Autumn in New England #foliage #newengland

It’s the time of year when cars snake the highways for miles while their occupants peep through windows with cameras at the ready. For a few precious weeks, if we’re lucky, the New England autumn paints us the colors of wonder.

View from Rattlesnake Mountain, Rumney, NH

When summer turns the corner into autumn in New England, the body and mind begin to succumb to the pull of winter. There is a natural turning inward to find the cocoon before rebirthing into spring. Yet, in this in-between time, we are graced with a glory that is hard to overlook.

Town Pond, Bow, NH

Summer lingers in the warmer days, pulling the body outdoors to bask in the golden light of an autumn sun. “Look at me!” Earth calls out. How can we resist?

Another view from Rattlesnake Mt., Rumney, NH

And I am reminded, once again, how lucky I am to call this place home.

The Bow Town Pond from the trailside that runs nearby my home.

Subbing the Middle Grades & Why I Kinda Like it #substituteteaching #middleschool #empathy

Photo by Dids from Pexels

“You’re doing a good job.”

“I hope you sub for us again.”

“Have a great day!”

These were some of the words expressed by my preteen bosses yesterday, and they matter to me. A lot. This is one of the reasons I show up when I get the call to substitute for a teacher who is absent for the day. The pay is lousy, but the bosses can be pretty great.

By great I don’t mean easy. They test me nearly endlessly, as 10-13 yr-olds tend to do. They can be brutally honest, a royal pain in the neck, and incredibly kind. They are our youth in the process of becoming their adult selves. In the classroom, among them, I am reminded of my own struggles, the struggles of my own teenagers, and of how darn hard it can be to be human in the process of becoming.

Each day offers a clean slate. I generally have no idea if I will get the call, and if I do, where I will end up. No matter what, though, I learn something. And usually that learning comes from my young bosses. Yesterday, while taking a mask break outside with my charges bosses, I was reminded of the power of empathy and how beautiful the face of compassion is.

“Throw the ball! Throw the ball!” the words pressured the release of the girl’s hand, which threw without aim, landing the tennis ball on the side of a young boy’s head. It was an accident that resulted in tears but also an unfolding of frustration into the pure, opened heart of empathy.

In a matter of seconds the girl was by the boy’s side, her face awash with compassion and regret. Before he could find his own words, she had made her way to the nurse’s office and back outside with a soft ice pack in her hand.

Never in those moments was there anger or blame. The tears took awhile to disappear back into joy, but they did. By the end of our brief recess, you would not have known there had been an interruption if you were just passing by.

Last week, it was my turn to express compassion and empathy. And with all that baggage of years between us, I’ll admit it took me more seconds than it did for that 10-yr-old-girl.

“Hey, Sam [not his real name],” I called over to the 8th grader who had tested my limits last year like no other kids had. I was ready for resistance. Prepared for a rough day.

Instead, the voice behind the reply sounded impressed, even flattered. “How do you know my name?”

“I remember you from last year.”

“You do?”

“Yeah.”

That was all it took. If I had told him why, the outcome would have probably been vastly different. Instead, I made the choice to be honest without expounding upon why. I had remembered Sam and that was enough for him. It was, in fact, more than enough. It made him happy. It transformed him a little, and in turn it transformed me.

I don’t know what Sam’s day-to-day life is like, but I know enough about being a middle-schooler to know that it is not always easy. Each action, or non-action in the case of children who fold into themselves, is often a call for acceptance. A call for love. I can only assume that Sam’s tendency towards disruption is a result of his own struggles. Although it can be tiresome and frustrating, it doesn’t mean he is not worthy of love.

I can’t wrap my arms around these young bosses of mine, but I can choose to show them I care in other ways. Sometimes a simple act can yield a profound reaction. I’ve only subbed three days so far this school year and each day has left me transformed.

That, to me, is a day well spent.

