donald Proby, DEIB (Diversity Equity Inclusion Belonging) and mediation expert, and with Chelsea Kaplan, Senior Mediator and Supportive Housing Manager at Conflict Intervention Service (of the Bar Association of San Francisco) on a training for supportive housing professionals in the Bay Area. We are creating content for and implementing a ten-month training called Cultivating Belonging to Transform Conflict. We launched the preliminary session on June 27th with great attendance and a very engaged group of supportive housing professionals and mediators. We're excited to start trainings in mid-July. This ten-month training series that we’ve created and are implementing is being offered through the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Conflict Intervention Service. It is focused on building community for service providers within supportive housing who want to learn, grow together, and build their capacity to transform conflict. We will cover topics such as de-escalation and conflict resolution skills, building community and spaces of belonging, proactively addressing conflict, trauma-informed ways of being, as well as self-care and community care practices. There will be strong threads of nature-based and creative modalities for moving through transformation, conflict, and growing a sense of belonging that will be woven throughout the training.
My photo Pond Babies was just published this morning (June 13, 2023) on the EarthSky site. (Click the photo title to read about who the babies are.)
On Jun. 13th a small group of us convened for Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Conversations to talk about our creative lives. After a free-write about how we each engage our creativity, we had a rousing chat that meandered from what and how we create, to when and why we do so. We learned about which of nature's seasons are most inspiring to each of us, the role of emotions in creative practice, and which creative endeavors we still aspire to do someday. I'm very excited to receive the poetry and a few images of paintings from one participant, and to hear the song that another one will compose. Please join us for the next conversation on August 8th.
From mid-May to mid-June I taught the second run of my course, Compassionate Spiritual Ecology, hosted by the Charter for Compassion's Education Institute. This four-week online course offered students an overview of the body of work comprising the discipline of spiritual ecology. At the core of spiritual ecology are values that point to compassion for others—in the nonhuman world as well as in human communities. The course had a strong emphasis on guiding, supporting, and encouraging students to explore some of the practical applications of a compassionate spiritual ecology right outside their doors. We had students from at least five countries (Iran, Nepal, Israel, Canada) and a number of states in the U.S. Some early comments include: "...how much I am enjoying your course...," "I am so glad I chose to participate...[and am] enjoying it immensely," "thank you for this class and for your support for my exploring the intersection between ecology and creative practice," "I'm enjoying your guidance," and (on the last day of class) "I'm sorry that the class is already over." It has been an extremely gratifying month guiding these astute students through their inner/outer landscapes as they learn to incorporate spiritual ecology into their lives, faith traditions, and hearts.
I'm honored to be invited to guide the opening "grounding practice" for a wonderful daylong event (on Nov. 9th), Interfaith Symposium on Peacemaking! It is offered by The Bar Association of San Francisco's Conflict Intervention Service.
On May 31st I presented Pace and Confluence: Exploring the Role of Nature in Peacemaking at the Association for Conflict Resolution's Greater New York 22nd Annual Conference. The workshop addressed the inquiry: how can we meet urgency and crises in conflict resolution with a pace that honors unfolding process, wellness, and greater interconnectedness for our clients and ourselves? By looking to the natural world’s rhythms (paces) and patterns (confluences), I shared how we can learn more effective, sustainable responses to conflict. After a brief overview of relevant ecological concepts, I demonstrated their value in human contexts – particularly, life transitions, crises, and seemingly impassable conflict. The presentation included guided activities, reflection, breakout groups, and case study samples so that attendees could explore the specific ways in which the natural world’s various paces can invigorate and expand their work and lives. We had a wonderful large group discussion for the final portion of our time together. What a gratifying experience to present to these practitioners!
My photo Dear Deer was just published (May 30, 2023) on the EarthSky site. (Click the photo title to read the story of our interaction.)
I am so pleased to learn that my proposal to present, A Spiritual Ecological Vision: Biodiversity in Nature Teaches an Embrace of Justice and Human Diversity has just been accepted by the Society for Human Ecology (SHE) for their XXV International Conference on November 5 – 8, 2023 in Tucson, Arizona. I've been a member of SHE for twenty-five years. In that time, I have had the honor of presenting my work at the international conferences in Canberra, Australia (in 2013) and Brazil (in 2021 - remotely due to COVID), as well as in some of their national conferences. It will be good to reconnect in-person with this amazing group of scholars and practitioners.
