I’m in my childhood hometown of Brookings, South Dakota this long labor day weekend. This morning I ran down to the river banks of the Big Sioux, my legs remembering the hundreds of other times I’ve run down this road to start the day. The wind hadn’t picked up yet, and the sun was glinting off the still wet with dew prairie grass and ditch sunflowers. Even though the view on this little jog has changed over the years – the old gravel road now dead ends at the river, the bridge now years demolished; the two new huge houses on either side of the family homestead; the fences and new driveways where we used to roam free – despite these surface changes, the energy underneath, the whisper of the prairie as the world wakes up and the ancient undulation of the landscape, remains unchanged. It’s always good to come home, even though I no longer live here.
But anyway, I came to release the first copies of Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth out into the world…or at least out into the hands of some folks of eastern South Dakota. Yesterday I set up shop across from my dad’s Hillside Prairie Gardens booth at the farmer’s market, and it was an early morning of loading up the market van, helping dad set up all the veggies (hello tomato season!) into their display boxes, positioning the books so they looked inviting, and chatting with the other vendors. There’s something about the farmer’s market. It’s a good place to spend some time on a Saturday morning, and I always appreciate the opportunity to be part of the community that helped inform how I see the world.
I’ve had my author copies for a few weeks now, so having the physical books around was nothing new, but handing them over to people who came to purchase it was a little surreal. As all authors probably say (or at least think at some point) I hope they like it and tell all of their friends. I’m glad I chose to do the first release in this place. Returning to your roots is usually a good choice, at least for me.
And people also like it when you give them free baked goods, so I baked a bunch of scones.
Last evening I went out to pick the last of the day’s ripe blueberries, and as I was lingering in the garden enjoying the cool dusky air, I noticed the sunflowers. In the last week, there are four of them that have grown almost as tall as me and are starting to show signs of blossoming. Their heads are still tight in a bud, but you can tell they are eagerly waiting the day when they can show their petals to the sun and offer themselves to the world.
I just read an excerpt from the last chapter of Anatomy of a Rose, a book by Sharman Apt Russell, and it is about being cured by flowers. She points out that for a long time flowers have been used as medicine – from prescription drugs that contain some part of a flowering plant to folk medicine, flowers have healing properties. There are hundreds of ways to let plants, and specifically flowers, help our bodies heal: from evening primrose to sage to cornflower to prickly poppy, flowers have the power to cure what ails us. Continue reading “Cured by Flowers”→
Knocked off her feet after twenty years in public health nursing, Iris Graville quit her job and convinced her husband and their thirteen-year-old twins to move to Stehekin, a remote mountain village in Washington State’s North Cascades. They sought adventure; she yearned for the solitude of this community of eighty-five residents accessible only by boat, float plane, or hiking.Hiking Naked chronicles Graville’s journey through questions about work and calling as well as how she coped with ordering groceries by mail, black bears outside her kitchen window, a forest fire that threatened the valley, and a flood that left the family stranded for three days.
It is an unusually sunny and warm day in mid-spring, and my spouse Nick and I are out on a state park trail near our home, enjoying the mild conditions after a long, cold Minnesota winter. The air is laced with the subtle scent of blossoms, and a gentle breeze is inviting us to walk slowly and savor the moments as they unfold. We aren’t in a hurry. We aren’t feeling anxious or in need of anything. And then we come around the bend and see a naked man standing knee-deep in what is usually a dry creek bed, bathing. This year, due to a winter of above average snowfall, the creek is full to the brim with cold, clear water. He doesn’t see us, and we hightail it backwards until he’s out of view, wait ten minutes, and then I make Nick check to see if he’s got any clothes on yet. He does and we continue on the trail, smiling hello as we pass. I still wonder if we or he would have been more uncomfortable had we announced our presence. At any rate, I hope he had a refreshing dip, and I admire his courage to do what felt good at the time. I have a feeling he doesn’t regret his decision to bathe in the creek that day. Continue reading “Hiking Naked”→
Writing a book takes a long time. And then publishing it takes a little bit (i.e. a lot) longer. But it’s worth the effort and the wait, I think, to have something tangible that says what you want it to say that you can hold in your hands and give to others. It’s fair to say that yes, it does require using trees to print the books, but when your publisher is committed to ecological stewardship, that helps. It also helps when your publisher is committed to putting forth publications that are meant to be returned to again and again, not thrown away after a quick read. And when they donate a portion of all profits to a different charity every year. Add the mission that the mainstream is not the only stream, and you have a pretty stellar combination. Continue reading “Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth”→
Last spring I heard a woman named Cynthia Jurs speak. She said a lot of interesting and important things during her talk, but what stood out to me most was the way she spoke of “acting from the subtle” and how important it can be to stop and breathe in the midst of the chaos that seems to punctuate our world more than we want it to. She spoke of focusing on the space that is in between where we are and where we want to go. She said it’s that ‘in between’ space that allows new things to come into being. From that space we can learn to recognize our gifts, and once we’ve recognized them, we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, and our families. She reminded us that it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect our life situation in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world. She reminded us that due to the nature of “in between” space, we all have a different version of what’s true for us, but that we can still support each other despite being on differing paths.Continue reading “The Space Between”→
Go out into the woods, child, go out. Let your feet carry you on the worn path behind the house, down to the marshy shore of the lake.
Go out into the woods, child, go out. Wander into the dense tree cover, trail your hand over the bark of an adolescent maple tree, and find your shelter among the roots and branches.
Go out into the woods, child, go out. Splash through the puddles that pool at the base of the valley and listen to the call of the Sandhill crane in the fields as it stands at attention amidst the dying autumn crops.
Go out into the woods, child, go out. Lay down in the hay-field and let your gaze drift with the passing clouds as the leaves rustle their lullabies.
Go out into the woods, child, go out. Race through the blazing midday light, and once you are tired, pick up a stone and let your hand fit its shape to the smooth sun-warmed surface.
Go out into the woods, child, go out. Rest in the shade of an old oak tree and feel the wisdom and strength of deep roots and patience fill you up with something you didn’t know was missing.
I watched a robin explore one of our crab apple trees yesterday afternoon. He hopped from bare branch to bare branch, stopping now and then to poke at old, dried-up crabapples with his beak. At one point he seemed to look right at me, as if he were making sure I noticed his presence. I wasn’t sure how to respond.
Robins usually don’t come back to this area of Minnesota until at least the end of March, though last year we saw one on February 18th, the same day the seasonal ‘spring melt’ stream ran — unseasonably early. Yesterday was February 16th, so it seems this trend of early melting will continue for another season. The snow is almost gone after a few days of 40 degrees, and today it’s 50. Tomorrow it is projected to be 55, and Sunday, 57. Winter as I remember it just doesn’t seem to happen anymore, and this early warmth doesn’t feel normal.