Fostering a Love of Nature in the Younger Generation

This weekend my husband and I met our daughter and granddaughter on the North Shore of Lake Superior. There are so many lovely views along the way. Majestic Lake Superior, beautiful waterfalls, and forests all make for an enjoyable day surrounded by natural beauty. Our granddaughter is 5 years old and a smart little girl with a naturally inquisitive nature, that made this day even more special.

As we voyaged along the North Shore, we made many stops. The first was at Gooseberry falls and the last was at the Temperance River. The paths were covered with snow, slush and ice from the recent April blizzard we had. But that didn’t stop us. That little girl was always excited to get out of the vehicle to see what new experiences this stop would bring her, what new path to trot down and what new sights to see. It was such a joy to watch her as she darted here and there. I could see her falling in love with this area of the country that I love so much.

Our other grandchildren love the outdoors just as much. They enjoy playing outside every chance they get. They love to hike down paths through the woods, are excited about upcoming camping trips, and enjoy getting to see the wildlife that are part of these types of adventures. Fostering this type of love in our youngsters does a couple of things. It helps them and it helps the planet.

It helps them by giving them an escape, that we all need sometimes. They learn that the world has so much to offer. There is more to life than just the TV and tablets. They learn that fun, as well as peace, can be found by getting out into nature. Helping them develop a love of nature at a young age gives them an opportunity to develop several coping mechanisms as they age. Going hiking and camping, are parts of my life, that help me during tough times. Paddling a Kayak down river, after a stressful day, helps all the tension melt away. When we introduce children to these things at a young age, it gives them more for their tool box as they age.

It helps the world by producing more people who will want to protect it. They are less likely to take actions in the future that could cause harm to the planet, when they see how special the natural world is. When they fall in love with Mother Nature and all she has to offer them, they are more invested in taking care of her. They will not all become tree hugging hippies but they may become responsible with their trash, recycle, or choose products with packaging that is earth friendly.

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Just as our little granddaughter had a blast exploring the beauty around us, I enjoyed watching her fall in love with the earth. Do you have children in your life? what kinds of things do you do with them out in nature? I would love to hear about your adventures with little ones. 

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May you enjoy the world of nature with any little ones in your life, as if by magic.

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A Story of Remembering

I want to tell you a story. This might be a story of old or it might be the story of now. It is likely a story that has occurred countless times throughout history. It is a story of trust and a story of renewal, but most of all, it a story of remembering.

There was a young woman. She was a mother or she wasn’t. She had responsibilities as we all do. One day, as she was walking through the forest of life, she saw a path. This path was not into the light but rather was a path into the darkness. This path went deep into the forest and it looked very dangerous. It was jagged and had many curves. It would have been impossible to learn were the path would take her by simply looking. The darkness of this path called to her. It called to her and it pulled at her, although she knew pain and betrayal waited for her along this path, she felt oddly intrigued by it.

Now I have to tell you, this young woman had always been responsible. She had always done what had been asked of her, what was expected of her, and even more. Everyone in her tribe felt she was the perfect young woman. Every mother wanted to call her daughter. The older men all wanted to call her daughter and the younger men chased her to be their bride. She cared for the young and learned from the elderly. She was the definition of smart and responsible.

Despite her history, as such a stand up member of the community, the young woman felt she must walk this path. She had to voyage into the darkness, even though it meant walking away from her responsibilities. She had to risk being hurt and had to hurt those who had placed so much trust and pride in her. She stepped onto the path, dropping the baskets that she had brought into the forest, leaving them where they lay.

The path was arduous. She stumbled and fell many times. She met scary creatures who pretended to be her friends or help her, but in the end, they we leading her farther into the darkness. They hurt her, physically, emotionally, and separated her from the light. Sometimes she tried to find her way back but they kept pulling her deeper into the darkness. They kept pulling her further from who she had been. They caused her to feel like a completely different person. It did not take long before she forgot who she was. She forgot she was from the light and she believed she was a creature of the darkness.

This went on for many years. The village mourned her. They felt that she was lost to them forever. They feared she would never find her way back to the light. But one day, she stumbled into the village. She was wild and untamed. She was a mere shadow of the bright young woman who she had once been. The darkness hung all around her and her “friends” from there, watched from the shadows. They called to her and pulled at her.

There was something about the village that felt like home to her, although she could not really recall. The community did not trust her, they avoided her. They would not let her care for the young or spend time with the elderly. They did not want to claim her as they once did. When they tried to give her responsibilities she would wander off or never fulfill them. Even though she was back, they felt she was still lost. They still did not recognize her as the brave and ambitious woman she had once been.

One day the village wise woman (the witch) was working quietly on something. She had been watching all of this. She saw how the darkness pulled at the woman, but she also saw how the woman tried to resist the darkness. She knew something deep within the young woman wanted to live fully in the light again, but there was so much baggage from the darkness, she couldn’t seem to step away from it. It had become a part of her identity.

