Pebbles of Light
Pebbles of Light
012 How to Find Serenity in Nature & Help Others Do the Same || Maria Anderson Hormaza


In an interview with Maria Anderson Hormaza, we talk about the peace that can be found in spending time in nature. We also talk about the courage it can take to follow your dreams. 


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Welcome to Episode 12 of Pebbles of Light! Today, I’m grateful to share an interview with Maria Anderson. I’ve known Maria for about 5 years and she has had such a great impact on me and on my kids. Before we get into the interview, here is a quick work from this week’s sponsor

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Anne 0:15
Let’s review last week’s pebble, it was to be gentle and forgiving of yourself. I hope that we’re able to do that last week that you can keep it up. Maria Anderson is a passionate educator who left the traditional environment last year to found a nonprofit called coyote conference that focuses on nature that approaches education. My kids attend summer camp program, and they have a blast spending all day outside exploring adventuring and they come home sweaty covered in dirt, tired, and screaming out. It’s like I did through this awesome summer days.

Enjoy these thoughts and insights from Maria and be sure to check out the show notes for more information about her programs.

Hi Maria I’m so grateful to have you on the show today.

Maria 0:59
Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Anne 1:01
My boys love, three and they’ve done her camps in the summer for the past two years. I think maybe our oldest son is on three times. I asked him this morning what they would ask you.

They said, “I want to know what her favorite plant is and why.”

I added another side of that. What is your favorite animal and why.

Maria 1:38
I haven’t shared with anybody what my favorite plant is so definitely without a doubt say dandelions because it is kind of a garden regarded as a weed, not kind of.

It’s like, just I feel like it’s, it works so hard to come out wherever it can to bring lightness. It’s such a beautiful flower if you don’t see it as a weed. So as I just, just brightens my day whenever I see him. And then on the other side, it’s just been incredible every part of the plant can be used for nutritional value. And it’s a great source of medicine.

My favorite animal would be a manatee. And the reason is the manatee showed itself to me. I had an experience in Joshua Tree National Park. And we were all kind of having I guess like a meditation you would say and meditation show you. So I have things like have manatee pictures in my house. Manatees are very common in Puerto Rico where I’m from, and when I visited there about a year ago, We went to the preservation center manatees and sea turtles. They had a boobie, which is a really fun bird. And so we what we went through the center. My daughter and my mom and I were driving to our vacation house. On the way my mom was really hungry so we stopped to eat. We walked towards the ocean and as soon as we stepped out in the ocean, there was a manatee. And it was just an incredible we just like watched it for 15 minutes and it was just such an incredible experience.

Anne 3:49
For me, it’s blue herons. I don’t think they’re necessarily my favorite animal but maybe reminding my grandma. So every time I see a heron I feel like it’s my grandma saying “I got ya, I was a boy mom to.” Growing up in northern Minnesota, we’d see them all the time. And we see them pretty often here.

Can you tell us a little bit of your background?

Maria 4:21
Well, it’s kind of an interesting background on my backgrounds in international relations, that’s what I went to college for my grandfather wanted me to be different. And then I finished college and I didn’t know what to do so I bought a program called the JET Program where I teach English in Japan for a year and I taught English in Japan. And then, while I was in Japan, I wasn’t sure what to do next so I just typed “cool job” into the internet search.

The job that showed up was a Marine Science instructor. I had no science background whatsoever. I did know the animals and species because they are pretty similar to the ones in Puerto Rico. So I was like well I know that I am comfortable snorkeling and comfortable swimming so I learned a lot and just fell in love with teaching. And I met Montessori families and fell in love with Montessori students, and then I worked at another camp in San Diego, and I always asked for the Montessori families.

That’s where I did my Montessori training. And I met Jody who hired me to come up here to Boise Idaho and work here. And about two years ago, I’m always checking in, like, “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I like doing the best I can with what I’ve got?”

I went on a one week program to where you had instructors and you live out in nature for a week. You have what you have in your backpack. No food so you scavenge for food. All that stuff. But I couldn’t really fund it so I asked. I got a funding to do the Student Program which I was like, that’s great. It is called Art of Mentoring program. That was two years ago. I had already attended one of their programs, a weekend is called the mentoring program. It blew my mind like I was there for less than 48 hours, and I was thinking, “I need more.”

This one was an eight day program, and it blew my mind even more. It really looked at education as a cultural element, and how we have basically forgotten something and trying to continue to, you know, progress progress progress. And we have kind of lost touch with our humanity and our sitting by a fire. Knowing your passion, animals, all these basic human qualities that we have outsourced basically to the grocery store and, and how we basically forgotten a part of ourselves. By doing that, that makes us whole and complete. So, obviously, they don’t explain it that way. You experience it and you’re like, “Wow, this is the things that happened.” It was about a little under 40 of us, and by the end of the week we were all best friends.

