A Walk

October 20, 2013

I love fall. Hands down, it is my favorite season. There is something about the colors, the light, the wind, the smell of the air, the sounds…..all of it.

The other day I took a walk. I tried so very hard to be present with each step. To hear the sounds of the leaves crunching. To smell the decay of the fallen apples. To see what was scurrying in the under brush. To see the bird that was singing. It was so difficult.

And yet, as I passed others enjoying a walk, I realized I was probably more aware of the moment than they were. So many were talking on their cells phones, or listening to music with headphones. Runners were focused on running. Dog walkers were focused on dogs.

It became apparent that no one noticed there were at least 4 different kinds of nuts crunching underfoot. Was anyone noticing the herds of chipmunks running here and there with their cheeks full of the bounty of fallen nuts?

pinecone

(photo by me)

I heard the Red Tailed Hawks before I saw them. A pair. They lighted on a branch and seemed to have a conversation. Someone came walking by and I made an effort to be obviously looking at something beautiful…..they did not look up to see what I was watching.

The trail runs along a creek. I noticed a bobbing branch that somehow looked out of place. I stopped and realized it was a Blue Heron fishing for yummies. Again I stopped and watched. Again someone came by, oblivious to me and the display of beauty just in front of me.

heron3

(Photo by me)

Today I walked the same path. I passed a lady coming out while I was on my way in. She looked at me and smiled. Later we caught up with each other coming back. I said “Hello again”. It was like I had opened a door. “Have you noticed how beautiful the sumac is?” she inquired. Yes, I had. “And the chipmunks are loving the hickory nuts!” YES!!! Finally she said, “Sometimes I just stand and watch the Blue Heron in the creek. He is so majestic.” I nodded. She said “Enjoy your walk.” I said “Thank-you”. She looked at me and smiled. “Thank you for seeing all these things.”, I added. She smiled again and said “Thank you for seeing them too.”

What do we miss every day?

What do you see? Hear? Feel? Experience?

 

Cenotes Into Ourselves

August 18, 2013

Warning!! This post might be a stretch!!

A little while ago I wrote about ecotones. “Ecotone” means a  transition area between two biomes. An ecotone is where two communities meet and integrate. I tried to relate it to our personal experiences in life and self discovery.

Today we move onto “cenotes”!! A cenote is  is a natural phenomenon, a sinkhole in the Earth’s surface.  Found in Mexico and the Caribbean, a cetone is primarily made up of porous limestone. Over millions of years, rainfall slowly eats away at the limestone and a huge system of underground caves and caverns is formed. Many are filled with water from rain or from the underground water table. When the roof of a water filled cave collapses, a cenote is born. The water found in a cenote may be fresh water, salt water, or both. Structurally it may be completely open, like a lake, almost completely closed with just a small opening at the top, or somewhere in between.

In the Mayan language “ts’onot” means sacred well. Cenotes were the main source of fresh water for the ancient Mayan civilization. Mayans believed the cenotes contained curative elements and considered many of them to be sacred. They also believed cenotes to be portals to the spirit world and a way to communicate with the gods. Some cenotes were the site of Mayan sacrifices.

cenotes google images

(google images)

Now we have the definition and history. Here comes my twist.

For those of us on a quest of some sort, to find our “true” self, to quiet the ego, to discover what is hidden within us, we often find ourselves slowly peeling away layers of our outward self to find our inner self. Not unlike the the rain slowly dissolving the limestone. Our “rain” comes in many forms: religion, meditation, service…..Our limestone is apathy, doubt, ego, mis-information, immaturity, not being ready, ignorance, selfishness…..

But once something has worn away enough of our personal limestone, a shift begins…….we find ways to energize and speed the dissolving process along. We are ready for the breakthough. Ready for the bottom to fall out, to open the barrier to the cenote.  A place the Mayan’s believed to be curative, sacred and a portal to communicating with the gods.

Whatever journey you are on, is it so different? Are you not slowly melting away the layers of ego to discover something deep inside of you? A place, a state of being where you can discover the “sacred”, the true “self”, inside of you?

Once a cenote is born the fresh water falls, joining a vast underground system of rivers and caves. Areas of haloclines form: where fresh water and salt water meet creating eerie pools of mystical waters. Waters flow along underground rivers and hundreds of miles later, they exit the underworld and join with the ocean……they mingle with the salt water and become something new and different. A smaller part becomes a part of something bigger as it also changes from fresh water to salt water……

So as you travel along your path to self discovery maybe the imagine of the cenote will be like a lantern guiding you along.

 

Have We Lost Silence?

August 11, 2013

I am a quiet person. I like to be quiet and I like to be surrounded by quiet. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy people and good conversation. I enjoy music and plays and movies.  I enjoy the noise of cities and the lull of ocean waves. I am grateful for the bird song that wakes me in the morning,  And for me, there is nothing more joyful than the sound of my children’s voices and their laughter.

However, I came across an article written last year that made me go “hmmmmm”.

http://www.canyoncountryzephyr.com/2012/10/01/pointblank-how-we-lost-silence-and-why-we-need-to-get-it-back-by-richard-mahler/

“In 1998, for example, natural sound recordist Gordon Hempton toured 15 states and found only two-remote parts of Colorado and Minnesota-that were free of such human-made clamor as airplanes, amplified music, chain saws, gunfire, and all-terrain vehicles for more than 15 minutes during daylight hours.

A few years earlier, Hempton had found those same areas to be sanctuaries of the kind of hear-a-pin-drop silence that most Americans under 30 have probably never experienced. Deep silence is critically endangered. As the 21st century unfolds, the mechanical racket of the Industrial Revolution and the electronic beep of the Information Age conspire to obliterate the balm of natural silence that once soothed humankind. Not only does our clatter invade nearly every public space-from beaches to mountains, shopping centers to airports-we seem compelled to let it invade our inner-sanctums of as well. We walk in our front doors and immediately flick on TV sets, radios, computers, or CD players; replay voice mail and answering machines; amuse our children with video games; and push buttons on gadgets we’ve installed in every room of the house.”

sapwoods

(Photo by me, of Sapsucker Woods, Ithaca NY)

There is one restaurant in my town that does not play music. It is like entering a kind of paradise. We can actually sit and relax, talk to each other, eat, hear our server, breathe. We can BE. We can “stop” and think and process. We can hear ourselves and each other.

What is the impact of “loosing” silence in the world? Being alone and silent in many cultures used to be a rite of passage. To be alone with oneself in order to learn who we are from the depths of our spirit. To hear that which IS silent.

“Lost from our daily routines is time to abide calmly with ourselves. That’s too bad, because “quiet alone-time” is where I believe many of us touch the fullness of our possibilities. Clinical studies suggest that a sanctuary of stillness really can restore peace of mind, while reducing stress, expanding insight, and promoting a genuine sense of happiness and well-being.”

I know that for me the “sanctuary of stillness” is very important. Without it I cannot get anywhere near my full potential. I am not happy and do not experience “well-being” without silence in my life.

For me embracing stillness and silence is paramount to my well-being.  How about you? Care to share?

Sailing

August 4, 2013

sail

I am lucky. I live in the heart of the Finger Lakes in New York state. An area rich in Native American history and spirituality.

The lakes were formed more than 550 million year ago during the Pleistocene Ice Age. Glaciers crept through the area from north to south, and carved deep sliced into the land. The ice pushed the land and rocks south. Gradually the ice melted and the glaciers receded, leaving shale valleys of water, which are now the Finger Lakes.

When you are on Cayuga Lake, you feel smaller. It is hard to feel important, Although the lake is not large, it is deep and the color somehow reflects that.

water

The Iroquois Indians call this part of New York home. The Cayuga and Onondaga tribes specifically called Cayuga Lake home.

When I am aware of my surroundings, especially when I travel, I find myself wondering about the people who lived in the area before it was easy to live there…before grocery stores, or Home Depot. Before snow plows or electricity. I wonder about the first people to live in the area, about the first “settlers” who came over a hill and saw something so beautiful that they decided to stop and make a home. I wonder about the discord that happened between people that caused fighting or forced people to move.

And, I often think about how people, before science opened up our understanding of “things”, made sense of what they saw, heard, felt.

The Finger Lakes are called the Finger Lakes because of a Iroquois legend that says the lakes were formed when the great Spirit laid his hands on the land to bless it. His fingers left imprints that filled with water, hence the name “Finger Lakes.”

“It is said that the Finger Lakes were made by the impression of the hand of the Great Spirit on central New York State. However there are six major Finger Lakes. West to east they are; Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles. As told in Iroquois legend, the Great God Manitou wanted to reward the Iroquois Confederacy for their courage in battle and their devotion to the Great Spirit. He decided to bring part of their happy hunting ground down from the heavens.

According to the legend, there are six Finger Lakes because the hand of Manitou slipped when he was pushing the portion of Indian Paradise down from the heavens, causing six indentations that later became the lakes.” Excerpt from Legends and Stories of the Finger Lakes Region by Emerson Klees  

250px-New_York's_Finger_Lakes

Could there be anything more profound than to believe your “world” was created for you by God? If you knew nothing of glaciers and geology how else could these lakes be explained? And again, the lakes reminded people, you are not as big and important as you think…..there is something bigger than you: the lakes. And if you believe in God, God.

I love living in this area. I love sailing. It is something that melds the body with nature and heals the heart and soul. It makes you stop and feel your body in relation to the wind and water. It makes you find physical balance as the water moves you in ways you can not control as the boat rocks and heels. It makes you understand the power of wind—as you feel it on your face, as you feel it move the boat. It is rhythmic and quiet. It is like a dance. As your body is rocked in the boat and cradled in the water something inside is awakened and nurtured. As a small “speck” on the water you understand you are not so important and it is a good feeling. It releases you from something. And in the wind and waves, on a small boat, in the sun surrounded by not very much, there is inner calm that reminds you to allow yourself to simply “be” without worry or hurry. Life is not about jobs and responsibilities, errands or appointments. It is not about cleaning or folding laundry. Or driving a nice car or being isolated in a large house. It is not about the internet or reality TV shows. It is about shedding all of that and knowing, when all that is stripped away, who you are.

 

The Goodness of The Day

June 25, 2013

Sunsets grant us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the movement of the day. They remind us to take time to be still and quiet as the passage is made from day to night. To experience gratitude for the goodness of the day.

“When the sun is setting, leave whatever you are doing and watch it.” 
-Mehmet Murat ildan

sunset2

(photo by me, Oregon coast. Sunset)

In our daily lives we often participate in many things that might not fall under the category of “good”, or “pleasant”, and too often it so easy for us to hang on to those things as if THEY were our life threads, our defining moments. They are not.

At the end of the day the sunset comes. It has no judgement on our day. Yet the sunset can give us that moment to reflect on all the wonders and beauty in the world, and in people, that we may not have noticed during the day. The sunset reminds us of things that are greater than our evaluation of how we did during day. Greater than our evaluations of how we think others did during that day.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
– Rabindranath Tagore

The raging colors splattered across the horizon, the muted sorbet wisps translucent against the day blue sky: the sunset. It reminds us to give pause and notice the beauty and harmony in the natural world. To reflect on the goodness of the day and to be still and fully present in the beauty of the moment. THIS moment. A time of transition from day to night. Where there is nothing but the sunset. Events , struggles, pain, sorrow, laughter, joys of the day are gone…behind us. The next moment has not yet come. This is what is. It is natural. Ever changing. Impermanent. Beautiful. Miraculous. Inspiring. Healing. Breathtaking.  This is the cessation of the things that maybe are not so important. This is the interlude between misunderstanding and truth. This is the respite that says “Stop. Be mindful of the goodness of this day as it passes. Be present to this stillness and let the silence of the stillness echo throughout your body.”

“I think over again my small adventures, my fears,
those small ones that seemed so big,
all those vital things I had to get and to reach,
and yet there is only one great thing:
to live and see the great day that dawns,
and the light that fills the world.”
Old Innuit Song
 
sunrise2
 
(morning light at my home)

This is such a beautiful expression of simplicity, intimacy, beauty and hope. What would it be like to be raised in and be part of a culture that has a song, that has music, that reminds people to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world?

I understand this an old song, from a place vastly different than what we are used to. I understand the Inuit culture lived intimately with nature and the rhythms of nature.

But think for a moment. What are the lyrics we hear today. What songs on the radio do our children memorize before they can even read or spell their own name? What is the message they grow up with? What do they hear as being important in life?

I naturally wake up early every day. Usually before sunrise. I see the sun rise. I hear the world outside wake up. The birds singing. The squirrels activating. The leaves rustling in the wind. The snort of a deer who is next to the window. And then, I see the first hint of the sunrise. The light that fills the world. The same light for all of us. And surely, this new day dawning is a great day.

sunrise

(sunrise at my home)

For me the sunrise is spiritual. On the days when it is too stormy to see the colors I feel like something is missing.

I wonder what it would be like if this was not a part of my day. What would it be like to sleep past the sunrise? To miss the world here waking up, stretching her arms, breathing? It is so important to me. The sun rise tells me I am a small part of something very big. It tells me I am not so important. It tells me to never forget the wonder, the mystery, the magnitude of what might easily be taken for granted….Earth, Nature, beauty, wonder, silence, listening, hearing, seeing, feeling, experiencing. Being. Gratitude. The sunrise literally grounds me. It shouts to me “Look around you!!!!! Look! See all this! Don’t shut it out or forget it. Don’t live your day without understanding there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.”

Digging A Hole Big Enough to Sit In, by Twylah Nitsch

“I must have been under five when I spent one whole summer day digging a hole with a large spoon in the side of a bank near our house. I had to dig and dig because the ground was so full of roots and my goal was to make a hole big enough to sit in – like a cave. And that took a lot of hard work. Digging through all those roots was tough.

What I remember most about the experience is something my grandmother said. “When you take the dirt out, make sure you have a place for it,” she cautioned me, “because the dirt is used to being in that particular place, and it is at home there. Don’t take anything that is part of something and just scatter it around. Remember you are disturbing the home of the worms and the insects. You are moving them out of the place where they have been living, and you need to make sure that they are happy about where you are taking them.” So I would scoop the dirt into a little basket I had and take it around to various spots. “Is this where you would like to be?” I’d ask. And if the answer was yes, I would leave it. Otherwise, I’d pick up my basket, go to another spot, and ask again.

When I had finally made the hold deep enough to sit in, I would crawl in there and listen. I could hear the earth talking.”

 https://www.facebook.com/notes/twylah-nitsch/digging-a-hole-big-enough-to-sit-in/155871381125953)

twylah

(from her Facebook page)

The most simple mundane things we do have impact somewhere on someone or something. For child Twylah, it was every child’s favorite pastime: digging a hole. And it impacted the worms and bugs. I work with pre-schoolers and we have holes all over our playground. And they sit in them. The holes are like those Mamasan chairs that cradle the body in a quasi fetal position.

When the children find worms we remind them they have to put them back into the earth: they cannot become a pet or they will die.

When I was a child I “lived” in the woods in back of my house. I played for hours there…listening, watching, tasting, feeling, smelling. I could hear the earth talking. I heard her sing and laugh!

Now, all grown up, I can’t seem to hear earth speak so clearly any more. But I still see, feel, taste, and smell. And it’s different than it was over 50 years ago. There is a lot of noise…some is in my head, and some is in the world, but it is not Earth talking, or singing anymore. Why?

I feel, sometimes, displaced, like the dirt Twylah’s mother mentions……moved out of where it’s used to being.

How do you listen to earth? What do you hear? Where do you “belong”, and feel that you belong?

The Peace Of Wild Things

November 23, 2012

The Peace of Wild Things

Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
I think of this poem when I feel overwhelmed by some thing……it encompasses so many images that have the ability to bring me calmly to the last line:
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
I find myself wondering how I can do this more often through each and every day. How do I remember to “simply” rest in the grace of the world?
The world we live in today is rife with stories of pain, suffering, war, anger, despair, fear. Daily life often includes deadlines, clocks, appointments, responsibility, worry,  juggling, compromising……there is a cloud that sometimes seems to prevent us from seeing the good, the magical, the mystical, the beauty, the hope and the possibilities that also surrounds us.
We escape into the world of movies, computers, video games, cell phones…….
Out “there”, out the door, down the path, near the lake, on a mountain, under a waterfall….that’s where our healing can take place: come into the peace of wild things.
Don’t forget the “wild things”. Don’t ignore the still waters. Seek them out. Remind yourself what it is to feel free and rest in the grace of the world.
http://www.wendellberrybooks.com/author.html

“The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

~ John Muir

John Muir has a way of moving my heart and soul. His words resound with all the magnificence of nature and wonder.

Nature graces us with an unparalleled show each and every moment. If we can remember to look around and see it! If we can look up from our computers, ipads and phones. Hey, I am as guilty as the next person, but I do work on being mindful of the glory and beauty of nature when I can.

How staggering it is that we live on a vibrant planet full of life! How astounding that it spins and whirls and we never loose our balance or float away! How mind boggling is the balance that must be kept to keep everything alive? How fragile and yet how strong is our planet?!

Go out and take a look. Look up. Look down. To the north, the south, the east, the west. Take a look and marvel at your home.  Behold Nature and all her beauty, as the round earth rolls.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kukVNtyNDCw&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RhgLCIsGq0&feature=related

http://www.sierraclub.org/

John Muir