I spent much time in the wilderness as a child, thanks to my fathers appreciation for such things. I learned hunting and fishing skills at a very young age in the boreal forests of Northwestern Ontario and lived on the edge of the woods where I let my imagination run wild. The woods was where I felt most at home.
My first career was in the curiosity and research of all things wild, and out of high school I landed a job with the Ontario provincial government assisting biologists, scientists and researchers. I learned science and research first hand from leading professionals in their fields of study.
After half a decade of this experience I felt the downward pull to wander and packed up my young family and headed for the allurement of the mountains. I went back to school and completed a two year degree in environmental sciences and studies. At this time, the old growth forests of Vancouver Island were being destroyed, and there was a war in the woods to protect these areas.
I was also working part time as a research assistant and landed an amazing opportunity to participate in a project to map out the Clayoquot River watershed. Scientists from all over the world were involved in the research of Clayoquot Sound to help navigate the protection of this old growth area of Vancouver Island. The project took me into the depths of an intact old growth forest, from ocean to mountain top where we spent 30 days just myself and the lead researcher hiking this old growth river system. It was a deeply moving experience that changed the course of my life.
I felt that research alone would not save these vital biodiverse ecosystems and so I made the decision at that time to not continue with my formal education and decided to start my own eco tourism company to guide others into these wilderness areas to experience what I had in the hopes of helping to save and protect these old growth ecosystems.
For another half decade, I worked as a wilderness guide leading others into the wild landscapes of Vancouver Island. It was in this role of education, nature awareness and wilderness immersion that my curiosity of the human nature relationship was ignited. This career however came to an abrupt end in a motor vehicle accident where as a passenger I sustained a major injury to my lower back. It would be many months of rehabilitation and self recovery before I was able to return to work, which at that time required a career change as I could not meet the physical challenges of a wilderness guide and educator.
My interest in human behavior led me to a new career as a youth and family support worker. For a decade, I learned first hand about the mental health issues plaguing our culture, and was witness to many heart breaking and gut wrenching stories. I also worked with psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, social workers and other mental health professionals and developed a narrative therapeutic practice with the clients I worked with. I also started researching and employing nature based therapy with my clients as I witnessed the profound change in behaviour in working with youth and families in the outdoors. This led to a pilot program with at-risk youth, social services and the school district where we were working in a therapeutic capacity in nature with amazing shifts for these young folks and their families.
My deep connection with this work led me to a wilderness adventure therapy program for youth, where young people would come into a 32 day rite of passage program based in a wilderness environment. I excelled in this therapeutic program learning more about the human nature connection. I worked as an instructor, program coordinator and eventually as the executive director for a season.
My experience and expanding knowledge in the nature-human relationship led me to the work of Bill Plotkin and the Animas Valley Institute (AVI) located in the American Southwest. I spent five years attending various programs with AVI including a year long intensive and completing two vision fasts.
I also worked for a number of years as an employment counselor for young adults helping navigate career and life choices. I continued to hear the stories of trauma, addiction, depression and anxiety that our culture continues to manifest in our modernity and technological advancements.
After three decades of wilderness guiding, outdoor education, social work and nature based therapy, I started to feel the pull to immerse myself in a more remote environment and connect to the land in a very intimate way. My life had been dedicated to environmentalism, connecting others to nature and exploring the human psyche. I had just helped establish a wilderness society in our small village on Vancouver Island and was working with the school district to develop outdoor programming and curriculum, however life called us to steward a large piece of land on the east coast and we left our lives as we knew them to follow a dream that had been calling to us for sometime.
For the past 6 years, I have been stewarding and tending to 74 acres of land here in Cape Breton. We arrived with little, having sold most of our possessions living out of a small travel trailer. We have been homesteading and learning as we go in this challenging and yet rewarding adventure. We live off grid with little amenities and have been designing, creating and building a permaculture site and small farm literally from what was all forest when we arrived. We have built and designed everything ourselves and feel incredibly grateful for such an opportunity to connect so intimately with the land.
Being immersed in the forest for this extended time has been and continues to be one of the most significant experiences for me in my ongoing education in nature awareness, wilderness immersion and the exploration of the human psyche as it relates to the nature realm.
Before arriving here on this property, I adventured for both career and personal growth into the wilds of mountains, rivers, lakes and the vast forests of Vancouver Island. Over the last 6 years, I have rarely left the property, and spend the majority of my time rooting in place. I have had this amazing privilege to be with the wilds of this land learning so much about the human nature connection and the importance of such things in our lives.
Connecting others to the natural world is what my practice is all about. In my years of nature based work, I am still amazed at the way nature connects, grounds and offers such incredible insights.
My vision is to guide others to a place of connectivity with the natural world, to experience the outdoors first hand and to dig deep into the human psyche uncovering gifts that are ours to live into the world.
You can follow more of my work through a writing and artistic project I created this winter called River Dog Ramblings, where I am sharing years of art work, images, poetry and writing from the time I have spent on the land over the years, another offering from the vision so graciously shown to me in my time here on this land.