As I reflect on the nine incredible and unique retreats we hosted this winter at Arctic Hive, I've decided that a group’s last day here feels exactly like the last day of summer camp.
My dad always told me when I first boarded the bus to camp at age 6, I was crying because I was scared, and didn’t want to leave home. A week later when the bus returned, I was crying again because I wanted to go back to camp!
That bittersweet feeling of completion was confusing — and heart breaking — and exciting, all at once. On that last day, I looked forward to seeing my family and friends and to share all the new skills I’d learned.
But on the flip-side, I was leaving Utopia.
(Below: Students enjoying the Yoga Hive during this spring's SHEWild Yoga Teacher Training)
I was leaving a group of friends who’d temporarily become my family. Our tight-knit group had felt so seen and heard. We’d bonded over a deep love of the outdoors and through an adventure in the backcountry. Of course, we all swore we’d keep in touch by writing letters, but neither handwritten letters nor modern-day texting/emailing can bring back the feeling.
Truthfully, nothing brings back the feeling of a profound shared experience.
So, this begs the question: If we’re destined to not re-create (or even fully remember) that magical Utopia, then how do we know the experience was worth it?
The answer became clear once I started facilitating those journeys. I saw it in the eyes of my campers as they finished their first backpacking trip. I see it in the confident smiles of the women who complete yoga teacher training. I see it in the glow surrounding anyone leaving a retreat here at Arctic Hive.
(Below: Part of the 11-member crew from Rove Co. that enjoyed three blissful days of XC skiing and snow science education in the Brooks Range!)
The experience is worth it because we are changed.
Nature is defined by change — if you look outside, change is all there is. But as humans, we possess a unique ability to unconsciously stay the same. We get stuck in a rut of our life like a hamster stuck on its wheel.
Then one day, for whatever soul-stirring reason, we wake up and decide to hop on our own metaphorical bus to summer camp. As we stare out the window of the bus and wipe away our tears, we acknowledge the fear in our belly and we muster all the courage we have for the task ahead.
The change that occurs on a journey of shared experience and self-discovery is profound because we’re aware that it’s happening. We’ve consciously signed ourselves up for an experience outside our comfort zone. Assuming we’re open to learning and growing, our minds take what we learn and apply that wisdom to other parts of our life.
In other words, learning through adventure helps us grow.
(Below: Guests snowshoe hiking during REWild this March)
Although we may never feel the exact feeling of Utopia after we leave it, we know it was worth it because our mindset has changed. And here’s the magical part: the world around us changes simply because the lens we’re viewing it through has changed.
Eventually, our world “at home”(regardless of the daily struggles) starts to feel more and more like a personalized, sustainable version of Utopia. If you change your mind, you change your life.
To me, that’s not only worth it… it’s priceless.
Sending you lots of love and adventure, wherever you are! 💕
“Which way should we hike today?” I ask Sean, as three of our sled dogs run circles of excitement around us. The rest of the dog yard howls in envy as Sean leads our small crew out of sight down a trail from our home.
“Let’s go this way and let the summer trail heal a little more before we walk it again.”
This simple suggestion from Sean about allowing the earth to heal — one that I’ve heard him make a million times before and during “breakup season” — struck a new cord.
I love this idea that Mother Nature, in all her muddy goodness this time of year, is healing in transition. After being covered with a heavy, insulated blanket of snow since early October, she’s finally exposed to the sun. She’s melting, shedding water, churning earth, and birthing new life around every corner.
I couldn’t help but apply the metaphor to my own life, and how “insulated” I’ve been since the new year — and likewise, how tender I’ve been feeling since the snow melted and the rivers are running.
In January, I closed the “Yoga Studio Owner” chapter of my life. After seven years of owning multiple Yoga Hive studios in the lower 48, it was the end of an era. The transition allowed me to pour my energy into the one "yoga hive" that's just a few steps out my front door in the arctic.
Likewise, since January I’ve been immersed in hosting retreat groups and running yoga trainings… until now. I’ve been so busy since the shift took place in January, I haven’t had time to pause.
As I watch the water transforming the landscape all around us, I’m taking her cue and allowing this transition to sink in.
As the sun shines in the sky longer and longer each day, I can feel my soul shining in a new way, too.
(We took the below photo at 11pm on May 14th... the midnight sun is on her way!)
As our vegetable and herb seed starts begin sprouting toward that sun, I am proudly seeing my own sprouts from seeds I planted long ago, as we launch new retreats and yoga trainings for the coming year.
As I watch our new pup, Sansa (yes, our 12th!) go through her own transition as she learns to be a part our pack, I'm filled with joy as we get to know her quirks and personality.
