Dawn Again in the wild

With Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild successfully launched into the world (get some details on the launch party in Half Moon Bay right here  and see some more photos here and here), author Doniga Markegard is getting ready to hit the road, returning to the Pacific Northwest, where her story began.

With a nice mix of bookstore events and public workshops, you’ll have lots of opportunity to meet Doniga and hear about the experiences she brings to the page in Dawn Again.

November 15, 6:30pm Trackers Earth, Portland, OR

November 16, 7pm at Barnes and Noble Lloyd Center, Portland, OR

November 17 6pm Wilderness Awareness School, Duvall, WA 

November 19, 3pm Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island WA

We’re also really pleased by the reception this book is receiving already. It was a featured review in the November issue of Foreword Reviews

And Doniga has had some great chats with podcast hosts Daniel Vitalis, Diana Rodgers, James Broderick, and Roland and Galina Denzel!

Plus, we hosted our first Facebook Live with Doniga on November 1, publication day for Dawn Again (well, our second live, if you count our trial live, which is linked above, in which Doniga and I discussed the launch party!), so if you can’t make it out to one of Doniga’s in-person events, there are still lots of opportunities to find her in the wild. Speaking of the wild, we do love to see photos of our books being read out in the world, so if you are reading Dawn Again, take a photo and tag us on Instagram!

And California friends, stay tuned, we are putting together some bookstore dates for early 2018! More about those as they firm up.


Nature school rules

As kids and parents everywhere get ready to get back to school—whatever that might mean in households and communities across the continent and beyond—we’re getting ready to publish Dawn Again, by Doniga Markegard. As well as being a memoir of Doniga’s time as a wildlife tracker and regenerative rancher, it is also a love letter to a nature-based education.

 

Doniga was fifteen years old and rebelling hard when she finally found her way to the Wilderness Awareness School near her home in Washington State. Attending high school through WAS changed Doniga’s life for the better (you can read more about that here), and the experience continues to ripple and reverberate through her adult life, and into the lives of her children, all of whom are also students at their local nature school in San Mateo County, California. And Doniga has kept her hand in, too. She’s an instructor at Riekes Center for Human Enhancement, bringing what she learned in nature school to a new generation of students.

Because Doniga is passionate about nature education, she’s looking forward to celebrating the launch of Dawn Again with an interactive Facebook Live event on Wednesday, November 1. We’re inviting nature school administrators and parents to take part, as well as anyone who’s curious about a nature-based education and whether it’s right for their family. The event is called What Comes After Nature School?, and it’s free and open to all who are interested.

The details:

What: An interactive Facebook Live event called What Comes After Nature School?

Who: Doniga Markegard, regenerative rancher, nature school graduate, author of forthcoming memoir Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild

When: Wednesday, November 1 at 4pm-5pm PST 

Where: Online, wherever you are! It’s all happening on our Facebook page

Why: To hear about Doniga’s nature school experience, the ways in which it prepared her for college and her adult life, and why she chooses it for her own children now, and to have your own questions about nature education answered

We look forward to seeing you there!


Shelf expression

Long, hot, summer days such as we are having here on the east coast of North America produce in me the desire to do several things: go to the beach, with a stack of books in tow, lounge in the backyard, with a stack of books in tow, go to a cottage and laze on the dock, with a stack of books in tow, relax by the pool, with a stack of books in tow…yes, there is a theme emerging, you clever reader, you!

 

 

This time of year, my eyes are generally bigger than the space available in my schedule for such prolonged bouts of reading, but I have managed to start a handful of good looking reads, finish one or two, and dip into several others to take what I can from them in the short bursts I have for such pursuits. This summer, I’ve been taking Baseball Life Advice, by Stacey May Fowles, with me everywhere I go (reading an essay on the beach while my brother listened to a Blue Jays game on his transistor radio and my niece and nephew frolicked nearby in the cold north Atlantic was one recent summer highlight), and then coming home to a pair of books by Elizabeth Strout on my bedside table. She is an amazing fiction writer and I am trying to figure out how she does what she does, so these are both re-reads for me. Speaking of re-reads, I’ve been hosting some special episodes of Katy Says, the excellent podcast by our author Katy Bowman. The episodes are focused on each of Katy’s books, so I’ve been re-reading her backlist this summer in preparation. Whole Body Barefoot is on the docket for the August 29 podcast, with Don’t Just Sit There coming up for discussion in September. You can subscribe to the podcast here. I could go on and on about my own stack of books, but of course, we’re a company of book lovers.

Roland Denzel, co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, has a list as aspirational as my own:

“Wired to Eat The last five years of so I’ve been interested in the less obvious whys when it comes to why we eat and overeat. I mean, I know why, of course, so I’m just checking Robb’s work. 😉

Sleep Smarter Allowing ourselves to sleep better is one of the hardest things for us to do, so I’m down for the latest info on getting in more (and better) sleep.

