anna brones

writer + artist

Posts Tagged ‘outdoors

Coffee Outside, on a Walk

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a yearlong, monthly collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. This is the final installment. We hope that you will continue to partake in coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

As we inch into the new year, this marks our 12th installment of Coffee Adventures Outside. A full year of prompts and encouragement to use our coffee habits as an excuse to get outside. It is perhaps fitting that we conclude this year of microadventures with one of the things that we love the most: a simple walk.

Coffee has a long history as a companion on long walks or journeys. Wilfred Thesiger, perhaps the last of the old-guard of English explorers, crossed the Empty Quarter desert in Arabia with meagre, ascetic supplies but plenty of coffee. At dawn, after prayers, they would bake bread for breakfast and then drink coffee, “which was black, bitter and very strong. The coffee-drinking was a formal business, not to be hurried.”

Whether you are interested in crossing a desert, or strolling somewhere a little less ambitious, we agree with old Wilfred that a cup of coffee improves the experience of going for a walk.

One of the reasons we love to walk is that it helps us to think. Such a notion dates at least as far back as to Augustine of Hippo who declared, 1600 years ago, “Solvitur ambulando: it is solved by walking.” Combine a walk, then, with the brain-fizzing boost of a black brew and you may feel ready to put the world to rights again.

Walking into the woods (or wherever you choose to find your nature), is a stimulating experience. The gentle rhythm of our footsteps encourages our brains to meander, as does the smorgasbord of new sights and sounds at every turn. A cup of coffee on a walk is a gentle, continuous stimulation. It is, we feel, a very different experience to the pleasures of running or zooming along at speed on a bicycle. There is time today for our thoughts to roll around and grow. Whilst your walk may get the blood flowing and raise your heartbeat a little, it is still a meditative, reflective experience. 

As Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust: A History of Walking, “I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.” Nature allows us to think, walking allows us to experience the world around us at a different pace than our usual one. 

The poet Walt Whitman asked, “But are not exercise and the open air in reach of us all?” No, not everyone, unfortunately. Those of us who are free and able to exercise in nature would do well to remember and appreciate our good fortune. But the point made by Whitman was that it does not take much or cost much to savour some time in fresh air. It applies to the idea of the ‘Nature Pyramid,’ and the recommended doses of nature at different time scales. We need nature in big chunks and smaller ones, and the pyramid urges us to pay attention to the different quantities of nature we include in our lives on an hourly, weekly, monthly and yearly scale. 

Every walk is different, of course. You may set out with an objective in mind, a goal to march towards. You could choose to follow your nose and see where you end up or toss a coin at every junction. If your walk is a circular route then everything you see will be different, all of the time. How does that change the creative thoughts you have along the way compared to an out-and-back walk where you see familiar things but from a different perspective and with different eyes? Or try sipping your coffee on a well-worn trail and compare how that makes you feel to walking a route you have never done before. 

Our days are so often driven by efficiency and busyness and a pressure to get things done. Walking with a cup of coffee (or taking a thermos and stopping for a break) is a gentle but important push back at that cultural expectation: you are deliberately choosing to do something slow and ‘unproductive’. Immersing yourself fully and completely in a single activity for a chunk of time is a rare experience these days, but it is a vital one for anyone interested in tapping into their creative side. It is surprising, too, how productive such dawdling often proves to be. 

So today we urge you to go on a walk with no goal or schedule—pass the time simply by putting one foot in front of the other. Take your thermos with you, and stroll for the sake of strolling. Find a spot to sit and pour a cup. Take note of where you are. Here your body and mind can wander. 

We have entered a new year. There are hopes and dreams ahead, but there is also the present moment of today. Let your coffee remind you to exist here for a while.

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside. Various prints, cards, and even a calendar featuring the artwork from Coffee Adventures Outside can be found here.

Written by Anna Brones

January 7, 2022 at 09:14

Coffee Outside, with a Friend

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

Our coffee adventures outside over the past year have helped us bring a sliver of solitude to our busy routines, some treasured physical space, and an espresso sip of mental space in which to allow difficulties some time to filter, sift and sort themselves, as well as the uplifting space to allow our creative ideas to unfurl and reveal themselves. These have all been good things. 

