A Simple Healing Ceremony & a Beautiful Gift

It has been a while since I’ve had the energy to write. I have had a really bad cold for the last two weeks. I know generally a cold sounds like no big deal, and usually they aren’t, but this one has been awful, and I’m still somewhat congested and coughing, although it gets a little better every day. I’m starting to feel semi-human again, one day at a time, and to get some energy back.

I have gradually been able to get back to visiting my favorite parks and natural areas over the past week. Yesterday was a gorgeous, sunny day (we are finally having a few days of sun!!!) and I went out to my favorite park by the Applegate River.

As I sat on the bank, I was inspired to do a simple healing ritual, to help heal this cold and some lingering back pain, as well as to heal some fears and worries. I drew the Womanrunes healing rune (a sun image) in the dirt in front of me. Then I picked up a stone, and imagined pouring my illness, my pain, my worries and fears into the stone. When I felt complete, I threw it as far as I could into the river, and visualized the river carrying all my troubles away.* I then poured water from my water bottle over the rune I had drawn as an offering to the spirits of the land, the river, and to Goddess. It was a simple, impromptu ceremony, but it made me feel connected to the land, to Goddess, and to my magical self, which I have not been feeling much lately.

After my little ceremony, I took a brief walk, and I had the sudden urge to veer off the path to see if there were any shade-loving wildflowers growing in a patch of trees nearby. A few steps off of the path, I looked down and noticed what I thought at first was a cool-looking fallen branch, but when I reached to pick it up I realized it was a deer antler! It has been one of my dreams to find a shed antler (and some shed snakeskin—I’ll have to keep looking for that!), and I almost couldn’t believe it was real when I picked it up. I’ll admit to looking like a nut talking out loud to myself and saying things like, “Holy crap, I don’t believe it!” and “This is SO COOL! Wow!” It is a beautiful antler in perfect condition. I love looking at the scrapes and scratches along the tips and imagining its owner scratching his antlers on a tree, or butting heads with another buck. What a beautiful gift, I am so grateful for it!

The beautiful antler I found.

The antler now has pride of place on my altar, and I also have the sudden urge to learn more about Elen of the Ways, the antlered Goddess. Her name has been coming to me recently, and after finding the antler, I feel like I need to start learning more about her.

I hope that you are enjoying spring wherever you are! I am so grateful to finally be able to get out and enjoy the sunshine, the wildflowers, and the fresh new leaves that are appearing on the trees right now.

Spring blessings to you all!

*This stone healing ritual was inspired by the article “A Ritual to Banish Fear” by Susan Perry, found in SageWoman magazine, Volume II, Issue #7, Fall 1988. I love the simplicity of it, and often use it to banish fear and worry when I visit the river.

Candlemas Day and a Couple of Inspiring Videos

I hope everyone had a wonderful Candlemas/Imbolc! Candlemas Day was absolutely gorgeous here. We had sun and clouds with temperatures in the low 60s—our warmest day since autumn! I wandered around one of my favorite parks, exploring small pools full of shells left behind by the receding river, and feeling my heart leap with joy every time I looked up at the beautiful blue sky. After almost a week of fog, having sun on Candlemas was such a blessing!

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Exploring pools down by the Applegate River. Sorry that this is so washed out! I was so blinded by the sun that I didn’t get a good picture.

In the evening I celebrated with a ritual and did my Candlemas tarot reading. I didn’t take a picture of my spread since it was too dark to get a decent shot, but it was a positive and encouraging reading. I did, however, get Death as my “overall theme” card for this turn of the wheel. Gulp! Looks like I may be experiencing some major transformation between now and Spring Equinox. Change isn’t easy, especially for this Taurus, but I also know that it really is time to let some things die so I can move forward in a new way.

The daffodil bulbs in my yard are growing by inches every week, and several of them already have buds. Yesterday, on my way to the river I saw a hazelnut tree with catkins unfurled and clouds of yellow pollen being blown away with the wind. At the river, I found that some willow flowers are opening, one of the my favorite signs of early spring (their flowers are those downy catkins often referred to as “pussy willows”).

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Willow flowers beginning to open.

