Happy 50th Earth Day! Tired of your own home / backyard?
I put together a 5-Day [virtual] Adventure to celebrate our beautiful Mother Earth.
I chose five live cams covering five continents, and added a TED Talk that will take you to both the Arctic and Antarctic. Then, if you choose to go deeper, I added a series of questions and practices that allow you to connect your inner landscape with the outer landscape of the Earth.
In her beautiful book, Reclaiming the Wild Soul, Mary Reynolds Thompson writes, “give yourself fully to this journey, and the landscapes will likewise work on you.”
If you choose to engage in this journey, simply complete this form. In five minutes your first journey will appear in your inbox.
It’s so easy to “feed the bad wolf” during this pandemic. There is so much fear and anxiety and resentment in the world right now. This course will help you honor and acknowledge the emotions you’re experiencing as part of the human condition. But it will also help you feed your good wolf, by teaching you simple tools that allow you to access more peace, joy, love, hope, empathy, and compassion even in the midst of chaos.
I have been guiding clients in these tools for nearly a decade, and I’d be honored if you’d allow me to guide you through this time.
I believe I was put here on earth to hold space for the part of you that yearns to unite your desire to belong with your ache to be authentically you, and to help you define, own, express and be appreciated for the gifts you bring to the world.
The world needs your strength and your gifts NOW more than ever.
Yet it’s hard to hold it together when you’re anxious and scared of what’s coming next in this unpredictable world we’ve all been tossed into.
I have some big and scary news to share. (Scary in part because I get too hung up on what other people might think of me WAY too often, but also because it’s going to force me to stretch outside my comfort zone in a big big way.)
Are you ready for this? Drum roll please.
I am now an ordained minister!! 😲 (Astonished face emoji, in case that didn’t come through as that on your screen.)
This is not a decision I stepped into lightly.
For those of you who do not yet know me well, I consider myself to be a spiritual seeker. If I had to pinpoint when this began for me, I’d say that it was the Easter after I turned 12. My mom gave me a book called Mister God This is Anna, by Fynn. I don’t think her intention was to turn me into a spiritual seeker, as she is what I call “very Catholic,” and has spent many hours of prayer over the years in an attempt to coax me back inside the umbrella of Catholicism.
But I fell in love with Anna and her musings at the age of 12, and quite honestly, I can say that her philosophy shaped mine at least as much if not more than any other books on philosophy and religion that I’ve ever read. (And I’ve read a LOT!) (For a synopsis of the book, see the insert below.)
The book, Mister God this is Anna, describes the adventures of Anna, a mischievous yet wise four-year-old whom Fynn finds as a runaway. Sixteen-year-old Fynn takes Anna home to his mother who takes her in, though Fynn becomes Anna’s main caretaker and closest friend. Fynn recounts his time spent with Anna, and gives a very personal account of her outpourings on life, mathematics, science and her mentor, Mister God. At five years Anna knew absolutely the purpose of being, knew the meaning of love and was a personal friend and helper of Mister God. At six Anna was a theologian, mathematician, philosopher, poet and gardener. If you asked her a question you would always get an answer – in due course. On some occasions the answer would be delayed for weeks or months; but eventually, in her own good time, the answer would come: direct, simple and much to the point. *
*Quote from Wikipedia
I was going to add that unfortunately the book is out of print, because I tried finding it to give it to a friend years ago. But … I just did research and found out that it was re-released in the year 2000, –guess it was over 20 years ago that I last looked– so it’s possible to order a copy. AND there are sequels! Which I just ordered.
What I loved most … no, I can’t really say that because I loved everything. Let me try again … one belief that Anna and I share is that Mister God doesn’t care about religion. Mister God cares about relationship. And that’s what drew me to the Universal Life Church, specifically. It welcomes people of all cultures, creeds, and belief systems.
This Fall wasn’t the first time I considered ministry as a career. My spirituality has continued to deepen and spread into my work for the past several years. In fact, I considered applying for a ministry position at a local unity church when they were hiring a few years ago, but didn’t feel “qualified” because my beliefs don’t generally align with a traditional church.