But there is another way to right wrongs, to think differently, hatch plans, and recharge our mojo, another way to pay attention to the natural world on our doorsteps and enjoy a delicious, well-brewed cup of coffee. And that is to do all of these things with a friend. Florence Williams sums up how we feel in The Nature Fix with her succinct summary to, “go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe.” 

Carving out inviolable chunks of time to share with our friends is one of the most important things we can do in our life. (Spending time in nature and pursuing creativity are also high on that list.) So put the kettle on, call a friend, and head outside together to enjoy your brew. Will you choose to ask a friend who already enjoys spending time in the woods, or an urbanised friend who might find the idea surprising but intriguing? That is up to you. 

As end-of-year festivities draw near, we’re easing into the wintry season and darker days. This month we welcome the winter solstice, a celebration of midwinter and a promise that the light will return soon. It’s a time when we often want to draw inwards, physically and emotionally. While we certainly need this hibernation time, we also benefit from the full experience of nature in all her seasons, and the deep connection that can come from a chat with a good friend. 

Thoreau wrote of winter walks, “Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” So be sure to wrap up well in your warmest winter woolies, for we are at the end of the dark end of the world now, the cold austere days when the world is at its most minimal and stripped back. He continued, “in the coldest day, and on the bleakest hill, the traveller cherishes a warmer fire within the folds of his cloak than is kindled on any hearth. A healthy man, indeed, is the complement of the seasons, and in winter, summer is in his heart.” In his or her heart, indeed. For this cold season is as important to our year as all the others. Katherine May’s Wintering rings true in this moment, “wintering brings about some of the most profound and insightful moments of our human experience, and wisdom resides in those who have wintered.” 

Winter we must, but our hibernation, while encouraging solitude, can also be a welcome time for the companionship of a friend because the world is quiet now, and this allows space for chatter and laughter between friends. “In winter we lead a more inward life,” wrote Thoreau. “Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends.”

Go outside, together. Celebrate this year that has almost passed, and settle into the winter days. Wrap your hands around the coffee cup, breathe in the warm steam, and savour it, with your friend. What could be better? 

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside. Various prints, cards, and even a calendar featuring the artwork from Coffee Adventures Outside can be found here.

Written by Anna Brones

December 4, 2021 at 06:00

Coffee Outside, in the Rain

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

“Between every two pine trees,” said environmentalist John Muir, “there is a door leading to a new way of life.” And beneath every pine tree, sheltering from the rain, we hope to find an adventurous creative soul sipping coffee and cherishing the downpour. For that is our challenge to you today: to embrace and celebrate wet winter weather and actively go out and enjoy it.

At this time of year there are many rainy days where we live. Rather than moan about it, we have decided to embrace the season, to make the most of this weather, see the good parts of the rain, and choose joy. 

The rain speaks to us, slowly, joyfully, as Mary Oliver captures so well in her poem Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me

“…the tree

which was filled with stars

and the soft rain –

imagine! imagine!

the long and wondrous journeys

still to be ours.”

It is time to brew your coffee, wrap up well, don your waterproofs and boots and step out to take your coffee in the rain. There is no such thing as bad weather, they say, only bad clothing… 

As you sip the hot drink and feel it warm you inside, notice the fizz of raindrops, the way each one bursts into a crown of water when it lands before a little column of water rears up and an even tinier droplet peels off and falls once more. All this perfection a thousand times a second, landing unnoticed in every rain shower on earth in the vanishing circles of rain on puddles. Have you ever observed that the ring patterns from the rain are different in shallow puddles and deep? Pay attention to the rain ring patterns from beneath your sheltered tree trunk which wears its own lovely rings inside itself.

“I close my eyes and listen to the voices of the rain,” Robin Wall Kimmerer so poetically writes in Braiding Sweetgrass. Out here in the cold and wet, we too can listen. What voices do you hear? Listen to the soft rattling of rain which sounds so relaxing if you yourself are warm and dry, appreciating your dry patch of shelter beneath the trees, or your own oasis of shelter under your umbrella in the rainy madness of the world. 

Today everyone else is hiding from the rain, or enduring it with reluctance and grumbling. Only you are choosing to see its different beauty, opting to be childlike and enjoy the squelch of mud as you jump through the puddles, leaning into the rain and appreciating that there are so many good aspects to it. Take a moment to think of all the creative possibilities that await you when you return to the dry warmth of your home. Mary Oliver again:

“The rain is slow. 

