Winter is coming, and as the cold seeps in the leaves will finish falling, the plants will go to sleep, and the sky will turn grey for the next few months. The colder temperatures will mean less days outside and the winter time blues will dampen the golden freedom of fall afternoons. Winter offers its own opportunities however, with time to rest, reflect, and learn. Spend your time inside to grow. Read a book, take an online course, or put extra effort into your self-care.
To help combat those dark and frigid days, I recommend reading Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola. The book is the perfect winter time read to bring you back to the warmth of summer days. It offers a unique and inspirational look into the world of plants that is for more fascinating than your 10th grade biology class.
The general focus of the work centers on the notion that most people tend to ignore plants, viewing them as unintelligent and passive beings. People overlook how vital plants are to the survival of all other living creatures. Perhaps because they are immobile, or because they are ever-present, they are seemingly silent, or that they are easily manipulated by humans. But imagine a world without plants. To quote the authors, “They… are the link connecting the activities of the whole organic world (that is, of everything we call life) with our solar system’s energy center.” Without plants we wouldn’t have food, clothes, breathable air, energy supplies- life would be unsustainable.
This notion does not just apply to plants. If people do not notice all that you do, it does not mean that you are not important. The things you are doing, the projects you are working on, the time you are investing in yourself and in others is valuable. Your work is beautiful. What you create and contribute to the world is worth creating, even if no one is paying attention. Just because people tend to pass you by does not mean you are any less vital to the larger ecosystem of the world, and if you left, people would definitely notice. Just like the plants.
The book goes into detail about the complexities of plant intelligence, explaining how they use their senses to engage with their environment (yes they have all 5 senses we do, plus 15 more!). It examines the historical reasons plants have been glossed over in philosophical, religious, and scientific texts. It even poses its own philosophical questions such as, are plants altruistic? Check out the book for the entire explanation, but in short I was inspired that this question could even be asked. This suggests kindness is an innate characteristic so fundamental to living things that even plants exhibit signs of a moral compass. Imagine being a plant: you can’t move, you have to fight all other plants around you for resources, avoid being eaten entirely by animals, protect yourself from the elements, it can’t be easy, and yet, you have a sense to help out other plants around you in need. This level of thoughtfulness existing within in plants means kindness must be a core trait within people too. Be kind to others. The world might have made some hearts hard, but they can be softened. Even if it goes unnoticed, even if people do not immediately pay attention, your efforts to be gentle will help reshape the world.
Another fun fact presented in the 2nd chapter is the positive benefits plants have on the human mind. Cited are studies showing that the presence of plants in classrooms improve student concentration, and neighborhoods with greener spaces tend to have fewer car accidents and suicides. The impact of plants on mental health is remarkable. Maybe that has something to do with the recent houseplant comeback. Another way to help battle seasonal depression is to bring the outdoors in. When you pick up this book, snag a few house plants to brighten up your room too. Your plant will love you just as much you will love the life it brings you this cold season. If you don’t know what kind of plant to get or tend to kill anything green you touch start with one of these beginner options and work your way to building up a collection.
Overall, Brilliant Green, offers a lot of interesting and detailed information about how plants work. In it’s own way though it is a work of inspiration, with an underlying message that the moments overlooked are often the most important and beautiful in life. Don’t waste your winter this year. Take advantage of the time you have to try something you wouldn’t normally. Don’t let people overlook you either, and if they do, it does not mean you are any less wondrous. Keep on putting in the work on your dreams, keep focusing, keep creating, keep doing your very best. Your actions today have the power to impact the hearts and minds of those in the environment around you- just like a plant. Keep growing towards the sun, and when the spring comes you will bloom the most vibrant flowers that will capture the eye of everyone who passes by. Plants are stationary beings, but without them, the world would crumble. You have been planted in your own unique situation, and your soil may not be rich, your water supply may be weak, but even cacti in the hottest deserts blossom the loveliest flowers in their own time. You are creating amazing work exactly where you are planted, and one day the seeds of your efforts will spread across the world. You can do anything exactly where you’re at.
