Not Doing

 
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I sit with the Staghorn Fern and listen to it sing to the morning sun.

Shadows of the remains of darkness make me know the magic of light.

I am always “doing”:  working and moving and living a creative life. Now, during these “not-doing” moments, I question why I create art. To what end? I was told by my father to work at what I love and life will be rich. That has been true. (Rich inside, but at times barely surviving. Mostly, making just enough to pay the bills.)

Such are the thoughts that swirl around in my head during this quiet time. While I am “not-doing”, I witnessed the morning’s light as it passed through the winged seeds still hanging on the branches of a Box Elder. A light breeze makes them “talk”.

I watch and note shadows and light as they relate to each other. Fodder for a painting, this dance of light. 

While not-doing, I feel a peace settle in. Time passes slower.

I now consider my physical presence in the space I occupy. How does my occupation in this space effect the world? How am I living? Is the energy I put out good? 

While not-doing…

I notice that now, the sun is completely bathing the interior of my house. I turn my body toward it like a solar collector and let the light in. It fills the gaps and cracks, warming my spirit.

While not-doing…

I have realized that we, as sentient, spiritual beings, are mostly functioning at a tiny fraction of what we  are capable of.  

Is it crazy to think that we might listen to what the trees speak of?

Sense. Sensing. Sentience. 

Can we know some of what happens when our bodies die? What happens to the light inside us that is spirit?

As I take this time to “not-do”, I am feeding a mindfulness that cements my place here.

Now, I will go and paint.

Healing Words

Image / Kasper Nymann Clearing

Image / Kasper Nymann Clearing

CLEARING

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
—Martha Postlewaite

It’s hard to know what we can do to help the state of this crippled world. Frustration, fear, feelings of futility fill the space around us as we live in the wake of current world news. What to do? What do we contribute to improve the space around us, in and around our community?

In the “dense forest of my life”, I will offer my interpretation of beauty and keep shining a little light into the dark times, waiting and listening for your song!

S T A Y . . .

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The place was wild, high on a ridge.
A glacial shift had thrust rock high.
Around me were ferns, fir, sphagnum. 
Cliffs.
Magical sensations of ancient people,
   sheltered from weather, between 
   the crag's edge and a gentle sag of land.
Wild water flowed from an opening in the ground.
Sedges drank from this.
Deer had visited.
The elder cliffs captured sound and sent it back out,
    amplified, distorted. 
There was an old presence there.  
What feet have trod this place? 
Where did they sleep?
Did the water speak to them and call them close?
My arms went up, as a child to a mother,
    asking to be held, carried. 
This could be home. 
I could stay.
The feeling of living here was so profound,
   it was all I could think about, as I moved along the cliff’s base.
I celebrate this place.

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Gifts

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                                      -1-

I call out to a place on the other side of the Earth from me: 
The Tasman Sea. I once cast an offering stone there.
I gave a bit of myself to a stone from my land
and hurled it to the sea.
It settled there. 
A gift from my land.

Fiords. Mountains. Glaciers.

                                       -2-

I call out to a place off the tip of South African continent.
The end of land, the Cape of Good Hope, where 
two oceans come together, cold and warm.
I cast my stone gift 
where they merge and swirl.

Winds of Eucalyptus-scented soil. Currents of two oceans.


                                       -3-

I call out to the winds and high craggy cliffs of Ireland,
near an old pagan ruins called Céide Fields.
Barren fields. Peat. Crashing waves. Sheep. Ancient ruins.

                                       -4-

I call out to a place called Arenal, in Costa Rica.  
Miles from the semi-active volcano, There is a single old tree in a field,
standing about one hundred feet tall. 
There is an opening in the base. I walked in and buried my gift stone.

Rainy, dusty-scented soil. Howler Monkeys. Glowing volcano.


                                         -5-

I call out to a place in the cloud forest above a village 
near Pico de Orizaba, Mexico. A lush land, fertile and volcanic.
I bury my gift in this place of the clouds.
Rich trees. Misty forest in the clouds. Dewy banana trees. Jungle.

                                          -6-


I call out to a place at the bottom of the Grand Canyon,
named "The Subway". A river runs under ground. 
My son carried my gift offering for me.
He cast it into the water. As it settles, I feel his gratitude 
for this beautiful place, and know it nourishes his character.

Water-carved red canyon. Sacred water, the greatest sculptor.

                                          -7-

I call out to costal land in Puerto Rico. My gift was carried by
my sister-daughter, to a beach, where she left it near a big boulder.
Sun. Tide. Island waves.

                                           -8-

I call out to a place in the canyon lands: Canyon de Chelly.
A great, eroded rock land, carved by partners:  wind and water. 
Passing through a tunnel in massive rock, I place a stone in a deep niche in the wall,
halfway down to the floor of the canyon. 
It is quiet at the floor, where the only sounds are Cottonwoods talking to the wind 
and the wing beats of two Ravens circling overhead. 