It was a really cool experience and I just was blown away. I was like we need that we need this in Boise. And I just started searching for similar programs in the area and there was none. So, it dawned on me that, you know, I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I am doing what I meant to be doing as life goes on, and I’m always checking to see signs or whatever we want to call it, and I was like, “Well, I’m where I’m supposed to be.” I’m not I’m not gonna think oh I wish I had found this program, 15 years ago before I had kids and all that stuff. I don’t like spending time in the past I was like, “Well, I’m here now.”

Anne 8:59
We think about how I went to pharmacy school and I’m not really using it. And just working on advanced degrees that they want you to know that still finding purpose in that.

I seen you in action, as a teacher, both through Coyote Camp program as well as at the Montessori school. I know that you have a deep affection for that job. What was it like to make that change when you started to feel this call? How are you able to make that jump in like what kind of faith was involved with making that leap?

Maria 9:56
A lot! So it was really hard. I think it was kind of it it was just time. A lot of things happen. You know, I had that experience two years ago. And then I was at school and I tried to implement it as much as I could, but it couldn’t implement as much as I wanted to just because it’s the nature of the classroom, you know, I think, unfortunately I had lost the spark and I don’t think that necessarily visible to others – I hope not. My passion was just shifting. I just wanted more of the outdoor time. I wanted to be outside more.

I did decide a whole year before. I taught for a full year, knowing that that was my last year. I also did like a closure ceremony where I wrote a letter about everything that Montessori has brought to me – as a parent, as a professional as an educator. It was just two pages, filled with gratitude. And then did a little ritual around that. And that really helped me focus on just that whole year I just felt so grateful.

Maddie who took over my classroom. It was so awesome to see her excitement, and her enthusiasm. It was a really was such a cool way to say goodbye as having somebody that was just so excited and so passionate. It reminded me of when I started. I was just all very just very sweet. I was just very happy that that’s how it was ending. It wasn’t all of a sudden, you know was very well planned and orchestrated and I feel very lucky about that. And do remember sitting at my counter and then my partner, Dylan, had asked me “This is what you want? How do you know?” And I just, it’s just the right thing for me to do. You know, and that’s all it is. I know that sounds crazy but every almost every decision in my life I’ve really, really just listened to my heart and I feel like that sounds a little cliche. There was a lot of thought went into it. It was a very thoughtful process. I just really rely on my truenorth to make that final decision.

Anne 12:46
I’ve been in that situation where I’ve ended up leaving a job or things like that and all I have, you know, they’ll ask why you’re leaving know like I think prayer is different than many different things like that. I prayed about it. And I feel like in some instances, people will be like. But what else would it be set off in your heart. Like, that’s, that’s the most important thing is that you’re living your life aligned with what you feel, which no one else can tell you that what you feel is right for you in a way that you can make the impact that you feel called to make.

Maria 13:29
And I feel like you can weather the storm better that way. You know, it’s a decision that is right for me, or, you know, however you want to frame it but like. So any anything that happens, you’re like living my best life. You know, That’s how I don’t know that sounds a little ostentatious. But I do believe that, you know, I can aim high and just keep going up that mountain, you know, and just less where I want to go, I’m gonna keep going towards that.

Anne 14:04
How did you develop your love for nature and outdoors? You talked a little bit about it but did you have it, when you were a kid to where you just wanted kids who’s always outside?

Maria 14:13
No, not as much. There’s the book “Last Child in the Woods.” It’s a scary book to read. Even my generation the 80’s generation, we have even less of their contacts than the generations before us, but it’s a scary thing that’s happening. So, when I was growing up, I spent time outside I said we’ve had, you know, I grew up in a tropical climate so I was always in a pool or the beach.

That was a very seasonal job it’s just very in tune with nature, whether it’s part of the job description or not and then after that I just really valued the time I spent outside, it was more, it was more recreational, you know, kayaking skiing, snowboarding rafting all that which we still do as a family hiking, backpacking like that Dylan.

A “sit spot” is something recommended by the mentorship program I attended. Every day, or as often as I can, I go to one little spot alongside the Boise River. It has exponentially grown my love for Mother Earth, and it has helped me love myself more love my family more love my life more so it’s just, it’s been so incredible experience. It’s something so simple as being outside. Recently, like couple months I’ve been doing this for two years. I ran into somebody as I was going there and I just meditate. I’ve been meditating, or praying outside for two years. I guess that’s a way to put it, but I can’t. It’s something that I think a lot of people pass by as like, I don’t know, just a do when they have a chance to do. But for me it’s, it has become a priority and, you know. It’s not every day, three days a week three times a week is a good week and I spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. I would love for it to be more but that’s just not in the cards right now but that has 100% have a commitment towards sharing nature.

