Category: Eco-Spirituality

1972

1972

When I was a teenager, caring people with vision were fighting for the health of the planet….clean air, clean water, and an environment free of a toxin that was creating a huge die-off of birds. Bald eagles, brown pelicans and other species were not able to reproduce because levels of DDT caused egg shells to be too thin. DDT accumulated in soil and river sediment and was finally banned from the US.

As I was standing in Gulf State Park watching a bald eagle feed her baby the other day, the year 1972 came to mind. I was 12 years old when DDT was outlawed.  I remember the outrage and grief I felt over the horrors happening in our country…even as a kid. But people paid attention to those fighting for health of all life and we made steady progress until the current administration was elected, even with setbacks suffered through various administrations. A friend of mine recently said, I would hug Ronald Reagan if he could replace Trump. And Reagan was no friend of the environment.

The bald eagle watched over the eaglet from above the nest, high in a pine tree. As it swayed in the spring winds, tears formed as I remembered….1972….hope as a young kid…. the environmental ‘movement’ that gained support for clean water, air, land, wildlife….and now? I found anger and frustration arising as I reflected on many hard-fought protections that are rapidly being swept away by people concerned only about wealth and power.

It seems completely absurd these hard-fought battles are having to be fought again. Just one example: During the Obama administration the EPA proposed banning chlorpyrifos because of evidence of some bad side-effects….it attacks the nervous systems of people and insects….all animals. Residues are still on the broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries and citrus when it reaches consumers. But less restrictive regulations on environmental concerns is the forte for the Trump administration….because it encourages businesses to grow (cheaper ways to produce food, oil, gas, etc etc etc etc). Damn the consequences to human health, wildlife, water, air, land…and this is only one example.

One of the lies we tell ourselves is, it’s all going to be okay. But is it? On a deep, spiritual level…of course it is. But our physical lives and those of generations to come are in danger. If we allow this kind of undoing of environmental regulations we are going against what research tells us, in black and white, will happen. And more importantly, what is morally and ethically the right course of action. But the ‘leaders’ of our country simply don’t consider clean air, water, land important issues.

I like to write about beauty and the feel-good stuff. Who wants to read about the rapid backslide into pollution? Toxicity? But I would betray the very beauty I treasure so dearly if I didn’t speak up, if I didn’t cry out, and remind us of where we have come from and where we are certainly headed if we don’t stop this reckless behavior.

Every time I cycle by the bald eagle nests, the year 1972 blinks in my mind like a neon sign. I can’t forget what it took for environmental laws to be birthed. Can you? Are you willing to risk the health of your children…grandchildren? What are you willing to give up so the wealthy and power-hungry in our country can thrive?

Brigid’s Cross

Brigid’s Cross

This summary of the recent journey to Ireland has been avoided because it brings the experience to another level of finality. I want the travels to remain open and fresh and ever-expanding in my heart and mind. Alas, it is time to reflect and accept the many gifts and let them rest peacefully.

There were many powerful moments; perhaps the most meaningful experience of the trip was at a small convenience store where a post office clerk gifted me with a freshly made Brigid’s cross.

I planned the trip so arrival would be on Brigid’s Day or Imbolc, a cross-quarter day between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. Imbolc celebrates the first-stirrings of spring and was originally a festival associated with the goddess Brigid and fertility. It was later Christianized into the festival of St. Brigid…who was based on the Gaelic goddess.

Tradition calls for reeds to be gathered every Imbolc and woven into a cross. The cross is usually placed on the hearth as a reminder to honor the home and family. The next year it is burned and a new cross woven and placed.

When I saw the cross, I asked the clerk if she made it. She said her sister did and asked if I would like to have it. It was such an act of generosity and kindness. I politely thanked her but said I couldn’t take her cross. She said, “I can get another one, please take it.”

Tears filled my eyes and my voice cracked as I tried to thank her. Finally, I was able to speak a proper thank-you.

The cross sat on the dash of the car as I drove through the Burren. It waited patiently as I visited the Poulnabrone dolmen burial chamber and had an otherworldly experience with my Celtic whistle and spirits of the land and sky.

The green cross sat on the window sill in the bedroom of the cottage I stayed at in Doolin. It was there watching the two horse neighbors, the sacred hill where the moon set every morning and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.

It was there as I drifted off to blissful sleep after traditional Irish music that sent my soul soaring. It was there when I dreamed of finding a harp and learned the saying, “It is now strung and shall be heard,” Ireland’s call to arise from persecution and claim their right to freedom.

Brigid’s Cross traveled to the Maumturk Mountains and heard my anxious words as snow fell and temperatures dropped as I drove toward Killary Fjord and the village of Leenane. It heard the first, tentative notes of the new whistles I adopted from traditional music stores….adventures in their own right.

It heard the story of the hilarious attempt at candle-lighting at the small, Gothic cathedral at Kylemore Abbey; it witnessed the wild attempt to hike the upper reaches of Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park.

The many beautiful moments at the Cliffs of Moher, beaches, rocky grasslands, steep-mountainous roads, villages….are all stored in the reeds of the cross. As well, feelings of gratitude, love, excitement, wonder, awe, bliss, grief, courage and ‘home’ fill the spiral design.

After months of singing to Brigid every morning as a daily dedication and intentionally planning my travels to coincide with Her day, the simple cross created and gifted with love is the symbol that ignites my memories of a land for which I am profoundly grateful.

On arrival to Ireland–after landing, picking up the rental car and beginning the drive from Dublin towards Doolin–I randomly chose an exit on the motorway to find food. Nothing was close to the highway so I took a turn and ended up passing Brigid’s Well in Kildare. I felt Her welcoming spirit so strongly. It is difficult to believe I didn’t stop and visit this holy well. What was I thinking? 