The little birds are alive in it. 

Even the beetles. 

The green leaves lap it up. 

What shall I do, what shall I do?”

We need rainy days if we are to have the rivers and green woodlands we love so much. It is a necessary part of the deal. So too with our art: we need sometimes to push through the seemingly grey, undesirable days of labour, doubt and slow progress before we make our breakthroughs. It serves us well to savour these difficult days for what they are, a necessary part of the process, rather than to hide from them.

Choose, instead, to find pleasure in the tiny beauty of the bouncing raindrops, to appreciate, if nothing else, the merit of something that feels tempting to skip, but which feels great afterwards. 

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside. Have you enjoyed the Coffee Adventures Outside series? It’s now available as a 2022 calendar.

Written by Anna Brones

November 5, 2021 at 09:00

Coffee Outside, at Sunrise

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

“The sadness will dissipate as the sun rises. It is like a mist.”

– For Whom the Bell Tolls

Up here in the northern hemisphere we have passed the equinox and slipped into autumn. The days are becoming cooler and more windy, the leaves are turning golden and beginning to fall. Our nights are now longer than our days. The good news of all this is that it becomes easier every day to wake up a little before dawn, brew some coffee, and head outside to watch the sun rise. That is our latest little challenge for our year of #coffeeadventuresoutside.

Wrap up warm, take your coffee out into the cool grey pre-dawn, and settle down somewhere with a clear view of the sky facing the direction of the sunrise. [If you like to be precise, you can check this site out.] Wrap your hands around the warm mug, inhale the steam, and be still.

We recently enjoyed reading Nightwalk, by Chris Yates, which tells the story of a night spent walking slowly through the countryside. Despite Yates being a devoted drinker of tea, there is still much overlap with his walk and our coffee. He explains how he likes “…to creep like a mouse in the wood and sit still for maybe an hour, focusing with my ears, using the sounds of paw-patter and antler-click to colour in the invisible shapes until I could identify them or they came into shadowy view.”

 

His words are as much about an appreciation of slowing down and noticing as they are about nature or walking. Yates explains that one of the joys for him, “is the way in which everything in my head gradually clears of mundane domestic concerns and personal anxieties … because I know that apart from the animals I will always, unless I meet a deer poacher, be in perfect solitude. I am therefore able to bring all my attention to bear on the present moment… a place of endless immediacy, a place known to every wild animal, a timelessness.”

This solitude is why we have always preferred witnessing a sunrise to a sunset. Sunsets are easy, commonplace, strewn across social media. But sunrises are different. For most of us they are rarer to see than sunsets because they require a little more effort, and therefore you are more likely to have the whole spectacular show for yourself. 

“Be patient where you sit in the dark,” encouraged the poet Rumi: “the dawn is coming.”

As you wait with your coffee for daylight to seep slowly into the world, try to pay attention to how you deal with sitting still and doing ‘nothing’. Are you enjoying it, or does it feel like a waste of time? Are you content waiting, or are you anxious to get on with the day. In his book Four Thousand Weeks about time and how to use it, Oliver Burkeman refers to the “image of time as a conveyor belt that’s constantly passing us by. Each hour or week or year is like a container being carried on the belt, which we must fill as it passes, if we’re to feel that we’re making good use of our time. When there are too many activities to fit comfortably into the containers, we feel unpleasantly busy; when there are too few, we feel bored. If we keep pace with the passing containers, we congratulate ourselves for ‘staying on top of things’ and feel like we’re justifying our existence; if we let too many pass by unfilled, we feel we’ve wasted them.” 

He compares our modern anxious obsession with productivity and efficiency to medieval farmers who had no such notion. “There was no anxious pressure to ‘get everything done’, either, because a farmer’s work is infinite: there will always be another milking and another harvest, forever, so there’s no sense in racing towards some hypothetical moment of completion.”

For the remainder of our life’s allotted 4000 weeks the sun will rise every day. But no matter how beautiful they are, we cannot cram in any extra dawns. Rushing will not help. Savouring the ones we do have, on the other hand, may well help a great deal. 

In Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning, Gary Eberle defines sacred time as, “what we experience when we step outside the quick flow of life and luxuriate, as it were, in a realm where there is enough of everything, where we are not trying to fill a void in ourselves or the world, where we exist for a moment at both the deepest and the loftiest levels of our existence and participate in the eternal life of all that is. In simpler, or perhaps just slower, times, people seemed to enter this realm more regularly, or perhaps even to live with one foot inside it. Prayer, meditation, religious rituals, and holy days provided gateways into eternity that allowed us to return to the world of daily time refreshed and renewed, with an understanding that beneath the busyness of daily life there was an underpinning of calm, peace, and sufficiency.”

All those things, yes, and coffee too. This is our sacred time. 

The sun will rise, always. It is worth the wait, always. And as the world floods with sunlight, take the memory of the calm, the rising sun, and the steaming cup of coffee into your busy day that awaits.

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

October 11, 2021 at 06:00

Anna Frost

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“If I trip and fall, I want to be able to jump up, brush off the dust and set off to fly again.”

-Anna Frost

Throughout working on Women’s Wisdom Project, I have been reminded that wisdom is most often passed to us by the people we are closest to—a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a friend.

This profile is about just that.

A good friend of mine Sarah Menzies had recommended that I reach out to Anna Frost for a Women’s Wisdom Project Q&A. A professional runner originally hailing from New Zealand, Frost has built a life out of adventure and challenges. She has a long list of accomplishments in the trail running world that have earned her global respect. For Frost, running provides a sense of connection, to nature, to community, and to herself.

I was touched by the short film Frosty, which documents Frost as she approaches motherhood. That connection that she feels through running becomes the stage for passing the baton of wisdom. As she puts it in our Q&A, “I want to encourage her, as my mother encouraged me to spread my wings and fly.”

Her own connection to adventure, nature, and movement is one she seeks to pass along, not just to her own daughter, but others. She does so through her organization Sisu Girls, which works to encourage “sisu” in girls (and boys) through sport and adventure and by showcasing strong, healthy and positive role models. Sisu is a Finnish word, that Frost defines as “Determination and persistence in the face of adversity.” It’s a concept Frost believes strongly in, both as something she embraces herself, but also to cultivate in others. Check out her TEDx talk on raising adventurous children.

Thank you to Frost for taking time to answer a few questions related to wisdom, the sport she loves, and motherhood.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Something that you gain through experience, learning from your mistakes, falling and getting back up again time and time again.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

My Mum. To have high expectations, to spread my wings and fly, to say yes to love and life.

When did you start running and when did you know that’s what you wanted to dedicate yourself to?

I was always active and in the outdoors. It is where I learned life lessons, where I find my energy, where I feel the most at ease. Running was just a natural progression of my passion to explore the outdoors.

What does running give you that you can’t get anywhere else?

It gives me a huge sense of freedom, clarity and calm.

Gender inequality impacts every profession. What inequalities have you experienced in the trail running world and how have you worked to change them?

The sport has been around for a long time and therefore has underlying inequalities. However, there are a lot of people doing a lot of work to demand equality in our sport. From race directors to athletes, I personally have stood up to organisations and demanded equal prizes for equal finishers.

How do you see the state of women’s sports right now? Why is it important to you that we support them?

It is awesome and so inspiring to see more and more women competing at all levels. It is important to support all runners – male and female. To encourage everyone to have a go. The beauty of running is that we all stand on the same start line together, we all run the same course and we all (try to) get to the same finish time. That is equality.

You recently became a mother. I want to ask you how that has changed your relationship to your body and your sport (which also is your profession), but I also want to acknowledge that this is a very gendered interview question. We so rarely see men being asked “how has being a father impacted your professional life?” There are physical reasons for that of course, but also cultural expectations that are put on mothers. So I guess what I really am asking is: what changes have you experienced becoming a mother, both in how you view yourself and your expectations, and the expectations of the outside world?

Being a mother has flipped my life upside down. It is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done. I look back at my running career and it all now seems like a dream. I won’t lie – it has been really hard to not expect and want to be back where I was, running free, far, fast and light. But, it has also been a wonderful learning opportunity, everyday, to be reminded of the small wins, the simple gratitude of being a mother, of letting little Skylar teach me and show me a whole new world.

