In Native American cultures, The Great Spirit is a deity intertwined with the fabric of the Universe itself on the large scale and yet personally engaged with the web of living things and the world on an earthly scale. I am creating a spiritual practice by borrowing a little from the Buddhists and the practice of mindfulness, but mostly from the strong connection I feel for the worship of Earth as taught us by our first nations. For those who hunger for the connection of a spiritual practice from someone who is learning to braid her own.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Presence on the prairie, act II

How long has it been since you dragged yourself from your warm bed before daybreak, pulled on boots and hiked along a rocky ridge to a perch on top of your world, just to witness the Sun’s optimistic rise . . .

felt the curve of the Earth beneath your sit bones, sat quiet and still on the dirt, savored the evening’s perfect light . . .

stumbled over a mound of bunch grass, flushed a sparrow from its nest and investigated, just for the joy of laying eyes on the hand-crafted basket and two tawny bundles inside . . .

spent a week sleeping on the ground, in the company of coyotes singing to the moon, nestled in the cradle of your Mother’s arms?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

What Pachamama knew all along

Suzanne Simard is professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia where she has studied the forests for the past 30 years. Her work reveals complex, symbiotic networks under our forests that mimic our own neural and social networks. Dispelling the idea that nature competes for survival, she discovered that trees use underground fungi networks to communicate and share resources. Not to be missed is her TED Talk urging a revolution in forest practices.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Listening to healing sirens from Mother Earth

I was the only aging suburbanite in the group of six urban dwellers, sitting on a pillow on the floor of the 2nd story, the woody smell of coffee infusing the space from the shop below. The rest were 20-somethings, engaged in banter with our teacher like they were old friends. I was the rookie in a collective who had come to study song and singing, how to lead others in song, and how to connect song to the Earth.

Our instructor was a forty-something man who smelled of patchouli and sweat, his frizzy hair pulled back in a short ponytail. His clothes were baggy, from the mountains of Peru. He was a delightful combination of mellow and enthusiastic, and quite inspiring leading his passion work. His talents were singing and mandalas and theater. Leading singing requires an ability to interact with the audience he reminded us. One of my favorite visitors in this year-long “certification” (which disbanded after 5 months) was a caucasian singer of Indian music with her odd notes and inspiring practice—a day I learned more about my voice and what it can do than in all the rest of my life. During our 3rd weekend together one of the women asked the group, “Do you have plant? Like, are there plants that connect with you in a way other plants don’t?” She looked around the room at us.

I listened to answers from others, hoping to discover the reason she'd asked. Others mentioned basil, lavender and rose. “I might have a thing for frankincense," I hesitated. "But I’ve never seen a plant. Is that the same thing?” 

“Yes, frankincense is a plant, I think in botanicals it is considered magical,” said another student.

“Hmm,” I responded, then ventured off in my mind to the Episcopal church on 13th and Pearl in Eugene, where I was baptized and confirmed to support my husband at the time who decided he wanted to seek a career in the priesthood. The pastor and his assistant were adored. I learned the lessons, passed the test and in the meantime fell in love with the “high” church I found there. My favorite services were Sunday evening gatherings, most often filled with a plainsong choir and what we called “smells and bells.” The priest, wearing a white satin cape and skull cap, would stride the center aisle around the narthex shaking a brass thurible filled with burning frankincense, leaving a stream of smoke that dispersed and hung in the air long after the pass. I scrambled to attend smells and bells as often as I could.

On the other hand I never really liked nor burned incense at home because most of it made me sneeze, or nauseous. When I moved and left the church I left behind my craving for frankincense.

Fast forward to the past year when I was introduced to botanicals by a student-turned-friend who sells oils and other health care products by doTerra. Of course the first time I looked through the catalog and saw I could order frankincense to slather on me any time, I was ecstatic. It is not cheap, but opening the small brown bottle for the first time made me know I will never be without it again. Since then I have learned a lot about oils. I read about and practice with them, and attend informational gatherings when I can. Most of what I have learned thus far have been remedies, for allergies and for preventing seasonal flu.

Last month, however, I ordered a botanical oils book that to my surprise arrived with a CD. Luckily the CD had exercises that forced my more systematic route through the material, rather than my normal pick-and-choose-method. The narrative spoke an unwavering belief in the connection between mind and body and the healing power of nature’s own medicine—plants. On the CD the narrator talks about the oils we are attracted to, their properties and an inevitability that healing properties of our favorite oils match our long-seated emotional needs. The first activity asked me to pick 3 favorite oils, read about them (in the accompanying book) make a plan to use them for 30 days, and journal about the experience.

I couldn’t wait to test the theory so I searched and found the page on frankincense that summarized its uses. What I read sealed my belief about the healing power of plants. As it turns out frankincense supports a body to create a healthy attachment with one’s father (his death when I was 5 left behind unresolved grief). It helps an individual feel the fatherly love of the Divine (curious my draw to the church and God and the fragrance all wrapped in one experience). When one has felt abandoned or forgotten, frankincense reminds us that we are loved and protected. While this oil is incredibly powerful, it is also gentle, like a loving father who nurtures, guides, and protects (a healing tonic for a kid who often ran home from school crying after school mates taunted me for not having a dad). 

