An Invitation from the Wild

“In the country it seems as if every tree said to me ‘Holy! Holy!’ Who can ever express the ecstasy of the woods!”

-Ludwig van Beethoven, Beethoven Library of Piano Works: Bagatelles, Sonatinas, Piano Pieces, and Variations.

Hiking trail along the Gunpowder River, May 2023

Hiking along the Gunpowder River, May 2023

I was wild until I was age 30. I don’t mean wild as in untamed, unruly, unrestrained. I mean the wild that comes from being in and of the natural world.

I use to spend a crazy amount of time on the water. Whether in boats, canoes, kayaks, or rafts, the act of being on water with no one else around relaxed me and made me feel connected to something larger than myself. I remember the first time I went white water rafting on Class III-IV rapids on the Youghiogheny River when I was 15. I was hooked. The names and identifiers along the river were enough to light up my imagination. Rapids called Double Hydraulics and Eddy Turn. Wall rocks. Snaggletooth rocks. What I wasn’t expecting was just how much I would learn from my relationship with nature and the river during these journeys.

Each rapid and each still water was its own learning experience. There were moments when I would hear a rapid before I would see it. My heart beat a little bit faster. The air felt different. And, there was a stillness even with the approaching rumble. I learned firsthand how rapids change depending on weather. During a rain storm the rapid is stronger and more dangerous than on a warm, clear, sunny day. When paddling in the rain everything was as gorgeous as on a sunny day. These variations struck me as significant. I was seeing different sides of nature, different personalities, different moods. I realized that I was seeing the river environment in moods that most people do not see, and I was honored to be doing so. It was exhilarating to watch the rain drip through the trees onto the water, and be able to think that nobody else saw this phenomenon in the exact same way as I was seeing it. There was also excitement when I looked at a rapid and wondered if I would make it through safely or if I would fall out and be injured, but knowing all along that if I did not try I would look back and wonder what would have happened. Inevitably, I would hit the rapid and no matter what the result, I was satisfied. This was when I realized how much I could learn by having a reciprocal relationship with nature. I made a conscious decision to learn as much as I could, however nature wanted to teach me.

As a child I loved to watch fireflies. Their light always fascinated me. They were always willing to show off their light. Their light, the thing that made them special, also made them vulnerable, easily identifiable, and different. But for their light, I would not have tried to catch them. I would not have wanted to know their secrets. But I did want to know. And, I would run around the neighborhood, barefoot and tanned (as it was summer), chasing them. I wanted to know where they were going. Of course, I never did figure it out, but that wasn’t what was important, it was the interaction. The understanding that they knew things I did not but may be I could learn and experience too.  I was reminded of my childhood love of fireflies and their magic when I discovered in the brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay the same phenomenon that make the firefly glow .  (If you are curious about fireflies check out: https://youtu.be/jneuOra3NvI. The first 14 minutes is information about fireflies. At 14:24 The Firefly Experience begins. It’s worth the click.)

It was a dark, calm, quiet night. In total darkness, I canoed up one of the little guts (water ways) surrounding my marshy, island town, in a canoe with a friend. It was so beautiful. More stars than usual. Beautiful moon. We stop paddling, lay back in the canoe, drifted, and looked up. The stillness was energizing. I felt connected and alive – to my friend, to my community, to the Bay, to the world. I dipped my hand into the water as I had so many times before. But on this night the bioluminescence was intense. Covering my hand. Dancing up the side of the canoe as the water splashed. It was everywhere. It was like the water and the plankton were dancing together. Intellectually I knew that when a molecule of oxygen + an enzyme called luciferase combine with the protein luciferin the resulting new molecule gets excited and gives off light. On land that gives fireflies their light. The aquatic world has the highest number of bioluminescent creatures on the planet. Dinoflagellates, moon jellies, and comb jellies all bring this magical light to the Chesapeake Bay. Some scientists think bioluminescence may be a defense mechanism against predators, others posit that it is a means of communication, especially as a way to attract a mate  or to warn the community of danger. All I saw that night was the dance and nature’s reminder that there is more to the world than intellectual explanations.

