Fog over a frozen lake

So often I hear about the gray gloom of Midwestern winter. While I certainly understand the impact clouds and cold can have on so many people for all sorts of reasons (none of which I discount), I’m going to let you in on a personal secret: I actually love wintertime.

So, from this loving place in me, I’ll offer a window into my little February jaunt to Buckeye Lake. buckeye lake elizabeth taking a picture.jpgThis was my first time exploring the area. I was lucky to be guided by a very special person who shared with me personal stories that had unfolded for him within this landscape. As we walked towards the thawing lake, I curiously listened to his rich stories of times past on this land.

I noticed how breathtaking the dense fog was over the snow and ice, how the chill in the air seemed to awaken my whole body, and how the slight movements of the thawing lake caught my eye… Such meaning those uniquely winter moments held for me.

And I’m reminded by a poem by David Whyte entitled “Enough”:

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.


I find snow dazzling… the way it seemingly mutes the landscape, appearing to sparkle as it reflects light, is just magical. This past Friday, my friend and I braved the treacherous roads to travel down to Hocking Hills in Ohio and immerse ourselves in the quiet, glistening landscape for the weekend. Wider landscape picture of HH.jpgI was coming off of a particularly stressful couple of weeks and weariness felt heavy in my body.  As we climbed out of the car and started our hike among the trails of Hocking Hills, it seemed as though I was gradually awakening; my fatigue lifted and my senses shifted into clearer focus. As Steven Harper eloquently states:

“Upon entering wilderness one of the first things that almost everyone experiences is an enlivening of the five basic senses. Suddenly, we are bathed with and sometimes overloaded with new sounds, awesome sights, interesting textures, different smells and tastes. People frequently comment about the surprise and excitement they have in rediscovering their sensory experience. This rediscovery and awakening of our senses, or perhaps better stated, ‘coming to our senses,’ is a subtly powerful and underrated experience. People learn how greatly some of our basic modes of perception have been dulled in order to survive in the urban world” ( riverBreathing the frigid air into my lungs, my feet crunching over the snow, I couldn’t help but be called back to right now. My awareness of the vulnerability of my body deepened as I navigated the slick, icy ground. I felt the power of that slippery frozen earth calling my perspective back into check, reminding me of my exquisite smallness on this planet. Nothing that had felt so pressing before seemed urgent… or even relevant… now. Frozen waterfall.jpgAfter just 3 days immersed in the snow covered hills, I reconnected with a deeply felt sense of serenity and ease.

I traveled back home to begin the week renewed.

Autumn Reflection

Today we had a reflective outdoor practice at Highbanks Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio on a beautiful autumn afternoon. Nobody participating in this month’s practice had met before, and each was entering the experience with a personal intention around releasing and letting go, in honor of the season. Together, we began by engaging in two guided grounding exercises to softly and fully mindfully “arrive” to greet the land, one another, and our own internal presence.

highbanks feet.jpgWe then began walking along a trail on metaphorical and meditative journey involving three chapters…

Chapter One: As we began to move along the trail, we quietly explored the earth’s supportive process of letting go in autumn and our own personal process of releasing and letting go.

Chapter Two: We slowed down our movement and noticed what happened in our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as we shifted off the trail, each of us finding an area that individually resonated and engaging in journaling, meditation, or simply resting.

Chapter Three: We returned to the trailhead and, as we did, noticed what we were leaving behind, as well as the support we have and need in order to transition and grow.

Highbanks tree oct 2017.jpg

Some of us expressed finding greatest peace when we were moving, with the rhythm and sounds of our feet as we took each step through the fallen leaves. Others expressed finding peace in the quiet, reflective resting phase of our journey.

Tar hollow pic

I loved most of all the scent of leaves, the sounds of the wind rustling the branches above us, and simply being in the company of such kind and compassionate people as we celebrated the earth’s fall season – and our own processes of letting go.

Enchanted by the Cranberry Wilderness

It was the kind of wilderness within which you might actually expect to see little gnomes and fairies wandering around. Breath-taking beauty, forests with a lush mossy carpet floor, ferns and rhododendrons galore, and a striking abundance orchids; we just may have stumbled upon a version of paradise in the Cranberry Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia.