Red rocks. Gentle wind. Two Ravens. Beauty. Palpable sadness of ancient peoples.

                                         -9-

I call out to a place in the California Redwood forest, where the
ancient ones still live.  My son leaves my gift buried at the foot of 
a 400 year old Redwood tree. My heart soars, to know of this.
Giant pine cones. Cushioned ground. Pine scent. Essence of the elders.

                                           -10-

I call out to a river canyon, named "Unkar Delta” by the Paiute.
It means “red rock”.  My gift to this river is plunged into the muddy water, where it has settled forever. 
Red rocks. Fast water. Ancient dwelling place. 
The points of these offerings, form a web of connection. This web includes the land where I live. 

I wanted to give to these places, instead of taking from them.  They are places of breath-taking beauty, that filled me. 
There will be a time when I need to summon the energies from this web of beauty, as spiritual support, in important work.

Season's: Come and Go and Come Again

©Bone Medicine Woman

©Bone Medicine Woman

“And the seasons, they go ‘round and ‘round”…

Here we go, as the seasons prepare to change, in our dance with the sun.

Our connections to Nature may be deep, creating subtle or obvious stirrings for change in our lives. A move. A relationship change. Projects at home. At this time, I am pouring over seeds and start to plan a garden.  I am a seed saver. Yesterday, on a walk, I collected Milkweed pods to plant in a wet spot for the butterflies. I noticed buds are beginning to swell on some shrubs and trees. 

I’m going to give more love to my apple tree this year, because this winter, the hungry rabbits were able to reach all the lower branches and girdled them. I planted this tree for a friend who died of cancer six years ago. I call it “Beth” to honor her. The first year she bore enough fruit, I made an apple pie for her children.  

I cut Pussy Willow branches for a vase, inside, and wait for the leaves to burst forth. Soon, the light will come hardy and long.  The pace of life will speed up and, towards the beginning of August days, I will think back fondly of a  slow winter day, quiet  by an inside fire.

I have begun to realize the shortness of a life and the unpredictable time I have left here. How many more Springs?

How mortal we are.  It makes time more valuable and sacred. 

When thinking about my connection to Nature’s law, I realize the ebb and flow of seasonal tides effecting all life, near and far, inside and out. Water is blood. Blood is water.

I never used to have awareness of the subtle changes in my world that correspond with the shifts of seasons.  I flowed with the tide and experienced major life changes that impacted me, because of this passion I have, being tied to the natural world. Now, I notice the deep influence seasonal changes have on me. I acknowledge the power in the shift, greet it, and maybe kiss the swelling stems and buds of a tree, or perform a little ritual to welcome the change.  Honor it. 

My roots have grown deeper, which allows my “above ground” and moving parts, that are exposed, to move about and react to my environment.  Lessons from a tree!

We still have a long way to go, with snow still covering the ground, but in my mind, I feel things stirring. 

“We’re captive on a carousel of time…..It’s the circle game.”

A Spiral Wheel Mantra

I offer this:  

A spiral wheel I’ve worked on that's a kind of mantra tool.  Wheels are fun to make.  This one focuses on centering, mindfulness of balance, and getting grounded. In the diagram, these mantra words form the spiral.  The radiating lines are notes on how to achieve them. 

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 Wheels can be fun to make when starting a circle group.  What is the basis of the group?  What are the building blocks of a gathering in circle? Radiating from that can be individual needs, ways to contribute, topics to explore, etc. 

They can be applied in many ways:  relationships, class rooms, career planning, parenting, and more.  Make one! 

We Can Be Tools For Magic

As far as I can see it, Nature is here for our hearts to feel wonder, in a world we’ve created that robs us of it. We all are damaged, broken, and stumbling through life without looking. Amidst the rules and laws and compartments we should fit into that suck our spirits dry, there is a flower, the wind talking to trees,animals to entertain and scare us, the smell of hot granite after summer rain. Find those bits of magic and sow them into your world.

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They are joy dispensers. 

The taught spring of conformity and “business” of life slowly slackens as we allow ourselves to be fed by beauty. 

Wilderness is the antidote to the sickness in us.

If we don’t surrender to beauty, we will stay hard and crusty.  Our springs wear out. 

We can be tools for magic.

Here’s a list of suggestions for the new year:

1.  Measure the path of the sun, while soaking in the bathtub in the morning.
2.  Perform a special burial for a wild casualty of the road.
3.  Drink some pine needle tea and sit by an outside fire.
4.  Visit your favorite tree.
5.  Midwife a chick hatching.
6.  Give something meaningful and unexpected.
7.  Talk to a Crow.
8.  Give time to wonder.
9.  Greet the world as your family member.
10.  Embrace the mystery of darkness.
11.  Have less.
12.  Practice silence.

©Kathy Mitchell

©Kathy Mitchell

Magic • A little holiday story

Photo©Kathy Mitchell

Photo©Kathy Mitchell

The space around us is filled with hurrying, 

 and the expectation to conform to the seasonal “holidaze",

Preparations to celebrate.

