<![CDATA[STILL WATERS WELL-BEING, INC. - Blog]]>Fri, 19 Jul 2024 09:37:54 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Do Birds Pant?]]>Fri, 19 Jul 2024 00:58:49 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/do-birds-pant
Sand Mountain Sunrise from Pearl Lake - July 6, 2024

​It is a warm Sunday afternoon in July, and I’m eating a late lunch on my patio. Though I’ve been on an organize-and-declutter binge, my little place is still cool inside so the sunshine filtering through the lush aspen leaves is welcoming. There’s a movement in the mid-air to my right, and I see a robin glide to a low branch, a few feet from where I sit in my wooden rocker. From its perch, the robin sings. Smooth rusty brown chest, dark brown wings, black face with some white markings - and its beak doesn’t close. Is this open beak the way it sings? Is the pulsing throat a part of its vocalizing?

The way a bird produces song is by using its syrinx, similar to the human larynx. Air flows over membranes and cartilage to produce sound in the syrinx, which is the shape of an upside-down Y. Birds can use both passages at once, which means they can sing a high note and a low note at the same time. Still, looking at the open beak and pulsing throat of the bird off my patio, I think something is going on besides singing.

The robin flits down to the edge of one of my freshly planted barrels, the one with the lavender. Good choice. It balances there, facing me, and I notice that the beak still hasn’t closed and the throat fluttering continues, though there’s a break in the melody. Then it dawns on me. Perhaps the bird is panting. The robin continues to serenade, watching me as I watch it, admiring its color, its bright eyes, the pretty trills emanating effortlessly from its throat. After several minutes the robin catches sight of another bird, and whizzes away. It seems that I have been granted a gift today. 

I'm grateful and also curious. I do a little searching, and yes, birds do pant. Their form of panting is called gular fluttering, where moisture evaporates via their vibrating throat membranes and open beak. Some research indicates that the size of the bird's bill is related to the temperature of their environment; blood flow to the beak is another cooling mechanism.

Birds use other strategies to stay cool in the heat. Bathing in cool water, as well as spreading wings and fluffing feathers, are effective at thermoregulation. They also tend to feed in early morning or evening hours, finding shade and shelter during the hotter part of the day, thus avoiding the heat and spending their energy more efficiently. 

The expression “birdbrain” as an insult to intelligence is a misnomer as birds clearly demonstrate greater wisdom than many humans. Just yesterday I saw someone floppy-jogging down the black asphalt street during peak heat - better to seek the shade beneath a nice large tree or shrub. Birds have a one-up on us: I wish I could produce beautiful song while cooling myself with gular fluttering.

Sources/Learn More
Finger Lakes Land Trust: Songs In the Key of Life…
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: How do birds keep cool in the summer?
Audubon: How Birds Keep Their Cool
<![CDATA[Sweet Salida and Yams on Yale]]>Fri, 12 Jul 2024 06:33:53 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/sweet-salida-and-yams-on-yale
Summit View, Mt. Yale - July 5, 2024
Heading up!!
PictureMt. Yale Summit

We arrive in Salida just in time to catch the afternoon parade. It is 4th of July and my daughter Charlotte and I are in Salida to see a friend’s band. We find a shady spot and watch the lady pioneers walk by with Abe Lincoln, and a couple of politicians waving from their big bedazzled SUVs. Next are several sequined young women on horses followed by a crew of young boys armed with horse-sized pooper-scoopers. An old green tractor rolls slowly by, with an even older fellow hunching over the steering wheel - and that’s it. Ten minutes of parading and we are back in business. 

I’d spent a little time in Salida over the years, but it’s a favorite for Charlotte since she went to FIBArk Whitewater Festival several weeks ago. (FIBArk = First In Boat on the Arkansas River.) The aptly named Riverside Park, right alongside the Arkansas, is a great place to spend a holiday. Families loll on the grass, local bands play at the bandshell, and there is a crowd of young, old and in-between dancing away to the groovy tunes. I haven’t danced with Charlotte since she was a young girl; twirling around today with her is dreamy and I feel like the luckiest person alive.

We meet up with our friends to watch the band we came to see: Patrice Pike and the Black Box Rebellion. Patrice makes the annual trip to Salida to perform on the 4th because that is her aunt’s birthday. This year her aunt is celebrating 82, and she in her heart-shaped sunglasses, along with her crowd of friends, are lighting up the dance floor. Charlotte and I join them, and this crowd too is filled with all ages having a good time.

