Connecting You With Nature, No Matter Where Your Feet Are

Tag: Nature

Amazing Grace


Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of things that happen in our lives, and the unexpected passing of my Mom in early October really shook me to my core. Given my Dad’s dementia and other age-related challenges, my four siblings and I all thought he might have gone first, as my Mom had been spry and sharp and in seemingly better shape until the week before she passed.

My Mom, Angela, had been progressing well after a seemingly successful surgery in late August, but about five weeks later, she experienced a significant downturn once more. A second surgery left her with weakened vital signs and she passed away two mornings later, another star and ray of light returning to the great unknown. Her closest friends had always called her Angel.

One thing I do know is that my mom’s spirit and love live on in all the life and lives that I am a part of. It’s hard not to think about her during one of her favorite seasons (spring is #1, fall is #2), when walking and kicking through piles of colorful leaves swirling around on sidewalks, when glancing up at brilliant blue skies decorated with white puffy cumulus clouds, when witnessing squirrels and birds zoom around the backyard preparing for winter .Or when getting ready for Halloween, as she got such a kick out of helping my brother Bill and I with costumes when we were very young, and still enjoyed seeing photos of grandchildren and her own grown children dressing up in the spirit of the season..

My mom lived her last 20-plus years in an apartment complex west of Richmond, Virginia, where my oldest sister continues to live just a few doors down from where she called home. I was always astonished by how much my mom had turned her little corner of the earth outside her place into something so personal, so beautiful, and so magical. She planted, usually with the landlords’ permission, small bushes, trees and plants to brighten up her home outside her home. She nurtured hens and chickens, forget-me-nots and other flowers in small beds outside, and had turned an old wooden barrel into a planter, leaving a hole at the bottom of the barrel intact so chipmunks had a place to hide. I wouldn’t say she was one and at peace with the squirrels, though, as she alternated between leaving crumbs out for them to eat, and then shooing at them with a broom, followed by the occasional expletive, too! She had deep roots and a strong connection to where she lived, yet she also encouraged her five children to find their own places to grow, to become rooted and call home.

As an adult, it took time, effort and lots of soul-searching before I finally found my own place to call home and put down roots here in Montana, which is where I was when my sister called about my mom’s condition following her second surgery, and where I was fitfully sleeping the morning that she died. We are honoring her request to have her ashes scattered next summer, and to have a celebration of life gathering for her instead of a funeral service.

A state of grace and calm prevail in most moments now, alongside occasional rip-currents and waves of grief and sadness. I think about my mom and how much she loved the seashore, especially Cape Hatteras and other places on the Outer Banks of North Carolina,

Imagining and envisioning being there reminds me that we are all a part of this huge ocean of love, family, community and possibility. Storms are inevitable, even hurricanes from time to time. We are all part of this tug and pull, these vast and often unknowable rhythms and cycles of life
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Even after the craziest, shittiest and darkest of storms, light returns, love remains. And if we keep nurturing that, remembering those who gave their love while they were here, encouraging us to be grateful for what we have and to do what we can to serve others and something bigger than ourselves, we are unstoppable.

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire” said Ferdinand Foch. My mom’s soul and spirit burned brightly her entire life.  It feels fitting that she passed at this time of year, when the maples, sumacs, oaks and other trees she loved also are aflame, before their leaves too return to where they once came from.

Celebrate Your Nature, Celebrate Pride!

MontanaPrideFlag June is Pride Month for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning people (and their countless allies!) worldwide, and this year Pride Montana will be held in our beloved town of Missoula from June 19-21.

Here’s hoping you’ll join us in Missoula, or wherever your feet may be that weekend, to celebrate, acknowledge and express gratitude for the progress we have made over the past decade, and to acknowledge and energize for the remaining work necessary to achieve full equality for all LGBTQ families and individuals worldwide. The non-profit Pride Foundation inspires giving to expand opportunities to advance full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people (LGBTQ) across the U.S. Northwest, including the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. They envision a world in which all LGBTQ youth, adults and families enjoy the freedom to live openly, safely and genuinely.

