Photo credit: Bruce Weber
A couple of years ago Whalebone Magazine invited me to participate in their annual Interview Issue, giving me free reign to pick anyone of substance that I’d been longing to barrage with questions. I enthusiastically chose adventurous reporter and best-selling author Susan Casey, whose books and articles have been a touchstone for me - shining a light down the path of pursuing with passion and curiosity what interests me most. If you’re not familiar with her impeccably researched books, I almost envy you the pleasure of discovering them for the first time.
A rather painful part of the editorial process is paring back what doesn’t fit into the story. And in the case of my conversation with Susan, there were a few elements of the interview that didn’t make their way into the final published article but have nonetheless stuck with me. I recently went back and reread the original transcript to capture the exact words and bring one of these gems to you:
“If there's something that haunts you, like if there's a picture of some location, If there's something that you can't get out of your mind, a body of water that calls to you, then I say go there. That was the way it was for me with the Farallons, that was the way it was when I first saw a giant wave. Somebody said to me, ‘There's a difference between seeing a picture of something and then chartering a boat.’ Yeah, but there's no rule that says that you can't look at a picture of something and then go charter a boat and go out there. It's only your own permission that you need to do something like that, so give yourself the permission. If it's an aquatic environment, go swimming in it, go surfing in it, go see it. Go learn more about it, but do go.”
I love this glimpse into Casey’s creative process and how curiosity - paying attention to those things which have more resonance - is a crucial element.
We aren’t all going to be badass writer-reporters like Susan Casey, and we don’t need to be. Actually, you don’t need to have any desired outcome at all. Explore for the sake of exploration. Learn for the sake of learning. (BTW: learning is really good for the neuroplasticity of our brains, especially as we age. Keep that grey matter supple, baby.) See where it takes you, not for any specific outcome or for monetization but for the enjoyment of following the breadcrumbs.
That said, what I’ve witnessed repeatedly in my experience as a creative coach is when my brave and wise clients free themselves up to explore a subject that speaks to them - without any expectation of expertise or an attachment to productivity - a really useful outcome eventually emerges. A new business model comes into focus; a different way of seeing their work is revealed; a creative project suddenly takes shape. Transformation occurs. It probably didn’t happen in a straight line, but suddenly: There. It. Is.
At present, our logistical ability to hop on a seaplane and check out a far-flung location is limited. And under the best of circumstances we don’t all have the resources readily available for similar pursuits. But you needn’t be prevented from diving into whatever topic is whispering into your ear. On the contrary, I’ve found that having less time on the road has provided me with more bandwidth for subjects that have been tugging at me - many of which are represented in this dose of AllSwell’s Resource Roundup below.
I hope you’ll find something here that piques your interest. Whatever it is, do as Susan would have us do: investigate further.
Photo Credit: Zachary Murray / Big Mongolia Travel
It’s never too late to pursue a new dream. Barbara Hillary, a retired nurse and community activist in Queens, embodies that. At seventy-five years old she became the first Black woman on record to reach the North Pole. Read her story here…
Photo Credit: Celia Galpin
Remember when - not so long ago - pretty much the only imagery we saw of women in the pages of surf magazines were photos of ladies lounging on the beach in bikinis or shot from behind while paddling out? Well, happily those days are over and for those of us who still have a slight hangover from the experience, this book is an antidote. Not only is it chock full of heroic imagery celebrating the grace and power of female surfers, Hill takes a deep dive into the story of how women are shaping surfing culture.
Photo Credit: Tony Caramanico
Not surprisingly, we’re big proponents of analog expression. In a new study, researchers found that handwriting and drawing engaged the brain far more than typing on a keyboard. We feel more than a little vindicated. The neural connections involved in handwriting also prove beneficial in activation patterns of learning, as well. User-friendly takeaway: if you want to learn something, jot down your notes rather than typing them.
Photo credit: Susan Casey
Reported by one of our writing heroes Susan Casey (see note above from our founder about her), this article follows the “Ice Man” in and out of some seriously chilly water. “It’s now documented in peer-reviewed papers that, among other things, Hof may be able to turn on at will his body’s tap of opiates and cannabinoids—euphoria-inducing chemicals that provide natural pain relief and an overall sense of well-being. What’s more, Hof insists, if he can do this, so can the rest of us.” Learn how by following the link.
Photo credit: Jean Michel Basquiat at Yanna’s nail salon, August 29, 1983, by Andy Warhol.
Talking Heads’ frontman David Byrne asks, “What are we without human interaction?” Reducing day-to-day human friction seems like a good idea (less waiting in line at the bank, for instance) but does it actually increase our quality of life? “We do not exist as isolated individuals’ yet technology immerses us more and more in convenience that reduces meaningful human interaction.” If you are in any way nostalgic for time spent browsing through racks at a record store, you’ll really enjoy Byrne’s perspective in this article he penned for M.I.T. Technology Review.
Photo Credit: Unnur film still, director Chris Burkard
Have 17 minutes? Treat yourself to this beautiful morsel of visual storytelling. Directed by celebrated outdoor photographer Chris Burkard, Unnur captures the powerful bond between father and daughter through time spent outdoors - in this case, stunning rural Iceland.
Photo Credit: Unknown
“Trauma is a fact of life,” but healing is also a part of it. Leading trauma expert, Bessel van der Kolk, shows in this influential book how we can reactivate areas of our brain - including pleasure and engagement - that are negatively affected by traumatic events through techniques including movement, neurofeedback, bodywork and (you guessed it) putting pen to paper. “Writing experiments from around the world, with grade school students, nursing home residents, medical students, maximum-security prisoners, arthritis sufferers, new mothers...consistently show that writing about upsetting events improves physical and mental health.” This book isn’t an easy read, but it’s well worth it.
Photo Credit: Gather film still, director Sanjay Rawal
A “critics pick” by The New York Times, this lushly shot feature-length documentary film investigates the experience of first nation people in the context of a unique lens: the culture of food - raising, gathering, cooking, researching and consuming it in community. Gather weaves together multiple intimate stories with archival footage as it contextualizes the Native American experience. A timely watch with Thanksgiving rapidly approaching.