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On Monday June 22 I was swinging on the porch at nearby Dunrovin Ranch with SuzAnne Miller, where we broadcasted “The Joys of Summer” the afternoon immediately following the summer solstice.

We enjoyed talking about how summertime creates different meanings and memories for people worldwide, and shared observations of the cycles, rhythms and routines humans and their wild and domesticated brethren tend to follow here in Big Sky Country, as well as farther afield.

About mid-way through our 23-minute chat I led participants and viewers through a brief nature connection visualization along a stretch of the Bitterroot River that borders Dunrovin Ranch, so if you have limited time, go to about the ten minute mark on the video to experience and enjoy this meditation.

I hope you’ll take time to enjoy our entire conversation via this YouTube link, though, and that it’ll inspire you to slow down, savor the moment and enjoy the gifts that summer so freely gives all of us.

Feel free to share and forward the link, too, and SuzAnne and I will get together again close to the fall equinox and the winter solstice share the joys of those upcoming seasons.

Enjoy, and here’s that link:  https://youtu.be/KvfTcOg3Dms

MontanaPrideFlag June is Pride Month for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning people (and their countless allies!) worldwide, and this year Pride Montana will be held in our beloved town of Missoula from June 19-21.

Here’s hoping you’ll join us in Missoula, or wherever your feet may be that weekend, to celebrate, acknowledge and express gratitude for the progress we have made over the past decade, and to acknowledge and energize for the remaining work necessary to achieve full equality for all LGBTQ families and individuals worldwide. The non-profit 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 three dollars to them from every “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: Four Fun and Easy Steps to Create Your Powerful Nature Connection Sit Spot, No Matter Where Your Feet Are” nature connection sit spot recording purchased between now through Montana Pride Weekend this Sunday, June 21, 2015.

Click here to purchase your portable, fun Nature Connection Sit Spot Recording:

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

to bring home more nature into your own life and those of others you care about, and know that three dollars from your $13.97 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.This portable, adaptable, and fun nature connection tool and recording powerfully supports and serves so many people in consistently creating, envisioning and allowing a nature sit spot to enhance our lives.

“You know they say that if you imagine peace and calm, your body experiences it. Well, Hobie’s audio course, “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!” really brought me to a space of balance and calmness. And best yet? I was sitting at my desk. No need to go anywhere, and most importantly, do anything but breathe”.      -Maureen Calamia, St. James, New York

Pride Foundation is the only non-profit organization I am selecting to support in 2015 through a percentage of PayPal sales, so now is the golden moment to support them through your love of nature and its amazing diversity of all life forms. Take home your own copy of “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There” (and buy a copy for other nature lovers) and support Pride Foundation, too!

Here’s that PayPal link again:

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

For more info on Pride Foundation and the vital work they do please visit http://www.pridefoundation.org

Erik and I recently returned from a desert vacation that included sailing on Lake Mead at sunset, enjoying the sights, sounds and zaniness of Las Vegas, and experiencing the profound quiet, haunting beauty and splendid isolation of Death Valley National Park in California. It really was like visiting two different planets on the same vacation, and provided us with many contrasts that we are still digesting and reflecting upon. The National Park Service’s Death Valley brochure describes the area as follows:

The raw desert landscape shapes Death Valley’s human story. Like the mesquite tree, some of its people have deep roots, drawing sustenance from hidden sources. Others blow in on the hot winds of get-rich-quick schemes, then out again on scorched dreams, never anchoring themselves to the land.

The Timbisha Shoshone Native Americans have considered this region home for thousands of years,  surviving and thriving by adapting to natural rhythms and cycles, and to the inevitable curveballs that nature has thrown their way over time.

A few examples of adaptation include congregating near natural springs, moving to higher elevations during warmer, hotter seasons, and using skinny spearing sticks to stab and deflate chuckwallas (a large lizard native to the region) that had wedged and inflated themselves in crevices, thus turning them into high-protein meals.

The Timbisha Shoshone are certainly not alone in their ability to survive and thrive in such a harsh and unforgiving environment. Remnant populations of desert pupfish, some now critically endangered species, inhabit isolated surface or cave waters throughout the park and region. These pupfish once thrived in a large body of water, Lake Manly, created by melting glaciers and a wetter climate. In a few places, you can still see evidence of the ancient shoreline in Death Valley, when Lake Manly was over 100 miles long and over 600 feet deep, making it larger than Yellowstone or Flathead Lakes are today.

The pupfish is a pretty resourceful critter, managing to persist around permanent water sources often less than one foot deep and in water temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. Keep in mind, too, that the water’s way saltier here than in the ocean. We stayed resourceful as well throughout our four-day stay, being active mainly in the early morning and later in the evening, seeking shade whenever possible, and going on a higher altitude hike one day when the temperature soared to over 105 at aptly-named Furnace Creek.

