May the sun behind veils and grief behind masks be invitations to new intimacies and wild remembrances

Many of us on the West Coast woke up this week to eerie orange skies and layers of ash. It felt like the day the sun refused to rise. Some compared it to eclipses or the day the dinosaurs roamed confusedly after the comet crashed. The birds seemed to be behaving differently, quieter and more pensive. The Canadian geese still honked boisterously, but with a curiosity on their beaks.

Perhaps the sun itself is quarantining? Perhaps Fire is an Elder asking us to be broken open by our own consequences?

We’ve had to learn a new word, pyrocumulonimbus. You can look up the science, but the poetic translation is “fire-breathing dragon of clouds.”

Meanwhile, my home state of Iowa recently sustained millions of acres of damage from the fury of devastatingly high winds, those in the south and east enduring hurricanes, others unseasonable snow, floods or record heat. Wherever you are, it seems the era of escape is over, old strategies of fleeing are failing–the era of compost is here.

Something stubborn in me feels that inserting a typical story about climate emergency is too banal, and we all deserve a more creative story to match the root of things, worthy of our heart’s longings.

Yesterday was Mary Oliver’s birthday. Many of you know and adore her poetry and the gift of presence she brought to daily life and shared with the world. Recall her lines from Wild Geese: “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

And right now my soft animal body wants to heave with grief on my knees. It seems to want to experiment with frenzied yelps as I gulp the ashed air of our shared inheritance, “Hey lover earth, I’m fucking alive and listening!!” and “Elder Fire, I’m dying and being reborn with everything you destroy!!”

Anybody else?

As we apprentice ourselves to new levels of loss, I am walking with these questions:

Could we weave our grief, unknowingness, sacred rage, and delicate unthwartable longings into previously undared and shared possibilities?

What if we are imaginal buds in the caterpillar’s dissolving body (our current crumbling patho-adolescent system) as it shapeshifts into the dawn of wingéd newness?

What if we embraced the moment and felt it all, re-imagined Seed-paths of Belonging seeking the sun through the cracked concrete of these discrete disruptions?

I invite you to join me in the halls of these questions too. Because we know that community is core to these transformative times. Silent suffering is one of the cruel myths of modernity. Yes, there is a time for solo journey through the underworld–parts of the journey where only we can face and embrace ourselves; yet, community is an essential container for knowing and being known, for navigating upheavals, for deep belonging.

Aside from the Deep Belonging courses and 1:1 soulwork, I am in the process of creating a platform, with regular Wild Nature Heart Circles, where we can explore the challenges of the the Great Unraveling and the seeds of new culture together.

Mary’s poem is a ultimately a poem about belonging. It ends,

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

So may the sun behind veils and grief behind masks be invitations to new intimacies and wild remembrances. May we smuggle in contraband questions under cover of haze.

Take care of yourselves, be gracious with your own and other’s journeys, let curiosity spring from your beaks, lend your tears to the watershed, and tend to your heart and wild dreams,

With arms outstretched to assist in this Great Turning,

Ryan
Director of Creative Earthiness
Writing from ancestral Wiyot and Yurok territories, Northern California

The Purpose of Going Out is Coming Back

I recently returned from three rich days facilitating a wilderness ceremony/rite-of-passage for a young man. I had been working with him for a few months and he heard the call to go deeper.

One of the joys of this work is having the privilege to hold the space for people to encounter their own soul growth and unfurling in/with/as wild nature.

After a few rounds in circle by the river telling his story and helping him refine his intentions, he crossed the threshold to take his sacred spot to fast and listen deeply to his inner voices and the whsipers from the land and other-than-human kin.

But as we say, the purpose of going out is to come back—to return more aligned to community with one’s unique gifts and love as medicine for your people.

As I awaited his return to Circle the final morning, hummingbirds whirred among the red wildflowers and river otters played on their commute upriver. What a blessing!

He emerged across the threshold visibly more grounded and alive. He had conducted several ceremonies severing some self-sabatoging stories and ways of relating, and fiercely embraced some very important malnourished aspects of his Whole Self. And rekindled his relationship with his Muse as well.

We held Incorporation council. He was facing the next stage of Return with clear eyes. He was under no illusion that this experience was somehow the be-all-end-all, yet he felt empowered and inspired.

The real work, the work of embodying his learnings and gifts in service, was entering a new level.

It is such an honor and joy to be able to help provide a powerful container for Whole Self exploration and witness the journey as people come into deeper belonging to themselves and nature and embrace that next stage of unfurling clarity, self-trust, and wild purpose.

-Ryan

I HAD BEEN FRAGMENTING MYSELF

I had been fragmenting myself. And I cannot conspire to do it anymore.

When I started PLAYing attention, I realized that if Wild Nature Heart was to continue authentically and respons-ably, it would have to be a full expression and embodiment of who I am.

I could no longer sever parts of my self from each other, allowing some parts out over here, others over there: Ryan the Activist vs. Ryan the Poet vs. Ryan the Wilderness and Soul Guide vs. Ryan the EcoSensualist, the Educator, the Playful Trickster, the Musician, the Ecotherapist.

Wild Nature Heart must integrate the somatic, the spiritual, the sensual; it must honor the artsy, the activist, and animist; it must cultivate the spaciousness to hold the grief, joy, and anger, the shadow and the light. And hold space for others to do the same.

