This June I turned 70. It was a momentous turning of the calendar for me and I approached it with a lot of intentionality.

First, I took some solo time in nature to get clear.My longtime friend and co-guide Anne Stine and I attended the Wilderness Guides Council gathering on Salt Spring Island, BC in May. Anne and I stayed afterwards for our own solo time. In my solo time I followed the traditional model of our wilderness quest work: 3 days and nights of solo camping and fasting. Anne welcomed me back with food and story witnessing. My first day of solo was about gratitude, my second day focused on deep internal work, and my final day focused on purpose.

Ann’s solo quest camp


The solo time provided a clarifying “house cleaning” for me. I made commitments to: step forth with gratitude and joy; to keep tracking those sneaky shadow pieces; to stay on the trail of loving the earth and focusing on youth and environmentalism.

Next part of my month-long celebration was the privilege of co-guiding our annual Cascadia Quest in eastern Washington. Questers came from Australia, Canada, Germany and the U.S. The age range was 26-75. Each individual’s journey was unique, courageous, and inspirational. Personally, it was an affirmation of the earlier “purpose” day on my own solo time. For most of my adult life I have been a wilderness guide leading adults and youth into nature. Health willing, I hope to continue it for years to come.

Wind flags in the valley of our quest. photo by Holger Scholz

Ann and Christina with longtime friend and quester, Galen Treuer. Photo by Deborah Greene-Jacobi


 In January I had sent out an invitation to friends and family to join us for 2 nights and 3 days of camping at a state park on Whidbey Island in mid-June. When the final sorting of schedules and priorities happened there were 11 hearty campers and another half dozen local friends alternating in and out each day. It was my idea of a perfect celebration—living outdoors, good friends, great food (potluck style), hiking, campfire, singing, and storytelling. The flow of days was easy, the weather mostly sunny and not too cold, and the stories fun and poignant. I asked for presence, not presents, and I believe we all walked away uplifted.

Earth flag signaling our campsite at the state park.

Breakfast at the birthday campout















Warming up for the evening campfire singing








The finale of my birthday month was the arrival of my three sisters from North Carolina, Minnesota, and Arizona. Their schedules didn’t coordinate with the birthday campout so they created their own celebration. We four had never gathered without spouses (Christina was made an honorary sister) or children or parents before. And we had a marvelous time—lots of laughter, good food, hiking, and some deep diving conversations around the ongoing care of our dear mother and our commitment to one another. 

Ann and her sisters. left to right, Kathy, Susie, Ann and Margaret. Photo by Christina Baldwin

One evening we hurried to the beach to capture this site. Photo by Margaret Brown















Marionberry pie, our grandmother’s teacups, handmade Slovenian lace from friends Marjeta and Natalija. Photo by Christina












I feel fully seventy now. Grateful beyond words for health, love, and purpose. Profound gratitude to each person near and far whose words or presence helped propel me into the next decade. The common threads of each of my “celebrations” are the companionship of community, the inspiration of nature, and the willingness to have honest conversations. These are the threads (see William Stafford’s poem below) that have guided my entire life and will stead me well in the years of service ahead.

Ann and Gracie amidst blooming Linnea flowers. Photo by Susie Lynch

 The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998



22 replies
  1. Susie
    Susie says:

    Purpose filled lives only happen with our Great one who surrounds us. As we give our lives to God he raises us up and sets us on the path he has planned. Always always stay on the path it is Narrow and straight and leases to life eternal!!

  2. June Alexander
    June Alexander says:

    Congrtulating you on your 70th birthday, celebrated in the most wonderful of ways.
    I also am a nature lover, born in 1950, Australia.
    May you continue to live in harmony with nature and share your passions with others for many years to come,
    Hugs and love,

  3. Bonnie Marsh
    Bonnie Marsh says:

    Asking for a wonderous new year for you, Ann! We didn’t realize it was your 70th, or we’d have done something other than waiting for Bon’s knee to heal after a total knee replacement May 13th! Meantime, we sold our house, moved May 1st into a senior bldg., had an estate sale, and are nearly settled into our new digs! You must come visit us at The Waters in Excelsior! And again, sounds as though you had a great celebration, but have one for us, huh?

  4. Diana Smith
    Diana Smith says:

    I am so grateful for the experience of the wilderness quest in my 70th year last year. Reflecting on purpose and presence at this time of life, with a deep sense of freedom and acceptance. Thank you for you part in that…with much love and celebration.

  5. Catherine Wilson
    Catherine Wilson says:

    What a wonderful way to celebrate and add meaning to this mile mark on your journey – thank you for sharing this story, and I’m singing Haaappeee Birthdaaaay Toooo Yoooou!! Love from Minnesota to you and Christina!

  6. Diane Tilstra
    Diane Tilstra says:

    Dearest Ann, I want to send my sincere wishes for your walk into this time of your life. You have taught me and so many others the value of land-based ritual and deep connection to the earth from which we all spring and return. Loved the poem about holding onto the thread. From 70 forward my dear friend. Much love, Diane

  7. Rose Hood
    Rose Hood says:

    Happy Belated Birthday, Ann!!! Thankful for the impact you have had on my life and continue to have through your writings!!!

  8. Barbara Joy
    Barbara Joy says:

    Thank you for sharing! So many benefit from your intentionality and sense of purpose, more than you could ever imagine. I too celebrated 70 this year, and feel great expansiveness and renewal as well. Blessings!

  9. Betty Till
    Betty Till says:

    Happy birthday, Ann! What great ways to mark this rite of passage. I remember how you and Christina helped me during the Cascadia Quest, as I neared my 65th birthday. I’ll always remember it.

    All my best to you and Christina.

  10. Julie Glover
    Julie Glover says:

    HAPPY (BELATED) BIRTHDAY ANNIE!!!!!! Your posting is so “you”… sounds like the absolutely perfect way to greet this next decade of your life. I await our next adventure together with anticipation and joy! (I’m sure that something will arise to engage our warrior souls and loving hearts, and if not — next lifetime FOR SURE!)
    Loving you,

  11. Susan Kistin
    Susan Kistin says:

    So happy to see you celebrating your 70th dear Ann!! Holding you close to my heart, always with high regard and a smile.

  12. Molly Brewer
    Molly Brewer says:

    Dear Ann, so lovely to read about how you have honored this major milestone in such a full and conscious way. While we don’t know each other well, I always feel like our souls deeply recognize each other during brief encounters on this lovely island we call home. You and Christina have always inspired me to live fully and now recently life has offered me a wonderful woman to love and I am on a whole new path. Thank you for helping to light the way towards love, light and wholeness. Happy 70th birthday and may your gifts to the world continue to shine in your beautiful, quiet way.

  13. Sue Buckle
    Sue Buckle says:

    My vision quest at Skalitude in 2011 remains a pivotal experience. I recently reread the journal I kept and it serves me still, seeing the experience and reflections hrough a different lens, almost a new quest into itself. You and Christina continue to gift yourselves to others. I am grateful our paths crossed and wish you much joy in your elder journey. Forever the guide. Happy Birthday Ann. Thank you Sue Buckle

  14. Jude A. Rathburn, Ph.D.
    Jude A. Rathburn, Ph.D. says:

    Happy Belated Birthday, Ann. I love the intentionality and incorporation of sacred ceremony in nature – a perfect reflection of who you are and the gifts you share with the world. Sending you love and blessings as you continue your journey as a kind, compassionate steward of the earth. Jude


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