Supporting My Friend Carleigh

Some of you may know that I have this amazing friend from way back in the day – when we were just teenagers at ‘Coyote Tracks’ the nickname of the organization called Children of Earth Foundation (Cotef) which at that time was based in New Jersey. It is the youth nonprofit that was created by Tom Brown’s Tracker and Wilderness Survival School. Carleigh Fairchild and I became friends during the summer programs and while it was years later that our friendship realized its full potential, we are great friends for life.


Carleigh & Joannie in a Hawaii Waterfall

Carleigh has done quite a few cool things with her time thus far on our Planet. Starting with Coyote Tracks as a kid. She has hiked a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Took classes with Earthwalk Northwest in Washington state. And more recently enrolled in the WildernessFusion program where we are in the same class (which has been a freaking blast) together. Being the two crazy Alaskans who fly the furthest for these classes 4 times a year is a bonding moment in itself!

Last year Carleigh was one of 10 people picked to go out into the wilderness to survive for up to a year all the while filming their experiences for History Channel’s ‘Alone’. Season 3 takes place in Patagonia and they were dropped a couple of weeks before winter set in. I recommend checking it out – even with the over the top reality tv show feel it has. Most of the people on it are real and have a passion for being in the wilderness. The winner gets $500,000 and some serious bragging rights. Season 3 just finished airing and Carleigh was so close to winning! Two people were left when she was sadly pulled by the show because of her low body mass. There is a lot of speculation going around that it could have been rigged and wasn’t fair. I do agree that the runner-up really should get a little extra money for their efforts and perhaps more when it’s practically a tie. I don’t claim an opinion about the show being rigged or not, but I do know that History Channel left themselves open to a lot of backlash by how they portrayed the final weigh ins and pulling Carleigh out. Showing one person’s BMI but withholding the other is not okay, especially when its the female contestant being scrutinized by the all-male medic team while there is a plethora of gender and women’s rights issues all over the News. Leaving themselves open to so many potential avenues of attack just doesn’t fit. I am confused History Channel. Many of the viewers are confused and downright pissed. While I believe that Carleigh has more than earned monetary compensation (outside of the small stipend every contestant was given) for her time out in the woods, 86 days to be exact. She was expected to film 40 hours a week AND survive alone off the land indefinitely. I have absolutely no ill will towards Mr. Fowler who did walk away with the win. I only wish him and his family the best.

An incredible amount of people have been touched by Carleigh’s presence on Alone and inspired by her state of being. As her totally biased friend – I whole heartedly agree, Carleigh is freaking awesome. During the finale, such an outpouring of comments and posts were made for Carleigh that Shaun (my partner and also friend to Carleigh) got a wild hair that night and started a Gofundme for Carleigh to celebrate what she achieved. Shaun gets the credit as this was entirely his idea. The Gofundme is just a way for people to reach out, if that is what they feel called to do, and support Carleigh. The Gofundme is taking off much quicker than we initially expected and overall is well received. Being the internet, there is of course those who react to the idea that money is being given away – which I personally find fascinating. I always wonder what makes a person think their opinion matters when it isn’t their cause or their money involved.

Link to the Gofundme:  Celebrating Carleigh

I am sharing this with all the people I can – as many of you also know Carleigh. But for anyone who received this link and doesn’t feel called to give money its OK. If you feel called to just share it – that is great! No expectation here just because I wrote about it on my blog. I’m simply supporting one of my best friends and bringing awareness of what she has accomplished.



What I haven’t Said

I haven’t written much for the blog in the past few months for a few reasons. The easy answer is of course ‘busy’. Busy with life, work, travel, people, taking pictures, classes, etc. And while that is of course a factor – it is not the entire story.

I also have been feeling a little out of touch with sharing on the blog lately. Most of my posts in recent times are about cool places I go, people I visit or just basic updates. Somewhere along the way I ‘stopped’ sharing some of the less than ‘love and light’ details of my life. I suspect because I am so damn sick of hearing about how ‘I just want you to be happy Joannie’ and ‘well it seems like you’re doing okay’. As if one cannot experience happiness and still be SAD at other times. As if one must always be “okay”. The easy answer to this is of course don’t share those parts. The constant sleep issues, the less than savory self images I have of myself, struggles with what I should focus on, family stuff, money, work, friends/boyfriends stuff, the list goes on. I can only ‘focus’ so much on just the positive. My desire for balance demands that my writing include ALL aspects of life, not just the pretty, fun, and good-looking ones. I’m sure some people will react to some of the things I’ll probably write, yet all the good and bad parts of my life will still be there – reactions from others or not.

