Clouds by Jenn Brown

Remembering Your Place in the Family of Things

One of the conundrums I often ponder is how, as humans, we can do what we are doing to the planet. Floating continents of trash in the oceans, flammable tap water, mountains laid low, ancient forests stripped bare. Why?

Why can’t we accept the world as it is and live in it, rather than breaking it and living among the shattered pieces, as fantasy writer Robin Hobb asks? What compels us to bite the very hand that feeds us? Why do we think it’s OK to shit where we eat?

Entitlement, greed, envy, jealousy, power, ignorance, and money are clearly motivating factors, but how, exactly, do these states or emotions overpower common sense?

Continue reading

5 Things You May Not Know About Your Breath

breathe_horizontal-AThankfully, we don’t have to think about breathing to make it happen, or most of us would have given up the ghost long ago. But thankfully, too, when we want, we can consciously control our breath to encourage healing in our body.

I recently took a Feldenkrais workshop about the neck. I hoped the gentle, mindful exercises of Feldenkrais would offer some relief from a neck injury that was making life relatively unpleasant.

To my surprise, we spent most of the afternoon doing breathing lessons. Through the focused, deliberate attention and soft, subtle movements, I learned more about the relationship between my lungs and my neck (and just about everywhere else in my body) than I’d learned in my life to date.

Here are 5 gems.

Continue reading

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

I live in a small cottage in a rural-ish neighborhood where I can’t see other houses from my house. Everyone keeps to themselves and lives quiet, private lives—it’s not a neighborhood with any sense of community.

But I’m a walker, and by walking the winding roads nearby I have met a garden designer, a social worker who really loves handwriting analysis, a dean at the culinary school, a kitchen manager at the same school, a hairdresser from town, and a German guy who helps take care of his mother-in-law’s enormous property.

Over time the neighborhood opened up, at least to some friendly “Good mornings” on my walk. But everyone in cars still seemed grumpy. No one ever waved. No one beeped a hello. Most barely dipped to the side to give me some room on the road.

I began to obsess about how unfriendly and rude everyone was. Couldn’t they lift a finger off the steering wheel? Couldn’t they acknowledge that I’m here at least by moving a tiny bit into the other lane? What’s wrong with these people?

Continue reading

Step Out of the Personality Pigeonhole

I recently heard myself say to a friend, “I’m just such a Type A.” That was code for “I am a perfectionist,” but even as I said it I questioned the truth of it.

I leave dishes in the sink (sometimes for days), I often put my hair up rather than style it, and I’m more interested in trying new things for work than being a career-driven achiever.

That doesn’t sound very Type A, does it? Is there a Type B? And where did this whole system come from anyway?

Continue reading

A Moment of Silence With 400,000 People

“Silence is a source of great strength.”  —Lao Tzu

I wouldn’t have thought you could get 400,000 people excitedly waiting to begin the largest climate march in history to stop, become still and silent, and raise their hands in solidarity. But it happened—and it was powerful.

As we lined the western edge of Central Park with a cushion of quiet, we had a moment to access that place beyond words, to get in touch with the bigger picture, to tap into the mystery that transcends but includes us all.

After filling up on the love, peace, joy, connection, or whatever each of us found in that moment of reflection, we brought forth that energy in a roll of sound that moved through the crowd like a wave in perpetual crest.

It was a roar of hope and frustration, of joy and anger, of optimism and sadness. It was a roar of love—the sound of a mother bear protecting her cubs and a parent whispering, “I love you” to their sleeping baby.

It was the sound of the Earth itself, saying, “I will not be denied.”

Favorite Gardens: Great Dixter

It’s hard to underestimate the impact the gardens of Great Dixter have had on the field of horticulture and garden design. For more than 80 years, Christopher Lloyd (1921–2006) lived on the property, and nearly all his adult life was devoted to gardening there and writing about his experience. His commitment to the land and the plants themselves made what would have been another lovely English garden into something intimate, timeless, and extraordinary. These photos are from a visit in May 2014.

Continue reading

We’re All One Tribe

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014 was significant for many reasons, but for me the most important was its inclusiveness. The causes represented spanned everything from labor rights to veganism to water protection to nuclear disarmament. But underlying all the concerns is a love for our home, our precious planet, that is strong enough to get people off their couches and into the streets.

I have loved nature for as long as I can remember. I spent hours romping through the woods and exploring my dad’s vegetable garden when I was a kid, and our vacations happened in an 6-person Coleman tent that included cots and a 100-pound St. Bernard.

As an adult, I have struggled to find a place where I felt at home in the “environmental movement.” Who is my pack?

Continue reading

Eat With Your Hands

227050_1987359533718_4482011_n“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
—Plato

Playfulness is one of the things that seem to disappear from life as we grow up. We get pressured to be serious, deliberate, and mature. We tweak and trim our behavior until it fits what we think it means to act like a grown up. We never feel like one, though, and we look around and wonder how everyone else is so grown-up and if we’ll ever feel that way, while they secretly wonder the same thing.

WikiHow, in an article called How to Know When You Are Grown Up (I am not kidding), claims the hallmarks of reaching this mythical grown-up land include seriousness, thinking about the future, focusing on career, keeping the house tidier, using “sir” or “madam” instead of “dude” when addressing someone, and having to wear glasses to read. Oh, and no more “aimless meandering.”

Seriously?

Continue reading