To honor the vital work that Pride Foundation does, I will donate three dollars to them from every “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: Four Fun and Easy Steps to Create Your Powerful Nature Connection Sit Spot, No Matter Where Your Feet Are” nature connection sit spot recording purchased between now through Montana Pride Weekend this Sunday, June 21, 2015.

Click here to purchase your portable, fun Nature Connection Sit Spot Recording:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=UAPNXKL2RA5NY

to bring home more nature into your own life and those of others you care about, and know that three dollars from your $13.97 purchase amount is going to a phenomenally important cause. The world is full of stories from people for whom nature has changed, inspired or turned their lives around, and you really never know how important nature connection is to you and your own one wild precious life until you need it most.

Enjoy more nature in your home and work setting, and best of all share it with others.This portable, adaptable, and fun nature connection tool and recording powerfully supports and serves so many people in consistently creating, envisioning and allowing a nature sit spot to enhance our lives.

“You know they say that if you imagine peace and calm, your body experiences it. Well, Hobie’s audio course, “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!” really brought me to a space of balance and calmness. And best yet? I was sitting at my desk. No need to go anywhere, and most importantly, do anything but breathe”.      -Maureen Calamia, St. James, New York

Pride Foundation is the only non-profit organization I am selecting to support in 2015 through a percentage of PayPal sales, so now is the golden moment to support them through your love of nature and its amazing diversity of all life forms. Take home your own copy of “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There” (and buy a copy for other nature lovers) and support Pride Foundation, too!

Here’s that PayPal link again:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=UAPNXKL2RA5NY

For more info on Pride Foundation and the vital work they do please visit http://www.pridefoundation.org

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.

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!

The Courage To Change The Things You Can

The Serenity Prayer goes something like this:

Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference

The natural world’s abundant in wisdom that helps us to discern that difference, and take emboldened, courageous action to experience what we desire most in our lives.

Especially if we slow down and pay closer attention. If we stop multi-tasking. If we put the kibbosh on expecting something to happen 24/7 or in a certain way when nature has its own ideas as to when the timing’s right, or how things will unfold.

A few personal examples from nature follow.

For the last five years. we could count on cherries ripening on our tree in the backyard around the 14th of June. Not so this year. We had a pretty dry spring following a wet and cold winter, with very little moisture falling our way until the last two weeks of June.

This year the cherries ripened at the very beginning of July, and they were even more abundant (and sweeter and more delicious!) than in previous years. We had gotten accustomed to things being a certain way at a certain time, but nature had its own time frame and ideas as to what was best.

This spring I also decided to try growing tomatoes from seeds instead of starts, something I had done easily and successfully in both Virginia and in Thailand.

Perhaps I got a late start toward this endeavor. We went east to visit family and friends in mid-May, so I waited until returning home to plant tomato seeds, thinking we might still have a frost in town that would kill them all, and also not wanting to bother a neighbor with watering plants who was already looking after our cat for 12 days. So I planted the seeds on June 1, and nurtured and tended to them diligently.

Last weekend, as temperatures hovered near 100 F, I gave up my dream to grow tomatoes from seed in this part of Montana and see if it could be done.

It probably can be done, but not by going it alone, not without support, not without learning from mistakes, and definitely not this year, given where we are now in the growing season.

Next year, I’ll invest in some healthy, solid tomato starts and plant them after the risk of last spring frost. I’ll save on labor, watering, weeding and grief in the process and support someone else in the community financially by doing so. I’ll focus on what I do best and enlist, hire and pay others to be in their own area of brilliance.

In the meantime, this summer I’ll savor and enjoy the harvests of fellow gardeners by buying their fresh tomatoes and other produce at local farmers’ markets.

I was mighty stubborn surrendering this vision to grow edible, delicious tomatoes from seed in less than 120 days, especially given my blazing track record over the previous four summers.

I saw only failure at first, and the disappointing prospect of not using our own tomatoes in canning special salsas for Thanksgiving and Winter Solstice celebrations.

Over the past five weeks, Erik has non-judgmentally watched me tend to the soil, and weed and water the ground diligently, and heard me mutter and agonize whether anything was to come from all this activity, time, expense and effort.

Ironically and perhaps serendipitously, the neighboring raspberries have sprouted like kudzu during the same time frame, and they are also the juiciest and most abundant they’ve been in years!