Another reason is that I have already been pushing myself to share a lot with classmates and few individuals outside of WildernessFusion in the last 6 months; in ways I am absolutely terrified of. In a sense, I am ‘sharing’ most aspects of my life – just not on the blog. As I have adjusted and learned to begin to have faith in my classmates and the few individuals I have started to open up to, I see how when one seeks to understand – one listens. And by not writing what is on my mind, what is in my heart, I do a disservice to those who want to understand. And for those who don’t, you can focus on the ‘good’ and get what you need out of my adventures and pictures. I truly love that so many people (close to me and the simply observers) get so much enjoyment from my sporadic sharing of travels, adventures, photos and occasional muses. This is by no means a ‘you should want to hear about the shadow stuff too’, but an acknowledgement of where I have stopped sharing.

I have mentioned in previous posts about my ‘Healing Classes’ with the group WildernessFusion. I’ve purposely glossed over them due to the nature of the work, the difficulty in sharing something so personal as well as foreign to most people, and to keep my classmate’s stories in confidence. Obviously I won’t be sharing the ‘details’, but I can write more about my experience and how the classes are shaping what I do now. For those interested I would normally say ‘check out the program’s website’, but I won’t, because it freaking sucks. If any WF people read this..should really update that thing!

Anyway, the ‘’Healing’ portion of the school is what I am in. A year-long program for each level (1 -7). The first four years cover the ‘basics’, after that you have to want to do this sort of thing for life (or just be crazy). I just started year 2. Year 1 was intense, but good. So far year 2 is like being boiled alive. The work itself – is personal work in how you approach people, the world, how the world and people affect you, and how to bring awareness to it all. After the awareness is there, then there is the ability to respond and finally, choice. It can sound rather ‘new agey’ but in my humble opinion, it is the sum of what is psychology (including the therapy portions), the human experience and truly living. The types of people who come to the classes and take the skills back to their ‘everyday lives’ is quite diverse. From roaming wanderers who play music (or train animals to include myself) with no college to degree, to teachers, pilots, doctors, engineers and software professionals. All of us have something in common, we deal with people, family, friends and want the ability to choose what we can do about tomorrow. Not just react. Many people have read or at least heard of the books ‘The Dance of Anger (or fear, grief, etc)’ by Dr. Harriet Lerner. When you truly have perspective on life, you see that it’s not ‘just that one’ family member or coworker you have these self-perpetuating cycles with. You have them most of all – with yourself. And the blind spots are BIG. The more that you think you already have a handle on..heh..the more you don’t. WF Healing classes are the intensive’s for people who want to have true choice (or be the change in the world) bad enough that you not only go ‘in’ your skeleton closet – you take your entire freaking class (bunch of strangers usually, who you wouldn’t have thought you could even be friends with in some cases) and the instructors (more freaking strangers) with you! You bring out the skeletons, you uncover ones you never knew about, and your classmates show you how you put them there..its like an undead dance party. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It is fucking hard work. It is terrifying. It brings up every embarrassing, shameful thing you want to never think about again. It rips open all the places you’ve sealed shut so you can put a dumb smile on your face. It breaks down all the ideas you made, been given or had instilled in your life. It also gives you bare bones truth about who you are and are not – wonderful and crazy. Beautiful and ugly. Selfish and selfless. Some people cannot hear about their bad, others their good. Either way, it’s a truth no one wants to hear. But it’s there. The classes have given me more skills than any book, therapist, job, program and so forth in both personal and professional places of my life. If that isn’t enough of reason, I don’t know what is! If you want to know more about them, feel free write to me or call me up.

As I realized how my patterns of interactions directly affected my relationships with Every. Single. Person. I know. I decided to work on that with a few individuals outside of WF classes. It is particularly more challenging with people who have no base understanding of the classes and self work that is going on. Most days I feel completely at loss of how to express myself to the people around me. I now can see some of the patterns and ‘images’ as we call them in WF that I react to. Something there is little to no choice around – but instead I react, deal with outcome of reaction, repeat. Now my biggest struggle is to simply not react. On any given day, I feel completely alone and misunderstood. I often feel isolated even though there are often people around me – only a handful of people can seem to really ‘see’ (read be in contact with) me and they are spread all over the continent. Most of this probably sounds like whining. Maybe it is. But it’s quite real, not a passing thought while stopped at a red light, but instead very much glaringly in my face. I have been told repeatedly (have also seen with the class ahead of mine) that year 2 in the program is one (or the one) of the hardest years in the program. I think I can speak for most of my classmates on this – we are all in our own hells. Those of us who have relationships – are just trying to not blow them up. Work. School. Everything feels like it’s about to push one over the edge. This is me almost every minute of every day. There are beautiful moments. Great conversations and even once in a while – a self-realization that doesn’t totally destroy you (most do). The rest – is just me fighting with my own shit – because I don’t want to be stuck this way forever. I want choice in the end. If the last two paragraphs make no sense – don’t worry about it.