I don’t celebrate. I hurry to help those who do.

The hurry makes me want to run away,

far away, to the high places. Maybe to a cabin in woods, 

where there is only

the warmth of a fire,

the simple flow of a sun’s 

path across the sky,

some natural magic,

beauty that fills me up and 

quiets my mind.

Here, in the hurry of life,

I've let myself get sucked in.

I turn away and cast eyes upon a bird,

skittering through the leaves on the ground,

looking for something.

Listen.

Breathe in peace.

Inside, I burn sage. I smudge the house.

Fan the smoke to wash away hurry.

Wash away remnants of the rush.

Instead, I will look for magic.

Ode to a Spruce Tree

©Kathy Mitchell, Vermont

©Kathy Mitchell, Vermont

Today I said farewell to an old tree in the yard. The old Blue Spruce had been failing for several years. It was now leaning on a power line. Growing at a dangerous angle, and its roots lifting the ground in an attempt to find purchase in the shallow soil on ledge…

we made the difficult decision to cut it down. 

I loved the privacy it gave, sheltering us from the road, and enjoyed monitoring baby birds in nests, visible from my window.  It was always full of birds. It had a heavy cone crop this year. Maybe in its struggle, chemical messages were coursing through its core-being to make a "last-ditch” effort to put out more seed to propagate.

I’m not sure of the age of this old tree, but estimate sixty to seventy years. It was an icon on the street and a marker for giving directions to my house:  “Look for the Big Blue Spruce tree in front of a house”.  

I have been bracing myself to be without it and practiced saying goodbye for weeks, holding my breath in wind storms, wondering when it would fall and hoping not on the house. Alas, the time came to cut it down, and we had someone come with a giant bucket and a chainsaw on a long pole.  Passers by stopped to witness. They started taking the lower branches and worked up to the top, which was about fifty feet.  It swayed back and forth with the cuts. Seeing the limbs fall into a heap was sad. Birds flew in a panic. I saw Bats too.  After decades of growth and withstanding heavy storms, in one half hour it was in pieces on the ground.  

I know this is “just a tree”, but it seems like part of an extended family.  A quiet member.

I will not miss walking barefoot under the tree. The needles it sheds are very sharp. And there is now a view to the east so morning sun fills the house, shouting out the loss. I will eventually plant something near the spot.  I will gather up the cones and place them where a baby Spruce seedling might take hold of the earth.  I will make some beautiful boards from the trunk, and I will remember.

It has been two days, now, since we cut it down. I have left the branches for a little while, to let things settle. Mostly inside me. When I go out into the night, I can smell the Spruce. It is out there right now, Spruce blood in the air.

Working with Wild Rice

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My son and I have permission to harvest Wild Rice from a friend’s land: So, he pushed his old mother in the canoe deep into the rice beds and I knocked the ready seeds into the bottom of the canoe. I made a pair of “knock sticks” that are used to knock the rice into the boat. One stick bends the long stems over the canoe and the other knocks the seeds loose. We saw Beaver, Muskrats, Herons, Egrets, ducks, and a Marsh Wren. Many fished jumped around us. It rained gently the whole time, and was truly a beautiful day.

After collecting enough for a meal or two, I began the process of rendering the seeds from their tough husks. The Ojibwe people call this rice "minoomin". (The plant is actually not rice, but an aquatic grass with edible seeds.)

First, the seeds must lay out on a sheet to dry in the sun. Pick the leaves and debris out. Then, it should be roasted or parched over a fire to loosen the husks until it begins to "pop" like corn, moving and stirring constantly. After that, you "dance the rice" by treading lightly on it with moccasin feet. This loosens the chaff more. 

Next, you have to "wind the rice", or winnow it. I did it over a sheet, tossing it so the wind can take the chaff. This takes a long time. Handling the rice for this length of time allowed my mind to wander. I called to the rice to ask it to come to me, give up your coat so I can put you in my belly!

The rice comes to us from old familiar lands with swampy water, the rains, the bees who pollinate, the birds who carry the seed to different places, the rich soils of my home land, mountain run-off, the big sun! The fish groom the roots and Herons walk among it.

As I picked the remaining chaff from the dark rice, I grow as efficient as the bird foraging for food, separating and eating the best. Occasionally, I popped a nutty seed into my mouth to soften and chew. The wind comes and goes with my work. When it disappears, I "dance the rice" more. When it returns, I toss and "wind" it. This is a lot of work, (good work) for one meal of wild rice, but you can taste a bit of its environment that makes this so good.  We shared it as a special treat, over a family gathering and gave thanks to the sweetness of the land and animal neighbors who nourished these seeds. 

I am reminded of my magical experiences fostering wild orphan critters, and how I noticed their behavior would to change when I introduced elements of the wild into their temporary enclosures.

They were meant to be together: The wildling and the wild ingredients of Nature. These elements put the wild back into them. It is in me too.





