Author Archives: Empowering Lightworks

About Empowering Lightworks

Body-mind-soul readings, workshops, energy healing, books, meditations, and visionary art for ascended living in the real world, customized to your nature and needs by author/intuitive/teacher/artist Roslyn Elena McGrath.

Creative Inspiration: Cultivating a Creative Practice, Ann Russ

If creativity is a habit, then the best creativity is the result of good work habits. They are the nuts and bolts of dreaming. – Twyla Tharp, choreographer and author of The Creative Habit

Do you yearn for more creativity or art in your life? Have you had an itch to make something or explore a creative idea? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might consider doing a 100 day project.  
 
creative inspiration, creative practice, U.P. holistic wellness publication, U.P. holistic well-being publication, U.P. holistic health publicationThe100DayProject is a creativity excavation that grows a creative habit through a daily, hands-on practice of 100 days. It gives us permission to play, explore, and experiment for an extended period of time.

The100DayProject is not about making perfect or beautiful artwork; it’s about the process of creativity and developing new ways of seeing and thinking. It grows our capacity to imagine, innovate, and problem-solve. The end product – the work that gets made – is secondary to all of that.

Many people think we’re either born creative or we’re not. The100DayProject challenges that assumption with the idea that creativity is a skill that can be developed. What we practice, we get better at, right? Through practice, we develop a creative habit. Through habit, we reconnect with and know ourselves again as creative beings.

Nurturing Ourselves & Others
Artists are among the most generous of people. Perhaps inherent in the appreciation of creativity comes a deep, underlying love of humanity and our Earth. – Kelly Borsheim

Each year, The100DayProject chooses a theme for its community-wide arts initiative, now in its sixth year. The theme, which is optional, is meant to offer a nudge, a glimmer of inspiration, an overlooked opportunity for those who might be looking for that. 

We chose “Art’s Capacity to Nurture” as the theme for 2019. It was inspired by Donna Miller from Temperance, Michigan. Donna completed a 100DayProject in 2018 and sent a box of beautiful hand-crocheted project work for us to distribute as we saw fit.

Donna wanted to get out of her comfort zone and try new stitches.  She was inspired by our 2018 theme, “Mirrored Light,” and made a variety of infant hats and mitts, adult hats, fingerless gloves, and ear warmers. She wrote to us saying, “I hope you will find a place to donate them. The warmth they offer is the Mirrored Light I hope to have reflected from my heart to those who wear them.”
 
We were awestruck and humbled by her unexpected and generous gesture. We added Donna’s project work to the Chocolay Girls Scouts’ Giving Tree on display last December at the Peter White Public Library. Individuals in need of something were invited to take it from the Tree. Any items left over after the holidays were donated to foster families in the area. 

We often see firsthand how art/music/film/dance nurtures the soul, provides comfort and healing, and rejuvenates the spirit in ourselves and others. For example, one Arter* told us that the “creatures” he drew as a child were comforting presences for him as he moved through difficulties in his early life.  Adulthood pulled him away from all of that, so his 100DayProject focus is to reconnect with and draw his creatures again. 

We’ll be collecting stories from 2019 project participants later this year and look forward to discovering how their projects nurtured them and others.

Creativity is dynamic, it asserts life, frees the human spirit, conquers mental lassitude and illness, and makes real the outrageous potential of the universal imagination. – Robert Genn

Cultivating a Creative Habit
And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.  – Meister Eckhart

If you feel inspired by what you’ve read so far and are curious about how to begin, it all starts with an idea that you’re excited about exploring for 100 days. If an idea doesn’t immediately come to mind, you really don’t have to look that far.  Exploring new materials or mediums in new ways may be all it takes.

One artist loved colored paint samples and incorporated them into a daily habit of paper cutout designs. Another artist wanted to explore some materials she had an abundance of and built her project around reclaimed building materials. 

Projects don’t have to be limited to the visual arts. Poetry, writing, practicing a musical instrument or dance steps are all wonderful ideas to explore for 100 days.

Look around you. What motivates you?  What skill do you want to grow? What “off the wall” idea do you want to test-drive? What project idea has been sitting on the back shelf of your mind? What’s calling you to come out and play? There may be an idea or two there.

You don’t have to complete a piece every day. You need only to do something hands-on with your project every day. Track what you’re working on daily so you can see your progress. Journaling works great for that. So does photographing your progress.  Or simply hang your work on a wall or put it on a shelf where you can see your progress. It’ll keep you motivated – and you’ll see the thread of your project idea grow, which can germinate further ideas.

