Archive for the ‘Mother Earth’ Category

The Land of Fey

The Land of the Fey (or Faerie) exists anywhere magick is taken as fact above fiction. In these mystical places I so adore, serendipity, mystery and connection reign as high truth.

As we flew over Ireland, the Emerald Isle, I shuddered in delight and tears filled my eyes gazing down upon the carpet of green and craggy shoreline. Myths have been born here and exist as more than fables or stories with little bearing on the world today. The lore and magic that has been passed down through the centuries has been carried like the Holy Grail Itself.

I wanted a wee bit of Irish faery dust and leprechaun luck to bless me and keep me good company. Many years ago, my Priestess Connie de Masters gave me a light from the Goddess Brigid’s Sacred Flame. One of her students had come to Ireland and held a lighter to this flame igniting the sacred protection of the Patroness of Ireland and brought it across the Atlantic. I carried this open flame in a 7-day advent calendar from Connie’s home and lit the furnace in my home with the sacred flame.

I no longer have that flame that represented all of Brigid’s power of fire to forge smith tools and craft, divine poetry to ignite the heart and gain wisdom from the deep wells of inspiration and healing. However, a week before my departure to Ireland, I was gifted with a Brigid weaving from Julie who had attended my class Womyn Meet Death where I paid homage to Melinda and our beloved on the Other Side. I carried this weaving and a bottle of blackberry cordial (Brigid’s herbal ally) in my suitcase for a very special offering.

Our first night in Trim’s Kiely Bar proved to be an auspicious start. The next morning Joey drove us to the Sacred Hill of Tara. It was on this soft, mounded, grassy knoll where a huge rock stood. In Ancient Celtic Times, men vying for the right to be King competed in many daring feats of strength. They had to be strong and good – but only if the sacred stone spoke their name when they touched it would they be deemed worthy to take the crown.

I placed the weaving at the base of this stone and poured a libation of cordial on it. I could feel the magick pulsing.

We the visited the Hill of Ancient Ones and discovered spiral carvings representing the Goddess, a wishing tree with ribbons waving from every branch, and a splendid cemetery with moss covered tombstones.

IMG_3033Just steps away, we happened upon a bookstore where I found a book called Tending Brigid’s Flame written by Lunaea Weatherstone, who was once my teacher for a yearlong study in sacred sisterhood. We then found the gallery of Courtney Davis. I sat before the altar set up in the shop, lit a candle and wrote down a wish. I held the small piece of paper with my wish to the flame and release my desire to Brigid to fulfill. I was particularly fascinated with a painting of a Raven in the center connected to Goddess Brigid, Kuan Yin, Kali, White Tara and Corn Mother – all Goddesses who have called to me. The artist told us about the sacred well less than a mile away and gave us two small bottles to fill with the blessed water. We made our way down the path, through the iron gate and up to the dark pool that rested in a cave-like opening. I knelt down on the stone and reached into the pool to fill the vials.

Guinness and other pub adventures awaited us in Galway and the Aran Islands (a most lovely place untouched by modernity, including street lamps). Magick graced us once again when we came to the Dingle Peninsula and drove the breath-taking Slea Head Drive in the Wild Atlantic West. We experienced breath-taking cliffs, crashing waves, epic sprays at least 30-feet high against rocky outcroppings and sites that have stood since the Iron Age. The first of these was a Fairy Fort.

This sacred site, most likely misunderstood by most, which I say because the draw seemed to be a two euro purchase for pellets to feed the nearby sheep, consisted of a circular hedge of Hawthorne bushes surrounded by a moat. Hawthorne is believed to be the bush that marks the entrance to the Land of Fey: that magical, mystical place where the warm light of Twilight suffuses the air with golden tones and faeries alight upon the air as glitter in a perpetual Midsummer’s Night Dance. This spiral of Hawthorne hedge was clearly fairy-built. In my mind’s eye, I could see faeries dancing in wild abandon along the thorny rows in a spiral dance and upon the hedges with something of a burlesque flair. Or at least that’s how they make me feel.

The moment I stepped foot into the ring, a rock turned my ankle and I tripped into the Hawthorne bush where a thorn pricked my finger. Blood entrance. The faeries knew a believer had arrived. Soon after I found a bright magenta foxglove (also known as fairy fingertips), my favorite color.

