By Payton Hoegh
It was four years ago this month that I found myself shin-deep in an out-of-the-way pool in the San Gabriel Mountains. The subtle roar of a waterfall filling my ears, I dipped my head under its surprisingly heavy flow and felt something stir in my spirit. After months of dreaming and planning, All Wanderers was born at that moment.
Even as I shivered and shook water from my hat and hair, I wore a huge grin as I walked back to rejoin the small group that had gathered for the first outing of our Los Angeles Spirituality in Nature Group.
We were a curious mix. Bottle-blue-haired youngsters scampered eagerly alongside the careful saunter of elders. Some hiked with the needed support of canes while others navigated the path with newborns strapped to their backs. Dogs sprinted alongside us as if newly reacquainted with wild instincts. New friends and old joined hands to support each other at every stream crossing. Experienced hikers slowed their pace to accommodate the uncertain strides of newcomers. Every person that passed as they returned to the trailhead brought smiles, echoed greetings, and genuine well-wishes. As it so often does, the winding course of the trail nurtured a sort of hidden camaraderie - an innate and almost mystical connectedness that sharing a path can uncover. It was clear that we were part of a community.
On our hike we laughed and joked. We shared stories and made introductions. We noisily pointed at the rough-hewn eyes of Aspen trees and trailed our fingers along pitted granite boulders. Yet, when we arrived at Millard Canyon Falls, we were awed into a reverent silence. We set down packs and water bottles, spread blankets, and made hasty seats on stones. We watched and listened.
That morning I had been a tightly-wound ball of anxiety. I wanted to make this experience perfect. The moment we reached the waterfall, I knew that it was. Of course, it had little to do with anything I had done - nothing aside from the steps it took to move mindfully and attentively into this sacred moment. Nature provided all that was required.
Standing in that pool under the waterfall was my way of thanking God for moving in and through and with the Earth and our newly-formed community. It was an expression of gratitude for the reminder that the Divine is always moving.
When was the last time Nature offered you an important reminder? How has it stirred your spirit? Even now, what do you find it inviting you to?
Perhaps that awareness of God or Spirit or the Divine moving resonates with you. Spirituality in Nature Groups - spiritual communities that meet regularly in nature to reawaken wonder and connection - offer the opportunity for such sacred recognition. They connect us to the interdependence of our local ecosystems and our roles in them. They invite us into deeper awareness of the gifts of Nature while calling us to honor creation by living into active, loving relationship with Earth.
All Wanderers is part of a growing national network of existing and emerging communities that engage nature-centered spiritual deepening. If you're interested in connecting to that network, learning more about eco-spirituality, and how you might form a community of your own, you might consider joining us for our upcoming Spirituality in Nature Group Leaders Training on June 11th. In this training, we will offer a structured, detailed and comprehensive look at how you can start your own SING community. After the training, you will be connected with a cohort of SING leaders who will meet regularly to encourage, inspire, and support one another, and you’ll receive meaningful curriculum and resources through our newly revitalized SING program.
We certainly hope that you will join us! There’s room on the path for all who wander.