compassionate guidance through writing, nature, & life's difficult landscapes

compassionate guidance through writing, nature, & life's difficult landscapes

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Today (Sep. 22, 2020) - the first day of autumn - I had the great pleasure of presenting Working Despite Writing Blocks to a classroom of sophomores at a high school conservatory in California. These teens (enrolled in a creative nonfiction class) engaged the hands-on lesson with enthusiasm and curiosity, despite being Zoom-weary and pandemic-impacted. A few asked questions, many smiled, and all of them expressed gratitude for the antidotes to creative blocks that I asked them to try out today. The class was recorded on Zoom; watch it here.

I'm excited to announce that I have just had an article as well as several creative pieces published (Aug 2020) in Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network's new online journal, Context

For the week of August 3rd, retreatants gathered on Zoom for TEALarbor stories' Annual Creative Retreat 2020. With nurturing guidance, practical suggestions, and the intimacy of a group with shared interests, we moved forward with our creative ideas. Largely, we focused on nature journaling, particularly process, content, and structure. We also took time every day in our respective geographies to explore the natural landscape and its relationship with our inner landscape. We meditated. We did body work. And there were plenty of inspirational readings. In sum, we had a great week of renewal! Here is a compilation of nature scenes that invigorated us and nature altars we built throughout the week:

On June 30th, 2020 I had the great pleasure of offering my class, Nature as Tool, Antidote, and Inspiration in Writing, through Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network's Writing Studio. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we met via Zoom. This online format did not lessen our deep experience of nature-based writing practices nor prohibit us from going outside midway through the class for an outdoor activity in preparation for more writing. Students were very engaged and enthusiastic, trying out various practices with gusto and asking compelling questions along the way. I gave instruction about my integrated model for Earth-based, creative, whole-person practices; played a slide show of my nature-based creative work; and gave individualized feedback to students about their specific writing endeavors, focusing on the project as well as the writing process. I'd offer this class again in a heartbeat! 

In mid-June 2020, the Charter for Compassion's Environment Sector featured my co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits (Wilhoit & Jones, 2019), in their webinar. The hour-long event was part interview, part book reading, part discussion. Topics included: biodiversity, niche, islands, transitions, and spirituality, as they relate to ecology and the inner/outer landscape (the interaction between humans' inner lives and the natural world). We had so much fun in our stimulating discussion that we had an after-gathering to finish up the threads of conversation. Watch the recording here

My Creativity Camp presentation for the Charter for Compassion via Zoom took place on May 27, 2020. I began by reading short, relevant excerpts from my recent books and blogs. I also offered participants young and young-at-heart hands-on ways to appreciate the natural world and its beauty including “nature calendars ©,” “nature altars ©,” “nature mandalas ©,” and “lunchtime art ©.” I preceded my discussion with a slide presentation showing completed pieces of some of these forms. I talked about harvesting nature objects in a healthy way for the Earth as well as how to use nature objects, imagery, and natural history information in writing projects and process. Barbara, the host for Charter for Compassion, asked some compelling questions about the role of nature and creative, nature-based processes in bringing humanity back into closer connection with all beings. Watch the recording here. 


On Apr. 2, 2020, I gave a presentation (via Zoom) about spiritual ecology to our region's interfaith council. My talk, Spiritual Ecology: What, How, Why, focused on the interconnection between faith and the divine in nature. I read from my chapter on spiritual ecology (in Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) as well as offered photographs and Powerpoint slides to illustrate how, for example, we can incorporate the four elements of earth, air, fire, water into everyday spiritual practices. The most gratifying aspects of this time with such lovely, faith-based people were: 1) the encouragement to introduce ourselves by offering one good thing in our lives right now (sweet antidote to COVID-19 stress), and 2) participants' willingness to share some connections between their particular faith traditions/spiritual practices and the practices/ideology of spiritual ecology.

For the spring equinox retreat (3/21/20), we convened on Zoom for a morning of contemplation and creativity. We read poetry and book excerpts about springtime, engaged in journal writing with prompts, and had a leisurely hour to create visual art pieces. Most importantly, we took time to go into the landscape outside our door to explore the opening of spring; we reconvened in the videoconference and shared stories of those nature experiences. We left the retreat time feeling nourished and refreshed. 

