Tag: Eco-Spirituality

Threshold of Something New

Threshold of Something New

I feel change coming. Big change. I feel the old ideas and ways fading, dissolving and something new coming; however, I don’t know what ideas will grow from seeds planted long ago.

Being in a the threshold of change is challenging. The threshold is a place of transition where we leave one place and enter a new one. It can be uncomfortable, scary even. Sometimes, it’s a quick occurrence; however, I tend to sense things coming long before they arrive, so the threshold can seem like a very long tunnel leading to some unknown place.

In the past, I’d expend a lot of energy trying to figure out what the ‘new’ was going to be. Often, when I sensed this kind of change, I’d rush ahead and try to begin building something new before the old had finished its death dirge. That only created more stress and rushed something that wasn’t ready to be birthed.

So lately, I am acknowledging the sensed changes and simply allowing them to have a full and complete, un-rushed passage of decrease, of release. I’m not trying to figure out the next step. I’m simply letting go and remaining open to the Path opening before me as I rededicate myself to serving Earth Mama. 

In this place of letting go….in the stillness, in the waiting…I feel total trust.

As I was uploading photographs and finishing this essay, I decided to pick up my book, Book of Nature, and ask for wisdom to be shared. I randomly opened to this page… “Release….Step from the perceived safety you know into the vast Unknown. Shed layers of fear and doubt. There is something beyond the physical existence of flesh and bone. You already know the Mystery; it is within you, encoded into every cell.” And this photograph was paired with those words….

Music of the Universe

Music of the Universe

I walked on to the deck in the quiet, pre-dawn hour. Stars shone brilliant overhead and were mirrored in the surface of the Ocean. Nearby, humpback whales exhaled in the fading moonlight and the mist drifted toward me.

The first week I spent anchored 90 miles from land, in the middle of humpback birthing waters, was magical. I practiced yoga with whales observing. I sang, as they exhaled and hummed along. Being in the water with them was mind-blowing…school bus size creatures that tolerated our presence as we floated respectfully observing, marveling…in awe.

I’ll never forget singing mantras in Sanskrit to the Ocean…the One Ocean…and feeling as if the consciousness of Ocean recognized the pattern of that language, the oldest language on the planet some say. Ocean knew the language, the pattern of sound waves, as I sang them. I knew Unity. I felt it. I was it.

The stars, Ocean, mantra, yoga, love, humpback whales all combined to create a threshold into a deep place of communion that has remained alive within me for many years. As we approach Earth Day, I’ve thought a lot about the whales and mantras, of sound. Humpbacks are masters of sound.

Recently, I was reminded that Earth hums, has a vibration, a sound that has been studied and measured. I wonder….are the whales singing in harmony with that sound? Their vocalizations are often below the range of human hearing, as is Earth’s hum. Are the humpbacks singing with Earth?

When I floated in the water with them as they slept, I went into meditation and in my mind heard clearly, We aren’t sleeping, we are dreaming with Earth. We help hold the pattern together. Now, I suspect their dreaming is harmonizing with Earth with intention to create. Literally create.

Back in February, I met David Newman at a Girish workshop. We chatted a few minutes as I waited for the workshop to begin. I thought, What a nice guy. David is known for his bright spirit and mantra music. I went on to take the workshop with Girish and then a month-long on-line harmonium workshop with Girish and during that time purchased a harmonium. I hadn’t intended to do that. I just wanted to open my voice.

Several years ago, when I attended Soul School yoga teacher training with Sean Johnson, I found singing was my favorite part. Sean introduced me to the harmonium and singing sacred mantras…actually it was during kirtans or a retreat in Ireland–long before I attended Soul School–that Sean introduced me to mantra. Then Ocean reminded me it already knew those words, those patterns, and it’s been a practice I’ve done for years but adding the harmonium….that just blasted it into the heavens.

How does all of this come together? Powerfully so.

Not long after I met David, his partner posted that David was terminally ill. Many of us all over the world added David and his family into our mantra and yoga practices. His passing was relatively quick, but the amount of light and love generated by heart energy and mantra….it was so strong. Every time I tapped into that beautiful love pouring forth towards Asheville and added my voice, it was simply profound. Joining my voice with the harmonium, the wind, the whirling of the stars to assist him and his family….thousands of us did that…created such beauty. Girish best described it as a wave of light.

