Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Plethora of Pollen

It's that time of year. I can feel it tickling my nose and throat at the most unexpected times, causing me to sneeze and then cough for at least 3 minutes, a dry, irritated cough that is a response to a scratchy, dry throat... which is in indirect proportion to my runny eyes and nose.

And the cause is hanging like beautiful, thick locks of tawny tendrils outside of our windows.

It's the oak pollen.

Golden, thick, and sticky, it bursts out of its incubation with the enthusiasm of fourth of July fireworks. It's a ticker-tape parade, a flaunting fanfare of fertility. Within days, everything outside is powdered with a coat of yellow. It's not something you can just wipe off the dashboard of the car: it is sticky so that the species can survive... Darwin's own darling.

A heavy spring rain is the only thing that will clear the air... and then only for a short time. The gilded tide lasts a couple of weeks, then subsides. From this, we will gain new acorns and then new oaks. Since I love acorns and trees so much, I have learned to abide this annual rite of flight and the seeds' search for a soft, nurturing landing spot.
And I carry tissues and water with me for those (sniff) unexpected tickles.
I hope you are tickled by something delightful today.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Circle of Trees

This past winter I read Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, an autobiographical book about Kidd's journey to the Feminine Divine. I love Kidd's writings, and this had been on my list -- and bookshelf -- for several years.

One of the sacred places that Kidd would retreat to was a circle of trees where she and her chosen sisters would learn to develop ritual to honor the Feminine Divine and the Divine in themselves. Since I love being among trees, I especially resonated with this pilgrimage of hers.

For the past several years, I have gone "into hibernation" at the Winter Solstice. All of Nature does except humankind, and to me the frenzy that is attached to the Christmas season is contradictory to our natural need to slow down and go within. So I "enter the cave" on Dec. 21 until Spring Equinox around March 21, which has meant that, while I still went to work each day, I came home (to the "cave") each evening and sat by the fire reading, writing, or creating art (at least, I tried to do that!). This past winter, during hibernation, I read Kidd's Dance and decided to create my own circle of trees I could wear. I have lots of pendants that represent trees, and never enough days to wear them all, so I created a necklace using all of them! It's heavy, but that's ok. I wear it for meditation purposes or for other sacred ritual. Because of all the pendants, when I move it sounds like the whisper of leaves talking with each other.

The central bead is a beautiful electroformed green jasper that shows the shape of a tree in copper on the stone. I added a goldstone above it to represent the sun and smoky topaz droplets below to represent moist, deep roots. On the reverse, I have selected words that read, "Broad trunks branches root form a circular temple". Other pendants include: a pocket watch face with leaf hands backed by a crop circle depicting a fruit-filled tree protected by a vintage watch crystal, and topped by a lucite egg and a Green Girl pewter pendant depicting a tree with the words "Grow Strong"; a rectangular jasper frame encasing a glass bead acorn and andalucite heart; a trio chain of roots, maple seed wings I made of polymer clay, and another acorn, this time of tiger eye and brass; a jasper donut with hangings of a glass leaf, an antique key (which resembles the shape of a tree), and a brass acorn; a green and gold stone rectangle that resembles a lightning strike with a piece of bark from a struck tree adhered to the reverse and the words "antennae reaching heights" on either edge; a tree agate heart and a moss agate disc that resembles the moon; a clay stamped pendant depicting a Mother Tree by my WomenSpirit (a twice annual retreat honoring the Feminine) sister, Helen; and the inside of an antique pocket watch resembling a crescent moon surrounding a peaceful face with a petrified wood bead dangle, on the reverse is a photo of a bristlecone pine, the Earth's oldest living being. I've also included a wooden ring, prehnite, rhyolite, handmade lampwork glass beads, and amber chunks to the necklace. While all of these pendants are special and sacred to me, I later added an even more special hanging: a bodhi leaf a friend brought me back from India found under a legendary bodhi tree. I sandwiched it between copper and mica to protect it. What a gift! (I often ask friends who are traveling to places I've never been to bring me back a small bit of Mother Earth: a stone, a leaf, a shell, sand, a feather, etc. I keep these bits of Earth either in my office/studio or in a piece of jewelry to help me remember that it is about ALL of Mother Earth, not just the piece we stand on.) I brought back lots of rocks, etc. from England last summer, some from in the crop circles.