The natural world is not at our beck and call, as the above two anecdotes illustrate, but neither is the so-called “real world” for that matter. Neither world operates the way we demand or command it to do at times, in contrast to how we expect hotel room service to function!

Instead, when we open ourselves to notice what’s going on in nature, and to detach from our personal ideas about what’s best, we reconnect with our soul’s deeper desires. We witness unforeseen outcomes and results that are often better and different than what we expected, too!

We open ourselves to experiencing and receiving miracles on a daily basis, and to a deepening connection and reverence for all of life. We empower and encourage and embolden others to do the same. As more people connect with the healing and inspiration nature freely provides, everyone prospers and experiences greater peace.

As the tomatoes from seeds story illustrates, we don’t have to go it all alone. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to force things, to struggle, to take things personally.

The natural world constantly reminds us that we are supported and provided for, no matter what.

That’s what nature does-without expectation, without judging, without micro-managing, without blame, without worry, fear, regret or impatience.

In nature, we’re all equal and worthy. We all belong. We’re all deserving.

Yet we also experience faster, lasting results when we receive support and accountability, and participate in an encouraging, welcoming community.

We’re all human and perfectly imperfect. We are not meant to live our lives alone, disconnected from other human beings and the natural world that sustains us all.

We are all heroes to others. Others are waiting to hear your story as to how you courageously changed and bettered not only your life, but the lives of those you’ve touched.

What is it in your life that you most want to change?

Courageously take action on that-don’t wait or waste another day, and tell and share your inspiring story with others!

Celebrating Pride, Naturally!

June is Pride Month just about everywhere in the world, even in places where some governments, groups and individuals do their best to criminalize or otherwise restrict the inalienable rights of individuals to express who they are and love who they love.

The natural world provided me refuge, and a non-judgmental, welcome environment at a time when I needed it most, when I was first coming to terms with what it meant to be gay, and how I could begin to integrate that vital part of who I am into the nature connection life’s work I’ve been called to do.

For many, it’s become easier for people to come out and be who they are, and the overall environment and climate have become more accepting in some places, but we still have a ways to go.

Too many people still kill themselves, get thrown out of their homes, become jobless, homeless, or both, or are marginalized or persecuted because of who they are and love.

The Pride Foundation inspires giving to expand opportunities to advance full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people (LGBTQ) across the U.S. Northwest, including the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

They envision a world in which all LGBTQ youth, adults and families enjoy the freedom to live openly, safely and genuinely.

To honor the vital work that Pride Foundation does, I will donate 10% of all sales of my large format, signed prints, handmade, hand-signed photo cards, lithographic greeting cards, meditation and note card sets purchased from now through Wednesday night, June 25.

Visit  https://yourlifenature.com to bring home more nature into your own life and those of others you care about, and know that ten percent of your purchase amount is going to a phenomenally important cause.

The world is full of stories from people for whom nature has changed, inspired or turned their lives around, and you really never know how important nature connection is to you and your own one wild precious life until you need it most.

Enjoy more nature in your home and work setting, and best of all share it with others. Pride Foundation is the only non-profit organization I am selecting to support in 2014 through a percentage of sales, so now is the golden moment to support them through your love of nature and its amazing diversity of all life forms.

Thanks for visiting https://yourlifenature.com and supporting Pride Foundation, too! For more info on Pride Foundation and they work they do please visit http://www.pridefoundation.org

Finding Peace In Nature

In A Course In Miracles, author Marianne Williamson shared that peace is being in the present moment without judgment.

That can be mighty hard to do at times, but I had plenty of practice doing so while visiting my Dad a few weeks back in Virginia.

My Dad has likely been living with Alzheimer’s for about six years now, though he wasn’t officially diagnosed until 2011. We could all tell that he was slipping here and there since the early 2000s, but largely attributed it to him having “senior moments”. We did our best in allowing him to remain as independent as possible.

It really sucks to see someone who was once so vital, vigorous become hugely dependent upon the care and watchful eyes of others. He no longer drives, but keeps a car in hopes that one day he will regain his freedom.

He’s maddening and demeaning and belittling at times, as my sisters and sister-in-law can attest to, they having borne the brunt of his hurtful behavior.

