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

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

 

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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. 

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, 2019 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. 

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.

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 2018 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. 

On March 22nd 2018 I presented Alternatives to Voice: Writing as a Means to Understanding at the Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference at University of Washington School of Law. The peacemakers' deep-hearted engagement with the writing and nature-based practices for use in conflict resolution and self-care astounded me. I also attended compelling presentations that included: play as a tool for deepening peace work, mediation to reduce evictions that lead to homelessness, brain health and ageism, and a new restorative justice program for youth offenders in Seattle. 

March 13, 2018 I was honored to spend the afternoon training a hearty group of hospice volunteeers with Franciscan Hospice in Tacoma. I presented Volunteers Who Thrive: Writing and Nature Practices in Hospice Service, and I introduced volunteers to basic ways we can use the written word, nature objects, images of the natural world, and small rituals to restore ourselves to wellbeing and wholeness. I was reminded how vital it is to have an ongoing practice of simple acts that we can use to replenish ourselves.  

On Feb 27th 2018 I was interviewed by Kitsap Literary Artists and Writers for their weekly broadcast on Bremerton Kitsap Access Television (BKAT). The show I'm in will air on March 10th and again on March 24th at 6 PM (Pacific Time) on Wavecable Channel 3 and Comcast Channel 12. A live stream will also be available on the BKAT website.

Writing on the Landscape book readings on Feb 17th (Barnes & Noble - Eugene, OR) and Feb 24th (King's Books - Tacoma, WA) were both deep and wonderful experiences. People are so eager to listen and receive this work! In Tacoma, I also co-led a writing workshop before the book reading; participants were so willing to open up and eagerly write across the page. This reminds me that readiness and courage are such vital catalysts for inner transformation. 

I've accepted the invitation to join the Charter for Compassion's Environment Sector Task Force. I expect great things for all beings from this partnership.

Writing on the Landscape book readings on Jan 7th (Liberty Bay Books - Poulsbo, WA), Jan 11th (Eagle Harbor Books - Bainbridge Island, WA), and Jan 13th (Edmonds Bookshop - Edmonds, WA) were each fantastic and unique experiences, colored by the local communities in which they took place. I'm just amazed at the diversity of people who are drawn to my book, the deep and participatory engagement of the audiences, and the generosity of the indie booksellers who have hosted me. 

I was interviewed for a podcast on Sunday Dec 10th, 2017 by Russell Suereth of Spiritual Fizz. The topic focused on nature and spirituality, and the audio recording is expected to become available in March 2018. 

My kickoff event book reading at Barnes & Noble (Silverdale, WA on Saturday Dec 9th, 2017) was a really enjoyable experience; those in attendance did more than just listen to me read from Writing on the Landscape. But I won't spoil the surprise for those of you who will be going to upcoming readings. 

I'm thrilled to announce my latest book, Writing on the Landscape: Essays and Practices to Write, Roam, Renew! Many of you have been asking for this book, so I'm pleased that it is now ready for you. Writing on the Landscape is available online (LifeRichAmazonBarnes & Noble) or you can order it through your local bookseller.

On December 4, 2017 I facilitated a mini-training online for the compassionate, astute mediators at the Conflict Intervention Service of the Bar Association of San Francisco. The fine souls in this groundbreaking program are mediating conflicts with vulnerable populations in supportive housing in order to reduce evictions that lead to homelessness; this is truly lifesaving work. It was such an honor to guide them through Writing to Restore Compassion & Break Impasse: a hands-on workshop in which they practiced and learned a variety of writing (and writing with nature prompts) practices that they can use to restore themselves and potentially offer as tools to individuals in crisis.

The Written Story Workshop co-led by Jennifer Wilhoit and Brenda Fantroy-Johnson on November 11, 2017 was powerful! Participants tried writing practices and explored self-care in the writing process (and in life); best of all, they shared deep stories that will rest in the center of their written projects (mostly memoir).

The online compassion course I taught this summer was a great success! Students from at least six countries - including Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, England, Canada, and the U.S. - learned and shared about compassion via writing and nature activities, concepts, readings, practices, and creativity. It was such a beautiful process full of lovely people. In fact, there is a waiting list of folks who couldn't join us over the summer. But they'll have a chance to join now on their own schedule; I now have my own online teaching platform and the revised/improved compassion course became available on September 5th, 2017. It is on-demand which means people can register and begin the course whenever they want. 

I was invited to sit on an authors' panel on June 30, 2017 for the "Writing for K-12 Teachers" workshop through the Olympic Educational Service District (OESD) 114. We discussed writing process, inspiration, and publishing. Great experience! Wonderful teacher-writers!

As a new board member of Life Story Library Foundation, I am seeing the vast potential for story work on an international level. We will use technology to upload, catalog, tag, and access the stories of people all over the world. This will also broaden TEALarbor stories' offerings in a number of really exciting ways that I will announce as they become available.

My Mar 25-26 ADRNC Conference Workshop at Univ of San Francisco: Journeying Through Personal Responsibility Toward a Culture of Peace was interesting and powerful. I witnessed attorney mediators and other peacemakers write, discuss, use nature images, and leave the conference room to engage a nature experience outside; all of it was in service to taking personal responsibility for our part in creating a culture of peace.

