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I became a “naturalized Montanan” in August 1994, which this year marks a huge 20-year personal milestone, especially for family and friends who have known me since more nomadic, earlier times.

I was first attracted to Montana via a graduate school summer internship teaching English to international students in an outdoor setting not far from Yellowstone. The students all went home and I eventually found a way to stay, first as an international and outdoor educator, then later as a naturalist guide and Yellowstone National Park ranger. I’ve taught at both Montana State University and The University of Montana, so I am a Bobcat and a Grizz fan.

What drew and kept me in Montana, though, were the wild landscapes, the large numbers of wildlife species that still call Montana and the Northern Rockies home, my affinity for cold, snowy winters, followed by dry, warm summers with lots of time spent on the water.

I’ve always loved learning about nature and sharing that with others, and putting down roots in Montana has slowly, surely and serendipitously led to the nature connection mentoring, guiding, speaking and photography work that I am called to do. Thankfully, over the past 20 years, technology has also allowed me to expand how I support and serve others in creating a deeper connection with nature, no matter where their feet are!

When I started coming out as a gay man about ten years ago, I briefly envisioned leaving this path for larger cities such as Portland, Seattle or Denver, but realized how vital nature connection was, not only to my own coming out process, but to other life priorities. Fortunately, I met another outdoor lover, Erik, about six years ago, and together we’ve made living in Montana work for us. We still scheme, dream and travel to experience what larger urban areas have to offer, but at the end of the day, Big Sky Country is home.

No matter where our individual homes may be, the winter solstice and major winter holidays are very much alive and nearly upon us. In contrast, many people would gladly settle instead for long winter naps, tuning out commercials, and avoiding shopping and travel related traffic and crowds in the waning last few weeks of 2014.

Add a heaping layer of long nights and cold, short days to the mix, and it’s easy to forget about our own self-care and nurturing at this time of year.

We can even make excuses to not get outside at all, but this is when it’s most crucial to break pattern, move through a little resistance, and get outside to connect with nature and with yourself.

As George Bernard Shaw once said, “the poetry of the earth is never dead”, and there’s plenty of evidence supporting that when we take action and create time in nature to experience that for ourselves.

Here’s to celebrating the return of longer days with the winter solstice on Sunday December 21.

Here’s also to creating consistent, healthy habits: to getting outside, bundling up, enjoying the quiet of the season, and choosing to unplug from human activity at large to recharge.

May the new year that approaches bring all of us wonderful health, prosperity, and peace, and a healthier, deeper and more consistent connection with nature, too!

P.S.

We will be away from the technological world starting Thursday December 18 through Thursday January 8. If you’d like to have a Nature Discovery Call in January 2015, I will be back in touch with you to schedule a time together shortly after January 8.

Click here to reserve your free, 30-minute no-obligation Nature Discovery Call:

http://yourlifenature.com/yln-contact.php

Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other major winter holidays will all be here before you know it as the days and nights of late autumn fly by.

Multiply your gratitude during this season of deepening connection with others, and with the natural world that sustains us all, for a very special offer-now through Sunday November 30:

When you buy two 8″ by 12″ hand-signed photographic prints using Paypal at http://www.yourlifenature.com you receive one bonus same-sized hand-signed print for free!

The same deal goes for when you buy two 11″ by 17″ hand-signed photographic prints using Paypal at http://www.yourlifenature.com When you do so, you receive one bonus same-sized hand-signed print free.

Just email me at harehobie at gmail dot com after completing your Paypal order and let me know which free print(s) you have selected. You can expect prints to be shipped early in the week of December 8.

You can buy up to four same-sized prints and thus receive up to two same-sized prints for free, and there are over 100 gorgeous and inspiring landscape and nature images to choose from at YourLifeNature.

Here’s hoping you’ll not only purchase some prints as gifts to other nature lovers in your life, but that you’ll select a few to brighten up your work and home spaces as well!

Take a few moments to think about a particular tree close to where you live or work that really stands out for you.

What in particular attracts you to this tree? Are you drawn to Its height, its age, its resilience, its beauty? Are you attracted by Its tranquility, its power, its ability to put down roots and thrive right where it is?

Imagine sitting leisurely beside or beneath the tree that calls to you, The ground is dry and supports you very comfortably, and an ever so slight, cool breeze is blowing. Your cell phone’s turned off, your to-do list is put away. You don’t have to be anywhere anytime soon. Your senses are heightened, your sense of time is unhurried and has slowed way, way down.

