New Years Resolutions: Outdoors Edition by Cynthia

Happy New Years! It is 2016 and many people are ready to start the new year with resolutions to either be healthy, share time with the loves ones, or go onto a new adventure. I am very excited to share that I made not one resolution, but six resolutions that are all focused in the outdoors in some way or the other. Here I share my resolutions with descriptions and fun images!

  1. Growing food!

    Image taken at my former job in New Hampshire as we put the garden beds to ‘bed’ for the winter. I will be doing the same this year at my new job with Growing Places in Leominster, Massachusetts.

    Growing up in the warm, tropical island of Puerto Rico, I had the privilege to learn how to grow vegetables, herbs, fruits, and other delicious food. Gardening has been part of a family tradition for many generations and I find gardening to be my zen! I get to plant a seed, tend for it and later on harvest the fruits of my labor. I hope to garden this year, spend time with family and friends at the garden, and enjoy delicious meals we create with the garden products! My favorite and family tradition dish we make is Sofrito, a delicious sauce that is pretty much the secret ingredient to a lot (if not all) Puerto Rican food dishes. My family and I also save seeds of cilantro and peppers as we LOVE those crops!

  2. Volunteer at a farm!

Image taken: September 2015 at my friends, Kohei Ishihara’s farm: Movement Ground Farm in Berkley, Massachusetts.

I love farms! My past experience with putting my hands in the dirt, weeding, and of course, meeting new people have been at farms. I have friends who are farmers and I love them for taking on, what I consider, the most important job in the world! Being nurtures, growers, and feeders of their communities, farmers are superheroes on my book. Therefore, I love supporting farms by visiting, volunteering as much as I can during the season, and purchasing their goods!


3. Keep on researching Latino/a/x Outdoor and Environmental work!


LO loves being part of America Latino Eco-Festival! L-R: Jose Gonzalez, LO Founder, me being silly, and Asnoldo, LO Colorado Ambassador. Image taken: October 2015

I love reading, writing, and learning more about my cultural roots and the environment. My resolution is part of my ongoing career as an Environmental Educator. I want to keep learning from Latino Leaders, community members, and other in the Environmental movement their steps, questions, answers, solutions, and much more in regards to Latinos and the Environment. I hope to attend conferences, connect with other human beings that are interested in the work of making the environment an inclusion to all. I want to also learn more and part-take in the conversation about the Afro-Latino(a/x) identity in the Environment in the United States. I can’t wait for what I will discover!


4. Keep on walking in the woods…


Did a morning walk in the small trail next to my work office! Image taken: January 2016

I want to keep on taking walks and hikes in many trails as possible. I enjoy being in the woods, using my learned skills of plant identification, take some time for me in the woods! There is something about being able to walk in the woods, maybe it is the sounds of the wind embracing the trees, the sound of my boots against the snow/ice as I make my way to the magical land called the woods. I am looking forward to many walks and hikes with loved ones, by myself, and new people!


5. Discovering more spiritual practices related to the outdoors!


Altar created during the America Latino Eco-Festival. Image taken: October 2015

As a spiritual being, I enjoy anything related to madre tierra. This year, I want to learn about more spiritual practices which include rituals, writings, and much much more that bring me to the outdoors. I am in the journey of discovering more the spiritual practices of my cultural roots. My family has a mixed ancestral spiritual practices coming from both Africa and the Tainos. I am in the self-discovery phase of these spiritual practices and I am hoping that year I will be  able to tie in the new information with my current spiritual believes. I am very honored, thankful, and excited for this resolution!


6. More time with my familia outdoors!


My family and I got to see the Springfield Christmas Parade and enjoy arts, music, and quality time together! Image taken: December 2015

There is nothing more precious than spending time with your loved ones outdoors. It is fascinating, fun, full of laughs, jokes, and love. I am looking forward to spending time with my family and friends in outdoors activities. Many outdoors activities I have done with my family have been attending outdoors events such as parades, go to the park for a walk, attend the pool during the summer, and create funny looking snow mans during the winter! These are all full of memories for me and have been ideal to get us outdoors, enjoy one another, and experience nature!


These are my six new years resolutions which I am extremely proud to put into place for me. They all include the outdoors in many ways! I would love to read/hear your new years resolution and how they include the outdoors by sharing on the comments section!

Happy New Year!

Finding Time to Play Afuera: By Lylianna Allala



Working on a trail crew for the United States Forest Service based out of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Ranger District in North Bend, WA, circa 2009.