I love creating art that honors Mother Earth!

Lightning-struck trees are believed to hold extra power (understandably!). Andrew and our artist friend Heather and I were sitting on our front porch last fall when a thunderstorm was coming through the mountains. Protected from the storm, we were enjoying the sounds and smells and views of the wind and rain. Suddenly, lightning struck a tall pine tree about 200 yards south of our home. I saw the immense flash out of the corner of my eye, and felt the energy from the strike impact into me! The sound was intense. We all looked at each other, stunned (from amazement, not electrical shock...). What power! Now, that tree has died, although it is still standing tall.

They stand in strength and fall in grace.

I hope you have a day graced by trees.


Friday, April 24, 2009


I have long been a fan of trees. More recently, I have been a fanatic of trees.

As a matter of fact, my friend Heather Cramer, a wonderful artist and teacher, portrayed me as a protective tree with my three children in my rooted trunk. I love that portrait because I love trees.

I love their strength and their shelter; their reaching and their rooting; their bark and their beauty; their colors and their textures; their patience and their whispers; their fullness and their nakedness; their generosity and their growth; their majesty and their mystery.

I wonder how heavy all the leaves of a mature oak weigh. I wonder if the trees are tickled when the squirrels play chase around and around their trunks and limbs. I wonder if the trees hear the songs of the birds, and if the birds hear the songs of the trees. I wonder how trees can be so patient and generous even with all the assaults humankind imposes on them day in and day out.

One of the reasons we bought our home was because of the presence of all the beautiful old trees in the yard. Their beings were welcoming and protecting. They are members of our family.

Several years ago, I learned from the power company that one of our old oak trees in our yard bordering a city street was dying and needed to be cut down. I saw lots of beautiful green leaves growing from the tree and challenged the power company to tell me why they thought it was dying. From their tree expert, I learned that in a last-gasp effort to survive, oaks (and others, I suppose) will push out multitudes of new leaf growth; however he pointed out that most of the new leaves were growing directly out of the trunk and largest limbs, not smaller branches and twigs. The forester took out a rod and, at ground level, swiped it all the way across the diameter under the tree, proving to me that there were very few roots left. He said that the tree was most likely struck by lightening on the side without the roots, because oak trees have a direct system of circulation (nutrients) that goes in a straight line up the tree. Other species spread out their nutrients in more branching systems (parden the pun). He also told me that once the central branch if a tree is dead/dying, that means the tree is dying. It was very sad for me. We have many old trees, mostly oaks, and we love each one; they shelter us and provide shade and wildlife in our yard. They are one of the top reasons we chose to buy our home. They are an important part of our home.

We had a similar circumstance with another oak on the side of our driveway. I was concerned because it had started shedding some of its bark. I asked the forester to look at it, and -- sure enough -- it had the same problem: hardly any roots. So we schedule the power company to cut both trees down on Wednesday of the next week. Sad indeed.

This was in March following a very dry year. Blessedly, we had a full day of rain on the Tuesday before the scheduled felling. It was cool and moist that day, a harbinger of a lovely spring. The rain ended during the early evening.

That Tuesday night/Wednesday morning around 3 a.m., we woke to a loud sharp sound like a gunshot. It was much louder than a gunshot, however, then I heard a long, loud swoooooossshhhhhhhh, then silence. Andrew and I ran to our bedroom window, and there was the oak at the driveway, lying on the ground!

We called the power company because the tree had fallen on one of the lines. And while we never lost power from the tree falling (however, the power company turned off the power so we could remove the tree), the line ran parallel to the driveway and had been strong enough to aid the tree in a soft fall: it slid down the line to rest at a 60 degree angle from where it had stood. Just far enough over not to do damage to our neighbors home or our cars! That line was really stretched! What a weight!