Tap into all of your senses and recall how it looks, smells, feels, and sounds What else do you sense or intuit from spending time with your tree?
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Make a point of consistently visiting and noticing your tree at different times of the day and week, and during different seasons. Take time to imagine what’s happening beneath or inside the tree-it may be approaching winter and things appear rather dormant now, but there’s always something going on that may not be immediately visible or noticeable…

Can you create “tree time” for yourself every day, even when you cannot be outside?

Interacting with and observing trees and other aspects of nature can provide a powerful, personalized road map to life. It can show us how to live in harmony, balance and flow with natural elements such as metal, water, fire, wood and earth- no matter where our feet are.

Incorporating these elements into physical spaces enhances our environment and lives. It’s not only aesthetically pleasing and peaceful-it also provides a solid foundation for greater personal effectiveness, optimum order and better flow in all we do and all we are.

Creating a workspace with a balance of these five elements helps you create a container, structure and order that supports your work.

But are you incorporating other elements, such as water, into other life areas to create balance?

Are you taking time and space for fluidity and ease, rest and play in your life?

What Do You Need To Thrive?

Nature connection is a vital self-care tool, and nature connection can help energize your day!.

People worldwide seek balance and harmony between work, home and family. Many are burnt out and overextended from the time and energy invested in being caregivers to others, going above and beyond in their businesses and families. Their own self-care keeps falling off the to do list, or it never made it on to the list in the first place.

As a special offer to our community here at Your Life Nature, I invite you to learn how to create a nature connection sit spot, to help make you and your self-care a consistent life priority.

In my “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!” audio course you’ll learn how to create a consistent place and space to connect with nature to enhance and empower your life in myriad ways.

Through this 35-minute recording, you will use all of your senses, and connect more deeply with the healing and transformational powers of water in particular.

My intention is that this recording not only supports your deeper, more consistent connection with the natural world, and with your own authentic nature, but also that it’ll be an evergreen, go-to-gift for yourself, so you may continue practicing and experimenting with what works best for you, and become more comfortable with sitting still and allowing nature to work its magic with you, too!

You can purchase, receive and enjoy this MP3 recording for an affordable $13.97 click on the Paypal button below, and you’re then on your way to an energizing and inspiring experience where you’ll learn four easy, fun and replicable steps to create your powerful nature connection sit spot, no matter where your feet are.

Get Your Sit Spot Recording Here:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=UAPNXKL2RA5NY

Wilderness has of course been around for way more than 50 years, but The Wilderness Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1964 gave protection and preservation to remaining places in this country where “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain…”

The idea of safeguarding wilderness for current and future generations has since become a worldwide phenomenon. yet there are still unprotected places large and small worthy of wilderness designation

Why wilderness?

For my better half Erik, it’s a place of refuge. It’s a place to decompress, to experience solitude, and return home recharged and inspired after spending time in its healing and soothing energies. He often comes home with new ideas for creating art as well.  Wilderness palpably reminds me that there is so much in this world that I may never fully understand, that as a human being I am a tiny yet powerful part of the planetary and ecological puzzle, and that here in Montana, I am not necessarily at the top of the food chain. I am totally responsible for my own safety there and for my own actions.

I love the gift of being able to lose yet also find yourself in nature, and in the wild. Things appear, seem and feel less complicated there, too. Our senses and awareness are heightened and magnified. Solutions and creativity surge and emerge after immersing ourselves in nature..

Even if you never experience wilderness in person, it’s comforting to know there are places where we allow natural processes and forces to interact without our micro-managing the environment to our advantage.

Over the past 50 years, wilderness areas have also gained an immeasurable and perhaps unforeseen advantage. Within larger national parks such as Yellowstone, lands managed for their wilderness values and characteristics also serve as baselines for study and research, to be compared with nearby areas more directly impacted by human activity.

At a time when some are calling for no more wilderness, that we have already have enough (or even too much) of it, that we may need remaining unprotected wild lands worldwide for energy or mineral extraction or human settlement, I beg to differ.

The earth is not creating any more wilderness. Right now, we have the power and capacity (and hopefully the wisdom) to set aside as many remaining wild lands as possible. Future generations could count on experiencing and enjoying places without a heavy human footprint or our long-term presence. Other species with whom we share the planet today would have a fighting chance to adapt, migrate or move in response to climate change related impacts.

