My life and work center around two life-long passions:
To appreciate and share the lessons, the beauty and the wild of the natural world.
To understand who we are as human beings within ourselves, with each other and the whole of life.
Along this journey, I’ve become a professional wilderness guide for over 30 years, a mentor and teacher, an artist and best of all, a father.
My first meaningful awareness and connection to the natural world came with a sweet experience of clarity as I lay in the tall green grass of our front lawn. I was about 3. Exquisitely vivid to this day, as I looked into a big blue sky and curled my fingers into the cool grass and dirt, I experienced a sustained intimacy and belonging to something grand and alive. I was simply awake and all around was this beauty.
I don’t know if it was a defining moment, certainly, the beginnings of a path I continue to explore. To this day, I still experience that same connection and affection for the natural world, for a deep curiosity as to what it is to be conscious and awake within the complex and ever unfolding of life on Earth.
As a wilderness and nature guide
By the time I was 14, I’d been in every state in the continental U.S. on amazing family camping trips that crisscrossed through the National Park system. The West called and I left Chicago for the mountains right after college. The alpine environment became my new school and I started leading trips with the Colorado Sierra Club, worked with National Outdoor Leadership School, Outward Bound and eventually became a lead trainer with Outdoor Leadership Training Seminars under the great mentorship of Dr. Rick Medrick.
After returning to university, completing a degree in counseling psychology, I was at a crossroads. In 1988, with support from my Navajo teacher, I went to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona for a prolonged solo retreat to listen. Awake for the final night, at first light, I came to understand the next step: create and lead private, co-designed journeys for individuals, families and groups, dedicated to self- discovery and transformation.
Since that insight, I’ve had the honor to work with so many individuals one on one, with couples, families, men’s groups, women’s groups, youth and young adults, therapists and their clients, school teachers, spiritual groups, a variety of organizations and small business.
I think of genuine mentoring as the sharing of both knowledge and inspiration. Often associated with human relationship, there also exists an ever-present mentorship of the interconnectedness we share with all of life. As a mentor, I look for ways to offer my own life experience and craft in concert with the needs of others, while at the same time acting as a bridge, a reminder that we live in a constant dynamic relationship with the seasons and cycles of nature.
From early on, people have wanted to talk with me about their lives. All the aptitude tests came up with the same main conclusion: counselor, with a bit of an artist. After many years and countless wilderness journeys, private sessions and group circles, I continue to a have a heart felt enthusiasm for the work… to be of assistance for others to reconnect with their own inner wisdom and deep nature.
Becoming a parent has inspired and helped me to understand and create more effective ways to work with youth and their families. In conjunction with providing private adult sessions, I’m increasingly aware of the need for our youth to have a similar way to be heard and recognized for who they are.
As a Teacher
I’m more comfortable with the word guide, but there is truth in the thought that we teach what we most want and need to mature in ourselves. To stand as a teacher, particularly when it comes to personal growth and counsel, is to be on a path that keeps leading to a mirror. I believe when it’s all said and done, we teach who we are. Best to ask my teenage son how he enjoys listening to all the wisdom I speak of.
Having come from a long lineage of ministers, the spiritual questions of existence were well at play early. I’ve had the privilege to study and mentor intensively with teachers from both East and West, from Native American to East Indian, from psychology to Zen. Each encounter shaped my life, yet in time, the natural world would call me back to listen again. After all the philosophies, cosmologies and genuinely life altering experiences, I’ve looked for the simple truths that seem to bind them all together with a common thread. One of the finest influences on my life was a professor in college who sincerely asked me the question: what do you love most and why aren’t you doing it?
As a teacher, I draw from all of this experience plus a craft of ceremony and ritual carefully developed through the years of close association with indigenous tradition. My style, though hard to describe, may best be represented in the words, “improvisational leadership”. In essence, this means coming from a place of respect and well-practiced fundamentals while seeking to open into what is truly needed and alive in the present moment. It takes careful listening, a willingness to let go of form and a knack of sensing where to take the next step… to trust in the process. My gratitude extends for the enduring work, support and friendship of Richard Moss and Gay Luce, who helped set my feet in this adventurous direction.
My formal teaching includes my years with outdoor leadership schools, over 20 years as a main teacher at the Nine Gates Mystery School, conducting young adult Rites of Passage for Leap Now for over 10 years, a long association with The Institute Of Noetic Sciences, public presentations and time with many other programs and associated groups. I love co-creating with other teachers and facilitators.
I first trained to be a commercial artist, but it would be photography years later that became a primary creative artistic expression. In the early days of climbing and guiding in the wilds, I didn’t want to carry a camera, didn’t want to be “taken out of the moment”. But then, there would be these outrageous encounters of beauty and light, of starlight and storm that I so wanted to share upon return.
This continued until I stood in the doorway of a hundred year old barn while I was living at the Hunewill Guest Ranch in Bridgeport Ca. A wind was blowing through a network of slates in the walls and roof into swirls of golden, dust filled light. It was breath taking and that was enough… decision made. I ordered the best and lightest camera I could find. A camera has been a companion ever since, often the means of documenting adventures around the world and to provide my clients with a fine remembrance of their time. Though never seriously pursuing photography professionally, I have enjoyed many years of sharing my images through public presentations, documentaries and archival prints. My images have been published in a variety of magazines and books, won some cool awards at juried shows and I’m gratified to know that some of the special moments I have been able to witness hang on clients’ walls.
And what was it I adamantly stated a few years ago? That putting a camera into a phone was just some idiotic marketing ploy? Oh well, so much for that insight. One of my most favorite photos I’ve ever taken was with my iPhone.
And What Else?
I’m grateful and fortunate to live in the rich environments of Sonoma County California and been able to travel to amazing lands and cultures around the world. I’m blessed with long friendships, community connections and the ever humbling and dear opportunity of being a father and co-parent. I still love to push into the wild spirit of nature to see what’s possible, often these days through ultra-distance endurance events on my bicycle. My first true public entertaining performance (other than athletics) was as a slick haired bartender on “skit night” at Hunewill Ranch. We all gotta start somewhere.
I believe that our everyday acts of kindness and the attention we give to each moment make a difference. Life is precious…the Earth, our sacred home.