As far back as I can remember, I have felt a deep connection with the outdoors. I grew up in a family that valued spending time in nature. We went hiking and camping every summer in Yosemite. I remember how much magic the huge rocks and waterfalls in Yosemite held for me. I played in the ocean waves and in the sand a few blocks from my childhood home in Southern California. I cultivated a relationship with the earth by gardening and growing food with my family in our backyard. And, I climbed lots and lots of trees. These experiences have instilled in me a fierce love, respect, and appreciation for nature.
Intuitively, I seek out wild spaces when I need to get out of my head and into my body, move energy through me, or tap into my inner child. I am grateful for the human connections I have made along the way that inspire me to follow my curiosity, support me in my growth, and encourage me to play. I am grateful for opportunities to mentor younger generations and be the support and encouragement for them to build their own relationships with the natural world.
I have always been awestruck by the beauty of the natural world. My relationship with Nature began in my mother's gardens and camping on the sandy beaches of San Felipe Mexico as a young child. When I was about nine years old, we moved from Southern California to rural land near Town Creek of Lake Nacimento. My new neighbors: the deer, the bobcat, the acorn woodpecker, the gray squirrel, and so many others became a never ending source of wonder. I have a strong connection with my family's Native American heritage and have devoted great energy to my grandfather's native language of Lakota. I am a tree lover and have been a practicing arborist for many years, as well as a performing musician and music teacher. It fills me with gratitude and joy each day I work with the participants of our program.
It began with a few seeds, then chickens and a Jersey cow, an herbal medicine chest...what next? Honey bees! Farming and homesteading skills give me endless opportunities to follow a process all the way from birth to death, matrix to nexus. I am fascinated with ecology, the relationship between all things. And, I enjoy sharing my love of edible and medicinal plants, as well as the ever accessible and strange world of insects. My deep gratitude for my Nana who took me on many wanders through the woods as a child. We were never in a hurry.
As a young girl, I spent my days wandering the creek behind my house, playing in the garden among the sunflowers, and hiking trails throughout the Central Coast. These experiences shaped me: I became captivated by Nature and mindful of the way I walked in the world. I started my days with the practice of gratitude. I surrounded myself with deeply nature connected people. Through my relationship with them, my passions for bird language and plant medicine were ignited. I formed a relationship with the natural world that affected every aspect of my life. I became aware of how everything in nature was interconnected. Exploring the outdoors is where I am happiest.
Having grown up around Coyote Mentors, it now feels right to pass forward what they have taught me.
The privilege of being born and raised in the natural beauty of the Central Coast has not been lost on me. From a young age I’ve been lucky enough to explore the finest trails, mountains, and beaches in the surrounding areas. As I got older I was introduced to surfing, fishing, backpacking, and many other activities that have allowed me truly to feel a kinship with the landscape. For me, the best way to show gratitude towards such a special region is to pass on my stoke to future generations. Through the voice of the birds and the blooming of the flowers, the environment is crafting a perpetually unfolding story. As a mentor at Outside Now I have been given the opportunity to use this story to create a space for learning and life development.
Lauren “Leo” Matthews
I am a “born-and-raised” nature girl and lifelong musician. After graduating from UCSC and spending three summers as a seasonal employee in Yosemite National Park, I decided to pursue a career in education. I moved to Los Osos and got a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at Cal Poly. After spending a few years in the public education realm, I was discouraged to see the lack of nature, science, art, and music in children’s education. My experiences as a teacher and my love of the outdoors have lead me to begin a new journey as a Coyote Pups Mentor with Outside Now. I spend much of my free time either at the beach with my dog, Chucho or playing bluegrass music with my band–Ms. Leo and Her Bluegrass Boys–all around San Luis Obispo County.
My lifelong love of the ocean and marine life led me to pursue higher education in Marine Biology, Zoology, and Science Education. In recent years, my passion for supporting the health of the planet and the welfare of wildlife, along with my multi-lingual abilities (Spanish and Portuguese), landed me in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. In South America, I worked with local efforts to restore habitats, rescue animals in the Amazon, practice permaculture principles, and participate in the collection of data on sea turtle and shark populations.
My love for children and the excitement I have for passing on what I continue to learn from nature, especially the sea, has taken me to positions in educational programs from Washington State (Marine Science Afloat in Seattle) to Southern California (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro) and now the Central Coast and Outside Now! When I am not facilitating children’s experiences in nature or walking the sea coast myself, I can be found greeting my Cambria neighbors at Soto’s True Earth Market, which my husband and I co-own with friends.
I have been an occupational therapist for 22 years, trailblazing new paradigms of therapeutic intervention, and have worked with children in the outdoors even longer. I have raised two highly spirited daughters who are forces of nature in their own lives. My visionary work includes the founding of RxOutside and the Nature-Led© Approach to habilitating and rehabilitating humans, as well as co-founding The Central Coast Village Center (dba Outside Now). Currently, I am “Mentor-for-the-Mentors” of Outside Now. I, also, work privately with families and offer training programs for professionals. You can find out more about my work at http://rxoutside.com.
I grew up spending a lot of time in the outdoors. Backpacking, fishing, surfing, and exploring were the things that captivated me and kept me out of the house. All my most vivid memories, deepest lessons, and greatest adventures came from these experiences in the natural world, which led me to understand the value of nature connection and motivated me to help facilitate these experiences for others. I have so much gratitude for the people around me who help me grow on my own journey–the people who give me a reason to look at a track more deeply and know the language of the birds.
May your eyes be the Owls' and your ears be the Deer's!
I was skeptical of nature connection when I was introduced to it. Yet, when I saw it was an important piece of the puzzle–I’m talking about the puzzle of how we are going to pass down the possibility of a good future–I embraced it wholeheartedly. The patterns of nature have come to captivate my deepest curiosities, the patterns which can be known directly through tracking and bird language. These are fundamental life patterns and can be found just as readily within one’s own mind as on the landscape. When I think about how blessed I am to have this awareness, I am reminded of how the legacy of nature connection has been passed down from generation to generation and how fortunate I am to have been mentored by an invaluable link in this chain, a man named Mac Stewart. Mac Stewart was a coyote mentor who was so artful in his approach he could sneak around all my walls and reawaken my innate curiosities.
I am a lifelong nature enthusiast! I am my happiest when I am outside, and I believe any time spent in nature is time well spent. As a child, I grew up camping along the coast with my family and enjoyed countless walks in the Sierra Nevada mountains with my grandparents near their cabin. You’ll often find me hiking, camping, or just being outside near my home while exploring the natural beauty around me. I recently moved to the coast from the Central Valley with my husband and two children, and I am thrilled to be able to share this beautiful location with them and begin making more memories outside! My background is in early childhood education. Being with children and passing along my love and respect for nature is something I am passionate about.