However, this summer I read an article in Spirituality & Health magazine, called Is it Your Time to Add to the Wild Church Network? The author starts the article by saying, “I am one of those people, who, for most of 50 years, had said, “I don’t go to church; my church is the woods, the mountains, the rivers.” [Um. Yes. Me too!]
But then one day, he was out walking on his wild property and was called to create a church for people like him … “people who encounter God in the woods yet also long for human community with its ancient ritual and wisdom.”
I read further.
What Makes a Church a Wild Church?
Nature as Co-Congregant
What Makes a Wild Church a Church?
Meets in community.
Has a grounding Liturgy. But not the kind that recruits members into a dogma, but rather to invite people into a deeper relationship with an untamed God, the land, and creatures that share their home, and into a deeper relationship with their own wild, untamed soul.
Hmmm. I said. I wonder if we have one of those here? But I checked, and we don’t. Inviting people into a deeper relationship with an untamed God, the land, the creatures, and their own wild untamed soul is what I do anyway on my pilgrimages, my forest bathing expeditions, and in my 1:1 coaching.
And even though I am terrified at the thought of being labeled “a minister,” I am beyond excited at the thought of bringing people outside to “church” with nature.
I decided to start small, with one church session / month beginning in February. Service locations may vary, but I want to start at the Mouth of the Elwha, which is a newly wild river.
Sign up to get notifications and updates. And stay tuned for more from me on what it means to me to be the minister of a Wild Church.
And you -what of your rushed and / useful life? Imagine setting it all down -papers, plans, appointments, everything, / leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields / to be lovely. Be back when I’m through / with blooming.”
Poet, Lynn Ungar, from “Camas Lilies”
February was an unseasonably cold and snowy month for those of us on the Olympic Peninsula. The snow started falling Sunday the 3rd of February, and we can still see patches of unmelted snow in the field behind the house.
The dogs and I enjoyed trompsing in it, but I’m grateful that my lifestyle allows me to limit my time on the roads .
Now that the Equinox and the frogs in our pond have loudly proclaimed it to be spring, I invite you to imagine setting down everything in your life, and writing the note described above. Do you even know what you would do if you could “go to the fields to be lovely”? And be back when you’re “done blooming?”
If you’re like most people, you’re too caught up in your “rushed and useful” life to imagine that it might be different. Until, that is, you’re forced to … through a threshold not of your choosing.
A colleague and I used to walk the waterfront trails in Seattle, to help us think more creatively as we brainstormed a workshop on living a vital life.
One day we got onto the topic of societal expectations: how so many of us simply set out into the world following the blueprint society created for us –go to school, get a job, get married, have children, buy a house, acquire things, raise children, retire –without thinking about whether those choices are suitable for our unique spirit.
In following this pre-subscribed routine, many of us end up with health problems, or become increasingly restless or burned out. If we’re not working in a job that utilizes our best skills, and the lifestyle best suited to us, we muddle along feeling frustrated. Over time this disconnection from our “best-ish” self –the one connected to our highest potential– can contribute to anxiety, depression and lowered self-esteem.
When either of these scenarios play out, instead of looking inside to our own inner intelligence for solutions, we tend to look outside for prescriptions or escape. We choose things like prescription drugs, substance abuse, or excessive entertainment which keep us stuck in the scenario of escaping, and watching / consuming other people’s lives rather than figuring out how to better live our own.
There is nothing wrong with any of these choices as a temporary fix. But practices become habits when we do them over and over. Habits can be beneficial: the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day, for example, leads to good oral hygiene and prevents tartar build up, cavities, and bad breath.
Plenty of your habits may have served a purpose at one time in your life, but if you continue to follow these habits without listening to your inner voice –your spirit, or Wild and Wise Heart– eventually you lose the ability to connect with this part of you that is deeply connected to your own well-being.
So, what can you do instead?
