Practicing Community Episode 2: Nature and the ‘Me’ Problem – A Conversation with Larry Hobbs
This month join Larry Hobbs, Marisa Taborga Byrne, and Dane Zahorsky for our second episode as they discuss our connection to wild places and specifically the power and beauty of nature-based rites of passage!
Read the Transcript
About This Month’s Guest – Larry Hobbs
Larry has worked in a variety of both humanitarian and nature-based work throughout his lifetime. From a field biologist studying whales and dolphins to a psychotherapist working with individual and family systems to a teacher and naturalist leading wildlife expeditions worldwide, to years of Rites of Passage training at the School of Lost Borders.
Larry has dedicated many years to the 4H Challenge Program embedded within the Washington State University’s extension program with a vision of making traditional Rites of Passage available to all 4H youth. Although still conducting river dolphin research in Southeast Asia and teaching and leading natural history trips around the world, Larry’s passion rests in guiding Rites of Passage and in sharing his knowledge of the ways we interrelate with and understand the natural world that supports us all.
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Nature as a Lens
At any given moment if you turn your face to the sky, you’re simultaneously looking at the past and the future. As you wake each morning, the rays of sunlight washing across your face have traveled 93 million miles, appearing precisely as they were 8 minutes ago. That self-same sun will still shine eight minutes from now, and another after that, on and on until, eventually, in a few billion years, it will nova in sublime fusion, transforming our solar system into something new.
More tangibly, take a moment and look to the ground, place your hands in the dirt. You are touching your future. There, your body, your ashes, everything and everyone you’ve ever known or loved will one day return, reincorporated as billions of nearly indiscernible molecules nesting betwixt and between the roots and soil beneath your feet.
Think of the tectonic plates on which you stand, forged from the Earth’s molten youth, its fiery adolescence, think about the countless leaves and trees returned there after innumerable seasons, carried on the wind, the breath of the Earth, dust and mud from river beds, valleys and mountains, and the atoms of our ancestors, the foundation on which we love, breathe, fight, mourn and build our homes and communities.
I grew up in the Great Plains of the United States where the horizon seems to justify that the earth is indeed flat only broken by the small city centers, constellations of vertical buildings, reminders of our superiority over our environment. Yet 250 years ago, the center of Kansas City was nothing more than flowering grasses, originally home to the Clovis tribe and a hundred million years before that they were the bottom of great sea and awe as we understand it was unknown on the Earth.
Our ideas are no different than our cities. They gather in complexity; sometimes great leaps are made, and they provide us with the openness to adapt and open to what is asked of us. Like all things, they are fleeting, the best become sacred, most will erode. And much will change in the next thousand years. Often our inability to lean into this humbling perspective rests in the fundamental misunderstanding that each of us suffers, and ultimately lives and dies, alone. Look back at your sorrows. How many before you have shed similar tears? Alone, at night, out in those plains, we all share in our ability to persevere and adapt in the face of struggle, is this not the core truth of why passageways persist after thousands of years?
And at the center of those passages for a great many people is an alignment and stewardship of wild places, those that engender…wild ideas.
To be in wild places, to be with wild and unfettered ideas, we are invited to ground in what is most essential, we are called into service as individuals and communities, the kinds of people our hearts, and the cosmos, dare us to be.
So this month as we dive into nature connection, take a moment, go outside and look up to the past, run your hands through the future. Feel the connection of time and place, and be remember all we share with one another. Whether you are digging in the soil or digging in your past, pointing a finger at the moon or contemplating your future, we and the universe are inseparable.
Dancing in the waves, relishing the sweet scent of a flower, tracking animal stories through imprints along a river bank, listening to bird song. What nature offers is a connection to a broader scope of life, to where we came from, to right where we belong. Below is a list of nature-focused programs, articles, and other resources. Enjoy!
There are over 50 Youth Passageways Partners Doing the Work
- Click on this link to see the listing: Wilderness Connection Programs
Other Nature Connection Organizations
- Sacred Earth
- Way of Nature
- We Are Nature Rising
- http://wearenaturerising.earth/nature-connection-directory/ a directory of over 73 nature connection programs in North America
- Wild Earth
- Write to Freedom
Blogs from Youth Passageways
- Bearing Witness: Exploring Rites of Passage as a Supportive Framework for Transgender Youth – Laura E. Parker-Schneider and Taylor E. Solymosy-Poole
- The Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature – Weaving Earth
- The Courage of Becoming: WSU 4-H Rites of Passage – Michael Wallace, Larry Hobbs, and Scott Vanerwey
- Dancing All Three – Vanessa Osage
- Love From Earth – Peggy Eyers
- Take Death by the Hand – Lindsay Hagamen
- Between Two Worlds – Malidoma Some On Rites Of Passage
- Exploring Second Nature Youth, Wilderness, and Rites of Initiation – Flynn Johnson
- Nature-Based Rites of Passage – Gigi Coyle
- Natural Burials – Sarah Hymas
- Psychological Benefits of Nature – Bill Plotkin
- Rediscovering Rites of Passage: Education, Transformation, and the Transition to Sustainability – David Adam Lertzman
- A Wilderness Pilgrimage: Where We Go When We Die
- There’s a Place for Every Question in the Vast Container of Nature
- The Sounds of Nature’s Silence are Essential to Our Own Contemplative Lives
- In Quiet Places, We Face the Questions That Can Make or Unmake Us
- We Are Owned by the Wilderness
- Toward a Contemplative Ecology
- The Grandness of Uncentering Ourselves
- Lessons from the Landscape
- We’ve Lost the Modern Meaning of Glory
- When the Mountain Whispers