It struck me, after hearing of his passing yesterday, how he showed us, in his journey home, how to join together and bring healing light and love into the world…light that is still reverberating throughout the cosmos. So, the question is…why don’t we do this every day? Dedicate our practice to Earth. Dedicate it to our family. Dedicate it to our community. We change the world as we change our vibration and sing andopen our hearts with love to the world.

The whales taught me that they dream harmony and balance into being as they rest and sing and give birth…they create with their harmonies with Earth. When we sing mantras, those ancient words of peace and love connect with Earth and the original pattern of wholeness, of Oneness, is restored. Maybe that’s the healing this world needs….a path forward into Unity.

David wrote these lyrics, “I felt your eyes upon me and a stirring in my Soul. I watched the current rise and tide turn for another shore. A river finds its ocean, the light brings darkness to its knees. All that we’ve forgotten and all that we were meant to be…we are like stars, stars in the sky. The darker this night, the brighter we will shine.”

To the whales and stars and Ocean that taught me the ancient patterns of peace and love are carried through mantra–whether human or whale song–thank you. To mantra singers like Sean Johnson, Girish, David Newman, and many others, thank you. To Earth and Ocean for carrying the ancient patterns of creation and holding us in a loving embrace, thank you. May we sing with our hearts in harmony with the hum of our sacred planetary being and know, with absolute certainty…We Are One.

Little Miracles in the Stream

Little Miracles in the Stream

Not long ago I wrote an essay celebrating mayflies. (Read here). Last Saturday I took a very deep dive into the early lives of mayflies and other aquatic macroinvertebrates. Learning more about them was so mind-blowing, I’m still seeing images of hundreds of tiny…or not so tiny…creepy-looking critters that came out of our kick net sampling and went into small water-filled cubes as we sorted them. It’s so overwhelmingly cool, I can hardly find words to express it.

In the Southeast, there are 9 families and 294 species of stoneflies. There are 21 families and 300 species of mayflies in the Southeast. Caddisflies have 663 species and 21 families in the same region. Does anyone else find that amazing?

For those so inclined to know more, here’s a bit of information. During the first year or two of their lives, they are all found underwater, living on the bottom, under rocks and leaves, on underwater branches. They all look like buggy creatures but there are ways to tell them apart. For instance, stoneflies have two tails, two claws, no abdominal gills (yes…these critters have gills!!), and two pair of wing pads. Mayflies usually have three tails (sometimes two), one claw and abdominal gills. Caddisflies are more like wormy creatures with legs and curl into a C shape. They also have anal hooks. 

That’s the majority of the critters we find in our benthic realm. But there are also dragonfly nymphs, beetles, hellgrammites, flies, midges, sowbugs, damselflies…and the snails, crayfish, leeches, scuds, worms, and muscles and clams. There is an amazing amount of life along the bottom of our streams and rivers.

Let me clarify the ‘amazing amount of life’ statement. In good water quality, we see more species. We also learned, from EQI instructors, that all of these creatures have different tolerances of pollution and sediment levels. By collecting biological samples, then sorting and counting, scientists can get a good idea of the water quality. The years of data EQI has collected gives a wonderful health check for various watersheds and bodies of water within those watersheds. 

For now, I don’t want to dive deeper into the scientific data part. That’s vitally important; however, what touched me so deeply was the profound diversity of life we have in our area. The web of life gets more and more precious to me as I learn more about it, as I understand the interconnectedness of all life. It’s miraculous….at least that’s my word of explanation.

The more I learn, the more miraculous life seems. It all works together so beautifully, as long as we don’t interfere with pollution, sediment, agricultural run-off. 

Here’s to the giant shredder stoneflies and the 2-tailed flattened scrapers. The spiny turtle mayflies, the gravel coffin case caddisflies…and all the amazing creatures that create such profound bio-diversity in Western North Carolina.

And to EQI for creating such a positive impact in our area. Click the link to learn more about this nonprofit laboratory. “We curate reliable and objective data, expand awareness about regional water quality, and provide technical support to nonprofits, local governments, educational institutions, and communities to drive environmental improvements.”

