Image Credit: Elena Uryadova
Writer, creative director, branding consultant. All are infinitely interesting career paths, but when we were first introduced to Laura Chávez Silverman we couldn’t help but be intrigued by her latest life turn — Founding Naturalist of The Outside Institute.
Founded in the Upper Delaware Valley in 2017 by Laura herself, The Outside Institute is a year-round program offering guided nature walks, forest immersions, foraging, wildcrafting workshops and botanical mixology. The Institute’s mission is to nurture humanity’s original affinity for the wild and inspire a sense of reciprocity amongst all beings.
Just in time for Earth Day today, we're excited to announce Laura as our latest Muri Muse. In this timely conversation, Laura shares her tips on cultivating joyful connections with the planet, healing with plants and why it's impossible to pick just one favorite flower.
Muri Lelu: For those not familiar with The Outside Institute, how would you explain your mission?
Laura Chavez Silverman: The Outside Institute fosters a greater connection to the Earth. By nurturing humanity’s powers of observation and innate affinity for the wild, we hope to inspire joyful awareness and an essential reciprocity between all beings, regardless of species or race.
ML: You describe yourself as a Founding Naturalist. What is the technical definition of this, and what does your daily embodiment of it look like?
LCS: As I see it, a naturalist is someone deeply enthralled by—and actively engaged in the study of—the organisms and environments that surround them. Every day, I venture into the landscape to observe and learn about whatever natural phenomena I encounter.
Image Credit: Kimisa H.
ML: We've been taught that to build intimacy with the natural world, we need to be fully immersed in it. How does your work challenge that notion?
LCS: I stay away from the phrase “natural world,” because I think it sets up a false dichotomy between the world of humans and the world of plants and animals. There is only one world and we all share it—including wild creatures, which are everywhere, including the concrete jungles.
ML: We firmly believe in the power of plants — including the "taboo" ones — to bring us back into harmony and healing with ourselves. What are a few things that plants have helped you heal in body, mind or spirit?
LCS: I have long looked to plants as my exclusive source of healing—as food, as medicine and as gurus that have revealed to me the beauty and fullness of life.
Image Credit: Noah Kalina
ML: What does your daily skincare routine look like? Does that change on days that you spend more time outdoors?
LCS: The products I use on my skin are all plant-based and minimally processed. I am very attuned to fragrance and love essential oils and natural plant aromas like the flower-forward scent of Muri Lelu. Since I am outdoors all the time, I often wear St John’s wort oil for sun protection and essential oils such as rose geranium and cedar to repel ticks.
ML: The definition of self-care continues to expand and shift, sometimes drifting far from what it is at its core: a well-rounded practice of replenishing the self. When you strip it all back, what do you consider essential acts of self-care?
LCS: Every act has the potential to replenish the self. Drawing boundaries, finding work that is fulfilling and letting go of negativity are as essential to me as meditating, drinking enough water and exercising regularly.
Image Credit: Stephan Schacher
ML: Favorite flower?
LCS: Who could choose just one? Favorite spring flowers are bloodroot, trillium, dogwood and black locust.
ML: Most subversive thing you've done lately?
LCS: Relinquished my fear of turning 60.
ML: When do you feel most beautiful in your own skin?
LCS: When I am in the forest.