Small Bird Press

Version 2

Photo by Margy Dowzer

Small Bird Press is the name for my self-publishing adventure. I  considered several other names, but when Small Bird Press came into my mind while I was on a walk, I realized it expressed so much about the purpose of publishing my book.

First of all, small birds were among my most important teachers for the spiritual journey I describe in Finding Our Way Home. The small chickadee I held in my hands after he was stunned by flying into our window. The cardinals who kept calling me outside at dawn. Small Bird Press is a way to honor those teachers.

Secondly, I had submitted my book to several publishers, but was rejected.  Most of the time, they didn’t really say why, but one publisher was kind enough to say that though my writing was good, they couldn’t take on the book because I wasn’t well-known enough and didn’t have a catchy hook, so it would be difficult to market my book. I understand this is often the way of publishing right now. So I too am a “small bird.”

But I believe that even a small bird–a person who is unknown, or only locally-known– even a small bird can change the world. When we have a vision of how the world might be, when we seek to articulate that vision and live that vision, it can ripple out in untraceable ways to shift reality. I want to be that kind of small bird, to bring about changes for whoever might listen, to shift reality toward earth community, toward human beings living in mutually beneficial relationship with all other beings of earth.

So I am delighted to be publishing as Small Bird Press. And if the message is going to ripple out, it will be because those in my small circles who share my vision are willing to share the book with others in their own circles. Find out more about the book here: Finding Our Way Home: A Spiritual Journey into Earth Community.

And thank you, Margy Dowzer, for capturing my moment with a chickadee in your photo.

Summer Lessons to Remember

Screen TentMaybe this land on which we newly live can become a sacred center of learning earth spirituality, with a fire circle, a water pond, bird songs in the air.

Your journey on this small piece of land is valuable, not for some other purpose, but for this purpose–to restore your broken off heart to the land.

You have all the time you need.

This spiritual work is your work–writing about it, yes, teaching it, yes, but doing it, most important of all. Even if you do nothing else in your life, do this work.

Each step of the journey is holy. Remember the deer who appeared in the yard. Come outside. Dawn is the best time. “Vacation” really means “spiritual restoration” time.

Your calling now is to do the spiritual journey into Earth Community. That partially corresponds to your ministry at your congregation, and partially lies outside of that. (All congregations must go through transitions in this time.)  

Teach a class this year on the Spiritual Journey Into Earth Community, based on the latest version of the book (Finding Our Way Home: A Spiritual Journey Into Earth Community).

Begin to explore self-publishing the book.

For health–rest, dance, walk, water, herbs, be outside.

Come outside, come outside, come outside.

There is no rush at all, just love, follow your deep passions.

The spirits are with you. Brokenness hurts–turn to the cardinals, the sun, weeping, diving into water.

Enjoy the beauty of each day. It is not all about goals and purpose and accomplishments–even green ones. See the beauty now. Feel the connections now. Be still.

Listen to your body.

You can find your joy and beauty when you sit outside in the morning and write–you know how to move into Presence. Write this down.

There is still more transformation that is possible. Your heart is in the universe and the universe is in your heart. I put my hand on your heart.

Think of how you get up each day in a world that is broken and anguished and live in a society that is divided and hurting. Think of how you feel the new sun and the songs of the birds.  You are learning to feel the land slowly, so the grief doesn’t overwhelm you, so you can find the source of strength, the many ancestors.

Keep dancing.

Today is a day, not a preparation for something else–a beautiful, painful, blessing-laden day. Let your heart’s pain be awash in this day.  

You are not an orphan. You are in the land where ancestor relatives were buried, the dawn places. Don’t panic. Don’t try to take the pain to someone else. Everyone is broken. Remember gratitude. Remember to honor the pain. Remember to see with new eyes.

Remember the magic. Breathe. Remember that a day may bring a beautiful surprise. Follow the Spirits’ lead. Flow with the River of Life.

Owl Life

Mama Owl

Today I took a walk to the ponds at Evergreen and started looking at the pines where the mother owl and her babies have been living.  Today I brought binoculars and our little camera.  I watched for a long time.  At first, I could see the mama owl from one spot on the opposite side of the pond, and I could see the vague outline of a baby at another spot across the pond. I went back and forth a few times. Then, while I was watching the mama, she moved around, and flew down to a spot lower than where she had been.  I was able to get this photo of her, but through the binoculars I could really see her eyes looking back at me.  Then, she flew back up to another spot behind the branches and I could no longer see her.

There were so many other magical signs of bird life today.  There were five baby geese. There was a male cardinal bringing seeds to a female cardinal.  There was some kind of yellow color warbler.  And then I saw a movement lower down the owl pine, and saw that there was the baby owl on a lower branch, hopping about, gradually making its way further up. Amazing once again that I was able to take its photo.  I think I am turning into a birder.

