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Kayaking near Tromso, Norway.

Happy Holidays

From Erika, Alton, Uma, Emerson, Bisou and Freyja

In my twenty years of teaching yoga, I have always said that it is the community which keeps me coming back, class after class. And, it is the same thing here, on medium.

I so look forward to reading your stories and to sharing your excitement about what you see in the world around you. And it brings me great joy to see that someone has left a comment for me about some little thing that I have written that might have touched them in some way.

Creativity in the digital age is a pretty amazing thing. I spent years writing in a critique group, where the only people who ever read my sprawling six-hundred page paranormal historical romance novel were the other ladies who gathered once a week on an old horse shoe-shaped sofa in Costa Mesa to drink tea (or sometimes wine!) and critique each other’s pages.

Now, I can publish my poems, stories and photos with the touch of a button. It still amazes me to see that see that people are interested in reading these pieces!

And it brings me so much satisfaction to know that my words and photos might trigger a little spark of desire in someone to take a walk in a forest, to reduce their footprint on the earth, to hug a tree, or to simply lose themselves for a few moments in the rippling light upon the water or the trill of birdsong. My most fervent wish for you is to allow yourself to sink into that deep connection we all have with nature and with each other, to breathe her in, and to exhale your own essence back into the web of cosmic consciousness.

So, I thank you for reading and for writing. I love being a part of this community of creatives. And thank you, also, to all of the editors out there, who work so tirelessly to bring our work into the world.

In lieu of a real holiday card, I thought I would share a few tidbits from our year here in a “virtual” card.

The highlight of our year was our trip to Norway, where we ventured all the way up beyond the arctic circle aboard the local cruise/ferry/postal boat, the Hurtigruten. We timed the trip to coincide with the summer solstice and were rewarded with endless days, marked with about two hours a night of “the pinkening,” the hours where you cannot tell if the sun is setting or rising because it never actually dips below the horizon. The photo above was taken just outside of Tromso. The water was freezing! We had to wear special suits to be able to kayak, but we were rewarded with that incredible vault of sky overhead.

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Me, with my certificate that we had passed the Arctic Circle.

We also found the land which my great-grandfather farmed before he left for Minnesota in his thirties. It was pretty amazing to me to be able to touch a toe to the earth he walked on all of those years ago.

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The land that my great grandfather framed was up on the left in this photo.

Norway was a photographer’s dream. I am still editing photos! This one below was from a birding expedition.

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My husband, Alton, and I have always lived our life in such a way that traveling is a high priority for us. When we were younger, we set of for a month in Peru with backpacks and three changes of clothes. It was the ultimate lesson in non-attachment to have virtually no possessions for a month. Then, through yoga, we discovered India. I first ventured there in 2004 to study with Sri K. Patthabi Jois in Mysore, and was bitten by the “India bug.” Alton and I have now been back many, many times over the years, venturing to remote locations and bringing groups of my yoga students along with us.

This year we went to the artist’s village of San de Miguel de Allende, Mexico for our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary, and also to Zacatecas, Mexico, for a grand wedding. We visited family in Louisiana, Portland and Minnesota, and capped the year off with a trip to Maui and Lanai. I also perfomed my first wedding ceremony high up in a Colorado meadow. These travels have been the seeds for many of my poems and stories throughout the year.

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The streets of San Miguel de Allende.
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Zacatecas angel.
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I’ve always had a soft spot for musicians! My husband is an amazing pianist and “sort of” plays the guitar.

Our four kitty-babies (all rescue “mostly or partly” Maine Coons) have had a delightful year romping in their garden, where the catnip grows high and the bird feeders are (safely) overhead. These little ones are the loves of our lives.

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Emerson and Uma (5 years old) are brother and sister. Born in a dorm room, they are VERY social.
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Bisou (5) and Freya (3) were rescued from a life of feral existence at very young ages. We adopted Bisou at 6 weeks of age and Freyja at 11 weeks. They are a little more reserved around strangers than Uma and Emerson are, but they are absolute love bugs.

We had a granddaughter, Harper, last month. And our little grandson, Elliot holds my very heart in his hands.

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It was an interesting, and somewhat challenging year for me in another way. At the age of 52, I had to have a double-hip replacement (due to an autoimmune type of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis). I never did have the psoriasis that often goes along with it, so I was not properly diagnosed for a long time. Anyways, modern medicine is miraculous. The doctor had me up and taking my first steps on two new hips just three hours after surgery.

So, this year has been a bit of a recovery year for me — trying to “literally” find my legs again. I have been studying and teaching functional anatomy in my yoga classes for quite a while, and I feel like I am a walking “functional anatomy experiment.” Because I am so hyper mobile, my doctor made some structural changes during the surgery to tighten me up. The result of those changes is that my feet (which have naturally turned out all of my life due to outward-facing hip sockets) now face straight ahead (he rotated my femurs to face more forward). I remember looking down at my feet as I was learning to walk again and thinking “those cannot be my feet” because they were now oriented completely differently.

I have been wanting to write a series of articles about this experience, but I wanted to get through the first year before I made any assertions. I am finally feeling like these hips are “mine” again. I am back to my long daily hikes in the canyon behind our neighborhood and am getting my yoga practice back. So, if you are interested in functional anatomy and yoga, keep your eyes open for some stories this year.

I wish you a joyous holiday season, filled with good friends, family, and furry babies. And, I can’t wait to read all of your stories coming up in the New Year.

Happy Holidays!

Erika, Alton, Uma, Emerson, Bisou and Freyja.

Just a few stories about some of our adventures, if you care to take a peek:

This one is a photo-essay about one of the tiny ports we pulled into at about 11 p.m. on a summer evening, on our way up to Kirkenes, Norway, at the top of the world:

This is the story about a local wedding tradition, which we were fortunate to be able to participate in, in Zacatecas:

The wedding ceremony in a Colorado meadow:

A “Street Photography” piece about San Miguel de Allende, Mexico:

And these two are about the critters in my yard:

Story and photos ©Erika Burkhalter. All rights reserved.

Photographer, yogi, cat-mom, lover of travel and nature, spreading amazement for Mother Earth, one photo, poem or story at a time. (MA Yoga, MS Neuropsychology)

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