Ever Wilder


We give our hands to healing earth, put skin to good science, add our quiet voices to the music of woods and meadows, open ourselves to creativity within and all around and to help others do the same. 


Even now in these pandemic days, The Naturalist School friends and members continue our work each in our own way, earth in our hands and under our feet, exploring wildness where we find it and making our back yards and neighborhoods ever wilder.


We hope to see you when we can gather again, but for now grow wilder where you live.

Peace and frog-songs and robins galore,

Jack Phillips



(Photos by Robert Smith and his phone during TNS outings and planting days. Yard sign by Joelle Wellansa)

Bloodroot Shelters in Home-woods


Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in a forgotten corner of Billie’s neighborhood in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Photo by Billie Shelton


Bloodroot and bedstraw in my back yard, the result of a ban on mowing and pesticides, and a healthy population of symbiotic ants. 

Each Day a Frog-now

Amphibians of the temperate latitudes have marvelous and sundry ways to embrace every season and we no less miss them on our winter Saunters. We let ourselves be surprised to see them year after year through the ice and sometimes on it and around the shrinking edges, grateful each day for a frog-now.

Naturalists love the spin and ride of the cosmos but sometimes we need be reminded to wildly live each day and frogs are good at that. Soon they will enliven us with their sonic fertilities but for now we are just happy to see our slippery kin. It has been too long!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             — Jack Phillips


(Plains leopard frog Lithobates blairi in Washington County Nebraska on February 22nd, 2020. Photo by Troy Soderberg.)

Why Wild Poems



Mary Oliver famously said that she could not be a poet without the natural world and many nature-poets would agree. But does the natural world need poets? 

Song Sparrowtroysoderberg

In the company of other naturalists, artists, and wild philosophers of our ilk we can say “yes!” because we connect with the creative energies of the cosmos in our own creativity. Perhaps the natural world does not need poets exactly, but the future of the planet depends on creative and compassionate human beings. Wildly writing poetry is good for that.

Every now and then we save some wildly-written poems — instead of giving them to the earth or to the fire — and sometimes even share them in public. Last Saturday our friend Joelle Wellansa recited her poems at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha. I hope you love them as much as I do.

— Jack Phillips

joelleatBemis EmilyHergenrader



Each sparrow lands and jitters

Takes up residence in the corner of my eye

Then vanishes quickly over my doorstep


Horned Howl

I bend my knees

We watch, mouths gaping

We listen, and hear nothing 


Then screeching

Then memories

Then sadness



A birds shadow strikes the dirt

A blink of light redirected

So am I



In the distant sky, Turkey vultures drift

on a gentle current


Their hypnotic rotations immobilizing,

Stirring up a terrible dream


The Swallow

One quick swallow dips on wings

Too fast to know where she intends to be led

Carried by her soft carriage

A conduit of light


In my field

Extension of sky

Collection of water

The ancient color repeats her wings

Blue heron elopes with my eyes 




(Photos: Song Sparrow by Troy Soderberg; Joelle by Emily Hergenrader)

Hunger-moon’s Wander


Sauntering hollows on the full moon of February, the Hunger Moon. (Troy Soderberg.)


Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) in winter, Harrison County, Iowa. Birds and other animals and sometimes naturalists wait for winter fermentation to sweeten the bitter fruits. Troy Soderberg.

Shadow Sutras


Courtney’s shadow sutra from our last retreat. (Courtney Stormberg.)


Courtney follows Felis rufus.

Shadow Sutras workshop series winter 2020: for details contact Jack at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com .