The witch touched her finger to the young woman’s brow. The place in front of where the third eye resides. “Remember” said the wise old woman, “remember who you are”. The young woman blinked at her elder. The darkness seemed to fall away. Her “friends” let go of their holds on her and slunk back onto the treacherous path. Light beamed all around the young woman and she suddenly did remember who she was.

From that day on she worked to gain the trust of her community. She became who she had been only better. She was wiser now. Having known the darkness and living among the darkness helped her better see how she belonged in the light. It helped her embrace and enjoy her responsibilities. She become one others looked to for wisdom, for she had lived what they could never imagine and returned to the light.

Time would pass and worlds would change. The young woman would become the witch in the future. The wise woman would become the young woman again. This story would continue to unfold throughout history over and over again. Is this your story? It is my story. It is many peoples’ story. Forgive yourself for the time in the darkness. It was a part of your journey. It is done or nearly done now. You are wiser for it. Remember who you are! Remember that you are of the light!

Thank you for ready no my blog today! May you remember your true nature, as if by magic!

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Drumming With the Wolves; My Experience

On Saturday, July 21st I received the exciting opportunity to be part of an event called, Drumming with the Wolves. It was held at the Wildlife Science Center. To follow is the intentions behind the event, what I experienced there, and how it changed me.

The event was the brain child of one of my friends, Vonne. I feel grateful and blessed that she invited me to be a co-organizer for this important event. It was set with the idea of raising money to help support this important center and all of the great research they are gathering, knowledge they are sharing, and endangered animals they are fighting to keep from extinction.

The event started around 6 pm. The evening was sunny and warm and about 30-40 people joined us to have the opportunity to see these great creatures up close, learn about them, and be part of a drum circle. There was a strong feeling of community as old friends reunited and new friends met for the first time. I met some amazing people, who I hope to see again and again at future events. Peggy, the Founder, Biologist, and Wolf Mother took us on a tour of her amazing facility. We started off by meeting the Wolves. As we walked along their enclosures the Wolves ran up to the fence to meet us. I remember when my eyes met the golden eyes of the first majestic animal.  I fell in love. You could see the wildness in his being but also the love. These Wolves are, after all, spiritual beings too.  Peggy graciously educated us, answered questions, and howled so that the Wolves would howl back. I cannot describe the way it took my breath away to hear 100+ Wolves howling in chores together.  I have heard Wolves howl when Emy and I were camping in the Boundary Waters but to have them all around us howling, was a completely different experience. We met many Wolves on this tour, all with their own interesting and unique stories to tell.

After we met the Wolves we got to meet some of the other wild creatures that have come to live there, because they cannot be released back to the wild. Mountain Lions, Lynx, and Bobcats all call the Wildlife Science Center home. Additionally, there are Bears, Raccoons, an elderly Porcupine, Fox, and Skunk. Each creature has its own story of how it came to call the heartfelt place home. There are also Raptors, who we did not get to meet, perhaps during the next public event called The Harvest Howl in October.

After we finished our tours we shared in a potluck. Prayer Ties were made with Tobacco grown from a 100 year old seed shared by an attending indigenous woman. Intentions and prayers were placed in the Ties to be fed to the fire. It was very beautiful and powerful. That this tradition was shared with us and the tobacco song sung in the native tongue made me feel honored and blessed to be a part of this.

I led a healing meditation. I was awed and a bit amused as the wolves added their howls from time to time to the meditation. It was as though they wanted to participate.

Now it was time for the drumming. Lisa called in the directions and led the drumming. The drums beat matched with the heartbeat of the Earth. Each drumming session had a powerful intention set with it. Children and adults all participated. There were Drums, Dowels, Tibetan Tingsha Cymbals, Singing Bowls, Rattles, and even a white Crystal Bowl. A Didgeridoo was played earlier in the night offering sound baths to some participants. It was a blend of cultures and such an amazing sense of community. There was no judgment, only love, community, and respect. The Drumming was an important and inspiring part of the evening. As our Drums beat together, joining us with each other and the natural world around us, our prayers were carried off with the Drum beats and vibrations. It connected us together with one another and with all of nature.

The Wolves; who are a fierce hunter, strong predator, and create fear in so many – displayed only love and curiosity during our visit. They are well cared for and respected. They are not pets but rather wild animals who need our help and understanding to survive. At the end of the night we howled, Peggy howled, and the Wolves howled. It was a final goodbye and great end to the night.

It was an experience that was transformative in many ways. I was looking forward to the Drumming but the night was so much more than just that. The opportunities to join these kind of events is a blessing. They enhance your life and teach you things about others, but more than anything else, they help you to know yourself even better. What moves you, inspires you, touches your heart? This event and the people and creatures I met here did all these things for me and more.