We journeyed onward and soon stopped in a bookshop where I bought a book of Peig Sayer’s stories. Born in 1873, Peig lived on Dingle Peninsula until she married onto the Blasket Islands where she became a storyteller of legend. My finger tingled after purchasing the book: a sign that the Fey were pleased with my honoring of the lore and lyricism of the peninsula.

We ended the scenic drive at a tour of Dingle Distillery where we toasted the Fey & Bridget with a supremely delicious, caramel-tasting whiskey, the first independent Irish whiskey made in over one hundred years.

In Ireland I found the magick I was seeking.  I define magick as nature speaking to me of beauty and connection without logical understanding, leaps through time and space and assurance that all of life belongs and is accountable to each other.IMG_3031

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I Finally Did It!

They say my Santa Ana Canyon, early Californio ancestors were “Born to the Saddle.” Before I left Orange County, I was determined to touch the horizon that dominants the skyline: Saddleback Mountain. My ancestors and this land have lived in me as a River Beneath the River, always guiding and affecting my life. It is my destiny to record their story in the grandest novel I could conceive.

I planned the hike for Spring Equinox, the day my youngest son turned 18. It was a day to claim freedom and stability. When I heard the NFS was dynamiting historic dams and prohibiting access via Holy Jim Falls, I found another way. We hiked out of Blue Jay Campground – a 28 mile roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet, vs 16 miles from Holy Jim and a 4,000 ft vertical climb. I made myself forget how far that distance actually was.

Two miles of climbing later, I pulled out my phone, looked at the map and had a truly spectacular hissy fit. It was too far. What were we thinking? Why didn’t we go the other way? Joey tried to help which made things worse. Slowly I pulled myself together and we started to walk again.

We passed through a pine forest and the scent lifted my spirits, along with the vibrant yellow primrose flowers and the shiny brick-colored manzanita bark with white flowers that look like tiny beads when they fall on the decomposed granite path. The blooming white sage and  century plants infused me with endurance. And then around a bend, I saw Santiago Peak. Tears came to my eyes. I was filled with such a fervent desire to stand on that mountain. The wind blew in the bucolic ranchero era that lives in me so deeply, so passionately. The ancestors and this land gave me the strength to push onward. I couldn’t think. I was like an animal, simply aware of being aware, walking mile after mile: 11 miles the first day, 17 miles the following day.

I told Joey the story of the young boy who cut a hole in a cocoon to help a butterfly that was struggling to free itself. The child did not know the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly had a swollen body with shriveled wings and would never, ever fly.

I have long struggled living on a land that does not coincide with the freedom and natural beauty that I see when I close my eyes and look inward through the memories of my ancestors. Though I love this land so very deeply the struggle is over and I see things as they are. In three months, I am moving where wildflowers grow, rivers run and stars speak and I will write a tale of family and land inextricably woven together.

Valentines in the Mountains

img_1759The adventure begins on the back of a sled attached to a snowmobile. I step on the grate and grip the bar as Brendan, an employee of Rock Creek Lodge, takes off into the woods. We wind through snow-covered Lodgepole Pine and over a running creek as a flurry of snowflakes drift down upon us. I look over to Joey and he’s got his mouth open to catch the snow.  The ride is over too soon. But our rustic cabin is perfect. It’s only 11am. Dinner is at 6.

The day unfolds before us: hikes through the woods, snacks of cold cuts and cheeses from Claros Italian Market, out loud reading Of Mice and Men, romantic sensual fun, a delicious nap, happy hour with red wine.

image1Early evening we walk hand in hand in a winter wonderland to the main lodge. We chat with other guests in the cozy den. Brendan uncorks and pours our wine without a service charge (although they do serve wine and beer). We adjournimg_1770 to the next room, sit down on long wooden tables and eat family style. The rosemary focaccia bread is divine dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The creamy red bell pepper soup that follows is only marginally beat by the honey sesame salad. (We’ll be recreating that dressing!) It’s all so damn good. Quinoa and pork loin with a reduced pinot and blueberry sauce rounds out the main course. Chocolate mousse with Kahlua ice cream follows. I’m served a dairy free coconut ice cream that reminds me how much I do miss this treat.

