Lupus Alae

Spiritflights, fledgling and ancient


My daughter, green-child

I've been musing lately on how quickly babyhood deserts children, how soon they grow past the extra-rich sweetness of those first-blooming stages. My third (and last) baby will be two before spring comes again, and I have been willing gentle Time to slacken and meander sideways a bit, that I might have every nuance of her baby ways indelibly imprinted on my heart twice over before the long pause between the tottering gleeful baby steps of children and those of grandchildren.

It occurs to me time and time again that our precious children are so much a part of this earth that I love so dearly and hold sacred...the two are not entirely separate or even dissimilar, and I'd like to explore that a bit here. And though I may focus on my smallest child, all three at every stage carry the resemblances and the kinships between themselves and the wondrous earth forward with them.

Adoration. Never was there a love so joyful, so all-consuming, as that of a parent for their precious child. One might argue that one's love for the Divine could be equally strong, and I have to say, that may well be true, but in my case, with my beliefs, the two are not at odds at all. And where better to see the work of -- the spark of! -- the Divine than in the living miracle of life itself all around us? The tenderest budding new shoots in springtime are precious and cause for celebration; so too and with resounding magnitudes of vibrant love, the birth of a child and the day-to-day beholding of this tiny new life's unfolding.

Though just three years ago, nothing yet existed of my daughter that I could discern in the cosmos (and truly, I believed I had already had my last child when my son was born, who stands today at three and a half years old as one of the most sensitive and beautiful souls on the planet, right along with my five year old elder daughter), I absolutely cannot conceive of a world without this radiant being. She is radiant, with light and love and happiness that flows freely from her to all around her. Asking nothing, giving everything she has, and not at all proportionate in personality size vs. her physical frame, she is a mentor to me in ways she'll never know. She shines like the sun in her brilliance and is perfect in my eyes.

So, too, the Divine...I ache with joy at loving this small person who for some unfathomable reason adores me right back, and I ache with joy at being a part of and a lifelong devotee to the Divine that surrounds us and is made manifest equally through my shining daughter and every glowing sunrise. I love my daughter with a fierceness that would see me lay my life down to keep her alive and whole without a second thought or a moment's regret; so too would I die for my beliefs.

Beauty. This living land and her inhabitants, the beauty of earth and sky and water, moves me to tears, and I am not one who cries often. From the last warm colors painted across the clouds in a lazy summer sunset to the crisp cold winter morning breaths when the air itself feels as though it anticipates glad tidings; from a blue swallowtail butterfly landing on my open palm to the scent of honeysuckle calling me home, I am continually in awe of this world and of being blessed to live in it for all of my days, however many they may be.

Likewise, when I behold my daughter, all of her small perfections rush at me and totally overwhelm my soul with awe and love and gladness. She touches my heart beyond any irritation or stresses of the day; the dust of such things falls away when she says with her wide blue eyes looking right at my soul, "Mommy, up! Up pease!"

I gently lift her into my lap (who could resist?) and brush her wispy flaxen hair behind one tiny perfect ear. Her little doll mouth with its pink lips and teeny white teeth always curves into a sweet smile at my touch, and sometimes deepens into impish grinning as she reaches out to tap my nose and make honking noises. Her small foot still fits easily in my palm, and my fingers curl around its pale warmth as she waits to see if I'm going to tickle her. I usually do, and I swear to you that the sound of that giggle could make a rose spring up in the most barren heart-soil in the dead of a soul's winter. Her spontaneous bear hugs (she leans in and squeezes and says "Mmmm" and everything!) make a person feel renewed from the inside out, and when she climbs into my arms without even asking, knowing with no doubts at all that she will be warmly received and safe there, I feel my worth redoubled yet again.

I am so, so head over heels for my daughter -- for all three of my children, as they grow strong and yet supple and flexible, like saplings in a newly planted grove -- and for this world, for the whole of the earth and the Divine within and keeping it all. This barely-more-than-a-baby holding my hand is Nature, and it her, and feeling the interconnectedness humming with light and life is pleasure beyond all counting of it.

Bright blessings from a richly blessed are we all, who ever take the time to see it.

Holiday healing

There is an abundance of peppermint in my house right now, far more than at most other times of the year. It makes me smile to myself, because peppermint is one of my favorite natural remedies for a lot of different things.

What's not to love about peppermint? It flavors things prettily and soothes gastrointestinal ills (especially handy at this time of year when so many people overindulge in various things that make our bodies groan); it eases breathing woes for those of us who don't escape all of the winter crud going around; it perks us up after holiday parties have left us drained, and it's a beautiful plant besides.

This site lists many more uses for peppermint, for anyone interested.

I don't know that it's my ultimate favorite 'healer plant;' different things are higher in my good graces depending on what I need at a particular time! I do favor aloe highly too for its soothing qualities; any smart cook would do well to have an aloe plant in the kitchen for burns!

I sometimes regret that I live in an era where most people know so little about common uses for plants; I myself know so little compared to what my ancestors must have understood! Nature supports us much better than we have supported her of late, that's for sure. It occurs to me that one small way to begin to re-forge that relationship that instills reverence (I don't mean necessarily religious/spiritual, but at least respect!) for the natural world, might be to teach people about these things that plants, the very earth, can do for us on an individual scale...thus fostering gratitude and respect, and perhaps a desire to see this amazing land healed. Thus are caretakers both cultivated and born.

Dogwood & vine: Place-scaping

I need trees.

I've always known I was more affected by my physical environment than most; wall me into a huge city and I wither as surely as a forgotten houseplant. Give me a room with a balcony opening onto a gorgeous natural panorama and a barely-there walking path and I'm nearly beside myself with joy and awe. It never gets old...the beauty, the richness. And every place holds something new; the landscape unfolds before me with its own local flora and fauna, treasures to be scoped out and marked on the map in my heart.

