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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Awareness’

An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. She enjoys exploring them with her magnifying glass. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

An acorn and pinecone treasure basket I put together for Bee. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

 

I’ve already written a bit about treasure baskets in the past.  Now that Bee is older, they’re becoming even more fun!  Currently, she has a basket of different pinecones and acorns on her “play altar” / “nature table.”  It’s been a great way for her to explore some of Mother Nature’s diversity.  It’s an open-ended way to explore and play.  She sometimes sorts them by type or size.  Once she used them to make imprints in play dough.

One thing that I like about this particular treasure basket is that it’s very seasonal, and Bee has been able to add to it whenever we’re out on our walks.  She gets really excited when she finds new acorns, acorn caps, and cones. I ask her if she’d like to take one to her nature table.  This activity shows her that she has choice and that her opinions matter to me.  We also say “thank you” to the Earth Mother and trees whenever we bring a new friend inside.  Of course, it’s also added to her vocabulary!

Knowing your child is definitely important when it comes to making new treasure baskets.  Bee is past the age of putting random things in her mouth.  We’ve had many discussions about what is and isn’t food.  (We’ll save the fact that many of our ancestors used ground acorns and pine nuts in meals for another day…)  For the last few months, she’s demonstrated an understanding that only food should go in her mouth.  Her last treasure basket was filled with different shells, and we introduced some smaller specimens towards the end.  Last year, I wasn’t able to let her play with anything small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube.  It’s amazing how quickly little ones learn!

I’m planning to retire the pinecone and acorn treasure basket for a bit (I’ll bring them out again in the future), so I’m excitedly thinking about what the next basket will be!

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The old shrine. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Sometimes we have to take a pilgrimage to where it all began – to the source of our spirituality.  By that, I mean the places where we first felt the stirrings of spirits around us, observed the interconnection of everything, and where our soul first learned to dance.  For me, that place is my childhood home – in particular, the forest behind the house.

I grew up able to play in the shade of white pines, sugar maples, red maples, black cherries, crab apples, and aspens.  I learned the name of many plants, native and invasive, and whether or not I could eat them.  I learned how to recognize numerous birds by shape and call.  I often woke up to find herds of deer or flocks of turkeys outside my bedroom window.  Once I even saw a pine marten.  I meditated below those trees, poured my first offerings there, and hailed the moon on that land.  On summer nights, the song of crickets and spring peepers was my lullaby.  On winter mornings, the happy coo of mourning doves was a gentle alarm clock.  Although I was baptized a Roman Catholic, I always felt the most spiritual out in the forest.

As moved into Paganism, and as that grew into Druidism, I started to visit a particular spot often.  I made an Earth Mother statue, placed a small, porcelain teacup below her, and brought her interesting stones, seeds, flowers, etc.  The shrine is still there, although I have to gently remove the pile of leaves blanketing it each visit.  I always feel a mixture of gratitude for where I’ve been and an extreme nostalgia for the childhood that is gone.  I can almost imagine the ghost of my childhood self playing around the trees.  Perhaps that is a different type of Nature Spirit or ghost – the positive energy we left behind in our old haunts?

I wonder what will become of my old shrine should my family ever move. Should I take those relics with me, or should I leave them there for a new child to wonder at?  Who knows if I’ll ever have to cross that bridge. It makes me a little sad to think of all the childhood homes that are now inaccessible to others because they moved away.  Such is life, though.  We can always return in our minds if we quiet ourselves long enough and unlock the memories.   For now, the shrine remains, a special landmark I occasionally pilgrimage to.

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Happy New Year, readers!

We’re having a quiet day in because of the lake effect snow in Northern NY. We definitely needed some rest. I feel like I say this often, but December is so darn busy!  It’s pretty cold and windy today, so while we enjoy watching the snow through the window, Bee hasn’t expressed an interest in going outside today, and I don’t blame her!  What to do instead?

