Monday, December 23, 2013

Unexpected Joys


Anyone that knows me knows that regardless of the general malaise regarding Christmas around me every year, I persist. I love the Christmas season. It is shiny and sweet and heart warming and generally designed to make us all feel hopeful about life and the coming of the light and longer days. Every year I am gifted small tokens of Christmas cheer that keep me in the good fight. This year, it was offered to me backstage at the Eugene Ballet's Nutcracker. It was the Sunday matinee, the last show of the season and early morning in company class. Everyone looked tired. The ballet mistress was playing Christmas music for barre. And then, in the middle class, in the middle of dancing, the guys started singing along to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. By the end of the song they had most of the company singing with them and the rest of us in fits, still dancing. They kept at it for the next two songs. Christmas cheer had won out over fatigue, sore feet, being far from home, and a long Sunday at work. Try to let it happen to you too.

To help that along, watch and maybe sing along to this, one of the best Christmas vignettes I have ever seen:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Angry Tirade


Pssssssssst. Hey, you there, with your finger hovering over the "post" button, why don't you just slowly back away from the social media site. That's right, just take a step back before you post another little tirade or tired list of complaints. Let's talk. First, you should know that your feelings, in all likelihood, are valid. Or at least most of them. Maybe you really did have a bad day, the other drivers really are terrible or someone has blocked the bike lane or your degree program is not fulfilling or someone with political views diametrically opposed to yours was interviewed, it happens. The thing is though, you are really just complaining. In public. A lot. Sometimes for days in a row. I know, there are leaves in the bike lane, again. You can't find enough hours to fulfill your residency, and someone is talking loudly on their cell phone. Life is full of irritations and unfairness. But you are the one complaining and ranting and generally bringing everyone down from wherever they are in dealing with their day which I promise you is filled with all kinds of annoyances. So stop complaining in public. Recognize your behavior for what it is, an expression of neediness, a desperate grab for attention, and a cry for validation. You can get those things from positive interactions too. More importantly though, that "share" button is rightly named. So consider what it is that you are choosing to share with others with your constant griping or negative posts and try to share something else with all of us before we drop you from our feeds, block you, or write you off as a wacko. Thanks, and have a nice day!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Among The Dead


I am not a habitual obituary reader but I do try to take a look at the end of the year compilations of pictures that news agencies put together highlighting the notable people that pass each year. This year, I am struck by what seems to be three distinct categories, old people, those in their mid forties to fifties that die of preventable conditions such as heart attacks, and suicides. As I page through the pictures and remembrances I am absolutely sure that I want to be in the first category, old, when I die. This seems like a simple task, avoiding, of course, unexpected accidents or other circumstances beyond my control, it really does seem like I have an enormous influence over which group I end up in.  But then, many of the people pictured were successful, with families and support systems in place and good medical care and information. I wonder about the disconnect between our daily choices and our own long-term self-care. I wonder about why it can be so hard for me to keep my eye on the greater future, and if it is that hard for everyone else. I worry over my choices, the ones already made and those I will make in the future. I try to remind myself that no one is perfect and even all the good choices and prevention in the world is not a guarantee. I try to have compassion for myself and my weaknesses. Then, I tell myself to get sorted. Life is long, but not always. Ultimately, your life, and how much you get of it, are up to you. Use it wisely.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Paying Attention


The New York Times this week quietly published an extensive piece investigating the role of advertising and pharmaceutical drug sales in the recent rise of ADD and ADHD in the American population. The article takes an open-eyed look at the correlation between increased marketing, both to prescribing physicians and the public and the rate of prescription for those conditions. According to the CDC, more than 3.5 million children are being medicated for ADD or ADHD. As with any medical diagnosis and treatment there are many people that genuinely suffer and are in need of these drugs, but, it also seems like a fad. I know that there is a good market for Adderall and Ritalin on the recreational drug scene, and prescriptions come from diagnoses. I also know that the symptoms and definitions of both ADD and ADHD are broadly defined and easy to fake. And the ads, they promise parents good grades and a happy home, no tough love required. These are powerful drugs, and there are a lot of us taking them. I cannot help but wonder what role our collective addiction to medication plays in all of this. It would be wise for us to have an honest discussion about behavior, expectations, and parenting in conjunction with the widespread medication of our children before we wake up and discover we have a generation built on pharmaceuticals. 


Monday, December 16, 2013

Me Too Iguana


One of my favorite books as a child was Me Too Iguana. Written by Jaquelyn Reinach, it was part of the Sweet Pickles series which featured a friendly city populated entirely by animals. My memory is that there where 26 books in all, one for each letter of the alphabet, and that they could be purchased via mail. The books arrived in a school bus shaped box with a lunch pail handle so you could take them with you wherever you wished. They were great. 

Each book focused on a particular moral or ethical quandary or life lesson with a different animal as the primary character. My favorite was Iguana. In Iguana's book, Me Too Iguana, Iguana has low self esteem. She thinks that she would be prettier with Lion's long mane or Zebra's stripes and goes to great lengths, manufacturing a mane out of a mop head and painting herself with stripes, to be like the other animals. It seems wherever Iguana goes, she wants what others have, if for no other reason than they have is and she does not.