At sundown we make tracks to our campsite, on the river a few minutes south of town. This is the first night for Charlotte’s brand-new backpacking tent and I’m honored to be invited in. She leaves the fly off since we’re not expecting rain. The roof is mesh, and we fall asleep gazing at the stars and listening to the soft flow of the river.

We break camp at 4:00 am and drive to the trailhead a few miles west of Buena Vista. By 5:45 we are hoofing it up the trail, and it is cold. Even with my down jacket and the blistering pace Charlotte is setting.

Last September we climbed our first 14er (read about it here), Mt. Sherman, which is considered “easy.” I figured Yale wouldn’t be that much more difficult. I was wrong. Sherman is just over 2000 feet of elevation gain with a round trip of roughly five miles. Yale is over 4000 feet of elevation gain, in a round trip of about ten miles. It doesn’t take a PhD in math to understand that there is a significant difference here. 1x Yale = 2x Sherman. Somehow I glossed over this basic equation.

Well above treeline but still a ways to the summit, I am not feeling great. My quads are quivering from the steep trail and stone step-ups, and my cardiovascular system is unhappy about being in the red for three hours. I pull off the trail for some fuel. 

Because my body has reactions to a lot of foods right now, I am loaded with items that work: rice and zucchini, salmon in a pouch, and YAMS - Japanese Sweet Potatoes to be specific. Mash some coconut oil into those babies, and yum-yum. The cold wind whips at my hood and face, but it is not getting my yam. After snarfing a few bites, I feel so much better, but Charlotte is still having to wait on me quite a bit. I keep reminding myself that she is 18 and super strong. I am 56 and definitely feeling my high mileage.

We reach the saddle with some excitement that we are almost there and some trepidation about this last push. The trail from the saddle to the summit is playfully called a rock scramble. Keep in mind we are towards the top of a 14,274- foot peak, and the exposure is real. This poses a slight challenge to persons like me with acrophobia, or fear of heights. Charlotte, who has overcome her own fears after a bad hiking fall last summer, leads the way. The cairns that mark the route are scarce, and she is a good trail finder. She also encourages me through several meltdowns.

Using both arms and legs to climb the solid rocks is grounding. It turns out that tunnel vision is my friend and I begin to ignore that freaky drop-off. Reaching the summit feels like a real accomplishment.

The Mt. Yale summit is a rather sobering experience. On Sherman, it felt like a party: people sharing food, dogs frolicking, everybody laughing and talking. Mt. Yale feels like a board meeting of serious pros. I am truly flabbergasted by the number of people running this mountain in their tiny shorts and knee-highs. There are plenty of friendly people and dogs along the trail, they just aren’t on the summit when we are.

After some quick pics we head back down, wanting to get out of the wind. The joy of surviving the summit is short-lived, as the descent starts to decimate what tiny bit of strength still remains in my suffering quads. Charlotte traipses along, snapping pictures of flowers to later identify and draw in her field journal, while I navigate the steps and large rocks in my own private hell.

After a couple of hours, even Charlotte is wondering why this descent is twice as long as the climb. As we clamber over the final log stairs just above the parking area, I am cursing the trail. We expected to be about six hours; our total time is seven hours and change. If she hadn’t patiently waited on me, Charlotte could probably have knocked an hour off our time.

​It was a grueling day and I feel old, tired, deconditioned, and embarrassed that I slowed us down so much. Then I take stock. My quads are quivering but my legs held up. My ribs are sore, but that is from dancing! I pushed through significant fear to make the summit. More importantly, I spent this day with Charlotte. Yesterday we danced at the river. Today we climbed a mountain. And I got to do all of this with my amazing daughter.

At the summit!
<![CDATA[Tractable Trees]]>Wed, 03 Jul 2024 03:47:30 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/tractable-trees
Tree Hoop, Pagosa Springs - April 2024

​One afternoon this past spring my parents and I were enjoying the fresh air and warm sunshine in the wooded canyon behind their Little Red Cabin, known in the family as the LRC. We came upon the hooped tree pictured above. Wow! We hadn’t noticed it on previous hikes, and it seemed rather magical. How did this happen?

