“They say God is happiest when his children are at play.”
~ Old Hardy Greaves, The Legend of Bagger Vance
Picture yourself, for a moment, wearing the burliest winter gear you can imagine. Now multiply that by three. The most important component of your outfit is your boots. They are constructed of thick insulated rubber and wool felt weighing in at 2.75 pounds per boot.
If you are getting the sense that gravity just got more cumbersome, you’re on the right track.
Now, imagine you have 16 enthusiastic, 40- to 60-pound dogs wearing brightly colored harnesses. They are all barking excitedly at you.
Because you are in the process of hooking them up, one by one, to your dogsled. You are a musher and you have informed them it is time to go for a run. They can hardly contain themselves. They know what they are; they were born to do this. They are saying yes to their Yes.
The dogs, once attached to your sled, begin to yank and pull at their lines with gleeful and robust vigor because, not only are they saying yes to their yes, they are in a collective of like-minded beings, yourself included, who are also saying yes to the same Yes. The very air around you is becoming highly charged with excitement.
The only thing holding your sled in place is a very serious, two-pronged metal hook jabbed into the hard-packed snow and, with each new dog you add to the line, you must have faith that the hook will hold. Once your last dog is added to the gang line, you move to the back of the sled as quickly as you can, under the weight of your plus-gravity suit, before the sled breaks loose and becomes something akin to a runaway train piloted by a mob of kindergarteners on a collective sugar high. You grab on, reach down, pull the hook and, Whoosh! You’re off on a roughly 1000-mile race through the raw and rugged Alaskan wilderness where temperatures can, and often do, drop to what we’ll just call the “wickedly cold” range.
So…are you saying, “Yes! That’s for me!”?
Probably not. But for a small group of men and women gathering in the state of Alaska right now to run the Iditarod, it is a big Yes! The Iditarod, self-proclaimed the “last great race on earth,” commences every year on the first Saturday in March, beginning in Anchorage and ending roughly 1000 miles away in the remote coastal village of Nome, Alaska.
For obvious reasons, the competitive musher’s Yes has to be big, otherwise they would not devote so much of their time and resources into such an endeavor. I am intimately aware of how big this Yes is, but not because I am a competitive musher—I happen to be married to one.
I met my husband, Jeremy, 20 years ago on a dusty road in the middle of a remote tourist destination here in Alaska. In the spring of 2002, he took me out on our first date—fittingly, a dog sled ride. The following year we married and, within 18 months, we ushered into the world our first-born son, Bjorn.
Seven months later, on a bright, frosty morning in September, while Jeremy was making his way across a damp footbridge (perhaps a bit too hastily), he slipped on a wet board and, with quite a bit of momentum, crashed into the boulders of the riverbank and shattered his leg. Major surgery was required to put his leg back together with a steel rod inserted from knee to ankle. Needless to say, the recovery process was long, yet Jeremy would find himself standing, the very next winter, as a rookie with his small team of 13 dogs at the starting line of the 2007 Iditarod saying a big fat Yes!
I could fill pages with the obstacles and turns of events that made the whole Iditarod thing seem ridiculously impossible and utterly insane. Likewise, I can produce an equally long list of grace-filled moments, some nothing short of miraculous, that carried Jeremy and his dogs, not just past the starting line, but all the way to Nome.
I followed that race closely, of course, and it was a tough year out there on the trail. Many of the mushers scratched early due to a blizzard and horrendous trail conditions that were ripping up sleds and breaking a few bones. Jeremy persevered and some of his tales from the trail can be read about in his blog, www.allroadsleadto.dog
As Jeremy neared the finish line, I flew with Bjorn, then 2 years old, to Nome to see him cross it. We arrived a couple of days ahead of Jeremy, who was riding near the back of the pack. The winner and top finishers had already crossed the line several days before.
The final leg and finish line in Nome runs down several blocks of this small town’s main street called Front Street. Once settled in our lodging, I packed Bjorn up snugly in his stroller and we walked downtown to watch one of the mushers pull in.
The experience was more thrilling than I had anticipated. I remember being swept up in the excitement as I cheered with the rest of the crowd lining the street to welcome this trail-worn musher to his finish line. I had no idea who he was but I had a small notion, from following the race, what he must have been through to get there. He had dared to say yes to his Yes and all of us standing there on the street were basking and rejoicing in the reverberation of it.
It’s All About the Yes
There is something subtle and unseen that happens when we say yes. If you are at all familiar with energy testing, or muscle testing, you can experience this for yourself. When a person says or thinks the word Yes, they will test strong. Likewise, if a person says or thinks the word No, they will test weak. The forces at play here are the vibrational frequencies of our thoughts affecting the flow of energy through our physical body out into our subtle energetic body and beyond.
Yes carries a positive connotation in our minds and therefore creates a higher vibrational frequency. When we experience what we consider positive emotions like joy and love, we resonate at a higher vibrational frequency. This is why falling in love feels so amazing and light, like walking on air.