Depression and anxiety manifest in many forms, and sometimes they become so draining that keeping your home clean is overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Or maybe you have physical limitations that make doing more than a few tasks a day too much. Or maybe life is just really busy right now. I’ve been battling all of these obstacles for quite some time, and as much as I wish I could be a tidy and organized person, I am just not. However, I have not given up on my mission to devise a system that works for me, so this week I have composed a list of tips to help other people who just can’t seem to get organized either.
Some people have found cleaning as a source of relaxation and a method of coping with troubling times. Other people have just always been tidy and organized. And other people are just messy. There are many complex reasons why some people have a hard time staying on top of caring for their spaces, but there are ways to overcome the barriers that impede our journey to healing our hearts and homes.
Caring for your personal space is an extension of caring for yourself. It’s not as glamorous or peaceful as a face mask or a massage, but it is important. You could even put on a face mask while you clean and do a “quick clean,” just picking up as much as you can while you wait for it to dry. You deserve a space that makes you comfortable. A space that makes you feel safe, and welcome, and like you are at home. Sometimes you might not feel worthy, but you are. You are capable of accomplishing amazing feats, and in your clear space you might just find some clean head space to figure out those goals. No matter where you are at you can and you will do beautiful things.
Get out and explore. Go down the street and feel the breeze on your face. Walking outdoors can help you to overcome several personal obstacles in your life, through a journey of connection with your immediate environment and dedicated time for reflection on your personal pathway through life. Most North East PA natives have visited Nay Aug Park at least once, if not many times to find peace on its beautiful trails. It also offers pavilions, play grounds, an animal sanctuary, and a swimming pool. Spend some time clearing your mind at your local place of peace.
Below are a few ways exploring a local landmark can help you forge your way out of a cluttered head space:
2. Connecting With Your Community: We just discussed the benefits of removing yourself from the distractions of your world, but when you explore beyond the realm of your immediate street (or maybe even a walk down your street will foster the same feelings) you might learn something about your area that can help you to feel closer to the community where you live. Nay Aug is a giant gorge in the middle of the city of Scranton. While many locals blow it off since it’s just something that’s always around, it’s actually quite remarkable. This area has been preserved in the midst of an otherwise developed section of the region, and features several historical landmarks that represent the areas rich past. An entrance to a coal mine serves as a reminder of the city’s former residents, and to see the memorials around the park is a reminder that the things you are doing now matter. You are apart of history, and even if you feel like you just go to work everyday and are not making a difference, you are. Someone might see your name on a plaque one day. Keep working on your dreams, keep searching and learning from those around you and those who came before you.
3. Finding Unexpected Inspiration: The beauty of going new places (or revisiting old favorites with a new mindset) is that you never know what you might find. When your out on a walk take your time. It does not matter how far you go, how long it takes, or how many sites you see. What matters is that you take away at least one thing that makes you feel good and means something to you. Pay attention to the details. If you see something that sticks out while walking, stop and really notice it. Think about why did this jump out at me today, and just appreciate what’s going on around you. On this particular hike, I noticed a lot of graffiti. It was jumping out to me, not because of a disruption to the scene, but because of what was written. People wrote about their deepest secrets, their Snapchat names, art, words of inspiration. All of these expressions are other people like you and me who went for a walk to clear out a cluttered mind, and just wrote down what was inside for me and everyone else to see. *This is not condoning vandalism, just an appreciation for the expression of human emotion.* So go out, and clear your mind by connecting with what was left behind for you to find. Notice the details of the world around you. You might just find exactly what you needed you hear.
4. Exploring Creative Pathways: Walking has shown to improve creative output and through exploring your local sites with a new open mind, you might experience exactly what you need to pull yourself out of that rut. This particular park has views of a gorge, train tunnels, and wildlife to draw inspiration from. Check out what surrounds your home that can offer a fun day of creative enlightenment. As you follow the pathway of the trail, you will find your own head space clearing and begin to realize ways to redirect your own life path towards the goals you want to achieve. Hiking a literal mountain can help you to find the route to overcome the figurative ones in your own life.
