On This Memorable Day… My Fervent Wish

Today, when we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who lived through so much bigotry and climbed a mountain of hate trying to win simple rights for his people, I feel the need to speak up. I fear by remaining silent I am complicit in normalizing the abhorrent behavior I see in my country, perpetrated far too often by our so-called leader. Quite honestly, I am horrified and extremely saddened to see what is happening  here, to see how divided we have become, to see how truth is being shunned, a simple value I believe we were all taught very early in life. I believe those who know me well see me as a calm person, but right about now I feel anything but. I am outraged and fear that it is either speak up or step outside my front door and scream at the top of my lungs.

I do not see this post as a political plug, although many may see it as such. Having said that, I do not want to have a discourse on who you may have voted for and why. I think we are long past trying to convince  others of our views. We have all earned the right to vote as we wish and I respect that and hope that more of us exercise this right.

Because the blogosphere brings millions of talented people from around the globe together, I am writing this post more for those outside this country who may follow my musings (and I am so grateful for your presence). I feel it is essential to remind you that the majority of us, in the country of my birth, do not embrace the views that are presently being espoused by our current administration, those of divisiveness, bigotry, closed borders, “alternate facts”. We are a country founded on immigrants; we embrace diversity; we are open-minded and compassionate; we honor the truth. Our innate instincts are to be kind, to welcome others, to embrace all humanity. Please, please do not see us through the eyes of an administration many of us pray will be short-lived. We welcome you with open arms and hope you will do so with those of us who love to travel abroad.

So today we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., an activist and civil rights icon who preached nonviolence, even after his home was bombed and he was subjected to physical abuse, and until the time his all-too-short life was snuffed out by an assassin’s bullet. During his life he received the Nobel Peace Prize, and when notified of this award, announced he would turn the prize money over to the civil rights movement, to further their cause. I cannot think of a better time to honor this man and all that he stood for. I want to hold onto that same hope for a better future for our country that he had.

We will be marching again on March 20th, the anniversary of the initial Women’s March. We will be marching for women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, reproductive rights, civil rights, economic justice and environmental rights. If you believe in these issues and have a scheduled march in your area, please consider joining in.

My sincere hope is that we take a few minutes today to reflect upon how vitally important it is for each of our voices to be heard. Silence is not the answer.

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Our Next Destination ~ Wild, Raw Beauty

Like many of you who are afflicted with wanderlust, we too have planned a getaway for this year. Although we will selectively choose tours when we arrive at our travel destination, we enjoy paving our own way instead of signing on with a larger group through a travel agency. Call us loners if you will, but we prefer the ability to be spontaneous instead of having to adhere to a more rigid schedule. The beauty of travel is that it can be planned on your own or you can sit back and have someone do all the planning for you; the choice is yours to make. I will admit that our upcoming trip has been more labor intensive to design than most, due to the remoteness of our destination, that we are planning to be gone for 3+ months, and we are traveling during the shoulder season when transportation schedules get a bit sketchy. But to travel to an area where I have longed to visit for so many years, I will gladly do the time.

Soon we will be heading to a land of untouched natural beauty and unforgiving weather, where wind, rain, sleet, and snow can all be experienced in the same day, I have read. Our travels will take us to a mythical, sprawling, wild land that has barely been settled since humans first arrived tens of thousands of years ago.

Since our passion is nature and being in the wild, I cannot think of a place that will embrace this wild need better. Our travels will find us hiking through many national parks filled with majestic mountain peaks, vast wind-swept steppes, creeping glaciers and ice fields, and with an abundance of wildlife. Some of the more colorful feathered creatures waddle around in tuxedo-like garb or strut their stuff in fluffy pink tutus on long, elegant legs.

Many of you already know where our travels are taking us but for those who do not, have you guessed yet where we might be headed? Yep, we are off to Patagonia next month, a remote land I have dreamed of for so long. During our stay we hope to soak in the culture of Chile and Argentina, along with wrapping ourselves in raw wilderness.

Photo credit: Google maps.

Here is just a sneak peek of what we hope to see and do:

If any of you have ventured to the far-flung corners of South America and have other suggestions for “must-sees”, I am all ears (and if you’ve seen my “Spock-esque” ears, you might agree.) 🙂

Until then I will be dreaming of “pats” of flamingos, dancing their way to their mates.

