Making Moves

It is time for me to begin writing in a new platform. I am making moves to a new blog site: sapiens movēs

This site will highlight physical therapy related topics under the theme of wise movement (sapiens moves is latin for “you move wisely”). Thanks for a great run with the Farmer Leda blog and I hope to see you at the new site!

As Ido Portal has said, “There is no wrong movement.”

waterfall #2

Gotta keep moving, just like this waterfall 🙂


I love maps. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I have resisted the allure of smart phone technology and so must rely on maps to navigate when I am driving to a new location. Maybe it is the somewhat childish association that I have with maps and pirates…and buried treasure! Or maybe it is just because maps are somewhat predictable in an unpredictable world.

I recently took a couple days to go camping in West Virginia in an area called the New River Gorge, which gave me a chance to drive through West Virginia (and interestingly via a highway that I could not find on any of my road atlas maps!). I was also intent on doing some hiking and so I set out with a sense of adventure and a sheaf of new trail maps in my hand. The hiking itself was bound to be beautiful, as the area is known for its amazing scenery. But, almost equally fun for me is the matching and comparing of how you expect the trail or hike to be (partly based on the map’s account and partly on word of mouth reports) and how it actually appears as you go along. Does the sharp turn to the right after the fork out to the bridge really occur at that angle? Are the mile markers accurate? Are there any mile markers at all?!

It truly is like a treasure hunt, trying to match up what you are looking at on your paper map drawn in lines and symbols to what is actually happening in the real world as you tromp along. It is kind of like translating a fairy tale into reality. Take for example a topographical map, the word topographical- from the Greek “topos” (place) and “graphia” (G. writing) literally means “writing of a place.” Cool, huh?!

You should love maps too. Maps are a part of our biology. Maps form an integral part of the way our brains are able to process and organize so much information from our internal and external environments. The famous neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, says, “Everywhere you look in the brain, maps abound.” Maps are literally a part of who we are and the checking between representation and “reality” of our internal and external environment is an ongoing phenomenon. The analogous word to topography, in brain maps is “somatotopy” or the place in the brain representing a certain body region: “soma” (G. body), “topos” (G. place).

One interesting thing about the somatotopy in our brains (our “brain map” for “body places”) is that the brain area for a given body part is not actually proportional to the body area that is represented. For example, within the sensory somatotopy of our brain, certain areas that are more used for taking in sensory information (e.g., our hands and our tongue) have much larger areas of representation than do areas of our body that are not as “sensitive” (e.g., our back or arms). You can google “sensory homunculus” for a pictorial representation of this idea. This reminds me of becoming familiar with an area of wilderness: the more you hike or spend time in that area, the greater your depth of understanding of that place. You recognize not just the obvious changes in scenery like a stand of trees that has been cut down, but more subtle changes like the difference in native grass species or wild flowers growing in new areas.

Maps grow or shrink based on use. Just like many things, the only constant is change. As neuroplasticity has shown, our brains are malleable and adaptable. The amount that you use certain areas of your body affects the amount of area in the brain devoted to that body area or body part. Professional musicians, who practice many hours a day with intricate hand and finger movements have an increase in the amount of dedicated “hand and finger” space in the brain. Also, individuals who lose the ability of one of their senses (e.g., go blind) have increased brain representation for the other senses on which they are now more reliant. This is another one of the beauties of navigating with paper maps- the ability to revise and edit. I have to admit, one of the satisfactions of my exploration was taking a pen to my map at the end of the day and writing in little notes of what trails I traversed and identifying factors to remember for the next time that I am in this region. Paper maps let you be an actor in the story that is going on all around you, and that is part of why I love them.

You are using maps all the time, whether you know it or not. So, you might as well embrace it and fall in love with them too!

Rainy Morning Hike


The white tail of the deer gives away it’s location before it even moves

It rains and the trees catch the tears from the sky and hold them without being asked

Are you watching?