Here, I find myself missing much about the landscape I grew up with and am so used to. The dogwoods, their
studded branches in earliest spring with buds of promise bending them newly into splendor and saying "watch this space!"...unfolding like a flower-patterned morning rain with their storied blossoms, gentle white or stunning pink...the striking red berries in magical-seeming clusters...the graceful leafy green overrunning the blooms before summer's zenith. Even their wintry thin arms flung toward vibrant blue skies and out to the world seemed hopeful and happy to me.

My favorite tree was a dogwood in my grandparents' back yard. I spent countless hours in it in every season; grew to know the bark like the skin of an aged friend, rough under my fingers and perfect always in my eyes. The tree had a great double fork about a story off the ground, perfect for two youths to converse in total (relative) safety. Often, though, it was only me there, and yet I never felt alone. The tree was truly a friend as well as a haven from the rest of the world. My grandmother had to call me in for supper so many times from that place; I often didn't realize it had gotten so late until I heard my name and "Come and get it!" in that manner old Southern women have made an art form...

That tree has been cut down, over my protests, and to my great sorrow. It was, in the eyes of the one who ordered it down, a threat to the house in hurricane weather. I mourned it as I might have any other childhood friend.

I even miss the tall, stately or stark (depending on who's looking) pine trees with their rich needles carpeting the ground and their cones that toughened little bare feet over the course of a season's carefree (and sometimes careless -- ouch!) romps.

I miss honeysuckle...that scent is home and being three or four years old, riding around the tree-crowded block over cracked sidewalk on my bike...smiling at the ivy spilling over the edges of people's yards...

I miss the highways with trees and vines, honeysuckle and kudzu and wisteria, clustered in close, arching over nearly to meet in the middle so that highways were 3/4 tunnel in the summertime and all you could smell with the windows rolled down was the greenness of "yes"...

I will say, however, that for all of the lack of real trees here where I am now, amidst the cacophony of bird-crowds that cluster overhead and must be heard, beyond and sometimes colored out of bounds all the way to the edges of the strange and pretty grasses brushed by the sometimes and then often winds, ever-rolling, Texas offers up some seriously magnificent skyscapes. There is more of everything -- patterned gray-white clouds backlit and choppy like sunset waves rolling up to impossibly golden shores, thick storm cover blackening at one edge and building toward rare rain, clear sunrises spanning this side of forever.

It is its own brand of beautiful, and I am grateful to have the generous sky to soothe my Nature-abiding spirit, though my heart is patchworked with dogwood and vine.

I have Seen, and didn't know

A fantastic post by Damh the Bard the other day got me thinking about dreams, and about signs and how often we miss them. How often have we each been given extraordinary gifts of insight or foresight, the path laid in front of our feet, and inadvertently the gift, the path, has been ignored? Ignored...or postponed, deliberately brushed aside, minimized in significance by minds taught to reject that which cannot be logically set out in rational lines and steps and words...

For me, it was always dreams. I've had (occasional) precognitive dreams and extraordinarily vivid dreams overall for as long as I can remember. I recall telling my mother one morning when I was six or seven about a nightmare I'd had that someone we knew was very sick. It had upset me greatly and I couldn't shake it off. She got a call about two hours later saying that this individual I'd dreamt of was in the hospital.

I learned that day not to share my dreams, lest my own family think I was a freak or somehow evil. I minimized the significance of anything I did dream, shoving it aside and trying to place everything wholly in the realm of sleeping imagination.

I've always had two recurring dreams. One is identical to itself every single time, a nightmare. I may blog it in the future. The other dream is not the same every time; I suppose it's best classified as a lifelong series of dreams. In these, I stand on a hill overlooking stunning fields with a river gently winding through them, and there is a grove of trees just behind me. It's a beautiful area, and though the seasons are sometimes different, the land is always striking, radiant.

There has always been one other person present, who stands to my right and gazes out over the fields with me: an old man named Nionn.

As a child, I confessed my fears and my deep questions and curiosities to him, and he always listened patiently. He rarely said more than a few words, but I always left these dreams with a feeling of peace. As I got older, he steadily encouraged me to look to Nature to re-center myself, to never lose sight of all that's precious right before my eyes and all around all of us. This was occurring even before I had consciously embraced the Druid path (which I didn't even know existed until my teens; I'm in my late 20s now). It has always felt very much like a mentor-student relationship, with a sort of friendship interwoven in more recent years; even in dreams, I feel as though I have learned much from him.

I never really gave these dreams substance in my waking thoughts. I felt as though others would think me mentally unsound if I told anyone about how very real they felt; how "other" they seemed from typical dreams I've had, how much I'd come to look forward to them in their seemingly sporadic but always somehow apt timing. I daresay some part of my spirit leans on them, or is better able to grow and stand on its own through them. But I kept all of this to myself, even though deep down I knew I was doing them a disservice by trying to write them off and disregard them as mere sleeping stories conjured by an active mind.

Several days ago, I was reading something about Ogham and I saw "Nionn/Nuin" instead of merely "Nuin(n)" you can imagine, this startled me quite a bit, and I hurriedly typed a few Google searches.

Somehow, my brain had not put together before this point that Ross Nichols, founder of OBOD, went by Nuinn. Nuinn...Nionn...could it be?

Couldn't it be?

A picture revealed particular similarities between the Nionn of my dreams and Nuinn.

I feel as though I deserve a smack upside the head (even if my pacifism frowns upon it!). Why do I -- why do we all -- so stubbornly refuse to take even the most obvious signs and embrace them, run with them? Why do we brush aside truly amazing and special happenings in order to be sure we're not written off as somehow 'different' in a way people might not understand?

I am different. Perhaps you are too.

If you receive signs, follow them! Someone thinks you're special; some force is gently guiding you toward whatever your path might most brightly hold...the universe holds so much more than we know, so much more than the society we immerse ourselves in daily would have us believe.

And yet, all we have to do IS believe. Believe, and listen, and have the courage to set our feet on the bright path before us.