What’s Happened to Kindness and Empathy #empathy #compassion #pandemic

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay

I live in a typical upper middle-class American town. People are kind when it’s convenient, and unkind, I suspect more often than most realize. At least these days. It is a place where behind closed doors comparisons are made and unkind remarks are uttered, but it is also a town where, more and more, unkind words are uttered in public. Especially on platforms like social media.

We have a town FB page that was created with the intention to build community. Whenever I go on it, I find posts where people are mocked and attacked. This is not community. This is not kindness. This is not empathy. This is not, I am sure, the only town like this is America. Or in the world right now. We are living in an era of extreme polarization fed by fear and hatred. More often than not, we are globally tapping into the shadowlands of ourselves to react to life, instead of finding the self in the other.

We can blame the previous POTUS for being an instigator and propagator of this dehumanizing type of behavior, but that is also a convenient excuse. Each one of us is endowed with the choice of our actions, thoughts, and words. In any moment we can behave with self-serving rhetoric, or we can step into the space of empathy, kindness, and love.

Some days, like today, I struggle with the pull to react and defend. To try to balance the scales back to humanity. Mocking a global pandemic, which has caused millions of people to die or become seriously ill, is not an act of empathy, love, or kindness. It is an action that is, simply, unjustifiable.

Undermining someone’s concern for their child’s welfare, and the welfare of their child’s classmates and teachers, by a laughing emoji reflects not only a lack of empathy, but a lack of humanity.

We an use the argument of “lies” v. “truth,” which is ever-so-popular right now in our fear-driven, conspiracy-fed world, but where does that truely led us? To more separation from our core essence. To more separation from ourselves and each other. The need to be special, unique, right, and different, drives us away from the realization that we are all worthy of this life we are living.

On My Birthday #poetry #birthdays

The 12th card I drew

I’m going to imagine something different:

The beauty of the goddess unfolding

Light softening the edges of life

Years, a mold of becoming

The inner child emerging

and merging into the dance

of a perfection that is truth

This messy cohesion of unity

Something radiant called a Life

So many journeys to get to this place

Defining and refining

Breaking down to build

Whole

Like a chalice spilling over

to fill again, and again

Tireless infinity splitting open

the moment not like a wound

but like a lover seeking joy

This seed waiting to germinate

finding the sun was always there

in the full splendor of wonder

watching the budding of a radiance

thriving under the moon, night

as much a friend as day

the taste of sorrow becoming happiness

refined

I wrote this poem before drawing 12 tarot cards as a reflection upon this day. Forty-eight years ago I was born into this life. A life that seems, at times, difficult to define and accept. Birthdays have never been easy days for me, in large part because they have been days, like all the others, not wholly mine to embrace and be embraced by. I knew I would find the chalice in the cards, but I thought it would be The Queen of Cups, as this is how the “I” has reflected itself over the years, but 12 cards unfolding this journey brought The Ace. I had, after all, asked for something new...

Summer of Rain and Fire #climatechange #ahimsa #kindness #pandemic

I no longer wonder how long it will last, but how long we will endure.

We are living in extremes. One side of the world weeps, while the other side burns in fever. One element, without the other, leads to imbalance. Just like in the human body. Too much yin swallows life force. Too much yang, burns it up. Yet, somehow, for now, we endure. Endure to hold onto extremes…

We reflect what we create.

Denial can be a powerful force of destruction. Eyes resist focusing on what brings discomfort.

Turmoil stirs the Earth, but it also stirs the self.

How often do we forget that what we sow within, we reap outside of us?

I find myself growing tired of excuses. The unchecked ego filled with self-affirming prophecies refusing to go inward to see outside the self with clear eyes.

I find myself growing tired of the selfish mind refusing to remember that we are here to take care of not only the self, but the whole.

I am tired of those who insist on being right at the expense of life. Denying a crisis serves no purpose other than for the ego to feel justified.

We are taught by our spiritual leaders that all life is sacred. That we are just one part of a whole. We are taught interconnectedness and to do no harm, yet the ego’s search for separation has led to a world that burns and weeps extremes. A world where more than 4 million people have died from a virus that is mutating out of control because there are so many hosts that refuse to believe it is real.

