Werner Janssen’s Healing Journey in The Desert…

by | Mar 14, 2022

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: A Place of Healing

Posted by DESERTMUSEUM on 

“We need to re-connect, re-connect with our symbiotic relationship with nature as well as fellow humans. We need to understand that we are interconnected with all of the environment just as cells are an interconnected part of our body.” 

Werner Jannssen, the Healer

Werner Janssen has been a volunteer for three years where many guests have had the pleasure of running into his cheerful face as he welcomes you into the Desert Museum. What initially started as a need for a hobby after retirement quickly turned into so much more. Werner found that volunteering at the Desert Museum provided him with friendships, learning opportunities, and most importantly a place to connect with nature and a place to heal. Werner wrote a short essay about his time volunteering at the Desert Museum and how nature truly has the ability to heal us all; all you have to do is step outside.

“In the ‘Forward’ to the book William Carr wrote sharing information concerning the founding of The Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum he began, “About the only time some people stop to catch even the briefest view of nature is when they may be sitting on a stump in the woods to remove pebbles from their shoes.” The title of his book is “Pebbles in your Shoes”.

William Carr

It is my understanding that William Carr felt motivated to help initiate this project (of building the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) out of a desire to encourage local people to have a place to pause and experience the desert in a convenient space and learn to appreciate the beauty of the Sonora Desert and gain an appreciation for the mysteries and the miracle of all the life thriving in the desert. Mr. Carr was from the East Coast and was concerned that the locals were not aware of the gift they possessed living in this unique environment

I have experienced what Mr. Carr helped initiate, a very special place of healing, healing not only for nature but equally important for humans. We need to re-connect, re-connect with our symbiotic relationship with nature as well as fellow humans. We need to understand that we are interconnected with all of the environment just as cells are an interconnected part of our body. Feeling renewed through a loving experience with nature may be more effective than some medical treatments or medication. Perhaps Medicare should include the Desert Museum membership in their insurance coverage.

Healing me

Feeling the need of healing, I volunteered at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Developing friendships with fellow volunteers as well as visiting with great people from around world has provided me with a feeling of worth and value. Once guests step foot on the Museum grounds they seem to be transformed by the excitement based on past visits or the anticipation of a first visit. Locals visiting the Museum multiple times each week walking the trails is more than just physical exercise.

Equally important is experiencing the healing ambiance that exists in an environment where plants, birds and animals are cared for not based on commercial return but rather compassion and love.


Albert, a Western Screech Owl with a physical challenge, is my favorite. Albert would not be alive if it were not for the Desert Museum. At the Museum, Albert is a ‘star’, bringing joy to all ages. Albert can no longer fly but sits proudly on the loving wrist of a docent to meet guests who are amazed at the beauty and charm of this lovable raptor.

I receive renewed inspiration visiting with my Museum friend, a Vietnam vet, who does ‘power walks’ on the trails as an important part of his addiction healing. He is convinced that the Desert Museum saved his life. Other regular visitors have developed special friendships with various resident creatures.


One photographer returned ten mornings in a row determined to photograph a special cactus flower. It is evident that both human visitors as well as Museum residents are healed from the enjoyable mutual friendships as humans, plants, animals and flying creatures experience this symbiotic relationship. It is obvious that employees as well as volunteers have special, loving relationship with those assigned to their care.

A frequent visitor expressed to me how much the Museum meant to her. I suggested she join us as a volunteer. She considered volunteering but was concerned that she would lose the ‘gift of healing’ if she had a more official relationship with the Museum. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is not a tourist attraction or just a place of learning; it is a unique space for healing.

No matter if you are in a wheel chair, holding hands for stability, loaded down with camera equipment or enjoying a cup of coffee as you stroll, the Desert Museum is healing. Nature gifts us with this healing experience. We humans need healing from loneliness, loss and uncertainty. Without a connection with nature, we are not complete.

Six hundred plus volunteers, many being retired, receive healing as well as allowing the Museum to offer a healing space for countless others. Thank you to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and to the many who make this healing experience available.”

-Werner Janssen, ASDM Volunteer

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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