Moving through Cedars
Rustling, whispering softly
Arbor harp of winds
When I was young and had just begun to be able to sense things around me, and became aware of so much information on all the different levels of empathy, the one thing that I was not aware of was the fact that others did not have the same awareness. I went through my days assuming that my friends and my family “saw” what I did, felt what I did, and therefore had the same information about those things. I assumed that we were all on the same page, so to speak, and time after time was caught up short that no one knew what I was talking about. I thought that my sister could see the hurt that people felt when she made her cruel comments to them. I thought that my brother knew that his sociopathic anger scared everyone around him. I don’t mean that I thought that they only realized the effect that their ways of being had on others, I mean that I thought they could feel the effects as I did.
I was caught by the same misunderstanding about honesty and integrity as I grew older. I thought that everyone acted out of a basic kindness and humane understanding of right and wrong. Again, I made the wrong assumption.
Betrayal, I think, is the hardest of injuries to receive, and the most difficult of recoveries. I wonder if those who betray others realize on some level that they are cutting so deeply? That would take the basic not caring and move it in to some form of aggression, I suppose.
Just below that on the “scale” is just not caring about how what we do may affect another person (or animals, or all of Nature for that matter).
Lack of basic human kindness still befuddles me.
I hope we all get better. Soon.
“She comes to see us often.
Quietly, softly, she walks—winding her way through the tallest of us, gingerly feeling her way over the craggy rocks and stepping carefully in rushing waters. She is intent upon being with us and yet not disturbing us. She wants us to know that she will not harm us.
We know how much she needs us.
She needs our soft rusting breezes, our playful songs—and our quiet safety.
We let her know that here—in the wildest of places—she is the safest.
We have agreed that no harm will come to her here. No bug will bite her, flying one sting her, or snake frighten her. She needs us, and we understand that. It is our sacred duty to offer her solace; hold her in safety and in love.
We know that she comes here to see, and to feel the unseen. And to find herself.
She will come to know her own true nature by recognizing ours.
We know that having come to know us, she will never forget us.
She will forever come back to us—if not in the flesh, then in spirit–
in peace, love, and in gratitude as deep and full as the forest we are.“
I love mornings
The quiet pre-dawn light
seeps in to brightness as the sun rises
The sound and movement
of birds starting their day
of flowers on the breezes
as the sun gently warms the air
that sift and flow in my mind
as I ride the gentle waves
that bring me from the ocean of sleep
through the shallows of dozing
to the shore of wakefulness
and the day ahead
I have been spending a little time going back a re-reading posts from my retired professional blog The Riley School of Integrated Somatic Bodywork (RSISB). I feel that there is some good information there that I will bring forth here as quoted re-posts.
This one is from April, 2013.
“New Age, Old Age”
Hmm, it’s been a long time since I have written. I apologize for leaving with such a sad note as my last post. Summer turned to winter and we witnessed another tragedy that ended the lives of much younger children (for in fact, no matter what age, we are somebody’s child and parents mourn their children with the same broken hearts).
It’s spring now, and the garden calls to me through my constantly open window. I have been spending time planting new things and seeing what comes forth from last year’s plantings. There has been rain (finally!), announced by thunder and lightning; so unusual for Northern California. Beautiful clouds gathered in the sky from three directions and danced in their different layers and shades, blending at last into the deluge that soaked the all-too-dry earth.
I have been reading more than writing. Most of what I read is hopeful and touches the spirit of those of us who hold the Earth as sacred. There is kindness out there; there are many who spend their lives maintaining the cultures of the indigenous and disseminating the knowledge that will help to keep us all healthier and safer. We just need to listen.
There are people who put forth great amounts of energy to bring an end to senseless and violent rampages against the innocent; there are people who are working hard to keep our food from being irreversibly adulterated without thought for the consequences; there are those who seek justice for the rape of the earth and the terrible travesty of broken pipelines, lives ruined, and animals murdered with oil sludge; there are those who bring awareness in to the common culture, and the legal system, so that the products we use on our bodies and in our homes are safe and not cancer-causing.
The writing I have been doing over these past few months has been in support of these groups and the causes that they represent. There is so much work to do; we must all do our part. No longer can we wait and let someone else take care of the problems that surround us. They are not far off in another place where we can put them out of our minds and continue on as usual. The problems are right here, and the time is now.
I have written previously about making changes one step at a time….wanting to help people slip gently in to a better way of living. The time has come for positive, forward-thinking, and active change. A lot of it. The First Peoples spoke of living for the seventh generation to follow them. There is not time enough anymore to think that far ahead. Our actions, our daily decisions about what we eat, what we buy, and how we live, have a direct effect on the present moment in lives that span the globe. People that we will never see, but are living right now in this moment, are at the mercy of decisions we make each and every day. We need to think about those who are seven time zones away. Or, seven thousand miles; or seven hundred miles; or seven minutes.
