10-Minute Daily Yoga

I’ve done yoga on and off over the years, but I have to admit, for me, I really just needed to do it on my own, not in a group where I would feel self-conscious. My need for a more meditative solitary practice inspired me to ask my friend, Paula Suter, if she would be willing to pass on to me her intuitive yoga knowledge. She has such a way about her, I wanted some of her calm and beauty for myself. This was her gift that she passed on to me. In the spirit of paying it forward, here’s her rudimentary 10-minute version for you to try yourself, modify for your needs, and then share with others. Enjoy.

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We were in a beautiful place in Mexico surrounded by unpopulated hills and the sounds of the sea in the distance. Seeing these images and video just transports me there. I had only shot it for my own personal use, but Paula has graciously given me permission to share it with you all here. The images and video should simply speak for themselves (do pause the video to do your stretches, as we blasted through the poses quite quickly.)

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Secrets of the Sky Tombs

Years ago, my husband, Pete, and I made a promise to ourselves: We’d try to give our children the best real-world alternatives to video games and virtual reality we could find because reality itself is so much more fulfilling. To that end, our children have grown up on the trail. Daily lessons are often as blunt as the hard-won objective of simply reaching the next village without incident.

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Pete with 3-year-old Finn, on the trail up the Kali Ghandaki River to Jomsom. © Liesl Clark

Ancient castles, fortresses, and real-world kings are normal for kids who’ve played amongst crumbling fortress walls that intermingle with cold clouds, echoes of the past tickling us in the driving wind.

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The winter palace in Tsarang, Upper Mustang, crowned by the Annapurnas. © Liesl Clark

If our children stayed at home, those castles and forts would be grand designs crafted from code in video games they play on their devices. Yet today they can work and play amidst the real thing: Tombs of the ancient dead, haul bags filled with faunal and human bones to sort and clean, artifacts hewn from leather, silk, iron, copper, silver, and bronze, some dating as far back as 2800 years.

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10-year-old Cleo bagging two femurs, with Marion Poux overseeing her work. © Liesl Clark

Nothing in those video games can compare. As parents, we make our choices, whether we allow our children glimpses into our professional lives and our special passions. They, in turn, feel empowered to follow their own dreams, ask their own questions, and seek the truth.

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Finn, now 13, connects easily with his friends in Samdzong. He also flies all of our drone aerials. © Liesl Clark

This drive is what makes us human, what pushed the early pioneers to find shelter amongst the world’s most hostile and glorious mountains. These early settlers brought their children with them, because the alternative was unbearable.

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Leaving the kids at home, so we can do our work in the Himalayas, is unthinkable to us. © Pete Athans

On January 4th, 2017, our film, “Secrets of the Sky Tombs,” about our quest to find the first peoples of the Himalaya will air 9pm ET/8 Central on PBS’s NOVA. The film will also be broadcast in the upcoming months on France 5 in France and National Geographic Channel worldwide. It’s been a decade-long endeavor, and we’ll likely continue for another, as unknown caves, more ancient human DNA, and new questions need to be explored.

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Finn & Pete below Tsaile, headed back to Jomson, dreaming up the next filming expedition. © Liesl Clark

But if there are “secrets,” (as the film’s title suggests) to be uncovered, they’re the clues to success of a people who foraged for what they could off the land, who found meaning in the struggle, and who relied on their clan and their fellow villagers for the bare essentials to survive. Community and one’s lineage is the secret to strength in times of hardship, in the face of the extremes.

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Looking down on the village of Samar, Upper Mustang. © Liesl Clark

This lesson is not lost on us today.

Driftwood Building Blocks

We all love manipulatives, items with soft shapes made by the rhythms of the Earth. Give children a few hours and a place to play with found objects, and you’ll be surprised where their imaginations go. During a gorgeous 3 days of camping on our favorite Olympic National Park beach, we picked up not only washed-up plastics battered from years of travel atop the Pacific waves, but we also gathered a beautiful selection of years-worn driftwood.

The organic shapes were beguiling: Sticks worn into rounded gray pieces any child would love to handle, contemplate, and build magic worlds with.

We brought a few favorite pieces home to be used again and again as building blocks for the imagination. And now, whenever we go on our beach camping trips, we collect more, to give as gifts for friends who like to have a basket centerpiece for all ages to enjoy. Gather some up to offer at your next creative meeting with colleagues. They’ll get engaged, quickly. Collect some of nature’s beautiful bounty for your children and friends, and they’ll thank you for the plastic-free tactile experience.

It’s local, organic, and sustainable. What natural found objects do you use for mindful play?