Step One: Quiet Your Mind
You can google benefits of meditation and find hundreds of articles on how a meditation practice will benefit you, and plenty more that will teach you how. But I know that those of you who do not already have a meditation practice are skeptical. The good news is that if sitting quietly cross-legged on the floor repeating simple mantras to yourself doesn’t sound natural to you, there are other ways to quiet your mind.
A few are active choices –yoga, xi gong, trail running, hiking, fly fishing, knitting, collage, coloring, gardening– to list just a few. Quieting your mind, or mindfulness, is simply the ability to pay attention, on purpose, nonjudgmentally, to the present moment.
Honestly, this can be done anywhere and anytime, especially doing the things you already love to do. You simply need to be taught how, and then make it a practice, until it becomes a habit.
In my opinion, the easiest, most powerful way to quiet your mind is to leave it.
To do this, simply drop your awareness down to your heart. You can place your hand over your heart to add a physical component to this practice, but it isn’t necessary. When you drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe, just slightly more deeply than usual, imagine that your breath is flowing in and out of this heart area. This practice essentially creates a “time-out” for your mind, which enables you to let thoughts go.
Then ground yourself to the earth, by imagining that your awareness is dropping down into your hips, then down your legs to your feet, and connecting you to the earth with invisible roots, intertwining you with loved ones, like trees.*
Then bring your awareness back to your heart, and continue to breathe, imagining your breath is flowing in and out through your heart area for 30 seconds, more if you have the time.
I call this tool my inner sanctuary tool … everything else begins to drop away, and it’s just me and my heart, and the Earth. This tool helps to clear all the static, stories, and amplified emotions your mind creates on a regular basis and begins to reconnect you to what I call your Wild and Wise Heart.
As with all habits, this becomes easier over time. I tell my clients to practice this tool 20 – 25 x per day … but in the beginning, for only five – ten seconds at a time. Essentially, what you are doing is creating a new very simple habit, which will then serve you when you need it the most. You can use this tool in-the-moment and on-the-fly. Or you can combine it with any of the active mindfulness activities I suggested above.
Step Two: Reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart
There are numerous ways to reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart. Kicking off the Inner Sanctuary practice will help you jump start this relationship.
However, once you start to feel this reconnection, you will want to kick it up a notch. For this, you’ll need to set aside some time for yourself. Trust me, even though this might be hard at first, it will be well worth it.
Get out a journal or a piece of paper and begin by writing down five things you love to do.
Next, write down three to five things that get in your way of doing these things on a regular basis.
Now, do a time inventory. Think back over the past five days. Did you fall into any of your old “time quick-sand” habits, where you got lost in an activity that didn’t bring you as much value as the time you spent on it? (If so, don’t beat yourself up for this. Just bring awareness to it, write it down, and then drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe until you can feel yourself in your inner sanctuary again.)
Next, do a mindset inventory. Did you fall into any mindset obstacles? (These are things like: I need to set aside hours to do this, I need more money to do this, I can’t do this because ….) Again, the goal here is simply to bring awareness to these thought habits, and then go back to your inner sanctuary.
Release your attachment to all the obstacles. To do this, simply ask these questions, “I wonder where I could find 10 – 15 minutes in my day to do one of these things I love?” And “I wonder if there is some approach that belies these beliefs that I might be able to try today?” Write down your answers. (Try this: write your questions with your dominant hand, then switch to the other hand and write the answers. This is a trick to further interrupt your neuro-typical habits.)
Then act. Follow through –for a minimum of ten minutes– on one of the suggestions you gave yourself.
I’d love to hear how this challenge goes for you. After you try it, please drop me a note in the comments below.
My phone rang at 10:38 pm, Tuesday, January 8th. Ordinarily, I’m in bed by then, but my partner and I were enjoying our hot tub. It was a crisp, cold, starry night. I glanced at the phone. It was my sister-in-law Denise. I picked up.
