In addition to preparing for and leading my lakeside retreat, tending to and harvesting the garden, and starting my training for the Frosty Moss, (an 80-mile running relay on one of our local trails) Justin and I got a new puppy at the end of August. He’s a little black cutie patootie mixed breed. (Well, he started out little anyway. Now he’s nearly 40 lbs and only 4 months old!) His mom is part Irish setter, Husky, Malamute, and German and Australian Shepherd, and his dad is a fence jumping yellow lab. We named him McNally after the family homestead name, and call him Mick, or Micky.
Because we lead such adventure filled lives, our goal has been to introduce him to tons of experiences so that he learns to take everything in stride. He and Blue have become fast friends (although Blue prefers to have quieter less-active mornings, like me.)
For those that don’t know, our big beloved old dog Hank passed away on Father’s Day, and left a big hole in our hearts. In late August, Justin decided he was ready for a new puppy. Almost immediately after we clarified our intentions we found Mick and fell in love.
(A version of this post was originally published in the July 2018 version of Healthy Families, produced by Peninsula Daily News.)
By now, summer is winding down. Most likely, whether you are aware of it or not, your family rituals are too. Historically for me, summer rituals revolved around time on the water. I had the privilege of growing up on Lake Crescent. We played in and on the water nearly every day of summer vacation, tirelessly jumping off the dock, challenging our balance by standing and floating on our old black inner tubes, swimming, and making up various imaginative water games. As a teen ager, I mixed these in with voraciously reading our entire library and writing snail mail letters to my pen pals while sun bathing on our floating dock. As an adult, these moments are mixed in with the responsibilities of work, and caring for my garden.
What are your summer rituals?
Whether or not we’re aware of our rituals, we all have them. But much of the time we throw ourselves into the busy activities of summer, one day following another until we’re surprised that it’s suddenly time for back to school shopping and summer is almost over. We procrastinate on the tasks of summer we don’t enjoy, try to cram a few more fun summer activities in to the days remaining and wind up feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks we put off.
This summer I invite you to consider a more contemplative approach to your remaining summer days.
Part I: Identify and Savor
Stop right now, go outside, and look around you at the natural bounty of the summer season. What sights and sounds signal to you that it’s still summer rather than another season of the year? If you grew up in a different part of the country, what summer experiences from your childhood do you miss or are happy to have left behind? What are your favorite sensory experiences of summer? Take the time to name your favorite ways to experience the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and felt sensations of summer. To make this a family activity, coax your family to share their favorites over a meal.
Once you’ve taken time to identify your favorite sensory experiences of summer, I invite you to savor those moments, and allow them to stretch your imagination and your sense of time. Instead of rushing to clear the table or wash the dishes or check your phone after a meal, linger over your dinner conversations like the light continues to linger in the sky.
Part II: Free Your Mental Energy
Now think of a task that is part of your summer ritual of procrastination. If you were to complete this task, would it give you more peace of mind and free you up to enjoy the moments left? What larger purpose / goal is this task a part of? How might you tackle this task in a way that plays to your strengths and values, clears your mind from the nagging guilt of procrastination, and accomplishes the larger goal this task represents?
For example: one of the things I love about spring is planting a garden. I love watching the sprouts shoot up like magic. However, the task of summer weeding seems like it never ends, and as a result in the past I’ve often neglected my garden, choosing to ignore it rather than tend it, trying to cram more fun water activities into my summer at the expense of my garden, even though one of my favorite sensory experiences of summer is the taste of fresh vegetables and the sights and sounds of wildlife in my yard.
This year, after intentionally developing my spiritual apprenticeship to nature, instead of avoiding this chore, I tapped into my natural strengths of curiosity and wonder, set the goal of creating a wildlife friendly organic garden, and broke the weeding down into bite-sized chunks. That is, rather than looking at the overwhelming task of weeding my entire garden every day, I focus on a couple square feet, mindfully noticing more about that small area. How is the soil? What insects did I uncover? Are they beneficial? What can I do to keep them happy? If they’re pests, how can I get rid of them organically?
Practicing this mindful tending of my garden, and looking for ways I can cultivate my strengths and values has given me a deeper appreciation for the abundance of wildlife my garden attracts,
and expanded my knowledge of organic gardening. Now, when I look at my garden, instead of seeing it as a pile of work that still needs to be done, I take pride in the variety of butterflies flitting from flower to flower, the garter snakes helping me save my plants from slugs, the brightly colored flowers waving in the breeze, and the delicious summer vegetable crop interspersed amongst the flowers and herbs.
Part III: Reflection
When you appreciate and savor the aspects of summer you love, and tackle the tasks that keep you from fully enjoying the moment, you are invited into a more mindful way of experiencing the ordinary, and more opportunities for grace.
What are some of your tips and techniques for capturing the moments? What summer tasks do you usually procrastinate on? How can you tap into your own strengths and values to get those tasks done?
For those who didn’t hear before, 2017 was an unusual year. My dad passed away very unexpectedly on January 6th, 2017. My partner’s dad died –also a bit unexpectedly, although he had been sick– a few weeks prior to that, and my favorite cousin’s mom (my aunt) passed away a few weeks before that. After my dad’s funeral service, as a bit of a break from our ordinary lives, and to help my cousin remodel her mom’s home to use as a rental, Justin and I spent the better part of three months in California in early 2017. A few months after we returned, we held the service for his dad, and just a few weeks after that his grandmother passed away.
