The Journal as a Journey into Mystery

The Journal as a Journey into Mystery

There are as many ways to keep a nature journal as there are people who keep them. Some fill their journals with sketches, watercolors and diagrams of the plants and animals they find in the natural world, while others take notes, jotting down lines of descriptive prose or inspired verse to evoke a sense of wonder, curiosity and care about the diversity and beauty around them. Anyone can keep a nature journal: whether you’re traveling in exotic locations or observing the gentle, gradual changes of the seasons in your own backyard. The act of journaling can open us more fully to the world around us, and invite the natural world into those interior spaces within our own souls. A journal can be more than just a record of where we’ve been; it can be the beginning of a whole new journey.

There are two powerful techniques that I especially like to use when journaling out in nature, in order to move me from a place of mundane consciousness into a state of contemplation, attention and receptivity. They are: naming, and questioning.

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Invasives, Revisited: Warfare and Harvest

Invasives, Revisited: Warfare and Harvest

Different stories will inspire different people. For some, cooking and crafting is their way of fostering a relationship with the natural world, while others might be inspired by the greater call to serve the community on a global scale through conservation. If our efforts are effective and the stories we tell are inspiring, does it really matter whether we approach the work with the courageous heart of a fighter, or the gentle heart of a farmer?

My post on invasive species provoked some really wonderful discussion from readers last week, reminding me once again just how diverse our attitudes towards the natural world can be. Even when we all agree on what practical actions we need to take, our motivations and reasons can be very different!

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7 Ways to Enjoy a Sex-Free Beltane

7 Ways to Enjoy a Sex-Free Beltane

A Pagan friend of mine mentioned recently that Beltane isn’t really a holiday they celebrate; being single and not all that interested in sex, they don’t connect with a lot of the symbolism associated with the holiday. I can totally relate. Surely, Beltane isn’t just a holiday for horny lovers. As part of the ever-spiraling dance of the seasons, there are a lot of blessings that this time of year brings that can be enjoyed by those of us who are chaste, single, or otherwise just not that interested in turning everything into a metaphor for girl-parts and boy-parts.

So in the spirit of the season, here are seven things to love about a sex-free Beltane!

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Invasives: Enemies or Allies?

Invasives: Enemies or Allies?

Given how harmful an invasive species can be, it’s tempting to see them as wholly bad, the “enemy” of a healthy ecosystem that needs to be eradicated. For modern Pagans seeking to live an embodied spirituality grounded in the sacred land, invasives are powerful allies in coming to terms with our own ambivalent role in the ecosystems we inhabit, and the possibilities and choices that lie before us. Too often our modern society encourages us to see nature as fragile and untouchable, and humans as the worst intruders of all. Befriending invasives can teach us valuable lessons about how to be respectful, loving citizens of the planet that we call home.

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Seeking the Keystones of the Land

Seeking the Keystones of the Land

Spring has definitely sprung here in the rainy emerald city of Seattle: the salmonberry is blooming and, believe it or not, the sun is shining! (For now, anyway.) This past weekend, Jeff and I enjoyed a somewhat belated equinox celebration — we spent all afternoon hiking through the city’s largest park (while I indulged in some wildflower photography and rather clumsy bird-watching), we observed Earth Hour Saturday evening, and we visited the Seattle Aquarium for the first time, where we made the acquaintance of some very adorable, very playful sea otters. And speaking of sea otters (which happen to be a keystone species out here in the Pacific Northwest), two new articles of mine were also published this weekend, both of them exploring the role of keystones as guides and companions in earth-centered spiritual practice.

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Wordless Wednesday: Spring Blessings!

Wordless Wednesday: Spring Blessings!

However you celebrate the vernal equinox, may the many blessings of spring be with you today!

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The Joyful Wound: Blended Families and Disneyland Dads

The Joyful Wound: Blended Families and Disneyland Dads

Being a stepmom is like having to learn how to be bravely and joyfully wounded. How to be fiercely protective and graceful in your impotence all at the same time. It’s having to be honest about your wounds, to learn how to teach by example what it’s like to bear them courageously and lovingly — while at the same time fighting like hell to make sure the kids don’t grow up with any deep wounds of their own, if you can possibly spare them. It’s also learning to accept that they might grow up with wounds anyway, and they might think you’re full of shit no matter what explanations you give them for the choices you made… if you’re lucky enough to get them to listen at all. It’s knowing that they might even be right, and you’re making all the wrong choices. But you suck it up and have a little trust and try to practice some preemptive self-forgiveness.

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By Candlelight: Celebratory Ritual

By Candlelight: Celebratory Ritual

When we light a candle in our ritual space, we ignite a flame within ourselves. When we pour water or burn incense as offerings, we offer ourselves as well, to soak into the earth or rise in gentle wisps of smoke towards the sky. Imagining these things is not enough — the work demands that we engage not only with our minds and hearts, but with our bodies. This is the original meaning of celebration: a gathering, a time of coming together. We’ve come to think of celebration as an occasion for happiness and enjoyment, because this sense of wholeness that we find in company with ourselves and with others is deeply nourishing and joyful for us. But celebratory spirituality also means being fully present to sorrow and suffering, and giving our whole selves as much to hard work and discipline as to pleasure and delight. Celebratory ritual is about our willingness to be fully present to the world and its gods.

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Biophilia: On Love and Nature

Biophilia: On Love and Nature

Our relationship with nature gives rise to a paradox, in the same way that love creates a paradox. The paradox of love closely parallels the on-going struggle we have with the question of whether we are a part of nature, or separate from it. When we think of nature as our beloved, we discover that the answer is in fact: both.

To be a nature-lover is to recognize this paradox: when we love nature, we see that our love both unites us with and differentiates us from what we love. In this way our love of nature affirms the most basic truth of our experience as self-aware creatures: that we are both a part of and apart from the world around us, that we are both whole individuals ourselves, and united in a whole that transcends our individuality.

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Bear: Companion of Winter

Bear: Companion of Winter

Not all of our companions will elbow their way into our lives and demand our attention. Some of them linger beyond the limits of our ordinary experiences, leaving only footprints and snapped twigs as traces of their presence. These are our guides to the depths of mystery and wilderness. They are dark wanderers who cross our paths only in the obscurity of a moonless night, whose form we seem to see only just on the periphery of our vision before it dissolves again into the tangled undergrowth of the unknown. They are the companions whose presence we sense with the thrill of uncertainty, that mixture of excitement and terror that gives rise to awe. Their breath is the sound on the edge of hearing that we catch just when we think we are alone.

Lest we forget that nature is not only familiar and intimate, but deeply wild and strange. Lest we forget that some things are hidden, and will remain hidden.

The bear is, for me, this kind of companion.

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