Maybe you’ll decide to do your 100DayProject first thing in the morning, or maybe later on in the day. Creating a routine or rhythm might feel clunky at first – like any new habit it may take some getting used to. Our best advice is to try and do it at the same time each day. Choose something that’s got juice for you and allows you some freedom to play and explore.
 
Simply do one small creative exercise daily, even if it’s just for five minutes, and then move on with your day. This is not about judging what you create – it’s about doing one thing each day for 100 days that nurtures your creative spirit.

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something. — Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

*We use the term Arters to indicate 100DayProject participants who have registered their projects on our website.

Ann Russ is co-organizer of The100DayProject with Catherine Benda. You can visit http://www.The100DayProject.com and subscribe to its newsletter for weekly inspiration and project developments. Visit http://www.facebook.com/The100DayProject for inspiration and to share images and comments about your project. Find more project images at Instagram site @thecreativepractice.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Ann Russ, Creative Inspiration

What’s HIIT All About?

physical fitness, HIIT, U.P. well-being publication, U.P. holistic health publication, U.P. wellness publication

Want to reverse the impact of aging? Improve your glucose metabolism? Increase your heart health and aerobic capacity? Would you like to burn more calories in less time, and enjoy yourself in the process? Then HIIT may be for you!

HIIT (high intensity interval training) simply requires alternating short bouts of intensive activity (such as thirty seconds or so) with longer intervals (three or four minutes) of less intensive activity. This can be any activity you choose, so no special training or equipment is required.

For example, if you’re fit enough to jog, you could intersperse short jogs within a longer brisk walk. If you’re more sedentary, you might take a leisurely stroll and briefly walk faster from time to time during it.

HIIT dates back to Olympic athletes at least as early as 1912; however, it has only become popular for the average exerciser more recently. And scientific studies have followed, providing evidence of HIIT’s many benefits. For instance, Mayo Clinic researchers found HIIT appears to alter cellular DNA in such a way that one’s muscles become able to produce more energy. It prompts new muscle growth too.

Mayo Clinic researchers have also compared HIIIT, resistance training and combined training in a twelve-week study. All three improved cardio respiratory health, lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, however “only high-intensity and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function for skeletal muscle. Decline in mitochondrial content and function are common in older adults…Exercise training significantly enhanced the cellular machinery responsible for making new proteins. That contributes to protein synthesis, thus reversing a major adverse effect of aging.”(1)

In fact, the improvement in mitochondrial functioning, which usually decreases with age, was even more marked in the over-65 participant group–69 percent improvement, as compared to 49 percent in the 18-to-30-year-old group.

It’s important to check in with your doctor before starting a new workout routine, especially if you have a chronic health condition or haven’t been exercising regularly. To help prevent injury, start slowly rather than rush into a workout that might be too strenuous. Mayo Clinic specialists suggest starting with just one to two higher intensity intervals during each workout. Slow it down if you feel you’re overdoing it; then challenge yourself to vary the pace as your stamina increases.

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center Co-Director Dr. Edward Laskowski cautions HIIT programs need to be carefully designed as higher impact activities aren’t a good fit for everyone, “Especially those with a musculoskeletal injury, a poor musculoskeletal foundation or improper movement patterns. But low-impact HIIT options include bicycling, elliptical trainer or water running activities to provide an aerobic exercise challenge without significant joint or impact load. And the intensity, frequency and progression of each program can be tailored to a patient’s diagnosis and abilities.”(2)

Also, Dr. Laskowski explains, “There’s solid evidence that older, less active, overweight, and obese individuals can benefit from HIIT training. HIIT has also been shown to be very safe and effective in patients with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”(3)

This doesn’t mean you should do HIIT daily though. Many experts recommend keeping it to once or twice a week, alternating light to moderate exercise on other days so your bones and muscles get the time they need to rebuild. But keep in mind that to noticeably improve your muscle strength, you’ll need to include resistance training in your routine twice per week.

But perhaps best of all, HIIT seems to help many people exercise regularly on an ongoing basis. Why? Many find it makes their exercise more fun! Researchers have noted study participants’ preference for HIIT and their self-reporting that they’re more likely to stick with routines that include it. So if you’re not doing HIIT, consider choosing a favorite type of exercise and adapting it to your HIIT needs!

