Creative Inspiration: I Know You’ll Be Okay, by Gala Malherbe

holistic wellness in MI's Upper Peninsula, empty nest, winter poem, mother's love for son

Cold snow squeaks under tires as we turn into the empty parking lot after dark.
We wonder where everyone could be, think briefly of an entire city choosing other things.
I reach high into roof box, deliver skis and poles to arms smaller than my own.

We stoop to connect boots, fumble to connect mittened hands, breathe the tight cold air of night.
Light poles illuminate white alley through trees. Glistening tracks lure us from brightness to dim
and back again. I follow you, watch you enter and exit each puddle of light, each stretch of darkness.
Our skis swallow reflection, our poles punch rhythm beside us.

Silent, we stride, scale familiar grades, own this space, this secret time. The memories intertwine:
the morning we swished through ankle deep powder, sliced first tracks into palate of freshness,
the time, winter still young, we skirted around dirt, skated across ice, too eager to stay home,
the chocolate chips we pulled from pockets, frozen solid, chewing palmfuls as we rested.

I remember carrying you on my back, your weight pulling me as you bobbed from side to side,
the way you squealed from your perch as we descended, grunted with effort as I climbed,
the way your sister skied ahead as I fiddled with your pack and wasn’t afraid of the darkness,
of the forest, of herself, the way her small song parted colossal hemlocks and pines.

I taught you to mount the hills yourself, legs spread leaning. My hand on your bottom
holding you steady, an awkward pair, we trudged to the top. I held you tight under snowsuit arms,
steered us down, our bellies dropping, your miniature skis floating over snow between mine.

Tonight, we pause at the top of a hill. You step from the edge and let yourself go.
I watch your perfect silhouette glide and shrink into the night, beneath stars and moon,
beneath my giant love for you.

Gala Malherbe lives in Marquette, MI.  She enjoys writing about her children, her connection to nature, and the struggles and resilience of the human condition. 

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.

Holistic Animal Care: Two-Way Gifts of the Human-Pet Bond, by Jenny Magli

human-pet bond, mutual benefits of pet ownership, holistic animal care, holistic wellness in MI's Upper Peninsula, U.P. holistic businesses

I love my animal companions to the moon and back, and I think they feel the same way by the affection, trust, compassion, and unconditional love they show me. Over the years, I have been blessed with many dogs and cats usually living well into their golden years….thankfully. Each one has held a very special place in my heart. They have all been rays of hope, and have helped see me through much of the wonders and heartache that life can bring. The bonds we have shared have truly been remarkable. I truly feel blessed, and firmly believe that my life has been fuller just by being in their presence! They give us a sense of purpose by addressing their needs and care. They’re good for the body, mind and soul!

Pets play a very important part in the lives of many.

Studies have shown that benefits of pet ownership include helping to calm us, improving cardiovascular health (lower blood pressure), improving immunity, and helping us reduce anxiety and stress. Having a pet can help improve self-esteem, and typically causes us to increase our levels of physical activity by engaging in walks and playtime. Socializing becomes a bit easier when we’re out and about with our critters as others tend to enjoy seeing and visiting with animals and their owners.

Pets provide unconditional love, and taking care of them can give us a sense of purpose. Animals’ pack instincts reflect strong social bonds for survival, so it’s no surprise they show concern for all the humans and/or other household pets as part of their family in return. Face-licking, jumping, tail-wagging, lap-sitting, and snuggling are just a few of the ways animal companions show affection to us. Barking at and being alert to strange noises and people coming to the door are a way to show protection for their family. Greeting us (their people) at the door after being away is an especially heartfelt sign of affection.

Given all the many positives of pets, it’s understandable that more and more pets are being trained in pet therapy to attend to the needs of humans and vice versa. These special service animals are being incorporated into nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, and even used in disaster relief! Pet support and assistance animals help those with all sorts of needs, such as PTSD, depression, and loneliness. Some pets can even be specially trained to assist those with disabilities, such as guiding the blind, alerting the deaf, and even pulling wheelchairs! The list goes on and on. They can also be trained to help recognize oncoming seizures, epilepsy and diabetic issues, etc.

And our pets receive more than simply food, shelter, and vet care in return. For example, according to Dr. Brian Hare, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and a leading expert on canine cognition, simply staring at your dog, as well as petting and playing with him or her, raises both your oxytocin levels, helping each of you feel good and strengthening the bond between you.