Finally, because it is Sweet Pickles land, her friends become worried about her. So the animals decide to throw a big costume party and invite Iguana so she knows how much they like her. Iguana, of course, makes a costume mashing up the best attributes of her friends. Her friends, they ALL DRESS UP LIKE IGUANA so that she knows that they think she is beautiful and worth emulating too. In the end, she decides that her green skin and spinal bumps are pretty cool after all.

I think we all have a lot to learn from Iguana. It is easy, especially in this digital age to see what others have and think, "Me too! Me too!" But your life and body and path are yours and yours alone and no amount of copy catting or imitation will turn you into someone else. Each one of us possesses valuable and desirous traits, we should lean into these things, not grasp at the strengths of others. 

Be authentic,


Friday, December 13, 2013

On Being A Gentleman


The companion list, for men that want to be gentlemen in the modern age.

1) Call. A text is not the same. A phone call shows that you care and that the other person has value.

2) Open the door. Really. This small act of deference and others like it (pulling out a chair, offering a coat) will never go out of style.

3) Keep it to yourself. The guys do not need to know the details of your date, so keep it to yourself and allow her to retain her dignity, especially if you intend to keep her around.

4) Own a suit. Job interviews, weddings, and funerals still happen and a good suit lasts for years. Sometimes it is just important to look the part. Be prepared.

5) Pick up a check. Not all of them, but some, and especially in the beginning. It will set you apart and establish you as having generosity.

6) Listen. Most women want to be acknowledged by their companions, so listen and respond so that she feels important and intelligent.

7) Lend a hand. To the older woman hauling groceries to her door, the guy that has a flat tire, or the neighbor that needs the snow cleared from their walkway. Small acts of kindness are the mark of a true gentleman. 

8) Avoid discussing money and purchases. Verbal one-upmanship and boasting never impress the way they are intended to and only produce resentment in your listeners. Be cautious about money discussions and sensitive to others' situations. 

9) Know your limits. Stop drinking before you pick a fight, start an argument, become boorish, or have to be escorted home by your date. Everyone else will remember the incident far better and longer than you will. It's just not worth it.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

On Being A Lady


There is some fuss about a post going around the interweb which lays out guidelines for being a gentleman and a lady in 2014. I think most of it is utter nonsense, but I appreciate the attempt. My own version, in no particular order.

1) Learn how to cook. Your parents will not always be around to make holiday meals so you need to be prepared to take over that task. Also, having something home-made to bring to events shows that you are human, and you care. Finally, cooking at home is cheaper, healthier, and provides important family time.

2) Say please, thank you, and excuse me. Frequently.

3) Do no post pictures of yourself or your friends drinking or drunk. Also, do not take to social media to rant. About anything. The internet is forever.

4) Be a hostess. Whether this means book group, a dinner party, or just having a friend over for a cup of tea, reach out and invite people to your home.

5) Do not discuss politics, religion, or lifestyle choices unless in company that you are sure already agree with you.

6) Stay home when you or your children are sick. In the post-antibiotic age, prevention will be the key to all of our health. Do your part and do not pass your bug along.

7) Say positive things to and about yourself and others.

8) Send thank you cards. For all the weddings and baby showers I went to in my twenty's I do not think I received a single actual thank you card. It is not a bygone era, thanks never goes out of style, and it makes you stand out for your efforts.

9) Master a craft or fine art. There was a time when women were expected to be able to embroider, now, we are expected to have no artistic skills whatsoever. It is a shame, and shows a lack of effort, interests, and refinement. So play the piano or paint or make bread, but have a craft and become good at it.

10) Keep your cooter to yourself. This includes when getting out of cars, at beaches, on the interweb, on stage, and generally whenever anyone else is around :-) Just sayin'.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Soup Kitchen


It has been three days of biting cold. Here on the hill, under the constant shade of Douglas firs we still have six inches of soft, powdery snow. Everything waits for the melt. Our house, with it's bird feeders tucked up under the eaves has become an oasis, a soup kitchen of sorts, for the wildlife. We have birds; more of those that are familiar and whole groups of new birds, wrens and flickers that are usually not so bold. During the day the deer linger around the house, eating the rhododendron leaves the birds have cleared of snow as they queue up for the feeders. At night families of raccoons sit outside on the deck munching on fallen seed. And we have turkeys. I woke this morning eye to eye with a pair of massive wild turkeys feasting under a high feeder with five or so of their friends. They are massive, imposing creatures, with apparently no other place to go. I am happy to provide this simple service.

Where is your small soup kitchen? What small service can you provide today?


