Tag Archive | nature

Do you wonder?

Do you ever wonder what a cave might feel when humans spelunk their way down into its deeper recesses?

Skotino Cave in Crete ARTISTO effects

the entrance to Skotino Cave in Crete

Let’s imagine you are snug in your bed at midnight during a cloudy, dark-moon night. All is silent and stygian in your bedroom, your sanctuary, your cave. You are dreaming worlds into potential being, sorting through complexities, allowing unnecessary detritus to be washed away so that new structures of life and relationships can be formed — perhaps a cave is doing this, too.

Then, a noise awakens you! Who is this intruder?

Would you hide deeper under the covers; would the cave’s walls recede oh so slightly? Would you leap up and confront the intruder; would the cave drop some rocks? Would you peek out from your covers and watch in curiosity as the intruder crashes into a side table or blunders up against a low hanging lamp? Would you be blinded by his bright light shone into your eyes? Would the soft scuffle of his shoes sound like gravel on a tin roof? Would you cry as the intruder breaks the antique vase your great-great-grandmother made before she emigrated? Would the cave cringe at the chaos of human intruders and weep at the destruction of delicate curly helictites that took thousands of years to create?

And what of those we call show caves? Can you imagine crowds of people walking through your home, pointing and gawking and touching, day after day, year after year for decades when you had been a hermit for a million years? What would you feel?

Maybe this isn’t something you’ve ever considered before, but can you imagine it? Perhaps we ought to approach Gaia in all her guises with more reverence?

More people are becoming aware these days of how little we understand when it comes to the living, breathing, sentient world around us. Shamans have always known and have been sharing their wisdom. Writers from the philosopher David Abram to the plant-spirit-healers Stephen Harold Buhner and Pam Montgomery to the myth-teller Martin Shaw all speak of how alive our landscape is and that we are witnessed by as much if not more than we observe.

Imagine you live in a land where magic travels beneath the earth in a vast maze of channels. Legends of lost treasure permeate the culture for somewhere below this very ground lives TildTe and many other mysterious beings. Pause and listen with the soles of your feet to the milk dripping from stalactite breasts; feel the pulse of aquifer currents hidden from view, sparkling with fantasies of dreams come true. Wonders are sensed as veins open into chambers of breathtaking beauty. These are places of deep transformation and sacredness.

Imagine walking with cautious step into a hillside to venerate an underground cathedral created a hundred thousand years ago for the sheer joy of creation. Imagine the journeys possible within the body of Gaia; we are inside her, she breathes us different here, sometimes as wind, other times as water. Here below is the Otherworld, where spirit roams unhindered by human construct or restriction. The treasure so many have sought, they could not see, for TildTe’s caves are an opportunity for our souls to embrace the hidden lace of our own frailties. Wriggle on your belly through a narrow channel until the clay oozes into every crevice of clothing and skin and then, suddenly, you feel as if you’re in outer space, nothing touching you, and a cavernous room has opened up around you, your light a meager ineffectual glimmer that has no chance of penetrating the darkness a short distance ahead. Trust comes ventilating through your aura and you stand, and step carefully, for with a single print you could destroy a treasure of inestimable worth and wonder that has taken thousands of years to create.

Simply the knowledge of what lies beneath us is enough to cause a bow of humility and gratitude.

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Awen

purple tree cleft dec 2017Imagine all the voices

through which the Divine

speaks and sings

to us as we wander our choices

and pluck their strings.

She sprinkles notes of song-ly stardust

across Akashic parchment.

Our cells hum the ancestors and

our blood rushes to meet our soul’s past lives.

The owls hoot of darkness met and

the hind^ daintily whispers of what is yet — to come.

pine tree ghost together with ivy oak DEC 2017Dogs and cats murmur into our necks

melodies of tales of long forgotten treks,

while the pine needles burst with

scintillating lyrics of creations to make.

Her sacred voice is All. Awen.

“the Awen [is] the living energy that stands behind the form” *

_______________

*from Martin Shaw’s book Scatterlings

Upon Hill, Within Forest

TildTe is the Crone Goddess of this fragment of the Ozarks. She strides out of the caves  or pushes up from the soil when the moon is dark, although she can wander for many days and nights above ground. Her bones are sharp chert and smooth stalagmite, and they are wrapped in the strong roots of oak and hickory. Her womb holds the waters of innumerable springs. She is the Spirit of the hills and so is ever leaning forward or backward, and she avoids the bottoms which are the domain of her sister. Her hair is a tangled nest of wild grape vines woven together with daisies and clove currant. Her cloak is verdant moss stitched together by pine needles and her skirt is a patchwork of various leaves dependent upon the season. She smells of stardust and hummus, feels like grandmother’s embrace, and has a voice that sounds like deer prints upon fall leaves at dawn. Sometimes TildTe is small enough to ride the backs of silver squirrels as they leap from the highest branches; other times she is the giant with a full grown black bear tagging at her heels like an unweaned puppy. She could be standing outside your doorway right now. There she is! Blessed Be!

Collective Effervescence

In her most recent book, Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown provides early on reminders of some of the key tenets from her previous books and provides her own definition of spirituality:

“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.” (P. 34)

Later, while Brown was writing about collective connection among people (and how to bring it more consciously, fully into our lives), I kept thinking as I read, but wait, what about the rest of the world in which humans are only one piece? And then she came to it: “collective effervescence.” (P. 130) Brown is still referring to human connection but, realizing that my connection is more often found among the more-than-human world of mountains, forests, and caves, of animals and the elements, this term she shares resonates deeply with me. It brings to the forefront my own way of connecting. Brown writes:

“Durkheim [who introduced this term in his 1912 book on religion] explained that collective effervescence is an experience of connection, communal emotion, and a ‘sensation of sacredness’ that happens when we are a part of something bigger than us.”

