by Ashley Lodato
One look at the radiant mud-spattered face of Bronwen Jewelry's newest Global Ambassador Chelsey Magness and you can see echoes of the little girl she once was, making dirt pies and building tree forts in the Alaska wilderness. But that's who she remains at heart, despite the intervening years, the recent motherhood, and the seminal events that have shaped her adult life. As an athlete and adventurer who has built her life and career around racing and hard-core sports, Chelsey has always been a gal whose heart beats faster and whose mind is sharper when she's pushing her limits, and that began with her early years in Anchorage.
"I think for many kids in Alaska," says Chelsey, "being outside was kind of the main activity, if not the only one. From when school got out until dinner we weren't allowed indoors; we were always told 'go outside.'" So play outside they did, Chelsey and all the other kids she knew. In the winter they dug tunnels and snow caves; in the summer they built tree houses and forts. And every weekend Chelsey went camping with her family, exploring Alaska's vast wild places.
"That was a real foundation for me," Chelsey says, "that time of exploring and running around and adventuring in the mountains." So when Chelsey got her driver's license, instead of motoring around to parties like many other high schoolers were doing, she loaded up her car with friends and went hiking and camping whenever she could.
Chelsey dabbled in organized sports--Nordic skiing, cross country running, soccer--but says she did it more to be social than out of a real love of mainstream athletic competition. "When I had free time," she says, "I spent it out in the woods."
Chelsey's competitive side didn't really emerge until college, when she found herself lured to mountain bike racing by the promise of free food. "I was underage," she says, "but at the end of these mountain bike competitions all the racers got free beer and pizza. No one ever questioned my age." Chelsey was surprised to learn that she was actually a pretty decent mountain bike racer. Better than decent, even; she started appearing as a regular on the podium on the amateur racing circuit, and after just one year went professional.
When Chelsey met her husband, Jason (now her business/athletic partner as well as parenting and life partner), in Tucson a few years later, she was delighted to learn more about his passion: adventure racing. "Adventure races combined all of the components that I love to do," Chelsey says. "Mountain biking, whitewater, running, just being out there in the woods or backcountry." Jason and Chelsey entered an adventure race together on their 4th date and Chelsey found herself feeling anxious and excited at the start line. "I didn't know that feeling," she says. It was the feeling of wanting to win.
Chelsey and Jason ended up winning that adventure race, and many that followed it. Both are members of Bend Racing, a team that is currently ranked 13th in the world. In addition to shorter races, in the coming year they will be competing in the Telluride 100 mile mountain bike race in June and the elite Patagonia Expedition Race in November ("My soul race," says Chelsey, "I really peel back the onion layers on that one."). There is hardly a sport these two don't practice, and they balance (pun intended) all the fast-twitch athletic endeavors with acro-yoga, a partner activity that combines yoga and acrobatics.
A description of Chelsey's daily workouts coupled with a demanding travel schedule and grueling line-up of adventure races is enough to make anyone else feel exhausted. Add to this a 15-month-old in the house, and you begin to wonder how Chelsey is actually standing upright, let alone winning elite-level races. She's a bit of a modern-day Renaissance woman in this regard. Chelsey says that motherhood has caused her to become very efficient with fitting in her workouts and trainings, so that she can focus on being an awesome mom in the rest of her time.
Meditation now plays a role in Chelsey's daily life as well, grounding her and giving her access to her inner self. Just over a year ago, Chelsey and her husband were preparing for the birth of their twin sons when their doctor gave them the heartbreaking news that the second twin no longer had a heartbeat. The first twin, Max, was born healthy and strong, but Spirit B, his brother, did not survive. After 24 hours with both beautiful babies, Chelsey and Jason faced the agonizing trauma of releasing their little boy into the spirit world.
Chelsey says that her athletics and passion for outdoor exploration have been critical to helping her mourn. "Meditation and getting outside are my primary pillars in getting through my grief," she says. "I meditate every morning and speak to Spirit B." Sometimes Chelsey will see a hawk or a butterfly when she's communicating with her son, and this brings her peace. "When I heard stories like that from others who had lost loved ones, I thought it was grasping for signs," she says. "But now I realize that it's my story. Everyone has their own experiences and things they find healing. This is my story."
The sad irony, says Chelsey, is that during her pregnancy, she and Jason talked a lot about how they were going to handle life with twins. "Everyone told us it was going to be living hell for the first 3 years, dealing with 2 babies," she says. "So we talked extensively about how we were still going to support each other in following our passions." Although the birth of their boys and the death of Spirit B was unimaginably different than what Jason and Chelsey had planned, these talks about their values served them well in coping with their grief. "We knew we needed to get back outside," Chelsey says. "We needed to get back into the things that brought us joy, even in this time of sorrow."
Chelsey has found double solace in getting back outdoors, as it has become the place she feels most connected to Spirit B, who often comes to her during a tough workout or adventure race. "I speak to Spirit B when I'm outside," she says.
Chelsey and Jason talk openly to Max about Spirit B as well. Every morning and evening they take Max outside and they all look up at the sky. "Good morning Spirit B," they say. "Goodnight Spirit B, we love you." Max shoots up his little hand and waves toward the sky, toward the brother whose body wrapped around his own for 9 months in the womb.
Moments like this are painful, but also beautiful. That's what this journey of grief is like, says Chelsey. "We have the darkness with the light. We have to try to walk this beautiful path."
Photos of Chelsey often show her wearing one of Bronwen Jewelry's feather necklaces. (Although Bronwen Jewelry cannot currently source the Angeni Feather Necklace that Chelsey adores, we feature several other feather pendant options.) "When I was pregnant I had a turquoise feather and I wore it constantly," she says. "It was pretty and simple and comfortable. I didn't assign any special meaning to it."
But when Chelsey lost the necklace on a highline, she found herself missing it immensely. So she reached out to Bronwen and acquired another feather, this one in lapis lazuli, a rich deep blue. "I touched the feather a lot throughout my pregnancy," she says. "It brought me peace." Chelsey didn't know that lapis has been long believed to have healing powers associated with the 3rd eye chakra, offering peace as well as openness to the spirit world; she just knew that when she touched the stone, she felt calmer.
When Max was born, Chelsey says, he went straight to her feather. "He was always grabbing it," she says. The feather became significant to Chelsey through Spirit B as well. "When Spirit B passed," she says, "all these ideas came flooding in. I saw Spirit B in the form of a bird, specifically a hawk or a Steller's Jay. So the feather is related to the birds. The color blue, like the lapis and the sky--all these symbols became symbols of Spirit B for me."
On a practical as well as a spiritual level, the feather necklace works well for Chelsey. "I'm so active, my jewelry has to be light," she says. "It has to be simple. It has to be able to be worn for days or weeks on end. It has to get wet. Bronwen Jewelry is all that."
Chelsey is the gal with exactly the lifestyle we envisioned when we designed our active jewelry. Mud? No problem. Sweat? Trivial. Grime? Just wear it in the shower.
Chelsey says she loves Bronwen Jewelry's aesthetic as much as she loves its functionality. "It fits with everything," she says. "I give Tiny Charm Necklaces as gifts to all the women in my life," she says, "and I see all these active women wearing them all the time, never taking them off."
"I'm really particular about what I put in my house and on my body," says Chelsey. "And Bronwen necklaces--I never take mine off, during slacklining, whitewater, these long races. They fit my lifestyle well."
And Chelsey's lifestyle fits Bronwen Jewelry well. Welcome, Chelsey! We're thrilled to have you on board as a Global Ambassador.