becoming an elder

Wilderness Solo

Solo Bedroom

Four days and four nights alone in the wilderness, no tent, little food; only my monkey mind, my heightened senses, the land and all her inhabitants. What an incredible gift.


“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” ~Rachel Carson


Honing intention before going out is an important part of a wilderness rite of passage, “vision fast” or wilderness solo. After already being out there for 4 weeks with the same 14 people and slowly rotating 2 guides, so much of the busy world had dropped away.


Wilderness Rite of Passage

morning circle “pee break”We met every morning at 9:30 for a check-in council under the largest old juniper we could find. Still to find the shade it was an ever-changing dance of the circle. We did not waste any time getting to deep authenticity and the juicy stuff of life. Even though there were only 2 of we 12 participants from the US, we managed the languages pretty well. We had a teaching every day and most afternoons involved a solo time with the land, usually with a specific question.


Oh how the trees can talk! And there was/is so much to be learned from the seasoned guides, from one another, and from the land. Once you cross that threshold into liminal space*, one only has to be open and listen. We, as humans, are as much a part of nature as the trees and inter-species communication is not such a weird thing when drop your preconceived notions.


I digress. About elder-hood… I did not know when I went on the 33 day training with School of Lost Borders that I was going to be stepping into my elder-hood. Surprisingly I was the eldest of the 12 of us. (One assistant and some guides were older.) The youngest was 30 years younger. We had 6 men and 6 women. By the time we began preparing for our solo I had already let go of the big thing I thought I would be “severing” from in the solo. Wearing a trainee hat and a participant hat simultaneously adds much depth and breadth to the work. So, I found that elder-hood is not about chronological age, but rather a developmental stage. It’s about owning your wisdom; when you have embodied your knowledge and experience and are willing and able to share it to the benefit of your people. It’s when you feel it in your bones and ego is not getting hold of it for any purpose that is not pure love.


What an amazing transformation can be gained from time alone with the land with intention. Doesn’t even have to be so long. One young man there did the amount of forgiveness work in 4 days that it took me years of psychotherapy to do! Self-generated ceremony is a powerful tool. It’s about making meaning of personal transformations.

vision fast

view of the Sierra’s across the valley

Sometimes we go out to severe from an old way of life or die to an aspect of ourselves. Sometimes that work has been done and we are going out seeking answers, stepping into the unknown. Other times we are going out to mark a transition, i.e. moving from adolescence to adulthood, stepping into our elder-hood, divorce, death, moves, job changes, etc. It is a powerful way to acknowledge and support ourselves.


“It is not about fixing ourselves. It is about living into the mystery of our becoming.” ~Merideth Little


When I first began to consider elder-hood, someone called it “yelder-hood,” – young elder-hood; easier for this wild 58 year-old woman to swallow/own at first!


Are you an elder, or yelder?


What are you letting go of, or what is letting go of you?


What is the unknown you are ready to explore?


Is there something you are ready to mark, or celebrate in your life?


What are the gifts you imagine you could bring back to your people from this type of exploration?


Blue sky blessings,


Wilderness RItes of Passage

Guides in the Making


*Psychologists call “liminal space,” a place where boundaries dissolve a little and we stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of what we were into what we are to be.


(all photos by Carolyn Ringo)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.