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Outside Guide: On Sanctuary 

Is there such a thing as sanctuary in the outdoors? Local outdoor advocates share their thoughts.

Under normal circumstances, our annual Outside Guide is chock-full of events and suggestions for where to go and what to do in the outdoors.

With social distancing guidelines still in place, sending all of our readers to one locale, or even a handful of them, seemed tone deaf. Instead, we asked some locals who work or advocate for the outdoors to pontificate on the topic of "Sanctuary" in the outdoors. Is there even such a thing? What does it look like?

Our contributors had a lot of different things to say. Here's the first of eight essays written by locals, on the topic of sanctuary—the first, featured here by  local wilderness therapist Judith Sadora.

click to enlarge "I attended my first protest in light of George Floyd’s murder and all the other killings that have plagued us in this country. I experienced so many feelings of anger, sadness, hope, regret, and shame. Too many emotions to contain, but Wilderness was a friend. After that protest I retreated to her." - COURTESY JUDITH SADORA
  • Courtesy Judith Sadora
  • "I attended my first protest in light of George Floyd’s murder and all the other killings that have plagued us in this country. I experienced so many feelings of anger, sadness, hope, regret, and shame. Too many emotions to contain, but Wilderness was a friend. After that protest I retreated to her."

Wilderness Sees Me


As a black woman, every space I enter sees color. 
As a black woman, every space I enter sees history.
As a black woman, every space I enter sees a story.

As a black woman, Wilderness sees me.
Wilderness to me is a place of refuge and discovery.
Wilderness for me, means going into myself, not to get rid of myself, but to find who I am.
Am I more than the skin I wear?
Am I more than the history I bear?
Am I more than untold stories?
Wilderness tells me that I’m more.

If I had to describe what the Wilderness means to me, the best words I can think of is that it sees me. I have navigated white spaces in this black face for most of my life and have felt alone doing it. I experienced the loving embrace of my black skin in the summer of 2011, when I hiked the Calico Tanks of Red Rock Canyon. Song lyrics of freedom and liberation on my lips as I hiked and explored trails, I had never seen nor imagined. Exploring wide spaces and seeing a different side of God was my healing grace. The outdoors is my safe haven. A place I call home. It is where I feel the most me in my skin and body.

Living in Central Oregon as a woman of color has its many challenges; listen to the black and brown voices in our nation today. Their voices give meaning to my everyday struggle, and nonetheless, I am always able to retreat into the Wilderness. On May 30, 2020, I attended my first protest in light of George Floyd’s murder and all the other killings that have plagued us in this country. I experienced so many feelings of anger, sadness, hope, regret, and shame. Too many emotions to contain, but Wilderness was a friend. After that protest I retreated to her. She was my shelter of refuge, place of peace. Not to run away from my feelings, but to be a safe container to feel them and find my sense of self again. Wilderness sees me at times when nothing else seems to see me and for that I am eternally grateful. I believe in the healing power of Wilderness so much that I have dedicated a season of my life to help adolescent boys of color find their sense of self in the Wilderness. This time they don’t need to do it alone. I offer the emotional support they need as a therapist to experience this journey of going into themselves. My hope is that they would sense in their spirit that Wilderness sees them. That I see them.

-Judith Sadora is Wilderness Therapist working with adolescent boys of color in nature. She believes in making nature accessible to people of color as a way to care for the mental health of black and brown communities" @sadorawellness.


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