To say, "I'm thrilled" is an understatement! An article I wrote (a review of Trebbe Johnson's great book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty in Earth's Broken Places) has just been published in the wonderful journal, Minding Nature (Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter 2020)) - a publication of the Center for Humans and Nature. To be in the great company of its many astute contributors is an honor! The journal even accepted and published six of my photographs (nature calendars, lunch art, a Radical Joy for Hard Times Global Earth Exchange bird image, two life celebration images) - all Earth-based/nature art creations I made and photographed. Please check it out. And here's their compelling cover:

Edmonds Bookshop warmly welcomed me back on Leap Day (2/29/20) to read from Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits. One thing that especially stands out for me about this event was how many newcomers to TEALarbor stories' work and my writing were present; it was very gratifying to receive questions and comments from like-hearted others who I'd previously never met. What also deeply touched me was that for the first time ever a child attended one of my book readings. A ten-year-old and her father walked in to the bookstore and the young, aspiring marine biologist was drawn to my reading. She listened attentively (especially to my weaned seal story), talked to me afterward about her environmental volunteer work as I inscribed her book, and gave me a hug before quietly leaving the store. There were people from age ten to ninety at this event; I continue to be amazed at the reach of these passionate stories about the natural world. 

On Monday Feb. 3, 2020 I had the great honor of being part of World Interfaith Harmony Week by offering a free webinar, Spiritual Ecology: A Nourishing and Practical Approach. Attendees received simple and practical ways for incorporating nature-based and creative activities into everyday spiritual practice. This was not a sectarian offering; rather, it was intended to support people of all faiths and religions in finding and deepening their own relationship to self, nature, and others through peaceable, compassionate, interdisciplinary practices. This event was part of World Interfaith Harmony Week 2020, a UN Official Observance. Watch the full webinar here. 


Between January 22nd and 30th, 2020 I was on book tour in southern and northern California. I read at four events from my 2017 publication, Writing on the Landscape, and at four venues from my (and Steve Jones’) 2019 book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits. I also gave an interactive presentation about spiritual ecology, and facilitated a nature-based writing workshop centered around writers’ block and generating creative (and life) flow. All of these events were well-attended with great participation from audiences and attendees. I’ve received invitations from the bookstores and cultural centers to return again in the near future to offer more events. Barnes & Noble and 1888 Center (both in Orange), Napa Bookmine, The Avid Reader in Davis, and Many Rivers Books in Sebastopol were such gracious and accommodating hosts. Several of the book events unexpectedly lasted for more than two and a half hours because participants were so enthusiastically engaged in the material. I am so grateful to the hosts and audiences for warm hospitality and such deep interest in TEALarbor stories’ work. 

What a supreme pleasure to receive such a warm welcome reading for the first time at the esteemed Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle! The audience asked interesting questions and listened deeply as I shared my and Steve's nature experiences with them; I signed copies of Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits afterward. 

Nov. 10th (Sun.) I was welcomed back to Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island; they beautifully hosted me as I read from and signed copies of Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits. I am stunned and gratified by the great show of support by my community and friends; the audience was enthusiastically engaged, thoughtful, and friendly as I read my and Steve’s passionate nature stories to them.  

On Saturday Nov. 9, 2019 I had a book reading event at Barnes & Noble in Silverdale, WA to celebrate Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits. The store was all ready for me with a signing table, a stack of my books, and their signature B&N event poster. The best part of the afternoon was getting to read especially for a seasoned author and to discuss writerly things (in addition to the content of Weaned Seals...). 

Wednesday October 16th found me across the border in Vancouver, British Columbia presenting on a panel for Arts in Conflict Resolution for the 2019 conference of The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia. We had so much fun sharing our creative journeys and creativity-infused work including: writing and nature, theater, collaborative games, photography, and more. 

