(this is the next installment of a series of interviews with wild folks near & dear to me, whose vision & connection continue to inspire my own adventure with the wild world.)
it’s hard to introduce someone as multifaceted and, well, wild as tiffany. equal parts forest sprite, adventuress, homesteader, artist & spiritual nomad, her journey has been a beacon on my own path for some years now. her relationship to the lifeworld of the forest was what drew me into her story– which speaks for itself. the sweet soft heart at the core of this woman radiates into everything she makes with her hands and animates her every word with a breathing, thriving love for the earth and the flora & fauna it sustains. read on:
1. you’re one of the first people who come to mind when I think of the phrase ‘wild woman.’ what does this name mean to you and how do you embody it?
What a compliment–thank you! The phrase ‘wild woman’ carries great weight to me. It means that I am still captivated and in awe of just being. A wild mind is forever inquisitive & every day remembering what a wonder it is to be here at all. With this mindset, simply walking through the woods or sitting in the surf are positively exalting and waking in the morning opens a wide blank canvas of potential. Mary Oliver sums it up pretty well when describing Walt Whitman: “restless, unwilling to give over a single day to idleness, always on the move, climbing, looking, describing.”
2. where did you grow up and what was your relationship to the wild world as a kid?
I grew up primarily in Hiseville, Kentucky–a tiny little town composed mostly of large farms. My mom & I lived with my grandparents for a long time on a dairy farm. I was an only child, and I think this played a large factor in igniting my imagination as well as teaching me how to be content with just myself and the wild world.
I spent my days playing in the cotton seed, collecting rocks, telling stories with my grandma, breaking beans & shucking corn, swimming, feeding calves & exploring. My mom worked a lot, but on her days off we would go to Mammoth Cave and hike together. Even when I was still in her womb, she was there drinking the cold spring water that came up from the ground.
Later on in my childhood, I started spending whole summers in Florida with my dad. These are fishy, salty, sunburnt memories of 12-hour beach days and running from stingrays. Dad eventually moved from the beach to a suburban area, but I attached wheels to my feet–also called rollerblades– and explored playgrounds, parks, and vacant lots.
To this day, I still couldn’t choose between forest & ocean if I had to. They are both etched so deeply in my mind, as homes.
3. when I was getting to know you, you were moving to kentucky to live in the woods on property owned by a zen monastery. tell me about that terrain, and what you experienced living there.
Yes! Wow, that was quite an experience. Living at Zen Forest was very … introspective. I honestly learned more in those two years than the rest of my life combined. I solidified my foundations with a lot of self-discovery and philosophy. Every morning, I would wake and have hot coffee or tea and then set out on a walk with my soul-dog, Gandalf. There were deer and coyotes everywhere! The monastery was very isolated–our mailbox was three miles away–so you can imagine the vastness of woods and fields I got to penetrate. Naturally, this is when my fascination of plants really took hold. My partner and I would spend whole weekends out in the woods identifying plants. Eventually, we added a flock of guinea fowl to the family and we all just took care of one another out there … we built raised garden beds in the shape of a mandala, herb spirals, a log cabin for the birds, we learned about permaculture and questioned deeply held beliefs, we read, we ate, we slept under the stars, we played the hurdy-gurdy and flute and just generally grew.
We decided to sell our property at Zen Forest because a 30-year mortgage wasn’t for us. We had met people and learned other–more preferred– ways of doing things, which brings us to where we are now.
4. you make the most incredible soap and I have a pair of your earrings made from an antler you found! what are you crafting nowadays and what are some of the ideas that guide your work?
Thank you – I remember you got the sage-patchouli soap! (I’ll make you some more soon!) What I choose to do with my time is rather whimsical; I never know when inspiration will come along but I try to remain an open receptacle. I still make batches of soap simply because I know the ingredients in it and I enjoy experimenting with different essential oil fragrances. I have stopped making wood & bone accessories because I no longer have such an infinite supply of those materials.
I focus a lot of energy nowadays studying nutrition & wellness–particularly nutrigenomics–and this steers my way fairly dominantly. Fermentation is a new realm I’ve been exploring and I love to make beet kvass & sauerkraut and examine those microbial interactions.
I’ve been experimenting with reishi just lately & learning about anti-inflammatory properties of different plants to–hopefully–help my mom with her rheumatoid arthritis. I enjoy preparing meals of the finest ingredients and wild concoctions.
There is truthfully no telling what I might be up to next week, though. Learning how to do things is vital for my well-being, and the more I am able to do and make, the more confident I feel on this human journey.
I am so in love with this land! Oregon has forests, it has mountains, hot springs, and the most breathtaking coast…
We moved here because my partner was offered a job opportunity he couldn’t pass up. It just so happened to work out that we were ultimately interested in purchasing land in the Pacific Northwest anyway, so that was a bonus to relocate to this area. Our goal now–instead of paying a mortgage–is to save enough to buy land outright and then to build our own home & permaculture oasis. So for now, we just spend a lot of time exploring and feeling out the land.
As far as what has been inspiring me here lately, it’s a lot of things; I’ve never felt such inspiration as I do right now. The ocean has been calling me into it and that could manifest into a surfing habit eventually, we’ll see. The temperate rainforests are something else, I’ve never seen anything like it; they are deep pools of inspiration, especially the individual plant life therein.
Food – I have access here to a whole array of fresh ingredients and I take great pleasure in creating nourishing meals to fuel my vessel. Soon, I hope to get familiar enough with the wild foods here to bring all of that goodness into my diet as well.
Music and movement are constant inspirations– I find I always play Dead Can Dance when I’m driving through the mossy darkness that is the forests of northwestern Oregon while dance and yoga have been crucial means of expression for me in the privacy of my home most recently. (I definitely resonate with Ido Portal’s philosophy of movement and play).
The wonder of it all just continues to be an inspiration for every day, and knowing that this is my chance to experience an aware existence in the universe, these are the things that stoke the fire.