The year it snowed
three feet in April
we had to dig
to find the
that people like
to talk about;
but eventually we
did find it, and it
happened when we
laid down on the
towering snow banks
and they began to
melt as the heat
from our bodies
turned them into
pools of liquid light.
Photo by smilla4 Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
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.
Continue reading “The Reality I’m In”
I live in Minnesota. You may have gleaned that bit of information from other blog posts on this site by now, but in case you are new here, the land of ten thousand lakes is the place I currently call home. Right now it’s May. A glorious month in a state that has a long winter and a spring that usually gets either a slow start or a false one. That’s what we had this year: a false start of a spring. It was almost 90 degrees for one day in April, with lots of days in the 60s and 70s to boot. Things started growing fast, buds popped out and flowers started hinting at blooming. We rejoiced, threw open the windows, got the boats ready, tilled up the fields….and then it got cold. The starter’s gun fired a second shot. A chilly few weeks of rain punctuated with a few nights in the low 30s made us a little nervous. But we covered things up and life went on, despite the curveball that climate change likes to throw now and then. We toed the line again, and and now it’s 75 degrees, we are running strong and the forecast for the next ten days looks just about perfect. Continue reading “Why to Love May in Minnesota”
Spring has arrived here in Minnesota. Though the trees remain bare and the ground is still mostly brown, there is a fresh resonance outside — there’s an energy to the ground when you walk that wasn’t there just a few weeks ago. The frost has moved up and out, and the soil is regaining warmth. The moss on the shady hillsides is starting to come to life will new delicate light-green growth, and the silver maple trees are starting to bud. Things are waking up. Birdsong fills the air from dawn to dusk, I can hear the newest members of the beaver family barking to each other as they learn the lay of the lake, and the ice-free water sparkles with every breeze that ruffles its surface. I can sense the re-forging of winter dormant connections as the days progress and the sun regains power.
In my day job as a health coach, I talk to all sorts of people who work for large companies around the country. I talk to linemen who work in oil fields, coal miners, executives, sales people, secretaries, teachers, call center workers, managers, nurses, even the occasional big ag farmer or chemist….there are a lot of jobs and professions that are controlled by the corporate world today. And as I talk with this wide range of people, the theme that comes out is that there is not enough time for, well, anything and spending time outside in a natural setting is either a luxury for the weekend or something to be avoided unless it is sunny and 78 degrees. Even the farmers spend a fair of their time inside – or in the cab of a climate controlled piece of machinery. People are generally stressed out, have too much going on and spend most of their time working on their daily tasks indoors or commuting to the places where they need to be. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization and not every person who works for a corporation fits into this description. But overall, I have witnessed a huge disconnect in corporate culture between people and the natural environment.
The problems with this disconnect are many, but the one that I want to focus on today is that due to this “people as separate” approach to life and the ways that we literally disconnect our physical bodies from the bare earth, we are setting ourselves up for lowered immunity, increased inflammation in the body, and a less than desirable sense of wellbeing. Continue reading “Ground Yourself: Tap Into The Earth’s Intelligence”
Spring came early this year in Minnesota. Last week the overnight lows bottomed out at -11 and the world was still bright white after a fresh snowfall at the end of February and the ground rock solid, but this week the highs are singing themselves into the 60s, the world is brown once more, and the earth gives again under our weight. There are a few memories of white left deep in the forest and behind the biggest boulders in the ravine, but most traces of winter have melted away. The seasonal ravine stream has run and dried up, within the same week. The lake is still a swath of ice, and will be for awhile yet, but the geese have returned and the trumpeter swans that wintered here at the place where the river doesn’t freeze are calling out a welcome. Just like the fall that suddenly turned to winter with a foot of snow and plummeting temperatures, the season has now suddenly turned to spring under a powerful March sun and snow that was quick to acquiesce to its urgency.
I’ve been reading a lot about vulnerability, and the challenges we humans have when it comes to embracing such a state, in the last few weeks. It seems like good timing, as the season changes. The natural world doesn’t struggle with putting itself out there and being vulnerable. It just does it because there is no other option. A flower comes up in the spring and offers itself to the elements, whatever they turn out to be. A tree buds when warm enough temperatures invite it to do so, even if there’s a hard freeze looming — It doesn’t hesitate, or worry about what might happen, or hide behind a fear of what might come next. Presenting new life unfolding is the only choice. Even if it means getting frozen as a result.
Brene Brown writes,
There’s nothing more daring than showing up, putting ourselves out there and letting ourselves be seen.
