Eco-Inspiration 7: Making Time

Echo Lake Snowshoeing Weekend, Feb. 2013

Don’t worry, this post isn’t just complaining about being busy, there is totally a point!  But, these past two weeks have been tough for me.  One of the hardest parts of graduate school (in my own opinion, and I think others would agree) is applying for grants.  Grant writing is an art.  You have to propose enough work that it sounds like you will get interesting results, but you can’t propose so much that the granting agency knows you will never be able to accomplish your stated objectives.  Then, after you figure out the question you want to ask and how you want to address it, you have to tell the reviewers a nice story. 

The usual. Eva’ day.

This is what science is all about really, and I don’t think many people realize it.  Just like in many other fields, at the end of the day, I’m a story teller.  Sure, I support the details of my story with data and I do my very best to remain objective, but unless I can convey why my work matters and how it fits into our current understanding of things, I’m basically wasting my time.  Because, you know, lab and field equipment don’t grown on trees and I need someone to pay for this stuff.  True story, I’m not independently wealthy.  But, I digress. As the summer (and the field season) roll in, I’ve been putting all my creative efforts into writing grants and developing project that could eventually end up as chapters of my dissertation.  The result of this, however, is me sitting at my desk for hours and hours each day reading, writing, drinking coffee, and repeating.  

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally academically stimulated (and slowly becoming some sort of zombie creature), but this time last year I was finishing up my MS and getting ready to head out on an epic summer road trip!  In fact, my partner in crime from last summer, Meridith, is heading out again in just a few days.  This summer, she’s solo traveling around Europe for three months.  Can I just say how insanely jealous I am and how all of you should read her blog because she is beautiful, brilliant, and hilarious!  At the same time, my little sister (who just graduated with a BS in Biology!) is about to head off on a two month adventure to hike the Appalachian Trail.  Jealous again.  Jealous, jealous, jealous!  So, after stewing in this little pot of extreme stress (looming grant deadline) and mild (or less than mild…) travel envy for a few days, I realized what the heck my problem was.  

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 into 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

Rocky Mt. NP, Summer 2012

I know I said this previously, during my very first eco-inspiration piece, but I think that it could stand some repeating:  It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it (thanks Edward Abby!).  So, as part of my New Year’s Resolution to “be a better person,” I decided to commit to making time for nature each and every month.  And so far in 2013, I have totally succeeded.  In January, all of my college roommates were visiting me and we went on a pretty amazing hike near Auburn, CA.  In February I went to the snow.  Over Easter weekend in March, D Lo and I took his cousin on an overnight camping trip in the Cache Creek Wilderness.  And in April I went on an amazing hike with my Conservation Ecology class along Oat Hill Mine trails near Calistoga, CA (nerdy ecologists+volcanic pinnacles+endemic plants=great times!), and then the next day I ran my sprint-triathlon along the shores of Lake Berryessa.  

Auburn Recreation Area, Jan. 2013

Oat Hill Mine Trail, April 2013

So why have I been feeling so mopey lately?  Well, I think it’s because it’s been over a month from my last outdoor adventure.  I agree with Wendell Berry wholeheartedly.  I find peace among wild things, and when I’m stressed, I don’t make space for things that bring me peace.  Silly really.  

So, I just emailed a bunch of my lady-ecologist gal pals and tried to find a hiking buddy or two for this weekend.  If no one can come, I’ll go on my own.  Life gets busy, and I feel that after starting this program, it has become even more so.  I can only imagine what it will be like when I graduate an get a real job.  For this reason, I think it’s really important for all of us to actively choose to make time for things that we enjoy.  And making time to be in nature will only strengthen your resolve to do right by this planet we are so fortunate to live on.  

Cache Creek Wilderness, March 2013

Last Word:  Finding a work-life balance is very difficult, and probably a life long learning process.  I’m re-resolved to make time for the things that I care for.  Especially being outside.  OH, and less you think I’m a huge jealous jerk, let me plug Meridith’s blog yet again (  She is an amazing writer, and if you go back to some previous posts you can read her take on some of our adventures last summer.  She might also be writing a guest post for this blog while overseas… stay tuned.  

What do you think?  What things do you make time for that bring you peace and fulfillment?  Do you schedule in your “nature” time?  


Eco-Inspiration 3

Wednesdays are insanity for me this quarter.  It’s those truly crazy days when I start to wondering, “Why am I doing this again?”  Those are also days when I forget my reusable coffee mug, end up buying lunch at work,  and decide not to go the the gym.  Wow, what a bad combo, but the perfect ingredients for a bad attitude!  It’s for just those sorts of days that I have assembled my little folder of Eco-Inspiration which I am slowly sharing with you guys (if you’re new, check here and here for more inspiring stuff!).  

When you are having a rough day, take a short break to get some perspective and get inspired.  When you come back, reflect on your actions.  Maybe your goal was to remember your reusable mug everyday this week, but you got busy and forgot on Wednesday.  Did you know lots of studies say it takes 30 days to form a new habit?  Don’t be so hard on yourself, but do get back on the horse.  Your 30 days starts again tomorrow, and you have nearly unlimited chances to get it right!  Remember, every time you do remember and adhere to your small environmental goals, you add on to all your previous actions.  In a month, if you compare your efforts to what would happen if you made no effort you will start to actually see a difference!  Thus, in honor of Wednesdays and sticking to our goals, I offer you this week’s Eco-inspiration.  This is my all time go to if I’m having a bad day.  I take the last line quite literally and apply it to each new day.  Practice resurrection. 

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front*

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion – put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap

for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie down in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go. Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.

Last Word:  This poem always gets me going and excited again.  Don’t be discouraged if you get off track because of your crazy life, or maybe because other people are getting you down.  Reflect on the purpose of your choices, and maybe write your very own Manifesto to read and reflect on when things get tough.  
What do you think?  What really peps you up?  Poetry?  Pictures?  Have you ever though about writing your own Manifesto to read in times of stress or frustration?  I would love to know about it. 
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry   *Emphasis is mine.