Month: October 2022
We had the privilege of visiting Antelope canyons during our road trip this summer. It taught me so much, and I am grateful to be able to share the gifts of what it taught me. Antelope canyon is on the Diné reservation in Arizona, and it brought me such peace that most of the tour companies are native owned.
Our guide explained how the sandstone formed, and even did the magic trick of making a sandstone formation with water and sand. I was amazed at the process, but it reminded me of the power of small simple steps. And how powerful it can be to continue layer by layer of action. If you zoom in to see the layers of sandstone on the pictures, each layer is what happens when sand blows around, then is solidified in place by water when it rains. It’s the constant baking of sediment runoff, then more layers every time it rains. Over time, it compounds and the pressure of all that sand eventually turns it into sandstone.
How powerful to realize that our actions can mimic that of nature. A whole lifetime of choices could produce such beauty that layer upon layer of events happening to us as individuals create such works of art that others could benefit from years after we die. This is the legacy I want to leave, and the sandstone reminds me that it’s a step at a time, a commitment at a time, and a choice at a time.
Many people have made the comment to me that it looks like I live a very magical life. To be honest, I’ve lowered my bills, live in community, share resources, and I’m able to save up enough money to go on these excursions. It also helps to camp at free campsites, which involves a lot of planning for a road trip. There are many variables you can control, while a lot that you can’t. When I try to explain to people the joy of connecting with the land, I have had some peoples’ eyes gloss over when I start talking about composting toilets or getting their hands dirty by weeding. Their automatic response feels like a pulling away energetically in conversation when they go, “It’s not for me”. Then there’s this barrier I feel, like standing on the other side of the slot canyon. I can see the other side, but it can be hard to reach or connect.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to know what your limits and boundaries are in terms of what makes you happy and comfortable in life. I share my passion openly about wanting to live off grid, to be able to grow my own food, and share this “burden” with a group of people who have the same values. I notice that sometimes when I share this passion, I see the disconnect that it creates when I engage with some people. They mark me with various labels so they can categorize me in the “that’s nice” category, filing me under “tree hugger” “hippy” or “granola”. I see my lifestyle as nothing more than a fantasy to them. Something that’s full of hard work, roughing it, and sacrificing a lot.
Yes, I admit that when I get used to air conditioning, it’s hard to go back outside when it’s so hot out. But when I live without, I just use fans and choose the temporary discomfort of the outdoors to prioritize my connection to nature. Yes. It’s that important to me, because I find the value of nature and being in relationship with it means a lot to me. There are so many ways that we as humans could live in harmony with nature, but it starts with baby steps. Just like the layers that it takes to build sandstone. And just as Mother Nature creates, she also destroys. The things that are parts of the old lifestyle that need to die will be washed away like the walkable paths of the slot canyons. So many people talk about the economy collapsing, but I’m not as worried because I’ve got grass roots connections where I’ll be okay if the supply chain conditions worsen and grocery stores aren’t carrying as much food.
My life isn’t a fantasy. It’s real. I’m living dreams I never dared to dream over a decade ago. I’ve met so many amazing people in my travels that I no longer feel lonely about living “more green”. Instead, I’m inspired by the people I visit, places I stay, and the thing deepest to my heart – the land that speaks to me in whispering sand, echoes of wind, and fire trapped in stone. But yet to many, it’s unachievable. So I stand in the slot canyons, inspired in awe at the beauty of the natural world, while many people drift by with their eyes glued to their phone. Because from above, a slot canyon can just look like a crack in the ground.
I ask how I can bridge this gap and connect? The answer I feel in my bones is knowing what is mine to do. I’m not meant to connect to everyone, and no one human is meant to do it all. I’ll connect with those in the slot canyon that wish to appreciate beauty for what it is. I choose connection in the other people looking up in awe.
I’m just here sharing the threads of my life, and the foundation that builds me just as much as I allow myself to be built. Layer by layer, and one step at a time. Thanks for listening.
Originally Posted July 5th, 2022
In early 2017, I had an anaphylactic reaction that almost cost me my life. I collapsed on the floor of a Walgreens while I was trying to get Benadryl. While the paramedics were trying to resuscitate me, I had a visit with a bull buffalo spirit and he offered the option to stay or to come with him. Since that moment, when I chose life, buffalo had a deep meaning for me.
My relationship with buffalo has challenged and stretched me in so many ways, that I always try to give back whenever possible. When buffalo asked for me to visit Yellowstone as I planned this summer road trip, I knew it was going to be a big visit.
After doing research, I found out that Yellowstone was one of the first established National Parks. One of the reasons (that’s not talked about in history books) is because they continued the “starve the Indian” movement until there were only two dozen Buffalo left in the United States. Once they realized that they had almost exterminated a key species that helped shape the geography of North America, government officials realized they needed to do something to preserve that land mass. They were herded at Pelican Valley, and Yellowstone became their sanctuary.
