After years of pandemics, climate crisis, civil war, and suicides the food stopped growing, the oil stopped flowing, and the sky darkened under a blood moon. The earth weeped. The animals spoke. The people had become soft languishing in technological wonders and addictions to false joy. But he Tetons stood tall and the people who loved them organized. They turned to Shoshone and Arapahoe elders, to farmers and ranchers, to teachers and survivalists,, to the women and children, to the mountain guides, to their intuitive dogs and horses, to the native animals and plants, to the spirits of the adventurers who died here, to their troll and the fairies and sprites who came out of the woods, and to the storms and the stars and the moon. Some meditated, some prayed some paddled, some summited. They stopped talking at the same time and listened to tears of voices unheard. They touched, they hugged, and looked into the eyes of the elk on the Refuge. With enhanced awareness, courage, and optimism they stopped breathing the toxic smoke of fundamentalism, perfectionism, competition tribalism, celebrity, and unfettered growth. Time was short, the world was watching. With quiet resolute actions, a new generation with audacity and humility chose to make a difference over making money. Built on the collective knowledge of remarkable humans who came before nature and society united under immutable laws of the universe to balance, to protect what languished In order to flourish. A Grand Sacrifice, they let nature manifest the way. To visit or live here required signing a manifesto committed to treat Mother Earth as a responsibility, not a resource, and to ensure the mental, spiritual, and physical health of others. They reimagined technology, business, and government and harnessed environmentally sustainable capitalism. One in, one out. Money no longer the currency for access; only love for nature, adventure, and hard work could buy in. Through a lottery, anyone with the right intention could visit Paid for by market incentives ground in moral values. The ones who stayed would do anything for their fields and livestock, for the feel of powdered snow on their eyelashes, for the discovery of a chanterelle, for the thrill of whitewater, for the sight of a speckled fawn, to meditate and paint at sunrise, to dance under summer stars, for the sweet purple kiss of a child eating huckleberries, and the shimmer of a trout slithering through their fingers. They slowed down, stopped competing with each other. They grew their own food and fed the community. They bathed in the forests, rivers, and meadows of wildflowers. They reconnected their families, repaired broken hearts. The rich opened their homes to the workers and artists Shared their sporting equipment, vehicles, and tools. Their schools prioritized agriculture, arts, critical thinking, stewardship, and play; churches preached only compassion, tolerance, inclusion The children played lacrosse and skied with friends from the Wind River. Fun became the ultimate luxury. Everyone agreed to a tax in human effort — heroic acts across the community daily choices to serve others. Junk food and plastic were rare, the recycling center grew the dump overgrew with larkspur. The sick never went uncared for, the differently-abled found meaning, the elderly were kept engaged and active they buried and burned the dead without chemicals regenerating the circle of life for eternity. Visitors experienced living in the moment — a digital detox, memories their only souvenirs. Once here their magic devices were disabled they hand-picked their experiences before they hopping on free solar-powered bikes or underground bullet trains to get around to the adventure of their choosing. Clean food, meditation, massage, adventure, music, art, homegrown beer, huckleberry ice cream, elk minion, morel pasta, and a connection with nature was on the menu. They visualized themselves in the shoes of those they hoped to serve and focused on individual goals only after serving the community and the land. The highest honor bestowed on those with wealth went to those who gave it away. Acceptance, respect, and love was based on what they gave, not money, power, or fame. The greedy, the egotistical, and the extractors, were driven out. Determined fools were punished but not executed and gently taught correctness. Connection replaced consumerism, purpose replaced profits, sustainability replaced selfishness, the workers were no longer simply inputs. They met the present with an open mind and as the earth healed, they healed themselves Visitors returned home, inspired to share what they learned. The environment no longer their personal domain they always gave more than they took and grew rich in spirit and joy.
An ode to the ladies of the sage of the desert of the snow of the picnic of the bottle of crisp rosé followed by a shot of tequila. You are my web of strength that catches me when I fall and throws me back in the air like a circus act. We play until the sun goes down when I can sleep deep and dark and wake up nourished and can stand tall in uncertainty or bend softly into the chaos and pass on your sweet gifts to others in need.
I took a trip over Teton Pass the other day to hook up with a girlfriend for a hike at the Aspen Trail. As I waited for her I reveled in the warm air and watched some young moms pack up their 2-year-olds in high-tech packs with sun roofs and binky holders, remembering fondly the “old days” when the friend I was meeting and I did the same. My girlfriend arrived and walked toward me with her dog and before we even said hello she slapped a kiss on my lips and grabbed me in a massive hug and held me there, saying “I love you, I miss you.” As I processed the fact that we’d pitched any facade of social distancing my body leaned in and I held on tight for at least three minutes, which felt like a delicious forever. Tears I didn’t expect to show up that day started stinging and flowed from my eyes and my body began to shake. Because we were right in the middle of the dusty road, when a car approached we had to finally let go.