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Inspired by a “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” episode we watched this morning, I let Bee explore some shells from my Nature Spirit shrine. She really likes the bumpy textures. We talked about the beach and how fun it will be to visit in the summer.  One of my goals for this year is to make a nature table/play altar for Bee.  The way she interacted with the shells showed me that she’s ready. (Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014)

 

 

 

 

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We’re also enjoying the many gifts we received for the holidays. Handmade gifts are such fun, and I hope they inspire my daughter’s sense of creativity as she ages. Bee’s aunt refinished an old children’s rocking chair for her. Bee loves rocking in it while hugging her stuffed animals.  Speaking of plushies, she also likes the Waldorf doll I made for her as a Solstice gift.  Grandmama gave her a metal tea set, so we may have an herbal tea party later!  (Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014)

Another thing to do on a snowy New Year’s day? Do some magic, of course! By the time I finished doing the physical purification on New Year’s Eve, it was time to crash and watch the ball drop then bang drums out the door to scare away naughty spirits. I was exhausted, and so was Bee. So first thing today, we did a simple saining ritual. My husband sprinkled purified and lunar charged water around the home while I held Bee and smudged with a handmade juniper bundle. As I stated in my recent post about winter activities for young toddlers, I believe that including little ones in family rituals is very important and helps teach them expectations for group rites.  It lays the foundations for later, when Bee can take a more active part in our family traditions.

Wherever you are, I hope you and are family have a very blessed 2015!  Look forward to more posts as I explore my Druidic path and how to share it with my little one! Thanks for continuing to read my random thoughts.  I’m so happy to have inspired some of you!

 

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We did something different this year for our “Solstice tree,” although it looks more like a “Solstice bush.”  As you may remember from recent years, I’ve felt that I should not cut a tree down for the holidays.  I don’t have a fireplace or wood stove, and I don’t have enough storage to keep it around for Northern Rivers’ bonfires later on.  Since I rent, I can’t just leave a tree outside my apartment until such an occasion either.  If there’s a green waste day, it’s not in any of my rental info, and I don’t really trust my apartment complex when it comes to it…   My family also doesn’t want to use the fake, plastic trees that are mass-produced in factories.  We had been decorating a medium-sized potted dwarf spruce, but, unfortunately, our friend was not doing so well last year and didn’t survive.  I only have three potted evergreens left, and they’re all small – pretty much saplings.  When the dwarf spruce died, I decided that I am done buying potted trees until I have land where I can plant them.

This year, we decided to cut some low branches from a blue spruce.  At the Arbor Day event held by Thousand Island Land Trust this year, Weretoad and I learned that trees can get infections when their boughs hang low enough to touch the ground.  I also know, through my father’s input, my research, and observations in the wild, that deer pull the lowest branches off of evergreen trees to eat in the winter.   Perhaps the trees suffer a little, but it also seems like pruning is inevitable and helpful.  I know from gardening that many plants require regular pruning (natural or manmade) to grow.  To keep the branches robust, we’ve put them in a large, weighted vase with water.  Just as with any other bouquet, I’ll have to check it regularly to keep it looking nice.

So our “bouquet” of spruce boughs may not look like a traditional holiday tree, but it’s special to us.  It’s also easier to display all of the ornaments we’ve made or been gifted on the large boughs compared to a dwarf tree.  When the holiday season is over, the branches will be very easy for us to transport to the forest to decompose.

Our 2014 Solstice “Bouquet” – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Rowan tree in Alexandria Bay, NY.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Rowan tree in Alexandria Bay, NY.   The leaves haven’t really changed, but the berries are bright red!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

This is my favorite time of year, so naturally I’m over the moon when it comes to sharing it with my little one.  It’s hard to enjoy traditions, old or new, with an infant, however. This year is a whole new experience!  She’s able to interact with the world around her, so it’s a great time to introduce her to all things autumn.  Here are some of the things we’ve been doing.  Teaching little ones about the cycle of the year, the sacredness of Nature, and our holidays is as easy as seasonal pie!