Go out and explore your local landmarks. Clear your mind and escape the thoughts that thwart your progression or personal growth. Sometimes to find your way when you feel lost on your pathway in life, taking a walk on an actual pathway can help serve as a reminder that your past has provided you with the tools you need to get to where you want to go. You can connect with your area and remember that there are other people who walked the same trails and trials as you, who in their own ways worked through them, and you will work through your own mountains too. You will notice details of this complex Earth that will inspire your creative channels that you didn’t know where there. You will see remnants of acorns nibbled on by tiny squirrels, flowers growing in a crevice you thought light could never reach, rivers break off into the tiniest trickles that feed miniature ecosystems. You will see your world reflected all around you. Your place in this world, one part of a much larger whole, but still so impactful is a force that you drive. You have the ability to choose the direction you take, what details you focus on, what views you stop for, and what mountains you will climb. Find a place to clear your head space and overcome your obstacles. You can find inspiration all around. You can create beautiful dreams. You can overcome, where ever you are at.
Ever put off a project or idea because, “I could never do that”? Maybe you thought you didn’t have the talent to accomplish that dream, or there weren’t resources at your disposal to execute your vision exactly how you would like. Maybe it’s just not the “right” time. When you maintain this fixed mindset, you limit your potential for the progress and growth that comes from learning as you go.
It’s crucial to think of life in terms of what you will learn from an experience rather than how you will perform while executing a task- particularly for the first time. If your project turns out different than you imagined, it is not evidence of failure, but a reflection of progress.
Don’t put off doing something because you don’t have the resources you need to do it or don’t know exactly how to do it. If you want to get into photography but can’t afford a high tech camera, start with your phone while you save up to buy one. Although it might not have the fancy features more advanced equipment can offer, it will teach you how to be resourceful, play with lighting and focus to create interesting shots. This might even lead to you becoming a better photographer once you get your hands on a camera since you will have had to learn how to take advantage of your space and environment to get those jaw dropping shots.
Similarly if you want to become an artist but don’t know how, or don’t have the means to obtain premium art supplies, start with any pencil you have around your house and draw on any piece of paper you can find. Use a pen and your grocery receipt, just keep working and trying and practicing your skills. Sculpt out of empty containers and candle wax. Then once you save for the supplies you need you’ll have the skills and ideas prepared to execute a vision that’s been mulling to perfection.
Maybe you just want to get out more, but don’t know where to go. Start by going for walks at the park closest to your house. Check out the fliers they have pinned on board, see if anything interests you. Look around while you’re there and see what you can see. Do you see any buildings? Any other trails or parks? any people? What are they doing? Just by gong somewhere, anywhere, it can lead to to your next step, even when your not sure where you want that next step to be.
More importantly, start talking to other people about what you want to do. You never know people’s stories, just like they don’t know all of yours, and they might also be interested in your passions, or have a friend of a friend who is and can help you. They might know a lot about grant writing, or showcase events, or where to get cheap courses in a particular subject. Or they might just be a place to come to for support. Talking to people is probably the scariest piece of advice from this article, but always remember that when you are doing your best to build the life you want, if someone has a problem with that it is a reflection on them and not you. Connecting with your community will open so many opportunities that you didn’t know existed. They may start small, but the more time and love that grows from you persistence, the more you will see your relationships, and dreams expand to places you didn’t dare dream possible.
If you start doing what you want with what you have, you will begin to develop the skills to become a master at your craft when you get to where you want to be faster. You are also training your brain to act resourcefully and always stay on alert for opportunities that are around you. As you immerse yourself in the world you want your life to become you’ll find a new perspective on what it is you wanted to do that will help you to evolve. The key is beginning. No apologizing for not being prepared, no procrastinating because you are not ready, no waiting because maybe there is something you might want more later. Begin today. With exactly what you have. Right where you are at.