“Where’s Justin?” she asked, and I could tell by her voice that something was the matter. I put her on speaker and walked outside with the phone, holding it near the hot tub. “What’s up Denise?” Justin said. Words spilled out of her … Josh, and the bar, and the Coast Guard …
She tried again. “Josh called me to come down to watch the boat come in tonight. The captain was being stupid, and he said he was scared. He put on his life jacket. The Coast Guard was there to escort them over the bar, and I watched them make it through, but now there’s all these lights and the helicopter!” She was frantic, and despite my own concern, my training kicked in.
“Denise, it’s going to be fine.” I walked back in the house, away from Justin, who was saying words to the effect that Josh could already be dead. It scared me to hear him say that, but he habitually jumps to the worst possible conclusion, in order to prepare for contingencies, and I didn’t think that’s what Denise needed to hear right then. Instead I said, “He’s wearing his life jacket. It’s Josh. He’s going to be okay. Think how big and strong he is.” I continued my attempts to be comforting, adding, “he’s going to come home to you tonight and have such a story to tell you and he’s going to be so pissed at that captain!!” We both laughed a little, knowing how Josh is, and how he would be angry, and how he would tell her that story. And then be done with it (although never take a job with that captain again.) He had forgiven tattooed on his knuckles, and he did his best to live like everyone else was worthy of forgiveness, too.
I wanted to believe my own words as much as Denise did. And I always hold onto hope until I can’t anymore. But Justin knew first hand how dangerous the Newport Bar can be in a storm, and he was more realistic. He toweled off, put on his clothes and came inside.
The Yaquina Bay Bar in Newport, Oregon is the area where the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean meet with the shallower waters near the mouth of the Yaquina river.
According to the Oregon State Marine Board safety publication, “most accidents and deaths that occur on coastal bars are from capsizing. Improper loading and/or overloading are major causes of capsizing. Improper/overloaded boats have less stability and less freeboard, which can allow seas to break into the vessel, causing the boat to become even less stable. Boats are more likely to capsize when crossing the bar from the ocean because the seas are on the stern and the boater may have less control over the vessel. Boaters must make sure the bar is safe prior to crossing.”
I stayed on the phone with Denise that night off and on for over an hour as she drove back and forth across the bridge, desperately trying to find out more information. I was worried for her safety too, all alone with that news, and driving … but the last time she called me she found some friends and was going to go try to talk to the cops to see if she could get more information from them.
Meanwhile, we were continually checking the Newport breaking news. And I prayed, & talked to Josh in my head urging him to hold on, & even called upon Poseidon & his wife Amphritite (one of the goddesses from last summer’s Greece retreat) to help him get to shore.
We learned at one point that a person had been found and taken to the hospital. “See, that’s got to be Josh,” I said to Justin. “And he’s going to be okay! The coast guard was right there!” But it wasn’t Josh. And the person wasn’t okay.
After a while, we saw that another person had been found, and again we had hope.
Justin called the Coast Guard twice, telling them he was Josh Porter’s next of kin, but they couldn’t –or wouldn’t—give out any information because they were in the middle of the rescue.
Then finally, around midnight, we got word that Josh’s body had been found. That he didn’t make it. Writing these sentences still makes me cry.
According to the Coast Guard report, the boat hit the tip of the North Jetty and a 20’ wave capsized it. Two of the crew were washed overboard, and the captain was still on the boat, even though it was upside down. Josh’s body was found on Nye Beach, which is about 3 miles north of the north jetty.
My heart still breaks.
Josh was an experienced, hard-working and sought-after fisherman, who fished various fisheries (salmon, crab, tuna, halibut, squid) from the Bering Sea to Southern California. He started fishing with his mom and dad when he was quite young. In later life, he was often hired to be captain, but if a captain’s position wasn’t available, he was always willing to work as crew. He was only filling in on the Mary B II for one trip before his next official crew job began. Josh’s boat, the Fearless II, was harbored in Crescent City. It wasn’t licensed for crab.
