Episode 180: Slowing Down for Wildflowers – Doris Lance

Episode 180: Slowing Down for Wildflowers

Interview with Doris Lance

Doris Lance is an avid hiker and wildflower photographer who happens to be over the age of 75.  She’s also the author of the book Botanical Reflections––a book to “Explore feelings, reduce anxiety, and reconcile emotional conflicts” all through time spent journaling with wildflowers. We think you’ll appreciate Doris’s message to slow down and take things in, not because of age, but because of the wisdom that comes from experience.

Banner image © Doris Lance

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Featured in this episode: Doris Lance

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Featured in this Episode

Doris Lance

Doris hiking in Patagonia; © Doris Lance

© Doris Lance

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TRANSCRIPT

Note: This transcript was lightly edited and created using a transcription service. As such it may contain spelling errors.

Gale Straub – Narration:

I’m Gale Straub and you’re listening to She Explores.

Doris Lance:

It never ceases to surprise me. Every year it’s different. Every year, the blooms are different. The quantity, the color, the height. I’m definitely a wildflower person.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This is Doris Lance. Recently Doris reached out to me about having a conversation––she’s an avid hiker and wildflower photographer who happens to be over the age of 75. She’s also the author of the book Botanical reflections––a book to “Explore feelings, reduce anxiety, and reconcile emotional conflicts” all through time spent journaling with wildflowers. I took her up on her offer to have a conversation because I think you’ll appreciate as much as I did the message to slow down and take things in, not because of age, but because of the wisdom that comes from experience. Let’s get to know Doris.

Doris Lance:

Yes. You know, I haven’t always identified as a hiker. However, I have identified as a nature lover because I can remember growing up in Western North Carolina. And when I was very young, able to just walk, I was trying to explore, you know, the sides of pawns and stones and leaves and trees, and always been attracted and felt very comfortable in nature. And then as I grew up and found myself where the blue Ridge mountains and the great smoky mountains converge there and Western North Carolina, I found the place where I could really explore nature and the natural environment. Hmm.

Gale Straub:

And then in 1999, you became what you call an avid hiker.

Doris Lance:

I did because I started hiking internationally in 1999. I joined a couple of friends and we went and hike Mount Fuji, in Japan and did some cave exploring in Thailand. For some reason that sparked an interest that I could learn to trust myself. If I prepared properly, then I could trust myself and start exploring not only the United States, but I could explore the world.

Gale Straub – Narration:

It’s simply impossible to cover all the hiking that Doris has done both in and out of the US but I asked her to tell me about a favorite experience.

Doris Lance:

It’s like choosing which is your favorite child. You love them all, but I’ll tell you the, probably the most awesome jaw-dropping hike, not necessarily the easiest one, but the jaw-dropping hike was riding in the United States. And it was going to the village of the Supai. People who live in, uh, Southern, well, it’s really Southwestern Arizona. It’s called have a super high Canyon. And it’s their home. You hike down eight to 10 miles, depending on where you camp the Supai people. By the way, the, the word Supai means people of the blue, green water and the water there. There’s probably seven waterfalls in the water. They are, I’ve never seen throughout my hiking, across the world. I’ve never seen water like that. I’ve never seen a letter like that. It’s just gorgeous.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. Yeah. I’ve only seen photos from, from that trip, but it really does look incredible.

Doris Lance:

It is incredible. And you know, there’s a, because that’s their home, there’s a respect for their Homeland. That’s where they live. That’s where their livelihood is. They have gardens. And for some reason, to me, it, it has a touch of, of, uh, just a spiritual nature to it.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. Yeah. It’s sacred land. Yes, it is. So I imagine that this past year was a bit challenging for you. I assume that you weren’t able to travel in the way that, that you would have liked to?

Doris Lance:

This past year was a tough year. It was a tough year, no international travel. And I’ve been very fortunate. Uh, although I take all of the, the health department’s recommendation of shots, when I go internationally this year, it was like a ball and chain had been put around my ankle. Um, but cause um, I wasn’t going to risk it. I didn’t think it was wise and I didn’t want to be a carrier to anyone else that I might come in contact with. So I got to know I live in central coast of California. And so I, I did a lot of hiking in the central, the Sierra mountains, the Los Padres national forest. I did go up to Sequoia national forest and just, you know, really stay to myself, but nothing like I’ve been used to. And of course I just walked my neighborhoods because I’m really into getting the fray of share of the smells of the flowers now that they’re starting to bloom here in the spring time, but it’s nothing like what I’ve been accustomed to. And that was, that was disappointing. But I keep thinking, well, um, you better just be prepared for when you can go hiking again.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. I’m sure it also brings a profound appreciation for all that you have been able to do.

