Relationship with Land: Mary Reynolds

gardenawakeningA few weeks ago I shared about Fiona and her invitation to live in a more intimate relationship with the land. Today, I want to share about a second big influence: Mary Reynolds. You may have heard of her through the film “Dare to be Wild,” about her wild, native garden entry in the Chelsea Garden Show, or from her book The Garden Awakening. I discovered her through an NPR interview, shared by a friend, and have since been reading her book and her website We Are the Ark

Mary weaves together a love for land as a living being, the honoring of native plants and creatures, and the importance of growing our own food. She began her career designing gardens that had multi-levels of trees, plants and shrubs which provided both habitat for wild life and fresh food for humans. She is now calling for those of us who are caring for some piece of land to allow half of it to return to its wild state to provide an Ark to help retain diversity of both plants and animals. Growing our own food allows our land to nourish us. It frees us from mass produced food which poisons our bodies, the land, and all living beings through its use of GMO crops and the pesticides/herbicides/fertilizers they require.

Bill with CedarWhile many of our friends are having to take out the shrubs and trees near their homes to reduce fire risks, we are fortunate to live in small dwellings on about 2.8 acres of open grassland with trees, manzanita and other scrub. Beyond the “defensible space,” for human habitat, there are a number of different areas within this land. There is maze-like area of manzanita bushes and pine trees settled near the road, and extending north to Grandfather Tree. There is a gathering of pines, manzanita and other bushes at the back corner, with Grandmother tree in its center. There are a dozen 30-year-old pine trees (The Sisters), which follow the contours of the land in a way that implies a stream leading to a small pond. There is another small cluster of bushes and the small pond I have set out at the other rear corner. Then there is open grassland which has been mowed on a yearly basis, but is basically natural.

During this past week, we have followed Mary’s advice in several ways. She recommends that each year, you walk the boundaries of your property and tap stones together to let it know that within this place you will be caring for the land. Part of this is to honor it as a living being and to learn to listen to what it wants to be, as well as to communicate your wishes for it. We used our drumming to set this boundary of care and to share our intentions that this be a place where people can discover deep, healing connection with nature and that all the living beings here thrive in harmony with one another.

Nancy and FirYesterday, we brought two small trees from the edge of the road into the stream-like pattern in the field. Again, Mary’s words inspired this experience. Mycorrhizal networks extending beyond the root systems of trees communicate both with the soil to seek needed nutrients and with other trees to provide information and mutual support. We started by finding a few small trees that were willing to be moved from their current network out into the field, and trees among The Sisters to be foster family connections for these young ones. We dug up the small fir and cedar as carefully as we could, using our fingers to untangle their roots from the stony soil and then carried their roots, surrounded by some of their own soil in a damp towel out to where they were planted. I cradled them in my arms and sang to them, and spoke of the sunshine and love they were being moved into. Bill helped plant them at just the right depth and gathered pine needles to mulch around them.

We returned to the places where we had taken the trees, and made offerings, restored the soil as much as possible and offered gratitude to the surrounding vegetation.

Later in the day, I made a mixture of water, a handful of rich soil we had gathered from a hillside that has never been cleared, and a bit of sugar. I sang to it and again placed intentions into it for it to bring light, love and vibrant life to all it touches. At the close of the day, we poured good amounts of this water onto the two new trees and then gave a bit to each of the Sister Trees in gratitude to them.

I am deeply grateful to Mary Reynolds for these and many other suggestions she makes for creating strong relationships with the land on which we live. She helped me bridge a sense of environmental responsibility to nurture this property and the symbolic ritual that has become familiar in my shamanic practice.

I will continue to share with you as the seasons unfold, and I learn more as I listen to the land.

Places to Begin if you have a small yard, or if you have voice in the landscaping near your home or work pace:

  • Visit Mary Reynolds’ website wearetheark.org. We Are the Ark 
  • Read the opening chapters of her The Garden Awakening, to nurture your sense of relationship with land as a living bring.
  • NSPR Interview – Best of Cultivating Places: Dare to Be Wild, Aired Oct. 10, 2019, by North State Public Radio in Chico, CA.
  • Do not use any chemicals on your land – not fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides … they poison land, water and all living beings.
  • Let go of lawns — they gobble up space, usually require chemical support and excessive watering, and cause us to categorize many native grasses as “weeds.”
  • If you can not grow your own food, buy organically grown to reduce our dependence of agribusiness farming practices.
  • Allow nature to bring forth what it knows is fitting for the soil and the climate of your area.  Sometimes leaving it alone will allow it to reintroduce a balance of plants and grasses which can thrive in current conditions, and support living creatures of many sizes and forms.

Extraordinary Challenge

gretathunberg_2018x-1350x675-1The outcry of the young is reaching me here in my mountain home. A young woman who has been speaking out for the planet, and trying to get people to listen to what science has told us for most of my adult life, has burst into the public eye. Greta Thunberg’s message tells me that while my inner work is vital, the use of my voice is also essential to being dedicated to the healing of the Earth and all her children.

It was her call for a “state of emergency” response to climate change that caught my attention. If she is right, there is no time to go through endless arguments. If she is wrong, there is no harm done in placing the survival of the planet above the accumulation of money and material goods. One goal she mentioned in a TED talk was the reduction of CO2 emissions by rich nations by 15% per year with a goal of 0 emissions in 6 – 12 years. This is an incredible goal. It will be a miraculous achievement when obtained. It is a nearly impossible challenge which is perfect for this time in our evolution as human beings, and for the work of grandmothers and grandfathers.

We who are seeking to live earth-centered lives in our 60’s and beyond are perfectly placed to lead the way. We have experienced massive changes in our world over the course of our lives. Many of us have let go of “earning a living,” and are settling into a more simple lifestyle. We are aware of the ultimate transition of this lifetime awaiting us on the near horizon. We have worked through many of our illusions, confusions and imagined needs. We have learned that living in harmony with the Earth is a spiritual as well as a practical path.

What are we willing and able to do to slow the rate of carbon emissions? How do we hold to our commitment in the backlash of our conditioned mind telling us that it will not be enough? How do we create an outward space that supports all living beings, while continuing to work on our inner being to allow more of the flow of light, love and creativity of the Sacred Source to flow through us as healing energy for the planet?

These are questions I want to explore on this page. They are at the heart of “Earth-Centered Living after 60,” as we weave our inner/spiritual energy with the outward/practical expressions of deep connection with All That Is. We will each look to our own wisdom and spiritual guidance to see what is ours to do. We needn’t become overwhelmed, since we are each a single cell in the amazing organism of Life.

I think of our parents’ and grandparents’ wisdom. They lived in a less technology-based world and developed ways of living with very few material comforts. They faced rationing in times of war; endured the poverty of depression era living and were often part of immigrant populations forced to migrate far from their homelands. What are the stories you remember of “Victory Gardens,” “Mend and make do,” riding a bicycle to work rather than having a car? Are there images and practices waiting to be rediscovered? Can we honor our personal and collective ancestors by looking to them for the wisdom we need now to help us survive as a species?

From my youth, I remember President Jimmy Carter responding to an energy crisis by inviting us all to turn down the thermostat in our homes and wear sweaters. He cut the highway speed limit to use gasoline in a more efficient way. Can we adapt and adjust these recommendations to help us now?

I am making a renewed commitment to writing in this blog one a weekly basis. I hope this will nurture a forum not for debate about whether extraordinary measures are needed, but how we might take them in our daily lives, in service to this beautiful planet. Please share this with others who may be interested in this community. To face this challenge, we are going to need all of the creative ideas and open hearts we can gather.

Some other background links for Greta and the IPCC report:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2018:      IPCC Report

Greta before the US Congress included in: Several speeches in US in September

Conversation with Money

snowflakeI was introduced to this concept through a free introductory session from Shift Network for their course: “The Generous, Loving Energy of Money,” with Sarah McCrum. While I generally veer away from anything that ties spirituality with money, abundance, … I loved her tone. Her premise is that “Money” is one of the most misunderstood forms of energy in the universe. Our conditioned mind, our personal upbringing, our cultural messages, and our life-long experience of ambivalence with money, lead to a love/hate relationship with it.

One of her books: “Love Money, Money Loves You,” emerged as she had conversations directly with “Money.” She recommends this practice, and I am amazed at what has emerged over the months as I have used it. I will share a bit of my dialogue, but encourage you to try it for yourself.

I first did a journey to meet the energy of Money, and found that it appeared in the form of a snowflake — full of light and beauty. In a dialogue that followed, Money affirmed this image as much more helpful that the cultural dollar signs and price tags that we have been taught to place on everything, including our own worth and the value of our life purpose.

In following Sarah’s example, I took time to quiet my mind, and then just sat at the computer, typing my questions and watching what emerged as I typed responses.

An image of the flow of financial resources into my life being like the flow of water available for a garden has been very helpful.

N: Good morning my snowflake-shaped friend. As I open to the possibilities of your flow in support of my life, I find that I am more open to admitting I want that support. But then, I immediately go to, “I don’t want to sound greedy, …” I do not want my relationship with you to become one where I am clawing at you trying to get more and more.

M: Okay, do you see where you veered from your original open, honest, vulnerable statement and went right into an age-old myth? When you make “What I want to support my life” = “Greed” we are in shut-down mode. One of the worst names anyone could call you is “greedy,” so your analytical mind, which wants to stay between you and me, throws out that name to get you to move away and “be reasonable.”

N: Yes, that seems to be what happens. I am to weigh, measure and compare my wants/needs very carefully before I ask for anything. The one in me who does that process is afraid of wanting anything more than bed, rice and beans.

M: Remember that I am not the miser here. My flow is available and unlimited. What you receive does not limit what flows to every other living being. Money is not limited – currency may be, but Money = Nurturing flow to support life purpose, is not.
I am not a Comptroller who is managing your life. You are responsible for the requests you make, the focus you hold, and the way you decide to channel the flow as it comes. If you asked for more water for your garden, the canal operator would not tell you which vegetables or trees to put the water on – he would simply increase the flow. You could not complain to him that you drown your parsley and that your lettuce never matured because of the dry conditions. I am not trying to control your life – I am not here to determine your life focus, nor to make you a good person — or a bad person for that matter. I am a resource which is eager to enhance life on the planet – to bring peace, love, joy and fulfillment. So, can you go back to the beginning? What is your life purpose and what can I do to help support it?

N:  I want to give the gift of my life purpose: “Being an open, human channel for the flow of the Love, Creativity, Harmony and Light of the Sacred Source.” I want to be one who helps bring the sacredness of all of life back into our human experience. I sense this is nurtured by my Shamanic Journey work and a deepening relationship with all living beings. It may be expressed in the weaving of a book from some of the insights this work brings.

I do not see myself working very much in the outward, ordinary world. I give my life focus for the benefit of all beings, and the healing of the planet Herself. In return, I seek a flow of financial resources to sustain the simple life Bill and I are living, with freedom from worry about bills and unexpected expenses. I will continue my inner work to open to this flow into and through my life.

May you have your own conversations with “Money,” and find a new relationship with it that brings freedom, peace and joy to your life.

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.)

Each One a Living Dance – Poem

This poem emerged as I was waking up the other morning. It was born in that place between sleep and wakefulness –  words tapping themselves into being on my computer keyboard.

As I reread the words, they are exactly what I want to say to family members and dear friends; neighbors and coworkers; classmates and students; teachers and guides. They are the promise I want to make to strangers and loved ones.

They are the words I will speak, looking into my own eyes in the mirror. I invite you to do the same.

Now, in deep gratitude, I speak them to you.

5196498-color-twist

EACH ONE A LIVING DANCE

I will not hold you in a static form:
for you are a brilliant dance of energy,                                                                                 shifting and changing in each second,
becoming more than any imagination can hold.

