Embodied Ecology Retreats

…what we perceive as beautiful is experienced as having a face that returns our gaze.

      – Shierry Nicholsen

Embodied Ecology: A Poetics of Creatureliness Retreats


Embodied. Pertaining to a materiality of being, like writing a poem with bare feet in a cold pond looking back at you. If you sit still long enough the pond becomes your eye and you, a pond’s-eye pupil; or on your back in a meadow until the grasses become your lashes.

Ecology. Literally study of the household, a contemplation of living and nonliving beings in community, a spiritual homecoming in matter, living as a body in a universe of bodies. 

A. An open vowel used as an orthographic indicator and indefinite article of unspecified referent, drawing us into fluid being, just say ah….

Poetics. In literature the interaction between elements and their impact on the reader; in nature the wild energies that enliven walkers and lovers; with friends, the sharing of wordless creativity; in the woods, entering a silence resonant with sound.

Of. A preposition indicating derivation or origin, a part belonging to a whole, a renewed sense of being a wild member of a wild family and an earthling of earth, you get the idea.

Creatureliness. Finding the wildness within, living more deeply the life we share with other beings, feeling the vibration of frog-song on your eardrums, the red sun of your eyelids and primal longing in your bones. 

Retreat. Turn off your phone, hear what quiet sounds like, make friends with the wild earth. Write poetry that no one will ever hear, but maybe. Make art that changes upon the making. Sit long enough under Grandmother Oak to shed your selves and chatters. 

Retreat weekends in Iowa’s Loess Hills, Spring 2022. Contact Jack Phillips for details. thenaturalistschool@gmail.com

Cope’s gray tree frog (Hyla chrysoscelis) in green and brown displays, photos by Robert Smith. Fremont County, Iowa. Woodland morning retreat, October 2021, photo by Jack Phillips.