Monadnock Profiles: Living a life that embraces every little moment

  • Peri Chickering at her Hancock home. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peri Chickering at her Hancock home. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peri Chickering at her Hancock home. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/8/2021 12:03:15 PM

Peri Chickering spends the last Sunday of every month the exact same way – in complete silence.

The Hancock woman has done so for the last 12 years after coming across “Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence” by Anne D. LeClaire during a stop at the Toadstool in Peterborough. At that point in her life, there was a part of Chickering that was unhappy and she was looking to find a way to solve that uneven feeling that at times persisted. It came through silence and solitude.

Her silent days are both spent at home, and out and about, using index cards to communicate with those around her. She’s even traveled through airports on her day of silence. There’s a certain joy and peace that comes with being immersed in thought and reflection.

But the rest of the month, Chickering is full of inspirational words; that’s how she approaches life, she said, hoping to show others the power they hold within.

When she moved to New Hampshire in 2004, Chickering wasn’t quite what she was going to do. She had transitioned from a woman who was leading others on mountain excursions around the world into more of an organizational leadership role. That’s when she was asked to become a consultant aiding organizations to create a culture of sustainable leadership.

“I became the one thing I swore I’d never become,” Chickering admitted.

Seven years ago, Chickering had hip surgery and was determined to cross off an item on her bucket list that had been thought about for some time – writing a book. But not just any book, one that focused on her area of expertise in leadership.

“When I taught leadership, I had a hard time finding a book to reference,” she said. “There just weren’t resources out there.”

It wasn’t an easy process by any means. She wrote and wrote and when she passed it along to her father Arthur to read, he pointed out the fact that she had 72 key concepts. It took five years to find the right structure, but eventually landed on a book centered around the seven directions, how they intersect and the ability to live in that space. Last month, “Leadership Flow: The Unstoppable Power of Connection” was officially released, her first “and I suspect last” book.

In “Leadership Flow,” Chickering “proposes there is a flow – an underlying rhythm – to life that fuels and evokes effective leadership that we can all access by claiming our individual gifts and reconnecting them with the wise and intelligent universe from whence they came.” She speaks of emotional intellect, mental fluidity, physical health/resilience – about the power of listening and respecting all forms of life. Chickering invites readers to discover how their natural skills fit within the wider ecosystem of life.

“Everybody is a leader. We all are meant to contribute our gifts,” she said. “Leadership done well in a formal role is an awareness that everyone is a piece of the puzzle.”

During her days as a mountaineer with Outward Bound, which began at the age of 19, leading groups of 15 to 20 others under dangerous conditions, Chickering learned some important lessons: be present, listen and act.

“Because you have no choice but to be present,” she said. It’s where her abilities as a leader blossomed. “Leadership comes from being really present, wherever you are and listening super carefully.”

She enjoyed her days in the mountains but at a certain point, she simply didn’t anymore. It was hard to build relationships when you’re halfway across the world all the time.

Chickering lives on a 55-acre property that was owned by her grandmother Thelma Babbitt, taking over the property upon Babbitt’s passing in 2004. Babbitt was instrumental in the early days of the Harris Center, serving on the board of trustees and the de facto volunteer development director. The Babbitt Room – a beautiful post-and-beam octagonal function room – was named in her honor. She placed the property into a conservation easement in the early 1980s, Chickering said, and if she had not decided to take it over, it would have been donated to the Harris Center.

Living in Colorado at the time, Chickering said “it would have never occurred to me to end up in Hancock.” She has fond memories of being on the property as a youngster. There’s a picture of her on the front lawn at the age of one and half, playing in a pen that her father made out of shutters from the house. It held a special meaning so when her father called and asked one day “are you sure you don’t want the property in New Hampshire?” Chickering said it was really a no brainer.

She and her husband Andrew Shier were ready to leave Colorado, adding that she was tired of the sun.

“I wanted four seasons. I wanted cloudy days. I wanted green,” Chickering said. “We never looked back.”

Chickering grew up on a 400-acre former farm east of Montpelier, Vermont, exploring the great outdoors. Nature figured hugely in her life. “That’s been one giant thread,” she said.

When she graduated high school, Chickering was ready for a change of scenery. She enrolled in Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio with aspirations of becoming a doctor. The thing about Antioch is that it had a work-study program that placed students at locations around the country to provide real world experiences. She spent six months at a big hospital in Seattle and remembers realizing that medicine was just not the path for her. Yet she stuck with it and graduated with a degree in biology. Then she bombed the MCATS for entrance into medical school. She took some time and studied to take it again.

“The second time I took it, I did even worse,” Chickering said.

Luckily, she knew exactly what to fall back on – her love of the outdoors.

“I hadn’t figured out you could do what you love,” she said. “But often we fall into those things that we’re supposed to.”

While at Antioch, Chickering took a trip to Mexico to climb volcanoes. She then spent six weeks climbing unchartered mountains in Alaska and she was hooked on the idea of big adventures. Before she knew it, Chickering was asked to teach rock climbing and kayaking during the summer in Colorado through Outward Bound.

After her failed attempt at medical school, Chickering packed up and moved to Colorado for a full time job with Outward Bound. She traveled a lot, leading excursions around the world to climb some of the most dangerous and less traveled mountains in places like the former Soviet Union, South Africa, India and Europe.

“My own personal preference was to go to places where there weren’t a lot of people,” Chickering said.

Chickering helped start Outward Bound schools in other countries and was instrumental in establishing an exchange program between the former Soviet Union and American students.

While living in Colorado, Chickering became aware of Emissaries Of Divine Light, a spiritual community, in Loveland. It was a place where honesty and integrity were overarching principles and people lived in service to the greater good. It was about  creating community and harmonies with the earth and diversity of people.

“It was about how do you live in the world and make a contribution,” Chickering said.  She lived there for 14 years and it’s where she met her husband.

She embraced the community culture, calling it a wonderful experience. It taught her to appreciate everything and the way Chickering describes it “for me, there’s no such thing as an insignificant moment.” But she never spent an entire year living in the community, as she was traveling for work as well as teaching art of living classes for the community to inspire others to embrace a similar way of life.

Through all those experiences, Chickering was carefully carving her path in life.

“Outward Bound is very much about finding your own story of character within,” she said. “It’s about being yourself, letting it come out and keeping it alive.”

When she moved to New Hampshire, Chickering made a promise not to work herself into the ground. She wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery around her and simply live. She now has two rescue horses who are “basically 1,000-pound dogs” and lives in the moment, appreciating whatever comes around every corner.

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