Jessica Mills is such a creative, caring and socio-political powerhouse, it’s hard to imagine she has time for the great outdoors. But maybe her nature hikes are actually the energy source for everything else?
Originally from Florida, Jessica Mills has been living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, since 2007. Publicly, Jessica is probably best known as a book author and magazine columnist and as a musician, who mainly plays saxophone and bass guitar.
Jessica has been writing and self-publishing her zine Yard Wide Yarns since 1993. From 2000 until 2010, she was a columnist at the iconic punk magazine Maximum Rock’n’Roll. Sparked by the birth of her first child, she began writing a series about alternative parenting for Maximum Rock’n’Roll. The column’s success led to Jessica Mills writing her first book: “My Mother Wears Combat Boots (A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us)” – published by ak press in 2007.
Since 1993, Jessica Mills has been a member of, toured with and/or recorded with Less Than Jake (sax), Reina Aveja (bass), Citizen Fish (sax), Against Me! (sax), and Otunetir (bass).
Currently, she’s involved in three Albuquerque bands: playing saxophone in the experimental jazz duo Glaive; singing, and playing drums and saxophone in the no wave party punk 3-piece grp.txt and a brand-new yet-to-be-named 3-piece that evokes Morphine and Lounge Lizards. We can’t wait to hear it!
These days, Jessica Mills teaches College Writing in Albuquerque, where she lives with her partner Ernesto and their younger kid. Their first child, which inspired Jessica’s column and parenting book, just started college right outside one of Colorado’s National Parks! Apparently, Jessica did more than just “something right” in raising that kid while wearing combat boots…
For decades, Jessica Mills has been a big inspiration to us with her creative endeavors, her activism and enthusiasm, her intellect and curiosity, her caring and kindness, and her sense for adventure. It was a thrill to realize during our Colorado years (and her New Mexico years) that she’s also an inspiration when it comes to outdoor exploration. We are so super excited she answered our questions and allowed us to share some photos to inspire us and you to get outside and to do more of what makes you happier!
What do you do?
I live every day to its fullest, including parenting two growing-up-too-fast children, teaching College Writing at Central New Mexico Community College, playing music, writing, gardening, hiking, and when the opportunity arises, traveling.
Why do you do what you do?
I do my best to live each day to its fullest because life is short, and it’s how I stay happy. I’ve never been bored in my life; I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, kept to-do lists that are longer than the days are long. I’m not happy if I’m idle.
General Happier Place category?
My overall category isn’t place specific; rather, it’s hiking. I love to hike anywhere and everywhere – deserts, mountains, coasts, canyons, you name it. It’s slow enough so that I can absorb the place and engage all my senses while moving deliberately through whichever landscape I’m in. And it’s active enough to get my heart pumping without worrying about hurting myself like I used to do a whole lot of when I was in my 20s skating backyard pools, ramps, and skate parks in Florida and up and down the East Coast.
Specific Happier Place locations?
My favorite places to hike are the Olympic Peninsula, the Appalachian Trail, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument; and next December, I’ll be doing a week-long “canoe hike” through the Everglades National Park.
The Olympic Peninsula’s temperate rain forests that hug the Pacific Coast hold some of my top memories – there for a week, I was newly pregnant with my first child when my partner and I were on a two-month long hiking and freight-train hopping adventure.
The Appalachian Trail was another week-long leg of that two-month adventure; my parents joined us somewhere in Virginia.
Hiking through Kasha-Katuwe, 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico, near Cochiti Pueblo, makes me happy because it feels like another planet; it’s a high altitude slot canyon surrounded by tent rocks composed of soft pumice and tuff that’s hikable year-round. It’s especially fun just after it’s snowed.
Lastly, I spent part of my childhood living on the fringes of the Everglades with alligators and snakes in my backyard. Since living away from Florida, I’ve wanted to canoe through that inhospitable tangle of mangroves because there, I can feel Florida in my body down to the cellular level; it’s home.
What do you always bring out into nature with you?
Water, camera, protein/carb/fat-filled snacks, hat, sunscreen, a few Band-Aids, a bandana, pen and paper. And for some reason, I carry a small Birds of North America book that I still think I might use someday even though I never have. I get too wrapped up in the moment to be bothered to stop and take out a book to consult.
A dream destination (in space or time)?
Alaska! It’s the last of the 50 states for me to visit. I’ve been envious for 20 years now that my partner hitchhiked and hiked through Alaska all the way to the Arctic Circle.
Words of inspiration?
Find Jessica Mills online:
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Let’s inspire each other!
Have you been to any of the places Jessica mentioned or featured in her photos? Where are some of your Happier Places?
Did your parents take you on outdoor excursions? Are you encouraging your own children to explore the outdoors?
How about Jessica’s writing or music – are you familiar with it? If not, we highly encourage you to check out something that would be new to you.
Please leave a comment below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share…
All photos courtesy of Jessica Mills.