On October 8th I enjoyed a collaborative book reading at Black Swan Books in Staunton, Virginia. My dear friend and longtime colleague, Dr. H. Bruce Rinker, read from his brand new - and heartfelt, astute - book, A Pearl in the Brain. I read from Steve Jones' and my Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits. Bruce and I were so graciously embraced by the Staunton community. I have plans to return to the area in the spring to offer a TEALarbor stories retreat/workshop in the lovely rolling hills of Virginia. 

The October 5th, 19th, & 26th All-Day Authors' Events at Kitsap Mall (in Silverdale, WA) were wonderful. I had compelling conversations with other authors and sold books (Writing on the Landscape as well as Weaned Seals...) to mall-goers. I also stopped by the local Barnes & Noble to sign copies of Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits so that buyers can purchase my book in advance of my B&N reading on November 9th. 

From September 17 - 21, 2019 I attended the Association for Conflict Resolution's (ACR) Annual Conference in Tucson, AZ. I also presented TEALarbor stories' nature-based and creative wellness work as a co-panelist for a session on the Conflict Intervention Service (a homelessness prevention program run through the Bar Association of San Francisco); I have trained their mediators in self-care/wellness and was asked to join them at ACR. During this rich, informative, inspiring, and invigorating week, I was able to meet new colleagues and join familiar ones as we engaged transformative conversations about conflict, strife, stories, and meaning-making. It was my honor to also have a spot at the Authors' Corner where I sold my books and enjoyed meaningful chats with profound peacemakers. I also joined ACR's diversity committee, and was welcomed into the Environment and Public Policy section of ACR. Finally, I had the honor of raffling off one copy of my Writing on the Landscape book and connecting with the lovely woman who won it. 

We’re so proud to announce the publication and release of our co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth. Order your copy from your favorite local independent bookstore, or find it on IndieBound.

Guiding last week’s retreat was very gratifying for me! For five days (starting on 7/29/19), people who had flown in from out of state came to Bainbridge Island and sat on the land. We explored themes: visionary ideas, pathways to clarity, inspired progress, beauty and problem-solving, designs for completion. We roamed around some of the island’s incredible natural areas and let the land hold us as we took one deep dive after another into inner and outer landscapes. We reserved early AMs and PMs for individual project work, writing, visual arts, rest, walking/jogging … In protected areas, we explored and learned about the natural history and how that informs our creative journeys. By the end of the week, retreatants had journaled, painted and done other visual art forms, worked on their projects, and had a solid plan for moving forward with/completing their creative intentions. Indeed, we all journeyed into something powerful outside of and within ourselves. In addition to the lovely participants and the luscious landscapes, we were given exquisite summer gifts that ranged from refreshing light rains, to hot sunshine, to breezes and bald eagles, herons, osprey, a fawn and its mom, dragonflies, seascapes, forest trails, and pondside delights of all sorts. I continue to be amazed and grateful for those who come to this work and immerse themselves so wonderfully in the healing, nurturing, inspiring places Earth has to offer. 

Solstice Blessings! The day after this year's summer solstice, I participated again in the annual Global Earth Exchange in collaboration with Radical Joy for Hard Times. This year we made our bird image at the base of a transformer that had caught on fire at the edge of a protected forest down the road from my home. The subsequent clearing around the site caused some aesthetic wounds to the forest trail. Our bird is constructed of grasses, flowers, twigs and leaves, moss, ferns, and a rock. This beauty-making with whatever nature provides at the site is always a replenishing ritual for me.

My latest article, The Ecotone of Transition has just come out in this year's "Circles on the Mountain" publication of the Wilderness Guides Council. This piece explores difficulty as an opportunity for nature-based transformation. 
On June 20th, I was invited to be the keynote speaker for the WA State Dept of Social and Health Services' Annual Wellness Conference. What a wonderful opportunity to share Earthy, creative, practical ways to deepen personal wellness with an attentive, eager, diverse audience! 

