Dear brothers and sisters,
My name is Owen.
With your permission, I would love to tell you about myself and what I have been working on since childhood.
First and foremost, thank you.
I am a passionate lover of the earth who recognizes that the work will never be done.
I was born in the Bay Area in California in 1993. I grew up close to the ocean and spent most of my time outside. My family would take me hiking and camping growing up. I would spend summers on the East Coast of the US visiting family - mostly Connecticut and Vermont. As soon as I could drive myself to the beach, I got my first surfboard and spent as much of my time in the water as I could. When storms would come through, the water (ocean) would get polluted and I'd usually get sick or choose not to surf.
I played a lot of different sports up until I devoted my time to surfing - cross country, soccer, baseball, track & field.
I remember how I began looking at myself when my mom gave me my first 'spiritual book' when I was a teenager. Since then I've read books from all over the world, different time periods, traditions and philosophies. All focussed on how to live in a good way.
My life forever changed after I went on a 13 day trip to Europe in my junior year of High School. It was on the plane ride back when I watched 'An Inconvenient Truth.' It wasn't the facts or statistics. It was the message and recognition that mother earth was hurting and she was telling us to change.
That was my wake up. Since then I've been doing my best to listen and do my part.
I was inspired to take an environmental sciences class the next year. Then, after high school, I chose to study Philosophy and Environmental Sciences at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I completed Double Major in 5 years.
During my studies, I spent as much of my time outside as I could - surfing, snowboarding, longboarding, hiking, camping, walking. I volunteered for a non profit, Raincoast Conservation Foundation. I began to learn some of the real history of the land and its people - from a variety of different events and gatherings. I attended my first men's group.
As I deepened in to all of these, including my studies, I began to turn my main focus on myself.
I played and wrote music with a friend during my last 2 years.
Nearing the end of my studies I spent a lot of time meditating over the change that was about to take place. Graduating and figuring out how I wanted to show up in the world. I felt it would be one of the most significant in my life. I also had crossed a threshold of awareness and understanding of how I was apart of everything that was happening that I wasn't willing to forget or sell out. Especially passion. I was so incredibly passionate about doing every single thing I could to make a difference.
Thanks to a man in Vancouver who had led some of the men's groups I attended, as well as hosted an authentic facilitation workshop I attended, I had the idea to hold an alternative graduation ceremony to support this process.
Working with him I ended up holding it for myself and a group of friends.
After the ceremony it was clear that upon graduating I wanted to build a 'sustainable' tiny home in a van and then spend a lot of time by myself in nature. To really figure out who I was and how I wanted to contribute to the world.
Which is what I did. After building my van, and travelling, I found a place in the PNW to call home for the year*, and then really got to work. My daily routine was self reflection, journalling, cooking, walking in nature, yoga/meditation, reading, and a lot of praying. Gratitude. Apology. More apology. Even more apology. Prayer for help. Prayer for guidance. Prayer for all those I loved. Prayer to make it through. Prayer to love myself no matter how terrible I feel. I welcomed that spring with a week of silence. I repeated another week of silence for summer. I spent my birthday fasting for 3 days near a mountain in Northern California. I built a garden and prayer site to learn from the 4 directions, from Great Spirit and Mother Earth. I spent a lot of time remembering my relationship with everything. Especially with the ocean... So much to share and listen. I ate extraordinarily clean and simple for the whole year.
After the end of the year, I decided to go down to visit my family and then spend some time surfing by myself down in Mexico. After I saw my family for the first time, something about my container didn't feel complete. I prayed for help and then shortly after a magazine presented itself in a nearby grocery store. It was the only one, it was about traditional wisdom, permaculture and climate change and the woman working the cash register decided to give it for free. When I got back I paged through it and in the very back was a short story about The Vision Quest from a Native American perspective.
Without food or water, I left the next morning up to a local mountain to fast and pray for my vision. I learned to make offerings in my year, so I offered what felt heartful to the mountain I had hiked many times in my youth. After making my offering 4 crows and 1 turkey vulture made a clear sign that it had been received.
Mother Earth then began to speak. I listened.
After reaching the top of the mountain at dusk, I let all who were listening know that 4 days wasn't going to happen. It was winter and I had been isolated by myself for a whole year. I was freezing, covered in poison oak and my feet were bleeding. I prayed that I could spend 1 night. Which is what the crows and turkey vulture had already told me. I've already committed my service to 4 seasons, and now I can spend 1 night to receive the fruit from all of my work.
It was so cold up there that after huddling in a corner on top of the mountain I would get up and start to walk back and forth to stay warm.
One of the times I got up I started speaking and received my vision.
With permission of the ancestors, living and beyond, I will build a home in Squamish. It will be a collaborative effort of builders as an example of how to build in a good way. I will share the designs by donation for any to use.
Then, after having committed myself to one place for the rest of my life, I will travel continent by continent learning from the different places and people of the earth (with permission).
I will convert an overland truck vehicle to be equipped with an apothecary, library and tool shop to give and receive to all the communities I visit.
I will create a website to share all of the resources, tools and stories gathered that want to be shared.
And then at the end of my journey, I will write a book called:
A Million Miles to Home.
the journey to return walking in balance on Mother Earth
(for those that have forgotten)
I'll depart south in January 2022, after I turn 28, to South America, for 3 years.
After I received my vision I waited for the sun to rise.... I said thank you for all that helped me through the toughest night of my life. And then I walked down to where I was staying with my Mom. Upon arrival I asked if she could pick up a list of food I hadn't eaten in a year: super shrimp burrito, mango, dark chocolate, coconut ice cream, kombucha..
So this is my story. Since receiving my vision I've gotten married, visited the rest of my family, and been listening to how to best share this. I started a Go Fund Me page and then began sharing the project to friends, family and many conservationists/writers/leaders who have inspired my path.
I would love to hear any and all thoughts. One of the most important things I learned was that this is not MY vision. It is what I received to share for the good of all.
Here are a few more things I feel important to share.
I acknowledge that I am a 26 year old white male (~5th generation European American) with family and cultural ties deeply embedded in a painful history and social model.
Thanks to the courage of so many from this community, and elders from a festival in British Columbia, I have been asked to face this privilege by remembering my own ancestral lineage, taking responsibility of it and stepping forward with it in the best (most humble) way I can.
*I first planned for 3 months, but I didn't feel nearly complete so I extended it to a full year.
Thank you so much.
Owen Wargo Sondergeld
Photo courtesy of Autumn Skye autumnskyeart.com - 'Harmony'