Beauty and the Earth

My 14-mile walk started out in a balmy 26 degrees with a weather phenomenon called “frozen fog” and ended 34 degrees.  So many ordinary forms of nature made extraordinary by frost.

As I walked, I thought about this quote by John Muir from a century ago.

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” ~ John Muir, 1915

How remarkable was his imagination that without the benefit of Earth viewed from space or Google Earth globes we can now click on, he saw the larger truth.  I wish this larger view and awareness we are all children of the same Earth to be in the hearts of those decision makers and world leaders working at the Climate Change Conference 2015 this week.  I also want to keep this awareness in my heart.

Here is my slideshow to share.  (By the way, the mound of brown stuff is a frozen anthill, and it made me wonder about all those ant communities going deeper in winter).






Footsteps In Solidarity


On Sunday, November 29, 2015, instead of walking the Seattle Half Marathon as I had planned, I will take the route of much easier start-line logistics and no hotel cost, walking 14 miles local to me in solidarity with global events of the weekend.  Convening 50,000 people at the Climate Change Conference in Paris from 200 countries, and a large gathering of indigenous peoples.

International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change

“Given their widespread reliance on natural resources and ecosystems, indigenous peoples and local communities are especially vulnerable to, and disproportionately impacted by, climate change. They are being forcibly removed from their lands by deforestation, sea-level rise, major infrastructure projects, and conflict arising from resource scarcity. All the while, they play a critical role in climate change mitigation and adaptation through their historic and effective role as stewards of much of the                   world’s remaining forests.”

I will also walk keeping in mind several pediatric cancer stories that have crossed my path this month, since the compassion I feel for other parents facing this is enormous.  Every day I live in gratitude my child survived.  I invite you to look into this group raising funds named after a 5-year-old currently on hospice care: ChadTough Foundation.  I will carry a photo of a son of a mom in Alaska I connected with after Portland Marathon by email through Team in Training who had the same exact stage and diagnosis as my child, made it through two years of treatment, but did not survive.

Walking seems to allow me to process emotions better than any other way I know. I decided to catalog all my long walks in order to inspire me to someday fulfill my dream of walking the entire US.  Who knows?  If I stay local long enough, I may eventually complete an equivalent distance.  In my book, everywhere is “walking distance.”

11-29-2015 – 14 miles in Solidarity with Peace, People Working on Climate Change Solutions, Pediatric Cancer Treatments

Walk - 11-29-2015 - Peace, Climate Change, pediatric brain tumo10-04-2015 – Portland Full 26.2 Marathon – $2,311 raised.  Link is still active to accept donations to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

01-18-2015 – Greenbank to Langley, 18 miles in Solidarity With Crystal – GoFundMe

Walk - 1-18-2015 - Crystal11-23-2013 – 26 miles and $1,500 for Cure Search

Walk - 11-29-2013 CureSearch09-29-2013 – 20 miles in training Langley to South Whidbey State Park Walk - 9-29-20132012 – 23 miles on South Whidbey I don’t remember why, before I discovered MapMyWalk.

Lodestone Mandala – laminated copy I view every day at my desk

To view a more brilliant digital version, visit here where you can listen to a 6-minute Heart Space meditation:

Gaiafield – Lodestone Mandala by


Least Effort, Greatest Strength

Probably a famous philosopher has written on this, but I don’t want to look it up at the moment.  I realized in a flash that what we do with least effort is our greatest strength.  And what we do with most effort can build our strength.

Some of our culture’s greatest innovators had an injury or were born with a limitation that shifted their sensory focus in some way that allowed their “least effort” to open access to a world few others saw.  E.O. Wilson, George Washington Carver, and Helen Keller are a few such people that come to mind.


In my case, my “least effort” is an understanding of aquatic ecosystems thanks to profound dander allergies to all animals with fur, leading me to be a steward for fish aquariums nearly 40 years of my life.  Fish have nearly always thrived in my care despite never once testing water acidity (pH) or quantifying chemical balance in their water.  Instead I have learned awareness of subtle cues in fish behavior that cause me to know a change needs to be made in their environment.

An epiphany crossed my path in the course of some transcription content.  I learned about aquaponics.