(1)https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
(2)https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sprint-rest-repeat-exploring-the-benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training/mac-20431116
(3) Ibid.

Sources:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/why-interval-training-may-be-the-best-workout-at-any-age/art-20342125
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
https://www.womenshealth.com.au/hiit-training-anti-aging-benefits Aug. 1 2018 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/interval-training/art-20044588
https://www.mayoclinic.org/why-interval-training-may-be-the-best-workout-at-any-age/art-20342125
https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sprint-rest-repeat-exploring-the-benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training/mac-20431116
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bodies In Motion, Physical Fitness

Healthy Cooking: Spring Sour Power, Val Wilson

healthy cooking, U.P. holistic wellness publication, U.P. holistic health publication, U.P. well-being publication

Spring is a natural time of cleansing, making it an ideal time to feed and nurture our liver, gallbladder and nervous system. The main job of these organs is to purify the blood. The flavor associated with spring, and that helps to feed and nurture these organs, is sour. Foods that make your mouth pucker are sour, such as limes, lemons, plums, pomegranates, sauerkraut, and naturally fermented pickles. The signature flavor of sour is featured in the recipe below and complemented by sweet and bitter chocolate.

A couple of ingredients you may not be familiar with in the recipe are agar flakes and kudzu. Agar flakes are small, almost-clear flakes to thicken the dessert once the dessert has cooled. Agar is freeze-dried red algae, making it one of the healthiest foods you can consume. It’s high in calcium, iron, phosphorous, Vitamin, A, B complex, C, D, and K. 

Kudzu root is the root of the kudzu plant that has been dried. You will find it in stores in a bag and it looks like white chunks of chalk. To cook with kudzu, you have to dissolve the white chunks in water before adding them to any recipe. Kudzu thickens liquid and in the recipe below, it helps to create a creamy texture for the filling. Kudzu helps to alkalize your body, lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure, and contains bioflavonoids that dilate blood vessels to help alleviate migraine headaches.

Chocolate Lime Squares

Crust
2 cups cookie crumbs
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
2 T. rice beverage (or favorite non-dairy beverage) 

Topping
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips
4 T. rice beverage (or favorite non-dairy beverage)

Filling
1 cup rice beverage (or favorite non-dairy beverage)
1/2 cup lime juice
3/4 cup brown rice syrup 
2 T. maple syrup
5 T. agar flakes
pinch sea salt
4 T. kudzu root (dissolved in 1/4 cup water)

To make crust: Using low heat, slowly melt the chocolate chips and 2 T. rice beverage. Stir as it melts. Mix in the cookie crumbs. Press firmly into the bottom of an oiled 8” square casserole dish. Refrigerate until cold. 

To prepare filling: Put the 1 cup rice beverage, 1/2 cup lime juice, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agar flakes and sea salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the kudzu mixture. Whisk as it starts to thicken to prevent clumps. Once it has thickened, pour over crust. Refrigerate until cold and firm. 

To make topping: Using low heat, slowly melt the chocolate chips and 4 T. rice beverage. Once it is melted, drizzle over the top of dessert. Put back in refrigerator for topping to set. Cut and serve. 

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Vegan Cooking with Kids, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Healthy Cooking, Valerie Wilson

Positive Parenting: Tips for Togetherness at the Table, Erin Ross

positive parenting, U.P. holistic publication, U.P. wellness publication, holistic well-being

Families are getting busier and busier. It seems like there is constant running to extra activities before and after school. Sports practice, dance, religious programs and such take up so much time that many families rarely sit down to eat together anymore. Yet there are many benefits to eating together as a family regularly. Young children learn more language and social skills. All children benefit from having a routine in the household, as it helps to foster their sense of security and belonging. Meals together give parents the opportunity to monitor children’s moods and notice more quickly if something is amiss. Eating together also grows the bond of the family so all members feel more comfortable talking to one another when there is an issue in their life.

In fact, research indicates youth benefit physically, mentally, and emotionally in many ways from family mealtimes, such as:

Increased self-esteem
Improved academic performance
Greater resilience
Less risk of depression
Less risk of substance abuse
Less risk of teen pregnancy
Less likelihood of developing eating disorders
Decreased obesity rates

So how might you make the most of your mealtime together? Here are some tips:

To start, set a goal to have a family meal together at least three times per week. It doesn’t always have to be dinner. Saturday morning breakfast works too.

