Getting clear: the evolution of a teacher

05 Jun 2020 | 04:28

Kelly Collins was a special education teacher with a true love for teaching, but also a continuous fatigue she just couldn’t shake. Conversations with nutritionists sparked the realization that her food choices might be to blame. Through her research, she learned about the chemicals that we unknowingly consume daily, and started to recognize the disconnect between herself and what she ate. When she looked to local farmers for transparent growing practices, she was met with apprehension. That’s when Collins understood that if she wanted clean food, she’d have to grow it herself.

Collins founded Hopeful Roots in 2018, a permaculture consulting business that empowers others in their relationship with the earth, using food and community as a catalyst to lead healthier, happier lives. She designs and installs regenerative gardens and leads workshops on gardening, bees and kombucha. Her evolution in full swing, she’s now living part-time living in Hawaii, but still offering remote services when she’s not at home in Florida, NY.

Dog days
I have a dog, her name is Sophie. So when I have the day off, we’re usually up by 6:30 and getting ready to go on a hike. I live right by Glenmere [Mansion] so that’s where we usually go, but we also have been to the ice caves [in Ellenville NY], which were gorgeous. The bird sanctuary is another really nice spot. I’m usually hiking with friends, so they’ll always take me to new places.

Cup o’ mindfulness
I don’t have a very big breakfast. I’ll either have a smoothie in the morning or I’ll have an almond butter and jam sandwich, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich essentially. And I usually try, if it’s not homemade, to get the jam from Ochs Orchard.

I definitely have a guilty pleasure of going out to my garden in the mornings and getting fresh herbs for my tea. It’s always different depending on the day and how I’m feeling. When my friends come over for our meditation, they will always expect to see me with my tea.

On Sundays, I have a Sangha, or a meditation community, called Radiant Piece of the Heart Sangha. It is a Vietnamese Buddhist tradition under the Thich Nhat Hanh foundation. Really, it’s just a group of people who are getting together and we meditate for about 40 minutes and then usually touch base about what’s going on for us and offer deep listening and support.

Supporting small
I’m not a big shopper, but I do like to go to Random Acts of Consignment. I consign clothes there and I’ll buy some stuff, too.I really enjoy eating out at different places in the community. The Grange is one of my favorite places to go, Allan’s Falafel is another.

All work is play
I kind of designed a business where I do so many of the things that I love. So in my time off, you might catch me gardening, but at home. You’ll catch me cooking a lot. I’m a teacher because I love learning, so you’re going to catch me reading a book or taking a workshop. A lot of the things I offer, I also do myself and enjoy doing.

Hit the mat
I go to yoga at the Lotus Loft Yoga Studio. I have a really nice relationship with the owner, Janese, so we’ve gotten some really great collaborations for workshops where we’ve done permaculture and yoga together, like winter solstice activities and different things. We have that relationship because I love to go there.

Curry together
Mostly on a day off, I’m spending time with people. So, if I’m having dinner, I’m cooking for people or doing a potluck. That tends to be the usual, sharing meals with folks. Recently, I’ve been making a lot of curry. I’m a vegetarian, so I’m usually making a veggie curry with rice noodles and such. But definitely some kind of vegetable medley.

Kitchen/garden
I like to challenge myself. So I will look at what I have in the fridge, what’s in the garden that I can pick and then try to create something from that. I get a lot of joy from playing with those creations.Art, together and aloneI’ve been a featured Milkweed poet in a couple of their anthologies, so I was doing that pretty regularly before Covid. They would have Wednesday poetry gatherings. It’s a really awesome, beautiful space to create ‘word landscapes.’I paint, I do watercolors and acrylics. I definitely do mostly nature-related, landscape paintings.

No time for TV
I’d like to develop more solid before-bed rituals, but I’ll typically spend my nights reading. Occasionally I’ll be watching TV, but I really don’t have a lot of time. I used to watch a lot more TV than I do now. But I think that’s partly because I’m constantly wanting to learn things, so it just doesn’t feel like there’s enough space in the day.I usually head to bed around 9:30. It’s hard to be a night owl when I have to wake up at 6:30.

If you got a re-do, what would you change?
Well since I’ve already changed my path, I’m definitely living my dream now. One of the big things for me, what I’d like to see shift, is the spiritual connection with the earth. That’s one of the things that are calling me to Hawaii. There’s a Hawaiian phrase that translates to ‘if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.’ I think there are a lot of powerful messages and things that I’ve gotten to experience with beekeeping and growing food that really show that we aren’t separate from the plants and the beings in this ecology. I would hope to be able to bring more of that connection in New York. I know it’s very easily accessible for me in Hawaii, which is part of my draw to being there, but I’d love to see people be more open to the fact that there are beautiful things that really open up for you when you’re in a relationship with the outside world and nature.