The wild blackberry canes come up shiny and purple before bearing fruit

A creek is fed by the drops coming from above, and gurgles as it passes

These nascent beginnings touch softly on the landscape

There is a tree holding paper thin leaves, like Chinese lanterns

Even the faded yellow suggests a light coming from within

These inchoate moments slip me by, unless I pause

These gifts are not there long for us to realize

Like a single breath

Like a human life

When You are Sick and Don’t Know It


If You are Sick or Injured and Don’t Know It

Recently, I got to spend some time with a good friend and her 1-year-old son. As a young child, if your parents’ friends come to visit, you are absolutely and without a doubt the center of attention. So, we were all watching this super cute kiddo standing up and trying to balance in various positions and as he was doing this, he slipped and bonked his head a little bit on the step he was standing near.

In that moment, all of the adults in the room kind of did the mental math to compute that the fall was minor and so nobody was worried about a serious injury. You could tell that the little guy could have cried, but after gauging our reactions (I’m obviously inferring here, he didn’t tell us this), he went right back to exploring his balancing world.

I was thinking about this relatively minor event and its implications for a greater question that has been on my mind: How do other people’s reactions to your injury affect your experience of that injury? For example, say this kid we were watching actually did get hurt as he fell but the adults in the room didn’t think that he did. Would our reactions be enough to preserve the child’s experience of wellness? Would he fail to experience any pain or other symptoms or would the physical damage outweigh our psychological contribution to his reaction?

As we know, one’s experience of pain is very dependent on contextual factors, but exactly how much weight does knowing or thinking that you are injured have on your experience of injury? More specifically, I am curious about two particular situations of not knowing:

1- you are sick and other people lie to you about your illness (i.e., you are blissfully ignorant of your health problem)

2- you are sick and your brain seems to deny the presence of an illness (termed anosognosia or “denial syndrome”)

Other People are Lying to You

I listened to an episode of This American Life podcast (the episode “In Defense of Ignorance”) that presented an account of medical diagnoses that were actually withheld from the ill family member, even in serious cases like lung cancer. There were children who had made the decision that it was better for a mother or grandmother to not be told that she had cancer! My initial reaction was one of slight outrage. But, I continued to listen and I may have changed my mind to a more firm position of, “I really have no idea what is right in these situations”. Truly, it is very difficult to judge what is appropriate behavior for another person in negotiating the illness of his or her family member. There are various arguments for keeping health information from a family member, but one of them goes something like this: If an aging parent or grandparent were to know about the diagnosis of a terminal illness (in cases that are untreatable), it would just add to his emotional burden of stress and it would give him a reason to physically deteriorate or experience some of the natural symptoms of aging as catastrophic and illness-related. Keeping the diagnosis from him will allow him to live out his life with peace of mind and also to not succumb to the illness as quickly because the added stress and psychological contributing factors have been removed.

Obviously, this situation is complicated by the ethical implications of lying to a family member and taking away his or her autonomy of choice. But, to be honest there is something attractive about trying to protect a loved one from having to mentally deal with such a serious illness (assuming there is really no proactive treatment that will help the condition). It reminds me of the power of placebo treatments and the somewhat sticky debate of how adamant to be about the abolishment of all treatments that may work via placebo. After all, if a patient believes in a treatment and it works, how much should we really cling to the need for a scientifically proven mechanism of action?

Your Brain is Lying to You

Reading about the accounts of patients with anosognosia is a little bit like watching The Matrix. It leaves you very uncertain about what is actually “real” and it starts to illuminate the great complexity with which each of our brains constructs our own “reality.” As I’ve written about before, our perceptions may not necessarily reflect an ultimate or “true” form of reality. Anosognosia is the phenomenon where a patient denys an observed injury or deficit and is most often described in hemiplegic (half-paralyzed) patients that have suffered a stroke (i.e., the patient’s left side is paralyzed but she denies this to be true).2

In his book, “Phantoms in the Brain,” Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran describes the case of a woman who has anosognosia following a stroke.3 The woman blatantly denies that she has any movement deficiencies despite having lost the ability to move her left arm and left leg. She vehemently challenges Dr. Ramachandran’s assertions that her left arm and leg are paralyzed even as he asks her to touch his finger with her left finger (her hand lays at her side, but she claims it is touching his) and to stand up and walk (she has been in a wheel chair since the stroke and is unable to walk but is impatient when Dr. Ramachandran suggests that she cannot walk). Why would one’s own knowledge of physical ability be so impaired? Ramachandran acknowledges that there may be some component of psychological denial, but with a few elegant experiments he also shows that these patient’s are not just lying, they actually have deficits in their ability to accurately perceive their own deficits. The brain is complex indeed.