Movement Matters I’m a long-time believer in habit-stacking, even when each habit is tiny. Especially when each is tiny! Whether it’s health, the environment, or someone else’s welfare, things add up, and we can all do a little better. Movement Matters introduces us to small ways to make a big difference in all three areas—health, environment, humanity.

Word by Word A gift from Mom, who gives the best books! We (Mom and I) love words, trivia about words, the history of words, wordplay. As a writer, I can always improve, and this book is a fun way to do it.

Throne of Glass Guilty pleasure. I’ve had it for a while, but when my friend Lou’s daughter talked it up, I moved it to the top of the pile. Don’t tell anybody, but it’s basically research for my next novel. Shhh….

I don’t know how I’ll get through all these books by the end of summer, since I also have audiobooks for my walks, but I’m going to try!”

Roland’s partner and Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well co-author, Galina Denzel, takes her stack on the go as well:

“Here is my summer list on the go as I travel in Europe 😉 In the background you can see that I took the pictures in our home office in Sofia, where the colorful books on the shelves in the background are the collection of the Art of Real Food recipes, which I authored alongside photographer and designer Diana Shingarova. The home office is where we both work and cook, shoot new recipes and keep a large collection of dishes, silverware and backgrounds for the food sets, hence books and cups are everywhere.

The Hungry Brain I am fascinated by how we make choices and what it is about human behavior that intersects dangerously with the way the food supply has changed. This book is helping me gain a deeper and more compassionate understanding for the many ways in which our ancient brains have to navigate supermarket aisles and restaurant menus.

Character Styles More text-booky, and a classic in the field of human personality research. I have spent the last few years learning how early childhood experiences shape our character and how marvellously humans adapt to difficult circumstances and survive. I am halfway through this amazing resource and can’t wait to read more on my vacation.

It’s Time to Eat Inge Sengelmann tells of her own experience with emotional eating, how autonomic nervous system dysregulation is at the core of our distorted relationship with food and offers incredibly helpful self-inquiry at the end of each chapter. This is my third time through this book as I am also preparing to teach a retreat on the subject of eating and emotions and I keep finding gems of self-discovery and self-activation and empowerment. I think understanding and normalizing how we relate to food and pleasure is the fuel of hope for anyone dealing with emotional eating. It took me many years to heal from emotional eating and there just aren’t enough honest and scientifically valid books on the subject. This is definitely one of them.

Katerina Evro – memoirs and recipes This white and red book you see is a beautiful collection of memories and recipes by one of the most inspiring, gorgeous and feminine Bulgarian actresses. The book is a mix of old black and white family photographs and head shots of the actress, close ups of mouth-watering recipes and many pictures from more recent adventures and trips. My partner in photography and cooking Diana Shingarova was the designer and photographer of the project, and I am so happy to finally see the book here in Bulgaria.

Letting Go I got this book as a gift from the lovely Lucy—a colleague and friend in the Netherlands where we just went to teach a certification week for Nutritious Movement. Lucy knows if anything concerns emotions and unraveling what they are here to tell us, I am all ears—so she got me the perfect gift. I love the work Hawkins has brought in the world and the entry points for working with emotions he offers deserve attention. I didn’t own this one, so it was both serendipitous and plain cool to get it as a gift.

Moroccan The cuisine of Morocco attracts me like a magnet. This time in Bulgaria we are creating and photographing 25 healthy and nourishing recipes from around the world. Reading a book on Moroccan food was my inspiration to make cous cous with young almonds and dried fruit—mouth watering and satisfying in every way. Can you have too many recipe books? 🙂

As you can see, these books are both study, work, and creative inspirations for my six weeks in Europe, and I am happy to carry them along with me. Luckily, audiobooks weigh next to nothing, so I am set for my long drives across the country, too.”

Our designer Zsofi Koller always posts the loveliest shelfies—no surprise when you consider the design-star eye she brings to all her book design work for us. She says: “My favourite reads always involve a combination of cookbooks, humour, fantasy, and self-help—with a little bit of designer know-how tossed in there too. Plus, I really love just having beautiful, inspiring books around—and the winner on this score is definitely Salt Fat Acid Heat, which is a gorgeously put together book.”

Lora Woods is a co-author of Dynamic Aging. Here’s her stack, and a bit about it:

“The Fugitive Gesture allows me to stare at, examine and marvel at the gestures of people like Nijinsky and Gene Kelly.  It’s thrilling to see their invention and clarity.  The photos go back to the 1800s and include Inuit to Martha Graham: photos taken before I was born yet inform me of their feelings and power.

 Joseph Campbell (Thou art That ) transforms religious metaphor and includes the Gospel of Thomas. And like Jung, reconciles the seeming dichotomy of feeling and thinking, sensation and intuition.

 Imagery in Healing unifies and mystifies at the same time; another enigma.

 Sanskrit Keys helps me understand ancient constructs through the meaning of Sanskrit words. Freud was very late to the psychological table compared to the rich meanings of many Sanskrit words.”

