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!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Will Tackle For Food


Were you aware of the fact that the National Football League is a recognized non-profit organization with tax exempt status?  Did you know that many of the NFL's stadiums receive enough money in public funds to cover their operational cost, leaving all the revenue from ticket sales, vending, and advertising to go to training and salaries? This tax exempt status may or may not apply to individual teams, but since they have a non-disclosure policy when it comes to finances how much they pay to whom is not publicly known. What we do know is that while Food Stamps and student financial aid are on the chopping block there is no risk of the NFL losing it's public funding, at least not anytime soon. While I understand that the NFL does some amount of charitable outreach, it is by definition an entertainment organization, not a charity and from ticket sales and players salaries alone it seems clear that they can afford to build and run their own stadiums.

Greg Easterbrook has written a book about the impact of football on America and discusses the financial aspects of the NFL at length.  It's worth reading, especially if you pay taxes or watch football.

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

To hear an interview with the author:

Photograph Courtesy of:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Still In Bed


I am not a terribly good sleeper.  I have never been particularly good at falling asleep or taking naps, but these I find myself waking up, unassisted, with the birds at first light.  My initial approach to this was to pout, and toss and turn until the alarm went off, starting my day in a grumpy huff.  That being clearly untenable in the long-term, my next approach was to embrace the extra time in my and launch myself out of bed and into a flurry of early-morning activity, which really only exhausted me before my day had even gotten started, my over-trained body needing more rest than my over-active mind.  Now, I choose the middle road.  The early morning has become a time for me to read or write from bed, a chance to make notes and relieve my busy mind from the constant turning over of things I have to do.  I use that time to acknowledge my cat, who after more than eight years with me can be forgotten but love thrives with additional attention.  I snuggle.  I look out the window at the birds.  I rest. I do not judge myself or insist that my body conform to an ideal model of sleep, but I do not rob myself of the precious time I have carved out of my life for rest and restoration.  I do not allow myself to feel lazy for taking this time.  Overall, I feel better for this, more psychologically prepared to face my day, and more physically rested.  Slowly, I am learning to accept my own internal rhythms and the idea that my body may have a wisdom all its own.

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:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Could Go Either Way


Now that I have a firm hold on my mid-thirties, I find a peculiar phenomenon taking place among my cohorts. They are magically able to appear as young as 25 or as old as 45. While some of us are still lithe and fit others carry beer bellies and ponches, close to two decades past our physical prime, the annual three pound weight gain is taking it’s toll on many of us.  There are wrinkles and gray hair and receding hair lines and interesting middle-aged fashion choices.  There is also a tendency towards either much older or much younger behavior, those who cling to social circles much younger than themselves and those that have adopted a world-weary way of interacting.   I can only conjecture as to the cause of this discrepancy, and must assume that genetics plays some role, but what appears to be going on is that our lives up to this point, are decidedly catching up with us. I can tell who has spent too much time in the bars or out in the sun and not enough time in the gym or getting a decent nights rest.  I can see the tracks of worry and hard living etched across faces and have watched friends go grey after a single hard year. The tolls of life come due early, it’s up to us to take good care of ourselves because really, at just halfway through our thirties, we are still young and have a long way to go.

Some conventional wisdom on staying young at heart and looking it:
Eat well, but not too much.
Drink water.
Have hobbies.

Spend time with friends.

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 23, 2013

Stick It To Me


There is no way for me to understate the value of my acupuncturist in my life.  Acupuncture has helped me with anxiety, stomach illness, shin splints, tendinitis, and allergies among other things, sometimes providing relief the moment the right needle is set in place.  With that being said, it still feels a little magical and woo woo even though I have solid proof, from within my own body that it is effective.  Having grown up in the west I have western expectations for what constitutes medical treatment.  Mainly, sterilish looking rooms, staff in scrubs, odd instruments, and the prescription of medication as courses of action. In my life, this formula has largely failed me.  

This is not to say that western medicine does not have it’s place.  If you are hit by a truck or infected with a super-bacteria, or have something in your body that needs to be removed, then western medicine is by far the superior choice.  But for systemic problems, prevention, or chronic conditions, there may be a better course of treatment.  More than that, non-western treatments such as herbalism, naturopathy, and acupuncture are often community-based and far more affordable than western medicine.  Many of these types of treatments empower the patient to successfully self-treat one they understand what works for them.  And that is my point, whatever works for you works for you, regardless of how woo woo it may seem.

When if comes to your body and your medical care, the best course of action is to investigate all of your options and try them out, with an open mind, before dismissing them based on biases or ingrained messages of “correctness’ or “Modernity”.  The reality is that western medicine is a young science that is becoming increasing less effective as is entrenches itself in an unhealthy economic model and focuses on the treatment of symptoms and the lengthening of life at all costs rather than illness prevention or quality of life.  In the end, whatever works for you works for you.  There may be another way.

