The Soul Unearthed

Celebrating Wildness and Spiritual Renewal through Nature


One of the finest collections of inspirational nature writing ever assembled, The Soul Unearthed includes contributions by America’s best-loved writers on wilderness and spiritual transformation. This revised edition of the popular anthology includes 70+ stories, poems, essays, and interviews by such notable authors as Wendell Berry, Robert Bly, Matthew Fox, Joan Halifax, David Whyte, and Terry Tempest Williams.

The Soul Unearthed includes selections such as “Solitude Late at Night in the Woods,” “A Sacred Passage,” “Wilderness Kinship,” “Finding Our Place on Earth Again,” “Deep Ecology and Wonder,” “Fierce Landscapes and the Indifference of God,” and “The Practice of the Presence of the Wild.” This book shares the same territory as that covered by Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Desert Solitaire. Through their experience of nature in its most primitive forms, The Soul Unearthed‘s contributors confront their relationships to themselves, to planet Earth, to Earth’s inhabitants, and to the divine within as well as without.


Praise for The Soul Unearthed


I highly recommend this book to all men and women who know that healing ourselves and healing the planet is the critical task of our time.

—Jed Diamond, author of The Warrior’s Journey Home

Cass Adams has given us a great gift, a compendium of sources of wisdom… This is essential magic, medicine for our time.

—China Galland, author of Women In the Wilderness


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The call of the wild might just be the calling of our soul. It is within the sanctuary of the wilderness, far from their computer screens and local espresso vendors, that these highly acclaimed writers find their strongest voice. As a result, the writing is as gritty and down-to-earth as it gets—vivid stories of encounters with animals, wretched weather, fear, humility, and, ultimately, with spirit.

—Personal Growth Editor’s recommended book,

This is a wonderful anthology of stories, poems, and essays that swirl around the theme of wilderness and its effect on our inner lives…a testimony to the many ways that nature touches each of us and inspires us to be more fully human.

—NAPRA Review

Aldo Leopold, patriarch of the modern environmental movement, began his classic book (A Sand County Almanac) stating: “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” In The Soul Unearthed Cass Adams presents a collection of inspiring testimonials from more than seventy modern writers who share Leopold’s sentiments.

There are so many well-written essays in The Soul Unearthed it is difficult to select just a few to include in a one-page review. And, of course, other readers will take different pieces to heart. What follows here are descriptions of some articles that “spoke” to this reviewer.

In “Finding Our Place on Earth Again,” writer Forrest Craver shares an interview with outdoor educator and author John Stokes, Carver leads off asking Stokes what men can learn from nature? Stokes’ response is “the natural world is the backdrop to the whole human experience.” Immediately, one is prepared to hear this concept supported with a quote from the likes of Thoreau, Muir or Leopold. However, Stokes refers to what he calls the great manuscript of nature itself-namely “The Gospel of Peace of Jesus Christ.” Therein, Christ teaches that:

“In everything that is life is the law written. You find it in the grass, in the tree, in the river, in the mountains, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea, but seek it chiefly in yourselves. For I tell you truly, all living things are nearer to God than the scripture, which is without life. God so made life and all living things that they might by the everliving word teach the laws of the true God to man. God wrote not the laws in pages of books, but in your heart and in your spirit.”

Space limitations for this review prohibit examination and discussion of the words attributed to Christ. They are offered here to suggest the depth and quality of what one will find in a copy of The Soul Unearthed.

Those who have an aversion to organized religion will find a wide range of topics relating nature-based spirituality, deep ecology and the “emerging field of ecopsychology.” Adams has arranged the book around eight categories-Spirit of Place; Quests and Rituals of Renewal; Men, Women, and Wildness; Animal Encounters; Teaching in the Wild; In Mourning, Defense, and Celebration of the Earth; Extra-Ordinary Wilderness; and Wilderness Ethics: An Emerging Perspective. Authors include famous individuals like Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, Anne LaBastille, Matthew Fox, David Oates, Terry Tempest Williams, Roderick Nash, and others. It seems safe to call The Soul Unearthed an eclectic collection sure to provide something of interest to most any reader interested in the human/nature relationship.

