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Posts Tagged ‘forest’

Ghost Flowers at Otter Creek Preserve.  Once upon a time, I had no idea what these were.  I didn’t merely shrug and forget – I took photos and looked them up after a hike.  Now I can easily identify them.  It’s a great feeling. – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

I read an article today that captured the spirit and concern of one of my recent posts.  It relates to Britain specifically, but I see a similar disconnect between people and nature in the United States.  It amazes me how many adults (who have lived in Upstate NY all their lives) don’t know the difference between an oak and a maple tree.  These are some of the most common trees around!  Or they can’t name any of the wildflowers that grow near them.

It’s really… strange to me, I guess, but then I think of all the other skills I’m surprised people lack.  Like…hearing that someone intends to throw out a shirt because a button fell off…  Say what?  Reading the article linked above made me realize how lucky I was as a child to learn about the nature around me.  My parents and even grandparents were very involved and passed down their wisdom – the names of plants and animals, how to garden, what not to touch, and even some wild edibles.  I’m always trying to add to that knowledge and pass on more to my own daughter.

There’s definitely some privilege there.  I understand that I was very lucky to have involved parents.  They could afford for my mother to stay home and raise my sister and me.  My father had a good job with benefits so he didn’t need to take any more employment.  My grandparents lived close and were able to retire, giving them plenty of time to teach me and my sibling how to sew, paint fences, weed, press flowers, etc.  Not only did we have access to green space, but we were surrounded by it and actively went on weekend excursions into the Adirondacks to learn more.  We went to the library and museums.  I realize not everyone is able to do those things for a variety of reasons.

I’m thinking about how I can help improve the situation.  Continuing to talk with my daughter about the plants and animals around us is a huge priority to me.  Reading and getting outside as I discussed in that recent post to improve my own understanding, for sure.  Perhaps I should do more with my own grove?  Going on a nature walk together and pooling our collective knowledge would be a great activity.  (Honestly, I want us to get out more together anyway.)  As a teacher, perhaps I should take my students outside.  Perhaps we’ll take advantage of the wooded trail on campus and keep a weekly or even monthly nature journal to improve their writing skills…  Simply getting outside and taking the time to observe can be so powerful*.  There are many possibilities.  Every little bit counts.

What are you doing to improve your connection to nature?  What else could you do to pass on your knowledge to others?

*I once took some little kids out on the playground with magnifying glasses just to observe the insects and spiders.  After calming them, they were entranced by a bumblebee, admitting that they never actually looked at one up close before.  It was one of the most amazing, humbling, and emotional experiences to me as a teacher.

 

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Forest memories.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We’re in the process of buying a home!  We’ve been looking for a few months, and it seemed like we weren’t going to find anything for awhile.  I had a vision of what I wanted, and many homes just didn’t have the right layout (or a dry basement).  One property seemed to have what I wanted, but closer examination hinted at serious foundation issues.  I reached out to trusted seers for insight in addition to my own divination (gratitude to Lady Althaea for the bone readings, and to Melstery   for the runic spread.  I highly recommend them!)  Everything indicated a need for patience.  One reading advised me not to be blinded by an ideal vision, and to be open to other possibilities – while also sticking firm to what I knew I wanted.  That was so on the mark.

The home we are hoping to obtain has a lovely yard with raised beds.  There’s a peaceful shaded area with happy trees, and a stately oak in the back.  The current owners have done no landscaping, so it’s a blank canvas for me to populate with all sorts of magical allies.  There’s a wooded trail across  the street to fulfill my need to wander around green areas.  While the forest may not be “mine,” and the home is smaller than we initially sought, it checks all the boxes.

Fingers and toes crossed that everything goes according to plan with the closing, etc.  The inspection was fantastic (very grateful for my friend’s recommendation).  I cannot wait to move out of my apartment and have more control about what happens around me.  Obviously, it will entail more responsibility – but it will be “mine.”  No maintenance crew coming in to inspect; no unwanted contractors hacking the plants around me; no obnoxious people sharing the same backyard; no more ridiculously high rent.  I can build a permanent shrine outside and form a deeper relationship with the land!