Michael Curran does all the indexing for our books, so it’s no surprise to see Dawn Again in his stack.

He notes: “I read at the pace of one book every two months, so I have to make them count. The Man Who Quit Money is going to be one of those books that, as Liz Gilbert blurbs on the cover, I’m going to be thinking about every day of my life. And I’m indexing Dawn Again, but this book is exactly what I needed now, as a person who wants to learn more about permaculture. But also one is a set up for the other: Suelo’s book is a non-angry expose on why a money society needs to be quit. If you’re not willing to quit a money society, Doniga’s book is a prescription for how to see all that is unsustainable and yet positively move forward versus moving toward despair. To me this is huge, as I haven’t seen this in other books before.”

 

Penelope Jackson is our editor-in-chief, so she is awash in books pretty much all the time. She says: “I’m always working on four or five books, and I’m always reading at least that many for pleasure. These are just a few of the books I’m spending time with this summer. Elizabeth Peirce’s Grow Organic is my gardening bible—a fantastically useful, encouraging, award-winning resource I had the pleasure of working on. Ocean by Sue Goyette is my constant companion, as are her other collections of poetry, and she lent me Son of a Trickster, which, up to page 47, at least, is gorgeous and funny and rich. We take Be a Beach Detective to the ocean with us to help my 6-year-old decipher the nature clues around us, and my 9-year-old and I both love Brandon Sanderson’s ridiculously funny fantasy series Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass changed my life; Gathering Moss would have if I’d read it first (and I got to do a moss workshop and walk with her recently; pinch me). Romeo and/or Juliet, a choose-your-own-adventure-style approach to the classic, is whip-smart and RIOTOUSLY FUNNY and creative and deep; I dip in and out of it and I still don’t think I’ve read every page. Alice Munro and Lawrence Hill are perennial favourites. Nature Anatomy is both beautiful and very useful to have around the house, and it taught me about stinkhorns, which is a very funny mushroom I accidentally grew in my garden, which was the highlight of my very excellent summer so far and which I wouldn’t have otherwise identified. Building With Earth feeds my daydreams. As do all books, I suppose.

Stephanie asked me for just a few lines about this stack, but honestly all I want to do is talk about books while I swim in the ocean. And lakes. Rivers, too. Let’s go for a book swim! Don’t actually bring any books; that’s a terrible idea.”

You can tell Penelope and I have similar approaches to summer living.

And finally, author and publisher Katy Bowman writes: “I read a lot during the summer, often outside (see some of the positions I frequent here).

These are what’s on my plate for the next eight weeks: A Woman’s Guide to the Wild (I’ve skimmed it and it seems like it’d be good for someone without ANY experience camping as a way to ease them into the great outdoors), Brian’s Winter (This is part two of Hatchet), Ill Nature (I used a snippet of this book in Movement Matters), Naked (I’ve read this book of essays so. many. times. Favorite essay: Island of the Damned), Dawn Again (sorry, this is an Advanced Reading Copy—it’s not available yet, but soon!), The Natural Navigator (I have the other book in this series and it’s a fun and easy one to skim and feel like you’re getting little tidbits of knowledge), On Trails. ”

Speaking of Dawn Again, by Doniga Markegard, its publication date draws ever closer! Check out this gorgeous cover:

We’ll be sending it off to press this week, and we’re making lots of plans for launching it into the world November 1. Meantime, it is available for pre-order through our website. As a thank-you for ordering this title in advance, we’ll give you access to an exclusive audio file called Tracking for Beginners, in which Doniga Markegard guides you through some of the first steps in tracking wildlife, guaranteed to help strengthen your relationship with nature, no matter whether you are in the middle of a big city, in small town, or in the wilderness. Order your copy of Dawn Again here—pre-sale closes September 22.

Meanwhile, if you need me, I’ll be on the beach, or the dock, or the poolside, or in the woods, with a stack of books in tow. Hope your own summer days are similarly stacked!


Introducing Doniga Markegard

This fall we’ll publish Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild, by Doniga Markegard. We’re excited about this book (Starhawk is writing the foreword!!), a memoir that traces Doniga’s life from the time she was a teenager seeking direction and meaning, through her time at the Wilderness Awareness School in the Pacific Northwest, from her studies with Lakota elder Gilbert Tatanka Mani, to tracking mountain lions along California’s rugged coast, to falling in love with a rancher named Erik and starting a life and a family with him. Doniga’s understanding of the natural world, and the lessons it holds for all of us make this memoir a must-read for anyone longing for a deeper connection with nature. When you order Dawn Again through our pre-sale, you get access to a thirty-minute long audio file called Tracking for Beginners, in which Doniga offers tips and advice so you can get started right now, no matter where you are. 

We had a chance to ask Doniga some questions about Dawn Again. Here’s our conversation:

When you think back to where you were in your life when you began learning to track, what kind of road might you have followed if tracking and wilderness studies had not presented itself as an option?

