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Green Living: Time for a Happy Walk! by Steve Waller

Feeling stressed, tired, angry, lonely, or sleepless? Fighting weight gain or aging? The fountain of youth exists—only two feet away, literally. Look down and count. Two feet? You’re all set. Park the car. Start Happy Walking!

We are built to walk! Our ancient ancestors walked out of Africa to the ends of the earth – Europe, Asia, the Americas, the U.P! The average American spends nine to ten hours a day sitting or driving cars. We’re becoming wimps. If we were built to drive cars, we’d have only one foot!

Google “benefits of walking.” Walking helps you lose weight, reduces stress (lowering blood pressure), decreases anger and hostility (makes you nicer), and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. A regular 15-30-45 minute walk is one of the best (cheapest) and easiest things you can do for your health.

Walkers think more creatively than sitters. Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, increases metabolism by burning extra calories, and prevents muscle loss. Walking triggers your body to release natural pain-killing endorphins. A 10-minute walk may be as good as a 45-minute workout to relieve the symptoms of anxiety. You don’t need to slog it out on a treadmill at the gym for these benefits.

Walking in nature, specifically, reduces dwelling over negative experiences, which reduces the risk of depression. Walks with a partner, a neighbor, or a good friend help you feel connected, which boosts mood. Just twelve minutes of walking can increase joviality, vigor, attentiveness, and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting. The more steps people take during a day, the better their mood tends to be. Walkers are happier!

Since walking doesn’t wear down your body much, it doesn’t require recovery time. For those who are fit, walking is a phenomenal maintenance activity, keeping you healthier into old age.

So, instead of driving to a gym to work out, walk to the gym’s front door. Do Not Enter. Shout out loud, “I walk!” Turn around. Walk home. Your workout is done. No monthly fee!

Start with a walk in the neighborhood. Take it easy at first. Bring the kids. Be neighborly. Walk to the local grocery. Why drag 4,000 lbs of automobile along to buy a 10 lb. bag of goodies? Grab a comfortable recycled bag or backpack or borrow a neighbor’s wagon or a stroller for strolling, and walk. Plan weekends exploring many of the local short or long foot trails awaiting your footprints. (https://www.traillink.com/state/mi-trails/.)

Ready for an adventure? The Iron Ore Heritage Trail traverses 47 miles across the Marquette Iron Range. It’s an outdoor linear mining history museum where you exercise your body and mind with interpretive signage, artwork and connections to museums along the way. http://ironoreheritage.com/

The North Country Trail (NCT) is a 4,600 mile footpath stretching from eastern New York to central North Dakota. As of early 2017, 3,009 miles of the trail are in place, passing through seven states. The longest stretch is 1,000+ miles split evenly between upper and lower Michigan.

In the beautiful Upper Peninsula, the NCT stretches 167 miles from the Mackinac Bridge to the Luce/Alger County border, just east of Grand Marais; 188 miles from Grand Marais through Marquette to the Marquette/Baraga County Line on the eastern border of Craig Lake State Park; then 192 more miles to the MI/WI border near Ironwood. (https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/michigan-upper/)

Do it all or maybe just a part, or just one part at a time. Walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight. Walking with groups of friends outdoors exposes you to fun and creative thought.

Buy less gasoline. Walk. You’ll be happier!

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.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

 

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Inner Nutrition: Overcoming Our Disease of Dis-Ease, by Keith Glendon

As I read an inspirational article on the Internet the other day, I noticed tension building in my chest. I felt slightly inadequate. I watched a cloud of self-doubt form over my perspective. I became curious—why was this inspiration bringing me down? In the coming days, a pattern emerged. I noticed more articles on the Internet. More news headlines and connotations. More advertising and social media event invitations. It seemed wherever I turned, there was a common message: ‘Do more, achieve, strive, compete, stand out, be everything, have it all!’ I was un-inspired. Instead of motivating me to greatness, the undercurrent seemed to shout “You’re not enough!!”

Leonardo da Vinci spent sixteen years delaying his work on the Mona Lisa. For several years, the painting just sat there unfinished. He was criticized for dabbling in distractions that spanned painting and sculpture, music, the sciences, architecture, and other pursuits that kept him from progressing in the eyes of many as an artist. What his critical contemporaries didn’t recognize was that da Vinci’s rambling genius and creative process simply didn’t work along a timeline. He needed time, distraction, procrastination, unstructured puttering. It wasn’t about achievement or greatness but the process of exploring his unique interests and gifts, giving his piece into the flow of things.