Many in our family limit their interactions and visiting times to protect themselves emotionally.  One sibling, though, feels relentless, crushing, seemingly never-ending guilt colliding with her sense of duty and meaning of family in trying to decide and do what’s best for him.

In a nutshell, my Dad does not want to be is assisted living-he wants to go home to die. He says he is not happy where he is and that everything is awful, but over the course of spending time with him over several visits while being back in Virginia, his actions and interactions showed me something profoundly different. He has a second family there, and he’s part of an at-times feisty community.

My Dad got to see Erik again and meet his mom as well on this visit, but the following few times we got together it was just the two of us. He asked how both Erik and his mom were doing and had ideas about places for them to visit in Richmond. He was thrilled that we came to visit and that we brought warmer weather with us, as it had been a cold and slow start to spring following a long for Virginia standards winter.

Each visit, he caught me up to speed on how the Yankees were doing as compared to the Mets and Pirates. A fellow  resident and baseball fanatic printed out the stats from each Yankees game to share with my Dad, and they would lively debate who either saved or blew the game.

I joined my Dad for lunch one day in the cafeteria, where we joined a group of five men, more or less his age, for soup, salad, sandwiches, and sugar-free dessert.. We sat directly across from someone in his mid- to late-90s (my Dad will be 88 in November).

Dad shouted out to him, “Now that guy is really old!”, and I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when the other man shouted back to him, “Shut up, Bud, that’s no way to treat your elders!”.

Another person at the table had a grown son a little older than me who had at one time played on my Dad’s baseball team, and he was happy to be hanging with someone who was hanging with his Dad.

We can all have challenging memories and stories about how we were raised and how we were treated growing up, and it can be astonishing when different parents and siblings have conflicting memories and lingering feelings as to what those times were like.

It might have been Wayne Dyer who said that the past is about as significant as old dishwater, but when you’re grappling with how to best support someone entering one  of their last chapters in life, we all slosh around in this choppy ocean a little differently.

I learned so much from my Dad this trip by doing my best to be fully present in the moment with him, without judgment. Even when things got rocky or testy, I chose to keep only the love and the lessons learned, and to let go of the rest.

A friend who we visited who had recently lost her mother, and who also knows my Dad, said it best:

They all once had careers, families and full lives. They all loved someone and were loved as well. They did their best. They remember and savor these moments in life because it helps them feel and remember what it means to be fully alive. They still have their dignity, they still have their souls and their spirits. Their bodies and minds might be faltering, but they once had lives like we do, and they want to be treated with love, patience, compassion, non-judgement and respect. .
Solo walks in nature (as well as with Erik and his Mom)  helped me gain clarity as to how I could be more present and at peace in the moment when visiting with my Dad, as well as with family members who found it hard to spend  time with him.

Before flying home to Montana, Erik and his Mom and I traveled to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a few days following a week of visiting and catching up with my side of the family.

A rough-and-tumble ocean and towering dunes of sand was the perfect salve. Wave after ocean wave massaged,  released and healed pent-up and unresolved feelings, memories and stories that never really served me.

Into the sea they went, into the sea they all dissolved.

Gentle breezes, children playing and laughing, and pelicans gliding above the Atlantic Ocean gifted me tremendous calm, bliss and peace with what was unfolding in life, helping me to surrender to all that was beyond any one person’s control. Which is just about everything!

From the sea we once came, and to the sea we will once again return eventually.

In the meantime, I’m eternally grateful to have been able to see and be with my Dad in a different light.

Connecting With Nature As The Days Grow Shorter and Cooler…

Fall is my favorite time of year in Montana, and when I was growing up and living in Virginia it was my favorite season there, too.

There’s a quickening of energy and momentum that’s palpable in the Northern Hemisphere as shortening days and cooling temperatures inevitably shift into winter over the next three months.

Where and how can you fit connecting with nature and time for yourself into your life during this time of year?

The following are a few suggestions to get you started, and feel free to share your ideas, too!

1.) Break Pattern.

This time of year it can be hard to get outside after work and dinner are done, but one consideration is to get out and walk immediately upon returning home from work, and then having a later dinner.