IMG_3417Granted, Brown and Durkheim are both referring to human gatherings around human constructs, but, for me, I was immediately lifted into those times when I was in nature, when awe propelled me out of myself. For instance, when I was at the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado; people were milling around yet we all seemed enraptured by the majesty of the mountain top and the panoramic views. That was collective effervescence. Another time, I was on a tour deep in the Onondaga Cave and breathless silence permeated the cavern periodically as we observed the splendor within the “wilderness underground.” That was collective effervescence. I’ve experienced this nature-inspired awe and effervescence on my own more times than I can count, but Brown’s work reminded me that I can feel it in company with strangers and groups sometimes as well. Leasburg, MO

Perhaps this connection via nature (rather than human construct) happens more often for me because of my intense tendency toward introversion, a quality that means I seldom gather in large groups of social intention (like concerts, plays, sports, even movie theaters). But I will brave crowds in order to experience the divine magic of Nature, of Gaia’s beyond-human creation, wherein we are simply one species — a part of a greater whole.

Between

Living in between…

Between shallow river below and broad field above, this relatively narrow area of tilted woods is the space between sweep of water and wind.

Between … in the solitary space of trees and rocky soil and birds scattered with tucked wings among leaves and limbs.

Between worlds of wet and dry, opened wide, here in shelter am I; quiet surrounds with only occasional interruption of those passing by.

IMG_0394Inside the space between is my world. Between. Liminal. Threshold. Bridge. Allure in every landscape, whether river or field or woods.

I am the Between, the not-quite-there presence that fits into threshold. Yet “fit” isn’t accurate because liminal space is a transitional expression of stillness and movement, the dynamic dance of deep change and eternal mystical equilibrium without stasis of form.

Between is where everything touches, for here is no time and everything that has happened, will happen, or is present, is making up its mind. Between the balance, inside that space, is where I am … witnessing.

“We feel the touch of life, of a nonhuman awareness, upon us. But more … we experience something unique to most humans in the West. An intelligence, just as subtle and sophisticated as our own, but very nonhuman, reaches out and communicates with us. …

For some people, this touch of communication and intelligence from the wildness of the nonhuman world marks a phase change in their life. They abandon the human world as the fundamental point of reference and begin to cultivate the experience of aisthesis.”

What Stephen Harrod Buhner describes above (in Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm) mirrors my own “phase changes” along sacred pivotal points on the Gaia Path.

 

A Simple Spirit

CupHoldingWorld

artist unknown

For more than twenty years, I’ve enjoyed the gifts of a simple, natural spirituality. My conscious awareness of Spirit within every thing I see and experience waxes and wanes through the times of my life, sometimes emerging in complex ritual, yet remains present and innate.

Our entire Earth is here in the simple cup of chai I make in the morning, and I give thanks to the Infinite, the Great Spirit in all Her mystery, while also giving thanks to each individual Spirit that has become manifest in form. The water from our well, unique to this place and the aquifer below, provides the carrier for each spice; I give thanks to the Spirit of Water. As I grind the fennel in mortar and pestle, I give thanks to Spirit of Fennel; each additional spice is given the same gratitude. I give thanks for the long journey they’ve endured to reach me, and for the people who have grown and harvested and been part of the process that is their physical journey. I give thanks for my senses that allow me to delight in this tea.

I have a deep appreciation for each food that nourishes my body, mind and soul, ingesting their subtle energy qualities as well as their obvious physical ones.

And, as I gaze out at the woods, the grasses and plants and trees, giving thanks for them and feeling myself soften in their surrounding embrace, I sense them watching me, too.

Breakfast Bar 051617

Tending Tilted Woods

Tilted North Woods

Our woods grow on a steep hillside in The Ozarks. This north-of-the-house view of the hill is far less sharp than the south side where the angle is precipitous. I adore that the landscape is tilted rather than level, a curious mirror of my own off-kilter nature. Spirit is tangible here; the Divine is present.

Only a professional forester or extremely knowledgable lay person could determine how much of our woods are of original diversity though the likelihood is doubtful considering the thousands of years of habitation by indigenous humans (many of whom, we now know, did clear and burn forests to allow for greater ease in hunting and limited agriculture) and later by European colonizers.

For us, as new stewards to this special place, we hope to continue encouraging natural growth without imposing a manicured specter. After all, as Eliot Cowan says: “The most striking thing about this relationship [to plants and trees] is that we need them, but they don’t need us. We humans are utterly dependent on plants … In contrast, plant communities do just fine without people.” Where’s our gratitude?!

We have only to look at what humans have done to other landscapes to realize the lunacy of our arrogance. For instance, Great Britain has no natural forests left, although the extensive peat bogs are a testimony to previous vastness of woods; after human destruction, people learned how to coppice and pollard, in order to use wood but also steward the fragile stands of trees that were left. Sara Maitland writes of her journeys into the forests of Great Britain in From the Forest. Many woodland places in Europe met the same fate. Many islands — like Crete, for instance — were deforested by humans and their recovery has been difficult.

Here, in our wooded sanctuary, I often feel euphoric when breathing in the oxygen from the trees and plants, when gazing upon the lush green foliage, when listening to the wind rushing through the swaying canopies. Many people have lost this connection with and appreciation for nature and especially its wildness.

In Plant Spirit Medicine, Cowan writes:

“All things enjoy ecstatic union with nature. Life without ecstasy is not true life and not worth living. Without ecstasy, the soul becomes shriveled and perverted, the mind becomes corrupt, and the body suffers pain. … And to think that plants are mere dumb creatures that do not know ecstasy is ignorance or tragic, arrogant folly.”

I want ecstasy! Don’t you?