It’s overwhelming. I know. I have been feeling the effects of the overwhelm for a year or so, and have had to withdraw a little in order to deal with it. But like the volunteer seeds from last year’s flowers, I, too, feel the surge of new growth and strength. I wanted to stop. I truly did. I felt that 45 years of activism was enough and that as I get older I could rest and let others take over. Others have taken over, and yet I still feel the need to carry on. Rest is not what’s needed now. Action is what’s needed.
Over the next month, through the phases of the Lunar Cycle, we will spend time honoring ourselves and the connections that we have with the Moon. A note here that these meditations will follow the classical mystic Lunar Cycle which calls first phase of the Moon the “Dark Moon”, not the astrological one which refers to this phase as the “New Moon”. The reason for this is that the Dark Moon phase gives time for quiet, for not doing anything, and for settling in to the upcoming cycle, as well as resting from the previous one. In this context, the New Moon comes as the first bit of sunlight is reflected off the moon and it comes to our senses as a small sliver of light. The time when we start to see the new beginning. Each phase of the cycle lasts 3-4 days, for we are including the phases in between the classical four phases of New, First Quarter, Full, and Last Quarter. The goal here is to connect more fully and consistently, and to realize the nuances of change, of growth, and of letting go. These meditations can be done at any time of the day or night, although it is best to do them as they will be posted on the sequenced days.
We begin with the Dark Moon of September 6, 2021 and will cycle through the full lunar month.
The meditations will be posted as follows:
Dark Moon, 9/6
Waxing Crescent, 9/9
First Quarter, 9/13
Waxing Gibbous, 9/17
Full Moon, 9/20
Waning Gibbous, 9/24
Third Quarter, 9/28
Waning Crescent, 10/2
Dark Moon, 10/6
Rushing water over stream rocks
Lapping lake waves over small-stoned beach gravel
Crashing ocean tides changing sand-duned shores
Places where I have been silent,
yet the sounds of water
wash through me
Places where I am alone,
yet in much grander company
It has taken me all these years—decades—
to realize that the silence under the water
is my own song
Lifelong preference of solitude
beside flowing water—or under it
swimming, gliding, through water’s silkiness—
Even the memory of it
is not merely my love of Nature
but My Nature itself
The years-long struggle to “fit in”—to be a part of—
was not a struggle with the world
but against my self
To be brave and thicken my skin—to toughen up—
was, in fact, to deny the “skin”
I had taken off
in order to dwell in the world of Others
I do not know where my true skin is hidden
perhaps, like a Selkie,
I will find it someday—put it on again—
and return to my true home
In the meantime
I clothe myself in the beauty
of the growing things
and seek their protection
And sit by the moving waters—
From the Beings of this Forest
To the Beings of this Forest,
and all Beings of All Forests,
and Open Spaces,
and Water-Filled Spaces,
I ask for protection on this house,
and on myself,
and All who may come to be with me here,
That We may All thrive,
and come to know OurSelves
as part of the Whole. Let this be a symbol
of separateness come together
in strength, beauty, and awareness
of All Else and All Others
for the Highest Good of All.
Lately, I have been considering the names of the places where I have been; have lived; have received inspiration, whether through life-changing events that occurred there or through being touched by the intrinsic beauty of the place. I have been delving in to archives trying to find the original names and the meanings of the names for these places that have been so special to me.
Kyle and I were talking about the “songs” of those places: the rhythm of our lives there, the lyrics of the activity that surrounded us, and especially the music of the natural surroundings. We talked about the songs of the places, and of time. When Kyle was much younger, he and I lived in the Napa Valley. We had a tradition of having brunch at the Yountville Diner on Sunday mornings and then taking a long walk along the Napa River. For part of the time that we spent meandering along the water, we would separate a little way away from each other, find a comfortable place to sit, and listen. We would sit for ten to fifteen minutes, making notes in our pocket notebooks of any particular inspiration or sound that we heard. And then, we would sit together and share with each other what we were inspired to share. As I remembered how we talked about what the energies of each particular place in that particular time had inspired in us, I became aware of how our talking, our spoken music, our songs of the moment, were relayed back into that spot and became a part of it.
It’s another way of looking at the emotion behind the poem that inspired this series of writings. In “The Thread That Weaves”, I refer to “knots named by places” and ask the reader to “listen…listen and hear the heartbeat sound”. But it isn’t merely the heartbeat sound, one’s own rhythm, which needs to be listened to. The cadence of the place itself has its own music and its own lyric.
My comments on the songs of the places brought Kyle to talk of music, and how, even though the instruments upon which we hear music played now are of more modern manufacture, they carry with them the inspiration of the music makers from times long gone. The music itself can come from hundreds of years ago. And yet, as we hear it today with our modern ears we can still be as inspired as those who heard it first may have been, and in some fashion we carry that inspiration forward.
Is that what familiarity with a place is? The memory of one’s own song being sung back to them by the place itself?
I am a direct descendant of Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins who came to this continent on the Mayflower. Their son Oceanus, who later died, was born during the trip. Descendants of theirs went on to sign the Constitution.
I have had deeply mixed feelings about this for my entire life. Yes, they were fleeing persecution. So were my ancestors who came later to flee the Clearances in Scotland.
But where does fleeing persecution ever give permission to become a persecutor? When does fleeing death give permission to slaughter others? How does suffering intolerance for spiritual beliefs lead people to be so intolerant of others’ beliefs?
Every “Thanksgiving” since I became aware of the reality, I contemplate the dichotomy that is my ancestry. All I can do is live my life being as respectful as I can possible be of all people and the land.
Ocean flowing and ebbing sometimes raging and crashing always roaring, though sometimes softly
Water from individual source following ease of flow slowly changing obstacles of earth and rock and returning to Source
30th October, 2001
I giggled as I sat down here.
I am at the edge of Oak Creek—the water glides by, carrying the first of the Fall(en) leaves on its surface. I am dressed for town, not for climbing around on the red rocks. My giggle (what a great word that is!) came from the pioneer feeling I had as I lifted my course-spun flaxen dress to take off my hook-and-eye laced boots and long cotton stockings. How many young girls in the olden times stole a bit of time away from the chores and the weaving to play in the cold waters of rushing creeks?
I have “stolen” this time—stolen it away from being “on stage” at my twice-weekly chair massage post. I need this. I need the time; I need the place; I need the sound of rushing water and the chill of it on my feet as the sun bakes my back. The trees and bushes hang low and hover over the surface of the creek. The greenery–now just beginning to turn color—is thick except for the ledge of red rock where I sit. The sky is changing from cloudy to sunny and the air just begins to lose its morning crispness and warm to the afternoon heat.
The area looks moderately well-used. A couple of old fire areas remain and there is charcoal graffiti on the rocks. I’m sure this is quite popular for summer swimmers. But today, it is mine alone. It can be a special place for me as well—like other places have been in the past: the rushing of Claverack Creek over Buttermilk Falls, the ever-changing Napa River near Yountville, the sometimes gentle, sometimes crashing waves at Long Beach—and the Mother of the Waters at the cliffs of Mendocino.
The Old Ones say that dragonflies are messengers. They hover around me and I wonder what messages they carry.
I want to jump in the water and give myself a ceremony. I am held back by fears both little and big– little ones of the inconvenience of wet clothes –big ones of what next?
What really is “next”? I am at a changing point, the feeling of that is clear. To work the change, I must release things that, although not always positive, have kept me company over the years. “Let go. Let go,” I hear myself say and yet I allow them back like the dragonflies buzzing around me. I allow them back…for the comfort of the familiar.
In testing for a place to dis-robe and enter the water, I slipped on the silt-covered rocks. It felt as though the water had grabbed me and tried to pull me in. I was only able to find a place where I could sit with my legs on just to my knees. So, I bent over and poured water on my head for the six directions.
Right across the Creek from where I sit is a young Sycamore tree. In its uppermost branches lies a dead, charred branch that was obviously snapped off in a lightning strike. And yet, the tree holds it—caresses it?—remembers how it was once the top-most part of the whole?—hangs on to it?—entangles it?—supports it until it finally drops away in its own time?—or is shaken down by a great wind?
How significant of me that tree is.
Clouds are thickening again over the canyon wall to the west and the breezes are picking up a little. The fragrance of the cool, earthy-smelling water wafts across my face. What sunlight there is, is cast upon the surface of the water. It plays in a silver dance of light reflecting across my body.
The Hunters’ Moon is tomorrow night. Kyle’s Lunar Birthday.
A wild duck just floated down stream. When it got to me, it flew directly west and landed in the calm waters just beyond the partial dam of rocks.
Time to take flight myself, I guess.
Not a heavy rain.
Certainly not enough rain.
The first rain here in months.
The scent of it is sweet.
The sound of it is like a drum gently beating
the rhythm of a blessing
for the parched earth.
It lasted only twenty minutes or so.
Like someone taking a not yet empty plate
or a not completely read book
away from me.
My heart cries, “Wait! I wasn’t finished yet.”
Because a flower grew and came to bloom last season—last year—many seasons and years ago—
fulfilling its promise of life and beauty, of sustenance, and propagation of seeds for future seasons and years—
fulfilled, and then lost to the seasons of time and changing weather—
the beauty of it lost to the gnarled greenery that overtook it—
does the beauty of what has bloomed since, and blooms now, erase the beauty of what did grow once?
Does the beauty and the life that was so abundant seasons—years—ago, mean any less, become any less beautiful because it grew many seasons and years ago, and only the memory of it remains like the soft fragrance of a flower on the wind?
Shotweed is an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest that, if left to flower and seed, forms spiky flowers that literally shoot seeds every which way when they are touched. I had been hoping that the clover that is slowly spreading in the turf grass in the dog run had found its way to the Fire Pit area—but a closer look showed me that it is indeed shotweed. It must be pulled out. It is one of those ‘sit and have patience’ garden chores and I knew that it must be done soon before the flowers bud.
I thought,”maybe in the next few days….”
This morning, I was ready to go into town and have a latte and read a book while I waited for my friend to have her hair cut, and then we would seek out an adventure.
Standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window at the early morning light, I began to feel the recently all-too -familiar sunken mood and panic attack caused by the knowledge of children in cages and non-violent people being killed by those who rule with violence, of those who live unjustly being put in positions to decide what is justice for others. I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with the feelings of helplessness, the feeling of wanting to escape the trauma reflected in my body—of being trapped inside it.
Shortness of breath quickly became holding of breath. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Slowly. It will pass.
I announced that I was staying home to pull the shotweed. “But it’s a chance to get out and see some different scenery”, she said.
“It’s over-rated,” I said as I left to go change my clothes for the garden.
Outside. Cool to the point of cold, but not uncomfortable. Sun still behind the Cedars, but the brilliance of it gave intensity to the garden’s colors.
Me. First on one knee for a while, and then the other, as I leaned over and dug the baby plants out of the gravel-covered soil around the fire pit. My mind recites its litany of my failures, my losses, my struggles, and my inability to fit in anywhere. On and on it drones. All the while, I am hot and shaking from the tension of it. And barely taking full breaths.
If I focus on music, maybe that will stop the internal noise. My earbuds silence the sounds of Nature around me, but they do not silence my mind. Mozart’s Piano Concerto #23 begins slowly—reaching quietly out to me. Breathe with the slow waves of the cadence. Breathe deeper as the intensity slowly builds. It softens again—taking me back to start again—focus. Breathe.
My hands move smoothly at my task. The right pushes the Hori-hori’s point in at the base of the plants. My left grasps them and gently pulls them free. Shush. Hear the noise for which the tool was named: ho-ree, ho-ree, as it slices through the soil’s top layer and is pulled out again.
Mozart builds to greater intensity. And, my tears—usually so reluctant to come—begin to flow with the sounds of the piano. No…it’s the orchestra in the background that let’s my pent-up emotions release.
On to Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-Flat Major, K452— and the clarinet emboldens my tears, which are then held by the notes of the piano. All together, we take our breath and let the air out. The musicians make beautiful melody while I make moisture that streams down my cheeks and into the Earth. The rumbling noise of despair quiets in my head now; I start to hear only the music and the soft crunching of metal into gravel and soil.
I finish as far as I can reach around me. I softly stroke the newly disrupted earth with my fingers— caressing it, smoothing it out while checking for bits of plant and root. I am reminded of making designs in the wet sand on the beach of Lake Michigan as a child. It brings a softness in the form of a good memory to my heart: the cool water lapping onto shore, the warm sands, the fresh air and the sunshine. I remember what it felt like so long ago… before.
Moving, I face the Incense Cedar and stretch my back, arching it as far as I can as I sit there. Looking up through the dark green branches against the bright blue sky, I invite its fragrance into me through my breath.
I sit on the ground, legs extended in a “v” in front of me. The earth is cool and damp, and I feel as though it is more than the dampness that is seeping up into me. I begin another patch of shotweed just as the opening notes Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Opus 64 – Fantasy lift into my ears and lift my spirit with them. The tears have been wiped dry on my sweatshirt sleeve. I am softened. I am spent. I am relaxed. I am allowing myself to recognize my connection to what is around— and underneath— me.
I say a prayer of thankfulness and blessing to the shotweeds. Had they not appeared for me, I would not have had this bit of time– this bit of healing in my much-wounded self.
By the time YoYo Ma begins to make his cello sing in Gabriel’s Oboe, I am back to my physical self enough to recognize my hunger.
And, as Heifetz begins to play the Scottish Fantasy, Op 46: I. Introduction, I am on my way in to the house for oatmeal.
As Heifetz moves into the faster, richly Scottish music of the II. Allegro, I stop long enough to create a mandala from fallen leaves on the front walk way.
For now, I am alright.
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