I asked my child, “What are things you think of first that are associated with me all my life?”  Answer:  “Plants, fish, and music.”


Here is a glimpse of my little tropical community tank that thankfully survived intact 40 hours with no heat, plunging to 40 degrees when my power was knocked out this week in high winds.  It’s a bit distorted, like looking through a fish eye.

As I look toward my new school program in Environmental Conservation, I know once I get through courses in fish ecology, ecological sampling, plants of the Northwest, chemistry, ecotones, limnology and others, I will have an opportunity to do an independent study project.

I cannot imagine a more suited project to me than aquaponics (with help of some people with engineering know-how).

Unless I collect data on whether Chopin versus Mozart supercharges plant growth to solve our nation’s agricultural crises, I’m not sure how my music knowledge fits in.  But it feels wonderful when you encounter a system that screams “That’s It!” because it’s something that comes naturally to you, but can serve a greater good.

A single semester’s project in aquaponics may take me no further than research paper and a small model, but possibilities seem endless for this type of sustainability project – in education, community adjunct to food bank gardens, urban agriculture, etc.


When we are faced with something that involves great effort, we can take this as an opportunity to answer these questions for ourselves:  How badly do I want this change in my life?  Why do I want this?

For me, commuting to school provides one such example of “most effort.”  I am looking into carpool options to no avail as of yet, but regardless, my route will involve 4 hours a day of commute time.  Current best option involves driving 50 miles a day plus 6 buses a day.  That would have been enough of a “barrier” to prevent a younger me from pursuing my dream.  But now I view such barriers as windows.  I can use bus time for study.  I never know what wisdom I may encounter in my travels.  I can thank my lucky stars to be leaving the house after 10 years working from home devoted to a young child.


Here are a few videos from folks creating aquaponics models around the U.S.  One in Detroit, one in Chicago, a summer 2015 PBS spotlight on aquaponics in the US, an ambitious garden tinkerer in Washington State.

Sweetwater Foundation  (Inspiring Link)





Brave New World


As we near the season of appreciation and gratitude, I am doing something I have not done in years.  Writing with pen on carefully selected paper to various people who have contributed something to me.  It occurs to me how revolutionary this act feels now, when 30 years ago it was routine.

I recently found myself expressing that it scared me to realize most of my support network is virtual, even though virtual people are real too.  Somewhere.  : )

I felt pangs of guilt for even making this statement, because of course I recognize I have supportive extended family members and countless people who have supported me in various ways I know and other ways I may never know.  I would not exist as the energy, light, and blob of cells I am without support of many kinds.  In addition, by saying most of my support system in life is “virtual,” I am aware this is a direct result of my own choices.

For years I have earned a living in such a way that I spend 10+ hours a day online.  This means that by default, if I am going to daily prepare meals, exercise, and attend to my relationship with my child and transport her to her activities, it is far more “convenient” to join another Facebook interest group, and even participate in meditation online versus travel to my local community meditation group.  In addition, I find myself often using technology rather than direct communication even with family who live within a block or mile of me.   And joining non-virtual exercise and crafting groups that communicate primarily online with one another.

Most astounding for me to consider:  I have not met my colleagues, clients or employers in person in over a decade.

Now that I earned enough money to obtain a 21st century phone, I even found myself doing something I swore I would never do as long as I live:  Text the person I live in the same house with.  Really?  I couldn’t get up and walk to another room and talk to the person with my own mouth?

Starting 2016, I am rebooting my life and embarking on a new journey that involves much more time away from the computer screen.  Hallelujah!  The funny thing is, while I was walking around the campus where I’ll be enrolled in classes toward this new life, literally every person walking past me (under age 30 by appearance) was holding up a device a few inches from their face while walking in a straight line.

Not only do I have great physical trouble doing this myself so I don’t even attempt to walk and text, but it occurred to me it was like watching people walk with a virtual reality in front of reality.  It becomes harder and harder to tell which is which.

It occurs to me that many of us increasingly live such lives.  Are we going to be living smaller and smaller lives revealing the Russian nesting dolls of reality within a reality within a reality?   All this makes me want to go up to people and ask, “Are you real?  Can you see me?  Can you see you?”



