Duluth - Autumn 2017

Arrowhead Region
Duluth, Mn & North

The weekend was spent revisiting memories past. Duluth was were I first began to truly discover myself, a young, innocent know-it-all freshman soaked up in the independence and freedom of college life. Returning to Lady Superior is always a coming home of sorts, a taste of timelessness. No matter how familiar the feeling, I seem to always get lost in the comfort of the serene and wild Great Lake. Exploring the raging rivers that hurl over boulders, creating waterfalls that flood downstream. October is one of the North Land's greatest gifts. 

I pulled off halfway through Seven Bridges Road. Sitting atop the mossy basalt rocks - tapping into the subtle quiver of the aspen leaves. Perfect timing to soak in the peak of Autumn and all the symbolic lessons this season has to offer. Throwing twigs, watching as they plunge into the current. The movement of water; constant, unconditioned, untiring. No agenda. No rhyme or reason. Simply flowing where it will.

Nature, that’s all it is, movement. Nature does not resist. Nature does not control. It simply follows the cue of time and progresses, changes, evolves.

Highway 61, dirty laundry pit stops & breakfast for lunch

Autumn seems to always point me North.
The days get shorter and the nights get colder.
Highway 61 continues to grab my hand, pulling me off the highway and through the small quaint Minnesota towns.
Somewhere there is an imaginary line where the prairie magically turns to pine. 
I left the deciduous forest of home to soak up peak season of the Arrowhead region of the Northeast.

 On the way I had some dirty laundry staring at me from the backseat, so of course I stopped to clean it.


 Moose Lake. A small laundromat sat in the midst of the downtown construction. Population just scratching the surface of a few thousand. The owner sat quietly behind the dimly lit front desk, dodging eye contact and any surface level conversation that might proceed. 
I ignored his avoidance and asked him for ten dollars worth of quarters. 
His manner was calm, his choice of music was spot on. 
The Rolling Stones singing from the tiled ceiling....

Why do you hide your love, they asked. 

I had a few choices of chairs.
I picked the dark olive one with a square yellow cushioned back.
The washer shook as each cycle passed. 
Lost and found socks pegged to the community board along with missing dog posters and help wanted ads.


What does any of this matter you might wonder?????

I've been feeling a little 'distracted' lately, as if I were racing for some unannounced destination. A common theme that continues to resurface as often as the seasons change.

Duluth was where I was heading, though a pit stop was completely necessary. Your parents always tell you that the older you get the faster it flies, this life never slows down. And though that adage holds a hint of truth, how much do we affect the pace?

A few years back I vouched to strictly stick to the back roads and though I find myself on the dirt trail, I'm still flying at 65 or 70..... WHY DO I FEEL SO RUSHED?? Where in heavens am I trying to get to and why on earth do I feel the need to do it as quickly as possible? 

It's as if everything is pushing me onward
& all I want is to slow down.

Thus, the laundromat is where I found myself. I was engulfed in the setting.
People coming and going and with each ding of the door I was pulled back to my seat. 
So often I find myself high in the clouds, my mind racing and pacing, oscillating back and forth. back. and. forth. The same stories and ideas and beliefs and judgements and worries consuming my energy until I am completely depleted and unaware of the world around me. 
DING. Here I am. Back in my seat. 

I hopped in my car and before leaving town found an all-day diner to enjoy a short stack heaping with butter and maple syrup.

I could have turned my back, but instead I decided to face the booth housing an older man sipping on his milk shake.

'Dessert before dinner'

he snickered. Not another word was spoken. 

Feeling fluffy as the pancakes that heavily filled my belly, I paid my tab and moseyed on. 

A shore shell sitting in the center council along with a driftwood dream catcher hanging from the rearview. Back to the back roads I go, this time inching my way north. Stopping for anything that caught my eye; county parks, a forest of pruned pines and the lake surrounded with tamaracks....

Life doesn't have to merely pass. 


Breathe 2017: Going Home [Part 3]


I quickly retorted, 'I don't know, one day I just showed up and now I'm back.' Some of the most profound, life changing moments, are those in which you had no intentions of being apart of, they just happen. The longer I live the more I realize you get what you need when you least expect it an need it most. Breathe is an experience, it isn't something you can quantify or qualify with reflective words and passionate emotions.

Breathe is something that is felt deep within your soul, it's a sense of going Home

Breathe is an opportunity to change or remain the same. There is no agenda. No hidden objectives. It is a crossroads of wanting to grow up and staying innocent to the times. It's the acceptance you've always been looking for. A place to let go of the worlds troubles in order to hear your own voice. It's a morning cup of tea and the sounds of singing echoes from the trees. It's a space to dance in the gravel and sing and play and move and shake your hips. A community kitchen with pots and pans and pistachios, people sharing their food, their thoughts, and their love. When the wind kicks up and you might lose it all, watch the hands eager to help. 