Vincent Van Gogh said, “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
It’s impossible to explain the life of a commercial fisherman to one who has never been out there. It is hard work. Dangerous. And yet the fishermen and women I’ve known also have an amazing eye for beauty, have an adventurous spirit, and an unconventional lifestyle that modern hipsters can only dream about. And many are as erudite as a college professor.
As for Josh, he was larger than life. I looked up that phrase to make sure it was an accurate description. The internet says someone who is larger-than-life has a very strong or lively personality that impresses people very much. For sure, that was Josh in all phases of his life.
I first met Josh in grade school. He was a couple years behind me, but we were in band together. One memory that stands out is a moment after band, when we bumped into one another in the doorway. He was reaching for the Silmarillion, (the book J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that goes into more depth about the land and the people that the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were based upon.) I grew up in an area where most of the guys didn’t read much at all, and definitely not for pleasure, so to find him reading the story behind the story that was one of my favorite series was remarkable. He read and collected volumes upon volumes of books, stored in his gear shed, in his home, and on his boats. One of his dreams upon retiring was to open a used book store.
Josh was also a great musician …. Our high school band went caroling one Christmas. We lived in a very rural location, so rather than walking around city blocks, this meant we piled into pickups and cars and vans and drove to people’s houses. I ended up in the back of a truck with Josh and some others. Josh started playing Stairway to Heaven on the guitar; to me he sounded as good as Led Zeppelin.
Flash forward to present time. Josh loved to play the guitar, which is another instrument you often find on commercial fishing boats.
Josh and Denise lived on the family property with us for a few months last spring between fishing seasons, harvesting trees for a little extra money. Most mornings, Josh came in to use the bathroom and then sat down on the couch, picked up the guitar and played a few tunes before starting his day.
Family outings with the Porters always included music, whether we were outdoors camping, or inside in the living room.
Two Christmases ago, right after Justin’s dad died, Justin and I hosted a joint family gathering on Christmas Eve, and requested that everyone bring their instruments. It was a magical moment to look around and see our two families united through music.
Josh had a great laugh: full throated, head back, eyes closed. He loved silliness and puns and plays on words. One time when we all went down to Newport to spend a few days together as a family, Josh was in the middle of a challenge to make up hundreds of puns about Oreos. One example: What do they call a Tuna that eats Oreos? Albacoreo. I know, right? Imagine hundreds of puns about Oreos, all in one day.
In the Fall of 2016, Josh and I flew together to visit Justin in Alaska. Josh was looking to buy a boat, and Justin found a 49’ wooden sailboat / fishing vessel in Petersburg. My family gifted me with an Alaskan trip to visit Justin for my 50th birthday, and it happened to coincide with Josh’s visit to look the boat over before buying it. While we were in the airport waiting for a taxi to take us down to the harbor and Justin’s boat, Josh saw a little kid wearing a bright yellow Pokémon outfit.
“I want one of those!” he said. We laughed, and someone asked him where he would wear it. “In the captain’s chair,” he said, without missing a beat. It wasn’t a stretch to picture him sitting in that chair wearing the Pokémon outfit.
In the days after his death, I cyber stalked his page, reading all the hundreds of comments from people who knew him. A few examples stood out to me because they seem to capture so many pieces of him at once: generous, kind, open-hearted, unconventional, loving ….
The first was from a woman named Olivia. She said, “I hadn’t spoken to Josh Porter since the week we met, but I want to share my memory of him. I was hitchhiking in March of 2011 and was severely ill with bronchitis, or possibly pneumonia from being outside in the Washington rainy and freezing nights. Someone named Sarah and her dog were with me. It was dark out, no idea what time, near Newport, Oregon in the rain on a small road. Josh drove by and picked us up when no one else would. He brought us to his houseboat on the dock: pink and called The Grumpy Dragon and insisted that we stay the night. He introduced us to his wife, Denise. They stayed on a separate boat on the dock. The two of them showed me so much kindness, insisting we stay for several days to recover and renting us movies. Denise gave me these little gold colored metal butterfly wings that I still have. I’ve stayed Facebook friends with Josh for almost eight years and have always thought well of him, and I was really sad to hear about his loss. Rest in peace <3.”