If you have a flexiible workplace or working environment, take a break or go for a nearby walk for 15 minutes once (or even better, twice) during the workday.

Take time to notice how nearby trees, plants, birds, people, and the environment are adapting in response to the changing seasons. Keep a rain or storm jacket, hat and gloves handy, so that not having these items doesn’t become an excuse not to get outside.

Also consider getting up a bit earlier each morning, and doing these things consistently before your work day begins.

2.) Create A Sit or Power Spot.

Find an outdoor place that speaks to you for when the weather’s nice enough to be outside where you are. Spend 10-15 minutes there on a regular basis, and resist the urge to multi-task by answering phone calls, texting, checking e-mails, etc.

If personal safety is an issue or concern for your doing this, bring a colleague, friend or family member along and leave your cell phone on.

Yet also, make a mutual agreement that you will not talk once you’ve settled into your sit or power spot, for these are intentional places and spaces for quieting the ego mind while allowing yourself to be more deeply and consistently connected with nature.

Be o.k. with the mind’s tendency to wander, worry, you name it! Some people have more than one sit spot. From where I work at home, I look out onto two arbor vitae trees encircled by sumacs just beginning to turn crimson and orange. About twice a day, I put the computer and phone away and look out at this scene as the seasons change, and we eat dinner out there a few times a week at this time of year as well.

With sit spots, they may be places you walk or drive to, or real or imagined places you have photos or sketches of to keep at work and home, but the important thing is to spend quality time being fully present there. Some of my clients meditate at their spots, while others bring a small notebook for writing down inspired ideas and actions that come their way.

Creating a sit or power spot does take time and commitment, but it is almost always a free, invaluable and pro-active gift you can give yourself daily, no matter where you live or are in life!

3.) Play!

This is often hardest for most of us to create time for, allow or justify. “I should be working more, cleaning the garage, raking leaves or pine needles, getting ready for Halloween” are just a sampling of resistances we can come up with when it comes to creating time for ourselves to play outside in nature, or anywhere else for that matter!

Plus there’s a resistance to play being something you’re allowed to do only when you’re very young, or still in school or in college. For the rest of us, the story goes, it’s the “real world” we must live in, and play’s an unproductive and foolish pasttime. Bullshit. Get out and play-it’s good for your heart and soul and will make you more productive when you are at work.

If you live where there are many deciduous trees, when was the last time you had a leaf fight with others, or made huge piles of leaves to play in? Consider collecting different types and colors of leaves, making art or writing a poem about them or something else you enjoy about the season, or making a collage with leaves, pine needles and other natural objects from the season.

If the danger of fire season is over where you live, are there places where you can rent a cabin, have a bonfire, or have an outdoor cookout?  Are there obstacle courses, outdoor climbing walls and ropes courses, paintball courses, frisbee golf areas, seasonal Halloween mazes you can enjoy with family and friends, as well as by yourself?

I invite you to get out and bike, rollerblade or do something else alone or with others at nearby parks and trails. Finally, temperatures are cooling down to where you can hike, walk, bike and play more during the day in many southern and southwestern states, and with autumn generally being a drier season across the country, it’s also a great time for stargazing, no matter where you live.

Commit to a day of play every week if you can, and if that’s challenging to do, commit to at least half a day. No matter how much time you decide you have for play in nature, put it on your calendar, and then honor your commitment to play and enjoy being outdoors, no matter what.

Invite friends to come along to build in accountability, and take turns experiencing and enjoying what other people’s visions of play look and feel like!

4.) Connect With The Food You Eat.

Farmers and other seasonal markets are common nearly everywhere in the U.S., and fall is an especially wonderful time to be visiting and shopping for locally grown produce.

Connecting more deeply and consistently with the food you eat is a real win-win way to be even more connected with the natural world, and with your particular bioregion.

Farmers markets are great for meeting and getting to know the people and neighbors who raise the food you eat and enjoy.

They’re a wealth of knowledge and wisdom for learning more about how different foods are grown (and even learn how you could grow it yourself!), and they’re a huge way to keep money circulating in your local or regional economy.

Even most supermarkets and grocery stores will carry locally grown produce in season, so be sure to look and ask about this when you’re shopping there as well.

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