We are WOW'ed by the words of Arctic Hive guest, Kate Siber, in her essay for Outside Magazine titled: "I Spent the Winter Solstice in One of the Darkest Places on Earth."
Kate attended Winter's Womb last year, a Winter Solstice and Yoga retreat that we annual host for women here at Arctic Hive. She put into words something so special... it makes us even more excited than we are to celebrate this turning of the season with a new group in December 2022. (Click here for retreat details)
This is our favorite quote from the article:
My best girlfriend got married on Sunday in Denver. Although I would have loved to be there in person, it’s a long journey to get anywhere from the arctic. With upcoming retreats, a trip to the lower 48 wasn’t in the cards. Sean and I were fortunate to join via Zoom.
During the ceremony, there was a reading from James Dillet Freeman that felt particularly poignant, as Sean and I had celebrated our own 11th wedding anniversary on Saturday.
“May you always need one another — not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a valley to be complete; the valley does not make the mountain less, but more; and the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it.”
I believe all partnerships we encounter in life (marriage or otherwise) are chances for us to learn about ourselves. Sean and I spent the better part of our first eight years of marriage pursuing our own passions, coming together for epic experiences and expeditions, crossing our careers through Riding On Insulin, but essentially charting our own paths through personal growth.
It wasn’t until we moved to the arctic that the shared vision materialized. We started growing together. Building Arctic Hive allowed us to — in the poetic prose of the reading — need one another, to help us know our own fullness.
It’s powerful to witness this wisdom in nature. In all directions from Arctic Hive, valleys are magically juxtaposed with mountain peaks. The peaks are covered in a few layers of snow, while the valleys still feature running creeks and rivers, surrounded by hard-packed frosty tundra.
One aspect doesn’t overtake the other… they operate harmoniously. Their unique juxtaposition together is what makes it so breathtaking. And to create that breathtaking vista, they need one another. They aren’t hemming and hawing over their greatness, or codependency, or who’s blocking the light from the other. They just are.
If only we could all so effortlessly embody nature’s steadfastness!
The last line of the reading was my favorite:
“May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.”
Because I believe life isn’t about finding love. We either recognize love, or we don’t — and when we do, we know it's true because of our own experience loving. If we’ve never had the experience of loving someone/something, how do we know how to recognize love when it’s coming at us?
The action of loving is what validates the love we have.
Sean and I first scouted the land that would become Arctic Hive back in April of 2019. We had backcountry skied/splitboarded our way in, found the property markers and surveyed the estimated boundaries from a paper map we carried with us.
After over an hour, he looked at me — huge grin on his face — and basically oozed the words: It’s perfect. We’re doing it.
I was shocked.
Sure, I'd agreed that I would love to live in a place like Norway, our favorite place in the world — and Alaska's Brooks Mountain Range definitely looks like that without the fjords. But we were standing in a grove of tiny Black Spruce trees, on a hillside covered in tundra (and thus, permafrost/ice below), with no road access, located about a mile from a village of 12 people, 7 hours north of the nearest grocery store or hospital.
Had he gone mad?
I couldn’t see the vision, BUT — of course there was a but — I’d been married to Sean long enough that I knew one thing for sure: When he decides on a direction for life, it’s gonna be good.
It’s not that I’m not involved in our choices… of course I am. I’m fiercely independent and (to a fault) refuse to be told what to do.
I just know myself… I lack the initial spark of wild adventure that runs through Sean’s veins. He lights my fire, and that’s why I love him.
Here are a few examples:
1. When Sean had the idea that we should try living off-grid after staying at (and learning to love) a small remote cabin in the Yukon Territory, it was less than a year later that we uprooted our life, moved north to Montana, downsized considerably and found a property off the road system that offered incredible views from the perfect off-grid build site.
2. When he decided our first off grid home would be a yurt after our particularly inspiring ski expedition to Kyrgyzstan that same year, we magically found one for sale just 15 miles away.
3. When the Discovery Channel approached us to build a small off-grid cabin on that same property, Sean decided that despite our minimal construction skills, we were capable of teaching ourselves and calling on friends when needed. We amassed most of the carpentry and general contracting skills we’d need to build Arctic Hive years later.
