A Little Green

S2 E3: Sonya and Necota Staples: The Campers

Episode Summary

S2 E3: “Nature saved my spirit, saved my marriage and created a safe place for me to...find purpose and meaning in what life really is about.” Sonya and Necota Staples fell in love in college, got married, and bought a house in the suburbs of Atlanta. But happily ever after wouldn’t be that simple. They tell a story about the camping trip that changed the trajectory of their marriage, and their relationship with nature, forever. Follow @staplesintents on Instagram or visit staplesintents.com to follow their work. We’d love to hear about your life-changing experience with nature. Share it with us @avocadogreenbrands on Instagram.

Episode Notes

S2 E3: “Nature saved my spirit, saved my marriage and created a safe place for me to...find purpose and meaning in what life really is about.” 

Sonya and Necota Staples fell in love in college, got married, and bought a house in the suburbs of Atlanta. But happily ever after wouldn’t be that simple. They tell a story about the camping trip that changed the trajectory of their marriage, and their relationship with nature, forever.

Follow @staplesintents on Instagram or visit staplesintents.com to follow their work. 

We’d love to hear about your life-changing experience with nature. Share it with us @avocadogreenbrands on Instagram.

Episode Transcription

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[00:00:32] Christina Thompson: Personally, I am a sucker for a good, old fashioned love story. So, of course, when we were making this, I was really hoping we were going to come across a good one. You know, like, finding love on the trail or something. And I think it's safe to say that we definitely did. However, I'd say this one is a lot more unexpected than your average romcom and a lot more real; and I think it truly embodies the real meaning of love and partnership.

In this episode, you'll meet Sonya and Necota, two wandering, self-proclaimed environmental evangelists, whose relationship hung in the balance until nature stepped in. I'm Christina Thompson, and this is A Little Green podcast.

[00:01:22] Sonya Staples: I think we would probably tell the same version of this story. This is why you have to get both perspectives, right?

Hi, I'm Sonya Staples. 

[00:01:34] Necota Staples: And I'm Necota Staples. 

[00:01:36] Sonya Staples: I'm originally from Durham, North Carolina. Grew up there my entire life, and then went to college at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro. Growing up, I ran track, so pretty much every summer, all day, every day, I was outside. I lived on a dirt road. My granddaddy had a garden in the backyard.

We had to go outside and help with the garden. My relationship with the outdoors was more because I was an athlete or because there was work to do. 

[00:02:07] Necota Staples: I grew up in Horsepasture, Virginia. We're a small, very rural community. I was a free range kid. And everything that we did was tied to being outdoors. I was a nature boy.

I love running through creeks. I love climbing trees. Any kind of exploration was very big for me.

[00:02:35] Sonya Staples: We both met in college at North Carolina agriculture and Technical State University. We're both physics majors. I was a freshman, Necota was not.

[00:02:44] Necota Staples: You know, I was 25 when I started college. I went off to the Air Force first and had, you know, lived a completely full life in that I had a ex-wife, I had two daughters.

You know, I, I came into A&T very focused. When I met Sonya, she was, you know, for me, just a very cute freshman and-- 

[00:03:06] Sonya Staples: He didn't want anything to do with me, and I thought he was just a little too mature with too much history. 

[00:03:12] Necota Staples: Yeah. 

Eventually we got to the point where we were just really good friends, and I think we went to a movie together.

What did we go to see? 

[00:03:21] Sonya Staples: We went to see Beloved

[00:03:23] Necota Staples: We went to see Beloved

[00:03:24] Sonya Staples: We, like, have kind of been connected at the hips since that moment

We were in school. We were, we were young, we were trying to live our best lives. Necota was super romantic. He would always do, like, really nice things for me. He would always find ways to create these little spaces. We would go to the park and study. We would take little trips up to the mountains. It's always been a little bit of adventure.

It was always something fun. 

[00:04:02] Necota Staples: I knew that this was somebody I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

[00:04:13] Sonya Staples: We've always been adventurous at heart, but I think the world and society was like, "No, that's not us." When we first got married, I wanted like a suburban two story house with a yard. That's the life that I thought I wanted. 