That is an interesting question. I discovered tracking when I was searching for meaning in my life and a direction where I could feel part of the solution to some of the destructive things I saw happening around me. As a child I would often ride my horse on logging roads and witness an entire hillside clearcut. When I began traveling the county and seeing crop dusters spraying chemicals on long rows of monocrops I became further disillusioned. I had grown up close to nature and the beauty of rivers and trees. It was not until I began tracking that I connected the pleasures I felt or fully understood that the life I experienced growing up was being threatened by over extraction of resources. I think if I had not discovered tracking I may have followed what the people around me were doing instead of following my heart. It is hard to say where I would have ended up because my life took so many turns, yet I was always led back to nature.

What do you think Gilbert Tatanka Mani saw in you that made him want to work with you?

Gilbert did not just mentor anyone who came along. Some people would visit searching for spirituality and he would remain silent. He had a way of knowing what stories and lessons to share at just the right moment. I think what he first saw in me was a passion for learning everything about nature and he admired that. At first he did not pay too much attention but taught me small things such as how to make prayer ties or a sacred song. When he would share something with me I would immediately take it on in my life and practice it daily. It was this dedication that he saw in me and led him to share more. When I would tell Gilbert what I learned and stories about my time in nature he would share more. This grew to a very deep spiritual relationship, one that I had not expected going in, yet emerged in the most natural way.

You kept extensive tracking journals that you were able to go back to in writing this memoir. What went through your mind as you pored over those?

I loved looking back at my old tracking journals. It was like peering back in time to the first discoveries of the stories that are all around us. The maps I drew immediately brought up vivid memories of the places I frequently tracked. I could almost smell the cottonwood buds and hear the rivers and feel the rocky sand beneath my feet.

What has tracking brought to your life?

Tracking has brought a deeper sense of my own connection to everything around me. It has also brought me a deeper connection to myself. When tracking an animal I put myself in the past, present and future in order to gain clues about the animal, what it was doing, where it was going, when it passed by and why the animal was moving the way it was moving. When I track I ask a lot of questions. These types of questions, who, what, when, where, why and how can be applied to anything in my life. Solving mysteries of tracking can convert to problem solving at my own ranch. Tracking also brought me a very keen sense of observation. While tracking I am constantly looking at the natural cycles around me to take in the bigger picture of the story. Now that I am practicing regenerative agriculture, that keen sense of observation has been key to making good decisions for our family and our land.

What did you learn about your own experiences in tracking, ranching, and raising a family by writing Dawn Again?

Writing Dawn Again provided me with a time to reflect. I think often times people do not take the time to do that in their lives and they may keep moving forward without learning the lessons from the past. Writing the book also gave me an opportunity to be thankful for the gifts I have been given. I felt so grateful for the lessons of nature, the mentors in my life and my family that have all shaped who I am and the outcome of what my life has become. Often when I was writing and thinking very hard about how to approach a chapter or a subject I would do research of things that were already written, but that did not give me the feeling that I was complete about my writing. What helped me to round out my stories of the past was when I walked outside and interacted with nature, or sat down and had a conversation about the subject with my husband, children or friends. One time I was writing a story about a coyote and I walked out my front door and a coyote was standing up on the ridge. When I was writing I was paying very close attention to everything around me, just like tracking I was looking into the past, present and future through all of my senses. What really came out when I was writing was the less tangible sense of instinct. I just got into a zone, like when I trail an animal. My fingers moved and not many thoughts went through my head as the words came on the screen.

See and hear more from Doniga Markegard here on the San Francisco Exploratorium website, where Doniga is part of a permanent exhibit called Listen.

will be published November 1, 2017. Our pre-sale is on now, through the summer. You can follow Doniga Markegard on Instagram to see nature through her eyes, and to glimpse some artifacts of her tracker past.


Cover Story: Designing Dawn Again

 

This fall, we’ll publish Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild, by Doniga Markegard. It’s a riveting memoir of exploration and survival. As a young girl, Doniga Markegard was thrown from her horse and knocked unconscious. She remembers an out-of-body experience that revealed to her the great mystery at the heart of life. In Dawn Again, she writes of the journey that experience sparked.

At a wilderness immersion school, medicine people and wildlife trackers train her in indigenous ways. Her search for an authentic life takes her hitchhiking across the West and to Alaska, where she falls deeply in love with tracking wolves and the rigors of surviving in the wilderness.

 Doniga seeks a vision and discovers her purpose, only to find herself on a cattle ranch, falling in love and starting a family, and learning a new way to apply the deep, unshakeable lessons of the wild.

We’re really excited about this book and we knew it needed a really special cover. So we turned, as we do, to our incredibly talented designer, Zsofi Koller. She did not disappoint. We took the opportunity to chat with Zsofi about the cover for Dawn Again, and what went into making it.

How do you approach the design of a cover for a new book?

