Gilian Rappaport: Naturalist-at-Large
Gilian Rappaport exhibits all the signs of a born naturalist. The natural world fills her with wonder and delight. She knows how to be still and observe her surroundings. She has an intense curiosity about the essential nature of things and how they relate to each other. All this—plus her passion, intellect and dedication—makes her a wonderful asset to The Outside Institute. We are thrilled to welcome her officially as our Naturalist-at-Large, in which capacity she will continue to participate in walks and workshops but also be an ambassador beyond our region, exploring new avenues and possible collaborations for the institute.
After years of living in Brooklyn and working in industrial workspaces and professional environments, Gilian began spending time in Sullivan County in 2011. "Coming to Narrowsburg felt immediately like such a relief," she says. "So much freedom and peace and serenity. Reconnecting with my senses, even just for a weekend, was a drastic shift and incredibly revitalizing." She began immersing herself in nature, going for long walks and taking inspiration from the shapes, colors and textures that nourished her in a profound way.
In 2016, she left Brooklyn to spend time in Guatemala, living for several months in a rustic farming community and studying with indigenous Mayan herbalists and shamans. "Every day, I would get up very early and hike for a couple of hours in the surrounding landscapes. Since my Spanish was not great at the beginning—and a lot of people speak Kaqchikel anyway—it was quite solitary and I really started to connect with the mountains and trees, almost as though they were my friends." Learning about Mayan rituals, fire ceremonies and traditional healing was revelatory and, ultimately, transformative for Gilian. Upon her return to New York, she was drawn to The Outside Institute for the way it brings together elements of art, design, craft, food, ceremony and community, while remaining rooted in the natural world.
We are excited to announce that Gilian is currently collaborating with us on a Field Guide to the Upper Delaware Valley. Our intention is to create a streamlined and accessible introduction for beginning naturalists to some of the most prevalent flora, fauna and fungi of this region. Stay tuned for details on how you can help support this project.