Coming Home To The Wild with Catie Payne

Catie Payne is a Nature-Based Leadership Training (NBLT) alumni,  occasional goat herder, podcaster and all-round force of nature. She shared her experience of the course and its ripples in her life since.
Catie is a wizard with words so it’s a downright pleasure to read, enjoy.

Cast your mind back, what initially drew you to the NBLT ? Did you get from the program what you expected? 

I picked up Claire Dunn’s book “Rewilding the Urban Soul” while corralled within a five kilometre radius in the city. It was lockdown, and I was looking for reasons to love my constricted concrete neighbourhood. Claire wrote the book not too far from where I was living at the time, so it was like putting on a pair of 3D rewilding glasses and seeing the parklands, the verges, the river and the tiny cracks in the pavement with the eyes of a child, excited to find wildness right under my nose. 

I began tuning into the bird calls in my small backyard, learning the plants and trees of place, setting out on “urban hikes” with the gusto of an arctic explorer. My world became brighter, richer and infinitely more interesting without having changed one bit. So of course, when Nature Based Leadership Training (NBLT) appeared in my peripheral vision I immediately signed up, without looking twice at the details. 

It was the most I’d invested in a course since university days, but something told me that this was the kind of education and wild mentorship I’d longed for my entire life. I expected NBLT to take me into new territory, but what actually happened was that I came home to all my forgotten passions, innate human capacities, and a tribe of likeminded people who showed me what it’s like to truly, blissfully belong.

Is there anything that you learnt in the course that has really resonated or stuck with you? 

So many things! Some obvious, some ephemeral.
I learned practical skills like making fire, tanning hides, weaving baskets and building shelter; things I’ve continued to practise and share with friends and family, just for fun. As well as these ‘hard’ skills, I’ve been leaning into community leadership in ways that would’ve previously scared the pants off me. Seeing Claire and our mentors run workshops; how they tended the tiny but vital details of village togetherness (and invited us to step up, too), showed me the art of holding space. 

Now I host community circles and events of my own, weaving nature connection, thanksgiving, acknowledgement of Country and playfulness into these events. I’m also more confident bringing this culture into my home and personal relationships, casually blessing meals and asking “what’s the first bird you heard today?” like it’s totally normal modern human behaviour.

What are you up to these days and how did the course contribute to your path? 

One moment has really stuck with me from our final retreat, which involved a mini vision quest. At dawn, about to set off for my fasted vigil, Claire and Sieta fanned me with campfire smoke and whispered words of encouragement, calling my creativity forward, calling me to be the woman I had a vague hunch I wanted to be. I know many people feel as if their true potential is buried so deeply under the rubble of adulthood that there’s little chance of ever retrieving it, that maybe they won’t “get there” in this lifetime after all. 

Well, my life didn’t dramatically shift after that sacred experience, but in the two years since I’ve grown slowly up and over the NBLT trellis, surprised to see all these learnings taking root and bearing fruit. I lead community herb circles, nature-connected creativity meetups, hunt and forage a portion of my food, wander in nature without the fear or trepidation, am constantly learning about plants, birds, animals, tracks, weather and wild signs, and host a podcast about ancestral skills and grounded living, inspired by NBLT, called Reskillience.

You can(and should) listen to the Reskillience podcast on all good streaming services. A treat for the ears and for the soul. Listen below to the episode where Catie sits down with our very own Claire Dunn:

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