Give me awareness of my own nature, a great green tree, big sky above, and luscious soil under my feet.  I’m walking home.




The past decade has been a huge period of growth for me since my daughter’s life-threatening illness, my divorce, sad relationship pattern.

Some kind of cycle feels like it is coming to an end.  I am starting to really, truly understand that we are all unlimited.  Unlimited is our true nature.

Completing my first full marathon (26.2 miles) six days ago, the primary thing that blew me away was not my own resilience, because endurance is “my thing” and I do not doubt my ability to endure.  What blew me away was all the people I witnessed, a few of whom I personally conversed with on the path, who had APPARENT limitations, in body or with age, but were all out there walking or running or whatever version of moving forward on a sunny day among over 14,000 people at the event.  I saw men and women in their 70s to 90s out there moving forward in their own way.  I met two inspiring women with a rare disorder (NF2) who were completing their marathon to raise awareness and raise funds for the life they were born into.  I asked a few other folks why they were doing this, and one nurse said “self-inflicted torture?”  A marathon can sure feel that way, and I had to dig pretty deep those last six miles to think of all those people who inspired me to be out there.

I was inspired by the 144 Team in Training members who raised $377,000 collectively for cancer research, converging at the event from chapters all over the U.S., doing something with the helplessness we have all felt on the road of caring for a loved one with cancer.



I am excited to be working toward a 180-degree career turn only a year away from age 50.  I never expected to have an opportunity to pick up pieces of myself, my childhood dreams, but it is truly never too late to go back to school. School of life or academic school.

And so I will soon begin a several-year degree program in Environmental Conservation.  This is a technical program that will challenge that part of me that has little confidence in my capacity to program a device or use sophisticated equipment, but I am open to learn to use that part of myself.  The track I focus on will become clearer over time but there is potential for work in parks management, water conservation, sustainability education, etc.  Anyone in my family of origin will get how excited I was to be told one of my required courses is Fish Ecology.  I have literally had a fish tank (or bowl) in my personal environment continuously throughout my life, regardless of moving too many times to count.  I also had posters of whales, fish, invertebrates covering my childhood bedroom walls (in the desert!).

There are many excuses and reasons I could give for why I never got that biology degree when I had a chance at age 18, but here’s to a new chance.

Disclaimer:  I have not yet received my final financial aid award and have no idea yet how I am going to transport myself the 100 miles a day to and from classes, but these things will not stop me.  These are life’s little dancing hoops.


Once Upon a Story

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself. ”
~ Michel de Montaigne


I woke this morning with a sense of tears just below the surface, no matter which positives I choose to focus my attention on.  And I have a lot to be positive about.

I have also been lately attempting to write the story that’s trapped inside of me, using a trick I learned in a writing workshop.  I promised myself I would only write my story if it can do two things:  1) Be a story without a victim, 2) Be therapeutic or helpful to anyone, even just myself.   The writing trick is to begin with “Once upon a time” and write your life as third person, restarting the phrase whenever you are stuck.  All I arrived at over and over is a variation on this sentence:  “Once upon a time there was a woman who was terrified to write the truth.  Every time she stared at a blank page, she went for a walk instead.”

Someone at the workshop gifted me the wisdom that maybe the body carries the story that words cannot.  Maybe the body is the last place we look to when we process our lives.  It occurred to me that is what endurance walking is to me.  It’s my story in motion.  Walking is my salvation, my meditation, my strength, the one consistent theme in my life even if the journey makes no sense to anyone else.

Today I asked this question:  “What can I do when I wake with tears?”  My eyes were drawn to a Rumi collection on my bookshelf.  And I swear to all that is sacred that I opened the 300-page book to this answer to my question:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy; a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.



By Erin W

Importance of Adventure


“I always tell my kids if you lay down, people will step over you. But if you keep scrambling, if you keep going, someone will always, always give you a hand. Always. But you gotta keep dancing, you gotta keep your feet moving.”

~ Morgan Freeman


The video below explains why I got up at 5:30 a.m. to this “sunrise” of torrential rain and drove 2 hours to train in Seattle.  I can’t say enough about Team in Training for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, but it has instilled in me to never forget the importance of adventure.

