Happy Friday, League of Wildness!
Do you have a mission statement, or something similar that guides your values? In Dan’s article last week, at the end he asked, “do you know what your values are? If not, what are you doing to find out?” I decided to dive into those questions last weekend. *cue Mission Impossible theme song*
A couple of years ago I came up with my own mission statement, which is: “To live a wild life centered around the cycles and laws of nature.” For me, it means that I embrace the fact that I’ve always felt more “feral” than sophisticated. Being close to nature is what inspires me, it nourishes me through real food, it grounds me and brings me a sense of peace that I don’t find anywhere else. It allows me to pay attention to how my body’s signals change with respect to the light and dark cycles as well as the seasons. Nature allows things to flow. It’s never in a rush. It adapts to whatever comes, rather than resisting. That is what I aim for in my life.
Since I was a child, I’ve lived a life in which the wild, AKA nature, is at the center of most things I do. Almost all of my happiest memories happened with a backdrop of wildness. Even though it has been the center of my life for a long time, I can still get sucked into modern life too easily. Which is why I like to have the mission statement to remind me.
Last summer we moved to a new neighborhood, and I’ve had a hard time getting my bearings on what living my wild life looks like here. The house we had lived in before is the house I grew up in and raised my kids in. 33 of my 46 years were spent there!. The area around my childhood home is what built the wild life I grew into: the lake and river were within easy walking distance. I knew where every berry patch and every fruit tree was. I knew all the species of birds that came to our feeders. I knew what land was private or public and where it was safe to explore. I knew which neighbors didn’t care if I foraged in their yards. I had perfect spots for my writing routine. I had a functional workout space where I prepared for my adventures. Then we moved, and while I love our new home and neighborhood, I’ve had to relearn all of that and where my wild-centered life fits in. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment for me. There were obstacles I needed to correct my mindset around and opportunities I didn’t realize existed.
Last week I had a perfect opportunity to immerse myself in my mission statement values. It was a long holiday weekend with warm, sunny weather. Every day spent in the wild is a perfect day for me, but this time of year is probably my favorite, particularly the flowering trees which only last a few days. The charm of this time is, in part, because it only lasts a few days.
I had been thinking about how I could preserve my enjoyment of something that only lasts a few days a year. In doing so, I ended up solving some of my problems with getting my wild lifestyle off the ground. Last week, Dan wrote about what an ideal day looked like for him. His words got my gears turning and I wrote out my own ideal day and got to work. I sought out opportunities and tackled some of my obstacles.
Every July I pick gallons of berries and freeze some to enjoy on the coldest, darkest winter days because they remind me that the warmth and sun will come again. I wondered how many opportunities I had been missing to do this with other gifts from the wild. My favorite flower is the lilac, and our new neighborhood is lush with them right now, including our yard. I started looking on some foraging websites to see what I could do with them and it turns out there are a lot of options! I learned I could make both dandelion and lilac syrup to enjoy later. It’s really easy and they are delicious! Despite that we consider it a weed, every part of the dandelion plant can be eaten, you just have to be careful that you aren’t picking plants that have been treated with pesticides or are too close to the road where they absorb some of the pollution from traffic.
I tend to be a creature of habit and when something changes that I can’t control, it’s hard for me to quickly adapt. In our old neighborhood, we had numerous walking routes to choose from. Now that we’ve moved closer to town, we still have a lot of routes but not many that are quiet. If an area is too busy with people or traffic, I have a hard time connecting with the wild. As a result, I have not been great about keeping up with my walking. I definitely felt that when I was in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago as my feet were quite sore. Last week my husband, who usually walks our dog, was out of town. That meant I had to walk the dog, and I made it my goal to do so twice a day and increase my steps to 12,000 a day. I was able to do that, and along the way I crushed the mental obstacle of, “I don’t know where to walk so I’m just not going to.” Even in busier areas, walking in the morning and the evening is pretty quiet, so the dog gets her needed walk, and I get my needed wild time. I have kept up with that goal since my husband returned home as well. It feels amazing to start and end the day with the combination of wild time and movement.