Doris Lance:

I looked back at the pictures and you know, I look back at the pictures and I, uh, sit out on my patio and I close my eyes and I, I got to tell you, I kind of remember, I just do a real, uh, like if you were rewinding a video, just rewind and go back to hiking in the Highlands in Ireland or hiking in Scotland. I go back to that and just kind of relive that whole thing. And my mood instantly changes.

Gale Straub:

Oh yeah. That sounds, I I’m happy for you that you have that to tap into you and you have that ability to kind of play those reels back in your brain.

Doris Lance:

Well, and what happens too is, uh, you know, I encourage your listeners no matter if it’s just some place local, usually there’s local parks, wherever you go is to maybe take in the sights or the wind where’s the wind coming from and is the sun out or is it cloudy or are the birds singing? Are there smells in the air? And then of course I’m a very big proponent of journaling so that I can relive some of those experiences.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. And you’re encouraging people to journal through the book that you recently published, Botanical Reflections.

Doris Lance:

I am, because I felt it was such a benefit for me that I thought, okay, I’m going to hand draw the flowers and make a black and white sketch. And I’m going to put it in a book. I have a journal question on the left-hand side, and then I have a black and white floral sketch on the right hand side. And you get to answer that question by just sitting down disengaging from some electronics or whatever, kind of share your thoughts to yourself and then see how creative you can be by using the black and white sketch.

Gale Straub:

What is it for you that is so therapeutic about interacting? Both, both with nature and with, you know, the delicate beauty that is wild flowers.

Doris Lance:

There’s something about self reflection when I was in college, uh, you know, I, I read about it. I studied it, but there’s something about just taking time to let your senses make you aware of where you are and what you’re thinking. And it’s always, to me a benefit too, if you’ve got something really going on stressful, like we all are experiencing to, and the journal entry with some gratitude statements that you’re thankful that you don’t have some kind of disease, are you, you are living where you can get medical care. And I think having some gratitude after that is appropriate, you have to look for it, but it’s appropriate same way in nature when you’re hiking and the climb gets tough and it’s 2000 feet elevation, look for the good there. Look for that. You’ve got a good strong hole or that your shoes are fitting well and not hurting your feet. You know, find that, find that positivity

Gale Straub – Narration:

After such a challenging year, gratitude can be extra difficult to grasp. This can feel especially true in a year with less travel. Because sometimes we look to grand landscapes to fill our field of vision with newness, but that’s one of the many beauties of wild flowers. They draw you in. Even when the world seems heavy, there’s a single flower, a petal, a leaf, some texture. And in that there’s beauty, as we’ve talked about on this show, many times even short, simple walks hold many worlds for us to explore.

Gale Straub:

Would you be able to describe one of your favorite wild flowers for us?

Doris Lance:

I would, this wild flower does not bloom every year. And I did not know that when I first discovered it and I had someone say, well, you know, sometimes that flower doesn’t bloom, but every three to five years, and it’s called the desert five spot, I found my first desert five spot in death Valley. I was hiking, uh, toward wile Rose peak from the bottom. You know, death Valley goes below sea level, like 260 feet below sea level up to, I guess it’s 11,000 feet telescope peak. And you see nothing. Well, you think you see nothing. Here’s dry land here is it’s parched from 124 degree temperature. And it looks like concrete, even the same color. And you go, nothing could live here. And all of a sudden you see this little dot that’s pink. I remember the first time I saw it, I thought pink someone’s left something out on this trail.

Doris Lance:

And I walked up and here is, this is not very high. It goes very close to the ground because the roots are deep. Here is this about four inch desert five spot. It has five pedals at the base of the pedals. It spreads out and then curls in at the top of the piddle toward itself. But if you look down, it’s like a globe. And if you look down through the opening of this flower, here are five very intense purple blue five spots. And it’s it’s jaw-dropping because you think, how did this get this color, this size, this gorgeous being out without any, any assistance from a gardener or anything like that. Now when death Valley has their super blooms, which is some people say every five years, some people say every 10 years, you’ll see desert five spots more frequently, but this year I haven’t been out in that area, but it is definitely one of my most favorite because of the color where it’s growing and how unique the flower is.

Gale Straub:

Wow. Yeah, that sounds beautiful.

Gale Straub – Narration:

The longer the trip and the more sites there are to see the harder it can be to take the time to soak up small details like flowers. I asked Doris how she takes the time and finds that balance.