Something happened when I turned 30. I remember my last wild adventure. It was a winter backpacking and climbing trip that we took as Outward Bound instructors. Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in March in Maryland should be fairly safe from snow but it wasn’t. It snowed from the morning of the second day until we returned home. The eight of us were the only people out and about on the trail. No competition for the shelters. No foot steps ahead of us in the snow. It was cold, it was peaceful, and it was beautiful.

The reason my wild adventures ended wasn’t due to what you’d expect – marriage, kids, growing up, and all of that. After all, marriage and kids is a wild adventure of its own but that’s a discussion for a different day. The reason was far more mundane – work. It was the nature of my job. I became an administrator in a public magnet high school. I lost my summers. I extended my work days. And, my wild adventures in the natural world very swiftly came to an end. My adventures into forests, mountains, and waters stopped abruptly. Although, at the time it didn’t feel abrupt.

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I have always felt that distance makes the heart grow forgetful. And, that is what happened. For years I held on to the little pieces, the little threads that tied me back to this wild life. I held on through my own created rituals and practices and dips into the natural world. I rooted into this sacred Earth to find ways to nourish my flow, vitality, contentment, resilience, creativity, and to honor and steward the Earth and all she is. (See Lotus #1: Earth/Nature for specifics on my practice).

I suppose I thought those little threads would be enough, would keep that connection alive, would continue my way of seeing that which is there, that which is greater than what is readily visible. May be those practices did keep it alive, alive just enough to be able to tap me on the shoulder now to say “Hey, we’re here…..”  I’ve come to understand that the wildness has been tapping me on the shoulder, and trying to get my attention for a long while now. Wildness is saying, “Come back out.” Wildness has been inviting me back into a reciprocal relationship.

As I was talking to my dear friend recently and I was thinking about why the wild adventures ceased and what I wanted, it occurred to me it was similar to  when I started walking at 4am with our beloved bullmastiff Winston (See Get Up, Wake Up – Things my dog has taught me). I started walking with Winston at 4am because Winston really didn’t need to be out in the world amongst people at other times. And, partially because it was the only time of day I could fit any movement into my schedule. When I started doing that years ago, my teacher had a phrase that she shared, “Get up, wake up later.” She’d say, “Just get up, just get up and do it. You can wake up later.” And, that really helped.

Right now, the phrase in my head is “Get Out.” Just get out. Just get out into the wild areas. Get out into the places where your heart is open and soars free. Get out into the places where you feel connected to everything that’s pulsing in the world around you. Just get out. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m integrating myself back into relationship with the natural world, reconnecting to the life force, specifically the forests, mountains, and waters,  and all of the non human persons living in those places.

Remembering and reconnecting and integrating. May be that’s what it is all about, may be it is all just about remembering. After all, the people who are my blood and my bones all lived along the coast. They all lived in lands of different climates, on different continents, but all near the water. Always on a coastline. May be that is why the call is so strong when I think about it, or when I feel it, or when I am out and about in it, its awakening all of that ancestral knowledge as well. That feels right to me, as water was here before humans were.

Here is my approach:

Hand – Granola Bars. I am making lots of snacks to have with me as I get out. Granola bars are my favorite – easy to make, varieties are endless, and they can be stored in the freezer until I grab one or two for my backpack as I head out. I wrap them in little parchment paper sleeping bags so they do not stick to each other and so they are easy to locate in my backpack.