Perhaps the highest compliment this reviewer can pay to The Soul Unearthed is to dare suggest that Aldo Leopold would approve of what Cass has assembled. Leopold’s greatest dream was that a critical mass of humans would come to embrace a “land ethic” and treat land with the same respect and dignity as espoused for people in documents like the Bill of Rights. He fretted, however, because in his day he saw no evidence that philosophy and religion had considered matters regarding ethical treatment of the land. He would rate The Soul Unearthed “two thumbs up, way up!”

—Charles Yaple, Taproot

Boulder Writer Puts His Love of Nature into Book

If you like pondering our connection with the Earth, but never have time to sit down and read, then The Soul Unearthed: Celebrating Wildness and Spiritual Renewal Through Nature, a new anthology of poems, stories, essays and interviews, might be the book for you. Its delectable morsels of poetry and prose can be slipped into the smaller moments of the day and still be enjoyed to the fullest.

Editor and Boulder resident Cass Adams sees it as a sampler. “If you find a writer you like, you can go looking for more,” he said. Adams felt a strong calling to do this book as he became aware of how much wilderness had affected his own life. “I always came back more refreshed than when I went in,” he explained. After six years of work, the book is finally a reality.

The book reflects the authors’ own experiences and personal connections with nature. They take the reader along on their hikes and vision quests from Iceland to the Sangre de Cristos. There are even humorous moments recounted in pieces such as “Night of the Living Skunk.”

There is an interview with John P. Milton, founder of the Sacred Passage Wilderness Programs, about what a vision quest is and why people do it. Well-known poet Robert Bly shares a walk through winter woods with readers. The connections with nature range from that which we all can identify with, as in “Watering the Garden” by Jeff Poniewaz, to experiences we may only dream of, such as traversing the wilds of Iceland alone as in “Viking Hiking,” an essay by Christopher Manes.

The Soul Unearthed is a joyous and wondrous around-the-world ride for the spirit, through an eclectic array of experiences, brought together to enhance and encourage your own spiritual adventures. And it is well worth the ticket price.

—Laurie Kay Olson for the Colorado Daily

The Soul Unearthed celebrates the wild

Bringing together spiritualists and naturalists, Cass Adams’ first book The Soul Unearthed: Celebrating Wildness and Personal Renewal Through Nature, is a collection of short pieces by more than fifty writers who share their personal experiences of renewal and transformation in the wilderness.

Offering a diverse range of testimonies, The Soul Unearthed airs the voices of “outdoor educators, deep ecologists, environmental activists, storytellers, wilderness guides, rites of passage guides, ceremonialists, gender specialists, therapists, physically disabled people, poets and nature writers,” including award-winning poets Robert Bly, Maxine ‘Kumin and Brooke Medicine Eagle.

Replete with prayers, poems, reflections, ritual chants and interviews, The Soul Unearthed teaches one, through a variety of rich approaches, how it is possible to be “refreshed and transformed by what is wild in the Earth—and in ourselves.”

Adams, the collection’s editor, says the idea of The Soul Unearthed came about while he was sitting on his porch “reflecting about the impact wilderness had made upon my personal unfolding.”

“I thought it would be really powerful to have a collection of work about wilderness experiences and then also to get work by some of the cutting edge writers in short, dense pieces,” he recalls.

When asked how this book differs from the works of Thoreau or Emerson, Adams says, “The times are very different now. Thoreau was trying to get people to live more simply and we need to do that today more than ever… But he wasn’t looking at the loss of species and major destruction that we face today.”

The Soul Unearthed, he says, is about “a wisdom that embraces the challenges of our current ecological crisis, concurrently, with the age-old reverence that tribal people have held for the earth.”

