I am an all-around nature enthusiast. I have been steeped in the outdoors: living out of a backpack and under a tarp, teaching traditional outdoor living skills and crafts, and traveling the country for 15 years.
I started off just a typical suburban-raised kid who I got tired of thinking, studying, and struggling to understand my place under city lights and in offices. I decided to go out into the world with my bare hands and my bare feet to explore, do, and learn.
I spent a few years hitch-hiking, protesting and being a devoutly righteous feminist, radical, leftist troublemaker. I was searching for something to change the emptiness I felt and saw in the world around me.
Then, I stumbled into the forest - mostly on accident - and fell in love. I fell in love with fresh air and quiet mornings. I fell in love with the giant trees, the whispers, the critters curiosity of me, and the oddly familiar sense of security I feel when I know exactly what phase the moon is in. I felt captivated by the mystery and wonder of all the living beings I had never noticed before. I found that I didn't feel like I was fighting the world or fighting to understand the world anymore. It just all made sense.
Being out in the woods, hiking the desert or under the stars, I feel calmer and healthier. My chaotic thoughts melt away and I find resiliency and peace. As someone who has spent my whole life struggling with anxiety, food allergies, chronic health problems and a "weak constitution", I feel like I have found the secret to health and happiness: THE EARTH. I spend my time trying to get as close to her as I can: tangled in her roots and branches, connected to her wisdom and whispers.
Fifteen years ago I had my first strangely magical moment with nature while all alone in forest outside Athens, OH. I was hiking along not knowing a lick about plants. (Not really knowing much about hiking even.) I am not even sure what brought me to that trail that day. As the sun speckled through the trees and I was listening to the crunching of the earth, I felt profoundly joyful and peaceful in a way that was incredibly unfamiliar to me at that time in my life. I had to sit still for a moment. I was sitting and watching the shadows of the forest dance, when my vision shifted and I had a vision: the flora were leaping out at me trying to get my attention (almost like a cartoon). I stopped moving, blinked and looked again. The plants were dancing in front of me in unreal ways. I thought I was hallucinating and felt a little startled by the whole thing. So, I prayed - which I hadn't done in years. I started talking to something, someone, not God, but I didn't know what. Something bigger than myself, some forgotten part of myself, something mysterious and magical. Something changed for me forever in that moment: The magic, the spirit, the energy of the earth woke me up. I had found my spiritual practice. I had finally felt safe reconnecting with that universal spirit that flows through us and all relations.
The more I sat with the quiet company of the earth, the more I discovered that I knew things about the plants that no one had taught me: names, properties, flavors, growing preferences, even "personalities." The more time I spent in the woods, the more this strange phenomenon of "seeing" differently began to feel familiar. I have come to realize that this "unlearned knowledge" is with me all the time - anytime - if I just quiet down and dropped into my body and my senses. I know and remember my place in this web of energy. I know, from an old old wise part of me, the work I am supposed to be doing here on this earth and in this life.
My adventurous life with nature took off. I traveled, camped, hiked, hitchhiked, read books, and found teachers. I shrugged off life, rejected plastic and acrylic, and got rid of most of my belongings so I could move easier. I picked up sticks and rocks and plants and dead animals and worked in awe of myself as my hands quickly learned how to turn them into tools, fire, food and clothing. With in this movement and this knowledge and crafting, I was coming alive - parts of me were waking up.
I spent most of my 20's living out of a backpack - traveling to convene with teachers, or to find the current wild food to harvest, or to teach basketry. I spent half my time zipping between the city (where I was studying herbalism and working as a nanny) and the most remote landscapes I could reach.
With my best friend and companion at my side, we fell in to a bit of a nomadic lifestyle -following the harvests and adventures and creating communities and opportunities to learn and explore with friends. Our life of adventuring and harvesting soon started to attract a following of folks wanting to learn and share - many of them joining us from all over the country to participate in our camps and classes. Community began to form around these skills, this knowledge and this lifestyle. Community followed me where my heart was taking my in to the forest.
I know that this is the magic of life.
Through the last 8 years, I have discovered that many people are yearning for the knowledge and the opportunities to be out in the woods - doing, learning, crafting and harvesting. And, when someone gets just a taste of the magic that the earth has to offer in her rawest simplicity, it lights a spark. People want more of it. They want to feel the earth. We want to remember what being a human FEELS like in our bones.
I have made it my priority and goal to create community and a place for people to come together to learn out in nature. Creating space, community and opportunity for others to connect and grow. I have know doubt that this is the agreement I made with the universe before I chose this life and this body. It is what I came here to do. To help heal and grow, to help others heal and grow, to help the earth heal and grow.
Where and with whom I learned:
I began studying herbal medicine in 1998 in Ohio. Reading and taking classes where ever I could find them. In 2003, I moved to Minnesota where I met my mentor Matthew Wood. I studied Herbal medicine for 8 years under the guidance of Matthew Wood, Lise Wolff, Erin Piorier, Cynthia Thomas and Julia Graves. In this time, I met author Sam Thayer who has inspired many of my experiments and adventures with wild foods.
I am mostly self-taught as a basket weaver. But, I consider Margaret Matthewson a mentor. And, can thank Scogin Zimmerman and Skelk for helping me figure things out.
I have gleaned lots of knowledge from my fellow teachers in the Backtracks, LLC community. I have also learned from books, old timers I met on my travels, lots of trial and error and the Society of Primitive Technology. I have been blessed to work with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School and the amazingly talented guides and teachers there. And, I am constantly learning from unexpected place, unintentional teachers that come in to my life, my dreams and my time with the plants.
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
"She has an innate sense of the workings and magic of plants as allies to the human body and spirit, having delved into the natural world up close, at first hand. " ~Wild Harvest Festival
"Erin brings her passion for nature and a gift for sharing together to guide people back into relationship with themselves as part of the natural world"
"Erin has considerable training among the herbalists of the North Country. She has extensive clinic experience from her time in the wilderness and her travels. She is guided by a deep intuition about plants and people and represents our profession well." ~ Matthew Wood, Author and Registered Herbalist AHG.
Where I've BEEN and where to find me:
I have taught about medicinal plants and wild foods for Cannon Falls Herbal Symposium, North Country Herbalist Guild, Peace and Justice Gardeners, Midwest Wild Harvest Festival, EXCO community classes and Backtracks. I have helped out with the Olympia Free Herbal Clinic.
I have taught Basketry with many schools and organizations. Including: Rabbitstick and Winter Count, Boulder Outdoor Survival School, SlickRock Gathering, Saskatoon Circle Skillshare, Buckeye Gathering, Echoes in time, and the Wild Weds Skill Share in Olympia, Wa.