There seems to be a rift in the rhetoric surrounding the impact consumer choices have when it comes to helping the environment. Last month’s enormous demonstration of students (and other activists) demanding systemic change from political leaders in a world wide movement was largely inspired by the work of activist Greta Thunberg. It brought enormous attention to a wide range of industries and powerhouses impacting global climate change. Many argue corporate power houses need stricter regulations, and that nonrenewable energy needs to be immediately banned for any measurable change to take place. Many critics of small scale changes claim metal straws, package-free shampoos, and meat free life styles just aren’t enough to save the planet. Why bother with small changes like that?
Ignoring the power of small changes is the result of small thinking. These people think they are doing a service by pointing out the deep rooted societal issues that prevent immediately impactful change, but they ignore the critical benefits small efforts towards sustainable living offers. The mindset developed from making small changes keeps the concept of environmentally conscious practices in the forefront of people’s minds. It can start with switching to reusable bags when grocery shopping, and then move into reusable cups, then bringing silverware for lunch to work, and then choosing to purchase from companies who put effort into sustainable practices. The growing movement of people concerned about the environment compared to even just a few years ago shows evidence that knowledge and small changes to instill a sense of personal accountability do matter. The more we learn to then come together then in mass, the more we have the ability to send a powerful message to the powerful how we want the larger contributors to climate change to be handled.
Since small changes are so important here is a short, and by no means complete list of ideas as to how you can make sustainable and impactful choices everyday:
This list is no where near complete, but offers a brief look into how no matter where you are at, you make choices everyday that will impact the world around you. Mass and systemic change will be necessary, but the shift in mindset of the general public is also a crucial component to overcoming the climate crisis. When we start thinking about putting the needs of the Earth before our immediate convenience, it begins to change a self-centered mindset to a more caring one. You don’t need to change every aspect of your life all at once, and be able to fit your waste for a year in a mason jar to make progress. Every choice, everyday is a step in the right direction. Even if it just means skipping on the meat twice a week and bringing your own silverware to lunch at the office everyday, every choice counts. You count. Your ideas and decisions matter, big or small , at the corporate level, on a personal level, in your home, on the street, you change the world from where ever you are at.
Saturday September 21, 2019 marked the 3rd annual “NEPA Veg Fest.” The festival was held at the Dunmore Community center, and featured vegan friendly vendors from across the state of PA. There was produce, baked goods, t-shirts, sustainability information, soaps, jewelry, and of course lots of delicious food. The indoor/outdoor setup allowed for visitors to enjoy the nice day, but also get out of the sun when they needed to. The event also hosted several speakers that covered a range of topics.
Something that holds a lot of people back from trying out plant based foods or switching to a more planted based life style is a perceived lack of access to meat and dairy alternatives in places that aren’t extremely urban. This collection of vendors proved to me several key points regarding accessibility to living a life you want to live. This doesn’t just have to apply to plant based foods either- but we’ll get into that in a moment.
The festival only started 3 years ago, and this was the first I had heard of it. That means that it’s reach and audience is growing. The more people who campaign for change and the getting the things they want to see in their communities, the more activities and events surrounding those interests there will be. This can be for vegan menu options, art festivals, musical acts, museums, anything that piques your interest you can bring to your area if you advocate and collaborate with others around you.
I watch a lot of vegan YouTubers and YouTube in general, and I see them going to fun events and festivals all the time. I wished that I could do something like that, or that someone around here would host something similar. Turns out there was. I just needed to look for it.
Sometimes people get so stuck up in the idea that “their town has nothing to do,” or “they don’t have access to that stuff,” because of where they live. While it might not be as easy to find, and it might not be on as large of a scale as a major city, smaller communities have a lot to offer. And if what you want to do isn’t already happening, talk to a few people and find out how to make it happen. Instead of sitting by and passively contributing to the narrative that small towns have nothing to offer- change the story. Create something worth spending time at. Get out and see what other people are doing to. You might be surprised that your neighbors are as ready to make a change as your are, it just takes some momentum to get started. And remember you can do whatever you want want, wherever you at- you might just need some extra creativity.
A few weeks ago, I came across a concept that was put in a different context, but the way it was phrased resonated with me. I knew I needed to share it. It was a screen shot of a Tumblr post I saw on Pinterest, and the essence of the piece was this: Stop saying, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” Instead, change your view point to something like “the things you are doing now matter.” This type of language is equally, if not more important and validating. Please remember that.
