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! 🙂

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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Constant Companions

I distinctly remember the first time I realized that I would die.  I was about 9 or 10 and I was lying in bed at night, when suddenly this realization poured over me.  I am going to die someday.  The room spun.  My heart pounded. Surely, this couldn’t be possible.  Yet, not only was it possible – it was absolutely going to happen!

Sometimes I wonder if I think about death more than the average person.  It’s not that I have a morbid fascination with it.  Nor do I fear it.  But the knowledge of this universal truth compels me toward a respectful recognition of this point within the Circle of Life.

I feel a need to confront death and suffering head on.  This is difficult work, and it is a part of what draws me to working in wildlife rehabilitation.  I do not want to run, hide, or be in fear of the Truth.  I want to walk hand in hand with it, to welcome it, to be at peace with it.

A couple of days ago, I received the news that my beloved raccoon friend, Nyxie, had died.  She was a special patient at the wildlife rehabilitation center I work at, and her sweet, gentle disposition touched the hearts of all who knew her.

I was so crestfallen when I got the news, even though I knew it was best in the long run.  I took a walk down to the old cemetery near my house, and I saw a flock of turkeys coming up the path.  How apropos.  Turkeys somehow always remind me of the gifts of life and death.

I walked down to the weathered tombstones, the graves of townsfolk who witnessed the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the turn of the century.  Normally, I only walk to the edge of the cemetery. There is something that prevents me from entering.  I think it is just the knowledge that I am standing on the bones of lives that were once filled with vitality –  people who laughed, ate, slept, suffered, loved.  And now their skeletons lie flat and crumbling below my feet.

But I did not hesitate to enter the cemetery this time.  I looked at the headstones.  I looked at the surrounding forest.  I listened to the cars in the distance.  I smelled the autumn air. I felt Death and Life beside me, around me, inside me – constant companions and friends.  I felt grief. I felt the wind rustle. I felt my heart beat.  I felt peaceful.

On that note, I’d like to share one of my favorite excerpts from Johnny Muir:

“All the merry dwellers of the trees and streams, and the myriad swarms of the air, called into life by the sunbeam of a summer morning, go home through death, wings folded perhaps in the last red rays of sunset of the day they were first tried.  Trees towering in the sky, braving storms of centuries, flowers turning faces to the light for a single day or hour, having enjoyed their share of life’s feast – all alike passed on and away under the law of death and love.  Yet all are our brothers and they enjoy life as we do, share heaven’s blessings with us, die and are buried in hallowed ground, come with us out of eternity and return into eternity.”

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Nyxie had a gentle and loving demeanor that was very calming to be around.  She was a miracle of Nature, and she has now returned Home.