Nature has been putting on quite the inspiring show, but I also found inspiration of a more social and political kind from these two videos this past week:

Are you feeling you own energy awaken as the days lengthen and you start to see the very first signs of spring? I know I am, and it feels great!

Bright early spring blessings to you all!

An Elemental Centering Meditation

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Air, Fire, Water, and Earth

When I’m feeling scattered, or I just want to take a moment and connect with the world around me, I like to do a centering meditation by focusing on each of the elements and how I am experiencing them within and around me.

To do the meditation, take a few deep breaths, get comfortable, and open your senses to your environment. You can keep your eyes closed or open. I tend to do both, closing my eyes to sense the element within me, but also opening them to look around and see where I find the element around me. When you feel ready, turn your focus to each of the elements, one by one.

Air. Feel the breath moving in and out of your body, the temperature of the air upon your skin, the feel of the wind as it moves around you. Hear the sounds around you, smell the smells. Are there creatures of air around you such as butterflies or birds? Feel their presence. Imagine the trees absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, sense the animals and people around you who are also breathing the same air as you are. Feel how air flows and moves through you and through everything around you. Air.

Fire. Feel the spark that keeps your heart beating, the chemical reactions taking place in the cells of your body, producing warmth and nourishment, keeping you alive. Feel the fire around you, the warmth of the sun, the chemical reactions in the cells of the plants, trees, and animals near you, their beating hearts, the flame of life in all of us. Find the fire around you, the heat, the warmth, the energy. Fire.

Water. Sense the moisture in your body, the blood flowing in your veins, the saliva in your mouth, the liquid matrix of your cells. You are flowing with water, rivers of life within you. Feel the water around you, the water in the clouds, the dew on the grass, the humidity in the air, the moisture in the soil beneath you. Reach out to any water around you—puddles, bird baths, creeks, rivers, the ocean. Feel the water flowing through the trees and plants, the fluids carrying life in all the creatures around you. Water.

Earth. Tune into the structure of your body, your bones, your teeth, the walls of your cells, the foundations that give you substance and solidity. Feel the soil beneath you, supporting you, and the rocks. Sense the trees, the wood of their trunks, feel the structure of the plants around you, the stems, the petals, the blades of grass. Sense the bones of the creatures that surround you, the underlying structure that gives them solidity, just like you. Earth.

Spirit. Sense Spirit within and around you, giving life, soul and spirit to all things. Can you feel it in yourself? Can you feel it in the world around you? How to do you sense it, this enlivening energy that moves through all things? Tap into it, feel it. Spirit.

You are centered, you are connected. Take a few more breaths, and you are finished.

This can be a relatively quick meditation to center yourself if you don’t have a lot of time, or you can really take your time with it. You can do it indoors, too, sensing the elements in everything that surrounds you: the carpet, the walls, your furniture, your pets and family. I’ve even done it while driving (obviously, I don’t close my eyes in this case!), sensing the elements as they exist in my car, in the cars and drivers around me, as well as in the landscape I am driving through. Don’t do this, of course, if you tend to trance out, but because it is more of a centering meditation, I find it generally brings me into the present moment and helps me focus.

This is also a great way to tune into the elements as they exist in different seasons. What does Air feel like in winter? What does Water feel like in summer? I recently did this meditation to tune into the elements as we move into winter, and it was interesting to discover that Water is very active in the winter here through falling rain and full, rushing rivers. However, if you live where it is very cold, you might find that Water is very still and quiet as it falls as snow, and as creeks and rivers flow sluggishly under thick layers of ice.

May you feel blessed and centered as you connect with the world around you!

Highs, Lows, and a Rabbit

It has been an up-and-down couple of weeks around here. I came down with a cold that lasted over a week and lost my momentum blogging and making art. We also had a series of storms come through that brought us over nine inches of rain in about five days, so between my cold and the weather, I spent a lot of time stuck indoors.

This past Tuesday was my mom’s surgery day, and I spent the morning sending her Reiki and prayers at the healing altar I set up for her. I also drew The Star as my card of the day—hope, faith, peace, grace—such an encouraging message for the day!

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My healing altar for my mom

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A message of grace and hope

My mom came through the surgery very well, and once she was home and resting, I took advantage of finally getting over my cold and a partly sunny afternoon to get outside. Oh my gosh, how I needed that!

