Connecting You With Nature, No Matter Where Your Feet Are

Tag: de-cluttering your life

Digging Deep In Death Valley

Erik and I recently returned from a desert vacation that included sailing on Lake Mead at sunset, enjoying the sights, sounds and zaniness of Las Vegas, and experiencing the profound quiet, haunting beauty and splendid isolation of Death Valley National Park in California. It really was like visiting two different planets on the same vacation, and provided us with many contrasts that we are still digesting and reflecting upon. The National Park Service’s Death Valley brochure describes the area as follows:

The raw desert landscape shapes Death Valley’s human story. Like the mesquite tree, some of its people have deep roots, drawing sustenance from hidden sources. Others blow in on the hot winds of get-rich-quick schemes, then out again on scorched dreams, never anchoring themselves to the land.

The Timbisha Shoshone Native Americans have considered this region home for thousands of years,  surviving and thriving by adapting to natural rhythms and cycles, and to the inevitable curveballs that nature has thrown their way over time.

A few examples of adaptation include congregating near natural springs, moving to higher elevations during warmer, hotter seasons, and using skinny spearing sticks to stab and deflate chuckwallas (a large lizard native to the region) that had wedged and inflated themselves in crevices, thus turning them into high-protein meals.

The Timbisha Shoshone are certainly not alone in their ability to survive and thrive in such a harsh and unforgiving environment. Remnant populations of desert pupfish, some now critically endangered species, inhabit isolated surface or cave waters throughout the park and region. These pupfish once thrived in a large body of water, Lake Manly, created by melting glaciers and a wetter climate. In a few places, you can still see evidence of the ancient shoreline in Death Valley, when Lake Manly was over 100 miles long and over 600 feet deep, making it larger than Yellowstone or Flathead Lakes are today.

The pupfish is a pretty resourceful critter, managing to persist around permanent water sources often less than one foot deep and in water temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. Keep in mind, too, that the water’s way saltier here than in the ocean. We stayed resourceful as well throughout our four-day stay, being active mainly in the early morning and later in the evening, seeking shade whenever possible, and going on a higher altitude hike one day when the temperature soared to over 105 at aptly-named Furnace Creek.

Nearly six thousand feet higher, on a trail starting near Dante’s View, we encountered vast vistas ranging from the alkaline salt flats of the valley floor, in places more than 200 feet below sea level, to snow-covered mountains in the Panamint Range. Wildflowers and flowering cacti greeted us on nearly every turn on the trail, as did fast-running lizards, and one large nonpoisonous snake that made me jump a vertical foot or three before I recovered and was able to laugh about it. We were thrilled to encounter clusters of gorgeous orange desert mariposa lilies (Calochortus Kennedyi) on some of the higher ridges, while ravens and a lone red-tailed hawk rode the thermals above.

Nature’s a place, no matter where our feet are, that brings people together, especially in the desert. It’s a place where people experience a more profound connection to life, creation, others and themselves. It reminds us of how adaptable, resourceful and flexible we all have to be to survive and thrive, and of the different niches and roles we play in this game of life on Earth.

Spending time in Death Valley really brought this all home for me in ways that other places have not, maybe because of the tenuousness of life itself here, or that so much of desert life lives close to or just under the surface, out of sight to the hurried or untrained eye. Many mid-19th century Gold Rush bound travelers died in places not far from where Timbisha Shoshone families gathered near permanent springs and sustained their culture. A few managed to survive or be rescued, and rumor has it that one of the luckier travelers shouted out “Goodbye, Death Valley!”, giving the area its well-deserved name.

Not only here, but world wide, the earth has witnessed plenty of human-generated hot winds, get-rich-quick schemes and scorched dreams over time.

No matter where we live or gather, it’s vital to anchor and tether ourselves to the land, to be in partnership and relationship with it, to nourish it and ourselves. To put down some strong, resilient roots, drawing sustenance from hidden sources, and pass on what we learn to folks who want to do the same, and in turn pass that on to future generations.

These are the real riches in life, to know a place, yourself and the ones you love and care about well. By digging deep, even in Death Valley, we find surprising sources of strength and sustenance that show us how to navigate challenges and opportunities in our own lives.

