Restoring our lost intimacy with nature

As many of you know, I have been struggling to understand and express here how living close to nature changes you. Since moving into big sky country over four years ago, I have changed tremendously, to the point where living with a brain injury does not effect me half as much. Why is this? Because nature is slow and deliberate. Nature is in no hurry to explain or understand itself. Nature is so not like the predominantly human world.

This week I read an amazing interview with writer Barry Lopez in the December issue of “The Sun.” Here he explains myself to me well. As someone who grew up in small to medium-sized cities, I rarely experienced the wonder or intimacy of living close to nature. I experienced instead the loneliness and lack of opportunities for true intimacy in the human-made world. I did not even appreciate my own need to reconnect with the natural world completely until my husband Mike talked me into moving to a wide-open space in the high desert of southern Colorado.

As soon as we moved here I felt different. I felt myself slowing down and appreciating each moment much more completely. Each astounding new view took my breathe away. Slowly I began naturally letting go of my past and my future, feeling less alone than I ever have. Nature is deliberate and can be trusted unlike most experiences in wholly human culture. The beautiful silence outside my door each morning provided me with authentic contact with the harmony in a world outside of human existence. Living in such beauty awakens a sense of gratitude for all there is to experience in the natural world. There so much here that most will never experience directly.

Barry Lopez believes that if you asked anyone walking down a sidewalk in a city, “What is it that you really want?” Many would say intimacy. But “you can’t gain intimacy without vulnerability, and you can’t have vulnerability without trust.” Barry finds this lack of intimacy and vulnerability in human culture to be manifested by our lack of intimacy with the land itself. Cities create a kind of competition and divisiveness that can not be found outside of them in the natural world.

Sometimes I think about the darkest moments in my past, moments of depression and hopelessness. I now realize that if I had known enough to escape from cities at those times, I would have found the kind of meaning and peace I needed to find new hope for meeting my next future.

But then we are all on schedule to learn what we must to discover our best life. Trust in that!

My Own Experience With WildFires and Snow Storms

Imagine if this were your town…

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones in the California Paradise Fire last November. I hope you were able to see Frontline last night, Fire in Paradise. I think it is important that the rest of us understand what some Americans have gone through and what they lost. In less than 4 hours a small fire that started 8 miles from Paradise engulfed the entire town from all directions. Many of the 40,000 residents simply did not believe the speed of this fire. Others tried to get out, but the roads were too jammed up to escape. Eighty-five Americans, most over age 65, died in this wildfire.

I felt a strong need to watch this episode of Frontline because we had our own wildfire here last July, and if not for our wonderful and amazing local firefighters, that town could have easily been La Veta, population 8-900.

The Spring Fire on the evening of June 28th 2018

The night that fire started, I sat in my bed and watched the fire jump from mountaintop to mountaintop across a couple valleys behind us. I could also see our local firefighters out there giving their all to contain that fire. The next day the National Guard was called in along with the Hot Shots and firefighters from around our nation. We were evacuated the next day for a week, as the fire jumped Highway 160 and came towards our new home. Our fire burned a total of 108,045 acres, and was the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history.

The residents of Paradise where not so lucky. They basically had no warning. The fire came flying into their town so fast and only half were warned properly by Code Red. But even then their roads were inadequate to evacuate the entire town in less than an hour. Imagine the fear and anguish.

The weather outside may be frightful, but not like a firestorm!

Like most disasters, news reporters flash on a big story for a day or two and then we all forget, but not me. Every report from California and every single day of our latest series of three snowstorms here in southern Colorado remind me of how lucky we are to still be receiving large amounts of moisture. Yep. Fifteen inches of snow is fine with me!

Things you may discover as you age…

Here’s my list. Have some fun creating yours!

I love feeling loved and married.

Just feeling no pain feels GREAT!

Breathing can be such a pleasure.

Pets are a blessing!

Sitting in the sun on a cold winter’s day is heaven!

Even small towns can be FUN.

Good friends are very hard to find.

Gratitude is everything!

Being in ‘reality’ and escaping it are both fun and necessary.

Finding purpose and meaning are both overrated: Enjoy yourself!

Letting go of your past is the first step towards enjoying your present.

Silence is GOLDEN.

Letting go of judgment and replacing it with compassion sets you free!

I LOVE harp music.

Libraries: The Key to Mine and America’s Success!

I hope some of you saw the great piece on CBS Sunday Morning today, called “Pete Hamill on Jimmy Breslin and the heralded world of beat reporters.” Pete Hamill is well worth listening to as a wise man. He is also very well-spoken. One of the first quotes from his interview hit me close to home:

Interviewer: “Did you grow up poor?”

Pete: “We grew up poor, but not impoverished.”

Interviewer: “What’s the difference?”

Pete: “The library.”

That is the perfect explanation for my choice of careers! Many of my fondest memories revolve around getting my first library card and beginning my search for knowledge and entertainment in the small public library in Emporia Kansas. From searching endlessly through the stacks, to getting an additional dip on my imaginary ice cream cone for every book I read in the summer, libraries have been a quintessential part of my life, my search for meaning and my identification as an American.

“Since this country’s founding, public libraries have received broad and consistent popular support for their democratic missions and services. The ability to access free information has become a core ideal of what it means to be an American citizen, despite periods of historic inequality. Libraries help make this access possible by placing public benefit at the center of their work and continually adapting their strategies to meet changing public needs over time.” — A History of U.S. Public Libraries

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Granted librarians are rarely glorified in our culture. In fact, historically we’ve been made fun of constantly as nasty ugly old sour-faced women who wear sensible shoes, their hair in a bun and say “Shhhhhhh!” To quote Wikipedia: “Stereotypes of librarians in popular culture are frequently negative… portrayed as puritanical, punitive, unattractive, and introverted if female, or timid and effeminate if male. Such inaccurate stereotypes are likely to have a negative impact on the attractiveness of librarianship as a profession to young people.” But many of us were too smart for that!

Use your mind everyday! Become a librarian!

I believed so much in the connection between American freedom of information, critical thinking and citizenship that I worked for years as a Government Information Librarian. The reference question I enjoyed most was introducing people from other countries to the book on “How to become an American citizen.” I was also an United Nations and International Documents Librarian. My funniest exchange there was the man who came up to the desk and tried to convince me how horrible the UN was. I responded with, ” I didn’t become a United Nations Librarian because I hate the UN.”

I have no regrets about being a librarian for 25 years. It was a positive and flexible career, one which allowed me to enjoy many adventures worldwide, while providing job security and a great retirement. In addition, I was able to celebrate and support everything I love about being an American!

Finding Health in an Unhealthy World

In a world filled with glaring contradiction, unfairness and stress, where can we turn for comfort? Too many of us turn to food, pharmaceuticals and other forms of self-medication. The possible distractions are endless, but many are unhealthy or even self-destructive.

New research is showing another alternative:

Spending a minimum of 2 hours in the great outdoors (parks, green space, your own backyard) every week boosts both your physical and mental health.

What roles do nature and exposure to natural surroundings play in improving our health? We know that spending time in nature makes us feel good, but does it measurably affect our well-being? Study after study has shown the answer is yes.

In fact, social determinants of health—including where we’re born, live, work, play and age collectively have a far greater impact on our health outcomes than the healthcare delivery system. Healthcare services account for just 10% of longevity, while social and environmental factors account for twice that at 20%, your genetic makeup accounts for 30%, and lifestyle choices and behaviors a whopping 40%. 

Ever since I left suburbia and moved a lot closer to a natural setting, I have been changing. My mental health has improved with ever increasing mindful meditation and peace. My vigilance and fear have gradually diminished, and yet I struggle to explain how this move has changed me. I only know when I return to cities I notice a difference between me and those who struggle with traffic, congestion and overpopulation every day.

Now we have new research proving what I have learned on my own. Sure, this may all seem like a no-brainer, but if you are looking for a new form of tranquility, accept the obvious and find comfort in nature. It’s free and clean!

How our self-image must change as we age

Somehow I never pictured myself with oxygen equipment. For most of my life I have felt strong, healthy and very self-sufficient. That was how I saw myself as I traveled the globe, collecting sometimes difficult but important life experiences and M.A. degrees.

Life certainly has an amazing way of surprising us!

The view from our new solar home!

Ever since I moved down to southern Colorado in 2014 and then up to seven thousand feet in 2015, breathing has been a struggle, leading to many doctor’s appointments, cat scans and even a recent lung biopsy. No, I don’t have cancer, just damaged lungs from decades of bronchitis and bad air. What a great thing to find out as we settled into our forever home near the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

I fought hard for a couple of years, not accepting that I needed oxygen full-time to live a normal life. I thought I would eventually adjust to our thin air, using all of my inborn stubbornness. If you know me, you know how stubborn I can be! Accepting reality has never been my forte. But finally, twenty tests and a sleep study later, I have resigned to my new reality. I will probably be on oxygen for the rest of my life.

Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is!

Some say just move to a lower elevation. My answer is a resounding NO! Living away from cities, listening to the marvelous natural silence and looking at the mountains constantly has changed me completely in ways impossible to describe to others. I feel so content, safe and grateful here in spite of my breathing struggles.

I know what’s happening in the “world” but I can also completely ignore it here, close to nature and what matters most to me…

How our definition of “success” changes throughout our lifetime

I am sure most of us have been in search of ways to “succeed in life” ever since we became conscious human beings. What a great goal, and yet we have been constantly trying to hit a moving target. How many times have you re-defined success in this lifetime?

In my 64 years on this planet, this re-definition process has divided into three main stages of life:

In our early years we are simply busy learning all that we can to be able to succeed in traditional ways like finding a dependable mate and a career of some kind. This stage tends to error on the side of self-consciousness and appearances, focusing too much on what others think we should do.

In our middle years we develop our career and perhaps a family, maybe buy a home, and strive to feel well-established and secure.

Midlife Crisis: I for one experienced a major midlife crisis around age 49. The bottom fell out of all my best-made plans, with a divorce and then job/career loss. Other forms of midlife disillusionment may include serious illness, the death of a loved one, or some combination of these various misfortunes. This may compel us to question many of our previous assumptions about how we have defined our own life success. At this point we might ask:

Will I feel like a success in my life if I continue down this path?

Will I be content in the end if I maintain these priorities?

Aging is nature’s way of answering these questions for us, slowly but surely. For me, my emphasis on career fell away quickly when I realized that my highest priority was finding one genuine, honest, loyal love in this lifetime. After that I became a writer and author, best known as the “Midlife Crisis Queen” online. Then my husband and I decided to choose an entirely different lifestyle by moving to rural Colorado, away from most city stress.

After five years of quiet meditation in the peace of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, I find I have learned much more about how easily I was convinced to live someone else’s life in the past, making many mistakes in my previous priorities. Now I know, the best things in life aren’t things. And, in the end, it all came down to this:

The hardest battle you will ever face in life is to be no one but yourself, in a world that is trying its hardest to make you like everybody else…