After I caught myself being sideswiped by dark feelings from the “inspiration” with which I was being bombarded, I was reminded of the recent passing of my dad’s wife. Gail enjoyed many things but one thing she loved was quilting. A talented craftswoman, she always had a few quilt projects underway. Her creations were expressions of joy and of love. They were often gifts to those for whom she cared. They were artwork and simple, functional beauty – the product of her creative soul expressed in fabric. They were a gathering of friends. They were an investment of her heart. At times, she was intensely-focused at work on her quilts. Other times, projects would sit there in a corner while she read a book, gardened, or went on long bike rides with Dad. Taking time, setting aside, relaxing into life was an essential part of the process.

Gail was taken by disease. Cancer was the culprit. In life, though, she didn’t live in dis-ease. She didn’t strive or compete or seek to stand out or have it all. What she did have was joy in simple things, dedication to creativity, quiet consistency in her passion and love. She shared it freely. She took her time. Not long after she passed, Dad and I stood on a beach at sunset. As I felt his grief, I also felt gratitude for the quiet moment. The beauty of the sky. The lesson in Gail’s life.

There is a disease of dis-ease sweeping our world. Lest we lose our lives to it, let us remember it’s okay to take our time, to dabble, to be distracted, to simply be. In this fast-and-furious ‘modern world,’ let’s remember to express our love, take walks, enjoy one another’s company, create, garden, ‘waste’ time together. Let’s remember it’s okay to be at ease.

Keith Glendon is a grateful husband, father of four, writer, poet, global technology something-or-other, and generally life-loving seeker, learner, and gratitude-spreader. Having grown up in Marquette, traveled the world, and returned to settle in his hometown, he now focuses on being Daddy and offering what he can to the flow.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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“Loving Summer” 2018 Issue!

HH 44 CoverYour Summer 2018 Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine is out!  Click here to find out where you can pick up yours today!

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Green Living: Answer the Call of the Wild with Your Phone! By Steve Waller

As spring springs, birds migrate, buds blossom, bees buzz, and green returns to the forests. That clean, earthy aroma blows your winter blues away. The temptation to get off the winter-slumber sofa and be there when spring happens is irresistible. Take your phone along, not just to tell your friends to get off their butts and meet you outside, but to help you find interesting living things to photograph with your phone and upload to iNaturalist.org.

I’ve been using iNaturalist.org (iNat) since last summer. It’s amazing. Download the free iNaturalist app (App Store or Google Play). Take a picture of any living thing with your phone through the app (no humans or pets). You get a personalized species life list in your phone and online of what you saw, when you saw it and where you saw it – anywhere in the world! Your phone’s time and GPS coordinates are automatically recorded in the photo.

Even if you can’t identify the flower or critter in your photo, iNat’s amazing artificial intelligence engine will quickly analyze your photo and find the name for you! If your photo is good, the artificial intelligence is really good at identification. Photos can also be imported into iNat from Facebook, Picasa, or Flicker.

But wait, there’s much more waiting online when you get home. Go to your free iNat account. Someone else, a naturalist, an actual human, another iNat user has probably viewed one or more of your online photos and either agrees with your ID or corrected it. I’ve had iNat users from all over the United States and Canada, Italy, Norway, even Australia help ID my photos! Many of them are experts in their fields.

If two or more people agree with the name of the thing in your photo, it moves from “Needs ID” to “Research Grade” and can be used by researchers and organizations around the world who scientifically monitor and study nature. Your phone photos can contribute to the world of citizen science!

My Painted Lady and Red Admiral butterfly photos from Marquette are migrants from Texas. I never knew that! Those observations were found in iNat and used by the Vanessa Migration Project and by eButterfly North America.

While online, view the iNat map to discover instantly a species’ range, who else found it, when and where. Or specify any map location and all the observations by all the observers in that location will appear. Go to Marquette County, MI, US (my area) and you’ll see my observations along with others. View the “People” tab. My avatar is “nonfictionsteve.” iNat built a fantastic 2017 Year in Review page for me featuring my photos: inaturalist.org/stats/2017/nonfictionsteve.

I strive for extra high-quality photos with a DSLR camera and lenses, but that’s just my choice. Many iNat observers just use a phone camera with great results. Just be sure your subject mostly fills the photo frame, is reasonably clear, and is well lit. Use the phone’s focus and flash when necessary for a good exposure. Remember, you are trying to upload an image that can be recognized from millions of life forms on this planet: bugs, plants, reptiles, amphibians, fish, etc., so details are important.

Once you’re familiar with iNat’s features and power, you could host a “BioBlitz” where a group of friends, children, or adults can iNat one location en masse and photograph 50 to 100 species in just an hour. It’s educational, amazing, and fun.

