Tag: Ireland

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

the full moon through

oak limbs shines the silver

light of solstice time

and chilly air, crisp

with winter’s grasp,

makes steam as wonder

escapes my quivering lips.

honor darkness born

from light’s journey

to far lands.

now celebrate the return

of longer days, as

darkness retreats.

oh, the sacred dance

of the wheel as it turns

and moves, ever onward

through its seasonal march

and brings mere mortals closer to

the divine as we journey

through age-old rhythms.

sun, moon, earth

in sacred harmony

among the music

of the spheres.

 

The Presence…A Short Story

The Presence…A Short Story

Chapter One

 It had been a long journey. It seemed like lifetimes of struggle to get to a place where everything could be prepared and set in place. It wasn’t the beginning, but rather an end. He was hopeful that someday it would be a beginning, but not now. This was his end or at least the end of this life he had known.

He traveled light with only bare essentials. Everything unnecessary had been left behind with no regrets, no grieving. He felt free even though he was fully aware of his ending that was soon to come.

He had seen it coming like an approaching fog. He knew it would envelope him and take his body. But the body was simply a vehicle. The spirit would survive. His goal was to find the right place to leave the gift.

The landscape was gray. Rocks seemed to be split open with wide cracks criss-crossing as fissures that gave deep texture to the rough surface. Small, green plants peeked from the dark crevices but grew mostly horizontal through the gashes of geological artistry.

Walking on the rocks was challenging. His boots were worn and the cold made his feet numb but not enough to deaden the pain of many miles. The woolen cloak kept moisture away from his clothing but low clouds seemed to trap the ill wind arriving from across the massive ocean.

His pack had grown progressively lighter as the days passed. The meager food was nearly gone and the only thing of value he carried was within him. The entire purpose of his journey from the mainland to the sacred island was guided by a vision that called him forward even as his body was wasting.

He had to use care as tribal influences were strong. There was no desire for conquest or even for refuge. His singular goal was to find the place his vision had shown him with increasing urgency.

The wind across the bay had been fierce for the small sailing vessel he hired to deliver him to the shores of the rocky island. More than once he had doubted if he would arrive, if he would be able to fulfill his final purpose.

His life had taken him throughout Eriu as he wore the vestments of a warrior priest. He carried a shield but the emblem carved into it was one of peace. The simple outline of an oak tree was emblazoned on the wooden shield. His was the path of solitude with short periods of life among villages as he performed the duties of the priest and healer.

But mostly his days were spent in communion with the living landscape and all creatures that lived, moved and had their being on the sacred land. On occasion he traveled to the islands off of the west coast of his beloved Eriu where he would seek deeper connection with the wild sea spirits and it was here he returned at the end of his life to implant his wisdom into the landscape, readying it for its long sleep until it was awakened far into the future.

He paused to look at tiny, white flowers growing deep in the rock fissures. Such strength is found in tender vulnerability, he thought. As he knelt, immense feelings of gratitude rushed through him as he reflected on the tremendous beauty he had experienced in his life.

Tears slowly slid down his cheeks and were dried by the salty wind. So this is where my pilgrimage ends. So many days of beauty and I meet death with tenderness and acceptance. This has been a good life.

Suddenly from across the slabs of rock came a faint yet distinctive sound. The deep booming bass followed by high-pitched, eerie notes. His vision was unfolding in physical reality.

He stood and carefully hurried forward through the field of uneven slabs. The sound was coming from a rocky beach and as he reached it, the creature singing was beached—half out of the water yet not struggling.

He moved down the slope with grace and calm even with growing excitement of the prophesized meeting that was about to happen. This meeting was the final act in the culmination of his life. The importance of it was not wasted on him.

The water was cold, very cold. He knew he had to reach the whale yet to wade in leather boots and heavy woolen garments was to risk ending his life sooner than was necessary to fulfill his final acts. But to strip down to bare skin seemed unthinkable in the cold sea and air. He paused and allowed his thoughts to become silent.

The ocean seemed to mirror his stillness. The surface grew slick like nothing he had seen. An eerie glow from clouds overhead signaled to him that the time of transmission was upon him. The whale lifted its massive head, which was his cue to proceed.

In faith he stepped and as he did the water withdrew. He knew the whale couldn’t survive long on the shore as the body weight would crush its lungs. He proceeded, confident that all would be well.