Some are seeking, some are found. There are wanderers and gypsys and vanbums, tiny home dwellers, yogis and jugglers, and fire-spinners, slackliners, musicians playing clarinet and guitar and ukulele and guitalele, banjo, drums, and the shake of the tambourine. There are live concerts at night [thank you Wax Works and The Three Beards] and conversations around the fire ring. 

Breathe is more than a superficial get-drunk-and-tell-your-friends-about-it-festival, the INFLUENCE this gathering has goes much deeper than a weekend spent in the corn field forest of Indiana.

Everyone has something to share, and they share it freely. From the film crew [JV Studios, you are amazing], to the teachers whom donate their time and expertise [CassRachel Matrejek] , and the artists who create, to the collectives [ISHABalancing Earth SlacklinesRocky Mountain Slackline] and the caregivers. Breathe is based on the value's and vision of giftism, it is a priceless lesson in giving with no expectation of return. This environment breeds positivity and leaves each person with optimistic eyes. There is infinite love and support oozing out of every individual that giddily jaunts the field. Families, and freewheelers, and forever friends come together in that connection.

As I sit on the bridge overlooking the forest crick, I watch the water dribble and drop off the rocky edge. This weekend has been a taste of simple living. No clock screaming the time, no forecast to keep you inside, no plans to attend and no worries to fret. Everything is impermenant and as the Somber Sunday Blues near I know this feeling won't last forever, yet I hold on tight. Alone, somewhere I can't be seen. My eyes swell heavy as the tears follow the rivers cue. A quiet bank to catch my thoughts as I drift aimlessly toward the pool, watching each drip ripple it's way out - patterns without order, silence without boredom.

I begin to notice...
My feet are stained with dirt and my hair is piled high with humidity.
My mind is calm, a completely different space than when I first arrived.
My reflection has changed, it's lighter. 
My shoulders slide down my back, the knots unwind in my neck.
The tightness in my tongue simmers
and the tension in my pierced lips has been released. 

It's not what you come for, it's what you leave with. The magic of Breathe isn't held in three days of forgotten distractions, the true change is returning home. You leave with a sense of hope.

Breathe reminds you that you can experience life fully, even when the world around you pokes and prods.

The people you meet tell you you're special, they tell you they love you and they tell you why. They look into your eyes, they wrap their love around your most-often locked up heart and they remind you who you really are. Everything you see is just a mirrored reflection, and the beauty out 'there', in 'them', is everything you hold yourself. Breathe triggers your strengths and allows you to shine as bright as the full moon in July.  Home is not a place, home is not an idea. Home is a feeling, it is a community, it is a family. Breathe is home. It's a way of life. It is opening to the love that swarms around you even when the thunder rolls and the rain pours down. 

When the end is near a lump forms deep in your throat, you've got words in your mind but no sound comes out. 


This moment may be over but the impact has just begun.

The days are long,
yet they pass so quick.
To be apart of this shift,
what an amazing gift. 

[Thank you JV Studios for the family photo]








Breathe 2017: Arriving [Part 2]

I awoke under a grove of pines while the morning light slivered through the trees, a cool breeze filled the air.  A slow and easy morning followed by the last leg of traveling. I found myself on some county road in the middle of Southern Indiana. The scene much like the last few days. Family farmhouses, an abundance of wild flowers and that bright light of sunshine beating it's way through the windshield. 

Breathe: A Slackline and Discovery Festival is something I stumbled upon last year [2016 Reflection] after a bit of online poking around. I had just moved back home and was looking for a slackline community to be apart of in the Midwest. I had gotten ahold of Mike, one of the co-creators of the festival, and knew immediately this was a celebration I wanted to be involved with. His words were simple and genuine,


Another year showing up solo. I drove into the drive, collected my map of the grounds and tied on my wrist band. I slowly sifted through the 18 pages of workshops and classes that were about to commence throughout the three-day weekend.

From yoga to slacklining, beginner to advanced, cooking classes to fire spinning, foraging to an open art studio, drum meditation to gong baths, writing workshops and talk tents. There literally is something for anyone, regardless of age, interest, or background.

I unloaded my car, set up camp and wandered around the space.


This years festival was nestled in the rolling hills of Owen County, Indiana. Stable Studios is the setting - a family owned, multipurpose venue home to weddings, festivals and a commitment to the local music scene. The environment set the tone. With 55 acres of fields, ponds and forest you immediately felt a calm rush throughout your over-stimulated, busy-boiling-blood, fueled by the bustle of city life.  There had been a storm Wednesday leaving the ground soaked and soggy, a perfect playground for barefeet, grounding as the mud squished and squirmed through each individual toe. As I explored the space, I ran into handfuls of familiar faces. Instead of the nod-your-head-and-keep-walking-approach everyone seemed to welcome me with open arms and exuberant hugs. At this point it really began to sink in, I had arrived.