Desert Mariposa Lily Courtesy of and Copyright by Erik Benson 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Desert Mariposa Lily Courtesy of and Copyright by Erik Benson 2015. All Rights Reserved.

What Do You Need to (Naturally) Thrive?

Take a few moments to think about a particular tree close to where you live or work that really stands out for you.

What in particular attracts you to this tree? Are you drawn to Its height, its age, its resilience, its beauty? Are you attracted by Its tranquility, its power, its ability to put down roots and thrive right where it is?

Imagine sitting leisurely beside or beneath the tree that calls to you, The ground is dry and supports you very comfortably, and an ever so slight, cool breeze is blowing. Your cell phone’s turned off, your to-do list is put away. You don’t have to be anywhere anytime soon. Your senses are heightened, your sense of time is unhurried and has slowed way, way down.

Tap into all of your senses and recall how it looks, smells, feels, and sounds What else do you sense or intuit from spending time with your tree?
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Make a point of consistently visiting and noticing your tree at different times of the day and week, and during different seasons. Take time to imagine what’s happening beneath or inside the tree-it may be approaching winter and things appear rather dormant now, but there’s always something going on that may not be immediately visible or noticeable…

Can you create “tree time” for yourself every day, even when you cannot be outside?

Interacting with and observing trees and other aspects of nature can provide a powerful, personalized road map to life. It can show us how to live in harmony, balance and flow with natural elements such as metal, water, fire, wood and earth- no matter where our feet are.

Incorporating these elements into physical spaces enhances our environment and lives. It’s not only aesthetically pleasing and peaceful-it also provides a solid foundation for greater personal effectiveness, optimum order and better flow in all we do and all we are.

Creating a workspace with a balance of these five elements helps you create a container, structure and order that supports your work.

But are you incorporating other elements, such as water, into other life areas to create balance?

Are you taking time and space for fluidity and ease, rest and play in your life?

What Do You Need To Thrive?

Nature connection is a vital self-care tool, and nature connection can help energize your day!.

People worldwide seek balance and harmony between work, home and family. Many are burnt out and overextended from the time and energy invested in being caregivers to others, going above and beyond in their businesses and families. Their own self-care keeps falling off the to do list, or it never made it on to the list in the first place.

As a special offer to our community here at Your Life Nature, I invite you to learn how to create a nature connection sit spot, to help make you and your self-care a consistent life priority.

In my “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!” audio course you’ll learn how to create a consistent place and space to connect with nature to enhance and empower your life in myriad ways.

Through this 35-minute recording, you will use all of your senses, and connect more deeply with the healing and transformational powers of water in particular.

My intention is that this recording not only supports your deeper, more consistent connection with the natural world, and with your own authentic nature, but also that it’ll be an evergreen, go-to-gift for yourself, so you may continue practicing and experimenting with what works best for you, and become more comfortable with sitting still and allowing nature to work its magic with you, too!

You can purchase, receive and enjoy this MP3 recording for an affordable $13.97 click on the Paypal button below, and you’re then on your way to an energizing and inspiring experience where you’ll learn four easy, fun and replicable steps to create your powerful nature connection sit spot, no matter where your feet are.

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Celebrating A Half Century of Wilderness

Wilderness has of course been around for way more than 50 years, but The Wilderness Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1964 gave protection and preservation to remaining places in this country where “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain…”

The idea of safeguarding wilderness for current and future generations has since become a worldwide phenomenon. yet there are still unprotected places large and small worthy of wilderness designation

Why wilderness?

For my better half Erik, it’s a place of refuge. It’s a place to decompress, to experience solitude, and return home recharged and inspired after spending time in its healing and soothing energies. He often comes home with new ideas for creating art as well.  Wilderness palpably reminds me that there is so much in this world that I may never fully understand, that as a human being I am a tiny yet powerful part of the planetary and ecological puzzle, and that here in Montana, I am not necessarily at the top of the food chain. I am totally responsible for my own safety there and for my own actions.

I love the gift of being able to lose yet also find yourself in nature, and in the wild. Things appear, seem and feel less complicated there, too. Our senses and awareness are heightened and magnified. Solutions and creativity surge and emerge after immersing ourselves in nature..

