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Life Flowing with Shuffles

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“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.

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.

 

On the Outside!

IMG_4272I had one of those moments the other morning when suddenly the perspective shifts and everything changes form. The wisdom that dropped in months ago suddenly makes perfect sense.

It happened during my morning ritual of watching the new day dawn. I was looking at the colors dance in the clouds across the valley, gazing past widely spaced cottonwood trees, and over grasslands. Then something sprang into focus that has been right here all along. It is the small swimming pool surrounded by a concrete skirt and a wrought iron fence in our son’s side yard. I looked at that fence, hugging an 15 x 20 space and began to laugh.

You see, back in October, I wrote a post “The Prison of Our Culture,” including:

As I was seeking deep wisdom for our transition out of this culture and economy, the thought suddenly appeared, “You will stand at the prison bars forever shaking them and struggling with them, and the jailer will never let you out. But if you will turn around and begin walking the other direction, you will find that you can walk through the walls that you imagine hold you in.”

I had forgotten that in our culture we build fences to define what is ours and to keep others out. Those who have acquired wealth, power and property put up fences around themselves and then convince everyone else that they really want to be allowed in. We all gather on the outside of the bars, pushing through pay checks, time, talent and life energy, hoping that those inside will receive these gifts and find us worthy of entering in. Every now and then, the gate swings open to allow someone in, so the rest feel that they too will some day enter the chosen ground.

What we do not see is that those inside are the ones imprisoned. Fenced in to protect what they have and cut off from the riches beyond the boundary. We are held in place, hands on the bars, because we are look the wrong direction. When we turn around, we discover all the wonder of the natural world, given without price – abundant for all to receive.

I come out in the mornings to live my gratitude for all of the stars filling the predawn sky which speak to my heart of vast open spaces and light that travels through time. There are the cliff and canyons, pebbles and rocks that give solid form to this beautiful land. There are grasses, bushes, shrubs, trees and many other members of the plant family, all adding color and texture and life. There are four-legged, winged, crawlers, swimmers and one who slither, moving with howl of coyote and rustling grass of rabbit. There is the gift of water in the nearby streams, in the San Pedro River, within my body, and coursing through all living things. There is the wind – the breath of the spirit and the breath of our life, given freely. It carries vibration through the cosmos and dances with the wings of hawks. There is the sunrise, seen by billions of living creatures this morning as they look to the horizon for the light of a new day. With light come the gifts of vision and colors so varied from subtle to brilliant that they make my heart leap. There is the gift of the divine light within every human soul. The call to be one vibrant strand in the Web of Life with all humankind, all living beings and all the expressions of creation.

So, why would I ever cling to the bars again. I am a rich woman. I have no need to fight my way in. I will sit here, surrounded by beauty and filled with gratitude. A free woman indeed.

 

 

Affirmations Emerge

Affirmations are taking on a new and powerful role in my life. Once I dismissed them as wishful thinking and a childish repeating of magic words. Now, I am discovering their power to shift the thought habits in my mind and allow me to see new possibilities ahead.

The basic premise is that our thoughts literally create our reality. The creation of habitual thought patterns establishes physical neurological connections that lead us to the same old inner judgements and conclusions about life. It takes focus and repetition to loosen the old thought patterns and develop new ones.

Trusting a connection with a loving Universe, I allow an affirmation to arise that feels true in the depths of my being. I ask my heart/soul for signs of recognition, not my mind. When a statement sparks within my heart, I let it become my companion for a number of days or weeks.

This companionship includes writing them out five times each morning and again each evening, letting both hand and eyes reinforce the words. I also find them bubbling up as I sit under the stars, hike the canyon trail, or sit knitting. The times when, unattended, my mind would tend to return to old patterns of worry that reinforce old connections, I invite affirmations instead.

My main challenge right now is being open to a new expression of my gifts in the world. So, some of my current favorites are:

“Creativity flows from the Sacred Source, through me, to bring healing and transformation to my life and the lives of others.”

“As I walk away from the prisons of my culture, I am guided and sustained along a new path.”

“As I move forward, one step as a time, led by the One Source, my Earth Walk purpose is being fulfilled.”

“I am an expression of the light and a child of the Earth.”

It takes time to train my eyes to see these affirmations coming into reality in my daily life. I am not in the habit of believing the expansive and creative messages they contain. It is only now after some weeks of practice that I am catching glimpses of how they are taking tangible form.

This practice may seem difficult, silly, crazy or useless at the beginning. All of these are the judgements of a mind conditioned to limit, define and categorize our lives to death. Sink deeper. Let the voice of your heart echo above the chatter of your mind. Once you find your first phrase and begin doing the work of reinforcing new open pathways in your mind, you will be amazed at what will emerge.

Creativity Plus Transformation

 

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Thoughts of  combining Creativity with Transformation began with reading about Craftivism = craft + activism. This concept has many valuable expressions, but I want to focus on how the use of our creativity and imagination allow us to transform our own lives and the reality of our world. My calling is to open to the flow of creativity from the Sacred Source, which can then move through my life to bring healing and transformation to me and others. This is a calling that we all can share.

Making things by hand is an act of co-Creating with the Energy that forms the Universe and fashions the diversity we experience on Mother Earth. In choosing the materials we use, the patterns or recipes we follow, and the way in which we form the images that we want to manifest in the world, we open ourselves to the creative flow. We experience the joy of being one through whom something beautiful as well as useful can emerge.

I know wonderful cooks who blend colors, tastes, textures and aromas to make a meal that nourishes both body and soul. I know bakers who use healthful ingredients to make luscious desserts and breads, pastries and creamy concoctions that are a treat for both the adult and for the child within who loves goodies. I know knitters and weavers who select only the highest quality fibers in the richest hues and textures to make garments that mirror the wonder of nature as expressed in sunrise or desert scape; forest glade or cloudy day. I know seamstresses who choose fabrics and patterns that elevate homemade clothing to an expression of the unique qualities and characteristics of the person they create clothing for.

There are painters, sculptors, wordsmiths, glass workers, those who draw with pencil and crayon, and those who form out of wood or stone. The list of creative expressions is limitless. We have only to begin playing with any of them to open to what our specific gift may be.

The aspect of transformation comes as we allow the creativity to flow through us and bring us freedom, joy, playfulness, and an honoring of all we love. We add time, energy and love and allow the Sacred Source to bring the form that will add richness and enlivened beauty to the world. Transformation is first for us, and then through us for a new reality in the world.

Creativity helps us to envision a very different reality than the one offered by any mainline culture. Imagination forms ideas and images of the harmonious, interconnected, creation-honoring Web of Life of which we are all luminous strands. The elements we use are of the Earth, as we are of the Earth.  Everything is earth, water, air, fire and spirit. Our hands and minds and hearts work with the desire to bring life, light and love to this creation we share. And we and the world are transformed by the act.

In the weeks ahead, I will be sharing some guest blogs by people who are bringing creativity and transformation together in their own ways. I will establish a separate page on this site so that this important strand can be an ongoing exploration.  I hope you will feel free to add your contributions through the comments, or contact me if you would like to submit a guest post to add to the abundance of this journey.

May our lives open to the flow of creativity which is unique and valuable within each of us. In this way we create and celebrate the wholeness and wonder of the world we share.

(Photo by Hector j. Riva)

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.