It is possible that one side of that particular branch was damaged, and did not grow at the same rate as the other side, creating the asymmetry that caused the branch to grow back towards the ground. Another possibility is that that low branch was weighted by snow long enough that the branch did not resume growing skyward. It continued to grow downward, causing the bend in the main trunk before the tree righted itself to grow straight up once again.

My research did not turn up a definitive reason for the hooped branch of our tree. Regardless of the cause, this hoop - and what I found poking around online -  is a testament to the resilience and tractability of trees. 

Trees have three main parts: crown, trunk and roots. The trunk conducts nutrients, the foliage on the branches (boughs or twigs) conducts photosynthesis, and the roots provide nutrients from the soil. All parts of the tree grow: roots, branches and trunk, and are quite versatile over time and with necessity. I found this article’s illustrated trunk cross-section interesting:  Arborist Now.com: The Basic Anatomy of a Tree

Roots have hair-like projections which serve to stimulate growth in the current direction, or stop growth if an obstacle is encountered. The root hairs accomplish this by a protein at their tip; this protein causes uptake of calcium for growth, and the cycle continues. The roots can grow out to a distance twice the height of the tree. If the root hairs hit an object, the calcium uptake - and thus the growth - come to a halt. All About Trees.com: Trees Can Grow Around Obstacles

Edaphoecotropism, also known as “stress avoidance” is the ability of living tissues to grow around things. The engulfing occurs as the roots and woody tissue of the tree grow towards areas of least stress, thus surrounding or “eating” the item. The objects do not hurt the tree; in fact some articles indicate that the incorporated objects help strengthen the tree.

Here are some amazing photos of objects like trucks and fences swallowed by trees: Scenic Hudson.org: Trees that Eat Things. My favorite from this article is the bike tree. A young man headed off to World War I left his bike against the tree, but never retrieved the bike. The tree, in its edaphoecotropic (according to Google this word does not exist, I believe it should) manner, grew up and around the bike, so that the bike is now well above the ground, a part of the tree.

I loved the playset in my grandparent’s backyard in Glen Burnie, Maryland, between two towering oak trees. It had a slide that the squirrels would careen down over and over, having a marvelous time. It also had a swing. Long before my time, and the ends of the pole to which the swing was attached had been stuck in the oak trunks. Over time the trunks had grown around and onto the pole a few inches - there’s that edaphoecotropism again. The trees growing like this was a wonder to me, and I never tired of looking at those guardian oaks keeping my swing safe.

​Sources/Learn More

Arborist Now.com: The Basic Anatomy of a Tree

All About Trees.com: Trees Can Grow Around Obstacles

Scenic Hudson.org: Trees that Eat Things

Riparian Habitat Restoration.ca: post explaining edaphoecotropism (scroll to middle of article)
Photo courtesy of Tom Denny
<![CDATA[The Places A Picture Can Take You: Inspiration From Michael Kenna]]>Fri, 28 Jun 2024 03:35:26 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/the-places-a-picture-can-take-you-inspiration-from-michael-kenna
Pearl Lake Morning June 2021
PictureTwenty Sticks by Michael Kenna

There's a photo on the wall of my massage office: Twenty Sticks, by Michael Kenna
I have thought for years that Twenty Sticks was the name of a place, and over the last week I spent hours searching desperately for information on Twenty Sticks in Japan. For the story  behind this mysterious place. The result of my leaping down those umpteen rabbit holes? Twenty Sticks is not a location. 

In fact, Kenna has other pieces with names like Six Sticks, Thirty Eight Sticks. You get the idea. I have not discovered exactly what those sticks are doing in the water, but it might be a fishing weir. In reading interviews and perusing his website, Kenna’s work goes well beyond the theme of unexpected sticks emerging from noir bodies of water.

Kenna has worked all over the world, and last year celebrated 50 years in the industry. Regardless of location or subject, his work is stunning. Twenty Sticks was taken in Kohoku, Honshu, Japan, in 2003. Kenna has returned to Japan several times as it holds a singular place in his heart. 

Born in 1953 in England, Kenna studied to become a Catholic Priest when he was quite young. He ended up enrolling in art school, and in the late 1970’s moved to San Francisco. By that time he was showing his photos in galleries, and he worked as assistant and printer for the esteemed photographer Ruth Bernhard for a decade. It was with her that he refined and developed his expert printing skills. Kenna, to this day, prints each one of his works in order to achieve the precise effect he wants. 