Like the flower that buds just in time for a late spring snowfall, or the apple tree that gives up its autumn fruit for the chance to bud with the first warmth after winter, we can let our beauty be seen when we step out into the sun. We might fall, we might get covered up by snow, we might freeze to the ground and have to ask for help. We will surely be uncomfortable, and we will probably be afraid of what might come next. But we will be courageous and we will be living in the only place that allows us to be fully alive.
So spring may have come early to Minnesota, and we wonder what that will mean for the upcoming growing season and the world in general as the climate continues to shift. But we can use the vulnerabilities of nature to hold onto the remembrance of what it means to dare to live without apologies and full of self worth and gratitude for the chance to be seen.
Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions. –B.K.S. Iyengar
A regular yoga practice can provide a wealth of mental, physical and spiritual benefits. From greater strength and flexibility to lowered blood pressure to increased mental focus, many opportunities exist for enhancing health within yoga’s positive, non-forceful approach.
I started practicing yoga in 2006 after an emergency appendectomy. Post surgery, I had to sleep on the couch upstairs in our tiny lakeside cottage because going up the spiral staircase from the bedroom below was too hard. I ate tiny bits of soup, cleaned the surgical wound regularly, read a lot of books and lamented the fact that my usual modes of exercise just weren’t possible. Turns out they don’t recommend trail running and cross-country skiing after a semi-major surgery, albeit a pretty routine one. I was supposed to lay pretty low, and that wasn’t what I was used to. I like to move.
Not knowing what else to do, I remembered an old yoga DVD that somebody gave me for Christmas a few years back. I popped it into the player and moved through the motions in my dark little spare room awkwardly – in hindsight, yoga probably wasn’t an awesome choice for helping an abdominal wound to heal, but hey, it healed so I guess that’s water under the bridge at this point. I missed getting my heart rate up, to be sure. But I kept popping the DVD into the player and I kept spending those 32 minutes in my dark little spare room bending and breathing with intention until I was feeling up to running again. Something about the flow of breath tied to movement, however gentle, kept my “can’t function w/out my daily workout” itch from making me miserable. Continue reading “A Yoga Story”
Notice the light in the foggy morning haze that whispers common secrets into the breaking dawn.
Notice the light in steps taken over roots and around pebbles, over logs and through icy rain.
Notice the light in the leaves of seasons now past as they surrender into a path for whomever needs one.
Notice the light in ancient boulders that sit, watching, with emerald moss and sea green lichens as their constant companions.
Notice the light in rushing torrents of spring that churn and thunder down ravines that ache to come fully into life.
Notice the light in melancholy, in the moods that we don’t want and in the space that is held for such contrast.
Notice the light that persists through impermanence.
We see value in the eight week old chickens that spend their days poking around in the sparse woods, climbing logs and honing their scratching skills in the spring soil as their caretakers commit themselves to making a new way of life. We see value in the neighbor’s greeting as he gathers the last buckets of a maple’s sweet life blood at the close of this year’s sap run, and in the children who offer their enthusiasm to the project. We see value in new trees being planted, in spring snow giving way to spring sun, and in the hints of green that cast a hue of promise over the fields. We see value in the wood duck perched high in the basswood tree, in the gentle flap of a sand hill crane’s wings overhead, and in the beaver, the keeper of the lake. We see value in life unfolding organically all around us.
Turns out the value that is needed to sustain abundant life isn’t found in a bank, a trust fund, or a gold bar. Value isn’t in the numbers of a dollar amount next to the numbers of checking account when you look at an online banking profile. Value doesn’t come from putting in overtime for a company that works for profit of a few.
Real value can be found in the sacred of life, in the people and creatures that call the earth home, and in the energy that flows between everything in the universe.
There is a Native American saying which goes something like this: “Only when the last tree has withered, the last fish has been caught, and the last river has been poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.” No one wants this to be the end of our story: Not the linemen who work for oil companies. Not the suburbanites who drive army vehicles to get their groceries at the nearest Walmart. Not the farmer who sprays his GMO crops with Roundup. Not the commuter who travels two hours every day to get to a high paying trading job on Wall Street.
We need to remember where our value lies, and use it. We need to remember that the reason we are alive and in communion with this place, this earth, is to experience the abundance that is possible when we make a point to notice it. We need to judge less and love more. We need to cling to the outcome we want less and accept more. We need to turn a blind eye to the cry of the earth less and listen more. We need to see value where the value is.
Goodness is the only investment that never fails. -Thoreau