Keep conversation light. Don’t approach major issues at the table as stress associated with meals is not healthy for anyone.

Make sure there is something on the table that everyone likes. If someone starts out the meal unhappy with what is on the table, it makes it unpleasant for everyone. We all have likes and dislikes, and that is okay. Encourage everyone to help with the meal plans.

Don’t make a big issue about eating everything on the plate or trying all the foods. When getting children to try new foods, it is much easier if the atmosphere is relaxed and not forced. Some children need to see new foods many times before they may want to try them.

Discourage comments like, “Eww, I don’t like that!” especially when you have younger children at the table. Parents and older siblings need to set a good example and a simple, “No, thank you,” is perfectly acceptable.

Give all family members a job, like setting the table, clearing the table, dishes, etc. These are not chores, but rather everyone playing a role in the family.

Encourage using manners around the table, saying please and thank you, passing food or condiments, sharing, and being kind to one another.

Give all family members a chance to talk about their day. Try to focus on the positive and allow for open family discussion without judgment from others.

Laugh together. Laughter helps release tension and is good for the mind, body, and soul.

Make sure parents are modeling good behavior. If you want kids to do it, you have to show them.

Avoid distractions—no TV, phones, or computers at the table. Use the time to talk and learn more about each other.

So take the time to eat together as a family in an enjoyable way several times each week, then set a goal to increase this number as often as possible. Your family will thank you.

Research source: https://www.glcyd.org/youthconnections/

Erin Ross has been an educator teaching parenting and nutrition at MSU Extension for nearly fifteen years. She currently supervises all the 4-H staff in the U.P. Erin was born and raised in the U.P., and lives in Ironwood with her husband and daughter. 

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Positive Parenting, Uncategorized

Senior Viewpoint: Navigating the New Give-and-Take, John Olesnavage

senior viewpoint, U.P. holistic health publication, U.P. holistic well-being publication, U.P. holistic wellness

We spend a lifetime learning how to be independent and self-sufficient. We are taught to rely on our own wits and resources to take care of ourselves and those we love. Forget Spiderman and Batman, MacGyver is the real American hero! Give him a stick of gum, a can of paint, or a roll of duct tape, and he can conquer any obstacle.

As we mature, we take pride in standing on “our own two feet.” Then time marches us along into the “golden years.” We may start losing our car keys and forget about that doctor’s appointment we needed to keep. A few short years later, we may find ourselves standing on the corner of Main St. and Vine, gripping our cane tightly, not sure we can make it across the street before the light changes. A man stops his car, gets out and stands there like a crossing guard until we safely make it across. Head down, resolute, we shuffle forward, not daring to look up at the light or the traffic. We nod at the man as we shuffle past him, and mumble thank you, but what we feel is diminished and somewhat ashamed. So much for being self-sufficient! We are more likely at the mercy of our own failing body. How do we reconcile or make lemonade out of this lemon?

We have a choice. We can resent growing old and in need of help, or we can see the strength and power in letting others help us. Let’s look at how that works.

It starts with understanding the co-creative nature of a helping relationship. Co-creative means that both parties are stretching beyond what is expected and giving of their time and talent. We know the gift/assistance we have received, but what do we, the receiver of this generosity, give back?

We give the gift of helping someone else feel needed, appreciated, and in a real way, powerful. That is why resenting their help diminishes not only their gift, but they themselves. Doing so is missing a life-affirming connection. Did you ever give someone a gift and see them never even take it out of the box? I did, and felt hurt for a long time.

When we give the gift of letting someone help us, we are also co-creating some new space. That space is quite magical. It has the power to transform a mundane act such as holding a door open into an act of affirmation, maybe even healing. We are receiving while we are also giving. This is “Co-creation 101.” It means letting go of pride, yes, but it also means bestowing some pride on someone else. It calls for some vulnerability, yes, but also a realization that something bigger than a door being opened is going on.

And, while we are making that giver-of help feel powerful and good, who has the greater power? It may well be the person gripping the cane, or, could we call it a wizard’s wand? Eat your heart out MacGyver! But, remember, that wand works best with a light touch. Too much power (or pride in what you can do for the other person) will also diminish the gift.

We are taught to be self-sufficient, but the real strength is in knowing how to form co-created relationships.