Adams, who grew up in Crested Butte and is now finishing a Masters Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology from the Naropa Institute in Boulder, co-founded Men’s Wilderness Retreats through which he has led ritual-based wilderness excursions for men in the mountains and deserts of Colorado and the Southwest.

“There are a lot of fine writers in the book, some of the best on nature today,” he says.

“And I also think it’s a good book for exposing people to writers they may not be familiar with.”

Dolores La Chapelle, Terry Tempest Williams and James Swan are among the variety of authors who come from the US as well as Canada and Australia. Soul Unearthed digs up talented personal writing

—Rhonda Claridge for the Telluride Daily Planet

Soul Unearthed Digs Up Talented Personal Writing

Anthologies are great books to have on a coffee table or the back of a toilet.

It isn’t necessary to read the entire book or in any particular order. You simply pick it up, find a title or an author that interests you, then read. A McBook, if you will. The Soul Unearthed: Celebrating Wildness and Personal Renewal Through Nature is a collection of stories, poems, essays and interviews aimed at describing “how wilderness affects us spiritually.”

Edited by Cass Adams, the book contains 66 pieces of nature writing by authors such as Salt Lake’s Terry Tempest Williams and Jackson Hole’s Ted Kerasote. In less than 300 pages, the reader is given a wide variety of styles and subjects, with no piece longer than four or five pages. Enough to inform, educate and entertain, but not to bore.

I had promised myself not to read any more books with “soul” or “spirit” in the title, believing too many writers of late exploit the idea of nature as mystic healerencouraging anyone with a problem to set foot in the forest and have anxieties slip away m the breeze.

But happily, “The Soul Unearthed” provides more. I don’t doubt the role nature plays in the personal transformation of an individual.. This book tells many a tale from that excellent perspective.

In addition, several contributions are poems, not a form of literature—according to some editors—that appeals to many readers. Yet Chris Hoffman’s “Kenai Fjords,” about a sea kayaking trip, or Maxine Kumin’s “October, Yellowstone Park,” are not the kind of poems you read in school. This poetry reads like a story straight from Outside, with a rhythm that will dance off your tongue if read aloud.

The book has eight chapters, each with its own loosely defined theme. Of the eight, I found the chapters on wilderness ethics, animal encounters and teaching in the wild to offer the freshest perspectives on old subjects.

Adams gives a concise biographical sketch of the author before each story, enabling the reader to better understand each one—something appreciated when reading some very personal accounts of experiences with nature.

Despite such lofty titles as “The Spirit of the Forest,” “Finding Our Place on Earth Again,” and “Healing the Wounded Feminine Through the Natural World,” most of the readings are not as abstract as they sound.

The Soul Unearthed is simply strong writing about how wilderness makes these authors feel. Reading their work, it apparently makes them feel pretty good.

—Tom Bie for Jackson Hole Guide

A diverse collection of more than sixty essays, unearthed stories, poems, and interviews, The Soul Unearthed: Celebrating Wildness and Personal Renewal Through Nature explores personal transformation in wilderness through spirit of place, quests and rituals, the ways in which men and women connect with wildness, the defense and celebration of the earth, and extraordinary wilderness.

The persistent theme threading its way through this illuminating medley is our need to connect with the earth again, for this connection will bring us back to who we really are. While our society is engulfed in a never-ending shopping spree and busy self-absorption, the earth reminds us to simplify our lives, take only what we need, and be respectful, for how we treat the earth is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. The body is landscape. In an age when so many view the earth as something to be owned, The Soul Unearthed speaks of being in awe of the earth, revering its mystery, and realizing how small we are.