Granola bars with sultanas and cacao,  May 2023

Granola Bars with sultanas and cacao, May 2023

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Head – I am tapping back into the classics that inspired me and searching out new ones as well. Old “friends” such as Sigurd Olson,  Anne LaBastille, Pam Houston, Barry Lopez remind me how I found myself in their stories and books. Currently, I am reading The Flow by Amy-Jane Beer. I believe that books find us when we need them the most and this one is all about water and wildness. Amy-Jane Beer is a biologist, naturalist, and a writer. From the inside cover of her book:

“On New Year’s Day 2012, Amy-Jane Beer’s beloved friend Kate set out with a group of others to kayak the River Rawthey in Cumbria. Kate never came home, and her death left her devoted family and friends bereft and unmoored. Returning to visit the Rawthey years later, Amy realises how much she misses the connection to the natural world she always felt when on or close to rivers, and so begins a new phase of exploration. The Flow is a book about water, and, like water, it meanders, cascades and percolates through many lives, landscapes and stories. From West Country torrents to Levels and Fens, rocky Welsh canyons, the salmon highways of Scotland and the chalk rivers of the Yorkshire Wolds, Amy-Jane follows springs, streams and rivers to explore tributary themes of wildness and wonder, loss and healing, mythology and history, cyclicity and transformation. Threading together places and voices from across Britain, The Flow is a profound, immersive exploration of our personal and ecological place in nature.”

This book is so beautiful. I have been reading it for awhile now, slowly, taking it in and mulling it over. I love her writing and don’t want to rush to the end.

Heart – I’m getting outside. Just the act of being out in the wild is my heart practice. I’m exploring new trails, discovering new places to swim off-shore, and looking forward to doing some paddling.

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Retirement

Retirement. It’s an interesting word. “Let’s retire to the drawing room.” “This is a retired racehorse.” “I am retiring after 30 years in……” “I am retired.” It seems odd to say those words. After 30 years in a schoolhouse and 34 years in education, to say “I am retired” still feels, well, early. After all, I am still in my 50s. Does that mean, this is it? It’s all over?

The Online Etymology Dictionary (https://www.etymonline.com/) states that “retire” comes from the “French retirer ‘to withdraw (something),’ from re- ‘back’ (see re-) + Old French tirer ‘to draw’. Related: Retired; retiring. The sense of ‘leave one’s business or occupation’ is by 1660s. The meaning ‘to leave company and go to bed’ is from 1660s. Transitive sense is from 1540s, originally ‘withdraw, lead back’ (troops, etc.); meaning ‘to remove from active service’ is from 1680s. Baseball sense of ‘to put out’ (a batter or team) is recorded by 1874.” It’s a word that has been with us for many centuries that seems to suggest that “to retire” is an ending.

The retired racehorse may find retirement to be anything but an ending. They may still be “working” just in a different venue. They may find themselves on a breeding farm or being retrained for another sport such as polo or show jumping. Or, they may be living out their life on a sanctuary farm.

It is the “retiring to the drawing room” that is interesting to me. To retire to the drawing room sounds relaxing, even luxurious. It’s barely a transition from one location to another. It signals a downshift in energy. And, yet, it implies that there is more to come. The meal has ended but the festivities continue.

When my dad retired it wasn’t joyous. It wasn’t relaxing. It was an ending. He was 56 years old. He felt that he had to find another job, I was graduating from college the next year and my sister would soon be starting. He never did find another job but it was a lack of commitment to that endeavor, lack of will, not opportunity. I saw him slip into a depressive state, and then a series of illnesses. I am not sure if he experienced much joy during that time. Six years later he was suffering from multiple illnesses. Four years after that he passed away.

For me, retirement came on 1 January 2023 without fanfare or celebration.  It was slow, quiet, even solemn. When I take a shower, I use one of my body scrubs and I say, “wash away that which is not mine.” This is what the transition to retirement felt like for me. Stripping away all that I carried for all those years. The care, concern, commitment, passion but also the systemic toxicity, fear based compliance, hierarchical intolerance for others success and knowledge. Stepping away from a place that I love, and into the unknown. Retirement felt like a beginning. An emergence. I am learning to say I am retired with the same energy of the drawing room. Relaxed. Less stressed. With anticipation, may be even expectation, that there is more to come. I am here at this time to be an educator. It’s my purpose. That will not stop just because I have retired from a school system.