But before you decide to get or add a pet, please make sure you are able to care for it completely.

It’s important to consider the needs of certain breeds as well. Some require lots of exercise (Can you accommodate that?) and others require very little. Keep the temperament of the animal (breed) in mind as well. Do you have the energy, strength, and time to give to an animal? Are you financially able to afford food, grooming, and medical care? Please consider pet ownership carefully before bringing an animal into your home. The overall goal is to offer them a comfortable “forever home” and to find a long-lasting, loving partnership for you both!

*Readers are reminded it is entirely of their own accord, right and responsibility to make informed and educated decisions/choices with their pets’ health care. Jenny Magli disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Jenny is a Certified Natural Health Consultant for pets and their people, Healing Touch for Animals (Level 2) and NES Bioenergetics Practitioner. Consultations are done over the phone and via email. To contact, call (906) 235-3524 or email at 1healthlink@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.

Green Living: Farming the Sun? by Steve Waller

solar benefits, farming the sun, green living, holistic wellness in MI's Upper Peninsula

Farmers have been harvesting sunlight for millennia. The DNA in each plant combines CO2 from air, H2O (water), and energy from sunlight. Harvesting sunlight drives photosynthesis. Every leaf is a solar panel.

Those simple ingredients miraculously assemble into the crops we eat directly or feed to livestock. That green vegetable, golden grain, tuber, bean, or fruit is a convenient bundle of air, water and solar power (with trace elements from soil). We carry that bundled solar energy home for delicious, nutritious meals that energize our bodies and our thoughts. We are what we eat. What else could our bodies be? We are air, water and sunlight. No other energy source is involved. Our body’s energy is solar energy. Thank the farmers.

Today, some Upper Peninsula farmers have a new green crop available, one they never expected.

A way of farming so new and different that they are cautiously uncertain about it. Technology has now enabled U.P. farmers to economically harvest sunlight directly, feeding our other insatiable appetite—that for clean electricity.

Farmers in sunny locations, near power lines, are being invited to lease much of their land to solar producers who plant solar panels and harvest the electricity to feed our green power hunger. Harvesting this new crop is an opportunity for farmers to escape the uncertainty of market prices, water issues, and unpredictable government subsidies.

Solar power enables farmers to gain significant, reliable, year-round income from land leases (much like seasonal leases many farms already have) instead of just summer or autumn harvests. Solar power is a non-toxic, no-till crop that actually improves land and water by essentially eliminating pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Space between rows of panels are often deliberately planted with “pollinator species,” flowers that attract bees and other pollinators, benefiting neighboring farms. Solar panels are silent, reliable, work year-round, aren’t labor intensive, and are friendly to wildlife.

Some farmers (and tourists) are not willing to exchange the classic view of cropland or pasture for solar panels. The change seems too radical, too technical versus biological, too non-traditional. Yet, the “traditional farm,” a biological food factory, is by necessity increasingly industrialized, genetically modified, and chemically enhanced. In winter, much of it is barren and unproductive. In spring, it is a sea of black tilled soil, subject to erosion, runoff, and flooding. Wildlife is discouraged.

Being a successful land steward (farmer) is a demanding and highly refined skill, complicated by many risks, pressured by markets, productivity goals, weather, and the economy.

Many farmers are older, with a lifestyle that younger generations either can’t afford or don’t want. Some owners are concerned that they can no longer work their land profitably. Selling land for a housing development might be their only reasonable alternative, but development ends the farm, the drive-by farm views, and permanently turns farmland into another housing subdivision.

Solar energy can enable veteran farmers to remain productive. Solar can help support them for the rest of their lives and their descendants’ lives for generations to come. A solar farm is one that can be kept in the family, even if the descendants are living a different life.

Willingly exchanging a bucolic landscape for a solarscape moves us toward a sustainable future. Solar panels will produce a yield, even as climate change puts conventional crops and farmers at risk. Solar power prevents greenhouse gases, protecting our rural environment and lifestyle. Solar farmers can provide the needs of the many in new ways, just as farmers have done for centuries. What we find aesthetically pleasing is influenced by our values and priorities. A farm crop of solar panels, working silently, cleanly providing for our needs, is beautiful.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.