How I Almost Died Twice This Year

I almost died twice this year. It happened in a fraction of a second. That I’m alive is a testament to the deep wisdom inherent in the body. Here’s what happened…

In January I was north of Puerto Vallarta at a beautiful beach resort for a Shamanic retreat. Each day we studied and learned, ate merrily as a group, and enjoyed free time exploring the beach. One night after dinner the group decided to go up to the yoga room on top of the hill to dance ecstatically to some tunes. After breaking it down on the dance floor the jungle heat got the best of some of us and we went out to the balcony which stands roughly 20 feet above the poured concrete path below. 

Feeling flush and tired from a day of learning, I was sitting on the top railing of the balcony, a 4-inch diameter piece of wood which seemed sturdy enough. With my feet dangling and my full body weight on the railing all of the sudden the railing began to fall. Time moved into slow motion. I felt the sensation of falling. The body began to drop backwards. Instantly my butt pushed off the railing propelling it backwards and me forwards into a squat. I stood up and looked calmly at the group of alarmed people around me absent any adrenaline or realization of what could have just happened. It was only when I looked over the balcony and saw the distance to the ground that I fully realized how serious a fall backwards could have been. 

Fast forward to late October to when my father and I are driving south from our cabin in the northern woods of Michigan. We’re on a two-lane road surrounded by incredible fall color and I was feeling leisurely. Then I get a hit, “pay attention.” I sit up and refocus on the road as traffic is moving about 60 miles per hour. Less than 30 seconds later an oncoming car veers over the center line into our lane and I quickly swerve to avoid a head on collision. 

During the railing incident I believe the body saved my life. There was no cognition in pushing off the banister and simply standing up. It was a completely instinctive reaction that happened in a fraction of a second. Conscious thought would have been too slow for that moment. In a similar way the body knew something was coming on that two lane road. I don’t know from where I received the message. Yet the body instantly perked up in perfect timing. 

After each incident I spent the next minutes and hours in gratitude to the inherent wisdom of the body. Still to this day I affirm how appreciated and welcome this body’s natural instincts are in the future. 

Perhaps this is the primal brain in action. Perhaps my guardian angels are looking out. Perhaps this body and I have an agreement about what this life has in store for us. Regardless of the mechanism of how these events unfolded I attribute them to a phenomena outside of my conscious awareness. I am grateful for my health and safety.

Just this past week I was riding my mountain bike very fast around a curve that I take frequently. Something distracted me for a fraction of a second, enough for me to realize that I had too much speed and was heading straight into a steel abutment that runs along the river. I quickly pulled the back brake, laid the bike down, and leapt off the bike as it careened into the steel cables. In the air I instinctively put my arms out to brace my fall and hit the concrete with enough force that I skid across the pavement on my hands. 

In many situations hitting the pavement on your wrists like that would easily break the wrists. And somehow my wrists are not broken, the pads of my hands were barely scraped, and almost no blood was drawn. Now my hands are very sore and may take weeks to recover. Yet in that short window the body was flying in the air its instinctive processing placed the hands at such an angle as to transfer the impact through the soft tissue rather than the bones. 


I thank you

For all you are

I honor you

For keeping us safe

I affirm

Your inherent wisdom

I ask

For forgiveness 

I welcome

Your instincts

I listen 

To your messages

I cherish

What we do together

I commit 

To healthy actions


I Love You

Bring on the B.O.

I haven’t worn deodorant since we left the office and quarantined ourselves at home. I doubt I’ll wear deodorant ever again. If that smells funny to you, let me explain why it’s not.

First there’s the obvious health reasons. Over the years I have slowly been changing all of my personal habits to align with that which is most beneficial for my body. I don’t eat perfectly clean all of the time but consistently enough to make a big difference. Sleep, exercise, grooming, TV habits – all tuned for optimum health. My body is my temple and I treat it as such.

One element of these actions is eliminating environmental toxins and stressors from my immediate surroundings. I’ve switched to organic soaps and you guessed it – organic deodorant. Most common deodorants have some combination of the nasty 5: parabens, triclosan, phthalates, propylene glycol, and aluminum. These lab-made chemicals have a dubious record as potential carcinogens. For years I doused my underarms in “manly scents” from your traditional big brands until I finally realized I did not want this junk directly on my skin day after day. 

Progress made. And the organic deodorant I use passes the sniff test. I cannot remember a day in more than a year of using it that I was disappointed in its odor eliminating abilities. Yet even my organic deodorant is a concoction of different ingredients that mean relatively little to me. I don’t know what ozokerite is. Do I know how my body specifically reacts to it? Not really. And could I separate out reactions of one ingredient from another? No.

One of the guiding questions that guides my health habits and behaviors is: what is natural? Natural from an evolutionary biological perspective. As in, what are our bodies uniquely adapted for over the last tens of thousands of years? This answer to this question is why I practice intermittent fasting and see validity in the Paleo diet though I don’t follow/prefer it. 