Book cover design is about making an intangible tangible. On one hand, there are endless options. ENDLESS. On the other hand, if you listen to what the book is about—and I mean, listen with ALL your senses—some ideas become clear tracks to follow. And I follow those tracks, and see what happens.

When I’m doing first cover design, the book itself might not be written fully yet, or I might not have access to the full manuscript. So I’ll often get a debrief from the editor or author about the WHAT of the book. Not just the what—also, the spirit and heart of it. And I’ll daydream about it, and I’ll go to the bookstore and roam around thinking about it, and I’ll look at approximately a billion things online to get ideas.

And eventually I start to pile together ideas from my mental toolbox, and often times visual cues from my teammates, and it starts to take shape. And then I run my first concepts by our team, and we take it from there.

You chose not to use a photograph for this cover. Why not?

Well, we did try that idea. Pretty cute, right? (We were still ironing out the subtitle at that point, too, it seems!)

But it wasn’t the right idea for this book. This book isn’t best expressed by a photo. There’s a side of introspection, of spiritual exploration, that is best captured by a slightly more evocative imagery. So the thought of a wolf that embodied a sunrise felt too perfect to not use.

 What were some of the particular challenges in designing this cover?

In total honesty, this cover didn’t feel like it had challenges. It came together pretty seamlessly. There were a lot of different iterations of sunrises and wolves though!

How do you know when you’ve landed on the right design?

When it makes someone on the team cry. And I can just feel it, too. When I come back and look at the design 24 hours later and still love it, I know it’s working. When I want to show it to my husband, it’s working. When I want to sweep everything into the garbage bin and keep working, it’s not right yet. And there’s really no short cut to the process. Sometimes it takes less time, or more time, but it’s always a process.

 What do you most like about this final design?

I love the colour palette. A lot of our covers tend to be quite bold, which I love as well, but I enjoy the softness of the greens, pinks, oranges, and cream in this cover. It certainly feels true to a glorious dawn. I’m also very fond of the fonts we landed upon. A good font for a book is a little gift that keeps giving. I’m so looking forward to the interior design—the pieces have been laid in play so nicely by the cover, it makes the whole design process flow smoothly.


So, that was something!

So, in case you missed it, one of our books was on The Today Show on Friday, no big deal (totally a very big deal). First of all, what a total thrill to see Katy Bowman and some of her Dynamic Aging co-authors on national television!  And of course, the idea that millions more people were able to gain access to the ideas and possibilities presented in Dynamic Aging is the real fuel for our collective fire around these parts.

So that part was awesome enough, and then around mid-day Eastern time, Dynamic Aging started charging up Amazon’s best sellers list, finally coming to rest in the number two position, where it stayed for just about twenty four hours. At this writing, it’s still firmly in the top 50 books. You guys, out of more than thirty million titles. Let me give you a bit of perspective on this. Propriometrics Press is a very small company, with one full-time employee and a ragged band of independent contractors. We’ve all been together in person exactly one time, and it was just a few months ago. Getting our book on The Today Show was a massive accomplishment. Watching it climb the charts and compete alongside books published by the Big Five was a pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming experience. Seeing it still sitting comfortably in the top 100 books today—I don’t know how to explain the feeling. We do not do a lot of resting on our laurels, but we are pretty good at celebrating our success with long strings of celebratory emoji, like this:

The part of all this that remains the most awesome is hearing from readers. So, if you’ve had a chance to look at Dynamic Aging, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line in the comments if you like, and if the spirit moves you, maybe review the book on Amazon—reviews of all kinds help other readers decide whether a particular book is for them.

And now, it’s on to the next! (see under: laurels, not resting on). We are getting ready to release an expanded edition of Move Your DNA in just a few weeks. Tell you more about that soon!


Dynamic Aging on the move!

What a day! It started bright and early, when Katy Bowman and her Dynamic Aging co-authors appeared on The Today Show. It was a terrific segment, focused on so-called super-agers…folks who keep their bodies and minds nimble well into their seventies, eighties, beyond. Three of Katy’s four co-authors were featured, sitting on the floor, squatting, swinging, climbing at the park, and just generally being awesome, as they are. You can watch it all unfold right here.

Of course, we love to point out that though we think Katy’s co-authors are super, there’s nothing so different about them—except their habits. They’re not genetically superior in any way (that we know of!), but they’ve spent most of the last decade learning Katy’s Nutritious Movement philosophy and moves, and putting them into practise daily. The great news about that, is that anyone can do what Joan, Shelah, Lora, and Joyce have done. You can, I can, we all can. Totally inspiring.

Then, once the segment had aired all the way across the country, we were delighted to note that Dynamic Aging climbed into the top TWO books on Amazon. Out of, like, more than thirty-three million! Which occasioned many notes back and forth among the Propriometrics Team to the effect of: TWO! TWO! TWO! Excitement makes us a little monosyllabic, it turns out.

