Gifts of the Season

So much to celebrate! Samhain. Halloween. All Saints Day. Dia de los Muertos. We are turning into the season of darkness. The veil between the here and the hereafter is thin. The ancestors and future generations are mingling in my dreams. There is much to notice and honor.

For weeks, the world has been golden. The leaves on the trees had turned a deep yellow. Surely they reflected the sunlight but they also seemed to glow with a light of their own.

The sunlight has shifted. This is most obvious at sunrise which happens later and later each day and at sunset which surprises me by arriving earlier and earlier. But it is also less strong, casting a more indirect light on this corner of the planet.

Just this week, the earth and sky transitioned from this golden lingering of early autumn to the late autumn that portends winter. The morning frost is thick and a light skim of ice forms on top of the compost lid nightly. The ground holds almost as many leaves as the trees. 

I am grateful to join the season in turning inward. It has been a generative growing season. The garden yielded a summer’s worth of vegetables and we still have an overflowing basket of winter squash and bags of carrots. While the pandemic has grounded us at home, my family has found new strength in our connections with one another. And throughout the summer, I have finished my new book, Arriving Here: Reflections from the Hearth and Trail. It will be ready for release within a few weeks. The flurry of creation is coming to an end and the season to reflect and digest is arriving. It may be true always, but in this fall season, I am recalling a poem by Hafiz that reminds, “Now is the season to know that everything you do is Sacred.” 

I will share more about Arriving Here in the coming weeks — and I will certainly let you know when it is available for pre-order!

In the meantime, I had the pleasure of being a guest on Suzanne Radford’s podcast. A certified forest therapy practitioner and communication coach. Suzanne expertly guided our conversation from the present moment, to the past, and into the future. We explored the open spaces of awareness, the intimacy of connection, and more. Listen here – and consider subscribing to the Nature Pod for more opportunities to explore the gifts of the natural world with Suzanne.

Turn, Turn, Turn

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

These words from Ecclesiastes, made familiar by the Byrd’s, Bob Dylan and other folk heroes, have been echoing in my mind for several days. I recognize them as accurate and true. They also feel prophetic.

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

There is a generational turning, perhaps even an epochal turning, occurring in our lifetimes. Perhaps that is overly dramatic. Surely, other generations have felt the weight of history and hope for the future bearing down on their decisions and indecision. At this time, it is clear that the breaking down and the building up are happening simultaneously, along with the killing, healing, weeping, laughing, mourning and dancing. This emotional outpouring is overwhelming. To what can we give our energy and attention?

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

We can sort the stones, cast away those that no longer serve us and gather close those that nourish, nurture, and heal. We cannot embrace but we can refrain from embracing with all the love in our hearts. We can care for our communities, near and distant, by safe-guarding physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

We can use our money, our vote, our privilege, and our words to name the injustices we see and to advocate for a prosperous present and future for all beings. In silent presence, we can heal the broken human heart and hold space for the earth’s healing power to flourish. With every turn, we can stitch together the frayed edges and reclaim our wholeness and belonging to All That Is.

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late… Listen to this beautiful rendition from Judy Collins and Pete Seeger and allow the seed of possibility to find fertile soil within you.

Autumn Equinox, 2020

Last week, I went for a mid-morning run. The air was cool and the sun was warm. A strong breeze was blowing and it seemed to infuse me with energy. I turned around at the usual turn-around spot, a bridge at the bottom of a short hill. The bridge spans an inlet into a tidal marsh. At high tide there is a large pool of water under the bridge and on either side of it. At low tide, a narrow rivulet flows under the bridge and out in either direction. At low tide, I often take an opportunity to pause at the bridge to watch the sandpipers and heron who gather here and to scan the sky for hawks.

 I don’t remember if it was high or low tide that day. I don’t remember if I paused to take in the scenery and catch my breath. I do remember that when I turned to head up the hill, I was met head-on by the wind. The wind that had been gently accompanying me was now confronting me. If I hoped to maintain the same pace, I would need to expend twice the energy. Not in any particular hurry, I paid attention to my excessive exertion and the sluggish output it generated. I was acutely aware of the not so subtle pressure against my forward motion. Each step was laborious and the thought of running home in this condition was exhausting. How could it be? On my way out, I hadn’t even noticed it as a tail wind. It had just felt like a beautiful, buoyant day. 

And that was when I saw the learning opportunity.

My white privilege is an invisible tailwind. As I run along through my life, this privilege influences every step and how I feel about each step. For a black, brown or indigenous body, that same breeze is a strong and persistent headwind. What I experience as a lofting energy or momentum is experienced by another person as a hindrance.

Yesterday, on the same run, I felt as if I was running into the wind and uphill both ways. Some days are like that. I am grateful that not every day is like that. It is my deep wish and fervent prayer that that could be true for us all.

On the Autumn Equinox

As light and dark find balance in our skies, may we find balance in our lives. 

As the hummingbird leaves for warmer climates and the chickadee arrives for the long winter,

May we all recognize and arrive in our places of belonging. 

As the tomato plants die back and the unripened fruit falls to the ground,

May the seeds find fertile beds to rest until it is time to crack open.

As we navigate a landscape riddled with fear, violence, and disruption, 

May we also notice and cultivate companionship, safety, and opportunity.

As we enter the season of growing darkness,

May we find light in our hearts. 

May the light in our hearts rise like the sun to usher in a new day.

This Lake is a Mirror

This lake is a mirror ~ reflecting clouds, gulls, possibilities, sunsets and sunrises, the crescent moon, a sea of stars, and the shadow of my own face looking back at me.

The lake is a physical place as well as an emotional anchor. For six generations, my family has grown, learned, lived, worked, played, rested, and died here. There are memories everywhere – in the vase with my great grandmother’s initials and in her mother’s garden where I cut flowers yesterday. I remembered my grandfather as I set the vase on the table where he used to sit to do the crossword and I thought of my grandmother as I sat on the pier watching the rising sun splash colors across the water’s surface. As I weed the garden with my mom, I notice that we have been pulling weeds together in this bed for at least 30 years and we will surely be doing it again next year.

This lake is a shroud ~ covering blue gill, bass, lost golf balls, water toys, and secrets with thick layers of mud and plants, hazy water, and the blanket of time.

This lake is a container ~ collecting the raindrops, sweat, tears, laughter, dreams, and memories that fall into its welcoming embrace.

While so much remains available to be revisited and known anew each summer, there are changes to absorb each year also. This year, we greeted family members in the driveway with words and awkward smiles instead of hugs. We created a memorial garden and initiated it to its purpose with a small ceremony honoring a loved one who died this winter. With the help of a computer and an IPad on a nearby stump, those who couldn’t attend in person participated by Zoom. 

This lake is a witness ~ honoring the storms, the calm, the relationships, and the rippling, repeating patterns of the seasons of our lives. 

This summer, our daily conversations about our own homespaces, work, schools, and lives touch into politics, climate, covid-19, and possibility. But our words don’t carry us far; the future holds too many unknowns and uncertainties and there is too much noise, clutter, and fragmentation in our world to posit much. This morning, as we prepare to return home, I am grateful for the constancy and sustainability in this small bit of my life.

This lake is a living metaphor ~ telling the stories of the generations of insects, fish, birds, and people who are sustained here.

This lake is a refuge ~ grounding me in the same love, flexibility, and integrity that guided my ancestors and will support my descendants.

May my words and my actions honor this legacy.

At the Creek

The water in the creek was flowing slowly. In the early morning light, it seemed dark, almost rusty. I watched for a moment, appreciating the steadiness of the flow, the flush of life-giving water that runs continuously through this space––arriving unbidden as a blessing from unknown reaches and continuing on to touch places and lives beyond my sight and awareness.

And then I remembered other forms of the creek I have observed here. During the spring thaw, it runs high and and fast, frothy white as as it makes its way over and around rocks and roots. After many summer days without rain, it is a slow, meandering trickle, thin and spare.

The creekbed stands ready to receive the flow, however sparse or intense. I am struck by this generous receptivity––the capacity to receive and release whatever arrives.

In this moment, when summer’s abundance stands right alongside humanity’s utter brokenness, I recognize that there is something to learn from the creekbed. It is a vital aspect of the forest, offering steady, reliable presence and capacity to the ever shifting flow of energy and water. 

I aspire to offer that kind of generous holding to my family and community. Some days I am better at it than others. From now on, I will be leaning into the creekbed’s example. 

I will empty myself enough to allow generous receptivity to grow.

I will give myself fully to receiving and releasing both the trickle and the flood.

I will find stability in the bedrock beneath me and in the wisdom of creation that surrounds and flows through me.

I will hold my heart open to the ebb and flow of life’s unfolding.creek

Weaving a Life

Each morning, I wake up to find new treasures have been woven in the night. Throughout the yard, spiderwebs laden with dew lie horizontal to the earth. In the field, at the tips of the tallest grasses, more spiderwebs have been woven perpendicular to the grass. As I tiptoe among these singular and separate masterpieces of art and architecture, I wonder about the different types of spiders who wove them.

Did that tiny delicate brown creature work through the night to weave this new web?

Was it aware of the half-dozen others who worked nearby, spinning their own separate webs?

Do they start over again each night or can a fortunately located web withstand the wear and tear of a day?

Could they know that they have made a labyrinth for me to walk this morning?

I don’t usually notice the webs in the afternoon when I am watering the garden or throwing a frisbee but perhaps that is a result of my seeing (or unseeing) rather than their being (or unbeing). It doesn’t seem possible that a creation of such importance and such beauty would only exist at dawn. I imagine the spiders don’t waste much time worrying about the longevity of the web they are creating. They are born to weave and so they do. But the webs only catch my eye in the low light of the early morning when the fragile threads have collected dew. I rarely see the spiders who made the webs. They have probably gone to rest nearby, nestled deep in the grass while they wait for an insect snack to land on their finely woven dinner plate.

Walking around the webs that are scattered among the apple and plum trees in the orchard, I notice that I am weaving a landing space too.

Can I apply what I have observed and imagined in the spider’s work to my own?

Can I devote myself fully to the creative impulse, without worrying about its purpose or longevity?

Can I trust that the web of life I am weaving will sustain me and also contribute to a larger community of life?

As I turn to leave the labyrinth of webs and walk toward home, I recognize the familiar feeling of leaving this opportunity for inward reflection to turn outward toward the action and motion of the day. This is an ever-repeating and greatly appreciated pattern in my life ~ turning inward to reflect, outward to act, and inward yet again. There is a very natural, ongoing cycle of inspiration, motion, renewal, inspiration, motion, renewal…It is as natural and as necessary as both inhaling and exhaling, holding and releasing.

May I settle into this rhythm with renewed attention and devotion ~ and with gratitude to the spiders who offer a stunning reminder each morning.