You’re an advocate of raising brave and adventurous children, and involved in the Sisu Girls Project. I love the line from your TedX talk that “we need to show our children that falling is not failing.” Why does the Finnish word “sisu” resonate with you and how are you hoping to share that with your daughter as she grows older?

Sisu = “Determination and persistence in the face of adversity.” This was something I grew up with. I was surrounded by role models such as my family, my teachers, my friends who were all inspired and empowered to succeed, to try and try again, to reach their potential. It was a way of living. This is something that I hope will be instilled in Skylar. I want to encourage her, as my mother encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. And if I trip and fall, I want to be able to jump up, brush off the dust and set off to fly again.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

Do as you did, make mistakes and learn from them, open doors of opportunity and jump through them, share compassion and kindness and explore all the world has to offer.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

March 5, 2020 at 11:44

Sandy Hernandez

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“Mother Nature binds us all. Nature belongs to everyone.”

-Sandy Hernandez

Who gets to enjoy the outdoors? Who gets to participate in outdoor activities? Everyone. But unfortunately, the outdoor industry suffers from the same systemic racism and inequities that underpin much of our society, people of color often told that they don’t belong. There are many people working hard to change this and make the outdoors more inclusive, from encouraging companies to reconsider hiring policies with the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, to groups like African American Nature & Parks Experience.

There are many voices to highlight and profile in this movement, and Sandy Hernandez is one of them. She works as a park ranger in Yosemite National Park, on the traditional lands of the Ahwahneechee People. Active as both a ranger and activist, she advocates for inclusion and equity within her industry, and is part of the Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion Council in Yosemite, as well as a People of Color Employee Resource Group. She welcomes volunteer groups to the park, and in a traditionally white, male dominated industry, her visibility as a Latina ranger shows other people of color that they have a place in the outdoors. As she says, “nature belongs to everyone.”

In this Women’s Wisdom Project Q&A we learn a little bit more about her work and the importance of diversity and equity in the outdoors.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Wisdom to me means empathy—the ability to share the feelings of another. You gain the ability to listen, understand, accept, connect with others, and live wholeheartedly.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

I will always answer my mom to this question. She is my sheroe. She reminds me to appreciate where I come from and where I can go. She reminds me to stay connected to my Guatemalan roots and never forget those who came before me. She reminds me of just how beautiful immigration is and how hard work pays off. All that I have accomplished is because this amazing woman has always rooted for me.

Another sheroe of mine is Teresa Baker and her can-do attitude. Teresa is the founder of African American National Parks Event and the Outdoor Industry CEO Diversity Pledge. She reminds me that my voice should be valued at any table I sit in, but to live my life empathetically so others can also join me.

What has your relationship to nature been like throughout your life and how has that evolved?

My ancestors have always been connected to nature. As Teresa Baker says, it’s about reconnecting to outdoor spaces. Growing up in the United States I have always been exposed to the outdoors, but not in the “traditional” way that you see in outdoor magazines. THAT’S OKAY! My love for nature has grown from experiences like visits to local city parks, swimming in lakes and beaches, having outdoor carne asadas con la familia, and seeing a Sequoia for the first time at a national park. Now, Yosemite is my playground and my home. I’ve hiked the longest I have ever hiked, backpacked with strangers who became family, and found beauty in the people who welcome me into their space. I am in love with Yosemite and enjoy sharing with others. It comes with an understanding that everyone experiences the outdoors differently. Mother Nature binds us all. Nature belongs to everyone.

The outdoor industry has struggled, and continues to struggle, with questions of diversity. As a woman of color in the National Park Service, what do you see as important steps in bringing more visibility and inclusivity to marginalized communities? What do we miss out on culturally when we see the outdoors as only available and accessible to one group of people?

We miss out on the feeling of belonging and stewardship over these outdoor spaces. The future of these lands relies on inclusion. Since California is one of five states in the country where “minority” populations are now numerically the majority, these conversations are critical. To keep these public spaces important and sustain them, we need to connect people from all walks of life with National Parks. We need to ask ourselves, how are we working toward having national parks be more accessible to an ever changing and ever-growing constituency? Welcoming ethnic and racial diversity, and accommodating other cultural backgrounds, opens up the opportunity for more people of color to gain experiences to cherish. In nature, there is not a “them” and “us.” It’s just “us.”

