Articles, poetry, and reflections from the ROPJ community.
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Fall 2016 Issue

Welcome to the Fall 2016 issue of Passages: Journeys Quarterly Journal – a place for creative exploration of the work we do and support at Rite of Passage Journeys.


In this season of transformation and letting go, we have three beautiful creative offerings that we hope will land softly in your heart and nourish your soul as they compost there.


In her article "Questions from Questing in the Time of the Great Turning," Erica Jones – a participant in the Adult Wilderness Quest – explores the formative and transformative experiences she has had questing.


Sandwiching Erica's piece, Sarah Thorpe (whose three kids have all done multiple Journeys programs) and Lily Thorpe-Kramp (a three-time participant, and daughter of Sarah), each share a poem. Sarah speaks to the experience of letting go as her children grow and go through various rites of passage including leaving home, in her poem "I Close the Window." And Lily gives powerful voice to her process of finding the power of her voice in her poem "How Often Do I Speak."

We are also celebrating the release of the new Confluence Journal from our partner organization, Youth Passageways, by re-printing an article published there by Journeys’ former Executive Director, Darcy Ottey. Her review of two new watershed books in the field of rite of passage work opens this issue.


We hope you enjoy what you find here. If you would like to submit to Passages in the future, please email Alex at

Darcy Ottey
In 1996, I was in knee-deep studying anthropology and sociology at the University of Washington. My summers were spent leading Coming of Age trips for Rite of Passage Journeys, and I was becoming more and more passionate about youth initiatory processes.  Back in the classroom, I would orient every project and every course possible to rites of passage. I devoured any literature I could find.

It was during this time that I discovered the books Betwixt and Between (1) and Crossroads (2). These two edited collections of articles offered a range of perspectives on rites of passage, and set the stage for how I would understand both the theory and practice of what was quickly becoming my calling. Crossroads had just been released; the ideas felt new and fresh, exciting and powerful. These books became my bibles, dog-eared and re-read repeatedly.

The back-to-back publishing this year of Coming of Age the Rite Way by Dr. David Blumenkrantz, and Youth on Fire by Dr. Melissa Michaels feels much the same way to me. Reading these two books, I felt a sense of huge collective movement forward for the emerging field of rites of passage. This is not to discount contributions made by others in the last 20 years.  Indeed, very important literature, scholarship, research, and theory has steadily emerged since Crossroads that has grown understandings, bridged to new audiences, woven new connections, and tread new ground. But there’s something precious and fresh about this moment expressed in these two important texts.

I call on any and all wishing to understand what is needed in our communities and what is needed for youth to read these two books, perhaps even back to back as I did. They are individually strong books, both powerful blends of intellectual rigor, painstaking research, and rich personal narrative. They both balance mind, heart, and spirit together, and highlight the very best of what the “rite of passage” community’s shared values have to offer to the world during these times. They both are grounded in intimate, personal narrative, each telling the author’s story pioneering new ground and offering road maps back for the next generation to follow.

Read the rest of the Youth Passageways website

Since her own wilderness-based coming of age experience through Rite of Passage Journeys at age 13, Darcy Ottey has been passionate about the importance of creating intentional rite of passage experiences to help young people mature into healthy, capable adults. The entirety of Darcy’s professional career has been dedicated to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual growth of young people through rites of passage.
I Close The Window
by Sarah Thorpe

I close the window, an act not unusual in itself but one that I do because today, I will turn on the alarm when I leave.

I close the window to keep out the fresh-scented air from my bedroom, until I return.

I close the window, and notice how dusty the sill is. I haven’t seen that before, not for weeks, the window has stayed open all Summer.

I close the window and feel the absence in the house of other living, breathing, humans, an absence of the unknowable but potential activities of ones who have, for a time, no occupation or job to take them out of the house.

I close the window and know that this is now my job to remember.

I close the window and feel an emptiness in my chest, a silence in the house, a quietness of loss. Gone.

On to pursue their own lives.

Because they can.


Author's Note:
Eight and ten years ago I wasn't sure if my middle school sons would be able to get out of bed by themselves, let alone become independent young men. Sending my sons off on three-week backpacking trips with Journeys was the experience they needed to get connected to the natural world and to their inner selves. Now their lives are full, with University, grad school, friends, and the inner resources to steer their lives the way they want. And that is exactly what I wanted for them back when they were in middle school. 