And most amazing of all are the comments we’re seeing on social media, about what this book means to those who have read it, and the excitement with which a whole new crowd of readers are embracing it. In a day that’s been full to the brim with incredible moments, it’s the moments in which we realize that Dynamic Aging, a book we really believe will be a game-changer for so many people, is actually going out and finding its intended audience that mean the very most.


Honors and mentions: Foreword Reviews Indie Awards!

Foreword Reviews announced its 2016 Indie Award nominees yesterday and Propriometrics Press is thrilled to announce that three of our books are on the list! Roland and Galina Denzel’s Eat Well Move Well Live Well is nominated for best health book, Katy Bowman’s Diastasis Recti is also nominated for best health book, and Movement Matters, also by Bowman, is nominated in both the Health and Essays category. Winners will be announced during the 2017 American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago on June 24, 2017. Good luck and congrats to our authors and the team that midwifed these books into the world!


Meet the dynamic women of Dynamic Aging

We talked with Katy Bowman’s four co-authors of her forthcoming book Dynamic Aging: Joan Allen, age 78, Joyce Faber, 79, Lora Woods, 75, and Shelah Wilgus, 78. Their stories, shared in more detail in the book, are seriously inspiring. (The book will be available in stores and online March 1… but pre-sale copies are available here.)

We’re all told that we have to accept certain things as we age. These women, who have been working with Katy for nearly a decade each, are proof that just isn’t true. We’re not talking about climbing Mt. Everest at 80 (but if that kind of goal gets you moving, go for it!), we’re talking about having agency over our own bodies by way of understanding and appreciating how our bodies work. And, of course, working with ourselves as we age so that we can enjoy active, healthy lives that are filled with vitality and engagement for as long as each of us is roaming the earth.

JOAN began working with Katy at age 71 after a long career as an attorney (imagine the amount of sitting over the years). She’s dealt with pelvic prolapse, chronic constipation and foot problems. Joan, now 78, gleefully reports numerous changes to her overall health in the past seven years: her chronic constipation has disappeared, she walks daily, regularly hiking three to ten miles and can walk comfortably in zero-drop shoes and barefoot.

Scheduled for major surgery to address her pelvic organ prolapse at age 72, Joan was able to side-step that, continuing to heal her body through movement instead. Joan says, “My balance is the best it has ever been—two years ago I walked barefoot across a log six feet above a rushing river, something I never thought I’d be able to do, and certainly not for the first time at age 77. My overall body strength has improved significantly. Changing how I move has changed my life.”

We asked Joan: Is there a moment that stands out for you, a turning point in your work with Katy when you realized what kind of change was possible for you?

A: There have been many moments that stand out for me over the past seven plus years of working with Katy that I would consider turning points. One was when my chronic constipation ended after three to four years of diligently practicing the correctives, getting off my butt, and adding more daily movement to my life. Another was when I was able to discard my orthotics and once again walk barefoot on the beach and in minimal shoes with no discomfort. The ongoing “moment” or “turning point” for me is knowing what to do and doing it in the way of correctives and movements that have kept and are continuing to keep my pelvic prolapse under control.

Q: What are some of the physical accomplishments of which you’re most proud?

A: Overcoming my overwhelming fear of getting on the BOSU. Now I practice on the BOSU on both feet with my eyes closed, list on one leg, can list on the inverted BOSU and actually teach BOSU classes—all of which has helped enormously with my overall balance. The other physical accomplishment I am so proud of is climbing and hanging from trees. But for Katy, I never would have thought of doing something like this “at my age.” What freedom and exhilaration!

Q: What would you say to someone who’s thinking, well, that’s nice for you, but I don’t see how it could work for me?

A: Try it—you might like it. And, what have you got to lose? Whether you start Katy’s movement program or not, with any luck at all you will continue to accumulate more years. What if, like good wine, you could get better with age or at least not lose ground?

SHELAH started classes with Katy at age 66 after retiring from her graphic designer job (read: sitting at a computer. A lot). She describes herself as a “life-long exerciser,” and explains that it was the “logic of the scientific theory of Katy’s program” that convinced her to take Katy’s training program.

Shelah also describes herself as “a work in progress” and a product of her long-term habits. (Aren’t we all!) It was when she was preparing for a trip just before her 75th birthday that she reached into her closet for a garment and twisted too far. The resulting back pain, she says, was evidence that something was very wrong, and a later MRI confirmed she had serious scoliosis accompanied by painful shearing of lumbar vertebrae.

It was after a month of doctor-prescribed inactivity, aside from short walks on level ground, that she was well enough to start the basic exercises offered in Dynamic Aging. Shelah notes: “Moving better doesn’t automatically mean you don’t get injured, but it makes you more resilient if you do.” She credits Katy’s teaching with giving her “the knowledge and tools to know what movements I can do, like hanging and core strengthening, and which movements I must be very careful doing— like twisting.” And today at age 78, she can walk three to four miles daily in relative comfort.