I’ll spare you the details of all the stream of drama I’ve faced in the past few months – eight to be exact – because I know you have plenty of your own. Suffice it to say good hugs from a friend are extremely scarce, a lover non-existent, my 17-year-old holds me only at an arm’s length, and I had to put my sweet dog Squirt to sleep during the pandemic. Thankfully I have an 11-year old who still loves to snuggle, but even that is becoming rare as he rises to Middle School.
On the car ride that day to Teton Valley I was listening to the book Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection, from Soul to Psychedelics by Julie Holland. A psychiatrist and psychedelic researcher, Holland explores the science of connection. Covid-19 aside, she argues that an epidemic of disconnection and isolation leaving so many people in a constant state of “flight or fight” is the explanation for the frightening rise in depression, anxiety, and addictions of all kinds in our society. Key to a sense of peace and connection, she contends, is oxytocin, the neurotransmitter and hormone that fosters attachment between mothers and infants, romantic partners, friends and our pets through human touch, eye contact, and physical connection.
The purpose of Holland’s book is to legitimize how psychedelics, THC, CBD and other substances overlooked by modern medicine can help people with psychiatric disorders reach a state of mental and physical well being that oxytocin facilitates by fostering a sense of awe and oneness. This got me thinking about how the current pandemic is amplifying these trends already exacerbated by social media, loss of close family ties as people migrate to cities, a widespread disconnection from nature, and tribalism – many people’s last attempt at feeling like they “belong.”
Later that same day I was driving down Kelly Avenue when I saw a couple counselors from a local kid’s summer camp holding hands with young children as they walked from Mike Yokel park. My first thought was “that doesn’t look like Covid policy.” My second thought was, “Oh, thank God they are holding hands.” My daughter works at Wilderness Adventure’s Base Camp and she tells stories of hanging out all day with 2nd graders constantly creeping closer and closer and wanting so badly to pull them in her lap. One of her favorites, she says, follows her around holding tightly to her backpack strap, asking “since I can’t hold your hand, is it ok if I hold this?”
Anyone with kids can tell you that their children are suffering from lack of contact, lack of touch, lack of running, jumping, and swinging with peers. I can’t begin to wrap my head around how school can start in the fall with expectations that kids will be expected to stay socially distant from their friends and beloved teachers – treating each other like they are dirty and unsafe. I can’t fathom how grandmothers, used to a weekly snuggle from a grandchild, must be suffering. All of us are noticing the paranoia of people we pass on the sidewalk, and the inability to see a smile through a mask is as suffocating as the mask itself.
I have personally been able to hold it together, barely, thanks to a solid practice of daily outdoor exercise (sometimes with a few friends), meditating, soaking up the natural beauty around me, and a glass or two of wine each night. At the beginning of Covid I was uber tech connected, now I use my phone as little as possible.
I get all the Covid hysteria, every single argument, and I do find most of it justified. But we need physical touch and in-person social connection to thrive. Every time I pull on my sweaty mask I tell myself I’m willing to do anything to keep us from moving backward to total quarantine. The economy aside, I wonder at what point do the risks of social and physical isolation outweigh the benefits, and how are we going to heal ourselves, our communities, and our planet without real human connection?
As the bears come out of hibernation and take over the stock market, our chair lifts stop spinning, Moab becomes a distant dream, and our world reorganizes, there’s no place I’d rather be right now than East Jackson with my kids and, thanks to my brother-in-law, 42 rolls of toilet paper. I hope these crazy times are treating you like they are treating me – which is with an unprecedented time to slow down and stop doing and reconnect with the people, things, and actions that matter most. Last night as I was sandwiched between my kids on the couch doing back scratches and watching Top Gun, I reveled not in fear but instead in gratitude.
Last fall I was interviewed by Sorayah Ziem, a 7th grader at the Mountain Academy, for a project for her humanities class. They were investigating the question: what does it mean to be human? They had read the book The Giver which taught them, according to her, that “to be human means to be able to feel all emotions, experience the freedom of choice and its consequences, and live life to its fullest.” Inspired by a documentary called 7 Billion Others, her class conducted interviews of 120 people the same 32 questions and their project is analyzing the answers to discover what it means to be human, according to people who live in the Tetons.
In response to 2 of her 32 questions (What did you learn from your parents?” and “What do you want to teach your children?) I had the same, simple answer: Resilience. The ability to pivot. The “capacity to withstand shock without permanent deformation or rupture.”
Wild, resilient, and peaceful are just a few of the characteristics I believe embody this community and will lead us through this crisis and into a better future. The concept of stewardship – responsibly caring for the things we value as a path to realizing our dreams – is key here. Taking proper care of our children, healthy choices for our bodies, and using our natural resources responsibly are the obvious examples – but there’s so much more we can offer. To share your ideas on how you and your loved ones are pivoting during the current crisis and well beyond, I invite you to visit and engage with the new community-driven Facebook Group “tetonstrong.” The idea is to facilitate a community conversation and share resources to nourish each other along our quest for healthy, fulfilling, sustainable, lives. In the meantime, stay strong, stay wild, stay peaceful.
A great way to use up scraps of cheese, salami, and veggies in the frig during the Covid impasse. This recipe is adapted from the Naff Caff coffee shop in Queenstown, New Zealand where they are served as an alternative to sweets before an adventure-packed day. They are an ideal way to sneak veggies into a picky eater’s food.
