Sara Callaway has been a mover and shaker in the earthskills movement for many years. She is the co-coordinator of the Rendezvous Gatherings and has been essential to the success and transformation of that event. At Firefly, she helps create the Ancestor Fire and care for our elders, as well as being super into the 8 Shields Model and teaching about it.
Oren Kleinberger gave Sara Callaway a copy of The Tracker, by Tom Brown Jr. as a way to understand Oren’s point of view more clearly before going backpacking around the Southwest together with Sara in the early 2000s, saying, “If we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, then you need to read this book.” Until then, Sara had no idea a person could so intimately relate to the natural world, and the book left her hungry for more. After their backpacking adventure, they decided to spend the next summer living in the wilderness of Idaho in Snake River Valley with about10 other friends, where there was no electricity, appliances, or even real “indoor” space. They harvested fresh vegetables from the garden, hunted wild game, and foraged plums, cherries, and apricots. It was there that Sara realized the importance of land-based community and how much more satisfying it is than what society generally offers.
Oren also invited her to Falling Leaves Rendezvous in 2002, where two fellow campers happily welcomed her and offered help with camp set-up if she needed. Bob Orcutt and Gail Torchio were camped nearby as well, and they invited her to their fire and offered food and company, as well as keeping an eye on her throughout the event. Sara doesn’t miss a Rendezvous event now, largely because of her incredibly warm welcome to the first one.
For the past 18 years since her first earthskills gathering, Sara has been moving in the direction of living immersed in nature and community. The Tom Brown book was her “ah-ha!” moment to clear a way for this alternative lifestyle to become her own. She had grown up in a pretty mainstream way, aside from helping her mom with agricultural duties and being a part of the Future Farmers of America (FAA) in high school. She’s very grateful for that experience as a sort of gateway into how she lives now.
Sara had an internship with Jeff Gottlieb in Long Island, NY, where she got to teach primitive skills in the NYC public schools. During their commutes into the city each day, they would listen to Jon Young’s tapes called Seeing Through Native Eyes. Sara learned that Young had a school called the Wilderness Awareness School, which included a distance program called Kamana. Wanting to dig deeper, she signed up. While participating in the Kamana Naturalist Training Program, Sara learned to identify plants, trees, and birds. And she also experienced some deeper wisdom in truly connecting with the other living beings in the world, such as showing gratitude for their lives and the art of questioning. She had been studying Kamana for three or four years when Evan McGown started Wild Intelligence in Athens, GA, and so Sara started teaching there around 2014, after studying and apprenticing with Evan.
Along with the Kamana program and Wild Intelligence, Sara has participated in vision questing with the Animas Valley Institute, nonviolent communication classes with Steve Torma, studies in grief work, training in restorative justice and restorative circles, training in ancestral healing with her own lineages, some training in animism, ritual training, and lots of reading and personal growth work.
According to Sara, the Firefly Gathering is a genuine opportunity for her to share her gifts with a community interested in receiving them. She thinks soft skills, especially pertaining to communication, are vital to her vision of people living in community together. She believes that living in touch with the Earth and the skills surrounding that lifestyle is the most fulfilling way to be.
When asked why it’s important to spend time in nature, Sara responded by highlighting the fact that nature is the blueprint that has shaped humanity and we are meant to be in communion with all the living things that make up our ecosystem. She says, “Plus, it’s just so fascinating! The natural world is full of miracles and examples of ways of being that we can learn from. It’s juicy, it’s visceral, it’s exciting, and it’s real. Nature is where it’s at!”
Sara encourages all of us to do our work to heal, grow up, know ourselves, be responsible, and be capable of offering our gifts to the world. She says, “If we had more mature adults in touch with their deep selves and engaged with their soul work, the world would be a much better place.”