I am working lots of extra hours to provide my own donation to LLS by end of September.  If you would like to join my efforts, please go here to my funding page.  And thank you!

Team in Training meets each week at a different location during my one day of the week off work.  And I love feeling myself get stronger.  This week I got to reconnect with my old haunt, Alki Beach.  About 17 years ago, I was blessed to be able to live there for two years.  Without being a millionaire.  Renting a condo over water for the cost of what I’ve seen today advertised for a small one-bedroom apartment without any view in Seattle.  Alki was a happening place yesterday.  National Volleyball League was hosting beach volleyball tournaments on the beach.  A scene that felt straight out of my New Mexico high school happened nearby with a car show of polished, low-riding Impalas. And I even saw a gathering of women swimming in bikinis (no wet suits!) in the frigid water.


Despite a severe wind warning and driving through intense rain and wind, the sky over Alki actually cleared and was rain-free for 3 hours of my 200-minute walk from past the West Seattle Bridge around Alki Point and back.


High winds caused great damage around the Seattle area, including power outages affecting 150,000 people and the entire University of Washington campus.  So my 1-1/2 hour ride home took 4-1/2 hours, full of scenes of emergency vehicles, downed trees, nonfunctioning gas stations and broken traffic lights turning 8-lane traffic into 4-way stops.  But it was my adventure!  As with any good adventure, it was great to be back home, hug my daughter and be proud of everything I had accomplished.  IMG_4640




How I Lost 25 Pounds Without Trying


We must celebrate life where we can.  Today I celebrate a milestone.

I reached a number on the scale that means my BMI (body-mass index) is out of the Obese range and into the top of the Overweight range.  It may not sound like “Yay, I’m overweight” is celebration to some, but it is for me.  

I want to describe how this transformation happened without my focus on it.

Usually I avoid weighing my body more than a few times a year.  I refuse to carry around a number as a silent source of shame or red letter.

Since New Year’s Day 2014 I have lost 25 pounds.  Slow enough to mean real change.  What shifts did I make?

  • I placed my focus on being healthy.
  • I was already vegetarian, but I stopped eating dairy.  (This may not work for your body, but it almost immediately helped me feel less congested, allergic, and more energetic).
  • I sat grounded with conscious connection to my body each and every day for about 15-30 minutes.  Meditation or “body scanning” can help with this.  I found this made me more aware of not being hungry when my body really wasn’t hungry.
  • I continued to do what I have always done:  Walk daily, drink water, and eat no more than 1500 calories a day, but focus more than calories on assuring a minimum of 40 mg plant-based protein each day.

I am currently training to walk a full marathon, including grueling hills that raise my heart rate.  That should increase my metabolism.  But to compensate for 25 years at a desk job most of my waking hours, what I have found over time is endurance walking does little to impact my weight.  Instead it tends to make me stronger and feel happier.   So I intend to spend the remainder of my life endurance walking, just as I have always done starting with walking to and from school as long as I can remember.

One foot in front of the other.  One mile at a time.

Let the celebration continue.


Food for thought:

More Than Enough


(thanks to Molly Hahn of

I am not a victim of life.  Life does not owe me anything.

Consider for a moment all the forces weighing in against your very existence.  Truly all of us are living miracles.

I am writing to celebrate a transition from 20 years of earning just enough to earning more than enough.  As a single parent for 14 of those 20, I always felt intensely appreciative to be earning “just enough.”  One bill at a time, like walking across stones in a river.  I had a skill that allowed me to work from home, be present for my child, and be in a better position than many women I met who left destructive marriages without having a means of earning or stayed in toxic relationships for fear of being financially lost.

I worked 60 hours a week for much of the 14 years, with the exception of “burnout breaks” where I chose to live with gracious food bank assistance in order to breathe.   My focus was laser sharp on doing what I had to do to support two people and I went without more than a single day off for 5 full years.  I made repeated attempts to change my job situation, but nothing changed.  Perhaps I did not invest the energy or have the wherewithal to make change with such little wiggle room of time away from what was directly in front of me.  So instead, I practiced “balance moments” throughout.  Took bits and pieces of rest, rejuvenation, and meditation where I could and was definitely buoyed by the joy my child brings to my life.