4. When he decided it was time to move north again — to Alaska — we found the most idyllic home in less than three days: an off-grid, off-the-road-system log cabin on the Kenai Peninsula, exactly in our price range. The owners (who were in their 80s) sat us down around their kitchen table and showed us the scrapbook of how they hand-built it in the winter, in their mid-60s.
Their story inspires us often, still today.
5. So there we were, in 2019, on the precipice of a new adventure in the Alaskan arctic… and Sean had “seen the light” again.
Who was I to say no?
(I mean: Only 7 more hours north and we’re at the Arctic Ocean… so I was pretty confident this was the last move north!)
The rest was history — or at least, a story for another time.
Everything came full circle for me during the first retreat we ever held in March of 2021. I was seated at the front of the Igloo on my yoga mat, hands layered over my heart. I looked out with a deep gratitude at the six amazing people in my first yoga class here on site.
Tears pricked in my eyes, and it all sunk in.
So turns out I don’t have a fear of heights… but I do have a deep-seated fear of falling. After building so many structures with Sean, it's mind boggling that I’ve never been the one actually ON the roof installing the sheathing. Somehow I've never needed to get up there because I'm usually ripping plywood.
But you know that feeling when you KNOW you need to do something, and… your brain says, “Noooo don’t make me do this!”
But your heart says, “You’ve GOT this. It’s time.”
This was my day.
Sean got the first row started, and then it was my turn. I donned the harness, and climbed the ladder, peering over the edge to see what I was getting into.
As I tentatively placed my feet on the roof for the first time, I was surprised to feel waves of panic moving through me. Despite the fact I was roped up safely, I couldn't shake the terror. I immediately got onto my belly and slithered to the edge where we were installing the outside beam — my stress response reached a fevered pitch.
As tears pricked in my eyes, I told Sean I needed a minute.
He looked at me, in shock (with no idea about my panic until this moment) and asked, “Are you ok?”
Then I had a good pause, and a good cry, right there on the roof. Not because I couldn’t do it — because I DID end up doing it, for 8 hours! To me, crying either means I’m exhausted (which in this moment, I was not) or it means I’m releasing something.
On this day, I released whatever irrational fear my brain was clinging to all these years… and I slowly eased myself into the challenge of learning a new skill. I was safely tethered to the front wall the whole time, with Sean coaching me from below and feeding me up the tools and supplies I needed. I’m so grateful for his patience and guidance.
I gained comfort leaning over the edge, screwing in the blocking, and then lifting piece after piece through the rafters, locking them into place, and nail-gunning each row to each beam. I rolled out each row of underlayment and secured them in place… 30 minutes before the rain came, of course.
(and although it seems like we're building a house with no windows below, that's not true. It's just not time to cut them out yet — we have a ton!)
Cheers to learning new things, and DOING THEM! I'm not rushing to get back on the roof to install the metal, but when the time comes, I'll be ready :-)
Hope this email finds you happy and healthy, wherever you are.
OH! And I need to tell you: If you've been eyeing SHEWild Yoga Teacher Training, we launched a brand new set of dates in APRIL 2023! It's one of the most amazing times of year to visit the Arctic, and the retreat portion is a little shorter (7 days instead of 12)... we know it's tough to get away from home for two weeks, so we're hoping this new model works in your schedule! Here are the details. Hit me up with any questions...
Arctic Hive Co-Owner/Founder
I’m acutely aware that we’ve normalized super weird things here in the Alaskan bush that are anything-but-normal on the outside.
Take today, for example: Sean and I debated the task of ripping a few sheets of plywood for the foundation of our house we’re building. We could use the circular saw, and get a sort-of-straight cut + hair full of sawdust (great for volume btw ).
… or, we could hand haul our new table saw nearly a mile to our build site. To hand-carry could take hours… but the plywood ripping would be so. easy.
Table saw won… and our sweet sled dog Willow had just the right grin on her face — we knew she’d be up for an adventure to help.
Mollie Creek is flowing steadily through the flat part of our property. We figured we’d drag the saw in a jet sled to where the creek meets the trail, and have Willow help pull the sled like a boat on the water.