Thank you for reading my blog today. May you find events that foster in you a deeper connection with yourself and those around you, as if by magic. I love you!

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A Brand New Adventure

Thursday was a beautiful winter day in Northern Minnesota. The sky was a crystal blue and clear. The sun was bright and white against the blue of the sky. The ground was blanketed with a layer of sparkling white snow. It was 7 degrees above zero with an expected high of 31. This was as lovely a day as we could hope for on our first ever dog sledding adventure.

The dogs were friendly and happy. They excitedly greeted each one of us. We walked amongst the dogs giving them hugs and loves. They were as excited as we were about the days adventure. It was to be a day long experience that would cover 15-30 miles in Superior National Forest.

It started out with the guides teaching us how to drive the sled and mush the dogs. The most important lesson learned was how to stop the sled; the dogs needed no encouragement to go. They loved to run. Instruction halted for a bit when a dog came over looking for affection. Theo (one of our teachers) stopped what she was doing to give the pup what she was looking for. I was impressed by the love and respect the animals were treated with. Our guides taught us how to safely and kindly harness the team. Lead dogs in front, team dogs in the middle, and wheel dogs in the back. As we secured them to the line, all of the huskies started barking and howling, saying they too wanted to go on the excursion.

As we set off into the middle of the forest, the dogs were excited and wanting to run. Marty (my amazing husband) was driving the sled while I was tucked safely inside, ready for an experience unlike anything I have done before.

We glided through the crystalline world, encompassed completely by nature. Giant boulders, some as big as our house, stood as reminders of the glaciers that dropped them there long years ago. The uphill climbs were slow and steady, while on the downhills the canines poured on the speed. The sound of an occasional bark was the only noise other than the paws on the trail and that of the sled. It was breathtaking! Large pines and bare birch trees stood in alliance protecting this sacred space. We pulled out of the trees to journey across a frozen lake. As we first glided onto the lake, one of the sleds lost its balance and tipped, throwing its driver. The passenger continued on behind the enthusiastic team in the sled, on its side, for a good 20 feet before the team came to a stop. I thanked my lucky stars that Marty had kept us upright. We stopped for lunch on the lake. A fire was started and brats were cooked on sticks found in the woods. Homemade cookies and hot chocolate rounded out the meal. While we ate and chatted, the dogs lounged in the sun. One of the younger dogs barked excitedly but the older dogs took it easy or rolled and played in the snow. The crackle and smell of the fire, which I usually associate with summer, was in such contrast to this silent cold environment.

After a nice break, we loaded back up, tummies full of warm food. As soon as the teams saw us coming they got all lined up and start making a joyous sound, more than ready to get going again.

The trip back was faster and with tighter curves. There were times my shoulder brushed trees as we raced on. As we came around one turn, the end of a downed tree protruded from the snow into the trail. Marty tried to shift the sled to avoid it but it caught us just right and our sled was pushed over onto it right side. Luckily Marty held on and the team stopped after a somewhat short drag on my side. Marty pulled the sled back upright and the dogs immediately took off before he could get himself situated. This time we were thrown onto our left side. Marty got the sled upright and again, the dogs took off. The fact that I was not dragged away is because Marty threw himself on the brake and held the team back until he could get situated. Dan, our other excellent guide, had tied off his team and was running back to help us, but by now we were all set and ready to go again.

The rest of the trip was a wild ride through the evergreens and naked brush. I can not describe how exciting and fun it was to be zooming through this majestic forest, pulled onward by these amazing animals. I am so impressed with the dogs and their enthusiasm. As we neared the end of our trip, a large cast iron bell hung in a tree. I reached up and grabbed the rope and rang the bell as we glided under it to let them know of our return.

We pulled back into the dog yard. The dogs were happy to be home and only slightly winded. We thanked each dog with pets, hugs, and treats. We got to help unharness the team and get them safely back to their homes.

This was a great adventure. I was in need of some forest bathing time and this was a beautiful and fun way to get to experience northern Minnesota nature in March. I recommend, if you are looking for something different to do during the frozen months, to give it a try! You will learn a lot, have a new adventure, and maybe even discover some things about yourself.

Adventure on my friends! I wish you a life filled with fun and new experiences.

Thank you Theo, Dan, and White Wilderness Dog Sledding Adventures for the grand day!

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What Do You Regret?

