About Jean Sage and Rites of Passage
As I began winding down my career over the past two years, I have spent time thinking about the state of the world and my place in it. Though I had an extraordinary career first in sports agenting and then in television news/political arena, I did it my way not the traditional grooming within the corporate structure. I left New York City for LA, left LA for San Francisco all the while building my corporate-world business while trying to follow the yearnings of a different calling and my higher soul’s need.
Over the decades those yearnings became personal rites of passage though I didn’t realize that was what I was doing. I found with every challenge or thoughts of change the need to separate from daily routines was necessary. I took solitary vacations. If I couldn’t be away from home, I would turn the phone off at night, unplug the TV, take very long walks, rollerblade and spend weeks alone when the kids got older.
The most crucial aspect of crossing the threshold into the changes and through the challenges was getting out of my comfort zone. I took up rollerblading. I took a winter class at Headwaters Outdoor School figuring if I liked building snow caves and sleeping outdoors in the winter, I would love the summer classes. It is what brought me to Tim and how together we envisioned the future of his school on this power spot of earth energy and spirits.
I spent three years with Angeles Arrien working her “Four-fold Way” applying indigenous wisdoms of The Healer, The Visionary, The Warrior and The Teacher as a type of code of honor. She called it “walking the mystical path with practical feet.” She was the first woman that I experienced who was completely true to herself. She walked her talk humbly, without pretense or overblown ego. She was a much-needed role model and mentor.
I have done many vision quests as well, two of which changed the course of my life. I was terrified in the first one to be out in nature alone. It triggered every fear I had and created new ones. How was I supposed to have a vision through the fear? Yet, as my mind settled and I watched a day without human routines interrupting its passage, I marveled at the slowness, the quiet, animal routines and bird songs and an odd thought crossed my mind – I should be in nature with kids! Many years later, I did a 4-day vision quest in the Marble Mountain wilderness. I was surrounded by bears. I could hear them in the woods, but only saw one. We got used to each other quickly. Four days with the ants and flies, the summer sun, the deer passing below me in the valley, I again marveled at the slow passing of each day. The first night after the vison quest I had a prophetic dream that ultimately created the partnership with Tim.
During the summers at Headwaters, I have listened to the older teens and younger adults who talk about their uncertain futures and despairing for the earth. I have listened to older adults who dropped off grandkids or came for classes wonder what the future held for them as they age. We do rites of various kinds for kids and young adults but at 74 with years of solitary passages behind me I have concluded that an elder rite of passage is as important as the initial passage from childhood to young adulthood. As we age, we need to celebrate the life we led while finding joy in the life we will lead without caring for children or work and maybe without a beloved partner. We need to be open to opportunities that allow us to be of service to our communities.
I have been working with Rogue Valley Mentoring in an alternative high school, mentoring at-risk girls in an intention circle during their school days. I also participate in restorative justice circles for kids who have had run-ins with police and/or been in juvenile detention, each program growing from my Covid lock-down rite of passage. Seventy-four years on this planet has given me the skills to be of service in this way and the Covid pandemic’s restrictions provided the separation necessary from my daily routines to discover that I was called to give back as an Elder and that I needed to fully retire from my professional career.
Importantly, I live on the land that we consider a national park with abundant wildlife and nature’s dynamic life-force. This piece of earth has for twenty years called to me to co-create earth art. Each piece I have created was given to me as I sat or stood silently listening to the wind and birds, my mind emptying of worldly things. The images of what I would create or rather co-create bubbled up like the springs on the land. Each piece is result of different decades that I spent reflecting on my life, the sometimes-overwhelming challenges that became the thresholds for the changes. Each piece is a physical manifestation of a Rite of Passage.
We have three creeks that flow during droughts. We have natural springs that bubble up in unexpected places. We are all earth keepers here. Tim teaches the various Waldorf school students who come in the spring and fall the importance of becoming earth caretakers. We are proud of the many kids who have spent summers here and who are carving out their futures as teachers, working for climate change, and generally thinking outside the box of how to make the world a better place. The hopes for themselves, our country and the earth are imprinted on this land.