Is it a question you have ever considered? Or, perhaps it is your customary way of interacting with the world around you. For most of us who are no longer living inside the bodies of children, I think, living with wonder takes a bit of effort. Or, more aptly put, a fair amount of surrender. It is a mindful act of welcoming the magic of life back into our awareness.
In February, as part of a 4-day a yoga and book club series of events based upon the lessons from my middle grade metaphysical fantasy book, The Labyrinth, I will be guiding a “walk with wonder” at a local hiking spot. This idea has been playing around inside of my mind for some time now. And, as many of you who read my blog on a regular basis will know, it is not a concept that is foreign to who I am. I am an adventurer my nature, and love nothing better than getting outside and exploring the magic it has to offer up.
I can’t say that every moment I spend in nature is an opening to wonder, but when I allow that conscious, mindful surrendering to occur, I am never disappointed. Sometimes the results are familiar, sometimes they are a surprise. You never quite know what you are going to encounter with your senses when they are tuned to the world around you.
And so, as I thought about what it means to “walk with wonder,” I found myself scrolling through some of the photos I have taken during my walks over the last few years. Finding, you might say, the proof in the pictures. You don’t need a camera to capture the wonder around you, you merely need a willing heart. Sometimes, in fact, the camera is a distraction. To fully walk in wonder, it is probably better left at home, or in your pocket if it’s attached to your phone.
Nonetheless, here are a few things you might find when you walk with wonder:
If you could dream anything into being what would it be? We all harbor secret longings and aspirations. There’s that needling, persistent urge inside of each of us that won’t let us go. Or maybe you have followed that needling and somehow brought your dream into reality. Whatever the story might be, I’d love to hear about it. Share it in the comments, send me it as a guest post, whatever pulls your heart toward joy…I’d love to hear about it. Let’s share those secret, or not so secret, longings that sometimes keep us up at night with all their wonderful “what ifs.”
My secret longings have changed over the years, but there have been some constants. There has always been a pull inside of me to help bring more beauty into the world to erase some of the darkness… These days there’s a nagging dream that follows me while I walk in the woods. It seeps into my dreams and shows me the full beauty of its wonderment. I don’t know if it will ever be realized, but maybe, just maybe someday I will see it transform into the daylight. When I envision it, it makes my heart sing. Isn’t that what all dreams without the nightmare are meant to do?
I’m sharing my dream with you in the hopes that you will share yours too. That perhaps it will spark a light that grows a little stronger as we find the courage to find a home for each of our secret longings.
Here is the “dream” that fills me with the Wild Wonder of What-If:
Imagine a place, if you will, where people can go to find their own wild wonder. Where we are moved to step outside the confines of structure and conformity to find that home inside the heart where we realize we are a part of everything that surrounds us. It is a place where nature runs wild and free and where we are reminded of home. That we are not separated from, but a part of the whole, and the natural world that surrounds us.
In my dream there are “centers” where people can explore wild wonder and what it means to them. They are places where the inner child opens to joy and finds home inside the self and all that surrounds it. Perhaps that center offers classes and workshops, or maybe it is simply a gateway to nature. The only rules are kindness and compassion. Both for the self, and for our surroundings.
It is perhaps a movement, more than a place. A reconnection to our roots. The knowing that we are not just of the Earth and all that exists, but a part of it.
Because I’m writing a middle grade book series that very much centers around this concept, my dream includes the heroes of my books and their passions. At the centers I envision:
Sula’s Library of Wonderful Reads
Aponi’s Field of Pollinator Delights
Shesha’s Meditation & Mindfulness Maze
Lupe’s Local Eats Organic Cafe
Dell’s Fantastic Fairy Gardens & Pools
Ari’s Adventure Walks in the Woods
And so much more…
It’s fun to dream about what we want to create, but creating can be a challenge. I am trying to bring my vision forth in steps. Writing the book series is one of them. My husband and I talk about where we might live someday when our kids are out of college, and I can envision the first center perhaps beginning at that place. After all, my ideas for the centers arose out of a walk I took with him on the 4th of July. Somehow we landed at a place that perfectly suited this vision. It had, already, all the foundations of the elements I saw in the vision. The property, though, was not for sale. That’s okay, we’re not ready to move.