Yield: 2 dozen regular or 10 jumbo muffins
1 ½ cups canola oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 cups buttermilk ***
6 cups all-purpose flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
*** to make buttermilk, substitute 2 cups of milk with 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar, let sit until thickened)
1 cup grated cheese of your choice
3 – 4 cups of chopped fillings—fresh veggies, herbs, and cubed meat
1/2 cup of toppings—nuts, herbs, seeds, or additional cheese
Wild, resilient, and peaceful are three characteristics that embody the Teton community and the characteristics that I believe will lead us through any crisis into a better future.
The concept of stewardship – responsibly caring for the things we value as a path to realizing our dreams – is key here. Taking proper care of our children, healthy choices for our bodies, and using our natural resources responsibly are the obvious examples – but there’s so much more we can offer.
This website is meant to facilitate a community conversation and share resources to nourish each other along our quest for healthy, fulfilling, sustainable, lives.
The power of my daughter’s touch and the Family Table during the time of social distancing
My 17-year old, Mariela, reached across the dinner table last night – her hand outstretched with long fingers moving up and down like they were playing an invisible piano while trying to grasp something. I grabbed my phone to hand to her, thinking she wanted to take more photos of the Peas, Pasta, Parmesan and Prosciutto or Lemony Kale Salad we were eating. She looked me in the eyes and shook her head, fingers still grasping in my my direction. I handed her my napkin … she shook her head no again. My knife? Nope. She finally leaned over and grabbed the tips of my right fingers and pulled it toward her, squeezed my hand and looked me in the eyes, and smiled. It was the smile of admiration, gratitude, and love I remember from when she was eight and I was still her hero.
Recently separated from my husband of 20 years, my kids had been spending their second week of Spring Break at their dad’s abode. While I was enjoying the solitude I had the idea to invite them over for a dinner party. Because of the Covid outbreak the Town of Jackson forbid contact with anyone except your immediate family .. . and boy was I missing them. I took light a bunch of candles, refilled the toilet paper, and put on some dinner music. The dishes were done, the food prepped and ready to put in the pan when they arrived.
At dinner I sat next to my ex and we even held hands for a few minutes. The evening was packed with conversation about what we’d all learned from the Covid empass, hopes and dreams and silly things. Everyone had a “titch” of Cote de Rhone red table wine. Mariela’s gesture inspired us holding hands in a circle and singing an old La La Pillala loop de loo song we use to say “I love you and you and you and you” and point around the table. We used it instead of saying a religious grace when the kids were little. It had been a long time.
The family table has always been something that’s been integral to us, but something that was floating by the wayside as we went through the implosion of our marriage and our way of life in the Covid crisis. It didn’t seem that important while we were spending a lot of time together anyway – but really we were spending time in our own little virtual and outside worlds. Before lockdown we visited my sister in Colorado and it was the moment we all looked forward to.
It’s been a long road to forgiveness and appreciation for my broken 20 year marriage. Holding on to fear, resentment, loss of trust, disappointment and anger hasn’t served me. This crisis has put a whole new light on life and holding on to only the things – like my daughter’s hand – that nourish and fulfil me, my loved ones, and our greater community is my aspiration.
Times like these call for desperate measures … cooking from scratch and gulp, improvising! using what’s been sitting in your pantry or refrigerator for weeks or months (years?) and not going to the grocery store every other day. Everytime I come across a fussy recipe, I remember, Italian grandmothers did this 100 years ago with whatever they found at the market in season, what they had preserved, and the simple staples in their lardor.
Italians are famous for making a delicious meal from the simplest ingredients. This recipe is a combo of two – Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is a simple Italian dish of garlic, olive oil, parsley, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese tossed with cooked pasta and Spaghetti al Limone is with butter, cream and lemon zest.
This recipe reminds me of spring and Easter, even though fresh peas are a long way out.
LEMONY PASTA WITH PEAS, PARMESAN & PROSCIUTTO
1 lemon, zested
1 stick of butter (½ cup)
4 oz prosciutto – torn into long strips
1 ½ cups, frozen peas
16 oz pasta – any kind of spaghetti or bow ties work well too
1 cup Parmesan, finely grated
fresh ground pepper
16 sage leaves (optional, if you’re lucky enough to have it)
Boil a large pot of water and salt liberally. Add pasta and stir occasionally, adding peas to the pasta water 2 minutes before the pasta is al-dente. Drain pasta but reserve at least 1 ½ cups of pasta water.
While the pasta cooks,, heat butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until frothy. Add the torn prosciutto strips and add to the pot along with the sage leaves if you have them. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to crisp – 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the pasta, peas, ¾ cup of the Parmesan, lemon zest, and 1 cup of the hot pasta cooking liquid to the hot pan with the prosciutto and return to medium heat. Toss and cook the pasta, adding more cooking liquid if needed, until saucy and well coated. Taste. If you like more lemon flavor, squeeze ½ of the lemon in here now, add salt if needed, and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.
Divide pasta among bowls and top with more Parmesan.