Sound Healing...(and a little tapping)

image: reflections yoga

image: reflections yoga

I recently have been exploring sound healing. I accidentally discovered the sweet calming feeling I get while tapping the upper chest near the throat, while exhaling in a whisper. There is a spot about one hand’s width below the throat, on the sternum. Tap there with the fingers. It sends a wave of vibration through the chest.

Simple, self-created vocal sounds such as elongated vowels like “ah”, “oh”, “eee”, or alternately, the tone of an “mmm” humming sound can have profound and positive effects on our physical, mental and emotional states. It seems to create peace and balance.

It has been said to lower blood pressure and heart rate. I know people who tap areas of the head and chest when feeling anxiety and nervousness. If you add sounds to this, I imagine it can move energy around inside the body through vibration.

Our bodies are energy.

Some places in the body have fluid energy flow. Others have stuck bundles of non-transferred signals. No movement. Blocked. Whether caused by emotional trauma or physical injury, these pile-ups or blockages inhibit natural flow of energy. Tapping along meridians while toning, can help to interrupt the injured patterns of blocked energy.

We naturally emit sounds when we are physically hurt. Elongated vowel sounds like “eeeeeeeeeeee”.

When we are emotionally touched by something, we make an open “ah” sound. Can we recreate this feeling of deep inner joy by emitting the sound during meditation? 

It is said that we release melatonin and reduce stress-related hormones like cortisol, when we use certain sounds. Try saying the long “mmm” humming sounds. We do it for the babies when we hold and rock them. Humming seems to quiet the mind and spread a veil of peace and contentment inside. The sound can be quiet, breathy, held inside the head and throat, like a long exhale through the nose, mouth closed. It passes from brain to ears, throat, and very calming.

Practiced sound therapy can help us sleep at night. We can make certain sounds and control where, in the body, we send or project them. Try sending or anchoring specific sounds in the chakra areas.

There are experiments being done using sound to treat depression and cancer. Sound can be a useful tool for grounding and centering.

It is very powerful to sit in a group circle while everyone is making the same sounds, shadowing what one person starts out with.

The sounds are individual but join in harmony, moving and morphing, and bathing the room. There are other sound tools to practice with, like drums, singing bowls, and gongs. Sound that penetrates your skin all the way to the core.

Drumming is a great tool for meditative “travel”.

It can ground you and be a vehicle for mind and spirit travel. The monotony of repetitive deep sound, like the rhythm of a heart beat, is primal and womb-like. 

Image: Real Shaman Healing: YouTube

Image: Real Shaman Healing: YouTube

Beating the drum while pressing the frame against your chest sends the vibration to the core of your body. Shamans have used drums for journeying to the spirit world for centuries. The repetition and the vibration sends you to a zone. An altered state. Whether using drumming, sounding, humming, chanting, listening to music, using tuning forks or singing bowls and gongs, sound can be an important tool for our inner wellbeing.

Here are some interesting links to explore:
(Give yourself space and time to practice.)

tapping:
http://jackcanfield.com/blog/tapping-therapy/
https://www.healthline.com/health/eft-tapping#bottom-line
drumming:
http://reset.me/story/sound-healing-how-drumming-improves-mental-and-physical-health/
toning:
http://www.crystalwind.ca/holistic-healing/energy-therapies/sound-therapy/toning-and-sacred-sounds
singing bowls:
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2156587216668109

 

Do the Work

Photo from heartandspiritjournies.com

Photo from heartandspiritjournies.com

We must learn to trust our power. We are not weak or helpless. Nor are we one dimensional.

I learned from a wise friend, how to manifest my need for a home to live in and care for. 
It begins with intention. It takes intense focus and doing what is normally required to obtain this goal.
I knew that part. 
(The part of living in a world of laws and rules and steps, and pathways, to set into motion the actual process of buying and transfering property.) 

And then there is the spirit world.....  I wanted this home in my bones, and worked all the potential sources I knew of, to obtain it. My family is deeply rooted in the area for many generations. Calling on ancestors and those who care for the land was the "under-work" I delved into. “Every step you take is supported by a thousand ancestors.” I feel witnessed by those long gone but who’s essence lingers here. 

There is a world under our small reality that is a mighty force. 

Long story short, I bought this home on some land and vowed to love it and nurture it. It feels strange and kind of wrong to say "I own the land".  I will take my turn to care for it. There is spirit in a place, that includes not only the people who were here before us, but the animals and beings who live here and pass over the land. 

There is much to consider, on many levels.

If we live and work on only a general level, we’re going to live a shallow existence. We will live richly if we consider the vast otherworld and possibility and potential of knowing and getting to know energies and exsistances of what is around us.

I step out into the night, in silence, to listen to what is present and moving in the darkness of the yard. Giving pause to this world before my presence joins it, is to respect and be mindful of the space  we all share. I share it with an abundance of song birds Grey Fox, Red Fox, Bobcat, Skunks, ‘Possums, Rabbits, Raccoons, and during the day, sometimes Red Tailed Hawks. (I’m sure there are more I have not met yet.) 

