Dance with Mountains

What would it be like to dance with mountains?  To sway with the majestic alpine wildflowers that dot the valleys, or to listen to the whisper of clear snowmelt as it cascades to lower ground over a bed of stones smoothed to perfection?  To kiss the pine needles, to breathe the scent of ancient bedrock mystery?  Or to walk in step with the peaks that have been stripped of life, or the valleys that have been clearcut and left for dead? The toxic rivers, the tundra fracked of life, the homeless topsoil that can’t hold on?  How do we love our failed expectations alongside our beautiful victories? How can our defeats, our poor choices, and our monsters co-exist with our grace, our goodness, and our love? How do we embrace them all and hear what they have to say? 

Dance with mountains.

I am so often in the garden, or the woods, or elsewhere in the folds of the natural world, but at the same time absent.  Physically present but not there at the same time, worried, lamenting, even laughing, wondering what’s next.  I am searching for validation in this human experience but not sure what that even means.  I don’t want to need validation. I want to be where I am.  I work as a person who listens to others and validates their experiences and encourages feeling what one feels and being present to each moment….but often times don’t really know how to be on the other side of that.  I am afraid to make the [still unknown] changes that are likely essential for living in a way that feels attuned to what my soul truly wants. I’ve been working on being in my present story in a way that is rooted in the more beautiful world, but it feels like a struggle.  I get tired easily but can sense the turning of my face to the beauty that is still possible.  

Dance with mountains.

We are not moving from here to there, we are making “here” and “there” by moving.

We are here to disrupt the stories we feel stuck within.  We are learning a different notion of urgency.

We are walking with a foot in two different worlds.

To recover is to take on a new shape.  We have to go to the edges of our skin.  

The self is that which we haven’t met yet.


Dance with mountains. 


Who am I?

Can this question even be answered? What is a person anyway? A physical body, a set of cells and tissue.  A way of thinking, of feeling of loving.  Sadness to joy to pain to exuberation.  A bunch of stuff all wrapped up in a being that is me.  I am at the surface: I am a woman, a mother, a spouse.  I am a lover of wild nature, the garden, the mountains, the prairies, the rivers, the earth.  I don’t usually know what to do with myself in a big group, and I like to be alone.  But I crave relationship and living in close community.  I am a paradox.  I am here on the earth, but always floating above where I think I am as I worry or remember or project or lament.  And then there’s the soul.  That wild part of myself that can’t really be defined but that can be sensed as something greater than what I give myself credit for.  Something that is the earth, that is the universe that is the cosmos experiencing life in a human body.  I am everything and nothing, all that is beautiful and haunting and destructive and healing. 

Dance with mountains. 

I am a creature on a planet.  I am a part of the earth’s body even when I am not fully present to that fact. I am unsure so much of the time, seemingly about everything, but at the same time, I am sure, beyond any doubt that I am a part of a bigger whole. Part of the rivers that flow through this broken land.  Part of the mountains that rise up and get beaten down.  Part of the delicate beauty of a wildflower.  Part of the steamrolling culture that kills the beauty that took millions of years to come into to being in a single moment.  Part of the refugee who yearns for a homeland that has been destroyed, part of the black man who has been beaten down by police, part of the Native American who protects the waters, part of the homeless, the sick, the abused, the assaulted.  Part of peace and part of war. Part of the beautiful, part of the ugly, part of the fabric of this great web.


Dance with mountains.


I am haunted by making a life that matters and supports my family, haunted by a way of life that is easy and filled with the guilt of privilege.  I am haunted by expectation that I must do whatever is needed to sustain my present lifestyle, haunted by always being the one who asks “who are you and what do you need from me?”  I am haunted by easy choices and the challenge of simplifying.  I am haunted by the shadows of mountains that want me to make a different choice. 

Dance with mountains.

But how?  How do I find it within this human life to do such a dance? To be so attuned to the natural world that I could waltz or swing dance with an ancient pile of rock and earth?  To live so fully in my own wild nature that I could communicate with the world in a way that makes the sky weep in understanding and the plains shiver with anticipation of what is possible when life chooses harmony over dissonance?  To figure out how to identify the part of myself that is akin to rivers and hilltops and soil and trees?  To hold that as my center point?


How do I love and release my beautiful monsters and give into dancing with mountains? 

Heidi Barr lives near the St. Croix River Valley in Minnesota with her husband and daughter where they tend a large organic vegetable garden, explore nature and do their best to live simply.

As a mother, spouse, gardener, and writer, she is committed to cultivating ways of being that are life-giving and sustainable for people, communities and the planet. She loves putting words together to paint pictures of ideas, as well as walking with others as they explore what it means to live well on a finite planet. Hiking through forests and across prairies, wading in streams, digging in the soil and surrounding herself with natural wonder help her stay grounded in reality.  Her first book, Prairie Grown: Stories and Recipes from a South Dakota Hillside was published in June 2016.  Visit her online at

MusingsIris Nabalo