Special: To the burning, effervescent core

So many people wander through life asking Why am I here?

I don't have to ask anymore. And it 'only' took 28 years from birth to here!

From the very beginning of conscious thought, as far back as memory stretches, I have found myself set apart. Different. My thoughts, my different from people around me. I never could handle violence, and even Disney deaths can still make me cry. I'm empathetic to a fault if there is such a line; the plight or sorrow of strangers can wrench my heart so hard that I can't sleep for days. I find it impossible to stay angry at someone if I can understand where they were coming from when they did whatever it was that upset me, and I can almost always understand. I probably spend more time pondering other people's perspectives than I ever have given thought to my own. I can't abide conflict and have often acted as mediator between friends.

I'm an INFP personality type (Myers-Briggs), and the description of this personality type reads as if it was written specifically about me. With Rosemary Altea's Soul Signs, I'm the center Air one, the Prophet soul (scroll down that one a bit to get to the Prophet description). Again, pretty fitting.

I've been mocked, ridiculed (more often than I care to recall), called weak and illogical and naive for my 'infernal' optimism and gentle nature, but this is simply who I am.

More than these traits, I've always understood that I was special. Not in a superior-to-others kind of way; not at all. I hold myself and every other human on the planet to be on the same plane, as equals, regardless of social status or personal details. I don't mean to sound immodest (not wanting to inadvertently make someone feel bad/upset is another one of those deeply ingrained traits). I have plenty of faults and flaws! It's just that even from a very early age -- as far back as I can remember -- there's been this core knowledge that I was supposed to do something, be something.

And with that, comes what I've come to see as a perpetual raging fire within. Burning desire isn't strong enough to encompass the ever-present, ever-consuming need to help other people, to be a healing presence, a comforting presence. To make things better...not just for those I care about, but for as many as possible in this world.

In sum, I've been called. And I have felt that calling my entire life. It's not easy being a young child or a teenager (or an adult, really!) and feeling that day in and day out and not being certain how to answer or what it is that you're supposed to do with it!

Oh, I tried to answer it. My driving need to help others has manifested in every way I could think to do it. As a kid, I begged my grandfather to take me with him whenever he did community service projects with the Lions Club (and at 18, I became a Lion I remember counting down the days 'til I could!). I stood in the chill of winter ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, gladly taking a double shift to spare an older person from the cold. I don't think I ever noticed the temperature while I was out there helping.

Thanksgiving baskets for shut-ins and other people who would have difficulty affording food was always one of my favorite projects. Thrusting the bags of groceries and ready-made food into the hands of people who had so little and knowing that at least for a little while, their struggle would be eased...I think I needed that as much as they did.

I've mentioned giving blood's related. The raw act of giving a bit of what keeps me alive, to help keep others's so humbling and touching. To be able to give that gift...I'm so thankful. I'm so thankful for everything I have that I can use to help other people. My hands, my time, my very blood.

It's never enough. It has made me frantic inside before. That I could only give so much at any one opportunity, and then it was back to 'the rest' of my life...the moments when I'm *not* actively doing something to help's hard. That burning within is ever-so-slightly mollified by anything I do, and then it seems to redouble. It's like trying to quench a raging thirst with a single sip of water. It almost makes you thirstier for having had that tiny bit.

In college, I thought I might've figured it out; I was there on a full teaching scholarship. Imagine my chagrin when I found that the career I was pursuing was not something I enjoyed, and furthermore, it proved to be way too restrictive to allow the full outpouring of caring and the things I would have liked to have had the freedom to do within the classroom. This was not in fact the path that answered my calling. Regretfully, but knowing I was right, I switched majors and dropped the scholarship. I've had teachers who didn't want to be there; I couldn't become one.

It still took me years to figure out that everything I felt and everything I was, all rolled into one answer. I feel like such an idiot that it took me so long to see that the burning desire I have and my personality traits are not separate.

I am a deeply spiritual person, and nearly unfailingly sunny about the world in general. If there's a silver lining to be had, I will find it, or help create it.

Harmony is important to me...lives in harmony, comfortable and happy. And one of the things that most bothers me is people's intolerance of one another's differences; the things that make us each into the wonderfully unique individuals we are.

My particular faith happens to be "non-mainstream" and definitely has its fair share of people who scoff -- or worse. It's drawn a lot of fire lately because of one organization under its banner being granted charity status in England.

That calling seems loud -- and clear! -- to me right now. I will be an ambassador of faith working to promote positive interfaith dialogue and relations, and hopefully furthering worldwide religious tolerance. That thought brightens the burn into a white hot flame of healing and yearning, reaching toward a goal that I know is mine to fulfill.

I know without a doubt that this is something I can do and want to do that will continuously help people. I will be taking (as already planned before this epiphany of sorts) the OBOD courses, Bard, Ovate, then Druid, over the next few years. I want to fully immerse myself in the spiritual path I already love that resonates so deeply with the core of who I am, and as I become more knowledgeable and more credible within it, I will not shy away from leading others if asked. I will stand up for Pagan faiths and especially Druidry, leading by quiet non-antagonistic example but standing both gentle and firm, and I know I will not be standing alone.

Most of all, I will make my voice heard across faiths (even if I'm not quite sure how yet) and I will make a positive difference in interfaith relations.

Some people never know why they're here. Me, I've finally stopped wondering. Yes, I'm different. And I'm so grateful.

Yellow roses

I'll admit it: There are a few things that send my normally sunny temperament into derriere-twitching fits. The yellow rose incident pushed one of those big red "Do Not Push" buttons.

It was 2004 or so, and I was sitting in the midst of a beautiful campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains, enjoying the springtime sun and the colors splashed by Nature's generous hand all around me. I dared not close my eyes in the day's warm caress, lest I miss some new happening in the visual feast before me.