Can you tell me a little bit more about Workshop for Ethnic and Racial Minorities in Outdoor Recreation and Education and other initiatives that you and your colleagues at Yosemite are working on to engage in some of these difficult conversations?

In November of 2018, through support from our partners at Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite National Park (YNP) hosted We.R.More: Workshop for Ethnic and Racial Minorities in Outdoor Recreation and Education, an innovative process that aimed to bring together California community members interested in working on improving relevancy, diversity, and inclusion (RDI) in the outdoor community. Two notable outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists, Jose Gonzalez, founder of Latino Outdoor and Teresa Baker facilitated a two-day workshop where participants camped together and shared with each other the barriers they have experienced in the outdoors as people of color. In creating a safe space where participants could empower each other, these members were shaped into We.R.More Stewards of Yosemite.

The We.R.More Stewards then met with various park leaders and hosted a symposium for Yosemite staff that served as a cultural sensitivity training, but also suggested practical solutions to YNP in moving forward with its RDI efforts. During the symposium, Jose challenged Yosemite to think about what the sense of belonging and connection looks like, and what gap between a cultural space and outdoor conservation needs to be bridged? By tackling these two things, a lot of the tangible challenges can be overcome. Stewards presented on the idea that the future of Yosemite not only relies on biological diversity, but also cultural values.

Since then, Yosemite National Park is working on moving forward on the following: hosting implicit bias training for its employees, doing research in order to uncover untold stories in Yosemite’s history and create new interpretive displays, establishing a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Employee Resource Group, hosting bilingual educational programs (Adventura Yosemite), and more!

More on page 18 in this document.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

The best leaders are those who lead with empathy and vulnerability. These traits do not make you any less stronger than anyone else.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

 

Written by Anna Brones

January 30, 2020 at 08:40

Florence Williams

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“Wisdom means having the experience and deep confidence to stay the course,

to know that you can come out of just about anything alive and whole. “

– Florence Williams

Last summer during a 3-week creative residency at Bloedel Reserve, I read The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative by Florence Williams. I had seen the book mentioned in a few places, and when I spotted it at the local bookstore near Bloedel, I knew that it was the perfect text to have with me during a residency that was intended for slowing down and bringing more awareness to my natural surroundings. There are books that we read that change how we think about things, and there are books that we read that encourage us to continue down a path of questioning that we are already on. The Nature Fix was a little of both, and it felt like it came into my hands at the right place and time.

Why do we need nature? That’s a question that underlies much of Williams’ book. Of course intuitively, we make know that we need nature—after all, we are born from the natural world—but in our modern society where technology and advancement rule, it’s easy to forget just how much we need the natural world. And not just on a once-in-awhile basis.

What stuck with me after reading The Nature Fix was how important any dose of nature was. A multi-day detox where we are entirely disconnected and immersed in the natural world is wonderful, but if we dodge all other opportunities for smaller doses of the outdoors, from a short walk or even peering out the window at a tree and letting our minds wander, we miss out on an array of benefits. As the subtitle for the book would lead us to believe, time in and with nature is essential to our emotional and physical wellbeing. In other words, as Williams says, “being in nature actually makes us more human.” Having come to understand that through many years of researching and writing, I think that Williams offers so much wisdom that we all can benefit from.

As I worked on this papercut (which I had to cut two times in order to get right) I thought a lot about the sentiment that Williams shared and that I chose to use in her portrait. “Stay the course,” is probably advice that we all could take. I know that 55/100 profiles into this long project, I needed to hear it myself. And perhaps it’s wisdom that the natural world would share with us as well; we need only look to the trees and the oceans to be reminded that nature is cyclical, that everything is in a constant flow, always shifting and evolving, but moving forward nonetheless. No matter what happens, the sun manages to rise and set every day. If nature stays the course, so can we.

I hope that after reading this profile, you take even the smallest moment to enjoy some time outside.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Wisdom means having the experience and deep confidence to stay the course, to know that you can come out of just about anything alive and whole. Wisdom is what you know at 50 that you wish you knew at 25. Wisdom is about knowing who you are, and who you are in relation to other people. I tend to think that wisdom is largely self-wisdom, but I also believe that sometimes wisdom can be shared.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

My beautiful sister-in-law Lisa Jones, a gifted writer and teacher. She just kept telling me I was okay, and I eventually, I started to believe her.

