Images of Springtime

I wanted to share with you some pictures of Springtime at our home near Mount Shasta. This time of Stay-at-home has allowed us to move from late winter into glorious springtime, which invites us to work on some projects, tend the land and enjoy the life and beauty of this place.

Rock Garden BillOne of Bill’s projects has been constructing a rock garden near Salvia in Rock Garderthe cabin. He loves interesting rocks and this is the kind of space he enjoys creating. With the addition of a few flowering plants from the back meadow, there is now more color at our doorstep.

 

Bill Qi Gong 1We had long known of Qi Gong’s roots in Taoist practice, but recently learned, that its origins spring from shamanic dance. It’s slow, flowing movements enhance the movement of energy through the body, and connect the heart and mind with all of nature. I love doing my afternoon Qi Gong under the trees and feeling rooted to the earth and lifted by the sky.

Nancy Holding up the sky

We had a week of good rain and now that the sun is out there are tiny wildflowers among the grasses. I feel like there are a dozen expressions of life volunteering in the Water can and flowerscorners of the yard and throughout the meadow-like field.

Grasses and Flowers

But of course, when the rains and sunshine mix, there is also the need to cut the grass. Mower BillThis is Bill celebrating the arrival of a new electric lawn mower. It is much easier than the old push mower. It may be hard to keep him from trimming the lawn every few days.

Stay well. We send our love to all of you.

Bill and Nancy Martin

Congratulations to Michelle

The Miracle Happening Now

Tree_at_sunriseIn these turbulent times, I sometimes bounce from one “really good resource” to another. I search and try one thing and another to see what feels like it will “help” me and those I love. The other evening, I did a shamanic journey which helped me come home to this ancient practice of seeking wisdom from the unseen and timeless world.

 In the journey, one of the women took me by the shoulders and began to place me in a position in the circle, facing outward. 


“You must grow still and allow your feet to be planted into the ground. You must root yourself deeply in the Earth.” I could feel roots growing from the bottoms of my feet, and then my feet were sinking into the ground up to my calves. “You must raise your arms like the limbs of an ancient tree,” she said. I lifted my arms wide and found that they were light as feathers. It was as though all of these years of hanging to my sides was a misunderstanding of their design. They were resting on the breeze and moved softly as the wind stirred – effortless in their upward reach.

“You will let the light and love of the Universe pour down through the crown of your head and the Love of the Mother flow up through the roots of your feet. Open your heart and your throat and let the light and love pour out of you. You are a beckon (One who invites).” I felt that experience deep in my being, knowing at the same time that we are all in our own way invitations into love for one another.

She showed me that I was facing the Southeast. “This is the point where the dawning of the new day meets the place where the unseen creative flow begins to take on a tangible expression – where it becomes visible in the seen world. This it the direction of your focus. Keep your eyes focused at this point. This is your service and your place.”

Her words and actions came as calming and healing for my recent busy mind. This pausing place, where most of us have a break from our usual routines, seems to be the miracle. Is anyone else holding their breath in hopeful anticipation that humankind may use this time to step into a new way of living in relationship with one another, with all the elements of the natural world, with all living beings, and with the Earth?

It feels like this amazing opening into possibilities we have never experienced before. We have time. We are kept from running around. We are limited in the distractions we can use. Our schedules no longer confine us, taking all of our focus and energy.

I stand rooted, looking to the Southeast. I let my vision grow soft and I feel myself within the love of this beautiful world. The miracle is not that this virus will someday leave. It is that it came with such suddenness and power that is will help transform our lives.

 

Turning Weed Thoughts into Flowers

wild-flower-meadowThere are many distressing weed thoughts permeating our lives and thoughts these days. While the specific shape and size of these energy-consuming invaders varies according to our specific situation, there is a simple practice that may help us all live more peaceful and vibrant lives.

