Eight years ago, a 9th-grade biology teacher got frustrated and walked away from his career to embrace the unknown, knowing that there must be more to life than teaching the “state requirements.” Luke McLaughlin explains, “I was raised in a very normal upper-middle-class household. My aha moment happened when I was so sick of living for others that I quit everything to pursue the unknown path – my path. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I couldn’t live an inauthentic life anymore.”
So Luke quit his job, moved out west to Utah and found a job as a guide in a primitive wilderness therapy program. In this program, primitive skills were utilized to teach life lessons to at-risk youth. “During my time there, I felt so alive and connected to the Earth,” Luke remembers. “I saw how much nature and skills helped those kids heal. After the first three months of working there, I committed my life to the Earth and to learning and teaching Earthskills. Now I run a wilderness therapy program for adults.”
Nature wasn’t completely foreign to Luke as a kid. “My grandfather Bud always helped me get outside. He was quite old for most of my life, and he always moved so slowly. I initially would be so frustrated by his slow pace, but he helped me learn to slow down and pay attention to all the things I was missing when I moved fast. He was a hunter, sportsman, mentor and amazing story teller. I think he planted a lot of seeds in me that he never got to see fully grown.”
We asked Luke why he loves the Firefly Gathering. “To me, Firefly is special because it’s the gathering that’s closest to home (literally). It’s the place where I can show up as my authentic self and be celebrated. It is the place where I can share my gifts as a teacher and also help inspire folks who are hungry for knowledge and skills. I am so grateful for my Firefly community.”
When asked why it’s important for folks to spend time in nature, Luke laughed (which he does frequently!). “Haha, oh man, this could be a whole book! We are nature. We need to feel at home and OK in our environment to have a healthy nervous system. We need wildness for our soul. Nature helps us slow down. Nature is what it is. Nature can challenge and push our edges. Nature helps us remember we aren’t the center of the universe. Nature shows us what our psyche needs to see. Nature is art. Nature is inspiring. Nature gives us meaning. Nature is our food, home and life. Seeing the cycles of Nature help us remember that everything is impermanent.”
“I think the single most important thing that folks can do to make the world a better place is to seek connection. Look for connection with people who are different from you. Look for connection to your feelings; find connection in your landscape. Connect, connect, CONNECT! After that, all we have to do is pay attention, and the conclusions are usually pretty easy.”
Need more connection in your life, or to someone close to you? Consider signing up with Luke to participate in his 9-month immersion, “Deep Remembering” – an in-depth exploration into the human spirit, along with and immersed in nature. It will include building the primitive tool kit, learning about wild foods, embracing nature as therapy, and much, much more. To learn more, please visit Luke’s website. You can also find him starting fires, tanning hides and making friends at an earthskills gathering near you! Take time to connect with Luke. You’ll be so glad you did!