Conversely, when we experience sadness or anger we resonate at a lower vibrational frequency, with guilt and shame being some of the lowest frequencies. This is why shame feels so dense and horrid, as if we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Too much time spent in lower vibrational frequencies can lead to exhaustion and degeneration of the mental and physical body.
This is not to say we should push away lower vibrational emotions; we need to find healthy ways to express and process them. It is only when we make a habit of lashing out at others in judgement and anger or suppressing our emotions out of fear or shame that we get stuck in those emotions and they subsequently get stuck in us. When we get stuck in these lower vibrational frequencies for too long, chronic conditions usually arise.
The good news is that higher vibrational frequencies can help you move stuck energy; laughter as the best medicine is truer than you may have realized. This is where learning to say yes to your Yesses is so valuable. Our yesses are what we enjoy, and enjoyment will have you vibrating at a higher, more health promoting level.
But this can be difficult for many of us. We have a lot of noes weighing us down. We give them long, fancy names like responsibilities and obligations. Yes, we do want to take care of the basics in life, but we also want to be careful we don’t start using them as excuses to keep us from our yesses, especially if those responsibilities are consistently contributing to low vibrational frequencies.
We have big Yesses and little yesses and if you are not naturally talented or practiced in the art of saying yes to a big Yes (which can be overwhelming and scary), there is great value in beginning with the smaller, more easily obtainable little yesses. A little yes can be as simple as taking the time you think you don’t have to read a good book. Better yet, read a good book aloud with your children, because now you are saying yes collectively and raising vibrational frequency together.
Knowing When To Say No
After Jeremy’s 2007 Iditarod, although he wanted to run the race again the following year, he looked at the realities on the ground and felt he could not ask me to support him through another race. Training and running the Iditarod is a resource-intensive endeavor, and unless you finish high, there is no financial reward. As the sole breadwinner of our young family, he knew he had to choose responsibility over his desire to race again. It was an easy and wise choice to make and he did so with no regrets. There were plenty more yesses to say yes to. Saying yes seems to be a gift Jeremy was born with and it would take me many long, difficult years to catch up with him. But catch up I did.
Fast forward 12 years and, if anything, our financial reality is no better than it was back in 2007. But when Jeremy told me he wanted to run this year’s Iditarod, I gave him my full, unwavering support only because I get it—I fully understand the power of saying YES.
Leading From Behind
Make no mistake, saying Yes to a loved one’s Yes carries its own kind of power. I could easily come up with a long list of reasonable noes under the guise of responsibilities and obligations, either spoken out loud in open disapproval or suppressed in silent abdication. But to what ends? So I can feel reassured that the electric bill will get paid on time this month? What frequency do you suppose worry resonates at?
Jeremy frequently speaks about the importance of leading his dog team from behind. A competitive musher must be able to do this well because he literally rides behind his team. Yes, he has talented lead dogs, but the team as a whole is an orchestration of resounding yesses which must be conducted and responsibly stewarded by the musher. It is difficult to get very far down the trail any other way. To hear more about leading from behind, tune into Green Ink Radio for an interview with Jeremy where he talks about this principle
Leading from behind is something each and every one of us is capable of doing when we choose to openly and fully support someone with whom we are in relationship. And our lives become so much richer for it.
The positive effects of saying yes to a Yes, whether it is your own or someone else’s, reverberates out into the world, touching more people than you could possibly imagine. I delight in the knowing that my yes to Jeremy’s Yes reverberates out to connect and resonate with so many others saying yes to this amazing event. From the friends and family chiming in with well wishes and helping hands, to the hundreds of volunteers who flock to the Iditarod from far and wide, year after year to support the race, to the fans who gather at the starting line to see the teams off and the ones who show up on Front Street at all hours of the day and night to cheer the mushers and their dogs to their finish, and to the thousands of inspired children following the mushers from their classrooms every year, we are all saying Yes just by showing up.
Humanity is the ultimate Internet, and every time you say yes to your Yes, big or small, you add to the web of love and light in which we all need to play.
So, thank you for showing up.
Alison Keller writes from Alaska where she homesteads and homeschools with her husband, Jeremy, and their two sons, Bjorn (14) and Liam (8). Jeremy and Alison met and married in the remote backwoods town of McCarthy, Alaska where the local population of bears far exceeds the people. They built a beautiful life together centered around homesteading, homeschooling, and subsistence farming. The family and their unique lifestyle became a point of interest on Discovery Channel’s Edge of Alaska reality TV series. Today they live in Knik, Alaska where Jeremy is currently building a sled dog team with his sons. Jeremy ran and finished the Iditarod in 2007. This year, not only will Jeremy be running the 2019 Iditarod but his eldest son, Bjorn, will be running his first Jr. Iditarod. For more information visit http://www.allroadsleadto.dog. Alison is currently studying energy medicine and spends a lot of her practice time not only on Jeremy and the boys, but on the dogs as well.