Rites of passage mark milestones in life. Some are religious – baptism, communion; some are secular – graduation, driver’s license. All contain a point of liminality, that place where the transition occurs; the old is behind and the new has yet to emerge. In that space there is an opportunity to reflect on what has been and what will be. Liminal spaces are magical spaces, full of juiciness. Its where my creativity and confidence lives. As such, it is important to honor and recognize my retirement as one of these life milestones.

Things of the hand, head, and heart – rituals, place, stories, the Earth are my foundations for this year as I process this milestone. In Waldorf schools there is a focus on the head, hand, and heart as the three processes to tap into in order to enliven learning, independence, and human-ness. (See, The Foundations of Human Experience and other writings by Rudolph Steiner). Think of the head as intellect, the heart as emotion, and the hands as will . By digging deep into those things that ground me and support me, I can relax and breathe into what  is and move energy to what is becoming.

Hand

I am learning to embroidery. I remember learning a little bit about embroidery when I was a young girl. It didn’t spark my interest at the time. I can remember my mother embroidering and then one day she no longer did. My great grandmother’s people were Kashubians who migrated to Danube Swabia in the mid-19th century and then to the United States in the early 20th century. Kashubians are neither German nor Polish. “Historians and linguists have argued amongst themselves as to the origin of the Kashubians. But they agree that for over 1,500 years, the Kashubs have lived along the shore of the Baltic Sea. Their traditional occupations were fishing and farming. Today most Kashubians live in Pomerania in the area bounded by Gdańsk in the north and Konarzyny in the south” (https://www.geni.com/projects/Kashubian-History-and-Culture-Kaszubi-Historia-i-Kultura-Kaszub%25C3%25B3w/16211)

My great grandmother’s knowledge of Kashubian culture and belief was never passed on, she passed away while all of her children were between the ages of 6 and 16. For me, learning about my Kashubian ancestry has been an opportunity to reinvigorate that knowledge. When I saw Kashubian embroidery I was captivated. It is a tradition that extends back to the 13th century. The designs are inspired by nature – pansies, cornflower, blue-bells, lilies, forget-me-nots – in both content and color.  The colors symbolize the Baltic Sea, lakes and rivers, the sky, meadows, forests, the sun, love, and adversity. I am far way from being able to do anything as beautiful or as intricate as Kashubian embroidery. For now, it serves to inspire me as I learn. To see Kashubian embroidery, visit: https://originalhandicraft.org/en/kashubian-patterns/

If you are interested in learning to embroider, check out: Threaded by Tatum https://linktr.ee/threadedbytatum Her directions are clear, easy to follow, and she has all of the necessary supplies .

Head

I have been delving into stories of shape shifting women, especially selkie stories. Selkie women are sea maidens who come ashore and remove their seal skins to reveal a human body. If the skins are captured by a human man, the selkie must live with him until her skin is returned to her. Only then can she return to the water.  Sometimes selkies are vengeful after the return of their skin, sometimes they are supportive after their return to the water. My favorite story right now is The Selkie’s New Skin from If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie. I read it a number of years ago and keep coming back to it. In this story the Selkie woman provides an opening for her daughter to “if ever she should choose, she also could take to the sea.” Mother, teacher, wisdom holder, all contained in this Selkie woman.

