Walking Wild the Soul

Sunday mornings, waking the wild, walking the soul.


What a good season for frogs, hot-humid and wet. Gray tree frog, Hyla sp. in Saunders County, Nebraska. Photo by Robert Smith

Contemplative walking, wild poetry, mindful moments, and deep ecology in rugged places. Contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com . Curiosity and good boots required. Long pants and bug spray.


Saturday Oaks, Sunday Saunter


common yellowthroat

In July, a common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) in Iowa’s southern Loess Hills. Photo by Nic Salick.

Oak woodland ecology, phenology, and environmental cues. Saturday morning, August 10th in Fremont County, Iowa. Sponsored by Golden Hills RC&D in Partnership with The Naturalist School. Presenter: Jack Phillips

Sunday morning odonate contemplations and meditations on W. S. Merwin. Guided by TNS faculty. August 11th, Fremont County, Iowa.

Contact Jack Phillips for more information and to register: thenaturalistschool@gmail.com

*Please note: these intensive small-group experiences, held in rugged terrain, are intended for adults.


Early-morning late-July Saunter and odonate survey on a high bluff in Saunders County, Nebraska. Photo by Robert Smith.

Waning Gibbous Workshops

July workshops on the back side of the full moon.


A female meadowhawk  (Sympetrum sp.) in Harrison County, Iowa. Photo by Robert Smith. Female meadowhawks are difficult to identify, but delight us no less.

Sunday, July 21st: Poetry of Wild Presences: a day of mindful meditation and wildly writing poems with birds, dragonflies, Todd Robinson, Chelsea Balzer, Jeremy Buethe, and frogs. 9am to 3pm, Waubonsie State Park. $25 donation.

Sunday, July 28th: Dragonflies on the Kickatuus: identification on the wing with Jack Phillips and local odonate specialists Janis and Don Paseka. Saunders County, Nebraska.

Contact me for details, agenda, how to register and what to bring. We keep the groups small, so let me know soon. Jack: thenaturalistschool@gmail.com .


Mindful moving…


meditation with…


Chelsea Balzer and birdsong.

Poetry of Wild Presences


Poetry of Wild Presences: a day of mindful meditation and wildly writing poems with birds, dragonflies, Todd Robinson and frogs. Sunday 21 July, Fremont County, Iowa. Everyone is welcome for a day of rugged woods-play and sticky mysteries.  Contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com . $25 donation requested.



Frogfruit (Lippia lanceolata) and saffron-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum costiferum) , July 7th on a sacred bluff above the Kickatuus in Saunders County, Nebraska. Photos by Neal Ratzlaff (top) and Betiana Simon.

July, Waxing


Sunday, 7 July: Lepidopteran Contemplations: a (steep and rugged) butterfly Saunter in high meadows and woodlands. Saunders County, Nebraska

Friday, 12 July: How to Plant a Cosmic Tree: creativity and contemplation in recovering nature with Omaha Friends of Jung. For more information and to register, click here.

Sunday, 14 July: Poetry under Oak: a morning of walking and writing wildly. Fremont County, Iowa. 

Tuesday, 16 July: Chasing Gazelles in Local Watersheds: a poetry workshop in partnership with UNO MFA, Nebraska City, NE (note change of location).

Contact Jack Phillips for more information and to register.  Except for the Friends of Jung workshop, prepare for rugged and vigorous outdoor activity. *Bullfrog by Robert Smith.



Our 23 June retreat was joined by late-comer Chrysemys picta. The hatchling lingered between nest and pond. Photo by Chelsea Balzer and below, Robert Smith.



Lepidopteran Contemplations

gray hairstreak

Gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) in Saunders County, NE. Photo by Troy Soderberg

Lepidopteran Contemplations: A quiet but rugged woodland and high prairie Saunter.* Sunday morning, July 7th in Saunders County Nebraska. Contact Jack Phillips for details: thenaturalistschool@gmail.com

* What is a Saunter? Click here.


How to Grow the Tree of Life

Wild is a process that surrounds us all, self-organizing nature: creating plant-zones, even humans and their societies, all ultimately resilient beyond our wildness imagination.” — Gary Snyder


How to Grow the Tree of Life: cultivating urban wildness with mindful attention, poetry, and coffee.