I am excited to announce that the Association for Conflict Resolution's Greater New York Chapter has accepted my proposal to present at their 22nd Annual Conference in late May. It will be wonderful to offer my presentation, Pace and Confluence: Exploring the Role of Nature in Peacemaking, to a new audience.
I was honored that such an astute and highly engaged group attended my training for the Community Boards Conflict Resolution Clinic. My topic, Ecotones: A New Conception of Borderlands, focused on both the ecological as well as the conceptual benefit of ecotones (areas of confluence). This highly interactive training included large-group discussions, breakout room activities, case studies, individual reflective exercises, and Q&A, in order for participants to have many opportunities to put ideas from the powerpoint presentation into practice. The richest part of the evening was how courageously, willingly, and deeply everyone shared about the ecotones (life transitions) in their own lives, making meaning as they translated the conceptual into the practical.
On Apr. 14th Emily Mockett, interfaith minister and poet, posted one of my spiritual paintings on her Spirals of Healing blog. My piece, The Backside, inspired her lovely poem of the same title. What an honor to pair our sacred creativity in this way!
On Apr. 11th we convened our Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Conversations. We meditated, journaled, and talked about how we experience the more-than-human world via our bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits. We enjoyed the casual and very interesting sharing.
I am thrilled to announce that an endeavor long in the works, Spiritual Ecology Training, is now up and running! Read more about it, or contact me directly (email@example.com). If you think you might be interested, though, please register for Compassionate Spiritual Ecology (starts May 15th); this course is one of the prerequisites for the training.
Today (Apr. 3, 2023) I had another photo published on the EarthSky site. See Chickadee in the Lilac Buds here.
On Mar. 25th I led my first-ever phenology workshop. Over the course of the morning, we discussed and practiced a variety of simple techniques for capturing patterns of behavior, growth, migration, and more of the plants, birds, and animals most important to us around our homes. We looked at many examples of how to express the seasons and cycles of our focal species, and participants created templates and made journal entries to get started. We learned about how to creatively identify, record, label, and beautifully express these phenomena in the workshop. I really look forward to offering this again!
Henceforth, the Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinars, will be called "Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Conversations" in order to reflect the more casual and participatory tone of the event. There is so much wisdom in our collective perspectives and we are all here to learn and grow together. If you've already registered for this 2023 offering under the old name, you'll still have access to subsequent months' gatherings this year with that first 2023 link you received. Join the conversation about such topics as spiritual ecology, creativity, beauty, gratitude, service, and kindness. Prompts, questions, and guided inquiries will follow a brief introduction to the month's topic.
The Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar resumed for 2023 on Feb. 14th. We had many participants from prior years' Second Tuesdays gatherings as well as a few new folks. Our topic revolved around a Coretta Scott King quotation about compassionate action, love, and grace. The rich discussion that ensued was heartening and profound. We focused on how to enliven our communities - human and more-than-human - by fully living into these ideas.
During the first week in February, I hosted Celebrating Spiritual Ecology for World Interfaith Harmony Week. This was also endorsed by the Parliament of the World's Religions as an official pre-Parliament event The interactive online event offered participants simple ways to incorporate nature-based and creative aspects into everyday spiritual practice. Each day we focused on a different topic including: contemplative writing, nature-based beauty, and gratitude. I was absolutely moved and blessed by the beautiful circle of attendees who shared so deeply and helped create a unified community of seekers in service to peace.
On Jan. 28th I had the great fortune of presenting Native Species and Ecotones: We Can't Do Without Them as the featured speaker at the annual conference of Wild Ones in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The three hundred native plant enthusiasts in attendance very warmly welcomed me as the first out-of-state speaker, the sole female presenter this year, and the only person to introduce the ecological concept of ecotones as they pertain to native species. We spent the final part of the presentation discussing how to apply this concept in practical ways in the landscapes we tend. After my presentation, participants were eager to begin one-on-one conversations with me about incorporating ecotones (literal and conceptual) into their current work, lives, and projects. I look forward to continuing these discussions via upcoming Zoom meetings. What a new and wonderful experience this was!
I am absolutely thrilled that my proposal for the Parliament of the World's Religions has been accepted! I will be offering The Interconnection of Rights: Humans and the Environment in Sacred Relationship to attendees in Chicago this August. The Parliament is celebrating 130 years of interfaith gatherings and attracts tens of thousands of "participants from more than 200 diverse religious, indigenous, and secular beliefs and more than 80 nations." This will be my third time presenting my work at the Parliament (2015 in Salt Lake City and 2021 virtually) and I am so looking forward to it!