Toadstool mossy cottageElizabeth in a natural mossy chairIt had been 4 months since my colleague Russell and I had taken our last backpacking trip together. During that space in time, we both had some outdoor adventures separately and moved through significant life-altering experiences along the way. As we began our trip out to West Virginia, I noticed the comforting feeling of easing into an unknown wilderness with a familiar companion.

Russell and I set our intentions as we approached the trailhead. He named his intention of being present and awake to more fully noticing the landscape surrounding him. I named an intention of dropping down into a more grounded and centered space as I moved through and related to this natural landscape, as I related to Russell on this journey, and as I related to my own thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.

Russell in the big forestElizabeth walking amongst the trees and rocksRussell taking a breakElizabeth taking a rest on the mossy rock As we shifted out of the overwhelming stimuli of our urbanized environment, I noticed my whole body quieting. I felt more spaciousness and allowance for simply what was in the moment. I noticed appreciating the richness of shared silence as much as the richness of meaningful conversation. I became more fully aware of the stars overhead (there was no rain on this particular trip, so we were truly able to sleep beneath the stars each night), the sounds of the birds, the lulling trickle of the creeks and streams nearby, and the cadence of my own breath.

Landscape view We experienced the physical exertion of carrying a pack, navigating some muddy trails, walking long distances in search of water, and moving up some steep inclines. We experienced deep relaxation provoked by the sensations of sunlight and the breeze against our skin, delicious food cooked over a camp stove while surrounded by a stunning environment, and by the knowing that both of us relied on one another in such fundamental ways on those trails, and that both of us would show up in support of one another as we navigated areas of smooth and challenging terrain.

Elizabeth and Russell looking up at the skyCairnDuring our car ride back to Ohio, we talked about our hope for future backpacking trips. As we reached the month of May 2018, we both agreed: of course we will return to the Monongahela National Forest. The plentiful orchids will be in bloom. The majestic Cranberry Wilderness will call us back.


The 6-, 36-, and 66-year-olds set out for a backpacking adventure…

This was an adventure. We were the explorers. Neither the 66 year old nor the 6 year old had ever backpacked before. I (the 36 year old) seemed a trusty guide. The time was now.

Andre with treking poles and mommyWe arrived in at Zaleski State Forest on a Saturday afternoon. It was a perfect September day. The grandson and grandfather were excited and uncertain…would they be able to do it? Would their packs be too heavy? Would the hills be too steep? Would the night be too dark? The animals too wild?

They bravely set off on the trail.

Andre and mommy backpacking

pappers and Andre backpacking

Surprised by our physical strength and eased by the cadence of the backcountry, we three backpackers trekked for a few miles before it was time to set up camp. Night descended and curiosity enveloped fleeting fears. The adventurers found that nightfall was brimming with its own special wonders.

Andre and tree frog.jpg

What memories! We cooked together. We laughed and rested together. We talked about the wonders of life and death together, as we looked up at the trees, just beginning to show signs of autumn foliage.

Andre backcountry cooking.jpg

And so was our little journey, woven by three generations of humans together on a simple, beautiful adventure.

Pappers and Andre backpacking Zaleski


Elizabeth contemplating

All of us have experienced those moments in which not even the best map and compass can help us navigate our sensations of feeling lost inside. In these moments, we might notice rolling waves of grief, confusion, sorrow, and fear. We might feel our world has turned upside down. In one such pivotal moment in my life, my mentor offered me a poem. This poem has become one of my navigation tools, nudging me back into being “found” in those moments when I seem to have lost my way.

So, now it’s my turn to offer it to you:


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

~David Wagoner, 1976.


Our monthly offerings for fall/winter of 2017


Along with sharing reflections, this blog also serves the purpose of providing a platform to describe what we are offering to the community. Thus, we announce our

Monthly Outdoor Reflection Series

In this series, we will offer supportive facilitation to assist with grounding and centering in several beautiful natural settings. This will involve periods of movement (walking and/or gentle grounding exercises), periods of quiet reflection and/or exploration, and periods of optional sharing and reflecting with one another.

You are welcome to come to all 4 meetings in the series or just 1; we encourage you to do what feels right and manageable to you.

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” -John Muir

Monthly Reflection Meetings for 2017:

Monday, September 18, 2017, 6 – 8pm:  Beginning the week with intention

Description: We will meet at the beautiful 120-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park and together slowly unwind from the day through grounding and centering exercises, reconnect with our natural landscape surrounding and within us, and notice what natural intentions emerge.