Which means I must integrate all that, through constant digging and weaving, ever-widening conversations with the world, and a rounding out of my wholeness.

Only then can Wild Nature Heart fulfill its wild purpose of helping to hold the holy wholing during this Great Turning/Great Unraveling/Great Re-membering.

Furthermore, it is clear that Anti-racist and decolonial work IS healing work IS ecotherapeutic work IS sacred grief work IS rewilding work.

These are not and cannot be seperate if we are to dream ourselves into regenerative, co-liberatory, revelatory, and earth-honoring habits of being and doing.

We’re Hunting Wholeness and Wild Purpose.
We’re Stalking Shadows and Deep Belongings.

What ways have you fragmented yourself and what ways are you embracing your wholeness?

Ancestral Tsenungwe land 📍_____________________________________________________________________________________
🦊DEEP BELONGING FOR THE GREAT TURNING COURSE- Sept. 24-Oct.29 (2 spot left)

Scheduling now for summer and fall:
🌞1:1 EARTH-ROOTED MENTORING

🦋CUSTOM WILDERNESS CEREMONIES/RITES-OF-PASSAGE (for individuals or small groups up to 4)

KEEP WALKING, VISIBLE ONE

We say that the purpose of going out is to come back. We cross the threshold and go on the sacred mountain or desert, not to escape, but to claim who we really are, to embody our wholeness, and to bring back the medicine that the world needs.
————————————————————
Walk Away, Invisible One,
take your place upon the land

Let your heart swell
as big and wide as the sky

Let the mystery of your soul
dance with the mystery of the desert

When you are ready,
pick up a prayer

What does a prayer look like?

It may look like a naked dance
courting the soul of the world

collecting bones to sing over
blowing embers in the palm of your hands
as gifts to a wounded world

stewarding the storm within
towards the blossoming of a desert lotus
at moonrise

It might sound like
a conversation with rocks and lizards
and other citizens of the desert

It may sound like a song of gratitude,
rising unexpectedly from your belly
reclaiming joy

or the beat of a drum
forgetting who is drumming whom

or, it may sound like Silence
heard only by the Heart-Ear
of Deep Listening

It may look like abandoning the old temples
to build the new ones

shedding skin and tears
that no longer serve
giving it back to the land as offerings

It may look like a question mark
in the form of a juniper tree, asking:
Are your ready to commit?

Maybe you become a mouse
getting into the smallest spaces
to gnaw through bonds
that would have you bound

Or a funeral conductor, burying old stories

Or a warrior taking a stand
with blood pulsing,
announcing to the mountains:
I’m here!

When the prayer has fully prayed you,
Walk in, Visible One.

Take your place in the Circle—
it is time to be seen.

It is sometimes hard
to come down the mountain

But do not linger in the threshold.

We need your story.

Walk In, Visible One,
take your place in the World,
because the purpose of going out
is to come back.

Keep walking,
Keep making the beauty
giving it away as medicine

the beauty that is uniquely you
crafted in love like the smallest bead
that people may not even notice

but that the earth & the people
so desperately need.

Keep walking, Initiated One,
Keep walking

(From No Lies On the Mountain, a Wild Nature Heart poetry collection out later this year)

WHAT IS YOUR NICHE IN THE ECOSYSTEM OF HEALING AND JUSTICE?

This is a question I am living now.

“Where your soul’s gift and your positionality (dynamic social location of power + privilege) meet is your ecological niche for a hungry world.”

This beautiful & dangerous call by Pinar Sinopoulus-Lloyd (@queerquechua) of @queernature has been swimming through the river canyons of my psyche as I feel the complex emoting of a world confronting multiple intersecting crises: ecological, social, and spiritual.

Several potent and disturbing images are also swimming through me: a death knee on George Floyd’s neck; raging fires of buildings, cars, forests, towns; the body of Homero Gómez González, Monarch Butterfly Defender, found at the bottom of a well; dead dolphins with plastic inside their stomachs: masks and their meaning; playgrounds with caution do-not-cross tape across them; and my own soul images ever-opening up to encompass more and deeper archetypes.

They want to make me uncomfortable and I say Yes, knock me over. Turn me upside, inside out, and upend my ego’s view of who I am. I want to live bigger.

What does it mean to fully embody the gifts I receive/I am as medicine to the people & a world in need of healing & justice? What is Wild Nature Heart’s most aligned & powerful way to serve in this Great Turning?

We know the current dominant economic, cultural, and relational paradigm is insane, unjust, and unsustainable. It’s going down and being composted one way or another.

Which returns me to Pinar’s inquiry. What is Wild Nature Heart’s ecological niche?

The truth is, I don’t yet fully know. And that’s ok. Like nature, it is dynamic and continually shifting. Sometimes we (or egos) play catch up with psyche (soul) and our callings.

I want no separation between my medicine and my commitment to social and ecological justice. The eco-spiritual is inextricably intertwined with rooted & earthy, which is inextricably intertwined with the Beloved Community.

I am carrying the question about how to best show up and ‘synergize both my soul’s gift and my positionality.’

As Pinar also says, “When we do synergize, we become dangerously strategic.”

May we all be dangerous to the current system.