What is the Right Amount of Knowledge?

As these instances suggest, there are cases in which a person may be largely ignorant about the presence of an injury or illness. Conversely, at the far other end of the spectrum is the situation in which a person could have an overabundance of information. I am immediately reminded of a book that came out this year called: “When Breath Becomes Air,” which is the account of Paul Kalanithi’s struggle with his own mortality as he is diagnosed with lung cancer as a young neurosurgery resident. Here is a man with an incredible amount of medical knowledge experiencing the terrors of cancer from both the perspective of patient and with the training of a medical doctor. He acknowledges an almost obsessive desire to know the probability of how long he has to live, while concurrently acknowledging the limitations of medical diagnosis and prognosis. The book is particularly poignant because of the author’s dire situation (in fact he passed away before the book was finished, and it was published posthumously) as well as his incredibly thoughtful and empathic interactions with patients, even before his diagnosis.

As Paul describes communicating with patients and their families, he writes: “a tureen of tragedy was best allotted by the spoonful.” This insightful statement comes about from his experience in delivering bad news and his finding that much of what was told to patients and their families immediately following a grave diagnosis or prognosis was not remembered and would need to be subsequently repeated. People, it seems have a limit to the information that they can process in the midst of trauma and trying situations.

I don’t really have a definitive answer for the optimum amount of knowledge in injury or illness, and maybe each person is unique in what he or she would prefer or benefit from. However, I will say that in the case of one’s own illness and injury, it may be wise to question the amount of knowledge that is actually needed for optimum health. Perhaps in this situation, as in many others in life, more may not always be better.


1- Kalanithi, P. When Breath Becomes Air. New York, Random House; 2016.

2- Orfei MD, Robinson RG, Prigatano GP, Starkstein S, Rusch N, Bria P, Caltagirone C, Spalletta G. Anosognosia for hemiplegia after stroke is a multifaceted phenomenon: a systematic review of the literature. Brain. 2007; 130, 3075-3090.

3- Ramachandran, V S and Blakeslee, S. Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind. New York, William Morrow, 1998.

4– This American Life Podcast, episode #585: ”In Defense of Ignorance



Here I am on a recent hike going up a rocky scramble for 2,800 ft. elevation gain near Phoenix, AZ. Not knowing what was coming, it was challenging and enjoyable. Would it have been less or more so if I would have known how hard of a climb it was to the top of this peak?

Life Posture

I am not sure that there is such a thing as living a “balanced life” while in graduate school. The external demands on your time and the academic and financial pressures create a situation that is not necessarily what most would call “healthy”. While becoming trained to improve the health of others through movement, the physical therapy student is very sedentary, and often in seated postures that don’t necessarily confer the best health benefits. The perfect irony of this situation was not lost on me today as I sat studying with slumped shoulders and forward head posture and read about Janda’s upper crossed syndrome (a way of describing negative adaptive muscular changes to poor postural positions).1

We have been learning about posture and balance lately in one of my 1st year Physical Therapy program classes. It is easy for me to see similarities between the way we colloquially talk about work/life balance and the physical sense of maintaining balance of your body so you don’t fall over. I like thinking about this in terms of posture because posture is referring to the different body positions used to maintain one’s balance. So, posture can be evaluated as a freeze-frame or picture and is a little bit more tangible. In thinking about these analogies, I have been struck by two themes: 1- Applying pressures lead to compensations and 2- The health paradox


1-Pressures Lead to Compensations

We talk about forces in a postural sense by describing the effects that they have on joints and the muscles or passive structures (e.g., ligaments) at the joints that are affected. For example, if you sit with a forward head posture, the weight of your head is going to be pulling down and so the muscles on the back of your neck are going to have to be working harder to hold your head upright against gravity. The good news is that the closer you are to ideal alignment or “good posture,” the less work your muscles will have to do and the less strain on your cervical spine. But, the bad news is that the farther away from this “balanced” position (head over cervical spine), you are the more the weight of your head wants to pull you down and the harder it is to get back into that aligned position. Also, as you feel more of these external forces, you automatically compensate with adjustments (e.g., tilting your head up) to accomplish your goals (e.g., keeping your eyes level). The compensations that you choose can themselves create more pressures on your system (e.g., increased compression where the back of your head meets your spine).