The only other regret I have from those 10 days is not returning to the Doolin Hotel for music the Monday before leaving for northern Connemara. The music there was transformational to my soul…(sigh).

I could return and spend a month in Doolin wandering the countryside and enjoying the serenity of the land and immense strength of the Atlantic Ocean. The music could carry me to other dimensions as I once again found myself in my spiritual home.

What is a spiritual homeA place that supports and nurtures us to be the fullest expression of higher self. For me, the wild, west coast of Ireland has twice awakened me to freedom to be myself–connected to land, sea and sky in complete surrender. The relationship I share with the land there is profound and deep, ever-evolving into greater understanding of what it means to consciously walk upon this sacred planet.



 

Deep Listening

Deep Listening

Early morning is no stranger to me. While my body adjusts to being six hours ahead of this time zone, I’ve spent more time outdoors…in the early morning…much earlier than my usual pre-dawn salute to the day.

I left for Ireland while it was still chilly here in coastal Alabama–we’ve had a very cold winter. After eleven days away I returned home to spring.  Literal spring. Flowers and trees blooming, warm temperatures and insects singing.

During the dark hours of the day, hours before sunrise, the insects have awakened. Their soft chirping preludes the intense music they will make later…during summer nights. Their sounds remind me of life that continues even when there are no outward signs.


When we take the time to listen deeply we notice things we miss when speeding through life. The 3 a.m. concerts have helped me connect deeper with nature, with the subtle stirrings that give evidence of continuous life even when the cold, dark, silent winter is upon us.

What If

What If

The journey to Ireland has been a wonderful one. Staying in cottages or apartments has gone well until last night. The house was okay but the heating system didn’t work so well. But after wandering around outside I understood more of the issue that created unease.

It snowed last night so this morning I walked down the gravel driveway to a beautiful river lined with old trees and their moss-covered limbs. I played one of my new whistles for the creatures of the woodland.

As the music flowed, I sensed an appreciation for the tune from the spirits of nature. It felt as if they had been shoved aside from the small development of homes that destroyed part of the woodlands around the site. The music seemed to soothe and feed the beautiful elemental energies that had been forgotten.

All along the way I have been playing my Irish whistles, speaking words of gratitude, walking as softly as possible and doing my best to capture the essence of these places through photography and writing. Today I felt moved to write about the ones that are ignored when contemplating building, developing or altering a natural environment.

What if we took the time to tell the Earth, Thank you! every day. What if we played music to nurture the Earth. Or read poetry to Her. What if we made a conscious connection to Earth and Her many creatures and beings that reside here. What if we saw the Earth as a conscious being–different from our consciousness–but conscious still….

What if?

Climbing Diamond Hill

Climbing Diamond Hill

In the distance is Diamond Hill…not far from the beginning of the trail.

It began as a cloudy day with 9 degrees celsius temperature. By the time I walked a bit I stowed the rain jacket in my pack and was enjoying the warmer day and beautiful scenery of Connemara National Park in County Galway, Ireland.

Nice boardwalks across the mountain bogs

My friend turned back after a while so I headed beyond the blue trail to the red trail, ready to challenge myself with a climb up and across the ridge and down the other side. The conditions were perfect.

Sweat rolled down my back as the incline increased. The trail started at near sea level and went to 442 meters…that’s 1450 feet…with a series of switchbacks. It was no trail for the faint of heart.

Crossing mountain bogs, streams, and occasional lesser inclines, I made my way upward stopping to photograph and video when I needed to catch my breath.

The clouds increased and began to roll toward the mountain. By the time I was near the top, the temperature had dropped significantly and the wind was so wild I had to remove my hat or lose it.

I stopped to put on my rain jacket and get out the rain cover for the camera. The steps going upward began to get wet and the ground around them was very soft and squishy. I walked on because I thought I must be near the top and wanted to reach it.

Thought I was at the top….thus the happy face!

Finally I got to what I thought was the highest point and even did a little video proclaiming happily, “I made it!” How could there possibly be a trail on the dome of that mountain?

Thinking I would be headed down, I continued on…and yes, climbed more steps and more steps….and more….what? Meanwhile the wind was ripping at my jacket and anything not tied down to me as the dark cloud got closer. Memories of the snow clouds rolling over the mountain about 15 kilometers away a couple days ago made me rethink my decision to walk further up.

Are you FREAKING kidding me? The top of my finger is where I found myself when I decided to turn around

Finally, I saw a trail sign in the distance. Okay….I would be able to see exactly where I was and that would give much-need information.

But NO! I still had a LONG way to climb…probably another 300 feet and a walk across the ridge. NO FREAKING WAY!

No way was I crossing the ridge in that wind!

The wind was too strong and dangerous for this gal to finish the climb across Diamond Hill. And the cold was no little factor. Time to turn around came with clear awareness. Mists and fog can roll in and in a white-out you can’t see and that’s just not a good thing in a landscape such as this. There are warning signs everywhere saying not to climb in fog, rain, and other weather events. Nothing said what to do if that all suddenly arrives when you are near the top.

But I knew what to do. As difficult as it was to not finish the challenge, I knew without one doubt it was the right thing to do. And making the decision gave me peace of mind.

As I descended down the steep trail, I looked back often and couldn’t believe I had made it as far as I did. It was an accomplishment I’m very happy about, even though I didn’t make it across the ridge.

Sometimes the greatest challenge is knowing when to let go of a goal, a dream, a person, a direction. Today I learned to celebrate my decision to take excellent care of myself in every aspect of my life.