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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visitors

I had two flocks of turkeys pass through my yard today.  I stopped to watch them, and in those moments, there was nothing else happening in the world.  The sky rumbled, grey and pouty, as it began to spit like a child having a temper tantrum.  I stood at my window, watching the golden maple leaves sway carelessly to the ground, feeling aware of the comfort of my home. Memories of my lifetime of autumns passed in an instant, as if I was casually flipping the pages of my favorite book.

I pictured myself making a big bowl of popcorn and sitting down to watch the turkeys.  But I knew that by the time I did that, my visitors would have moved on.  No, this was just a moment to be still, to treasure, to simply be there with the sky, the leaves, my cozy house, and the beautiful birds.  They are glorious.  They made me laugh as they pecked their way through my yard and garden, raising and tilting their eggshell blue heads, pecking, shuffling, ambling, scrambling.

I admit, I am having a hard time being back in “reality” after being away for so long.  But my heart is grateful for these remarkable visitors today because they reminded me of the “real” reality that is around me 24 hours a day, even when I’m too busy to acknowledge it. Furthermore, they reminded me that we are all just visitors here.  Like the falling leaves, we will all lay down for our final rest someday.  Perhaps that is why autumn is such a melancholy season – because deep down, we feel that reminder in our bones.  But I don’t feel sad.  I feel a deep, satisfying gratitude for all that is, and calm serenity for all that will be.

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Going backwards into Summer

Going backwards into Summer

Summer is here! I went for a paddle on Laurel Lake in Erving with a neighbor this evening, which was a great way to ring in this vibrant season.

As I started paddling, I found myself veering off in a weird and unexpected direction, unable to control myself.  It took me a few seconds before I realized that I was on my paddle board backwards.  I laughed and said, “Well, that basically sums up the way my day has been.  What a metaphor for life!”  It was funny because it was true. I really did feel like I was going backwards today, and most certainly did NOT feel in control.

I love these little moments of wisdom in life, and it’s especially great when they make you laugh.  Let’s face it.  We all have days like this – heading in an unexpected direction, or feeling fear or frustration when we seem to be going backwards instead of forwards.  Hey, it happens.  But, eventually, we straighten ourselves out and move ahead through the calm, clear waters.

Being out on the lake was so peaceful and serene.  The mountain laurel is in bloom all along the shore line, and it looks like little while and pink candies dotting the dark green foliage.   A loon was swimming at one end of the lake, and watching it dive under the water inspired me to do the same.  The water was so sweet and cool, like liquid velvet gliding across my skin.

I’m excited for summer.  Even if I find myself veering unexpectedly, out of control, or going backwards, I know I can always depend on the gentle magic of nature to set me straight.

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Pink and white candy blooms of mountain laurel

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Yours truly on Laurel Lake

Welcoming Winter

Welcoming Winter

I have a confession to make.  I have been dreading winter since the last dreamy, verdant weeks of summer.  But as summer turned to autumn and then autumn to winter, I have found myself befriending the cold, quiet days and the long, dark nights.  The air feels crisp and invigorating on my face during my contemplative wanderings through the woods.  There is a stillness that fills the forest, which I find peaceful and soothing, and the early nightfall gives me permission to rest and relax.

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A winter landscape as seen through my living room window

Winter seems to have arrived well before solstice this year, and we’ve been enjoying a tranquil frosted landscape here in western Massachusetts. By the time solstice rolled around, I found myself ready – and perhaps even slightly eager – to embrace the ups and downs of the season.  My attitude about winter surprised me, given the level of dread and loathing I previously felt.  However, there is wisdom in nature – even the parts we don’t favor – and that feels too precious a gift to squander.

On the first day of winter, I saw a truck strike a wild turkey while I was on my way to work.  It tottered across the road while the traffic kept moving.  I slowed to a stop on the side of the road where the turkey piteously hobbled to the shoulder and collapsed face down into a snow bank.

I grabbed a blanket from my car and slowly approached the turkey, arms outstretched, and gently wrapped it up and put it in my car.  My initial thought was that I would contact a wildlife rehabber, but my first glance at the turkey told me that it wasn’t likely to survive.  I didn’t see any blood, but I could see the life slipping away from its limp body.

I called work to say I was running late, then brought the turkey back home.  By then I could see that its spirit had left.  I carried the warm, lifeless body inside and placed it on the kitchen floor.  I have never seen a turkey up close like that before, and I was struck by how beautiful it was.   It was magnificent, with gleaming iridescent feathers.  They felt impossibly soft and thick as I ran my hands through them.  The wings were wide and striped with a remarkably intricate pattern.  How could such an impressive and beautiful animal exist right here in New England?

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Big, beautiful bird

I felt confused as mix of sorrow, anger, and awe coursed through me.  How could someone just hit an incredible creature like this and not stop or seem to care?

I decided to accept this sad event as a gift.  I sat next to the beautiful bird with loving admiration, seeking to honor it.

While I’ve never hunted or farmed, I do eat meat, and I realized that this gift was a opportunity for me to connect with the land in a new way.  And with Christmas right around the corner, I knew this turkey would go to good use.

I plucked and dressed the turkey on tarp in the kitchen, as Rob read instructions to me (thank goodness for the internet!).  It was an unforgettable experience – one that gave me a newfound respect for our animal brethren and for the lives that they give to us so that we may have sustenance.  I also gained a newfound respect for myself as I took responsibility for cleaning and preparing an animal to eat.  Having had no prior experience with that, I wasn’t sure it was something I could do, but it connected me to nature in a way that I have never experienced before.

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Plucking the turkey

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Removing the insides of the turkey – an experience I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. The “blood” on my shirt is not from the turkey – it’s fake blood leftover from Halloween!

Today is Christmas eve, and a magical layer of ice and snow drapes the trees like fine crystal.  As I glance out the window, I can see juncos hopping from the rooftop to a branch and then back again.  Later today, I will be roasting the turkey and, as always, I will be giving thanks for the sacredness of life and the miraculous wisdom and divine harmony of Nature.

Wishing you all a safe and Merry Christmas.

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