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My View: Living at 9,000 Feet

Living Consciously

Julie StephensAs I write it is a few days before Mother’s Day. Smiling, I remember my daughter as a teenager telling me when she grew up she didn’t want to do what I did – she didn’t want to work that hard – love it! The crux is that she did indeed notice what I did.

Most of what is important to me took root with my son and daughter and as far as a Mother’s Day remembrance, they know – I fancy (and I am blessed to receive) beautiful thought provoking, loving messages from the sender, heart-felt love notes, grandchildren’s hands traced on a homemade cards, phone calls and visits and though their dad and I live one of the most remote (picturesque and unspoiled) areas in the lower 48 states, and travel is difficult – we all visit back and forth, because pretty much – people do what’s important to them.

It is our relationships that give real value to our lives. It has taken numerous tries but I finally coordinated lunch next week for five of us girlfriends. We are alike and different and more than a decade apart in age. We share and delight in each other’s joys, successes, travels and sometimes we just let go of what we cannot agree with or understand, as the relationship is what’s important.


My beloved husband’s birthday is tomorrow. I am baking his favorite cake, from scratch:

Applesauce Raisin Cake

• 3/4 c shortening
• 2 c granulated sugar
• 2 eggs
• 3 c sifted flour, minus 2 T
• 1 t baking powder
• 2 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 t salt
• 1/2 t cloves
• 1 t nutmeg
• 2 t cinnamon
• 2 c applesauce
• 1 c raisins
• 1.5 c chopped dates
• 2 c chopped pecans

1. Add cream sugar and shortening.  Beat in eggs, sift together dry ingredients

2. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternating with applesauce, beating after each addition.  If dry, add 1/4 to 1/2 c milk.

3. Stir in raisins, dates and pecans, bake in a grease and flour 10" tube pan at 350 for 1 to 1.5 hours or until tests done.

4. Icing: vanilla and powdered sugar mixed to preferred consistency.

It’s been a few years since I’ve made this. I forgot to flour the cake pan; oh, I hope it doesn’t stick. That wouldn’t be pretty. I am sure it will be tasty and my beloved will be pleased.

We have been together for over 40 years. I was 17 and he was 20 when we met. We work consciously to make our relationships endure and thrive. We are different enough to make life together much more interesting, at times even much more challenging but at our core we are very much alike or we wouldn’t be happy together all these decades later.

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mind·ful·ness /ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ (Noun) The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something

A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique

Mindfulness means paying attention — on purpose, in the present moment

We must have mostly lived the majority of our 4 decades of marriage this way, or I don’t think we’d be here today, though being imperfect people and with a mortgage and bringing up children and having work and school and all the activities and relationships connected with that time, I’m sure we were on auto-pilot at times.

Mindfulness is not living life on automatic but being sensitive to the freshness and uniqueness in our everyday experiences. Mindfulness is being deeply aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at (almost) every moment – without interpretation or judgment. Focusing on the present moment; trying not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future and purposefully concentrating on what’s happening around us.

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Emily Dickinson wrote: ‘That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.’

Today has been a most satisfying day. I baked a cake from scratch and it didn’t stick even though I forgot to flour the pan. My Fitbit has over 14,000 steps on it, as I walked the dogs on the nature trail 3 times and did Tie Chi. I felt the cold wind and blowing snow – winter doesn’t want to leave and is giving us snow off and on, in May. I heard the geese honk, the ducks quack and the squirrel chatter. I heard the pine needles crunch under my boots and the river sweeping by. I dried our freshly laundered sheets outside; they smell so luscious, like May snow – you can’t buy that! Our son called with our 23 month old granddaughter on the phone and sent a picture of the flowering trees, along their walk. I wrote this blog entry.

There are always challenges in life. There is unfairness and sadness. But it’s been my experience that consistent hard work for the body, mind and spirit mostly pays off. Though as a teenager our daughter didn’t want any part of the hard work I did - our grown daughter (along with her partner) has gone through intense training and home visits to become a foster parent for a child 0-5 years of age. Smiling, I am powerfully touched and proud.

What experiences move and touch you so that you are encouraged to seek it out more intentionally in everyday life?

