Making Sacred Hoops

Feral Friends,

On the eve of Indigenous Peoples Day, the Sacred Hoop Collective gathered at Prospect Hill, burial site of founders, pioneers, Buffalo Soldiers, former slaves and their descendants, and immigrants from the world over. It is Omaha’s oldest cemetery established on an indigenous burial site for the Omaha and other First Nations. We asked, what does it mean to honor ancestors and generations to come, to live as kindred with more-than-human creatures and indigenous presences original to this place?

We burned sage, did yoga, honored the Earth, read original poetry, prayed, and even wept a little. And laughed. Then we planted an sapling grown from a wild acorn — one we collected from a local Mother Oak. The sacred hoop of the cosmos is made of many little hoops. On that day we made our own.

Make a sacred hoop with those you love and even those you don’t. Live as kindred with the wild and the not-so-wild creatures with whom we share this home. Plant something wild and watch it grow.

— Jack Phillips and The Naturalist School

Photos by Jack Phillips (above) and Kristin Zahra

Learning Turtles

Wild friends,
Upon emerging a snapping turtle drags up deep time and teachings that reveal to us our oldest nature, an identity and way of being that exceeds our form and vision. Quietly approach to read the duckweed and muck and the graphics of scutes on her back, lines and colors and scales on her skin to receive a message of ancient wisdom. Find yourself in her eyes.

Learn turtle. Become a pupil of pond.

Jack Phillips

Chelydra serpentina is often feared, loathed and misunderstood — blamed for eating game fish and ducklings and sold for soup. They are in truth quite docile (dangerous only when perturbed or balanced on a paddle) and vital to healthy aquatic habitats. They are messengers of the deep wisdom of how to live on this planet. Except for the occasional photo-op and ecological research, we approach with silence, reverence and awe — leaving them undisturbed or gently returning them to their homes. Please do not harm or eat them!

Photos: Hatchling snapping turtle (Saunders County, Nebraska) by Joseph Phillips; small, young adult snapping turtle by Kristin Zahra (Fremont County, Iowa). Below: poets listening to turtle-songs and reading the Chelonian teachings of time (with Jack steering the canoe).

Promiscuous Company

Henry David Thoreau once complained of “promiscuous company,” those that trumped and chattered their way through woods intent on a social yuk-yuk and riparian entertainments and for some people nature is just for that. But not for us.

Like Thoreau and for generations of silent seekers, the silence of the woods is not the absence of noise but the presence of birdsong and the sweet music of turtles just ahead of our canoe, a sanctifying promiscuity that makes holy the walker (and her feet) and the earth and waters beneath, the sacred act of paddling devotions making every ripple a pondish chant. Frogs and flying dragon rattles. Spiders on duckweed a fingerling wiggle below. Solstice looking back at you.

Let summer have her say. Hold your tongue and she will speak through you. Then throw a blanket and have some pondy tea.

Jack Phillips

Asimina à la Salticidae

Feral Friends, sometimes the morning is so perfect in a place with little human imprint or racket that the world appears as it is, naked of poetry or science, writing her own dances and all we can do is breathe and be. Beauty shows her face. Virgin light finds our eyes. We are reflected wildly in the other, find ourselves in the primal gaze.

Find yourself in wild silences. Leave your phone in the car.

— Jack Phillips

Jumping spider (family Salticidae) hiding in a spring blossom of pawpaw (Asimina triloba) in Fremont County, Iowa on 30 April 2023. Photo by Tess Houser.

Kindred Spring

One way to stop seeing trees, or rivers, or hills, only as “natural resources” is to class them as fellow beings — kinfolk.

— Ursala Le Guin

The Weight of Waking [poem]

Those of us who fall restless around equinoxes and solstices know moon-rounds and the slides of sun do addle and stir every living thing and those that come to life in a squint or a poem 

slip over stones made smooth by time and turtles, ancient ambers and vernal sapsuckers aroused and fuddled, we wake as one. And here our future lies: 

in mating owls (woot-woot) chitter doo-wikitty Carolina wrens kon-ka-ree blackbirds bud-breaks hylas’ kreeek (the first frogs 

and after) caterwauling coons, in dreaming (we) of bloodroot/faerie-cup/mossy seductrix tiny cotyls tips and midges, the weight of creation no more than an eyelid.



And for this we saunter our Sunday mornings in the Southern Loess Hills and sometimes the Nishnabotna and the Kitskatuus river (known in settlement times as Platte). Come along with us or find alone a wild and quiet place to wake and walk and spring lively.

 – Jack Phillips

*Why poetry? The constraints of language even in wild company can make the sounds of soft muscles (though native to our species) a means of distance and separation. Free verse and unfettered speech can uncivilize us a bit, rewild our tongues on the path to recovered creatureliness  – naked of form – to embrace the skin of rhythms, the taste of vowels and the feel of harder sounds. I especially enjoy the fricatives. No one needs to see your writing. Just sing it with the frogs.