I was showered with many gifts and generosity during the course of this time, and was kept afloat by kindness during a period when I was briefly homeless and helping my child fight for her life.  In truth, I’ve been fighting for my own life in the aftermath.

Waves of emotion bubbles come and go.  I’m taking the reminder from Molly (above) and practicing Keep Letting Go.  Molly is someone who faced significant traumas with hard inner work and compassion and transformed them into gifts for the world.

I have changed HOW I use my skill, not the skill itself (transcription) and it feels great to know all the time and learning curves I put in over 20+ years at this work have not gone to waste.  I continue to work 6 days a week but have been able to reduce my hours from 60 to 45-50, and the work is for the most part fascinating and far reaching in scope.

Now as a new dawn approaches, I praise be that I can work toward my priorities of paying off debt, joining groups doing things that bring me joy (being active outdoors), and not have my first thoughts be, “Can I afford transportation?  Can I afford group dues?  Can I afford a day off work?  Can I afford a meal out if someone invites me?”

I wish I could write an instruction manual for how this shift is happening for me for others to benefit, but I really don’t know how all the variables came together.  I’m just thrilled to have the freedom of living with a little more than just enough.

School of Solo vs. Partner University


This is a post that’s been working on me, rather than me on it.  It wants to be written.  Anytime anyone talks about relationships we walk a fine line between saying something we regret or wish to delete and painting an honest picture.  To that end, my intention is to focus on what I am learning on my path, rather than reveal anything which may be hurtful to anyone else.


Much depth exists in the journey of learning one’s own self reliance, self love, self care.  In fact, so much depth I have questioned whether partnership is necessary to a healthful, loving life.  I have pondered what I would want young women to know, a younger me even, and it boils down to this:  I want you to know it is okay to be alone and have nothing but your wits about you inside a culture that tends to value coupling and status above all else.  (Wits and clothing.  Clothing is nice to have along with wits).  The numbers tell us a bit under half (44%) of all Americans are single at any given point in time.  So clearly, walking around feeling bad about being solo is a weight we need not carry.


My education in this school has been challenging.  I never got a diploma, but I did learn a great deal from every person.  I made commitments I thought were positive at the time with the understanding I had in a moment in time, and later realized for the sake of self preservation, soul preservation, I needed to break.  Other people have done the same with me.  So I have seen the view from both sides of the equation – being left and leaving.  Neither feels good.

What I have learned is any time we are bringing our highest self into anything we do, we are better off.  I have also learned I tend to be better able to access my highest self solo.  At least thus far.  I would like to learn how to do the same inside partnership, but instead I have seemed to attract partnerships that involve drama and even tragedy, often multiplying pain rather than joy.

I have also seen “healthy” masquerading as competition and learned that life is not a Win/Lose proposition.  If it is important for anyone to consistently be a winner, what does that make their partner?  Competing only with ourselves to go the extra mile further than we have is the best option.  And even though our legal framework is Win/Lose, there are no winners in divorce or family court.  Zero.

I have learned we need to embody what we want.  Like attracts like.  I continue to work on this.  I would like to experience primarily joy and peace inside partnership.  I visit these two pillars daily for myself.

Sometimes I question whether it is a direction equation.  Let’s say we want to attract someone healthy, so we place our focus solidly on being financially, spiritually, emotionally and physically healthy.  I don’t know about you, but when I attempt this, as I often do, I find not enough hours in a day to even begin to imagine anything left over for a partner.  Put in more concrete terms, if I’m spending 2 hours a day on physical health (nutrition + exercise), 8 hours a day on financial health, meditating and spiritual development 1 hour a day, and creative space/self-care for my emotions, what time is left over for someone that is not me?

Meditating, Dating, Possibility

Breathing in, I am love.
True nature rises, you are
Enough, enough, you.

Online dating says
Too fat, too smart, too slow, too
Short, too old, too me.

I want to know what
It feels like to be enough
In relationship.

There are no less than a gazillion and a half relationship “experts” out there, but here’s one man’s 2 cents I find refreshing and worth a look: