Preparing for a Winter Flow

Cabin and BregoAs the season moves from autumn and fall toward winter we are making a number of adjustments to help reduce fuel consumption while keeping ourselves warm. We have decided that since both the cabin and Brego (our motor home) need to be kept warm enough to protect pipes and possessions from too great a temperature dip, we will use both. Bill sleeps in the cabin; going to bed early and rising early to do Qi Gong and write before the sun rises. I sleep in the motor home, sometimes waking in the middle of the night to do a shamanic journey.

When I get up, he already has the cabin warmed into the low 60’s and I give Brego a ten-minute burst from the central propane heater to warm things from 47 to around 50. This also gives me a chance to use the small space of the bathroom as a warming closet for my clothes. I layer my “lounging clothes” over my night clothes, greet the morning, and then head to the warmth of the cabin and the coffee that awaits me. On mornings when it is below 30* on the porch, Bill starts a fire in the small iron fireplace to take the chill off the small living room.

IMG_5991When the sun is up over Black Butte, I remove the three layers of insulation from Brego’s south-facing windows. I drape the felt over the couch to protect it,  raise the Venetian blinds and reposition the reflective silver insulation sheet to catch as much sunlight as possible. By mid-day, the temperature will be 65 – 70. Friends have recommended the large diameter bubble wrap attached directly to the window to let in light, so I am trying to gather that for both dwellings from stores who are trying to recycle their packaging.

Many of our days are still spent out on the land or hiking the nearby trails. Yesterday, we went up the mountain to collect fire wood along a forest service road. Bill will spend part of the next few days sawing it into pieces that fit the fireplace. He is also working on a spiral path to Grandfather Tree. I am tending the young transplanted trees, keeping a small pond available, and using pine needles to lightly mulch some dry spots in the meadow.

Other days we are both at our computers, sometimes using the afternoon warmth to do Qi Gong or do home care and maintenance. Our ritual of sitting out at the bench in our meadow has moved earlier, now that the sunset is nearing 4:15. After some time to share about our day, I go in and put the insulation back up in Brego and we share dinner and the evening in the cabin, which the space heater easily keeps at 60 – 65.

When snow comes and temperatures drive us indoors, there are books to read and others to write. It will be soon be time to create rich soups and drink spice tea. The creative energies will find new expressions. But there will still be walks in the woods and shoveling snow it keep us connected with nature.

IMG_5990A month or so ago, I asked some of my family and friends if they had any yarn to share. I have received about 20 skeins and leftover balls of earth-tone yarn. I’m 2/3 of the way through knitting a warm afghan for the bed, and plan several other projects to keep my hands busy and my lap warm this winter. Today, I will unpack my sewing machine to begin making curtains for three of the windows in the cabin, hoping to add another layer of warmth.

We have decided to drain the motor home’s fresh water tank, in order to protect it.  The hot water heater in the cabin is wonderfully efficient, so showers and dish washing are easy to do there. With a new dryer off the bedroom, the cabin also provides the luxury of warming our clothes while we shower. I think this will be one of my favorite treats when colder weather comes.

At about 7:30, I change into nighttime clothes with lounging clothes over them before I return to Brego. There is another brief burst of propane powered heat to make the transition to bed. Here I do journey work, read and settle down for the night. A small electric space heater in the aisle is set to come on to help keep things above 47* through the night. I climb in under a delicious pile of blankets, draw my scarf over my head and nestle in the a good night of sleep.

I wanted to share these practical matters with you, because it is all part of the fabric of living an appropriate life as a human couple seeking balance with the natural world. We are trying to keep our foot print small even as our living space is now closer to 600 square feet. We are also welcome the bundling up, eating warming foods, and cuddling which make us look forward to the winter.

 

Sixty-First Birthday

IMG_5236A year ago, I took a transformative birthday hike which gave a surge of flow to some things we were already considering and brought to life others. I shared that experience in my post “Birthday Hike.” At that time much was still unformed, theoretical, and experimental in the unfolding of a human life, lived in harmony with nature. I did not know then what it meant to live an Earth-Centered life, in the service of the Earth and all living beings. It has been an amazing year.

Last year, after my birthday hike, I returned to a rented 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house that was tucked up on the north face of a wooded hillside. The house was enfolded by Dogwoods, Pines, Cedars and Manzanita. The outside critters were pets, having been fed by hand by the previous tenant. We too were tame, throwing out apple and seed in the evenings and watching chipmunk and squirrel; blue jay and deer gather for this staged encounter. Our sky was very narrow, leaving the house in the shade much of the year, and yielding little of moon or starlight.

IMG_5553This year, I returned to our 30-foot long Winnebago motor home, and its lovely small shower. It sits in a meadow-like setting with a dozen or so adolescent pine trees at the near side of the 3 acres. We look out at the cinder form of Black Butte, with the silhouettes of trees marking its outline against the sky. The canopy of the heavens is wide open to bring sunshine through the days and the shifting patterns of moonlight across the nights. The Milky Way stretches leisurely across the sky when the moon is young, and the sun appears at a slightly different point on the mountain side each morning.

There are deer and hare; chipmunk and lizard; sparrow, hawk, golden eagle and swallow in the meadow. I saw a long, thin gray snake one day, and we chased a coyote away one night because it was disturbing our near neighbor’s dog. We still water a small area near the motor home, and scatter some seed for the smaller birds. I have set up a small tub of water near the far fence, sheltering it between bushes and overhanging it with dried manzanita to provide a safe place for the smaller creatures to drink. They are all shy and wild and wonderful.

Last summer, much of my time was spent trying to enliven my bookbinding and book repair business. I put in more hours, went to more craft fairs and took on more challenging repair projects. It didn’t work. The business died beneath me and, in releasing my identity as a bookbinder, the last obstacle was removed from shifting to a full-time motor home life. By December the equipment and supplies were in storage. All of those materials are now seeking a new set of hands to put them back to their intended use of making beautiful books. I hope that my ads with several bookbinding schools will catch the eye and imagination of a new bookbinder.

The practical challenges of living as two individuals in a small home are finding their own solutions. We are playing with our schedule to allow times for independent function. We find true appreciation of the good food, beautiful surroundings, comfortable home and freedom to live simply in relationship with one another and with the Earth, which this home on wheels supports. We are each following our own unique path in ways very different from all of the shared work we have done in the past. We are encouraging each other in our self-understandings that I am more of a mystic than I had realized and Bill is very much the wise elder and mountain hermit.

I had been doing Shamanic Journey for over a year when I turned 60. I had completed a couple of courses on line with Sandra Ingerman and Don Oscar Miro-Quesada. I had met my power animals and journeyed to several places of healing in the Unseen world. Images and messages from this journey work provided guidance, encouragement and vision for the transition that took on its practical form in the late fall.

This year, nourished by many more shamanic journeys, hikes in amazing natural beauty, and continued learning from my teachers, I have settled into this as my path and work. The transformation of the World requires the dreaming into being of that transformation. What takes form in ordinary reality must first be envisioned, tended and drawn through from the Unseen World. This is not the work of my human will, but as a living channel of the loving, healing, creative energy of the Sacred Source flowing through me. My work is to deepen my relationship with the creating heart of the Earth/Source/Creator through experiencing it in my shamanic journeys and chanting.

I hope to be able to weave together a book of the threads – images and insights I can bring back from the Unseen to the Seen expression of Life. I can not describe this work well, but I know the feeling in my core – the focus of my consciousness, my life, my love in celebrating the sacredness of the Earth and her expression in all living beings. The dedication has moved from theory to daily practice, and is now supported by a teacher and shamanic drumming circle here in Mount Shasta.

Over the months ahead we will each continue to discover how to share our gifts with others.  I will do my work for the benefit of all, as all shamanic work has always been done. I will write when the words flow, or when a poem wakes me from sleep. I will send honor, respect, balance, clarity and harmony out into the world with every step I take in my hiking. I will discipline my mind, so that my thoughts are adding light, love and renewal to the Web of Life.

You are always free to come to this website and follow my unfolding life path. Please, share this with others who you feel would enjoy the journey. If you find that it resonates with your being, please explore your own ways of connecting with the Light, Love and Life of the Sacred Source. I would love to hear from you about what you discover along the way.

(The photos are of Black Butte to show how it towers above us here, and the tree line up the southern slope.)

Life Flowing with Shuffles

IMG_5081
“I do nothing. It is more difficult than it sounds,” responded one of my companions from the Strolling Bears. I had asked how she connects with the mystery that runs deep within life. “I allow Life to live,” she continued, tipping her head to one side. “It takes awareness and patient attention to catch the current of where it is flowing.” It was an unexpected response and one that fed my thoughts as we hiked along the trail beside a rushing river coming down from Mount Shasta.

The scene was amazing. Dancing rapids and singing river to the right. Hillsides of moss- covered rock which were home to layers of small plants, wild flowers and grasses of all sizes and shapes. They made a tapestry of varied shades of green with pink, yellow and purple bright threads woven in. Above, there was a blue sky with gentle breeze to ease the heat. Below, a rock and packed soil path, narrow enough to keep me focused on “just this step.”

We had lunch overlooking a small waterfall, little more than a series of rapids with their own waves splashing back into other bowls of rock. On the return, we paused to soak our feet in the icy waters and laughed at the complexity of getting out of and back into socks and hiking boots. I had remained alone, toward the back of the group, most of the hike, and it was great to have this companionship of cold toes and river-water moistened hair.

IMG_1710There is a picture of me, one sock in my fingers and a butterfly resting on the back of my hand, licking salt and water from my skin. That butterfly visited each of us, resting on hand or finger for a leisurely rest. When we got ready to leave, it landed on the back of my head and rode there for about a quarter of a mile, sipping river water and tapping my scalp with its long tongue. My mind played with the idea of a butterfly symbolizing transformation, and me carrying it along, coming up with,  “I am a vehicle for transformation.”

When my friend had left me and the weariness of being 3.2 miles into a 4 mile hike began to set in, life turned again. I came around a corner in the trail and my three companions were talking with a young hiker from the Pacific Crest Trail. She was looking for a ride out into town. My fatigue eased and I chatted with her as we returned to our car. She is from New Zealand, completing California sections of the PCT she could not do last year due to fires and smoke in this area.

What started as a ride to town ended up with her being our cabin guest for the night. She was delighted with the shower and a place to unfold her sleeping bag and sleep through the afternoon. Bill made one of his famous pasta sauces and we added chocolate cake for dessert. Dinner was enjoyed sitting outside our motor home, sharing stories and book recommendations back and forth. Her perspectives as a 20+ from a “tiny country on the bottom of the world” meshed seamlessly with our 60+ perspective on living simply here. She spoke of living on the trail; waking in the night and seeing spiders on the outside of her tent, having her tent blow over on top of her, walking long hours on road portions of the trail that beat your legs and tire you whole body. She also shared the joys of seeing bear and snake, stars and eagles, and making friends along the way. We spoke of the freedom of living in our home on wheels and our appreciation for our place here at the edge of a meadow with pine trees, with Black Butte as the backdrop. What a wonderful gift.

The next morning I got to spend more time with Shuffles (her trail name) driving her to the segment of the PCT near Dunsmuir she needed to complete. I came back to pick her up and set her on her way toward Burney Falls. It was great watching her walk off, big pack comfortably on her back – one who loves to hike and is living her dream.

I could not have imagined a more lovely two days in my life. Why would I feel that there is something I am seeking, something more that I need to discover? Life, when allowed to flow where it will, makes it perfect to be carried by its marvelous currents.

 

Coming Back Into Focus

IMG_E4828I can not even begin to explain the blending of factors that has led me to fall silent these past six months. I am still watching as Grandmother weaves together the mixture of threads of my life transition to give some form to the experience. I know that it is more complex than I could have imagined. I know Bill and I went straight against all we knew about the ways in which multiple changes add to the stress on the body and mind. I know that we were blessed beyond measure by our family; the Spirit of the Huachuca Mountains and San Pedro Valley; the living beings that surrounded us; and the help of those in the unseen world. I also know that it will take time for me to integrate our winter in the desert. I will share that process with you as it takes a more solid shape.