Ridiculous moment we didn’t anticipate/RMDA #1: There is a generous hole in the corner of our sled, which doesn’t make any difference in the winter, but it matters now! So the ship started her journey by taking on water. (Willow didn’t care.)
RMDA #2: There are some DEEP holes! Because I had to follow (sometimes running ) behind Willow to keep the saw from tipping, I also had to dodge my way through the creek over tussocks.
This is where you find me in the photo above… like the Titanic of the Arctic, I went down with the ship, water to my knees and into my boots.
And ladies who wear Xtratuf boots will get this: I have large calves that make a super tight seal (IYKYK) … the water got all the way down to my socks! (No surprise: Willow didn’t care one bit.)
Let’s enjoy a close up of how I really felt…
Sean, helping Willow pull on the uphill:
RMDA #3: We were tired and unfocused when we finally reached the build site, so what should have taken us 30 minutes or less to assemble became the assembly job of a lifetime because of fatigue, horrible directions, and TINY drawings.
By the time we actually ripped the plywood (which took all of 5 glorious minutes!), we were spent. Willow, of course, was ready for the next big adventure.
Yet again, life here in the arctic reminds me that it’s always better to take life less seriously, that laughter always feels better than frustration, and teamwork does indeed make the dream work.
Arctic Hive Co-Owner/Founder
Summer building season in the Arctic is almost here! A few weeks ago, Sean and I were busy with prep. Here’s the process, step by step:
Decide what to do this summer, make a materials list, order and schedule the delivery in time before breakup happens (we NAILED the timing this year). Written plainly, it seems so simple. But this step takes HOURS upon hours. I draw out all our build plans on an iPad with an Apple Pencil, which is a super duper upgrade from our first cabins that Sean drew on paper plates.
I've been asked if I learned somewhere where to draw plans for the stuff we build, and I guess my answer is yes / and no. Yes, because I learned from what Sean learned that first year... and we've bought different plans for inspiration in the past for previous projects.
But the actual "how to" of the drawing part? No. All self-taught. And I didn't even take art class in high school!
Prepare a “nest” for the materials to live on until it’s dry enough to build. This involved Sean driving over this little piece of our property over and over and over and - you get the idea. We stomped it with snowshoes, and then drove over it again. All we can do is hope for the best that we made a "flat" spot so the material piles don't fall over. And if you've ever seen Arctic Hive before, you know that a "flat spot" is hard to come by! Small price to pay, I guess, for the epic views that you get on a hillside!
Meet delivery truck and offload 7,000 lbs of materials to the side of our parking area in the village. We are a remote retreat center and commute a mile from Arctic Hive to the village, so every single item needs to be brought up piece by piece. Luckily, we're smart now... and snowmachine our materials in months before build season. But our first year? We started our build in the summer, and we hadn't snowmachined in our materials. Needless to say, the Igloo and 3 original cabins were hand hauled without a machine piece by piece, from the bottom of our hill. Whew!
We haul things up behind the snowmachine on this red Siglin freight sled, which rides super easily over all sorts of terrain. Each trip is only as good as our rachet strap job. If we make it all the way to Arctic Hive without things slipping off, we've done it right!
Fun fact: You might notice that we don't call it a snowmobile — it's primarily because they're used here in Alaska more often for utility reasons... we aren't tearing it up on our sleds every day for recreation... we use them as machines - for work. Thus, snowMACHINE. If you show up and call it a snowmobile, any Alaskan will know you're from the lower 48. It took me many months to break my own midwest habit of saying snowmobile. And another fun fact - they are often called sno-go in rural Alaska and the arctic.
Snowmachine in one load at a time. I think this took us 15-20 loads. The process went surprisingly well this time, and we often worked late into the night when the trail was hard packed, versus in the heat of the day when the snow was getting more slushy. Lots of late nights, and balancing this with feeding and tending to our retreat guests who were with us through the month of April.
It was ONLY our final load, late one night, where a bunch of materials finally slipped off our sled because the rachet strap job got sloppy. The LAST LOAD! Just another reminder that the minute you let your guard down, you have to clean up your own mess.
