If 2020 was the year of disruption, 2021 has been a year of some integration. Things are starting to take the form of a new normal. I don’t think we collectively have words yet for all the ways we have been changed. The change isn’t over either.

Reading others’ words helps me name my experience and think about how to be in this moment. This is a list of my recent reads that have been meaningful to me. Maybe something will help you articulate a thought that has been tickling your mind, or strengthen your heart and imagination for the year to come.

What has been one of the most significant books for you this past year? I’d love to hear from you.



Emily’s Top 2021 Reads

Wolf Girl: Finding Myself in the Wild

Doniga Markegard

I borrowed this book for my daughter from the library on a whim and ended up being completely engrossed in it. As a rebellious teenager the author ended up in a Wilderness Awareness School. She becomes an animal tracker and ends up being a holistic rancher. Her fantastic adventure stories inspire me to strengthen my skills for connecting with the wilderness. The book really expanded my imagination for what is possible with regenerative agriculture. Her story is so compelling that for a week I daydreamed about becoming a rancher. Then I started asking myself what young person would appreciate this book. This book is the young adult edition of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild.

Watershed: Attending to Body and Earth in Distress

Ranae Lenor Hanson

This memoir is such healing medicine. Renae Lenor Hanson explores the intimate connections between the health of the body and the health of the ecosystem. I love her intimate descriptions of living in the Minnesota Northwoods as well as the Twin Cities landscape. I love how her story is interwoven with those of the students with whom she built relationships while teaching at Minneapolis College. Through her own health crises, she had to learn new approaches to attending and caring that support her body and the world. This book is her gift to the future. I really appreciate some of her suggestions and have been developing some rich, soul strengthening relationships with the trees around me as a result.

The Legend of Auntie Po

Shing Yin Khor

I want to include some fiction on this post and I guess I didn’t read much of it. This book reimagines the myth of Paul Bunyon from the point of view of Thirteen-year-old Mei working in a Sierra Nevada logging camp in 1885. I’m grateful to learn more about California history from the perspective of a queer Chinese heroine.

Blades of Freedom (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #10): A Tale of Haiti, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase

Nathan Hale

The Haitian revolution is a remarkable story and is essential for understanding the history of the Louisiana Purchase. I live where people speak English, not French, because of the largest uprising of enslaved people in history. This is an incredibly complicated story and I find the graphic novel an accessible format for understanding it. My entire family is a big fan of the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series in general and this is an exceptional installment.

Ninja Izhichige Nibi Onji / I Will Do It For The Water

Sharon M Day, Lead Editor

This is the story of Indigenous women who had prayed deeply in response to the question “What will you do for the water?” For the past ten years Indigenous-led water walks have crossed Turtle Island, praying for the water and through the water all of life. This book tells the story of the walks and of how they have rippled into the lives of walkers. This book is one of my most significant books of the year because I helped edit it. It was a massive integration project! Yes, this is a little bit of promotion for buying this special book. : )

The Way of the Rose: The Radical Path of the Divine Feminine Hidden in the Rosary

Clark Strand and Perdita Finn

What happens when a former Zen Buddhist monk and his feminist wife experience an apparition of the Virgin Mary? They had given up on institutional religion. Their main spiritual concerns were about the fate of the planet and the future of their children and grandchildren in an age of ecological collapse. This book recounts how visitations from “Our Lady” led them to the rosary, their discoveries about the eco-feminist wisdom at the heart of this ancient devotion, and the life-changing revelations of the Lady herself. I resonate with how deeply the authors quest to find a spiritual response to this age (the bibliography at the end is amazing). I came to this book after reading Clark Strand’s earlier (out of print) book Waking Up to the Dark. Raised Protestant myself, I did not expect to enthusiastically read a book about the rosary but life is full of surprises. Hands down this was the most personally significant book I’ve read this year.

My Favorite Read on the Year to Come

Every year my teacher Master Chunyi Lin gives a free talk about the energy of the coming year. I have found his guidance immensely accurate and useful. You can learn more under “Free Qi Talk” at Spring Forest Qigong.

Bring 2021 to a Close and Bless the New Year

Join me for the December 16 Winter Solstice Celebration and let the music and dance carry you through our longest night. On January 6, start the New Year with a beautiful candlelit blessing for the Mississippi River, and all the waters that support the life to come.

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