Trees stand in strength and fall in grace.

We had to cut up the tree ourselves since it had fallen of its own accord. So Andrew and I got out there with his chain saw and started the long process of cutting the tree up. While we worked with the wood, as we worked with the smaller branches, we found that the bark literally slid off whole from the sections because there was so much water between the bark and the wood. I realized that the tree fell because the leaves were weighted down with all the rain water and the tree itself had pumped so much of the water into its dry system that the remaining roots just couldn't hold all the extra weight. So it fell. In its own good time, not ours. There is a lot of justice in that. I found myself patting the trunk and branches as we worked with it. And later that day when the power company came to cut down our other oak, I stood in the front yard sending it love and energy as the chain saws growled. I figured if it was brave enough to stand until it was cut down, I could be brave enough to watch it and be with it.

We have lost 4 large oaks from our yard since moving here 14 years ago. Each one has been a major loss for our family and our home and all the creatures who used their havens.

Later that summer, our neighbors, frightened by our fallen tree, cut down a pair of old oaks in their front yard. The pair of oaks were suffering, there was not doubt about that: new condo construction caused a lot of stress and trauma to all the trees in the next door lot. The developer also paved over all the ground, which smothers root systems.

It was very sad to see them go, too. They had grown up next to each other for at least 150 years. After the first tree was cut down (and gently laid on the ground with a crane instead of just toppled), I had to leave the house; I couldn't bear to see the other tree come down, too.

I wrote poems for two of these trees: "Grandmama Oak" (the first giant to die) and "Crone Oak". I wrote "Crone Oak" a week before the scheduled felling:

This majestic oak
Lifts embrittled arms to the sky
Full of laps moss-soft
that cradle nests
that protect babes
that lull animals to rest.

Her arms stretch skyward
to weather
to accept
to reach.

Even her head branches upwards
into mighty, flowing tendrils
as gentle as Medusa's own,
offering shelter and shade,
dancing with the breezes,
antennae between earth and sky.

This magnificent oak has stood sentry
for over 150 years.
Now, she is dying
from greed:
from roots choked with asphalt,
a black-top grave;
from butchering blade and saws,
wielded by blindness;
from being
too regal
too old
too generous.

Soon, this exquisite Crone
will be
cut apart
chopped down
split up.

Her limbs will whine
with the chain saw and chipper.
She will tremble

The earth will shudder
when she falls.
There will be a deep furrow
where she lies.
There will be a hole in the sky
where she reached.
There will be a soft mound in the earth
where she stood.

And she will be grievously missed.

Three years ago, a 72 foot oak that stood 6" from the back of our garage fell from the wind caused by a hurricane that blew through (an unusual occurence!). The storm came through at night and -- other than the wind and rain -- we didn't hear a thing. Imagine our surprise and sadness when we looked outside our window the next morning and saw that another oak had fallen! And again, it fell the only way it could in order to avoid hitting a structure.

They stand in strength and the fall in grace.

It took a week or so to cut the tree apart. We intend to do something special with some of the trunk: mill and plane it to make a table to honor the tree. I sat in the lowest fork in the tree (trees look SO MUCH BIGGER when they are horizontal than when they are vertical!) and just relaxed into her lap and nurturing (even fallen!). The wood from that tree warmed our home for a year. Even after they fall, they still nurture us. Just like mothers in many ways.

Two years ago, Andrew built a deck onto the back of our home. There is an old oak growing right outside our back door. Andrew intentionally cut the deck around the oak, honoring it and giving it room to continue growing. He was careful where he dug the 6x6 supports that he embedded in cement so as to do the least amount of damage to the root system. I watch the moon climb this oak tree when I relax in our hot tub at night, watching the stars and satellites and planes. Squirrels scamper all along its length and breadth, jumping from twig to twig taking household items to their nests. Doves nest in its top branches. Insects travel along its deeply ridged bark. It shades the hammock in the summer and offers us sky views in the winter.