I will miss the forest near my apartment. A proper farewell ritual is in the future, for sure.  I’ve been working with this land for nearly a decade.  I experienced some of the most profound growth of my life among these trees.  I was able to watch more wildlife here than my childhood home.  The land gifted me with many stones, feathers, acorns, and bones.  I saw spirits in my periphery a few times.  Many little treasures have made their way to my altars and shrines.  The forest will always be with me in these memories and gifts.  I look forward to new lessons and experiences as I turn to a new chapter and a new home.

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Daniel’s Memorial Dragon Garden – Photo by John Crump, 2017.

The transition from winter to spring was marked by a tragedy within my own community and grove. A friend, someone I started studying Paganism with back when I was in college, suddenly passed away.  It was very sudden and heartbreaking, especially as he left my friend (his wife), and their daughter on the corporeal realm.  After discussing his wife and daughter’s wishes, the grove (of which he was a member) came up with the idea to create a memorial dragon garden in his memory.  The Yoga Center, where we have most of our rituals, allowed us to keep it on their land near the fairy gardens.

We gathered for the Spring Equinox and created it as a magical working.  It was part to memorialize our friend, part to heal our hearts, and part to strengthen our bonds.  In addition to studying Wicca with him when I was in Utica, he attended Muin Mound Grove for many years, then joined Northern Rivers Grove last year.  The two groves came together to honor him in our working.  It was probably the hardest ritual I ever lead.    As we took turns placing stones or figurines in the garden, we shared memories.  There were many tears and hugs.

I spotted these daffodils growing in the hedge.  I wonder if someone tossed a potted plant and now they’ve gone feral.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We focus so much on rebirth at this time of year. The death of a friend and grovemate has had me focusing on the death part that is so necessary for the cycle to renew. We get caught up with the flowers in the spring that we can forget the decaying leaves that nourish the plants. Honestly, thinking about how I will go back to the Earth and contribute to that gives me a strange comfort. All the same, it doesn’t make these partings any easier.

No buds, but the wildflowers were growing in late April.  I need to go back and visit…  Red trilliums are such a beauty to behold.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

I collected big, heavy bag of trash in the woods for Earth Day.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

I went into the woods around Earth Day to keep with my tradition of picking up some trash that time of year. I usually try to pick up some trash whenever I go into the woods, but I put in extra effort around Earth Day. The effort is my offering to the local spirits. I wondered if any of the Dead lingered in the woods, watching me remove the garbage…

We celebrated Bealtaine with laughter and joy. We danced around a Maypole and we jumped the embers for cleansing and good luck. We missed old friends, those who moved away, and our friend who passed beyond the veil. We called on the fertility of the land, and I contemplated the role our Ancestors have in abundance.

Shortly after Bealtaine, I took part in my friend’s very small and private funeral. We met up with his family, another grovie, and a friend from the eclectic circle in Utica. There were elderly people and babies gathered in a small circle of mud boots and umbrellas.  We were surrounded by trees that held great significance to my departed grovemate and the most magical balancing stones. The sky cried buckets.  While others moved soil, everyone chanted:

Earth my body
Water my blood
Air my breath
And fire my spirit…

I thought of all the Dead around us, mingling with the soil, the waters, the air, and in our own spirits…  It was a sublime moment.  One that will stay with me forever.

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I was up too late last night. Don’t judge me, but I was reading a really compelling fan fic on my phone. Just like any good story, I couldn’t put it down. On top of that, my daughter is getting over a cold. She coughs a lot which makes me toss and turn. When I finally woke up, my eyes were irritated. For some reason, it impacted my overall mood this morning. I felt a bit grouchy. It’s times like that when the forest’s call grows loud and insistent.

Donning my winter coat, scarf, gloves, crane bag, and walking stick, I got out of the house, away from the screens, the messes waiting to be cleaned, and everything that annoyingly reminds me that I’m renting and not owning right now. The sun is out, but the air is bitter cold.  The neighborhood was quiet since most people don’t want to be out on such a day.  I felt assured of solitude.