I just received confirmation from Parliament of the World's Religions that my Celebrating Spiritual Ecology for World Interfaith Harmony Week offering (Feb. 6th - 8th) is now designated as an official pre-Parliament event ... Exciting! I can't think of a better way to get more enthusiasm spreading for the main POWR event in Chicago in August.
To start off the new year on a joyful note, on January 2, 2023 I had another photo published on the EarthSky site. See Northern Flicker Playing Naturalist here.
As a delightful surprise at the end of 2022, I not only had Duck Celebration published on the EarthSky website - my photo was noted in their widely-circulated email newsletter as one of their "Top Stories This Week." The ensuing social media posts by the EarthSky team led to an invitation to a local birding group. And this all happened co-incident with my very first participation in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.
I'm thrilled to announce that on this last day of teaching my Compassionate Spiritual Ecology course, I've received (and accepted) an invitation from the Charter's Compassion Education Institute to teach this class again next year. They'll promote it under their upcoming "how to be an activist" theme. Here is what CEI's Curriculum Coordinator (who also enthusiastically and with great integrity completed the course alongside the students) wrote: "We would love to have you teach Compassionate Spiritual Ecology (CSE) again. Your course has been such a moving experience for many, so rich in content, and you are spectacular at engaging people on the forums - a model for our (other) instructors. Also, as one of your students, I have deepened my ‘nature’ practices as a result of this course.”
During September 2022, I spent the month immersed in teaching the first-ever Compassionate Spiritual Ecology course. This was my third time having one of my courses hosted by the (Charter for Compassion’s) Compassion Education Institute. Dozens of students from across the globe (including Israel, Japan, Australia, Canada, Scotland, the U.S….) joined the course. Beyond an introduction to the basic tenets and values of spiritual ecology, this course guided, supported, and encouraged students to explore some of the myriad practical applications of a compassionate spiritual ecology. Additionally, they gained practical insight into how to embed compassionate expressions of spiritual ecology into their service to the Earth and all beings. Most encouragingly, students began to deepen and implement these practices in their own lives, work places, and respective geographies. Here are some early comments about the course:
"This [course] was a transformative experience for me, and I am most grateful." (A.B., North Carolina)
"Thank you for offering the Compassionate Spirituality Ecology course. I loved this course so much. I look forward to hearing more about [your upcoming] Spiritual Ecology Facilitator Training." (B.G., Wisconsin)
On Aug. 9th, we had a Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar that focused on "everyday retreat." We discussed the potency and potential of incorporating small, meaningful, soul-nourishing activities into our daily lives in order to sustain that liminal space sense of "retreat" even as our lives unfold as usual. A short talk was followed by discussion and sharing. This was the last Second Tuesday webinar of 2022. Join us in Feb. 2023 when we resume this free, bi-monthly event.
This year’s annual TEALarbor stories retreat (July 31 – Aug 5) was filled with creative time and experiences in the natural world. We met on Zoom for morning and afternoon sessions. Retreatants took evenings, early mornings, and the midday off-Zoom time to intentionally explore their local nonhuman communities and to build relationship with their wild neighbors via prompts offered in our group time. Using a combination of guided time in natural landscapes, various creative techniques (sketch-painting, scribble mandalas, collage, and more), and reflective opportunities (journaling, meditation, poetry, story-sharing, and mirroring), we immersed ourselves in the inner/outer landscape. By the end of the week, we had deepened connections with the nonhumans living outside our homes as well as with our own creative and spiritual lives.
I'm happy to announce that I have just been invited to be a speaker for the Fox Valley Area chapter of Wild Ones' Annual Conference in Wisconsin in January 2023!
Here's my photo, Babies, published on the EarthSky site (June 29, 2022).
On Jun. 14th, I convened the Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar on the theme of "ritual." After a thirty-minute talk about what ritual is and how it can be so simply done, the very attentive participants added a richness to our hour together by sharing stories of their own rituals. I left feeling grateful and blessed by the people who showed up today.
You can see my photo, Homeward Nourishment, published on the EarthSky site (May 17, 2022).
Please check out Dandelion Feast, my latest photo published on the EarthSky site (May 11, 2022).
Several months ago I was invited to present a poster of my work at the Children & Nature Network's international conference, Inside Out!, being held in Atlanta, Georgia and online May 9-12, 2022. The gallery has just been posted online; click here and scroll down to find my poster, "Ecotones & the Inner/Outer Landscape." (Just below my poster/write-up, you'll see a green "download poster" button - clicking on this will enable another browser tab to open which offers a closer-up view of the poster so you can read it.)