So, how do life pressures lead to compensations? I’m sure you have plenty of examples, but hear me out as I discuss the parallels. To me living a balanced life includes allowing time and energy for meaningful relationships, health pursuits (exercise, healthy food preparation and eating, self-care), and intellectual/professional/societal contributions. The closer you are to maintaining balance and equanimity (not equality per se, but attention to each area) between these facets of life, the fewer compensatory strategies that you need to employ to maintain your health and your flow of life. Just like forces on your body, pressures experienced in a whole life paradigm can create compensatory changes or effects. For example, increased time pressures from school or work can create compensations such as eating more convenience food options, reduced opportunity to connect with others in meaningful social contexts, and a decrease in time devoted to exercise. A great (well not so great…) example of this is in those pursuing higher education: graduate students have worse mental health profiles than those in the general population and many report symptoms of anxiety, depression, and increased risk for suicide.2

2-The Health Paradox

Another thing that I have noticed is that investments by those promoting health for others often come at a sacrifice of health for those individuals. At the most basic level, this can be chalked up to opportunity cost: the farmer spending untold hours working to grow the most sustainable and healthy food will have less time to prepare healthy food for himself, the doctor working around the clock to care for your loved one in critical condition will not be able to spend that time with her family, and the physical therapist promoting healthy movement for others may be overworked to the point of reducing her chance to be physically active.

I also wonder about the paradox of health created by our school systems for many of these health professionals. While I understand the very real necessity of having competently trained doctors, nurses, physical therapists, farmers, doctors of Chinese medicine, etc., there is a part of me that wonders if the model of schooling that creates so much imbalance in life areas is the best way to train those who are to be the stewards of our health?

I would like to think that contributing to health for others does not mean a sacrifice of health for oneself. In fact, I would like to think that all of our health is interconnected and perhaps the greatest symptom of disease of our society is this lifestyle disease within our health care professionals. But I digress…

Assessing Your Life Posture

With these two commentaries, I hope that I’ve stimulated some curiosity for you to examine your own life and how your body positioning can be analogous to life pursuits. The more consistently we practice good life posture, the easier it may be to attain good health and the fewer negative compensations we may be subjected too.





What Are You Looking At?


Did you remember to exercise your eyes today? I know, I know, I never used to think about my eye health this way either. Like most people that I know, the most attention my eyes usually get is for the obligatory once a year eye exam to get my prescription for contact lenses. I feel like lately, though, everywhere I look (get it?!), I am being confronted with information pointing to the importance of eye health and new ways of viewing eye health (get it?! Okay, sorry done with the puns…). As it turns out, it’s not just about measuring one’s prescription strength for corrective lenses or the absence of disease (e.g., free from glaucoma, cataracts, etc.).

There are certain statements that foreshadow the importance of our eyes beyond just as a special sensory organ. There is a saying, “the eyes are a window to the soul,” and colloquially, we even seem to have this belief or superstition that you can discern someone’s character or intentions by staring into his or her eyes. There are even those people who believe that long durations of eye contact are a crucial part of developing intimacy and human connection (Eye contact with Strangers).

Perhaps a more scientific, although no less grand statement, is along the lines of this quote from Katy Bowman, “Your eyes are a gateway to your brain.”1 There is literature that supports the idea that our eyes, and the visual information that we expose them to, can have a myriad of effects on us as organisms. From a developmental point of view, it has been said that, “what we do with our eyes molds our brains and guides its development—literally. The eyes have the power to turn brain plasticity on or off.”2

As I am learning currently in my neuroanatomy class, the eyes have many functional connections within the brain for both sensory processing and motor control. Out of the twelve cranial nerves that exit the brain and brainstem, five of these nerves have some portion serving the eye (CN’s II, III, IV, V, VI)! The eye is controlled via voluntary muscular control (from the extrinsic eye muscles) and involuntary/autonomic muscular control (ciliary muscles and pupillary sphincter muscles). Eyes really are incredibly important!