Doris Lance:

I don’t want listeners to think that they have to take on a big challenge of 10 miles a day or whatever, if they’ll just start with a stroll in a park, or if they’re traveling, if they see a unique botanical gardens or a museum, if they’ll just get out and stroll around the grounds are inside, they’re getting the benefit of nature bathing. I didn’t realize that I was doing nature bathing as a child, but I was just sitting and feeling the grass and, uh, feeling the rocks and exploring the water. And when it’s a priority, when you get so much out of it, when you just get peace of mind, the brain gets, gets to decompress a little bit in you. Heart rate goes down and you can just kind of be it’s well worth. Making sure that you take some time out to do that.

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’ll move with Doris from botanical reflections to hiking after 75, after the break.

Doris Lance:

I’m 77, I haven’t slowed down and I can still hike pretty extensive — 10 miles a day. But now I’ve had to, kind of like a car, downshift a bit and enjoy the journey more than just getting to the destination.

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’re back. One of the reasons I was especially excited to talk with Doris is because she’s over 75 and she explorers. We seek a wide range of voices and perspectives and on a personal level, I so enjoy connecting with people whose life experiences are different from my own. I hope to someday be a hiker over 75. So speaking with her is invaluable

Doris Lance:

Because I’ve continued to eat healthy and exercise and take care of myself and do some mental work too. The, the journaling, I don’t think that I, my pace has slowed down. I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I did a hike this week with, uh, two people in their forties and they were trailing me. So I think I’m doing okay.

Gale Straub – Narration:

All speeds are valid when hiking, but sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling pressure to go faster or “perform” better. I wondered if Doris still felt that pressure or if she’s a little easier on herself.

Gale Straub:

Would you say that you’re easier on yourself today than when you were younger?

Doris Lance:

Oh, much, much, much, much easier on myself. I was so interested in if other people were going faster or are, seem to be more fit. And I was traveling behind. I just thought, well, I, you know, I don’t have the physical, I can’t do it. I can’t do what they do. They’re just so far ahead of me. And I found out that if I just kept plodding along taking breaks, if I needed it, staying hydrated, drinking my water, guess what? We ended up at the same destination when we got to the top. Mm. Their journey was shorter. If you have time, I got a wonderful story to tell you,

Gale Straub:

Please do.

Doris Lance:

I was in Death Valley and I was with a group. And normally I don’t go with groups. I’m a, uh, so low or maybe one other person hiker. And I was with this group and they were, I mean, before the car stopped at the trail head, they were opening the doors, jumping out and just taking off. Wow. And I thought, okay, now way recalibrate here. That’s what they need to do for whatever reason they need to do that. So they look back and I said, listen, I’ll keep you sight. No worries. I know what I’m doing. You guys go ahead, I’ll meet you at the top with dry waterfalls. So they went, you know, chugging on, up in about five miles up, I’m by myself in this Canyon. And I hear these rocks falling down. And I thought, well, that’s odd. Is that them going up the side?

Doris Lance:

And I looked up to the left and there was a big horn sheep to the left. And there was maybe two, I think, two of them. And I froze and just said, no, I’m going to take this in. I’m going to let them go. This is their space. And so they came down, the side of the Canyon, walked in front of me. They were probably 15 feet in front of me, took a picture, of course. And they went up the other side that just was energizing for me. I mean, all of a sudden I had a charge, so I got to the dry waterfalls and they’re sitting there eating and they got, well, you finally made it. And I said, uh, yes. Um, can I show you what I found on the way up? And I showed them on my camera and I gotta tell you, I thought they were going to crawl underneath the rocks.

Doris Lance:

They said what the Big Horn Sheep came right in? I said they did. And it was because I was enjoying the journey more than I was just getting to the destination. And it’s, it’s really caused me to realize I’m in no competition with anyone I’m just out there to learn and experience and decompress into enjoy every minute of it.

Gale Straub – Narration:

I asked Doris if she had advice for other older hikers either wanting to hike in a group or solo. She said she’s been solo hiking less, and she cautions that solo hiking isn’t always the wisest decision, that it takes experience and that one should take precautions. All the advice she gave seemed very applicable and practical for folks of all ages.

Doris Lance:

I think I would say you can check in, if you’re in a national park, you can check in and say, I’m going on that trail. And I’ll check in when I get back or have someone that you can check in with that maybe not be there, but know where you are. But what I found is because I do move around a lot, I found, uh, made up groups. If there are people I don’t care what age, if you want to get out and get some fresh air and get some great exercise, look up just Google meetup groups in your area. And there’s all levels. There’s people who do meet ups and then go to dinner. There’s people who go to carnivals and then meet up after and go on a hike. Now this was before COVID. So I would say your listeners could be thinking about when the opportunity comes up to where you can have meetups in person where they would want to join our, a group that did want to try out.

