Nov 022022

Meg Beeler: Carrying the Voice of the Mountain, Building Connection

This is the fourth of a series of monthly interviews we are conducting with the Sonoma Mountain Preservation board members. 

Meg Beeler, SMP’s Chair for ten years, lives on the mountain. She is an author and Shamanic Guide, founder of Earth Caretakers Wisdom School, master gardener, and lifelong explorer of shamanic, animist, and meditative consciousness. She was formerly a Silicon Valley consultant and author of many technical books. Her lifelong passions—soul healing, heart opening, and reweaving the connections between all beings—feed her activist and healing work. Meg practices Earth-centered, nature-based, Andean mysticism and leads land-based community ceremonies. Meg is the author of Weave the Heart of the Universe into Your Life: Aligning with Cosmic Energy and a contributing author and photographer to Where the World Begins.

What is your relationship with Sonoma Mountain? 

Deep and loving! I live on the mountain and draw sustenance from her spirit. I walk her flanks and explore her mysteries daily. And as a member of SMP’s Board, I speak for the mountain and advocate for her whole ecosystem, including humans, creatures, plant communities, fire, water, geology, and so on.

When did you join the SMP Board, and what drew you to it? 

I googled the mountain and found SMP as soon as I moved here, 17 years ago! The founders—Pat Eliot, Mickey Cooke, and others—were amazing humans whom I wanted to know better. I loved being around and learning from people who knew the landscape deeply and were advocates for its beauty, preservation, and access. About ten years ago I was surprised and honored when they asked me to be Board Chair. 

One of my aims has been to bring the spirit of the mountain into all our advocacy. Working collaboratively with so many community members and organizations for the open space and sustainability of Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) has been one piece. Publishing our beautiful, award-winning Where the World Begins: Sonoma Mountain Stories and Images, and the accompanying education about the whole mountain has been another.

What do you do for SMP? 

I hold our vision for deepening people’s awareness, access, appreciation, and reciprocity with the Mountain. Supporting the all-volunteer Board members means encouraging their strengths, appreciating them, and having fun together. As a quasi-CEO—we have only part-time administrative staff—I keep us focused on our strategy and the many threads of our work, keep us accountable, and follow up on the many operational details. Above all, I bring the Mountain’s interests with me into every Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission testimony and into every letter I write. 

For SDC, it’s meant nine years of meetings, learning to read and comment on Environmental Impact Reports, and advocating for the open space transfer and riparian zone protection over and over and over.

Do you see your work as a shamanic guide reflected in your work with SMP?

Oh yes. I was always a mountain person and earth caretaker. When I learned shamanic practice, I improved my ability to listen to the mountains and trees, speak with the spirits of the land, and make offerings and ceremonies for them. My practice comes from the Andes, where mountains and stars dominate the landscape, and also from what’s called core shamanic journeying. My indigenous teachers came out of hiding because of prophecies about these times; they wanted to help us re-member our deep connection and reciprocal ways of living within the web of life. It’s my passion to carry these ways into the world and empower folks. 

What would you like to see in the future for Sonoma Mountain? 

SMP supports conserving and preserving 50% of the wild lands of the Sonoma Mountains, not just 30% by 2030, which is the goal of the 100-country-strong international conservation campaign. So far, the Sonoma Mountains are 21% protected. We want to extend the Ridge Trail so that the quarter-million people living around the mountain can experience the whole. We dream of connecting every nearby school child with Sonoma Mountain so their connection to nature and sense of place fuels their engagement and gives them solace.

What are your favorite memories of Sonoma Mountain? 

When I first began hiking the mountain, I felt like an adventurer because many trails were not marked or mapped. Arthur Dawson told me generally where Grandmother Redwood was, so Tom and I sleuthed our way around until we found it. I love sitting silently with her, and also to bring people to experience this 2,000-year-old remnant of what was a vast redwood forest on Sonoma Mountain. Now she reaches towards me when I arrive; we have a relationship.

Interview conducted by Soneile Hymn. This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.