Furthermore, the effect of the various types of eye movements that we engage in can have broad systemic effects on our bodily health. As Thomas Myers writes: eye movements can affect the muscles of the head and neck.3 He illustrates this concept via a quick demonstration of how movements at the eye affect the suboccipital muscles (muscles on the back of the neck controlling head/neck position). If you close your eyes, and feel at the base of your skull with your fingers (give a little bit of pressure, the suboccipitals run deep), you can feel these muscles changing tone as you move your eyes side to side and up and down. With this example in mind, it is easier to buy in to Myers’ statement of connectivity of the eyes to other musculature: “How you use your eyes, and more particularly, how you use your neck, determines the tonus pattern for the rest of your back musculature.”3 Also, did you know that people’s visual clarity fluctuates when they are stressed?2

In the prior example, you are engaging in voluntary control of eye movements and positioning. But, the environmental stimuli that you expose your eyes to can also impact eye health due to the intrinsic eye muscles used in reacting to those stimuli. Muscles within your eye itself regulate both the ability to focus at different distances (ciliary muscles) and also the amount of light that enters your eye (pupillary sphincter muscles). Analogous to the way that we use other muscles in our body, without consistent use of certain eye movements (i.e., in distance vision, peripheral vision, night time vision, etc.) we lose the ability to regulate for these different situations. Basically, our eyes get deconditioned and less able to serve the various functions that they were intended to.2,4,5 Your eye muscles can atrophy!1 Once you realize this, it seems all the more important to use your eyes in a variety of settings to help promote good eye health (e.g., looking far away, using your peripheral vision, being in nature!, seeing in pure darkness, seeing in natural light settings).

All of these things have contributed to my newfound intrigue and curiosity about how I use my eyes in my day-to-day life. I hope that something that I have shared has grabbed your attention (…been ‘eye-catching’?!). So, as I think about pursuing a career as a physical therapist and helping others along their journeys of health, one of the questions I will have at the forefront of my mind is: what are you looking at?



  1. Bowman, K. (2015). Don’t Just Sit There: Transitioning to a Standing and Dynamic Workstation for Whole-Body Health. Elsevier.
  2. Doidge, N. (2015). The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. New York: Penguin Books.
  3. Myers, T. (2001). Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. Elsevier.
  4. Bowman, K. (2014). Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement. Propriometrics Press.
  5. Katy Says Podcast Episode #45: Natural Movement and Eyes (

The Downside of Farther and Faster

Leda- 1st peak

I recently had the opportunity to compare two different forms of transportation in a slightly all-consuming way. My first experience consisted of a 6-day backpacking trip in the Trinity mountains of California. My second experience was a 5-day solo drive across the country (2,500miles total from California to Ohio). I’m sure you can guess which experience was my favorite (duh). But, what you might not be able to guess (I didn’t predict these things) were the insights that I gained from interacting with the world in these two very different modalities of transport….

I can distill my personal reactions into three themes: speed, distance, and quality of connection.


While driving, I was going too fast (not speeding, mind you) to notice small details like individual flowers or species of prairie grass or if there were any birds in the area. It just wasn’t possible to appreciate my surroundings as the driver of a vehicle going upwards of 60 miles per hour. Comparing that with traveling rugged terrain by walking with a pack on and the contrast is staggering. I remember over the course of a couple of days of hiking, noticing manzanita berries along the trail in various stages of coloring and ripeness depending upon the elevation in which we found ourselves hiking.

Lesson learned: The pace at which you travel to any place or goal (through life itself, even) has a great impact on what you are able to take in from your surroundings. There is a lot to be missed if your only setting is warp speed ahead. I hope to personally be more aware of mixing up my modes of transportation and including some walking every day.


The biggest dissonance with traveling by car is that you cover so much distance, but you don’t have to move your body to get there. Think about this for a minute. It is super weird. Driving is kind of like delayed-action teleporting. It even leaves you with this vibrating or buzzing feeling at the end of a long day of driving, as if all the atoms in your body have been taken apart and are reassembling at your final destination. Like I said, super weird.