Recently, this old oak has started shedding some of its bark, so I'm keeping a close eye on it. I'm sending prayers and energy to it. After all, the moon climbs this tree.

I hope your day is full of the blessings of trees!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Travels Inside and Out

I have been on retreat this past week or so. I traveled by myself to Ohio to visit a college friend (we've known each other since 1974!) Crinny and her husband Al on their family farm. What a wonderful retreat! I was out of touch from my cell phone and internet, but was better in touch with my Self. I read, slept, relaxed, and was treated like a queen: Crinny fed me delicious, nutritious food and we had lots of time to catch up. It had been 10 years since we'd gotten together, although we've spent plenty of time talking over the phone. (Thank goodness for cell phones!)

These are a few photos I took while at the White's farm in Ohio. You can see why it is so relaxing! It was sunny my first day there, and rained softly each remaining day I was there. It was lovely no matter what the weather!

I have been noticing the shapes of trees recently, since the limbs are visible before their leaves grow back. I've been enthralled with how trees that are allowed to grow naturally (unimpeded by anything nearby or by pruning) will grow in perfect symmetry... even though no two branches are the same. It's amazing. This photo of Crinny's Japanese Raisin Tree is just one example I saw on my travels.

Speaking of trees, the granary that was built on Crinny and Al's farm boasts beams from 1840. I don't know that I've ever seen wood that was harvested 150 years ago. There were some beautiful markings in the beam -- they look almost like starbursts coming from narrow knots. At first I thought they were metal stamped onto the wood by an artisan, but now I believe they were created by insects (very artistic insects!). I was watching Renovation Nation on the Planet Green channel last night where they said that these old, old beams were recycled from one building to another. (Since everything was harvested and sized/fitted by hand -- without power tools -- wood, etc. was recycled and reused instead of thrown away and dumped in a landfill.) You can see where square holes were chiseled into this beam for previous uses. It's still as strong as ever, and it is beautiful!

I also had a lovely trip driving to Crinny's and back and spent much of that time listening to Caroline Myss' Energy Anatomy. It was wonderful to be back in touch with her work. I have listened to this work several times, but each time I get more/something different out of it. Myss always gives me insights into ways to approach life's challenges.

Exciting news! Two new crop circles in England have been reported! The Crop Circle Connector has all the info. Both of the circles posted here are the new ones they have on their site. It is so exciting that there are a whole new "crop" of circles starting again!

There was a crop circle in Ohio, too, not far from the Great Serpent Mound. We didn't get a chance to get there, but it was very exciting that we had one here in the states!

And, joy of joys, when I returned home, I found that the amaryllis bloom had begun to open! What a bright welcome home. Two blooms are open with 2 more still buds. And, as is all reflective of the wheel of life, many of the camellias had fallen off the bush. It's compost in action. Isn't Nature's "litter" so much more beautiful than humankind's?

So now I'm home, catching up with family and email. There are two great things about traveling: one is getting away; the second is coming home.
Wishing you delightful homecomings!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sweet Woodruff and May Wine

Yesterday, I forgot to include a topic I wanted to write about, so I'm posting it today.

I have been growing sweet woodruff in the north flower bed of our yard for a few years now. Sweet woodruff is a woodland herb, meaning it likes shade and moisture (which isn't typical of most herbs). Its cluster of leaves resembles a small umbrella, and its bloom is a miniature spray of creamy white blossoms on a stalk. I love herbs, and was really drawn to sweet woodruff. It held our powder of snow in its own shy way yesterday.

A few years ago, I learned a recipe for May wine using sweet woodruff. Ever since, I have looked forward to celebrating spring with this refreshing drink. Here's the easy-peasy recipe:
  • a large bottle of inexpensive white wine (the sweet woodruff changes the taste of the wine, so why pay for a taste you're going to change?)
  • a few sprigs of sweet woodruff
(yep, that's it!)