Achieving that precise effect also means working in conditions not all would consider ideal. He prefers snow, rain, and mist, very early mornings or nights. His work is only in black and white, as color brings an overabundance of sensation, and has the tendency to lose the mood created with black and white. Rather than produce an image that is a two-dimensional representation, Kenna aims to create a feeling. He prefers to work alone, and may spend hours or days in a location, getting the sense of the place. The final piece provides a three-dimensional space for the viewer to spend time in, to rest in, to explore. In this way, perhaps Twenty Sticks is indeed a location.

When I looked at some of the work on his website, I did not yet know how Kenna did things. Still, I could sense a quality, a sensation that went beyond the image. Even on my inexpensive laptop, seeing his pieces was an experience and I felt a myriad of emotions: awe with Wave, dread and horror with Crematorium Building, amazement with Torii, Study 4. I was even more amazed when I learned that in Japan, entrances to sanctuaries are often found in lakes since all of nature is considered sacred. 

Kenna’s approach to his work achieves his intention. His method - characterized by patience, calm, thoughtfulness, intention, and a willingness to immerse himself in a place or subject - has me thinking about my own work and my time in nature too. I appreciate Twenty Sticks even more these days, hanging on my wall, reminding me, encouraging me.

<![CDATA[Dragonflies: Beautiful Predators]]>Thu, 20 Jun 2024 19:55:53 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/dragonflies-beautiful-predators
Misty Sunrise at Pearl Lake - August 2023

​Glimpsing a dragonfly while on the trail is a special treat. These sightings put a little extra spring in my step because they are an unexpected gift. I usually notice the bright flash of green or blue, and I smile to watch the long, elegant body with its four shapely wings flitting through the greenery near the creek. Dragonflies symbolize transformation, which I find hopeful and encouraging. I’m curious why dragonflies do not also symbolize perspective, considering that their head is made up of many compound eyes with thousands of lenses. They can see up to twelve meters (over 39 feet) in all directions in order to spot what they’re hunting. (Woodland Trust: What Do Dragonflies Eat? and Other Dragonfly Facts)

Dragonflies spend a large part of their lives as larvae (nymphs) in the water, and as adults, around the water. Lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, and even bogs are their home. These habitat areas are sensitive; a robust dragonfly population is an indication of the health of these environments, and the reverse is true. Since dragonflies snack frequently on insects like mosquitoes it behooves us to nurture these habitats, and thus the dragonfly population.  (Bridgewater State University article: Life Cycle of Dragonflies and Damselflies)

Dragonfly life as an adult is relatively short, usually just a few months, giving them just enough time to reproduce. Dragonflies are carnivorous predators. In addition to mosquitoes, they eat midges, flies, small butterflies and even other dragonflies. 

In general the dragonfly life cycle follows this pattern:
  1. Eggs are deposited directly into the water, or into sand or a plant in close proximity to the water.
  2. After hatching from the egg the nymph remains in the water for several months or several years, feeding on insects and tadpoles.
  3. When ready - sometimes triggered by warming water temps in spring and summer - the nymph makes its way out of the water and clings to a plant or rock, taking in air to expand its entire body. The skin behind the head splits and the adult dragonfly pulls itself out of what was its body - now a shell called the exuviae.
  4. After several hours of drying time, the adult dragonfly is ready for liftoff and flies away to find its first meal out of the water.

Dragonflies come in an astounding number of shades - yellow and black striped, iridescent green and blue, brown and black. Different species also boast fascinating names. Here are a few (find more details and excellent pictures in this Sweetgrass Farm Garden blog post: Exploring the Different Families of Dragonflies):

  • Darners, due to the darning needle appearance of their bodies.
  • Clubtails, as the distal end of the body is enlarged, resembling a club.
  • Petaltails, for the attachments on their abdomen resembling petals.
  • Cruisers, because of their penchant for not dawdling in one watery home for long.

Dragonflies are sometimes mistaken for damselflies, and vice-versa. The two are closely related but there are a couple of ways to tell them apart. When perched, the damselfly pulls its wings in and behind its body, while dragonflies keep theirs out to the sides. Typically, damsels have a slightly smaller and more slender body than the dragons.

