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The Unboxed Brain is a monthly ezine bringing you innovation, spirit and creativity.  We feature articles by coaching professionals and others working on the creative frontier.

Living Your Landscape

 by Thea Sheldon, CPCC         


A life lived on the edge is at once subtle and bold.  It works your being with ancient mysteries that only occasionally float into consciousness.  It keeps you awake, with anticipation and knowing that nothing is permanent.  There are surprises and answers to be found here. And for those who really listen, there are more questions.

This edge I speak of is the literal place that each of us inhabits.  It’s made up of the natural surroundings, the physical landscape that contains our activities and in a quiet way informs our days. 

My landscape is on the edge of a vast two million acre wilderness where it’s easier to navigate by water than by land.  Dense white and red pine forests and a rugged terrain make it difficult to travel.  There are no roads, just narrow footpaths between the lakes, worn clear first by the indigenous peoples, later by the French voyageurs and today by the footsteps of modern-day adventurers seeking summer solitude and a sweet lick of the wild unknown. 

My home sits flat on ledge-rock formed nearly three billion years ago as fiery liquid rock edged itself a few miles over what is now the arbitrary border between Ontario, Canada and Minnesota.  Today the international border is discretely marked with metal spikes; little statues in the wilderness to remind us of man’s, and maybe woman’s penchant for creating territories all neatly claimed and staked out.

Now cooled and hard, the ledge-rock remains mostly exposed. It’s been thousands of years since the last ice age scraped and scrubbed clean the hardened surface.  For thousands of years tiny lichens, mosses and wild flower roots have pushed their way into cracks, sucked sustenance, died and then formed the scattered patches of composted plant material we call soil.  Today, fragile, thin soil layers nourish determined jackpines, slim birches, and low down blueberry bushes.  There just isn’t a lot here for a plant to grow on.  It always surprises me to come upon a good-sized jack or red pine literally growing out of the rock, not a tad of soil in sight.  I marvel at how long the taproot must be that has fingered itself down through crooked cracks in search of moisture and nourishment.

This thing about the soil fascinates me.  You see, I grew up in another landscape; one where I could dig deep into the soil and plough it in long rows without interruption, acres at a time.  Yes, there were rocks in the soil in upstate New York, but they were small enough so it became the kids’ game each spring to walk behind the “stone boat” and toss them on.  What was left was soil: rich, deep soil that sustained lush crops.  You could grow things in that place.  There were spacious gardens there.

In front of my home on the ledge-rock, there are two wooden boxes, each exactly four by eight feet and a couple of feet deep.  They’re filled with soil I’ve carefully scraped up by the bucket full and sifted through a mesh screen.  These boxes serve as the vegetable gardens. Each year I add composted weeds and carrot tops from the year before; sometimes a bag or two of manure from the local nursery.  A high fence demarcates the territory and keeps unwanted critters out.   These miniature gardens produce long carrots, crisp pea pods, tender lettuces, basil, high-up green beans and much more. It is a rich feast indeed, that graces our  summer table.

The flower gardens are another story.  I usually plant them in hopes that the deer will have the common decency to stay away.  Sometimes they do, and most often they don’t.  When it was obvious that the royal lupines and delphiniums, fire-tipped lilies, brilliant raspberry and orange poppies, and delicate baby’s breath were in imminent danger, I drove three metal stakes into the thin soil, propped them up with rocks, and encircled the garden with chicken wire.  I created sentinels of security, little statues to claim the territory.  And then I complained about having to look through the wire to see the flower display! Something wasn’t right.

Then one day a question formed.  Surrounded by ledge-rock that has, after all, been here for nearly three billion years, I began to hear her subtle, ancient voices; the voices of  wisdom that live in the earth.  Something floats into my consciousness.  I follow the faint voices through a blueberry patch, over tender lacy lichens and on up the hill to the open rock ledge behind our house. From this spot miles of wilderness spread before me, and behind me I see the Winton and Ely water towers. There I drop face-down, thighs pressed to the hard surface, belly warmed by the rock’s radiant heat.  I tilt my ear to the ancient voice.  It is here that I come to know who I am and discover yet another mysterious thread of  my being.  The voice came clearly now.  “Your landscape provides.”

I roll over and face the sun, not yet clear about the meaning of this brief message. I stretch and stand ready to leave.  There are blueberries to pick and the meaning will come to me in time.

Later, blue stains on my fingers and belly full, I feel myself fill with an awareness.  It was that conversation with my husband.  Late on a cool evening he told me in his very quiet way, that the front yard would be thick with wild, brilliantly colored flowers if only I wouldn’t mow it. It’s apparent now, my fences aren’t the answer after all.  There is more abundant beauty right around me than I could ever create on my own, if only I would let it grow!

Awareness may appear to some as the answer.  I’ve learned, living on the edge of this precious landscape, that awareness leads to more questions.  These are the questions that lead us into our interior landscapes.  For me, the question is, ‘What other fences do I construct to keep me from my natural birthright: abundance?’

And for you, I would ask, ‘What is it for you to live your landscape?’ or ‘What bold and subtle act will lead you to the ancient voices of wisdom?’

Post Script:  I started this article by suggesting that our landscapes offer surprises.  This morning as I leaned over my desk to start the computer, I glanced up and my eyes met those of a curious black bear just a few inches away from my nose, and on the other side of the glass!  It was at once, a bold and subtle gasp that parted my lips. 

© 2003. Thea Sheldon , all rights reserved







Thea Sheldon, CPCC is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach specializing in business development coaching for women entrepreneurs and coaches over 50 who want to harness their vision with a clear voice and create sustainable, wisdom-based businesses. She is a graduate of the Co-Active Space Leadership Program and is trained as a 7 Entrepreneurial Skills™ business development leader.  Thea can be reached at




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