Anne 17:14
I grew up in northern Minnesota it’s very opposite of you but at the same time very outdoorsy. And we had the home where my dad was growing up, we had 1000 feet complete short, and over 40 acres of forest. It was such a child’s playground, it was perfect and wonderful and you would go for a boat ride we called a DVR, and after dinner go ride. There was no lightning and no ice. And I found such concern that I remember I think the way. Chicago was kind of the first place I moved after home, and I lived right on Lakeshore drive, but if there was Lakeshore drive and then there’s Navy Pier and there’s all these people and that’s not my spot on the lake you know it’s every spot. And then about a year and a half after that I moved to upstate New York. And I thought, I just need to go get some water. And so I found this little spot where I can go have a little fun. In a town called Webster. And that’s right on Lake Ontario, and I was able to do the water that was all just the water lapping on the shoreline. You’re just brought out peace and security and it’s just such a foundation. And so here I do the same thing there’s a spot right along with the river as well when they Star Riverwalk I have this little spot where I’m having a rough day all gets by there and just go there for a few minutes. Reconnect and find my center.

Maria 18:54
Well, and what’s interesting is, it’s something that everybody looks at their childhood, chances are that they have their sit spot. Because it’s, it’s something natural like, you know, it’s something that we all probably have. Unfortunately, as we become adults and become busy we kind of forget about that but it’s something ingrained. So I can look at my, when I started learning about this by looking at my childhood I was like oh my gosh I literally did. And it changed and it wasn’t you know and the thing that was missing for me like I didn’t have a mentor to nourish it and become a piece of growth, it is just something I did. Most likely every child does it, and most likely every adult can think of a spot that they had.

We had a vacation house, and a little, a little house that had no TV, no, so we could spend two weeks for sure in the summer and then like two weeks for sure and then every weekend here and there. And I think that definitely is easier to access our natural love for nature when you have that as a child.

Anne 20:26
It’s true. I’ve heard so as he mentioned, our generation spends less time outdoors and it seems to just get smaller and smaller. And I remember but I’ve heard like startling statistics about the number of children who never gone camping or things like that and when I look back on our summers favorite things to do are camping trips and my kids you ask them that’s always their favorite thing to do. When camping and spending time outdoors together. What advice would you have for parents who maybe don’t have that routine or tradition of getting outdoors, whether it’s on a, you know, we can camping trip, or if it’s more on a regular basis and not as big of an event? What advice do you have for parents to help not only themselves but also their kids to get that time out, especially for parents who may live in more of an urban area where it’s not as accessible for them?

Maria 21:18
Yeah, I’ve heard of a program had this part about how they lit a fire with a match, and it was the first time students have ever seen the fire this was in an inner city program. So, believe it or not, like, Lighting a candle is actually tapping into our, our nature connection and I don’t do this right now, routinely but sometimes when I’m feeling that we’re not having an open up nature connection that I will light a candle or maybe the stray at nighttime, and then blow it out. That’s tapping into the way our ancestors stood for. millennials is like sitting by fire at nighttime. The other part. So it can be as simple as rally light a candle, you know how to plant that your child, your child is in charge of and they water it every day, and be taught to it, or whatever, because they see that. The other thing is what got me as a parent to start doing my stuff outside as I was noticing myself as a young parent is consumerism like. So I made a goal myself of spending a day, not spending money. And when you choose not to spend money for a day, you will most likely be going outside. So do something free. And chances are that it will take them to the library. And after that it was hyped, like, that’s an easy way for anything I am like I’m gonna do something free in Boise we have I love, especially for your families and I just went there last week, the story trail, the foothills reading center is real that has a story, and it’s you know maybe a quarter mile, and it took, sometimes 10 minutes to do it, other times an hour and a half, but that gave us kind of a goal. You know, I think any, you know, sometimes people see nature as like a camping trip five hours away. And I don’t like that I like your backyard is. I like to have my, you know, having a part of your backyard or that you grow while going down to Greenbelt, you know, I feel best having into wilderness is just any place that you can tap into it, you know, looking at the stars at night. Just sitting in your backyard and looking at the clouds like it’s just really simple things and if you really remember what you treasured as a child, those are the things you love, you know, I love looking at clouds and seeing all the animals and, and something I realized last summer that I haven’t. I haven’t done it with my kids. We live in such a fast paced culture that kids don’t have a lot of time to, to have a pass down of of activities that if you’re not part of a community that has other kids who wander around themselves they don’t learn these things they don’t learn to lay on their back and look at the clouds which is unfortunate, to say the least. Those moments are so peaceful, we kind of forget that moments of peace moment of calm are so accessible.

Anne 24:45
We talked about this a little bit just now and it’s fine, right. In what ways has nature, provided, like a refuge and solace for you during the last few months where it seems like our society has been all over the place?