Even if you never experience wilderness in person, it’s comforting to know there are places where we allow natural processes and forces to interact without our micro-managing the environment to our advantage.

Over the past 50 years, wilderness areas have also gained an immeasurable and perhaps unforeseen advantage. Within larger national parks such as Yellowstone, lands managed for their wilderness values and characteristics also serve as baselines for study and research, to be compared with nearby areas more directly impacted by human activity.

At a time when some are calling for no more wilderness, that we have already have enough (or even too much) of it, that we may need remaining unprotected wild lands worldwide for energy or mineral extraction or human settlement, I beg to differ.

The earth is not creating any more wilderness. Right now, we have the power and capacity (and hopefully the wisdom) to set aside as many remaining wild lands as possible. Future generations could count on experiencing and enjoying places without a heavy human footprint or our long-term presence. Other species with whom we share the planet today would have a fighting chance to adapt, migrate or move in response to climate change related impacts.

One day I will also likely be too infirm or old to directly enjoy and experience wilderness. A little over 20 years ago, a lifetime’s worth of stories, movies, music, and photographs inspired by wilderness lovers, explorers and advocates triggered my desire to come West, to explore what others with incredible foresight and humility and unselfishness had preserved. There is still so much at stake today, as people in Montana fight for protection of the Badger-Two Medicine area and other treasured wild places, and people elsewhere advocate for areas close to their hearts and souls.

In the end, I think about our nieces and nephews and their families in the future, and what they will be able to enjoy and experience. Will they be able to sleep under a clear and starry light sky, and hear elk bugling, or the distant howling of wolves? Will they be able to build tree forts, ride bikes through the woods, or play games inspired by being out in nature? Will they become competent stewards of remaining untrammeled wild spaces in their own backyards, or say silent prayers of gratitude to nature lovers who came before them?

Dave Foreman once said that “Wild things exist for their own sake”.

Deep down, all of us have something wild and free and powerful in our hearts and souls-often revealed and brought forth to life through nature connection, through connection with something that is larger than ourselves.

Can we afford to live without wilderness?

Can we afford not to dream?

Prepare With Wisdom, Allow For Abundance

It’s an uncharacteristically cool, windy and overcast morning, and we’re unlikely to get much above the low 70s on this late July day. as I write this.

Our mountain ash tree berries are already ample, abundant, and hanging heavily as compared to previous years living here. The berries, still a greenish-yellowish hue at the moment, alternatingly swayed, brushed and batted against the neighbor’s roof with last night’s winds, at times providing a soothing backdrop to sleep, at other times abruptly waking us up at odd hours.

It feels like fall is already in the air. Birds and squirrels seem to be picking up the pace again, whether it’s collecting and scavenging ripening apricots falling to the ground, or picking over the last of the cherries. Earlier this week, our cat Flo-Jo brought inside a mouse she had killed. We calmly thanked her, then wrapped and tossed her wild gift into the trash can, preferring to feed her “cat food” instead!

In nature, wildlife seems to know when it’s time to step up the pace, to take action, and to prepare for what’s to come.

If one thing’s not in abundance in a particular season or year, something else undoubtedly is. Grizzly bears roam far and wide in search of sustenance in Greater Yellowstone when summer and fall seeds from whitebark pine trees are scarce.

It’s hard to believe that such large omnivores, in good whitebark pine years, can get up to 20 percent of their proteins and carbohydrates from these seeds, and up to 30% of their needed fats. Grizzlies are also adept at raiding caches of whitebark pine nuts stashed by squirrels, so squirrels create multiple caches, knowing that some will inevitably feed Ursus arctos horribilis instead.

Then there’s the chickadee, which weighs next to nothing and lives in cold, harsh climates year-round in places such as Yellowstone.

I remember waiting for Old Faithful to erupt on numerous -20 to -40 F mornings, and in the stillness and silence of anticipation noticing small groups of chickadees emerging from nearby conifers, unflappably confident, upbeat and knowing their needs would be provided for once the sun had risen.