All around me, people hurried to and fro, to get out of the steady breeze or because they had something just so important and pressing awaiting that they couldn't take a moment to behold the glory of the day unfurled all around them. Not one person seemed to notice the sun, the blooms, the smiling Earth. Not one.

Pondering on this later, I became irritated and then downright angry, and I wrote this bit of prose to empty my head:

What, then, of the yellow roses? What is to become of them now? Are you so calloused as to have forgotten beauty, even when it is in front of your eyes so copiously produced? Can you not remember when you were one of the pure ones who could conceive of nothing more beautiful than the last blooms of summer, yielding gracefully to your touch when petal upon petal found a gentle caress in your hands? For shame, to forego such pleasures for knowledge and the pursuit of happiness. Why do you chase what you were born with? Why can you not see that the flowers will wither without you – and you without them?

Samhain 2010

This was the first year I have actively taken time out of our notably hectic Halloween festivities, once the kids settled down and went to bed with visions of their overflowing treat bags dancing in their heads, for Samhain itself. Not just a head full of thoughts this year, I promised myself.

Maybe it's Uncle Jack's recent passing, but I was feeling very connected to things and felt that it would be a good time to do some reflection and readings, and also to perhaps perform a small ritual honoring the dead, my kin who've passed before me to the Summerlands.

I lit two candles, one for Uncle Jack, departed in August, and one for my Nana, gone a little over two years now. I wondered what I could possibly say that would -- could -- be appropriate and fitting for the event, with the two of them in my mind. I talked to them in my head for a little while, and suddenly had need of a pen and paper.

This is what I wrote, a slightly stumbling but right-feeling Samhain blessing for them.

By this light and sacred flame
Remembered warmth, and fondly named
Forever far, forever home
Linked in spirit, blood and bone
Be with me always, and peaceful rest
In death held close, and thrice now blessed.

I folded the paper and drew two hearts with a thick line connecting them on the outside, then placed it between the two candles on my stone table. After a moment, on impulse, I borrowed a corner of the paper, tore it into two tiny parts, drew linked hearts the same way on each part, and blessed them with the names of these two good souls. Then I dropped each into the flame of their respective candle and closed my eyes.

When I next looked, the bits of paper were gone, but one of the flames -- the one in honor of my Nana -- had grown quite high and was dancing as though a strong wind inspired it. I could feel the thinness of the veil between worlds, and I thought maybe, just maybe, she was with me in that moment.

Whether or not that was true, it was a very peaceful and memorable Samhain.

A tribute to the candle-bearers

There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle. ~Robert Alden

That quote is one of my favorites, and it's been on my mind a lot today. There are these extraordinary people in this world who seem to be driven to hold candles out to light the way for others, even on the darkest nights. These are the people determined to make a difference, to matter, to do something in their lifetime that will leave the world better for their footprints having marked it.

They are hailed and hated, praised and pitied for their very natures, for wanting to hold candles in the darkness that seems to press in around us so heavily at times. I believe the people who try to snuff out those candles with spiteful words and hateful deeds as cold as a brisk winter wind, do so out of fear. Fear of change, fear of having to look at their own personal darkness, illuminated by the gentle flames around them. And envy...I think people get mean when they envy the courage of these solid candle-bearers.

What people seldom see is that sometimes, though they would never do it differently, and though the flame itself stays bright and true, the hands of the candle-bearers shake with cold and doubt. The winter wind howls incessantly, swirling all around them like spectral hands swiping at their light, sometimes chilling them to the heart/bone.

Yet these amazing people press onward, sharing their hearts, time, thoughts with others, lighting paths that once seemed nonexistent in the depths of night.

I don't know that I'm really supposed to be a candle-bearer. I'm not a great front man (woman) for a cause, though I am passionate about many. But I know I have a purpose in this world, and I think I may be getting closer to what it is.

What, then, could I possibly bring to the world if lighting it up isn't my gift?

Maybe...maybe I can bring the candle-bearers coats. Encouragement and love to shore them up and keep them warm, a bit of protection against the bitter chill of hatred and doubt that tries hard to envelop and stamp out all of this world's greatest lights, just as it always has tried (and generally ultimately failed!) to do.

I don't know that I have the personality to carry off sweeping changes for the better in this world. But I have an unyielding faith that people can and do accomplish that, and I gladly pledge one huge heart and a ready, steady, kind hand on the shoulder of those whose gifts lead them down that road.

To the candle-bearers out there...what you do for so many others...keep on keepin' on. And if the wind gets too cold, I'd be happy to bring you a coat. In honor of all of you:

"Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
When your heart's heavy
I, I will lift it for you

Don't give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you
I, I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well, I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don't give up
Because you are loved

Don't give up
It's just the hurt that you hide
When you're lost inside
I, I'll be there to find you

Don't give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you
I will shine to guide you..."
(Josh Groban)

Wearing philosophies, and starfish

Everything we wear, everything we choose for ourselves in life, makes a statement. You can find -- or custom-order -- t-shirts screaming just about anything in thick, bold colors. Political statements, tv show/brand loyalty, you name it, you can find it out there. The cut of a man's suit, our footwear selections, even our jewelry can all add levels to the picture we draw for the world of who we are.

On the inexpensive chain of my favorite necklace, a small blue starfish charm hangs, along with a simple hammered oval with the words "It matters to that one" in black. People often ask me what it means.

It's a philosophy. To understand, you would have to be familiar with the Starfish Story, paraphrased here (originally by Loren Eiseley):

A wise man used to rise early in the morning and walk along the beach to gather his thoughts. One morning, while he was strolling by the edge of the ocean, he noticed a far-off figure repeating some strange movements. A dancer, perhaps? he mused.

As he drew closer, he could see that the figure was that of a young man who kept bending down to pick something up. Over and over again, he threw what he found into the sea.

"Pray, friend," called the wise man, "What are you doing?"

"I'm throwing starfish back into the water," replied the young man. "The tide washed them ashore and if I don't throw them back, they'll die."