Refuse to see that inaction can cause harm.

Our Earth was created with free energy and that energy has never left us. Yet we burn her lungs for profit, and drill into the body that feeds us for industrial gain. Temporary gains leaving trails of disease and death.

We are, undeniably, a selfish lot, but we don’t have to be.

Small gestures can go a long way…

Getting a vaccine can not only save your life, but countless others.

Wearing a mask if you are at risk of harming your own life and others, is not a violation of your personal rights, it is an act of ahimsa. It is an act of grace and kindness.

Tending to the planet is not an act of weakness, it is an act of strength. It is an act of ahimsa. It is an act of grace and kindness.

Summer Robin Family #robins #rebirth #birds

I have become enraptured by a family of robins. I noticed their nest about a month ago, hanging on a low branch of my lilac bush. A mere few inches above the top of my head, it is ideally situated for my viewing. It also happens to be perfectly aligned with one of the windows on my porch. Ideal for taking photographs without intruding on privacy.

On Tuesday I noticed the first hatchling and became enraptured. That was it. My heart filled with love and awe for the circle of life that had decided to grace my yard.

To be privy to this brief unfolding; to watch its emergence and transformation, instills within the humble joy of bearing witness to a miracle. It is the dance of grace. It is small, yet profound reminder that life is in constant cycle.

I have named this family even though they are not mine to name. I am calling the babies Sue and Rachel, and I think perhaps no one will mind that I do. It is my way of remembering two lives that are in their own process of cycling. Two lives I was fortunate enough to share with my own for a brief time. Both lovers of birds who are now untethered from Earth. It seems fitting.

Many a moment is now spent watching. Watching the mother, Bratha, as she tends to her chicks. There are only two, where the average is 3-5 eggs per breeding cycle for the American robin. The number fits nicely into my homage.

In just a few days the eyes of the chicks have opened and their bodies have sprouted thick coats of mottled gray. They are beginning to find their voices as they call out their hunger to their mother.

She is mostly patient and obliging, but she also gives them space. Space to emerge into individuality. I find it both heartbreaking and beautiful. It reminds me of loss, but also of hope.

Why this Yoga Practitioner Believes in Science, Truth, and the Prevailing Goodness of Humanity #weareallinthistogether #science #truth #vaccines

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I am sitting in my car, driving home from my yoga class, shaking my head. The radio is tuned to NPR and there is (another) program on about the pandemic. There have been other programs before it, there will likely be many more as we struggle to overcome what has become a struggle not with just a virus, but with our humanity.

The mystics of old, as well as the mystery schools, teach us that we are all, in essence, one. We are each a piece of a larger consciousness. A consciousness that we become somewhat (but no wholly) separated from for a period of time to learn and grow back into the return of unity.

This is the prevailing concept that drives my life. This is why I turned to the mysteries. To yoga. To studying Life, as best I can, in each moment.

To me, the concept of “oneness” includes the knowing that at our core there is love. It is the force of love that drives life into being. It is the force of love that sustains the continuation of Life, and it is the force of love that unites our separation into unity.

Even though I grew up with a very scientifically structured childhood and adolescence, there were seeds of spirituality scattered throughout. Seeds of this idea of unity and of a conscious energy that flows through all life. In the closet were decks of Tarot cards, no longer used. On the shelves, books about the divine feminism and yoga. In my household there was the prevailing, underlying knowing of this greater consciousness, even if it was largely ignored.

I studied biology (and English) at Bowdoin College. A place filled with brilliant minds and inquisitive students. My lust for understanding Life led me to read writing by philosophers, mystical poets, and scientific texts based on logic and theories that could be tangibly proven. After Bowdoin, I went on to study, for a brief time, at Brown University. Another place filled with brilliant minds and inquisitive students. Over the course of my years studying in the field biological sciences, I worked in four different research laboratories. I ran experiments in molecular genetics at Bowdoin, and in two different laboratories at Brown. Then, when I left Brown after deciding that a career in a laboratory wasn’t for me, I took a 1.5. yr temporary position under a neurogeneticist who was getting ready to retire at Massachusetts General Hospital. Why am I telling you all of this? Because during these years I met and worked with several brilliant minds all with a shared interest of studying and understanding Life, not for mere personal gain, but for a genuine and sincere interest in making the lives of others better.