Photos from our Saunters — just before and just after vernal equinox — in Fremont County, Iowa: blue-winged teal, turkey vulture, Troy Soderberg. Scarlet-cups, filamentous algae, Angelica Perez. 

Silent Together

Let’s be silent together tracing down, listening up

coyote quiet slide in throat, bone cold promise of spring

echoes lichen, desire, dripping from lips, prayer, guesses

about prey and last night’s music, connections from scratch

some deep at least four ice inches thick we are in the midst of it

made of it, the middle of everything

Photo and poem by Tessa Wedberg. Sunday Saunter, 22 January 2023 in Fremont County, Iowa.

Frozen Poem on a Frog Pond

The sharp sound of beaks and bubblers

Softened by frog spots and sparrows

Suspended in time, like the air trapped beneath our feet

Gliding along the surface like boatmen

With the help of nature’s breath

A crack and car’s rumble return the body I occupy 

Jagged contours – nature-made armors – protect the fragile leaf.

Words and images by Kristin Zahra, on a frozen pond in Fremont County, Iowa.

Solstice Cosmogonies


A little time passed,     a little bit passed quickly.

A goldeneye came, a straight-flying bird     it fluttered about

Seeking a place for its nest,     considering a place to live…

So then the mother of the water,     mother of the water, virgin of the air,

Raised her knee from the sea,     her shoulder blade from a billow,

For the goldeneye as a place for a nest,     as an agreeable dwelling place.

…On it she builds her nest     laid her golden eggs,

…Suddenly she twitched her knee,     make her sinews tremble;

the eggs tumbled into the water, are sent into the waves of the sea;

the eggs cracked into pieces,     broke into bits.

The eggs did not get into the ooze,     the bits not get mixed up with the water.

The bits were turned into fine things,     the pieces into beautiful things:

the lower half of one egg     into the earth beneath,

the top of half of another egg     into the heavens above.

The top half of one yolk     gets to glow like the sun,

the top half of one white     gets to gleam palely like the moon;

any mottled things on an egg,     those became stars in heaven,

Anything black on an egg,     those indeed became clouds in the sky. 


Feral Friends,

Every year to welcome the Solstice we gather on a pond or near one (sometimes a river) to read from the Kalevala, the compendium of ancient Finnish creation stories. Solstice is the perfect day and the beginning of the new solar year; this year doubly so, as the new moon comes tomorrow. A far-north cosmogony works well in Iowa when our glassy pond moans and cracks to give birth to something new. May we find ourselves cracked open and blessed and the frozen soul freed – brightened and warmed – under the mottled sky.

A yolk for the sun and eggwhite moon,

Jack Phillips

***Photos by Kristin Zahra, Fremont County, Iowa.

Giving Wildly

Feral Faithful,

With the coming of the Solstice we will begin our 20th year. Since the formative days on Mendums Pond near Barrington, New Hampshire, we have planted, sauntered, written poetry, made ephemeral art, and helped countless people of all walks grow closer to nature. 

We have helped homeowners eliminate dangerous toxins from their property and lives, save water, reduce emissions, and go native. We have documented thousands of native creatures and rescued countless turtles, ducks and frogs from traffic, planted trees with school kids and residents of a homeless shelter. We have taught classes for arborists, architects, yogis, foresters, massage therapists, lumberjacks and land managers. 

We have built miles of trails and helped to write preservation plans, collaborated with filmmakers and artists and indigenous healers. We once met in Aldo Leopold’s shack. We have brewed naturalists in small batches across the continent and closer to home in the Missouri River watershed and the Platte, Nodaway, and Nishnabotna too.

Together we have discovered ways to heal the planet and the earth under our feet — barefoot in our boots. You can learn more about our current projects on the Support Rewilding 2022/2023 page above. And as you wander the website, you can learn about our history, our collaborators, and the work that we do.

Our members and friends have made this possible with wild energy and passion, poetry and hand tools, homemade soup and ginger snaps. But anyone can help us to keep and grow our programs by making a donation and asking your friends and colleagues to do the same. Clink on the Donate and Join us page to make a donation.

And if you love contemplative walks, planting acorns, wild silences, reading the bellies of tadpoles and want to connect more deeply with the creative rhythms of the cosmos, join us! Contact me at to learn how.

Peace and be wilder,


*Dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) in Washington County, Nebraska. Photo Troy Soderberg. Troy’s photography is featured in previous posts and throughout the website.

Walking Lunes

soft is the light

and the skin

and the seed pod

*Kristin Zahra

*Troy Soderberg

Feral Friends, 

Like the crescent moon, a poem can wax or wane; three simple lines can reveal the contours of wild silences and draw us in. An American form of haiku — the lune — forms a crescent, waning or waxing, without the constraints of syllabic count. It is the perfect form as the shortest days of the year ring the solstice, simple days of beauty and stillness, waning days soon to wax. Some of our friends  can even write a lune with a camera, like Kristin’s waning lune (top) and Troy’s waxing lune. See how the crescents curve this way and that? With every walk in a wild place (or a wild walk in any place) we write a lune with our feet as we follow the round of the earth. 

Can you feel it?

Jack Phillips