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

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

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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! 

For the 2020 Year in Review, click here.

On Dec 9 and 10th, 2020 I made return visits to three different college classrooms that are using Writing on the Landscape as their course text. The focus for each two-hour class was “’Making Writing Easier.” I provided a diversity of short writing activities to promote successful processing and journaling. I offered nature objects, photographs, poetry, and multiple writing prompts to keep the students’ hands flowing across the page. Combining writing genres and forms proved interesting for the students: descriptions of actual objects with ascription of superpower attributes and writing haiku (substituting words for syllable counts) were two such activities. The students also had several opportunities to do reflect writing and intention-setting. Much of our discussion time revolved around whole-person writing, self-care, and tricks to simplify the process of completing writing projects. We had robust sharing and Q/A following most of the writing experiences. Once again, I was stunned and gratified by the avid engagement of these students despite how Zoom-weary they were at the end of this long, pandemic-modified semester. 

I presented Reflecting and Renewing Through Nature, Creativity, Beauty on Zoom to participants at the annual conference of the Kitsap County Conference for Human Rights on December 4th, 2020. This was my first time presenting at this conference and I found another compassionate community in these human rights activists. In my session we: did a writing prompt about what nourishes us, read some poetry, discussed the roles of gratitude and self-compassion in the exhausting work of equity and diversity, and immersed ourselves in soothing nature-based practices. It was such an honor to humbly offer my work to these amazing human beings. 

November 21st, 2020 is the date that marks my first translated article publication! I am deeply gratified that my poignant piece, “The Ecology of Grief: Weaving Beauty into Death and Loss,” has just been published in the bilingual and international journal, Wimblu. I’m so honored to be included in this very beautiful issue. Mis queridos, pueden leerlo en español aquí. If you’re interested in the English version, please go here

On Oct. 29, 2020 I presented an interactive session, Hummingbirds, Hemlocks, and Horizons: Sensory Delight in Nature and Art, via Zoom at the Unconference of Mediate B.C. I also created three videos of creative- and nature-based practices to be used throughout the twenty-four hour online Conflict Resolution Conference of The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia held on the same day (click here and then on the "Nature Prompts" playlist to view the three short videos). Both of these engagements focused on the restorative goodness of creativity, the natural world, and beauty. (And the conference sessions I was able to attend were very interesting, thought-provoking, and inspiring.) 

Last night (10/19/20) I was one of three guests on Conversations with Julie (Daum) of Mediate B.C. via Instagram (live). We chatted about my upcoming presentation at the Conflict Resolution Conference of The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia. (You can watch the recording through your Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/p/CGdZQR4L5Gf/?igshid=1cehbcmc7bshk). 

On Oct. 15 and 19, 2020 I attended three different college classrooms that are using Writing on the Landscape as their course text. Using writer's block as the theme for my visit, students practiced writing in a variety of genres and learning how to overcome feeling stuck. What a wonderful array of questions they asked! 

Oct 7th, I was interviewed by the CoRe Conflict Resolution Society in British Columbia, Canada about how nature experiences engender joy.

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 Orange County School of the Arts, 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! 

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 (Bainbridge Island North Kitsap IC). 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 Company 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.  



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