I began my life in the suburbs of Chicago when open prairies still existed at the far reaches of a developing city. At age 5, with my best friend Tom, we went hunting garter snakes. I loved putting them inside my shirt and holding them next to my belly, their silken cool scales comforting and mysterious on my skin. I went to school with them tucked inside, feeling like I had a big secret. This was the beginning of listening for the heartbeat of the holy in all things for me. The centerpiece of my living is being in exquisite receptive listening. It is the ever present appendage of all my life’s experiences. I have listened to thousands of stories in my work as a wilderness guide to soul and have a wide-eyed wonder at the diversity of stories I hear and the many ways people engage with wild nature, with one another, and with their special passions in life. With my lifelong love and study of the cultural, cosmological, and indigenous stories of the world, the shimmering thread in other's stories that weaves a life into a destiny and into the fabric of the world’s soul story continually captivates me.
I began my working life as a secretary with the skills my mother taught me. Later, I worked with a crew building houses and setting tile, which opened up from an aching body of hard labor to seeking out massage therapy that led me to become a massage therapist. After a vision fast in the desert when I experienced my heart breaking open with my love for people and nature, I began an apprenticeship to become a wilderness guide for rites of passage and soulful pilgrimages. I have been actively engaged in this for 30 years, leading hundreds of people into wild places. My initial experience with snake on my belly when I was a little girl, comes back around like the Ouroboros – tail in mouth. My work with people in the wild, on the massage table, or in conversation, involves attentive listening – to the land and elemental gods, to emerging story, to mystery’s beckonings, to right timing, to the dreaming world behind this world. The most powerful initiation for me has been becoming a mother. From pregnancy to my daughter’s current age of 30, I have been exquisitely tempered in the parental fires of Listening. This has greatly assisted in bringing me into utter presence with what is here and now in our personal and transpersonal unfolding cosmos. In listening, I have been led to the source of our human creativity, finding that wellspring to be the Dreamtime. The wisdom of the Asklepieia dream healing centers knew this long ago and this became the inspirational well-source of Buffalo Dreaming Lodge.
There have been schools, trainings, apprenticeships, lifelong studies, brilliant teachers, mentors, and let’s not forget the mountains of books read, with a pervasive beguiling spiritual ‘sohbet’ with friends, colleagues, family, ancestors, animal friends, elders, homes, and most especially my sweetheart husband - so many people, and wild others I have been so touched by. In the mysterious way it happens and we do for one another, they have all grown me into my own gifts. Indeed ~ I kiss each one for your vibrant presence in my life. Each one has told and shared your story with me and the world is alive for it.
And primarily, it is the landscape of the southwest Great Basin that I have cultivated relationship with for 34 years that has shaped me. This land is my spiritual home, for it holds my story and the stories of so many whom I have worked with. My practice is walking daily on the land where I live, with the indelible moments of many solo vision fasts I have undertaken the foundation of all that has flowered in my life. At the center is Earth's great beating heart infused within me, and I ever offer my hands to this world
I can trace the early antecedents of my deep proclivities for the wild and the old ways back to a small backyard in Hollywood, where I grew corn in order to know it, and built a small pueblo out of miniature adobes that I made from mud, and found hidden chaparral ravines in the nearby Hollywood Hills that I climbed with a vinyl garden hose as rope. The corn, the village, the hidden trysting spot – all of these mysteriously leading me on the journey back to myself as an adult.
After an early encounter with the unexplainable visitation of my deceased father, I was initiated into the acceptance of numinous synchronicities and the search for the world behind the world – the dreaming world.
While in college studying philosophy I became interested in the vision quest as portrayed in ‘Seven Arrows’ by Hyemeyohsts Storm. I embarked upon a lifelong practice of prayer and ceremony, leading me into sweatlodge, the sundance, and eventually to Martin Prechtel’s Bolad’s Kitchen. My longing for a visionary experience was so great in my early 20’s that I took myself to Mt. Shasta in northern California, above the Columbia River gorge in Washington, and the Devil’s Punchbowl in southern California to enact fasts of my own. Without an elder or mentor to help me find the deeper meaning in these experiences, they lay fallow within me until I finally did encounter an elder later in my adult years, who could reflect to me the breadth of beauty that had befallen me on those quests, when I was twice visited by the painters (mountain lions) of those places. Because of this, I know how essential it is to have an elder to mirror, reflect, and guide us in our inner life, and now endeavor to do this - most especially for the next flowering generations. I did have a hint of this early on in YMCA summer camps, when I experienced the true help and love of male role models.
In rural southeastern Utah I built my own cabin raising my children living in one place for 23 years. I honed my skills and knowledge of farming, river running, backcountry skiing, and the mystery of the wild desert canyons and mountains. There I began to paint in oil on canvas, finding an expression for the painter of me who stalks beauty not only in magnificent places, but in the degraded places too.
Moving to Salt Lake City I studied massage therapy and embarked upon my own sobriety, which led me to become a guide in the wilderness therapy field. There I found a place to share the ways of my hands, the stories of the land we were passing through, the tough love needed to knock someone off their fixed position that was wearing a hole in their soul, and creating ceremony for those important transitional moments of people’s lives.
I met and married Annie and our wedding ceremony became a blueprint for the dream of a large ceremonial gathering that feeds something beautiful to the people and the natural world. We left Salt Lake City on a walkabout, seeking home and land that would allow us to follow our longing to farm and host people at our hearth in the seeking of dreams that promote healing, rejuvenation, and a deeper understanding of our human becoming that bridges the spiritual traditions of the natives of this land with our 63 years gleaning these decades’ unfolding wisdom in the realm of rites of passage, dreamwork, mythology, and growing food.
Sadie is our beloved Arkansas traveler. Three years ago she came into our campsite along the Mulberry River in Arkansas when we were driving across country, and hopped right into our truck. Malnourished, and utterly tick and flea infested, she had been abandoned and was ready for a new home. She is a natural born healer, and has been snuggling her way into everyone's heart who has come to dream with us here. Part Beagle, part Heeler, and probably some ancestral Dachsund, Sadie has an uncanny sensitivity for what people need, and even points us in the right direction with her extraordinary beagle nose. She comes into the sweatlodge to pray with us, and with her wild animal ways lead us into our own natural instincts. She has become a lively companion for everyone going out on their wanders into the landscape and has earned her status as a dream attendant here with us at Buffalo Dreaming Lodge.
Micaceous Pottery // Crafted by Annie & Niles
Niles Vallejo Hagemann // Dream Fiddle Boat