Living in partnership and respect for the wild, on this land I came to, seems right and balanced.

Sometimes the wild ones take what they need from me.  I am evolving and exploring what energies live here.  

There is work to be done. On many levels.
We are not the mighty beings who rule all other life.  
We are but a cog in a wheel of momentum that hurls us together in the same plane of existence.  (Little specks, we are!) There is a physical investment. There is a spiritual investment.

The Moment: By Margaret Atwood
The moment when, after many years,
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the center of your room, 
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, 
knowing tat last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,

the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way around.

The Doe's Child

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Close encounters with a wild animal can leave us filled with wonder.

This time of year, I am reminded of one June day when I was working in my back yard. My neighbor drove in and jumped out of her car and yelled for me to come quickly. She was an elderly woman, frail, with emphysema, and breathlessly told me “her deer” was in trouble in her yard. She had been seeing a doe in her back yard every day and knew she had recently birthed a fawn. A stray dog was just there and had been chasing the deer around.  Frantically, the doe took off, diverting the dog away from her baby, which probably was tucked into the grass, hiding.

My neighbor was anxious about the deer and asked me to hurry to her place to check on the fawn.  It felt like an emergency situation and I gladly dropped everything and went to find out.  She was unable to walk far, so she stayed close to her house and indicated to me exactly where she saw the fawn. She thought the dog surely had found it when it chased the doe nearby.   

I walked all the way to the back part of the meadow and looked back at my neighbor to see if I had gone far enough.  She pointed wildly to the left, from where I stood. I turned and walked a few yards to a fence, and there lay the beautiful, perfect little fawn, instinctively curled into a still form.  Eyes opened and blinked once.  It seemed fine so I took a quick photo. I turned to leave and looked back at my neighbor lady to give a “thumb’s up”.  She pointed in the opposite direction and directly across from me, to the mother, who was stomping and snorting and flicking her tail.  I quickly left the area and she returned immediately to her baby.  

I love this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay because it reminds me of the magical feeling of seeing a wild animal and looking it in the eye and wishing for more connection:

The Fawn

There it was I saw what I shall never forget
And never retrieve.
Monstrous and beautiful to human eyes, hard to
believe,
He lay, yet there he lay,
Asleep on the moss, his head on his polished cleft
small ebony hooves,
The child of the doe, the dappled child of the deer.

Surely his mother had never said, "Lie here
Till I return," so spotty and plain to see
On the green moss lay he.
His eyes had opened; he considered me.

I would have given more than I care to say
To thrifty ears, might I have had him for my friend
One moment only of that forest day:

Might I have had the acceptance, not the love
Of those clear eyes;
Might I have been for him in the bough above
Or the root beneath his forest bed,
A part of the forest, seen without surprise.

Was it alarm, or was it the wind of my fear lest he
depart
That jerked him to his jointy knees,
And sent him crashing off, leaping and stumbling
On his new legs, between the stems of the white
trees? 

 

 

Magical World: So Alive!

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We live in a consumer’s world with little respect and mindfulness of life and are alienated from nature.  We treat everything like it is replaceable. We see the world as a resource to be used. Mostly, there is no attempt to replace what is used or taken. 

Everything has an energy and there is a constant dance with the exchange of it. Good energy and bad energy is always flowing through us. There are vast waves of power out there.  What do we commune with?  What do we choose to align ourselves with?  How can we learn to? As humans, we operate on a fraction of what we are capable of.  There is a spirit world that most don’t think is real. 

 The mysterious inner world we all possess can stretch and grow, and we can practice connecting with good energy, and shielding ourselves from the bad. If we choose to tune into and align ourselves with the natural world, we can establish relationships with life growing around us. 

Working with plants as a healing source is magical.  When walking in natural environments, we are walking into the plants’ living room.  We make an impact with our presence.  If we move carefully and are mindfully, the plants’ energies are evident. Taking time to express your own body’s needs or dis-ease outwardly to the plant is the right way to ask permission to take a wild plant. There is the notion that you don’t even need to take the plant, to gain its powers to heal. Some shamans do this. They ask the plant’s energy to come inside them or offer their healing powers to another. 

The world is alive on so many levels. Plants can be our allies. 

I once was trying to find a place to plant a plant and dug four holes in four different places before it felt “right”.  I’m not sure if I was picking this up from the plant, the land source, or myself.  I finally found the sweet spot and the plant is thriving.  I could have just gone with the first hole, but I’ll bet the plant would not have done so well.  Who knows?  I am choosing to listen deeply and be more mindful about how I handle these living beings. 