In late summer, just as we were settling back in to our routine, we found out –a bit dramatically, but that’s a story for another time– that we had to move out of the home we’d been living in for five years. We weighed our options, and decided to move into what had been his grandmother’s home, this log cabin (see photo below) originally built in 1893.
Bottom line, 2017 was very transitional and hard to predict … very much like a walk-about pilgrimage. (A walk-about pilgrimage is a journey we go on simply by virtue of the –often sudden– unpredictability of our lives.)
At the beginning of 2018, my internal GPS (what I call my Wise Self) kept telling me to slow down, breathe deep, take a nap, relax, listen, connect to my self, my place, my new home … and allow myself the luxury to take a break from the need to chase down clients, or plan workshops & retreats. My underlying counter-voice kept saying, “you already took a year off! If you don’t get out there and DO stuff (market) you won’t get clients. And if you don’t get clients you won’t get paid!”
I chose to listen to my Wise Self. Although sometimes –I’ll admit– I wasn’t sure it was her, and I did host a workshop and attend a couple of local marketing events.
Finally, towards the end of April, when I pulled a card from my Oracle deck that once again said, “Take a Nap” when I asked about marketing my business, I decided to call my year a sabbatical.
A sabbatical is most common in academic vocations, but the concept of sabbatical originated in farming. It means to allow the land to remain fallow, to let it go wild for a year.
My Wild Year so far …
In the process of “going wild”, I’ve been rooting into my self and my place and without even knowing it at the time, working on the practices of belonging, and awakening to the ancient Earth consciousness inside me.
The first task of moving in was to clear a space for us. We had to be completely out of our old place by Thanksgiving, and before we could move in here there were a few things that had to be done. We painted the press board ceilings white, gave away or sold the furnishings we weren’t going to use, built some beautiful rustic book cases, and sorted through, cleared, or stored decades of Grandma Beverly’s personal belongings. My partner kept saying, “get rid of everything” and my sister-in-law kept saying, “don’t get rid of anything without talking to me first.” Somehow we managed to make room for ourselves and keep the peace.
Come spring, my # 1 priority has been to cultivate my garden spaces. Justin’s grandma loved to garden, so the base of the garden was already in place. But it was overgrown with grass and weeds because her health (at 93) kept her from doing as much as she used to do. I mulched it heavily last winter with cardboard and leaves from our Norwegian Maple, but that wasn’t enough to kill all the grass.
I hate to weed, so I decided that I would tap into my strengths rather than my weaknesses this year. Rather than feeling the pressure to reclaim the entire garden, I decided that I would work on it a section at a time. My overall plan for the garden is to make it a wildlife sanctuary and Kristin-variety cottage garden … lots of indigenous wild flowers mixed in with roses, my favorite vegetables, herbs and Grandma Beverly’s perennials, plus a few of my own favorites.
One of my strengths is a love of learning, so to tap into that love, I decided to learn which plants have a symbiotic relationship with one another (like tomatoes, basil, carrots, & garlic for example.) I decided to learn the names of the bugs I discover in the soil and understand which ones are beneficial and which aren’t. And I decided to learn how to garden completely organically, with my own compost, beneficial nematodes, and by attracting wild life “critters” that help keep the bad bugs away.[Did you know that snakes, lizards and beetles eat slugs?!]
In the midst of all that yard work, June, and my Greece retreat snuck up on me. I signed up for the Greece Goddess Pilgrimage retreat in November, right in the middle of our move. The description said, “come journey with us to the Greek Island of Tinos, for an empowering and creative nine-day sacred Yoga and Art retreat.” I said, “I’m in.”
I communed with the land, the Aegean Sea, and Greek goddesses, did lots of art and a little bit of yoga, and made connections with like-hearted women from all over the US, Greece, the UK and Australia.
My intention for the trip was to make an even deeper connection with myself and my work … while also connecting more deeply with Mother Earth and her infinite wisdom. While there, I read the book Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, by Toko-Pa Turner, a Canadian writer, teacher and dreamworker, who lives on a small island in the Salish Sea. (My neighbor!!) From her I integrated the knowledge that belonging is a practice … and one that I was already intuitively immersed in!
My take-aways from this pilgrimage journey / art retreat / goddess retreat were:
I am an artist. Or rather, an artist and creative activist. I knew this before, of course, but the process of indulging in art for fourteen days helped me feel it.
I am also a writer. And part of my calling as a creative activist is to write. This is not new knowledge either, but as of now I am officially writing my first book, tentatively called “A Field Guide to Practical Magic: 21 Days to Connect with Your Wise Self” …. or something like that!
I’m being called to call women back to their wild roots, to apprentice themselves to Nature and their own shadow, and to reconnect to and express beauty and their own Wild and Wise Soul.
Going forward, my work will more deeply reflect these three things. (To learn more about my work, you can follow my page on Facebook or visit my website.)
The Dream Hatchery’s Inaugural Backpacking Pilgrimage was deemed two thumbs up by all . Here we are at the top of Marmot Pass, (elevation 6000′) on day three of the adventure. (Stay tuned, more to come.)