...a remembering, deep in our bones, of our connection to and belonging with our landscapes.
Dogs Colorado maintains an open approach when it comes to local business. Is anybody out there? Let’s work together! Our community has too much potential not to get creative. We can make a difference together. With this in mind, I keep a constant eye out for interesting locals. This is the first of many interviews in an exclusive Dogs Colorado series entitled Oh, the Many Wonderful Humans You’ll Find.
Enter Kimberly Beck. The founder of Relational Rewilding Nature Guiding and The Canine Effect LLC. I caught up with Kimberly last month over some tea and coffee in downtown Golden. Although our two hour conversation did include dogs, it was this thing called Relational Rewilding Nature Guiding that we geeked out about for the better part of two hours. My apologies to Chaz for being a bit late for his daily run. So, it is at the corner of Relational Rewilding and “right, Relational Re…w... what!?” that we must begin.
Jeff | Dogs Colorado
Ok, we have to explain the idea of Relational Rewilding that makes up Relational Rewilding Nature Guiding (RRNG). Let’s start there.
Kimberly | Relational Rewilding and The Canine Effect
Imagine waking up tomorrow morning to the song of a house finch outside your window. You pause in bed for a moment before rising, listening. You give thanks to the beautiful melody as you begin your busy day. As you walk out the door, you are attentive to the squirrels and robins foraging in the yard. Noticing that they, too, have a job to do, you proceed a bit slower, as not to frighten them away. And you are still able to leave the house on time. On your way to work, your eyes are open wide. You notice a female white-tailed deer lurking in a thicket near the road, seeking to cross. While others are driving in a tunnel vision state, your awareness causes you to slow down, allowing the deer to cross safely - safely for her, you, and the other drivers. You pull into the parking lot. Walking to the entrance you look up, seeing cirrus clouds moving eastward across the sky, and you take a deep, purposeful breath. You have much to do and deal with today. But your heart is full, you feel connected, you belong here. And it's only 8:00am.
To me, you are describing how it feels to wake up the first day in a foreign place. Everything is novel and important as I see it for the first time. Gone is the torrent of responsibilities and concerns from home. Now that I am out of place, I am inspired and think to myself, “today is going to be an adventure!”
That’s what I get. Anyway, I interrupted you.
You are not alone, Jeff, in feeling that way on vacation or in a new place. I am suggesting that you and others can feel that way more in your daily lives. It may seem simple, but this relational, perceptive, and grateful way of living is what we’re all about, and is the outcome we hope for. RRNG is an awareness- and relationship-based approach to living inter-dependently, which is how we are designed to live. It is a process of expanding perceptions, hearts, and actions in a way that honors compassionate co-existence and reciprocity among people, animals and nature. It is a remembering, deep in our bones, of our connection to and belonging with our landscapes. It is a re-awakening of our inborn sense of wonder. It is a way of being and a lifestyle that promotes physical, mental and spiritual health.
Wow, that really resonates with me.
We’ve all heard people say they ‘love nature.’ Yet we often forget what great skill humanity has in constructing a world that insulates us from nature, and even from one another. RRNG is dedicated to restoring meaningful connections and to reclaiming our natural heritage as natives of this Earth.
By purpose and design our constructed environments protect us from the forces of nature. But, it’s only once I started to spend every day outside, and to cross frequently the boundaries between natural areas and built environments, that I began to contemplate the full impact of being separated. In softening the natural environment’s impact on our daily lives we have also distanced ourselves from nature’s many nuances.
I would agree with you, most people do not consider this. When one is born into a way of living, that is all you know. And you don’t know what you don’t know. The industrial and technological ages, which bring about both amazing advancements as well as mass ecosystem and resource exploitation, are such a small amount of time in the life of human beings. The majority of our existence has been in relationship with nature.
And certainly, when spending time in nature, many of us feel that resonance deeply. So how do you share and/or teach Relational Rewilding?