I've just added three videos to my YouTube channel. All three are from recent work I've done as co-lead of the Environment Sector for the Charter for Compassion. Two are our TERRA events (a film and book discussion forum) this spring (Feb. - featuring "Symbiotic Earth" and Apr. - featuring "Laudato Si'") and the third is our Environment Sector's video that we made for Golden Rule Day (Apr. 5th). Go to the playlist by clicking here.
I'm pleased to announce that I have just had another article published (May 2022) - "Ecological Reveries: A Medley of Belonging to Land" - in Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network's online journal, Context.
A Monday morning nature moment was a gift: see and read about it on the EarthSky website (Apr. 18, 2022).
In mid-April I was invited to present on the topic of "hope" for Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church's Lenten soup supper. Drawing from the varied sources of an interview with nature writer David Quammen, the church's Lenten reader, and my own spiritual ecology experiences with hope, church members were provided with a very practical roadmap to everyday hope.
April's Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar explored the interconnections between breath, creativity, and spiritual ecology. Fortified and inspired by poetry, the practical application of breath work, an understanding of how "respirare" can inform our lives and creative process, we spent a rousing hour in discussion. Participants shared about their own professional, personal, and spiritual work as these relate to nature's breath. We are all looking forward to the next free Second Tuesdays webinar in June.
Mar. 29th and 30th, I presented Overcoming Writing Blocks via Zoom to two college classrooms in California that are using my book, Writing on the Landscape, as the course text. This was my first of two author visits I'm making to their classrooms this semester. These young people explored becoming unstuck in their writing via nature-based and creative practices, Q&A, and a discussion about what "writer's block" really means. I find these interdisciplinary sessions to be very stimulating for the students as they try out ways of writing that are not part of their everyday curriculum.
On Mar. 19th (Sat.), we had a lively Spring Equinox Half-Day Retreat with participants from both coasts of the U.S. on our Zoom call. We celebrated and contemplated the season of spring through poetry, meditation, writing, and visual art. Diving deep within through guided free-writes and intentional time outdoors in our respective locations, we identified where the buds of growth and wellbeing are hindered and helped in our own lives. Participants shared richly about their process as it shifted throughout the retreat. We each left our time together with a start on a creative project, and a renewed commitment to personal and global wellbeing.
I'm excited to be invited back to Society for Human Ecology as a peer reviewer of scholarly research about the intersections of humans, culture, ecology. I held this role many years ago when I was fresh out of my doctoral studies. After longtime membership in - and many conference presentations for - this organization, it is good to get back into hands-on academic work. Over the years, I have been accepted as a presenter at their national and international conferences (notably - in Australia in 2013, and this past October 2021 organized by our peers in Brazil). A few months ago, I was reminded of the innovative research that is being done all over the world to support vulnerable communities (human and nonhuman) who are being drastically impacted by climate change, genocide, pervasive war, water and food insecurity, lack of health care, and so much more. This organization's professionals are working toward the alleviation of these, and so much more. My task of critiquing the practitioners' research, articles, and books feels like an additional way to positively contribute to global healing.
For four Tuesdays (Feb. 15 - Mar 8), we convened the 30-Day Creative Challenge. We did, indeed, get a boost on our creative projects! I offered guidance, tips, and encouragement for the commitment to do consecutive days of creative work. Themes for the weeks included: setting manageable intentions, navigating roadblocks and antidotes, the creative life, and feeding and sustaining the inner well of creativity. Through poetry, quotations, free-writes, discussion and troubleshooting, as well as gallery shares, we each found ways to deepen our experience of creative process and output. What an inspiring time we had during this first-of-its-kind offering at TEALarbor stories. And how joyful it was to support the creative processes of those seeking greater connection with their inspiration!
How wonderful to have yet another one of my photographs selected for publication on the EarthSky website (Feb. 2022)!
The first Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar of 2022 (on Feb. 8th) focused on the topic of "100 Days." We began by exploring the process of the annual "#the100dayproject" - an international creativity challenge. (This year's challenge starts on Feb. 13th and I'll be participating again!) I shared how the project was for me last year: what I learned, created, and how I shifted. I also mentioned some important transformations that can happen for people willing to engage such a process. Finally, I shared a bit about other creative projects that I have done since then, as well as the creative support TEALarbor stories is offering to folks starting next week (Feb. 15th) - the 30-Day Creative Challenge. We spent the second half hour listening to webinar attendees sharing about their own creative projects, processes, ideas, and more. After several months away from the webinars, it was a wonderful opportunity to see participants again from last year's Second Tuesdays events. I look forward to April's Second Tuesday Webinar. Watch February's webinar here.