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday


Black Friday, the American custom of mobbing big box stores in the early morning hours after Thanksgiving to score deals on over-marketed consumer goods, has finally stretched out of the confines of the the three days after Thanksgiving and into Thanksgiving itself. This means that in addition to drinking and watching football Americans can now give thanks by going shopping and spending money, much of it on credit. That our need to acquire new possessions occludes our desire to gorge ourselves is only small comfort. As with many things, the lack of ability to recognize the irony of all of this is the most startling aspect of this tradition. It seems that we have learned very little from the Great Recession or the clear indicators of climate change. Americans, it seems, remain as content to imbibe and consume and carry on as they always have. I wonder for what it is that we are thankful.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Knock Out


There is a quiet roar beginning over what is being called the "teen knockout game" wherein a group of teens randomly assaults a complete stranger with the intent of knocking them unconscious. My interest in this is less in discussing teen violence or the pack mentality that drives it, but in the mainstream medias willingness to diminish their actions by calling it a game. That our young people are unable to tell the difference between games and criminal violence is certainly a problem, but when the rest of society struggles with that same distinction, it's indicative of something larger and more deeply ingrained. Are we, as a while, losing the ability to distinguish between play, imagination, fantasy, and reality? Have movies and video games so closely blended with our daily realities that we are no longer sure what is, in fact, a game? In considering this question I think about the many US service people who daily fight wars, remotely, with drones and joystick technology and then return to their suburban lives. I think about fight clubs, the violence of football and hockey, and the ways in which we celebrate the champions of these violent form of recreation. I wonder about boredom in our youth, and the obvious cry for stimulation that is calling a random attack on a stranger a game. I think about stories like The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones that place children in positions of power and reward them for their violence. I think about my own youth, filled with capture the flag and kick the can, and think about a time when dodge ball was considered too violent for the school grounds. Perhaps today is a good day to reevaluate our pastimes, recreation, and personal media choices. What do they say about ourselves and what we consider to play? What message do your choices send to those around you about violence and its role as an entertainer?


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gone Dry


Much of the water used for irrigation, drinking, swimming pools, and misters in the Southwestern states comes from the Colorado river. So much water, in fact, is diverted from the Colorado that it no longer, and has not for many years, reaches it's own outlet, instead running dry someplace in the desert. The water diverted from the river is carried hundreds of miles through the desert in largely open-air aqueducts, a practice that can mean the loss of more than 60% of the water due to evaporation in the desert heat. That water is essential to our survival is a non-issue. So is the fact that it is a finite resource. For a country that bothers to advocate water conservation in the home to school children with concepts like turning off the water when brushing your teeth, the denial of the Arizona aqueduct as a problem seems like a massive amount of denial. Water, not oil, is the major resource issue of the 21st century. It's time we started acting like it. 

Where does your water come from? How long will it last? 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Business As Usual


There is something uniquely impressive about the American businessman. It is something in the way they stride, purposefully pulling their roller cases, designed especially for their needs, the sense of import they impart as the flick up the sleeve of their neatly pressed shirts to check the time on their polished watches. I love to listen in as they conduct meetings on their phones, issuing orders, making deals, doing business. I also appreciate their diligence and commitment to multitasking, unable or willing to simply look out the window and watch the planes the roll in, instead in a constant flutter of phone and laptop. I smile at the way they rush, only to get stuck in the same lines and stalling points as the vacationers with nothing better to do than toddle slowly through the terminals. The United States was built on the backs of men like these, determined, ambitious, driven forward, towards success, power, and promised wealth. I wonder though, about their health, their hearts furiously pumping, the veins in their temples always visibly pulsing. And I wander about their happiness, if their diligence can purchase joy or a life well-lived. I wonder, if born to a different time or place, a different set of expectations and ambitions, what they might do, or who they might become. I wonder, if released from these things, would it still be business as usual?


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lao Tzu to Voodoo


There is nothing like leaving your familiar context to gain some perspective. From a distance it is easier to see pettiness, proportion, and what is really important. Travel is a great opportunity not only to rediscover selflessness and what you can let go of but also what things you really need and the importance of self care. Self compassion as a path to peace and the end of suffering is taught in one way or another by almost every faith system, but it takes recognition of the self as important, and an understanding of what we actually need for happiness versus what are just the trappings of our daily lives to be able to implement it for ourselves.  Self care and mindfulness come so easily when we are outside the pressing and pulling of daily life. Things and people that pull on us, press their own sense of import, obligation, and correctness on us are abundant from within our own small worlds but nearly disappear entirely when viewed from the horizon. The trick is to keep them there.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Sun, The Sun


Like the birds I am flying south in winter. I am fleeing the gray days, the low clouds and the press of winter cold for sun and cacti and the company of good friends. I love the vast deserts of Arizona, the rock yards, the saguaro, the stoic sense of endurance that comes with such harsh conditions. I relish the big sky and the forlorn cries of the coyote. I am grateful for the time to step away, slow down, and view the world from another context. The escape will do me good.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Put Down Your Phone


Put down your phone. Just put it down. It isn't helping you. You are not more connected, more organized or more present in your life. You are not good at multitasking. You are not paying attention or participating or really enjoying anything through the view of that tiny computer. Your life is not better or richer, it is more complicated and busy and full of stuff and you should really just put down your phone. You do not need to comment or like or send a text to let someone know you are running late. They will wait or not but that message probably won't change anything so you might as well just put down your phone. You do not need to record every moment of your life or constantly be playing a game. You carry with you a far more complex and amazing machine called your brain and you should try using it to store, retrieve, and create things. You should put down your phone. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Are You Reading?


I grew up in a family of readers. Ours is the kind of family in which everyone receives at least one book for Christmas and it is not unusual for all of us to be reading the same book at the same time, not just the same story, but the actual book. We snatch it up as soon as the first person sets it down to make lunch or run an errand and leapfrog our bookmarks past one another. By the end of the day, we can all safely discuss the first few chapters over dinner. I love talking about books. I love the way a good writer crafts stories that you fall into, that surprise or shock you, that are as familiar as my own memories or entirely alien but still somehow compelling and real. There are books that I have read just once but cherished throughout my life and books I return to over and over again. A good story can change the way you see the world.