I took my skin off when I moved off of Smith Island (see  blog post https://acrunchylife.com/2021/01/04/earth-nature/). I moved from the wildness of an island and a life lived largely outdoors to an indoor, concrete work life in a male dominated, controlled, bureaucracy. A system built on obedience and fueled by sameness and conformity. Little by little it strangled me, restrained me, and I lost my wildness. Aspects of myself that I learned and mastered from male role models thrived in this environment. Traits. Expectations. Behaviors. And it worked, for thirty years. Little flare ups of independence and wildness, periods of burnout occurred,  and I would recover to get back to the work at hand. Work of which I am so proud. I helped build something good and special that people believe in and are nurtured by, especially young people.  Now, with retirement, I have been given my skin back. Released from that world. I am free. The aspects of myself that have been pushed down and controlled for so long are now able to roam freely. My creativity. My uniqueness. My connection to the Earth. I can return to the waters. The selkie stories provide a lens for me to navigate and consider this new reality.

Additional selkie stories:

Heart

Tea is one of my most important daily rituals. As Ronald L. Grimes said, “Ritual practice is the activity of cultivating extraordinary ordinariness.” In tea, all of the elements are present – Earth (the herbs), Fire (the heat), Water (self-evident ), Air (the steam), Ether (the infusion) and the resulting infusion can be personalized to what one needs – energizing, healing, soothing, calming, etc.

My ritual begins with Step 1: I consider the herbs to use based upon what I need for the day, my intention, what I am endeavoring to manifest. What herb best supports that goal? This becomes the base of the tea. Then I add ingredients to compliment flavor or effect. Step 2: I thank the herbs when I have assembled them and I thank the water before setting it to boil. Step 3: While the tea is steeping I say words over it that are connected to my intention for the day. Step 4: I enjoy the tea. While I slowly drink my tea I also reflect on that intention. The tea I have been turning to these days is my Heart Warming Tea. Each of the ingredients is selected for its warming and heart supporting properties which I find I am in need of during this transition. According to The Herbrarium:

  • Hawthorn – a general cardiac tonic that appears to improve the mechanics of the heart and its metabolic processes. Hawthorn is also calming and stress reducing, and is used to heal, open, and protect the heart.
  • Rose – to open and fortify the heart.
  • Cinnamon – Warming, carminative, anti-inflammatory.

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Getting outside every day.

I worked outside as an educator at the beginning of my teaching career, about five years. Day programs, overnight programs, and extended overnight programs. Living in tents or on boats or houses on islands, sleeping in sleeping bags, rising with the sun, and canoeing or sailing under the stars. In the summer it was the bugs that were intense. From late fall until early spring it was the cold temperatures, ice, and snow. But I loved it. I learned that I could tolerate any weather as long as I had great gear. Or as they say in Norway, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” 

As I have gotten older I have also learned that inside can be pretty great too. Homemade candles burning, snuggly blankets, fire in the fireplace, warm beverages, diffuser going, and cozy wool socks. Cozy is good. I have had to make an intentional decision to find time to be outside each day or I would just cozy up and hibernate all day long. 

Being outside feeds my soul. I just feel better when I am connected to the outside world. I enjoy feeling the elements around me. I enjoy experiencing the natural rhythms of the local environment. There are so many health and wellness benefits as well. Vitamin D levels go up. Exercising the way the body is meant to move – gardening, walking, biking. Improved concentration and sleep. Improved immunity. Even just walking can make a difference – check out this article from Harvard about Walking Your Steps to Health.

There’s also an inner resiliency and acceptance that comes from being a part of something bigger than ourselves when we are outside, especially in more wild environments. 

Although we do not live in Minnesota or Maine our darkness and cold is real. Darkness from 5pm until 7am and temperatures that dip into the single digits with wind chills below zero. The darkness is the part that can be a challenge for me. I wrestle with it every year. An inner turmoil between loving the winter and detesting the darkness. This year I made the decision to love the darkness in a new way. In fact, to celebrate it as a time of renewal and reflection. To accept it as a blanket that is here to snuggle me throughout the shorter days. 