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, September 19, 2013

Paralyzing Fears


There are moments in course of our lives that feel like standing on the edge of a diving board. While the obvious is true, that the only real course of action is to move forward, fear, self loathing, and doubt can stick us in place. I see this in dancers, especially very young children, that have figured out the world's expectation of correctness and fear failing to the point of becoming unable to move.  They stand, motionless, rooted to the round beneath them, unable or willing to speak or interact in any way.  Adults, they quit.  They stop trying, they skip an activity, or they leave the class never to return.  From both groups I receive a lot of this plaintive cry, "This is hard for me."  I used to think that this was all about work ethic, that having to try, repeatedly, and the energy and commitment that required was deterrent enough.  Now I believe that is has more to do with fear than anything else.  Fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, fear of judgment, fear of not rising to the level of our own expectations or hopes, whatever the specific fear, the impacts on success can be devastating.

These days, I find myself at the edge of the diving board, toes curled over, looking into the water not even sure what it is exactly that I am afraid of, but peering into the water with apprehension. I wish for the adult in me to tell the small child that everything will be okay. I wish for the rational part of my brain to win the argument in a landslide. I stay at the edge of the board. And then this, a single line of text from my mother:

"Wherever you have dreamed of going I have camped there and left wood for you."

And I jump.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Two's Company


The Oxford English dictionary added the term crowdsourcing to it's dictionary in 2013 defining it as the "practice of obtaining information or sources by soliciting input from a large number of people."  Since it's first published use in 2006 crowdsourcing has been embraced by political movements, police investigators, and entrepenuers and artists looking for new and creative ways of obtaining funding.  It has been both incredibly helpful, and damaging; yesterday Reddit shut down a group looking for the DC base shooter, afraid that, similar to incidents after the Boston bombing, innocent people would be publicly accused.

My first experience with crowdsourcing was in the early days of SETI, an acronym for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.  SETI uses the the combined computing power of personal computers to sift through radio waves and other cosmic noise in the hope of finding evidence of intelligent life.  It is the largest distributed computing effort in the world and the old stand-by for geeks and conspiracy theorists. To me, it also represents the best of our early dreams of the internet and what we might have done if privacy and piracy and commerce has not forced us to build fire walls and enhanced encryption; it is a relic from our naive days of "free sharing" on the internet.

I find the recent popularity of crowdfunding sites a hopeful indication that we are moving back towards a healthy kind of internet collectivism. What I love about crowdfunding is it's reliance on the numbers. The success of a project does not lie in the generosity of wealthy donors or you best friends willingness to cough up a donation equal in value to the blender you got them for their wedding, but on small donations from many many people.  Crowdsourcing is intended to cast a broad net, reaching as many people as possible and asking of them only what they can afford, and it work.  If 200 people all pledge twenty dollars to a project, that's 4000 dollars in the coffer, the same amount of money if 400 people give just ten dollars.  In this respect, a little goes a long way.

In an era of waning funding for the arts, an ongoing recession, and increasing dependence on the internet for social interaction, crowdsourcing is a necessary new normal and a great opportunity.  It is how new movies and albums and books will be chosen for publication and new products will get their launch.  Crowdsourcing skips the focus groups and market research and goes directly to the people.  You like it, you fund it.  It's that easy.

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


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Thrill Of The Hunt


Nothing says fall to me like piles and piles of Chanterelle mushrooms.  This year they have started early and I am celebrating being able to hunt in dry weather.  I love the mystique of mushroom hunting, the secret locations, returning to old familiar stomping grounds, the same tree stump year after year.  I love the excitement of finding a hidden cluster, the leading edge of one mushroom turning into a pound with some careful brushing aside of debris.  With time, I have learned patience in the hunt, knowing that two hours of futility can be reversed with one or two good finds.  I also know that nothing in life is a guarantee and I should be cautious about taking my harvest personally, skill and experience may help, but in the end luck always seems to to win.  More than anything though, the autumn hunt encourages me to slow down, step off the trail, and look closely at the forest, to scrutinize it with a clarity and openness that I rarely accomplish charging up the trail, a destination as my goal.  I appreciate this annual reminder of the complexity of things and the need to pay attention.  The journey, after all, is only one part of our experience.

Happy hunting.

