I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.
A little Muriel Strode to start us off, from his 1903 poem ‘Wind-Wafted Wild Flowers’. As someone who is often accused of unconventional thinking, I identify with it, for better or for worse.
With that in mind, I find it impossible to reduce myself to a short, concise bio of the sort you might have come here for. So many things contribute to how I define myself, how I see myself in the world. My relationships with acquaintances, friends, and blood relatives define me, of course. Some of these people are living, others dead, many as yet unborn. My relationships with those in the non-human world define me too, undeniably. The food I eat defines who I am in a very physical sense, as does the water I drink and the air I breathe. The music I listen to defines my mental state, as does the news I watch and the quality of connection I build with those around me, and the quality of alone time I claim. And, like us all, I cannot escape the untold influences of the land I live on and its long, storied history. A web page that encapsulates all of this would be more than you bargained for I suspect, so I feel obligated to offer something shorter, inadequate though it will be.
Like so many in the United States of America, I have a diverse ancestry. My mother’s ancestors were primarily Irish and Scottish, most of whom immigrated to North America in the 1800s in the years after the Irish Potato Famine. They were, effectively, ecological refugees, fleeing their homeland when the agricultural productivity of that land betrayed them after having persevered through centuries of colonization and conquest at the hands of the British. Some came straight to the United States and eventually settled in the Midwest, while others lingered in Canada for a time before migrating south through Michigan.
My father’s side of the family is a mix of Spanish and Native. They immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1947, when my father was a very young child. My grandfather was of primarily Basque ethnicity, and his parents or perhaps grandparents fled Spanish tyranny for a better life in Mexico in the late 1800s or very early 1900s. My grandmother, like many darker-skinned Latinas, was a mix of Spanish and Native. I cannot yet discern when her Spanish ancestors arrived on the North American continent and precisely from where they came, or what tribal culture her Native ancestors were part of. My uncle, who was 12 when she died, tells me her facial features were reminiscent of the Aztecs, but of course the Aztecs were empire builders who forcibly subsumed dozens of smaller indigenous groups before Spanish conquest ended their reign.
I was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, in the United States. I spent much of my childhood wandering the forests and fields near my suburban home, sometimes with friends but often alone. Some of my fondest memories involved fishing in the various ponds and lakes within walking distance of my house, searching for garter snakes near a vernal wetland by the little league baseball field, and tossing grasshoppers into the orb webs of the large garden spiders that were common in that region. These places carried powerful medicine for me, and I silently grieved as I watched the ponds and lakes go eutrophic and the forests and fields get bulldozed, one at a time, in the name of progress.
These childhood memories inspired me, over the course of my life, to ask deep questions about how the human enterprise engages with the landscapes it inhabits and the many living beings we share those landscapes with, including each other. I studied ecology and evolution while an undergraduate at Purdue University, then environmental science and public affairs as a graduate student at Indiana University. I moved to Vermont in 2007 to study ecological economics at the University of Vermont, finishing my formal schooling in 2011. My education continues though, inspired by a desire to understand the social and environmental drivers of colonialism and conquest, the broader implications of ancestral trauma and how to heal it, and what it means to reconnect to a place after generations of cultural atrophy.
These days I live in Vermont’s Champlain valley, land occupied by the Abenaki people before waves of European colonists forced most of them north into Canada. I teach at the University of Vermont on a part-time basis, occasionally teach at other colleges and universities, and offer classes and workshops outside of university settings. I produce the Healing Culture Podcast, which you can listen to on this website and on most podcatchers. I also film videos for my YouTube Channel. When I am not working on these projects you can often find me wandering Vermont’s forests and fields in search of edible wild plants and mushrooms or scouting for the upcoming hunting season, or just wandering for the sake of wandering, which is a perfectly reasonable undertaking, as far as I am concerned. I learn, practice, and teach an array of place-based living skills and martial arts, among other things.