Saturday June 1, 2019 I offered two sessions, Nature as Balm and Retreat into Gratitude, for the Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church Women's Retreat. Nature as Balm included using natural objects and images of nature to explore via journaling one's personal connections between creation and faith. Retreat into Gratitude explored individual responses to and expressions of gratefulness, also utilizing inspirational images of and objects from nature. The women who participated in these sessions offered very positive feedback about the inspirational and replenishing effects of these activities. 

I am thrilled to announce that my latest book project has just made it into our publisher’s hands (5/31/19). Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature is a co-authored volume with my colleague and friend, Dr. Steve Jones. Our book is “a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth.” We've received advance praise for our book from our early readers. We are eternally grateful to them for writing blurbs that will appear on the covers and inside of Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits. One endorsement, by Dr. Cheryl Charles (Co-Founder, Children and Nature Network), calls our work “…an enchanting, inspiring, important book.” Please check back here for updates on the publishing process and the book's release. 

On March 28 - 29, 2019 I presented Transforming Conflict, Transforming Lives: Re-Writing and Re-Rooting Stories at the Twenty-Fifth Annual Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference at University of Washington School of Law. On a side table in the conference room, I had placed natural objects from my backyard: pine cones, leaves, dried flowers, mosses and lichens, rocks, twigs, and more. Additionally, I passed around vivid postcards with photos I'd taken of four aspects of flower development (unopened bud, backside and stem, stamens inside, decayed petals). Using particular prompts about conflict/peace as well as the nature item and photo of their choice, each participant was guided to freewrite about a current difficult (personal or professional) situation. I also facilitated several rounds of discussion/debriefing in between Powerpoint slides. I have since received notes, phone calls, and in-person feedback from about half of the participants who have shared with me very personal and specific ways in which the presentation/workshop opened up their understanding of a challenging issue they currently face. Many have asked to keep the photo and object; a few have reported that they placed them prominently at home as a reminder of their process. I continue to be amazed at - and so grateful for - the courage with which people engage this inner/outer landscape work. Additionally, I'm filled with gratitude that the conference organizers chose to highlight all three of my currently-published books at the literature table:

We are so very excited to announce the title for our upcoming book: "Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature"! Steve Jones and I (Jennifer Wilhoit) are in the final edits of our chapters and we expect the book to be available by summer.

The first weekend of February 2019, MJ Linford and I co-taught a class at Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) called Life, Loves, and Explosions. It was such a joy to journey with students through the construction of an explosion box (whose sides fall open - revealing content - when the lid is removed), as well as guiding them through themed writing and other activities as inspiration for filling and embellishing their boxes. Afterward, we wondered if we'd been co-teaching or co-playing; I think it was both! We're excited to have two more offerings this spring (see for details). 

I've just been notified that my proposal has been accepted for the Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference 2019 to be held at University of Washington School of Law in late March. I'm thrilled to be able to go back again and share my work with attorneys and mediators.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving (Nov 24, 2018), I sat all day at our local Kitsap Mall for a book promotion for Writing on the Landscape. More than thirty of us (authors) worked in collaboration with Kitsap Literary Artists and Writers, Barnes & Noble, and the Kitsap Mall to offer holiday shoppers the gift of reading. While this was such an unlikely place for the Earthy work of TEALarbor stories, I was surprised to have a number of deeply engaging conversations with mall-goers about the use of nature-based practices in writing and healing. 

On November 19-20, 2018 I was invited to Vancouver, Canada to facilitate a half-day presentation/workshop called The Role of Nature-Based Writing Practices in Conflict Engagement. This was for The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia's Conflict Resolution Conference 2018: "Evolving Practices for Changing Times." As I candidly wrote afterward in a private correspondence: "It makes me feel joyful that they (the practicing attorneys) respect the work and find it useful for themselves and their clients." 

Last Thursday (Sept 27, 2018) I had a great time teaching the class, "Journeying Through Emotions in Memoir Writing" for the "WhaMemWriMo" (Whatcom Memoir Writing Month) course series at Village Books in Bellingham. The full class (with waitlist!) spent ninety minutes learning about and applying practices to assist them in dealing with difficult feelings that arise as they write their stories. We kept a robust pace as we covered details such as how to effectively engage in self-care, emotional safety, others' emotional reactions to our work, and what we consider "truth" in writing about our lives. Please see the testimonials page for some of the favorable comments.