Over the years I have moved into the more mystical side of science, yet “science” is ever-present in my life. It always will be. Science is integral to who we are. We are complex molecular structures woven into complex bodies of cells, muscles, and tissues that move and operate through a matrix of energy systems. We are science, but we are also more. Pervading through these bodies of cells and atoms is a life force that sustains us and will sustain our being after our bodies return to Earth.

Life happens. Things go wrong. We get sick. We mistreat our bodies. We mistreat each other. We are human beings having a human experience. We are imperfect. That is why we are here to learn and to grow…back into unity.

This is why I am deeply troubled, as I know many of you are, by the extreme polarity that persists in our world. That stuff that seeds war, racism, hatred, and mistrust is bothersome to me. All of these aspects of our minds that move us away from unity and the knowing that we are more alike than we are different. This polarizing movement away from the knowing that we are all, in essence, seeds of the same light.

We have our individual experiences, and hence we are different from each other. Experiences, which I believe, most often extend throughout many lifetimes. Yet are are not served well from these experiences if we do not explore their effects on us and on others.

I have a friend whom I consider to be deeply spiritual. She has studied Shamanism, as well as reiki and other forms of the more mystical aspects of life for many years. And she is also college educated, with two degrees, was brought up in a Jewish household, and considers herself a follower of both the mysteries and science. Although she has a deeply rooted fear of needles (not vaccines), which may seem illogical unless you follow the thread of experiences of past-lives, she pushed through her fears and got the COVID-19 vaccine. Even though she is health-compromised from fibromyalgia, I am happy to report she is doing fine post-vaccine. There were some uncomfortable side effects a day-and-a-half, but they have passed.

I am incredibly impressed by her strength and fortitude. I admire her ability to balance a life of science and mysticism while constantly keeping her fears in check through awareness. She believes in the prevailing goodness of humanity, even though she knows we are all imperfect beings having a human experience. My friend also believes in facts and data. She knows that “numbers don’t lie,” and that the deaths from this virus have far exceeded any fear she harbored about getting jabbed with a needle. In her case, she is not afraid of the vaccine, she is afraid of the mechanism that administers it.

And she owns it. In order to understand her fear she did not divine into a conspiracy. She did not search the irrational to find an excuse. She dove into herself. This is, in my humble opinion, what defines a good Life student. My friend sought to understand herself, and in doing so, uncovered the root of her resistance to getting the jab. And in doing so, she overcame it. Not just to help herself, but because she knows that we are all interconnected. She is aware that by vaccinating herself, despite the risks of her underlying health condition, she is helping others who may be susceptible to becoming ill, or worse, from a virus.

A couple of days ago, another friend of mine brought to my awareness a recent article titled “Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine Was My Act of Ahimsa.” Ahimsa is the yogic practice of living life with the intention of inflicting as little harm as possible on other beings. It is the principle of altruism based on a selfless knowing that we are all connected, and that all life has meaning and value. The author of the article wrote this assertion after her diligent research separating facts from conspiracies and speaking with experts in the field, “It brought me right back to my understanding of ahimsa. While the concept of ahimsa’s direct command is not to kill, its wider, and more positive meaning is simple: to love.”

Unlike my friend, the author of this article was at very low risk for having any side-effects from the virus or the vaccine, yet she decided to get the vaccine as an act of ahimsa. She thought not merely of herself, but of the wholeness of humanity of which she is a part. She weighed the risks against the benefits. She explored the intricacies of science and how viruses work, as well as the vaccines meant to keep them in check. And, she overcame her personal fears to do what she considers to be the right thing for the world.