I like to smell flowers. Each time I do, I am rekindling an early childhood memory of riding on my great grandfather’s back through his daughter’s flower garden, overlooking Camel’s Hump Mountain 

He strolled slowly and moved carefully through the flowers, touching and moving them as we passed through.  I pointed to each one and he would bend down, to let me put my nose to the flower. I took this in, to my core, where it grew as sure as a cell in my body.  This experience, as well a many others, took root and instilled a strong relationship with life in the wild and in the garden. 

Here are some random magical things I love about the plant world:
• There are 129 chemicals found in a single Yarrow plant.
• The Lady Slipper flower shaped itself to embrace Bumblebees.
• The companionship of plants: 
The Iroquois named this companion planting theThree Sisters planting, which is three seeds...corn, beans, and squash. When planted together, the Three Sisters work together to help one another thrive. Corn gives a tall stalk for the beans to climb so they don’t get smothered by the sprawling squash vines. Beans provide nitrogen to fertilize the soil and stabilize the towering corn during heavy winds.  The large leaves of the squash shade the ground which helps hold moisture and prevents weeds.
• Elephants will eat the leaves from a specific tree to induce labor. Women in Africa have seen them travel great distances to find this tree and learned to use the same for their own labors. 
• Mosses have no flowers, no seeds, and no roots.
• Somehow, animals know about plants that can hel
p. Dogs will eat quack grass to help their guts maintain mucus membrane systems, and it is antibacterial and antimicrobial, and it helps the kidneys.
• Some birds will weave medicinal plants into their nest that repel pests or boost the immune systems of their chicks.

When someone is sick and a plant heals them, their respect and feelings of connection to the natural world is awakened. It jerks something to the surface and opens a door that draws us close.  It is as if there are small sensors in the body’s energetic field waiting, like the hydra’s tentacles, to take up these bits of goodness available, and draw them in as nourishment for the body and soul.

Walk softly and bow often!

 

Parallel Things

Image © Alana Fairchild

Image © Alana Fairchild

Parallel things. Opposite but parallel.
Laughing
: The gut-splitting kind, can't catch your breath, tears rolling, stomach and face-hurting kind. Uncontrollable release.

Compare this release with that of raw sadness: 
Crying out loud, hearing your own voice empty it's strange sounding grief, all your insides feel like they are coming out, heart ripping and soulful.

Birth and death: The long journey to the conclusion. The anticipated end, and the gifts of both. Laboring hard for birth. Laboring hard for death. Birth brings us to this Earthbound place of many experiences. Death delivers us to a place of spirit. Naked. A soulful spirit-place, where you must now move in a different way. 

Parallel and opposite.

I’ve been blessed to have been present for several births and deaths. Recently, I walked to the threshold of death with the strong woman who birthed me. It was not what I expected, not graceful or pretty, ... but long. Confusing. At times ugly, and beautiful. Full of Spirit. Full of strength and weakness.I flitted between emotional reactions and the logical, analytical, scientific aspects of her journey to death.

I listened hard.

I took it all in – the essence of her path. 

My sisters and I provided her with everything we could to make her journey sacred, comforting, supported. When she was agitated and restless, the only thing that calmed her was to lie next to her in her bed. She spoke about "going home", "giving up", "turning back". 

Transitioning is difficult. 
How does a heart that has sustained a body every second for 84 years just stop beating? 

It labors to stop. 

I dreamed, the night before she died, that her mother came gently to her side, whispered into her ear. She turned toward her mother and was gone. The next morning, I knew her spirit had detached from her body, as it continued through the last motions of living, before it succumbed. 

We sang to her and burned sweetgrass. 

We lovingly washed and anointed her with her favorite scent: lavender. As our hearts wrenched from our bodies, hers was ceasing to beat. We let go of the husk that was left of our mother. The cumbersome body had now freed her spirit. She had a good death. Death, ushered, is worthy of ritual and ceremony. It's going on 2 years now, since she died. I still think of her and cry for my loss. I also think of her and smile and laugh at our playful, joyous times.

When I consider these extreme differences: birth and death, joy and grief, the physical body, and the spirit it carries, I think about the space between them.

Parallel and opposite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwcM9NPWWtc

 

Goodbye to Winter...with Soul Sighs

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I woke this morning, saying goodbye to winter.  A male Cardinal was singing praises to the day. Over and over he sang, just occasionally changing his tune in countable notes. It completely captivated my waking mind, as I am sure it attracted and dazzled a female of its own kind.

Today I will plant seeds.  Flowers first, as I need and dream of, and anticipate color and beauty.  Then the seeds for my belly.  Sustenance for the soul. Sustenance for the body. 

The primal force of life as it re-awakens in the spring is intoxicating.  Biological messages are everywhere.  Underground root messages connecting a family of trees, the songs of winged ones, and other emerging winter sleepers, and those returning to us.

I am waiting to take a walk to a favorite Vermont forest, that will be covered in a bed of Trilliums.  So magical and stimulating.  (Imagine how it stimulates a bee!)  Everywhere you look, there is the possibility of love, regrowth.  Spring jerks out instinctual tendencies of bonding, procreation of new life. It summons and calls to sleeping forces.

