Some people go for walks in the woods to get a breath of fresh air and perhaps some exercise. Others go for nature walks–a much more spiritual and communal experience. Stephanie Alberta is one of those individuals who finds her greatest solace in the wilderness of the outdoors. Carefully studying the native plants and species, Stephanie picks up on the patterns and stories woven into the scenery in an incredibly intuitive way. She can identify any tree by its pinecone, forage for wild berries and concoct her own homemade tinctures from her findings.
Meet the Scout: Stephanie Alberta
Stephanie is an aspiring botanist and naturalist with a keen interest in the medicinal benefits of wild plants. We took a walk in the woods with her to see the world through her astute eyes, and to better understand how she seeks the unfamiliar in her daily life. Armed with her binoculars, nature journal (in which she jots down notes on the plant life she’s found that day) and Wanderlust Shawl (her favorite for cooler forest temps), she talks with us about tuning into the undiscovered beauty right in front of you.
How do you feel being described as ‘The Scout’?
I love farming and gardening–I’m at my happiest and healthiest when working outdoors. My past jobs have included everything from herb farming to bottling fermented goods to outdoor education. I’ve now settled into a role as the herb and wellness buyer at a local co-operative grocery store, but I spend all of my spare time adventuring outdoors! In some ways it’s strange to identify as The Scout (because I find it challenging to balance my relationship with nature and city life), but in many ways it’s perfectly fitting!
How do you seek the unfamiliar in your daily life?
To me, seeking the unfamiliar isn’t just about adventuring to new landscapes and stunning mountain vistas. We all have the ability to seek out connection and relationship with those “unfamiliar” plants and animals that surround us every day. While many outdoor enthusiasts drive far outside the city to experience unfamiliar wilderness, such as an encounter with a wild animal, I believe that we all have access to the wildlife that share our spaces with us anywhere and anytime. We can choose to familiarize ourselves with the blue scrub jay that nests in the tree next to our backyard fence, to the family of squirrels that scurry around our compost bin, to the ants marching in our kitchen. If we tune into the non-human life around us, we may realize that although they are “familiar” in a superficial sense, because we see them every day, we actually don’t know much about them. For me, these are the first steps in appreciating our natural world–not having to drive or fly to pristine forests in order to spend time in nature, but to realize that we are surrounded by nature in our day-to-day.
How would you encourage others to seek the unfamiliar?
Start paying attention to the dandelion and burdock that pop up year after year on your lawn. Staring intently into their flowers, you can find unfamiliar and amazing things. The patterns of nature are reflected in everything around us, if we can use our senses to tune in. With daily practice of paying attention to the wild around us, we are seeking unfamiliar experiences even in the most familiar landscape of our homes/backyards. One of my favorite resources for discovering the plants around me is this Field Guide to Medicinal Plants & Herbs–it has amazing photos that make identification so much easier!
What is your favorite piece of the Brave Manifesto?
“Every great journey begins with a small step.” If you are hiking or climbing to get to the top of the mountain, with the end goal at the forefront of your mind, you are only experiencing the literal tip of the iceberg of the “outdoor” experience. As a society, stemming from biological human competition, we overvalue those that can get to the top the quickest, those that have that burning ambition, willing to tromp along insensitively on anything (or anyone…) in their path that stands in their way to the top. These folks end up as the CEOs, the executive directors, the Ph Ds, etc. But what they are missing in the ambition to get to the top is the beauty and diversity of life along the way. You can miss great opportunities to form relationships with people if you are so set on climbing the “corporate ladder,” in the same way that you will miss that special rare wildflower on your hike if you are rushing with ambition to get to the top of the mountain. The special small beauties in life are in the journey, the friends and connections and observations we make along the way. Small, mindful focused steps lead to deepening wisdom and patience; rushing to the top provides the superficial adrenaline rush but can lead to deep chronic exhaustion.
How would you describe your personal style?
I would say that durability and craftsmanship are most important to me. I tend to get a lot of wear out of all of the pieces in my wardrobe–and they need to be things that I feel comfortable wearing for a long walk outside but also out to grab a beer in. One of my absolute favorite pieces is the Wanderlust Shawl–it’s one of the softest things I’ve ever put on my body, and kept me warm during my recent trip to the Grand Tetons!
What advice would you give to 13-year-old you?
You are beautiful. Stop blow-drying your hair. Start taking long walks outside by yourself when you are feeling existential and confused, rather than holing up in your room.