“Warriors of Light: The Labyrinth, was a great story to read with my daughter. From a young age, she was aware of the suffering of humans and our disconnection from Mother Earth. Recently, it has been more palpable as we had to leave our beloved homestead because our water was contaminated by application of forever chemical (PFAS) filled sludge on our neighbor’s farm. When I asked her if I should have shielded her better from what is going on in our broken relationship with Earth, she told me that she was grateful that I talked about these things with her and what we do to be transformation because she could plainly see that the relationship with Earth is out of harmony. Initiation is a personal path that leads to the universal story, and seeing that there are guides and paths to healing, it is not an easy or straightforward journey. It takes grace, forgiveness, acceptance, courage, honesty, bravery… There is power, too, in that we are not the only ones on the paths of the labyrinth, but others are making their way and our stories interconnect.“
When I showed these words to a friend of mine, she told me she wished there we more dads in the world like this one. I replied, “If there were, the world would be a vastly different place.”
After I read the email from the father of a young reader, my heart filled with hope, and my eyes, tears. We are living in a world of extremes as we individually and collectively struggle to control the chaos that we have co-created. The irony is that, for the most part, we seem to have forgotten that we have, indeed, created the hatred, violence, anger, injustice, and degradation of life that we so desperately are trying to find a way out of. Instead of kindness, compassion, and empathy, we too often point the finger in blame. We rage. We fight. We struggle for control.
And, we and all life on the planet suffer because of our actions (and inactions), including the living planet itself. Our struggles to be right. To hold onto limiting belief systems and ways of living are inhibiting us from living in harmony with life. How telling it is that a 9-yr-old child knows this innately, but somehow the vast majority of us have forgotten this Truth.
What we reap, we sow. Years ago, I made a vow to “find the light behind the story.” We are all bodies of stories, and together we share the stories of our history. We are long over-due to change the narratives. Read the words of the father in quotes once more. Feel them in your bones. What are they saying to you?
For me, they are a reminder of why I write what I do. The only way to change the narrative is to rewrite it. By rewriting it, we Do Not erase. Instead, we dig into our shadowland and find the light, and the light is what we grow. Our very lives depend upon it. If you are in doubt, ask a child who has not yet forgotten.
The other day, I found myself chatting with a friend about our writing aspirations. While I was talking about my visions for the Warriors of Lightbook series, the conversation veered into the subject of magic. I mentioned how most books that use magical elements are placed into the category of fantasy because they are beyond the realms of the realistic. They entertain and enthrall us by encouraging our minds to play with the fantastic in the form of the impossible or unreachable. They stir our imaginations in a way that leaves us wishing for something we will never obtain. Fantasy, though, can also remind the imagination that there is more to life than we often allow ourselves to notice…
How frustrating it can be to feel as though a magical life is illusive and always beyond the realm of possibility. When I mentioned that a few readers of The Labyrinth had compared my book to one of the most popular fantasy series written, our conversation began to explore the definition of magic and how much it differs in my series vs. the one it had been compared to. The young “warriors of light” protagonists are not wizards or witches, nor do they use wands or attend a school that teaches spells and potions. Instead, their teacher is the labyrinth, a magical maze they journey through individually and together to bring back the light where it has been broken by darkness. Sure there are somewhat fantastical elements. The six young protagonists learn how to shapeshift into their spirit animals. Some of them see ghosts and all of them converse with beings in other realms, but is there really so fantastic?
Magic Can Be Extraordinary
Those how have traveled the shamanic journey will probably tell you that shapeshifting, or communing with spirit totems is not so fantastical. And, I’d wager most of us have had communications with spirits or beings from other realms, whether we realize it or not.
The hidden realms of life reveal their wonder as we open ourselves to the inherent magic that resides in all life. Like young children who have not yet lost their connection to inherent magic, our inner sight and senses re-expand beyond the ho-hum of the everyday routines. A mere walk in nature can stir the cells into a state of blissful union. Glimpses, or perhaps more, of the extraordinary become common, but no less magical. The more connected we feel, the more interconnected we feel as joy arises from our sense of being a part of an infinite web of light.
The Magical Inner Journey
While adding truly fantastical elements to a book of fiction can be fun, the magic of a hero’s journey arises out of self-discovery. It is an inner journey as well as outer journey. This is magic that is not only sustainable, but grows with awareness. The state of joy becomes accessible, achievable, and sustainable unlike a material treasure that is not easily found and can be lost, or stolen away. The gift of inherent magic can only be robbed by the self as it resides within the self.