Some novels that have been important to me, in no particular order:

Snow Falling On Cedars, David Guterson
The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
The Pilots Wife, Anita Shreve
The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Generation X, Douglas Coupland
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, Callie Khouri

What are you reading?


Monday, November 11, 2013

Sweet Silence


The world woke up cold today. The pines were still snuggled under their blanket of fog as we headed back towards town. For the first 36 miles we did not pass even a single car or speak more than a few words. Instead, we took the time be take in the bright blue of the sky, the gentle lilt of the trees, and the newly snow capped peaks. We held the silence between us, glad to share the morning with each other and a thermos of hot coffee. We looked forward, down the road, each of us mulling the tasks of our week, grateful for the time to think, grateful for each other. Sometimes the best thing we have to gift each other is silence; take some for yourself today.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Girl Gone Wild On Air


HuffPost Live held a discussion with for outdoors women about being in the wild and featured Girl Gone Wild. It was an exciting opportunity for us to celebrate and promote the participation of women in outdoor pursuits. Check out the discussion here:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dirt and Dirt Dirt

***An Excerpt From Girl Gone Wild***

There are two kinds of dirt in this world, regular dirt, and dirty dirt.  Dirty dirt is usually living or chemical and encountered mainly in urban or developed settings.  This kind of dirt is the stuff that grows on molding food, toilets, etc.  Dirty dirt is generally avoided by simply keeping a clean and tidy camp just as you would at home.  Anything you run into in the wilderness that is dirty dirt can generally be avoided by simply not touching it and walking away.  The vast majority of dirt you encounter in the out of doors is simple, ordinary, harmless, run of the mill dirt.  It consists of clay, dust, and bits of organic material and is generally entirely harmless.  It also washes off of bodies and out of clothing.  The futility of wiping off a rock before sitting on it, trying to keep hiking boots clean, or limiting your activities to those which are dirt free is enormous, as is the magnitude of the experiences you lose out on trying to sterilize the environment.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanks


There is a modern tradition developing of expressing 30 days of public gratitude during the month of November. It is one of the few soulful consequences of social media I have witnessed and, I think, an important and healthy use of our technology and inter-connectedness. There is documented and scientific evidence pointing to the role of gratitude and its expression in the health of our relationships and ourselves. I believe that we can take that one step farther and say that the expression of gratitude is a pathway to peace.  In gratitude we recognize the compassion and value of the world around us and the people in our lives. To express gratitude is to recognize each others humanity and our own needs. It is a fundamental step in recognizing both how we wish to be treated and the way we wish to be in the world. It is worth speaking it out loud.

I am thankful for:

My health.
My relationship with my parents.
The fire.
My home and the person I share it with.
The love of a good cat.
Hot tea.
Friends that call.
Hot running water.
My ballet class.
The massage therapist that is fixing my back.
Outdoor pools.
Sun breaks.
The cabin in the woods.
Public broadcasting.
The silence function on phones.
Online banking.
People that give me a chance.
Black Magdalene.
My students.
Mac and cheese.
The people that listen.
My pen pals.
Strangers that are kind to me.
Authors whose books I fall into.
Serendipity and random acts of kindness.
Good food and folks to share it with.

Please share some things that you are thankful for:

Photograph Courtesy of:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Growing Old, Gracefully


For more than thirty years now I have danced. I have stepped to the barre to repeat the same exercises over and over again like a mantra, working the floor beneath me as a worry stone, over and over again. In my younger days I suffered, tormented by the mirror, self doubt, the pressures to be better, stronger, slimmer. Now, though my jumps are lower and my leg not quite so high, I find inside myself a centering and calm so crisp and clear that I turn more easily and perch for long periods in my balances. It is a trade off and an irony, it seems, that at just the moment we gain our grace we begin to lose our vigor. I, for one, am glad for it. What I have lost in youthful athleticism I have gained in presence and expression. I am no longer tormented, no longer concerned with rank or virtuosity. Now, I dance from the inside out and feel my soul stretch beyond the reaches of my fingers, grateful for the dance.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hot Stuff


An Excerpt from Girl Gone Wild

The heat from the hot springs comes from the volcanoes that make up the Cascade Range. The Earth is really just a cooling blob of magma floating in space. We live on the cooled outer crust of that blob on large cracked chucks of cooled rock we call tectonic plates. Every continent is a plate and every ocean has plates making up the seafloor. Where these plates meet, ocean plate to continent, is a subduction zone, a place where the heavy ocean plate meets and then plunges underneath the lighter continental plate. When this happens the oceanic plate melts sending up plumes of magma to the surface much like the rising blobs in a lava lamp. Eventually these blobs melt the continental crust above them and break through, erupting lava and ash and pumice and building volcanoes. A lot of the magma doesn't make it all the way to the surface, this magma fills in cracks and holes and faults and cools slowly over thousands of years. When it rains the water flows through the ground and encounters the heat from this leftover magma, it warms up and rises back up to the surface picking up dissolved minerals from the rock along the way, the closer the magma is to the surface, the hotter the water in the springs.

