“Where are you from?” and “Where do you live?” are mundane and seemingly simple questions. Yet like all questions they have hidden ancestries and invisible motivations. They understandably want to locate us, anchor our boat of identity, establish a riverbank in a fluid world.

Questions are ways of connecting with the other. They can be powerful tricksters, ways of knowing (and hiding) who we are, ways of living accountably (or not) in the world.

I feel a kin-ship with the thrush. They like to migrate. They like to experiment. They like to throw ever-widening iridescent loops of sound-meanings into the world, asking us to keep opening and stretching.

There comes a moment in deep autumn when suddenly their familiar melody is gone, and for a bit I am forlorn with the absence.

Among the five North American thrushes in the genus Catharus, Hermit Thrushes are the last to migrate south in the fall, the first to head north in spring.

The melody lives in me year-round now, but I wonder: Where do they go? Who is on the receiving end of their gift down there? Where are they ‘from’? Where do they consider their roots?

As a child I also moved a lot—by age 18 perhaps a dozen places. And as an adult I’ve lived in many places and traveled widely. Like so many, I feel I’m at least half a migratory animal.

That I’m from Iowa, now live in California is a type of story. That I am a white settler of northern European ancestry on unceded Wiyot and Sinkyone lands in so-called Humboldt County is a way of locating me. That I live under redwood trees and drink wild spring water from the Eel River watershed is another.

They are all true. And all limited. Like words themselves (and I’m saying this as a word man), questions and the answers they prompt hide as much as they reveal.

What if we also asked “What places bring you alive? To what land and landscapes do you belong? To what watersheds do you owe your allegiance? Where have you let your tears join the watershed? Where do you feel safe to fling your widest song? Where have the moon and seasons cycled through you, the scents stuck in your soul?”

These invite a different set of conversations and locates us in a different way. Perhaps they are coordinates of the soul and portals to deeper belongings.

These are inquiries I’d like to ask more, and be happy to hear the answers. They are questions that help us spiral into different ways of arriving—with ourselves, with the other-than-human kin, with each other.





CUSTOM WILDERNESS CEREMONIES/RITES-OF-PASSAGE (for individuals or small groups up to 4)


A0661C0A-A30E-4E4B-AA43-8E752AFFF30CThey say the first step
is admitting
you have an addiction

So here goes
—my name is Mystery,
I’ve been here
a million times

and Yes, I take heaping spoonfuls of galaxies
when I should be sleeping

I gulp in the seasons
whenever I see one one
sitting out on the table

My name is Abundance,
and I swallow fat Oceans
calorie-dense forests
and whole fields of lupine
when I think no one is looking

My name is Curiosity,
and I look under rocks
and climb through dark caves running my hands
against the wet walls

My name is Insatiable
and I chew
on entire mountain ranges
just to get high

I have no idea what they say about the second step,
I wasn’t listening.

I was too busy sitting
on the edge of the cliff
watching the sun retire
and caressing the bark
of the madrone tree

My name is Belonging.


9BA08CE9-76B2-4008-A63F-4E6AB3BCB683I. SEVERANCE

Commodities, cold machine.

Scandals and plastic and all
the Gottahaves.

Virtually there. The Chase
and The Shining Hamster Wheel.

Too full but empty.

Duller than a balmy day
sharper than a winter gale
this slow and sucking dry.

All the lies will die.


With wind and water
carry my discourse
up and over

letting the mountain carve
monuments out of me
epiphytic and free.

With river itself take my counsel.

With mud and mushroom heed
the wondrous whispers.

My tail prefers a winding path
and my face found itself
in that ancient blessed lake.


I’d rather eat beetles,
do you understand?

Once I knocked on the wrong moon
but then hitched with a wild wind

finding that belonging
is not a place,
but a skill
honed with a fierce heart.

I shift shapes from mountain pass to alley way.

What is hidden remains my treasure

what is visible a sword
and flute

an offering
to the woven ones.

And when I say my preposterous names
risible and rooted

Oh how it ripples on and on.