I will not lock you into my “knowing:”
for that is just my limited mind
reassuring itself through the ability to categorize                                                                        and find familiar patterns.

I will not confine you in terms and descriptions:
for they speak of the past and of the surface,
missing the eternity of your being,
and the constant transformation in all things.

I will open to your becoming.
Only your own soul knows your road,
for it alone recognizes the dream
which invited you here in the beginning.

I will embrace the mystery of your unfolding.
No other will ever carry this dance of
emerging, expressing and releasing
for it is your unique gift.

I will listen to the song of your creation.
It alone reflects the riches of your being,
singing out in vibration: color as well as pitch,                                                                            to birth the dawning of a new day.

 

 

 

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.

 

Words That Come Before All Else

earthWhat follows, I found in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, “Braiding Sweetgrass.” I have drawn only segments of this commonly quoted version of the Thanksgiving Address of the Haudensaunee tradition by John Stokes and Kanawahientun, 1993. Robin quotes this and uses the Onondaga name “Words That Come Before All Else.” She sought and received not only permission but encouragement to share this traditional way of beginning any gathering or meeting. In her book she speaks of how it is used to begin each school day on the Onondaga reservation.

Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that
the cycle of life continues. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one
as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.

We are thankful to our Mother Earth, for she gives us everything that we need for
life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she still
continues to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother,
we send thanksgiving, love, and respect. Now our minds are one.

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst, for providing
strength and nurturing life for all beings. We know its power in many forms —
waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans, snow and ice. We are
grateful that the waters are still here and meeting their responsibility to the rest of
Creation. Can we agree that water is important to our lives and bring our minds
together as one to send greetings and thanks to the Water? Now our minds are one….

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants
grow, working their wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered
together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations
to come. Now our minds are one….

With one mind, we honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden,
especially the Three Sisters who feed the people with such abundance. Since the
beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans, and fruit have helped the people
survive. Many other living things draw strength from them as well. We gather
together in our minds all the plant foods and send them a greeting and thanks.
Now our minds are one….

We gather our minds together to send our greetings and thanks to all the beautiful
animal life of the world, who walk about with us. They have many things to teach us
as people. We are grateful that they continue to share their lives with us and hope that
it will always be so. Let us put out minds together as one and send our thanks
to the Animals. Now our minds are one.

We put our minds together as one and thank all the birds who move and fly
about over our heads. The Creator gave them the gift of beautiful song. Each
morning they greet the day and with their song remind us to enjoy and
appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader and to watch over the
world. To all the Birds, from the smallest to the largest, we send our joyful greetings
and thanks. Now our minds are one.

We are all thankful for the power we know as the Four Winds. We hear their
voices in the morning air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They
help to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing
us messages and giving us strength. With one mind we send our greetings and
thanks to the Four Winds. Now our hearts are one.

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers the Thunder Beings live. With
lightening and thundering voices they bring with them the water that renews
life. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our
Grandfathers, the Thunderers.

We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest brother the Sun. Each day
without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new
day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings
and thanks to our Brother, the Sun. Now our minds are one.

We put our minds together and give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon,
who lights the nighttime sky. She is the leader of women all over the world and
governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time
and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. Let
us gather our thanks for Grandmother Moon together into a pile layer upon
layer of gratitude, and then joyfully fling that pile of thanks high into the night
sky that she will know. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our
Grandmother, the Moon.

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We
see them at night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew
to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home.
With our minds gathered as one, we send greetings and thanks to all the Stars.
Now our minds are one.

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have
come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony,
they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind,
we send greetings and thanks to these caring Teachers. Now our minds are one.

We now turn our thought to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings
and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good
life is here on Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather
our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks
to the Creator. Now our minds are one.

Imagine the profound difference it will make in our relationship with Mother Earth and All Living Beings to greet each day with this deep gratitude for the Love and Abundance of Creation.