Photograph Courtesy of the USGS

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Kind of Person Are You


I understand that things happen. There are mis-communications, arguments, and moments of weakness. But I have always held the belief that, especially if you are friends or in some other way vested in the relationship, a conversation, an apology, and moving on are the best way to handle such things. It turns out I am in a minority. I know people that will hold a grudge for years against people that were once their good friends. I have seen people brought down by pettiness and rumors because someone decided they didn't like them or they didn't deserve a chance. I have witnessed the people in the wrong, the college professor that hits on you, the person that plagiarizes your work, walk around, head high, as though they have done nothing wrong, all the while tanking the very person they crossed.

I used to feel badly about these things. I used to think that there was something that could or should be done to fix things. I used to think that other peoples behavior was some kind of reflection upon myself. Now, I'm glad when toxic or juvenile people choose to remove themselves from my company. I see the value in no longer having to waste time or energy on people who will always find a away to cause conflict or drama. I am grateful that they keep their words and actions to themselves and allow me to spend my time with people that help me to thrive. I take solace in the fact that carrying around hate will be it's own punishment, in illness, loneliness, and bad, bad karma.

What are you holding on to? Who can you forgive today? Whose forgiveness can you let go of receiving?

Photograph Courtesy of :

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shoes and Strings and Ceiling Wax


A presentation of irony:

It is 6:30 in the morning and still dark outside the cabin. There is a stiff, frigid wind bringing in the first snow of the season. It began overnight as a light dusting but has thickened now, and has taken on an icy quality, the flakes stinging as they hit our faces. Inside it is still warm, there is coffee dwindling in cups, and the lights cast a comforting glow out the windows as we finish loading up the truck, drain the water lines, unplug the appliances and put the cabin to bed. At 7:01 we climb in, congratulating ourselves on finally running on time. The moment the truck starts to roll back we know there is something not right, but it takes us the whole length of the drive to figure out that it's a flat. Completely flat. Tire hanging off the rims flat. We sigh, and slowly pull back towards the cabin carefully parking by the outside lights. When we open the door to turn them on though, nothing. Click, nothing. Click click click, nothing. In the five minutes since leaving the power has gone out with the storm. We will do this by flashlight. From behind us we hear the deep voice of our old-man neighbor with whom we share the property. "Welcome to the high desert." He chuckles. "You want me to get the air jack?" 

It was fine. It was fine and easy and quick and dark and very very cold. It was a late start, dirty clothes and stiff fingers. It was fine, and the moment we packed back up to roll out, the power came back on. Welcome to the high desert.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Monday, October 28, 2013

High and Dry


***An Excerpt From Girl Gone Wild***

A dirty little secret of the outdoor world is just how rarely people abide by the rule of hanging their food or even storing it at some distance from their camp. More often than not they store in in coolers, trailers, vehicles, tents, or backpacks. In brown bear country, this is stupid and dangerous. In black bear and cougar country, which is most of everywhere else, it is only slightly less stupid and dangerous. But here’s how it happens. First, you do not see any bear or any other animals for that matter which makes choosing not to hang your food seem reasonable. But the lack of apparent wildlife is probably because humans are big and noisy and smelly even if we are trying not to be, not because they are not there. There is plenty of wildlife watching your progress down a trail that you will never know are there, and unless they are hungry or you manage to stumble into their young, they will probably go out of their way to avoid you. Unless they are hungry. And something is always hungry.

The second thing that happens is that you find yourself in a place with nothing to hang something from, this is a peculiar irony of the tundra areas of Alaska. There are vast u-shaped valleys carved by the slow progression of glaciers over thousands of years that, now exposed thanks to global warming are covered in bright fields of dense, soft tundra. Beautiful, but not a tree in sight. With no place to hang food the best you can hope for is good storage someplace down wind of your camp, you have to let the hanging thing go. Alternately, you can find yourself camped in such large trees that even the lowest branches are far too high to reach with even a weighted line, or you do not have enough line to make the pitch. Again, out of luck, and not entirely ones own fault.

The last thing that happens, and it is this kind of experience that can cause people to give it up entirely, is that it can take an entire evening to get the food bag hung. Food is heavy and oddly shaped, which means that you need something relatively accessible and sturdy to hang it from. I can spend a good half and hour looking for the right kind of branch an appropriate distance from camp and then another half an hour or more trying to toss a line, often with one end tied around a rock or shoe, over the branch. Have you ever tried to send a pair of shoes over a telephone line? Sometimes you get it in one shot, sometimes it seems impossible.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Pecking Order


For weeks now I have been at the mercy of an energetic flock of migrating (hopefully) Nuthatches. Nuthatches are beautiful. They are blue-winged and red-breasted with long black streaks of eyeliner highlighting their brows. They are also hoarders. They descend at feeders like a troupe of addicts, hyped up and in constant motion, not eating, but grabbing seed and storing it away in the nooks and crannies of nearby trees for later consumption. They can empty a half-gallon feeder in a little over a day and they are so many and so overwhelming that they have ousted all but the largest of the blue jays. They are pushy, messy and bad at sharing and making extra work for me. I know that they are just birds, and visitors to boot, but I miss the Junkos and Grosbeaks.