For now, I want to return to the blog as I return to our home on the skirts of Mount Shasta. We have come back in our motorhome, Brego, and are living about one mile and a world away from where be began on December 1 of last year. Brego has become home in a deep and stable way. I am familiar with the rituals of folding out the bed and spreading out the blankets when it is time to sleep. There is a pattern for washing and rinsing dishes to put a minimum of soap and food particles onto the land. I fill jugs of water from the faucet for our drinking water and other uses for the time being, while Bill solves the issue of air in the fresh water pump. We take wash tub baths and try to do part of our laundry by hand. In sum, we are finding how to live congruently with this home and in harmony within our natural environment.

We just returned from our first “unplugged” camping experience up along the McCloud River. Our original plan had been a very brief touching down with our son and his family, and then out into the open lands doing dry camping (without electric and water hook-ups). But somehow life had other plans. The connection with family was one of the threads in our weaving of this new chapter of our lives. The time we spent with them extended through the winter and the dry camping just never came into place.

One week after getting back to home territory we found the time was right. The weather was perfect. We were in Fowler Campground –  a lovely area right at the edge of the river between the Lower and Middle Falls of the McCloud River. This has been a wet and snowy winter and so the falls and river are especially captivating. I hiked for hours each of the four days we were there and Bill combined writing, hiking and gathering wood for our morning and evening fires. We had the sense that this was the life we came out to experience. This is what we are walking toward so we can more fully appreciate and serve the web of life. For me, it was a settling back in with cherished land.

I feel like I am just waking up from a complex, beautiful and disorienting dream. My practices of greeting the day, and doing shamanic journey and ceremony were present in Arizona, but somehow they were sharing my attention with a great deal of learning, living and adjusting. Now there is a sweet feeling of asking permission to sink back into the amazing energy field and companionship of Mount Shasta and all the expressions of nature here. The practical aspects of life continue their pull, but here it is the devotion to the healing of the Earth and All Her Children which promise to fill my days.

 

Age Matters On This Journey

Even as I invite people of all ages to seek their expression of Earth-Centered Living, the “after 60” part this journey does have an impact. Sometimes, I can pretend that age does not matter – that life experience balances physical energy and stamina. Yet, part of this choice is to look clearly at its challenges as well as its blessings.

I got a small lesson on physical flexibility the other day. I was enjoying a solo hike in Ramsey Canyon, having walked about 50 minutes to my lunch/turn around point. I was 3/4 of the way back, considering other hikes on future days, when my toe caught on a rock and I took three off-balanced steps before fully regaining my footing. My first thought was “Good, I didn’t fall.” My second was “I just pulled something in my right thigh/hip and I’m going to have to hobble back to the car.”

In the end, the injury was very minor, but suddenly I was flooded with the sense of vulnerability — out on my own, having our only vehicle with me, having a less limber body than 20 years ago… I can not always count on being able to hike. I need to find ways to let my body rest when these small pulls happen to this aging body.

Will and I are experiencing another challenge that is common to those who set out in new directions in their retirement years.  We find ourselves reaching a physical/mental exhaustion point. While young people fuel their adventures on adrenaline; as older introverts, we have been running on serotonin. After three months of stress and new challenges, including the sense of having left everything and all familiar ties behind, our serotonin and dopamine reserves are at a low ebb. We find our best healing option to come to a full stop and rest.

We will hold steady here with our son’s family near the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona. All we need to maintain our motor home is easy to obtain here, and Brego continues to prove a comfortable, sustaining home.

We are spending more time sitting beside the San Pedro River, allowing the stream to flow by with all its nurturing tones. Our walks are shorter, and allow exercise without pushing ourselves to fatigue. Pampering ourselves is becoming a daily practice, as we gather familiar books and DVD’s from the library, eat healthy flavorful foods, and work with materials that nurture our creative spirit. It is a time for very few rules and a large number of naps.

We have been telling others for decades about the impact of multiple major stressors on a person’s overall health. As a friend pointed out, we have hit a overabundance of major life transitions. To those of you considering Earth-Centered living in a full-time motor home framework, I would encourage you to stay close to your current community as you make the transition. Establish a new set of rhythms with support of friends and familiar places in nature that nourish your spirit. Try to carry your current work life into the next phase, at least at first. Allow the changes to unfold more gradually.  And if this is not possible for you. Then learn the glories of sitting quietly, sinking into the generous beauty of nature, and taking a good rest.