This whole concept of being able to travel such far distances without propelling ourselves,  leaves us with unreasonable expectations about how far we can reasonably travel in other areas of our lives as well. For example, we may become impatient while learning a new skill or building a new friendship or relationship with a romantic partner. We sometimes demand unreasonable levels of movement without allowing things to unfold more naturally. Have you ever achieved a goal that you thought was incredibly huge only to realize that you didn’t take enough time to appreciate the journey along the way? I know I have.

When you are walking somewhere there is no other way to get there than via the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-method. It makes the process of each step important and necessary.

Lesson #1 learned:  The steps are often more profound than the actual finish line. Make sure you’re taking reasonable sized steps and appreciating your humanness. It’s not a very satisfying present moment if you’ve got your sights so far in the distance all the time.

Lesson #2 learned: Our bodies are made to move (if you don’t trust me, trust Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of “Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement” and lots of other great books, blogs, and podcasts about healthy movement).   Not getting adequate movement just feels bad. Period.

Quality of Connection

I notice that I am more at peace when I feel attuned with the people I am with and feel connected to my environment. The best metaphor that I have for this connection with surroundings is the metaphor of touch (check out my previous post on human touch HERE). I was reading this book on the Chinese medicine practice of self-massage recently and one of the basic instructions for this practice was to have an, “iron arm, water wrist, and embroidery hand.” I love this idea. I think that it really provides the basis for how I feel when I am interacting best in the world: I am grounded at my core. I am flexible in my movements and thoughts. I am gentle at the point of contact with the external world.

When I spent the majority of my day driving,  there was a solid barrier preventing a direct interface with the world around me. Conversely, at the end of a long day of hiking, I would take off my boots and socks and walk around the campsite barefoot. In comparing my driving trip with my walking trip, maybe the most tangible difference that I can recognize was my ability to actually touch my surroundings.

Lesson learned: connection is a matter of the speed at which you are traveling and the distance you expect to cover. Quality connections happen best when you are able to feel firmly yourself, allow for a dynamic experience, and reach out with a tender touch.

Paralyzed by Movement Indecision

I was going to start doing yoga more regularly. I looked at the schedule of a studio nearby and scanned the class offerings: flow yoga, vinyassa yoga, yin yoga, flow heated yoga, mindful yoga with incorporated meditation. Then, I glanced at the list of instructors and their bios. There were women with body-work experience and men who had taken trips to India and spent years studying with world-reknowned experts. Even the timing of the classes left me with decisions to make: 45 minute power class, 60 minutes, 90 minutes with deliberately slow poses and holds. At the end of my 5 minutes of research, I felt overwhelmed by choices. I couldn’t for the life of me pick the perfect class out of this lineup: I liked the idea of yoga as exercise, so the flow yoga sounded good, but I also knew that the stretching and recovery of yin yoga would probably be good for me. But, then again, who can argue with a teacher who studied with the great yoga master who had mastered the most difficult poses by the age of 7?! I was stumped and my brain hurt and I decided to go for a bike ride instead.

Have you ever been in a place of indecision like this? Chafing under the multitude of possibilities and choices? Especially, when beginning a new activity it is often hard to not get caught up in the seeming pressure to choose the “right” class or form or timing or fit for your current habits and goals. But, I’m not so sure that’s a great approach to trying new things…

At about the same time I was having this yoga indecision, I was also having buyers’ guilt for this Groupon that I had purchased a couple months prior for a dance studio in town. See, at the risk of sounding silly, I have this idea that one day I’d really like to learn to break dance or even hip hop dance. If you have ever seen the TV show “Made” on MTV, basically my dream is to be “made” into a break-dancer. The premise of the show is that people who are not the best fit for a certain activity are coached up to be able to perform in this new role that they have chosen for themselves. Needless to say, I am a quite unlikely candidate for breakdancing competency and so I think I would be a perfect fit for the show.

I was inspired to try a new form of movement and after balking at the yoga class choices, I thought I might as well try this dance thing out (after all I had already paid for it!). So, I took that Groupon voucher that I’d been hanging onto and marched down to the dance studio….and took a beginner’s ballet class! It just happened to be the class that I could make it to without rearranging my normal activities. It was also a form of dance that was way out of my comfort zone, brand new to me, and I had a blast! I could feel the other movement knowledge that I have acquired from sports and other activities melding with this new way of moving. I could tell that it was opening up alternative positions and forms and grace through my body that I didn’t know I had. I am now convinced that with movement as with other facets of life, the key is not to find the perfect next step, the key is just to take a new next step. Try out something different. Try not to get bogged down by choice and just choose movement, whatever that may be.