We asked Shelah, what were your expectations, as you began studying with Katy?

A: I didn’t have any, but from the first class it was clear to me this was not a regular “exercise class.” I loved the clear explanation and theory of each movement, something I had never encountered in any other movement class.

Q: What else is on your physical bucket list?

A: Working on ribs down, feet straight ahead, and hanging (upper body strength.)  I want to again be able to get up from the floor without using my hands, squat comfortably and do at least one pull up easily. And I would like to do some more long distance (10-20 miles a day) walking trips both in this country and abroad.

Q: What would you say to someone who’s thinking, well, that’s nice for you, but I don’t see how it could work for me?

A: Try it, what do you have to lose. It’s non-invasive and you are in control.

Q: What else would you like to say about the process of aging dynamically?

A: Be grateful and keep moving. Walking is (my) key to independence.

LORA was headed for the first of at least two surgeries that would have resulted in a complete knee replacement before she started to work with Katy. She says, “through my work as an RN and dance-movement therapist, I thought I knew and had experienced all the self-help modalities and was resigned to ‘the knife.’”

But after doing some of Katy’s exercises for two weeks, namely the calf stretches she learned, Lora began noticing that signs of her “restless leg,” which had robbed her of sleep for decades, had disappeared. It was that success, she says, that empowered her to cancel knee surgery and try more regularly the gentle knee-stretching exercises she’d learned from Katy for her frozen knee.

Now age 75, Lora can walk up to six miles at a time, which makes walking to all her in-town errands and appointments possible on what she refers to as her “original equipment.” She also says, “Incorporating the principles in this book into my daily activities has created opportunities to change life-long conditions I thought were just me.”

We asked Lora: Is there a moment that stands out for you, a turning point in your work with Katy when you realized what kind of change was possible for you?

A: I was skeptical but [engaging with the exercises fully]. The turning point for me—which I observed almost immediately—is that Katy has a completely different paradigm. This really works for those of us who want control in our lives. Early on in Katy’s program, I realized I had the power to change my projected future.

Q: What are some of the physical accomplishments of which you’re most proud?

A: I went on a Sierra Nevada packing/camping trip and faced eight miles mostly uphill the first day (that’s two miles more than I do without a 25-lb pack.) I got to the point of fatigue where I was shuffling and cursing myself for doing the trip. I considered my alternatives and found none, so I turned on my Katy-brain. I concentrated on rocking forward after each heel strike, and activating my toes in this way seemed to give me a little lift or boost. By the time one of my sons came back to find me I was well in control of the situation and he carried my pack for only about half a mile. And after that first day I needed no help!

Q: What would you say to someone who’s thinking, well, that’s nice for you, but I don’t see how it could work for me?

A: One success will lead you to many more. The power-of-the-body concept that Katy introduces you to is beyond expectation. So, one’s first success is rather like being set free of previously felt age limitations.

JOYCE navigated painful knee injuries for nearly 30 years; she tore the meniscus in one knee and the other knee was damaged shortly after from compensating stresses. Never enamored of the idea of surgery (skeptical it would bring actual improvement), Joyce leaned on various palliative measures over the years to mitigate her knee problems: limited walking, Tai Chi, gentle yoga stretching, daily pain medications, weekly chiropractic treatments, and massage therapy.

But when she started Katy’s program, she says, she began to understand her body for the first time from a biomechanical point of view and learned that injuries, pain, and inflammation are our bodies’ warning flags and that “we shouldn’t ignore them or power through them, but rather teach ourselves to heal using them as our guides.” She also says, “This whole-body model of wellness has taught me that our health is influenced more by our habits—the way we use, load, and live in our body—than by our age.”

Joyce will turn 80 this year. She’s had no surgery, has regained her ability to walk without pain or impairment and, as she puts it, lives with wellness in her body, mind, and spirit. “Whole-body movement has made this possible in my life and I feel strong and capable walking the path to healing and wellness.”

We asked Joyce: What were your expectations, as you began studying with Katy?

A: My expectation was that it would be just another version of Pilates, Yoga, or Tai Chi that I would need to learn yet again—another discipline and framework that would not give me any significant benefit. It seemed senseless and boring to me. I was not ready to choose surgery but did not have hope that there was another choice. I didn’t realize that there was a paradigm out there to heal the wear and tear on the body at the cause.

Q: Is there a moment that stands out for you, a turning point in your work with Katy when you realized what kind of change was possible for you?

A: Yes. I felt that excitement during the first lesson in her studio. Katy told about optimal cellular regeneration, how the body is a whole system affected everywhere by even the tiniest change. Doing the exercises with her was interesting for that reason and also because I felt aliveness inside and outside my body—and I realized that was important, very important to my health and well-being. Gaining that understanding was new and exciting to me—that how I learned to live in my body would directly affect my health.
Q: What are some of the physical accomplishments of which you’re most proud?