For me, a simple checking of the WHO or CDC website for the most accurate information on the current Coronavirus can thistle up the field of my mind for hours. There seem to be far too many places for data to latch on to fear and spin me into uncertainty. This is a very old and established framework of thought for me, and this new “threat” just props up my internal reasons for maintaining the illusion that I am a separate, isolated and at risk creature in an uncontrollable world.

It therefore takes practice and discipline to let creative imagination lead me out of the tall grass and back into a fragrant garden. Let me share a bit of what I see when I tap into the broader perspectives from outside time and space.

We have a planet which is careening headlong into environmental self-destruction.  It is not possible for us to bring this impending environmental disintegration into focus, because it comes in scattered waves of evidence. We have learned too well to look only to what directly effects us and our scattered family members. Even when we acknowledge the peril to our planet’s health and balance, it is too hard to put the pieces together and to agree on how to tend to the Earth in her severe dis-ease.

Then a tiny virus occurs and we suddenly have a focal point. It enters a world without boundaries or categories, totally ignoring borders, ethnic differences, theology or any other divisive category the human mind has ever created. We discover that to care for our loved ones, we must care for all people everywhere. We are drawn together in heart and purpose to make sacrifices and rewrite our ways of life.

In my imagining, this breaks down all of the standard boundaries, even as it invites us to be more present in our lives. We stop traveling long distances and spending hours in commuter traffic. We open more time to be with family and to develop mutually supportive relationships with friends and neighbors. Creative ways of each offering our gifts and abilities in meaningful forms can replace our dependence on “jobs” which have often stolen energy and dignity with little reward.

We find that as the weather warms, we can gather in circles outdoor to hold meetings and share idea; express gratitude and envision creative possibilities. We grow community gardens and sing our songs out under the sky. We live more within our homes and take extraordinary care to keep them clean and free of chemicals so that our water and land remain healthy.

Many of the large group events which have been our distractions and taken huge amounts of financial support are released. We find more local expressions of creativity and discover that we have the resources for all people in every land to have free health care.

We use less fossil fuel on many levels and the Earth sighs with relief. We pull out the lawns and use the water for flowers and food, adding beauty and nourishment back in the land.

Perhaps we find that a few states in the middle of the country, which are free from the virus will become new homesteads. Close down the beef industry and tear out the industrial corn farms to make room for people to live at a more comfortable distance from one another as they restore the vitality of the soil. Go through a month of quarantine at the border and receive the grant of two acres of land. Relieve the press of population in the major seaboard megacities which will both ease the reinfecting cycle of illness and make it easier as severe weather events engulf these population centers.

I know that all of this is based on creative flights of fancy, but that may be the greatest healer and innovator in these times. The Chinese pictogram for “crisis” contains two elements. One is “danger,” and the other is “opportunity.” I invite all of us to take our weed thoughts of threat and fear and transform them into the living garden of new ideas. The transformation of our world and the reentry of the human family into harmony and balance within the web of life begins here.

Do you feel it? The sensation that was apprehension has become playful curiosity. There is more space in the body, heart and the mind for new possibilities. We change a thought, and then another. We entertain an outrageous idea and something amazing emerges. Wow, this is exciting!  Let’s watch the flowers grow.

Partner with Trees

Shadow on trees     In addition to envisioning the return of the natural forest to the property, I am compelled to take a hand in the process. But it is an interesting balance between deciding what I want to have grow where, and listening to what the land wants its two-legged, nimble-fingered partner to do.
Yesterday I transplanted three small pine trees. I took them from the area beyond the wire fence which marks the yard of the cabin. Here a small gathering of trees and manzanita create a semi-circular curve out away from the fence. It looks like this space has been created by someone running a very strong mower over the area on an annual basis.

I found ten young pines, each one standing about 6 inches above ground level, with bushy branches in all directions. Numerous smaller volunteers surround them in small clusters. Since they can not all comfortably mature where they are, I decided to transplant one grouping of them out to the far corner of the field. My hope is that they will do better together as a young generation of siblings.
Grandmother Pine corner      Out at the northeast corner of the land, near Grandmother Pine, I discovered a similarly stunted pine. It sits out toward the open field between a large manzanita and twin mid-aged pines.  I asked their permission, and received their assurance that they will make underground connections with the new arrivals to help them join this family group.