Of course, chickadees also have a back-up plan, that being stashing small caches of seeds between cracks and gaps in the bark of trees throughout their range. Thus on severe stormy winter days when little food’s to be found, they have reliable places to get what they need as well.

Some people say that certain animals such as birds, squirrels, and rats are natural hoarders, that their motivations are driven by avoiding scarcity.

I beg to differ.

They are preparing, they are taking action. They make sure they have enough going into the winter, they allow for contingencies. They likely don’t lose sleep-they wake up each morning knowing what needs to be done, and they’re flexible and adaptable depending on what they’re experiencing every day.

But they also don’t seem to take and grab everything they can find and leave nothing for others in nature. They probably don’t agonize or over-analyze what they’re doing, what they did, or what they might do. I doubt they lose any sleep over things, either!

In the human world, though, hoarding and stock-piling inevitably leads to clutter, which, like kudzu, seems to restrict our mobility, and our ability to seize opportunities that are happening in the moment. It leads to increasing paralysis and separation. It fuels cycles of greed, shortage, lack, distrust and fear. It leads to violence and destruction of communities worldwide.

Do we really need 64-pack toilet paper rolls from a big box store on hand in our already over-stocked homes? Do we really have to go after the last of the fossil and non-renewable fuels instead of embracing abundant and infinite supplies of solar and wind power?

Stockpiling, hoarding and other actions stemming from fear-based, scarcity mindsets have real consequences that impact the natural world, and future generations.

Let’s loop back for a moment to what’s happening with grizzly bears In Greater Yellowstone in particular.

In poor whitebark pine seed years, grizzlies are now way more likely to encounter an abundance of subdivisions in what were once rural valleys they roam in search of food to fatten themselves for long winters. They’re likely to find an abundance of garbage, gardens, orchards, pet food, and occasionally even pets and livestock as potential food sources. These habitats that once provided an insurance policy or back-up plan in poor food years are now gauntlets of death and conflict for bears, other wide-ranging wildlife, and their human neighbors.

It’s fine and easy to have and create an abundant life. Nature shows us this in myriad ways, no matter where our feet are.

But creating and sustaining true abundance requires compassion and vigilance, making sure that that someone or something else’s right to thrive is not diminished or destroyed in the process. Something wild and priceless disappears when we neglect that, when we forget that we are all one. Future generations are robbed and looted when we act out of fear, scarcity, distrust and separation.

I know I am not alone on this, but grizzlies are what make Montana, Wyoming and Idaho’s back country vastly different from, say Colorado’s, for example. There’s something powerful and palpable knowing you’re in a place where you’re potentially part of the food chain-not the other way around.

There’s also a profound sense of awe and humility involved in respecting, protecting and allowing for grizzlies and other wild creatures to thrive, and not just survive, in this world, and maybe even to expand their range again in the Lower 48 states.

In the meantime, grizzlies are largely relegated to several island-like areas of varying protection south of the Canadian boundary. Politicians and government agencies in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are openly and publicly talking about de-listing the grizzly as an Endangered Species, and allowing for an annual hunting “harvest” (their words) in these states.

Again I beg to differ.

Conservationist and visionary Aldo Leopold remarked on similar challenges several generations back:

“There seems to be a tacit assumption that if grizzlies survive in Canada and Alaska, that is good enough. It is not good enough for me…Relegating grizzlies to Alaska is about like relegating happiness to heaven; one may never get there.”

There’s infinite, incalculable wisdom in being good stewards, and in restoring and healing the natural world in places where we can.

It seems like the only sane path moving forward for all of us-grizzlies included-to thrive.

If we follow a more self-centered and fearful path instead, decreasing numbers of people may still experience abundance for a while.

Yet they too will feel impoverished, and longing for that wild, wise and loving part of us we intentionally extinguished.

P.S.

I’d love to hear how this article resonated with you-thanks for contacting me to share your thoughts.

It’d be awesome to hear what you’re doing to simplify and de-clutter to bring greater meaning and focus to what you desire to create in your life.

I really appreciate your time reading this longer than normal posting.

It speaks so much to the rapid growth and transformation I am experiencing in my own life through deeper and more consistent connection with the natural world, but also to the powerful, positive and accelerated results my clients are experiencing as well!

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