Then this morning, a small piece of justice. The squirrels, normally left out of the feeder entirely except for what falls the two stories to the ground, were up early this morning, frantically pulling away at the branches of the firs. Happily reaping the rewards of all the Nuthatch labor. And to all things a balance.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Finding the Foresaken Self


Only in hindsight, at the age of 35, am I able to look back on the last ten years of my life and admit how very many of the habits, likes, and affectations I have adopted over the years have been for the sole purpose of pleasing someone else or trying to fit in with those around me. Today, I returned to the music that I had forsaken years ago to please a boyfriend that had very clear ideas on what was and what was not acceptable music. Regardless of the fact that he was right in many respects. I have missed these songs and sounds that defined other, earlier times of my life and am glad to have them back. I contemplate what other vestiges from other times I might turn loose, what things might be reclaimed. 

Listen to your music.

Or, listen to mine. Coldplay. Yellow.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And It All Burns Down


If you haven't been paying attention to the bush fires raging in southwestern Australia, you should if for no other reason than to impress upon yourself what it will be like when drought, climate change, and years of fire suppression policy collide in our neck of the woods. These fires are not happening in the middle of nowhere portions of Australia, they are in the most populated portion of the country, where one in three Austalians live. The smoke from these fires is choking the air in major cities and the fires are destroying everything from trains to houses. Two of these fires are set to merge in the coming days producing what is being called a mega-fire. This is another modern natural phenomenon moniker adopted to describe events that occur on magnitudes not previously considered probable enough to leave room for in the naming schema. It is becoming clear that climate change is not a rural or third-world phenomenon. It is also becoming clear that we are woefully ill-prepared to protect our resources and property from these events.

It is important to realize that the nature of the climate change debate needs to change from "Is it real?' to "What are the social consequences of these events?" Climate change and the associated floods, storms, fires, and droughts have become a primary contributing factor to social unrest in the countries most effected. Destruction of farm land, interruption of commerce, loss of housing, these are the new realities. Prevention is no longer the primary objective, survival is.

To read about the relationship between climate change and violence worldwide:


Monday, October 21, 2013

Pooh Bear


Once a year I drive to an old church in the middle of Oregon farm country to buy my winter pantry in bulk directly from the growers. These events are less like farmers markets with their well-groomed displays and valued-added products than they are traditional farm stands.  Family's sell apples at twenty-five cents a pound out the back of their pickups and tiny old women offer fifty pound hand-milled flour in home-sewn sacks. There are great, long braids of onions and garlic and piles and piles of squash nestled next to buckets of wild rice.  There is also the last of the season's honey. Every year I buy honey, a pint or two, maybe even a well-priced quart, but always, I stand and long for the giant gallon jars. They are beautiful; a whole winter's bounty of honey-sweetened tea, sauces, oatmeal, and muffins in a single jar. Even knowing that I will use it, such an investment has never seemed reasonable. Until, for some reason, this year when I finally toddled down a gravel country road with a fat, golden jar hugged to my belly; the sweets of winter, secured.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Violent Cuz We Want To Be


I find it remarkable that in the discussion around societal violence there is little to no acknowledgment of the enormous numbers of people that spend time in incarceration or warfare. To be clear, I am not grouping these two populations, criminals and military personnel, together for any reason other than they are two widespread groups both of which are exposed to enormous amounts of first-hand violence and then returned to everyday life. Taken by the numbers, while a relatively small percentage (less than 1) of the population is serving in the military at any given time, approximately ten percent of the population is incarcerated at that same time. This means that eleven percent of the population is actively immersed in a violent and dangerous culture. Overall, more than 30% of the population will be incarcerated in their lifetime and more than 2.28 million of our soldiers have served in Afghanistan and Iraq alone. And we wonder where our penchant for violence comes from. We puzzle over the popularity of football, which seems to increase with its violence. We wonder about bullying and violent television content and mass shootings. We refuse to see what is plainly before us, the choices we make with our population, where to send them, how to foster their development, the things we choose to expose them to, color them forever. If we are a war faring people then we will grow a population that has faced and participated in brutality  and violent times. If we are punitive and punishing, then we will teach our citizens to expect violence to beget violence. In short, we are teaching over a third of our population to expect and participate in violence, and then wondering why is seeps into the rest of our lives. We reap what we sow. Now is as good a time as any to consider policy changes that will provide different kinds of life experiences to our population, experiences that will help us reflect more of what we really want to be.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Scatter My Ashes At The Mall


An excerpt from Girl Gone Wild:
To back this book in the final day of the Kickstarter click here.

When it comes to our relationship to the wild, and our comfort in it, the problem is that there is nothing in the wild for us to consume. There is no story line or Hollywood effects, no sale signs, no conveniences, and no bonus rounds. In the American wild, now, as always, there is only you, and the land. Even with the rush of over-development in the last fifty years the wide-open spaces of America are vast and breath-taking, but they offer only the intangible effects that come with the opening of the spirit. The real value of these gifts is only recognized with practice and patience. Time teaches us to understand the world at its own tempo, on the larger timescales of geology and evolution rather than in the 24 hour news cycle soundbites to which we have become accustomed. In order to step into the wild, we need to step away from our need to acquire it.