Sarah Thorpe, an Intuitive Healer, helps and supports women who feel depressed to rekindle their light and come alive again. All three of her children have participated in the Journeys program.  
Questions from Questing in the Time of the Great Turning
by Erica Jones

“What is it that you are carrying as a gift for your people?”

I have heard this question three times now, asked of me upon return from sacred wilderness journeys into the heart of Mystery. It is said to be the most important question of all that is asked of us.

And each time I have returned from that encounter with (im)mortality, I have been examined closely for hints or clues that I mustered the courage and vulnerability to allow such a revelation to be made. Is she sincere? Or is she just playing around? Does she still think the whole world is only about her private joys and sorrows?

“Who is returning?” they ask.

They want to know. They all want to know. The guides become a mouthpiece for the cosmos: WHO IS RETURNING? What of me has changed or deepened, after taking pains to place myself in plain sight of Mystery, and cry out for help…? They all want to know what became of wailing from the depths of my being, from the edges of my knowing, honesty demanding that I admit: I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING HERE.

While my people need help.

And I don’t know how to help my people.

And we are lost. We are so lost.

“What were you surprised by?” they ask.

Sometimes, this wily community of Earth beings tries to trip me up. This particular question wraps immense arms around my life in the late 20th and early 21st century of the so-called Common Era. The “Common Era” can sound a little off-key to the observer who notices the rising tides of “we’ve never seen this before!” in our most uncommon era of historically unprecedented change.

For example, a November 2013 report from the (conservative) International Energy Agency predicts a 3.5°C increase in the global baseline temperature by 2035. Somewhere else we may find the opinion that human extinction will occur at 3.5 to 4.0°C above baseline temperature, and a certainty that human life has never existed on a planet that has been so hot. The entire web of human life support will surely unravel in such conditions, they assert. …20 years from now???

What could be my gift to 2016 in relation to so ominous a 2035?

“What still lies in the Mystery?” they ask.

Waves of anxiety churn through my body, recoiling against hot steel bands that tighten around my chest and send a geyser boiling into my mind, racing at full speed.


Four drops of Bach Rescue Remedy flower essence

30 minutes of yoga asana

Quickly followed by 30 minutes of meditation (performed as slowly as possible)

Sealed with the dedication of any accumulated merit to the benefit of all beings, everywhere in the entire universe.

Yield: An ounce more steadiness. An ounce more presence.

My nervous system calmed, the spacious present moment transforms the cool, detached report of “near-term human extinction” from an intrusive shard splintering my consciousness into a wonderful blessing: the blessing of surrendering to grief. It’s wonderful not because it feels good, but because surrendering to grief and letting it destroy my illusions makes me stronger, more grounded, more steady. This strength is NOT to be confused with feelings of competence or control, as grief makes it clear that "control" isn't really on the menu.

Perhaps the harder thing to face is that no one really knows what will happen with a 3.5°C increase or in 2035.

Am I only a human vessel of grief, that dread harbinger of change, that sinister sibling of gratitude?

“What is it that you are carrying as a gift for your people?”

It is in my utter helplessness, that I find strength.

As so often I have been shown on my journeys into the wilderness of Soul, I am not the master of this planet or the creatures in it. I do not have the power to determine how things will turn out. The grieving it requires to understand this helps to uncoil the hot steel bands from my around my chest, releasing the impossible tension wrought by illusory mastery and control, and loosing the flow of life energy. I am freed to live, to be more present, to continue to face new layers of my helplessness, which reveals what my actual, true agency is. I can have an effect, but only through the quality of my belonging to the much, much greater whole.

“What is the first action you will undertake to begin the incorporation of the vision or insights you have received?” they finally ask, mildly satisfied that I am sincere about my questing.

I choose to turn toward the suffering, rather than away from it, caring for my well-being as foundational to my capacity to tend to the well-being of all others to whom I owe my service in the creation of life-affirming culture in an era of destruction. To this path of grief and gratitude I am called. And I hope to meet you there.


Erica Jones, MA (ROPJ AWQ ’08) is a writer, professional astrologer and integral ecologist who can be found roaming the lands of Cascadia. Her website is

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