On Feb. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, I presented Spiritual Ecology: Nourishing Practices for the United Nations' World Interfaith Harmony Week. (See my event on the WIHW website.) This interactive, nonsectarian event offered participants ways to incorporate nature-based and creative aspects into everyday spiritual practice. Through poetry, quotations, slide shows, meditation, writing prompts, readings, guided activities, and more, we explored contemplative writing, nature mandalas, and gratitude. The event was intended to support people of all faiths in finding and deepening their own relationship to self, nature, and others through peaceable, interdisciplinary practices that they create consistent with their specific beliefs. As in prior years, this event was attended by very compassionate, wise folks who made wonderfully heartfelt contributions to our collective understanding. We even discussed having a WIHW reunion later this year in which we can celebrate and deepen the contemplative, creative, Earthy connection we have ignited this week. I'm so very grateful to each of the inspiring, beautiful people who attended this week's lineup.
On Dec. 1st and 2nd, I enjoyed offering my workshop, Making Writing Easier, during my second author visits this semester to three college classrooms in California. The end-of-the-semester, weary students eagerly engaged a number of written and oral activities. I offered them reflective writing practices, a self-care review using the four components of human nature, the option to write a haiku, and guided free-writes using nature photos and objects. I also gave an interactive mini-lesson on fleshing out topics in their papers so that the thematic ideas become clear, detail-rich, and interesting for their readers; I used a passage from my book, Writing on the Landscape (one of their course texts), to illustrate my points. Afterward, their professor sent an email reporting that students had found these sessions to be: "very helpful, calming, a positive experience, and fun."
On Oct. 22nd, 2021 I gladly presented Ecotones: A New Conception of Borderlands at the Inaugural Northwest Collaborative Futures Conference. I LOVE ecotones and all that they represent, so sharing this topic with others was exhilarating. As areas of confluence in the natural world, “ecotones” are especially rich in biodiversity. Viewing ecotones as a concept, we can begin to apply their value in human contexts – in particular, life transitions or crisis moments such as seemingly-impassable conflict. This interactive presentation offered conflict resolution professionals: a definition of ecotones and examples of their value in natural settings, a means for “translating” the language of ecology into useful concepts in their professional work and personal lives, and how ecotones as borderlands can help us re-vision other types of boundaries and borders. Through guided activities, small and large group discussion, and brief case study samples, attendees had opportunities to see the specific ways in which a new vision of borderlands can invigorate and expand their work.
The Parliament of the World's Religions convened Oct 16-18th, and on that Monday I presented Love in Action: Nature-Based and Creative Compassion. This interfaith gathering of thousands of people from dozens of faith traditions and scores of nations was as compelling this year online as it was when I first attended/presented in Salt Lake City (2015). This event is always so rich with cultural and spiritual diversity! Via an online chat function on the event platform, I was able to have one-on-one conversations with a host of heart-full spiritual seekers, peacemakers, global climate change activists, and those helping to create a fair and just world for all. Every plenary, breakout, and workshop session I attended was heart-opening, insightful, and profound. I can't wait to attend the next POWR in Chicago (2023).
What a gratifying experience to present Spiritual Ecology as a Transformative Practice in English & Spanish this year at the XXIV International Society for Human Ecology (SHE) Conference (17-21 Oct). My session offered a transformative pathway and supporting practices to guide us through this time of environmental and cultural upheaval, and into a future with greater wellbeing for humans and the ecology of which we are a part. Using Spiritual Ecology as a framework, I offered theory as well as action steps. Kudos to the conference organizers, SABEH of Brazil, for putting on a truly multilingual conference! I video-recorded my talk in English, made a Spanish translation audio recording, and then waited "backstage" until the Q/A - when I answered conference-goers' questions after the live online airing. While only on the third day of the conference, I am already learning a lot from my human ecology colleagues across the globe. Watch it here.
On the 13th and 14th of Oct., I presented Overcoming Writing Blocks via Zoom to three college classrooms in California that are using my book, Writing on the Landscape, as the course text. These inquisitive young people explored becoming unstuck with writing via nature-based and creative practices, Q&A, and a discussion about what "writer's block" really means. I was quite struck with the quantity and quality of very interesting questions and comments that these early writers posed.