All of that was the easy part. Equipped with water jugs, shovel, work gloves, towel, and wheel barrow, I headed out to dig my holes. I was excited when the first hole I made contained part of an old tree stump. Digging out those remains gave me a spacious place for a young tree, and left some good decaying nourishment for it.
When I returned to their present home, I found that this was going to require a lot more than shoveling up a sprout and its surrounding soil. These were established trees, stunted in size by being regularly cut down. They’d grown back stronger each time.

Tranplant Pine 1
Water and the large shovel got the general outline cut, to allow me to move a whole ecosystem of tree, grasses, smaller tree sprouts and hefty root systems. I lifted the bulk of the soil system away in blocks, since it was held together by grass roots. Soon, I found myself with my forearms braced on the ground; the fingers of both hands teasing soil from around the taproot.  Eight inches down, when the root was the circumference of my finger, I began trying to pull the tree out. That was an interesting wrestling match, which the tree easily won. My only choice was to get the large cutters and sever the taproot. I knew that there were plenty of ancillary roots, and a good length of taproot to help the tree survive, but I still didn’t like cutting it.
Once the tree was out, we made the trip across the land to the new site. I began with a tonic of water with a touch of molasses, to help develop the mycorrhizal network around the transplant. Lowering the tree’s root system into the hole, I was able to add a bit of the local soil back in.  Then the block of rich dark soil, roots and grasses from the tree’s original area went back on top to fill the hole. The tree and it’s usual neighbors remain together to make new friends.

    Transplant Pine 2I was already quite tired, and decided that one more grouping was all I could do in the day. Being an adoption agent for older trees is much more difficult than sitting on the bench envisioning the return of the forest. The second round went more smoothly, but again there was the minor trauma of clipping the taproot.
It is no wonder that I dreamed about it last night. In the dream I was in a rare plant exhibit at a museum with high security restrictions. I accidentally broke off the top of a small cactus plant. In a panic, I broke the top apart and hid it. I kept trying to avoid being discovered, and trying all kinds of things to disguise the damage. I woke with a laugh, knowing that I will need to go out and talk with the tree today.

Last fall, we walked the boundaries of this land and made the promise to take care of it and all the living beings within this space. The relationships that are growing from that vow are amazing.

New growth on Cedar youth

 

(New growth on the small cedar transplanted last fall).

 

 

 

 

Connections

DNA and Earth

Your body is the stuff of stars and of the minerals of the Earth. Your blood runs briny with the seas. The essence of the oceans spills through your veins and arteries. The sediments of Earth make up your cells.
Your genes are universes in themselves, coded with enough information to recreate the world. And perhaps these elements of earth and sky, of nature and the cosmos that actually compose your physical being are the mirror of the great nature which has pushed us to the choice points that we now face.
                  Dr. Jean Houston, Salon Lecture at Pacifica Graduate Institute 3/16/17

I have been listening to recordings of Jean Houston’s lectures this past couple of weeks and have been amazed at how they are shifting my relationships with both people and the cosmos. It is as though the images of my cells being a hologram of my body and my body being a hologram of the earth … have led me to much deeper levels of connection.

I have always been a little bit aloof in my life. I’m not sure if it was my training as an elementary school teacher or my work as a United Methodist clergywoman. It was present in my leadership at The Still Point Zen center, and even in the images of my relationship with the web of light in shamanic journeys. I have aways held myself back a just a bit – one step remote, for instance envisioning myself sending love to the web of life rather than being within it.

It has always been difficult for me to ask for help, and to feel gratitude when I receive it. It is a bad mental habit that I learned very early.  To need someone else’s support was not appropriate. Intelligent, resourceful, spiritually grounded people are not supposed to hit bottom in life. We are supposed to be better than that. We are here to be the ones who give, not the ones who receive.