Wandering alone in woods and fields, moving carefully and mindfully in different habitat helps us to truly feel embedded. Like "Earthing" :  walking with bare feet on wild land. Forced to move slowly. Solid and grounded.  It makes the heart swell and belong.  Sit quietly against an old tree, and you can almost hear old voices from somewhere, who once moved over the same ground. It is proven that Earthing and Forest-bathing is good for you. It allows me to live, for a moment, by the senses. Listen. Look. Smell. The Pines are in my hair!  Suddenly, I can see my existence as if for the first time.  I appear where I am, as I am and shed the past like an old husk.  It feels like my first skin and  I grasp it as a necessity.  It makes me want to live a different way, more aware of my environment. Mindful. My soul sighs....

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Life is Triggered!

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We are blessed with another spring!  I welcome the waters that begin to seep into the long frozen underground.  Roots are stirring and seeds are popping! Soon they will provide a bounty of gifts. All life is triggered by more light, even us. 

I like to play a little game with myself each time I step outside, during this change of seasons.  What was not here yesterday? 
• Is that a new bird singing? 
• What has sprouted?
• What is moving around in the forest? 

I always hear and see something new.   

I will take time to gather a meal of Fiddleheads down by the river and as I pick, I will listen to the water talk to the land and after I am done, will spread a blanket for a picnic and stay a while. And, sometime soon, a first meal of wild greens… Dandelions.  It’s like eating the sun and wind and soil.  It is food medicine!  When you eat wild foods, taken carefully from the Earth, it puts a bit of the wild back inside you.  Our bodies need this “right way” of perfectly blended nourishment, direct from the Earth---eliminating the middleman.  

Wild ramps are a great spring tonic. I have a relationship with the place I harvest them.  I strive to be mindful, and not take too many. Always leave twice as much as you take.  Never waste.  I take just enough for a couple of meals.  

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These places have so much to teach.

The 200-year-old Bur Oak in my back yard has withstood all those years of weather, drought, flood, sheep pastured, wild critters crawling up and down it, all the people who ever crossed its path or sat in its shade.  I love this tree.  There are times when I go to it and whisper, “ Old One, I am still here!” (I worked on many levels to get to this little piece of land and dreamed of having a chance to care for it as those before me did.  I am here!) There are many branches dying on the old oak now, and I wonder what is happening. It will probably still outlive me.  

Frog song, denning Foxes, swelling buds, daffodils, the joyous return of birds! The hum and hiss of newness, birthing. Warm winds:  the sweet breath of spring!

It seems the time I am most in touch with my spirit is when I am exploring in the wild. It might happen when I am on my hands and knees, feeling the richness of the earth beneath my body, looking and watching small forms of life. Nature does this to me; it is a solid line of connection to my inner spirit. Suddenly I am filled with peace and energy, and life is full of deep meaning. I am fully alive. 

Here is a fun exercise to help you become more connected to what is around you in nature. 

Try not to let ego lead you to skepticism.  Allow yourself to learn what you can from what you sense. (Ole ego will “harsh your mellow”, steal your joy!)

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 First, go outside! And... 

Find a medium-size stone that attracts you, speaks to you. Examine its surface, each character.  In a quiet space, close your eyes and hold the stone in both hands.  Move it around to feel every part of its surface. Smell it. Feel the exchange as it absorbs your body’s heat or transfers its temperature to your hands. With your imagination and inner vision, enter the stone. Allow the area inside to expand. It has become a vast chamber. Be aware of your experience inside. What do you sense? What do you hear?  Think about the force that attracted the two of you. This simple meditation can strengthen your awareness, if nothing else.  Remember to keep your ego in check so it doesn’t sabotage the flow of discovery. There is a mighty force that is involved in forming a stone. Some of it must linger throughout the passing of time, if only we are sentient enough to feel it. This exercise can become a mini practice with anything.  You don’t have to have hands on, to explore.  “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.”  

I welcome the sweet parade of spring and have plans to meet with so many bits of the wild coming into regeneration! 

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Sap Moon
Once again we shall
See the snow melt
Taste the flowing sap
Touch the budding seeds
Smell the whitening flowers
Know the renewal of life.

-from an Anishinaabeg (Ojibway)  thanksgiving for Spring

 

 

Learning to "See"

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I make art. It feeds my soul, keeps me happy, grounded and visually stimulated. I do it for myself. It's about living in the moment, thinking in a visual way, meditative.

I don't remember where I found this, but a big shout out to Tama Kieves for writing it:

Poem About Creativity

Here’s the sexy white hot truth about creativity.
It’s a religious experience.
It’s a transcendental adventure.
It’s the losing of the daily self and entering the magic kingdom.
You come back bigger.
You come back satiated.
You come back sweeter.
You come back with wings and fins and new toes that seek for higher ground.
You never come back the same.

