anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Posts Tagged ‘outdoors

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.

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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

Isabella L. Bird

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“Everything suggests a beyond.”

– Isabella L. Bird

Born in England in 1831, Isabella L. Bird was outspoken from a young age. For health reasons, in 1854 a doctor suggested a sea voyage. This would lead to a life of travel, her adventures taking her to the U.S. (where she spent time in Colorado, riding horseback across the Rockies), Australia, India, Kurdistan, Turkey, Morocco and many more.

Bird wrote about her adventures in several books, likeA Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, and was a respected photographer and naturalist, exploring and documenting the world around her. In 1892, she became the first woman fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Imagine being a female adventurer in her day – a time when women were expected to stay home, to stick to their routines. She upended all of those expectations, fueled by an interest in adventure and a desire to tackle new challenges. In Colorado, she became the first woman to climb Long’s Peak, nowadays one of the state’s most popular “fourteeners.”

It’s so easy to only focus on the minutiae of the world around us; our to do lists, our daily lives, our routines. But Isabella’s quote is a reminder that there is always more; a challenge to open our eyes, to look beyond, to think differently. The world is full of potential for discovery, whether it’s far away or in our own backyard. We simply have to open ourselves to it.

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

Written by Anna Brones

April 18, 2018 at 10:45

Adventure Journals

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What inspires you to get out and adventure?

That was the driving question behind this collection of three Adventure Journals, a special, limited edition collaboration with my friends over at Wylder Goods. Inspired by the pursuit of adventure – whether it’s a bike ride, a cup of coffee brewed outside, or a night under the stars – these journals are there to accompany you and provide a home for your thoughts, musings and ponderings.

They each feature one of my papercuts, and are printed by Scout Books in Portland, Oregon.

What makes these special:

  • 100% recycled Kraft cover!
  • 100% recycle white interior paper!
  • 100% awesome!

You can snag them in my shop or over on Wylder Goods.

Written by Anna Brones

June 30, 2017 at 14:31

Bikepacking the Olympic Adventure Route with Komorebi Cycling Team

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Bikepacking on the Olympic Adventure Route with Komorebi Cycling Team

This is an essay I wrote over on Adventure Journal, which also includes a list of tips for meal planning and cooking for a bikepacking trip, along with a few links for recipes. 

This is all the email said:

Riding bikes in the backcountry, camping, making food on the trail…June 17-19. Interested in details?

Like any sane person, I responded with an “um…okay!”

It was a proposal to join a bikepacking trip with Komorebi, the Portland-based women’s bikepacking team. The fact that I had never been bikepacking didn’t deter me, and after all, that was the whole point of Komorebi: to get more women adventuring on two wheels. Okay, actually it did freak me out a little bit, and as soon as I said yes the thoughts started swarming in my head:

Will I be able to keep up with women who bikepack all the time?

Will they judge me if I am not fast enough?

I don’t really ride mountain bikes, what if I fail?

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Written by Anna Brones

July 24, 2016 at 09:13