I discovered this incredible work by chance while searching through a listing of outdoor jobs on an online database in the summer of 2011. As a recent college graduate, I was neck deep in the angst of entering the job force. I had never heard of Wilderness Therapy before, and honestly, I remember feeling unsure if I wanted to do it or not. I pictured a boot camp where students just cried all day and yelled at each other as field instructors ran around saying things like, “take accountability for your actions!” or, “let the tears flow!” Nonetheless, something about it captivated my imagination. So I applied for a job as a Field Instructor and read every book about it I could get my hands on. As I read Shouting At The Sky, a book describing a writer’s personal wilderness therapy experience, I started to understand that this wasn’t like anything else I had ever heard of; it sounded compassionate, powerful, raw, even sacred.
Two months later I was asked to join a training group for Field Instructors at Blue Ridge and several days into the training I was confident it was the first step of my life’s work. I remember the precise moment. Let me paint you a picture: it is the first night of a solo experience where I will not speak to anyone for over 24 hours. I am lying down with my back on a rock, surrounded by sage and juniper, singing off-key songs under my breath to keep myself company as I watch the sun dip behind the horizon. The air is crisp and fragrant. I am wearing every piece of clothing in my pack to ward off the twilight chill, my breath creating plumes of vapor with each exhale. I am scared and excited. I have found a program that exists to usher forth transformation in those who have lost their way. I have found a place that will elicit and accept every ounce of passion I can muster for as long as I can sustain it. Am I good enough to be a guide here? What will I have to sacrifice to do this work? How will it change me? Who will I become? I ponder these questions and watch the sky turn a deep purple, revealing an ocean of stars. I am alive.