Nearly six thousand feet higher, on a trail starting near Dante’s View, we encountered vast vistas ranging from the alkaline salt flats of the valley floor, in places more than 200 feet below sea level, to snow-covered mountains in the Panamint Range. Wildflowers and flowering cacti greeted us on nearly every turn on the trail, as did fast-running lizards, and one large nonpoisonous snake that made me jump a vertical foot or three before I recovered and was able to laugh about it. We were thrilled to encounter clusters of gorgeous orange desert mariposa lilies (Calochortus Kennedyi) on some of the higher ridges, while ravens and a lone red-tailed hawk rode the thermals above.

Nature’s a place, no matter where our feet are, that brings people together, especially in the desert. It’s a place where people experience a more profound connection to life, creation, others and themselves. It reminds us of how adaptable, resourceful and flexible we all have to be to survive and thrive, and of the different niches and roles we play in this game of life on Earth.

Spending time in Death Valley really brought this all home for me in ways that other places have not, maybe because of the tenuousness of life itself here, or that so much of desert life lives close to or just under the surface, out of sight to the hurried or untrained eye. Many mid-19th century Gold Rush bound travelers died in places not far from where Timbisha Shoshone families gathered near permanent springs and sustained their culture. A few managed to survive or be rescued, and rumor has it that one of the luckier travelers shouted out “Goodbye, Death Valley!”, giving the area its well-deserved name.

Not only here, but world wide, the earth has witnessed plenty of human-generated hot winds, get-rich-quick schemes and scorched dreams over time.

No matter where we live or gather, it’s vital to anchor and tether ourselves to the land, to be in partnership and relationship with it, to nourish it and ourselves. To put down some strong, resilient roots, drawing sustenance from hidden sources, and pass on what we learn to folks who want to do the same, and in turn pass that on to future generations.

These are the real riches in life, to know a place, yourself and the ones you love and care about well. By digging deep, even in Death Valley, we find surprising sources of strength and sustenance that show us how to navigate challenges and opportunities in our own lives.

Desert Mariposa Lily Courtesy of and Copyright by Erik Benson 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Desert Mariposa Lily Courtesy of and Copyright by Erik Benson 2015. All Rights Reserved.

William Shakespeare lived a few centuries before Yellowstone became the world’s first national park, but his quote “We know what we are, but know not what we may be” aptly describes what has made Yellowstone special, powerful, beautiful and magical to countless admirers.

The park turned 143 years old on Sunday March 1, and today over 380 distinct units in nearly every state comprise the National Park Service and system, protecting a wealth of irreplaceable places to our natural, cultural and historical heritage. National parks have often been called America’s best idea, and today nearly every nation has set aside lands to honor this same idea and vision.

Yellowstone was first protected for its abundance of thermal features, its deep high altitude Yellowstone Lake, and The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, but it also provided refuge to some of the last remaining bison in the wild.

Still, it wasn’t until the U.S. Army took over to deter wildlife poaching, vandalism, illegal mining, timber cutting, and even homesteading that things began to turn around. The National Park Service was established in 1916 to create a consistent means to protect and preserve such parks, while also maintaining them “for the benefit and the enjoyment of the people”.

But The Organic Act, which established the National Park Service system, made it clear that protection and preservation trumped human benefit and enjoyment whenever there was conflict and confusion, yet every generation since then has continued to struggle with this mandate at times.

Attitudes toward nature and our relationship with nature have generally changed slowly over the years, as they seem to also do today. Witness the era of bringing back the ecosystem’s bison through the Lamar Buffalo Ranch starting  in the early 1900s, as compared to decades of unregulated commercial and visitor activities that threatened everything from thermal features to bird nesting sites and fish spawning grounds.

Consider that right up until the late 1960s park officials and employees culled ungulate species inside the park, believing their numbers were too high (this after killing off large predators such as wolves until the 1930s). It was only in the early 1970s when the National Park Service abruptly closed garbage dumps and stopped (for the most part) visitors from feeding and mingling dangerously close to black and grizzly bears.

Looking back it seems we should have known better that these activities or behaviors should not have been tolerated or allowed. Looking ahead, we may wonder what future generations might have to say about how we have managed or provided stewardship over Yellowstone and other wild places. How we handle bison, wolves, or whether the grizzly bears should be de-listed immediately come to mind, but the list goes on….and on.

But we continue living, learning and doing what we believe to be best for Yellowstone and other remaining untrammeled landscapes. To paraphrase Aldo Leopold, we bring back and restore the missing pieces, such as wolves, when and where we can. We begin thinking more like a mountain and realize that no species is good or bad, we all belong, and preserving, connecting and restoring wild places will benefit future generations of all species that follow us, including our descendants.

Who would have thought, 143 years ago, that Yellowstone would have inspired nearly 200 nations to protect and preserve some of their last best natural places?

Who would have known that Yellowstone’s establishment resulted in protecting some of the finest waters and watersheds in the West, harboring some of the last wild refuges for bison, and a place and opportunity to restore wolves to the ecosystem? Who could have foreseen that microbial communities in the parks’ thermal areas have led to discoveries and applications that benefit us out here in “the real world”?