Somehow there was also the message that help had to be justified, deserved, earned. If not, there was a silent wag of the head in disappointment and disapproval. Even when the money, materials, resources were given, there was always the feeling that to ask was to prove that I was foolish, childish and “needy.”

This old mindset was part of what Bill and I had to combat this past week. We have chosen a very simple lifestyle, paring down our expenses and moving through the bankruptcy process with our debts. I am anticipating part-time work as a caregiver for a fascinating elderly woman starting in March. Even so we have been spending down through our savings month after month, trying to hold on until my pension becomes available in the fall. The other day we were forced to admit that we could not pay the power bill on time and have money for groceries. It literally took hours for us to come to grips with “This is how it happens. This is how people end up with nothing in the bank and bills to pay.”

Finally, we found the courage to each pick one friend who we felt we could ask for a loan. The response from both was immediate understanding and loving support for us flowing in along with the money. We now have enough to cushion each month’s expenses and a small amount in savings for unexpected challenges. The trust it took to ask has also deepened and enriched those friendships. We look forward to the day that we can give in this same generous way to others.

I have long envisioned myself as one standing slightly on the outside, finding ways to add light, love, joy, service … to the lives of others. A couple of weeks ago this shifted to seeing myself woven into the fabric of life will all other living beings. I became a strand among millions of others, feeling the balance of supporting and being supported within the web of life.

This week, even that seems too individual. I am beginning to sense myself as one cell within this amazing organism that is the Earth. It means that as I care for my inward needs, filling my own heart and life with blessing and love, I nourish all the rest of this living system. Conversely, I am not separate from all of the resources, elements, energies of the Earth. Whatever is needed for me to thrive is also right here available to me.

I love the correlation between the sharing of love, insights, financial resources among friends and the continuous circulation of nourishment among all of the cells of an organism as complex as the world. I find myself sinking into the marvelous, briny earth soup of life. Here I am part of the pulse and flow of human beings, plants and animal, creation and all that is sacred. It is a wonderful feeling.

(Our deep gratitude to those of you who support us through Patreon. Your monthly support both aids the sustaining flow of financial resources into our lives and gives us deep encouragement that what we offer is valuable.)

Looking Through the Wave

WaveAs I stand on the threshold of this new decade, an unexpected joy and spaciousness greets me. For days my focus has been on how pivotal this decade is in terms of the Climate Crisis. If we fail to totally change the way we fuel our lives and our economy within this ten years, we will pass the crucial tipping point in global warming. The resulting cascade of environmental changes could lead to an Earth that can no longer support human life. So, why is there hope and joy bubbling up from my core?

It comes from an understanding of my role, and the task for all of us who are committed to living an Earth-centered life in our later years. We are called to become the Elders of our culture and to serve as spiritual elders have for centuries, as those who see in that darkness and look through to the light.

Here is what I experienced in a recent shamanic journey:

I was standing on a beach as an old woman, wearing a simple long dress, with a shawl draped over my head and shoulders. I was facing out to sea. In the near distance was a 500 foot standing wave.  It was a solid wall of water, which had paused for a moment before crashing into the shore where I stood.

I was not afraid, and there was no urge to turn and run. There was nothing I could do to stop or change the wave. I was asked to look straight at it and on through it to what exists beyond. What I saw was a vibrantly alive forest and a pristine, thriving Earth. There were many varieties of plants and animals in the undergrowth.

When I asked about humans, I was told that they no longer live in big concrete structures. I was shown a gathering of small hut-like homes made of natural materials. The people emerged from their dwellings, walked out into an open meadow and began singing their love for all of the gifts of the Earth and stars. I was told that the People had rediscovered the heart of gratitude and harmony.

The general message was to stay calm. Look through the noise, confusion and chaos of these times. Hold in focus the Web of Life returned to vibrant health and balance.

