A few months ago I sat down with Iris, founder of The Nabalo Lifestyle, for an interview that appeared in their most recent online magazine.
You can download the full publication of Issue Three: The Mystic (and the back issues) here: The Nabalo Lifestyle Magazine
Iris: Can you tell us a little bit more about the beautiful place that you call home?
Heidi: My family and I (myself, my spouse, and our six year old) make our home in the St. Croix River Valley, just to the west of the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin in the United States. It’s a landscape full of lakes, rivers, bluffs, ancient glacial potholes, small towns, organic farms, and plenty of winding trails to explore all of it. We live in a little red house perched on the edge of a ravine on the shores of a tiny lake, with a large field just up the hill from the house that provides space for a large vegetable garden, several types of berry bushes, and an apple tree. It’s all imperfect and takes a lot of work to maintain, but I love it here.
Iris: How would you describe the lifestyle that you are living?
Heidi: I would say the lifestyle I am living is one that is punctuated by the ‘in between’ – we grow much of our own food, and my father and two of my brothers are organic vegetable farmers, but we remain dependent on grocery stores, our neighbors, and regular paychecks to meet all of our needs. We use a wood stove in the winter and harvest downed wood from our land for fuel, yet with an old house that wasn’t built with a wood stove in mind, we still need to heat with fuel oil when it gets really cold, at least until we have the means to outfit our home with different technology and significantly better insulation. Sometimes it feels like life remains a paradox. I’d love to say my lifestyle is all yoga, meditation, foraging for wild edibles and raising my child, but there’s plenty more that goes on around here and I maintain a full time coaching job with a tech start-up. I spend a lot of time gardening, hauling wood, walking in the woods, practicing yoga, writing, and caring for people, certainly, but work still takes up more time than I’d find ideal. We keep one television in the basement, though I haven’t turned it on more than a handful of times in the last several years. My spouse and I both rely on the internet and computer technology for our day jobs, but we do our best to not let devices take up too much space in life. (This is, of course, easier said than done.) As with all humans, my lifestyle is one of constant evolution, trial and error, beauty, destruction, and breathing into the spaces that exist in between where I am and where I want to be. If I’ve learned anything from life so far, it is that there is no arriving – there is only the journey and being fully present for it.
Iris: How do you balance being a dedicated mother and wife with being a wellness coach, writing books, and striving to give voice to stories that need to be told.
Heidi: The million dollar question….how to find balance. Frankly, it’s hard, and I don’t always feel like I’m doing a good job. It can be easy to get sucked into thinking that someone is being let down or that I should be working on this…or this…or this…. But when I find myself slipping into those old unhelpful thought patterns, I remind myself that I have this beautiful life, this beautiful family to love, this beautiful earth to call home. When I can live rooted in gratitude and grace for myself and others, my family gets loved, the stories get told, the people get coached, and the books get written. And sometimes I fall short, and sometimes things take longer than I think they should. And then the cycle starts over. Gratitude and grace, for self and others.
Iris: We share our infinite love for Nature, and I can always find comfort in your words. What would you say the wilderness has taught you?
Heidi: The wild has taught me that the earth has the answers if we let ourselves listen, and that sometimes you have to just listen, even if you don’t know the questions to ask. Spending time paying attention to the wild has taught me that it’s important to tread lightly on the earth while living close to it; it has taught me to honor that which calls from deep within rather than the things that beckon from societal rules; it has taught me the importance of telling the stories that illustrate what it might looks like to live as part of nature instead of lording over it.
Iris: What is Mother Nature’s most valuable lesson for you?
Heidi: Mother Nature’s most valuable lessons are the lessons that continue to come from her call to figure out how to more fully identify with the parts of myself that are akin to rivers and mountains and soil and trees and holding what that feels like as my center point. It’s not something that I’ll ever be done with, and there will always be more to learn. It always goes back to listening and being patient and staying present to what’s going on in front of my face in real time and deep within my soul.
Iris: Have you ever done solo trips into the wild?
Heidi: I haven’t done any long solo trips into the wild, other than an occasional overnight here and there, but I spend a lot of time alone in the wilds that are right outside my front door. Living where I have lived these last nine years has offered the opportunity to lean deeply into getting to know the wildness that is my home base. Some of my favorite solo outings, other than the ones in my home area, have been in the Northern Rockies of Colorado, a field of big bluestem in South Dakota, and some time spent on a rocky outcropping on the island of Malta. There’s just something about certain landscapes that slams things back into perspective. The St. Croix River near my home has this power, too. Those types of landscapes – commanding mountain peaks, the pull of a deep and wide river, the sparkle of the sea, the openness of a windblown prairie – they remind me that my place on this earth is vast and tiny, somehow in the same breath.
Iris: Can you tell us a bit more about your latest book?
Heidi: Woodland Manitou is rooted in the rhythm of the natural world and illustrates how the cycles of the earth have informed my everyday life from community to vocation to the food that finds its way to my family’s dinner table. Through gardening, simple living, and prioritizing sustainability, I’ve done my best to paint a picture of how remaining close to the earth can provide a solid foundation even as the climate changes and the story of the world shifts. It’s part stories, part wonderings, and part call to act, and I hope it invites the readers to reflect on their own way of being on earth.
Iris: What are you reading right now?
Heidi: I just started Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith, and I recently finished A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters by Dave and Amy Freeman and Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown. Oh, and The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur. And The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander. I will stop before this list gets too long….I read… a lot of books.
Iris: Any last things you want to share with us today?
Heidi: A fellow Minnesota author and I (Ellie Roscher) just finished a manuscript for a book that I’m really excited about called 12 Tiny Things: Nourishing Our Roots. It’s about the fact that our culture tends to tell us that bigger is better; more is always desirable; it’s all or nothing. But when we look under the rug, when we go deep into the roots, and when we take the time to figure out what drives our actions, we find that it’s often the tiny things that seem insignificant that make all the difference — they have the power to provide a foundation of beauty from which we can carve our own version of the good life. Tiny things, like taking a deep breath or figuring out what we really want to drink in the morning, when practiced with intention, have the power to give life like nothing else can. The idea behind the book is that living a life that feels right and good is not about chasing happiness or climbing the ladder to what someone else has defined as success. It’s about noticing, feeling, claiming, and sometimes letting go of the things we think will bring us contentment and satisfaction. It’s a ways out from publication, but we started a Facebook Community group in January, and we are taking this next year to work through the twelve themes that define the chapters of the book. (All are welcome to join!)
I also have a book coming out in spring 2019 via Homebound Publications called What Comes Next: Between Beauty and Destruction – it’s about what I learned from losing what I thought was a really steady job. My hope is that telling my story openly will help others who have gone or are going through something similar. I just turned in the final draft to my publisher, so off we go!
To learn more about Iris and her work visit The Nabalo Lifestyle.