Guest post by the Center for Human-Earth Restoration
“Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species..”
–Clarissa Estés, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves
Since the conception of our Women in Nature program in 2016, The Center for Human-Earth Restoration (C.H.E.R.) has conducted our workshops exclusively on Triangle Land Conservancy properties, such as Walnut Hill, Temple Flat Rock, and Swift Creek Bluffs. Usually, the women in our program have never seen, and have often never heard of, the properties we explore. Participants are always impressed by TLC’s hidden gems, and are usually inspired to return for a future event and see more.
All Women in Nature workshops follow the same general format, with an emphasis on sisterhood among ALL women. We begin with an introduction to the property, and establish a ‘sense of place’ by discussing the significant historical, cultural, biological, and physical features of where we are. Next, we utilize Joseph Cornell’s Flow Learning model to establish or strengthen a deep connection between participants and the natural world.
First, we Awaken Enthusiasm through a sensory activity. This can be accomplished by using observational skills to tune in to the moment, or by depriving participants of their dominant sense of sight to allow them to tune in to their other senses and explore their environment in a novel way. Often, the sensory activities we use with adults were originally designed for children, which really helps break through any barriers or hesitation that women may be hanging on to.
Next, we Focus Attention through a guided meditation designed to help people be present in the moment. After meditation, participants are much calmer and intensely aware of their surroundings, as well as their own thoughts and feelings.
Once we all feel relaxed, and in tune with each other and the land, we Directly Experience nature by taking a light exploratory hike on the property. This is a great opportunity to review and get a first-hand look at the features of the property we discussed initially. Temple Flat Rock Preserve never ceases to amaze participants at this point in the workshop. The words “granite batholith outcropping” simply don’t hold a candle to the awe of walking on to that moon-like expanse, covered in lichens, mosses, and…PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS?! However, all the preserves we visit are home to unique features that inspire bioregionalism in visitors. We integrate Shinrin-Yoku into our hikes, stopping to smell the ginger and touch the enormous beech trees growing at Swift Creek Bluffs Preserve, or simply cupping our hands around our ears to listen to the wind and the water at Walnut Hill Preserve.
Finally, we Share Inspiration through the healing art of storytelling, reflective activities, and discussion. Sharing our personal reflections and inspiration with each other help us bond not only with nature, but with each other. Participants have enjoyed walking the ‘Trail of Beauty’ several times; thought-inspiring quotes are pinned to trees along a trail at the preserve, and once each individual has finished the trail, we gather together to discuss which quote touched us and why. Sometimes, the reflective activity simply consists of free time to quietly and individually explore, reflect, and journal, before coming back together to share our reflections. At each workshop, we listen to the telling of one story from Clarissa Estés book, “Women who Run with the Wolves”, which is a collection of stories designed to guide women back to their instinctual, natural selves. We discuss the lessons we can derive from each tale, as well as share any parallel experiences from our own lives. Storytelling was originally a healing art, and there is some medicine for everyone to take away from a good story, no matter how many times you’ve heard it.
We also spotlight notable women in environmental history during our closing discussion. Although sometimes these women were professionals in their field, such as marine biologist Sylvia Earle, often it is a woman who simply saw a need to defend the environment and better her community, and gathered people together to make it happen, such as Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Africa. Thomas Berry, a noted eco-theologian and a pillar of C.H.E.R.’s guiding principles, believes that the way into the future is to incorporate the wisdom of women as a significant part in solving the problems facing the Earth and humanity today. By sharing stories of influential women, we hope to inspire all women to make their voices heard on an equal basis with humanity to solve global issues as we move towards a mutually enhancing relationship with the Earth in the 21st century.