Offload and stack the materials in an orderly way on top of the snow, elevated by treated beams to preserve the wood… and try as best we can to make a flat surface so that as the snow melts, the piles don’t completely topple over. Then we tarp it all. We’ve only had to restack a few times due to snow melting under the stack.
We wait. We watch the snow melt and the creeks and rivers flow. We dream up timelines and more detailed plans. We acquire other materials and try to foresee the future in this new world of difficult access to certain things. For example: Wood stoves and oil drip stoves aren’t something we can always get when we want them. We need to be ahead of the game and order these things ahead of time so we can time the delivery with when we’ll need it. We learned this the hard way with The 8x10 guide cabin we built last fall… it took over 6 months from the time we ordered the little stove to when it was installed. Thank you COVID, inflation, shipping delays, etc. It all turned out in the end, but we always try to learn from our past “snafus” to prevent headaches in the future!
The light has returned! Our solar panels are happy as can be, soaking up the power that makes Arctic Hive buzz. Late March/April in the arctic means it doesn't get dark till past 10pm, as we gain roughly 12 minutes of daylight each day. The wood peckers are knocking on the cedar shakes pre-6 am, and when we're not mushing, the dogs can be found lounging on the snow in front of their boxes, basking in the sun. This is the best time to get all that sun AND the Northern Lights dancing overhead at night.
And then... ahhhh, that feeling when you see snow falling again after a few weeks of spring-like weather. (Did you just cringe?!) While we're getting stoked up here because we love snow and winter, I know some of you look outside in horror!
“No no no no NOOOOO!” How dare Mother Nature tease us?!
Having lived in cold climates my whole life, these days always make me laugh. The sorrow that bleeds through social media is hilarious. You’d think everyone would learn to expect this… but once we’ve had a taste of spring, it’s hard to acknowledge where we just came from, isn’t it?
So as I sat a few days ago, watching big, white flakes fall on our land covered in snow that's been compressing in the sunshine for the past few weeks here in Alaska, I wanted to share with you what days like this mean to me. (And how I cope!)
I believe the seasons are a mirror for us. They’re the blueprints that guide the construction of our life, year after year. When spring has sprung, we do all the things to clean house and soak up that sunshine we’ve been missing. Seemingly overnight, the big box stores shift their snow shovel display to gardening tools. What was once an aisle of salt, sand and boot trays is now patio pillows, outdoor umbrellas and lawn ornaments. The ads you get scrolling on social reflect this mood, too.
Without even realizing it, the world around us seems to sync up with our heart — we feel validated and refreshed. There is a light at the end of this long, dark winter tunnel!
But alas… winter rears its head again and we get pulled back into our season of rest and darkness. Winter, by nature, is a time of reflection and snuggling up with our intentions. We can choose to carve out the time and space to examine what needs tending, and nourish that darker side of ourselves.
By the time spring arrives, we're bursting at the seams to emerge anew, like a budding flower from the earth. Nature is our mirror, every step of the way.
So on days like today, the “unwelcome” snowflakes give me pause to reflect on all the work I’ve done over the winter months. I don’t resist their presence; rather I try to acknowledge it. Honor it. Sometimes I go back and read my journal from the past few months; I never cease to amaze myself with how far my mindset has come, season to season.
By properly honoring my winter incubation, I remember...
... even if it seems I’ve been treading water, there’s been an invisible tide drifting me with purpose in this ocean of opportunity.
When I was young — middle school I think, I fell off a horse and got the wind knocked out of me. I *think* subconsciously that was the day I decided that I “disliked animals.” (My poor ego was crushed! 🥴)
I can’t think of any other logical moment I would ever decide such a thing… and it’s so funny to me imagining how many dogs I refused to pet for so many years on the premise that “I’m not an animal person.” I didn't grow up with pets, other than a cat, who died when I was 5. So, I guess I just never thought life needed to be any different.
When I met Sean when I was 23, I’d lived some 10+ years believing this about myself. Then when I met his two sweet dogs back then, Foxy and Daisy you might be able to guess how it went...
My belief about myself shattered in an instant.
That’s the cool thing about beliefs. They can change. In an instant.
It didn’t take long for me to recognize the love Sean shared with these two furry gals… and how I wanted to feel love like that, too. I allowed myself to open my heart to the animal kingdom, change my belief about myself, and the rest is history.
