I like to explore green spaces.
See those little pockets of green all over my neighbourhood? I’m attracted to them like a magnet to steel.
Since this has been my summer of wandering (and the summer of beautiful weather), and training for my upcoming 100 km walk, I’ve had a chance to explore a lot of green spaces. It’s become a habit of mine – scan a Google map, find a patch of green I haven’t explored yet, and go.
Sometimes I find lovely parks I didn’t know existed, with manicured paths, and child-filled play structures.
Often though, I walk past the manicured parks to the next green space.
My favourite discoveries are not the parks. My favourites are the untamed, unruly, un-manicured spaces that scream out to my inner child “EXPLORE ME!”
And explore them I do, these little pockets of wildness. I climb over underbrush, hop over puddles, shimmy under fallen trees, and push through thick branches, until I am so deep inside the green box on the map that the city just outside the boundary ceases to exist.
Inside the green I find hidden streams, magical trees, colourful mushrooms, raucous wildflowers, and – when I’m lucky – deer.
What I find most of all, though, in those untamed green spaces, is my own wild heart.
I remember what it means to be wild and unruly. I remember what it feels like to be free of the tidy little boxes I let society place me in. I feel the lilt come back to my step that tells me I am following my heart and not the expectations of others.
From the moment I step off the well-traveled path and into the green square on the map, I am transported back to my childhood, when I used to roam the woods on our farmland, imagining myself a gypsy or an explorer.
The child in me revived, I revel in each discovery. I stare in awe at the leaves quivering in the breeze and twinkling in the sunlight. I marvel at the patterns in the bark of trees. I giggle at the bare patches where it looks like fairies have danced. I look deeply into the magical eyes of deer.
It doesn’t take much to give my wild nature space to breath. Just a little green shape on a map.
Go… find one of your own.
And if you want a companion, take me along.
At the beginning of this summer, I turned 45. It was kind of a big deal – a mid-way point in my life.
When I turned 45, I decided that, instead of getting all serious and introspective (like I am inclined to do), I would do something fun to honour what I like about myself.
And so I created the e-course “A Path for Wanderers and Edge-walkers” and started writing lessons about what it means to be a wanderer, a globe-trotter, an edge-walker, a gypsy, a gadabout… in other words, what it means to be ME.
And then I spent much of the summer wandering. I wandered through my city, I wandered on beaches, I wandered through the woods… I wandered on foot, I wandered by bicycle, and I wandered by canoe. While I wandered, I came up with lessons and inspirations and I TOOK GREAT DELIGHT IN MY WANDERING! Not only that, but I learned a lot from it and realized that my wandering edge-walking spirit is one of my greatest strengths. You can see a lot from the edge that people in the centre can’t see.
Now I have completed 12 lessons in the series (none of which I wrote at home – it seems I needed to be doing the wandering in order to write about it), and it is some of my very favourite writing ever. It’s writing that stretched me to think outside the box, to re-define myself, to dig into my spiritual self, to re-imagine the world, and to see other people differently. I hope it will stretch you too.
One of the things I learned this summer is that not only am I a wanderer and an edge-walker, but most of the members of the tribe I tend to gather around myself are wanderers and edge-walkers too.
Here’s a quote from someone who’s been enjoying the series this summer:
“Heather’s unique blend of practical wisdom, passion & creativity is reflected so eloquently here. She instinctively knows how best to inspire & encourage, capturing perfectly the deep yearning of every edge-walker & wide-eyed wanderer! The rich mix of personal story-telling (with corresponding photographs), a treasure trove of insightful interviews plus a wealth of probing questions, provides the reader with much to ponder. It is both challenging, hugely inspirational & deeply uplifting – a real treat! Thank you!” – Jo Hassan
Last week I spent a good deal of time compiling all 12 lessons into an e-book. When I wander, I like to take photographs, and this e-book not only has 115 pages of juicy, rich, inspiring content, it also contains 115 of my original photographs from my global wanderings.