Doris Lance:

Maybe they just want to try it, to see if they can enjoy a group walking along the shore on the beach and, you know, looking for moon stones or shells or whatever. I mean, that’s a high too. And so I would definitely say that solo hiking is not something that I would recommend. And especially as you get older, because things can happen on a solo hike and you really have to have some communication. Like if you were to have an accident, you would need some help to get out of there. So do a one or two people and start off small and make sure you’ve got the best shoes that you can possibly have that are comfortable and take plenty of water, but do the journey that you can do in baby steps and enjoy the journey and plan it, and then go out and take your camera. And if you love clouds, take pictures of clouds. I have one friend that she is a cloud person. She feels her entire SIM card with clouds, but how,

Gale Straub:

Hm. And you would say that you’re a wild, a wildflower person.

Doris Lance:

Oh yes. Well, I got to tell you, they might leave off that latter part and just say that I’m the wild person at 77, but I am a wild flower lover. It never ceases to surprise me every year. It’s different. Every year, the balloons are different. The quantity, the color, the height, I’m definitely a wildflower person. And that’s what led me to, to really say, get this book. One of the questions in the book is, um, what brought a smile to your face today? Hmm. Then it will have on this particular page is a quote from Nelson Mandela. It says a good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.

Gale Straub:

So what advice would you have for your younger self as it relates to the outdoors?

Doris Lance:

Um, advice? Well, first of all, I would probably say you did good girl. You did good. Um, I don’t know that I would have advice, but I would have encouragement to say, keep doing what you’re doing because it pays off with physical and emotional health.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. And, and what would you say to someone out there listening who is wanting to spend more time in nature, but feels a little intimidated by it.

Doris Lance:

And that happens. I have people that don’t want to hike with me because they think they’ll be, they say they’re intimidated. And I said, listen, I’m going to be taking the camera. I’m not the mountain goat going up the mountain anymore. I would say if they feel intimidated, but they think that they’d like to try this nature. Bathing is to go to a park somewhere close and find a bench or a log. And just sit down for a moment, maybe even close your eyes and see what your senses are telling you, see what your or your ears are saying. I hear that bird, or I hear that Brook or that fountain, or I smelled this beautiful aroma. There’s got to be some flowers around here and just Joe’s soak it in and then open eyes and go and explore and take it one step. And if you’re around in a park, you’re going to be safe enough to where there’ll be other people and know where your car is and know how to get back to it and just go try it.

Gale Straub:

I love how, how that advice really does remove a lot of the, either real or self-imposed barriers that, that can exist to forming a deeper relationship with the outdoors.

Doris Lance:

I think sometimes those self-imposed barriers and I’ve seen people in parks. Cause like I say, because I haven’t been traveling, I’ve been going through my neighborhood and just looking at the beautiful gardens at some people have at their homes and, and going to the city park downtown that is free access for everyone. And I think that that’s one of the most beneficial things of being in nature

Gale Straub – Narration:

Before we wrapped up our conversation. I asked Doris if there was anything else you wanted to share with the listeners. And even as I go back and listen to this part again, as I edit it, I find that this is great life advice, something that I need to hear over and over again,

Doris Lance:

You know, I can talk forever about this. I really could because I just, I just want to encourage the people, especially I can remember really it started in my fifties when I was really trying to get, you know, over this top of the ladder mentality. And I was very successful in my career, but I’ve put a lot of stress and a lot of undue pressure and I didn’t do as much hiking or nature exploring because I was working 12 hour days. But I think that if I had advice to give my younger self, like you had asked, I might say my middle age self, I would have said play a little bit more, take breaks a little bit more and enjoy the journey a little bit more because the work will always be there.

Gale Straub:

Um, and it’ll always, it does get done, you know,

Doris Lance:

It does. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that amazing? It’s kind of ironic. It’s like it gets done. It may not be the same. It would have been. But sometimes I think research is now proving that when you’re so stressed out in your push and you didn’t get sleep that night before your work is not to the level that you could have done, if you just had a

Gale Straub:

Hmm. Oh yeah. That’s a good reminder for me too. So I feel like I was meant to talk to you today.

Doris Lance:

Oh, great. Well, I’m ready to go on a hike with you.

Gale Straub:

Great. Hopefully I can make it to anywhere, you know, in the next year, but, uh, Southern California would be lovely.

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