As he approached the whale he noticed the long, white pectoral fins stretched out like wings of the white horse he journeyed with through the heavens. The large eye followed him as he moved closer. When he reached the eye, he knelt on the wet rocks and placed his hands on the creature in a blessing and closed his eyes.

In his mind arose images of a woman walking these shores on pilgrimage. He saw her kneeling over the same small white flowers but she was dressed differently than women he knew. Her clothing was made of odd materials. Her boots were strange and she carried a black box with a shiny sphere attached to a black tube. She pointed it at the flowers, at the sky, the rocks, the ocean but he could see no change in the landscape after she did so. She knelt in prayer. She stood at the edge of the sea and sang songs and laughed. Tears ran down her face.

Then the whale moved and he was brought back to the present. Sounds began to emerge from the whale. The booming bass and high notes once again began to fill the air. The vibration was so powerful he almost fell against the creature. Sound filled him and he was transported to another time in space where the woman was and he stood behind her resting his hands on her shoulders. Through him the sounds of whale song filled her and she felt her heart awaken with purpose. Truth blossomed within her and she surrendered resistance held rigidly in her body.

She felt his presence. Of this he had no doubt.  A communion flowed between them, a strong connection that was deeper than anything he had experienced in his life. And it was happening in another dimension.

The link of whale, man and woman was strong. The elements of sea, wind, rock seemed to interweave among them and wrap a strong bond between them. The expanse of the universe was felt among them as they communed in the realm of stars.

How long the link lasted, he did not know. It could have been lifetimes or an hour or a moment. So transcendent was the connection that time lost all meaning. Eventually he felt the whale move beneath his hands. He opened his eyes and saw the water was rising and would soon overtake him and the whale.

He wanted to let his end be with the whale, taken back to sea with the rising tide yet his vision guided him to the place where the woman stood, somewhere in the future.

As he arose, he bowed in deep reverence to the whale and held his hand out in a blessing. Tears flowed with joy and love for the encounter with the whale and the mysterious woman.

Back up the slope he climbed, looking over his shoulder often to see the progress of the whale. The water rose quickly and as he reached the top of the embankment, the whale was lifted free and floated back out to sea.

The final part of his quest lay ahead.

He climbed up the grassy hill as it rose above the shore. As he gained height he gazed out over the ocean and the whale breached high into the sky and landed with a thunderous splash. He waved and continued on toward the stack of large stones nearby.

He could still feel her there, even though she would not arrive for centuries. Her essence permeated the air like sweet perfume. Her hand had touched the rock there, in the heart-shaped marking.

Gently, as if not wanting to disturb her lingering touch, he placed his hand where hers had been. A tingle of electricity flowed into his hand and up his arm. This woman, who is she? We are like one person. My heart flows full of love for her.

Slowly he felt his life force waning. Everything left within him was for her, this woman of light. He sat with his back against the rock and closed his eyes. From his pack he removed an amulet, made with his hands and blessed with sacred words. He held it and spoke words of love into it and placed it at the bottom of the large rock, between smaller stones at its base.

Here is where you will find me, my love. This is where I wait for you.

Sleep overtook him as he released his body. 

Chapter Two

It was the end of a most amazing week of exploration on the wilds of Inishmore. She made one final walk through the cow pastures to the chapel ruins. She could feel the reverberation of the sea through the hash-tag carved stones yet the sea was a distance away.

I’m going to walk to the edge today. I want to say a proper goodbye to the island.

Camera in hand, she walked carefully across rugged terrain toward the edge of the shore. The Atlantic Ocean was booming with thunderous voice as it crashed into the island. Tears began to flow as she considered leaving this place that had awakened her to the deepest connection to Nature she had ever felt.

She came to a large group of rocks that stood as guardians along the shore. The blue-green sea stirred within her deep love and gratitude. The chilly wind was refreshing and made her skin feel alive. She lifted her camera and tried to capture the mood of the sea and rocks, the emotion she felt as she communed with Nature.

Finally she lowered the camera and glanced at the rock. How amazing. There’s a heart-shape.Without hesitating she placed her hand inside it.

With eyes closed she opened herself to the texture of stone. The sea seemed to come alive around and within her and tears slid down her face with sobs of joy for the freedom she felt.

I love you, she heard herself say. I love you so much!

Stillness grew inside her as she connected with immense gratitude. She was aware of everything within her shifting. Darkness threatened to overtake her as the sun set but she found it nearly impossible to move from the place.

