The trees outside our window

I love the stark lines of these giant plants!

Ravens playing in their winter home

These birds are surprisingly comfortable around humans.

Winter sunset off of the lake

This is what -30 degree Celcius looks like.

The black stray cat comes to visit

We have three cats, and they don't much like it when other felines invade their space.

Rough waves of Lake Winnipeg

The lake is always changing and moving, never the same.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ten Reasons to go for a Walk Tonight

How are you doing today? By any chance, are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, maybe a bit depressed? Or maybe like something is missing? 

If so, allow me to make a suggestion to help you for getting out of this mental slump. And it doesn’t require pills -- you don’t have to go to the doctor for any prescription. 

My idea for you is get your fix. Your nature fix, that is.

When was the last time you went for a walk in the park? Or the forest, or the field? When did you last see birds up close or hear the sounds of leaves falling from the trees? 

Has it been a while? Do you tend to dwell mostly, in the tunnel so many of us create for ourselves: home, garage, work, garage and then home again?  

If it’s been quite a long time since you felt in touch with nature, I am going to give you ten reasons to get in touch with nature again.

And don’t wait too long ... the snow is coming and this late autumn won’t last forever. Why not go tonight? 

1. It's excellent exercise. In fact, there is extra value in walking outside compared to the treadmill, because of the extra resistance you gain from walking against the breeze, as well the variety of muscles used by obstacles you may encounter outdoors, as well as natural slope.

2. Walking outdoors can help curb your appetite. Going for a walk outside always makes me want to eat less. As I get more in touch with my body, I tend to have less desire to eat unhealthy things and overeat.

3. Walking outside helps cure stress and anxiety. In fact, a recent article in Forbes magazine quoted Dr. Sobel, a leading expert in preventative medicine as saying that spending time in nature is one of the top cures for stress. 

4. Nature makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself.  Whether it's looking at the stars at night, or simply gazing up a forty foot elm tree, we are reminded that we really aren't the centre of the universe! 

5. Time spent outdoors connects you with those you love. When I was a kid, my mom used to take my sister and me on nature excursions. Sometimes it was a mysterious path that we had never been on before. Other times, it involved going for a drive and finding an abandoned coulee. These are the best memories, because we were together, exploring.

6. A walk in nature is romantic. Whether you are planning a first date, or planning your retirement, there's nothing better than a romantic stroll to pump up the intimacy level between two lovebirds. 

7. A nature walk is educational. Helen Keller asked her friend what she had seen after a walk in the woods. She was shocked when her friend replied. "nothing." She then goes on to say, "How was it possible ... to walk for an hour through the woods, and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch."  Let's learn from Helen. When we walk outside, there is always something to see, and to learn. 

8. A walk through nature helps cure depression. This fascinating article talks about the latest research on how walks through nature have documented physical and sensory effects that help people that struggle with depression. The author also goes on to explain how, in Japan, "forest bathing" is considered a therapeutic option for healing. 

9. An outdoor walk is excellent for planning and goal-setting. I have gotten some of my best ideas while on a nice, long walk. There's something about the rhythm of walking that lends itself to dreaming and planning.  In fact, don't think of a walk as just one more thing you have to do,  but as a productivity tool for getting more done in the long run. 

10. You are walking in the shadows of greatness. Jesus himself was a great walker. Albert Einstein is reported to have walked the 1.5 hour distance to work and back, when he worked at Princeton. And C.S. Lewis, was inspired by the regular walks he took on his five acre wooded property.  

So, have I convinced you to go for a walk tonight? I confess
that I have been skipping my walks lately, and during the writing of this post, I actually went out and got a quick walk in. So, what about you? What are you waiting for? 

Or are you already a dedicated walker? What are your reasons for walking? Tell us your story. 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page. or to receive posts by e-mail, join here. All photos are property of the author. All work is copyright under Sharilee Swaity 2014. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Favourite Place

When I was teacher, I started off the Canada unit by having students write a one-page description of their favourite place. 

What did it look like? How did it make them feel? And why was it so important to them?  You get the idea.

This exercise was designed to show important place is to us. And then I would read my description of Canada, and we would launch into the study of Canada.

I still believe in the importance of place. Where we live effects every aspect of our lives. Every place has its beauties, secret charms and annoyances. That is why moving is so hard on us: because where we live weaves itself into our very beings. 

Which leads me to share my favourite place: our land in the woods. This is a place fought for, desired, and loved, and this is what life in the woods means to me:

  • Freedom from traffic and the distractions
  • A quiet and authentic life
  • Self-sufficiency and dependence on God
  • Time to think, feel, and WRITE!
  • Being surrounded by beauty
  • Learning about nature and wildlife
  • Opportunity to stop chasing the dollar

Life in the woods is .... 
....poetry set in motion by the firm spokes of reality
....bliss trickling down the crevices of inconvenience and loneliness ... 
...surrounded by trees that envelope you, almost suffocate you.
 ...Feeling sometimes closed in and sometimes like you could fly for miles. 