Feeding mistrust divides us. A lot of controversy spun out of this article, which appeared in Yoga Journal. Some people were outraged. Others read through their personal fears and insecurities and saw the love at the core of it. They saw Ahimsa. Sometimes life requires us to surrender to trust and faith in the prevailing goodness that unites us. Yes, there will always be those that would do harm based upon their own life experiences, but the vast majority of beings walking this Earth are striving, ever-striving, towards that reconnection with Love. Including the scientists and healthcare workers that dedicate their lives toward ahimsa.

Before I get out of my car to enter back into my home, I listen to the words of the reporter on the radio, lingering for a moment in my garage. He is talking about all those thousands of people dedicated to saving lives. In particular, various healthcare workers who are emotionally and physically exhausted from months that have now stretched past a year of trying to save lives. And he is talking about some, more than a few, who are so exhausted they are considering giving up their careers. They simply have depleted their personal supply of constantly giving of themselves in the face of death and adversity. Giving up their careers is not turning away from ahimsa, it is, sadly, instead a result of too many people not practicing its principles. We cannot do it all alone, but we can, together, live in the belief of love.

Blueberry Blessings on a Dragon Hill #nhhikes #bownhtrails #knottingcookforest

The Gathered Blessings of a Blueberry Hill

The first time I met my husband he told me a story about Blueberry Mountain. In truth, the mountain was a hill, and it had some other name, but that’s not really what matters. What matters is the magic the hill held for him. We were just seventeen, and we were on our first “date.” We first met on the 4th of July thirty years ago at the ASP program at St. Paul’s School. I was studying biology, and he, ecology. But on the 4th of July his dorm hosted my dorm for an ice cream social. The rest is our story…

Which, you could say, began atop a hill covered in blueberries. Although we could not leave the campus for our first date, he still took me to that special place. Together we sat in the tower room of the school’s library as we shared stories and got to know each other. Dave was working on an essay for the required writing course, and I was offering my feedback. The story was about a hill he climbed with his family during their summers at the lake. A hill topped in midseason with wild blueberries.

The hill, alas, as fallen into private hands, but I was lucky enough to climb it with my husband to gather blueberries together before the “No Trespassing” signs went up. Now we have our own “blueberry hill,” and there we went last night on the eve of our wedding anniversary to gather the hill’s blessings and enjoy the summer’s evening.

I call it “Dragon Hill.” The first time we climbed it, I saw the head of a dragon on the side of the path. There are places woven through Earth where the dragon lines are strong, and this is one of them. It is, undeniably, a special place. Even though it is a small hill in a small town, seekers find it from other states. They may not be consciously aware of its magic, but they are drawn to it nonetheless.

Yesterday, as day settled into dusk, we walked the back of the dragon with our two dogs and I found joy peeling away the outer layers of stress. It has been a trying couple of years for many of us, for a variety of reasons not just related to the pandemic, and in that moment of walking I felt some of that holding release. I was reminded, in the walking, that Earth offers us healing when we seek it through the space of the heart. It merely requires an opening.

What a gift it is to walk the Mother-body of Gaia. To feel the surrender to her love. There is a joy in the unity that comes from walking into her embrace. She might not actively reach for us, but her arms are always open to receive.

We had not thought to bring a collection bag with us. In truth, we were going for the sunset, which gave us in returned a clouded sky. When we saw fellow climbers gathering the ripe fruit from the hilltop, we paused but continued on. It was only in the turning back that we stopped to gather. Taking a small bag meant for the dogs’ waste, we opened up to the gift of the hill’s abundance, recalling the hill that thirty years before symbolically brought us together.

Although the area had peaked with its offering, we took just enough to make a batch of muffins and perhaps some pancakes. Not enough for a pie, but enough for joy.

Emergence #emergence #growth #gratitude

I contemplate emergence while watching dragonflies come into form...
Rocks emerging out of Merrymeeting Lake, New Durham, NH

We spent the past week going back and forth to the lake. It was supposed to be a quiet week, but life has a way of pulling us into its force without giving us directions. We were sort-of prepared for chaos. We knew my daughter would have morning sessions for her summer program to attend. Then there was work. She trying to fill in for the weeks she would be missing during her three weeks residence, plus my scattered yoga classes, and my husband’s half-day he didn’t want to give up.

