The Tools to Grow

This article originally appeared in the spring 2021 issue of STILLPOINT, the magazine of Gordon College.

Monika Pfistner ’13
Owner, Treeline |

As Monika Pfistner ’13 closes her eyes and takes in the warm sunlight, she is filled with invigorating inspiration. Out in the sanctuary of her Portland, Maine, front yard, creativity pours onto paper. Pfistner begins sketching—a modern floral arrangement, a minimalist pair of earrings, a unique cheese knife—all infused with the natural aesthetic of her surroundings.

The owner of Treeline, a wood and floral design business, feels beckoned outdoors to find originality. “To be able to step back is really where my creativity can grow and thrive,” she says. Each piece wears its own natural trademarks—“a flower has been growing in one direction and twists one way or knots in the wood dictate what shapes are going to come out of it.”

Beyond a bandsaw and drill press, one of Pfistner’s most important tools is running, a practice she picked up as a La Vida participant and sherpa. On those infamous 10 miles, students reflect on their trip and consider lessons to bring home. Even a decade after her first La Vida expedition, Pfistner follows the same mental route when she winds along trails on a run, she says, “to pause, to be unplugged, to reflect, to debrief a big experience and to move forward into new things.”

Two summers ago, that “new thing” involved a big adventure and an extended escape from the daily grind. Pfistner and her husband, Daniel ’13, put their backpacking skills to use for a journey about 2,190 miles longer than the La Vida run—the Appalachian Trail. The 100-day trek was a leap of faith for the couple, who traded in comfort for a challenge that brought clarity and a healthy reminder to slow down.

“It’s so important to step back from our increasingly digital age and fast-paced environments,” says Pfistner, “to be in creation, being present, celebrating God’s presence and stepping outside of our comfort zones in order to get there. At La Vida’s core, those are the tools to grow in your personal and spiritual life.”