PeerSpirit Blog

Family Reunions in Natural Settings

Where to hold a family reunion? Warm weather or cold? City or country? Beach or mountains? Travel time, cost, different preferences, backdrops for family photos—there are many choices that influence where we gather. Once we are there, Nature serves as a host that lures us outdoors. In mid-October my mother, three sisters and I held an important reunion. The last time just the five of us—the Brown women— were together was 30 years ago for ...
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How Apology Works

I’m on the beach with my corgi dog. She’s playing in the sand near my feet when she lets out a sudden sharp squeal—“ouch,” in dog talk. She looks at my foot in big boots, and with what I consider an accusing gaze, backs up and sits on her haunches staring at me. “What?!” I say, “I didn’t move an inch. I’m sure I didn’t step on you.” Without breaking her steadfast gaze, she raises ...
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Celebrating the Seasons

Fall with its cooler temperatures and spectacular leaf colors has arrived in the northern hemisphere. Spring with sprouting plants and warming temperatures has arrived in the southern hemisphere. Noticing these changes and taking the time to celebrate them is as natural to human rhythms as the various daily rituals we each have for rising with the light or retiring with the darkness. Why not celebrate the change of seasons? At our home we mark seasonal ...
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In Search of Bioluminescence

In early August our dear grandchildren came to camp with us on the shore of Puget Sound. We had a wonderful time hiking, kayaking, and exploring. One of the magical things we experienced was bioluminescence. By definition, bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Some folks get to see fireflies in the summer.  Those of us around marine environments have to look in the water for our “fireflies”. “Look, the ...
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Rocks of Ages

I’m walking in a narrow riverbed, wearing special river boots and feeling my way carefully over rocks hidden under murky water. I am carrying a hiking stick, probing for balance. Above me, cliffs soar 1500 feet revealing a slit of morning sky. I place my hand along the sandstone walls of the slot canyon, touching what was seabed 61 million years ago. Touching what water can do to rock. Touching a strip of smoothed rock-face ...
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Oddballs

No, this is not a derogatory term. It is actually a scientific category in Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon. And last week while hiking in a local forest a particular species of oddball was popping up everywhere.   “Oddballs” according to this popular botanical guide are plants that cannot turn sunshine into food. They are not green and contain no chlorophyll. Instead of being capable of photosynthesis, they get their nutrition ...
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My Namesake

This week on a summer solstice, forest walk in our local state park I was greeted with an enormous surprise. The flower I was named after was in bloom everywhere—from small patches to entire ridges. Never in 40 years of living in its range have I timed a walk to be in the woods at the peak moment of bloom for Linnaea borealis (the twinflower). I have seen one or two or a small colony ...
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Managing my outraged heart in a time of horrors

In the back of my journal are pages devoted to news clippings, magazine articles and photos: the Parkland students, injured Syrian children, Rohingya families fleeing into the poorest country on earth for shelter, addicts shooting up on city streets on their way to work, ICE patrols breaking up families of farm workers, earthquakes and storm surges, a starving polar bear leading her emaciated cubs to suicide at sea, the destruction of our protected national wild ...
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The Trail Steward

The Trail Steward Sitting on a bench in my beloved South Whidbey State Park, I was happy to be hiking again. Just 3 weeks after a partial knee replacement I was not moving fast, but I was relishing the return to my weekly medicine walks. Several old growth red cedar trees towered above me. Fern and salal plants were shoulder height and dense. The sanctuary of the forest surrounded me. Within minutes of sitting there, ...
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Grandmother in the 21st Century

Something happened to my heart when Jaden was born. A chamber opened that I didn’t know was there: the grandmother room. He, and now Sasha, reside in this special place. I am honored to be their “Nina” and delighted to be partnering with their “Maga,” to be the nature grannies. We bring them Island Life: unstructured and unsupervised time outside, time on the beach making up games with the corgi dog, constructing driftwood caves. We ...
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A Tribute to My Daughter

I have just returned from a 10-day family trip to South Korea. Seven of us, age seven to 71, made the pilgrimage back to the land of our daughter and son’s birth. Everything about the trip was extraordinary, beginning with Sally’s invitation to have us join her. Sally left South Korea in 1984 at age 17-months to begin her life in the United States as our adoptive daughter. Her return 34 years later with her ...
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Collective Urgency

We name things that draw together. We marvel at the capacity of things to move in coordination—and watch in awe at the sudden emergence of collective movement. Consider a murmuration of starlings undulating in flight across the sky. These astonishing aerial ballets of up to several million birds, appear at dusk after a day of feeding in small groups and swirl in great displays across the sky. What scientists understand about starlings is also what ...
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Teachers Do NOT Carry Guns

I have been a teacher all of my life. My partner and three sisters are teachers. Many, many of my friends are teachers. Teachers do NOT Carry Guns. It is the antithesis of what we are called to do with our lives. We find joy in connecting with our students to help them learn things. We find challenge in articulating subjects so that students of many different learning styles can find the AHA moment that ...
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Acts of Artful “Dumbling”

The new movie Paddington2, is about a bear from “darkest Peru” who eats orange marmalade and has stowed himself away to London where a nice family takes him in and tries to help him adapt to life among humans. The movies are based on the sixty-year writing career of Michael Bond, starting in 1958 with the final volume being published in his honor and memory this coming summer. I remember reading several of the early ...
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Medicine Walk

A Medicine Walk is different from an ordinary walk. It is done alone, in silence, and in solitary connection with the natural world. The intention of the walk is to see, hear, smell, observe, and sense as much as possible. It is a traditional part of the preparation for a wilderness fast and it has become a lifetime spiritual practice for me. In this year when threats to our precious earth loom large I have ...
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And then…we change the story!

Story is a map; and the story that gets one person through helps to get the next person through. (C. Baldwin in Storycatcher.) Scattered across my laptop screen are files that contain opening paragraphs of my autumn’s attempts to write a blog entry. The happy reason for blog silence is my commitment to writing a novel in the creative hours I carve out of a week. An unhappier reason is how easily my attention has ...
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Traditional Knowledge

I am an Anglo-American, descendant of immigrants: 50% Swedish and 50% northern European (Irish, Scotch, German, French). Blue eyes and blond hair, now silver; I was educated in public schools and state universities where western scientific knowledge provided the framework for my thinking. I appreciate this knowledge and I believe these times require me to continue to question and expand the worldview I was handed. Books as Bridges to Traditional Knowledge The Hidden Life of ...
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Rituals of Readiness

I spin the globe that sits by my desk. All of my life I have lived in the north. I was born and raised in southern Minnesota at 43.6666 degrees N. latitude and over the years have migrated up to my current location of 48.0095 degrees N. latitude. (The 49th parallel is the boundary between the U.S. and Canada.) Living in the north requires big attention during the shift from autumn to winter. Before the ...
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The Perspective of Time

The ridge top wind is ripping at my rain gear, frequently knocking me off balance. Rain is blowing sideways. Ahead is a small opening into the heart of an ancient rock tomb. I bend over and make my way inside. First one step, then the next. Quiet. Neither wind nor rain can penetrate here. My eyes slowly adjust to the dim light. Ten steps ahead the passage ends in a chamber. I stand upright and ...
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Under the Weather

I am under the weather. (For non-native English readers, this phrase is an idiom, meaning “a vague sense of ill health.” I am using it here as a double entendre—two meanings. ) And so are you. This is a lesson learned in Houston and along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Harvey set a record breaking 50 inches (127 cm) of rain from one storm. This lesson was followed by Hurricane Irma destroying a string of ...
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