I live in constant contradiction. While I feel a wild exhilaration to be alive in every moment and want each day more than the last, I also feel pain more acutely, grief more deeply and loneliness in every breath of every moment I am not around people who can give me the type of contact (a term that encompasses both physical touch and non physical company) I need. There is much more I plan to say, but I am already behind on what I need to be doing – and this is quite long.

More on this part of the Journey later ~ J

Late Spring Schedule

My ‘down’ time in Alaska is about to come to an end. Not that I’ve been quiet and still exactly – plenty of adventuring and chaos to attend to in my ‘slower’ portion of life. Dogs are often the forefront, walking, training, hiking and of course just caring for them. As many dog owners can attest to, it’s the morning your running late that someone has gotten sick on the rug and ‘couldn’t hold it’. Messes aplenty. Particularly when one Beagle who already has the world’s most sensitive stomach gets a hold of a Curry dish that was left out when no one was in the room.

I leave for DC to pickup my car in a few days. River will be staying with her Alaska family for safe keeping. Once I retrieve my car and visit with my Aunt Cathie and family, I’ll head to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, to see Shaun, my Aunt Terry and of course my Cousin Lucy along with many other family members. I will also be seeing one of my favorite friends before she heads back to St. Croy with her husband! I haven’t seen Carmen in a few years and am beyond excited that it worked out for me to leave for the East Coast early.

The following weekend I will be in New York State – South Salem for my 4th WildernessFusion class. I am both looking forward to and anxious about class – seeing as how we are turning in homework this time. By this point we are well into June – and I head back to Maryland for the rest of the week before departing to Alaska so I can prepare (all 24 hours) before my wonderful friends and Earth Sister Carl and Tracy arrive! I love having people visit and sharing some of the things I love about Alaska with them. I will have a little over 2 weeks to try to pack in as much as possible with Tracy and her homebody husband Carl.

By the time Tracy and Carl depart back to Maine, it will be July – damn this Summer isn’t even here yet and I’m already saying its half over! I have some dog stuff to take care of, a diving course to get through so I can get certified when I go to Guam (which may be as soon as this October!!!) and a few possible trips in the works. Hopefully my best friend Lorien will visit me at some point later this Summer and maybe even a Brother if I can get one of their asses up here.

The timeline is:

May 28th – Depart Alaska to DCA. I’ll arrive VERY late in the evening/early Thurs in OC.

May 29th – June 6th — Maryland.

June 6th – 9th — NY State for WildernessFusion Class.

June 10th – 15th — Maryland & hopefully will see Dad & everyone if they visit OC during this time.

June 16th – Back in Alaska!

June 18th – Tracy & Carl Arrive!!!

July 3rd – Tracy & Carl back to Maine.

I’m sure I’ll have to update a thing or two between now and July – but if you’re in the area and want to try to meet up with me – send me an email/text.

Early Spring Sunset

Early Spring Sunset

Here’s to a busy Spring and an even busy Summer! ~ J


Back from Belize – an update

To say that I have been busy is, well… an understatement to say the least. I arrived back to the states from Belize a week ago today (Fri 21st). In many ways it feels like the Belize trip itself was much longer than a week, and that I am still ‘adjusting’ to being stateside. I surprised even myself with how quickly I adjusted to ‘not being in the states’. It was almost too easy. I no sooner hit American turf than I was already plotting another overseas trips this Fall. Don’t get me wrong, I love being back and with some of my people… but a part of me seems to be ceaselessly wanting to wander, never satisfied unless another adventure is on the horizon.

squinting in the Belize brightness

Squinting in the Belize brightness

Belize was amazing. The class with WildernessFusion was amazing. The People are simply beyond amazing (both many locals I met and my classmates). I can’t say I ever thought I would visit Belize; it’s not that I didn’t want to, it simply wasn’t on the top 10 list, or even top 20. But man did I have a great time. I’m ready to go back and explore all the things I didn’t get to see. We stayed at a wonderful eco-lodge called Cotton Tree Lodge: what a great way to rest between adventures, and for those who are a little less inclined to ‘just go’ on their own, a fun and safe way to see the sights and experience some of the local flavor. I’m not going to get into the details of the trip, class or even attempt pictures of everything yet – I have 980 to sort through first…! I’m not purposely being a tease, I just want to update and forewarn. I only have bad iPhone photos for this post!