I am so in love with this product that I want to share it with everyone.
Here’s a list of the lesson titles:
1. Permission to be a wanderer
2. What does your Wandering say about You?
3. Risk Making Connections
4. The Wanderer at the Edge – On Naming Ourselves
5. When Journeys Change us – Slowing Down to the Speed of Soul
6. Curiosity DIDN’T kill the cat – Life as a Learning Journey
7. At the Halfway Point – Self-care for Wanderers & Wandering as Self-care
8. Following the Thread – A Wanderer’s Journey
9. Like the Wild Prairies, Remember your Nature
10. The Blessing of the Pelicans – Guidance in the Wandering
11. Wander to the Right – Playing with your Brain
12. Wandering as Spiritual Quest
Each of these lessons includes an interview with another wonderful wanderer. Find out who they are here.
For a sample lesson, click here.
Since it’s nearing the end of summer, I’m in a good mood, and I’m in the final stretch of preparing for my 100 km. wander in early September, I want to give you the chance to buy “A Path for Wanderers & Edge-walkers” for half price.
That’s just $12.50 for 115 pages of juicy, fun, challenging content. (But only until the September 7, and then it goes back to its regular price of $25.)
To learn more about it click here. On that page, you’ll have the option of buying it as a set of emails that you receive each week for 12 weeks or as a complete 115 page e-book.
My birthday is coming up on Thursday, and since my dear friend Michele is throwing a little celebration in my honour tomorrow night (if you live close enough, YOU are welcome – at least, if you fit the “ladies only” profile), I’ve decided that this year I’m going to celebrate a whole BIRTHDAY WEEK instead of just one day! Yes, I’m feeling horribly narcissistic about the whole thing, but I figured I’ve done a fair bit of sacrificing in the past month or two, so it shouldn’t hurt to have a little balance in my life. Giggle.
Seriously though, I feel like this birthday week marks some pretty big growth for me. Those of you who are regular readers will know about some of the big challenges that have forced me to plunge a little deeper into my heart to find out just who it is that resides there and what the source and shape of her strength is. When we open ourselves to it, challenge and struggle will usher in growth and acceptance, and that’s what I’ve seen happening in my own life.
There have been some pretty significant breakthroughs for me in the last two weeks, in my relationship with my body, my relationship with my loved ones, my relationship with food, my relationship with the divine, and my relationship with the core of who I am created to be. As I wrote a few months ago when I was recovering from surgery, I’ve been feeling like a caterpillar who has to give up the life she knows, commit herself to the cocoon, and wait for the transformation to come.
I just learned recently that in the cocoon stage, caterpillars actually break down completely into a gooey gel-like substance that has no resemblance to either caterpillar or butterfly. We have to give it up – whatever we believe ourselves to be – in order to emerge into the beautiful creature we are meant to be.
It’s true, isn’t it, that we are never finished growing? I feel like a sculpture that is forever being molded in the Sculptor’s hands.
There’s a bubbling energy in me this week that feels a little like what the butterfly must feel when she has the dawning awareness that it’s time to break out of the cocoon. I feel strong in ways I didn’t expect to feel strong – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve been running, biking, praying, doing yoga – and a bunch of other little things that feel like they are helping me step into a new strength. The beautiful life-giving thing about it is, the more I step into this strength and share it with people around me, the more it is returned to me in affirming ways – like a lovely note from a cousin who’s heading out on a solo trip to the Grand Canyon and says it was partly inspired by what I write on this blog!
A month ago, when Marcel was in the hospital, I began to describe myself as a warrior because of the battles I had to fight as his advocate. And in a few weeks, I’ll be in a workshop at ALIA about “leaders as Shambala warriors”. I’ve never really thought of myself as a warrior before (maybe it’s my pacifist roots), and honestly, I often doubt myself as a leader because of some of the struggles I’ve had in this job that usually end up leaving me feeling like a failure. But something is shifting, and I’m trying to step into whatever it is that’s emerging.