After the memorial service, another friend, a college professor, wrote this:
“SAYING GOOD-BYE, JOSH PORTER
How did a former drug addict and hardworking fisherman with little [formal] education get 4,369 Facebook friends? Why did over 200 people come to an unpretentious church in a steel-clad warehouse to celebrate his life? Why did the Siletz Tribe send their best singers and drummers to honor this white man?
Because everyone there knew of the lives he had changed forever among fishermen, criminals, drug addicts, and many more. Because he had never been known to boast of any special ability, no less of saving lives. Yet when the program turned to Stories and Memories the first two volunteer speakers were a boy from middle school to say how Josh always made him feel good, and a young man with Down’s syndrome who said how his giant friend always made him feel warm. Then followed many men and women who said, “He saved my life.” They meant it in the most literal sense.
After the service everyone stacked and cleared the chairs, rolled out tables and sat down for a sumptuous supper. I ate with a woman and her 15-year-old daughter and with a 40ish couple. All three adults told me how important Josh had been in saving them and their families from addiction. The man who had spent half his life in prison for burglary, robbery and car theft to get drug money is now a licensed contractor and just bought a house for his family. The mother of the teenage girl is about to get her diploma in social work.
No newspaper wrote about Josh except three weeks ago when they ran the story that a 20 ft wave had overturned the FV Mary B II as it tried to cross the bar coming home with a load of crab at night and one of the dead was a crewman named Josh Porter. Several newspapers and TV stations ran stories three more lives lost at sea. I saw no news media at today’s service. Perhaps they don’t think they might find stories in an evangelical church in a warehouse. They missed story after story about a quiet hero.
Has America ever been more in need of such heroes?
In the lines below, the “Master” whose hand plays the violin and touches lives is probably God, but today the hand that men and women and children in South Beach Church felt in their lives was Josh Porter’s.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
—Myra “Brooks” Welch ’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer Thought it scarcely worth his while To waste much time on the old violin, But held it up with a smile: “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried, “Who’ll start the bidding for me?” “A dollar, a dollar”; then, “Two!” “Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three? Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice; Going for three—” But no, From the room, far back, a gray-haired man Came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, And tightening the loose strings, He played a melody pure and sweet As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer, With a voice that was quiet and low, Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow. “A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, And going, and gone,” said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not quite understand What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply: “The touch of a master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune, And battered and scarred with sin, Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, Much like the old violin. A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine; A game—and he travels on. He is “going” once, and “going” twice, He’s “going” and almost “gone.” But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd Never can quite understand The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought By the touch of the Master’s hand.”
And finally, the last post I’ll share was from another guy who met Josh only briefly. He said, “Josh Porter … We met thru the Facebook Page Commercial Salmon Albacore and Crab … We came to know each other … I will never forget the day we met for coffee in Newport down on the Bay Front. A day that changed my life forever …. You inspired me from the day we met not only as a Fisherman but a Winner in the World of Recovery …. You are and always will be a True Miracle … the name of your fishing vessel so much described your outlook on Life “Fearless.” May you Rest in Peace my Friend ….”
And then he quoted this poem:
Not, How Did He Die, But How Did He Live?
Not how did he die, but how did he live? Not what did he gain, but what did he give? These are the units to measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of birth. Not, what was his church, nor what was his creed? But had he befriended those really in need? Was he ever ready, with word of good cheer To bring back a smile, to banish a tear? Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say, But how many were sorry when he passed away.
There are other stories I could share: of Josh’s wide open heart, his generosity, his sense of humor, adventurous spirit, wit & intelligence, friendliness, love for his family, as well as the battles he fought with nightmares and depression. I am so incredibly sorry these stories and this life came to an end so soon.
Rest in peace Joshua James Kahlil Porter. You are so missed. ❤
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.)