My Name is Kurtland.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kurtland-name-banners-1024x674.jpg“Kurt” A wise man once said to me, “If your passion in life matches the meaning of your name, then your life tends to be more focused and congruent.”

Our Native American brothers and sisters would certainly agree. Most indigenous peoples change their name at least four times.  Each new name honors and celebrates the diversity of each individual in an ever-changing universe.

I have used many names in my life.  First I was Little Georgie.  Then in school I became Big George because my best friend was shorter than I was, so he got stuck with Little George.  Then I used Lawrence or Larry in college and career.  But until my last choice, my names never came close to mirroring my passion. Why? Simple.  I had no idea what my passion was until late in my life.

At the age of 53, I began my first Native American vision quest with a week of group ritual, solo fast, and meditation. My intention was to create for myself a rite of passage from adult to wise elder. In the Native American tradition, when you complete a rite of passage, you welcome a new name. On the third day of my quest, I heard the name “Kurtland,” as clear as a bell.

When I returned home, we researched the name and discovered it means “brave wise counselor of the land.” At that time, I was a counselor in an alternative high school. I had just started to learn how to let the natural world teach these wounded souls what they needed to heal themselves.  And I began to understand myself and how I had come to this new, but old, knowledge. 

I grew up in a tiny Pacific Northwest town in a house on the bank of a wide river with a waterfall. In summertime, we stayed in a cabin on a clear, cold lake fed by springs and melting snow. There I often floated on my back, looking at the evergreen-covered mountains all around me, and a deep blue canopy with fluffy white clouds above.  At times the clouds turned to black anvil-shaped demons. I sweated through hot and stormy summers, delighted in bright colors of the fall and spring, and shivered in cold and snowy winters. 

Most of my days buzzed with life! Birds sang, squirrels chattered, snakes slid through dry grasses. When things weren’t going right at home, I turned to the woods and lakes.  This natural world calmed me, supported me, helped me to breathe and to heal.

But then I launched into the American dream–a good education, good job, wife, children, a house in the suburbs, a bigger house, a better car.  Still I wasn’t happy.  Many years after, I rediscovered my passion for nature, accepted my new name, and enjoyed the most productive, effective and satisfying years of my teaching and counseling career.

When I first came to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ormond Beach, the one acre wild area next to our sanctuary called out to me – the pine, oak and scrub hammock. And, for the past fifteen years, I helped it stay wild and healthy.

With others in the congregation, we have lovingly controlled the invasive plants and kept the trails open in this small piece of heaven.

We added local native plants in two garden areas to attract pollinators.   And, I use this ecosystem to encourage humans to allow the non-human entities to teach us what we need to know in the present moment.

I invite you to come and spend time in our hammock.  There are wonders hidden in every corner–birds, both flashy and sedate; tiny flowers and amazing purple beauty berry bushes; armadillos and squirrels; and lizards and butterflies. 

Breezes and high winds rustle through palm fronds. A gorgeous dense canopy gives shelter. And, a deep blue sky and puffs of clouds float high above. 

In my mind’s eye, I can see you there, too.