There will be more surprises to come as our schedule for 2024 falls into place — just as I know Mother Nature has surprises and lessons in store for us with every passing day. I am eternally grateful for her wisdom as I adjust to this new phase of life.
Hope this email finds you well — and with an open heart to this season of change 💕
We’re on the cusp of breakup season in the arctic — which (sadly) means we’re done dog mushing here in Wiseman. Temps are still getting below freezing for a short period of the “night”, which means the snow is melting fast during our incredibly long days — and we're still gaining 12 minutes more daylight per day! The creeks and rivers are building up overflow as they prepare to break up, and… we’ve still got a pack of dogs that need to run!
Daily hikes are a must — and while the dogs are busy sniffing every single tree and tussock that has emerged from its winter blanket, hiking in the snow for Sean and I goes like this:
Left foot, tentative step.
Right foot tentative step.
Left foot confident step — PUNCH THROUGH SNOW TO YOUR KNEE.
Right foot, tentative step.
Left foot — PUNCH THROUGH TO YOUR KNEE.
Right — PUNCH THROUGH.
Left foot— PUNCH THROUGH.
*Pause. Reflect in defeat.
Convince hip flexors to keep going.
Wonder if you should have worn snowshoes.*
Right foot, tentative step.
Left foot, tentative step.
Right foot, confident step. *Feeling lucky*
Left foot ste— PUNCH THROUGH.
You get the idea.
We get emails from prospective guests asking if our retreats offer outdoor activities if it’s too cold/dark/buggy/rainy/muddy, etc. Our answer is always the same. We get outside no matter the conditions because, quite simply: We live here to be outside as often as possible!
Breakup season might not be our *favorite* time to hike, but like all times of year, it has its special moments.
A few things I love about this time of year: It’s not so hot that you sweat easily, and it’s not too cold so we can easily wear rubber boots to tromp through wet terrain. Sunny days are gorgeous and long, and the mountains are still covered in snow — my favorite way to view them!
The melting snowpack is teeming with life, like stone flies, spiders, and moths, while our little friends-who-shall-not-be-named (mosquitos!) haven’t hatched yet, thank goodness.
Oh, and the birds are back! They migrating to the arctic from all 7 continents. If you just step outside and listen, it’s crazy to hear so much beautiful “noise," after a long, quiet winter. Their music is a welcome addition to the changing landscape.
The alpenglow hasn't been too shabby either:
I’ll admit, I have occasional of moments of frustration when we’re out and about… slipping and falling into a puddle of overflow. Stepping in six-month-old dog poo that’s been resurrected and disguised as tundra. Forgetting my sunscreen and sunglasses … and hat — and feeling the burn (literally) of my unpreparedness.
But each time I’m caught off guard as I adjust to the changing season, I try to lean into the lessons I’m learning through nature’s symbols. The overflow ice and puddles turn into streams and creeks that take away our snowmachine access, reminding me of how powerful I am on my own two feet.
We hike in and out of our property all summer long without any sort of vehicle/machine, till the snow is stable enough in October/November to snowmachine again. I become hyper-conscious of what I’m carrying and what supplies are needed when I’ve got to carry it all on my back!
(Below, I'm standing with all the siding for our new house — thankfully we were able to snowmachine all this up our hillside before the snow melts. This would NOT be fun to carry on my back!)
As the snow melts, we get to see all the things we left/lost back in September before the snow arrived… many of which (like forgotten dog poo) need tending because they don’t stay hidden forever. This is a powerful metaphor for cleaning up all the mental baggage that’s accumulated over the winter, too. To-do lists are made, tasks are checked off and chores are completed.
We also occasionally find buried treasure like this old Caribou antler shed that was hidden in the river bank:
I think any outdoor enthusiast can identify with the changing of the seasons and the changing of routines. What we’d typically bring for a winter hike is different than a summer hike — and the first few adventures of any season always feel like a junk show — especially sun-related adjustments because we’ve gone so long without even *thinking* about the sun let alone squint from it! Each time we get outside though, we get smarter, we refine our packing list, remember the bear spray, and we feel more at ease.
This is the school of Mother Nature. Some might even call it the Church of Mother Nature. For us? It’s Home. Mother Nature is our guru, and we’re learning new lessons from Her every day.
As I’ve been reflecting on the past few months of our winter busy season and the eight — yes EIGHT! — groups we hosted since late February, I’ve learned that I need more writing in my life. I realize how much I’ve missed writing updates about life in the arctic. Cheers to showing up in your inbox more often — and thank you for opening up and reading my words, and sharing our love for this incredible place in the Brooks Range.
I hope you, too, consider what might have been missing in your life this winter, and choose to fill your cup with what’s needed for the warmer weather ahead.
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