It is living with green giants who keep you warm in the winter, block the wind in the storm, cool your house in the summer and every day, fill your lungs with life-giving oxygen. 

It is walking with the knowledge that a bear, or a wolf could jump out at any time, and walking anyway. It is bugs, and dirt and twigs and grass. 

Mushrooms, leaves, pine cones, moths, mosquitoes ... Well water, woodstove, long driveway, big yard. 

It is far from perfect. There are inconveniences, repairs to be done...things are not easy, like:
...No 7-11 if you run out of milk at 10 at night
...Using half a tank of gas just to go to Walmart
 ...Paying a fortune for Internet because the trees get in the way of your reception

But yet, Life in the woods is everything I thought it would be... and more. So, this is my favourite place. Please, tell me about your favourite place. What do love about it? What objects do you find there? How does it make you feel? 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page. or to receive posts by e-mail, join here

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What I am Learning About Wood

Oh, the things I am learning about wood! More than I ever dreamed of knowing! 

Yes,wood has become my world for the last few days as my gorgeous husband and I prepare ourselves for the winter coming soon upon in our little house in the woods.

On Saturday, we went out to the bush to do some woodcutting, and wow, was this fun. Yes, I am not kidding … it was actually fun, even though it was also so dirty, muddy and backbreaking. 

But how amazing it is it to go a quiet place in the middle of this Manitoban forest and imbibe in that air that is so fresh that it makes you feel like you’ve never even heard of the word, “pollution.”

This was my first woodcutting excursion and there was a lot to learn. Here are things I learned this year:

  • In order to cut wood in Manitoba, you must obtain woodcutting permit from the Manitoba Conservation Office.

    The permit cost us about $40 and allowed us to cut down 6 cords of wood, which should be almost enough for the winter, depending on how harsh the winter is. They also give you a map that shows where you can cut. 
  •  Try to find the cutting area beforehand, because sometimes those maps are pretty confusing. Knowing where you are going really helps keep everyone's moral up!
  • If you are looking for wood you can burn right away, try to find some“standing dead” trees, trees that were dead or almost dead but had not yet fallen to the ground.
  • Watching a tree fall truly is an amazing experience. To
    see a forty feet Jack Pine go down is awe-inspiring, like watching a giant topple to the ground!
  • Always carry an chainsaw wrench and an extra chain, if possible, in case one chain goes all funky on  you. Yes, that happened to us, and we did not have the chain on hand. (Truth be told, it is lost somewhere in our house, yet to be determined.)
  • A log splitter is worth every penny you spend! We got ours on sale, for $229, and are rejoicing at this wise purchase! Two of us were able to cut and split half a cord of wood in about six hours. And imagine if I was in shape! But seriously worth it. 
My husband now calls me his “Lumberjack Girl.” Well, I'll take it! 

But lumberjack girl or not, we still have some serious work ahead of us. Note to self: start earlier next season, like in the spring! Like about eleven more trips into the bush to cut wood, to get ready for the winter.

But cutting wood sure reminds me of how dependent on nature, and God, we really are. In the city, you are so shielded from that reality because your food is packaged at a fluorescent-lit grocery store and your heat is brought to you mindlessly through your register vents. 

But when you have to actually go out and work HARD for your heat, instead of just paying a bill, it makes you feel much more connected to the source of that heat. 

And pretty thankful for the creation that God has made. Those beautiful trees that make me pause with their arresting beauty also keep us warm, protect us from the sun and wind, supply us with oxygen, give us houses to stay in, and furniture to keep us comfortable. I am grateful! 

All photos are taken by author, Sharilee Swaity. Copyright 2014. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nature is a Tranquilizer

Have you ever felt really excited about how beautiful something is? I have, just in the last week or so! 

Lately, I have been awestruck by the beauty that surrounds us here at our place in the woods. It might sound strange, but sometimes, I am so excited by the grandeur that surrounds us that I can barely contain it. 

It is difficult to capture such splendor in photographs, although I try, because the pictures don't include the musky, fresh, damp smell of falling leaves and fragrant grass.  Or the soft choir of the birds: geese squawking overhead, ravens complaining loudly in the perch, sparrows fluttering in the bushes.  

The fall leaves now create a careless, reckless canopy across our soil, as trees, almost naked now, can be seen in all of their structural glory. 

Is it okay to be in love with a place so badly that you ache it for it? Is it idolatry to never want to leave, not even for a day, because there is no place in the world you would rather be? To feel like you don't want to die, because you
would be torn from here? 

If my love of this place is somehow wrong, I pray I will be corrected but for now, I am reveling in this beauty. The beauty and tranquility is a caress to my soul. The beauty is a tranquilizer that has no side effects and no worrisome interactions.  

