Embodied Ecology: Poetics of Kinship and Creatureliness

Open yourself to the wild energies that enliven us. Good boots recommended.

American bullfrog tadpoles (Lithobates catesbeianus), first season in Fremont County, Iowa. Photo by Betiana Simon. Featured image (top): hackberries on snow, Troy Soderberg.

Embodied Ecology Retreats are at the root of everything we do. Kinship with wild creatures — with the more-than-human world — grows through immersion in wild places. Our retreats, Saunters, field work, and creative acts center us in the confluence of ecotherapy, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, ecological sciences, ecopoetics and indigenous wisdom. That’s a lot of oikos, but there is room for everyone in the earth-house!

Pondering the last day of summer. Photo by Jack Phillips, steering the craft.

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

      – Shierry Nicholsen

Embodied Ecology: poetics of creatureliness retreats. Glossary:

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.

Poetry is our wildness…. Art alone extensively comprehends wildness without controlling it . Poetry alone realizes aliveness without fixing a definition of it.

— Andreas Weber

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.

Courtney Stormberg, selfie.

Creatureliness: Finding the wildness within, living more deeply the life we share with other beings (including humans!), feeling the vibration of frog-song on your eardrums, the red sun of your eyelids and primal longing in your bones. Creativity expresses our creaturely being; artistic expression connects us more deeply with the generative rhythm of the cosmos. Walking quietly in a woods or meadow brings us down to earth. Learn the names of wild creatures or just let them tell you. Greet them as kin.

Coyote (Canis latrans) in Washington County, Nebraska. (Troy Soderberg)

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. 

We are salted sun. How our bodies brown to earth. Our warm flesh flowering…

— Cassandra Lopez

Spring 2022 Embodied Ecology Retreat. Photo by Jack Phillips.

Our embodied ecology philosophy animates and informs our days of contemplation, reading and writing poetry, making ephemeral art, quiet walking in woods and meadows, and the ways we plant, teach, study and play. We pay close attention to the diversity human voices speaking from the edges and margins of habitats and societies. We meet in all seasons at nature preserves in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska and sometimes farther afield.

Contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com to learn more.