I’m not sure if being the oldest of four or being raised with a mezcla of Midwestern/Tejan@/Mexican@ work ethic or just being a plain old human being is a factor in this but, it’s easy for me to get carried away with “work”. “Work” looks different for everybody. For me, I lead with my heart and my work is driven by my passion for social justice, environmental justice, and equity. I love getting young people outdoors! I love fostering community for people of color who care about environmental issues. I am passionate about working towards gender equity. I care deeply about my family; blood and chosen and I love being outside!

Maybe this will resonate for you too. Because my heart drives my work, many times I can get caught up in the grind of preparing for presentations, coordinating meetings, working on organizational change strategies, representing organizations that I work or volunteer for at events, etc. Perhaps being involved in heart work facilitates a faster burnout process if one ignores self-care. By burnout I mean the feeling of exhaustion and frustration that can occur when dealing with an overload of work with effects of neglecting one’s own needs. I come home tired and a little cranky. I don’t sleep as much as I’d like. My diet mostly consists of convenience foods; for me, tortilla chips and salsa. I feel like I never have enough time to do anything well and I rarely have time to play.


Summer 2015 at Mt. Rainier National Park cheesing out on nature.

In order for me to care for others and give my very best, I need to find time to take care of myself. As I sit and reflect on the things that contribute to fostering balance and inner quietude, I think of the tall conifers swaying in the wind during a walk today through Kubota Gardens with my husband and dog. Ripples of water radiating outwards from a spot in the pond where a bufflehead abruptly vanishes underwater and resurfaces as it feeds underwater. Or, the feeling of warm sunshine on my face while lying on the pebbled shore of Lake Wenatchee last weekend alongside my best girlfriends reveling in each other’s presence in silence underneath the peak of Dirty Face. I can almost smell the cool sweet breeze carrying the scent of Nootka Rose and other wildflowers while hiking the trails of Mt. Rainier National Park.

Starting out in the environmental field in my twenties brings memories of hard physical labor, exhaustion, and joy. The feeling of sore muscles after a day of trail building or invasive plant removal brought me a sense of satisfaction. The mud and sweat streaked on my face, the spiders and twigs in my hair and soil under my fingernails made me happy. As did a hot shower at the end of the day! I realize that time in nature is what I need to be whole.


My grandmother Maria Irma Rodriguez or Gramma Mema.

When I think about the moments where I have been the happiest they center on being outdoors. Even as a child the memories that bring a sense of calm or home for me include walking through my grandma’s garden as she taught me the names of the flowers she planted; peony, marigold, tulip, geranium, black-eyed Susan. Reading books on a blanket lain out in my parent’s backyard, my toes buried in the lush green grass of our lawn. Swinging on the branches of the willow tree in our yard with my brother Louie, seeing who could swing the farthest. When I close my eyes and think back on these memories, I remember joy, giddiness, and a shared feeling of energy and peace. With this sense of calm comes a connection with the world, with myself, and with my heritage.

My Gramma Yolanda taught me the difference between a perennial and a biennial plant. My Gramma Mema taught me to always have Sábila (Aloe Vera) and Manzanilla (Chamomile) in my house. Sábila to sooth burns, bug bites, and skin irritations. Manzanilla to aid with sleep, assuage the symptoms of cough or fever, or to ward of nightmares. My Grampa Luis and Grampa Chável taught me the virtue of hard work outdoors with my hands through the examples they set working outdoors from sun up to sun down to provide for their families. My family has always had ties and connections to the land y cuando estoy afuera, me siento como que estoy con my familia, mis antepasados. I feel that I am reconnected with myself.


Sunset at the Granite Mountain fire lookout in Washington.

Lylianna Allala

Seattle Ambassador

Creating Memories – Creando Memorias

When I signed up as an LO ambassador one of my chosen goals was to help individuals, and families, use the outdoors to create long-lasting memories.  Recently, I was wondering if that was a worthwhile goal.  Consequently, I decided to go back in my memory “vault” and revisit some of the memories my family has created over the years.  Here are a few pictures that show our journey together.

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As I looked through my albums I was filled with joy and a little bit of sadness – sadness because my four boys are no longer little kids and my youngest, in a few short years, will be a young adult – and happiness because we have amazing memories that fill my heart with love and my eyes with tears.  The outdoors has been a gift in our lives.  Walking outside of our homes has allowed us to grow as individuals, learn about our environment, challenge our physical abilities, and MOST importantly create lasting memories that live in our hearts forever.

After looking at my pictures I can honestly, and proudly, say that helping others to create memories while enjoying the outdoors is a worthwhile goal. Hopefully, I will be able to  inspire families to create their own memories while taking advantage of all that the outdoors has to offer.

– Reina Santana is the Florida Latino Outdoors Ambassador