Fluvanna Faces – Linda Staiger

By Madeline Otten

Where do you live?

  • “I live in my studio, about 4 miles north of the village of Palmyra, in the middle of a 100-acre woodland, on my father’s farm.”

How long have you lived in Fluvanna County? What brought you here?

  • “Since I was a teenager, my father retired and we moved to the country. I completed high school here.  Fluvanna is such a beautiful place and I was lucky enough to make life-long friends who still live nearby.”

Tell us about your family – 

  • “I am single, but I have a sister who lives at the other end of the family farm, and my father, 98 years old this year, is still living. My brothers, Dan, Bill and Paul live where their wives are from, as it often happens.”

What did you want to be when you were growing up? 

  • “I wanted to be a scientist to work on improving global food access.”

What was your very first job?

  • “Not counting helping my older brother on his paper route, when I was in high school, I worked at the Michie Law Publishing Company in Charlottesville as a proofreader of law codes.

What do you do for a living? 

  • “I work to spread peace and harmony in my community. It might sound grandiose, but in my prior life as an orthopedic surgeon, I was always focused on serving others. And when one transitions into a way of life not strictly focused on earning money, it is possible to shift your focus to align more closely with your most basic values.  Now I use my time and energy to focus on improving community. I do this with my art.  I try to find images or objects that can carry the message of peace.  My website is Staiger Studio, where you can see oil paintings, ceramics, and my meditation cards.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

  • “I love being outdoors, hiking, backpacking, kayaking and gardening.”

What is one food that you could never live without? What is one you can never bring yourself to eat? 

  • “Wow, that might be a long list of foods! Last year I was extremely ill with a GI problem.  There were so many foods that I couldn’t eat, for a long time.  Things I really missed were coffee, cheese, and beans.  Oh, and ICE CREAM.  I did find alternatives in herb tea (love mint) and vegetarian cheeses (how do they do that?).  There was no substitute for the beans, but now that I am well, I can say that I consider garbanzo beans the perfect food.  As to avoiding, the only thing that comes to mind is insects.”

If there was a zombie apocalypse, who are three people you would want on your team?

  • “My sister Julie (who is totally into planning for the apocalypse already), my friend David, who can do anything, and my brother Dan, who would be in charge of all worrying.”

What are your three favorite movies?

  • “Sorry, not much of movie person. I haven’t been in several years, not even streaming. But going way back, I could say ‘The Story of the Weeping Camel’.”

Which is better – a novel or a movie?

  • “As above. I love reading non-fiction-history, politics, economics, neuroscience.  But if I were to read a fiction book, it would be a murder mystery.  Generally they have a tension to them, but they also usually include great descriptions of places and times.  Reading is more stimulating to your imagination.”

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

  • “If you’re not falling down, you’re not having fun.”

What pivotal decision helped to shape your life? 

  • “The decision to become a surgeon.” 

Tell us about a way you have changed over the years. 

  • Well, I hope I could say that I was less judgmental of others, but maybe not. My level of acceptance of the vastness of humanity diversity, culture and geography has grown amazingly.

What has surprised you about your life?

  • “I often look back in amazement at all the many steps, decisions, people, jobs, places, etc. that finally resulted in my being in this place and time.”

What’s one thing you still hope to accomplish? 

  • “I am currently the president of the Fluvanna Leadership Alumni Group which is only a couple years old. There are hundreds of people who have completed the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program in Fluvanna County, about 30 each year.  There is a great team working to imagine, invent, design and nurture an organization of alumni who are engaged with the community and do good work to help others.  We want it to be so cool that everyone wants to be a part of it.”

Tell us about your proudest moment. 

  • “That would be hard to pin down over my life, but I can say that last year, I was very proud for developing a packet of cards, that I call “Pause-Meditation Cards”. Not a new idea, but I spent a lot of time developing them while I was recuperating.  I used a painting I did about walking on a path where the destination was not seen.  I spent a lot of time thinking about which words/concepts to include to encourage focus on particular components of one’s life, away from the noise of the day-to-day.”

Where is your favorite place to travel to and why? 

  • Twice a year, my brother and some of his friends pick a location and backpack.  We go for a week.  It is always an adventure, often with scary moments.  I like it because it is not only an escape from the usual routine of life, but beyond that, an escape from many of the tiny pleasures that we take for granted:  the abundance of our food, taking a shower, a soft bed and pillow, choosing what to wear from a closetful.  People say, “why would you ever want to subject yourself to that?”  It is not only being out there in nature, but it is on the return from the desert that you appreciate the wealth of even the simplest things in life.”

When you are having a bad day, what do you do to make yourself feel better? 

  • “I have a lidded jar I made – my happiness jar. When something really wonderful happens, that fills me with joy, I write a note down on a tiny slip of paper, fold it and put it in my jar.  When I feel bad, I dump them out and read them.  I am happy then.”

What is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught you? 

  • “The thing I miss the most is singing with my church choir: Evergreen Baptist Church, Reverend Herbert Woodson, choir director Gequetta Murray-Key.  And hugging.  Miss that.”


What quote or saying do you connect with most?

  • “Marcus Aurelius emperor of Rome, a Stoic philosopher, from his Meditations. ‘If you do the job in a principled way, with diligence, energy and patience, if you keep yourself free of distractions, and keep the spirit inside you undamaged, as if you might have to give it back at any moment – If you can embrace this without fear or expectation – can find fulfillment in what you’re doing now, as Nature intended, and in superhuman truthfulness (every work, every utterance)-then your life will be happy. No one can prevent that.’”

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