The universe said, “nope.”

I crossed the hedge, carefully stepping on exposed logs and rocks to avoid the icy sheen of a frozen puddle.  I always ask permission to enter, and felt the familiar pull.  I was a bit apprehensive to return, honestly.  Last week, my husband and I believe we found bear droppings.  I took an omen before I went out today and was basically told to have courage because I needed this excursion.

The forest near my apartment is accessible to anyone who lives in my neighborhood. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take nature walks whenever I want, but sharing it with other people (people who don’t all respect the woods) is irritating.  There is a never-ending supply of trash to clean.  I take it upon myself to bring a small bag with me when I visit.  I collect what I can as an offering.

After making some other offerings at a large tree, I leaned against its trunk to breathe.  The relaxation was short lived, unfortunately.  Some kids noisily entered the woods and set about smashing things into trees.  Ugh.  I surprised them by stepping out from behind the tree and went deeper into the woods.

Their shock made me grin.  I was grateful they left me to my wandering.

No signs of bear this time.  Noisy kids aside, it was nice to return to the forest.  It’s a bit like a moving meditation.  I definitely don’t sit and meditate here.  You never know who may show up, after all.  I try not to let my guard down, especially when there’s possibly a bear around (not to mention coyotes and coydogs).  A snap of twigs in the distance gets the blood pumping and makes me feel so alive…

Closer to home, I inspected the garden.  Most of the pots are frozen.  The compost bin is unworkable at the moment.  And yet, despite how bitter cold everything is today, the chives are pushing their way towards the sky.  What hardy little plants.  They always  promise me that spring is near.  They appear even before the trout lilies in the woods.  Seeing them made me so happy and reminded me that it’s time to order seeds.

Gods, I can’t wait to garden again…

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December is such a busy month.  Despite my best efforts every year, my Druidic studies and routines become disrupted because of family celebrations.  Thankfully, my little tribe celebrated the Winter Solstice, but my usual morning routine of prayers, grounding, and shielding kind of went on the back burner…  Which is a shame because, Gods know, I need that shielding during such stressful times!  Furthermore, I started to feel disconnected from protogrove friends.  Everyone gets so busy in December, and not everyone had been able to attend our last ritual.  Even though I’m celebrating the season with people I love, I’m not often with individuals who understand me spiritually like my grovies.

All of this was weighing on my mind when I decided that I would get back on track today.  That meant a trip to the forest!  Oh, how I had missed it.  As soon as I crossed the threshold of bare thorn bushes and burdock, I felt all of my cares just float away, carried by the wind through the hemlocks.  The woods bring a certain clarity which is necessary during such busy times.

I made offerings of seed, grain, fruit, wine, and song.  I opened myself up to the energies of the forest.  I let the fires of the upperworld shine upon me, the waters of the underworld flow within me, and the strength of the oak grow beside me and support me.  I reflected on the protogrove omens from Samhain and the Winter Solstice.  There was a definite sense that people needed some time to rest and attend to their own matters.  We can’t always focus on protogrove matters, after all.  The group wouldn’t function if we didn’t also have time to ourselves, to tend to our own hearths and homes.  Rather than let that bother me, I needed to accept it as I do the quiet of the garden and the forest during the winter.  All things naturally wax and wane.

Today’s devotional omen really gave me some hope, though.  I drew the dog, cu.  To me, this signaled loyalty and friendship. I’m going to focus on that this week, and even cultivated it this evening when I briefly saw a couple of grovies to show support for them during a difficult time.  After all, Druidism isn’t all about ritual – it’s also about living a virtuous life.  Part of that is supporting friends in good and rough patches.

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Offerings at the oak tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

When life gets busy – go to the forest.

When there is drama at protogrove events – go to the forest.

When you question why you are trying to build community – go to the forest.

When your thoughts won’t let you be – go to the forest.

The oak tree will teach you how to reach to the upper and lower worlds.

The oak tree will teach you to weather your storms.

To oak tree will inspire strength.

The secrets are there in the forest. Your purpose is there in the forest.

You will catch your breath in the forest.

Life will make sense again.

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