Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth

Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth

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”

What Would You Do If Money Were No Object?

What Would You Do If Money Were No Object?

Alan Watts likes to ask his students, when doing career counseling, “What would you do if money were no object?” He hopes to get them thinking about what they really enjoy about life, what pursuits they truly want to devote energy toward, and how they want to spend their days.  Because after all, “what we do with our days is what we do with our lives.” (Annie Dillard)

On one hand, it is quite important to ask ourselves what we would do if we didn’t need to earn money.  When we do that, we tap into the things that drive us to align our actions with our values, we find meaning in the everyday, and we teach our children to do the same.  And a society full of people who are doing what they feel called to do is one that is setting itself up for a foundation of peace and vitality.  …

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3 Ways to Live Earth Day

3 Ways to Live Earth Day

Today is April 22nd, and it’s the 46th April that has recognized an ‘official’ day to honor the Earth.  As the day fades into night, the moon is full and shining over the waters of our little lake.  We have a full length window in our shower, (weird, I realize….the former owners of our home had some slightly odd design ideas..) and as I washed off the day’s grime after putting my daughter to bed, I felt like a moon goddess being purified as the water shimmered under the tawny light.  (or something like that…at any rate, the perk of having a full length mirror in your shower that looks out over a lake is a great view of the lake.  It’s worth noting that we have no close neighbors.)  So let’s start with that.   Continue reading “3 Ways to Live Earth Day”

Wild Springs

Wild Springs

Late August.  Western Wisconsin.  Mid afternoon.  Picture a big white farm house with people flowing in and out carrying trays laden with home cooked food, two bearded men with guitars on a stage in front of an old granary surrounded by hay bales, flags akin to those you might see in a mountain city in Tibet fluttering in a swift breeze, and more life of all sorts milling around the grounds, laughing, painting, eating and exploring.  There’s a tent city in a lakeside clearing down a short grassy path from the refurbished – yet – simple barn and a guy on a green tractor pulling a wagon full of people through the middle of it all.  Welcome to the Wild Springs Festival at Lily Springs Farm.

The farm’s namesake, a lily — or lotus — grows out of the mud and, in that spirit, their mission is:

..to provide a sanctuary in the natural world, dedicated to bringing beauty out of murkiness by reconnecting to what is essential and generative.

Permaculture and whole systems design are being applied to restore our habitats to health and to build a sustainable perennial-based farm system that integrates land, people and the built environment. Programming flows naturally from that work and from our intention to foster health in ourselves and the land.

Continue reading “Wild Springs”

We Are Wildness

We Are Wildness

I’ve been working with Alissa Wild and Kevin Park, the co-visionaries of We Are Wildness since January, and over the past eight months I’ve found nothing but inspiration, authenticity and a genuine presence from both of them as they continue furthering the mission to help people embrace their inner wildness and improve the health of the planet by inspiring people all over the world to reconnect with Nature.  They currently call Vancouver Island, British Columbia home, from a little cabin on the shores of a mountain fed river.  I live in Minnesota, near the St. Criox River Valley, almost 2000 miles to the east in the United States.  And recently an Ambassador program was started, and these wild souls hail from Slovenia to Colorado to the Canadian Rockies and back to Vancouver again, spreading Thoreau’s sentiment that “in wildness is the preservation of the world.” Things expand even further if we look to the online communities that have come into being on social media.  From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, you’ll see people rewilding on almost every continent. I appreciate the vision that invites technology to serve as a catalyst fostering a return to our roots and how that vision has taken hold literally all over the world as the idea of “rewilding” gains momentum. Continue reading “We Are Wildness”

Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare

Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare

Being a yoga teacher [or a wellness coach] is similar to being a physician [i.e. one that is invested in healing, not keeping business good]: my mission is to find the origination of my clients’ problems and help my clients heal themselves, so I can send them on their way, out in the world with the ability to maintain their health, on their own.

~Rebecca Lammersen

It’s not about business or client retention or making more money than we did last year.  Sure, on some level it is important to create business and have clients and keep them around long enough for everyone involved to benefit in the ways that matter.  But these days, it seems that the ever important dollar gets the final say more than anything else.  Pulling a profit that’s bigger than before takes priority, and we tell ourselves that if business is booming, well, we can help more people.  In some ways, it’s true.  We can try to keep clients coming back for as long as possible, plant the seeds of positive change, treat the disorder with a pill, and along the way help the bottom line.  Everybody wins, right?

In this world we live in, money is important.  You might know this already.  Depending on where we live and what sort of lifestyle we are aiming for or born into, we need a certain minimum of incoming cash flow to thrive.  Living on the planet comes with a price tag for most people in the modern world.  So, while money is obviously important, I might dare to say that authenticity is more so.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not super interested in working with someone who doesn’t really want to interact with me, or only does so out of fear or guilt or whatever other reasons people do things that they aren’t intrinsically motivated to do.  People can benefit from programs and classes and 1:1 appointments, absolutely.  That’s not my issue today.  My issue today is that yoga and wellness coaching and health care, at the core,  is about healing. It’s about honoring the process. It’s about authentic ways of being together and in the world that increase beauty and take energy away from destruction.  Too often our culture has lost sight of that.  Too often we hook people and try to convince them that they need us forever.  Too often we become part of the message of lack. Continue reading “Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare”

Beauty by Way of Carrots

Beauty by Way of Carrots

I want to grow carrots not because agribusiness is a filthy, greedy, heartless beast, but because rooting in the dirt is fun, worms are groovy creatures, and you can’t buy the sweet satisfaction of a fresh carrot at any price.  I want to live a simple, rooted life not because a place of privilege feeds on other people’s poverty, but because meals of venison, potatoes, and berry pie fill our kitchen with gratitude-crazed grins.  I want to leave the car in the driveway not because the carbon spilling from the exhaust will tip the planet into an inferno, but because a bike ride puts wind in your face and birdsong in your ears.  It pumps blood through your veins and reminds us that life is a dizzyingly splendid idea. 