No, this week is not about “look how great I am”. It’s more about “there is something powerful in what God is shaping my life to be and I want to celebrate the way I’m growing into it”.
Tomorrow night, our little celebration will include a bra-burning ceremony to mark the transformation to my body (through breast reduction surgery). In a strange and unexpected way, the surgery marked a turning point for me – a moment when I finally gave myself permission to want a new story for my body. It’s all been part of the metamorphosis process – letting go of old stories I tell myself and embracing new truths and new possibilities. I have learned to love myself in a new way since I let go of the weight that was cut off. I have learned to treat my body with new respect and gratitude (thanks in part to Geneen Roth’s book) and I am slowly becoming healthier for it. (I realize that might sound a little twisted – having plastic surgery to learn to love yourself – but it’s working for me.)
What I would really love is this… even though you might not be able to make it to the celebration tomorrow night, I’d be delighted if you would consider marking this week with me, on your blog, on Twitter, or just in the privacy of your own home.
Here’s what I’d like you to do… have a virtual “bra-burning” party! No, you don’t have to burn your bra (unless you want to!), but think of some old story you’re telling yourself about who you are (who you’re supposed to be by other people’s standards, what limits you, what you’re lacking, why you’re a failure), and burn it! Write it down on a piece of paper, light a candle, a lantern, or a big ol’ bonfire and BURN THAT SUCKER! Let it go! Give it up to the fire!
Do it in honour of my 44rd birthday, but more importantly, do it for you!
And take pictures, ’cause I’d love to see all that burnin’ energy!
I’d forgotten about this photo until I unearthed it the other day. I am absolutely IN LOVE with it in a way that I don’t remember being when I first saw it. There were other photos from that day (like the one in my banner) that grabbed me more at the time. (Video here.)
It tells such a great story of the generations of women I’m embedded between. My mother, my daughter (Julie) and me.
I had just jumped out of a plane. Look how incredibly joyous I am! What a moment of pure, intoxicating adrenalin! I finally knew what the sky tasted like!
When I landed, my mom and Julie were the only people to come running across the field to greet me. (My husband followed later with the camera.)
Mom, carrying my chute, supporting me, content to pick up the rear. Proud of me. And not one bit afraid to watch her daughter do something as crazy as jump out of a perfectly good plane. In her heart I know she was a little bit (maybe even a LOT) envious. If there’s one thing I inherited from my mom it is my “adventure junkie” tendencies.
Julie, wearing my helmet, leading me forward, grinning with pride, and also… a whole LOT jealous of me. Of my three daughters, she’s the one voted “most likely to follow her mom’s footsteps and go skydiving some day”. She developed a new dream that day – work at the skydiving place so she could skydive as often as possible. If there’s one thing she inherited from HER mom it is her “adventure junkie” tendencies. (If you watch the video, you’ll hear her eager voice wanting to come rushing to me before the plane landed.)
It just makes me smile to see the story of women as it passes from generation to generation – through my mother to me, and through me to my daughter.
What about you? Why don’t you play along? Show me a picture that tells a story of your generations. Or write about it in the comments.
Lest you all think I’m just strutting around bragging and calling myself phenomenal (no that’s NOT what I was suggesting we should do in the last post), I want to offer what I think is the other side of the coin. Yes, I think that we should embrace our giftedness and believe that we were created with potential and beauty, BUT…
I think there’s another side too. We may be phenomenal, but we are also phenomenally flawed. And what I learned recently is that we have to embrace both sides of the coin. Let me tell you about a personal journey I went on in the last few years…
One day (I was going to say it was during my “40 days ’til 40” contemplation phase, but it might have been longer ago than that), I stumbled upon a book called “The Gift of Being Yourself – The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery” by David G. Benner. At first, I just thought it was another “believe in yourself and recognize your gifts, blah, blah, blah” kind of book and I really wasn’t expecting much from it. But what I read when I first browsed through it intrigued me so I stuck with it.