I brought the stars inside with me more this year than any other year – twinkle lights in the kitchen window, in jars in the dining room, the upstairs hallway. Candles at dinner each night and a candle in the northeast corner of the kitchen as I cook. Fires in the fireplace. We are slowly making our way to Candlemas on February 2nd where we will read The Candles by Hans Christian Andersen, eat crepes, make beeswax candles, and celebrate the lengthening of the days. It is the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

I also made the decision this winter to ensure that I get outside every day – both in the 4am darkness and in the afternoon light. Our daughters as well. It’s not always easy for the girls to get outside as their schools don’t provide opportunities during the day or they cancel recess the minute the weather changes to something that someone somewhere has determined is undesirable. We have to intentionally carve time when they get home each day. It’s not always easy to do that but we are working on it. The weekends are a different story.

Today we will be at the farm and exploring our own outside space at home for hours.




I know that afterwards we will all feel better, more connected, happier, and ready to sleep at the end of the day. How will you get outside today?

For more information on getting outside with kids every day check out:

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk. She can also be found on Instagram @rainorshinemama

Also on Instagram check out @thebackwoodsmama for a daily dose of inspiration.

Knitting and the New Year

I love knitting. My dear friend Dawn had a bumper sticker on her car: I knit so that others don’t have to die. It always made me laugh because of all the reasons I know that went into her putting it on her car. She is a true textile artist. Her works are amazing and are imbued with emotion and passion. They are almost magical in their uniqueness, creativity, and beauty. For me, I’m really good at scarves, dish towels, and wash cloths. I come to knitting with a deep desire to create. I have dreams of sweaters and socks that never materialize. But that’s okay. Knitting for me seems to be about something else. 

Knitting has always been like the canary in the coal mine. Or should I say,  the lack of knitting has. When I am on vacation, I knit. When I am relaxed, I knit. When I have blocks of time, I knit. When I can shift to slow a couple hours before bed, I knit. I notice that as my stress increases, as time begins to run swiftly, my knitting time decreases, until there is simply none left. The most recent knitting dry spell lasted over one year. When I look back on that year I know all of the crazy things that happened in the intervening time, and how I lost my knitting. Last year was a year where I was challenged with negativity in my work life and upheaval in my personal life. In fact, there was a moment where they collided as my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away after a short but fierce battle. But through all of that, isn’t that precisely when I should have been knitting?

My current knitting project

I am reminded of a YouTube video that came out in 2015, Relax, Breathe & #LetGo – Find Your Sanctuary. In this video women in the UK provide advice about appreciating life’s precious moments and making time for the important things in life. This video pops back up in my life every so often. Usually it emerges at a time when I need to be reminded about slowing down. This time it came in a blog post by Si on French By Design. And, it came at precisely the moment when I could feel something trying to emerge.

I have spent a good bit of my time looking backwards. Perseverating on what might have been, why things happened, how I got to a particular moment. As 2019 approaches I am choosing to let go of all that no longer serves me. Over the past 108 days I haveĺ been participating in a virtual pilgrimage with over 200 people around the globe. A pilgrimage of community and connection based in living our yoga and finding love, grace, beauty, and inspiration around us. When I started this pilgrimage I did so for many reasons, the most important of which was that I could feel something cracking open within me. Something that had long been unacknowledged but is always there within me, because it is part of me, was trying to get my attention. I could hear the voice even if I didn’t acknowledge or listen to it. Now, I have decided to settle into it and see where it takes me.

And so, between inspiration of the pilgrimage and the video, I have made space to knit again. Very purposefully. Very intentionally. Without regard to outcome or expectation. For me, knitting is like meditating. Knit 2 Purl 1 becomes a mantra. My breathing slows. My mind clears. I feel refreshed when I have completed several rows. I am not sure where this transformation will take me, and I am no longer trying to foresee the outcome. I am okay with not knowing. Because I know within me is everything and I have everything I need. I am stronger than I think.