On September 22-23 expert bookmaker MJ Linford and I co-taught Books Meet Writing in the Natural World: Coptic-Bound Nature Journal/Sketchbook. Students enthusiastically crafted groups of pages ("signatures"), created lovely covers, and sewed their books together. We alternated book creating with guided time in the natural world and prompt-driven nature writing practices. The inspired and beautiful outcome included unique, bound journal/sketchbooks that were partially filled with photos, sketches, journal entries, prompts, poems, and written and visual musings of all sorts. It was such a joy, and we've been asked to offer this again soon.

On June 16, 2018 we did our annual "Treephilia" Global Earth Exchange in collaboration with Radical Joy for Hard Times. We used an abandoned junco nest with three eggs for the bird's head, douglas fir cones for its bill, a log from a felled tree as the body, and weeds that had grown up in the sand as feathers. We laid the yellow string (unique to this year's ceremony) across the wingspan.

The TEALarbor stories retreat (May 18-20, 2018), "Storying Through the Inner/Outer Landscapes: Writing & Ecology for Healing" was a deeply touching experience. Our host, The Whidbey Institute, offered beautiful, new, quiet cabins; delicious, healthy meals with decadent desserts; gardens, a labyrinth, hiking trails, spacious meeting area; and very gracious staff who met our needs at every turn. Nature conspired to create a luscious and nurturing natural environment for the deep work and ample play that we engaged during our weekend: flowers in full bloom, a mix of warm sun and refreshing downpours, rabbits and birds in plenitude, and new spring growth on trees and shrubs. We agreed at the end of our time together that we'd gladly do it all over again. Please check out the events page frequently to keep abreast of the newest offerings, including another retreat! 

On May 8th my latest work, Writing on the Landscape, was the featured book for the Global Read webinar hosted by the Charter for Compassion - click here to view the full replay. It was a lovely experience being interviewed by earth-loving others, and it's always an honor to be part of the heart-centered work of the Charter for Compassion. 

In early May I was hired to do an in-service/training for staff at Habitat for Humanity. The focus was on using nature and writing as means to self-care, particularly during difficult transitions. Being able to offer my work to people who are doing so much good meeting the basic needs of shelter, dignity, and "home" to those who would not otherwise be housed is very gratifying! 

Writing on the Landscape book readings on Apr 5th (Village Books - Bellingham, WA) and Apr 9th (University Book Store - Seattle, WA) were great experiences. At Village Books - in collaboration with Chuckanut Writers/Whatcom Community College Continuing Ed - I led a small writing workshop prior to the reading. It takes a very special brand of wisdom and tenacity to open one's heart across a page via a pen in hand; each of the writers at the table clearly demonstrated their possession of such qualities. The book reading that followed was probably the most robust one to date; the audience freely asked questions throughout the evening and even stayed a bit late to try out an activity related to my book. The audience at University Book Store a few nights later was much quieter but I could see and feel their deep attentiveness. One woman spoke to me as I signed her copy of my book and exclaimed how my demonstration (guided activity) really opened something up for her. It turns out she and I have visited the same holy place in the same foreign country. The power of books - writing, nature, and conversation - is palpable at these events. 

During the month of March (2018) I again facilitated the online course Growing Words of Compassion: Nature and Writing Practices to Love By, offered in collaboration with the Compassion Education Institute of the Charter for Compassion. Like the first time the course ran (July 2017), students from all over the world were deeply engaged. There were: cultural exchanges; sharing of stories, photos, writing excerpts, conceptual insights, and so much more! Several dozen participants from four continents, at least eight countries, and myriad walks of life (clergy, retirees, artists, therapists, professors, doctors, international aid workers, educators, artists, volunteers, grandparents, nurses, meditators, writers, nature lovers...) joined in the course this time. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to guide and bear witness to the journeys of these people who demonstrated such heart, integrity, and openness. 

For older updates, click here.



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