John Olesnavage, author of Ask* your Powerful Question, is a psychologist, educator, and author who follows his own Powerful Question “each-and-every-day.” John also wrote Our Boundary, a book describing his ground-breaking, boundary-based approach to counseling.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under John Olesnavage, Senior Viewpoint, Uncategorized

Holistic Animal Care: What to Do When Waldo Drives You Wacky, Jenny Magli

holistic animal care, U.P. holistic wellness publication, U.P. well-being publication, holistic health

I, for one, am a huge pet lover! I know I will never be without some furry creature in my life. They are wonderful companions, a joy to be around, and their unconditional love is hard to beat! But having pets does not come without challenges from time to time. Those of us with pets know there are times when not every household member is a happy camper. Behavior issues are inevitable at some point during a pet’s lifetime. From puppyhood to seniorhood, behaviors can change to varying degrees. This can be due to health issues, environmental influences, poor nutrition, and household changes such as the arrival of a new baby or departure of a family member. Behavior problems that may arise include barking (vocalization), biting, jumping up, aggression, begging, digging, inappropriate elimination, chasing, chewing, and more.

It’s important to remember that some behaviors are perfectly normal. For instance, chewing is a normal process for dogs. This makes it important to provide chewable toys and/or treats to help satisfy that urge so they don’t chew on inappropriate things (especially for puppies to help deal with teething). Cats need to scratch to sharpen their claws and leave their scent, so providing cat scratch posts throughout the home can help prevent their scratching on furniture. If we don’t accommodate animals with a way to relieve these natural tendencies, we’re contributing to potential problem behaviors.

Below are some examples of things to consider when dealing with behavior issues. Sometimes the remedy is simply look at the circumstances surrounding the issue.

Is your pet bored? Is he or she getting enough affection, exercise/playtime and mental stimulation? Exercise helps to release pent-up energy. A bored or lonely pet will find a way to entertain itself if it has no other outlet to do so. This can lead to destructive or aggressive behavior in the home. Sometimes working with a dog trainer or pet behaviorist can provide relief for both you and the pet. Providing rules and boundaries for your pet are crucial in maintaining a healthy relationship with your pet.

Is your pet exhibiting signs of health issues or pain? Changes in appetite, limping, sleepiness, sudden house soiling in a house-trained pet, hiding in unusual places, or sudden aggression can all be signs of underlying health issues. Out-of-the-norm behaviors may require a consult with a veterinarian.

Is your pet getting up in years? Older pets are more likely than young pets to develop medical and degenerative problems. Cognitive decline (dementia), and a loss of hearing and vision can contribute to changes in behavior. Extra patience is necessary when dealing with these factors, and veterinary monitoring of health is vital.

Is your pet being treated with kindness and compassion, or is he or she being abused, mishandled, or neglected by someone? Negative treatment toward an animal has the potential to cause aggressive and/or destructive behavior.

Reactions to vaccines can occur immediately, days, months, or even years afterwards, and can be a factor in both behavior and health issues such as fever, sluggishness, aggression, depression, loss of appetite, collapse, weakness, etc. Please do your homework here. More does not necessarily mean better! If your pet reacts to a vaccine, report it to your veterinarian, then consider doing only Titers to check for immune status. (Titers are blood tests done at the vet’s office). Note – the Rabies vaccine is the only vaccine required by law for your pet.

I hope you will give your pet the benefit of your love by doing all you can to help resolve any issues that appear during his or her lifetime!

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

Jenny Magli 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 through email. To contact, call (906) 235-3524 or email 1healthlink@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Holistic Animal Care, Jenny Magli, Uncategorized

Gifts from Nature: Pusilli et Magni (Great and Small), Crystal Cooper

natural living, holistic wellness, U.P. wellness publication, holistic health

Photo by Crystal Cooper

It’s 4.5 billion years ago—the unstable atmosphere is comprised of noxious gases, and life is yet to begin. Barren rock exists, but most of the Earth is oceanic.  This vast ocean, a cauldron of primordial soup, is where the elements of life originated.  Algae began experimenting.  Through time, random chance, and fungal help, it creeped onto the rock and succeeded.  Our first land ancestors were born, assembling premier leaf and root-like structures to harness energy, making static life possible.  This ancestor is moss, the first land plant. 

