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Immersed Outdoors

Note: If you enjoy a video format, find my latest vlog here!

Man has this week been busy… Summertime is like that though. Everything is alive and moving so quickly. Nature - the birds, bees, plants are growing at what seems like the speed of light. And people too - going on their summer trips, seeds for the year blooming and coming to life. I’ve noticed this for myself. Hence the busyness.

Between going through the finishing touches for our trip coming up and working, there have been lots of exciting new doors opening up for Austin and I. I randomly came across a program called Self Publishing School that can help authors become successful and get their books out into the world better. Now, I’m not one to support consumerism… But I feel it is important to share a message that can help people and the planet. I like to write books that inspire people to go out and have adventures - to live with less stuff and to go out and learn about themselves through travel and nature. Through my travels and escapades of living with less (often times off grid… and only possessing what fits in our car), I’ve found that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to spend time connecting with our planet, and connecting with ourselves on deeper levels. So, I tell my stories in my books. If more people had this message, maybe there would be less plastic in the world, less consumerism, less toxic food… less urban sprawl. And since I love permaculture so much, and its principles - care for earth, care for ourselves, care for each other - I feel it’s detrimental that we start learning how to live alternatively and to leave behind all the superficial things that fill our emptiness within.

Anyway…… I signed up for this school to help me get this message out to more people. To learn about marketing (a dreaded business necessity that I’ve avoided for so long). I’m really excited for this - I feel like it will work for me and share my vision with more people. I’ll share more about this later as I progress, and when my book is finished!

On the 4th of July, our good friends from Whitewater came to Sedona for a vacation and went on a hike with us. I went to college in Whitewater and what got me through my last year (and led me to graduation) was the Sustainability program. On a whim in 2015, I went to a prairie tour and met the coordinator, Wes, who really had me captivated with the plants growing in the wild. At the end of the tour, I went up to him and started telling him about my trip to Canada where I learned about gardening and knew quite a bit about vegetables (a bit exaggerated haha). He said he could create a position for me at the campus garden, which needed some TLC after some of the previous students graduated and I instantly said yes. I was able to help them change the garden so it would produce more and we even started a food forest that is still doing great till this day! It was a fun year, skipping class most days to go work with the plants and grow a greenhouse vegetable garden over the winter. It felt great to reconnect with old friends - like a day didn’t pass since I last saw them in 2018. We hiked West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon, an ecological extravagance for being in the middle of the desert. We recognized many plants that also grew in the prairies and woodlands in Wisconsin - bee balm, blankets of ferns, columbines, walnut trees, oak trees - and others native to the area - ponderosas, cacti - meshed together in one interesting landscape with fluttering butterflies and interesting wasps flying amongst them. We caught up on what’s new for the both of us couples while sitting along the trickling creek bordered by a wall of crimson sandstone. After a quick lunch, we said farewell for now. In the winter they may return for an adventure amongst the red rocks when the air isn’t at hot as a broiler. Call us Midwesterners weak sauce - we aren’t used to the oven climate as we come from the more microwave climate if you know what I mean! (To see what they’re up to at the campus garden, click here to find their Facebook page!)

Friday I went up to Flagstaff with Austin to attend my last doctor appointment for my broken hand. Doc was pretty impressed with my hand… it was healing perfectly! Just a few weeks ago I came into the same room on a whim and he performed emergency surgery, inserting a gold screw into my bone (I didn’t take anesthesia and was awake the whole time…). After a quick high five and a googly dance around the room, he showed me the physical therapy I could perform on myself, though it hurt like my finger was getting pulled off, and told me playing piano would be great therapy for it. I replied that I’d practice my scales and took off into the great oblivion of the day. Just a few turns away on the steamy road led us to a used outdoors store where we picked up some matching royal blue raincoats for our adventure in a few weeks. (Hint hint…) and we went to REI to get ourselves some new backpacks for the flight.

Saturday was pretty eventful too. The day started out with a trip to the bank to pick up our foreign currency for not one, but two countries ;) (Can you guess where we’re going?) and I had a southwest foraging book on hold at the local bookstore. I plan to learn more about wild edible food since it is so important for survival reasons - and for food forest reasons as it’s always great to incorporate native plants into a design. I like to have only edibles in a food forest, so you can see why this book is important. The remaining part of the day was spent helping our housemates with a lengthy list, sort of like a “honey-do” list that’s been on our minds for months. Austin and Thomas replaced the kitchen faucet and installed a water purifier while Lou Ann and I worked on breaking down cardboard for the garden and organization projects. After a quick lunch we tackled the driveway and the garage, sorting things into different donation piles and a pile for the dump. Helping people minimize their things is something Austin and I love doing - after all, we have minimized our belongings to what fits in his car.

On Sunday, we road tripped up to Flagstaff once again to go on an alpine hike. We had no idea what to expect. Austin has only been up on the mountain when it is covered in snow, sliding over hundreds of fallen trees under meters of white blankets. It was a sight to see. Even though we didn’t make it to the top, we made it to a clearing of lichen covered boulders with an outlook of the mountains in the distance. The rocks were like a solid river flowing down the mountain, with green spruces, ponderosas, and firs lining the banks of the stones creating a flowing optical illusion. We looked out onto the other volcanoes in the distance, at awe at how emerald the landscape looked to us. The breeze blew a chill onto us, something we’re not used to living in the hot desert. Sixty-five felt refreshing and energizing, like a wind filtering out the fatigue left in my skin. We sat and ate cherries and chatted at the sight. It only took two miles to get here…

After awhile, we began our descent through the dusty path. Columbines, strawberries, and gooseberries brushed against our legs as we jogged downhill. The trail puffed as our boots stepped in between the tall spruce roots and dodged imbedded lava rocks. The air felt like a dusty desert storm though the Earth looked green and nourishing. Tiny black squirrels skittered up the ponderosas at the sight of Sparky, chattering after we left to warn the others.

At a bend in the path Austin noticed a smaller trail leading out to a ski run. A chairlift sat vacant up above, the only movement coming from the whispering breeze. The chairs swayed in the sky and we trotted downhill underneath them. The more we descended, the more meadow flowers would appear. Irises were the most prolific, dancing in strands amongst the mountain sedges. We sat to have a look at the distant mountains once again and vibed with the lavender iris’ feminine energy. Eventually we parted ways and Sparky pranced ahead of us and we tread down. Indigo lupines began appearing amongst the irises, as well as bright orange sunflowers and ground daisies. We arrived at the parking lot by the ski lodge twice as fast as it would have taken us the switch back way and got in our car, the sun beginning to set as we felt the satisfaction of the day filled with the forest.