Posts Tagged ‘Naturalist Guild study program’

The forest is full of exciting energy right now.  It’s similar to the energy I feel in the autumn; it’s change and potential.

“Icy Ribcage” – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The ice gives way to the warm sunbeams penetrating the forest canopy. Copious deer droppings around these icy terreriums reveal that they are serving as watering holes until they evaporate. Even after her season, An Cailleach finds a way to provide for her herds…

“Book of Forest Wisdom” Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Last year’s detritus, natural and human made, has spent the winter soaking up snow and ice.  The warmth finds it disintegrating.  Although I will be taking a bag with me on my next hike, as cleaning litter can be one of the best offerings to Nature Spirits and the Earth Mother, I find some of it beautiful at this time of year.  Some clothing has been ripped up, no doubt incorporated into hibernation nests.  Some, like the notebook above, have become poignant landmarks.  What was written there?  If the owner returned, what would he or she think of the message the forest left on the pages?  Whatever it says, it is fleeting…

“New Trout Lily.” Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

…for soon, new growth, like this trout lily, will take over. When I see these mottled leaves, which will soon sprout delightful yellow flowers, I know that spring is here to stay. It is wisdom handed down to me from my parents, and the potential to share that with Bee excites me. Here and there, grasses are growing between the rotting leaves. Moss puffs up with pride.  Majestic ferns fan out, adding their bright green to an otherwise brown forest floor. Soon they will expand, and other green Nature Spirits will join them, making it difficult for me to walk in the forest.

“Horned God.” Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The forest is changing, putting on its green cloak.  An Cailleach goes to sleep and the virile forest spirits reclaim their place.  There is adventure to be had in the woods, and my heart skips a beat thinking of a new season to explore and learn from the wild teachers.

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Now that the temperatures are starting to rise (slightly) and there is more daylight in the evening, I’ve started to take Bee out for walks with me.  We don’t go very far, but it’s nice to get outside and share that with her.  It’s how we saw our first robins and red-winged blackbirds of the year.  I keep pointing them out to her, naming their calls, and delighting in how she smiles as they fly.  I’ve also started to name trees as we pass them.  So much of what I learned about the natural world came from family members who did the same with me as a child.  It may seem mundane to some, but it’s really the transmission of a sacred knowledge.  I would never claim expertise in the matter, but it always amazes me how few people can identify some of the most common song birds, trees, or wildflowers.  Truly, a person’s first steps into the realm of any Earth-Centered spirituality should be learning the names of their local flora and fauna.

This past weekend, my husband and I took Bee into the forest with us for the first time.  The look on her face as she gazed up at the vaulted canopy of hemlock trees made my heart swell.  I hope she always has that wonder and awe.  I made offerings to the local spirits but did not feel anything particularly numinous in the forest on that occasion, but the experience with my little family was deeply spiritual as it was.  It was a rite of passage, really.  While Bee may never embrace the path of the Druid, or any Pagan path, I hope that I am passing on a deep love and respect for the Earth Mother and Nature Spirits.

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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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 Begin a regular practice of attunement to the land, including outdoor meditations and offerings to the Nature Spirits. It is suggested to pick a place easily accessible that you might be able to go to several times a week (such as an overgrown fence – row, a more ‘wild’ section of your backyard, possibly a city park, or even a balcony garden, etc) rather than a place that you might only get to visit every few weeks.  Keep a journal of your experiences over a six month period — including where on the land you went for
your meditations and offerings, weather, encounters with animals, plants, etc. Summarize your experiences and any insights gained through the experience. (summary minimum 300 words)
I’ve decided to tackle the above portion of the Naturalist Guild study program in ADF.  Now that I’m no longer pregnant and fearful of falling, I’ve been getting outside more and more.  When the forest calls my name, I am usually in a position to go!  I’m going to use my blog as a place to journal about my experiences because, well, I tend to do that anyway!  So let’s begin!
Today I took a walk to the shrine in the forest.  I’ve been visiting at least once a week.  On my way there, I noticed a plethora of tracks in the snow.  Deer and rabbit of course, but also canine tracks that, based on the size and solitary nature, probably belong to a coyote.  I know there are coyote and coydogs around anyway, but they made me nervous all the same.  I slipped through the hedge following some deer tracks and, in a few minutes, reached the shrine.  It’s very simple – some rocks piled below a pine tree.  I took a moment to breathe and take in my surroundings.  Snow everywhere.  Branches on the ground or just clinging to their trees, victims of the recent ice storm.  A clump of dried leaves and wadded spiderweb swayed in the breeze like a wildcrafted dreamcatcher. In the distance, a fire siren cried out and I worked to put it out of my mind as I focused.
I spoke to the local spirits and thanked them for their blessings.  I prayed to grow in greater harmony with them and learn more of their wisdom.  Suddenly, I found myself pausing and then asking for safe passage.  I generally don’t do that.  Now, I do ask permission to enter each time… but this was an additional step that I had not felt compelled to ask before.  I realized how uneasy I felt.  I finished my prayers and offerings (local dried corn and a green apple).  I noticed how quiet the forest was.  Usually at this time (the afternoon), you can hear the playful chatter of chickadees or the scolding of red squirrels.  Perhaps you would ear the cawing of distant crows and ravens.  Nothing.  I suddenly felt as if I was being watched and I remembered the coyote tracks.  Was it that?  Was it the aforementioned siren?  Was it the snowstorm reportedly coming?
Just to be safe, I carefully left the forest and returned home. Not every visit will be sunshine and happiness.  Sometimes a visit to commune with nature is coming to terms with your fear and weaknesses.

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I seem to go through a cycle of three settings – study, experience, and lazy bum.  Occasionally the study and experience join forces and I truly feel like I’m living the path of a Druid, balancing the two in a beautiful dance of books, meditations, walks in the forest, and discussion groups.  Recently, I’ve been going through one of those rare periods which is exciting.  Having Northern Rivers Protogrove so close to home definitely helps.  It motivates me to continue my studies, organize opportunities for others to learn and grow, and insists that I keep practicing so that I can live up to the work I’m trying to do.

Spring break helped too.  It’s amazing what I was able to get done…  For example, my Liturgy 1 essay for the Naturalist Guild study program was approved after a couple revisions.  I’m very proud of the work I did on that essay!  I may share it eventually, but I’m waiting for the same essay to get reviewed for the Initiate and Generalist study programs.

I’ve also realized just how much I do on a weekly basis that can count towards some of my ADF study program essays.  Journaling about time in nature?  Why wasn’t I working on that sooner.  Hell, I might just go back through my blog and find the various entries I’ve done on such experiences to flesh it out.  Journal about a piece of art made for a grove?  Why didn’t I start that sooner?  Like when I made that altar cloth for Samhain!?  Record and reflect on divination I’ve done?  I could have finished the required amount of work for that essay long ago had I been journaling consistently!

I’m hoping I can keep this pace up for a bit.  I know that my priorities will be shifting very soon and a new setting will dominate my focus – mama.

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