Heal thyself, with the therapeutic sirens calling from Mother Earth. Do you have a plant?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Following the call

I cannot resist a call on the wind from Camp Creek Canyon, urging me to bring my gear.

I squish along on curious boots, tripod balanced on my right shoulder, Nikon and extra lenses strapped in a pack on my back. The hot dusty smell I remember from my visit a year earlier is replaced with a damp perfume of penstemon and lupine, lush with unseasonable rain on this sacred ground once home to the Nez Pearce. Out here on the Zumwalt Prairie, where scientists count and plant and monitor, there are mysteries that cannot be explained.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Why coyote sings

We are created by the song of the Universe, we are created by sound--
words to a lovely Singing Alive song, and an alternative way to consider why coyote sings to the moon.

If coyote was born to sing to the Universe, 
a message about Prairie's reach
It's easy to value each yip and yap 
all background howls,
each bark and witchy screech.

Each voice of course tells the story beyond 
what constrains a science lens.
A canine-perfect cacophony of sorts 
so the Universe understands.

First verse over, it's time to pause
so coyote keeps quite still.
Dialogue with one's maker requires
a polite reciprocal trill.

It takes time to receive the messages, 
found in purposeful songs without words . . .
more time to receive spirit wisdom 
on frequencies meant to be heard.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A language for all

Instead of expecting others to speak their difficult languages tribes like the Paiute, Pawnee and Iroquois--our ancestors--created "rock art" using universal symbols to communicate with each other; the road signs or computer icons of today. These symbols expressed meaning but were not meant to be spoken. Using a few simple figures they were able to convey complicated concepts like the past and spiritual connection. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Find out more about visitors that cross your path

The name “Nighthawk” is a bit of a misnomer because the bird is neither strictly nocturnal--it's active at both dawn and dusk—nor closely related to hawks. While this picture of a docile Nighthawk contrasts with the behavior it's known for, the image of this insect-eating, owl-like bird resting on the deck railing at dawn was easier to catch than its characteristic whooshing and booming at dark near the prairie floor. 


Last summer I had the privilege of joining an amazing writing community--17 including kitchen staff, biologist and writing guru and followers--for an annual conference event called Fishtrap. Our distinction as a group was in being the ones courageous enough to travel outside of Joseph, Oregon to the Outpost on Nature Conservancy property called the Zumwalt Prairie. Others camp and write in the state park in town.  We came together daily to be challenged and encouraged, t
o experience the prairie and to write about it, hear others' work and read aloud our own. It is on the prairie I saw my first Nighthawk--a small owl-like bird known for its twice-daily feeding ritual of flight and sound and astounding aerodynamics.

I was a couple of years into my own exploration of native wisdom and had just returned from my second year at an intentional community in New Mexico where I spent a week with a Peruvian-born, Lakota-trained shaman who taught us about the meaning of animals intersecting our lives--in dreams and real life. There is the science of how and why Nighthawks fly--mating, protecting the nest, warding off intruders, and there's a more spiritual message. 

It took a few days on the prairie for one of the writers-in-residence to admit that since arriving her nights were spent lingering in the swooshing and diving of the Nighthawks around her tent. As a city dweller all she had were the bats rhythmic hunt to mimic what she experienced on the prairie. Nighthawks are often mistaken for bats; they fly at tree level but then they dive making a whooshing sound, gobbling insects in their large mouths on their descent, able to pull out of a dive at the last minute causing an unexpected, unexplainable boom.

The Nighthawk conversation took place with most of the residents at the picnic table after dinner on an evening late in the week. I listened to the group debate the nature of the bird's motives, but no one ever wondered if on the Zumwalt, where the stars are bright, the frequency might be just right to receive messages from Spirit through the appearance of the Nighthawk. If you doubt such a thing, check out what one spiritual writer says about the connection between creatives and the message of the Nighthawk. I was flabbergasted a group of creatives hadn't even considered something more than science to explain the phenomenon. 

In retrospect, it is likely the poor bird was trying to keep our tents and wanderings from destroying its home, which was likely on the ground nearby. However I am not opposed to taking other signs, especially when I pray for guidance in how I deal with predictable rough spots in my life. My ancestors would have made a prayerful request for guidance, and then waited patiently to hear the answers (through dreams and encounters with other relations that crossed their path). I'm not opposed to taking in the message a Nighthawk might bring as a sign my prayers are being heard, and confirmation that I am fine.

Fun factoids about Nighthawks:

  • Fossils of Nighthawks, up to about 400,000 years old, have been unearthed between Virginia and California and from Wyoming to Texas.
  • Migrating Nighthawks have been recorded as far away as Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, the Faroe Islands, and multiple times on the British Isles, thousands of miles from their nesting sites.