I went to the same park where I spent the Autumn Equinox, and was surprised to see how much higher the river was after all of the rain. The rocks I had been sitting on at the edge of the river were now mostly submerged and very far from the shore!

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That rock way out there is the one I was sitting on at the Equinox!

A couple of very nice older men came down to the river while I was there. They have been coming up every year for twenty-five years to fish for steelhead, and we marveled over how high the river was this early in the season and swapped flood stories with each other. When we started talking about birds, they told me how they had a Great Blue Heron land behind their chairs while they were fishing and demand part of their catch. If they didn’t volunteer to share, he just helped himself! They had really gotten a kick out of him and had been happy to share what they referred to as “garbage catch” with him.

I took a walk, singing songs of gratitude and blessing to myself and admiring the fall color. I also saw a large flock of wild turkeys. I felt so blessed!

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Beautiful autumn color

I spent the rest of the afternoon helping my mom, who was feeling remarkably well after her surgery. But then came a very big low—a family member accidentally hit one of the neighborhood cats as they pulled into our driveway. The neighbor he belonged to was thankfully very gracious about it (he was an outdoor cat and tended to be more of a “neighborhood cat” than a family pet), and I was frantically making phone calls to find a vet that could take him in to euthanize him because he was very badly hurt.

It was horrible. Awful. He was a favorite visitor and came to see us often for treats and attention, and we were all heartbroken and a bit traumatized. I’m still not really over it yet. It’s amazing how quickly a good day can be turned on its head, isn’t it?

But good news came yesterday—my mom is cancer free! They found no other cancer around the lump they removed or in her lymph nodes. A big, big sigh of relief and much gratitude is being felt around here!

Then last night I discovered what was obviously a pet rabbit running around in our yard. I asked my neighbor if he knew anything about it, and he said the rabbit showed up a couple of weeks ago and has been hanging out under another neighbor’s porch. This morning I talked with that neighbor about trying to catch the rabbit and take him to a shelter for adoption, and he agreed I could set up a feeding station and trap in his yard where the rabbit seems to spend most of his time. So I spent today running around buying rabbit food and renting a live trap from the animal shelter and generally trying to figure out how to catch a rabbit! Wish me luck! I’ve named the little cutie Bun Bun Nickles.

I keep thinking back to my Autumn Equinox tarot reading and how accurately it has played out so far. It has been a crazy few weeks. I’m hoping for a bit more calm from here on out. Well, once I am able to catch Bun Bun Nickles, anyway!

An Autumn Afternoon by the River

It has been way too long since I spent time nature journaling outdoors, so I took advantage of the gorgeous day yesterday to do some sketching down by the river. I wasn’t really focused on making a beautifully composed page, but was just having fun drawing and painting whatever caught my attention.

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Sketching by the river

There was a flock of Canada Geese paddling and feeding on the river. Drawing something that never stops moving is always a challenge, so some geese came out better than others. Then some honeysuckle berries caught my eye. They are translucent red and were literally glowing in the sun—so beautiful!

I found the wild grape leaf on the ground near where I was sitting. Normally they just turn yellow in the fall, but this one was gorgeous in shades of gold, orange and magenta. A teeny-tiny spider marched across the table while I was sketching, so I added her in, too.

I saw a Pileated Woodpecker, which is the first time I have seen one in this area. They are always exciting to see with their magnificent red crests!

The sun was warm, there was a soft breeze, the river was splashing and singing as it flowed over the rocks, and I heard several large splashes in the water—could it be salmon coming home to spawn? It was a beautiful time to enjoy the world around me and forget about worry, and cancer, and the election (oh my goddess, the election!!!) for a while. A much-needed time out.

I wish you gorgeous autumn afternoons full of sunshine and peace, and maybe even a little sketching!

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The final page

(P.S. I just realized I dated my page wrong! It should have been the Oct. 9. Oops! I’ll have to fix that.)

A Blessed Autumn Equinox!

I hope everyone enjoyed the Autumn Equinox yesterday! I usually try to take the day off for each holiday and spend time outdoors enjoying the seasonal changes.

