The Language of Trees #trees #nature #mindfulness

On days when the temperature is above frigid, I don’t protest the dogs’ favorite habit stopping to gnaw at every single stick they encounter during our noontime walks. Instead, while they ravage the broken arms of trees to top off their stomaches already filled with lunch, I study the language of trees.

Winter is the season of dormancy, but also of exposure. By mid-February only a few stubborn bunches of withered brown oak leaves hang lifeless from the trees that bore them. The floor of the forest has long been taken over by the element of water, suspending time in its frozen form in a mosaic of matter in various stages of life and death.

A winter mosaic from today’s walk

The artful practice of mindfulness is everywhere in winter, urging the walker to slow down. To breathe. To be still and observe the state of stasis. I love winter because of its offering to be still. The other three seasons can overwhelm the senses, but not winter. Winter pulls the mind inward and begs it to find the magic always held within.

The watchful eye of a hemlock

There are days when I think winter is ugly and dreary. It stretches time here in the northeast in a way that tries patience. Yet, when I look closer, while the dogs feast on their finds, I find the magic of stillness revealing itself. Lately, this magic has taken the form of the language of the trees.

In truth, it is not the language of the trees itself that I read, but the story of the insect life that feasts upon them. I am in awe of the patterns. When I stop to read their art, I marvel at how each one is unique. It is a language of pictographic script that only the insect scribe understands, in truth, but it doesn’t stop the wondering mind from making an attempt.

A Magical Walk with a dragon, a coyote, and a blackbird #thousandoaks #dragonlines #lizardrock

I’ve come to the conclusion the best magic is that which arises unbeckoned and fills the soul with joy. During a family trip to California over the Thanksgiving holiday week, I had the pleasure of encountering this type of magic more than once.

We took the path ahead, which leads to Lizard Rock. You can just make out its profile in the tiny peak to the left of the center of the distant hill.

On the second morning of our stay in Thousand Oaks, my husband, daughter ventured to a nearby system of trails and left my sleep son behind in the hotel. A mere ten minutes drive from where we were staying, we were afforded several paths to choose from for our morning hike. After debating between Paradise Falls (which likely had no water to offer) and Lizard Rock, we chose the trail leading to the head of the dragon. We could just make out its profile on the far horizon and it seemed to beckon us. I didn’t know Sue would be waiting for us there, but I wasn’t surprised when I saw her.

Once we reached the head of the lizard/dragon, Sue appeared in the form of a blackbird (possibly a crow) circling above

Call me crazy, if you will, but those who are willing to open their minds to wonder will likely nod their heads in knowing. Life is filled with magic, we simply need to recognize it for what it is. We need to respond to its subtle cue and open our minds to wonder to welcome it through the door. When we do, rarely are we met with disappointment.

The spine of the dragon was guarded by a lurking coyote, but the next morning it was not…

The land we traveled that morning, as all land is on this planet, is ancient. This land, unlike many other places that have been radically altered my humankind, still bears the memories of magic. There was little doubt in my mind that it was once, and perhaps still is, considered a sacred place. A place where people intimately connected to Life had called forth in the energies of the land and the sky to feed the dragon lines. The rocks still hold the stories. As rocks tend to do. They are the bones of Earth. The keepers of memories long stored, waiting to be awakened.

The head of the “lizard” is much larger than it appears here and overlooks the valley and distant hills.

The weather was near perfect, the sky that impossible blue that only comes in autumn. Yet, the ground below our feet was scorched and withered for want of rain. Over to our right, as we walked toward the head of the lizard, a coyote paced the hillside, watching us. If we had wanted to venture toward the spiny back of the lizard, today was clearly not the day to do so.

Not the best photo, but you can just make out the hint of the coyote in the tan speck at the bottom middle of the closest green mound.

It was a little jarring to have our animal guide lurking so close beside us, especially with the knowing that one coyote often belies a pack inwaiting. But it was approaching mid-day and there were other hikers roaming the trails with canine companions of their own. Even if we were being watched, we were safe enough. And the symbolism of the coyote, with the blackbird that awaited us, could not be more fitting for a place such as this.

Sitting on the head of the dragon/lizard rock it is easy to contemplate the vast expanse of Life.

Lizard rock is just over a mile from the parking lot of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks, and when we arrived at its head we waited patiently for the hikers who proceeded us to take their photos. My daughter and I both wanted our turn, and as you can see, the view is well worth it. When a solitary blackbird appeared overheard circling above us I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt we had arrived at a special place. I could only imagine what it once must have been like to look upon nothing but wild wilderness and feel the rush of energy commence at the head of the dragon upon which I sat.

The honeybees on the few cati that were in bloom brought a glimmer of hope

Sadly, though, I could not ignore the feeling of neglect in its place. Southern California is suffering greatly from the effects of climate change and the land is so thirsty for water even the visiting body aches for it. I felt myself wishing I had the power of my Warriors of Light character, Dell, wishing I could sing the water back to water Earth.

The walls of the cave continued to fill, and Dell did not drown. She had becoming a part of the body of water. Together they moved against the structure of stone, softening its form and urging its pores open to fill hardened veins with life. Up they rose, higher and higher, as the water lifted the weight of time along its way to open air. 

And instead of fear, Dell felt only joy.

What really is magic and what does it mean to live a magical life? #magic #spirituality

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 Light book 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…

This photo was taken at Acadia National Park in Maine. To me the land looks like a sleeping giant. In the area of the heart, you can see an eye. The image embodies magic waiting to be seen. In book 2 of the Warriors of Light series, a giant much like this one appears.

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

In The Labyrinth, the hexagram star is both an individual and a cooperative journey back to the center/heart of union.

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

When I journey into the ancient landscapes that still hold the imprint of magic, my cells hum with joy and time seems to collapse and open.

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

Often the closer we look at life the more wondrous it becomes

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.