Who could have imagined that the park would become the anchor and lungs of the last large intact temperate ecosystem on the planet, with all species present now that were here when Lewis and Clark passed through just north of here, or that over two dozen Native American tribes continue to cultivate their cultural and spiritual connection to Yellowstone?

A planet without wild places such as Yellowstone would be a very sad place indeed.

Yellowstone, Glacier, and other vast ecosystems are what first drew me to Montana over teaching opportunities in Colorado and New Mexico two decades ago. I wanted to be near a place where grizzlies still roamed and wolves were being returned, to be in a place where I could still feel my wild beating heart and show others that they could also do the same.

As with all wild places they need more advocates, and more protected lands outside these parks that allow natural processes to continue unimpeded or unimpaired. This means also working with people who have long been making a living from these landscapes, and inviting and including them at the table.

Happy Birthday, Yellowstone! May you and all other national parks worldwide always live long, and prosper!

A few weeks ago I was putting the finishing touches and glazes on three different ceramic creations I had first started working on in the winter of 2013-14. There’s something about this time of year that often calls me back to completing projects started long ago, and I suspect it has something to do with how stripped down, slow, peaceful and quiet it is following the holidays, and from opportunities to enjoy and experience the relative silence of this season. I won’t know how these creations will turn out until after a kiln firing sometime later this month, so stay tuned for updates, and thanks for keeping your fingers crossed, too!

Last winter, a monstrous late February/early March blizzard broke our creative indoor evening time together in Erik’s ceramic studio. Following that storm, the tug to be outdoors pulled mighty hard. We came closer to completing the backyard cold frame greenhouse, planted lower maintenance  vegetables and flowers, in the fall hired contractors to replace a no-longer weather resistant roof, and just before the most recent winter solstice finished replacing a front living room window.

But on blazing hot summer afternoons and evenings, we’d sometimes retreat to our basement studio. I usually ended up staring at all I had created the winter before but hadn’t done anything about yet, feeling guilty about “yet another unfinished project”, instead of slowing down and savoring the brief yet fleeting heat of summer in Montana.

“In the silence of the wild land, we can hear the earth” accurately describes not only winter, but every season in Big Sky and Yellowstone Country. I was fortunate to have guided two different groups over the holidays in Yellowstone for week-long tours, and enjoying the silence and sounds of nature was a huge take-away for all adventurers.

On Christmas Day morning, one of our drivers to the Lamar Valley encouraged us to stop and listen for wolves and to be as still as possible, at a place a few miles east of the Buffalo Ranch where people had heard wolves the morning before. We didn’t hear any wolves that day (we did see one later, but that will have to wait for another story), but instead were treated to the bubbling sounds of Soda Butte Creek, the buzzing and chirping of American dippers, winds whipping and dancing around our vehicles, the forlorn calls of a few ravens, and snow crunching underfoot.

Both groups were fortunate to see a lot of wildlife, including wolves, coyotes, moose, bison, elk and trumpeter swans, but what really resonated with many was listening to the sounds of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone from Artist’s Point, bubbling mudpots, hissing fumaroles and thundering geysers in the Fourtain Paint Pots area, and the profound absence of human-generated sounds throughout the park.

Many expressed how much more fully alive they felt being where they could hear their own heartbeats and thoughts again. Being in Yellowstone in this stripped-down winter season allowed them to be more receptive to what nature was showing them in the moment. It re-opened a portal to where we all originally came from, whispering wild, urgent reminders of what was really important in our lives.

It was equally impressive and insightful to be journeying with a wide range of people, some from tropical countries adventurous to snowshoe and x-c ski for the first time, and of course to see wolves and other large critters. An energetic, exuberant and quickly cohesive group of kids and grandkids came along for the first winter holiday Yellowstone adventure with their families. That group witnessed balmy temperatures of 30F that preceded a one-foot snowfall on Christmas Eve, while the second group  woke up to -28F at Old Faithful two consecutive mornings just before the new year.

Fast forward to later in January, a few nights later, a renewed sense of passion, purpose and vision inspired me to put those long-delayed finishing touches and glazes on three ceramic creations. Not everything that I hope will happen as a result of the kiln firing has to do with these recent Yellowstone winter experiences, but during those moments of profound silence and awe and gratitude, my heart opened even more to understanding and sharing why wild places are so crucial to our spirit and soul, and not to mention to future generations. That gift came roaring back into the present, and thankfully I was open to receiving and expressing it.

That same night I put on a CD I hadn’t listened to in a while, “From Yellowstone Soundscapes Throughout The Seasons”, and it brought me back to those Yellowstone moments experienced a few short weeks ago. It was entertaining to watch Flo-Jo our cat twitch her ears and perk up when she heard different sounds, reminding all three of us how powerful and undeniable our connection to the natural world is, and will always be, when we stop to be fully present and live in each moment.

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!

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