The wise man shook his head and said, "But there are miles and miles of beach, and tens of thousands of starfish! You cannot possibly save them all -- don't you see? What you do doesn't matter!"

The young man simply smiled, bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it with all his might into the water.

"It mattered to that one."

I wear a starfish to remind me that what I do matters. I cannot save every aching soul I come across, as much as I wish I could. But that doesn't mean that what I do isn't important. Every time we lend a shoulder or a hand, even if our efforts feel like so little in a hurting world, we should all remember: It matters to that one.

Global telesummit for peace -- and you're invited!

This just hit my inbox this morning, and I wanted to share.

Top peacebuilders from all over the world, including the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers and so many others of note that I'd embarrass myself trying to name even a handful without wanting to list them all, will participate in the "largest virtual peace summit ever created," starting September 14th.

Registration is free, and you may participate in any one of the series of calls or all of them, if you wish!

Click here for more info.

Upheaval and peace

As I sit here, the shadows are lengthening and evening is fast bidding late afternoon adieu. It is the time of deepening darkness and of quiet reflection, sometimes wistfully so.

Last Monday, the 23rd, I received a phone call from my father. Before the phone rang, my hand was reaching toward it, and I knew who would be calling and why -- one of those moments of knowing without understanding how you know. And one of those moments when you wish you knew nothing because there was nothing to know.

All of that to say that that day, my great-uncle began his journey to the Summerlands. Brightest journey, I felt the words come, and with them, a wave of relief that his suffering is now past and he is surrounded by peace and light and beauty.

Words fail to capture the brokenhearted tears that just kept flowing, and the wrenching sobs of grief that left me voiceless and feeling quite ill for a few days...and yet, that sorrow is all selfish. I miss him fiercely; he was an extraordinary person -- and *is* such an effervescent, bright, storied soul. I look forward to when our spirits might cross paths again.

There's so much right now that's hard to grasp -- that I can't ever call him now to hear that "New Joisey" accent that always made me smile. No more letters smelling faintly of his favorite pipe tobacco, and filled with love and warmth and laughter, the serious and silly and mundane all wrapped together in the best kind of present: time.

I've no one to write to now, none left in my life who value the handwritten letter as I do. The other, my paternal grandmother, passed on in 2008. Her scratchy, spidery script and his blocky, thick print...they wove my life with reassuring patterns of family and familiarity, comfort and understanding.

I suppose being pen pal-less is okay right now, as my address may be changing in the next six weeks or so. If my spouse gets the out-of-state job he's interviewing on site for on Thursday, I will be packing up and painting walls and generally in chaos for the next several weeks!

It occurs to me that upheaval is as much a constant in our lives, at least in certain chapters, as stability ever is. And in reflecting on this, I come across a quote in my mind from Gandhi:

"Each one has to find his peace within. And peace, to be real, must be unaffected by outside circumstances."

This, then, is my goal on the journey right now. To flow with the changes, to use the chaos to deepen the serenity at the core of my IS a journey, an ever-changing one, and I am learning to be grateful for opportunities for growth.

Be still

Life is beautiful, tragic, poignant, absurd, fun, and excruciating by turns, it seems to me, and it touches with abandon every place in between. We fight for our chosen causes, scramble to make our voices heard, claw our way up the ladder in career and financial stability, juggle everything we can possibly hold and then some.

"Go and do and achieve and acquire! And if you do not like something, fight it until you find another way to get what you want." This seems to be the message people live with/by, in large part. Perpetual motion, lives going ever faster, round and round on our big blue ball.

It is natural to move forward, to strive to exchange what you have or where you are for the next thing or place along the way, for something or someplace better/different. If I want a better job, I get the additional certifications and I apply for the position I wish to have, for example. We follow our desires. And when something blocks us from attaining what we want, we focus our energy on removing that blockage. We beseech higher powers for aid in our noble pursuits (whether they be noble in truth or not sometimes!). We fight and rail against and bend our will toward changing anything that does not suit us.

To be sure, there are things to be said for that kind of indomitable spirit; you don't get anywhere in this world by rolling over the first time you meet with resistance and letting life pass you by instead of living it, striving for a life that satisfies and enriches.

Yet...there is an even greater wisdom, it seems to me, in learning when to fight and when to be still.

There are those things in life that are beyond our control, as they should be, and sometimes these things are incredibly painful. We naturally want to fight them, to find a way to reject these events and facts and replace them with something more palatable, something that doesn't hurt so much.

My great-uncle and longtime penpal/friend/mentor/favorite storyteller is dying. He is so dear to me that I simply cannot imagine life without him -- I suppose it's more accurate to say that I can, but I don't want to.

We've been writing letters for almost a quarter-century. I'll be 28 this fall and I've written back and forth with him since I was five years old. The things he has taught me would never fit in a blog post. Or a blog. Or one lifetime's recounting.

He has lung cancer. His "year" of time the doctors gave him in June appears to have been incredibly optimistic.

When I first heard the news of his illness, I immediately went into fight mode. Surely there had to be a treatment option they hadn't considered. I asked questions. I researched. I asked again. I cried and railed at life in general. I prayed to the gods for miraculous healing or to wake up and find that it'd all been a dream or a mistake and that he was healthy.

After speaking to him on the phone recently and hearing firsthand how fragile he is and how limited his time (his voice was so thin; the coughs so thick and overpowering!), I had to concede that there is no fix to be had. Not a fix as *I* would have it, at any rate. With tears streaming down after the brief conversation, I prayed again...this time for the grace to accept what is and cannot be changed -- what will come, and on its own timetable, not mine. I stopped struggling and finally held still.