Don’t get me wrong, having the courage to pursue your dreams, to live your passions is beautiful. I do believe that we can reach the stars with hard work, determination, and love. It’s also important to set goals and look to the future. The problem lies in only setting goals, only looking to the future, only working for tomorrow.
Sometimes, we need to take a step back and validate the work we are doing at the moment. The things you are doing right now matter.
We live in a time of final products. We consume a constant stream of media, from all different outlets. We idolize finished products, and we never see the work that went into creating those ads, stars, songs, films, photos, books. We never see that all successes began with a seed of an idea, and likely took months to years of labor to bloom.
We don’t realize that the things we do everyday are what matter. Your smile at the stranger in the grocery store. Going the extra mile at the job you might resent. Writing one page of a book a day. Completing one piece of art for a portfolio a week. Cleaning off the table after putting it off for a month. Doing what you can, when you can. The things you are doing now matter.
Living with this mind set, alleviates some of the pressure to eventually reach some most likely unattainable standard set in your mind. The small steps you take each day are what will get you to a place you want to be anyway. Recognizing your own power and importance allows you to act with intent and love. To make choices that will actually help you feel good about yourself. To keep yourself healthy. To keep yourself sane.
We are always growing. From the time we enter this beautiful world, we grow. We will continue to change and develop until we leave this world, and when we do, what will have mattered most is how we felt and made others felt while we were here. Our actions everyday make a difference. The way you drive- aggressively or compassionately, the way you talk- kindly or spitefully, the way you worked- honestly or hastily; these are what change the world. If you put your mind to it, you really can do anything. But always remember, that every moment of your life matters. That doing your best even when you feel you can do better is still something to be proud of. You don’t always have to be working to some greater purpose. You change the world. Exactly as you are. Exactly where you are at.
Clarks Summit serves as the central hub for the Abingtons in North Eastern Pennsylvania, and each year for the last 15, the Abington Business and Professional Association has presented a stunning display of ice sculptures for a weekend in February. The Clarks Summit Festival of Ice attracts residents from across the region who fill State Street to get a glimpse at the icy art. They can see how the pieces are sculpted and warm up in any of the several small business that open their doors with special merchandise, and have activities that correspond with the festival’s selected theme.
Many came out in full costume- braving the frigid temperatures to participate in the fun of the Star Wars inspired festivities. All the attention brings a spotlight to the local shops who join in on the fun.
I always make an effort to get out to the festival at least one day of the weekend. It’s one of my favorite parts of living in Clarks Summit. In all honesty, I would much rather live in a city. Somewhere always busy, always working, always creating, always moving. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. To find the places, the creativity, the inspiration, right where I was. The ice festival is exactly the type of event that lures people to want to live in more urban areas. No cover charge, just find a parking spot- if you can- and explore what the hard working minds the area created. But it’s not set in a side street of Brooklyn, NY, or in Adams Morgan in D.C. It’s right here, for me. It’s so worth while that it gets me, someone who hates winter in the depths of my core, to bundle up and walk the main street of my town to look at frozen ice every year. It’s exactly what I’m looking for from a community.
Watching a live carving, snagging a selfie with Chewie, and warming up talking to local shop owners, brings me a feeling of pride to live in my town every year. We have so many unique places here, that if you didn’t need to go to a hospital, you theoretically could live your entire life with out leaving the Abingtons. Grocery stores, both local and chains, tatoo parlors, clothing stores, art studios, diners, coffee shops, cooking lessons, salons, candy stores, and so much more. All squeezed on State Street in Clarks Summit.
Traveling is a beautiful and important experience. Sometimes for sanity’s sake it’s best to pack up your Millennium Falcon and go explore a new planet. You don’t always need to go to a galaxy far far away to experience something you’ve been craving though. Sometimes you just need to look around at the beautiful minds, the hard work, the creativity, the passion already around you. Sometimes you are meant to be exactly where you’re at.