Without a flashlight it would be nearly impossible to navigate the uneven stone and grass landscape safely. So with a suddenly heavy heart, she turned to leave. But as she turned she felt a presence behind her. She glanced back but didn’t see anything so continued onward.

With every step she took, the presence followed her. As she passed the chapel ruins, it was there. Down through the cow pasture, it was with her. Through the stone step gate, it came. Along the street she felt the immense presence like an ancestral guardian.

Two days later the seats next to her on a crowded trans-Atlantic flight were empty and the presence slid in beside her and sat with her across the ocean. She wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but that is was she was certain.

Home to coastal Alabama it followed her and she didn’t know what to do with it so turned its attention to the landscape and invited it to stay around her home. And soon she forgot.

Eighteen months passed and her life became chaotic as fears arose preceding a major change in her life. It was as if all the unhealed fears awakened as she prepared to make the next leap in her life.

One day, feeling defeated and alone, she asked for help among the trees where she and her dog walked. A gentle tap on her shoulder and a whisper to remember helped her recall the presence that followed her home.

After that, every morning, she lit a candle and invited the presence to be with her, walk with her, help her grow into wholeness. And every day she felt it there, immense and powerful.

She noticed that resistance to life, to people, to other’s negative behaviors faded. As the resistance faded, she became more relaxed and trusting of life. She often felt the presence and thanked it for being with her. Interactions with others improved, she felt old anger and resentments fade. She felt whole.

She felt the presence as a spiritual warrior, a man from another time who left a legacy of love, strength and power for her to claim. She felt him as a part of her, a greater self even.

As they spent time together, she began to feel calmer and sense that a true partnership was forming. It was as if she found her mirrored twin on the shore of Inishmore—her spiritual twin.

Time and space hold no power over the realm of soul.

Life as a Pilgrimage

Life as a Pilgrimage

For a pilgrim, the outer landscape becomes a metaphor for the Unknown inner landscape. A pilgrim travels differently, seeking a change of mind and heart, John O’Donohue reminds us. He also said, “When you bring your body out into the landscape, you’re bringing it home where it belongs.”

As I watched him speaking on a favorite DVD, I thought…My life is a pilgrimage. I remembered John saying that in the Celtic Imagination the insight is that the landscape is alive. We’re not walking into simply a location or dead space but rather we are walking in a living Universe and in this way of being, our journey becomes different…it becomes a pilgrimage.

Two years ago a friend of mine and I traveled to northern England for a pilgrimage. We called our journey that from the beginning of our planning. Our intention was set clearly and together Maria and I journeyed on a pilgrimage. We didn’t want to just visit places, we wanted to connect with the landscape–with the ancient stone circles and elemental energies of the land and water.

I located my journal from the trip and read about the first encounter with Castlerigg Stone Circle. After taking a while to connect with the energies of the place, I had a most amazing experience of shamanic journeywork. Or meditation. Or simply connection with the Spirit of the Place.

Throughout the pilgrimage, I wrote of vivid dreams, of being chased by an antlered man through the forest, of connecting deeply with the Feminine energy of Earth. At one point in our travels I drove us to Grasmere and when we parked near Wordsworth’s home, Dove Cottage, I started sobbing. There was such a powerful connection to his work and the place.

Upon returning to the USA I reflected, “Whispers of the Ancient Ones echo within me as I reflect upon the magical pilgrimage experienced with my spiritual sister and friend. Conversations with companions from a weekend retreat, that closed the journey, still weave a web of light around me. Past invasions of Romans and Saxons perhaps instilled into the Collective unconscious of the people there a maturity of spirit, a way of being civil and gentle with each other and with strangers. Every person I met was helpful, generous, supportive, kind and many had wicked and dry humor. The individual journeys and experiences will be told over time but for now, in the afterglow of it all, I feel profound gratitude that I was embraced so fully by a land and people that welcomed me as one of their own. My heart beats in sync with the land there and longs already to return and feel ancient stones vibrate and sing their wisdom and the land embrace me as a daughter. From magnificent caves to snow-covered mountaintops from villages older than the country in which I reside to stone circles dating back to 4500 BC, I traveled the path of a pilgrim–open to hearing and learning the lessons given by magical Britain.”

