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.


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!


Golden days

I’ve written before about how we celebrate good news, here at Propriometrics Press. Well, the emoji strings were flying thick and fast Saturday night, as news broke that we had won not one but TWO gold medals at the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards.

Three of our books were nominated for Health Book of the Year: Diastasis Recti and Movement Matters, both by Katy Bowman, and Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, by Galina Denzel and Roland Denzel. Movement Matters was also nominated in the Essays category. Much to our delight, Movement Matters won the gold medal for Essays, and Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well picked up gold for Health.

Here’s how that news was received in our virtual office on Saturday:

 

Once we’d cleaned up after the confetti cannon, frolicked for a while in nature, and consumed all the virtual champagne and tacos, I had a chance to ask our winning authors what it meant to them to win a Foreword Indie.

“Although I’ve written many books, I still think of myself as a sort of blogger-turned-author,” says Katy Bowman. “Most of what I write is on the internet—in short bursts on social media or in the occasional article. And even though I write about the importance of movement to our physiological, social, and ecological models, my books have always been relegated to FITNESS categories, making it challenging to spread the idea that movement is critical to our bodies, lives, and planet to anyone but exercisers. Movement Matters won Best Essays! In a contest open to essays on all topics, with judges who are into books, and who are not necessarily into movement or exercise or fitness or even health! I’m excited because it means Movement Matters is accessible—interesting, even—to those outside of fitness, which is the most critical step in bringing the idea that movement matters to the world.”

Roland Denzel echoes that sentiment. “We’re honored and thrilled to have been nominated,” he says, “but overjoyed to have won. It’s wonderful to be recognized for our hard work, and when it’s by people outside of the health and fitness industries, it’s even better. This is the audience we’ve always wanted to reach and help, so when they appreciate our work, we know we’ve succeeded.”

And finally, I asked our editor in chief, Penelope Jackson, what went through her mind when she heard the news two of our books had won gold—especially in light of how new this company is, and how small our list is. She resisted the urge to reply in emoji strings and celebratory gifs (for once), and instead told me: “What I thought of first was all of the hours Roland, Galina, and Katy put into writing their magnificent books; all the time I and our other editors spent working with the text; the time Zsofi spent designing and laying them out; all the time you, Steph, have spent managing distribution and sales and printing. So much of the work that goes into a book travelling from an author’s mind to a reader’s hands is invisible, and that’s why these awards are meaningful. They are a recognition of all that uncelebrated labour. We know how special and brilliant our authors are, and we know that every minute of our work has been more than worth it—I’m so glad other people see it too.”

Emoji tacos and champagne for all!


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.


Movement Matters, in its natural habitat

There are relatively few moments in life in which every single thing seems perfect. So when one comes along, you grab it and hold it tight. Or, at least, I do. Such was the case in early November, when eighty or so of us gathered in Half Moon Bay, California, for the launch of Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement, by Katy Bowman.

First of all, the setting. Exquisite. We were so fortunate to be hosted by Doniga Markegard and her family on their working cattle ranch. The green and gold hills rolled by, dotted with cattle, the mountains rose behind them, the Pacific Ocean waved in the distance. Doniga and her husband Erik are the finest kind of people, and gave us such a warm welcome to the beautiful land they farm. The weather, too, was perfect. Balmy and sunny, with just a gentle breeze, hardly a cloud in the sky, no veil of fog.

Katy wanted a forage-and-farm-to-table meal, in keeping with the themes she explores in Movement Matters, and we found a perfect chef in Kevin Koebel of Local FATT (Food Awareness Through Teaching). Chef Kevin was entirely unfazed when I told him we wanted our guests to participate in some way in making the meal they were going to share with each other. In fact, this is the basis of what Chef Kevin does. So on the appointed day, he marshaled our eighty-or-so guests and got them working on cooking, assembling, and serving delicious appetizers, as cows milled around and the sun slanted across the hills. This act of making and serving food together turned our eighty guests into a cohesive group; fast friends were made, along with tasty bites!

As the sun began to drift down toward the horizon, we raised our glasses and made a toast to water—“not just a condiment for your meal,” Katy said, “but the earth’s blood.” Water is life, we agreed, thinking of the WaterKeepers and all those at Standing Rock, and we savoured our water before the meal was served.

The sun set, the air grew chilly, and Chef Kevin served platter after platter of incredible locally-sourced food. Cowbells punctuated conversation. Friendships were renewed and solidified. As guests began to think about drifting off into the night, coffee and hot cocoa was served, alongside bowls of fair-trade chocolate from Santa Barbara Chocolates. We stood together in small groups, hot drink in one hand, handful of chocolate in the other, finishing conversations that had woven through the party, saying goodbye for now. A sweet end to a sweet evening. We are so grateful to everyone who worked to make our party a success, to everyone who made the journey to celebrate Movement Matters with us, and to everyone who took an interest from afar! Thank you!

Another take on the evening can be found here, courtesy of Martin at Soft Star shoes.


