Crossing Bridges: I am Officially in Business!

**IMPORTANT** This post contains some timely news (see below)! If you’d like to keep following my written work, sign up for my coaching newsletter (what?! yes, I will tell you more!). I’ll be writing in that space only from this point forward. A new adventure is in the works!

Weaving Grass Bridges

Okay. Imagine this.

You are 1,000 feet above the ground (queasy stomach yet?). Over a deep ravine. On a bridge. Made out of woven grasses.

Can you imagine?

I got a snapshot image of this from an article. The bridges it referenced were first made in the times of the Inka empire. I’ve been studying ethnobotany in a class-by-class, long distance rhythm over the last 7 years. With a keen interest in how people have traditionally used plants, this story struck me!

Who were these weavers? How were they taught such an art? Was it women’s work? Mens? How did they end up knowing which grass to use and how to weave them to hold large groups, carts, animals, armies? How much grass would they have to harvest for 1 bridge? How many seasons would it take to build? What kind of people were they, these bridge weavers, to ensure the trust of the whole community as each life ultimately would be in their hands?

**After some more online reading, this Smithsonian article gave me some more context and answers. The [3 min] video is full of teachings from these present-day communities.**

For those who are not familiar, ethnobotany is the interdisciplinary study of the relationship between people and plants. Yep. That includes psycho-spiritual, medicine, food, shelter, clothing, tools, dyes, art, and, expression-based uses. And yes, grass bridges.

In my coursework we learned about field research methods; botanical ID and plant families; Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK); modern-day pharmacology; plant chemistry; indigenous science stewardship models; and the roles language, biodiversity and all our justice movements play in preserving the knowledge of these stories and the very people who hold them in their personal and cultural fabrics.

It has been a phenomenal program…and two weeks ago I GRADUATED!

My graduation was a completion in its own right. The last step on the bridge before reaching the other side. A chapter of stories suddenly completed inside of me.

A chapter that started the moment I decided not to go straight to Grad School. The moment I bought my Amtrak ticket on the overnight train from Emeryville, CA to Canada. The moment I stepped onto the small State Ferry in Prince Rupert, BC, to head North to Alaska.

 

Building vs. Crossing Bridges

The_Edge_Fotor

Speaking in metaphors, are bridges what we dare to cross as journeying humans? But the art of building them is left to the great mystery of life? To fate, karma, and the unseen scriptwriters for our lives?

If so, whoever built the bridge that guided me to Alaska was incredibly invested in my long-term development as a real human being. More so than I would have ever dared to ask for knowingly.

In my “About” section on my website *more details below, this is the Alaska story I share.

Moving to rural Alaska changed everything about my life. I flew in with my fresh-out-of-college optimism, a Feminist Studies degree (with honors), and years of global travel under my feet. Then my world turned upside-down. An elder I met my first month there told me that he had never left the State. I watched my judgment and curiosity arise. My inner question was something like, What are you doing with your life? The question back to me was, Where do you belong? Was there any place on earth that I knew the river channels and sandbars like the back of my hand over each turn of season? Did I know the language of my ancestors? Where did I know I belonged? I stepped back from my assumptions of my own sense of self. I sat down in that community for six years and observed. I offered the gifts that were asked of me. And everyone was my teacher.

I am still working to understand the role of privilege in my life (personally and through the lens of my generational lines). To live somewhere where my norms and my “home culture” was not the prevalent culture was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

I cannot imagine a chapter of my life that can be as rich. And most importantly, who I am in my being is an alchemical result of those mixing years.

Alaska Collage_Fotor

Why do I care to share all of this?

Because when I completed my studies and closed that final doorway to my time in Alaska I could feel in my bones that something monumental for my 33 years had been completed. That I have crossed a bridge woven of grasses and stories and stand on new. solid. ground.

And here, a new chapter begins.

In this season of blooming, it is officially time to launch my coaching business.

Website Screenshop, leahkwalsh.com

And my first series of classes!

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Of any place that has stood witness to this transformation within me, from PCT Pilgrim with a heart full of questions to a creative business owner, it is this community.

It is somewhat humorous to realize how plausible it suddenly seems that the very seed of this business mischievously created enough angst in my life, enough unrest, that I could do nothing else but leave my 9-5 job. It could even be responsible for my settling on taking a “year of retirement” and the inspiration to head out on the trail for all 350-miles on the PCT. What a thought to behold!

I am definitely not complaining. These indeed have been the most creative and well-lived years of my life.

In case you are curious to learn more about the character of this brilliant and mischevious business, I’m including some helpful links below.

 

What better way to close this celebration of the bridges we journey across than to return to my final day last summer on the Pacific Crest Trail. A journey that ended as I crossed the Bridge of the Gods and surrendered my life to whatever wanted to come next.

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I am so humbled by where life’s current guides me.

You just never know what will happen when dreams are placed in your heart…and you start putting all of your reckless faith in Huckleberries and Hope.


 

**IMPORTANT REMINDER** If you’d like to keep following my written work, sign up for my coaching newsletter. I’ll be writing in that space only from this point forward.

Thank you so much for following this tremendous inner and outer journey of mine!

It has been my honor and privilege to share it with you.

Just as I would close each and day on the trail, I will close our time here by saying out loud to the mighty force of love within and around all of us…

“I am so grateful for today. Thank you for each and every step.”

leah-2

Photo credit: Sara Burbidge

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2 thoughts on “Crossing Bridges: I am Officially in Business!

  1. What a beautiful final completion … this writing… following your monumental graduation!!!!
    So full of imagery and life!
    Looking forward to following what is to come!
    Bravo!

    Like

    • Thank you for celebrating each one of my adventurous journeys, Mom. You & dad have always been so supportive and interested in where I go to follow my heart– not just to hear about it, but to join me in all the ways you can. I am so grateful!

      Like

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