Magic is an opening to and not a manipulation of energy
True magic arises out of the very essence of life. It does not manipulate the forces of the elements, but opens to the inherent magic that already exists. Herein lies true wonder. The state of joy is accessible through the opening. When we allow ourselves to open to life’s mysteries we find connection, truth, and re-union. Although most of us are not trained in shamanism, or have the ability to shapeshift into our spirit animals like the protagonists in the Warriors of Light series, we do have the ability to connect with and glean wisdom, inspiration, and a sense of union with the animal and plant communities around us. Many of us experience an aspect of this connection with the animal companions that live in our homes, but we can also open ourselves to connecting with the wildlife outside of our homes. Sitting in the presence of a tree and bearing witness to its enduring strength and flexibility, or watching the transformation of an earth-bound caterpillar into a near-weightless butterfly can bring profound insight, peac,e and awe to the observer.
Magic is Living in Wonder
This is magic. It is opening to life and all of its wonders that exists and unfold in each moment all around us. It is the knowing that not everything can, or will be known, in one’s lifetime, because life is filled with such complex and intricately balanced beauty that no mind can truly understand creation.
We left the eye with more questions than answers. Inside my mind’s eye I could still see the figure of white light standing over the pyramid stone. Waiting for our arrival. Waiting for the white pillar of crystal I had promised to seed at its base.
It was a short walk, through the tangle of roots and moss, to get back to the stone that had filled my thoughts for two months. I dropped my backpack nearby, and began digging through the contents for the wrapped selenite and Sophia’s small pyramid of rose quartz. As I searched for the pink stone, a noise rustled the forest into alert and we knew hikers were approaching.
Worry set in a bit as I wondered if we would be interrupted when it really matter most, but I soon discovered that our visitors were, in essence, just what we needed. A heaviness had set in after leaving the guardians and the white boulder. I, personally, felt a bit of an unease as to whether we were really meant to be near the “eye,” or had tried to “look” too closely at what was not meant to be observed. But there had been the wren, and I had to believe there was a purpose to our visit, even it if was not wholly revealed.
The wolf-dog appeared before his human companion. Later, Deb would remark about how even her appearance seemed more than accidental. A tall blond with blue eyes filled with an ethereal light. She and her rescued husky brought a joy that was much needed. That had somehow dissipated after our climb.
Ari and his caretaker had lightened our collective mood, and after their departure we decided to take a few moments to ground ourselves with some food and water. It was clear, through our visitors, that we were not meant to rush.
Trusting the inner guidance I was receiving, I suggested we form our own pyramid to seed our offerings and then join our energy with the energies surrounding us.
It was a natural unfolding, the white pillar slid into darkness, settling well below the base of the mighty stone above it, while Sophia and Deb seeded their stones at the points of their calling. No one else appeared from the trails as we gathered together again to extend our arms into three sides. Each voice, in turn, opening to words of gratitude for our presence being allowed. And, our offerings being received.
Our work soon felt complete, and a quiet fatigue settled in as we began to make our descent down the mountain. Although we shared words, we were also individually wrapped in the processing of our experiences. I, wondering if the lines might shine a little brighter than when I had first arrived on the serpent mountain two months prior. And, perhaps, a little more opened. Lines rejoining as the crystals settled back into the body of the Mother.
“It’s a snake!” Deb announced, as I shrieked and jumped back into the arms of Sophia.
“Oh gosh,” I apologized. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare it away.”
A garter snake, well into adulthood, its brown and tawny body blending with the earth, slithered away from our path and into the underbrush of the forest.
I thought of Shesha, the snake-boy from my book. The fourth character in the six to appear that day. And we all thought of Isis. It seemed a fitting guide for the end of our journey.
The small blue car coasted down the mountain with more ease than it had ascended. As we turned the corner to join the main road, a bear arose from the wooden face of a store placard. There, before me, was my sign from Sula, the bear-girl. All that was left was Dell. The otter girl. I realized the chances of seeing an otter that day were slim, but still I wondered if the hexagram would complete itself.
Less than twenty-four hours it would. Opening the screen of my computer, an otter would appear. It was time to await the next journey. Wherever and whenever that might be.
