“Anxiety and joy can’t go together.” – Todd Lucier, Northern Edge Algonquin
“Scarlet Monster Lives Here” is a book that I loved to read to our daughters when they were young. Written by Marjorie Weirman Sharmat and illustrated by Dennis Kendrick, it is the story of an over-achieving Scarlet Monster.
Just moved in and ready to make friends, Scarlet Monster bakes brownies and turns her house into a picture of “coziness. No one visits, though and she draws her own conclusions about why she is being snubbed. What becomes apparent as the story unfolds is that as visitors drop by, they see a busy Scarlet Monster who appears consumed by her actions with little time for a friendly chit chat. So they don’t knock. They don’t say hello. They don’t make time to visit. That’s because Scarlet Monster looks like she is too busy for a visit. I loved this book (and Scarlet) because I am Scarlet Monster.
I have historically been a very driven, focused person. Some have suggested I am like a dog with a bone when I want something. I can be a task master. While surrounded by beautiful countryside, I spend most of my day in my office at my computer. My relationships are largely virtual and on-line and many of my connections are limited to social media and e-mail. Having worked the bulk of my career in mostly national organizations, it is how I learned to work most effectively while juggling a variety of other family and personal commitments. This style, however, doesn’t necessarily fit the type of work that I am now doing at The Mane Intent nor does it fit the kind of person I am becoming as I slowly shed my corporate skin.
The Mane Intent is an experience business that is about connection – and heart. It is about working in partnership with horses as natural coaches and exploring the metaphor of that partnership in our relationship with our self and with others. It is an experience that takes us from our heads and moves us into our hearts, illuminating our senses, our feelings and our intuition. It is a business that is being built one relationship at a time and those relationships often start with a face-to-face conversation and are solidified with a personal experience with the horses.
Since launching The Mane Intent two years ago, it is increasingly obvious how important it is to make time for relationship-building the old fashioned way: face-to-face. A business goal for this year is to do more of just that. That’s why when I had an opportunity to attend a 4-day experiential tourism workshop earlier this week – I jumped on it. The intent of ‘Ignite 2017’ hosted by Kawarthas Northumberland (RTO8) is to activate the potential for experiential travel. The training was presented by The Tourism Café in partnership with Northern Edge Algonquin. Todd Lucier, the lead facilitator who masterfully orchestrated our time together, represents both organizations.
Along with close to 20 tourism operators and experience providers from Northumberland Kawarthas, I travelled by bus to Todd and wife Martha’s Algonquin Park home at Northern Edge Algonquin. Together, we explored a variety of experiences to ignite new ideas and inspire new tourism opportunities for our business and community. Based at their solar-powered nature retreat on the edge of Algonquin Park, we experienced first-hand how their team crafts unique and targeted visitor experiences for their guests.
Within their small town of South River, we visited inspiring community stages, had a peek behind the scenes at business operators, discovered the stories of their region, and most importantly, met fascinating people who had agreed to share their time and expertise with us this week.
I am so grateful for this experience and the stories that were shared by the mosaic of individuals and local colour we met on this trip. For example, Gregor Waters and his culinary team at Northern Edge treated us to an array of heart-warming dishes and comfort food sourced from a variety of local producers. Gregor is a man of many talents and his stone and carpentry work is featured in many of the buildings and cottages that define the retreat. But food is clearly his passion, the kitchen is his stage and his presentation of menu is really a performance worthy of applause.
We were also treated to a session of Rhythmania with Bazza Hayward, who clearly has found his own personal brand of music through drums and a variety of musical instruments. We met adventure guides Chris Gilmour and Kara Mitchell. Magician Lukas Stark shared a few tricks. We visited artist Jill Boschulte who opened her studio to us, shared stories about Tom Thomson and gave us a chance to ignite a few creative sparks. We enjoyed a family favourite crafted by Nghe Tran, champion chef of Chopped Canada of Ha’s Restaurant on Hwy 124. We visited the NAISA North Media Arts Centre and Café and the Sound Bash installation by Christine Charette, Darren Copeland and Nadene Theriault-Copeland. We got our hands dirty in the green houses of Wayne and Patti Chalmers of Spring Hill Farms, a family-run hydroponic farm that supplies many local families and restaurants with fresh herbs and greens. A few of us also put our kilts on to experience the art of beer-making with brewmaster Brian Wilson of Highlander Brew.
While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the above, a highlight for me was an opportunity to simply sit in silence at the base of a tree, enjoying Mother Nature’s stage and the music of the wind shaking leaves around me. That was the magic my soul really needed this week. It is the kind of magic that exists in my backyard when I give myself permission to step out of my office and make time to savour it. Mother Nature has been knocking on my door for some time, but I haven’t been listening to her call.
So on behalf of my inner Scarlet Monster, this is a shout out to all of the story tellers and the experience makers for giving us a glimpse into their world, sharing a page from their life story and reminding us that life is much richer when our experiences are shared with others. Thank you Kawarthas Northumberland and Northern Edge Algonquin for this unique and unexpected gift.
About the Author: Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together to explore new possibilities, getting you out of your comfort zone and giving clarity of voice to your leader within. She has over 25 years of leadership experience in communications, cause-related marketing and change management. As a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. She is a ‘socialpreneur’ who values the art of living life fully with intent.