The other guests who are celebrating their 50th birthdays invite us to their cabin for a little party. This group of guys grew up on the same street in Eugene, Oregon since they were five. The camaraderie is infectious. Mike breaks out a guitar and passes out percussion instruments. We fall into a jam session illuminated by ambient light. As the night closes Joey and I stroll under the stars to our cabin in the woods.

fullsizerender1 Breakfast the next morning is yummy. Brendan offers to take our gear down on the sled and rents us cross country skis. We trek uphill a mile on groomed trail then overland through a foot of powder to Rock Creek Lake. The sun is warm on this bluebird day. Then it’s three miles downhill to the Sno Park on corduroy snow that img_1797sparkles, reflecting tiny rainbows. Snow coats drooping branches of the looming, bone straight pine trees like big white mittens. Wind lifts a fine layer of snow from the treetops and sends it swirling down in a mist of glitter. It’s only my second time on cross country skis so I’m not exactly graceful, but I am full of joy and childlike wonder at the beauty of this world.img_1774

The Sisterhood Lives

img_0883She thought transformative was too big of a word to describe the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium.  Now Mom understands that “transform” barely covers the metamorphosis that occurs with symposium sisters after four glorious days supporting, accepting and loving each other.

We all arrive in Laytonville tired from the journey, maybe even a little grumbly.  Some of us travel 14 hours to get into the woods on Black Oak Ranch. But for those of us who have been here before, we know it’s worth it. img_7357

We have come home to the sisterhood and are ready to have our burdens lifted. We long to breathe clear air into the stress around our complaints and concerns from the outside world and make room for more love. We fuss a little over where to set up the tent or how best to arrange our sleeping bags in the tipi but know it will all work out in the end. We just have to get out of the worrying pattern.

img_0845Mom and I arrived at noon and schlepped our sleeping gear, my books and pottery from car to tipi – getting to those 10,000 steps easily. I wanted Mom to step into the independent woman I knew her to be and honor her as Crone as well. After 40 years of teaching this was her first September not in school. I felt anxious how best to hold her up while leaving space for the sisterhooimg_5174d to empower her AND carve out time to share my teachings, receive support from my friends and revel, just a bit.

Thirteen of us shared a tipi with some personality conflicts and snoring that would just have to be overlooked. That first evening it’s almost difficult to imagine how we can possible shake off the discomfort, set down the masks we wear and allow our own unique expression of the Divine Feminine to shine forth.

The transformation usually takes a breakdown to have the breakthrough.

Mine began as I prepared for my class Womyn Meets Death, which I created based on the experience of walking beside Melinda Listening Deer in her last year of Life then losing her. I was terrified of doing this wrong, not honoring Melinda “enough” and felt inadequate to teach this class. I was teaching on Melinda’s birthday. I set myself an alarm, giving myself 30 minutes to feel whatever arose and dropped into sacred space to read through some of Melinda’s 13-yimg_6303ear-old emails that she had sent out Grove Mother during our sacred year as The Sisterhood of the Willow’s Magic. As the tears flowed, a mama deer and her fawn encircled where I lay. Melinda’s presence was with me.

And yet I still asked Reem to walk with me to the class site. She hugged me and told me I’d be okay. Pilar found me and gave me the notes I had forgotten, but asked her to bring, then forgotten again. Mom walked by as I set up the altar and gave me the thumbs up. Tiffany stood in the back of the assembled 40 womyn and smiled proudly at me. Even Kris walked on by.

And I began. “We all stumble around death and grief.” I looked down to the picture of Melinda. “I’m not so much teaching this class as holding space for a sharing and ritual around death. We all handle bearing witness to dying and death so differently and each deserve dignity for our process. We have done a great job reclaiming our right to sacred births and now it’s time to reclaim a sacred death.” Then I passed around a tincture called Emotional Ally and Rescue Remedy.

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I shared this bumper sticker with Melinda when she went bald after chemo and the tumor had started to protrude from her belly. I shared it at ritual and how Melinda started going out bald in public after this .

It went around a few times while Copperwoman sang Goddess is the Universe, my new favorite. I swear every single woman had tears in her eyes at some point in the next hour and a half. “That’s okay!” I said during the creation of the Earth Blessing Pouches that we would later keep on the altar or scatter to the earth like ashes. “Mama Earth Loves Your Tears!” We shared stories and infused holiness into the transition between Life and The Other Side.

It was so beautiful, so empowering. I eased into my Living a Magickful class for teens, not really thinking too much about it until I was before seven teens, most of whom couldn’t look me in the eye. How could I get and keep their attention? I spoke of the magical connections related to the four directions and gave them four examples of issues they could possibly be faced with and four herbal allies. I told them they would only get to take one herb – one problem at a time. “One day, your issues will have issues.”  But to nail down the point I had them add their birth year, month and day and reduce to a single digit then read from The Enchanted Diary about the lessons that will follow them throughout their life. I asked the girls if they would want to take on all seven archetypes. No? Okay, only one herb. I’m a bad ass teacher with teens.

img_0882At night the bone-fire blazed higher and hotter. Each time I danced around the fire, I got a little looser, a little freer. Apparently this gave my mom permission to get a bit more of her boogie on. She was on fire!!! “Vivas Las Crones!” she hollered at the ceremony.