Beyond the book: Meet Ben Pobjoy

bowman-pobjoy-1

If you’ve cracked into your copy of Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement by Katy Bowman, you’ve had the pleasure of encountering Ben Pobjoy, who wrote the foreword for the book. Ben has only been on our radar for a little while, but we’ve become fast friends, forged through movement. You can learn more about Ben and his inspiring story here. Meanwhile, we had a chance to catch up with him recently. Here’s how that went…

 You’ve written before about how you encountered Katy Bowman’s work. What was it about her message that resonated with you?

Katy unexpectedly landed on my radar when she appeared as a guest on a podcast. What’s peculiar about the resonance, is that it had as much to do with her message as it did the medium I first experienced her message through. Katy and her message are obviously brilliant, but it was the dialectical form of the podcast’s discussion that figuratively hammered her message into me. This podcast wasn’t just Katy opining about biomechanics into a microphone from a scripted speech, it was Katy participating in a well-rounded, long-form conversation where she was occasionally challenged by the host, and every time she was, she responded humanly and often humorously with even more evidence, insights or analogies that made her argument more compelling. In addition, she just had this fun and inspired timbre as well as what appeared to be a bright mind that was as imaginative and innovative as it was analytical and methodological. By the end of the podcast, I was just convinced. More so, I was awakened and inspired to move. I heard the podcast on January 14th 2015, began walking on January 18th, and have since logged over 10,000km in walks over the last 21 months. The short of it is, I caught the Bowman bug!

Why did it resonate at that time in particular, do you think?

I first heard Katy’s message on the tail-end of a decade of decline; where my ascending professional success had erroneously ushered in a seriously unhealthy degree of personal sedentarism. It wasn’t just that I was immobile and felt lazy, it was that my immobility was so bad that it was making me sick…and I was only in my early thirties! I knew I had a problem— one that was worsening— but I didn’t know how to solve it. I had tried to get fit with conventional forms of exercise but such either left me injured or the results were so slow to experience that I gave up. But, when I heard Katy speak about immobility as a disease of captivity, her articulation of ‘casts’, her ‘orca collapsed dorsal fin’ analogy as well as her scientific meets anthropological discussion of humans as primates / constantly moving hunter-gatherers, I was ENLIGHTENED! For me, it led to a profound paradigm shift where I saw the shortcomings of ‘exercise’ (especially within a larger lifestyle that’s sedentary) in stark contrast to the holistic value of a lifestyle rich in varied movement. It all just clicked, and the necessity of movement just clearly came into focus for me.

What kinds of thoughts did you begin having as you began to move more?

Initially, I felt a range of thoughts, and sometimes conflicting ones. Intellectually, I was convinced; I knew I had to move— Katy and her books thoroughly convinced me of such. However, I started walking in the dead of winter— up in Canada— and it was real tough out of the gates. I was severely out of shape, so it was physically demanding to trudge through the deep snow, deal with the subzero cold and endure brutal winds (that seemed to pass through any outerwear I wore). So, the first few months were hard. I’d heard Katy mention that 25% of our muscles exist below our ankles, and I understood this, but when I’d trudge the uneven snow or jerkily slip on ice, I didn’t realize every one of those muscles would ache at the end of the day, ha ha! However, I eventually improved my acclimatization and conditioning and moving became enjoyable. At first, it was stress busting; walking to and from work provided amazing ‘decompression time’ between my professional life and home life. Then, when spring and summer came around, moving outside just became awesome— especially as I developed the stamina to walk for a couple hours at a time. I just loved walking around outside, just being an observer to the weird and wonderful things the world has to offer.

At what point did you realize you needed or wanted to do some kind of social good along with your movement?

I work in advertising, and while it’s fast-paced and demanding, one upside is that I’m dispatched all over North America to make commercials. So, I do a lot of work travel, and beyond that, I’m fortunate to have the means to do a lot of personal travel around the world. Whether I was on work trips or personal ones, I’d walk, and I’d walk anywhere; from the nice parts of cities to the troubled parts. The more I travelled, the more I saw recurring patterns. While every city is different, every city is the same; poverty disproportionately affects women and children— and in Canada— our First Nations peoples. Witnessing this frequently, it just started to fuck with me on a deep level. There I was, this white successful dude— who’d been given every opportunity in life— that could now afford to voyeuristically drop into all these places. And, when I got there, I’d use my free time to work on my own self-improvement via walking. I just reached this point where I would look in the mirror from time to time and be like, “Man, if you don’t start moving beyond yourself and pitching in for the greater good, you’re a legit asshole of a human being!” Thereafter, I was out in Vancouver quite a bunch for work and I’d walk through East Hastings Street, which is this notorious street that’s riddled with homelessness and substance abuse. It’s a literal hell, one of the biggest failures of the Canadian state, and I just thought to myself, “This is completely unacceptable, and due to my apathy, I’m partially to blame.” So, I transitioned my physical movement into social movement thereafter and began distributing sandwiches to hungry people on the streets. It’s something I could do at home, it’s something I could do in hotel rooms, and I made it my mission throughout 2015. I recognize it’s a very small gesture that doesn’t change the system, but I’ve seen the small, temporary relief it provides to people so it has some worth on a micro level.