The same thing can be said of ego. So maybe you do not look your prettiest, maybe you are slower than the other hikers, maybe you look silly in a big sun hat. Who cares? Have fun, live life, relish not having to be right or the best, or prove yourself in any way. Have patience with and compassion for yourself; recognize that everything else is in its natural and flawed state in the wild too, without diminishing its beauty or grandeur. You are in the wilderness, no one is watching, its not going to end up on Facebook or Youtube unless you put it there, so enjoy yourself just as you are.

I know, from deep within my body that being outside is good for me, mind, body, and soul. I know from watching others and hearing their stories that the wilderness is good for them too. I know from personal experience that my friends that spend regular time outside are less likely to to have problems with weight, mental health, or drug and alcohol abuse. I know that a walk outside gives me time to breath and think and sort myself out. I know that when I am unhappy, facing challenges, or in need of comfort, the wilderness provides it. I know that no one asks to have their ashes scattered at the mall.

The wilderness restores me. Not just in the way that fresh air and light raise your spirits and clear your head; it has always been the thing to which I turn in the troubled times of my life. To walk in the woods, to feel what it is to be a part of the larger systems of the world, to see myself as just another animal in the wild, one that can commune with the birds, watch the fish jump, track the stars across the sky, has always worked to calm my mind and put into perspective the trials of my life. I have walked out heartbreak over miles and miles of trails, sometimes retracing the very paths of the relationship itself; this time last year we walked this trail in the spring, here was where we went snowshoeing. I have made some of the most important life decisions in the wild, wondering if the decision to quit ones job and relocate is still ground shaking if there is no one around to witness it. I have grieved for lost loved ones and celebrated their memories at ocean beaches and mountain vistas. I have talked it out, whatever the it may be, with friends over miles and miles of terrain, sifting through the clutter and debris of our lives, walking and talking.

Being in the wilderness forces us to rely upon ourselves and keep our own company in a way that modern society does not. This is something that is very good for us. I know so many women who lock their doors and close their blinds, that cannot eat out at a restaurant by themselves, that think they cannot change a tire or drive someplace new without getting lost. We cultivate a culture of learned helplessness the result of which is an overpowering sense of loneliness and the loss of our identities as whole, capable persons. Returning to the wild is one way for American women to revitalize ourselves as potent, powerful, and productive participants in the world around us. In the wilderness, I have learned that there is no escape from yourself; that, in fact, so much vast expanse will first force you to address yourself, before allowing you to take it in. So let it go. Let your hair frizz and your nails chip, wear clothing that is comfortable and washable, get dirty, get outside, go wild.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The View From Big Brothers Suite


The City of Oakland, and many other cities across the nation are spending millions of dollars on technology designed specifically to track the movements, actions, and conversations of its inhabitants. The claim is that these kinds of technologies, automated face and license plate recognition systems, GPS trackers, and even drones are a necessary and essential part of law enforcement.  

I argue that these measures are designed only for the capture and incarcerate portions of law enforcement and do little to nothing to prevent crime or deal with its aftermath. The days of believing that a world-wide panopticon in which the fear of being observed prevents us from breaking rule and law is long over. Now, we understand the desensitization that comes from living our lives in front of cameras and on social media. None of us care, not enough to shift our behaviors. The threat of public comment or shaming does not loom large in our minds, and especially not in the minds of those made desperate by circumstance or poverty.

The shutdown is an opportunity for us to reevaluate what we fund and why, and press our opinions into the minds of our clearly lost for connection to reality law makers.  Consider your privacy.  Consider your free will.  Consider that the United States already incarcerates more of its population than any other country.  Consider finding your voice.  

To contact an elected official:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Keeping The Lights On

One of the constants of adulthood is the paying of the bills. The how's of this task, from my mother's days of handwriting checks and stuffing envelopes to my automated electronic payments, may have changed, but the reality of having to pay what is due, when it is due have not. At least not for those of us that are not in congress. I think about the shutdown and I worry for the many Americans that live paycheck to paycheck, for all those people that were waiting on a particular check to pay off a particular bill, or take that vacation, or even just buy groceries. I think about these things and I think that the shutdown is bad, and hard and that holding the public hostage is no way to pursue a political agenda. And then there are these three examples of shutdown consequences:

People waiting to participate in the housing recovery by purchasing homes cannot move forward with escrow because the IRS is not open to validate income.

A really big salmonella outbreak is taking place, but neither the health inspectors nor the CDC are around to save us from ourselves.

And...Federal prison guards are not being paid but are being required to show up to work. I can only imagine the conditions in a prison where the guards have no incentive and the inmates have psychological leverage.

The question we ask now is, in what way are we being served by our government if our representatives choose not to pay the bills?

To contact an elected official:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Photograph Courtesy of:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Flight and Freedom

Today I sit beside the window and watch the birds, visitors here, just passing through to warmer winters south, and am jealous of their easy freedom. I too, wish to so predictably turn to sunny days and fat times. I worry over my pepper plant, so absurdly out of place but still producing bright green fruit in some silent tribute to life's challenges and absurdities. I think that I should cover the rye beds to over-winter. Finally, I go outside and pull the last tomato plant, leaving the its proffer on the sill to ripen. 