The Oct. 12th Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar focused on the topic of "letting go." We explored some of nature's examples of easeful letting go (like falling leaves in autumn), as well as the writings of a poet, a Franciscan priest, a scholar, and Buddhist nun. Our conversation also spanned topics such as grief, life transitions, forgiveness work, and other related forms of release/letting go. I very much look forward to next month's webinar on gratitude.
On Sep. 20th, I participated with colleagues from Rincon Resolutions in offering Simple Living, It Ain't What You Think: Words from a Migrant, a Nomad, and an Aesthete at the "Coffee and Conflict: The Housing 'Choice'" series hosted by CORE (Conflict Resolution Clinic) of British Columbia. This ninety-minute presentation, with our three unique perspectives on what it means to live simply, provided for thought-provoking reflection for the mediators and attorneys who attended.
I am excited to announce that my proposal for the Inaugural Northwest Collaborative Futures Conference has been accepted. In late October I will be presenting Ecotones: A New Conception of Borderlands to an international community of conflict resolution professionals, attorneys, community activists, and others who are pursuing peacemaking work around the globe.
In mid-September the Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar discussed "transitions." Using examples from the natural world and everyday life, we looked deeply into how to honor the processes and periods that mark change in our lives. Participants (from three countries) each focused on a particular transition in their own experience and how they can endeavor to find the richness and gems even amidst the most difficult of times. Watch it here.
The August 10th Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar focused on "Earthy compassion." Gratitude, beauty-making, acceptance, relationship-building, nurturing peace, and offering care were ways we discussed being able to compassionately engage all beings. Honoring the human and nonhuman lives we encounter was central to our discussion. Astute participants also raised the importance of cultivating joy in our Earthy compassion endeavors.
This year’s annual TEALarbor stories week-long retreat (the week of Aug. 2nd) was rich and potent. Retreatants deepened connection with themselves as nature beings as well as with the natural world surrounding their homes. Using a combination of guided time in natural landscapes, various creative techniques (painting, printmaking, bookmaking, sketching, collage…), and reflective opportunities (journaling, meditation, story-sharing and mirroring…), we explored immersion in the inner/outer landscape in the present moment, and ways to sustain deepened connection in our everyday lives. We were fortified by poetry that bookended each day; miraculous moments with the flora and fauna that visited us; and a variety of gratitude and beautymaking practices. We spent time learning details about the creatures and plants we encountered including species, identification, behavior patterns, and life cycles. Participants also engaged some phenomenological and spiritual ecological processes to better connect with the nonhuman beings around us. Oh, if only every week could be retreat week! But we also realize that out of this sumptuous time together, we have been given gifts to offer the world … so we return to our daily lives and routines refreshed and with open arms.
I am thrilled to share the news that my presentation proposal has been accepted by the Parliament of the World's Religions! In October 2021, I will present Love in Action: Nature-Based and Creative Compassion. Here's what I wrote in 2015, upon returning from my first attendance and presentation of my work at the Parliament: This interfaith gathering of nearly ten thousand people from fifty faiths and eighty nations, was a very potent, rich, diverse, heartful community of spiritual seekers, peacemakers, global climate change activists, and those helping to create a fair and just world for all. Truly, it was a transformative experience. The Parliament is the oldest, the largest, and the most inclusive gathering of people of all faiths and traditions; the first Parliament took place in 1893.
On July 13th, we had a wonderfully enriching Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar focused on the "inner/outer landscape." We began with a brief overview of how we bring our inner selves to the outer world of nature, natural settings, and landscapes. Then we got especially interactive as participants were guided through activities to understand more deeply their individual bodily, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual responses to the natural world. We ended with each of us sharing one way that we can offer something back to the natural world.
In mid-May I was invited to offer two presentations and reflective practices to various team of hospice staff (doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators, clergy, aides, volunteers) in order to promote and explain The Letters Project. It was such an honor to be welcomed in and to have my work seen by those who will refer people at end of life to utilize this service I have created.
I have just created an initiative called "The Letters Project" for hospice. As a twenty-years-plus passionate hospice volunteer, I have been seeking ways to bridge my professional life and skills with my work at the bedsides of people who are dying. I have written a lot about this and have found ways to bring nature-based and creative modalities into that service commitment. But in the last few weeks, my proposal for a letter-writing project has been vetted and accepted by my local hospice. This service is a more formal manifestation of what I've done informally over many years: listening deeply to others' stories ... and capturing those via the written word. While there is a fair amount of research and literature on the significance of having opportunities to review life and convey important messages to loved ones, there are not many projects that are commonly dedicated to these important end-of-life tasks. My project offers this; I will be called to the homes of people on hospice service who have a letter they want to write and send to a loved one. I will listen, transcribe, and send that letter to their designated beloved. I am so, so excited about this work! I want to extend this service beyond my local hospice, so if you know anybody at end-of-life who needs the tender attention that this offering provides, please contact me.
