Sunday, February 15, 2015

You Might Not Climb the Ladder

You might not climb the ladder.

You might try, of course. You might even get far, almost to the top, or to what you perceived as the top. You might become disoriented, realizing the ladder grows even as you ascend it, extending infinitely into the sky.

Alternately, you might find it too short, wholly unsuited for the height you have in mind.

You might, in a fit of frustration, decide to throw the ladder aside; grip one of its rickety metal rungs in your closed fists, lift the whole mass of it high over your head, and slam it--clatter, cla-bang--onto the pavement at your side.

You might look at the ladder, it hinges now loosened and jangling, and and wonder what now?

So, you might be forced to invent another way.

You might, for example, try crafting a pulley of hand-braided rope. But when the rains come, the knots in your rope might become weathered and frayed, and your pulley might not seem safe. So you might depend on the strength of your body to hoist yourself up and over railings and around pillars, the muscles of your abdomen contracting with effort.

You might reach what you thought was the top, only to find another, more intricate set of obstacles to navigate. You might find the roof had been an illusion from the ground.

As you stand there, pondering your next move, the building itself might start to sway in the wind. Your legs buckling and quaking beneath you, you might question its construction altogether. Who had built it? What was it made of? Why was it so important to reach the top?

As you ponder the integrity of the structure, the roof might cave in.

You might fall several stories or more. You might stand up, stiff and aching, to survey the rubble and wreckage that now surrounds you.

You might, for a moment, lift your eyes to the horizon. With no ladder and no structure to distract, you might notice, for the first time, where you are.

You might notice, for example, the liveliness of the colors that surround you: the robin's egg blue of the sky, the bright emerald-hued flora, and the light that bathes it all in tones of gold at dusk.

You might notice the others all around you, climbing furiously or tossing their ladders aside or devising alternate methods, or falling to the ground. You might find yourself wondering: what is the point?

You might notice, too, beyond the clanging and the clattering and the structures that surround you, a lush hillside beckons.

So you might begin to walk.

And as you reach the hill and begin to hike its gentle slope, you might realize your shoes had been lost in the fall. You might notice that you feel each individual blade of grass beneath your toes. You might smile what feels like your first real smile.

At the top of the hill, a group might gathered. They might be laughing, and might tease you gently as you arrive. "It took you long enough to get here!" a woman might say, a twinkle in her eye.

You might feel at home immediately without knowing why.

You might turn around and gaze back down the hill and try to call to the others still climbing their ladders. They might not hear you. The wind might carry your voice away.

But every few days, a new person might arrive at the top of the hill and be welcomed into the community.

You might, over time, realize the ladder was never the problem. And that, if only you had lifted your eyes to the horizon sooner, you would have seen the lushness that awaited you.

You might be standing on the ground looking up, daunted. 

You might be pondering whether there's another way to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Listen for that faint voice that calls to you. The one that says look over there

Look hard. 

Do you see it?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Read // Watched // Listened // Savored: January Edition

I do my best to appreciate each month, and strive to be present to its particular gifts. That said, I'm sort of over January. Or rather (since it's not actually January anymore) sort of glad it's over. It felt like a long month of short (albeit lengthening) days, simultaneously fast-moving and yet somehow never-ending.

Despite all that, it was a lovely month in many ways. I did set an intention or "theme" for the year, completed another Whole30 (this time, with my husband), and read, watched, listened to, and savored the following...

(By the way, in case anyone's wondering, these posts never contain any type of affiliate links.)

Over the past three months, I discovered and proceeded to read all of Frank Forencich's work. His take on "the human predicament" and the radical interconnectedness between human health and the environment that surrounds us is nothing short of brilliant. If you read just one of his books, make it this one.

On the fiction front, I started reading John Green's Looking for Alaska, but it's not totally holding my attention. I've got Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect queued up next.

Recent studies have shown that writing about one's own personal experiences can lead to behavioral changes and greater happiness, as described in this article on Writing Your Way to Happiness. (I imagine journalers everywhere are blinking as though someone had announced the sky is blue.)

Speaking of writing, I loved these 25 Writing Hacks From A Hack Writer, many of which I think are applicable as general adulthood hacks. (Found thanks to Caiti via her latest Link Love post.)