Open the bottle, push the sweet woodruff into the wine, close the bottle and let sit for at least 24 hours, chilling. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the taste.

I especially like to serve it to celebrate Beltane (or May Day) on May 1. Supposedly in Renaissance times, maidens would drink this May wine before flitting and flirting with the men on May Day (I don't know if this would be before or after them dancing around the May Pole). Anyway, it certainly adds joy to the day! It's a refreshing, unexpected, and indescribable taste. Try it and toast to the gifts and joys of spring!

Here's to all those joys!


Balance and Cocooning

I'm trying to learn how to regain and maintain balance. Sometimes -- especially with our high-maintenance, low-impulse-control teens -- I feel like one of those plastic blow-up clowns that have a round bottom and when you hit it, it rocks back and forth trying to regain their upright balance -- until the next knock. Part of my lesson in all this is that I can't control them; and when they mess up, it's not in my best interest for me to get messed up about it. ("It's not in my best interest" is a phrase a reader suggested to me to try using. Thank you!) Another lesson is to trust Spirit. Whenever I do that, things happen for the better. I just have to keep learning it!

Hence, the need for me to practice and learn how to regain and maintain balance. I felt this tension all the time when I was working outside of the home full-time: how to balance work, family, friends, and me. I'm working out of my home now, and still need to find a balance: between and within art (creating and promoting), my family, my friends, other commitments, myself.

I feel as though everyone I am interacting with right now has wisdom to share with me. This is probably always true; perhaps I am paying more attention to it now.

A couple of friends came over this morning who are Qigong teachers, and we talked about balance. They shared with me how helpful Qigong, Tai Chi, and meditation are in helping them to maintain balance.

A couple of weekends ago, I was a vendor in a Festival where all the vendors' tables had been placed in the room by Daniella, a feng shui practitioner, based on their facing their "wealth" direction (based on each person's birthdate). Daniella also helped me individually to better arrange my tables to encourage the flow of abundance. Sure enough, as soon as I followed her suggestions, I started selling more jewelry! It was pretty astounding.

Another feng shui practitioner, my friend Melody (who is so much more than a feng shui practitioner), has guided me with energy work both for my home and for my Self. And today, I received an invitation to attend a feng shui workshop on Thursday evening at a friend's home. Hmmmm... too coincidental to ignore! I've read a little on feng shui and found it fascinating; however, the Chinese belief of there being 5 elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) is a bit hard for me to adjust to since I typically honor the 4 elements of earth, air, fire, and water. The Chinese believe that everything has chi or energy, and so do I. So I expect I can accept another element into the mix when considering this practice.

I've been thinking about balance and change the last several days and realized this morning that it isn't a coincidence that I have been creating "Spring Babies" necklaces that honor new birth... depicted as a moth or butterfly emerging from her/his cocoon. This style of jewelry is quite a different one for me; and now I recognize that it reflects the metamorphosis going on within me presently. My friend Ouarda reminds me of the importance of visualizing light to our energetic benefit; not so much as a defense mechanism or protection (because neither one of us want to live life reacting in fear) but as a cocoon where it helps us develop on the inside and insulates us from harsh elements that would stunt our growth. That way, we can also send the light back out whenever we emerge (or even peek) from our cocoon.

Art is such a meditative process. For me, it's a magnificent use of intuition to connect with Spirit within and without... and find symbolism and guidance from the images and connections that are created from this explorative flow. I am so thankful to have the time to spend on this inner process! It is a blessing.

I hope your day is full of blessings, too.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April Snow Showers...

After having some wonderful, gently warm and sunny weather, I woke this morning to a beautiful dusting of snow: not enough to stick on the ground, but powder the roofs and some plants. Indiana, our 2-year-young mix pup, loves the white stuff and gets very excited whenever he can run in it. He's a hoot! Be that as it may, I had a nice, meditative walk around the yard taking pictures of the spring snow. So I thought I'd share them.