Autumn Fun with a One Year Old

    • Take nature walks and look at the trees.  Say hello and even give them hugs.  Point out the different colors.
    • Pick apples, clumps of rowan berries, or acorns, and thank the trees for their bounty. In fact, get in the habit of always saying prayers of thanks with your child.
    • Run through piles of crinkly leaves.  (I’d love to make a labyrinth like these people did!)
    • Show your toddler how dried leaves turn into dust when you crinkle them in your fingers.
    • Visit a local apple cider press.  Learn how apple cider is made (Bee was scared of the noisy machines), or at least smell that intoxicating aroma!  Give your little one a tiny taste of an apple cider donut.  Just a tiny one.
    • Visit your local pumpkin patch and let your tot pick out her own pumpkin.  Show her how varied pumpkins can be.  The warty ones are especially fun to touch!
    • We haven’t done this yet, but my plan is let Bee decorate her own pumpkin via finger painting.  (There are some lovely toddler pumpkin ideas here.)
    • Sing fun songs about the season.  An easy one, which goes to the tune of “10 Little Indians,” goes like this:
      One little, two little, three little pumpkins.
      Four little, five little, six little pumpkins.
      Seven little, eight little, nine little pumpkins.
      Ten little pumpkin pals!
    • Find milkweed seeds and make wishes together when you blow them away.
    • Pick the last of the harvest together.  Let your little one eat a few goodies fresh from the vines.  Bee loves cherry tomatoes.
    • Wave goodbye to the Canada geese as they fly south.
    • Make a Samhain playlist and dance to it together.
    • Last year, I chose what my child was wearing for Samhain.  This year, although Bee can’t exactly articulate what she wants to dress as herself, I decided to make a costume based on something she really loves – cats!  Sure, I could dress her up as a favorite fantasy character, but I would rather she recognize what she’s pretending to be.
    • Read interactive books about the season together.  I just gave her I Love You, Little Pumpkin, and she adores it.  It introduces the idea of dressing up, which is one of the most easily accessible childhood traditions.  She especially likes the little mirror at the end of the book.
    • If you haven’t already, make an ancestral altar.  Visit it often as a family.  If possible, take a trip to a family grave. Pray to the Ancestors together, and make offerings.
    • Make some delicious applesauce and enjoy it together.
    • When you wake up to morning frost, tell your toddler a simple story about An Cailleach.  They may not understand everything, but it builds a foundation.  I simply say, “Oooh, An Cailleach is waking up!  Soon, she’ll bring winter back!”

What are some of your favorite ways to share Autumn and Samhain traditions with your little one?  I can’t wait to add to my list and do even more sophisticated things with Bee next year!

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We had planned to attend the Central New York Pagan Pride Day today, but in what seems to be a continuation of a pattern I’m only starting to see, health issues got in the way of socializing with a wider group of Pagans.  Wellspring was thwarted by surgery; the Fairy and Earth festival cut short by extremely painful cramps; and now PPD is not happening for us because we all have colds.  I’ve been keeping mine controlled by drinking tea whenever possible, but my little one is fussier, and it’s a long day out in the cold wind with a miserable child.  If we lived closer, I would have gone on my own for an hour or so, but it’s so much driving, gas, and, as a result, money to commit for only a short time…  So I made the difficult decision to miss it for the second year in a row (last year Bee was still an infant and it was raining the entire time).  While it’s disappointing since I was looking forward to seeing old friends, attending a workshop on Manx folklore, the drum circle, and such, I now realize that I needed this day very much.  It’s been a very stressful, busy few weeks.  My spiritual life has been stymied by mental and sometimes physical exhaustion.  I hadn’t been to the forest in ages…

Green Ring Rock. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

So I changed that.  Sniffles be damned!  I went into the forest and reacquainted myself with the trees.  I’ve found that the old place I gravitated towards to make offerings no longer feels right.  It is too high traffic in some ways.  It’s too near the entrance to the forest.  Too convenient for others to access.  By others, I mean those who don’t understand what I’m doing and move stones, leave trash, or spray-paint the trees.  Most people view the forest as a sort of playground, not a sacred place, let alone a home to millions of other lives.  The old place needs healing and attention, but sometimes a Druid just wants to reconnect and feel at peace.

Look for the oaks… Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I felt called to the opposite end of the forest, so I let myself wander there.  I felt particularly drawn to the rocks and their lichens.  I noticed the fallen hickory and acorn shells.  Autumn is a wonderful time to learn about the tree population in the forest.  Prior to today, I hadn’t realized how many shagbark hickories are in the forest!

I found myself drawn to an oak tree.  I collected numerous acorn crafts for a project and then realized that I’d found a small grove of trees – the oak, an old hemlock, a hickory, and some maples.  They formed a near perfect circle.  The lyrics, “We approach the sacred grove,” left my lips and I found myself circling clockwise.  I made offerings and the wind rushed through my hair, filling me with joy.  I felt myself entranced by the swaying trees, especially the majestic maples towering above, already changing from green to golden and crimson.

I found a new quiet place to commune with the forest, and I left with a pocketful of acorn caps, and a handful of litter.  I feel reinvigorated and ready for the coming week.  I feel more connected to the land, to my Druidism, and to my spirit.  I think my nasal passages even felt a little clearer!   I miss seeing my friends and exploring other perspectives, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit the forest and be alone with my thoughts.  Today I was a proud Pagan in the woods.

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