Introduction to the book Poems of Earth and Spirit

Poems are
wild creatures,

with minds and timing
all their own.

Sometimes,
when I am 
quiet and still,
they come to me
like wild birds,

thrilling me with their 
unexpected grace,

colorful wings,
and mysterious songs.

The first poems I wrote appeared quite suddenly, like buds opening in the spring. They arrived spontaneously and effortlessly, as though they had been eagerly waiting for someone to give them form. Some people would say I wrote them, but truthfully the poems were writing themselves through me. 

I was honored yet surprised that they had chosen me. While I loved reading poetry, I hadn’t written it as an adult, nor aspired to. With no formal instruction beyond a few hours in high school, I didn’t exactly appear qualified, by conventional standards, to write poetry. Fortunately for me, poems are not overly concerned with protocol. Apparently they saw some raw potential that they could work with. 

I believe the poems came to me because I had immersed myself in listening deeply to nature. Without realizing it, I had rolled out a giant red carpet that announced, “welcome, poems!”—and a large contingent of them appeared at my doorstep.

They arrived during a time of great transition in my life. For 25 years I had worked with remarkable people and organizations on causes I believed in, primarily promoting sustainable and socially just food systems. It was a meaningful and rewarding vocation, but in 2010 it became clear that it was time to serve in a different way. 

I knew this was not merely a career change, but a call to discover my true purpose and share my deepest gifts. I needed to take a big step back from what I had been doing, learn to listen in new ways, and connect with a greater wisdom to find my next path. And to do that, I knew exactly where to go. 

For as long as I can remember, I have loved being in nature. As a little girl, I enjoyed hiking, camping, and trips to the beach with my family. As an adult, I continued regular forays into the wild and discovered backpacking, cross-country skiing, kayaking, and more. Now, facing a life-changing transition, I felt called to relate to the natural world in different ways. 

Instead of going out with friends and hiking at a steady clip, I was drawn to go solo, to hold still or move slowly, to be quiet and receptive. I still loved hiking, but now I also loved to settle into one place and listen. I would sit by a creek and watch the water flow, or lean into a tree and gaze up through the branches, falling under nature’s spell and opening myself to whatever wanted to come.

I had a distinct sense that the natural world was speaking to me and inviting me to give voice to our deepening relationship. I could feel myself entering into a powerful and peaceful communion with something much greater than myself in a way that I had never experienced. I felt profoundly held and supported by the natural world, as if I was coming home to my true self and my larger family. I felt less alone and more connected than ever.  

It was as though I had found a window to another world that had always been there, but that I hadn’t seen. I knew that listening deeply to nature and sharing what I received was the essential foundation of my new path to service. It was not at all what I had anticipated, and yet it made perfect sense—it was what I had been preparing to do my entire life without realizing it. 

I started guiding nature immersion programs in the redwood forests near my home in Santa Cruz, creating experiential journeys that invited people into deeper communion with the natural world. I was excited to witness and hear about the magic that these groups experienced: profound peace, creative inspiration, new insights, healing of old wounds. Even those who had spent a great deal of time in nature were experiencing it in new ways, finding their own windows to another world. 

Listening to nature also transformed my approach to writing. I was well versed in writing with clear goals and deadlines—writing that got the job done. But the trees and birds taught me how to write in ways that completely re-wrote the job description. They taught me to write effortlessly, abundantly, and wildly, and it took me to surprising, delightful places. 

The work flowed freely, as though it was coming directly from a limitless wellspring of creation. I spent many happy hours “alone” in nature, wandering or sitting quietly, listening for what wanted to come, and recording it in my trusty notebook. Over time, I received a vast and diverse body of work—poems, practices, classes, and more; mostly focused on inviting people into a deeper communion with the natural world. 

Poetry and nature, I’ve discovered, have much in common. They are both patient and generous teachers who have taught me many things: to see the peace and beauty of the living world more clearly and feel it more deeply; to recognize trees, streams, and all beings as kind friends and wise elders; to listen and write in receptive, co-creative ways; and to trust myself and my voice. 

My hope is that this book will help you find your own windows to a deep and nourishing connection with nature that will support and sustain you wherever you go.

Published in Poems of Earth and Spirit: 70 Poems and 40 Practices to Deepen Your Connection with Nature