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 16, 2013

Girl Gone Wild


Two years ago I started looking for a well-written book about women in the wilderness.  I was looking for something both inspirational and practical, written from the standpoint of a woman that actually spends time in the outdoors.  What I found were gimmick books on glamping and diaries of pioneer wives, nothing written from a naturalists perspective and nothing that seemed instructive or addressed women-specific issues.  I thought that I couldn't possibly be the only woman that was interested in hearing about other women's outdoor experiences and I knew that I wasn't the only woman that could have used some guidance regarding safety, navigation, and any number of other things that come up when hiking and camping.  These books exist for men, I thought, why not women?  Is it possible that gender differences disappear in the wilderness?  Unlikely.  More likely, I thought, was that the male-dominated outdoor industry just hadn't figured out that there was a demand for women's outdoor narrative and some really good instructions for how not to pee on our shoes.

So, I wrote it.  Or most of it, really.  With thirty some-odd years of outdoor experience, a graduate degree in volcanology, and teaching and writing experience, I felt uniquely qualified for the task.  The only problem, how to find the time to finish the text and prepare to submit it for publication without quitting my day job.  The answer, quit your day job anyway.  So I did, well, one of them. And now I need your help.

I am running a Kickstarter to raise enough money to finish the text, edit it, format the images and figures, and get it out to publishers.  If you are can support me, please do.  I am offering some great rewards for my donors from wall calendars to day hikes in the hopes of enticing you to contribute financially.  If you can't contribute, and even if you can and do, you can help by spreading the word.  Anyone can support a Kickstarter project and I am going to need a lot of people to meet my (modest) goal so every repost, tweet, and link you can send out to your own network is invaluable to me.  I really appreciate your support!

To view the Kickstarter video, read excerpts from the book and other examples of my writing click here:
Girl Gone Wild

Keep checking back for updates, we have thirty days to make this happen,!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

In Consideration of Fall


Though summer is still burning, the return of children to school and the hardy work of the backyard squirrels turns my mind towards fall.  I find myself in consideration of the consequences of the previous months; a weighing of my progress towards my goals and obligations. I sympathize with the squirrels, hastened in their work by the knowledge of limited days.  I feel the pressure of my own harvest, the enormity of the tasks ahead of me. I worry.  I wonder if I will know when it is good enough, when I can shutter the windows and bed into winter. The squirrels look as if they will continue until the frost.  I suppose then, that I shall too.

Photograph Courtesy of: 

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Take Care of You


There are some illnesses and injuries that are neither life threatening nor particularly treatable.  In these cases the frustrating answer from health specialists is rest, eat good food, and, in general, take good care of yourself.  Recovery never seems to be as fast as we would like it to be.  I do however enjoy the side benefit of being forced to create new, healthier habits and hopefully drop some old, less healthy ones.  Try as we might we all have vices, proclivities, weaknesses, and things we simply just don't like to do.  But when it comes down to it, our day to day choices are the single most important thing for our health, make them good ones.

Michael Pollen's Resources for Food and Eating:

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Promises Promises


On September 3rd Matthew Cordle published a video confessing to killing a man while driving drunk earlier in the summer.  The video quickly went viral and sparked all kinds of discussion about drunk driving, manipulation of the legal system, and taking responsibility for one's actions.  What I find most compelling about this story though, is the website through which Matt's video was produced and distributed. is a non-profit organization based on the concept of keeping promises.  The idea behind the site is that by stating our intentions to a broader audience, we may be able to hold ourselves accountable to our own words and intentions.  I think that it is a compelling concept for a culture that values victim-hood and lack of responsibility.  

What is the role of promises in your life? What commitments have you made? What is your word worth?  How do promises, kept and broken, play out in your relationships at home and at work?  Do you believe in truth and trust?

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 9, 2013

Unplugged And Happy


Ten days is not actually a very long time, but in the age of electronica, taking that much time away from both one's phone and email is regarded by many as self-abuse or some kind of act of aggression towards others.  I think that it is bliss.  Not surprisingly, the world continues to turn without my online participation.  Cat videos and selfies are still posted, dry sarcasm does not fade away, and anyone that really needs to get in touch with me manages to do so.  What is more valuable is the reminder of just how few people really need to get in touch with me.  The internet has a way of amplifying our importance, even if only in our own minds, when really we are still creatures of close-knit families and communities and just because we are able to communicate all the time, in real time, does not mean that we need to or should.  We are not as important and we would like to believe and I take great solace in that knowledge.  Put down your phone, turn off your computer, go outside, whatever it is can wait until later.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Unsolved Mysteries

Soldier On


In the spring of 1990 the car transporting Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, vocal and influential activists for the preservation of the California Redwoods, exploded.  Bari was an organizer for Earth First! a well-known environmental group formed in 1979 that specializes in non-violent direction action.  Bari was a major organizer for their Redwood Summer, a series of anti-logging protests aimed at protection of the Redwood forests and the changing of logging practices.