I recognized myself in Shauna's post, Burn the Candles. For me, it's fancy soaps and bath products.

I can't wait for these: Elizabeth Gilbert's latest and Gretchen Rubin's latest.

Watched & Listened
Thomas Rhett's cover of "When I Was Your Man" // Kendrick Lamar's "i" // Sera Cahoone's "Deer Creek Canyon" // Yonder Mountain String Band live at Boulder Theater // The "Bluegrass Covers" station on Spotify

Prompted by Serial withdrawal, I started listening to the Criminal podcast. I like that the episodes are self-contained, and how the stories explore human nature through the lens of crime.

Also on the podcast front, I recently discovered Bulletproof Radio, a series in which Dave Asprey interviews today's top thinkers, writers, scientists, and scholars about human performance and how to "upgrade" your life using everything from flow states to systems thinking and much more. It's a bit aggressively "self-help-y" in tone at times, but the topics are usually fascinating and I find myself learning about things I wouldn't normally pay any attention to.

I love Vimeo because I always seem to randomly stumble across beautiful films like this one: Of Souls + Water, about a displaced surfer who finds solace in the rivers of the American West.

I'm planning to download Buddhify today on Susannah's recommendation. (Have you tried it? Thoughts?)

Several Forrest yoga classes. Running outdoors thanks to a week of unseasonably warm and sunny weather.

A long hike in Eldorado Canyon, with a 1,000-ft elevation gain and stunning views of the plains framed by the canyon mouth (photo above). Scrambling up still-icy trails in my YakTrax, I felt very connected to my intention to find #thewildwithin.

Simple weeknight meals of oven-roasted chicken thighs (seasoned with Allie's cumin salt) with arugula salad, sautéed ground lamb + mint + feta over mixed greens, and Paleo kale and sausage minestrone.

A few squares of super high-quality dark chocolate every day. My current favorites are Theo's dark chocolate coconut bar and anything made by Alter Eco.

This candle, picked up on a whim from Target. It's seriously the yummiest scent.

What did you read, watch, listen to, and savor this month?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Wild Within: My Theme for 2015

Until a couple of days ago, I wasn't going to choose a word for 2015. I'd given it some thought, and had come up with a few contenders, but none evoked a "yes" from deep in my soul.

But a couple of days ago, I was reading through some journal entries from this past fall, and came across my answers to some exercises from The Desire Map. In trying to identify one of my core desired feelings, I had described an image I had in my mind of a woman who was wild and free: a woman fiercely attuned to her own primal instincts and needs, aware of her own strength, and deeply and inextricably in relationship with the life-giving properties of her environment, tribe, and community.

If you've read Women Who Run With The Wolves, you might recognize this archetype. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes:
"Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species."
As you might have guessed already from the title of this blog, I have previously identified a connection with the concept of "wild." The Necessary Wild refers to quotes by both John Muir and Edward Abbey, both of whom wrote about wilderness as a necessity of the human spirit. Until recently, though, I thought of wilderness as being "out there," a force to engage with as often as possible--yet still somehow distinct from my own being.

In 2015, I want to honor the wild within: the natural, instinctive, intuitive, primordial, untamed pieces of myself that render us humans part of the natural world, not separate from it.

I'm still brainstorming ways this might manifest, but so far have identified some actions both simple and complex. 

Things like going barefoot when possible (a great way to reawaken lost neural pathways!). Ditching "exercise" for the inherent joys of functional movement (think: hiking, climbing, and scrambling up steep boulders versus treadmill-ing or elliptical-ing). Spending as much time outdoors as possible. An unreasonable amount even. And using travel opportunities to explore the local natural environment. Paying closer attention to my environment. Taking my earbuds out while trail running. Enjoying the whispers of the wind, the birdsong, and the gurgles of a creek for a change. Aligning my activities with the seasonal patterns of the earth (for example, circadian rhythms). Exploring and adding rituals to my everyday life. Allowing my intuition to guide my choices--without apology or explanation. Exploring and playing with the concepts of power and strength: where are they present in my life and where could they be present? Exploring and playing with concepts of tribe and community. And, at the same time, being fiercely selective about with whom and how I spend my time. Noticing when I tamp down, repress, silence, or otherwise tame any part of myself for others, and shifting. Creating space for others to do the same. Writing about my experiences as a way to document the journey.