And in the stillness, I felt comforted. As if the universe or the gods themselves paused a moment to say "Shh, child" and hold me close. It strongly reminded me of this verse I learned years ago:

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)

Though my belief system is different from those who carry that particular book around, I see no reason for the wisdom within to be discarded, and indeed, this *is* what I felt. That in the moments of our deepest despair and grief, if we can pause a moment, cease struggling against things beyond our control, we are better able in the stillness to feel the Divine guiding all things. We are not abandoned in our hour of need; we just spend so much time making noise and ramming ourselves against those brick walls that we miss the message.

The hardest aspect of the Serenity Prayer is the serenity part.

Good news!

It does my heart good to see that a judge has ordered that my gray wolf bretheren in Montana and Idaho be put back on the endangered species list, thereby granting them protection from "harvest"/hunting.

In September 2009, I had the indescribably stunning privilege of meeting wolves face to face for the first time, in Lucerne Valley, CA.

And I do mean face to face:

A Mackenzie tundra wolf and yours truly

I love wolves. Always have...they are my totem, my spirit animal, however you want to put it. I know this like I know my name. And I have become more and more of a wildlife advocate over the years, particularly for these magnificent, oft-misunderstood creatures.

When it comes down to it, it's a matter of right to live. That is something we all share, and I am grateful that the gray wolves in these two states have been granted a new lease on life, which should never have been necessary in the first place.

Wolf prints, mid-July edition

I mean to make this a regular feature, twice per month or so. In wolf print blog entries, you will find links, music, and more from my travels through the internet and elsewhere, things that caught my attention.

These are the authors of the moments of "Ohhh" and "Neat!" and "I had no idea..." as well as rich treasures I have long held in my hands and find myself returning to often. They may be emotionally stirring, intellectually magnetic, or spiritually satisfying; I also reserve the right to post silly and random things that I nonetheless find valuable. Sometimes the most random things that tug at me for reasons I am not aware of may well resonate within another heart.

In this inaugural run of the wolf print feature, I thought I would begin with my favorite song of all time. It is my personal anthem and though it was never terribly well-known, it resonates with me today every bit as much as it did when I first listened to it with tears streaming down my face and a huge "Yes!" in my soul.

In smile-worthy news, could it be that our society is actually one of 'survival of the kindest'? That is what a very interesting body of research is suggesting. Read about it here.

I also wish to share this video with you, of a man who has learned to harness his spiritual power to help others. I believe we are all capable of such things, even if our precise gifts might vary (some have the gift of, say, elocution; others may have the gift of foresight or the ability to be a comfort to all they come into contact with simply by passing a bit of energy to them, letting their aura envelop them for a moment, however you'd like to conceptualize it).

In closing, I would like to direct your attention to a wonderful group of guided meditations by Philip Carr-Gomm and others, which you can learn more about in this post on Philip's own blog. Although meditation forms an important part of my spiritual journey, I had not done much with guided meditation. I decided to purchase the compilation of meditations because I have had trouble focusing lately and was becoming somewhat frustrated with my inability to center myself.

I have only, thus far, listened to/journeyed through the meditation dealing with the Earth element, but am very much looking forward to the others. I listened to this last night and was pleasantly surprised at how willing my body and spirit were to be led into tranquility. I hadn't realized the acute and gradual toll stress had taken until it was lifted and peace happily reclaimed its place at the core of my being. I woke up this morning still feeling so much better!

Also, today for the first time in a month of failed attempts due to my iron levels being out of sync, I was able to donate blood, and I believe it was at least in part due to the renewed vitality and equilibrium I achieved with the aid of this meditation. This is the least stressed I've been in weeks.

What do you think of wolf prints? Good idea, bad idea? Did you like the assortment of materials here, or would you prefer to see something a bit more organized?

Beyond the blood - Part I

The quest to understand the core of who we are often has auspicious beginnings. My journey begins in blood.

I am a blood donor, as regularly as I can be (I sometimes am deferred due to low hematocrit). I am on the National Marrow Registry. I'm drawn to things like this; I can fully imagine myself as a surrogate for a mother who cannot bear children. I would hand over a kidney or part of my liver to a stranger in need without a second thought.

Am I a saint? Hardly. These things don't even feel like selfless acts to me, though I do/would do them freely. I have this burning need to give such as I am blessed with, to share the wealth that I have, the abundance, with those who do not have these things.

I'm not rich, though sometimes I think about how much fun it would be to have the money to be an anonymous philanthropist, investing in people who might not otherwise get to do certain things (whether it's afford a wedding gown or a heart transplant; perhaps paying for a poor but promising kid's education without them ever knowing who stepped in for them).

I don't have the space in my home or the income to adopt a child or children (I have three little ones of my own), but I could see myself doing that, too. There are so many things that I would absolutely love to do for people, that some part of me needs to do if I ever become able. For now, I do what I can; I have the fortune of my good health at the very least. And this, I can share.

Donating blood, that vital essence, is an intimate act of giving that touches at least for a moment, that ever-raging fire inside, yearning to give more. I take part of that which keeps me alive, and I offer the same vitality to another, who will never know my name or the gladness with which I gave. I have been on the receiving end as well, though my donations and desire started long before February 2009. And I wonder if the four people whose generosity kept me alive and granted me the ability to keep giving to others, felt as I do.

I have my own wants in life, to be sure. I'm not Gandhi or Mother Teresa; my life is not devoted to the masses in an overt way. While I would not call myself extremely materialistic, it's true that I love gadgets and crisp books and music on my iPod; I play games and am heavily engaged in the life I live day to day. I have frustrations and I screw things up just like everyone else on the planet.

But underneath it all, there is always this hyper-awareness of how interconnected we all are. Like so many hubs of one giant wheel, we all have these spokes connecting each of us to all others in our world. I wish to send healing and peace, light and hope from myself, to send it humming through and along the spokes from where I am, to any other life that crosses my path -- and to those who never do, to whom I am still connected and hold in my heart just the same.

