MODEL ANGELA HIGHSMITH: CONNECTING WITH NATURE As Self-Care

Beautiful. Intelligent. Wellness-minded. Woke. These are all things I think of when I think about NYC based model, Angela Highsmith. She is a veteran in the industry, and I have had the privilege of working with Angela on many photoshoots over the last couple of years. Many of our on-set conversations lead to talks about wellness and her time spent with her family in nature Upstate. I had the chance to connect with Angela about CONNECTING WITH NATURE AS SELF-CARE.

S:

You and your family split time between Brooklyn and Upstate NY. How essential is connecting with nature to your self-care?

AH:

I live a richly full life, meaning I’ve been in the muck of unbelievable lows and the levity of glamorous highs with all in between. Through it all, and most essentially in the last two years, nature has literally carried me through. It’s my heaven on Earth, the balm during my times in hell.

S:

What are some of your favorite ways to connect with nature when you are upstate?

AH:

I’m coming to realize that Trees are my ‘spirit animal’. Trees ground and lift me. I also love to work, so landscaping with my hands has been fun and an important way to intimately know the space I occupy. This leads to my equally favorite activity of jumping into the cold river as a quenching reward to my sweaty labor :)

S:

Why and when did your family decide to start spending time upstate?

AH:

The first time I left the city for upstate I was amazed by the lush rural countryside so close to the dense concrete jungle. My birthplace of California doesn’t have such extremes so close to each other. It also reactivated my childhood pastimes of nature exploring, which I realized I needed more of in my life. A place I could nurture and be nurtured by, and be barefoot and naked at. We calmly searched for our place for seven years and the wait was clearly worth it. It also allowed time for, what began as my personal dream, to become a lifestyle and purpose for our family.

S:

Is there anything that you have discovered about yourself while connecting with nature?

AH:

I’ve discovered that I’ve always been most at home among plants and that nature is surprisingly entertaining to me when I stop long enough to witness it.

S:

For those that don’t consider themselves ready to sleep in a tent in the woods, what is an entry-level way they can connect with nature?

AH:

Listen, I slept in my first tent at 28, so I completely understand a disconnection with nature; especially for people of color and/or from cities and families without property ownership. My journey or reconnection began as day trips to the more wild (unpopulated) sections of state parks. It’s important that you ‘explore’ rather ‘hike’ the important difference being a meandering walk stopping to notice where you are instead of the alternative workout along a well beaten and populated path. You get me? Then you’re immersed in nature and not tromping through it. Look in your area for Conservation parks too, these are lesser known public access lands maintained by private entities, which often makes them more ‘wild’ and definitely less populated. From there, I recommend glamping or staying in a cabin- once again making sure you actually spend time in nature and not just looking at it while you drink, eat and be merry (nothing wrong with that, but it won’t really connect you to nature!)

S:

Beyond connecting with nature, what are some of your other self-care practices?

AH:

I sleep a lot. I average 9 hours and when I only had one child, I averaged 10. This is so important to me and my sanity, plus I’m getting to the age where I can tell it’s paying off with my looks too! I also don’t overwash my hair and body. Less soap and more rubbing, vigorous rinsing and exfoliating. I make 90% of the skincare I use and have done so for almost 20 years, because my skin is super sensitive and I value food grade ingredients on my skin. I also sell my skincare. My company is called Angie’s Skincare.
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It’s important because we do the most and receive the least. It’s really that simple. As women, we have the instinct to give and nurture so I seduce this instinct by saying ‘you will have more to give the more you care for yourself.
’’

S:

How would you describe the art of slow living?

AH:

For me it begins with self awareness, which never ends. From being self aware I’ve learned that I’m a cyclical person; from there I work with my cycles and do things that come easily during those cycles allowing them to drop away after the cycle is finished. Over time this has come to align with the seasons, so where it looks like now: In the early spring I work on making things, growing plants, rediscovering my creativity and motivations and acting upon them; by summer many of these routines have died and I let them in exchange for the spontaneity of summer. I allow myself to be lazy and the family is okay with that because I’ve been a machine from February through June. In late summer I begin to microdose minerals, vitamins, herbs and mushrooms into our food and drinks. With the fall and winter comes routine, cooking, meal planning, immunity-boosting food/drink/practices, dreaming of things I want to make and build in the spring, bookkeeping, decluttering, etc. That’s a long winded way to say that slow living has meant - as I move with the seasons, projects don’t seem to be finished in the societal timeline, yet over the years, as they’re dropped and resumed over time. So many more are actually completed in ways that are more sustainable, efficient and loved because time chisels off the excess.

S:

What are some things/rituals you have put in place to practice slower living?

AH:

I’ve mentioned the self awareness and observation that led to aligning my personal, family and nature seasons. I think I’m still learning ritual, as a person who’s more cyclical than habitual (I don’t do the same things daily, rather have patterns over time), ritual seems to be a bit challenging for me. I think ritual will develop into occasions rather than daily or weekly rituals. Recognizing this in myself not only helps, but validates my slow lifestyle. Experience has shown me that what ritual is for me will develop over time.

S:

Do you find that these practices help you when you return to city life and work as a model?

AH:

My self awareness helps, for sure. My time, body and space are not really my own when I work as a model. So I give myself and my control over to the crew for that job. As long as I know what to expect, I can handle pretty much anything that comes up with works- whether I work a 14 hour day, wear cashmere and fur during August in NYC, swimwear in the chilly fall or whatever. I’m able to take whatever is thrown my way or ‘done to me’ because my home life is so slow and nurtured. During busy times when I’m not home a lot- silence and lack of activity, music and nature nourish what was depleted from work. This looks like a long walk towards/through the most natural environment I can get to after work, having dinner at a delicious restaurant alone, sitting in the hotel room for hours doing ‘nothing’ (not even meditating), going to a jazz club or sketching. As long as I slow down & don’t talk much, I can regenerate from a lot of exhaustion. When needed, I am very handy with herbal medicine as extra support.

S:

For women of color, why do you feel self-care is important, especially during the current state of the world?

AH:

It’s important because we do the most and receive the least. It’s really that simple. As women, we have the instinct to give and nurture so I seduce this instinct by saying ‘you will have more to give the more you care for yourself. So put yourself on the top of the list and the list can expand.’ (If you want it to!) All this magnifies as women of color because we’re asked to do more for less.

S:

How important is sisterhood for your self-care?

AH:

It’s essential because of our instinct to nurture. Our Sisters nurture us, either directly or by inspiration, where we fail to nurture ourselves.

S:

Either in your home, or elsewhere, where is sanctuaire (sanctuary) for relaxation and peace?

AH:

Wherever a screen is turned off! Haha, I’m still working on that, but I really find sanctuary depending on my current emotional need; an unoccupied room, our garden, a book or journal, in my husband's embrace or at my child’s side. And yes, I do need a permanent space.

S:

What are you most grateful for?

AH:

Life. It’s an amazing time to be alive. Second to that is my family; blood and chosen. Third is this wonderful planet we call home.

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