Estes writes:
"Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down."
Here's to a wild 2015.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: A Few Of My Favorite Things

Here are a few items I would be stoked to give or get this year: things to help take care, move, nourish, adorn, and discover. 

Some are new (or new-to-me), while some are tried-and-true favorites. 


Take Care:

Clockwise from top left: 
Korres Ultimate Shots Collection. These fruit-infused face masks make the perfect mini-indulgence.
Badger Balm Mind Balm Variety Pack. These calming aromatherapeutic scents are great to keep in your purse, car, or desk drawer.
Lavanila Roller-Ball Trio. You'll be licking your wrists with these deliciously sweet fragrances. 
Tweezerman Pink Perfection Filemate Nail File. The best stocking stuffers are fun, yet pragmatic.
Acure Coconut Pumpkin Body Wash. Give someone a mid-winter taste of the tropics in a silky beach-scented body wash.
Acure Lip Lush. Winter calls for lip moisture. Try one of these argan oil lip glosses that come in pretty and subtly-saturated shades.


Clockwise from top left: 
Teeki Deer Medicine Teal Hot Pant. I'm dying over these cute yoga pants made from recycled glass bottles.
Abby Paffrath Custom Trucker Hats. Warning: you may become obsessed with these trucker hats customized with Abby's gorgeous Western-themed paintings. Not that I would know.
bkr 500ML. Hydration just feels more fun with a vessel this beautiful.
Brooks Cascadia 9. Simply put, these are THE best trail running shoes, plus they also work for low-key or moderate hiking.
FitBit Flex. Fitness meets tech to help you track your health and habits.


Clockwise from top left:
LA Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This luxe olive oil provides the ultimate finishing touch for salads, soups, and everything in between.
Le Creuset Mug. Enjoy your coffee with this classic style in a cheerful color.
The Zenbelly Cookbook. You can't go wrong with Paleo recipes from a chef and caterer who really, like really loves food. 
Mrs. Meyers Iowa Pine Holiday Gift Set. Cleaning up after a meal doesn't have to be a chore with these festively-scented cleaning products.
Nourishing Broth. Bone broth is all the rage these days, but Sally Fallon is the original real deal.
Eat The Yolks. If you read one health-related book this year, make it Liz Wolfe's funny and impeccably-researched debunking of "food lies." (Hint: the yolks are good for you.)


Clockwise from top left: 
La Mer Neutral Tie Dye Gold Wrap Watch. Stay on schedule with this elegant and ever-so-slightly boho timepiece. (The watch pictured seems to be sold out so I've linked to a similar style).
TOMS Orange Arrows Fold Over Clutch. In case you can't justify an eighteenth pair of their shoes, this clutch will help sate your TOMS addiction.
Frye Smith Engineer Short. These badass boots will last you a thousand years. What's not to love?
Pendleton Neckwarmer. Stay toasty in this vibrantly-colored piece from the classic wool company.
CSERA Phone Case. This Etsy shop has the most AMAZING phone case designs. I want them all.
Moonstone Stud Earrings. Finish any outfit with these luxe, yet understated studs. (The studs pictured seem to be sold out, so I've linked to similar style)


Clockwise from top left: 
The Desire Map Workbook 3-Pack. Work your way through Danielle LaPorte's fabulous book again and again with these workbooks.
Yoga Studio Membership. Isn't the time and space to breathe deeply the ultimate gift? Boulderites, check out the newly-opened Amana Yoga
Frends 'Layla' Headphones. The perfect accessory for the woman whose husband doesn't share her Serial (or Taylor Swift) obsession. Ahem.
Susannah Conway's The Sacred Alone E-Course. Knowing how to be alone is really important.
Surf Goddess Retreats. Because a woman can dream!

What are you giving or hoping to receive this year?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Glasses of Water

My impulse in the face of overwhelming pain and injustice is silence. Not because I don't care, but because I care desperately, and it seems to me there is no earthly path to coherence.

There are no words, for example, to make sense of the fact that there have been 92 school shootings since Sandy Hook and still our leaders fail to pass laws that could prevent such violence.