If I Made New Year’s Resolutions…

I am not one to make New Year’s Resolutions. I tell myself that I attempt to live a “good life” each day, or could it be that I fear I might break these resolutions soon after they are made? 😉 Whatever the reason, I find myself reflecting upon another finalized chapter of our life as 2017 draws to a close. As we move into a new year, I wonder how our next chapter will be written.

Here are 10 concepts, in no particular order, that speak to me, and that I hope to see more of in 2018:

1/ Speak Your Truth

“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.”  ~  Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Opening lines of a piercing poem titled “Protest”, written at the peak of the Women’s Suffrage movement and just as WWI was about to erupt. This is “an anthem for our own time”.

The ability to speak our truth in a loving and respectful manner is a trait that I value. The day I found my voice, when I didn’t feel obliged to tell someone what I thought they needed to hear but rather what I truly felt, was an awakening for me. I believe our inability to lift the veil of silence diminishes our authentic self, prevents us from seeing other viewpoints, and holds us back from learning.

2/ The Gift of Nature

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  ~  Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

To anyone who knows me well, or has read my blog (and I am very grateful for that), it is no secret than I am passionate about the natural world and our public lands. I am at my best when unencumbered by the trappings of modern life. Looking out over a beautiful vista, I feel totally consumed by nature, with a peek into the understanding of knowing who I am becoming, who I want to be.

3/ Living a Curious Life

“I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things.”  ~ Mary Oliver

We are all born with the gift of curiosity. I believe that when we stop being inquisitive, we detach and become dispassionate. For the rest of my life, no matter how short, I want to remain curious about people, places, things, myself.

4/ Truth Matters

“We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters…that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules…and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.” ~  Michelle Obama

I learned from a very early age, as so many of us were taught, the importance of being truthful. This year more than any, I have been saddened by how so many in positions of power have tossed aside the notion that truth matters not. My sincere hope for 2018 is that we all understand how vitally important truth is to a healthy society.

5/ All You Need is Love

“Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”  ~  Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love

What can I say about this topic that hasn’t already been said, in poem, song, or letter? As the Beatles sang, “All you need is love, love, love is all you need.” If we all lived by this creed, what would our world look like?

6/ Let’s Get Healthy

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”  ~ B.K.S. Iyengar

I embrace the notion that physical health plays an enormous role in our emotional well-being. My spirit is never so buoyed as when my body feels strong.

7/ Practice Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”  ~ Melody Beattie

I will be forever grateful for the people in my life who accept me for who I am, for the experiences I have been gifted, for the time allowed me to live each day fully.

8/ That Little Voice…Hope

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”  ~  Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Darkness

Hope is that little voice within us that in the darkest of times whispers, “You can endure this. It will be ok.” Where would we be without it?

9/ Laughter is the Best Medicine

My beloved friend Barb, who will forever be tucked away in my heart.

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”  ~  e e cummings

Laughter is said to be the best medicine, triggering both positive physical and emotional changes in our body. Who of us hasn’t benefited from a good belly laugh?

10/ Travel, Roam, Explore, Discover

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  ~  Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

As long as I am capable, I hope to travel, to roam across the country and explore far-flung reaches of the world. The discoveries found in another culture, whether it be within my country or outside its boundaries, humble me and have given me a new perspective on life.

I am very grateful to all who have followed along with us this past year. I wish you all  much joy, love, laughter, and fantastic adventures in the upcoming year. Happy New Year!  

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Holiday Wish and Beyond

‘Tis the season when many speak of wishes for world peace – a lofty goal, and given the strife in the world,  it quite often feels like a darn near impossible goal to contemplate. Instead of dreaming big (as in globally), my holiday wish for everyone as we peer into 2018 is that we can all take some time and reflect on ourselves, as that is where real transformation can begin, change that can birth a global outreach.

This holiday season I wish for inner peace for us all, the state of mind that speaks not of fear, anger, and enmity for those uniquely different from us (and aren’t we all unique in our own right), but of the calm countenance that allows for openness to other ideals and embracing diversity.

My wish for this holiday season is that we have innumerable moments brimming with joy and laughter found in the company of family and friends and moments of quiet contemplation, opening our hearts and minds to a new year of seeking to focus on what is truly important for us personally, what is needed most for our world, and letting the rest go.