—Ryan Van Lenning

From a new collection, No Lies on the Mountain, forthcoming 2020


A60E4815-227F-47B7-AAA2-BC0D3DC506FBLet the voices speak for themselves

the undulating mentors called waves and trees

the choir of storms in your pulse

the endless still lake holding it all
in the basement of your being

The black pebble is your ally
the hidden footprint
of the mid-autumn wind your friend
carrying the next turn within

So why then are you pretending
to be so alone?

Become a true citizen of earth
and apprentice yourself to the convergence and the breakdown

Receive that sometimes fierce thrust, sometimes gentle caress of a world wanting
to open you up

With no small talk, but questions
that make you bigger
by the mere asking of them

Yes, change you must—You accept that
but can you surprise even your secret self
at your grand unfurling?

Lean into the raucous conversation.

Can you overhear yourself?

Are you startled by those dangerous utterances
flying from your endless beautiful cavern,
like bats hungry for dusk,
the hour of change?

-Ryan Van Lenning

How Many Leaves Have Landed In Me?

82e95508-b8da-4f24-a2ab-f2aac78cbcf5How many leaves have landed in me
that I have not yet heard?

That I might shake a cool meaning out of
and launch some season,
some solemn ceremony of better belonging?

That I might compost to build a richer soil?

Might sprout some discourse wide as sky,
deep as the memory of dirt,
seasoned with ripe time?

How many leaves have landed in me
that I’ve yet the ears to hear?

-Ryan Van Lenning

You can get my books RE-MEMBERING: Poems of Earth & Soul, and High-Cooing Through the Seasons: Haiku From the Forest through your local bookstore, on Amazon or Indiebound, Link in bio. My book of mystical poems, Silence Begins Here, and book of love and erotic poetry, Wild Rose Hips, will be out later this year. Follow me @ryanreturntotheearth for ecosensual mythopoetic inspiration and @wildnatureheartfor my heart-centered nature connection & 1-on-1 inner/outer wilderness work.



This week marks the 1-year anniversary of the birth of Re-Membering: Poems of Earth and Soul and High-Cooing Through the Seasons: Haiku From the Forest. I marked it by actually taking my own books down to the river and celebrating Fall with them. I introduced them to Jeffers, June Jordan, Joy Harjo, and Jane Hirshfield and we all had a grand ol’ time dippin’ and divin’ in Flow and Fun.

I’m feeling enormous gratitude for the energies that flowed through me to bring them into the world, and all the people who saw in them something special and everybody who continues to find inspiration in them.

The 75 poems in Re-Membering are an unabashed celebration of the sensuality and mystery of wild nature, both inner and outer.

The poems in these collections (perhaps all my poems?) invite us to fully re-inhabit and say “Yes!” to our sensual natures, our animal bodies, our playfulness and creativity and grief, connection, mystery, and our instinctive LOVE for and BELONGING to this beautiful, sentient Earth.

May the poems in Re-Membering inspire your fierce and big wild nature hearts and be a small part of putting our shoulders to the wheel of The Great Turning.


“Bless Ryan Van Lenning for listening to the wild voices and bringing back the news for those who have lost their way. Bless him for reminding us of our original love affair with the earth and of what we know deep in our souls. His poems give wise counsel: let go of the debris, remember who you are, do not abandon your luminous thread.” —Lorraine Anderson, editor of Sisters of the Earth and Earth & Eros

“Ryan’s poetry speaks deeply and clearly to the awakening to our true interconnected nature, which is the only way we can transform our world.” -Molly Young Brown, Author of Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects (co-authored with Joanna Macy), Editor of Deep Times: A Journal of the Work That Reconnects

You can get both books through your local bookstore, on Amazon or Indiebound.

My book of mystical poems, Silence Begins Here, and book of love and erotic poetry, Wild Rose Hips, and Book of Rivers: Headwaters and Heartrocks will be out later this year. 🌿💚🙏🏽🌻🌲