An excerpt from a poem for the turning of the season, Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Wilds Of Fall


Just in time I am finally bedding down the garden for winter. The rye has finally broken through, and will hold the soil until the first days of spring. Garlic and onions are nestled, waiting under cover for warmer days, and I too, am reminded of the need to hunker down and bide my time. 

In celebration of the turning of the leaves, some reasons to remember to love autumn:

The changing of the leaves.
The return of sweaters and fires.
Migrating birds.
Hot tea and books.
The sound of rain on the roof.

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Photograph Courtesy of:

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Daily Dose


I write and think a lot about food, nutrition, and food and as a primary medicine but I I decidedly avoid the topic of vitamins.  Vitamins and minerals are, of course, and essential part of our health and vitality; and yes, we should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals we need from our regular diets. I believed this for a very long time. And then, in my late twenties, I had health problems. I was regularly exposed to toxic chemicals in my environmental cleanup work, and previous illnesses had left my immune system weakened. When I finally found a health care practitioner that prescribed vitamins I was dubious. I thought that the vitamin industry was mostly just scamming lazy people that couldn't be bothered to eat right.

Then I started taking targeted vitamins at specific dosages designed to address my deficiencies. And I felt much, much better.  I also started catching less colds and flu bugs and getting over them faster.  The right vitamins have helped fight leg cramps, improved my mood, and gotten me through some big-time cold seasons. Now, I have a daily dose that changes with the seasons and makes me feel noticeably better when I take it regularly. I am grateful for this. Sometimes it's worth testing our own assumptions and paradigms. You never know what your truth might be. 

The FDA's website about vitamins:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Photograph Courtesy of:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Unexpected Graces


The last two weeks have been a blur of Kickstarter. Constant emails, updates, social media postings, readings, postering, thank you's, and worry have made for restless nights and the odd sensation of standing at the side of the internet with a sign reading "will write for food". Asking for backing, especially from friends and family has made me uneasy. I believe in this book and I believe that crowd funding is the future of publishing, but I really struggled with the idea of asking for money, especially at the beginning of the project.

Now though, now that I am past the 50% mark, now that backing is starting to come in from people other than those I know, people that just want to see the book be finished and published, or who support women writers, or that are avid outdoors people, I feel less dependent on people I know, and more likely to be successful.  I want to make the people in my life that have helped me proud.

That said, having the support from those people has also, to some extent, released me from the shadow of failure.  Their endorsements, and the overall support that has come in for both me and the project are quite humbling, and a true example of grace. Consider, for example, receiving backing from a young woman for whom you once nannied, with a note telling you how exciting the project is, or going to a ballet class to find that everyone in the room, instructor included is a backer, or having old high school friends surface with backing and expert advice.  It goes on.

The lesson here, for me, is that success comes in many forms. Now, regardless of the success or failure of the Kickstarter, I have the broad support from all corners of my life. I will be able to take all of this and use it to fuel the publication of Girl Gone Wild and my own passion for the project. What I have been given, is hope.

To Back the Project:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Take What You Want


The National Forest Service and Beareau of Land Managment allow some degree of harvesting and gleaning from public lands. This includes residence, trees, rocks, berries, mushrooms, water, game, fish, and any number of other things depending on the amount, use, and location. I think this is a great reminder that public lands are by definition owned by each and every one of us, we are entitled to their use and also bound to be their stewards.  Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill opening up large tracks of federal lands, more than one million acres, up to renewed logging.  Regardless of your opinion, it is important that you are informed and aware of how your land is being managed, and who is reaping the profits.

Stay Informed:

For more on the bill:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shut Down


The U.S. government, in a show of total lack of regard for the well-being of its citizenry or the responsibilities with which it has been charged, closed its doors today because of an arcane political structure and a fundamental righteous belief in their own value systems. The national weather service website is down.  The Smithsonian Institute, the National Zoo, and, ironically, the Statue of Liberty are also closed.  So are the National Parks. Many many people are having very bad days because of this. There are ruined vacations and school trips, lost wages, and missed meetings.  Paperwork will backup delaying immigration, permit, and passport processing.  Wages will be lost. Even just a few days of unpaid leave will mean utility bills that cannot get paid, mortgage payments that will bounce, presents that cannot be purchased.  The economy will suffer. 

Keeping the government open seems to me to be the primary function of the agents of government, if for no other reason than self preservation. The system is clearly broken. What change then, should we demand? When and how shall we address our government regarding our own representation? What consequences shall be rendered?

To email Congress, if it's still working:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Under The Cover Of Pines


The rains have come.  They arrive this year, unlike the previous few, with a thud, a heavy settling of clouds low in the valley. They come in torrents, more rain than we have seen in any September in a hundred years. I am glad for them.  Autumn is my favorite time of year with its late harvest abundance and brilliant displays of color.  I love the challenge of making something other than Jack O Lanterns with my pumpkins, the delight of finding a new patch of mushrooms, and the Aspen, golden and lean.  I am glad to witness these passages, strange birds only passing through, wildflower stands disappearing into duff, antlers, fully realized. I am glad to be reminded of my own passages, and to find myself whole and on the other side, I take the rains as a sign of more big things to come.

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!