Low Impact Trekking

By Mr. Everest

A Journey Beneath Dhaulagiri. Photo © Liesl Clark

A Journey Beneath Dhaulagiri. Photo © Liesl Clark

In most parts of the world, the higher we journey, the more rarified the air and pristine the environment. But in Nepal, that truth is changing. Twenty thousand visitors per year travel to the Mount Everest region, and thousands climb the 20,000 foot trekking peaks to catch glimpses of the world’s highest mountains. It’s imperative that we strive to leave as little impact as possible, and take steps to reverse some of the impacts left behind by others.

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This summer, we’ll be on our 13th journey through Nepal with our children, and feel fortunate to be able to share our work in the Himalayas with them, continuing the friendships they’ve established after 12 consecutive years of coming to this rugged country every spring or summer.  Exploring the outdoors brings joy to my 10 and 13 year old daughter and son and is integral to who they are.

Our children go on expeditions with us in Nepal.

Our children go on expeditions with us in Nepal. © Liesl Clark

My wife, Liesl, and I strive to pass on to them the 7 principles of leave no trace, established by the Center for Outdoor Ethics. I’ve added my personal insights and recommendations to the basic principles that you might find useful in planning for your next trip into the wilderness, whether alone or with your family and friends. The less impact we have on the environment, indeed even in our own backyards, the more readily our unique ecosystems and all the flora and fauna therein can thrive.

1) Planning your trip ahead of time and preparing is the first step. Take extra care to gain cultural knowledge of the behavior and the accepted norms of the country you’re travelling in. Learn about the environment you’re going into, whether it’s a pristine alpine wilderness or a heavily used high desert. Memorize which habitats are the most at risk and stay clear of them. Knowing this can make a difference in the choices you make for camping and recreating. Establish contingencies and have a plan in place for all contingencies.

Spinning prayer wheels in Kagbeni. © Liesl Clark

Spinning prayer wheels in Kagbeni. © Liesl Clark

Here are a few steps you’ll need to take in the planning phase that will greatly reduce your impact:

a) Get rid of all excessive packing of items you’re bringing with you. Remove the packaging from batteries, for example so you don’t bring that unnecessary paper and plastic (called blister packs that are not recyclable) with you.

b) Procure the right medicines and medical supplies for your trip. Remove the unnecessary packaging.

c) Bring maps and navigation materials like a compass or GPS.

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d) Set up the necessary insurance you’ll need in the event of a medical evacuation or helicopter rescue.

e) Where will your water sources come from? Please avoid plastic bottled water and plan to bring your own reusable water bottle to be refilled. Bring a Steripen for ultraviolet water purification, a water filter, or iodine tablets to treat your water.

2) Travel and camp on durable surfaces. For most trekking, you don’t need big heavy boots. You can travel in lighter trail shoes which don’t impact the terrain as much, causing erosion. Avoid going over people’s stone walls or walking through gardens. If you open gates, close them behind you. The point here is that you’re leaving no trace that you passed by. This is one instance where you don’t want to leave a big impression behind.

Sometimes travelling by foot is more reliable than by jeep. This jeep lost its fuel tank en route up the Kali Gandaki River. © Liesl Clark

Sometimes travelling by foot is more reliable than by jeep. This jeep lost its fuel tank en route up the Kali Gandaki River. © Liesl Clark

3) Have a plan for dealing with your waste:

a) If you’re in a National Park, use blue bags or something similar to pack out your own human waste. If you’re trekking, use outhouses. Otherwise, carry a small trowel or shovel and dig catholes. Carry your own toilet paper and burn it.

b) Carry out all plastics from your bars and all packaging from your food. A compression sack can do the trick to keep the waste in one place in your pack and consolidated.

c) Carry out the batteries from cameras and other equipment. These should be disposed of responsibly. Either take them home with you if you’re travelling in a country that doesn’t recycle them, or research where your nearest recycling facility is at the end of your trip. We stockpile all our batteries on our expeditions and bring them home.

d) Water: This might be the single most important step you take. Bringing your own reusable bottle saves the environment from hundreds of plastic bottles potentially littering the landscape. If others see you using a Steripen, a filter, or water tablets, they’ll see how easy an option it is. You can always ask for boiled water, but this water requires fuel to boil contaminants. A Steripen or hand-filter will mean you can get water wherever you want and it’ll be cold. It will also be free! I use a Steripen that has a solar charger attached to it so I’m not reliant on power or batteries to use it. Learn where the potable water stations are so you can support these efforts to stop people from buying bottled water.

Using a Steripen means we can have fresh cold water anywhere. © Liesl Clark

Using a Steripen means we can have fresh cold water anywhere. © Liesl Clark

e) When you’re on your way out, pay it forward by removing any waste you see in the environment. Especially if you come across potentially toxic waste like batteries or CFL light bulbs. These shouldn’t be anywhere outside, helping to remove these things and disposing of them safely, helps zero-offset your impact.