One day I will also likely be too infirm or old to directly enjoy and experience wilderness. A little over 20 years ago, a lifetime’s worth of stories, movies, music, and photographs inspired by wilderness lovers, explorers and advocates triggered my desire to come West, to explore what others with incredible foresight and humility and unselfishness had preserved. There is still so much at stake today, as people in Montana fight for protection of the Badger-Two Medicine area and other treasured wild places, and people elsewhere advocate for areas close to their hearts and souls.

In the end, I think about our nieces and nephews and their families in the future, and what they will be able to enjoy and experience. Will they be able to sleep under a clear and starry light sky, and hear elk bugling, or the distant howling of wolves? Will they be able to build tree forts, ride bikes through the woods, or play games inspired by being out in nature? Will they become competent stewards of remaining untrammeled wild spaces in their own backyards, or say silent prayers of gratitude to nature lovers who came before them?

Dave Foreman once said that “Wild things exist for their own sake”.

Deep down, all of us have something wild and free and powerful in our hearts and souls-often revealed and brought forth to life through nature connection, through connection with something that is larger than ourselves.

Can we afford to live without wilderness?

Can we afford not to dream?

It’s an uncharacteristically cool, windy and overcast morning, and we’re unlikely to get much above the low 70s on this late July day. as I write this.

Our mountain ash tree berries are already ample, abundant, and hanging heavily as compared to previous years living here. The berries, still a greenish-yellowish hue at the moment, alternatingly swayed, brushed and batted against the neighbor’s roof with last night’s winds, at times providing a soothing backdrop to sleep, at other times abruptly waking us up at odd hours.

It feels like fall is already in the air. Birds and squirrels seem to be picking up the pace again, whether it’s collecting and scavenging ripening apricots falling to the ground, or picking over the last of the cherries. Earlier this week, our cat Flo-Jo brought inside a mouse she had killed. We calmly thanked her, then wrapped and tossed her wild gift into the trash can, preferring to feed her “cat food” instead!

In nature, wildlife seems to know when it’s time to step up the pace, to take action, and to prepare for what’s to come.

If one thing’s not in abundance in a particular season or year, something else undoubtedly is. Grizzly bears roam far and wide in search of sustenance in Greater Yellowstone when summer and fall seeds from whitebark pine trees are scarce.

It’s hard to believe that such large omnivores, in good whitebark pine years, can get up to 20 percent of their proteins and carbohydrates from these seeds, and up to 30% of their needed fats. Grizzlies are also adept at raiding caches of whitebark pine nuts stashed by squirrels, so squirrels create multiple caches, knowing that some will inevitably feed Ursus arctos horribilis instead.

Then there’s the chickadee, which weighs next to nothing and lives in cold, harsh climates year-round in places such as Yellowstone.

I remember waiting for Old Faithful to erupt on numerous -20 to -40 F mornings, and in the stillness and silence of anticipation noticing small groups of chickadees emerging from nearby conifers, unflappably confident, upbeat and knowing their needs would be provided for once the sun had risen.

Of course, chickadees also have a back-up plan, that being stashing small caches of seeds between cracks and gaps in the bark of trees throughout their range. Thus on severe stormy winter days when little food’s to be found, they have reliable places to get what they need as well.

Some people say that certain animals such as birds, squirrels, and rats are natural hoarders, that their motivations are driven by avoiding scarcity.

I beg to differ.

They are preparing, they are taking action. They make sure they have enough going into the winter, they allow for contingencies. They likely don’t lose sleep-they wake up each morning knowing what needs to be done, and they’re flexible and adaptable depending on what they’re experiencing every day.

But they also don’t seem to take and grab everything they can find and leave nothing for others in nature. They probably don’t agonize or over-analyze what they’re doing, what they did, or what they might do. I doubt they lose any sleep over things, either!

In the human world, though, hoarding and stock-piling inevitably leads to clutter, which, like kudzu, seems to restrict our mobility, and our ability to seize opportunities that are happening in the moment. It leads to increasing paralysis and separation. It fuels cycles of greed, shortage, lack, distrust and fear. It leads to violence and destruction of communities worldwide.

Do we really need 64-pack toilet paper rolls from a big box store on hand in our already over-stocked homes? Do we really have to go after the last of the fossil and non-renewable fuels instead of embracing abundant and infinite supplies of solar and wind power?

Stockpiling, hoarding and other actions stemming from fear-based, scarcity mindsets have real consequences that impact the natural world, and future generations.