Before you wrote The Nature Fix, what was your relationship with nature? Were you conscious about how it made you feel physically and mentally? How did (or didn’t) writing the book change that?

I’ve always had a strong connection to nature, and I’ve long known that it sustained me emotionally and creatively. Writing the book taught me to have a more generous view of nature, to accept, for example, the little patches of city nature could also be powerful and affecting, that I didn’t have to be in a dramatic mountainscape or desertscape to have a meaningful experience. It taught me some shortcuts to being more mindful in nature, to cue myself to look and listen and smell.

Something that was very apparent to me while reading the book was how essential it is to create a balanced relationship with nature. How do you create that balance in your everyday life?

I try really hard to have a daily dose of nature, whether it’s morning and evening walks with my dog or sometimes just sitting outside for a few moments where I can hear some birds and catch some sunlight. I make it more of a priority now, and I pay better attention to how I feel in different  environments. If it’s windy, I might seek a more sheltered walk. If it’s winter, I’ll think more about going midday when I can get more natural sunlight. If I’m in need of an emotional re-set, I’ll take out the earbuds and spend more time looking at my neighborhood river. There are a bunch of little hacks like that to optimize the benefits. Also, I know i love snow, so if any falls, I try that much harder to catch it.

Part of the subtitle of The Nature Fix is how nature makes us more creative. Why do you think creativity is important in our society?

I think we live in an age where attention is a scarce resource. It’s the ultimate luxury good. When we are scattered and distracted, our thoughts suffer, meaning suffers, our human connections suffer. Creativity demands this interesting combination of deep focus and open focus, neither of which can happen when we’re multi-surfing. Being outside serves a bunch of functions. It helps us be mindful, it helps our sensory brains come online, and it gives our thinking brains a little bit of a breather. It facilitates open focus, mind-wandering and free play.

As a writer, what stories are you drawn to telling and why?

I’m drawn to telling stories that bring to light the hidden or neglected connections between humans and our environment, whether they be harmful connections like the effects of pollutants on our cells (as in my first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History) or beneficial, like why we are drawn to the colors green and blue.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

Have more confidence in your ability to withstand hardship; believe that your needs matter. Relax and play a little more.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Margaret “Mardy” Murie

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“Wilderness itself is the basis of all our civilization.

I wonder if we have enough reverence for life to concede to wilderness the right to live on?”

-Margaret Murie (1902-2003)

Wilderness advocates often refer to Margaret “Mardy” Murie as the “Grandmother of the Conservation movement.” Born just after the turn of the twentieth century in Seattle, Washington, Murie’s love of the land led to many great conservation achievements.

Moving to Alaska at the age of five, in 1924 she became the first woman to graduate from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines (now the University of Alaska, Fairbanks). The same year, at a morning sunrise ceremony on the banks of the Yukon River, she married her husband Olaus Murie. A scientist for the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, both of them loved the land, and the two adventured off on an 550-mile, 8-month expedition cum honeymoon to study caribou.

They were an adventuresome duo, and Murie joined her husband on many expeditions, helping to keep meticulous records of specimens and findings. Eventually his work took them to Jackson, Wyoming, where Olaus was assigned to study elk populations in the Tetons. While they raised three children, Murie continuing to assist on research trips, and the two began advocating for the environment. Their home, the STS ranch near Moose, Wyoming, now a part of Grand Teton National Park, became a gathering place for fellow conservation leaders.

In 1945, Olaus was appointed part-time director of the Wilderness Society, and went on the become the president in 1950. Murie served as a council member for the organization, and with her husband collaborated on letters, giving talks and advocating for wilderness legislation. An expedition in 1956 took them back to Alaska, this time to the Sheenjek River Valley in northeast Alaska, gathering information of local wildlife in order to make an argument for federal protection. Their work later led to the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960.

Murie published a memoir Two in the Far North in 1962, documenting her childhood and she and her husbands expeditions and adventures in Wyoming and Alaska, a story of exploration and fighting for the protection of the places they loved. Olaus died the next year, just a few months before the signing of the Wilderness Act, a piece of legislation the two had fought tirelessly for and led to the protection of 110 million acres of federal land.

