A question of curiosity:
off THE GRID WITH ALEXANDRA MARTIN
earth educator, forager, small business owner - Alexandra martin
Do you dream of living life off the grid? Well, Alexandra Martin made that dream a reality. At home in Vermont, she doesn’t have running water, or a toilet. When nature calls, she steps out her front door and picks spot. We met Alexandra years ago at cabin in the Canadian wilderness. We stayed in touch and watched her journey as an earth educator and small business owner. Her confidence is striking. And her commitment to living with the ebbs and flows of nature is pretty undeniable. Alexandra spoke with us about the choice to live in the woods, and her mission to make nature accessible to everyone.
I was born in North Central Vermont. I’m here right now and so wish I could show you! My backyard was the woods growing up and by the time I was 18, I just wanted to get out of here! I would travel for months at a time - Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Central and South America.
I eventually found my way to New Zealand, and began working on an herb farm on the south island. The woman who ran it was amazing! She transported me into the world of herbs. I lived there, helped her make products, absorbed her knowledge and ways of moving throughout her garden. I learned how to prepare plant medicines, and that was pivotal for me. My self study has continued by going on foraging walks and taking herbalism courses. I found an incredible mentor in Sage Maurer, who leads the Gaia School of Healing.
it’s simple, all you have to do is drop the cell phone and step outside. I want people to realize that there’s a deeper way to connect that’s more fulfilling than how many likes you get on a post.
When I reference conversations with a plant - I get a sense there is some ‘wow okay you’re a little crazy....you’re one of those people!’
I couldn’t help coming home to Vermont. The woods called me back. Now, I see there is something about my soul that can feel the vibrations of the natural world. Once I realized I was able to tune into that, I didn’t want to do anything else.
Often we don’t realize that we can bulldoze through nature and loose awareness of the space we are taking up. So, I have been thinking about how I enter into the natural world, and how it affects the vibration of everything - every leaf, every insect. I know that I contribute to that space.
A man shared his philosophy around seeking versus finding at a Wild Crafting conference I went to recently. I often go out with my basket with a mission to find plants. But when I go out with the mindset of exploration it changes the experience entirely. It can be very trendy to know what a plant is, harvest it and use it. While that is incredible, there is still a lot of education that needs to happen in order to develop sustainable and respectful ways of harvesting and using a plant. There is something to be said about the medicine of just being in the environment. That is one of the greatest gifts from our natural world.
Something incredible happens when you just pay attention. The other day I was in the forest for a few hours. On this day, I noticed a bird come down to the ground and then back up. I figured there must be a ground nest there so I looked down and sure enough, I found the ground nest. I kept walking and found a skull. I kept walking and buried in the green ferns was a little fawn. Right in front of me! I found another one shortly after. I had a moment with that one…
Though they may seem small in the retelling, these are the moments when I see nature communicating with me. These are the moments that have kept me on this path.
there is something to be said about the medicine of just being in the environment. That is one of the greatest gifts from our natural world.
I spent a lot of time without shoes on and probably a lot of time naked as a kid. My mom said I never wanted to wear clothes. If I had it my way, I’d do more of that.
Speaking to people outside my little world about this lifestyle, well, it’s a thing! I grew up in this special environment. Not everyone can relate to the naturalist way of life. When I go to the city I can feel that I operate on a very different level. My language is different. When I reference conversations with a plant - talking to the plant, asking the plant - I get a sense there is some, ‘wow okay you’re a little crazy....you’re one of those people!’
When I teach earth-based workshops, like foraging for example, I’m often working with beginners and people who are very new to the world of plants. One of the easiest ways to break down the barrier to entry is to ask people to stand with the souls of their feet on the earth, in silence, for a few minutes. There’s so much information that’s transferred through the soles of the feet into the body, that it’s without a doubt changing the nervous system.
In the end, it’s simple, all you have to do is drop the cell phone and step outside. I want people to realize that there’s a deeper way to connect that’s more fulfilling than how many likes you can get on a post. We are so connected to technology. To disconnect from technology, and find the gifts of nature is the challenge.
With some open mindedness, the plants really will communicate. If one person comes away from a foraging workshop with me wanting to grow a plant or make tea from herbs that are naturally abundant where they live, then that is absolutely what I want. It feels... I feel...so rich, when I find things in the natural world that I can eat, use and absorb and I hope to share that in some way.
I realize as I’m speaking that I’m just so passionate about this. It’s a really deep part of my life, and so it’s easy to share.
When I go to the city I can feel that I am operating on a very different level. My language is different.
We are so connected to technology. To disconnect from technology, and find the gifts of nature is the challenge.
How can we help shift our relationship with the earth? A simple answer. Loaded but simple. It’s a question of curiosity: Where did this come from, and where is it going?
Where is my food coming from? Where is my water going? So much of our lives are centered around preparing food, buying food or going out to eat. To begin to question, where is this coming from? What did it take for this to get here, to me, to feed me, my body? There is so much that goes into it!
A lot of the problems with the environment have to do with the journey of food. To know what’s in our food and where it comes from is huge. If that shifts into a consciousness of eating more locally and trying to avoid mono-cropped vegetables covered in pesticides, well, that will help with the shift. And don’t forget the packaging. It’s all about consciousness in consumption.
Fall, winter and spring, I don’t have running water and I have wood heat. I don’t have an outhouse, I just go outside. I have to chop my wood. I have to build fire. Gather my own water. We don’t realize how blessed we are to connect with running water every day until we don’t have it, and then every little drop of water counts when you have to carry it in!
I wake up in the morning and I sit on my front porch when it’s warm out. I like to watch the birds come to the bird feeder and really make sure that I spend time just listening. Even in the winter time, I am surrounded by so much life. I connect to the elements like this every day. I love it and don't want to change it for anything.