(Me, pictured below with Tussock, left, and Darla)
Today, we have eight dogs (yes, 8!), plus four who've crossed over the rainbow bridge... and I've never regretted any decision to welcome another to our family. Despite 10 years living with the thought: Animals aren't my thing, I let it go — and it's been over 12 years of owning the fact that I'm a proud dog mom.
If only we could all let go of long-standing beliefs about ourselves so easily...
... or can we?
(Me, pictured below with Powder)
Meditation and yoga have been a game changer in molding my mind into something I control — rather than thoughts that control ME.
My practice hasn't necessarily made my mind "quiet." In fact, most days, my mind is anything but quiet!
Meditation has helped me notice those quiet, longstanding beliefs running on autopilot in my head that I'd had about myself. They were so softly running in my subconscious, I didn't even realize they were there!
Through consistent practice and a willingness to unearth a few surprises, I've been able to reduce my stress, anxiety, and I've changed the way I show up in the world and the beliefs I have about myself, completely... in ways that go far beyond my relationship to animals.
As a yoga and meditation teacher, people ask me a lot: Does your husband do yoga, too? Or: Does your husband meditate? And one of the coolest realizations Sean and I have had together is that not everyone meditates the same way!
One day, Sean returned from a long mush with the dogs, and told me, "Hey. So, I *think* I just meditated."
I chuckled, and asked him why he thought that. Sean described the peace and quiet he finds at the helm of the sled — like his mind is still churning, but all the thoughts fade to the background as he dives into the zen zone of dog mushing. Just him, the snow, and the quiet pitter patter of dog paws running along the snow.
I smiled. Sounds like meditation to me!
Techniques like meditation and yoga come to us at exactly the right moment, and no one's practice does (or needs!) to look the same as another's.
Mine happens on a cushion with my eyes closed. Sean's happens on the dogsled with eyes wide open. Both are valid. Both yield similar results. And we are forever changed and happier because of it!
(Sean pictured below with Darla, me pictured below with Powder)
If you're interested in practicing a little yoga + breathwork with me, I've included a recording of a Full Moon class I taught Monday night below. Enjoy!
Speaking of yoga... we've been hard at work planning on our calendar for the rest of the year. We still have few spots open for SheWild Winter Session coming up in March/April, and we JUST released dates for our Fall Session in August/September. Details can be found here.
In the coming week or so, we're hoping to drop dates for our Fall 2022 Yoga + Adventure retreats, and Winter's Womb Winter Solstice retreat in December... so stay tuned!
Before I experienced my first Arctic winter a few years back, Sean was the first to tell me: You’re going to want to hibernate.
LIKE A BEAR?! I chuckled.
Exactly. He replied, flatly.
And dang: He wasn’t joking. I remember at first, I resisted the urge to flow with winter’s slow pace. I’d want to put the "pedal to the metal" as soon as I woke up each day — work calls, computer sessions, outdoor projects, you name it. I assumed the same pace I maintained all summer and fall would translate to winter.
And no surprise here: I was wrong!
Instead, I found myself craving more quiet time in the morning. Time to see the snow falling, or the northern lights still waving in the sky. Time to savor my coffee, journal, and meditate a little longer than usual. And — I'll admit — some days, I just wanted to sleep in a little longer!
During my first few weeks of that winter, I felt like my hair was always on fire — from the moment I woke up to the moment my head hit the pillow. I was charging at a fast pace that wasn't sustainable — and yet, I knew I was the only one who could give myself permission to slow down.
Eventually, I had to shift. And isn't it funny how we always say to ourselves, "Why didn't I do this sooner?!"
Things slow down in the wintertime — it’s a fact of nature. And in the Arctic? Things reallllllly slow down without the sun cresting the horizon for over a month. Just like the bears, we can give ourselves permission to hibernate in our own way. We warm up with hot tea, we up our vitamin D supplements, dine on root vegetable soups, and wear our slippers by the fire every night. Even our sled dogs, who are buzzing by 7am in the summertime, can be quiet and still until 10am in the winter — and sometimes, it just feels good to sleep in!