 

Learning from Stone

img_1633Hiking in the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains I find that my connection is less with the ancient people of this land, and more with the land itself. The desert, in this place and season, offers rich diversity under a broad sky, with mountains creating a ripple along the far horizons.

On my hike the other day, it was the “stone relatives,” that captured my attention. In the canyon areas there are a few massive rock outcroppings, more large clusters of boulders and endless small rocks in stream beds and along pathways. At any scale, what they show is a gathering of a wide range of hue, texture, mineral content, shape and degree of luster all tumbled together. Some carry striations within, while others are solidly green or red or curry-colored. All mixed together, resting on one another .

Finding balance in my life these past few weeks has been difficult and so I asked for a message from Stone. The response I received was, “It takes a long time to become stone, and it takes a long time for a stone to break down.” Integrating the various elements of my life can not be hurried. I am in the process of drawing together the basic materials of my life experiences, and seeing what new form my gift to the web of life may take. This is not something that can occur overnight.

The other message from Stone: “See the beauty of the diversity of the gathering of all of these elements.” Each stone reflects its own unique way of drawing from earth, wind, water and fire to form an enduring expression of the riches of nature. This invites a trust in each of us on our Earth walk. Each one of us is a wondrous expression of the combining of the elements of the earth and the glory of light and spirit. Together, we provide mutual support as well as create a beauty and power in our combined forms that is not be available to any one individual.

Stone is also the stable and enduring aspect of the changing landscape. Its being draws in the heat of the sun in the daytime and releases it as warmth in the cold desert nights.In its shade, plants grow and animals find shelter. Around its form, water flows and splashes and tumbles on its way.

As I seek to integrate the various areas of my life, it will be the stable core of my dedication to the healing of Mother Earth and all Her children that will be the basis for everything else. I begin as a child of the Earth enlivened with the light of the Source of All That Is. I can be patient and allow the rest to take solid form in its own time.

 

Nothing Like a Head Cold …

cold

Attractive woman with cup of hot drink

 

Two days after we claimed Brego (Our 30-ft. 2003 Winnebago house on wheels), we both came down with head colds. Plain, simple head colds that leave you feeling miserable for about 7 days if you do everything right and a week if you don’t. But there is nothing like a head cold to test the home-worthiness of a new abode.

Part of being a couple in a small space is finding a way of letting one another get needed rest. In Brego, there is a wood door that swings open across the hallway to give the bathroom/bedroom a private feel. It muffles the sound enough, so my nighttime self-care in the front of our home has not completely disrupted Will’s sleep in the bedroom.

I have taken to the couch/bed, finding it perfect for sleeping partly sitting up. “Bergo’s blanket,” a rough hand-woven horse-like blanket that we brought with us, has been my extra warm top layer. Topped with a scarf around my head, my forward nest has been perfect for the times my sinuses have allowed me to sleep.

Changing position to sitting cross-legged, with thick robe and blanket around me, it has also offered space for tea and spiritual journey when I’m awake in the night. What a head cold does to the brain cells seems to make it easy to slide into that dream-like thought pattern that allows helping ancestors to teach me at 3 AM. I have received constant reassurance about my current path in life and images of being painted with the colors of this desert landscape as a way of integrating my life into the service of this expression of earth, sky, water and light.

Another message that dropped in one pre-dawn was the challenge to drink 10 cups of tea by 2, a reminder of the wonders of hot, spiced tea. Letting the warmth and moisture move up into my sinuses as a natural decongestant and feeling that relief has lifted my hopes of feeling better.

This is not to say that there are not huge piles of used tissues and a nose chapped almost to bleeding involved. I have done my usual thing of trying several over the counter cold remedies as well, and my body has withstood the challenge. Many times I would have preferred an immediate cure of this cold as a message of the support of the spirits of this land. Yet, now on day 6 1/2 I can acknowledge that there is nothing like surviving a cold to convince me at my core that Brego is my comfortable home and will support me in sickness and health along our way.