The best nature, art, and ritual books you’ll ever read

Who am I?

I came to discover the healing power of art, nature, and ritual while I was grieving the loss of my father a decade ago. I would go to the park and make impermanent and symmetrical art from found twigs, flowers, pine cones, berries, and leaves as a way to ground, heal my broken heart, and make sense of a chaotic time. Since then, I‘ve made over a thousand nature altars, written a book about it (Morning Altars), and have taught tens of thousands of people around the world to make meaning in their lives through a creative collaboration with the natural world. It still amazes me that something so simple and impermanent can bring such wonder and resilience.

I wrote...

Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration, and Change

By Day Schildkret,

Book cover of Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration, and Change

What is my book about?

Embrace the power of ritual with simple practices that slow us down to honor and mark the real moments in our lives—from the loss of a parent to the birth of a child, from grieving a pet to celebrating coming out of the closet.

Day Schildkret, artist and author behind the international Morning Altars movement, believes that what we need is ritual. Rituals are the rhythms and traditions that give us a sense of stability in the face of uncertainty by reminding us that there’s always something we can do, say or make that conjures awe, contentment, and gratitude. They give us a way to acknowledge through our actions that, as life changes, we too must change.

The books I picked & why

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Andy Goldsworthy

By Andy Goldsworthy,

Book cover of Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature

Why this book?

Goldsworthy is the grandfather of impermanent nature art, creating one-of-a-kind ephemeral sculptures out of snow and ice, stone and twigs, leaf and bark. This book carries the quiet intensity of his art that lives at the edge of decay and change. The book wove me into a world of understanding the impermanence in nature through the lens of art being created on the precipice of change. He sculpts spiraling ice crystals just at the time in the morning when the temperature would permit and builds stone structures at the edge of the water, just before the tide would come in and carry it away. Enchanting art, magical photography, a genius in our midst.

Braiding Sweetgrass

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass

Why this book?

This book is a love letter to the Earth. Masterful, delightful, and generous storytelling. What I love about her writing is the way she bridges what should have never been separated: Science and indigenous Earth wisdom, words and actions, giving and receiving, modern living, and traditional understanding. I quote her writing in my own book because Kimmerer speaks from a place of deep listening—to the grief and love of our relationship to the Earth. Of how it has been and how it could be otherwise.

The Smell of Rain on Dust

By Martín Prechtel,

Book cover of The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise

Why this book?

Because my art is impermanent, I write and think about that subject a lot. And IMHO, no one speaks as beautifully and powerfully to the subjects of impermanence, life, loss, and beauty better than Prechtel. Prechtel's book is a well of indigenous wisdom on the living relationship between grief and praise. He says, "When you’re grieving for the thing you got, it's called praise. When you're praising for the thing you lost, it's called grief.” If the Earth is speaking her wisdom, this author is delivering it faithfully and beautifully to us.

Big Magic

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Book cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Why this book?

An honest, inspiring, playful and curious conversation not just about the creative process but about living creatively. As an artist, I deeply understand how alive and fickle creativity is and Gilbert guides the reader to approach your own creative living with wonder, playfulness, courage, and unattachment. She’s the creative godmother I’ve always wanted, forever encouraging us into a playfully collaborative relationship with the universe.

The Lost Spells

By Robert MacFarlane, Jackie Morris (illustrator),

Book cover of The Lost Spells

Why this book?

A wise man once said to me, “if you can say it, you can see it." This magical book of art, poetry, and nature is a response to the removal of nature words such as “acorn,” “wren,” and “dandelion,” from a children’s dictionary. His gorgeous writing encourages us to wonder at the forgotten and to behold the ordinary by uttering nature words as a conjuring thing. During a time of environmental loss, grief, and forgetting, McFarlane lets us fall in love again with the greater-than-human world through language and therefore, to renew our capacity to marvel at the living landscape and our own inner landscape. 

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