I am boundless. I am one spirit in one body, but I am not alone and I will not live as though I can't affect the world. The world is already connected to me. And this, I think, is why it hurts so much -- I was trying, and failing, to explain the other day to a friend -- when I get deferred from giving blood, or when something I wish to do for someone in another way gets derailed, even temporarily:

I hate the thick pauses in what I do for others. It's like an unexpected silence halfway through your favorite song on the radio. You know the notes and words coming next, have them written upon your heart and on the tip of your tongue; every fiber of your being wishes to sing them out and to hear them surrounding you. The sudden absence of the melody, even if only for a few seconds, is disquieting. You feel not quite yourself until it resumes, and then you exhale the breath you didn't realize you were holding, and comfort returns. Any perceived spoke-stillness on my part bothers me to no end. I wish them to always vibrate with my offerings, to keep a steady flow of to-and-for-you going.

The first part, then, of who I am, is we. I am only one person, but I am a part of something much bigger than myself, and I feel and know this with every breath, and wish simply to brighten every spoke in the wheel in any way I can. It is this which compels me, this which drives me. This which strums my soul-strings and brightens me.

Beliefs, Part II: Choosing Druidry, and nonviolence

So...if all religions worship (to my way of thinking) the same Divine that resides within and watches over us all, why choose at all, right? And why Druidry over the others that I'm aware of?

I wasn't raised with Druidic beliefs; I was in fact brought up in a strict Christian household. I always had problems with the exclusive nature of at least the particular denomination in which I was raised. They were right and everyone else was wrong. Other Protestant denominations were less wrong than the rest of the world, but still. This was their thinking, and never mine. There were inconsistencies and hypocrisies that left me feeling extremely disenchanted with the religion I'd been handed. I struggled with that all through my teenage years, not daring to express my views to my parents or other leaders in my conservative community. I felt isolated, an outcast of my own making because I simply could not swallow all of the supposed truths that were constantly shoved down my throat.

In college, I began to really explore other religions, other spiritual paths. I wasn't "shopping" for a religion; I had come to the determination that I didn't have to have one but thought that the research would be useful in shoring up my convictions of what I did and did not believe. I questioned what I had been taught, and over the next few years was able to strip my beliefs down to what resonated with me and felt true; I relaid the foundation of my spiritual life on solely those truths that deep down I already knew -- not because anyone told me it must be so, but because I could feel it on my own, outside of any specific religious following.

I like the cyclical nature of Druidry, and the way the spiritual path is so open to individual practitioners as well as group practice. There is a freedom in it, even if most Druids do hold to a few core beliefs nearly across the board. There isn't the same push to convert others or else, and tolerance for other faiths abounds...I even learned along the way that Druidry and other religions are not mutually exclusive (from a Druid perspective, anyway). The rituals and basic tenets resonate with me, and it's the path that I feel at ease with, at home my feet are finally carrying me where I want and need to go. Quite simply, it just feels right. The something that I felt was missing, doesn't feel that way anymore -- and it's not the same sensation of trying to jam a jigsaw piece into a space it wasn't designed for and refuses to fit in without seriously damaging the rest of the puzzle around it (or creatively editing the piece I was shoving in there) that I had before, with the faith I grew up in. This actually fits. I am a Druid.

I hold myself to the Hindu principle of ahimsa
as closely as possible, which is pretty standard in Druidry. I do believe that our negative actions have negative effects far beyond our ability to discern them, and that what goes around comes around again. I suppose you could say that I believe in karma then, although not precisely as certain Eastern religions do. I don't step on ants or caterpillars if I can avoid it, and I even extend this principle of nonviolence to the arachnids I so utterly fear, though it doesn't always save them. I'm not perfect, but I try hard. Even spiders have the right to be here, unharmed. I strive to not act out against things or beings simply because I am afraid of them, but I am very much a work in progress with that particular example.

Violence has always been abhorrent to me; as a child I was appalled and wounded by some of the "classic" animated movies shoved at most of my generation. I hate violent scenes in movies even now, animated or not, and cannot watch parts of many otherwise good movies because it hurts my heart to even see torture or violence of any sort portrayed onscreen. (A quick barroom brawl is one thing; the downed man getting kicked in the head or ribs is quite another...things like that.) I love books and cannot read Stephen King or anyone else with a penchant for particularly violent/gory scenes. The images gleaned from the words haunt my soul.

I have been accused of being naive, stupid, oversensitive, and "not fit for this world" because of my attitude toward violence and how unable I am to handle certain types of "reality" in books and movies and the like. Frankly, I don't care, and I find it disturbing how desensitized most people seem to have become. Yes, maybe I am at an extreme in my views and what hurts me, but other people edge toward the other side of that. Some part of me feels (and I mean no disrespect here) that the less horrific awful acts are to us, the less incapable of them we become. No thank you.

If you wish to learn more about Druidry, I strongly recommend the OBOD's website.

Beliefs, Part I: Religion and the Divine

I mentioned in the last post that I am a Druid, and also that I consider myself panentheistic. Not pantheistic, but panentheistic. I believe that the Divine resides within all living things; that we are all connected to it and that reverence for nature and reverence for God, however you define God, are not mutually exclusive. My reverence for all life is one form of reverence for the Divine who guides my life.

I also believe that there are many paths up the mountain, so to speak. If the mountain is our journey to get close to God/get to heaven/whatever other ultimate spiritual goal one might have, why should there be but one path that actually leads to the summit? I have always found the thinking flawed which insists that this religion or that one is the one true religion, the one Truth that applies to everyone in the world, and that those who do not adhere to that particular set of beliefs, worship that god or those gods specifically, are damned or otherwise hopelessly lost in the dark.

What about those who never hear of this "one true path?" Are they condemned because they were just born in the wrong place or situation and missed out? What kind of God would be alright with that? And if these truths are self-evident, why does not every rational being ultimately decide to follow the exact same religion, all over the world?

