Little Joys- Signs of Spring

Garden Gnome keeps watch

I am not the only one watching for signs of Spring.

Celebrating the Earth

This year’s Spring vacation was actually a “stay-cation” and I couldn’t be happier.  I spent a glorious week noticing the daily subtle changes in my own backyard.  Every day is Earth Day to me and every moment of every day has it’s own, never-to-be-replicated beauty.  From a gathering of bluejays to a spectacular sunrise, blink and I miss it.  Gaia calls us to be fully present to experience her rich bounty.

Daffodils in my Garden

The daffodils in my garden lift their joyful heads to the sun.

I celebrate the early spring color palette with each new blossom and blade of grass.  Blink and I miss the brilliant yellow daffodils in my garden lift their joyful heads to the sun.  The yellow forsythias wave their arms in greeting.  The white, delicate lace flowers of the serviceberry act as a veil between me and the clear blue sky.  “Everything is holy now,” Peter Mayer wisely wrote.

A veil of serviceberry blossoms against the bright blue sky

“Everything is Holy now” wrote Peter Mayer.

Blink and I miss the yellows and whites make way for the purple of lilac and hyacinth and the delicate pinks of cherry and dogwood.  Each has it’s own cycle within the greater cycle of transformation that forms the wheel of the year.

Blink and I miss the little place in my garden where a rabbit is preparing a nest for her young.  One day, I noticed the mulch in a flowerbed pushed aside.  Soon, dried grass and straw appeared in a neat little pile.  Then, this little nest materialized.  As I write and look out my window, the nest is completely hidden from view by a mother who instinctively knows what to do for her young ones.  How much wiser would we be if we were more attuned to Nature?  What do we know that we have forgotten?

Rabbit mother prepares for birth

Mulch and soil are pushed aside as a mother rabbit prepares a place for her babies.

Ok, confession time.  At the time of the Winter Solstice, I hung a wreath by my front door.  Amazingly, it stayed perfectly green through December, January, February, and most of March.  I should have taken it down but procrastinated.  By the time I thought about it again, I noticed a bird flitting back and forth from the wreath to wherever she needed to go for food and… you guessed it… building material for her nest.  Well, what could I do?  The wreath is brown and brittle but she loved the location and gave birth to three wee ones.  When they fly the nest, I’ll toss the wreath.  I promise.

Mother bird chooses a safe place for raising her young.

A winter wreath becomes the birthplace of three birds.

Honoring the Earth

I could sit in reverence all day every day, observing the beings in my yard live, grow, and eventually die.  The cycle of birth-death-rebirth is the natural way of things.  I know.  But Mother Earth calls me to action.  It’s not enough to take, I must give back to stay in right relationship with Her.

I honor Her by vowing to be a steward of the land entrusted to me for as long as I live here.  Ancestors of bloodline and ancestors of place are with me as I cut back dead raspberry canes and clear the space around my grapevines.  I hear my grandfather’s voice echo in my heart, gifting me with his wisdom of flora and fauna.  I see the rainbow of jars in my grandmother’s root cellar- her connection to the land made visible.  I sense the presence of those who tended this plot of land long before “my people” even set foot on the shore of North America as immigrants in the early 20th century.

So I garden without herbicides and pesticides.  I hang prayer flags and make offerings.  I grab a lawn chair and my watercolors for a quick plein air session with the tulips and squirrels.  I pick up every bit of trash that blows into my yard.  It’s heartbreaking to see a birdnest with trash woven in among the grass, straw, and twigs.  I plant native species and compost as much as possible.  I do what I can the best I can.

Most importantly, I sit in silence and listen to her many voices– the wind, the rain, the birdsong, and my own contented sighs of belonging.  Call it prayer, call it meditation,… I call it CONNECTION.

Being in Relationship with Mother Earth

I love them all… all of the beings on our beautiful planet.  My view of “beings” has greatly expanded with my awareness of indigenous cultures and earth-centered traditions.  Trees, streams, oceans, plains, mountains, polar bears, glaciers, bees, wolves, … do you get where I’m going with this?  We are all connected.  All life is one.

I weep for the fact that we live in a time where we have to march to protect our planet.  In less than three centuries, we have littered the world with plastic, fossil fuel pollution, and chemicals.  We have killed more species than I can fathom- extinct, gone,…forever.  We continue to threaten all life with our choices and this breaks my heart but I’m hopeful that we are raising awareness and more of us are doing what we can to help the environment… for all of us…and I do mean ALL OF US.

I pray that we can educate and enlighten the ignorant.  I also pray that love, light, reverence, and stewardship quickly replace greed, hatred, destruction, and domination.  May we each do what we can to protect our home… our Mother.  I hope you take part in one of the marches around the world next Saturday.  Raise your voice for those who don’t have a voice.

Mother Earth, Mother Earth,

Take our seeds and give them birth.

Father Sun, gleam and glow,

‘Til the roots begin to grow.

Sister Rain, Sister Rain,

Shed your tears to swell the grain.