What is natural is body odor. Armpits (or other areas of our body) smell because of bacteria that thrives on the skin. Our pits are the perfect local hangout: warm, moist, and usually dark. There’s a bacteria party in our pits. When we sweat, the bacteria break down the sweat and produce a product called thioalcohols which are nowhere near as fun as normal alcohol and significantly more putrescent.

According to Dr. Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC, “some people speculate that stopping use will help your skin’s natural microbiome reset, though it is unclear whether this has any significant impact on your health.” 

So how did we get here today?  

Deodorant and anti-perspirants are an $18 billion industry. It wasn’t always thus. We didn’t always slather our pits with a concoction we know little about. We didn’t always abhor the natural odors of the body. Would it surprise you if I told you our habit is due to a brilliant marketing campaign? Turns out there is plenty in common between diamond engagement rings and deodorant

When first introduced at the turn of the 19th century sales struggled because many people thought the anti-perspirants and deodorants were unnecessary, unhealthy, or both. Decades of advertising focused on a different angle for women and men. Odor busters got their pithold with women who were told explicitly that the reason for their loneliness or inability to keep a man was their odor. Presented as a social faux pas, odor was portrayed as a significant deterrent of healthy social functioning. Decades later the advertisers focused on men during the Great Depression, warning men that those who were the smelliest in the office would be the first to lose their jobs. New flash: your career and your odor are inextricably linked!

The Stank

I used to think I didn’t have body odor. And I didn’t. I would even skip a day here or there and voila, fresh pits without any B.O. The reality is that I so consistently applied deodorant that it leached into my skin. My decision to stop wearing deodorant is guided by another simple question I ask myself: why do I do what I do? Is it mine? Or is it programming from parents, friends, television, culture, etc…?

Our retreat from the office seemed like the perfect opportunity to go au natural. As I stopped wearing deodorant, the illusion of my fresh pits quickly faded. I’m now fully aware that my body does in fact have odor.  Joy!

I’m celebrating this because it feels like an opportunity to claim what is good and natural about me. Modernity is obsessed with everything clean, hygienic, and sterile. Our contemporary construction designs produce buildings with clean materials. Our public spaces are sanitized for fear of germs (which besides from a pandemic are beneficial in building our immune system). 

When you look out in nature, you can see that it is messy and dirty. Any stroll through unkempt nature reveals there are not clearly demarcated lines where one plant begins and another starts. Nature is a highly complex and interwoven system that does not resemble the sterility our culture now prefers.  

The presence of my body odor is claiming my natural self before the cultural programming instilled from a young age that odor was bad unless it smelled like cologne (or at one time half a bottle of Axe but that’s a different story). 

I recently finished reading Iron John. It feels as though the liberation of my underarms ia parallel to my reclamation of the Wild Man. There is a palpable instinctual feeling to catching a whiff of my odor – a power and sense of raw self. No evasion of nature here!

About a week in, it seemed to be very strong. Not nasty. Strong. Like sitting in my chair going, “what’s that?” Oh…that’s me! type of strong. But then it mellowed out. I average about 6 showers a week and a bath. I’m already clean. With proper shower habits, despite intense daily workouts, I can say that I’ve never felt dirty once. 

I’ve also noticed a direct correlation between my diet and the odor. It seems that pit odor is a great barometer for how healthy and clean I’m eating. Up the sugar and the effect is noticeable. In writing this I read several articles about food items that increase odor. According to this list, I frequently consume two of the top 5: fish (I eat salmon twice a week and broccoli/cauliflower (thrice a month). Every body is different. 

What I haven’t correlated yet is the reaction of women. A body of research suggests that a man’s musk has potential negative and positive effects. GQ says “a recurring hypothesis regarding body odor and sexual attraction is that a person’s immune system influences what he or she perceives as attractive, and also influences what their own unadulterated scent would be minus all of the personal-care products.”

The Social Issues Research Center says “(t)he male pheromone androstenone is not the same as androstenol. Androstenol is the scent produced by fresh male sweat, and is attractive to females. Androstenone is produced by male sweat after exposure to oxygen – i.e. when less fresh – and is perceived as highly unpleasant by females (except during ovulation, when their responses change from ‘negative’ to ‘neutral’).” Unfortunately the fresh attractive sweat fades in 20 minutes and the oxidized sweat repellent lingers. The jury is out on this topic, though given the pandemic, rising cases, and an interesting summer ahead, it may be a long time before I get to notice an unconscious revolting reaction or the playful twirling of hair…

What’s Next

My odor is at a minimum. I’m eleven weeks in. 

I feel healthy. Natural. 

And there’s an untamed element to my persona which I really like. 

Though my weekly average has slightly reduced since quarantine, I still shower most days. 

The real test is the integration back into society – whenever that happens!

Will people notice? Will she be attracted by the pheromones? Or repulsed by the actual smell? Or repulsed by the programming she has about what is socially acceptable?

I’m socially aware enough to notice people edging away. I’ve certainly done it before. Like many things, perhaps MY smell is good, but YOUR smell is bad. Time will tell!