Let’s loop back for a moment to what’s happening with grizzly bears In Greater Yellowstone in particular.

In poor whitebark pine seed years, grizzlies are now way more likely to encounter an abundance of subdivisions in what were once rural valleys they roam in search of food to fatten themselves for long winters. They’re likely to find an abundance of garbage, gardens, orchards, pet food, and occasionally even pets and livestock as potential food sources. These habitats that once provided an insurance policy or back-up plan in poor food years are now gauntlets of death and conflict for bears, other wide-ranging wildlife, and their human neighbors.

It’s fine and easy to have and create an abundant life. Nature shows us this in myriad ways, no matter where our feet are.

But creating and sustaining true abundance requires compassion and vigilance, making sure that that someone or something else’s right to thrive is not diminished or destroyed in the process. Something wild and priceless disappears when we neglect that, when we forget that we are all one. Future generations are robbed and looted when we act out of fear, scarcity, distrust and separation.

I know I am not alone on this, but grizzlies are what make Montana, Wyoming and Idaho’s back country vastly different from, say Colorado’s, for example. There’s something powerful and palpable knowing you’re in a place where you’re potentially part of the food chain-not the other way around.

There’s also a profound sense of awe and humility involved in respecting, protecting and allowing for grizzlies and other wild creatures to thrive, and not just survive, in this world, and maybe even to expand their range again in the Lower 48 states.

In the meantime, grizzlies are largely relegated to several island-like areas of varying protection south of the Canadian boundary. Politicians and government agencies in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are openly and publicly talking about de-listing the grizzly as an Endangered Species, and allowing for an annual hunting “harvest” (their words) in these states.

Again I beg to differ.

Conservationist and visionary Aldo Leopold remarked on similar challenges several generations back:

“There seems to be a tacit assumption that if grizzlies survive in Canada and Alaska, that is good enough. It is not good enough for me…Relegating grizzlies to Alaska is about like relegating happiness to heaven; one may never get there.”

There’s infinite, incalculable wisdom in being good stewards, and in restoring and healing the natural world in places where we can.

It seems like the only sane path moving forward for all of us-grizzlies included-to thrive.

If we follow a more self-centered and fearful path instead, decreasing numbers of people may still experience abundance for a while.

Yet they too will feel impoverished, and longing for that wild, wise and loving part of us we intentionally extinguished.

P.S.

I’d love to hear how this article resonated with you-thanks for contacting me to share your thoughts.

It’d be awesome to hear what you’re doing to simplify and de-clutter to bring greater meaning and focus to what you desire to create in your life.

I really appreciate your time reading this longer than normal posting.

It speaks so much to the rapid growth and transformation I am experiencing in my own life through deeper and more consistent connection with the natural world, but also to the powerful, positive and accelerated results my clients are experiencing as well!

The Serenity Prayer goes something like this:

Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference

The natural world’s abundant in wisdom that helps us to discern that difference, and take emboldened, courageous action to experience what we desire most in our lives.

Especially if we slow down and pay closer attention. If we stop multi-tasking. If we put the kibbosh on expecting something to happen 24/7 or in a certain way when nature has its own ideas as to when the timing’s right, or how things will unfold.

A few personal examples from nature follow.

For the last five years. we could count on cherries ripening on our tree in the backyard around the 14th of June. Not so this year. We had a pretty dry spring following a wet and cold winter, with very little moisture falling our way until the last two weeks of June.

This year the cherries ripened at the very beginning of July, and they were even more abundant (and sweeter and more delicious!) than in previous years. We had gotten accustomed to things being a certain way at a certain time, but nature had its own time frame and ideas as to what was best.

This spring I also decided to try growing tomatoes from seeds instead of starts, something I had done easily and successfully in both Virginia and in Thailand.

Perhaps I got a late start toward this endeavor. We went east to visit family and friends in mid-May, so I waited until returning home to plant tomato seeds, thinking we might still have a frost in town that would kill them all, and also not wanting to bother a neighbor with watering plants who was already looking after our cat for 12 days. So I planted the seeds on June 1, and nurtured and tended to them diligently.

Last weekend, as temperatures hovered near 100 F, I gave up my dream to grow tomatoes from seed in this part of Montana and see if it could be done.

It probably can be done, but not by going it alone, not without support, not without learning from mistakes, and definitely not this year, given where we are now in the growing season.