Brother Wind, breathe and blow,

Tell the blades so green to grow.

Earth and Sun, Wind and Rain

Bring to life the living grain.

Waldorf Song for Children (Writer Unknown)

 

 

 

Blueberries for Everyone

It’s the start of blueberry season, a treasured time of year because I can pluck warm, juicy, perfectly ripened berries from the bush & pop them into my eager mouth.  You have to have this experience for yourself to know the world of difference between freshly-picked & store-bought berries.  There is no comparison!

Two years ago, I asked my boyfriend to build a wooden structure covered with netting to keep the birds off the blueberries.  After spending all day running errands, I came home to find a mourning dove with her wing tangled in the netting, flailing to free herself.  How long had she been trapped like that?!  I helped her get loose & thankfully, she flew away unharmed.  No amount of blueberries was worth seeing her frightened & distressed so I vowed to do things differently next year.

Last year, I didn’t cover the bushes at all.  While I thought I could get up early enough in the morning to get a few berries before the birds got them, it never happened.   Sure, the birds were happy but I was starving for blueberry pancakes, muffins,& smoothies.  Again, I vowed to do things differently next year.

It’s taken a couple of years but I think I’ve worked out a way to do this without being “extreme” in my methods (or ideology).  The solution… compromise.  (Isn’t that so often the solution?)  This year, we designed the perfect protection for the blueberries so we can enjoy them now & have plenty to freeze for winter while leaving two bushes uncovered to feed the birds.

Berries for Us

Berries for the Birds

This compromise is a symbol of my gratitude for what Mother Nature has given me as well as my belief that we must share what we have with others.  By freely sharing our abundance, there is more for me & more for the birds, too.  We all win!

Who knew that blueberry bushes would come to represent my spiritual journey? 

Plenty for Everyone

Owl Walk

Seeing an owl in the wild has been on my “Bucket List” for years.  It’s these smaller obtainable dreams that make life worth living & I do everything I can to make them come true.

A local park offered an Owl Walk last Friday night so we took advantage of the mild January evening & set off for an adventure.  It was the perfect evening, clouds covered the moon & stars so the night was totally dark… & totally silent (even with little children in the group!).  With our voices mute, we heard Mother Nature talking to us through the babbling stream that ran along the trail & the whispering wind in the branches of maples & firs not yet heavy with snow.  I closed my eyes & imagined a time before street lights & headlights.  A time before the hum of electricity drowned out the voice of nature.

Our guide called out to the screech owls who might be hiding in the darkness.  It sounded like the whinnying of a horse but it worked!  A screech owl responded to our call.  The guide called again.  The owl called back, each time circling a bit closer, closer… until the guide clicked on his flashlight.  The surprised owl sat on a low-lying branch just feet from us.  A bit disappointed that we weren’t a potential mate (I can only imagine), he pushed off the branch, spread his silent wings, & disappeared into the night.  No one spoke.  I could only squeeze my boyfriend’s hand in amazement.  Magic.

The watercolor & ink sketch below is in homage to the owls, trying to live among humans in habitats that are ever-shrinking.  I hope one day soon, we see how much responsibility goes along with being human & begin to respect & love our earthly home as well as our extended animal & plant family.

Who is looking at whom?

Curious Screech Owl

A Joy To Create

Animals have feelings, not unlike human animals– listen to a cow call longingly for her newborn calf, watch a mama Grizzly protect her cub, look at polar bear babies snuggling their mother as they sleep.  Knowing that animals are sentient beings who feel resonated with me most powerfully when Pixie, my Shih Tzu, mourned the loss of Buddy (my other Shih Tzu who died at age 13).  They were constant companions & she suffered the same way each of us suffer the loss of a loved one.  She got depressed, refusing to eat or drink.  She literally seemed to give up on life.  It took IV fluids, lots of love, & a new companion to give her the will to live without him.  For this & many other reasons, much of my artwork is an attempt to depict how animals might feel when left to live life freely.  I love the small painting shown below.  From the minute I lay the wet brush to the canvas, I knew this was going to be a fox with personality plus!

Sweet Dreams Fox captures a young red fox asleep among crunchy Autumn leaves, happily dreaming of chasing rabbits or playing with his foxy friends in a nearby field.  I can hear him making noises like a sleeping dog, little growls & barks of contentment.  Isn’t nature wonderful?  Aren’t animals amazing?  Don’t we owe it to them to be good stewards of the earth, spreading a message of peace, interconnectedness, & the value of all life?  (Sorry to be preachy…I guess I’m feeling the importance of this message as deer hunting season starts tomorrow.)

Sweet Dreams Fox... sleep well.

A Symbol of Halloween… & more

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Last night, I watched a History Channel special about the origins of Halloween traditions.  Fascinating!  The part about witches was particularly interesting because it goes along with women’s study workshops that I’ve led for a few years.  These classes explore women’s contributions to the arts, religion, politics, & literature.  They’re not Religion 101 or History 101 courses… they are opportunities for women to pursue their spiritual journey while learning about women’s roles in history.  How does that relate to Halloween & witches?