Sunday morning, June 30th in Omaha’s Old Market

In recent seasons the Naturalist School has planted locally-wild native trees grown from seed collected with our own hands. We have released the resilient wildness of this place and within ourselves; earth’s energies break through ego and concrete, avarice and ambition with mindful work, poetry, and strong coffee as needed. We will visit these trees and contemplate their new summer energies through mindful exercises and of course, a poem or two. If that sounds good to you, contact me for meeting time and place.

— Jack Phillips


* New June leaves on red oak. Photo by Robert Smith

** Please note that this event is intended for adults and will not be suitable for children and dogs.


Waking the Wild Retreat 23 June


Light Yoga     Deep Ecology     Mindful Exercises     Wild poetry     Ephemeral Art


Gray tree frog (Hyla sp.) in Harrison County Iowa, June 13th. Two species found in the Loess Hills (H. versicolor and H. chrysoscelis) are difficult to distinguish. Each shows a fondness for bur oak and taking shades of green and gray in response to mood and weather. Individuals display tolerance for contemplation and the writing of poems. Phone-photo by Robert Smith.


A One-day Retreat with Joelle Sanfort, Jeremy Buethe, Chelsea Balzer, and Jack Phillips.

Sunday, June 23rd at Waubonsie State Park. This will be an indoor/outdoor retreat to include hiking as weather and insects allow. Everyone is welcome (adults only; no dogs) but pre-registration by June 20th is required. Enrollment will be limited; $25 donation requested. To register and for more details, what to bring, and agenda for the day, contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com.

June: around the solstice.

becky's cicada

Fire and Insects at Waubonsie State Park

Exploring the Response of Insects and Vegetation to Prescribed Fire in Prairies and Oak Ecosystems of the Southern Loess Hills

Wednesday, June 12, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This workshop is free. To help us keep the group size manageable, pre-registration is required. Please fill out and submit our short online registration form on the TPOS website. This field session is organized by the Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium and The Naturalist School. For more information, contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com.



Waking the Wild: a mindfulness retreat.

Waking the Wild will be a quiet day of mindful exercises, light yoga, wild poetry, ephemeral art and deep ecology. We will meet rain or shine as we have the lodge reserved and there we can escape bugs and rain as needed. Our teachers for the day will be Jeremy Buethe, Chelsea Balzer, Joelle Sanfort and Jack Phillips.

Sunday, June 23rd, at Waubonsie State Park. Registration deadline: June 20th. This will be an indoor/outdoor retreat to include rugged hiking as weather and insects allow. Enrollment will be limited, $25 donation requested. To register and for more information and agenda for the day, contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com.

*Photo credits: Robert Smith (top) and Troy Soderberg.



Writing Ghazals on a Pawnee River

(Becoming a Naturalist, Part 43)

by Jack Phillips



Pahuk, holy Pawnee Hill rises above the Kickatuus. Photo by Robert Smith.


Afternoon sun leads our band to cool waters below this holy hill

as it did the natives praying here and with us in flesh and longing echoes.  


A young woman finds purple bare feet in the river

on her skin draws wet indigo worthy of henna.


Appears a ghazal (in Arabic ‘young doe’) playing long fingers

of clay makes a shiny-slip figure reminding of lotus to lay in rushes for deities here.


Form finds flesh in the hands of young men among us

bending roots washed supple by this river into ephemeral remembrance.


Two philosophers cast translucent lines across currents

consider the essence and nature of color best served by poetry agreed.


Those in yoga-posing follow curve of current and sky each one in spirit freed

in willow-shade reclining, clay swallows looping our kiting souls pale gazelles in blue.


Now come ghazals in bounding couplets inky doe-prints on paper

but on the Kickatuus a freer form they take afar from Babylon’s waters.


naturalists on the beach

Naturalists on the Kickatuus. (Robert Smith.)


*The ghazal is a useful poetic form for exploring the local and primal energies that enliven us and for releasing the boundless energies within. The first time I chased wild gazelles was in 1980 near the village of Daburiyya in Galilee. My friend Samir wanted to shoot them; I wanted only to admire them. We jeepishly followed them as they floated and skipped over the verdant hills. With that memory I understand why the Arabic form of poetry so-named for them takes the form of bounding couplets touching lightly on the page.