Maybe, It’s Not About You

Leda-sprouting acres mkt2

I had a pleasant and profound conversation with a family at the Madison farmers’ market today. They had driven all the way from Chicago to check out what they’d heard was a great farmers’ market. They were smiling and enjoying the fanfare, and I met them just as they had fallen in love with a robust and beautiful head of red leaf lettuce perched on our market stand. They glanced at it with clear admiration, talked amongst themselves, and then looked back at the lettuce. I thought for sure they were going to buy it and offered them a bag for the purchase. The woman smiled sheepishly and asked if I thought that the lettuce head would be okay in their car all day, explaining their story of driving in from Chicago…

My attachment to the lettuce was literally from farm to table. Yesterday morning, I had harvested it in the field, with the rest of our head lettuces, dunked it in cool water to chill it and shaken the excess water off before packing it in a cooler and seeing it safely into the walk in cooler with the rest of the produce we would be taking to market. Now, we were standing before the same head of lettuce and I was the bearer of bad news: patiently explaining that, no the fresh looking head of lettuce would not do very well in a car all day (sans ice chest) and would probably end up as a wilty mess if they were to purchase it. And here I thought my main job was to help bring fresh good quality produce to market and people would automatically buy it. As long as I did my job, there would be hoards of people waiting in long lines to be the first to purchase these beautiful (and tasty!) heads of lettuce that I had harvested.

I get it, we all like to think we’re in total control of our lives and actions. In many ways, we evaluate our actions as if they drive the world (and to some extent they do drive our personal world). We make statements like, “If only I had ______ then that would have turned out better” “I tried gardening once, but I just don’t have a green thumb” “I can’t seem to meet the right person” and on and on…But, maybe, some of these things that we think are our fault or to our credit would have happened anyway. There are other people with their own stories and nature takes its course and things happen that don’t necessarily make sense. Maybe that thing that just happened that you’re so upset about really doesn’t have much to do with you at all. Maybe, it’s not about you…

On Death and Remembering

sandias picture

“Because a man is sick often, and each time gets well, is that proof that he will never die?”

–John Steinbeck in “To a God Unknown”


I think it is valuable to contemplate death; Both in the sense of our own mortality and also in the instances of losing loved ones: friends and family. In our culture, we seem to have such a conditioned aversion to death and dying and even the process of loss that I think it is a worthy exploration.

I know that for myself, I have developed a more peaceful relationship to death only through turning towards it with curiosity and openness. What is this all about, this aching feeling of loss? It is an evolving relationship, but nonetheless, I am grateful that I can experience certain moments of embracing death and loss as a natural part of the process of life…with it’s own highs and lows and complexities. The following is a short piece I wrote on my feelings at the moment…


On Death and Remembering

I used to think that I had to feel sad when I thought of you

Now, when I think about you, it often makes me joyous

This joy is rich and complex

It is a joy that is weightless and light as cool mountain air

A joy of rustling leaves and the sound of laughter carried away with the breeze

As these sounds fade, it is a joy tinged with sorrow


I used to think that death was the end of life

Perhaps death is less finite than we think?

What if the death of a person is like the death of plants?

On the farm, I used to be so averse to the tilling in of unharvested crops

Now, I see it is less about the death of the plants in front of you and more about nourishing the soil for the plants to come

Within death, there is also a renewal of life

I hope that my life can provide for others as yours has mine


I used to think that holding on was a delusion or a denial of death

Some things, though, naturally linger and move on in their own time

I have a shirt that reminds me of you. It is gray and frayed and becoming less wearable each time I put it on

Your voice in my head, is softer and more gentle now. But, when I listen, it is there. ‘I love you’ it says

I still have your phone number saved in my cell phone

I still think of you when I hear “Lemon Tree” by Peter, Paul, and Mary

I do not wish to return to what was

These rememberings are just a pleasant way of experiencing you still in my life

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