Because their dad’s birthday is so close to Mother’s Day it always a fun weekend for us as our grown kids celebrate their parents!

Counting our blessings is everything.

Life is good.

Julie lives with her husband Bruce and their dogs, Joy and Hope, in the tiny mountain village of Lake City, CO. They enjoy living in the midst of nature at 9,000 feet in the most remote area in the US lower 48 states: Hinsdale County. Julie spends her unscheduled days: reading, writing and walking the dogs in the mountains, with camera in hand. Julie’s books available on her website; Julie’s Blog; Author Amazon page.

Walking in Nature & With Dogs

Julie StephensMy husband and I live with our dogs, Joy and Hope, in the tiny mountain village of Lake City, Colorado. We enjoy living in the midst of nature at 9,000 feet in the most remote area in the US lower 48 states: Hinsdale County, CO. I love experiencing all four seasons! Life is neither easy nor convenient living up here – but we get to live up here!

Those of us who live in the midst of nature (especially when we have lived in noisy suburbia or cities and have dealt with daily bumper to bumper traffic) know that a walk in nature is THE BEST! While there are studies to prove this – all a nature lover has to do is go walk in a favorite setting and breathe in the contentment. 

On every walk, every gaze out the window, I am always happily amazed at the picturesque beauty with which I am surrounded. This is the view from my writing nook.


Walking in the peacefulness of the mountains, the woods, around a lake, on a country path or by a river, is like a soothing balm from noisy congestion and busyness. Solitude is not selfish; but is as necessary to our mental health, as food and water are to our bodies. It is something we must have on a regular basis.


This was taken on our beloved nature trail behind our cabin. It is not uncommon for us to walk our nature trail several times a day, especially when time or weather does not allow for a longer hike up in the mountains. It’s fun to watch the geese when they return in the spring. Pairing for life is common in geese.

mountain lake 
“Walking is my main method of relaxation. I just enjoy the scenery and the wildlife.”   - English actor Kevin Whately

It has been stated that nature absorbs negative energy – not unlike trees taking in carbon dioxide and producing the oxygen we breathe. Perhaps we feel most peaceful in nature because it simply feels good to be connected to the living world without any conditions or requirements expected of us. Walking provides a significant benefit because it helps to relieve stress. Research shows that brisk walking boosts endorphins; the hormones that improve our moods, lower our stress and make us feel calm and cheerful – giving us health and happiness. Walking also gives us more energy. Wow! Walking in nature is so beneficial and so enjoyable.

dog joy
Our Sheltie Joy

Walking in nature with dogs must be super healthy! It has been said that dogs not only fill our hearts with joy – dogs actually make our hearts stronger. Studies show that having a canine companion helps lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and decreased triglyceride levels, which contribute to better overall heart health. Walking in nature with dogs – so fun and healthy, who could ask for anything more!

Dog owners generally walk a lot more than people who do not own dogs.

Dogs help prevent loneliness and isolation, which is a key in preventing cognitive decline and disease.

walking dogs 
Do activities you're passionate about – activities which make your heart and soul feel perky - including things like writing, hiking, walking, being in nature or reading inspiring books…”  - Karen Salmansohn self-help book author

Psychologists have said that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to relieving the symptoms of anxiety. Chronic anxiety and stress can have terrible effects on your physical health and may eventually lead to life-threatening illnesses. LET’S GO WALK!

“Physical activity doesn't need to be complicated. Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help you live a healthier life.

For example, regular brisk walking can help you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your mood
  • Improve your balance and coordination”

Studies show that spending time in green spaces, around trees, helps to reduce our stress, lower our blood pressure and improve our mood.

collie hope
Our Border Collie Hope

What kind of dog(s) do you have? What is your favorite place to walk in nature? Do you walk every day?

Julie Stephens lives with her husband Bruce and their dogs, Joy and Hope, in the tiny mountain village of Lake City, CO. They enjoy living in the midst of nature at 9,000 feet in the most remote area in the US lower 48 states: Hinsdale County. Julie spends her unscheduled days: reading, writing and walking the dogs in the mountains, with camera in hand. Julie’s books available on her website. Visit Julie’s blog and Author Amazon page to learn more.

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