[00:04:33] Necota Staples: At that point. We were starting to save a lot of money because we were planning to get married, and we were also looking to buy our first home. And so, when we first selected a house, it was northeast of the city of Atlanta.

Shortly after we got there, though I think the relationship shifted

At the time, the issues that we had with how we communicated to each other, as well as how we were both brought up, were working against us. Neither of us really understood it. 

[00:05:07] Sonya Staples: Necota and I, we've always had communication issues in our relationship, and how we handle things wasn't always the best, but it came to a head at one point.

[00:05:21] Necota Staples: I think Sonya checked out of the relationship and went and had her own life

[00:05:29] Sonya Staples: Necota actually found out about an affair that I was having. I think everything kind of came to a head at that point.

[00:05:46] Necota Staples: I wanted a divorce immediately, and I just wanted to be out of the relationship. There was just way too much pain. There was too much loss in communication, and I knew that we needed professional help. I don't know that I had a positive outcome in that, at that point and stage in the relationship, I really was trying to do some soul searching.

There were echoes of the issues that I'd had in many relationships whether it was my siblings, my parents, my ex-wife, that all had these kind of remnants of what it was like to live with Necota.

[00:06:31] Sonya Staples: I don't think I ever envisioned my life without Necota. So despite everything that went on in our relationship, I always wanted it to be him and I. So when we went to counseling, it was like, okay, this is the only option. I don't have another choice, so let's figure out what we can do and how we can make it work.

[00:06:49] Necota Staples: You know, it felt like I'd been broken into a million pieces, and I was just trying to pick up what parts of me I could find.

We have been doing intense therapy probably the first two years. By late 2015, I was like, "I'm done. I'm pretty much over the relationship." I didn't feel like I had gotten to a place where I felt healed from Sonya's affair. I felt like I was still spiraling emotionally. I just could not get past that hurt.

Our counselor, our therapist, she recognized that the emotions were still very raw, still very intense. 

[00:07:51] Sonya Staples: She was hearing the exact same things coming from us, and she was like, "How about this?" 

[00:07:56] Necota Staples: "I want y'all to try something radical. I just want you to say 'yes' to each other and just see what happens. 

[00:08:04] Sonya Staples: "You guys just say yes to each. Just start there. Just say 'yes' to each other." In her giving us the activity to say 'yes' to each other, the whole idea of this camping trip came up. 

[00:08:19] Necota Staples: She's like, "I want to try a camping trip." And I'm like, "Camp, what? What, what, what is camping? I'm not really interested in exploring that at all. Honestly, I'm pretty much done exploring you." But that whole 'yes' conversation really gave me a moment of pause, and I was like, "I'll try it."

[00:08:48] Sonya Staples: It started off really rocky. We're not campers, we're city people. We get out there and Necota's having this horrible, horrible time. 

[00:09:00] Necota Staples: It had started raining. It was dark. It was March, so it was very windy. And I'm like, "What are we doing here?" I'm, I'm really unhappy. So, you know, the next morning, I'm still in my feelings about it, and Sonya's like, you know, she pulls me to the side, and I'm giving her nothing but attitude, I remember it very well. She was like, "Look Necota, you can't do anything about the weather. You can't do anything about the fact that we had to pitch the tent in the dark. Can't do anything about the rain, and you certainly can't do anything about how a relationship got to this point, but you can choose to be happy. You can choose to live in this moment." And I'm like, "All right, I'm going to go walk and have a moment to myself." I remember the wind was picking up, the rain had just stopped, and it was overcast, and I'm walking through the woods, really just trying to process all of the nos, why I even said 'yes,' and who was I in this moment?

You know, as I'm doing it, the wind is blowing in. I'm like, "I am being a bigger part of this problem and I'm not taking in nature that is around me." And it was like, it was quiet. It was this kind of serene stillness that came, and it was like, you know, you can choose to be happy.

I don't know if the wind changed directions or not, but I changed directions.