On Wednesday, the day when no one had anything to do beyond noontime, the sky decided to dance rain while the fridge went on vacation. It could have been worse. We were home anyway, as who wants to water ski in a rainstorm?

As I shoveled bags of frozen food into coolers I began to think about fortune. How lucky we were to be home to save this food that would surely perish in a day or two if it had warmed, with our fridge, to room temperature in summer. The fact that we had so much food to save only reinforced our fortune.

The modern convenience whose generator had run its course also brought to mind dependence. I do not can. I freeze. My tiny garden has yet to yield the bulk of its bounty for the season. While I was digging through the thawing treasures in the freezer box, I found three bones filled with peanut butter banana ice cream. Zelda, realizing she had hit the treats jackpot decided she’d better save one for later. Within seconds, half my crop of ready-to-be-picked lettuce and two budding pepper plants disappeared into the dirt along with a bone.

Yet, how fortunate I was to have peppers and lettuce from the grocery store. Grown by someone else. How dependent I was. How interdependent we all are…

It can be an uncomfortable state to be in, this state of interdependence, but I’m not sure it has to be. The next morning I found myself in bed thinking about how the big can appear small and the small big, depending upon perspective. The Earth, from the scale of the universe, a mere dot orbiting a tiny sun that will eventually burn out, holding our all of our breath in check. And how very few of us will ever emerge out of its atmosphere to take in the vast expanse beyond our Earthly existence.

Back at the lake, I watched dragonflies emerge from their nymph stage of life. Ugly prehistoric brown bugs emerging into exquisite winged beings. Tiny dragons. Magic in corporeal form. And here I was, sitting at the edge of the womb of the lake, watching beauty being birthed. Watching, without seeing, the force of life propelling the push into existence.

A dragonfly on the verge of beauty

The Labyrinth of a Life #animalmessengers #leylines #nhhikes #knottingcook

Following the lines in New England

Outside my window a falcon calls out his hunt. A screech piercing the too dark morning. It doesn’t feel like summer today. It’s cool and the air is laden with moisture yet to be released. Just now I hear a few fat drops plucking the gutters. They have squished through the membrane of the clouds, which stubbornly wait to release their bounty. I have not felt much like blogging since Sue’s death. Sometimes I even ask myself what the point is to all of this writing about a life perceived through the lens of my eyes.

And some days I wait for the play of her light across my screen, scrolling the darkness to bright. I hover somewhere in the middle most days. The canvas of life fills with vibrancy and shadows. A play of sun and night. Such is the fate of our human existence. This strange world where disorder appears as order and chaos plays with truth.

Yesterday, while hiking together, I told my friend how Sue gave me the ending to my book. But I still haven’t finished it. When she fell ill, I let it sit, mostly, simmering on a back-burner fueled by hope, denial, and everything in between. Now she must know the dedication holds her name and that of the winged being who grasped both our hands and held tight.

She sends me birds and feathers. Signs from Horus and her beloved Raven clan. It couldn’t be more fitting. Three times she grew the light on my screen so that I would not miss the dragons and suddenly I knew where she was waiting for the ending. Of course she knows. How could she not?

Now I am blessed with an ending that feels like chaos and order. Is she laughing? I can see her face filled with the sun. Oh yes, she undoubtably is, but it is a good laughter. Full of mischief and knowing. I try to imagine what time must be like loosened from the confines of the body. Woven like the tapestry of the spider web. Her labyrinth, but also mine.

I follow the lines now, here. She knew that time would come, but how I resisted! It is not England, but it is New England. I don’t always like change. It is with a great deal of reluctance that I release the pull of the old home to find magic in the new. Yet the dragons stir beneath my feet when I walk new paths back to memories that must also be mine. Underneath, the labyrinth joins it all. Invisible, yet visible when the eye opens. The fire quickens the breath and life returns to the place of magic. In these moments the mundane slips into the dull corners of the canvas and sighs with release.