I have always been happier outside than inside. I’ve always felt like I belong among the trees and streams and butterflies, and growing up I never felt that way among my peers. I could fully be myself. No hiding, no worry about what I should be doing, no worrying about what other kids at school thought of me. The trees just loved me for who I am. The garter snakes would relax in my hands, and the squirrels and skunks would stop and watch me as I was watching them. I belonged.

Lauren at age 7

Lauren at age 7

The Foundation: Camp Takahano

I distinctly remember a time when I was 13, coming home from a weekend of camping at Takahano, and feeling such longing to go back to the woods. I realized that Takahano was my second home. Indeed, I felt longing to be there so intensely that it overwhelmed every other thought. Here I was in science class, barely holding back tears, because I wanted Takahano more than I had wanted anywhere or anyone else in my life. When the tears started flowing, the snickers from my classmates started soon after, and reinforced the longing I felt for Takahano.

I didn’t know how blessed I was. I did know that very few of the kids in that classroom ever spent much time outside, and even fewer felt that sense of belonging. What a gift Takahano was to me.

Camp Takahano circa 1989

Camp Takahano circa 1989

At Takahano I followed the 2 streams for the length of the property. I walked along on the rocks, trying to keep my feet dry. I crawled underneath thickets of blackberry bushes, followed the scent of wild mint, searching, until I could stick a leaf into my mouth and feel that burst of flavor against my tongue, and watched the birds and the deer who were watching me. I would come back to camp with handfuls of wild grapes to share, and tadpoles in a jar to take home and care for until they grew legs so I could release them back into the streams where I found them. There in the streams, thickets, meadows, and forests of Takahano I found a deep sense of belonging that became the foundation for my life.

Belonging: The Core of The River’s Path

The River’s Path is my gift of belonging to my participants. By canoe, we reach places otherwise inaccessible. We watch bald eagles soar above us as they watch us float by. The cliff swallows surround us, chattering, as we float underneath their bridges. We become a part of the river as we jump in and float down in the current. We become a part of the river as we feel the warmth of the setting sun radiate from the canyon walls and keep us warm as we prepare to sleep in Labyrinth Canyon. Feeling that deep sense of belonging changes us. We are changed. More authentic, more clear on our intention, more fully ourselves.

Above all, The River’s Path helps us find our place in the family of things. As sure as the wild geese call, we also find our voice and our truth as we float on the Green River through towering red rock canyons, or along the cottonwoods and farmland of the St Vrain river. We are changed.

As much as Takahano was my home, the St Vrain and Labyrinth Canyon have become my homes. I share the magic of these places and these beings with the intention of helping my clients feel a sense of place like I do. Out on the river, we realize what matters to us. We realize where we belong. We finally have the courage to let go of what no longer serves us, and we finally have the courage to voice our truth and create the life that fully embodies who we are. We become whole. Complete. The river helps us find our way, as surely as it carves its way to the sea through canyons and farmlands and forests.

On the River, Transformation is Inevitable

The River’s Path is about transformation.  It is about belonging. It is about taking the time to be fully in the moment, with paddle in hand or with warm sand against our back as we watch the stars while on our wilderness solo. The River’s Path is about realizing that everything is significant in this moment. Everything matters. We matter as much as the canyon wren whose descending call breaks the silence. As much as the ants matter who are crawling through our camp picking up crumbs that we left behind. If we pay attention, those ants and that canyon wren have messages for us. The eagles who nest along the St Vrain who watch us float by in silence while they chatter at us from the trees have a message for us too. Everything matters out here. Everything. When we come to that realization out on the river, while we swim or laugh or sit solo watching the sunset, we realize that everything is significant at home too. Being out here isn’t an escape from life. This IS life. This is REAL.

We can bring this home. Everything can be significant at home. We can take a moment to have that conversation with a stranger in the grocery store. We can take a moment to be with the chickadee who has landed in the parking lot as we walk to our car. We can notice that chickadee watching us, and pause to pay attention.

This is what the River’s Path means to me. It’s not just a canoe trip. The river is the place, and the canoe is the way we reach a deep understanding of what it means to belong, and what it means to live a life that is significant and that matters. The River’s Path is a way for us to realize how our life can change if we live authentically. If we let go of things that no longer serve us. If we voice our truth. If we let go of the life that we were expecting so we can have the life that is waiting for us.  

Transitions on the River

In this moment I am feeling the biggest transition of my life. I am fully letting go of every sense of security I have ever had and pushing off into the center of the river. I know the river has its destination, and I am seeing who is with me in celebration. I am choosing to live my life fully, authentically, and in alignment with my calling… I am letting go of everything that is not serving me so I can fully embody my purpose.

My purpose is  to help my clients let go of what is no longer serving them in their lives. I work with people going through major transitions in their lives and help them come out on the other side with clarity and drive to step into their own purpose.

Our world is going through a major transition right now. Major forest fires, devastating floods, clearcuts and “resource extraction”, all while our government rolls back protections for clean water, clean air, and endangered species. In my lifetime I have seen white nose syndrome wipe out 96% of some species of our country’s bats. I have seen honeybee populations diminish due to the use of pesticides. In my lifetime, the arctic ice cap has shrunken to a fraction of what it was. Brazil just elected a president who has promised genocide of any indigenous peoples who refuse to let go of their culture and their land and assimilate into Brazilian society. In our own country, tear gas is being thrown over the border into Mexico to deter immigrants who are escaping violence and poverty in their home countries. Children are separated at the border and held in cages in abandoned Walmarts. Synagogues and churches and Sikh communities and gay night clubs are being gunned down by white men who feel that people who look different than them are a threat. So they become a threat.

The River’s Path is about connection. Belonging. Being with people who are different than us. Realizing and feeling our relation to these rivers and these canyons can help us feel our relationship and belonging to the forests at home, and to the immigrants and refugees and LGBT folks in our communities. When we can talk to a bird and have it speak back, maybe we can learn that we can speak to that stranger in the grocery store. When that new housing development is proposed on the hillside by your home, maybe you can feel the pain of the Earth herself, and maybe you care enough to stand up and go to a community meeting to speak on behalf of the plants and animals who will be affected when their homes are destroyed.

Make no mistake. The River’s Path is not just a way to have a good time and relax (although we always have a fantastic time!). The River’s Path is a radical movement to re-establish our openness, care, and love for the world. The River’s Path believes deeply that through living authentically and connecting deeply to the more than human world, we can have an impact on the world. We can protect the forests and invite refugees into our communities and look at beings and people different than us with curiosity and kindness. Once you have made friends with a black widow spider and learned her ways to the point that you no longer feel fear for her, but instead feel affection, then making friends with someone of a culture to whom you have never had any exposure to is easy. Everyone has something to teach us. The River’s Path is about love. Acceptance. Belonging. And feeling a deep sense of purpose to have an impact and change the world. It’s the best way I can impact the many many scary things happening in the world right now… from climate change to genocide. This is my offer to the world.

I don’t speak of these big goals very often, but believe me. They are fully present in my mind in every moment.

Inclusion: a core value

My hope is to reach people who are different than me. People with different political beliefs. People with different gender identities. People from different cultures and religions. People from different socioeconomic classes. The more diversity I can have in the people I serve, the more common understanding and love I can create in the communities where my clients return to. The more I can heal our relationship to this amazing planet where we get to live.

This is what The River’s Path means to me.