Jolie Elan was a force of Nature. She died of ovarian cancer on November 30th, 2020, at the young age of 52 years. She affected many people with her love, grief, and wisdom about the natural world. For the Institute, she was our botany teacher. We just had inklings of her deepest love - helping others connect with, and become part of Nature, which had transformed her life. We hold this space to remember Jolie as a teacher within the Institute, in her own GoWild Institute, for her family and friends, and for the world at large. She lived a full life in her short time and affected many people. Please join us in remembering our friend and teacher, Jolie.
The name Elan means "vitality, life, force of Nature" in French and English, but in Hebrew it means “oak.” She loved the oak above all trees and learned many things from it. Her memorial falls during the final days of Hanukkah. A friend writes: “we use a specific candle to light all the other candles. It is called the ’shamash,’ which means ‘caretaker.’ We are to hold the flame of the shamash steady to the candle it is lighting until we see that the other wick takes the light and the flame stands strong on its own . . . just as a teacher does for a student. May Jolie’s students be blessed to be as their teacher, a ‘shamash.’
Please see the complete obituary and much more, below.
Dec. 17th Memorial Video Recording
Videos from the Memorial Program available to enjoy individually
Listen to the final version of this audio and contact Ahri to share your stories of Jolie here...
This is a beautiful and captivating audio recording by Jolie's friend, Ahri Golden.
Jolie and I had gone on a walk one morning and I felt compelled to record her even with the (sometimes very irritating) wind and sound of cars.
We planned to re-record ideas from this conversation in my studio before she passed but, sadly, her death came too suddenly.
I’ve been thinking of her shockingly sudden death as something like a human form of sudden oak death, as you will hear in her first story.
Even though the sound is far from ideal, it is a treasure that I wanted to share with her beloveds.
The beautiful expressions swarming around her from everyone on this thread as she enters into the Eternal realms has been inspirational, powerful medicine.
I find the silver lining of tragedy helps me deeply consider and experience the radical blessing of being alive in each moment.
Love, blessings, and comfort to us all.
Jolie's website reflects her vibrant personality, deep passion and mission regarding her professional work.
From the site:
GoWild Institute weaves science, myth, and spirit to foster wonder and balance within the great web of life. We rekindle an innate sense of belonging to the natural world. GoWild Institute specializes in fun experiential education and mentoring programs that delve into Earth Wisdom, Ethnobotany, and Deep Ecology for people of all ages and walks of life.
Visit the GoWildInstitute.org website to learn more and see Jolie through the window of her professional life.
Botany for Herbalists - Intro class
(with Herbalist, Matthew Wood)
Botany for Herbalists - Plant Walk extra
(with Herbalist, Matthew Wood)
Many have asked how they can continue to connect with Jolie and her work.
Jolie's friend Ahri Golden and others are exploring bringing forth complete and incomplete writings by Jolie.
Jolie Egret Elan
June 19, 1969-November 30, 2020
Jolie, May Her Memory Be for Blessing, was an inspirational educator, activist, deep ecologist, ethnobotanist, wild-woman, and spiritual counselor for those looking to deepen their connection to the sacred earth. She died suddenly on November 30, 2020, in her home with her mother, who was caring for her, after just having recently been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, a week prior. The severity of her condition had only just been discovered when she died from this cancer, leaving us all bereft.
She was laid to rest in an oak grove in a beautiful Jewish green burial service led by Rabbis David Zaslow and Julie Benioff. She was covered in earth, acorns, flowers, prayers, and offerings at Willow-Witt Ranch’s Forest natural burial ground.
Born Jolie Danielle Lonner in Brooklyn, NY on June 19, 1969, to Susan Shaftel Lonner (now Susan Margin) and Robert Lonner. She was a sister to Monique Lonner Leisher and Nicole Lonner Dorfman, Sister-in-Law to Steve Leisher and Brian Dorfman, an Aunt to Eli and Avery Dorfman, Niece to Ellen Streisand and Lee & Lynn Shaftel, Cousin to Erica, Steven, Haley & Max Needle, as well as to Aaron, Noah, Joshua, and Rachel Shaftel. She was the beloved ex-wife of David Egert as well as being a true and wonderful friend and auntie to a large tribe of friends, co-workers, creatures, plants, and the planet. She was the mother of many wonderful fur companions including Scout her dog, and her dear cate Fate who preceded her in death. Her cats Acorn and Tiger Lily are still catting about on this earth and being cared for by her friend Patrick.
