Listen to the sound of this old heart beating for you. ~ Neil Young



I remember the first time I tentatively lowered my new baby into the sling I was wearing, zipped my big sweater up around him, and headed into the forest. I was struggling – overwhelmed by my new life as a mother and hoping that I would find myself again in this welcoming and familiar place.

I walk along with his little body snuggled against mine, the sound of my steps on fallen leaves, the sweet forest air filling my lungs. I walk for hours, and in the quiet spaciousness of this forest, my heart opens and I step into my new life.

Over time we switch to a back pack, his face next to mine as we wander about exploring the world. We see seasons change, watch a woodpecker, clouds, squirrels, birds, trees swaying in the wind, snowflakes falling. He is quiet and still and absorbed by this place.

And then he is walking next to me, his hand reaching up to hold mine as we amble along, or crouching down to explore those small and unnoticeable things that I had always passed so quickly. These are the days of wonder and mystery.


Then another child arrives, and this time the shift is easeful. The adventures continue, but at a new pace. Throwing rocks in a lake, sending sticks down a creek, or gliding along the snow in our kick sled – these are our big adventures. We wander and explore and let the quiet and undisturbed places whisper their stories to us so we come to know and remember them always.


As our children grow, there is a pull to be indoors: school and classes, screens and schedules, so we move to a house in the forest to be near the wild places. It is here we hope our children will come to know themselves, the world, and their place in it. We hope this sense of place will sink into their bodies, provide a foundation for weathering the ups and downs of life, a place where they can find solace and connection and peace.

Through the teenage years we still plan adventures and journeys outdoors, but the time for that is squeezed between other things. I persevere and get outdoors whenever I can – sometimes with one child, sometimes with both. When we all go together, it’s joyful, and we are brought back to ourselves and each other.


The summers bring long stretches of time outdoors – camping, swimming, hiking through forests, staring at stars in the blackest of skies, watching storms, lighting fires. It’s a time of freedom and spaciousness.

There have been times when I have found it challenging as a parent to remain dedicated to being outdoors in the midst of a culture that seems determined to keep us in. But now my children are grown, and time in the outdoors continues to be a part of their lives, and our lives together.

When we go to the wilderness, we share our stories, our joys, our dreams, and our sorrows, until the peaceful murmuring of the trees, and the calm water we walk beside, reminds us to be still and quiet. And in that peaceful place we remember who we are, where we come from, and how we are deeply connected, to ourselves, to each other, and to the world.


If you’re interested in learning about, and connecting with, a great group of adventurous, creative, and inquisitive women, check out She Explores. This podcast also featured the visionary and brilliant Magnetic North, and the inspiring Adventure Mamas

Drop by drop is the water pot filled


Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.                                                                         ~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.

I spent my childhood summers in a red, fiberglass canoe. By the time it was put to rest decades on, it was mostly patches, many of them thin and almost transparent. It had carried us through lakes and reedy marshes, by shorelines where loons hunkered down on their secret nests with their eggs and chicks, where moose waded up to their knees for an evening drink as we silently glided by, and eagles stared down at us from their lofty perches.

At sunset we would paddle in silence, watching, listening, and soaking in each moment. Here I learned to see, hear, feel, and appreciate this watery world. Awe and wonder.

When my children were young and the fears and worries of childhood came close, I would lull them to sleep with stories of drifting on peaceful waters. The dreaminess of floating in a leaf under a starry dome.


There’s been some wonderful research into brain function recently, especially neuroplasticity. We have learned that what happens in our mind changes our brain, both temporarily and in lasting ways, and what happens in our brain changes our mind. We can do small things inside our mind that will lead to big changes in our brain and our experience of living.

During our evolution, human survival was aided by focusing on and remembering danger and unpleasant experiences. While useful at one time, having brains that are wired for a ‘negativity bias’ now leads us to overlook good news, highlight bad news, and experience anxiety and pessimism. We need to intentionally attend to the good.

In his book, Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson shares how we can create new neural pathways to support our well being by practicing ‘taking in the good’.  We can use our minds to wire our brains for greater happiness and well being by allowing ourselves to deeply absorb the good in our lives. This isn’t ‘positive thinking’, which can make us feel worse, but being present for the good when it’s happening.  While having a positive experience, linger with your good feelings, absorb them fully, let them soak in deeply, and remember them often.

Do not think lightly of good, saying, ‘it will not come to me’,

Drop by drop is the water pot filled,

Likewise, the wise one, gathering little by little, fills oneself with good.

~ Dhammapada 9.122


The peaceful rhythm of paddling through still and silent water.

Pausing in my kayak on a calm lake, I soak in the world around me, paddle at rest, eyes closed, breath deep.  The space between the inner and outer worlds narrows. Drifting with the movement of the water ~ the distant sound of air moving over water and earth, the nearby sound of water meeting kayak, and the inner sound of breath ~ weather on skin ~ light ~ warmth ~ peace.

Here in this moment, changed.

Learn more about neuroplasticity and hardwiring for happiness here.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

And I wake in the night at the least sound

In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

Who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.

I come in the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

Waiting with their light.

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry


Long before I had heard of Shinrin Yoku, the Japanese practice of forest bathing, I was familiar with the transformative and healing influence of the forest. The calm and quiet that comes from being there opens up an inner space that recognizes the forest, welcomes it, knows it.  There among the trees I am in the companionable presence of loved ones.

When reading Peter Wohlleben’s wonderful new book, The Hidden Life of Trees, it felt as though a curtain was being pulled back on an amorphous sense of knowing, giving words and insight to the experience many of us share on our forest excursions. In his many years of research in an ancient forest in the Eifel mountains of Germany, Peter Wohlleben has come to some stunning findings about the life of trees. His book is beautiful and moving.

Peter Wohlleben describes how trees nourish, protect, and care for their forest family and community. They communicate through a complex language of olfactory, visual, electrical, and auditory signals over great distances. ‘Mother trees’ care for their kin by nourishing them, protecting them, and sharing their knowledge through an extensive network of soil fungi. And as his understanding of the forest has deepened, Wohlleben believes trees hold in their deep and ancient roots a “repository for intelligence, the faculty of memory, and emotions.”

Deep down at the molecular heart of life, the trees and we are essentially identical.

~ Carl Sagan

While our evolutionary split from vegetation happened early on, and our senses haven’t allowed us to understand what is going on inside trees, we have felt their peaceful presence.  In ancient and undisturbed forests the trees are exchanging messages, mostly of care and contentment, and these messages are reaching our brains as well. We are registering the friendly chatter of the forest.


Trees live life slowly. Their lives can go on for hundreds of years, and if we measure by the age of their roots, where most of their life occurs, thousands. The movement of their growth is gradual and unhurried ~ the unfurling of a leaf, the growth of a new shoot. We have been invited to find our place in this quiet and unhurried world.

When the world weighs heavily upon us, we go to the forest, become as still and quiet as the trees, and find solace there. We sit at the feet of ancient trees ~ welcomed and embraced ~ and listening to their soft murmuring, our hearts open, and we find the lost pieces of ourselves once again.


You can learn more about this forest research in the documentary Intelligent Trees, and in the TED talk How Trees Talk to Each Other, by UBC forest ecologist Suzanne Simard.