Dragonflies predate dinosaurs. From the fossil record, these prehistoric dragonfly insects, called  Meganeuropsis, had a wingspan of 75 centimeters, or 29.5 inches! Though our current-day dragonflies are related to Meganeuropsis, they clearly have evolved to a size that works better in today’s environment. (Earth Archives: The Biggest Insect Ever Was a Huge “Dragonfly”)

Lest you think dragonflies are all whimsy, know that they are considered the most successful predator, with a hunting success rate of 95%. The movie Alien borrowed from the dragonfly nymph’s ability to move their lower jaw like an arm, so quickly the prey doesn’t know what just happened as they are being swallowed by the nymph. (Willistown Conservation Trust article: Dragonflies: Nature’s Most Successful Predator)

Sources/Learn More
<![CDATA[You, Me, Compassion and Empathy]]>Fri, 14 Jun 2024 02:04:08 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/you-me-compassion-and-empathy
Root and Rock - near Fish Creek, June 2021

Group Therapy

One of the local bars in the city where I grew up was called Group Therapy. The sign, a flashing pink martini glass with a neon green olive inside, is seared into my memory though I never stepped foot inside. When I think of people supporting one another, this silly sign comes to mind. Though the martini is not the path to healing (nor is that unlikely olive), demonstrating compassion for ourselves and other people helps us move forward in life. 

Compassion, Empathy and Sympathy
Support, whether one-on-one or in a group setting, involves compassion. And we humans are wired for compassion via our vagus nerve (study).  So compassion is literally something we are born with. 

A vital tool in practicing compassion is empathy. (I want to mention here that sympathy, feeling sorry for someone but not necessarily relating to their experience, is not a tool of compassion. In fact it often disconnects, as in “I feel so sorry for you, poor thing. Glad it’s not me.”)

In Brené Brown’s book  Atlas of the Heart, she explains that there are two types of empathy: cognitive, which is an understanding of someone’s feelings, and affective, which is feeling someone else’s feelings. 

Empathy: What Works, What Doesn’t
I’m grateful for Brown’s work because it has helped me understand that my affective empathy was not serving me - or anyone else. I used to be the person that would feel a person’s feelings for them, whether a family member, friend, or even a movie character (yes, truly over-the-top empath here). This might have helped the person feel understood, but it left both them and me in the mire of emotion, neither one of us moving forward. It also meant that I spent many of my days feeling emotionally overwhelmed, exhausted, and hopeless. This was not an effective support strategy.

Now that I know better, I practice understanding what someone may be feeling, but I see that my own experience is separate from that person. I can therefore effectively show up for them in a supportive role.

Here’s the analogy that helps me:
Your friend falls into a hole. You come to the edge of the hole and look down, saying, “oh, that looks terrible, I’m so sorry for you,” and you keep walking. That is sympathy. 
Next time, you decide to jump into the hole with your friend, feeling for them. Now you are both in the hole, with no way out. You are experiencing affective empathy.
Now, let’s say you grab a sturdy rope ladder, attach it to the side of the hole and climb down. You sit with your friend, comforting and understanding, then when the friend is ready you support them in climbing out of the hole. Bingo! Cognitive empathy.

Learn More
For more about empathy and Theresa Wiseman’s Four Attributes of Empathy, check out this article.

For more on compassion and how it includes the desire to help, check out this article and video on the evolutionary roots of compassion. 

Originally published June 2022
<![CDATA[Light in the Dark]]>Fri, 07 Jun 2024 03:34:07 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/light-in-the-dark
Rainbow Over Yampa River Queen Park (now West Lincoln Park) - Oct 2023

​Fish Creek roars past me, its teeming flow slapping into boulders and ricocheting streams of liquid straight into the sky. Evening light, mellow and golden, settles amongst the rippling round green of aspen leaves. Sunbeams play in the creek’s shadows, illuminating sections of choppy water and the occasional tree stump racing by in the current. 

The chirps, chortles, tweets, caws, trilling and melodic sing-song emanate from the treetops and all around me. Happy birds. My eyes take in the green above, below, all around, and the many different shapes and sizes of petals in full bloom. I understand the phrase “drink it in,” I’ve been drinking along this path every evening. I drink it in partly because after those long frozen white months the overwhelming of my senses with the riot of things alive and growing and flowing I’m making up for lost time. But there is another reason I drink - the what if? What if I could no longer see or hear this beauty? So I try, each time, to imprint all of it, all of this sensory gorgeousness, in my body and brain. Just in case. 