I also used that week to fortify my morning and evening routines. I do think there is something to be said about not scheduling every moment of the day. It tends to make us believe that we are more efficient with our time, but often it just means we pack in more “productivity” and don’t use the extra time on the things that are the most important to us. In the book “Four Thousand Weeks” author Oliver Burkeman says, “The more firmly you believe it ought to be possible to find time for everything, the less pressure you’ll feel to ask whether any given activity is the best use for a portion of your time. If you never stop to ask yourself if the sacrifice is worth it, your days will automatically begin to fill not just with more things, but with more trivial or tedious things, because they’ve never had to clear the hurdle of being judged more important than something else.” 🤯That isn’t the life I want! But I also need some routines to keep myself from turning into a slug.
Morning and evening are my quiet and creative times. That is when I do my reading and writing, and when I reconnect with my family after the busy day. In fortifying my routines, it wasn’t about being more productive but in using that time to cultivate my wild values rather than wasting it on social media or reading the news. I used Dan’s perfect day ideal to come up with my own:
Wake up at 6:30
Meditation - 10-30 minutes
Writing practice - 30 minutes minimum
Mobility work - 15-20 minutes
Walk the dog - 1 hour
Up to this point I’ve usually drank a liter of water. I don’t usually eat breakfast.
Work - 2 hours with 5 minute movement breaks every 30 minutes. Work outside or standing.
Workout - varies, generally 40 minutes, I’ve been enjoying combining some pocket monkii with neon buffalo lately.
2 pm is lunch time, today it was 3 eggs plus homemade Greek yogurt with wild blueberries, walnuts, chia seeds, and a spoonful of lilac syrup. I usually make protein the main feature and then fill in with healthy fats and carbs in the form of fruits and veggies. 90% of the time my lunch is a big salad with chicken and avocado, or salmon and a variety of greens and other vegetables.
Afternoon is my wild time, maybe a short hike, foraging, gardening, or just sitting under my favorite tree and reading a good book.
Late afternoon before dinner I usually check in on work again, another couple of hours depending on the day.
By 5 pm, the rest of the family is done with work/school, so we catch up on our daily happenings.
Dinner - today is bone-in pork chops with green beans and melon.
Evening tends to be when I spend the most time sitting so I try to ensure that the majority of that time is spent on the floor where I shift around a lot and throw in some mobility work. One of the common “tests” out there for mobility is how well you can get down and up from the floor so I get a lot of practice in that throughout the day.
I go to bed at 10:30 and usually get 7-8 hours of sleep which is ideal for me.
Before bed, I make sure everything is ready for the next day and turn down the lights and temp in the bedroom so I’m not attacked by bright lights and then I step outside and stand in the darkness for a few minutes before retiring.
On the weekends, I aim for more immersive wild time for longer periods of time. I often spend all day outside on the weekends.
I found I had a lot less irritation at having to move into the next day by having a routine, especially in the morning and evening when I can focus on making a quiet and calm space for myself, physically and mentally.
I often leave myself too available in my job. Not necessarily in performing work duties, but more so mentally. I have never been good at “leaving work at the door” and even less so when I work from home because there isn’t a clear boundary. Or rather I haven’t set the boundary. I created a mindset for myself that I have to always be available. After reading Dan’s article last week I realized I could do better with those boundaries. I turned off my Gmail notifications on my phone and set store hours on the chat function. If something enters my awareness, I can’t forget about it until I tend to it, so if I see chats or emails come in, I can’t just ignore them. The best option for me is not to see them until it’s my dedicated work time. I have actually found it easier to let go of work by creating some boundaries, which has never happened for me before. It makes me more effective because now work has a clearly dedicated time slot and I can concentrate my effort better.
Slowing down to take the time over a long weekend allowed me to tackle some obstacles and recognize new opportunities in my quest to live a wild life. The more I do so, the more opportunities I find and the more obstacles I conquer. I think sometimes we have a sense that if we could only conquer this one problem, that suddenly life would be easier, or perfect. But the truth is, the things we see as obstacles are our lives. Don’t wait until all your challenges are resolved to do what you want with your life, because there will always be obstacles. Focus on your most important values and let everything else orbit around those.
Stay wild out there!