Near the beginning of the book, Benner quotes John Calvin as saying “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.” Hmmm. Interesting. So there’s spiritual value in the navel gazing I’d taken up when 40 started knocking on my door. Benner also says “Being most deeply your unique self is something that God desires, because your true self is grounded in Christ. God created you in uniqueness and seeks to restore you to that uniqueness in Christ. Finding and living out your true self is fulfilling your destiny.” Okay, this seemed worth considering, so I read on.
The first part was interesting, and I found myself nodding my head now and then, but it wasn’t until I reached chapter 4 that I felt like there was something in this book that I needed to spend time learning. That’s where Benner throws the hard-ball. “Knowing ourselves as we really are inevitably brings us up against what the Bible calls sin.” Okay, this was getting a little tougher. So this wasn’t just going to be a “touchy-feeling pat yourself on the back for how great you are” kind of journey. From there, the book goes into how we should contemplate, pray about, and try to analyze our “core sin tendencies” – those flaws that lie deep down at the root of who we are.
Core sin tendencies? This was a new concept for me. I’d heard about sin all my life, but I’d never really considered that I might have a propensity for certain sins over others. Over the years, I’d spent a fair bit of time trying to figure out my giftedness, my personality, my leadership styles, and all those other feel-good kind of self-discovery things that are part of almost every staff retreat or leadership workshop anywhere, but I hadn’t really flipped my heart over and looked at the dark side. Maybe that was the fatal flaw in my navel-gazing phase.
“Genuinely knowing yourself as you are known by God can be quite frightening,” says Benner. Yup, that’s right, I was getting a little afraid of looking around those dark corners. Who knows what was going to pop up? “But if God knows you and still loves you deeply, there is hope that you can do the same.”
When I closed the book, I knew it was time to take another step in my journey. Gulp. But I don’t wanna know my flaws! C’mon God – can’t we just stay out here in the light? Hmmm… God whispered “Nope. Trust me. This is gonna hurt for awhile, but it will be worth it.”
So I started thinking, praying, reading my Bible, and searching for those pesky skeletons that had become firmly entrenched in the closets of my soul. It wasn’t pleasant, but I did it. I even attended a twelve-step program for awhile, trying to figure out what things I had to overcome and what I had to admit to myself to get there.
And what did I find out? Well, at the time, it became clear to me that there were 2 things that I needed to work on – gluttony and slothfulness. The more I thought of it, the more I realized I had let many things in my life suffer because of these two things. My relationships were harmed, my potential was stifled, my body wasn’t well cared for, my house looked like a constant warzone, and I was busy ignoring the fact that there was any problem.
I spent a fair bit of time addressing those things – I cleaned out my closets literally and figuratively. If you go back into my blog archives, you’ll find lots of posts about the messes that I tackled. Back then, you probably didn’t know why there was such urgency to clean up a whole lot of mess in my house and let go of some of the possessions I’d let into my life because of pure greed, but it all had something to do with this journey.
One day, when I looked around and realized the skeletons had shrunk and my home was looking liveable again, I felt this incredible feeling of peace come over me. Trust me, I was still a LONG way from fully addressing my sin tendencies, but at least I was no longer afraid to stare them in the face and challenge them to “get thee behind me.”
I’m still learning this stuff, and on almost a daily basis, I slip back into old tendencies, but the journey has definitely been worth it. So when I say that I am going to believe that I am phenomenal, it is only because I also recognize that I am flawed and my only hope of being phenomenal is if I am humble and put my trust in the creator who knows what I’m capable of.
And now, it’s time to pack my bags and head to Gimli where I’m teaching a bunch of dentists and dental staff about how they can use the “Six Thinking Hats” to make decisions and work more effectively. Here’s hoping I don’t screw up.