In pre-Judeo-Christian traditions, women held positions of power & authority.  In fact, the earliest religions were goddess-based & influenced matriarchal societies for generations.  Women were healers, mystics, & leaders.  Back then, the terms “crone” & “hag” meant wise women.  Somewhere along the way, these terms were twisted into something negative by authorities in a changing world.  An independent, land-owning woman who could heal with herbs & perform midwifery was seen as a threat to the new “barber-surgeons” & religious leaders who were male.  The tools of their trade– cauldrons, herbs, & a broom were villiafied.  According to the documentary, even the headcovering of a peasant woman (pointed hat) was turned into a symbol of witchcraft.  All this would be ridiculous if it hadn’t led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women during the Burning Times in Europe & early America.

Many women feel it’s time to reclaim their divinity.  There is honor & value at every stage of a woman’s life– maiden, mother, & crone.  How this impacts each woman can differ widely.  It has definitely influenced my art & how I see my place in the world.  I feel a greater connection & sense of responsibility for the earth & all living things.  That’s why so much of my art has animals and landscapes as subjects.  How would your life be different if you saw yourself as divine?

 

Harvest Celebration

I absolutely love the cool, clear blue mornings of September that herald the coming of Autumn.  With my coffee mug in hand, I wander past my herbs to the vegetable patch & grape vines.  Blisters & sweat that created this garden are all but forgotten as I recall the taste of our first crisp green beans.  I laugh, remembering our pitiful attempt to keep birds off the blueberry bushes.  When I moved here, I prayed… I’ll provide food & protection for wildlife if you bless us all with a bountiful harvest.  Sometimes, it’s equal… sometimes the birds & rabbits get more 🙂  This year, no one went hungry & for that, I’m truly grateful.

September 23rd is the Autumnal Equinox, marking the beginning of harvest celebrations around the world (Mabon, Chuseok, & Thanksgiving to name a few).  As I grow spiritually, it’s difficult to celebrate Thanksgiving as it began around 1620 in the colonies.  Not a proud time in our nation’s history, if you know what I mean.  How can I give thanks in a way that’s meaningful today?

I’m grateful for my boyfriend who toiled in the soil with me,  the animals who pollinate & aerate, the friends & family who share my life, & my ancestors who taught me the basic truth, ‘Everything tastes better fresh from the garden.”  To show my gratitude, I’ll prepare a meal made of local foods, offer my thanks before we eat, & renew my vow to compost & garden organically.

What are you thankful for?  Show your gratitude for the Earth’s bounty by growing something to eat, even if it’s in a pot on a windowsill… no home is too small.  Whatever you do, make your harvest celebration meaningful for you & those you love.  Blessings!

Voice for the Voiceless

Sometimes events are so horrible that the only way to express how I feel about them is through my artwork.  Global warming is one of those catastrophic events.  What humans have done to the earth should be criminal.  I don’t want to preach or go off on an angry tirade because neither approach inspires change.  I think of Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Jesus… people who spoke of change through nonviolence & love.  I smile thinking of the Beatles lyrics “All you need is love.”
My art, while sometimes inspired by tragedies such as global warming or the BP Oil Disaster, is meant to convey hope & love.  It’s also intended to celebrate the wonderful life on this planet.  Some people hold the view that mankind has “dominion” over the natural world.  What a negative belief that leads to power, violence, control, & death!!  Consider shifting the view to one of mankind’s “stewardship” over the natural world.  This more positive belief leads to compassion, love, nurturing, & continued life.  Let me add my voice to the Beatles & all those who have gone before me… All we need is love.  We’ve got to be stewards of this delicate planet.  Just think what a wonderful world this could be if we each, in our own special way, raised our voices for life & love.

Polar Bear Family: Like every good mother, this polar bear mama just wants the best for her children.

Baby Seal: It's time for a new era built on love & stewardship for the earth.

Time to Howl!!

I often say that my inspiration comes from nature.  This is the piece I was referring to in my last 2 blogs.  It’s not finished yet but I wanted to show you the process I go through to complete a collage.  Can’t you hear Wolf howling?  As people become more educated about the world around them, they see the beauty and majesty in these wonderful creatures.  As we move away from a world of domination toward a world of stewardship, we see more clearly the interconnectedness of  all things.

Many ancient cultures revered (and still revere) Wolf.  To some, it is a power animal representing guardianship, loyalty, and spirit.  Wolves are wild, highly intelligent, social creatures.  They make quick decisions and represent the need for us to make decisions based on intuition.  The more we attune ourselves with the natural world, the more we will hear that small voice inside of us.  Call it intuition, gut instinct, or even guardian angel.  It’s the voice we need to honor and listen to more often.  Does Wolf represent you… or me… or both?

The drawing becomes a blueprint for the collage.

Wolf is howling to me to finish this piece!