From The Immersion to Storyteller

Hi, my name is Brian Mertins and I love Wilderness Awareness School. A few years ago I left my life on the east coast of Canada and traveled all the way across the continent to live in Duvall, Washington where I participated in The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School and the Nature Instructor Training program.

I loved living in Duvall. It was amazing being able to explore the natural landscape there with my friends and adoptive family. I loved tracking on the sandbars and going to my Sit Spot, but most of all I loved listening to bird language.

Over the years I’ve accumulated quite a few stories from the birds. One of my goals is to have a really good bird language story for every possible source of alarm. I want to be able to illustrate all the different shapes of alarm through storytelling. I even managed to harvest a cougar alarm sequence from a mom & her two (BIG) kittens towards the end of my stay in Duvall.

When I returned to my home in Fall River, Nova Scotia I knew I wanted to do something related to nature connection. But I wasn’t quite sure what…

I wasn’t interested in running programs, or being part of any formal organization for nature connection. But as I continued tracking and going to my Sit Spot in this new landscape, I remembered my connections to storytelling and decided to start a website called Nature Stories.

On Nature Stories I write about all my adventures encountering hawks, bobcats, and other wild animals. It’s fun having the need to express my stories in a really clear way. It pushes me to pay more attention and to gather more stories.

It also opened the door for me to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, which is to start up my own telephone mentoring service for nature connection.

Telephone Mentoring

Do you remember that story about how Tom Brown found Jon Young on the street corner with the snapping turtle on a string?

Tom adopted Jon as his younger brother and through his questioning over the telephone led him to a deep connection with nature. He would call Jon every day after school to ask him about his Sit Spot and adventures in the woods of New Jersey.

When I first heard that story it connected with me really deeply and I knew that I had found something that was related to my purpose in life. I immediately knew that I wanted to be mentored in that way, and that someday I would pass it on.

Over the years when I’ve shared my desire for that kind of mentoring over and over again I hear that I’m not alone in this craving I experience. It’s as though there’s a natural deep yearning in certain stages of our lives to have a personal relationship with a mentor who guides us to deeper awareness.

So drawing from my experience at WAS and Coyote’s Guide, I developed a process of mentoring that I could use conversationally over the phone. I currently have five people participating in this ongoing one-on-one mentoring conversation.

Every week in my discussions with people I focus on holding a particular kind of conversation that is driven by three basic commitments we set up in the first week.

  1. Commitment to connecting with nature through the practice of core routines
  2. Commitment to gathering weekly to share stories and ask edge questions
  3. Commitment to safe listening, trust, and honoring of the deeper journey

As I listen to the story of what happens during their week, they share how practicing the core routines is going for them and we dig into their observations from nature. By holding this context for our conversation it’s amazing to see how people open up in their connection with nature.

Underlying this whole process is the recognition that there is a deeper transformation taking place as we connect with nature. I believe that everyone is here in life for a purpose and that they have a gift to bring to their community.

The thing that determines if we arrive in our gifts is if we can truly connect on a deep level to our full potential as humans. It’s another way of saying that we come to the 7 sacred attributes. When we live from this place of optimal connectedness we have greater access to innate creativity, health, and happiness.

The vehicle is nature but the result is visionary leadership for healthy, resilient communities. This is the vision that I’m holding for the people that I mentor, and supporting this every week is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.

Local Connection

In addition to the online and telephone activities I’ve been doing, I’m also happy to report that there is nature connection taking place locally here in Nova Scotia.

A few weeks ago I successfully put together the first-ever group bird sit in this part of the country. It was only myself and one other person but it was still fun.

Someday I’d like to get a more vibrant community happening here. There’s definitely a lot of challenges to be overcome and I feel like I’m just starting out on a huge adventure that I can never complete alone.

I guess it’s all just a day in the life of a Wilderness Awareness School Graduate.

I’m forever grateful for those two years in Duvall exploring the natural landscape with my friends and adoptive family, tracking on the sandbars, going to my Sit Spot, and most of all listening to bird language.

Wilderness Awareness School