Maximizing opportunities between air and earth for the greater good of all, moss began an atmospheric and terrestrial revolution.  Along with algae, it created an oxygenated atmosphere, making this space more habitable.  Through the weathering of rock with their root-like structures, moss cultivated soil. Growing together in tightly bound communities to conserve resources and communicate, moss also provided a physical nursery from which other plant and animal life would spring. This led to the forests and plant-covered earth we now inhabit.  A living affirmation of the fractal nature of existence, each cushion of moss sustains a micro-rainforest, complete with predators, prey, and a thriving food web. 

Today, still a master of microscopic minimalism, moss has survived history with around 22,000 current species worldwide.  Remaining small and simple has been the key to its fundamental efficiency.  To reduce requirements, moss only grows as big as necessary, keeping assimilation of raw materials easy.  Lacking the more evolved structures of higher plants, moss takes in nutrients and water directly through its tissues, which are only one cell-layer thick. This highlights just how sensitive they are, identifying them as indicators of healthy habitats.  

Moss inhabits places considered unfavorable by most plants, utilizing their small size and adaptive ability to become strikingly specialized or remain generalized. One often pictures a lush rainforest of moss flourishing on all available surfaces.  At the same time, it can persist on our barren rock outcrops, the branches of towering frozen pines, in the cracks of a sidewalk, on roofs, and even traveling on the shell of a turtle. Displaying its amphibious demeanor, moss’s main concern on land is water availability.  To sustain life in the variety of environments it does, moss exhibits the skill of desiccating, or drying up.  Halting photosynthesis, it patiently awaits the return of water and favorable conditions. 

The ancient and intimate relationship between moss, water, and the atmosphere still evolves.  This is prominently observed in the health and functioning of bogs and peatlands.  Here, Sphagnum mosses begin growing at the edge of a nearly stagnant body of water.  Many distinct properties enable the Sphagnum to create an ecosystem of its own.  The water-holding capacity of its leaves and production of humic acid result in water-logged, oxygen depleted, acidic, and nutrient-poor conditions that inhibit most plants from surviving. Over thousands of years, creeping inward on the water, the moss creates a floating mat—growing, accumulating, compressing, and storing plant matter.  This also inhibits bacterial function and decomposition.  The world’s peatlands and bogs sequester twice as much carbon as trees on the planet.  

Considering the earth’s greenhouse gas and climate crisis, the function and health of bogs and peatlands are imperative for our future.  Humans use peatlands and bogs for fuel and convert them to agricultural land.  This, along with other environmental threats, inhibits or destroys the function of these critical habitats.  When healthy, these places act as crucial carbon sink, storing carbon in the form of plant matter.  However, when function ceases they become an immense carbon source, releasing greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere.  One hectare (about 2.5 acres) of peatland can hold approximately 1,500 metric tons of carbon—and millions of hectares have been damaged. Raising awareness of our social and environmental responsibility as stewards of the earth, perhaps we can look to moss for lessons in surviving. 

A myriad of symbolic treasures can be gleaned from the life and ways of moss.  Returning to a small, simple, sensitive, and adaptable life, we might begin to heal our relationship with ourselves and nature. Moving forward in the face of our changing climate, living this way would be beneficial for all.

Humbly holding on to the rocks, fallen trees, and humic earth of our north woods, moss lives in the shade of the showy, flowering plants of spring and summer.  As those plants grow fast and tall, moss pales in their wake, remaining small, whispering the virtues of simplicity. As autumn falls across the land, leaves and tall plants browning as they perish, the small and mighty plants once again begin to shine.  Moving into winter, the enduring moss can photosynthesize at near-freezing temperatures. Blazing emerald, stark against the white snow, moss offers a colorful solace and the promise of life.

Resources:
Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer – A book I reference in this article and in my life.  A beautiful balance of science and Native American wisdom, the author paints a living awareness and importance of moss.  

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/bog/ 
Great general information on bogs/peatlands and other resources.

https://www.bogology.org – A fun, informational platform of bogs and an enthusiast’s goings-on.

Biello, David. (2009, December 08). Peat and Repeat: Can Major Carbon Sinks Be Restored by Rewetting the World’s Drained Bogs? Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/peat-and-repeat-rewetting-carbon-sinks/- A good article, though dated, for getting a general picture of the significance of bogs and peatlands around the world.

Crystal Cooper has called Marquette, MI home for a decade. She received a degree in Biology Ecology, emphasizing Botany at Northern Michigan University. Passionate about traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable, minimalistic lifestyle, Crystal’s focus is community resilience in the future of our changing climate. Reach her at crystal.coocooper@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crystal Cooper, Gifts from Nature, Uncategorized