By Deb Matlock
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”
— Oprah Winfrey
I have truly been blessed to have some wonderful human teachers and mentors in my life. From my earliest years through to today, I can think of many individuals along the way who have helped me chart my course, stretch my limits, and find my truest path. In formal education settings and in less formal settings such as my grandmother’s kitchen, my father’s shop, my shamanic mentor’s home, or my mother’s garden, learning and growing has taken place. Without these people, I have no idea where I would be or what my life might look like today. As the deepest honoring to these people, I have dedicated my own career to education and mentoring as well in hopes that I can contribute to others in a similar way.
In addition to the wonderful human mentors in my life, I must also acknowledge the mentors and teachers I have found in the non-human world as well. Wisdom, knowledge, and inspiration are most certainly not merely human agencies. Rather, all that we as humans know is deeply rooted in all life around us. We have evolved together with the rest of the living world and our deep and abiding connection fuels our continued quest for knowledge and growth. We can truly only be human in relationship with all else.
So, who are these non-human, wild teachers? Who are these beings of nature I credit with helping me discover and nurture who I am today?
These teachers are every ant, bird, plant, tree, rain drop, snowflake, gust of wind, earthworm, etc. I have ever met. These wild mentors, each in their own way, beckon me to reflect, observe, and connect with those who are unlike me; yet are more like me than may first be apparent. The non-human world is full of innate wisdom and intelligence that I can only grasp, and yet from which I find endless inspiration and hope, ideas, and resolve.
The wildness of day and night, seasonal change, migration of birds and butterflies, plant growth and death, time spent with my dogs and cats…have taught me so much about the world. In the eyes of my dog and I can see a deep and wise soul; even when she is being a goof and playing around. In the rhythms of the season, I can sense the need for cycles and change, and see the gifts of all these cycles. Animals migrating though my community remind me that following my intuition and pursuing what I need is a very natural thing to do. Seeing trees bend and sway in the wind reminds me that we must be flexible, even when we are firmly rooted. Noticing earthworms desperately searching for soil when on a dry sidewalk remind me that we all need a hand sometimes. I could go on…and I know that as my life goes on, I will continue to learn from the world around me in ways I cannot even imagine right now.
My hope for all of us is that we go forward in our lives seeing the wisdom, inspiration, and innate knowledge in all who are our mentors – humans and non-humans alike.
Deb Matlock grew up in the mountains of Colorado and is deeply committed to nurturing the connection between people, animals, earth, and spirit. She has spent twenty-five years working as a professional environmental and humane educator and naturalist. Additionally, Deb offers shamanic-style spiritual guidance, animal communication, nature connection workshops, and retreats through her business, Wild Rhythms. She is passionate about helping people find connection and deep spiritual meaning in their lives and in the places where they live. Deb holds a Master of Arts in Environmental Education from Prescott College and is pursuing her doctoral degree in environmental studies at Antioch University New England.
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