My work as co-lead for the Environment Sector of the Charter for Compassion is already very compelling. I have been involved with the Charter in various roles since 2014 including creating courses and teaching for their Compassion Education Institute, offering webinars, being featured in their Global Read (Writing on the Landscape) and Environment Sector Read (Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits), facilitating one of their creativity camps, and in other capacities. I wholeheartedly believe in compassion-embodied; focusing on compassionate environmental action in my new Sector role is very gratifying. We had our inaugural (free!) TERRA discussion forum this week and we're planning many other ways to support our sector partners and projects that serve the planet. After all, compassion is at the heart of TEALarbor stories' mission. Please keep an eye on the Environment Sector page of the Charter for updates.
Our Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar for June focused on nature journaling. The first half hour looked at the myriad ways we can keep a nature journal, including the content, structure, and benefits of doing so. During the second half, we talked about materials and discussed personal experiences in the natural world including photography, reverie, and memory as ways to capture the wonder and details of nature. Watch it here.
I am so pleased to learn that my proposal for a presentation (Spiritual Ecology as a Transformative Practice) has just been accepted by the Society for Human Ecology (SHE) for their XXIV International Conference in October, hosted online by the organizers in Brazil. I've been a member of SHE for over twenty years. In that time, I have had the great honor of presenting my work at the international conference in Canberra, Australia (in 2013), as well as in a few of the U.S. conferences they have held. It will be good to reconnect directly with this amazing group of folks.
During the afternoon of June 3rd, I had the honor of presenting Nature-Based Wellness in Virtual Times to Judicial Council of California’s Family Court Services officials, staff, attorneys, social workers, and judges at their continuing education/professional licensure event: the Child and Family Focused Education Biennial Conference. This interactive presentation offered attendees a philosophical background and participative activities for inclusive, nature-based wellness strategies particularly in virtual settings. We began with an overview of a particular model of wellness and its relationship to ecology. Attendees had the opportunity to try out tools and practices for increasing wellness and a sense of wellbeing through hands-on tasks, discussion, and reflective time. We also touched on what wellness means in high-stress contexts and diverse settings.
On the mornings of June 2nd and 3rd, I enjoyed offering my workshop, Making Writing Easier, during my second author visits to two college classrooms in California. The end-of-the-semester, weary students somehow mustered enough enthusiasm and creative juice to compose three reflective writing practices, one haiku, and a micro-story; ask many engaging questions; as well as to review the four components of human nature. We used nature photographs and nature objects as prompts for writing activities.
I had so much fun this week (May 17-20, 2021) guiding a workshop based on my book, Writing on the Landscape. This course was offered through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at University of Alabama Huntsville. The wonderful students had an opportunity to understand the nature/creativity connection and to delve into their inner/outer landscapes via reading, hands-on activities, and discussion. I marveled every day at their wisdom, courage, and willingness to push their own edges in order to experience the natural world more fully and deeply, as well as to explore various facets of their writing process. Every student left class with an intention for moving forward with their projects.
I have accepted the invitation to co-lead the Charter for Compassion's Environment Sector with my dear friend and colleague, Kate Trnka. I really look forward to helping shape the vision and activities that will characterize our sector's integration of ecology and compassion.
In mid-May, I was invited to make a mini presentation of my work to a couple hundred aspiring and seasoned spiritual ecologists in a month-long class we had engaged. It was truly a thrill to illustrate how the core values of spiritual ecology show up in my TEALarbor stories practice every day with clients as well as in my writing and published works.
Our cozy little webinar (Second Tuesdays...) got a bit more interactive this month (May)! The topic was "Nature as Phenomenon" and there was the usual thirty-minute talk; in this one I featured the work of Gaston Bachelard and David Abram. During the second half hour I offered a practice to give participants a tiny taste of what it means to be engaged with nature (imagery) in a phenomenological way.