What can you say about the response with which your sandwich-delivering efforts were met?

In the fall of 2015, when it began to get cold in Canada, I wrote a post on Facebook about what I was doing. It wasn’t to boast or be self-righteous, it was just a plea to my friends— many of whom are these turkeys (myself included) with expensive road bikes or designer running outfits— to consider pitching in (with food, water or warm clothes) on their physical activities outdoors because I knew they could afford it, and because people on the streets needed it especially as it was getting colder. We’re all these poser wannabe athletes and I was like, “Hey, let’s cut the shit, and be honest- we CAN and SHOULD be doing something.” Much to my surprise, the post went viral— like really viral, people shared it around the world. Many were jazzed on the concept of converting their physical movement into social movement. The response was a little overwhelming because I was flooded with inquiries and media coverage, I did a national health campaign with one of the biggest brands in Canada, I was asked to be on podcasts and to do talks in front of powerful people in my hometown. The whole time I was like, “Man, I’m just this regular dude doing this D.I.Y thing in my spare time…I don’t really know what else to say?” I didn’t aspire to be the face of anything, and I’ve kept things at bay by saying, “No” to a lot of requests to ensure I don’t become one. If anything, I just want people to know that small actions can have big reverberations. So, practice kindness and move beyond yourself.

What changed in you and in your life, because of that?

Nothing and everything! Sometimes I get recognized as ‘sandwich guy’ around Toronto, and the one material gain I received from it all, was a barista giving me a free banana once when I ordered a coffee one morning, ha ha. I could’ve cashed in on it- public speaker agencies were reaching out to me to sign me as a speaker— but I turned it all down, just not my vibe or intention. Even the health campaign I did for a big brand, I didn’t ask for a fee, instead, a donation of $25,000 was made to an organization that promotes physical literacy to young people in Canada…which is rad! Throughout it all, it just taught me how powerful one’s small actions can be. I’ve had about 65 million other realizations about privilege and purpose and becoming a better ally to marginalized groups on my walks that— if I were to share them— they’d be so longwinded I’d crash the internet! But, if I’m being completely honest though, the most life changing outcome of all the walking and sandwiches— beyond the move to better health— is that I met the woman of my dreams on a walk of sorts. It’s literally the most insane and romantic story ever!

You’ve begun taking on longer and longer walks, and aiming for larger and larger social impacts. What happens to you while you are walking? During your recent walk from Toronto to Buffalo, for instance, what happened inside you?

Yes, I got into endurance walks while simultaneously trying to think of new ways to retrofit my physical movement in ways that will deliver the most value to people who need help. In September 2016, I decided to do a continuous 125km walk from Toronto to Buffalo for Sprott House, the first transitional housing program of its kind for LGBTQ2SA youth in Canada. It’s based in my hometown, and was a no-brainer because I’m trying to become a better ally to marginalized groups. The walk was both easier and harder than I imagined it would be. We estimated it would take 25 continuous hours and I did in just under 20 hours…averaging 08:54 a kilometre. In these types of walks, what happens inside of me, is that I just get into a flow state for hours at a time, and I can blaze a quick pace. I align my breathing with my heartbeat as well as my stride, and I just become this movement machine. It’s like I tune out, I’m not even thinking, I’m just moving and flowing. It’s an incredible thing. However, during the walk, my body did start to break down. I reached a point where I couldn’t retain all the water I was drinking. I had to keep peeing…and I feel bad because I peed all over this last town I walked through! Sorry small town whose name I won’t type! But, luckily this happened right near the very end of my walk. Originally, I set out to raise $2,500 for Sprott House and I ended up raising over $27,000…so when the going got tough, I thought about all the donors who pitched in, and that gave me the strength to finish the walk.

What would you say to someone who’s not sure their movement really does matter?

You matter, your movement matters, and how you move matters; not just for you, but for others as well. Unrestrained movement— to me conceptually— is the definition of freedom. So, in a way, how we choose OR refuse to move, is an expression of either freedom or captivity / oppression. And, I do not mean this in a way that pertains to ablism / disablism, I mean this in terms of the cause-and-affect of movement, intention and action. In capitalistic societies, if you’re outsourcing your movement (from growing one’s own food to transportation itself), the slack is forcibly picked up by people likely being paid unfit wages in questionable conditions or by machines that burn fossil fuels and pollute. And, if the aforementioned isn’t compelling, I’ll end with a personal examples of why movement matters; it helped me lose 100lbs and reconnect with my body, movement was meditative and enabled me to put myself in check, movement helped me feed people in my community as well as around the world, converting my movement into a platform for fundraising helped me raise over $50,000 for two important causes in 2016, and movement brought me into the orbit of an amazing partner I hope to spend the rest of my life with!