A little about us: We are Jeffrey Beck, an outdoors and branding specialist, and Jeffrey Roedel, a veteran journalist and filmmaker, who became friends years ago through our local media and outdoors events culture. After almost a year of development filled with enlightening conversations and research, creative collaborations, late dinners, early coffees, wild sketches, addictive dreams, and even some encouraging feedback-gathering socials we called Spark Sessions, we officially founded WONDER SOUTH in the Fall of 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
With Beck serving as Brand Catalyst and Roedel as Editorial Director, we were then joined by longtime friend and collaborator Katie Swetman as Creative Director. The W.S. Crew has since grown into an extended family of explorers, artists, designers, writers, and photographers devoted to the exploration, celebration and conservation of Nature.
We desire to tell the hidden stories of the Deeper South through a printed periodical journal, purposeful product development of handcrafted goods, a makers space studio, and a variety of outdoor adventures, events and educational programming. We are so glad you're here. Come make the journey with us!
OUR MISSION IS TO:
FOSTER CREATIVE COMMUNITY,
INSPIRE BOLD STEWARDSHIP OF OUR ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURE,
AND ENCOURAGE DAILY ADVENTURE.
- LOVE, W.S.
OUR ROAD TO WONDER :
*As far back as I can remember, being outside felt like freedom. I grew up near the Louisiana coast, and as a child, adventure meant Lake Pontchartrain, Bayou Liberty, and even my own backyard. The smell of honeysuckles and coastal waters, the feel of the thick air on summer nights, and the sound of cicadas serenaded my senses. My family and I lived near a heavily wooded area and stepping from the sidewalk into those woods was like entering another world. Friends and I built elaborate forts and discovered the geography of our surroundings. We were elementary frontiersmen. We wanted to go deeper into the unknown.
My father would take us on regular vacations coast to coast. California, Colorado, South Dakota, Florida. And he loved exploring the natural wonders of the South. He fostered that love in me, showing me new places and how to build things by hand. He taught me that our boundaries are all self imposed. Home was just a starting place. There, we read classic Westerns, Emerson and London together. We worked in his woodshop. He was my model of a maker, explorer, and a true, honest, and real individual.
As I grew older I began to read from David James Duncan, Rick Bass and John Krackauer, and they fostered in me a desire to get out there and take risks. My own explorations began. My experiences within the Atchafalaya, Kisatchie, Colorado Rockies, Yellowstone, Tetons, Badlands, Smoky Mountains, Everglades, Northeast and West Coast and beyond have sparked in me an idea: That which lies without can be instilled within. Absorbing this natural beauty, and the original people that are truly men and women of the earth is the truest education. Our air-conditioned life is full of boundaries. As Richard Louv states in his book, Last Child in the Woods: “A billboard tells you who you are. Nature accepts you for who you are."
My desire is to encourage youth and adults to take that first step of the journey or to continue their journey of self, community, and cultural and environmental discovery. We are a part of this. We belong to this. Never lose curiosity. Always Wonder South.
~JEFFREY BECK, October 9, 2015
*At age 11 I knew of him. Explorer. Artist. Man of the Wild. Even to a scout who biked through undeveloped woodlands near his family home, loved long afternoons in his grandfather’s workshop, and once sheltered in place on a camp site during a tornado watch, this man C.C. Lockwood cut a towering figure. He was Indiana Jones. He lived it. And for three days while photographing his Louisiana Nature Guide on Little Pecan Island in Louisiana, Lockwood leapt off my parent’s coffee table where his books always laid, and into my life, showing my class not only the power of nature, but its vulnerability, too. Skimming along that cheniere, foraging , fishing, he was more than an adventurer. He was a caretaker. And he inspired us to be the same.
A few years later I read A Walk Across America, then re-read it over and over, inspired by Peter Jenkins’ road from disenchantment to discovery along his epic sojourn from New England south to New Orleans, my hometown. His message was simple and powerful. Take that step. Just go. Along the way Jenkins found faith—belief in his Maker and hope in a country he had thought was lost. He was a living legend to me, and I nervously wrote to him, explaining that one day I hoped to script the film version of his remarkable story. To my surprise he wrote back and offered words of encouragement—not crumbs, but loaves along the path.
That path has led me to many forms of storytelling, into the lives of artists, visionaries and believers, and to an array of experiences in the City and in Nature—from hiking the Columbia River Gorge, the Canyons of southern California and the Highlands of Scotland, to driving cross-country, wayfaring through the bayous of my beloved home and documenting the fortitude of those living on Louisiana’s rapidly receding coastline.
I’m no wilderness expert, just an admirer. But the truth is, at its best, the South, like Nature, says: “Y’all come.” Come as you are. Come to adventure, come to community, come, as if a child, to dream in awe. I want to spread that message, humbly, and hopefully, ensure that the words Jenkins and Lockwood imparted to me don’t end but echo, on and on, louder. I want to help pronounce our stories, to preserve what is beautiful about us and progress what is not, and to inspire all to do what we can to protect this gorgeous landscape we call Wonder South.
~ JEFFREY ROEDEL, October 9, 2015