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

What is ‘Natural’ ? : Reflections on Green Spaces and Places

What is ‘Natural’ ? : Reflections on Green Spaces and Places

Listening in on a course in the past month, I had heard the mention of the natural environment and how, some scholars really don’t like that term. Immediately, my gut reaction was pretty visceral. The idea is that everything should be considered our natural environment. When I first heard this notion, I was a bit repelled. Growing up in California, there was a VERY clear divide, in my mind, between the urban environment and the “natural” environment.

To me, the “natural” environment contained within it, rolling hills spotted with oaks, sprawling meadows that stretched for miles, craggy cliffs that sunk down into fresh ocean spray and dense, damp, forests with silent sentinels for trees.

I was extrapolating about this during my trip in November to Stonehenge.

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Three friends of mine and I decided to take an impromptu trip out to Stonehenge and Bath in the UK. “Let’s get out of the city!” I urged my friends. I’m decidedly, one of the “outdoorsy” people of the bunch, but the appeal of seeing one of England’s oldest and most iconic monuments was enough of a pull to get them all to agree to venture out. With much enthusiasm as well, I might add. Add this to the claustrophobia of London and it was a done deal.

It was an early morning bus ride we had to take to get there. The views of English countryside were a greatly welcomed sight. London has quite a few large parks, but there’s always the impending sense of ending when you’re in one. The inevitability that there will be pavement or concrete sooner than you know.

Here, peering out over vast expanses of green pastures, saturated from fresh fallen rain, I was excited at the prospect of feeling that connection with nature.

The air was decidedly chilly but not as bad as it could have been. After a short ride in a tram, we came upon the hilly area where Stonehenge sat. Sarsens stones and bluestones make up the rocks and boulders within it. Outside of this, one of the oldest dated portions, is a circular ditch with an outer and inner portion. There has been widespread debate about the purpose behind Stonehenge. Theories range from being a burial ground to a possible house of healing. The headphones provided give one a tour of the site and you can take your leisurely time walking around the monument to explore various pieces of it. If you’d like to know more about the history of Stonehenge, I’ve provided a link to the heritage site here.

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As I walked around though, I noticed how relieved I had felt. It had been my first major outing outside of London in a couple of months. This time, my eyes stared up at the marble, gray, skies, which swirled and covered everything. My favorite part of the day, was being able to take photos of the things that were bringing me peace at that exact moment. The sun just glinting in slants through the clouds, the curves of the rolling hills, spatter of mud mixed with grass.

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It was also fantastic to see my friends with me out of the city. Enjoying something new and getting closer to the outdoors. The soft air smelled of drenched earth and I tried imagining what the landscape might have looked like before the farming, where the tree line may have originally started which I saw in the distance.

Two of my good friends here are Latinas. One of them is from the Dominican Republic; the other has Puerto Rican roots and grew up in New York. My friend Pam, a born and raised Dominicana, gave me some of her thoughts on the connection between herself and nature.

“As a person that lives in a tropical country, one of the things that I love the most is being constantly surrounded by green spaces. However, the downside of this privilege is that sometimes you don’t appreciate all that beauty that you face every day. I believe that is my case; it is only when I go to the mountains or the beach that I stop and take it all in. I absolutely love going into nature basically because…you find answers…it helps you connect with ideas that you never thought you could encounter.”

These notions and my experiences at Stonehenge then caused me to connect back with what had been said in one of my courses a couple of weeks prior, the concept of the “natural” environment. Where did it start? Where did it conclude? There was the socio-politically charged notion that, for the environmental movement as a whole, it would behoove us to encourage the common linkage between what is traditionally considered natural landscape i.e., earth, trees, plants, rivers, lakes, etc. as intrinsically tied to everything. To encourage the thought process that, cities are in fact, also ‘natural’ environment. I mean, here I was, feeling a connection to nature when in reality, there was so much there that had been moved, etched, dug, and shaped by human desire. But why did I feel so different here? Why was this such a hard thing to find in a city?

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I want to change this perspective and I challenge others to do the same. What I think of as true “nature”, high mountains, cliffs, woods, and everything in between, brings me such inner peace. I have many notions as to why I keep the idea of that type of nature and the kind found in our everyday urban settings separate, but I invite others to join the conversation. I want to find the kind of therapeutic healing I find in the natural landscape in my everyday. It would definitely promote a much healthier lifestyle with me, considering much of my life has been within highly urbanized settings. However, do we really draw lines about where “nature” begins and ends? If so, why do these lines exist and what does this mean for our daily interactions within our environments?

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As I step into the New Year, I bring with me these thoughts and ideas. I also bring with me the wonderful memories I’ve created in the environment so far, whether it’s in a park down the street, or in the vast expanses of green spaces. I wish for everyone else, all the same. Great memories, personal reflection and enthusiasm to get out there and bring your friends along for the adventures that await!

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Estefani Morales is a new Latino Outdoors Ambassador abroad. She is pursuing a graduate degree in London. Stay tuned for her stories, narratives, articles, and other contributions as an ambassador abroad! You can contact her at