If you have not seen the video, it is worth taking a few moments to watch it.  Relax, Breathe & #LetGo – Find Your Sanctuary https://youtu.be/ltVPj6-5xpo

If you are interested in the 108 day pilgrimage, you can find it here: http://brittbsteele.com/

How I got to this moment – Part 2

Growing up I was acutely aware of death. My grandfather died in 1945 at the age of 55. My father was only 14 years old at the time. When I reached 14 years I was keenly aware that I was the same age my dad was when his father died. When I reached my 15th birthday I breathed a sigh of relief, my dad was still alive. My dad was 50 years old so I still had some time before he was the same age that his dad was at the time of his death. When my dad reached 55 years old I breathed another sigh of relief, we had made it – I was 20 years old and he was still alive. My grandfather’s death had a tremendous impact on my dad’s life experience including where and how his family lived. I knew my dad thought about his mortality – a lot. And, I knew he worried about dying young like his father. He rarely mentioned it but it was always omnipresent.

My grandfather’s death had a tremendous impact on my dad’s life experience including where and how his family lived. I knew my dad thought about his mortality – a lot. And, I knew he worried about dying young like his father. He rarely mentioned it but it was always omnipresent.

My dad had his first stroke 10 years later. It was followed by two more strokes, kidney failure, and total system failure. The saga lasted for four years. He made it to 66 years of age. I was 30.

My immediate response shifted back and forth from fear of illness to fear of health. My migraines became intense and frequent, my weight climbed higher than it had ever been, and my neck hurt most of the time. I knew I was out of kilter when I went to the doctor one month after my father died and for the first time in life my blood pressure was elevated. This was when I found yoga. I hoped it would help release my mind and my fears. It did. I began to learn to leave it all on the mat.

Slowly I began to discover how to live my life in a way that supports longevity and health. I didn’t want to live a long life if the quality was poor. And I didn’t want to live a quality life that was short. I wanted to be able to sit on the porch with my children and grandchildren and teach them the stories and the traditions of our family. But most importantly, I wanted to be able to still hike, canoe, swim, ride waves, play, etc. with them. I wanted to be able to inspire in them a love of the natural world that can only come by deeply interacting with it. I wanted them to know me to be like the 70-year old Outward Bound instructor I met who could still run rings around all of us much younger instructors.

To do that, it meant that I had to look deep inside and figure out what needed adjusting. This took a long time. I continued to be a vegetarian, and then I went back to eating chicken and turkey, and then back to vegetarian. I became a vegan when I discovered that dairy was causing my adult acne. I exercised, and then I didn’t, and then I did. I targeted what I believed to be the areas for change based upon the traditional notions of diet and exercise that I had been exposed to my entire life.

I gradually began to understand that I needed to think of my body as an ecosystem and my health and wellness as indicators of ecosystem health. Each decision I was making had its own impact but if I could think like a system and create a plan for myself I could improve my overall health and wellness. As I began to listen to my body and to understand the cues it was giving me I began to see how to move forward.

I continue on this journey because I believe it is a lifelong journey, especially as a woman. I believe that as we age and our body changes so too does our need to reassess the ecosystem and to make adjustments to support it. Right now, it looks a lot like whole foods plant based. I continually struggle to achieve the optimal distribution of vegetables, beans, fruits, fiber, while maintaining the protein levels I need as well. This includes striving to avoid processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine, toxins, and minimizing gluten. I avoid them, not because a health and fitness expert told me to avoid them, but because I have discovered that my body does not respond well to them. I’ve learned to eat in a way that my body responds to positively. This is what is working for my ecosystem right now. I no longer fluctuate between craving and withholding of certain foods. I have more energy, no migraines, my skin is clear.

I have discovered how important intention and listening are to my health and wellness. I practice yoga and meditation. I swim and run. I listen to the signals my body is sending. I remain active doing things I enjoy like gardening and walking the dog. I haven’t hit the age that my granddad was when he died, and I’m quite away from my dad’s age. But now, I am hopeful, not fearful. When people see me swimming and ask me what I am training for, my answer is simple: I’m training to be 85 years old.