On December 8, 2016 I offered a video conference call - "Compassionate Practices in Trying Circumstances" - in collaboration with the Charter for Compassion. Callers had the opportunity to learn about and engage some very simple practices for coping with challenging times. There were people from around the globe in attendance, people who are struggling with current conditions all over the planet. I was just delighted to be of service in my very small way…which is, simply, to be present with them. It takes guts to show up to strangers: all those callers to me, and introverted me to all of them. And yet, our common experience of being humans in difficult times, our honest vulnerability and intrepid willingness to look in the face of one another and ourselves, our shared desire to find peaceable and loving paths forward led us to convene in the geography-free, timeless, bias-neutral space of the online call.

The Kindness Communication blog has offered me the chance to provide a guest post. 

Seattle filmmaker LD Willis interviewed me on Nov. 13th; she explored for her docu-series the convergence of technology and creativity in TEALarbor stories' work. At the end of the long interview, she took some footage of me creating a nature altar at the base of a tree in downtown Seattle (pictured here). 

My article, What is Wild: Ecotones!, has just come out in this year's "Circles on the Mountain" publication of the Wilderness Guides Council.

I have written a guest essay, Ecotones: Convergence of Inner/Outer Landscapes, for inclusion in the first published volume of the co-founder of AUNE's Nature Based Leadership Institute. The book is now in press.

I've been invited to write guest posts for blogs focused on hospice service, on gratitude, and on kindness. I'll provide links here once they've been published on the various sites.

The in-service I was invited to conduct for the Dispute Resolution Center of Kitsap County's mediators on October 26, 2016 was a wonderful experience. I offered TEALarbor stories' ecological writing practices for the professional and personal benefit of peacemakers. 

The Tulpehaking Nature Center's Arbor Day benefit, "Rooted," was a blazing success. Actors from NYC read writers' work against a backdrop of incredible artwork and spontaneous haiku. Click here to see the video of Virginia Thomas evocatively reading my piece. To see some of the photos of the lovely artwork, go to TEALarbor stories' Facebook page and scroll to posts on May 2nd.

I've developed my online course, A Natural History of Compassion: Growing Tenderness for Self and Other via Writing and Ecology, for the Charter for Compassion's Education Institute (CEI). This has inspired me to begin development of a broader curriculum reflecting the practices and values that characterize TEALarbor stories' work. (Courses for CEI will be offered gradually over time to best serve the needs of our global audience.) 

March 19th, 2016 I presented my work at the Assn for Dispute Resolution of Northern CA's Annual Conference at Univ of San Francisco. During and since my presentation, I have continued to receive kind feedback about how the writing techniques and skills were personally and professionally meaningful to participants. It was really wonderful to be of service to the mediators and other attendees. I especially enjoyed the gospel singing that opened the conference and set the tone; at least half of us were out of our seats dancing at 8:45 on a Saturday morning.

On the morning of Feb 19th, 2016 I offered an introductory workshop through Sound Spirit, a nonprofit initiative of Suquamish United Church of Christ. The participants got immersed in what it means to write for insight, write as rite, and write for outcome using the creative and nature-based practices characteristic of TEALarbor stories' work. It was a wonderful way to spend a rainy winter morning here in the luscious Puget Sound region.

In early February 2016 I had a powerful experience facilitating a training for a small group of mediators in the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco. The evening's focus was Stories of Conflict: Writing for Insight as a Tool for Mediating, during which I invited participants to explore various Writing for Insight© practices that they could employ in mediations, or in other professional and personal settings. I was at first surprised, and then deeply moved, that TEALarbor stories' work can touch lives in such a variety of locations: in natural places outside, in homes and offices, in hospice settings, within holy places and at conferences, as well as high in the sky above the second most densely populated city in the U.S. We convened in a beautiful conference room on the fifteenth floor, halfway up the skyscraper, with stunning views of the bay at sunset. Using objects from nature, photographs taken in natural areas on seven continents, and symbolic storytelling, participants experienced what it means to write for insight.

On Saturday morning, October 24th, 2015 I facilitated TEALarbor stories' hallmark Writing the Inner/Outer Landscape workshop in the cozy 'The Sitting Room' in Penngrove. This was my first experience offering my work at TSR as well as my first time with a group comprised solely of experienced, published writers (half of whom are members of Redwood Writers). What a treat to see how this work can even touch the lives of savvy writers such as the astute group of men and women who attended on Saturday. We used objects from and images of the natural world to arrive in, and and be present with what lives in, our inner landscapes. I've been invited to offer more workshops at TSR and received beautiful comments from participants. I am honored by these authors' attendance and their willingness to explore the ecotone of their inner/outer landscape. 

I returned in October from presenting "Exploring our Spiritual Roots: The Inner/Outer Landscape" at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City. With nearly ten thousand people from fifty faiths and eighty nations, I found it to be 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 faith and traditions; the first Parliament took place in 1893."

Trebbe Johnson, founder of Radical Joy for Hard Times, featured one of my writings in her weekly newsletter, "Radical Joy Revealed." These inspirational messages support RadJoy's mission: "a worldwide community of people dedicated to bringing meaning, beauty, and value to places that have been damaged by human or natural acts." Click here to read my piece, "Firecloud" (8/19/15).



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