PeerSpirit Blog

Goodbye to an Old Friend

I am smiling in this photo, an automatic response when facing a camera, but I’m actually  sad. In my arms I am holding several volumes of the 15th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, leather bound, gold trim, embossed spine. I bought this set in 1980, using royalty money from the publication of my first book, as proof to myself that I was a real writer who would need this fines set of reference books to ...
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No Child Left Inside

It may be the era of cellphones, video games, and indoor activities, but youth have always thrived being outdoors actively engaged with one another in exploring nature and making up nature-based games of daring and imagination. This year, I am devoting a lot of my time, energy, and passion to supporting that truth. At a most personal, joyful level we just finished a week of Granny Nature Camp with our two dear Los Angeles grandchildren ...
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The Courage of our Elders

In six weeks, my mother moved three times, received physical therapy four times/day, and returned to using a walker just two weeks after fracturing her pelvis. This is heroic stuff for anyone. Mom is 92 years old. It is heroic because in your tenth decade, it is not just one thing not working like you expect. There is arthritis, misbehaving bowels, wavering balance, misfiring memory or mental synapses, and a general slowness to movement, to ...
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Lights out!

On December 20, 2018, I was home alone with the dog (Ann was in Minnesota) when Whidbey Island was engulfed in a storm of sustained winds 50+ MPH. Trees fell, but not on our house, power went out for 3-5 days depending on the neighborhood. So while waiting for electricity to resume, I had a chance to renew my survival and emergency skills. Wherever we live, the modern conveniences of our lives are at risk! ...
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Winter Storm in the Forest

When big storms blow in off the Pacific Ocean and hit our island sitting at the inland mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, huge damage can occur.     Recently we had a storm with over 60 mph winds that left many parts of the island without power for up to 5 days. Thousands of islanders were discovering how essential electricity is to comfort, and how prepared or unprepared their household was to ...
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Writing on

My father died. Leo Baldwin was good at living, amazing at aging, determined to continue contributing up to his last days. He remained cheerful and present even while suffering the pain, indignities, and procedures of his final trip through the medical system. He was 98 years old and had never had an illness that he didn’t fully recover from with a little Tylenol and determination. It took him (and me, and us, and his community) ...
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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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