Dreams of buffalo graced my nights as the time got closer, until I was in the park. As most may know, Yellowstone was flooded due to the huge amounts of rain (which is a good thing because for several years there had been a drought). The day we arrived at the park, it was the same day that the southern loop re-opened. Since we had reservations we were kept “in the know” as soon as the park flooded (links of the helicopter footage showcasing destroyed roads in the comments). When we finally settled into our first night in the park, I dreamt of the land being so angry at humans. The land showed up as the big buffalo bull that visited me in 2017. I asked the buffalo, “But what about me? I’m a human.” The bull snuffled and stomped his foot, making me look down and I realized I was a calf. From there the bull turned away from me to face the tourists that were still gawking, and that’s what the bull/land was really upset at. I was suddenly swarmed and protected by the momma buffalo, pushed into the center. I felt loved, safe, and tender as I woke up with a start.
That morning when I drove, I saw herds of momma buffalo with their calves. The one that came up and out of the fog looked at me after I stopped the camera, and I felt the message of, “We will take care of you, little calf”.
In that, I grow to learn that these elders are my teachers. The land speaks to me in ways that breaks my heart open and I cry rivers of tears. The land has known huge loss, but also unimaginable abundance. I will always be the little sister of creation. Humans are not the center of the world, as we make ourselves out to be.
We, as humans, are not doing our “job” to tend these sacred places. It was originally the First Nations people of this land (and I only speak for North America) who tended that relationship with the land from the perspective of being a steward. They cared for and allowed the earth to not be touched in certain places – because it was only for the wild. They only went where they were invited. We have lost that because humans only view the land as something to be owned, tamed and dominated. But as we can see, the anger of the land can be felt in natural disasters. Yellowstone was tired of people just gawking at the features without taking in WHY to preserve these things. We need to be pushed out of this consumerist mindset of visiting these places of wilderness and nature.
Admittedly, the parks system did not do a good job with tending this land in the beginning. There’s an article linked in the comments of things they have pulled out of some of the thermal features, including socks, bath towels, 76 handkerchiefs, $86.27 in pennies, and $8.10 in other coins. They used to use Old Faithful as a laundromat, and threw freshly caught fish into geysers to have them be cooked by the volcanic features. However, preservation has become more of a priority. Within the past few decades, they’ve started to honor the fumaroles whenever they pop up. They now reroute walkways and roads (due to the washouts and creation of new thermal features) when nature decides to reclaim property that was hers to begin with. Nature has been patient with the little brothers and sisters of creation, but if we don’t start listening there will be more upheaval. If you thought the pandemic was a mere “inconvenience”, then you’re obviously not listening to the signs that nature is trying to show us that she is not happy. I didn’t die and then come back to life just to sit by and say nothing. I was given the opportunity to live, and now I speak on behalf of life.
The way of life we are living in this modern day era is not sustainable. Now that the pandemic is over, I see people acting as if it didn’t happen. They are so glad to go back to “normal”. The reason why the pandemic came was because that semblance of “normal” was not healthy to begin with. We need to wake up and see how our actions are affecting the wider world. If we don’t listen to the land, the land will force us to listen one way or another.
When I spoke before about the land being “angry”, that is a human personification of the land. It doesn’t have human emotions, but that’s the closest I can come to describing how the land feels to me. The land cares about function, and it’s ability to do said function. Places like Yellowstone are not for our pleasure, they are here to serve as a reminder of nature’s ability to heal itself without much human interference. When people take selfies with the fluffy cows or use the volcanic geysers to do their laundry, I’m not surprised that the Yellowstone river flooded its banks and washed out roads, or at the rock slides, fallen trees or bridges destroyed.
So what does this mean for us in our everyday lives? Look at the places in your life where you are not living your function. The places where you have fallen into complacency, burn out, or numbness. How connected are you to nature? If the power in the grid goes out, how will you live? Do you know what the potato plant looks like (you know, the thing that eventually turns into french fries)? Is your life’s purpose connected to mindlessly scrolling through Facebook for entertainment or watching TV on your couch all evening? Start simply by doing small things to connect to nature. I’m not trying to shame anyone. We’re all trying to do the best we can. Look up what different food crops look like or take a tour through a community garden. Take care of a house plant or start a garden if you have the space. We need to do something about bridging this gap where we have created a separation between humans and nature. Nature is not just a spectacle to enjoy on our time off. It represents life, and all life is sacred. So how do we slowly start bringing the sacred into our everyday lives?
I am not a guru or some self help person that’s trying to help fix you or feed you false hope of spiritual bypass. I’m simply a person whose heart breaks whenever I see the impact of human ignorance on natural land features with broken ecosystems. I’m not “in it” for myself, but because I care about the world my grandchildren are going to inherit. And I also want to be nice to the super volcano in the middle of North America.
The world is ready for your medicine. But are you living it?