Maria 27:33
Tapping into just any time, tap into it, you know, looking at the stars at night. Just sitting in your backyard or looking at the clouds like it’s just really simple things and if you really remember what you treasured as a child, those are the things you love, you know, I love the clouds and seeing all the animals and, and something I realized last summer that I haven’t. I haven’t done it with my kids. We live in such a fast paced culture that kids don’t have a lot of time to, to have, you know, it’s almost like a passed down of of activities that if you’re not part of a community that has other kids wander around this sounds they don’t learn these things, they don’t learn to lay on their back and look at the clouds, which is unfortunate, to say the least. Those moments are so peaceful. We kind of forget that moments of peace moment of calm are so accessible. We talked about this a little bit just now and as well as spot right in what ways, has nature, provided a refuge and solace for you during these last few months where it seems like our society has been one really divisive. How have you found peace and solace and

The first thing that comes to mind is, it was really interesting how our lifestyle changed a lot, because we do free things so they usually outside. So for me. At the beginning I was kind of annoyed. I was kind of annoyed about my area was getting a little bit more. More people going through it, and, and I need to share, you know it’s like it’s not my area it’s here for everybody, you know, and I and that’s great that people are out. But, oh goodness I, you know, I, I decided to stop teaching at the end of last year, and as far as I knew it was going to be a giant chain a giant shift, and then to have the whole world join me again. I don’t know for me I was expecting the change I was expecting the challenge, just that the shift of mental, like, I’m not a Montessori teacher anymore so and then. So all of those things are happening, as you know as COVID is happening as well, which kind of affects everybody. I guess I’m trying to say as I was expecting all these changes to happen, and it’s now a global scale and nature has been 100%, like, there has been two or three times where I need to drop everything and go outside, whether it’s my sister, or my tree to feel grounded. I don’t know what I would be doing without it, without my sense but I haven’t I don’t know how I would be where I’m at right now at all. And I just wish everybody knew that, how simple it is. You know, I think it helps to have in my spot helps, be able to tap into feeling connected anywhere else. So I was in Puerto Rico, helping my mom. And it was a lot more difficult than we anticipated it to be. And I remember sitting outside and just really reaching out to the trees that were in the concrete jungle, they have like literally a 36 by 36 space. This is 100 foot tree 36 inches by 36 inches space maybe a little bit more, and how they had just grown to over 100 feet and to, to know that nature is always there always shining. Just, just immediately constantly. And I don’t feel like I need to have all my emotions I could just share that with the tree and just like, just take, just take off. So, you know, I like to just like, no, I need their oxygen, and they need my carbon monoxide, I kind of hope that all those like they can digest for their growth.

Anne 32:13
And you have Instagram account can you talk a little bit about that shared great, not only ideas about things to do with your kids and sometimes you do little challenges and things like that but also thoughts and different homes and things like that and I’ve loved that so can you share a little bit about. Are you on Facebook to share a little bit about?

Maria 32:37
So, I have a really difficult time with social media. The Instagram account is about me so what do I want to share about myself in my Instagram account. So obviously at first it was coyote conscience. And then I felt like this was happening where I had something else I wanted to share so I know I have to I have my coyote conscience account that shares things about what we’re doing in our programs and really to get our name out there and hopefully and it’s kind of the idea of just sharing something nature connected in a virtual world, you know. And then, and then my personal account. I try to memorize poems and like somebody wants that instead of memorizing his heart from the heart. With my heart which is very sweet. Because part of my, you know, trying to find my true north. There’s, there’s a lot of noise, you know, and somebody said that poetry is the language of the soul. And I figured if I tried to really understand, somebody else’s expression of their soul. It will help me. Listen to my soul that’s basically why I started doing that, and it’s been really cool to memorize a column because every line and I. Every time I share I mess something up because it is from memory and some of them are kind of long, but you also need to know that when you play. You play as I just could play when you make a mistake. But it’s really cool because I just really get to sleep over and play with a word and you really need to feel them and experience them and and really be curious about why they chose that word instead of this word because I’ll

Poetry is something else that is dwindling and I didn’t have a connection to it. Poetry is meant to be read out loud. When I read it to myself, it doesn’t connect as well.

I’m grateful for Maria and her desire to share her love of nature with others. I hope you felt inspired by her courage to follow her dreams as well! I appreciate her desire to provide Pebbles of Light to those around her.

PEBBLE OF THE WEEK: Set aside 20 minutes twice this week to spend outside. 

I also loved our discussion about childhood sit spots. I invite you to take some time to reflect on your childhood and recognize those “sit spots” that you had. 

Be sure to check the show notes for more resources, how to get in touch with Maria and how to support the podcast!

Thank you so much for taking time to listen to Pebbles of Light! I appreciate you being here! If you have a second, could you please leave a review or share the podcast with a friend? It will greatly help us to spread the message of Pebbles of Light to others.

Keep looking for the bright spots on your path and I’ll see you next week!