We do this by offering the following to adults, children, families or small groups:
- Free, public nature classes and hikes such as ‘Edible Plants of the Front Range’
- Private Rewilding Hikes - Combination of nature education, nature connection activities, games, wanderings, discussions, journaling, etc.
- Personalized ‘Hike to Wholeness’ outings - Ecopsychology sessions in nature for individuals or couples
I didn’t want to make a mental leap to define Ecopsychology but... Eco + Psychology does seems to sum it up. From Wikipedia:
Ecopsychology studies the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles. The field seeks to develop and understand ways of expanding the emotional connection between individuals and the natural world, thereby assisting individuals with developing sustainable lifestyles and remedying alienation from nature.
So, what might an outing with you look like?
One thing important to me is creating quality nature connection experiences that are accessible. One does not need to take a week off of work or drive 100 miles to fulfill their Vitamin N need (Vitamin Nature).
Hikes, walks, and classes can be 2-6 hours long on most days of the week, and can take place in any part of the city, county, or state park areas in the Front Range. The location and length of private programs is decided with the participant ahead of time. Individuals, families, couples, children, and small groups welcomed.
This is not an epic adventure-based guide or outfitter. I offer personal, relaxed, and informative nature experiences and hikes, and often maintain relationships with participants. Programs may differ depending on the service you choose (i.e.: Hike to Wholeness versus Rewilding Hikes). Though in general, the program may include educational activities and 'hard skills' such as animal tracking, plant identification, bird language, survival, hiking, archery, wandering, being with horses, wildlife watching, games, etc... We also weave in relational activities and 'soft skills' such working with the breath, the senses, awareness, directions, cycles, connection, and communication. This web of experiential explorations along with personal reflections and invitations into new ways of perceiving yourself within this living world are what make our programs unique.
I do love a good bit of wandering... and I imagine many of these activities carry with them historical context as well. Not just rediscovering our own connections but reflecting on, and reconnecting with, what life used to be like for our ancestors.
But many people make these connections in their own way. Especially in Colorado where a love of the outdoors, and some preternatural physical prowess, seem to be required for citizenship. Why would someone participate in an RRNG outing versus going snowshoeing, biking, or skiing on their own?
Outings by RRNG are not intended to replace solo or recreational experiences - it is meant to enhance them. Whether people are visiting Colorado for the first time or have lived here for years, this Centennial State has a magnificent diversity of ecosystems and natural areas to explore. It is because of Colorado’s beauty that we are one of the most visited and recreated states in the country. Beginning at a young age, people have some skill in ‘recreation,’ yet the recreational model differs from the connection model. Biking up a technical trail or clipping into a bolt while rock climbing engages senses differently than a RRNG hike does. The routines practiced in rewilding and nature connection enable one to expand their vision and hearing, to see more wildlife, to notice patterns in the landscape, to know about edible plants, to be safer outdoors, and to blend in with their environment. While the outcomes of recreation and connection can overlap, our focus is on learning and relating to the natural world.
Of particular interest is taking children into the outdoors for this quality of experience. Youth need all forms of outdoor recreation for developing physical and team-working skills. What is baffling to me, though, is that despite some involvement in sports or other recreational activities, children in our country spend over 50 hours a week on some device, and spend over 90% of their time indoors (International Journal of Time Use Research). Children are also the fastest growing market for antidepressants. This is not natural! There are a number of factors contributing to this trend, one of which is a severe deficit in unstructured play and wandering time in nature. If families are unable to provide this for their children due to time constraints, RRNG can help.
Wow! There is only so much time in the day and for many of us work takes up a startling amount of it. Not to mention our mental energy reserves. I started Dogs CO to help dogs be able to reconnect with nature while their family is unavailable. It sounds like you offer that service for the whole family. Of course, I am seeing a lot of ideological overlap between RRNG, and your dog training business, The Canine Effect, LLC. I’m assuming the two are connected?
