We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexis Roeckner Ferri, MNLM and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alexis, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
“The weakest step toward the top of the hill, toward sunrise, toward hope, is stronger than the fiercest storm.” ~ Joseph Marshall III, “Keep Going”
I read this quote when I needed it most, during a time when I was deeply struggling with anxiety. Having struggled on and off with both anxiety and depression since I was 13, I had always carried with me the belief that in order to conquer my demons, I had to exert a monstrous amount of energy and effort to make any kind of difference, the kind that required strength I didn’t have. This quote opened my eyes to the fact that tiny steps forward are still significant, and in fact the days I was struggling the most were the days I was actually fighting the hardest. Weak steps forward, like just deciding to get out of bed or brush my hair… those were the strongest decisions I ever made in my life. They were small decisions. And they were everything.
Everyone faces challenges. Many live with trauma. Some struggle with their mental health or with relationships or their careers or making friends… whatever it is, I think deep down, everyone is striving toward feeling whole. As monumental and important as achieving huge milestones are, the little steps forward are what really count.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The first thing I ever wanted to be in life was a writer. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to write. And I wrote like crazy as a kid. I wrote essays that turned into short stories that turned into books over the years. When I was 12, I wrote a book about five horses that my parents put into paperback via a printing company. Then when I was 17 and 18, I wrote every day in a journal for my senior project which involved me doing 100 hours of community service. That’s where my work at Tierra Madre Horse & Human Sanctuary started. I wrote about my volunteer work at that ranch all my senior year, and that book became my first published work, “A Year With Angels” (2014).
I think the easy answer to the question of how I got to where I am today is that I did what I loved to do over and over again. I wrote (and I write) not because I wanted recognition or money or fame but because I am so passionate about writing. And I’m so proud of the fact that now, my writing is interconnected to my activism for saving domestic horses from the slaughter pipeline and advocating for their welfare, as demonstrated by my new book, “Toward Sunrise.” I want people to see my name and my work and immediately recognize me as an activist working with countless others to end the evil act of horse slaughter and advocate for the solution to the deeper problems that cause it.
Being a writer is definitely not easy. There’s a great saying out there that goes when you read a book, you start at the beginning and work your way to the end, but when you write one, you start in the middle and fight your way out. That’s definitely how it is for me. Anais Nin said, “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” Translating feelings, emotions, ideas, abstract thoughts into words in a way that accurately portrays them is my heart’s work, but it is very hard.
All my life, I have used writing as a way to make sense of the world around me, to figure out who I am, who I want to be. When I’m overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings, I write. And I’ve found too that putting words to paper and then sharing them with people is a method of connection. I’ve written about some very personal things over the years–namely my struggles with anxiety and depression–and so many people have shared with me how my words made them realize they weren’t alone. There was a time in my life where I had no one. The only person I could rely on was myself. And I never want anyone else to have to go through that.
I think above all, I love to tell stories. Since the dawn of mankind we have told stories and passed them down from generation to generation. They shape our worldview, our beliefs, our actions, our future. We will all be gone someday but the stories we tell live forever. The words we leave behind live forever. When I think of my brand and what I want the world to take away, I can honestly say that I just want someone to feel inspired to keep going. To keep living. To make the world a better place. To share their own story. If anyone takes away anything from me, I want it to be this: never underestimate the power of a story – especially your own.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My idea of the best time ever is to be out in nature or on the road headed to the middle of nowhere – the more secluded the better! But I love small towns too and the people who live in them. We’d road trip to Cave Creek which is my hometown and one of my favorite places. We’d hike the Jewel of the Creek or Black Mountain then stop for coffee at Janey’s then grab the best fried chicken in the world over at the Horny Toad. And we’d probably wander around Frontier Town and the other shops along Cave Creek Road.
We’d of course spend a day at Tierra Madre Horse & Human Sanctuary, volunteering by scrubbing water tubs, mucking stalls, and turning horses out, hanging out with some of the best people in the world. Then I might take them to my old stomping grounds at Desert Ridge Marketplace where we’d get dinner at The Keg at Desert Ridge which is my favorite restaurant. And I’ll never say no to wandering in Barnes and Noble after.
Other days we’d go between hiking the Apache Trailhead off Sonoran Desert Boulevard and exploring the Superstition or McDowell Mountains and cruising around at random with the windows down and the music blasting. I might take them up to Soda Jerk at High Street for the best ice cream/milkshake they’ll ever have or to Tropical Sno on Bell for the best shaved ice they’ll ever have. We’d probably take a day trip to Sedona and visit the Airport Vortex and Red Rock Crossing and the Chapel of the Holy Cross. And I know it’s not in the Valley, but a trip to the Southwest isn’t complete in my book until you’ve gone to Monument Valley. We’d spend at least a day up there.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be who and where I am today without Tierra Madre Horse & Human Sanctuary and my best friend in the world, Jim Gath. Jim Gath founded Tierra Madre in 2005 as a forever home for horses that had been abused, neglected, injured, abandoned, surrendered, or who simply had nowhere else to go. In founding a sanctuary for horses, Jim created a safe place for people, too. I walked onto the ranch at 17, a survivor of emotional abuse and sexual assault, not wanting to be alive anymore. My perspective on everything changed when I looked around and saw these incredible horses who had been through hell, too, but who were so strong and resilient and happy and who lived in the moment. I thought that if the horses could live with hope after going through so much then I could, too.
Jim has taught me so much about life over the 12 years we’ve been friends. How we are not our pasts, rather we are who we decide to be each and every day. How life is lived in the details. That how you do anything is how you do everything. How changing your small corner of the world is—in fact—changing the whole world. He has certainly influenced me as a writer, a horse advocate, but most importantly me as a person, and I am incredibly grateful to him and Tierra Madre for everything.
Waves of Grain Photography