Wild Wisdom Wilderness Retreat


My professional development goal this summer was to find a way to weave Nature into my English curriculum. On July 15, I headed into the Olympic Forest to participate in the Wild Wisdom Wilderness Retreat with master teacher Llyn Roberts of the Olympic Mountain EarthWisdom Circle, and six others. I stayed in a rustic cabin, formerly a trapper’s workshop, on homestead land on the south fork of the Hoh River right in the middle of the largest temperate rainforest (140 inches a year) in the United States. We left linear time, and all technology, to enter sacred time. We slowed down by being in silence while practicing deep listening. We communed with 1,000-year-old conifer trees, hanging moss, bright lichen, and ferns that were easily 5-feet tall. We snacked on huckleberries, salmonberries (the leaves of which are nature’s toilet paper!), and sorrel leaves. We made note of the tracks left by cougar, bobcat, and elk. We slowed for banana slugs. We ducked under a waterfall, found a hidden spring, walked seven miles without seeing a soul and watched the mist settle on the trees at the end of the day. Nature became our inspirational teacher and our classroom. Llyn’s teachings were gentle reminders to be in the magic, the one veiled by our everyday busyness, but always available. Everyone came to define their own magic. For me it was the encounters with the forest residents like the three juvenile owls who flew over me at dusk or the river otters playing in the current or the snake slithering across the fine glacial silt. These magical moments reminded me that I am a part of it all and in rhythm with everything around me.



At the beginning of the week, I naively thought I’d learn a bunch of exercises, return back to work, and somehow everyone would feel what I felt, but by week’s end I realized it wasn’t so much learning but remembering. The best teacher helps you remember what you know intuitively, like when you need to go outside and get a dose of sun or run around with friends or pause to watch a butterfly. Why isn’t the antidote to constant doing and achieving walking barefoot on the spongy forest floor or rocky gravel bar or cool river’s edge? And couldn't aimless wandering in search of the perfect rock or stick also help with creativity and problem solving? One night at the fire, we heard how the indigenous people of the Hoh River valley dunked their children in the icy glacial river six times a day to acclimate them to the harsh winter. But I bet they also had time to fish and collect berries. So it’s not that we shouldn’t work hard to realize our dreams, it’s that we must also preserve a balance. This was true for our small group who had quickly become like family. We shared meals together and sat around the fire telling stories under the starry night sky and bright moon. The balance of making time for nature and each other had resulted in a feeling of well-being and love, a concept I easily recognized as something we do at The Grauer School every day. This wonderful opportunity will forever be with me and I’m honored to work at a school that nurtures these same practices.