The cycles and rhythms of Earth and the Moon went from being a nuisance that messed with my schedule to my muse. When I felt like I’d lost my groove, I could just step outside and look up! I learned a simple truth that I keep learning over and over again:
Mother Nature is my rhythm.
So as I approach Winter Solstice and the Full Moon in the coming week, I’ll be celebrating the seasonal transition slowly, and steadily with our group of guests coming for Winter’s Womb. It will be an interesting cosmic combination! Solstice means “sun stands still,” and in those dark, tender moments of December 21st, we will be feeling the contrasting vibrancy of Full Moon energy from a few days prior. There will be yoga, meditation, ritual, good food, and memory making with new friends.
And even if you’re not here at Arctic Hive, there are tons of simple ways you can honor this season — whoever you are, whatever you believe in. We all have universal access to Mother Nature, and when we sync up with her rhythms, our whole perspective shifts and life falls into place a little easier most days.
Click here to see my top three tips for honoring this Winter Solstice + Full Moon combination!
Sending love to you, wherever you are!
As I approach Winter Solstice and the Full Moon in the coming week, I’ll be celebrating the seasonal transition slowly, and steadily with our group of guests coming for Winter’s Womb. It will be an interesting cosmic combination! Solstice means “sun stands still,” and in those dark, tender moments of December 21st, we will be feeling the contrasting vibrancy of Full Moon energy from a few days prior. There will be yoga, meditation, ritual, good food, and memory making with new friends.
And even if you’re not here at Arctic Hive, there are tons of simple ways you can honor this season — whoever you are, whatever you believe in. We all have universal access to Mother Nature, and when we sync up with her rhythms, our whole perspective shifts and life falls into place a little easier most days. Click here to get my top three tips for honoring the solstice.
Here are three simple steps you can take to celebrate the Full Moon + Winter Solstice:
Make an appointment with yourself to step outside after dark and find the full moon.
My calendar tells me it’s at 4:36am Alaska Time on Sunday the 19th, but anytime on Saturday/Sunday/Monday next week is fine! If you’ve got clear enough weather, bundle up, be outside and notice everything you can. Sometimes appreciation doesn’t come naturally — it didn’t to me in the beginning. I remember looking at the moon thinking, Ok… well, it’s there. This is neat. How am I supposed to feel? But rather than “fake” appreciation, just focus on noticing things you don’t normally see. The craters and dark spots on the moon. How the moonlight reflects on trees or buildings nearby. Can you see the stars? If so, how many? If you’ve got kids, or a partner, or a friend or family member, bring them with you! It doesn’t necessarily need to set off fireworks of gratitude in your heart and you don’t need an elaborate ceremony for every Full Moon. Simply noticing is a powerful first step to syncing up with the Full Moon!
Burn a layer you're willing to shed
With the Solstice — technically December 21st or 22nd annually, we are at a turning point for the Sun. Sun stands still, making His transition from less light, to more light every day. The Sun, in Vedic Astrology, represents the true self — the soul. Who we are at the core of our being. And as such, I like to see the Solstice as a chance to start peeling back a new layer that’s been hiding part of me. Ask yourself: How can I be more myself this year? What can I let go of — what layer can I shed — so that a brighter version of myself shines out? Write down three things you’re prepared to release, and burn them in a fireplace or somewhere else safe. Fire is also the element of the Sun, and it burns up what no longer serves us. This simple ritual is just that: Simple. It packs a punch though: The act of burning up things we’re ready to release makes a little imprint on our minds that we are officially ready to let go. It may not happen overnight, but it becomes the first step to a new pathway forward.
How do you want to feel?
Finally, bring together the energy of the Full Moon AND the Solstice by writing out your intentions for the new year. As the Sun shows up more and more every day, how will you show up more and more for yourself in 2022? Rather than a super broad list of things you want, or big sweeping changes you want to make, I recommend focusing on three words for how you want to FEEL in 2022. That way, whatever “goals” you achieve (or don’t achieve), as long as you feel the way you want to feel, you’re on track. For a longer method to deciding your three “Core Desired Feelings,” check out Danielle Laporte’s book “The Desire Map” — it’s one of my favorites.
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