I sold an amazing amount of books and pottery. So grateful for the support of my img_0869new art form. So incredibly grateful my books still sell. Tucked away in the tipi was the first print out of Melinda My Beloved, A Memoir. My first book in 8 years. I will now write a chapter about the experiences of symposium and the sisterhood that lives on.

Terrapsychology: Gaia Speaks

Room to Be Wild Part 2

coyoteImagery

As a child, a reoccurring nightmare was to find myself in a white room of padded walls bound in a straightjacket. My crime, they said, was that I did not understand the difference between what was real and what was imagined. I could not be trusted to behave or keep my tongue and so I was shut away. In essence, I would not be tamed. I was scared, always so afraid in this dream that I could never find ground. Every effort was spent on reminding myself that I was okay and I had not lost my mind. Sometimes the dream would morph into the trickster Wiley E. Coyote who tried to catch a ball, a symbol of solid knowing, but just when he thought he had a good grip on the ball it would slip from his fingers, circle all around him, return to his grasp only to slip away over and over again all through the night.

About this time I read a book called The White Mountains in which tripods had taken over the minds and will of all people. The main character awakens to his individuality but must keep this knowledge of his true self hidden from the electronic impulses that the machines used to control the people, as in the ancient figure of the Golem, until he could find a reliable escape route. This book further embedded a fear of becoming programmed and the loss of self, both wild and free.

oc before spanishBy the time I was a teenager I developed the suspicion that the current Orange County culture was suppressing the heart of my wildness and individuality. I remember asking my best friend if she thought I was an authentic person or whether I had succumbed to an asleep, sheeplike mentality – the true zombie apocalypse. She said I was about as unique as I could be given where we lived. My gritty, earthy personality eventually turned to a search for my Native American roots. I was dismayed by my conquering Spanish blood and wanted to find something that felt more real and deeply connected to a rock solid core that indeed connected to all life and the goodness inherent in the world.

Then I met Uncle Jimi, a Tongva spiritual leader, and he invited me to an Ancestral Walk, where the people of the Tongva and Acjachemen tribes held ceremony at several sacred sites along the Orange County coastline. We began at the ancient site for the village of Panhe, tucked into a beautiful valley where a crowded state campgrounds lead into what was now a world famous surf spot. As we stood under the shade of a tree waiting for the rest of the people to arrive he said, “We are so loved by Our Earth Mother that she will continue to provide and give her love no matter how far away we, her children, drift from her. She will always provide this shade,” He pointed to the canopy of leaves with a large hawk feather that was wrapped in leather and decorated with beads. “Her love is unconditional and forever.”gaia

This imagery of being shaded by an omnipresent tree with deep roots that offered protection and love throughout eternity regardless of how far away I strayed endeared me on a very deep level to the spirit and soul of the land. But it wasn’t just a matter of this particular parcel of land. In that teaching moment, I understood and felt the power of Gaia as a sentient being in love with her children. Just like a mother’s arms will hold firmly around her children even as they thrash about trying to discover themselves and their place in the world, so too does Mother Earth hold us. In that moment a deep desire and commitment to be worthy of that love was planted in my heart, almost like a chivalrous knight who would earn the honor of performing on behalf of his fair lady. I would apply the best of my skills on behalf of the Mother who was bestowing me and all beings with such lovinthe-giving-treeg affection, sustenance and protection.

This image of a tree aligns with The Giving Tree, a classic childhood book and one of my favorite stories. There is a young boy who loves a tree and she loves him. He scrambles and plays all around her as a child. As he grows older he visits the tree sporadically and mostly to take from her. But she is always loyal and gives whatever she can, changing form to suit his needs. She remains completely dedicated to her beloved until in his final days when he returns to her and recognizes the love that never left. I find great comfort in the stability and solidarity of the tree and I unified in love and a deep sense of family. I am drawn to tree lore and the stories of them as standing people. They are my guardians, my friends, my family.

(And for those who are listening, you will hear Gaia speaking to you even in your dreams – it’s called terrapsychology.)