No words that capture the destruction that industrialized agriculture has wrought on our communities, our bodies, and our climate in the name of profit.

No words for the horrors of war. For poverty. For the rampant sexism and rape culture that continue to rear their ugly twin heads.

And certainly no words that can accurately describe the brokenness of a culture that could fail to hold Darren Wilson accountable for the killing of Michael Brown.

Despite my love for the power of language, I find it fails me often. And yet, I continue to try because silence on the part of those in a position to make change is part of the problem.

Anne LaMott writes the following in her stunning book Help, Thanks, Wow (in the section entitled "Help":

"Death will not be the end of the story. [...] 
Human lives are hard, even those of health and privilege, and don't make much sense. This is the message of the Book of Job: Any snappy explanation of suffering you can come up with will be horseshit. [...] 
But where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are. We find God in our human lives, and that includes the suffering. I get thirsty people glasses of water, even if that thirsty person is just me."

I don't know how to fix the world's ills. I have my opinions, some passionately held. I don't pretend to be an activist (and in fact, find myself somewhat nauseated by the waves of temporary "armchair activism" these events tend to provoke), but my eyes are open to--and weep for--the pain and suffering of the human predicament, and I attempt to live out my values in the choices I make, in how I relate to the world.

So I don't know the answer. I don't even know how to articulate the not-knowing. But I have found some things to be true for myself. And in times of great pain, when I thirst an unquenchable thirst for an answer that will not come, I reach for glasses of water.

Here are a few.

I know the opposite of death is life, and I know the definition of life is creation. So I surround myself with acts of creation: works of music, art, and literature that move me. I inhale books like they're air and I exhale through my own written words. In this way, I stay alive.

I know that technology helps us achieve incredible things, but that, for me, it does not replace the bonds that foster real understanding. I have started leaving my phone in another room during dinner. My laptop remains unopened most weekends. I stop whatever I'm texting to look cashiers in the eye. It's not much, but it's something and I sometimes feel my humanity depends on it. Perhaps it does.

I know that my perspective hinges entirely on having an intimate and sustained relationship with the earth. Like, the actual earth. Walking on it, hiking its mountains, and dipping my toes in its icy cold lakes.

I believe peace, inner and outer, is not a fortuitous state, but a conscious and deliberate act. I spend a lot of time by myself and I try to pay attention to my thoughts. I have awakened to the fact that I get to choose the ones I want to keep and discard the rest.

I know that prayer, even to an unnamed source, helps.

Sunlight helps.

And that a nourishing meal, thoughtfully prepared by hand from whole ingredients, can be an act of rebellion in a world of on-demand convenience.

Do not misunderstand. I have no magic answer, no prescription for what ails us.

I have no snappy explanation for human suffering, no cleverly packaged horseshit to offer.

But if you're thirsty too, perhaps we can get glasses of water for each other.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Snippets: Things To Do

Happy Sunday! Here are a few favorites from around the interwebs to wrap up your weekend.

Ward off this season's flu bug by beating stress

Doing distinctive and innovative work garners support--and criticism. Learn to embrace the latter.

Read about why bone broth, a paleo/primal staple, is catching on in a big way. (Someone please open one of these in Colorado.)

And if you're feeling inspired, make a belly-warming soup with one of these small-batch broths.

Listen to this gorgeous and richly layered interview on cultivating a wild love for the world.

Understand what you need to be happy.

To simplify your life, start with an empty container.

Then read this surprisingly evocative book on the life-changing magic of tidying up. (Gamechanger: keep only things that "spark joy" in your heart.)

And when you're done reading that, read this, this, and this.

Get your vanilla fix with this heavenly trio.

Then banish dry winter skin with one of these hand creams.

Become out-of-your-mind addicted to this podcast.

Cook something outside your comfort zone. I recommend a dish from one of these two breathtaking cookbooks.

Order a proper New York deli brunch spread for the morning after Thanksgiving.

Try an at-home yoga practice with this indie yoga playlist.

Then check out some lightweight ear candy.