When sweet doggie Haven and I are on our sniff outings, I wonder about her world, the darkness and silence since she can no longer see or hear. Does she long for the chatter and song of birds? Does she miss lying in the backyard sunshine and hearing the sounds of children playing down the street? The sound of her name? Would she like to see the faces of her people again? See the grass in which she buries her nose? See the water move past as she stands at the creek’s edge?

When I close my eyes, momentarily taking away my vision, the smell of rich damp earth, the sweet scent of flowers, and the tang of long green grass fills my nose. The creek-created breeze on my skin is cool, the sun is gentle, soaking deeply into my bones. Can Haven smell and feel these things too?

Smell is the strongest sense dogs have - up to 100,000 times the olfactory talent of humans. Their vision is dichromatic, so they see gray, yellow, and violet-blue - perhaps losing vision for her isn’t as much of a loss as I imagine it to be. Perhaps that smelling superpower unlocks beautiful things in Haven’s brain - similar to visual stimuli for me.

I hold hope that the smelling and feeling, and even tasting, help to make up for what is missing. Sometimes she stands perfectly still, nose pointed directly in front of her, neck slightly forward, like she’s smelling something on the wind. She’ll take a lady-like taste of creek water or morning dew. She’ll put her princess paws in the creek (well, when we could get there before the spring runoff) and sniff the life floating by. I watch her body shift as a breeze ruffles her dark coat - it seems she is feeling with her furry skin. 

Sometimes she sits down in the sun, allowing the light to warm her body. She has a little smile and when I give her a kiss she bends her left ear affectionately and gives me one or three in return. In her own way, she is drinking it all in too.
<![CDATA[The Sleeping Giant]]>Fri, 31 May 2024 03:14:16 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/the-sleeping-giant
Sleeping Giant - May 2020

​If you look to the Northwest of Steamboat Springs you will see the graceful slopes of Elk Mountain, better known as Sleeping Giant.

I was introduced to Sleeping Giant during my first season here in 1993. Back then the skis were long and straight, most visitors stayed off the mountain on powder days, and we were riding the Silver Bullet Gondola up to mid-mountain. On one of those rides a fellow passenger pointed out that mountain to the west, slightly north as Sleeping Giant. I did not see the Giant. Like the famous Old Woman/Young Woman Perception Illustration (also known as “My Wife and My Mother-in-Law”), my brain was not able to perceive it. Then, as the various features were pointed out, I did see the Giant, and have seen nothing else ever since. I see the Giant lying on his side, knees pulled partly towards his chest, one arm flung out to the east, head turned to the west, his lingering gaze toward the setting sun. 

Seeing Sleeping Giant never fails to bring me a sense of peace. On my many evening Covid walks, I would climb the CMC (Colorado Mountain College) campus hill and view Sleeping Giant. The sunset symphony in the sky behind the Giant was some nights soft and quiet pinks, oranges and golds, other nights it was a turbulent throw-down of charcoal and fuschia, and my emotions at the time were equally varied. But the Sleeping Giant was a stable presence - solid and dependable. Hopeful. 

There are several tales (Steamboat Pilot & Today article: Legend Has It…) about how the Giant came to be. One is credited to Charlotte Perry, who, along with Portia Mansfield, founded Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, the oldest continuously operating performing arts school in the United States. The story Perry told (read it here: Steamboat Chamber: The Legend of the Sleeping Giant) is about a giant who protected the Ute people who lived in the Yampa Valley. The giant could remain as long as he did no harm to any living creature. When an evil ogre came to the valley and the giant did away with him in order to protect the valley and its inhabitants, the giant was put to sleep and became the Sleeping Giant. 

Interestingly, rumor has it that the Ute people who were indigenous to the Yampa Valley, were worried as settlers moved into the area. The Utes gathered all the rattlesnakes from the valley and laid them around the base of Sleeping Giant to protect his sacred slumber.
<![CDATA[Milestones]]>Fri, 24 May 2024 03:27:59 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/milestones
Pink Evening, No Filter - Sept 2021

In the days of the Roman Empire, milestones were placed along roadways as markers of distance, and sometimes as signposts of sorts. In current times, the term milestone refers to life events and goals achieved.

My daughter Charlotte is graduating from high school this weekend, and milestones as both life events and accomplishments have been on my mind. Although completing high school is a somewhat unremarkable step in the scheme of things, it is truly the culmination of a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and brain-demand, and I think for a lot of people, getting through high school can feel deserving of a finish line t-shirt: I SURVIVED.

