Notes From Up North: 'Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired'

By Marilynn Preston

August 1, 2017 5 min read

I've been perched on a remote lake in the Northwoods of Wisconsin these past few weeks, consorting with two adorable loons named Lorna and Claire D, three flighty eagles named Nelson and a few too many biting flies.

Forget the flies. It's been bliss, a state of mind that surfaces easily in summer when you're out in a kayak, or a canoe, or standing on a paddleboard, gliding, riding, just following the sound of your breath, the rhythm of your stroke, nowhere to go, nothing to do.

But I'm not just playing up here. I'm working, too. I'm reflecting on two issues related to personal well-being — yours and mine — and the first one has to do with the sport of kayaking, an upwardly trending sport good for all shapes, ages and levels of fitness.

FUN ON THE WATER. I love time in my kayak. It's nourishing to the body and calming to the mind. Sensuous, too. You can rent kayaks or buy them (for a little or a lot). You can paddle small lakes or rapidly running rivers, and the more skill you develop, the more challenging you can make it.

One body awareness note, just to help you go with the flow: The most efficient way to paddle a kayak is a bit counterintuitive. You may think you're supposed to place the paddle blade in the water, in front of your body, and pull it back toward your waist to move the kayak forward. That works, but there's a better, more efficient way to use your strength.

You're stronger and last longer when you're pushing, not pulling. A smart paddler pushes the higher end of the paddle forward while guiding the lower end back through the water. You're using your entire core, not just your arms and shoulders. Smile, and breathe.

Getting back to Lorna and Claire D (I can't help it): Loons are long-lived creatures, and barring complications, they mate for life. Once you get the right paddling motion, you've made a friend for life. Which is how I feel about these two as I paddle slowly in their wakes, hoping to hear their eerie, soul-stirring call, which touches a mysterious and familiar place. (Full disclosure: My ring tone is a loon call.)

PERSONAL WELL-BEING ABOVE POLITICS. I've been spending time in the Northwoods for more than 30 years, and in the last few I've seen a tremendous surge of interest in eating real food — fresh local fruits and vegetables, artisanal cheeses, free-range chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef.

There are more fitness centers, bigger farmers markets, much more awareness of how badly you can feel (tired, achy, bad tummy) if you eat a lot of fake, processed foods.

It's happening everywhere — I know that — but when I see it happening here in the mostly red, remote Northwoods, I want to cheer, and that's what I did when I visited my local health-food store and saw that it has tripled in size. Out with the old video store; in with a new addition filled with healing herbs, non-toxic cosmetics and cleaning supplies and organic wines.

"Business is booming," said the young woman waiting on me. People are catching on, she told me, putting a large bag of sea-salt kettle chips into my sack, right next to the non-GMO turmeric hummus.

And it's not just the tourists. Lots of locals who dine on brats and brewskies now come in looking for kraut, kefir and quinoa. Some know exactly which herbs they want, because everyone's on the internet, she said, doing their research, trying to figure out what works for their bodies, their symptoms, and what doesn't. (So am I.)

This is what progress looks like, I told myself, as I drove around noticing how many massage therapists have moved to town, along with fitness centers, reflexologists (for feet and face), yoga and meditation studios and a Pilates center. Slowly, slowly...

It's not a matter of Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives. It's a matter of personal well-being.

"Things are definitely changing up here," said my friend John Bates, the esteemed naturalist, writer and poet, who's lived up here long enough to know. "People are sick and tired of being sick and tired."


"Going green doesn't start with doing green acts — it starts with a shift in consciousness." — Ian Somerhalder

Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new book "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being" is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit

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