Plan D

Plan D

I’d been looking forward to fishing a very special place for months. My calendar dinged a reminder: My day! Abrams Creek. 

A friend from Black Mountain was coming over and we were going to seek the green drake hatch that had captured me, raptured me, last year on my birthday with my guide friend David from TroutZone Anglers. (Read that story here).

We left the house by 7am and drove through the national park and all the way around to Cades Cove with hardly any traffic snarls…that in itself was a little miracle during spring break season. We saw wild tom turkeys doing their impressive dances as female turkeys pecked for bugs and perhaps rolled their eyes as they turned their backs to the toms in search of breakfast. I was impressed with the tom’s dances; but, I’m not a female turkey. We also saw many white tailed deer as we slowly made our way to the turn to Abrams Falls. 

Finally, we were close and I pointed out the road coming up on our right. I also saw orange barricade barrels there but thought there must be a hole in the road. But no. As we drove up there was a sign hanging that simply said: Abrams Falls Trail Closed. Plan A: failed.

Kip later told me I said, “NO! No, no, no, no!!” I don’t even remember saying that as I was in complete shock. (Sigh). Months of planning and looking forward to this epic day and it wasn’t to be on that particular creek.

Both being positive humans we quickly re-grouped. I suggested we park at the visitor center and inquire about fishing the creek from there down to the trailhead. At first the three ladies behind the counter paused as their eyes bugged out and then in unison said, “NO! You cannot access the trail. It is closed.” Calmly we explained we were NOT trying to access the closed trail, but rather fish down to it. Then, they calmed down enough so we could smile and wish each other well before doing a bit of a scouting mission down the trail in the 32 degree air temperature.

Yes. It was 32. It had been 28. So you see, there was a bit of a warmup happening. A very small warm-up.

As we walked beside the small creek, we saw huge masses of trees blown down from a recent wind storm. Cades Cove had just re-opened a week ago. The park roads were closed for days as they worked to clear them. So we definitely understood why Abrams Falls Trail was closed. I’m guessing it won’t be open for a long while.

Plan B: failed due to skinny water and a general lack of enthusiasm from two fly anglers. Onward to Plan C.

We drove down a gravel road where I had previously seen people fishing two years ago. Once again, we felt the water was too small for what we had in mind. Plan C: failed. But, the temperature jumped from 37 to 50 degrees in a very short time. At least it was warm enough to feel more comfortable wading. Just where to go? 

The national park isn’t short on water with 2900 miles of streams, so we finished driving the beautiful Loop Road and made our way back to an area I’ve been wanting to fish, but will not name. Even though there are some rather steep gorges, we managed to finally, at 11am, put on our waders and boots, assemble our fly rods, tie on some feathers and cast. 

Water was swift and rocks were very slippery but we saw several trout rise and miss or rise and refuse. Sometimes it’s challenging to figure out what exactly is happening when trout are rising. I caught and released a nice rainbow and then another one before we moved on. We fished from the vehicle as too many areas were not wadeable. I caught another small brown trout in another pool and a rainbow a bit further upstream. At least we were seeing fish rise and there was successful dancing with trout.

The sun was bright, the water was clear. This makes fishing these wild trout very challenging. I stayed low as I could, hid behind boulders, stood in the shadows of large tree trunks in order to be a stealthy trout hunter. Sometimes it worked, but they were a weird bunch of trout kids today.

With the sun so high and bright, we headed back to pavement and another area I adore fishing that would offer a little more shade.  Again, we had a lot of fish action and I managed to catch a very nice rainbow and lost another one that was hooked but spit the barbless hook…but wait…that might have been back on the gravel road. It all blurred together after a while. We still had some silly trout antics that had me laughing. 

Just for kicks, I tied on a fly with odd colors I combined to see what would happen. I cast several times, making my way across the water. I could ‘feel’ a fish in a really nice calm area and sure enough…a larger trout rocketed out of the water but slapped the fly with its tail. It dove down, leaped back out of the water and slapped it again. Note to self: it is offensive to trout to use red thread and a bright blue foam body. Experiment failure…but that’s the fun of tying flies. You never know when you’ll invent the next fly that changes the world of the fish and insect nerds that we are. With this particular one, I was properly scolded by a large trout and I muttered an apology.