Removing a battery from a village water source. © Liesl Clark

Removing a battery from a village water source. © Liesl Clark

4) If you’re cooking on your own, be sure that you know where you should and shouldn’t have fires. Use local fuel that you can find easily and use those in substitution of wood fires.

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a) If you’re trekking where there are villages nearby, eating locally is a great way to reduce waste. The more local produce and indigenous food products you can eat from nearby fields and kitchens the less imported foods are needed to support your journey. We eat in homes and tea shops wherever we can in Nepal, where you’ll always find dhal bhat a Nepali dish of rice and lentils along with side dishes of locally grown vegetables.

Local Fresh Goatsmilk Yogurt in Kolapani. © Liesl Clark

Local Fresh Goatsmilk Yogurt in Kolapani. © Liesl Clark

b) Save your organic waste rather than throwing it outdoors to decompose. In some environments like the desert, even eggshells take an inordinate amount of time to break down. If you’re passing through villages, local farmers will be happy to take your stockpiled organics to feed to their stock animals (chickens, cows, yaks) or put in their compost piles.

5) Leave the natural environment as it is. Refrain from picking flowers or taking mementos from the natural world. Take only photos, leave only footprints.

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6) Be respectful of wildlife and don’t disturb any birdlife, mammals or any animals you come across.

7) Be respectful of other travellers using the same environment. The same goes for locals. Try to learn some of their language so you can greet them and ask a question. For starters, learning how to say hello, goodbye (often the same word), thank you, good morning, and counting to three will get you far. And, as in step #1, be aware of cultural norms.

9-hour day in jeep will put any 7-year-old to sleep. © Liesl Clark

9-hour day in jeep will put any 7-year-old to sleep. © Liesl Clark

Most of all, be in the moment and enjoy the journey, and where it takes your mind and heart.

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Be An Agri-Tourist

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Enormous oranges littered the ground beneath the trees of a family-owned Florida citrus grove. The waste-not person in me thought, “They’re not picking them fast enough. What a shame.” But my thoughts were answered by the woman offering a farm tour.

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“Here at Dooley Groves, we leave all fallen fruit on the ground. It acts as excellent compost for the trees. Please don’t pick up any fallen fruit.”

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This tidbit of information was great to know, and my estimation of the farm promptly grew by several notches. And then I saw the cow barrel. Yes, they save all their citrus waste for the nearby cows who love it.

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We were instructed to not pick the green-bottomed fruit on trees as it’s affected by a disease that must be treated by steaming the tree at 125 degrees to kill the bacteria.

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A green-diseased orange.

There’s a machine they have at the grove that can steam two trees at a time. All they need is a few seconds of the steam and the bacteria is wiped out. What a huge investment, to fight a disease that has affected every grove in Florida for the past few years.

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But the steaming is well worth it, when you see the trees that are at risk, the yield from the grove and the products that come from it. I’m a big fan of citrus and the many wonderful things you can do with citrus peels.

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We love picking juicing oranges to use in our hand-lever juicer. This varietal is ripe when the oranges start to turn brown.

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But the red grapefruit is spectacular.

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I had never been to a citrus grove until we visited one a few years ago with our children. I’m happy to know they have learned much about where their citrus comes from, a valuable lesson in appreciating food, how it’s grown and harvested, and how to support local agriculture wherever they are.

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Walking through the rows of laden trees was such a privilege, with orange blossoms overwhelming the senses. Agri-tourism, especially on organic farms, is so important to support and take part in. Many of the groves we’ve visited recently are just barely making ends meet. Seeking them out and paying to pick your own fruit and veggies, is one of the best ways to support our farms.

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And the honeybees, of course, will thank you with their honey, later.

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What farms have you recently visited and enjoyed?

Find Your Wild Places

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Hammock and swamp, left in their natural state in Myakka State Park. Photo © Liesl Clark

There are some places on Earth where it’s hard to know what the original local habitat used to look like, what the land should look like if we weren’t here. With all of our built-up neighborhoods, networks of roads, mini-malls, shopping centers, urban and suburban landscapes, even rural farmland sprawl can hide what the land truly could be if we simply left it alone.

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Spanish moss-covered canopy at Myakka State Park. Photo © Liesl Clark

Today, in the United States at least, many of these untouched places are only available in protected places, our national, state, and sometimes local parks, sanctuaries for fauna and flora alike. Whether you’re at home or traveling, I implore you to find your nearest wild places.

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Myakka River State Park © Liesl Clark

Seek these unfettered wildernesses out and help steward them by volunteering to keep them in their pristine state, or give money to help keep them wild.

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Great Egret on the banks of the Myakka River. Photo © Liesl Clark

We recently visited Myakka River State Park outside of Sarasota, while on a spring break trip to see Grammy. This beautiful park is the largest state park in Florida, and you won’t regret a visit as you’ll see more alligators, up-close-and-wild, here then just about anywhere.