I like to listen to music while I work. It helps me concentrate. Your Side of the Bed by Little Big Town was playing. In that song they ask “Are you sleeping with your own regrets?” It got me thinking about regrets. I have always tried to live a regret free existence. I have always felt that we do the best we can in the time and place we are in. Even with this philosophy, there have been a couple things in my life that I have struggled with. Sharing these regrets makes me very nervous. They are things I do not talk about. What is interesting to me as I reflect on this is that I don’t mind sharing with strangers but I am very nervous to have people who know me aware of them. I guess I fear being judged.
One of those things was related to my first husband’s daughter. She ended up in foster care. I, for a long time, regretted that I didn’t try and get custody of her. At that time in my life, I had two children that I was raising as a single mother. I felt I was not in a place to be able to take on another child. After this girl became an adult, I was able to make contact with her. I told her I was sorry that I did not fight to get custody of her. She was very gracious and said that she was just fine and that she has gone on to get a degree in social services. Perhaps her childhood was related to her calling in life. Perhaps that is why the Universe conspired for me to feel I could not take on raising her. Maybe her upbringing turned out to be better for her than anything I could have provided her with.
Do you believe in soul contracts? The idea that we come into this life with set experiences we are meant to have. When I first heard about the idea, I was not so sure about it. Now I find it is a good fit for my belief system. It makes sense to me. If I had saved her from foster care would I have cheated her out of one of her soul contracts? Or would I have cheated myself out of the experience of regret and trying to make amends? Do soul contracts mean we do not try to help others? I do not think so. Helping others could likely be one of our soul contracts. Do you think regret serves a purpose? Does the avoidance of regret help us make better choices?
Another time in my life, I regretted, was when I was a teenager. I was depressed and was going to commit suicide. One of my friends realized what I intended to do. She told the counselor who drove out to my house. The close call made me re-evaluate the importance of life and I have never been suicidal since. My friend saved my life and I am eternally grateful for the action she took. My regret is in the action I took after the counselor was alerted. I lied. I told the counselor, my mother, everyone, that my friend was wrong. It made her look foolish. We were never friends again after that day. I lost my best friend as a result of that lie. I have since contacted her and expressed my gratitude, as well as, apologized for lying. She forgave me.
I recently wrote a blog called Beneficial Forgiveness.  Dealing with these regrets is a perfect place to practice forgiving yourself. Remind yourself that you did do the best you could, in the time and place you were in then.
How have regrets shaped your life? Do you have regrets? Are there some you can’t seem to move past? How can you work on forgiving yourself for these things?

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5 of My Favorite Places

I simply love to travel. My blessed life and amazing job has given me the opportunity to travel quite a bit. I have loved every trip and every new destination. There are, however, some that are my favorites. These are places I would like to go back to again and again. My husband and I were planning some new trips and this caused me to reflect on some of my favorite places.
1. The Pacific Northwest. I am enchanted with this part of the country. Its volcanic mountains and giant tree filled mossy forests make for stunning scenery. The area is a rain forest and so magical. You can imagine fairies and gnomes peaking at you from amongst the branches. The Portland Saturday Market is full of interesting and talented artisans. Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center provides a unique experience in the mountains and the opportunity to go within while there.
2. Ireland. This is another magical place. Here the gnomes are replaced by leprechauns. The people of Ireland are amazing. I felt so welcome while I was there. The Burren Perfumery has beautiful gardens where you are free to wander. They grow their own plants to make the perfume. The small windy roads of the Irish countryside pass by castle ruins with sheep grazing on the grounds. It was in Ireland that I saw my first real waterfall after a long delightful hike.
3. Florence Italy. It is stunning to be walking down the street and all of a sudden there are sculptures you saw in your art history text books. The history and the art is breathtaking. While there, we were able to see Michelangelo’s David. Words cannot describe how I felt when I saw this masterpiece. The food was also quite good. Affordable authentic Italian food was plentiful and we did not have one bad meal.
4. BWCA (Boundary Water Canoe Area). If you follow my blog you have heard of this before. Untamed wilderness, very few people, and the serene beauty of the area make this a yearly destination. I have a passion for the forest and when that forest involves camping, overlooking a quiet lake and paddling tranquil water ways, it makes for an even better experience. Sitting around the campfire at night listening to the wolves howl in the distance is a harmonious lullaby.
5. Cocoa Beach Florida. There is nothing quite like laying on the beach in the sun and listening to the waves lap the shore. It can be very meditative. I learned quickly to respect the sun’s powerful energy. Drinking lots of fluids and seek shade so as not to get burned. I lived in Florida for 10 years and it still feels like home to me. I enjoy the heat and humidity. It feels like being wrapped in a warm blanket to me. Traveling more inland the vegetation changes. When I see the Spanish Moss on the old Live Oaks it gives me a whimsical feeling.
There are so many places I loved visiting. To many trips to share all of them here today. I just wanted to share a few of my favorites with you. Perhaps they will inspire you to plan a trip in the New Year. Get out of your comfort zone and go someplace new. My bucket list is bursting at the seams with yet to be taken trips. New favorites await!
What are some of your favorite places? Why do they make the top of your list?