Next year, I’ll invest in some healthy, solid tomato starts and plant them after the risk of last spring frost. I’ll save on labor, watering, weeding and grief in the process and support someone else in the community financially by doing so. I’ll focus on what I do best and enlist, hire and pay others to be in their own area of brilliance.

In the meantime, this summer I’ll savor and enjoy the harvests of fellow gardeners by buying their fresh tomatoes and other produce at local farmers’ markets.

I was mighty stubborn surrendering this vision to grow edible, delicious tomatoes from seed in less than 120 days, especially given my blazing track record over the previous four summers.

I saw only failure at first, and the disappointing prospect of not using our own tomatoes in canning special salsas for Thanksgiving and Winter Solstice celebrations.

Over the past five weeks, Erik has non-judgmentally watched me tend to the soil, and weed and water the ground diligently, and heard me mutter and agonize whether anything was to come from all this activity, time, expense and effort.

Ironically and perhaps serendipitously, the neighboring raspberries have sprouted like kudzu during the same time frame, and they are also the juiciest and most abundant they’ve been in years!

The natural world is not at our beck and call, as the above two anecdotes illustrate, but neither is the so-called “real world” for that matter. Neither world operates the way we demand or command it to do at times, in contrast to how we expect hotel room service to function!

Instead, when we open ourselves to notice what’s going on in nature, and to detach from our personal ideas about what’s best, we reconnect with our soul’s deeper desires. We witness unforeseen outcomes and results that are often better and different than what we expected, too!

We open ourselves to experiencing and receiving miracles on a daily basis, and to a deepening connection and reverence for all of life. We empower and encourage and embolden others to do the same. As more people connect with the healing and inspiration nature freely provides, everyone prospers and experiences greater peace.

As the tomatoes from seeds story illustrates, we don’t have to go it all alone. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to force things, to struggle, to take things personally.

The natural world constantly reminds us that we are supported and provided for, no matter what.

That’s what nature does-without expectation, without judging, without micro-managing, without blame, without worry, fear, regret or impatience.

In nature, we’re all equal and worthy. We all belong. We’re all deserving.

Yet we also experience faster, lasting results when we receive support and accountability, and participate in an encouraging, welcoming community.

We’re all human and perfectly imperfect. We are not meant to live our lives alone, disconnected from other human beings and the natural world that sustains us all.

We are all heroes to others. Others are waiting to hear your story as to how you courageously changed and bettered not only your life, but the lives of those you’ve touched.

What is it in your life that you most want to change?

Courageously take action on that-don’t wait or waste another day, and tell and share your inspiring story with others!

June is Pride Month just about everywhere in the world, even in places where some governments, groups and individuals do their best to criminalize or otherwise restrict the inalienable rights of individuals to express who they are and love who they love.

The natural world provided me refuge, and a non-judgmental, welcome environment at a time when I needed it most, when I was first coming to terms with what it meant to be gay, and how I could begin to integrate that vital part of who I am into the nature connection life’s work I’ve been called to do.

For many, it’s become easier for people to come out and be who they are, and the overall environment and climate have become more accepting in some places, but we still have a ways to go.

Too many people still kill themselves, get thrown out of their homes, become jobless, homeless, or both, or are marginalized or persecuted because of who they are and love.

The Pride Foundation inspires giving to expand opportunities to advance full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people (LGBTQ) across the U.S. Northwest, including the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

They envision a world in which all LGBTQ youth, adults and families enjoy the freedom to live openly, safely and genuinely.

To honor the vital work that Pride Foundation does, I will donate 10% of all sales of my large format, signed prints, handmade, hand-signed photo cards, lithographic greeting cards, meditation and note card sets purchased from now through Wednesday night, June 25.

Visit  http://www.yourlifenature.com to bring home more nature into your own life and those of others you care about, and know that ten percent of your purchase amount is going to a phenomenally important cause.

The world is full of stories from people for whom nature has changed, inspired or turned their lives around, and you really never know how important nature connection is to you and your own one wild precious life until you need it most.

Enjoy more nature in your home and work setting, and best of all share it with others. Pride Foundation is the only non-profit organization I am selecting to support in 2014 through a percentage of sales, so now is the golden moment to support them through your love of nature and its amazing diversity of all life forms.

Thanks for visiting http://www.yourlifenature.com and supporting Pride Foundation, too! For more info on Pride Foundation and they work they do please visit http://www.pridefoundation.org

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