Her life had been spent devoted to helping her husband, and while friends encouraged her to find a new path, Murie understood that her calling was to the land. She used her power as a writer to continue to advocate for the environment, writing speeches and letters to politicians and leaders. She was invited to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Wilderness Act, and in her time when she wasn’t using her voice in the support of wilderness, she traveled to experience more, her adventures taking her to conservation sites in Africa and on a 10,000-mile campervan trip in Alaska.

Alaska continued to hold particular significance for Murie, and her work helped to pass the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, which protected 56.4 million acres as wilderness in addition to tens of millions acres more as national parks and wildlife refuges. Her efforts did not go unrecognized, and she not only received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, but was also given the Audubon Medal, the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award and the Wilderness Society’s Bob Marshall Award as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in recognition of her contributions to wilderness conservation.

Murie passed away at the age of 101 at her home in Moose, Wyoming, her undying love for wilderness and the environment having left a lasting legacy.

Margaret Murie is one of three women from the Women’s Wisdom Project series to be featured in a new article in the TEND issue of Taproot magazine. The other two are Winona LaDuke and Jane Addams. I am honored to have contributed to this issue, and encourage you to check out this great publication that’s independent and ad-free. You can order a copy of the TEND issue here.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

April 5, 2019 at 09:56

Nature’s Pace

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“Bark looks like islands. Nature’s map.”

I had written those few words next to a line drawing of bark in my sketchbook. I had stood close to a fir tree, so close I could inhale its smell, closely inspecting and drawing with my black pen the lines that I saw. Now that I look at the drawing it doesn’t really resemble bark anymore. But it certainly looks like islands.

How often do we take the time to see? The time to listen? The time to be?

I thought about this a lot last month during a three-week creative residency at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. A creative residency is one of those wonderful things that allows you the time and space to let your creative mind wander, and I am so grateful for getting that time. I spent those three weeks with as much physical as mental wandering. After all, the two do go hand in hand.

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Written by Anna Brones

September 7, 2018 at 08:36

You Are Enough

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When I was 16, I was offered a scholarship to go on a 21-day Outward Bound course in the High Sierras. While I had spent ample time outdoors, I had never been mountaineering before, and never on a backpacking trip that long. I would go and spend three weeks navigating the backcountry with strangers, all of us in that awkward teenage stage where we were already trying to navigate our own lives, trying to find our way across the invisible map that is life.

I don’t remember packing for the trip (I’m certain there was a list) and I don’t remember the flight down to Fresno, where we all met before hopping into vans and heading to base camp. I don’t even remember what base camp looked like. All I remember was that feeling in the pit of my stomach as I lay in my sleeping bag trying to fall asleep.

It was that slightly warm, slightly spiky feeling, one could call it “butterflies,” but that sounds too light, too friendly, too sweet. This is the kind of feeling that’s uncomfortable and off-putting, you might want to throw up, but you’re not really sure. You’re uncomfortable certainly, but not enough to indicate the kind of fear that’s intense enough to make you stop what you’re doing. And so you stick it out.

This is a feeling that I have experienced throughout my life, and still do. It’s a feeling of fear and trepidation, it’s a feeling of standing on the edge of a precipice and diving into the unknown, it’s a feeling of anxiety, it’s a feel of nervousness, it’s a feeling of not being good enough, or not being equipped enough to take on the task at hand. It’s a feeling that says, “I’m out of my comfort zone and I’m not so sure I want to be here right now.” Age has taught me that this is a feeling to be endured, because there’s usually good stuff on the other side.

This week I taught an outdoor cooking class. I spent most of the class being upbeat and effusive, throwing ingredients together without measuring them, spewing off ideas for variations that one could try, and generally trying to get the class to be excited about making food outdoors. Internally, there was a different scene taking place. “You’re not outdoorsy enough to be teaching this class. When did you last go backpacking? Three years ago? What do you know about packing light? You only go bike touring, that’s not outdoorsy enough. When was the last time you even cooked a meal outside? Two weeks ago when you went on a bike camping? Yeah, but that was an easy overnight that’s very close to home. What’s adventurous about that?”

I am not the only one to deal with that voice. We all have it. We all experience impostor syndrome on some level. The feeling that we are not truly qualified to be doing the thing that we are doing.

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Written by Anna Brones

July 27, 2018 at 11:46