Yes, they are connected. The core of both RRNG and The Canine Effect are about enhancing relationships between people and nature for the benefit of both parties. I have experienced, time and time again, how the quality of life for people improves when their understanding of ‘other’ increases and when they have more tools and skills for co-existence. Sometimes the co-existence is between a person and a neighborhood fox, or between a family and their own domestic dog. Programs on hiking safely with dogs in natural areas, and Dog Bite Prevention are additional offerings of RRNG that individuals or organizations can request.
And of course… the quote in your email signature says it brilliantly.
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself up to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. — Edward Hoagland
So how did you get here? Tell me a bit about your past experiences and what lead you to Relational Rewilding in itself.
RRNG is the compilation of all that is meaningful and important to me. Raised among the hardwood forests and lakes of the Midwest, I was blessed to develop a strong sense of place with the environment and more-than-human world that surrounded me. Seeking connection, and sometimes refuge as a child, I leaned into my pets, maples, cardinals, creeks, and other local wildlife to fulfill much of my relational needs. It was instinctual to do so and I assumed this was the drumbeat of life for everyone. As I grew, school became an indoor drag except for field trips to the nature center, which was all too seldom. Neighborhood families began bringing me injured squirrels and abandoned baby bunnies to care for. The state park where I worked in California sought me out when a deer was hit on the road. Plant nurseries would send me home with dying spruce trees to rehabilitate. Unfortunately, my life-saving skills were minimal, but my quiet dialogue with and reverence for these beings seemed just as valued by both the people and nature-kin alike.
After receiving a BA in Outdoor Education and Plant Biology, and working many years at animal shelters and nature centers, I had a calling to attend graduate school for counseling. Counseling humans, that is. This came as a shock to my mind due to my aversion to humans and a certainty that I was to work with and for nature/animals. Yet, with some reflection, I realized that my deeper work in the world was to be about relationship, and healing relationships. In order to advance this calling, I needed to understand us two-legged animals more deeply, what makes us connect to each other and the land, and what makes us disconnect. This came as an inconvenient truth, but I followed instructions and graduated with my Masters in Counseling in 2010.
It is no small task to unpack the psyche and emotions of another human. Yet, I found doing so outdoors in the company of animals, plants, and elements created more trust, psychological insight, and a sense of belonging that clients were starving for. Nature-based counseling became the only means of therapeutic work I would facilitate, and I began calling it Relational Rewilding. ‘Relational’ is the way two or more beings are connected. To ‘rewild’ is to restore a thing to it’s natural, uncultivated state. My role is simply to support the natural connections we humans were designed for - between people and themselves, people and one another, and people and the natural world.
While research is showing that increased time in nature leads to improvements in mental health, it is also clear that all people of all ages benefit from a deeper connection with our environment.
A good chunk of that research can be found on the The Children & Nature Network which curates and summarizes peer-reviewed scientific literature to help build the evidence base for advancing the children and nature movement.
Our society's current lifestyles and values are shifting as a result of globalization, political disharmony, and technology. Unfortunately, the five-dimensional life of connection and interdependence that supported human existence for thousands of years is gradually becoming a two-dimensional life of indoor screen time, isolation, as well as an epidemic of mental health crises.
What is not changing, though, is that connective relationships are at the heart of our deepest biological, emotional, and spiritual longings.
That will never change. In order to support these primal yet forgotten longings for ALL people, not just therapeutic clients, Relational Rewilding Nature Guiding was born. The nature outings facilitated by RRNG create openings for walking through the world in a refreshing and connected way - with more fun, kinship, safety, interpersonal effectiveness, vitality, and a deeper life satisfaction.
Many thanks Kimberly, for taking the time to share your story with me. I know hiking all day with dogs certainly leaves me feeling much more connected with my life in general. I feel like I get Relational Rewilding, maybe even in a ‘felt sense’ sort of way.
How can people contact you to continue this conversation? Or even to schedule an outing?
When you mention this interview, and maybe even if you don’t, anyone interested in booking a private hike or a Hike to Wholeness session will receive 20% off of the service fee.
Thanks for reading!