Happy holidays!

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Tapping into Native Roots

Although “native roots” may conjure up thoughts of the medicinal plant cannabis, that is not what this post is about. Sorry guys, but many of you probably already have your sources and could teach me a thing, or two, or three about that ancient plant. What this post is about is learning to use the native plants we have all around us, for medicine. Since this is one of my many passions, it was not surprising to hubby that I asked (ok, maybe begged a bit) the Campus Manager at Yellowstone Forever to allow me to support this field seminar. My charms won out as he graciously agreed. 😉

Linda Black Elk

I was so honored to be a part of this course, led by Linda Black Elk, PhD and Ethnobotanist. Linda is part of the Catawba Nation and is married to Lakota native, Luke Black Elk, who has an illustrious family history – activist mother and revered grandfather, Chief Black Elk.  Side note:  Black Elk Speaks is a great read.

Hubby supported Luke’s course on Lakota Creation Stories immediately after the Native Plants class. Sadly no amount of begging or bribing has convinced him to write a guest post about his experience, which he loved. Fortunately for me, the Native Plants and Their Uses class began with singing and praying by both Linda and Luke, in their native Lakota tongue. It brought me to tears it was so beautiful. No photos were allowed during this sacred ceremony.

Luke and Linda sharing stories around the campfire.

Our Native Plants’ course consisted of indigenous stories (many were heartbreaking), identifying and learning the beneficial uses of local plants, foraging for specific plants, and bringing our bounty back to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch to make balms, salves, and elixirs. Seeing what I do at home, making so many of my own products, hubby said he couldn’t imagine a more perfect course for me to support. I had to admit that it was very special and completely in line with my belief system.

Classroom time after some foraging.

Since removing anything from a national park is strictly forbidden, our foraging for two days took us outside the park, where we strolled through forest lands for several hours, as Linda educated us on the medicinal properties of the many plants we found along the way. We harvested fireweed, sticky geranium, and yarrow, to be used later in the making of balms and salves, as well as wild onion and garlic for fire cider.

Salve in the making

There is something so comforting about walking in nature, harvesting plants that have been on this earth since ancient times, providing countless generations of people food and medicines. I’ve been told a time or two that I am an old soul and being in this environment, feeling such a strong connection to the past, I feel that may be true.

I loved this course and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in creating their own elixirs, salves and balms or want to learn more about native customs. Check out Yellowstone Forever for this and other great field seminars here.

Linda Black Elk and her husband Luke are a fantastic couple, armed with a wealth of indigenous history they are anxious to share.  It was a humbling experience to be in their presence. I walked away with a notebook full of information that I am happy to share if anyone is interested.

Since cold and flu season is upon us, here are a couple of recipes that might be of interest, because it’s all about keeping it natural (at least for me):

Elderberry Elixir

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. dried elderberries (I purchase mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • one good-sized piece of ginger (~4 slices)
  • 4 c. good quality water
  • 1-2 c. raw honey

Add all ingredients except honey to heavy-bottom pan. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook down liquid to 1/2. Add honey at end, after pan removed from heat. Keep in the fridge so elixir doesn’t ferment. Lasts a long time.

 NOTE: Powerful anti-viral & anti-bacterial agent. Great for treating colds.

Fire Cider

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated & minced
  • 3/4 c. horseradish root, finely diced
  • 1 (6″) piece of ginger, diced
  • 1 (6″) piece of turmeric root, diced
  • 2-3 T. peppercorns
  • Chilies, sliced – add according to your heat preference. One large jalapeño might be a good start.
  • Unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar

Pack all ingredients besides vinegar in 2-quart jar. Add enough vinegar to fill the jar.

Let fire cider steep for 3-4 weeks on your countertop. Shake periodically.

Strain the vinegar into a clean jar & store in fridge, where cider will keep for up to 12 months.

Enjoy a shot of this daily. Honey can be added for a little sweetness. Be forewarned, this one packs a bit of a punch! 😮

NOTE: This can be used as an expectorant and is a great tonic for sore throats. Great for those with high blood pressure and is also good for the heart.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are my own and those of the instructor and do not necessarily represent the views of Yellowstone Forever.  

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