Bari had received a series of death threats in the months leading up to the bombing. The FBI arrived at the scene in minutes.  Injured, both Bari and Cherney were taken into custody in Oakland after the bombing and charged with transportation of an incendiary device; they were being held for bombing themselves.  Bari never recovered, remaining severely disabled for the rest of her life.  Though the charges were dropped amid clear evidence of a third party being responsible for the crime, the most compelling of which being the placement of the device directly beneath the drivers seat, the FBI and national press painted Bari and Cherney as environmental terrorists and used the incident to marginalize the entire environmental movement of the early 90's.

No other suspects have ever been taken into custody.

The image of environmental activists as crazy, dirty hippies with no jobs and nothing better to do than drugs and violent petty crimes stems from incidences such as these.  Far from the successes of other non-violent movements, civil right, and labor for instance, the environmental movement of the late 20th century was unable to garner mainstream support or respect, instead becoming increasingly caricatured and ignored.  This allowed policy makers to largely ignore the environmental movement in its totality.

Perhaps the government and big business had learned a few things before the environmental movement was realized, perhaps the social climate was not ready for another cultural revolution, maybe it was a movement ahead of it's time, lacking the rigorous research and obvious signs of climate change and species loss we now  see daily on the news.  Whatever the cause, Judi Bari, what she fought for, and almost the entirety of the movement have faded from public consciousness.  Climate change, and the fact of dwindling resources have not.

Most distressing about this is the early, pre-911 association of non-violent activism, especially environmental activism, with terrorism.  There is good reason to know about Judi Bari, and not just for the protection of the Redwoods, but for the protection of our civil rights and the freedom of speech.  The fight to save the Redwoods continues.  


John Muir in 1920 on saving the Redwoods:

The Who Bombed Judi Bari Movie Official website:

The New York Times brief review:


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Place of Refuge

Bouncing Into Graceland


Early Hawaiians had a strong sense of justice and morality which they codified as the Kapu, code of conduct.  They believed that violation of this code constituted a crime not only against their community and social contract but also against larger spiritual forces; a theft of mana.  The penalty for such a crime was Ko'o Kapu, death, typically enforced by chasing the offender down on foot and killing them by hand.

This strikes me as a severe system of punishment for what are generally known as peaceful and laid-back people.  It smacks of the unfairness of life, the lack of forgiveness and permanent nature of our mistakes.  Further, it shows how prevalent ruling with fear is, that the practice of social control through brute force is, and has been, pervasive among all human cultures.  The Hawaiians, however, have a loophole.  If you were convicted but could outrun your captors and reach a place a refuge, a Puuhonua, then you were granted immunity as long as you resided within its walls.  Some of these places of refuge were only reached by water.

I think it is important for all of us to remember that even in our darkest hours, even when faced with oppression, evil, or our own demons overpowering our better angels, there are always places of refuge, lands of grace, if only we can find our way.  

To Listen to Paul Simon's Graceland:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Not Keeping Secrets

Post Secret


There is a hugely popular bog called PostSecret that is an ongoing public art project in which people submit secrets written on one side of a postcard.  A lot of the posts are funny, and most of them are visually interesting; until they aren't.  There are posts about abortions, rape, infidelity, and addiction, there are the kinds of awful things you cannot make up in the first place and then cannot get rid of after you see them.  Sometimes it is hard to tell if the post is from a true confessor in need of anonymous catharsis, or a thrill seeker pushing their fantasy onto a voyeuristic audience.  Every time I go to this blog I come away feeling a little dirty and depressed.  

I understand the compulsion towards confession, especially anonymous confession.  I think we all need the weight of our secrets, the actions of our past selves or the actions of others that we have suffered or witnessed, to be lifted, even momentarily.  But it is difficult to face the enormity of our collective hidden lives. The part of me that wants for people to be healthy and well reels from just how unhappy, dysfunctional, and cruel we really are.  I'm not sure that it makes me feel better to know that people feel badly about it.  

Candy Chang, a New Orleans-based public artist has taken a similar  but more positive and inspiring approach to confession as public art in several of her installations.  In Confessions, she prompted people to write confessions on posted slips of paper in a contemplative space inspired by Shinto shrines.  Her acknowledgement of the influence of both Shinto and Catholic concepts of confession in her work are what distinguishes it from PostSecret.  Confessions has none of the sensationalism, no feeling of desperation or attention grabbing that you find on Post Secret.  The result is far more profound and simple, and the tone of the confessions decidedly more positive.  It turns out that in a contemplative space people confess love in addition to loss.

Secrets are like anything else, to keep them carries a price and a weight.  There are lots of ways to unburden yourself and there are lots of people with secrets.  Consider letting go of one of yours.


Post Secret:


Before I Die: