Desert connection

Desert connection

The desert is sparkling with bouquets of wildflowers in shades of salmon and sunshine, striking violet, soft white, and rich velvety red.  Each day I notice a different kind of flower stretching toward the vast open sky, flourishing in the warmth of the sun with a flash of ephemeral beauty.  It’s miraculous to witness these blooms springing out of the dusty, dry soil.

I’ve been in southern UT for the past week, camping in and near Capitol Reef National Park.  It’s a remarkable place filled with formations of rock and earth that defy imagination.  Never before have I seen so many geologic layers, stripes, swirls, waves, ripples, and pockmarks in such a variety of colors.  It’s a holy place born of time and elements which I find to be calm and reassuring.  Dramatic changes on the face of the earth are evident here in plain view, and as I think about our planet’s future, I am reminded of how small a part humans play in the great pantheon of time and space.

I have been thinking a lot about our culture’s relationship to land – how it is viewed as a commodity, an asset, something to be developed, something to be exploited, or something to be preserved.  I’ve been filled with a sense of mourning as I think about all the living things that have perished on the land so that we can live our modern lives.

On the drive to the park from Salt Lake City, I saw hundreds, if not thousands, of butterflies sweeping across the landscape.  It was impossible not to hit some of them with the car. Seeing them hit the windshield filled me with such an awful feeling, and I was acutely aware of the loss of each precious life.  Throughout the park, the remains of butterflies were smeared across every vehicle, and it struck me as so so ironic that these gentle beings should be senselessly sacrificed so that we may enjoy our pilgrimage to rejoice in the beauty of nature.

And yet here we are, drawn to our homeland, our blessed earth, to marvel at all she has to offer.  Gazing across a canyon today, I found myself asking, “What do I have to offer?” I couldn’t think of anything other than placing my hands on the earth and pouring loving care through my body and into the soil.  I guess it wasn’t much, but it was something.  It was connection.  Isn’t that what we are all searching for?  Our hearts and souls long to be part of something larger and to be filled with a sense of community and belonging,

This makes me think of a quote I saw in the Captiol Reef visitor’s center, which was so beautifully said:

“We abuse the land because we view it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”   – Aldo Leopold

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The thread of consciousness

Watching birds in the ocean yesterday, I was struck by the connectedness of all things – the ocean, the sand, microbes, plankton, fish, people, all of it.  I became aware of the universal consciousness, the divine thread that binds us all together.  I watched the shore birds fluttering in the waves searching for fish and I thought, “Their life is my life, their suffering is my suffering, their pain is my pain, and their death is my death.”  We are one consciousness.

Taking in my surroundings today – the pond, the trees, the birds and turtles – I find myself trying to expand my consciousness beyond “the relentless industry of self.”  I am consciousness that is in the form of this body – a body that is often experiencing pain and fatigue. But consciousness is not body, it is not ego.  It is present in this form as it is present in all that live and breathe and make up this precious, sacred world.

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An earth-empath’s search for courage

Last night while I was sleeping, I woke up very suddenly feeling exhausted and depleted.  I felt strangely filled with an innate sense of knowledge and I thought to myself, “This is how the earth must feel.”

I was so surprised by the clarity of this sensation even though there was some part of my logic-seeking brain that thought, “Don’t be ridiculous.  The earth can’t FEEL anything.”  In actuality, I think that is just the part of my brain that doesn’t want it to be true.  It reminded me of being a child and thinking that if I couldn’t see someone, they couldn’t see me.

The truth is that the sorrow of the world is running through my veins and I feel the soul of the earth weeping through me.  I was born with this blessing, although it often feels like a curse.

I sometimes wonder how to face a world of suffering when it often seems too difficult to bear.  Instinctively, I feel that the answer must be with a courageous heart.  But how does one find this courage anyhow?  I’m not an authority of the subject, but I think that maybe it’s by letting your heart soften and crack open.  Maybe then, a little light will shine into that crack and lead the way.

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At last – here is the “morel” of the story! 🙂

The journey continues

It’s official!  I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in the state of Massachusetts!  This feels like a huge step forward in my journey, and one that I’ve been working towards for a long time.

Being a wildlife rehabilitator isn’t a job (although it may be for some people in certain cases) or a hobby.  It’s a calling.  You don’t do it for money, because there is none.  Everything is out of pocket or funded by donations.  You devote your time and energy and resources simply because you feel called to do it.

For me, it’s way more than a love of animals that has lead me to this work.  The love of animals is certainly there, along with a deep compassion and empathy. But if I had to say, I would express it more as a vast respect for everything that is woven together through the divine thread of life.  To honor that feels like my life’s work (be it paid or unpaid).

For many years, I have been tormented by the suffering and death endured by the ones who cannot speak for themselves.  I can remember feeling paralyzed with helplessness, or feeling like I want to bury my head in the sand.  Working in wildlife rehab became a way for me to confront that suffering.  Not to run or hide, but to face it head on.  And I’m amazed to see what has grown out of that place – a space in my heart that I might have known existed, but never had access to.  By walking hand in hand with the suffering, I realized that I had a gift to offer –  that I have a capacity to hold a loving, tender space for those that are vulnerable and in need.

I realize that nature is a remarkable, wonderful, cruel, and complex place.  I can’t save everything, and that’s okay.  But I can hold a space for death.  I can recognize and respect it’s place in the circle of life.  There are times it will be with me as I continue down this path.

And If I’m being totally honest, I suppose there is some part of me hoping that by doing this work, maybe I’ll be able to heal some vulnerable, wounded part of myself too.

I will starting out slow as a new wildlife rehabber. I still have a lot to learn and I’m nervous.  But I’m excited too!  I can’t wait to see how the journey continues to unfold.  Thank you to everyone who is walking with me along the way.

If you’d like to donate to my wildlife rehabilitation fundraiser, please click here.

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So long, February and welcome, March

I have to admit that I’m not too sad to see February go.  But, I’m not overly excited either.  The truth is, I’ve noticed my relationship to winter changing over the last couple of years.  What changed exactly?  Well, for one thing, I pretty much lost interest in complaining about it.  What’s the point of that?  At the same time, I ran out of energy from trying to see the positive side of everything.   As Doris Day said, “Que sera sera.  Whatever will be will be.”  If it’s good enough for Doris, it’s good enough for me!

Winter days can seem the same, day after day, week after week. But they’re not really.  Each day is different, even if it’s just noticing something that I didn’t see the day before.  The dust on my Christmas cactus.  The tracks of a coyote by a small stream.  Squirrels bouncing in the tree tops at the rosy hint of dawn.  There are days I feel achey and days I feel forgotten.  There are days that I feel gratitude for the amazing miracles of the natural world, and there are days that I feel I am just going through the motions.

I am really not a fan of the expression, “it’s all good.”  No, it really isn’t all good.  Pretty far from it.  But today I think I might try, “it’s all okay.”  That’s what I’m aiming for anyway.  Whatever it is that comes my way today – a patch of ice in the driveway, the cheerful call of a tufted titmouse, an unrelenting headache, the feeling of connection with a friend, a wave of sadness – it’s all part of my living, breathing world.  And it’s all okay.

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I’m lichen this moss! 🙂

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A pretty little stream in the woods near my house

 

 

 

 

 

 

An unexpected invitation

A few weeks ago, I was driving home from work and the image of a incredibly beautiful pool of water suddenly emerged in my mind.  I saw myself sitting in the green grass by the edge, peering into the calm, dark water.  I knew immediately that it was the pool of grief that I had come to be with.  Sitting by the edge, I looked deep within the very soul of suffering.  I looked deeper and deeper into the endless waters, unflinchingly, until I suddenly saw a reflection rising back towards me:  love and compassion.

The thing that struck me most about this unexpected image, was that it was apropos of nothing.  The sun was glistening on the Millers River and I was feeling generally content and at peace.  Yet, the pool of grief was there, indeed as it always is.

I think sometimes we are conditioned to think of grief as something that we only experience during times of great loss or trauma.  But grief has many shapes and forms, and is something we carry with us our whole lives.   In the last few weeks alone, I have felt deep grief about a number of different things.  I realize, too, that I have been gifted with an incredible invitation – to sit by the pool of grief and to gaze within the soul of suffering.  Each time I do that – as difficult as it is – I am touched by something larger, a greater Truth.  For that, I am deeply grateful.

“Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.”  – Oscar Wilde

“Grief stirs the heart.  It is indeed the song of a soul alive.” – Francis Weller

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A Universe of Pain

This morning as I was making breakfast, I thought the words, “I am in a universe of pain.”  As someone who deals with chronic pain, I have previously thought, “I am in a world of pain” on days when it has been really bad.  But today was different.  For even though I was experiencing the most pain I’ve had in recent memory, I wasn’t using those words to mark or measure it.  Instead, there was an immense spaciousness around it, a comforting endlessness .  I didn’t feel trapped in my “world of pain”. I felt like a part of some larger truth.

To be alive, we must all experience pain at some point, be it physical or emotional.  To be a part of nature is to be in pain.  Not all the time hopefully, but it is a common experience, a thread that binds all living things together in our remarkable web of life.

Being in a universe of pain means that there is space to experience whatever is being felt.  In the past, I’ve sometimes thought of pain as being “bad”.  But in the spaciousness of the universe, there is no “bad”.  There is just space for the sensations to exist.  A space to be held.  A space to simply be.

To those friends and loved ones who might be reading this and feel inclined to send me condolences or well wishes, let me say that there is no need (although, of course I appreciate any such intention).  I am at home in my journey.  Instead I ask only this:  look inward at whatever pain you are feeling, be it physical or emotional.  Crack your heart open, even just a little bit, and surround that pain with love.  Trust that there is a place for it in the universe of pain.

Incidentally, the words “universe of pain” came to me as I was making toast.  I guess you just never know what is going to pop up in life!  Get it?  Pop up?  Toast?!  Hahaha!  I love a good pun.  Wait, is that an oxymoron? Oh well, I guess that’s something to ponder another day.

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