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The waterfowl here are stunning:

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Heron. Photo © Liesl Clark

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You can travel by an air boat tour to view the wildlife, or gently glide through the waters in a canoe or kayak.

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Or, rent bikes right there at the park and pedal along the water or oak forests to view the undeveloped wildscape.

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It’s like stepping back in time to a lost world.

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A wooden walkway takes you over the marshland to birdwatch from a pier that provides a vantage onto the open water and grasslands.

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Where grass meets sky. Florida’s original landscape. 

But perhaps most spectacular of all is the canopy walk, a chance to get up high above the trees and view the wilderness from the perspective of an egret, turkey vulture, or crow.

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Here, above the treetops, you can see so far you almost see the curvature of the Earth.

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Find your wild places. Define them, why they’re important to you. Help protect them. Visit them often and share them with your loved ones. BT0C2453.jpg

Before it’s too late.

 

Zero Offset Vacation Days

Zero Offset Your Carbon-Heavy Vacation Travel with Days Spent at Sustainable Organic Farms. Photo © Liesl Clark

Let’s face it: Flying to Florida from Seattle isn’t the most carbon-free activity. But if we want to see Grammy, we have to go to her. She simply doesn’t fly.

Once we arrived in Florida, we dreamed up a few activities to help offset the jet fuel burn our family of 4 incurred. Hitting the beach, only 100 yards away, was easy — just throw a towel around your shoulders. But be sure to bring a bag for collecting plastics.

Plastics Retrieved En Route to the Beach. It's Easy To Do. Photo © Liesl Clark

Before reaching the beach, we filled our bag with lots of straws and straw sleeves found in juice boxes. Interestingly, we didn’t find too many plastics on the beach as I discovered, a day later, that 2 men drive along the beaches in a little golf cart with a trash picker and retrieve all the debris. I wondered why they couldn’t simply walk?

Here's one they missed. Sunglasses part on the beach. Photo © Liesl Clark

Every day, we filled a bag with plastics while walking along the sidewalks or shore. For our children, the incentive was finding something odd and different. A tiny working flashlight in the shape of an alien was the first day’s reward, then a cute plastic fish the next, and all types of plastic beach toys were recovered, too. We needed a shovel and it didn’t take long to find one. No lack of entertainment when you decide to do a bit of daily good and pick up the world’s plastics. And the Earth always gives back to our little scavengers in interesting ways. Plastic “swords” used in tropical drinks to hold fruit together washed ashore daily to the delight of my son, who started collecting them for his Lego characters.

McWashed Ashore. Sliced apples in a bag? Photo © Liesl Clark

The contents of a bag of McDonald’s apple slices found tucked in the dune vegetation became food for eager sea gulls.

Apple snacks. Courtesy of sea-borne McDonald's fare. Photo © Liesl Clark

In between hours of play amidst the waves and digging in the sand with our newly-found beach toys, it didn’t take much effort during our “plastics recovery” walks to fill a bag a day. If we all did this, just bent down and picked up the straws and plastic caps under foot, we’d feel like we did a form of good, helping to extract the plastics from our shorelines before they head back out to sea.

This leaf wasn't plastic, and it's a pleasure to see a stretch of sand that was plastic-free. Photo © Liesl Clark

But the greatest fun we had was visiting a local organic fruit grove. I spent a little time online and discovered a list of pick your own-type farms in our region and many are organic farms. We hopped in the car and drove inland about 16 miles to find an organic orange grove.

Get to know the places you vacation in a little better by picking local organic produce there. Valencia oranges are in season in February in Western Florida. Photo © Liesl Clark

The kids had never picked oranges and this experience is surely one they won’t forget. In the direct sun, the temperatures were in the 90s and we had to watch the ground for fire ants. With some long fruit picker poles in our hands, we ambled several rows of valencia orange trees into the grove and were overwhelmed by the sweet smell of orange blossoms.

Fruit Picking in Manatee County, FL. Photo © Liesl Clark

These fruit-laden trees grew in what loooked like pure sand, but they’re obviously getting the nutrients and water they need because the oranges are delicious and juicy. It took us 15 minutes in the hot sun to fill a 10-gallon bucket. And with the price of $10/bucket we walked away feeling we got the better end of the deal.

Bucket Full of Valencia Oranges. Photo © Liesl Clark

The children needed an ice cream cone to cool off, so we discovered another U-pick organic farm down the road. This one grew hydroponic strawberries — and we picked our fill of delicious sun-sweetened fruit.

Picking Strawberries at O'Brien Family Farm. Photo © Liesl Clark

And the ice cream cones, of course, were the perfect plastic-free end of day snack, a just reward for our zero offset vacation day efforts.

Ice cream cones are the original plastic-free treat. Photo © Liesl Clark