Sunday, October 22, 2017, 3 – 5pm:   Autumn Reflection

Description: Amid colorful fall foliage, shale bluff, ravines, and tributary streams of Highbanks Metro Park, we will invite you to explore and ground in your own internal autumn – noticing and embodying our own processes of releasing and letting go.

Sunday, November 19, 2017, 3 – 5pm:  Gratitude & Renewal

Description: This will be a time in which we will welcome the creation of a restorative space together at Batelle Darby Creek Metro Park, facilitating an opportunity to more deeply connect with that which we carry within our bodies and spirits that resource us with vitality, strength, and peace.

Thursday, December 21, 2017, 6 – 8pm: Winter Solstice candlelight celebration

Description: This celebration of light and darkness, both within and surrounding us, will take place in the outdoor courtyard at 1550 Old Henderson Road, followed by shared reflection, nourishment, and tea in the warmth of the indoors.


If you register for one meeting at a time, the cost is $50 each.

If you register for two meetings at a time, the cost is a total of $80.

If you register for all four meetings at a time, the cost is a total of $150.

To reserve your space or if you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Olate at or 614-390-6482. All of our activities will happen rain, shine, or snow. We will notify you if we cancel for potentially dangerous conditions such as torrential downpours, lightning or snowstorms. Please dress in ways that feel comfortable and warm/dry for you.

Facilitator Description


Elizabeth Olate, MA, MSW, LISW-S, is a nature-lover, mother, and psychotherapist. In her private practice, she specializes primarily in working with adults and adolescents on issues related to trauma, anxiety, and depression. Elizabeth has taught classes at The Ohio State University at the undergraduate and graduate levels, she has led clinical training workshops as well as intensive therapeutic retreats, facilitated therapeutic groups (in indoor and outdoor settings), and she has engaged in clinical work with individuals and families since 2004.

In addition to her therapeutic work, Elizabeth has always been an explorer and lover of the wild outdoors. She is certified in Wilderness First Aid and engages in backpacking, hiking, and camping outings locally and throughout the United States. In addition, she completed a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course in wilderness expedition leadership and guidance. Elizabeth combines her knowledge of gestalt and somatic therapeutic practices with her reverence for and connection with the natural world, drawing on nature as a resource for enhancing self-awareness, connection, and awakening.

When Elizabeth is not at work in her private practice or out in the wild, she enjoys the presence of her family and friends, and trying out culinary “experiments”.


Coastal North Carolina

“When anxious, uneasy…thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”  ~Rainer Maria RilkeSunset pier Oak Island.jpg

Did the coastal North Carolina landscape unfold before me or I within it?

Campsite Carolina Beach State Park.jpg

As I traversed its coastal forests, enchanting wetlands, carnivorous plants, and rhythmic ocean waves… as I inhaled the scent of salt, heavy in the air…

I found myself thinking less and feeling more.

Trail NC Beach State ParkswamoCanoe sunriseSound at sunsetDusk Oak Island beachLandscape CB SPI felt my soft mammalian body moving, so tiny, along the vastness of the shore.

I found myself a little more.

Kids NC State Park.jpg

Easing into Natural Being

Children are some of my greatest teachers; their curiosity and zest for exploration often seems downright palpable. I love most when I’m out in the wilds with children – or with grownups who have the ability to access their inner adventurous child. It is with the young at heart (regardless of their chronological age) that I myself experience more fully the enchantment, the mystery, and the awe of our earth.

After an hour (or a day or a week) of submerging my feet in startling, soothing cool water, watching the way the shadows from the leaves above dance on the path, marveling at the beautiful design of a single blade of wild grass, and noticing the scent of soil and water as I breathe…

Blade of grassYellow Springs 2017

..I find I can exhale a little longer and fuller. I can think with more clarity and peace.

still water

Even as I return to the bustling dance of urban life, I am at ease.

Wild Women Under a Full Moon

This weekend was dedicated to joining with a special group of soulful and strong women in hiking and exploring the wilderness within and surrounding us at Mohican and Malabar Farm State Parks in Ohio. We engaged in deeply moving conversations, meditative silent hiking, and enjoyed delicious fresh food cooked over a campfire. As the day was winding down and nightfall descended, we camped by the light of a wondrous glowing full moon.

Her heart was wild,

but I didn’t want to catch it, 

I wanted to run with it, 

to set mine free.