It was a call for us to serve as the Wise Elders of our culture. We are here, to do deep spiritual work to aid the transformation of the relationship of humankind to the natural world, and to the Sacred Source of Life. The changes needed in our outer lives can only be empowered by a renewed love for all living beings. When every expression of the natural world is a dear member of our family to be honored, served and cherished, we will rediscover our appropriate place within the Web of Life.

This is a huge challenge, and we are those who are here at this time, and at this point in our lives to meet it. There is no panic, no hurry, only the clear gaze of those who can see through the wall of water that separates us from Life. We stand together, looking into the future. We focus on the Earth beyond, in which our children’s children to the seventh, the fourteenth and the twenty-first generations will find joy and peace.

To honor our common spiritual journey of the healing of Earth and Her Children, I am now offering one-on-one Spiritual Direction. This process of bringing all of life into focus around the sacred nature of life is open to people of all spiritual traditions and practices. For more information, follow the link above or contact me at earthcenterednancy@gmail.com.

New Relationship with Land – Fiona

Horse Camp 8/4/19
As Bill and I have settled onto this 2.8 acres of family land in Mount Shasta, we have begun to sense that this land called us here to bring us healing and so we can bring it healing. This week, that understanding deepened through the example of two women. Each of them live in harmony with all living beings in a way I have not experienced before. To honor each, I will make this a two-part series.

The first is Fiona, who is a tangible expression of my archetype of “Woman of the Mountain.” She invited me to her home and to walk the 5 acres she cares for. It was a transforming experience. What had been ideas and concepts of honoring the other living beings of an area were brought into a vivid, solid expression.

Her home is small, and contains a few simple possessions. It has modern electricity and plumbing, but does not support internet, television, cellphone or other electronic devices. Instead, there are rooms with large windows to let in the light. There are lovely items which reflect the integration of her spiritual practice and love of music into the heart of her life. There are also a number of features to support her cat and honor its need for quiet, safety, and nourishment. This animal is her friend, companion and housemate.

Beyond her doorway, there is a natural mountain hillside, with minimally cleared pathways winding through it. These paths feel more borrowed from the hillside, with large roots and lower manzanita branches continuing their growth across it. This small maze of trails and sub-pathways is part of the human and cat domain, shared with fox and bobcat, deer, squirrel and bear, and dozens of other winged, four-legged, creepers and slithering ones.

One place where my theory was confronted with a more potent practice was in her care for the mice who visit the outbuildings. These little ones are treated with deep kindness and affection. They are trapped in a spacious cage, with a built-in water supply. The next morning, this is moved to the protection of the shed, and they are given breakfast and left there to rest for an hour so they can calm down and eat. Next, they are transported several miles away to a spot with a small stream of water, so they can settle into a new habitat with all they need to survive. I had thought I understood “humane trapping of mice,” until I saw this true relationship with the creatures.

Fliona has asked that I house and cat sit early next summer. I will visit her and her cat often, to learn the land and let my relationship with her cat develop. I will also continue my inward transformation so that when I am there, I will honor the heart and spirit of the place as well as provide basic care.

I have long journeyed to “Woman on the Mountain,” in my shamanic practice. It is an important image of my future-self who has learned to live in harmony with Mount Shasta and Black Butte and this whole region – and with all the living beings of this area. This future me is calm and confident because she has deep relationships with land, rock, tree,animals, birds, moon, sunshine and stars.

As you can see, the Seen tangible expressions of life weave together with the Unseen mysteries of the oneness of all living beings. As a result, I am discovering that “all living beings,” includes all that shares the elements of the Earth with me — all of soil, water, air, fire, vapor — in their amazing variety of expressions. There is life in us all, as well as spirit and wisdom and the desire for harmony.

I will continue to describe the new depths of these relationships and connections in my next article.

(For this article I have used a pseudonym for my friend to honor her privacy.)

Photo of Nancy on her 61st birthday at Horse Camp trail head.