When we arrived at the pyramidal stone that had caught my eye during my first visit, I found myself worrying a bit about encountering other hikers. The stone is not far from the intersection of three trails, making it likely we would not be alone. Yet I need not have worried. All beings we met seemed to be messengers even when they were not aware that they were.
I pointed the stone out to Sophia and Deb, who could not deny the significance of its shape. It also seemed to mark the entrance to an area that pulled us into a desire to explore, and so after paying our regards with the knowing we would return, we ventured off the beaten path.
I immediately had the sensation of entering into what felt like the body of the dragon. Dimension began to slip away, and the mind softened as the inner sight opened. I knew my companions were feeling the opening too, but I would not know until we rejoined how similar our experiences were.
As I walked, past dreams and visions started to knit together, as worlds folded into each other. As strange it all seemed, it also made sense. At least to the degree I was meant to understand that day. I soon discovered the land here holds its secrets tightly guarded and a trust must be earned to enter into their mysteries.
An other-worldly presence was undeniably evident, it turns out, to all of us. The face in the pyramid stone that had appeared during my trip in July, along with the large stone head at the beginning of our walk that day, could no longer be claimed as mere coincidences. I am a skeptic by nature, but I could not deny what I was seeing once Deb and Sophia revealed that they, in fact, had seen the same.
Yet it wouldn’t be until later, after I had some time to digest the experience, that I would begin to connect the dots and wonder how lives past and present were weaving together for a purpose just beginning to be defined. “Ammon Ra!” I was nowhere near Egypt, but the pyramids were everywhere, dimensions had collapsed the stars into Earth, and one tiny messenger was about to lead us to a mysterious eye.
I believe it was Deb who first spotted the tiny brown bird flirting among the shadows of the trees. It flew just beyond our reach, and difficult to detect. Were it not for its voice, we may have lost it. Yet despite its illusive nature, the bird seemed to beckon us to follow, and so we did. It was, in my mind, without a doubt, another messenger. Perhaps our most important one.
“I think we need to go there. In fact I know we need to go there,” I announced as I pulled my companions into the undergrowth of a path that wasn’t marked by human footsteps. The energy of the beacon had an undeniable force, yet there was a point when I knew we must stop.
Surrounding us were guardians staring out from the trunks of trees, peering through the visages of moss covered stones, and leering up at us through darkened holes. I was beginning to feel rather like I was in some Tolkien novel and the words, “Thou shalt not pass,” echoed through my mind.
We gathered between the grumpiest “troll” and the wooden head of a dragon guardian, forming a makeshift triangle on the uneven earth after we placed offerings of herbs and corn near the watchful eyes.
On one side of us was the alpine forest, on the other, an immense white stone. If I had any doubts it housed the treasure being guarded, they soon disappeared.
Soon after our eyes closed in meditation, the serpent appeared. Its body emerged from the white boulder just over the head of Sophia and quickly wrapped the crown of our trinity. There it held us until we were finished.
“She’s standing in wait,” I whispered, eyes still closed and fixed upon the pillar of white energy waiting by the pyramid stone. Who she was, I still cannot say for sure, but she knew we were coming, and I was pretty certain I had seen her before. I recalled the “white goddess” who appeared in England at the foot of my bed years before, pulling the bedclothes back, urging me to surrender to the fey queen’s bidding. I thought also of Sophia, who had pulled the card for Isis before we had left. Was this her serpent energy that wrapped us tight?
It was after we rose from our mediation that I really looked at the white rock we stood beneath. “It’s the eye,” I don’t know how I knew it, but I was certain of my words.
Sophia, drawn to the curious markings that crisscrossed its surface, tried to get closer. The soft earth of the lid pulled her back and she lost her footing. “I don’t think we’re meant to go any nearer,” Deb and I both declared.
After a taking a few photographs, it was clear the “eye” had given has all of its gifts for the day. It was time to complete the mission of our journey and return to the pyramid stone and offer up the white pillar from Mystery Hill.
There were at least as many pyramids as there were hearts along the journey that led us to one particular stone pyramid at the crown of the dragon. Too many to count, and probably a lot that were missed by our eyes. It seemed, though, like the hearts, more than a coincidence… Pyramids carved into the faces of stones, stones opening to their portals such as the one above, and rocks that had somehow fallen from Earth’s openings into perfect pyramidal shapes.
