Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution.

~Deepak Chopra

How do you give back to your local community? Are there any hidden contributions you like to make just for the heck of it? Why is that an anonymous thankless task can bring you so much satisfaction?

We’re all familiar with the more visible ways of giving. There’s everything from Beach Cleanup Day to volunteering at the local food bank, hospice, or animal shelter. Folks with considerable resources endow millions to universities or hospitals and have their legacy recognized by having their name given to a new building or wing.

At The Crucible, the industrial arts school where I teach part-time and do my metalwork, donors have their name cast in bronze in the foundry and then added to our big wall of contributors. The library in Bandon Oregon has a brick with my parents’ name on it in the wall by the entrance where all the supporters are recognized.

But for all the large, obvious, and publicly recognized ways of giving there are any number of small yet significant contributions that folks make every day with no fanfare. Some people like to give money or food directly to homeless folks, avoiding official channels. Hikers are known for packing out other people’s trash, leaving the wilderness cleaner than they found it.

In fact, there is a wonderful phenomenon taking place online where people will post before and after photographs of wild and scenic or urban and abandoned areas that have been trashed and neglected. Social media provides a feedback loop for kudos so that folks who document their cleanups by posting with a #TrashTag can enjoy the virtual high-5’s and pats on the back from friends and followers around the world. Search your favorite social network for #TrashTag and prepare to be inspired!

Here in my little corner of the world, we have an ecological issue that is all-too-often neglected. Our house is just across the road from 8,000 acres of rolling hills and valleys, occasionally populated by grazing cows. It’s a patchwork of open space, water district property, and East Bay Regional Parks property stretching all the way to Inspiration Point behind Berkeley.

Our street dead-ends at the trailhead for miles of different paths, and being an off-leash zone it’s basically doggy heaven. So now that we have a new critter in the family I’ve been logging a lot more miles on the trails. Which has brought to my attention some unwelcome invaders that are trying to get a foothold in our hills.

Giant Artichoke Thistles or Wild Cardoons (cynara cardunculus ) are a particularly pernicious invasive species. Once established, they can take over an area making it uninhabitable to native species and impenetrable to wildlife, livestock, and domestic animals. When they flower they are undeniably beautiful, however when they go to seed they spread like wildfire.

I’ve been watching several patches of these pesky invaders prepare to burst forth with a fall frenzy of seed spreading so I recently decided to take action. “Dead-heading” the dried flowers before they can disperse is a sure-fire way to prevent their proliferation.

The only trick is the fact that these big monsters have some serious defenses built-in! Every part of the plant is bristling with needle-sharp spines, and the seed-filled dried flower heads are particularly spiky.

My plan of attack against these invaders is simple. Every day for the past couple of weeks I’ve armed myself for our dog Ivan’s walk with an empty brown-paper grocery bag, a pair of garden shears, and a thick padded welding glove for my left hand.

For the most part, the thick glove allows me to grasp the stem so I can get close enough with the pruners to lop off the heads into the bag. A couple of dozen fills the bag and after 10 or 12 walks around my hill, I’ve managed to decapitate every patch I can get to, at least in my main territory.

I’ve suffered a few sharp stabs, came home with thistles in my shoe, and got to a few of the flowers too late as they were already bursting all the way open with the feathery little seed umbrellas blowing away in the breeze. But I know I’ve single-handedly made a huge dent in their invasion, at least for my local area.

The most interesting thing I noticed was how much enjoyment and satisfaction I’ve been deriving from this little anti-invasive-species campaign. After the first round or two of bringing back the bags full of pods to dump in the compost bins, I started thinking about my mission all the time! I found myself eagerly looking forward to another expedition with the clippers and the glove.

It’s made me realize just how much meaning and satisfaction can come from the simple act of doing something good for the local environment and the community of people, plants, and animals that call it home. A contribution doesn’t have to be obvious to feel good.

I’ve learned that this species of thistle is bi-annual, which means that they bloom and seed on their second year. So the patches I’m pruning may take a few years of fall clipping to clear completely, but Ivan the dog will have us out there walking for years to come.

For the most part, it’s a private pleasure, aside from telling the story here I doubt most of the dog walkers and hikers in these hills will have any idea where the seed pods went or will even notice. I’m guessing the cattle ranchers who graze their livestock here would appreciate my efforts if they knew and if it means I see less of them running around in the springtime on their ATV’s trying to kill them by spraying Roundup it’s a win for all of us.

It’s inspiring to see all the action and awareness for the environment happening on such a large scale. We humans have a big dance ahead of us to shift our thoughtless past into a conscious future. Making a connection between the macro and the micro is a fun way to stay grounded on the home front. We’ve all got many thankless tasks ahead to turn the corner on the climate, so we may as well all find ways to enjoy contributing to the cause!

Much love and happy dancing till next week!


Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

Dance First Member Spotlight: Get ready to Dance Play Thrive with Nancy Trunzo!

This week’s Dance First Members Spotlight shines on Nancy Trunzo, the lively leader of Dance Play Thrive! Nancy embodies so many of the things we stand for here at Dance First and Conscious Dancer.

She’s not only a certified health coach, personal trainer, and group fitness instructor; she’s a professional Belly Dancer and Body Positive activist!

Recently relocated to the South Bay / Silicone Valley area from San Francisco, Nancy is bringing her practice with her and continuing to expand her virtual coaching and online offerings repertoire.

If you’re wondering how smart somatic folks build their practices, take a close look at her methods and learn. Nancy puts into action many of the fundamentals that I teach to our Dance First members.

For one thing, she has a really engaging newsletter that is actually worth reading, which become posts on her blog. And her website is a treasure trove of valuable free resources, checklists, and guides including printable journal pages and workout cards. All free to use and share, with the request that you leave her logo and watermarks intact.

Your big opportunity is to meet with her on the phone or video chat, she’s very generous with her time by offering complimentary 30-minute “Create a Plan” sessions to help you personalize your approach.

She’s also the host of the “Radical Thriving – Revolutionary Health & Fitness” Facebook Group where you can connect with her friends, clients, and community.

With a Master’s Degree in Holistic Health Education and a dynamic approach to life, Nancy is a movement leader with a lot on the ball.

Learn more about Dance First member Nancy Trunzo and Dance Play Thrive and sign up for her newsletter today!