Yesterday, however, I woke up in a bit of a funk and it took me a while to get going. But I finally got dressed and headed out to one of the county parks along the Rogue River. I found a place to perch on a rocky outcropping next to the river and just sat there soaking in the beauty. I was mesmerized watching minnows swimming in the shallows near me. I find watching fish incredibly soothing, and it seemed like a nice reminder to flow with the changes as we enter this watery Autumn season.

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The view from my rocks

A couple of guys asked me if I would keep an eye on their boat while they went to pick up their second car. I must look trustworthy! I didn’t mind doing it, although I amused myself by trying to figure out exactly what I would do if someone did try messing with their boat. Throw river rocks at them?

A man came down with his son and went for a swim in the river while the little boy splashed along the edge. Whew—that water is COLD, and it was only in the 60s (our first cool day, really). Oregonians are a hearty group!

Another couple wandered down to the rocks I was sitting on and we talked about fish and they told me about their koi pond at home. It always amazes me how friendly people are around here! I thought people in Portland were friendly, but people down here are much more likely to strike up a conversation (or ask you to watch their boat!).

As always, time outside and time by the river worked their magic and I was in a much better mood when I left the park.

I spent the rest of the afternoon making an Apple Molasses Snack Cake, then held my personal Autumn Equinox ritual during which I did my tarot reading. All in all, it was a really nice day and a great way to welcome Autumn. I’m looking forward to cooler weather, wearing scarves, drinking hot chocolate, buying pumpkins, and most of all—rain! The valley is dry and dusty and desperately in need of a good soaking.

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My Autumn Equinox altar

May your autumn season be blessed!

A Good Morning

I was on my way to a local farm stand this morning after an early appointment, but realizing that the stand wouldn’t be open for another hour, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful morning and stop for a walk at a local park that runs along the river.

It was one of those glorious late summer days when you can taste autumn in the air, a hint of sharpness in the cool of the morning. The sky was deep blue, with a few high clouds, and a haze of smoke to the south, a reminder that summer, which for us means fire season, was still having her way with us.

A man was standing on the path with his two small dogs, one a Boston Terrier that was looking longingly towards the river.

“Good morning!” I called.

He said to me, “He doesn’t want to leave. He likes to chase the jetboats and we haven’t seen any yet this morning.”

“Oh, I remember you!” I replied, “I’ve seen you here before—I remember the boat-chasing.”

I had walked a few more feet when he called back to me, “Excuse me.”

I turned around. “Did you see the deer over there?” he asked.

And there they were, a doe and her fawn, picking their way across the grass. We stood watching them in silent wonder, even the dogs didn’t make a sound. Catching sight of us, the deer began to trot across the trail and into the brush.

“They look so beautiful when the run like that,” the man said and I agreed.

“Thank you for showing me,” I told him, and continued my walk, grateful to have shared such a lovely moment with a friendly stranger.

There were lots of people out enjoying the cool morning weather after a string of very hot days. Almost everyone was smiling and friendly, “Good morning!” “Good morning!” “Good morning, God bless you!” came the greetings as I walked along the path.

I came to the little bridge over the pond where ducks and geese swim and turtles sun themselves on logs. Two older women were on the bridge, one was taking pictures.

The other woman said to me, “I don’t see any turtles today.”

I laughed because I had just been leaning over the railing looking for them myself. “Yes, that’s what I was looking for, too,” I told her.

Two Wood Ducks swam under the bridge, among the water lilies, and I took a few pictures.

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Wood Ducks and Water Lilies

I followed the trail to another bridge, a large pedestrian bridge that spans the entire Rogue River. In the autumn you can see salmon spawning in the shallows from there, but it will be another month or two before they arrive. As I began to cross, the smell of decomposition wafted up to me from the blackberries below—something dead was hidden down there. A reminder, I thought, that autumn is on the way, death coming even in the midst of this bright and life-filled day.

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The Rogue River, as seen from the bridge

As I made my way back out of the park I continued to exchange “Good morning!” greetings with everyone I met. My heart felt full, the day seemed touched with a kind of magic. It was one of those days when I felt open-hearted and connected to everyone and everything. A rare day, a beautiful day. A day for which I was filled with gratitude. These are the moments I remember and treasure, simple times of connection that become imprinted on my heart and mind.

A good morning, indeed.