The camellias have outdone themselves this year! I think "Multitudes!" every time I walk by them. They reach above the rooftop of the garage, and every branch has numerous buds and blooms on them... it is a font of lipstick color! With the delicate veins on each petal, it looks as though Mother Nature has left her fingerprint there. They help me remember to breathe. Deeply. And they tickle my heart with joy.

The forsythia is looking a bit tired. I've been noticing the forsythias on my rounds of Henderson County, and by far I love it when gardeners let the forsythia bloom and branch like fireworks. The ones that are trimmed to "fit" a regular shape look so restricted and stunted and unhappy. Those that are left to grow explode with yellow joy! Independence Day for Forsythias!

Our rosemary (my favorite herb and scent... well, next to Patchouli) is vying with its neighboring camellias to show who can produce the most blossoms. And while the camellias are certainly more showy, the rosemary is beautiful and smells wonderfully! My favorite color is green (what a surprise, eh?) and I love the combination of green and purple (as well as green and pink). And when it smells great, what more could one ask for?

I hope your day is full of heady delights.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Phases and Cycles

It's still grey and rainy here. Yesterday afternoon we had a brief reprieve with sunny skies. It's not that I don't love the rain; I do. It just makes me feel like curling up with a good book (or a honey who's read one!). And I don't feel like I have time to do that.

Hmmm... is that a hidden "should" in there? Does that translate into "I SHOULD be doing something else"? Probably. Yes, I'm sure it is. I found myself "shoulding" about my teens yesterday. Next to myself, I'm probably most judgemental of them. Heavy burden for all of us!

So today is Day 6 in the 37Day challenge to change just one thing in your life. I thought I was doing well... (I'm not going to say I should be doing well...). But we sure have a lot of ways to disguise a word and the sentiment behind it.

A few times, I've wrestled with "should" and had to stop and wonder why I couldn't say, "I want to do this" or "I don't want to do this" instead of "I should...". This is usually when I need to run errands, run kids to appointments, etc. "Should" is really easy with kids: I should be a better mother, I should have more fun with my kids, I should be more patient with my kids. I've been reading Christiane Northrup's "Wisdom of Menopause", which is a great resource for both scientific and intuitive insights into "the change"... and change it is! Northrup states that when a woman enters menopause (I'm 55 and still -- occasionally -- having my cycle), her brain literally rewires itself from primarily nurturing others (the Mother mode) to focusing on herself and her desires. So even though I still have teens at home (I was 40 when we adopted our kids), my rewiring has shifted already.

Most of my artwork is about the Feminine. Mother Nature. The three stages of Woman (Maiden, Mother, Crone). The Goddess. The Moon.
From a cycle standpoint, I know I am on the cusp between Mother and Crone. If I look at the Moon Phases as a symbol, I am at the gibbous waning moon phase. Gibbous means convex on both sides. Full, but not completely full. The Full moon represents the Mother in all her pregnant and nurturing glory. This is typically during the 2os and 30s and 40s. And while we have many more women choosing to begin motherhood in their 40s, I have learned that when you have a daughter at 40, then she and you end up going through hormonal changes at the same time: her going into her menses, the mother finishing it. That can make for some intense times (especially when you're both Fire signs)!

I treasure the Feminine. I have learned how strong the Feminine is. I feel outraged whenever I hear anyone put down the strength of women. I read a great quote the other day: "We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It's that women are strong." (Laura Stavoe Harm). Whether it is observing women of courage, whether it's canning tomatoes, whether it's reading about women in history, I am a full-fledged fan of the Feminine.

And sometimes I want to celebrate the Feminine all by myself.

I just sneaked a peek at Patti's 37Day blog, and today is Day 7 (which day did I miss?!? What else am I missing?) and she writes about being selfish, doing things for ourselves. Interesting that I just flipped to that as I was going on about "shoulding" myself about the kids.

So now, I am going to curl up and read a good book. Maybe even take a nap. After I pick up Paige from school. Because I really want to.

I hope you indulge in some "self" time today of celebrating the Feminine!