Thursday night was spent orienting myself and refreshing last years memories. An early night was called in order to welcome a long weekend of discovery. Evening came and went with a Friday morning rise & shine as the rooster sang his tune. A white haze hanging low on the green field, a slow awakening. I spent the day volunteering in the community kitchen, walking the line in the beautiful 'Yarnia' art installation and basking in an array of random talks with total strangers as we sifted and dug through some of life's simplest struggles and personal secrets. 

People are drawn to this festival for so many reasons. On the most basic level, people come to slackline. There are hundreds of lines hung high and low throughout the entire space. Long lines, short lines, water lines, beginner lines, tricklines. The amount of time, energy and money that goes into rigging the setup is profound, a labor of love would be an understatement. Others show up for the yoga and mediation, a hippy festival, the music, the friends. But for most, a common theme threads through the core - people arrive unknowingly to reconnect and transform. 

Life is busy, we all know this. The days are packed full and all too often we can't find the 'time'. There is never enough of it, yet it's always there ticking away in front of our face. As we run and race around we forget how important it is to slow down, to be with OUR thoughts, not the thoughts of the TV screen or the social media, or the lyrics or the movie lines..... The noise and distractions of modern day living stifles our creativity and beats our imagination into a submissive box. 9 to 5's and active weekends leave very little wiggle room for spontaneity and going with the flow. Always lost in our plans for what's next, analyzing what's been, until we are so disconnected and irritable we don't know where the source begins. 

There is an intrinsic comfort - this environment, these people, this space - holds you and allows you to release the constricting limitations of systems and society. There is an energy here, one that is so over-powering that you let go of your subconscious baggage. The luggage you pick up and drag around in everyday life begins to dissipate, leaving your shoulders a little lighter. Breathe holds space for you to momentarily remove yourself from the noise and chatter, the stories you replay, the distractions, the habits and impulses and conditioning that has molded you. You realize you are not what happens to you, you don't have to play a role or match an identity here. Here you are free to Breathe, to truly take in life and love and laughter with each inhale and let go of the drama's and expectations with each exhale. 








Breathe 2017: On the Road [Part 1]

Sitting in traffic as I watch the exhaust fumes dance in the July heat. The cars all slowly creeping forward. Usually, this would be a scene of angst and impatience, though today things feel different. I mute the radio, sick of clicking around for the perfect sound. Instead I listen to the rubber inch it's way to the next intersection.

I've been on the road for two weeks now, weaving my way throughout the Midwest stopping from small town-to-town, taking in the pastel houses and white picket fences, and aweing at the American flags that hang proudly from the four season porches.

The trip started with a weekend celebration at the cabin, a fourth of July family tradition. Tubing, and tanning, and fishing and food.
Tuesday rolled around and I was to be heading South East for Breathe: A Slackline and Discovery Festival. On a whim, I showed up in the corn fields of Illinois last July and without hesitation decided to make the trek for year two. [Read last years reflection]

On the way I camped on the cliffs of Bluff Country in Winona, Minnesota - soaking up the lush pockets of land and water, redefining the color green. The wild overgrown path tugged and tattered what was left of my layers as I hauled myself up the rivers edge. 


The next day I followed the Mississippi Road and Historic Highway 61, denying any reference to the main drag. Backroads. That is where life happens. It's in the slow down - 60, 50, 40, all the way to a crawling 25 mph. As I decelerate, the finer details surface - painted fire hydrants, pugs and poodles, winding country roads, red barns with chipped paint, half collapsed silos, lawn gnomes and figurine cows, childhood lemonade stands and small town halls with a post office box in front.

Life is slower here, you can feel it.
Simple? You better believe it.

Homemade food at the local kitchen, walls plastered with newspaper articles lining its history and celebrating its specialties. Rhubarb jam and raspberry pie. Crossing through one-church-towns while running into welcome signs with slogans of 'a good place to call home'. Tiny villages and unincorporated shanties. Long ago, forgotten houses with shingles sliding off the North side. The memory of good days past and boarded up dreams, progress and proof of urban sprawl.

The desolate dirt roads shine a light on the beauty that surrounds me, The beauty that is always there, even when my mind is not.

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Birthday Wishes

On Tuesday I turned 25.... words won't suffice. So here is a picture to put it into perspective. Life is free & easy if you let it. Love the ones you meet, learn from the ones you love and let that damn smile shine. Thanks for all the birthday wishes y'all.



Photo Credit: Eugene Young