Nature is God's bold exhibition of creativity, an ever-changing portfolio of the wonder of his mind and the genius of his ways. I also believe nature is designed for us, as human beings, to heal us, physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Apparently, modern science is realizing the healing power of nature, as well.  A 2010 study done by the University of Sheffield found that individuals who were even just presented with images of peaceful nature scenes were more calm, and their brains were more connected, than those who viewed images of busy traffic. 

Well, if just looking at the images had that great of an effect on an individual, how much greater much be the effect of actually being physically immersed in a tranquil nature scene! 

And the flip side of the coin was that just viewing a picture of traffic caused brain connections to be disrupted. Wow! So, what kind of connections are we losing after a week of having to sit in the middle of busy traffic? No wonder we feel so stressed out! 

So, I encourage you to find yourself some nature this week, and simply bask in this natural tranquilizer for a few moments. It will be well worth the investment in time! 

And tell us your stories. Do you have a favourite place, that makes you want to sing out with joy? Where is it? How often do you go there? 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

From the Archives: What's Your Treat?

Hi! Welcome to all the new readers on this blog! Once again, I want to tell you how much I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to read about part of my day. 

So, in honour of my new readers, especially, I would love to share an older post from the archives of this blog. This blog is an older one from about two years ago. I re-edited it to improve it, too, just because, well, I can. 
 Any of you who write know that there's almost no such thing as a "final draft." 

So, here's an old post, made a bit newer, called, "What's Your Treat?" I chose this post because of a conversation I had with an old friend on Facebook who was sharing about the joys of movement. I dedicate this one to her! 

It's about how we should try to make our "treat" exercise, rather than food. I am still working on this one; how about you?

Here's the link: What's Your Treat?

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Post Where I Lose My Fear of Bears

Did I happen to mention that I love walking? I really, really, really, really like to walk. In fact, when I don't walk, I start to feel restless and listless and just generally blah.

Now, I always dreamed of moving to the country so that I could walk more. Living in the city was okay for walking but how much better to walk where you did not have to worry about muggers or criminal elements. 

Well, it is so ironic that since moving to the woods, my walking had gone down to almost nil. 
Why? Well ... bears. Fear of them, to be exact. 

We really do live in a forest, and this prairie girl has been more than a little nervous about going out into the deep woods to get her exercise. 

Well, yesterday, that all changed. We walked in the woods! And I did not feel afraid. Here are some pictures I took, just in case you don't believe me! ;)

The picture up above is me, ready for a walk in the woods. I can't seem to put captions on my photos, with my new them, so I will have to explain the pics in the text until I can figure out why I am having the caption problem.

First, we saw a little path into the woods. My husband went first, and tentatively followed, shouting at the top of my lungs, "here we come, bears! We are here!" Yes, I sounded like a crazy person.

And I couldn't believe how beautiful it was, and that I have been living five minutes away from this little paradise! It was so still (besides my insane shouting out the bears) and I thought that I had to find a way to be able to enjoy this beauty without being afraid.

So I started grilling my poor husband. "Do you think it's really dangerous," I asked him. 

"Not really, it's cottage country." 

"So, they won't come around because there are too many people?" I insisted. 

"No," he explained. 

And it makes sense. The bears tend to go where they are almost guaranteed to be left alone. These are brown bears, and I guess the grizzly bears are a different story. This was confirmed in our next conversation. 

While we were walking, we met some neighbours who live closer down to the lake. They were outside working on their yard, and I started grilling them, too, about bears. 

They were pros at this living in the woods business (three years out here) and said they had not seen a bear for two years. The first time, a bear came to the door soon after they moved in, but they believe it was because the house had sat empty for quite a while. When it saw them, it high-tailed it out of there.  

And the second time was when the owner had put out a bird-feeder. The bear was just on that! And it is well-known that you should never put birdseed in your yard during bear season. She found out why! 

"So, are you afraid of bears?" I asked them. 

"No," they explained. 

I brought up a recent bear mauling incident in Alberta, in the mountains, but the gentleman reminded us that those bears are grizzlies, and a whole different story. 

So, yesterday was the day that I lost my fear of bears, at least somewhat. I will still carry the bear spray my gorgeous husband bought me, and I will still sing and yell like a crazy lady in the forest, but I have to get out and walk in all that beauty! 

It's funny how fear can keep from so many things, isn't it? I am sometimes like a fear machine walking around, and I know that's not right. 

It reminded me of David, from the Bible. This famous story from the Bible had new meaning to me yesterday.  Bears and lions tried to attack his flock and he fought them off with a slingshot. He wasn't afraid of bears! 

And then, when something even scarier came along (like a giant!) he wasn't afraid of that, either. After yesterday, I feel a little braver for everything else in my life, too. Just a little, though, I am not asking for giants! 

And to end it off,  a couple more pictures of the walk. One of the pictures is of the dock by our house, and the other is a big piece of wood that sort of looks like a bear. 

What about you? Do you like to walk? Are there any things you are nervous about as you walk, or are you as brave as a bear? Have you recently overcome any fears? 

Tell us your stories! 

*All photos are my own creation. Written work and photos protected by copyright 2014.

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page.