~Tama J. Kieves

Learning to "See"

After spending a day in my studio working on a painting,  I “see” things in a more critical way. I notice how light falls on an object. I look at how different elements affect one another… like dew pooling on leaves, or rain breaking the surface of a body of water,  or light laying down on rocks. Or the way a Heron cups its wings and brings its gangly body so gracefully to a perch, weightlessly. The glint of light in a Raven's eye.

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Vision is an amazing gift we all take for granted. Mostly, we "look", but don't really "see".          We see everyday things that we really don’t give our attention to. Like a grand old tree on the side of a road we pass by on our way to some other place each day. Sometimes I stop and explore. I'm always glad I did, no matter how late it makes me for my destination. This is the kiss of life.

I've always looked at things up close. There are real worlds going on under rocks, out of sight! Wild magic. Nature is a mystery that inspires, soothes, heals. My school. It makes me travel slowly through life.  

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Working at home is nourishing. I lose myself completely in creative explosions. Sometimes, though, working at home challenges my focus. My little studio space has windows. There is a Kestrel family that nests in the eaves of the roof over me and I witness the raising of the little ones. The parents bring mice and snakes and grasshoppers, and I hear the whole thing!  I am pulled away to watch. The witnessing of what goes on outside my window and the work I put on canvas or stone or bone or carve into metal, is delicious soul food! These sweet distractions are woven into each finished piece.... a Kestrel's call announcing food, a Bob Cat looking at my chickens, soup simmering on the stove, all are an invisible part of the creation.  My dance of sweet distraction, and creative focus.

This poem speaks to that sweet distraction I love so much:

I meant to do my work today,
but a brown bird sang in the old oak tree,
and crows were chasing an owl in the field,
and all the leaves were calling me…
and the wind sent sighing over the land,
tossing the grasses to and fro, and
the water in the lake held out its
shining hand, so what could I do
but laugh and go?

– Unknown

 

A Message of Hope and a Wish for Peace

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As we move into the light,  we may be more conscious of the need for quiet, a slower pace
With frozen ground, and stillness of the land, roots have done their growing and now draw back. Steady, awaiting signals from the above world. Life is slowed to the stirring and quieting of seed and sap.  Dormancy replenishes energy, prunes our old, lifeless pathways. 

In this still time, let's remember there is a world of beauty that sometimes is forgotten, as we are flooded with the often in-your-face ugliness of what is reported to us daily in news stories. Yes, being attuned to the reality of what is happening in our world is good, to a point. It can have a negative impact on our psyche. There is the mainstream concept that we need more, we need to grow bigger, make more money, build bigger homes, have more, travel more, produce more, consume more.  Why can't we say, "I have enough?"

There is this:
-I wish you a quiet, simple place where your thoughts can find peace.
-A friend who will listen and share a time.
-I hope there is enough to sustain a simple life, and we will eat more real foods that are close to the Earth, and not as many that come in bags and cans and packages. 
-The warmth of a fire.
-The witnessing of beauty every day, that lights you from within.
-Good water. (When was the last time you tasted wild water?)
-A place to call home.

And for expansion and growth, I wish for:
-Recognition of the value of wilderness and willingness to share habitat.
-Protection of sacred lands and preservation of the wild.
-More connection to spirit.
-Better communication with an open heart.
-Mindfulness
-Read and learn something every day.
-Keep beauty in sight and in the path.
-Be kind, give a lot.

In the coming year, choose beauty.  I wish you "enough"!

Lagom:  A Scandinavian word for living with just enough. Sufficient. Moderation.
Hugge:  Danish word for the art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open-hearted and alive. Create well-being, connection, warmth. A feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other. Celebrating every day.
 

A Place of Enchantment

November 30, 2017

Osprey. Juvenile female.  

Osprey. Juvenile female.  

 

Do you have a place of enchantment? 

You know, that chunk of earth you have a sense of kinship with.  
A "homeland", where you feel you are of the land. 
One of these places for me is on Lewis Creek. 
It is a small flowing body where
...an Osprey nests, 
...ducks swim,
...trees touch each other over the creek and are mirrored in the water.
It's a place you can sit in a kayak and just float, taking it all in. 
Deeply, like sustenance for a hungry soul. 
Breath comes easy as the stresses of the world fall away.
I am struck to my core by the beauty here. 
                    Mink, 
                        beaver, 
                            heron, 
                                  fish.  
The smell of mud and grass. Floating through forest and fields. 
Cows come down to drink and soak their bellies. 
Mountains are in the background.
I practice moving through the water with no sound, only the few drops of water off the blade of the paddle.  
I hope each of us finds a homeland to be mesmerized by, that anchors us, heals us.
The closer we live to the Earth, the more respect we will have for Nature. 

Immerse yourself!
Plant yourself in the path of beauty!

It's not a bad idea to get connected now and then, get grounded.

Recharge.
Who would you wish this goodness on?  
The leaders of the world?! 
Have you found a place of refuge?


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