In the meantime, I will pray to Sterquilinus, the Roman God of Odor (or manure more accurately), that I may be blessed with a pleasing odor, just not too much of it.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

The Best Feeling in the World

The Chair

You never second guess yourself for the early wakeup. Not at that moment when you’re one of the first riders up the lift making good on the mountains promise of a 9am open. By mid-morning, several successful runs have failed to quell the cycle of anticipation as you once again slide into position and plop down in another chair ready to dart you to the top.

This triple chair’s ride offers the intrigue of a father and son joining you for the ride. Perhaps conversation will emerge as we sit trapped in this moment of time together. A quick “how’s it going?” reveals the bloodline to be less than conversational.
No matter – I think about the two ladies I rode up with last time – a teacher, Robyn, from Wisconsin, and her friend, Kelly, or Kylie, something like that. I shared with Robyn how my mother taught high school from more than three decades – there’s something about the lift that makes people prone to open up. Soon we were laughing and the conversation branches out to include the weather, occupation and our core philosophies.

Regardless of where the father and son fall on the chattiness spectrum we still share the moment’s scenery as the wind begins to pry at our outerwear. From our vantage point, you can see how the runs have been carved out of the mountain, swaths of clearings among the trees look like veins carrying little human platelets throughout the whole system.

From the chair we watch as everyone goes down the mountain, our bird’s eye view granting us front row seats to the grace (or calamity) below. Each lift typically serves terrain with different difficulty levels so depending on which lift you’re going up, you’ll see different skills levels tackling the terrain. The is the expert life and skiers outnumber snowboarders two-to-one on the runs below on account of the moguls and steep verticals.

As our chair undulates up the mountain like a bobber floating on top of a pond, the sun shines through the pine trees like a strobe light. You crack a wry smile observing the beads strewn about one of the trees, the result of a coordinated and repetitive effort to share the spirit of festivity and fun with all who pass. The ungroomed areas below beckon you from the chair, “ride me! ride me!” they scream as their untouched surface of fresh powder twinkles in your eyes.

As you reach the top of a mountain, the wind whistles in your ear announcing your imminent arrival. You gaze at the approaching hut where the lift attendant huddles in warmth. A clock in the window indicates you’ve been at it for hours, yet the exhilaration of being at the top again demands being unphased by the passage of time. You quickly stand up from the chair and slide down to position at the top of the run.

The Run

It’s the best feeling in the world. Sliding off the lift after minutes of waiting eagerly in anticipation. Strapping in your back foot as your adrenaline rushes makes the biting cold totally imperceptible. Standing, peering out from the top of the mountain at the blank white canvas that lays before your feet. Gravity! Your often forgot ally whose steady force propels both the novice and experienced down the mountain at different speeds.

You skip to your favorite track as your being your descent. The snow begins to crunch as you pick up speed and begin chart your course ahead. Immediately, you’re freed by the feeling of total mobility – darting left and right – and your complete being feels present in the moment. Everywhere you look, a feeling of total control arises, knowing you tackles the trees, bumps and terrains that lay before you.

Perfection in every turn! The snow obediently sings its song – The Carve – and each precise curve is accompanied by the sweet sound of edge slicing the snow. You let out a big breath – sometimes you’re having so much fun you forget to breathe. The mountain is now an obstacle course riddled with slow movers who disappear from your perception with a whoosh as you careen past them.

As you push more onto your edge, you gain speed. You’re at your edge, knees beginning to buckle ever so slightly as you approach 25 mph. The hours spent making as many descents as possible create an immense muscle fatigue that burns your thighs. Yet as you near the bottom at top speed that tiredness immediately surrenders to the sheer excitement of pushing to you limit.

Panting, you reach the bottom bringing awareness to the level of exertion you just demanded of your body. Incredible heat bubbles inside your jacket seeming to melt winter and the cold that surrounds you. The line is long but that’s fine, a little rest is great as you unzip your jacket to cool down; an action that garners a few surprised looks. The beats are still banging in your ears and only one thought now prevails, “How quickly can I get back to the top?”

The Lifestyle

It’s a great life. Cars whose AWD make the mountain ascents possible save for the small amount of drag created by the ski rack and the boards it secures. Baileys and hot chocolate greet you at every respite, whether at the lodge or nestled next to warm fire at the end of the day. Gloves and boots adorn the baseboard where the fire and heat ducts dry the tools of your trade for the next day on the mountain.

There’s the locals, most of which recognize each other and many of which ride together and party together. There are the out-of-staters, joyed to see the snow, regardless of the conditions. People from foreign lands dodge in and out of the town, here to marvel at nature’s grandeur and the quaintness of each little ski town. No matter where you are, the big city or the small ski town, peaks dot the mountain range that beautifies your landscape.

Your heart’s in the mountains, stuck mesmerized by the force of creation that drove such mass so high into the sky and then decorated it with ancient conifers. The snow-capped peaks ever reminding you that your passion awaits – another ascent up the mountain…