Lupus Alae

Spiritflights, fledgling and ancient


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.
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