How I got to this moment – Part 1

How did I get to this moment? This is something I have thought about a lot since I decided to bring A Crunchy Life to the world. I have realized that it has always been with me. Growing. Bubbling up to the surface. Just waiting for the right moment to emerge.

My dad was a businessman with a beautiful corner office – literally, the office was the corner of the building and the corner was cut away to create a window as long as the long wall. It was the third from the top so it was a great place to watch July 4th fireworks and the traffic helicopters in the afternoon.

My father did not pick his job because of a life mission to be in the bond department of a major insurance company. In fact, I suspect he did not like his job at all – he always wanted to be a cowboy living in the west. He got out of the Navy and went to college on the G.I. Bill, and when he graduated he found this job and gave them the rest of his life. His focus was finding a job and settling in, and so he did.

As I was growing up it wasn’t always easy. The stereotypes of the corner office were not true in our case. It was not always financially secure but my parents endeavored to keep all of that from us, as much as they could. But over time I saw younger men (yes, never women) brought into the company, mentored by my dad, and then promoted over him. I also saw the men (yes, again no women) in positions above him getting transferred across the country for promotions or dying of heart attacks. My dad always remained in the same position.

When I was in college my dad finally began sharing some of his thoughts with me. I learned he wasn’t passed over; he turned the jobs down. He made a conscious choice to turn each of those jobs down. His family came first he said. It was more important for his daughters not to be uprooted to another state while in school rather than for him to receive a larger salary. It was more important that he live a long life and not die at his desk. It was more important that our family’s social network remain in tact. It was my first, and only, glimpse into how he intentionally lived his work life.

He gave me something powerful that day. He gave me the foundation upon which I make decisions that help me live my life in a way that has meaning and that supports those I love. My own path shifted after that conversation. I began to really think about what I wanted for my life. I changed colleges. I changed majors. I changed life goals. I committed to living my life in a manner that was true to who I am. Intentional. Purpose-driven. I had no idea that this would be a lesson I would continually re-learn and refine throughout this life.

So, what is intention? Intention is purposeful attention, concentration. It is when we turn inward and let go of everything else. When all of the external distractions are silenced and focus is on connecting to one’s truth. From truth comes wisdom. From wisdom comes purpose. Then we know what we want and where we want to go. Consciousness.

In the Yoga-Sutra there is a powerful moment in one’s practice when one goes from distraction to direction. Like that moment in yoga, intention is a continuous daily practice that we strengthen with each little decision and each big decision. In my practice, I have turned my attention inward and focused my mind on my own truth. I listen to the wisdom that is within me, that I have never heard clearly before. I have come to understand that what fuels me is simplifying how our family lives and engages in the world while supporting others on their journey to intentional living. I uncovered the direction that has guided me thus far, and from which I will continue to grow into who I have always been becoming.

Greetings world!

My dear friend Suzanne has been trying to get me to blog for years. She is the professional writer, not me, so I have always been resistant. One day I stuck my toe into the big pool of public Instagram posting and discovered it wasn’t too bad. One thing led to another, and here I am giving this a go. I have no idea where it will take me, and us, should anyone chose to join me on this journey.

Suzanne asks me on a regular basis, what is one simple thing I can do to live more simply to simply live. I’ve been known to provide suggestions – some she has taken and some she has looked at me as though I am seriously insane. That’s my goal with this blog: One simple thing in each post that supports a simple, healthy, and happy life.

Nothing I say is intended to heal, diagnose, or cure anything. I am an educator and a mom. My degrees are in history, environmental science, and law. I love research. I love learning. And, I love using everything I learn to improve the quality of life for my whole family. When people express surprise and awe at how we live our lives, and the choices we make, my dear husband Chris can be heard saying, “She is a hippie we convinced to come inside.” I hope you will join me on this adventure.

“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in . Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

-David Bowie