After my serene trip to Belize, I arrived in DC late in the evening, Shaun picked me up from the airport and we headed to the hotel where Kathy & Dave Gardner were waiting along with my River!

River waiting for me at the hotel...

River waiting for me at the hotel…

Kathy & Dave were in town for some work related things, and to join in on the fun of the ‘Shamrock Festival’. We had no idea what to expect, but it looked fun! River got to come last-minute since her and I were missing each other terribly. Saturday we dropped River off (much to her chagrin) at a Petsmart to day-board – possibly overnight so she was safe and cared for while the 4 of us were at Shamrock Fest.

To say the festival was… interesting is probably not doing it justice. It was a little more party and a little less festival than I was hoping for. But we still had fun. The noise and crowds were a little over stimulating after Belize, but I managed well enough! The 4 of us wandered about, often splitting up and then finding each other. It was very cool to be share the crazy with Kathy and Dave and see them have fun regardless of the years that separate us.

Kathy, Dave & I at Shamrock Fest

Kathy, Dave & I at Shamrock Fest!

They even had an EDM dance tent which is where Shaun and I spent most of our time after the draw of the bands wore off (and Shaun had enough to drink to tell the “tall people” to get in the back’ so he could see…)

Shaun & I in front of the EDM tent

Shaun & I in front of the EDM tent

Shaun headed back to Ocean City, MD on Sunday, while River and I stayed with Kathy and Dave that evening. The next day Dave, River and I toured around DC while Kathy took care of some work stuff. It was a lot of fun to walk around Monument Mall with Dave, talking about history of the various sites, the government system (which I will readily admit, I know very little about even though I’ve been told/read books about it). River earned many an ‘ohhh!’ and ‘look at the cute puppy!’ For the areas posted ‘no dogs’ I put her in my backpack (this is after all the best view point for her to see the various national parks I take her to).

She was also really into the squirrels…I made this image macro of the picture I took of her in the car right after yet another furry tailed-rat had dashed right in front of her (but due to her being leashed – no chase ensured). She wore this grin for quite a while!

River Meme

River Meme

For a late lunch/early dinner we met at McCormick’s which is just a damn tasty place to eat! After much-needed catching up, it was time for me to do last-minute car stuff with Dave’s help before hitting the road with River in the Black Dragon.

Dinner at McCormick's!

Dinner at McCormick’s with my Alaska family!

As you can see from our color pallet and choice of patterns..we look rather family like here. Kathy LOVES teal (I do too, maybe just not quite as much as she) and Dave often sports a plaid shirt (they are undeniably comfortable and dashing), so me in plaid teal pretty much tied everyone together in this picture (clearly I should have been in the middle to get the optimum effect). I always have a great time with these guys, and for some reason they do with me as well ♥

River totally zonked

River totally zonked

The last few days River and I have been chilling in Ocean City MD at my family’s rental. Shaun hangs out with us after work and often feeds me and buys me coffee (coffee is the important detail here..). I am mostly just adjusting to not being on ‘Belize Time’ which is something that doesn’t exist in this country. Also the weather changes from hot and humid Belize jungle to blustery Northeasters on the coastline has been a couple of days of uncomfortable. A few days from now I head north to Maine to meet up with Tracy and then we head to Quebec, Canada to Linda’s place where Afsoon will meet us. Element Sisters reunited! The plan is that River goes with me every step of the way.

I head back towards DC with a few stops along the way in early April, and then back to Alaska by April 14th. River too. Once back in AK we stay put for a while as I have work to attended to, Dogs to train, money to be made if I think I want to go on another trip any time soon.

Dave took this great pic with his phone of River & I in DC right outside the Lincoln Memorial! It was a windy and chilly day – my leather cap is all I could find instead of my warm wool knit, so I kept my hair down to help keep me warm (which is why the rather dramatic style going on there..). But it made for a very photogenic picture with my black leather jacket and little black & tan dog – whose ‘tan’ markings are such a shade of red that they just about match my red hair 😉

River & I in DC

River & I in DC

~ Always on a Journey  – Joannie & River.