As I finished reading the journal, it felt as if I was back there among the stones of Castlerigg, Long Meg and Swinside circles, in Elderbush Cave, in Thor’s Cave, or walking along the trail near Keswick…or sitting at Dove Cottage weeping with joy at feeling so at home. It’s not ever simply a trip or vacation for me….it truly is as John O’Donohue says, “If you enter into the dream that brought you here and awaken its beauty in you, then the beauty will gradually awaken all around you.”

Life is a pilgrimage to me. Every day gives new opportunity to be outside in nature seeking reflection into my inner landscape…to learn more about how I can connect deeper to nature and all life and find the common threads that join us together.

Flow Like a River

Flow Like a River

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” Rainer Maria Rilke

The manatee played with my vest, searching for something interesting to satisfy her curiosity. I kept flooding my mask as I laughed into the snorkel while holding my big underwater housing at an awkward angle for a selfie with my friend. This was a moment when unbounded joy leaped from my heart and the experience of Oneness was celebrated. I think Rilke had it right….be as a child and let life flow.

I see that with musicians, especially at venues like The Frog Pond in Silverhill, Alabama, where singer-songwriters are encouraged to jam. When the minds of musicians go into that flow, they sync and magic happens. Literally….it unfolds before our eyes.

I want to explore the world with the spirit of flow and openness. When I can be in that place within my Self, I can find holy ground no matter where I roam.

 

When I was in Ireland last September, on the island of Inis Mor, I allowed the spirit of flow to take my feet and surrendered to the direction it led. The path dead-ended at an ancient bee hive stone hut. Far in the distance was a beautiful white horse. I couldn’t see a way to the horse but longed to meet it.

Later that day, our retreat attendees went with a guide to the same place and there, in front of the stone hut was the white horse…waiting for me. Excitement bubbled forth as I greeted the horse. I called her Fiona. Later, when I looked up the name, I found out it means white. She and I still have a strong connection even though there is an ocean between us.

Even in my painting, I follow the muse of humor and fun. Buddy meets a dolphin….Buddy and the whales….much of my work with paint and canvas is a celebration of color, fun and life.

You don’t have to be frisked by a manatee or meet a white horse who likes to smile to connect with the flow. Everyone’s flow and presence can look different. The key, perhaps, is to open our hearts and minds to surrender, to acceptance….and then simply play.

Musicians can be excellent examples of how to be in the flow…to not force or hold back. When they are having fun…it’s magic.

What magic would you like to experience? What calls your heart? What holds you back?

Whatever you do, stop wasting time and waiting for the right moment to be in your flow. Open your heart and mind and leap into the River of Life. “May what I do flow like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” And I might add to Rilke’s contemplation that you might find Holy Ground wherever you are in that flow.

I invite you to listen to Luka Bloom’s music and follow the way of the Sacred Child to find Holy Ground.

 

Deepening with Nature

Deepening with Nature

I wrote a friend tonight about the correlation between my connection with nature and feeling at home in myself. Being with humpback whales, spotted dolphins, manatees….all have given me vast experiences of connection to Oneness with the Universe and help take me deeper into relationship with my Self.

Other moments photographing nature in the mountains or in wild places in nature, such as Ireland and England, have opened doorways to inner realms of vast expanse that changed my life. I also realized, as I wrote to her, that I haven’t had a really profound, ah-ha type, nature connection since returning from Ireland last February and that’s partly why I’ve been out of sorts lately.

Connection with nature is my rock, my anchor to deepening the connection to my inner realms. And really, there isn’t an outer and inner anything. It’s all One. The truth is simply this….when I align deeply with nature I feel Oneness, the lines of separation vanish and I am at peace.

I go outside daily and cycle often at sunrise but it’s different to go outside and be outside. What keeps me from being with nature?

Empathic distress probably has a lot to do with my unrest of late. If what I value most is in danger of disappearing, I am at risk for anxiety and stress and separation from Oneness….all of us who love our planet face those same risks…humans, animals, plants….all life is at risk. If the places and animals I love the most deteriorate and disappear, then what? It is a very stressful time to be alive because we see what is at risk–everything.

What is this environmental and social nightmare we are collectively creating?

While I can be active and make socially and environmentally good choices, the most important action I can take is to develop a strong practice that takes me into Oneness, into nature…deep into Nature.

John Muir, my favorite naturalist and nature writer reminds me… “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”

And Black Elk reminded us, “Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.”