Hiking Naked

Embody Abundance

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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Between Beauty and Destruction

I’m sitting outside on the back deck, surrounded by towering basswood trees that have just fully come into their summer leafy glory.  Birds are chirping, and I can hear frogs croaking down in the shallows of the lake, and squirrels chattering at each other as they race from tree to tree.  Filtered sunlight is streaming down, there’s a gentle breeze keeping any bugs away, the purple flowers of the hillside Sweet William are in full bloom, and all of this combined creates a little oasis of beauty and tranquility.  I can also hear the growl of heavy machinery as crews prepare to pave another section of the road and every so often there’s a loud crash as a tree comes down, followed by the buzzing of a chainsaw and the beeping of a large loader backing up.  I hear a diesel truck roar by and the dust from the road rises like a massive cloud as it races by the house.  There is beauty and there is destruction.  This contrast exists everywhere.   Continue reading

A Window’s View

 

Muted reflections staring at the sky
making sounds to draw down angels
that sing in tune with mystery
and ride on the white bird’s call.

Thirsty soil covered by freshly fallen leaves
holding out hope for refreshment
and clinging to a beauty that refuses to fade.

A gray expanse of possibility
whispering into the stillness
which folds everything, living and not,
into a way of being that speaks truth.

 

 

Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth

Embody Abundance

Writing a book takes a long time.  And then publishing it takes a little bit (i.e. a lot) longer.  But it’s worth the effort and the wait, I think, to have something tangible that says what you want it to say that you can hold in your hands and give to others.  It’s fair to say that yes, it does require using trees to print the books, but when your publisher is committed to ecological stewardship, that helps.  It also helps when your publisher is committed to putting forth publications that are meant to be returned to again and again, not thrown away after a quick read.  And when they donate a portion of all profits to a different charity every year.  Add the mission that the mainstream is not the only stream, and you have a pretty stellar combination. 

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The Birthday of the World

I first heard this story on the public radio show “Speaking of Faith” that is now called “On Being,” hosted by Krista Tippett.  On the show, she interviews all sorts of interesting people, all of them deep thinkers and mystics and wonderers in their own ways.  A few days ago, I read it again in Tippett’s most recent book, Becoming Wise.  It’s an important story, I think.  I’m glad I was reminded of it these years later.  It’s the story of the Birthday of the World.

This version below is as told by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, a medical doctor who has a unique and much needed perspective on spirituality, healing, and living (and dying) well.  Her grandfather gave the story to her for her 4th birthday.  It makes me wonder how the world would be different if every child were given this story, or one like it, (and reminded of it often) on their fourth birthdays.

 In the beginning there was only the Holy Darkness, the Ein  Sof, the source of life.  Then in the course of history at a moment in time this world, the world of 1000 thousand things,  emerged from the heart of the Holy Darkness as a great ray of light.

And then (perhaps because this is a Jewish story) there was an accident.  The vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into 1000 thousand fragments of light.  And they fell into all events and all people,  where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

According to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident.  We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, and to lift it up and make it visible once again, and thereby to restore the  innate wholeness of the world.

This is a very important story for the world today.  This task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew, which means the restoration of the whole world.  This is a collective task.   It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive and all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world.

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The Magic of Real Communication

Every act of communication is an act of tremendous courage in which we give ourselves over to two parallel possibilities: the possibility of planting into another mind a seed sprouted in ours and watching it blossom into a breathtaking flower of mutual understanding; and the possibility of being wholly misunderstood, reduced to a withering weed. Candor and clarity go a long way in fertilizing the soil, but in the end there is always a degree of unpredictability in the climate of communication — even the warmest intention can be met with frost. Yet something impels us to hold these possibilities in both hands and go on surrendering to the beauty and terror of conversation, that ancient and abiding human gift. And the most magical thing, the most sacred thing, is that whichever the outcome, we end up having transformed one another in this vulnerable-making process of speaking and listening.  ~ Maria Popova

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The Dark Side of Positive Psychology

I have been a wellness coach for almost exactly 10 years. And along the way, I have gotten thoroughly immersed in positive psychology.  Which, if you didn’t know, is a fairly new field of study typically said to be pioneered by Dr. Martin Seligman in the late 1990s.  It’s all about reaping the benefits that can be had from focusing on the good in life, and where you want to go in the future, rather than on unpacking all the stuff that has happened in the past as more traditional psychology models tend to encourage.  I’ve see it work for plenty of individuals over the years – there’s a lot of benefit to placing your focus on what you do well already and the good things that you want to bring into being.

Right now I’m reading a book called America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks.  Midway through the book, Dr. James Coyne, in an interview with author Ruth Whippman, shared the name of a lecture he was to be giving the following week.  It was “Positive psychology is for rich white people.”

In my work as a coach, I recommend ‘practicing gratitude’ on a regular basis, regularly help people take ownership of their choices, and often encourage calling out the positives in life while staying present in the moments as they unfold.  These strategies have made a difference for many of the folks I have worked with, so I know positive psychology has plenty of benefits.

Plenty of benefits IF you were born into privilege.   Continue reading

Where I Come From

Where do I come from?

I come from green grass and big bluestem, mountain streams and old log cabins, winding rivers, and geese that fly south and return again year after year.

I come from creatures who breathe and swim and dance and sleep and howl in the midst of old evergreens and oak savannas and rocky ledges.

I come from anxiety and peace; turbulent cascades and smooth waters; gusty winds and the eye of the storm.

I come from all that is myth and magic, wild and wandering, rooted and real.

I come from across the vast waters and the open plains.

I come from quiet walks, hand in hand; solitude and communion; praise and lamentation.

I come from joy, sorrow and appreciation for all that is.

Where do you come from?

Inspiration Across Generations

If you’ve read Prairie Grown, you may have noticed that I like to quote Wendell Berry. His writing, and his ideas about the world, have influenced my own significantly, and I got to wondering if there was a story behind why my folks have so many of his books. Mr. Berry has written over 40, and I would wager a guess that most of his titles have graced the Hillside Prairie Gardens homestead at some point during the last 40 years.  My parents have a small organic farm, one that is committed to keeping the health of the soil good and contributing in a positive way to the local community — much of Mr. Berry’s writing focuses on those basic principles of sustainable agriculture.

“For the true measure of agriculture is not the sophistication of its equipment the size of its income or even the statistics of its productivity but the good health of the land.”
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

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What is it like to be you?

What is it like to be you?  We inhabitants of planet earth could do well to continually ask this question.

To the opposing side, the ones who are “surely in the wrong”:  What is it like to be you?

To the microscopic sea creatures, the bleached out coral reefs, the seagull who has swallowed too many discarded plastic bits: What is it like to be you?

To the coal miners, the line men, the operators of fracking sites and off shore oil rigs, the families who depend on fossil fuels and all the systems that are steeped in acquiring the earth’s underground resources, selling them, and using them: What is it like to be you?  Continue reading