This morning (May 5th) I was invited to offer a reflective practice to a team of hospice staff (doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators, clergy, aides, volunteers) at their interdisciplinary meeting. I presented Mary Oliver's Morning Poem, springtime nature photographs and quotations, as well as a short reflective writing practice. I wanted to leave these amazing folks with inspiration and Earthy beauty that they can take into their workday as they support people who are dying and their families to navigate the potent end-of-life transition.
Our Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar for April focused on "Inspired Aspirations." After a thirty-minute informal talk (including a reading of my piece, Spiritus), participants shared insights about their own creative, meditative, or aspiration-seeking endeavors including where they find their edges and inspiration.
One of my short videos is included as part of the Charter for Compassion's International Golden Rule Day on April 5th, 2021. Watch it here (my video airs at about the two hour forty minute - 2:40 - mark).
I'm excited to announce that I have just had another article published (Apr. 2021) - "Fledglings" - in Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network's online journal, Context.
March 29th and 30th, I made author visits (via Zoom) to two college classrooms in California that are using Writing on the Landscape as their course text this semester. We discussed writer's block; practiced nature-based activities for arriving to the writing page; and spent considerable time looking at tips and strategies for moving through difficult writing projects, finding inspiration, managing time and tasks, and nurturing positivity toward challenging writing assignments. The students had many wonderful questions and were willing to try a variety of novel ways of approaching their papers and finding balance in their lives. I'm excited to be able to visit them again at the end of the semester.
On the equinox, we gathered on Zoom (for the Half-Day Spring Retreat 2021) to contemplate the new season through poetry, meditation, writing, visual art, story, and outdoor experiences in our respective locations. Retreatants led us to a focus on beauty and wellness as we explored our individual inner and outer landscapes, and created collective meaning out of them. We each left with intentions for the budding springtime.
We had a wonderful time together on March 13th in the Let Nature Inspire Your Writing class through BARN. I guided students through some ways in which nature helps us unlock and feed our writing process, inspiring not only our writing but also our lives. Students learned about the nature/creativity connection; were guided through free-writes and practices; learned ways to bring nature into their writing projects and creative processes; and received feedback on how their individual projects can incorporate these practices. We had a robust discussion about the rich terrain of landscape, nature, objects from nature, and how to transition to writing in any genre that includes more word choices, symbolism, and aesthetics that reflect the very natural world itself. I was invited to teach this course again at BARN - to which I heartily look forward.
For the March 9th Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar we discussed "Nature-Based Rituals." A thirty-minute informal talk was followed by Q/A, discussion, and participant sharing. The conversation was very rich and we left with much to contemplate. I look forward to next month's time together. Join us!
Nature Rituals That Heal occurred courtesy Wimblu via Zoom on February 23rd. This live presentation honoring the contributing authors of the "Death and Grief" (Vol. 4) issue of Wimblu offered participants a chance to be guided through the creation of a nature mandala. The publisher offered a space that explored the link between my article, The Ecology of Grief: Weaving Beauty into Death and Loss, and the natural world. The beauty that came out of our hour together - stories, shared photos of nature creations, the respite of a few quiet moments together - was very nourishing. Watch it here.
I'm happy to announce that my recorded (audio) version of “The Ecology of Grief: Weaving Beauty into Death and Loss” (published in November 2020) has just been uploaded to the Wimblu site. I narrated it in English, but it is available on the sites of both the English and Spanish versions of my article. I hope you enjoy your sixteen-minute auditory journey.
On February 9th we had an international gathering of folks for the Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar. The topic was "Natural Beauty." A thirty-minute informal talk was followed by Q/A, discussion, and participant sharing. I'm eager to see who returns next month!
For the first week of February, TEALarbor stories celebrated a commitment to interfaith work by collaborating with World Interfaith Harmony Week (A UN Official Observance). Each weekday I hosted one-hour, highly-interactive sessions for this event, Spiritual Ecology: Nature and Creativity for Soul Nourishment. Our specific daily topics, with focused, nonsectarian, creative and nature-based rituals, included: contemplative writing, gratitude, beauty and nature, compassion, and service. Together, we created an international, interfaith community that shared perspectives, stories, and faith practices. Participants shared poems and nature mandalas they created during our time together, asked one another questions, offered support and encouragement, and explored new ways to implement creative, nature-based rituals into their daily faith practice. Watch recordings from the week here. Read the full report (and see all of the videos) on the WIHW website.
January 12th, 2021 marked the very first Second Tuesdays Lunchtime Webinar, a free offering. The topic was "Nature and Creativity." A thirty-minute informal talk was followed by Q/A, discussion, and participant sharing. I really look forward to next month's webinar!