Be Heard: Shannon

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Meet Shannon:  lawyer, mama and hiker.  Shannon grew up in Las Vegas and currently lives in Oregon with her wife and daughter.  Shannon & her family explore the outdoors as often as possible. Shannon reminds us that our deep connection to nature & the earth is a vital tool in staying connected to ourselves & our children.

What were your outdoor experiences like as a kid?

I grew up in a concrete jungle, pavement mostly, but it was the time before Vegas exploded into a giant metropolitan area.  On the other side of cement walls, was the desert.  Vast, dry, brilliant skies, and wind.  I would use every opportunity I had to explore the surrounding red rocks, canyons, and mountains.  I loved how small the desert can make you feel, shrinks the ego and opens the mind. I knew that nature had the answers, always.  Nature is where I could best see who I truly was/ am, not in the reflections of naked plastic women shining on every other billboard in town.  I was wild in nature, the outer reflecting the inner.  As a kid, the night sky was my very best friend.  Back then I had an incredible celestial view in the desert.  Now, even the darkest nights in the pacific northwest do not expose the heavens the way the desert can. In addition, there were petroglyphs everywhere in the desert.  The sea and people of the past, they spoke of water.  It was hot and dry, an ocean cemetery; I loved it and it carved who I am.

How have your outdoor experiences changed as you got older & started a family?

Fortunately, the outdoors remains a refuge for me.  I still find my best teachers and gurus among the rocks, rivers, and trees.  In nature, I am able to touch our mother.  Our beautiful blue mother, she is always here for us, always giving, supporting, balancing, and teaching.  In being able to connect with nature, I connect with myself and my family in more meaningful ways. Together we all can slow down, unplug, and listen to one another. Hiking isn’t always romantic and it isn’t about “me time” all the time.  Sometimes, hiking together and playing together feels like an obstacle course. You prepare for the internal weather and the external weather.  Learning as a family to keep moving and exploring through the crap is a lesson that translates from trail to home.  We learn to remain curious about the emotions and reactions we all experience while hiking or having a hard discussion.  We learn to give one another time, support, space, and encouragement.  We grow together and we carry on. When we are in a traditionally peaceful and grounding setting and my daughter is having a perfectly normal tantrum,  I like to imagine those difficult moments as a sauna or sweat lodge.  My blood is boiling and I am sweating out the toxins, working it and trying to stay centered during the storm.  img_0670

I have a distinct memory of A.Z. around a nine months old and carrying her up a steep hill, she was screaming and arching the entire time. I had to decide, this could be a terrible moment or I could sink deep into this difficult moment and use the heat for something positive.  So, I sank into what was. Beautiful surroundings and a baby wolverine thrashing around in my arms.  I pulled from the cooling and powerful energy of the river and marched along the trail while signing to her (most likely, “the ants go marching”).  We worked it out together, as a family, and from then on I knew that the challenges of motherhood would be one of my greatest teachers.

How do you modify hikes when you’re with your family compared to when you hike alone?

Hiking alone sounds dreamy… sigh.  With the family there are different snacks that you must pack, extra water, change of kiddo clothes, clothes for after the hike, snacks for after the hike, and snacks.  The hiking pack is a must even at three years of age.  She is maxed out on the weight capacity and it is heavy but I have to make it work. If we didn’t use this pack, our hikes would be limited to a grand total of .5 -1 miles of her hiking on her own and the other miles spent with her on our shoulders.  After several strained necks, we put her back in the pack.  It is unfortunate that larger capacity carrying packs aren’t available for parents.  I would like to get a weekend backpacking trip in soon and I really don’t see how this is possible without a pack she can ride in.  The alternative is to not take her or to drastically reduce our options for adventure.

What do you hope your daughter gains from spending time outdoors?  Do you hope to pass on a love of the outdoors to her?

The most incredible relationship she could possibly have with herself.  Nothing inspires the mind-body-spirit connection quite like nature.  I hope she finds peace and space to listen to her voice and the teachings of the earth while connecting with nature.  I want her to grow a curiosity so strong that she carves her own path in this world.  I already see her confidence growing with each adventure.  She is allowed to be wild, creative, open, compassionate, and silly out in in nature.  These are all seeds that I hope to continue to water and grow in her heart and mind.  I believe every person innately possesses a love for the earth and the outdoors.  It is my job as a parent to protect and grow the love that she already possesses.  It is truly a gift to watch a human being innocently approach things in nature with fresh eyes.  She is in love with the forests, ocean, volcanoes, waterfalls, sunsets, whales, slugs, birds, chipmunks, plants, rocks, the moon and stars.  We all are, aren’t we?

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