Every year at the National Wilderness Therapy Symposium, a select group of field guides are honored for their excellence and grit at the Jumping Mouse Ceremony. Each participating program is invited to nominate one exceptional field guide to receive the Jumping Mouse Award, which recognizes a guide for his or her excellence and commitment to guiding. Emily “Jonesie” Jones has been selected as this year’s Jumping Mouse award recipient from Open Sky! Check out the video below to hear more about Jonesie from her peers and field leadership. We recently sat down with Jonesie to learn more about her passion for guiding. Read this inspiring interview, below!
A: My training in January 2017 was rainy, muddy, and cold the entire week. To add to the situation, I was sick with a cold that kept me coughing into the night. The gear I brought on training was only rated for summer camping and I was not used to the high elevation being from Indiana. I remember hiking out of Squaw Canyon and being the slowest member in our training. Feeling a sense of dread and weakness in my body frustrated me because I wasn’t able to accurately display my strengths. This was the beginning of my Jumping Mouse journey.
We nick-named our training cohort the “mighty muddy mice,” as all of us resonated with how the mouse represents the quiet observer at the beginning of Open Sky. My confidence ran low after lingering questions remained around my ability to be resilient. In the first weeks of guiding I often hit walls that left me with feelings of defeat and wanting to give up, yet there were those moments of connection and glimmers of passion that carried me to the next shift. On my 7th shift as a guide, I finally felt a breakthrough and I knew I was right where I was meant to be in the world.
My journey resonates with Jumping Mouse as I have had to face fears, get uncomfortable, receive support, and stick with the challenges whatever they may be. As I’ve done this, I’ve been able to transform into roles I never thought I would be capable of doing: senior guiding, field managing, mentoring others, and leading ceremony and trainings.
A: Throughout my time as a guide at Open Sky I have learned, alongside students, healthier ways to cope with stress and anxiety. The wilderness is the most powerful teacher for me. Watching a full moon rise, a meteor shower above me; banding together through the elements or on a challenging hike…the unspoken benefits of these moments have carved away at my sense of place in the universe. Too many perfectly timed natural events have seamlessly redirected my negative thoughts and have opened my heart to a new way of looking at a situation.
I remember talking with a student who was stuck in a mindset that “the world was against her.” Right next to us was a tree that had clearly been pushed over when it was young and had somehow grown its trunk out of one of the branches, creating an ‘L’ shape from the original trunk. We both looked at this tree for a while and she connected with how she can change her mindset to be more like this tree: to grow herself from where she’s at even if her early life conditions may not have been ideal for her to thrive. The opportunity to learn from the wilderness has taught me how to engage in the world in a soulful and clearer way.
A: I value having the opportunity to see a person come into the program fairly lost and disconnected, and witnessing their transformation over many weeks discovering more of who they really are. The connection with the students has been a big part of why I enjoy being a guide. Over the course of many weeks together it can often feel like a family out there. I often get to learn from the students as much as I get to teach and mentor them. It’s helped me to continually grow as a human and guide.
A: This question is really helping me to reflect…how have I had an impact? Wait, I can have an impact?! I hope to be a positive force in the Open Sky community, an ally, and someone that can be counted on. I hope that by living in my values and by doing my personal work, I can inspire others to do the same. Beyond that, I hope to inspire creativity in guides for celebration and interventions, particularly with the dress code, i.e. colorful scarves, robot helmets, and cat ears. All of which have played a role in my guiding career, with the intention that fun and playfulness are also important aspects of holistic health.