It seems clear to me, though, that spirituality is natural (no offense intended to my atheist readers -- this is, after all, only my perspective, and I readily admit I am a fallible imperfect being), even if the details come to life in a thousand different ways. Without it, we search, even if we do not know what it is that we seek. We feel empty, uninspired...I believe that all of us yearn for meaning, for that invisible thread that anchors us throughout our lives, and that sustains us in times of trouble and darkness.

I think, then, that all gods across the world are really different faces painted on the same Divine presence. Therefore,
I do not find the Christian Holy Trinity at odds with Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma; I see no reason the Pagan maiden/mother/crone trio could not be juxtaposed over any other triple facet of godhood in any other religion. If Hindus can accept their three as aspects/facets of one ultimate God, and Christians do the same, and Druids (who believe in some form of the triple facet -- Druids do not all hold the same concept of god(s)/goddess(es) and some embrace no god at all) do the same, etc...why can't those separate religions just be facets of universal worship of whatever the true ultimate form of the divine may be? Different world religions are not so different at all.

I know many people found it somehow offensive or incredible when the movie Dogma portrayed God as a woman...but if a Lord, why not a Lady? Why not Lords *and* Ladies? And what does it really matter what we call g/God as long as it's meant with respect? None of us could possibly know every name ever given to the Divine.

Someone once said, regarding religion, "There's more than one path up the mountain." A reply came, "Ah, but there are many mountains." I should have added, "And they all reach for the same sky."


Have you ever been asked, "How do you do it?" and not had any idea how to answer?

This is a question I encounter often, and have many times throughout my life, particularly in times of distress. I am very much an optimist, and am generally at peace with myself and my circumstances. It is rare that anything comes along that can knock me sideways for very long.

Those in my inner circle sometimes ask me, when they are aware of situations in my life that are less than stellar, how I avoid being smashed flat by things that might squash others. My initial reaction used to be, "It's just how I am." And that is true, to a point. I also am now aware that there is more to it than luck or innate ability.

At present, my household is in danger of going from one income to zero. Worst-case scenario: we could lose our house if this happens and another suitable position doesn't come along quickly enough, before unemployment can no longer keep up with the bills and savings run dry. Apparently I should be panicking right about now.


This is our first house (not too shabby for our late 20s!), and although it is an older house, definitely your fixer-upper sort, it is solid. It keeps the wind and rain out, carries electricity safely and well, and has enough space for us, even if "enough" means quite a bit of clutter for lack of storage space. I like this house.

However, it is just a house. My home is with me wherever I go -- an attitude I developed many years ago, when my place of residence varied often. The building doesn't matter, even though I do love the colors I chose for the walls...this room is a serene light blue that reminds me of a pale spring sky...and the memories attached to this place. Our stuff, most of it, would move to storage and we would temporarily reside with family until we got our feet under us again. Why should I be sad if it came to that? It would be more convenient not to have to tighten the budget or sell the house (if we could get the rest of our fix-it projects completed before foreclosure was the only route left). But we would survive.

Things always shake out alright somehow. I have faith that my life is in the hands of Someone who knows what they're doing, even when I haven't a clue. It is easy to seek out silver linings, to remain hopeful, to have faith that it will all be okay eventually, when you know Someone is looking after things.

And I have always known this, always felt it to be true, even before I could articulate it well enough to even try to explain. I am a panentheist and a Druid, which I hope to delve into in my next post.

I can take my lumps from life and seek out the lessons, the opportunities for growth. I am not easily rattled, and am told that there is an aura of calmness around me, that my energy surrounds people like a mist, a comforting blanket. And I am this way because I know that it all happens for a reason, whether or not the reasons ever become clear to me.

I am also dealing with a more private crisis in my personal life; someone whose presence I have come to rely on heavily is in great pain, is suffering, and so am I. It is an unfortunate situation, to say the least, and I may well suffer a devastating loss. It is not without fear that I face this.

Yes, even though I believe that everything happens for a reason, even though I know that there's Someone guiding things, my heart at times quakes in fear or dread at what seems inevitable along my path. Sometimes I don't understand what happens or why, and I cry out in pain, in anger, in bewilderment. I have raged against "fate," prayed for do-overs, and cried rivers of tears, in my current situation and many others along the way.

That is how I do it. With pain and stress, with hope and faith and the sheer stubbornness to keep turning the pages of this story.

Powerless empowerment

For the first few hours of my day today, my home had no power. It was very cold outside, below freezing, and at first I was annoyed at all the conveniences suddenly removed from my grasp.

Then time stretched before me. No email to check, no laundry to run. I sat down and wrote a letter for the first time in ages; I used to do this regularly. I realized even as my tendinitis-prone hand began to cramp that I enjoy the physical act of writing very nearly as much as the self-expression and communication itself. My loopy script scrawled across two pages before I looked up, and I resolved to do this more often. (Pen pal, anyone?)

A bit later, I noticed the pleasant lack of electronic buzz in the background. Other sounds of the day penetrated my awareness more clearly; the wind chimes seemed to be calling my name. I stepped out -- barefooted, in short sleeves -- into the cold morning and walked through the yard. The rush of cold air across my skin brought an almost exhilarating alertness (one reason I love winter).

I haven't spent as much time outside lately as I would like, with sickness and all the entrappings of daily life in a modern world only too glad to lock me indoors. Winter embraced me like a mother and her wayward child come home at last, and I stood in delight, soaking in the world around me. The wind blew the dust and grit of technology off of my soul, and my eyes were wide open to the beauty rolled out before me.

Tell me...when was the last time you were absolutely mesmerized for moments on end by the shadows of trees dancing on a sunlit patch of grass?

When was the last time you felt as if nature was rejoicing at your presence, your acknowledgment of the splendor around you through the joy and delight rising in your own soul in that timeless anthem dedicated to life itself?

How about in the next brand new day? If tomorrow is a gift, unwrap it with all of the vigor of an impatient child who knows he will find behind the pretty paper his innermost desires unveiled and met before his eyes.
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