Jolie was a longtime activist and environmentalist. She worked in the anti-nuclear movement along with so many other anti-war movements. At the age of 19, she began organizing actions at the Nevada test site. She was a visionary. She was involved in the Dann Ranch, protecting lands of the Western Shoshone ranching sisters. She was also actively involved with Seeds of Peace and participated in the 1992 cross-country Walk for Mother Earth.
Jolie received her B.A. from Evergreen State College in Environmental Studies and her master’s degree in Natural Resources from Humboldt State University. She was the founding Director of Go Wild Institute, https://www.gowildinstitute.org/. She inspired thousands of people to deepen their relationship with nature and her work continues through the Go Wild Institute. She was a magical teacher with bold and unique interdisciplinary ideas. She lit up any space she was in when teaching about her beloved sacred Oaks, whether in the schools or just on a walk. She taught physically having her students crack and grind acorns while listening to her tell the mythical stories of the Oak Trees.
She taught everything from botany to plant communication at a wide range of herbal medicine schools, and environmental and spiritual organizations throughout the world. Jolie worked with ethnobotanical projects on four continents including restoring sacred forest groves in India and developing an herbal medicine sector in war-torn Kosovo. She worked and taught actively with herbalist Matthew Wood.
Jolie was a certified permaculture designer and a seasoned environmental advocate with twenty years of experience building and helping to maintain diverse networks, especially with indigenous groups focused on protecting sacred sites. She has served on many Boards and was the President of the Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society.
She was a Lorax, speaking always for the trees. Her dedication to trees meant listening to what they told her: “While meditating on Mount Tam, the Tanoaks told me that their wisdom is leaving the planet. They used to be loved, celebrated, and cared for. They are sick, lonely, and feel unloved. They asked me for oak ceremonies on Mount Tam. And as nuts as it may seem—I am going to do it, after all—today’s mighty oak is just a little nut who stood her ground.” Based on this conversation with the Tanoak Spirit, Jolie created the annual Oak Ceremony on Mt. Tamalpais in 2012. Come rain, sun, or fire she has held a ceremony for them each year since. Her work lives on in those who have agreed to carry this ceremony forward.
Combining her love for the earth with her spiritual practice, she completed her training as a Spiritual Director. She acted in this position as a spiritual companion for anyone wishing to increase their intimacy with the Divine, especially through their connection to the natural world. Her most current workshops were through the Work that Reconnects, a movement she actively participated in and helped lead teachings through.
As a Jewish Wild Woman, she worked within the Jewish community with organizations like the American Jewish World Service, Hazon, Wilderness Torah, Temple Emek Shalom, Havurah Shir Hadash, and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco and many others. She offered eco-Jewish classes that grounded Jewish practices and teachings in the Earth-based wisdom she embodied.
Jolie was often found foraging wild foods and herbs and making acorn cakes, crackers, and herbal medicines. She loved long walks in the woods with friends, contemplating life’s mysteries, and always asking provocative questions. She was interested in deeper meanings, integrity, honesty, and real lessons of life. She loved all her fur companions. She loved music and dressing up and embodying various characters including Elvis Presley. She was often seen in her fabulous Elvis costume dancing up a wild storm. She was writing her own book detailing her journey through individual plant teachers, which we hope to publish posthumously, please see her website, Go Wild Institute, for updates on her writings.
Jolie was buried in a simple Jewish shroud in a wild and beautiful place in the hills outside of Ashland. Her friends and family carried her body through a field of sweet grasses and trees, down a hill amidst the pines and oaks. She was laid to rest in the earth she loved and labored for. She was buried with earth-medicines, plants, acorns, earth from Mount Tam and Israel, and many tears and prayers from her family and friends. “We prayed and sang and blessed her and the world while the wind whistled through the trees and the sun shined. We cried upon the earth and we felt her presence…healed and healing, resting finally from her fight. We named her our ancestor and can already feel her amongst us. The Jewish prayers we read were more potent than I’ve ever felt…I think this is because Jolie, unlike most people, truly lived between the worlds when she was here. Communing regularly with plants, animals, and spirits. So, it is not a far cry at all that she still lives between the worlds of “there” instead of “here.” I felt differently afterward, still sad, still would give anything to turn it around, but given that it IS, I am grateful to have honored her in this way, with a small group of family and friends, safely returning her to the beautiful earth of which she (and all of us) are a part.” ~Julie Wolk
Donations in Jolie’s memory should be made to any organizations that you already support that continue the work of honoring, tending to, connecting, and protecting the earth and all her inhabitants furry, floral, fungal, fruity, wild, green, or any humans in need. May her Memory be for Blessing and may she be able to rest in peace, knowing we will continue her journey as we walk, sing, dance, love, laugh, and labor to connect honestly with each other and all those we share space with on this spinning orb.