Hank Lentfer

I heard activist Cynthia Jurs say the words be in the conversation, not the fight earlier in the spring, and I think that they can’t be said enough. The destruction left behind by big Ag and the fossil fuel culture, as well as the premise of living simply so that others can simply live are all great reasons to change our ways.  But Hank speaks of living true to his values because of the joy he feels because of his actions.  He acts from beauty and a love of life, not from fear or anger or revenge. He is in the conversation, to be sure.  But he’s not in the fight.

What if we discovered that changing our ways could lead to more beauty and more joy than we thought possible?  What if life really is a dizzyingly splendid idea?  I wonder what would happen if more of us grew carrots and felt the wind on our faces and let birdsong be the soundtrack to life.

Subtle Acts of Healing

Subtle Acts of Healing

Buddhist teacher Cynthia Jurs spoke in my Space Between Stories class last weekend.  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 between where we are and where we want to go.  She said it’s that space that allows new things to come into being and that it is important not to rush out of the unknown into a new story.  It’s important to rest in the space that’s in between.  From that space we can see and start to recognize our gifts, and we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, our families and the earth itself.  She reminded us that it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect the “powers that be” in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world.

Cynthia shared the story of how her life’s work came into being, and without telling the whole story, (You can read more about her work and its origins at Earth Treasure Vase: A Global Healing Project)  her vocation essentially took shape from living out of her deepest prayerful question: How can we bring healing and protection to the earth?  Of course, there have been no easy answers, and it took her awhile to embrace the mission put forth to her.  But by living in accordance with her deepest prayer, she has helped invite waves of healing and hope into the midsts of people all over the world. Continue reading “Subtle Acts of Healing”

Cultivating Community: St. Croix Valley Food Swap

Cultivating Community: St. Croix Valley Food Swap

Last fall I read an article in Taproot Magazine about the Portland Preservation Society.  The goal of the society is to provide a forum for swapping homemade food — in their case, mostly canned goods.  They meet monthly; usually in people’s homes, in each other’s gardens,  and even sometimes at local businesses to talk food, food preservation, support each other’s efforts in living sustainably and go home with a variety of things that they probably wouldn’t have made themselves.

It made me want to move to Portland and join.

And since I actually like Minnesota winters and have a community and little piece of land that I am extremely grateful to call home, it seemed like the next best thing to moving across the country to swap homemade food was the start a local group.

Enter the St. Croix Valley Food Swap.

The plan in my mind is to gather a loose collective of St. Croix Valley (eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin along the St. Croix River area) food/sustainable living enthusiasts to meet monthly to swap homemade goods — though participation is certainly open to anyone who wants to join, regardless of geographical area.  So, if you live in Portland and want to travel to Minnesota to swap, you are most welcome. Continue reading “Cultivating Community: St. Croix Valley Food Swap”

Preservation

Preservation

Trays of yellow, red, orange, green and pink tomatoes shine under the morning sun. Bell peppers of the same colors are piled high and purple eggplants and beets peek out from around wooden boxes of long, slender green and purple beans. Carrots the color of a sunset fill more trays. Leafy bunches of basil, oregano, thyme and parsley provide an aroma to inspire any aspiring chef. The display table of a farmer’s market vendor in early September is much like a work of art– and it is a sight that tells a story of hard work, dedication to a piece of land and the love of a simple and sustainable lifestyle.  And it provides plenty of ingredients for a weekend of putting up the harvest.

There is something undeniably real about taking plants that were grown from local soil , chopping them up, mixing them together, cooking them down and putting them into jars to be enjoyed in the depths of winter. In an era where one can get any type of food at any time during the year, there is something more real about not indulging in the “get it now” attitude and the unsustainable way of living that punctuates so much of the “developed” world. What if growing (or knowing the grower) and perserving food ourselves was our default, much going to the grocery store or Target tends to be? What if shopping meant waking up early to get first pick of the produce on Saturday morning? What if food meant gardens, pastures, and a freezer full of frozen fruit, veggies and sustainably raised meat?  What if convenience food meant popping open a jar that spent time in a pressure cooker or snacking on fruit that once lined trays of a food dehydrator?

This past weekend was our annual food preservation family gathering – the goal each year is to preserve most of the fruits and vegetables we will need to get us through the winter and early spring before things start growing again in the Midwest. This year we succeeded in canning jar after jar of beets, salsa, tomatoes,  and apple sauce; we froze peppers, basil pesto, raspberry and plum jam and zucchini bread; we dehydrated eggplant, more tomatoes, peaches, hot peppers and herbs. The work was simple-harvest, chop, mix, jar and boil, freeze or dry. But through this simple work, a rhythm that is missing from a world of offices, supermarkets and interstates is always rediscovered. A sense of belonging to the earth, gratitude for what the earth can provide and appreciation for the hands that cultivate it is rekindled. As the shelves fill with jars, relationships deepen, feelings of accomplishment settle on tired bones and living a simple but authentic life becomes more of a reality.

What if every weekend was like that?