Guides continued to appear as we ascended the mountain. Soon after the chipmunk, a call rang through the canopy above. “It sounds like an eagle,” Sophia remarked, “I was told an eagle would be here today.”
We did not see the eagle, but days before I had seen an eagle twice in my travels. Three times in total this summer.
Followed by the eagle, was a yellow butterfly spotted by Deb. It was becoming a little uncanny. Not only were these common guides in my personal life, the eagle and butterfly are two of the totems in my Warriors of Light series. And it would get stranger from there…
Worlds started to collapse as the mountain watched us walk its body. So many watchers, I would later remark that I was grateful I did not take this journey alone.
After that rather shocking encounter with the rock face that looked like the head of a galactic being, we were constantly aware of being observed. Ents appeared in the taller trees and trolls below them. Some seemed happier than others about our presence and it was clear we were walking in a land that did not really belong to humans.
A land, we would feel every-increasingly, that was guarded with a purpose. And, was alive with forces that, well, seemed other-worldly. Unlike in many of the places I have visited in England, where the magic of the land was enhanced by an ancient sophisticated society that moved and placed stones with deliberation, here mighty stones formed uncanny alignments by the forces of Earth.
Yet there were so many similarities. The feeling of dimensions collapsing and realms mixing. The feeling of forces dormant and waiting to be reawakened…it was more than obvious a dragon lines ran through this land, and the three of us could not help feeling and seeing that the stars also had a special alignment with this serpent mountain.
And, even though we had not chosen to walk the path of the water lines, the feeling of the element was present. It was held in the body of the stones with whale beings seemingly embedded into the body of the dragon. Fire and water. Alchemy. I couldn’t help but think of how the magical hexagram was here. And I could only hope that the lines were still alive here, even though there were obvious disruptions. Most notably, the towers of metal we could not bring ourselves to linger near for too long (much less photograph) that several feet (thankfully) away from the crown.
Memory and intuition brought us to the crown even though we were walking an unfamiliar path to get there. The increasing pulse, pulling us to our destination to place our offerings and heed the land’s calling, whatever it may be. And if it were not for the wren, we may never have seen the eye…
During the May series, when Eva and the kids will be exploring the magical world of The Labyrinth, I will be making special author appearances.
There is no purchase necessary to join the Book Club. Kids and their parents are encouraged to explore the book’s companion site, Warriors Of Light Club, for an introduction to its metaphysical teachings and the six young protagonists, Aponi, Shesha, Lupe, Dell, Ari, and Sula. While exploring, visitors who have not yet read The Labyrinth can try to guess what each character’s power animal is.
The hints are in the names…
The thirteen-year-old protagonists in The Labyrinth have a lot in common with the children and teens who attend Dancing Jaguar’s camps and events. Although the six teens do their best to blend into their outer world, each harbors gifts that are not easily embraced or understood by those around them. In the magical world of the labyrinth, though, the rules of the outer world break down and the teens learn to become empowered warriors of light. Here in this strange and mysterious realm, the nature of their true selves are revealed, as the warriors learn to embrace the strengths of their power animals, work together to repair the broken lines of light in Earth, and save Aponi’s mother who is trapped inside the shadows of her mind. But first they must save each other…
To learn more about the book club, or Dancing Jaguar Inspirations, and Dancing Jaguar Spirit Camps and events for kids, please visit Eva’s website. Here you can explore the wonderful and nurturing environment Eva has created for kids and teens who are seeking to understand and embrace their true selves. I’m including a brief description from her site, which describes the essence of Eva’s mission and the wonderful opportunity for enrichment she has created for youth through her camps:
“With a holistic approach to integrating mind, body, and spirit, this camp teaches children how to nurture their inner world. We live in a modern society that places value on nurturing the mind and body. Dancing Jaguar’s Spirit Camp teaches children how to nurture their heart and spirit. When children are encouraged to trust their intuition, honor their truth, and speak from the heart, they can develop their inner compass and trust themselves to make choices in high school and beyond that will sustain them.”
I have known Eva for years, although we only met in-person last summer, and have had the honor of following her vision and see it grow and flourish. She is a kindred spirit, with a strong passion for empowering and nurturing young minds and bodies so that they can grow with confidence in a world that can sometimes seen harsh and insensitive. I could not be more grateful that she has chosen to share her wisdom and the beauty of her light while she offers to explore the magical world of The Labyrinth with young seekers.