Grab your phone. Get outside. Connect with a community of over 500,000 scientists and naturalists worldwide who can help you learn more about nature. For details, visit inaturalist.org/pages/getting+started.

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 Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Senior Viewpoint: Hands of Time, by Esther Margaret Ayers

“Do wrinkles hurt?”

The eleven-year-old boy asked it suddenly as we sat together on the piano bench. I had asked the student to observe my hands on the keys, showing him the proper position: curved fingers, the wrist forming a level bridge from hand to forearm.

“What?” I was caught off guard, unable to think of a simple reply. With three fingers and a thumb, he stretched the thin skin on top of one of my hands. It obligingly yielded, rising in a pale tent of tissue. He released it, and the tent slowly collapsed. “Old people have such cool skin,” he murmured.

“Okay, buster,” I retorted, gently batting his hand away. “Your turn to try this.”

I was thirty-two years of age at the time. I certainly didn’t accept the notion of myself as old. This was the first occasion a student had even hinted at such a thing. After his lesson was over, I briefly contemplated my hands, then set the moment aside. I was, after all, a young wife and mother, a teacher, a graduate student; I had no time to think about Time.

In my forties, a single parent, I continued to teach piano in addition to my full-time job as a vocal music teacher. My students continued to teach me, too.

One student, in her fifties, studied with me for eight years. She had grown up in a poor rural family, but had always wanted to play the piano. Over the years she mastered the basics, learned to play hymns and popular songs of her youth. Yet she loved the classics and we began to learn the much beloved Adagio Cantabile from Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique. She learned the notes and rhythms readily, but neither of us could understand why certain passages were so difficult, why it didn’t sing. We labored in some frustration until one day she sighed, “Maybe it’s my hands. You’re still young; you wouldn’t understand. But I’m getting older.”

I tried to brush it off. “Oh, we all have different hands. You’ll be playing in your seventies.”

“No, look at my hands. I think it’s the arthritis.”

I looked—really looked—at her hands, seeing them for the first time. I saw the swelling and redness. I had been so focused on the music and the instrument, I had been looking right past her hands. How could I have been so blind?

I took her hands in mine. She encouraged me to feel the knobs forming at her joints. “It’s probably from the laundry.”

“Laundry?”

“Yes, that’s what the doctor thinks. I was the oldest of nine kids. My job was to hang wet laundry outside on the line. He thinks it’s a miracle I can play the piano at all, but says it’s good for my hands.”

I closed my eyes, picturing the little girl in the woods near Big Bay, her bare fingers freezing in the winter wind as she pinned up the family washing.

“Shall I play it again?” she asked.

Yes, please. Tears ran down my face this time as she played the timeless melody.

It’s been twenty years since the woman with arthritis suggested I was too young to understand, and 30 years since that boy cast me as an ‘old’ person. I still work full-time: mornings are for writing, afternoons for piano teaching. Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of students of all ages, all with something to teach me.

This fall, a new student began lessons with me, a professional woman in her forties, with a good ear and a ready laugh. She took lessons as a child. As a yoga instructor, her posture is already perfect. Her fingers curve beautifully over the keys. However, when she plays the Arabesque, I hear a brittle, tense tone. I observe how her wrists and arms are locked.

I say, “Watch me play for a moment.”

“Oh,” she exclaims, after a few measures. “You make it look so easy. Your hands move so naturally.”

“Here.” I pat the bench of my piano. “Come sit beside me. Let’s draw some circles with our wrists and elbows.”

It’s true my presbyopia makes me fiddle with myriad sets of glasses, which amuses my young students. But I wouldn’t trade the eyes I have now for anything; I see more clearly, with more openness.

It’s true my ears don’t work as well as they once did, especially that left one. But I hear my students better, for I have finally learned how to listen to them.

And even I will admit I have “old hands.” But these hands are still learning—from my own teacher, now in her mid-seventies, who guides them in making even more beautiful the music I still desire.

Esther Margaret Ayers (known to her students as Esther LaVoy Barrington) lives and writes in Marquette. She has taught piano from her home studio near McCarty’s Cove since 1983.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2017 – 2018 Issue, copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

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Spring 2018 Issue Out!

Yes, that’s local surfing legend Dan Schetter on our cover, courtesy of Sharon Bodenus, Bodenus Photography!

Want to know how Sharon got that photo? How to stop procrastinating? Become more balanced? Make the world a greener place after you’ve gone? Deal with kids and smartphones?