Celebrations such as graduation feel important because they are the life happenings by which we mark the passage of time. There is a depth of connection between family and friends unique to significant events like birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and funerals. Even with family in-fighting or friends who don’t always see eye-to-eye, celebrating these milestones together creates a bond of shared experience. 

With personal challenges or goals such as climbing a mountain, surviving cancer, finishing a race, recovering from a serious car accident, sometimes the milestone marking is an inside job, or shared with a more intimate few. When I ran through the finish chute at my first marathon in Los Angeles, I walked away from the finish line party vibe to find a quiet spot in the grass. I was on my own, and I was happy to relish my accomplishment in relative peace and solitude.

When I think of milestones as road markers, I imagine a smooth gray ribbon of asphalt dotted with uniformly sized and evenly spaced boulders, disappearing into the horizon. It’s a frighteningly dull view of life: birth, school, graduation, career, marriage, children, grandchildren, death. 

But real life is so much more than that. It is a wide dirt road morphing into a dusty footpath, then a slick superhighway into a barely-there double-track with puddles and grassy clumps. The way meanders - through meadow and forest, maybe through the county dump or a toxic waste site. The stones can be small, the size of a fist, or huge - a mammoth chunk of rock tossed to the side when the glacier rolled through. The path doesn’t always go straight or end up at the intended destination. It doubles back, or heads off down a hidden slot canyon. Years might be spent at certain stones, their size not indicative of the length of time spent there.  

Our milestones might be smooth, mottled with colorful lichen, rough, sharp, rounded. We may have hundreds, or twenty - that doesn’t necessarily matter. What does matter is that the milestones in our lives are meaningful, deeply so, because they are our milestones. Our achievements, our scars, our hard-won life stories. 

Charlotte is in the midst of her milestone-making. I am grateful to watch as she creates them. And though I have a few more miles on the path, I too am still in the midst of milestone-making. I am grateful for that too.
Rainy Day Lichen near Fish Creek - Sept 2021
<![CDATA[Getting Real About Imposter Syndrome]]>Fri, 17 May 2024 00:02:08 GMThttps://stillwaterswell-being.com/blog/getting-real-about-imposter-syndrome
Double Rainbow over More Barn, Steamboat Springs - May 2024

What is it?
Imposter Syndrome (noun): anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one's accomplishments to luck or other external forces. (Dictionary.com)

First coined in the 1970’s, the term imposter syndrome is used to describe feelings of self-doubt and being “found out” to be a fraud. Often associated with career, people can experience imposter syndrome in just about every area of life, including schooling, parenting and social situations.

From this VeryWellMind article, some common characteristics of imposter syndrome include:
  • An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
  • Attributing your success to external factors
  • Berating your performance
  • Fear that you won't live up to expectations
  • Overachieving 
  • Sabotaging your own success
  • Self-doubt
  • Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short

Who experiences it?
There used to be a general perception that only women experienced imposter syndrome, and only high-achieving women at that. But research has demonstrated that anyone can experience imposter syndrome, regardless of gender, age, and socioeconomic status. A greater percentage of millennials are thought to experience imposter syndrome due to the prevalence of technology/social media from the time they were born, as well as being raised by parents who swung from over-praising to over-criticizing. 

This BBC.com article discusses how although anyone can experience imposter syndrome, women, and especially women of color, are more likely to experience it. Why? The article mentions a number of factors and I’ve listed three here:
  1. Lack of role models (in 2019 in the US, only 26.1% of women held directorship positions and less than 5% of corporate board seats are held by women of color)
  2. Systemic oppression (experiencing that one is “less-than” makes it tough to buck the narrative) 
  3. Racist and sexist stereotypes. 

How to deal with it?
Small steps seem to be key in overcoming imposter syndrome. Here are a few, you can find more in the VeryWell Mind article:
  • Make a list of believable accomplishments that are close to home, like completing a project or caring for an ill family member. With that solid foundation, start to build upon that list to grow realistic confidence in achieving goals.
  • Talk with trusted people about the experience. This not only allows the fear and doubt to be expressed, but hearing other’s experiences helps with knowing you are not the only one going through this.
  • Try not to put yourself in a situation of comparison (social media, anyone?)

Source Articles
Originally published October 2022