That was the moment I was like, I'm going to lean into this and just be me. Have fun. Enjoy it for what it is. If it's the last moment, so be it. It won't, it won't be for a lack of effort of having a good time.

[00:10:55] Sonya Staples: We had an amazing time, and I think that weekend we were really able to enjoy each other. 

[00:11:00] Necota Staples: We had an amazing, amazing time. 

[00:11:04] Sonya Staples: We always enjoy each other's company, but, in terms of really enjoying the other person and, like, the energy that they're putting out, we hadn't had that in a long time before that camping experience, and it was something that we wanted to do again.

From that moment, we would camp out, like, every four to six weeks just to escape the city. 

[00:11:29] Necota Staples: Once we started camping, there was a pretty fast shift in what brought happiness. 

[00:11:38] Sonya Staples: It's kind of a way to reset. And in those moments, I think we quickly found that being outdoors, it allowed us the space and the freedom that we needed to work through some issues.

Everything snowballed really quickly. Things just started shifting. We noticed that we weren't doing the city stuff with our friends. We were spending more time out in nature. 

[00:12:01] Necota Staples: We were meeting people who were telling of these really wonderful locations that are beautiful, majestic, amazing, peaceful, all of the things that we know that nature offers flatly.

As we were looking to go to explore more of those locations. The other part of it was we were learning more about how we were communicating with each other and what was essential in setting up camp or going through the business of a day at camp. And it was causing us to be more connected to nature, and it started being a connecting point for us as a couple.

[00:12:53] Sonya Staples: We were spending more time out in nature. Then we discovered Instagram, and that became a whole thing. We were starting to create more and more content through our social media outlet, Staples Intents. And the more we put ourselves out there as Staples Intents, we saw from the community that there was a urge to really create a safe space where BIPOC or other marginalized communities could come and explore the outdoors.

[00:13:22] Necota Staples: When we first started Staples Intents, it was with the purpose of showing positive images and videos of Black people doing nature, recreating responsibly by thriving in it.

We wanted camping to be more of what the experience was for us, which was a place where you can be in the womb of nature to feel safe, to heal, to experience serenity, and to be in a place of being able to thrive in it. It doesn't matter whether it's snowing or it's super duper hot, if you have figured out how to be at one with nature, then you can commune in it and be in a thriving kind of way and not in a survival way.

[00:14:22] Sonya Staples: Our focus is really on creating new experiences for ourselves, getting out in nature, and enjoying the things that make us happy as individuals, and then creating the space that we can continue to grow together and connect with each other. We've heard so many stories about people finding peace and healing outdoors, and we want everyone to be able to experience that.

[00:14:47] Necota Staples: In a sense, I feel like we have become outdoor evangelists, and we want people to get out into nature because our goal now is for future generations. 

[00:15:01] Sonya Staples: If I've learned anything through the last few years since Necota and I decided to say 'yes' to each other, it's that there's a lot of value to stepping outside of yourself and seeing things from a different perspective.

[00:15:18] Necota Staples: I would say that nature saved my spirit, saved my marriage, and created a safe place for me to reconnect with my deeper self, and to reconnect with my wife, and find purpose and meaning in what life really is about.

[00:15:48] Christina Thompson: Sonya and Necota, aka Staples Intents, can be found adventuring throughout the world these days, and, of course, growing their community of outdoor enthusiasts. Check out their work at staplesintents.com. That's Staples I N T E N T S.com. And visit alittlegreenpodcast.com for more details about our show. And on the next episode of A Little Green: 

[00:16:14] Nichole Alexander: We would line up at the prison gate, and they would actually open up the door and let us out. The minute you step foot outside that gate, you just lose all weight on your shoulders. 

[00:16:26] Christina Thompson: Until then, head to @AvocadoGreenBrands on Instagram. We want to hear your story about how nature has changed your life. A Little Green is an Avocado Green Brands podcast. This podcast was written and produced by Anna McClain and myself, Christina Thompson, with the help of Allison Casey of Gramercy Post. Our beautiful music is composed and performed by Aaron Levison.