Encounters With Hummingbirds

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

Tiny Beautiful Things

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.

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Woodland Manitou Book Trailer

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.

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Rewilding Childhood

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

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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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