Have a lovely rest of your day.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Don't Block the Tackle: Perfection & Getting What You Really Want

I've been working my way through the exercises in The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, and at one point in the book, she recommends writing down what you want. It's a deceptively simple exercise. I say deceptive because most of us think we know what we want. We have our goals and our vision boards. We have our agendas, and our plans. Our "30 before 30" lists and bucket lists and on and on.

But how often do we ask ourselves the question so straightforwardly: What is it that I want?

It's interesting, the kinds of answers the mind provides.

Things like long hikes and solitary sunrises, skies streaked shades of neon pink. The feeling of warmth on my skin, to be engulfed by the smell of sun-baked pine, to wander along dusty trails, and to be astonished by the beauty of nature, over and over again. The mountains and the mesas of the American West, always. Thunderstorms, the kind that shake me out of my bones and bring with them lightning so bright it leaves imprints on the inside of my eyelids. To run long and hard. Yoga so transcendent I lose my mind...and find it again. To read widely; to worship at the altar of literature that makes me laugh or cry. Ritual, clarity, magic, and the courage to be vulnerable in the face of fear. Connection and community. Eight hours of sleep per night, and the occasional all-nighter that involves dancing till dawn. The most delicious and nourishing food I can afford. Dinners around the table, the faces of loved ones illuminated by candlelight. Whiskey, wine, and the kind of friends that prompt me to give tipsy, teary-eyed toasts to their utter irreplaceability. Really good coffee, preferably organic. A space filled with art, light, texture, plants, and the laughter of people I cherish. An easy and informed relationship with my finances. Work that makes an impact--that changes the definition of what's possible--and the opportunity to mentor and be mentored by those I admire. A messy, real, all-in kind of love. A messy, real, all-in kind of life.

You know what didn't make the list in any way, shape, or form?

The word "perfect." The concept of perfection. Or any variation thereof.

This does not surprise me.

Because here is what I know about perfection.

Perfectionism is a shield, a way to protect ourselves from the possibility of not being "enough" of something for someone. Because if we have to be perfect, we can't ever be ready and therefore we never have to share ourselves with the world. We never have to run the risk that we'll step up to the plate, swing with everything we've got, and miss. So, instead we sit on the sidelines of our life, silently practicing our moves to perfection under the guise of "preparation" until we realize the game has long since ended and the stadium has gone dark.

Perfectionism is a badge, one that we relish with a a twisted sense of pride at the chronic stress, illness, and exhaustion that accompanies its relentless pursuit. Our symptoms, we reason, are proof positive that we're working hard enough. After all, we've worn ourselves out with all our incredibly hard work! So we curl into the cocoon of perfectionism, safe in the knowledge of our own worthiness--relieved that our constant activity precludes questions like do I believe in what I'm doing? and does it bring me pleasure? and, perhaps most subversively, is it really the best use of my time?

Perfectionism is the whip that ensures we're hustling on the surface of our lives, never dipping into the substance. The great irony is that perfectionism lets us off the hook for the things that matter most. It removes accountability for the messy and difficult work of creating lives of true meaning and joy.

Obsessing over the level of cleanliness of the house leaves little time for examining whether we're living in a place, or a city, that feels like home.

Bemoaning a blemish in the mirror makes it difficult to notice how we feel about the person--as opposed to the appearance--in the mirror.

Beating ourselves up over a broken relationship or professional misstep means we never get to ask: What did I learn from this about who I am and what I want?

And you know what else is true about perfectionism? At the end of the day, it's really pretty boring. I don't know about you, but I've never hoped to be remembered for the cleanliness of my countertops, the tightness of my pores, or the lengths to which I went in order to avoid upsetting anyone.

The wonderful Cheryl Strayed wrote in Tiny Beautiful Things, "The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the mother[effing] shit out of it."

Perfectionism blocks the tackle. It keeps us in the periphery of our lives, while the real story, the interesting story happens under our noses yet out of reach. Not only is perfection not helpful in the pursuit of what we want, it's downright incompatible with it--maybe even its opposite--because it keeps us small, fearful, tired, boring, and other words, exactly the things we don't want to be.

No, I don't want perfect. Give me "the full catastrophe," as Zorba the Greek referred to the imperfect fullness of life, bursting with...well, life.

Life. Real life. Real, imperfect life and its infinite potential.

Now that's what I want.