A: Walking effortlessly and aligned all day long! My car sits in the garage as I attend to my errands on foot each day, walking three to five miles or more. I gain my health directly from this habit. I’m most grateful to Katy for teaching me how to do this. I feel a sense of freedom, power and aliveness that is satisfying and connects me at a deep level to a vital source of my health.

Q: How would you describe your quality of life today?

A: Excellent, rich and fulfilling. Without Katy’s work, I would have had two knee operations, and one laminectomy for my cervical spine because of pain and loss of ability to move. My physical mobility would be compromised.

 


Body of Wisdom

Over the past few weeks I’ve been starting my days in a new way: reading Katy Bowman’s Movement Matters. (And that’s not happening just because I’m managing social media for Propriometrics Press).

The thing is, I love big ideas. And even more than that, I love big ideas that I can bring to bear on my life in tangible ways. I still find it astonishing that a book can deliver a person up to all that. But then again, I believe in the power that books have to open minds and seed meaningful change in our world.

I’m a pretty active person. I also work at jobs that have me staring at screens and tapping lightly on keyboards a lot of the day, so getting to use my body to experience the world became, and remains, vitally important.

The place I currently call home, Halifax, Nova Scotia, affords me some of the lifestyle that balances out my screen time. It also happens to be a port visited by numerous cruise ships, mostly during the gorgeous fall we often get. And it was on one of those autumn mornings that I took the long way to work, through one of our city’s most expansive public parks, which leads down to the North Atlantic Ocean.

I walked through some forest, down to the water and along the coastline for a bit, then past some shipping yards as I worked my way back to our mid-size city streets. En route, I passed a kind of ocean parking lot: where cruise ships from around the world anchor and where tourists disembark to see what they can see.

Chalk it up to the fact that I had been reading #MovementMatters, chalk it up to how everything was sparkling in some very beautiful morning light, but I was noticing things I hadn’t noticed before: like the road signs for pedestrians, the signs for cars, the parking lot full of cars, and the fact that I was the only pedestrian around at that time. And in the background? A cruise ship that had—what was that?—a giant plastic giraffe on its upper deck, wearing a bright pink life preserver. And looking down to the other end of the upper deck, a huge, and I do mean huge, screen. Think Jumbotron you can see from miles away. At sea.

It occurred to me that we may not have intended this in our dogged contemporary pursuit for more “leisure” time, but from my vantage point that day, it sure looked like we’ve reached a level of confusion about it all.

How did we get here? I blame the giraffe in the pink life preserver.

OK, blame might be too harsh. I love giraffes. But I’d argue that our cruise-ship friend, and even the cruise ship itself, is a fantastic symbol of where we all find ourselves. If I hadn’t read Katy’s book, I’m not sure I would have found the language for this, but I think I have some now: we’re getting it backwards. We’ve traded our natural tendency toward movement for epic bouts of sedentarism. And hey, I love relaxing as much as the next person. But I’ve noticed (you, too?) how relaxation doesn’t really do the trick after a long day of doing nothing, physically, already…

I always wondered if I was a bit odd (affirmative!): not really loving the gym, opting to walk to and from grocery stores carrying heavy bags, eagerly volunteering to help friends move or paint rooms in their houses. (Katy calls this “stacking your life.”) I’ve always loved using my body in the service of human living, and I realize I love the communal effort, too. And now, as I do even less sitting in chairs, add more movement throughout my day as often as I can, turn away from screens to look more at the sea and sky, and talk with our organic farmers who feed us so well, the more I don’t crave “leisure” as much as I crave connection with the world we all live in and with the people in it.

I used to dance tango a lot (and when I get back to it, I’ll be trying it without the high heels. Thanks, #WholeBodyBarefoot). It was my first profound lesson in the power of connecting with my own body, attending to the cues of another body, and witnessing the ability of the human machine to pick up on a great deal of non-verbal information—from music and rhythm to microscopic moves emanating from my dance partner’s lead to listening to my own intuition. While embroiled in a tango that sometimes would work really smoothly for a few seconds, a beautiful thing got created that was much, much bigger than the two of us.

So, I’m a believer in the sheer awesomeness of the human body and what that means as we move about planet Earth. I’ve got my own batch of gathered evidence. But it’s Katy’s #MovementMatters that has offered me not just a new vocabulary, but a new, dot-connected way of understanding the world.

What we do with our bodies matters. And that extends way, way beyond my immediate space. I feel the responsibility and the thrill of that. And I also feel tapped into a source of clarity about what being a human connected to the world means. Based on my own experience, it’s the moving of my body that delivers me back to that clarity when a lot of the signs and signals around me are saying something different. I’m happier, yes, but I’m also trying to be a better citizen. And it starts with a simple calf stretch in the morning. Amazing.

I love this line from Katy in #MovementMatters: “When striving for an evidence-based life, consider that your most relevant evidence is your body.”

To that I’ll add, without putting too fine a point on it: Vive la révolution!

(Giraffes welcome).

By: Tracy Picha