Pick up a copy today! (Click here for a list of U.P. distribution points.) HH 43 Cover5

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New Year, New Column!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’m very pleased and excited to welcome back veteran writer Dr. Heidi Stevenson and share with you our new column, “Life-Work with Dr. Stevenson”! Dr. Stevenson’s knowledgeable, insightful mind, big heart, and well-honed writing skills are put to task here to help us grow through “Life-Work.”

Please read her introductory article below to find out how you can join us in this catalytic new experiment for improving our world!

To see where you can pick up a hard copy with this and many more great articles, click here.

Wishing you a very healthy, happy 2018!

Roslyn Elena McGrath, Publisher

HH 42 coverIntroducing Life-Work with Dr. Stevenson

Heidi Stevenson, PhD

The commonplace practice of judging someone else’s life by its similarity to our own: what is that all about? Where does that tendency come from? Why are we so sure we know what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes when we often don’t? Why are we so sure there’s not more to learn about our fellow humans? We may not always make conscious decisions to think and act this way, but we often do, nonetheless.

I used to teach college composition. And in those courses, I used to assign auto-ethnography papers. Auto-ethnography is part ethnography and part autobiography. It employs thick, detailed description of a subculture by a writer who tries to live like a member of the subculture in order to deeply understand it (think of Margaret Mead or those “I lived with the ____ tribe for six months” articles in National Geographic), and part autobiography because it asks the writing to define a subculture to which the writer really has belonged for some time. So we can think of it as true insider ethnography or highly focused autobiography.

I loved learning from my students as they wrote about their subcultures. I learned about everything from lacrosse players to Xena: Warrior Princess super-fans to money launderers to furries. Something that almost always came out of that writing, no matter who the writer or what the subculture: people felt like outsiders to the rest of the world because of their membership in their subcultures. They felt defensive and disenfranchised. Even the captain of the football team. Even if the team won a lot. Even the investment bankers and Olympic athletes and valedictorians and swimsuit models.

Because they always assumed they were being judged harshly, they also assumed that was a societal modus operandi and judged others harshly. With fear. Suspicion. Confidence in their uninformed, even willfully ignorant opinions.

But through class discussion of each other’s work, they usually learned they weren’t being judged all that harshly, if at all. And then they learned to do the same. To back off. To chill out. To quit judging things they didn’t understand. To listen to each other, and to believe each other. It was a dependable miracle I was lucky enough to witness 5-6 times a year x 25 students per class from 1999-2016.

I miss that, all those reminders that humans can be better. More importantly, I miss the certainty that exactly this kind of improvement is happening somewhere on Earth because I was watching nothing less than society turning smarter and kinder, less judgmental and more informed.

This column, if I’m being honest, will be an incredibly selfish endeavor. Teaching was my passion; now it’s my compulsion. I cannot help but think like a teacher, and I cannot help but think about the systemic benefits a society can reap with a little guided inquiry.

I am not your teacher, and thus cannot assign you homework. But if you want to do a little life-work with me, here’s your assignment:

Think about a subculture you belong to by birth, circumstance, or choice. It could be your heritage (being Native American, mixed race, from Botswana, Canada, etc.), the specifics of your upbringing (lived in a small town, was raised Catholic, was an only child, etc.), a job you do (plumber, math teacher, anesthesiologist, cashier) a pastime you enjoy (playing roller derby, chess, bird-watching, etc.), or any other thing that is a part of your identity (being vegan, being a “clean freak,” etc.)

Think about what people misunderstand or judge unfairly about your subculture. We tend to remember these incidents more than the times we’ve been treated fairly or indifferently. This should be easy. Jot a few down.

Now go out and learn about a subculture to which you do not belong. The less you know about it initially, the better. Feeling brave? Learn about a subculture with which you’re uncomfortable, people that engage in belief systems, activities, etc. at odds with your own. You can gather primary research—talking with members of the subculture—or secondary research—reading published work on the subculture.

Write down what you are learning. Focus on what members of the subculture say is often misunderstood or judged unfairly. Share your sources. And then share it with me; submit 500 words or less (excluding any links or citations for your sources) to me at heidi.ann.stevenson@gmail.com with the subject line “Life-work #1 submission” for a chance to be featured in the next column. Designate whether or not you’re comfortable with your writing being shared under your name, or whether you’d prefer anonymity.

I look forward to learning from you and with you.

Heidi Stevenson is a lifelong Yooper, save for two years earning a PhD in Pennsylvania. She is a former NMU professor, writing center director, and group fitness and yoga instructor, and a current wrangler of house cats, autoimmune diseases, and ideas.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2017 – 2018 Issue, copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

 

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