While almost every review copy that crosses my desk these days claims to be “ground breaking” or “pioneering” (the most over-used words in publisher’s press-releases), hardly anything truly is anymore. Still, The Soul Unearthed was personally groundbreaking for me because of the valuable insights I gleaned regarding my own journey and place in the world, my own relationship to the earth. Terry Tempest Williams’ “Buried Poems” will alter your perspective; Stephen Harper’s “Mystery, Humility, and the Wild” speaks to the explicit wonders of nature; and Belden C. Lane’s “Fierce Landscapes and the Indifference of God” talks about silence and how we are saved by the things that ignore us. There are too many fine and thought-provoking works in this treasure trove to consider them all here. Other contributors include John Seed, Joan Halifax, Elizabeth Roberts, Robert Bly, Matthew Fox, and numerous other wilderness advocates, ecopsychologists, nature writers, poets, and teachers, who encourage us to reconsider who we are in relationship to the earth. I am grateful for their perspectives, and for the opportunity to glimpse the world through their eyes.

—Christine Carr for Conscious Choice

This anthology of more than sixty stories, essays, poems and interviews sets out to explore how wilderness affects us spiritually. A half-dozen to a dozen lovers of the wild—the far boundaries of home—contribute to each major section: Spirit of Place; Quests and Rituals of Renewal; Men, Women and Wildness; Animal Encounters; Teaching in the Wild; In Mourning, Defense and Celebration of the Earth; Extra-Ordinary Wilderness; and Wilderness Ethics. Well-known contributors include Terry Tempest Williams, Michael j. Cohen, Dolores LaChapelle, Matthew Fox, and many others, but the collection’s less well-known authors prove equally insightful. According to editor Cass Adams, whose love and care for this project are obvious, selections “come from the heart of wilderness and reflect how nature transform us and how we bring this positive change back into the world. …The Soul Unearthed deliberately offers a wide range of testimony. Out door educators, deep ecologists, environmental activists, storytellers, wilderness guides, rites of passage guides, ceremonialists, gender specialists, therapists, physically disabled people, poets and nature writers are all represented.”

A rich, inspiring resource, whose pages blend the personal with the largeness of life into which nature invites us,” this book attempts to awaken us “from the trance of industrial-consumer society to a world filled with adventure and alive with spirit” (in the words of Elizabeth Robens, coeditor of Earth Prayers), It would be ideal preparatory reading for one’s own wilderness experience or an excellent companion in the wild. But it can also bring us back to earth from the busy-ness and distractions of our own modem lives, even if we never leave town—and help us stop the modem tendency to “carry civilization with [us] like a head cold” (Christopher Manes).

—Chris Roth for Talking Leaves

A joyous and wondrous around-the-world ride for the spirit.

—Colorado Daily

Ideal preparatory reading for one’s own wilderness experience or an excellent companion in the wild. It can also bring us back to earth from the busy-ness and distractions of our own modern lives, even if we never leave town.

Talking Leaves: A Global Journal of Spiritual Ecology

Showcases some of the most respected and thoughtful contemporary writers, activists, poets, and lovers of the earth.

—One Spirit Review

about the author


Cass Adams, M.A. Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, edited both editions of The Soul Unearthed, and is quoted from this anthology on two Celestial Seasoning's tea boxes. He was privileged to grow up in a small and spectacular ski-resort town, where he began his deep love of the outdoors. Cass has been a wilderness guide for both children and adults, and was the cofounder of Men's Wilderness Retreats, through which he led ritually-based wilderness excursions in the mountains and deserts of the Southwestern U.S.

He has published essays about wildness and men's issues in The Men's Council Journal and The Green Man, and nature poems in the collections Life Prayers (Harper SanFrancisco, 1996) and Chokecherries: A S.O.M.O.S. Anthology (1999). Three volumes of his poetry have been self-published — The Naked Heart (1998), The First Six Months (2000) and Silence (2000). His photographs appear in almost all of the above publications, and in the mythopoetic anthology, Wingspan: Inside the Men's Movement (St. Martin's Press, 1992). In addition to time spent in the Rocky Mountains, Cass has traveled in the mountainous areas of New Zealand, Alaska and the Himalayas. He now resides in Northern New Mexico.