If you know a child who might be interested in the book club, or in Eva’s spirit camps, which have expanded into the virtual world at this time of social distancing, please share.
It was yet another fitful night in the realm of dreams. Back to school I went. This time to a peculiar college with a new roommate/dream guide. She sat before me, on the opposite bed, after I had tried to parcel out the pieces of her enormous puzzle into boxes on the floor below. Each one containing a jigsaw assortment that somehow went with the one beside it. Three, I believe in total, of interconnected scenes.
She seemed amused by my earnestness. Although she wore the face of teenager, large brown eyes framed by blond tresses, she was clearly wise beyond the years she showed me. Around her neck wrapped a red panda. Her pet? I wasn’t entirely sure how it had gotten into our room and why it was around my roommate’s shoulders like a living scarf, but I was fascinated. It was as though an old friend had come to visit me.
Let me return, for a moment, to the realm of daytime, and set the clock back about four decades. Imagine a little girl with blue eyes and dirty blond hair staring up at a caged enclosure where two red pandas are on display in their zoo-home. The little girl is about seven years old and she has declared those two curious looking pandas her absolute favorite animals in the entire zoo. This zoo that she visits often each summer because her father works there as a landscaper.
The red panda on the upper branch stares back at her, its brown eyes soft with understanding. The little girl is sure the animal can read her mind. She is sure a connection has been formed. Her love for the creature is sealed inside her heart. They share something beyond words. This soft, gentle being who looks more like a tiny bear crossed with a fox has become the girl’s chosen totem, at least for awhile.
The little girl never forgets her love for the red panda, but she moves onto other loves, and other beings fill her heart as she grows. The more visits she makes to the zoo over the summers she flies west to see her father, the more secrets she traps inside of her throat, which becomes wrapped in her growing confusion of truth.
Let’s leap ahead to last night and the return of my quiet and almost forgotten friend who is wrapped around my roommate’s neck. Before I can inquire why it is there, the red panda is suddenly around my own neck. I unwind it carefully, and hold it before me in my hands where I start to examine its soft body. Although the soft animal appeared well and healthy before, it now seems ill. In particular, it’s throat. As I hold it, the red panda coughs and I can see the damage incurred to its throat.
What have I done? Has my own, damaged throat, somehow damaged my beloved childhood totem?
I am filled with despair and worry, but before I try to solve this puzzle, let’s explore the nature of the red panda:
Red pandas are native to Asian countries such as Nepal and China. They make their home in high altitude forests where they are endangered due to human encroachment from deforestation and poaching. Quiet creatures by nature, red pandas are “soft spoken” and introverted creatures. They are closer to the size of a large cat than they are to a panda bear. Like their namesake, though, they depend upon bamboo for their survival. Red pandas are solitary creatures who are most active in the between times of dawn and dusk. They are, I am realizing, an awful lot like me.
Which brings me to the curious puzzle that was now before me on the floor of my dream. Where’s my water dragon? I wonder as I gaze at the head of the wooden dragon held together like a puzzle with interlocking pieces.
I am a water child born under an Earth sign. These two elements drive my nature, but as in all forms, they seek to be balanced. Wood is one of my weaker elements, so perhaps my dream self should not have been baffled by the head of the wooden dragon that now lay at my feet.
Often when we wake from the realm of dreams we must knit together the pieces of our night travels as best we can to make sense of the strange landscape of night. Before I fell into slumber last night, I had been thinking about Elan (often knows as Elan of the Leys or Keeper of the Dragon Lines as she seems to have appeared for my story) and how she made her appearance on the pages of my book, but had left me hanging for weeks as to where she was going to lead me and my characters. As I
drifted into sleep she came to me, finally stepping out of the shadows of the trees to stretch her antlers to the stars. She was showing me the way, if I chose to follow the path beyond the foothold of Earth…
I discovered a fun little competition called “Cover Wars” from a fellow writer and blogger, Ritu Bhathal. The Labyrinth is in the running for this week’s competition of book covers. Take a look if you’re interested. Please vote for your favorite. It’s okay if it’s not The Labyrinth. 🙂 The true credit for my cover goes to Danielle English at Kanizo Art