Growing Quality of Attention

Attention is the beginning of devotion.

— Mary Oliver



The Naturalist School is devoted to quality of attention — attention to nature around us, to nature within us, to the growing awareness of our bodies and being in nature, as nature. To rediscover and nourish our wildest selves.

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one.  (Mary Oliver)

compass plant smith

Even when our work of the day is to catalogue plants, collect acorns, contemplate butterflies write poetry, make ephemeral art, or puzzle over frog-song, we take time to do a little yoga, keep silence, or stop to read a poem. Quieting the body and mind opens the cosmos before us and takes us into the wild web of bodies and energies that is our source and future and hope for the planet. It also makes us better at hearing birdsong and frogs, parsing tiny fungi, chasing snails, sorting warblers, and encountering ourselves on the trail ahead.

But more often than not we spend a whole morning or afternoon in quiet creativity and contemplation. We often take turns leading mindfulness activities, but we have brilliant faculty to guide us:


Chelsea Balzer, M.A., PLMHP, is a psychotherapist, writer, musician, and educator. In her creative and therapeutic work, she studies the impact of culture on mental health and teaches embodied mindfulness to help bring people back into connection with nature, themselves, and each other.


Jeremy Buethe is a musician, poet, naturalist and yoga instructor embracing nature’s wild and free spirit that is within each of us.  He offers guided movement and breathing techniques to help cultivate a space of softness, balance and attention for our time together.



*Winter Saunter and Audubon Prairie photos by Robert Smith.