I became a “naturalized Montanan” in August 1994, which this year marks a huge 20-year personal milestone, especially for family and friends who have known me since more nomadic, earlier times.
I was first attracted to Montana via a graduate school summer internship teaching English to international students in an outdoor setting not far from Yellowstone. The students all went home and I eventually found a way to stay, first as an international and outdoor educator, then later as a naturalist guide and Yellowstone National Park ranger. I’ve taught at both Montana State University and The University of Montana, so I am a Bobcat and a Grizz fan.
What drew and kept me in Montana, though, were the wild landscapes, the large numbers of wildlife species that still call Montana and the Northern Rockies home, my affinity for cold, snowy winters, followed by dry, warm summers with lots of time spent on the water.
I’ve always loved learning about nature and sharing that with others, and putting down roots in Montana has slowly, surely and serendipitously led to the nature connection mentoring, guiding, speaking and photography work that I am called to do. Thankfully, over the past 20 years, technology has also allowed me to expand how I support and serve others in creating a deeper connection with nature, no matter where their feet are!
When I started coming out as a gay man about ten years ago, I briefly envisioned leaving this path for larger cities such as Portland, Seattle or Denver, but realized how vital nature connection was, not only to my own coming out process, but to other life priorities. Fortunately, I met another outdoor lover, Erik, about six years ago, and together we’ve made living in Montana work for us. We still scheme, dream and travel to experience what larger urban areas have to offer, but at the end of the day, Big Sky Country is home.
No matter where our individual homes may be, the winter solstice and major winter holidays are very much alive and nearly upon us. In contrast, many people would gladly settle instead for long winter naps, tuning out commercials, and avoiding shopping and travel related traffic and crowds in the waning last few weeks of 2014.
Add a heaping layer of long nights and cold, short days to the mix, and it’s easy to forget about our own self-care and nurturing at this time of year.
We can even make excuses to not get outside at all, but this is when it’s most crucial to break pattern, move through a little resistance, and get outside to connect with nature and with yourself.
As George Bernard Shaw once said, “the poetry of the earth is never dead”, and there’s plenty of evidence supporting that when we take action and create time in nature to experience that for ourselves.
Here’s to celebrating the return of longer days with the winter solstice on Sunday December 21.
Here’s also to creating consistent, healthy habits: to getting outside, bundling up, enjoying the quiet of the season, and choosing to unplug from human activity at large to recharge.
May the new year that approaches bring all of us wonderful health, prosperity, and peace, and a healthier, deeper and more consistent connection with nature, too!
We will be away from the technological world starting Thursday December 18 through Thursday January 8. If you’d like to have a Nature Discovery Call in January 2015, I will be back in touch with you to schedule a time together shortly after January 8.
Click here to reserve your free, 30-minute no-obligation Nature Discovery Call: