I’ve been sick for three months. Sounds terrible, right? It’s not been awesome, that’s for certain, though it’s not like I’ve been bed-ridden or in the hospital for weeks or anything. I got a cough in September, just after my second book was published and launched, which developed into bronchitis, which in turn didn’t respond to antibiotics (since it usually doesn’t….being almost always viral..), and vaporizing eculyptus, drinking gallons of tea, trying to rest, and all the usual home “self-care” remedies just didn’t have much impact. My family got tired of the incessant coughing, and for good reason – it’s hard to relax when your loved one is up half the night, especially when you live in a small house. After too many days of cough syrup in an attempt to get the rest I needed to heal, I landed in the emergency room on Thanksgiving day – I woke up disoriented and with a pretty solid case of vertigo and nausea. Turns out I was dehydrated, and after an IV of fluids, another clear chest Xray and a negative strep test, they sent me on my way, feeling less dizzy, but still coughing. Continue reading
“Hhhmmmm…..la la la la…….mmmm…..yeah, yeah yeah”
30 seconds later:
“Ahhhhhhh, ah ah ah ah. La la la la, la la la la la la. Ah, ah ah ah ah ah ah. The girl who has…everything.”
15 seconds later.
“Joy to the world. Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah..”
And so on.
This is the common soundtrack to our mornings. My five year old almost always starts singing before she’s out of her bed after waking up in the morning. She doesn’t discriminate with her choice of material – Disney songs, made up gibberish, hymns – anything is fair game and her repertoire is vast. I don’t know that she even has a favorite song – singing is just something that brings her joy. Continue reading
It’s getting to be peak autumn color in Minnesota this week, and everywhere you look, it’s gorgeous. The leaves in the back of my house are blazing yellow and orange, and they create an impressive reflection on the lake when the light is just so and the air is still. It’s kind of like the water is on fire with the vibrancy of the season. Of course, this time of intense beauty is fleeting, only lasting a few weeks each year, but then again, it does come back around every year. We just have to make a point to pay attention to it when it does show up. It’s always interesting to me that such intense beauty can co-exist so easily alongside the things that shake us to the core.
There’s a difference between giving your energy to something and paying attention. It can be hard to distinguish sometimes, since these days there are things screaming at us all the time to “look at me” and “pay attention to me” and so forth. The media generally does whatever it needs to do to get people to take notice. It is generally considered a good idea to keep up with what’s going on in the world, to be an informed citizen. Etc.
I’ve been struggling with an illness for the last 2-3 weeks – some days I wake up thinking, “oh yeah, today’s the day I’m not going to feel like coughing anymore” just to wake up, like I did this morning, at 3:30am with a cough that was just annoying enough to keep me from sleeping anymore. I’m really tired, my five year old woke up crabby, and I let my energy go where it wasn’t helpful as I lamented not being able to go for the hike that I wanted to go on today. The shadows were dark this morning, for myriad reasons.
I really wanted to wear a green dress for my wedding. (Which, as of tomorrow, was ten years ago.) I found one in the sundress section of a catalogue shortly after we set a date, and I was determined to be different. It was from a catalogue because I don’t care for shopping in any form, and wearing green seemed like something that would be a fun way make a statement. To be contrarian. To be different than America’s typical run of the mill wedding detail. To damn the wedding culture man, as it were. A way to make sure people understood I was doing it my way. Etcetera.
The green dress was a no-go. My mom and I visited a few wedding dress shops, and I ended up getting a white one instead, still simple, still from a catalogue. But it was white, and from the “wedding dress” section.
I also wanted Nick and I to say our vows in a field down by the Big Sioux River. I love nature, the prairie, feeling the wind on my face, looking at the sky. I wanted to step into marriage on my own terms, and at the time, one of the ideas that made me feel like things were on my terms was having the wedding in a field of prairie grass down by the river. We didn’t do that either, and thinking back I’m not sure I ever actually suggested this idea outloud. The ceremony was held in the church I grew up attending, with my future father in law presiding. So, at the end of the day, I wore the white dress and had the church wedding. And I’m glad I did, because my wedding wasn’t just about what I, the bride, wanted at that point in my young adulthood. It was about grafting a new branch onto the family tree. It was about public commitment to a new way of being in partnership with another human. And it was a commitment to a new way of being in relationship with a new group of people – an extended family. Continue reading
When I sat down to write a blog post today, I was going to write about this encounter I had with a hummingbird last week. I was going to tell you how I had just stepped outside after dealing with some issues with our health insurance policy, issues that made me feel uncomfortable and required a phone call to sort them, and how I was reminded of the bigger picture of what’s truly important by watching a tiny bird flit around the wildflowers that cover the hillside behind my house. I was going to tell you how the hummingbird eventually flew up to where I was standing with my coffee and hovered directly in front of my face, just inches from my nose as we looked each other in the eye, one creature to another. It was going to be an illustration of finding the beauty that hovers even in the midst of dealing with undesirable things, like health insurance.
And as I started to think about what to write, all I could think about was my privilege as a white person in this country. I could have opted to simply describe my encounter with that hummingbird, keep my focus on the beauty of nature around my home, and move through my days giving thanks for what I have. And there’s nothing wrong with doing those things. But that’s the definition of privilege: to opt out of thinking or talking about something because you can. There IS something wrong with not talking about what needs to be talked about. Hummingbirds, nature, and gratitude are important. So are basic human rights, peace, and changing our cultural story.
If you haven’t seen the news lately, white supremacists held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, people were hurt, lives were lost, and the continued ugliness of what is still happening in the world in regards to race and equality has been slammed back into focus yet again. Continue reading
Cheryl Strayed wrote a book a few years ago called Tiny Beautiful Things – It’s a book based on her stint as an advice columnist known as “Sugar” and it’s full of people sharing their heart wrenching experiences and asking advice. It’s full of stories about the things that make being human so hard, yet at the same time, can hold so much beauty if we let them. The story I’m about to share isn’t about overcoming drug addiction or sexual assault or homelessness like many of the Dear Sugar columns were, but tiny beautiful things don’t have to be about overcoming the hardest stuff of life. They just have to be tiny and beautiful.
Woodland Manitou is a book for individuals who are searching for something that they can’t quite verbalize; those who aren’t content with the state of the world but are trying to make peace with how things are; those who are unsure how to move forward in taking action to change what feels important to change; those who want to find solace in natural spaces. Reading this book provides reassurance that we aren’t alone in uncertainty, a reminder that there is beauty in the ordinary if we take time to notice and focus on it, and hope that one person’s choices can make a difference even if it’s not always apparent what that difference is.
A few months ago, I sat down with my nature-connection colleague Sean Guinan of the Environmental Pediatrics Institute to chat about “rewilding childhood.” It’s a concept that we could all do well to embrace as our use of technology expands and our children are born into a world that is vastly different from the one that greeted us. I’m in that weird “fringe” or “micro” generation, the one that includes anybody born from about 1977 through 1983. When I was in high school, my friend Jena helped me come up with my first email address. There was a class called “keyboarding,” and the computers were huge machines that took up entire desks. We did research using encyclopedias, and there were limits to how many “web” resources you could use when writing a paper. I had a cell phone in college but almost never used it since it was so expensive, and I turned in my senior paper …. on paper, and it got returned marked up in red ink. Social media was not a thing until I was well out of college, though Instant messaging had started to permeate the campus the last few years of my undergraduate days. In short, I remember what it was like to live in the analog world, and digital technology took on a ‘life of its own’ at about the same time I did. Those who share my generation, or those who were born in generations prior might resonate with the following:
If you grew up in the 1980s or before, it’s likely you spent much of your free time during childhood running around outside, making forts, chasing butterflies, or just kicking around with the neighborhood kids. You didn’t have a cell phone and the video game options were limited. Going outside was the best option. ~Wild Child: Rewilding Childhood
Knocked off her feet after twenty years in public health nursing, Iris Graville quit her job and convinced her husband and their thirteen-year-old twins to move to Stehekin, a remote mountain village in Washington State’s North Cascades. They sought adventure; she yearned for the solitude of this community of eighty-five residents accessible only by boat, float plane, or hiking. Hiking Naked chronicles Graville’s journey through questions about work and calling as well as how she coped with ordering groceries by mail, black bears outside her kitchen window, a forest fire that threatened the valley, and a flood that left the family stranded for three days.
It is an unusually sunny and warm day in mid-spring, and my spouse Nick and I are out on a state park trail near our home, enjoying the mild conditions after a long, cold Minnesota winter. The air is laced with the subtle scent…
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