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Posts Tagged ‘forest’

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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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The week’s stress comes to a head on Sundays, and the call from the forest is strongest then.  Come dance with the trees!  Come lose yourself in the quiet!  Come heal!  So I listen and go.

It snowed last night.  Not a dusting but a proper, North Country snow.  Everything was melting over the last couple days, but my trek to the forest once more found me knee-deep in cold, white dunes.

The forest welcomed me.  It seems, whenever I reach the hedge and ask permission to enter, a great wind blows and beckons me further in.  There was a stillness, but it was a comfortable stillness.  An anticipation, really; a “let’s hunker down and weather this once more” sort of feeling.  In the distance, returned song birds chirped, promising the green season to come.

An Cailleach has shaken her cloak once more so it felt right to visit an old tree in the woods that I have gone to for several years when I want to speak with her.  There is definitely something of her about it.  It is gnarled and full of holes.  It is the hag tree in the woods.  I made offerings – corn for her deer herds and a big, thick slice of homemade bread for the Goddess herself.  Some UPG I’ve received repeatedly is that she loves homemade bread.  I thanked her for the many lessons of winter.  Once more, she has taught us that we are not in charge.  The seasons shift when the spirits and the Natural World feel it is right.  All we can do is adapt and be patient.

After  giving the offerings, I stood and closed my eyes.  I listened to the sounds of winter.  The wind howling through the branches, the trees creaking…  It’s the voice of An Cailleach.  Soon she will quiet and I will have to wait to hear her whisper and shout again.

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The previous weekend, I went out into the forest.  I needed it.  I was feeling some cabin fever.  We’ve had snow on top of snow on top of snow.  Furthermore, I had had a terrible, no good, very bad night the day before.   The forest was calling my name.

I was already trudging through the knee-deep snow to the forest when my father suggested I try his snowshoes.  I decided to give it a shot.  I’m glad I did – they were such fun!  Although I could have made it to and from the woods just fine, it would have been a heck of a lot of work.  Putting on snowshoes made the trek more relaxing for me, so I’m glad I took that opportunity.

Me in snowshoes. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Once I reached the forest, the stillness was exactly what I needed after a very stressful few days.  The forest felt so welcoming.  Everything felt restful and my troubles faded.  I greeted my tree friends and left offerings for the local spirits.  In the distance, some song birds chirped merrily.  Copious amounts of snow had settled on the tall evergreens like thick layers of dust.  A mighty wind blew and the canopy erupted with shimmering snow!  I lifted my arms and actually gave a shout of joy as I let myself be enveloped in the temporary whiteout.  The previous day’s anger, frustration, and helplessness dislodged and hurried away with that gush of snow and wind.  I let it go when I surrendered to that moment of joy…

In this way, without meditating in the traditional sense, I found my center and was able to relax.  What is it about the forest’s magic?  As I’ve reflected in the past, I’m very aware of the darker sides of this place, and yet it normally gives me such peace…  I’m so grateful for that.

 

One of my tree friends, a lovely tall eastern hemlock. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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