We were riding back through the park after getting off the overly-warm waders. We chatted about our crazy day. The trail being closed, the attempts at finding good water. The weird behavior of the fish at both locations (far from each other). And how much incredible fun we had. 

Our plan was such a great one. But it crumbled as we found the road closed. We could have allowed that ruin our day but WHY!?!?! It was such a magnificent day with turkeys dancing, deer frolicking, mayflies hatching…sun, wildflowers, trout and their silly trout antics. All the stuff magnificent days are made of. 

The day was a gift. Plan D was a gift. Crazy trout antics…a gift. A friend open to letting the day unfold however it would…a gift. 

Had either of us been attached to our plan, the day would have been quite different. Our flexibility, good humor, patience, and determination to let the trout lead us, allowed us to receive the gift of the day.  

I always think that how I spend my birthday influences how the next year will unfold. So I expect some doors will close, others will open and I will be unattached to closings and openings . Maybe one…or two…or three doors need to close so that the right door has space to open. I will cultivate flexibility, patience, and a keener ability to simply go with the flow so the magic can happen. I will allow Life to go off script as I open to the unwritten, unknown way forward.

Realigning

Realigning

Last week, I explored my angst about not getting enough time in Nature; during five days off, I made an effort to change that. Every day, I went into the woods and came out happier, more at peace, and more aligned with myself.

Over the past two decades, when I’ve asked what I’m supposed to do with my life, I’ve heard to deepen my connection with Nature. It all comes down to that bit of inner guidance. Not, ‘Save the world,’ or ‘Do something huge.’ It’s been clear and simple…’Create a deeper, personal relationship with Nature.’

It’s taken a while to understand that I didn’t have to become an expert guide or teacher to lead others to their own connection with Nature, to their own inner healing journey. For many years, I thought that was what I was supposed to do. After some recent soul-searching, I’ve come to understand that living with a deeper awareness of the inner connection, the Oneness, can create positive change around me, just from being rooted, anchored in a reverent and reciprocal relationship with Nature. 

I’m most joyful when I’m with Nature, listening to flowers, water, trees, rocks…I mean being still and listening with my heart. Perhaps my contribution to the world is simply going out and practicing this. If we change ourselves, we create ripples of energy that move out into the world. In essence, by being exactly who we are, we create positive change in the world. Not by forcing or even inviting. Just by being who we are in our most genuine expression of soul.

The act of intentionally connecting with Nature changes me and it changes Nature. I’ve felt the shift many times as I consciously connect with various aspects of Nature. And it’s an outcome that isn’t coerced or pushed; it is a natural, organic way of being. 

I love to reflect on experiences I have outdoors and express them through creative processes. That’s all very natural for me, like breathing. Writing, photography, composing music…all arise from releasing myself to the creative flow that comes by being in sync with the the energy of Nature…Oneness…Source.

Many times people have viewed my photographs, read my essays and books, and commented that they can never do what I do but enjoy experiencing it through my sharing. I’m finally understanding my ‘work’  is to simply go out into Nature with an open heart, with a conscious desire to listen, connect, learn. 

Last Thursday, my teacher was a trout lily in full bloom. I sat on the narrow trail beside the lily and listened. In the stillness, I felt intimacy with the flower, mountains, birds, the creek far below. I felt my soul filling my body. I felt harmony within myself and everything around me. But, there wasn’t me and everything else….it was simply everything expressing the energy of Life in different forms. 

Friday, I hiked over 12 miles on a trail filled with beautiful wildflowers with friends and fly fished in the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen. Saturday I visited a unique geological area with a friend and saw bluebells and shooting stars. Sunday I waded a section of local water and danced with beautiful rainbow and brown trout. Monday, yesterday, I waded with pouty trout that kept missing the fly. All of it opened me to Nature, to myself, to all Life.

From now on, instead of trying to figure out how to help people connect with Nature, I’m going to listen to decades of guidance…Deepen your connection with Nature…and take it to heart. I’ll connect deeper with Nature and allow It to teach me, heal me, fill me with joy. I’ll allow the creative process to move within that relationship and witness the unfolding. I trust this to be my Path of true service to the world.