Baby Owl

Walking

Intertwined rootsI am feeling an paradox today.  I began this search for greener housing out of a desire to live more in harmony with all beings of earth.  It grew out of a deepening experience of our interconnection in an earth community.  Yet, the disruption and labor of moving from one place to another has chipped away at that felt sense of connection and I have been out of balance and spiritually exhausted.

What helps me to start finding my way back into balance are the walks I take most mornings near our new home.  I go out our back door, and then wander in our neighborhood, some days over to the Hall Trail near Capisic Brook, other days over to the trails at Evergreen Cemetery.  I’ve found a huge old grandmother tree a few blocks away, the oldest one I’ve seen so far.  Given the season and lack of leaves, I don’t even know what species it is, though I am wondering about Maple, since there are maple seeds on the ground nearby.

Old Grandmother Tree

Along my walks, the cardinals have been singing their most beautiful dawn songs, naming their territories and wooing their loves.  I am a tree person and a cardinal person and so I stop to put my hands on this tree, and I stop to listen to the cardinal songs, and try to catch a glimpse of them, usually bright and beautiful near the top branches.  There are cardinals in our own yard too.  So day by day, I hope to restore my strength, to reweave the threads that are torn and frayed from the move.

Cardinal at our new home

 

We’re Here!

Boxes in the kitchen

Yesterday, the movers came and lifted our boxes and furniture into trucks and over to our new house.  I directed traffic at the new house.  Margy and I slept here last night, exhausted and aching in every muscle, but happy to be really living here.  I woke early in the morning with moonlight shining through the windows.  Then I took a walk at sunrise, starting by circling the perimeter of our land from north to east to south to west–and–I heard a cardinal singing!  This bird reassures me that all will be well, and offers such beauty and joy.  I am so glad to know that the cardinals will be our neighbors here.  On that happy note, I walked through the neighborhood over to the Evergreen Cemetery trails.

After breakfast, I started unpacking boxes in the kitchen, and immediately began doing more downsizing. As I put things away into fewer drawers and cupboards than we had before, it became much clearer that some things just aren’t necessary.  We didn’t have time to actually sort through most things before the move.  And we didn’t actually move all of our possessions.  There is still the whole basement, and outbuildings.  But we have a few weeks before we have to vacate the other house, so we are doing it in two stages–and that’s a good thing.  There is no way everything would fit here, and we hadn’t finished sorting in the basement.  As it is, our basement here has a lot of boxes in it already.  I think it will be easier to sort back at our old house, now that we are in this space.

The evening before the move, we sent our cats to stay with our favorite cat-sitters.  The cats have never been away from home before, but we figured it would be less traumatic to be off site while everything was being carted away. They arrived at our new home this afternoon, and are sequestered in the downstairs bathroom, with their litter boxes.  They are feeling rather scared and cranky.

Meanwhile, back at our other house, after $1000 of radon remediation work, the radon was tested between Wednesday and Friday, and came back WORSE than before.  That certainly didn’t make any sense, and our realtor has been in touch with the company who did the work, and they are returning to the house on Monday to see what is going on. This has us rather scared and cranky because radon levels are a deal breaker for our buyers, and we don’t want to have to start over in the process of selling our house. Plus radon will likely be an issue no matter who we sell to. If anyone knows any magic or practical tips for dealing with radon, let us know. Until all of that is settled, we feel very vulnerable.

It helps when I remember that our move isn’t merely a move from one house to another–it is part of our search for greener housing, and that change is more difficult than we might expect.  Our whole social system is currently set up to exploit the earth.  Margy and I have been really lucky to be able to undertake this search, and yet it still depends on our being able to sell our old house at a decent price, so we can afford solar panels for our new house.  But, I remember that we are among hundreds (thousands?) of people who are trying through our personal actions to live in greater harmony with the earth.  Each step is a part of the great shift in the human relationship with with our mother earth.  Beings of the earth, help us on this journey!

What We Leave

Our current home is now officially on the market.  This beautiful acre of trees that has been such a wonderful place for us for the last ten years.  I have so many powerful memories in this backyard.  The morning songs of the cardinals, the four baby chipmunks who came out to play one afternoon and let me sit near them and even film their antics. The many deer who wandered through. The chickadee I held in my hands. The mornings of prayer in the screen tent, as the sun began to peek out through the spruce trees.  The golden slug crawling through the grass on its way to a mushroom. The turkeys, the neighbor’s chickens, the porcupine.

This place has been such a blessing for me, and for us.  We’ve planted daffodils and violets and day lilies and many other perennial flowers.  We’ve planted forsythia bushes, and a small hemlock tree to stand alongside the two larger hemlocks. We’ve planted raspberries and blueberries, and eaten wild strawberries that came up on their own. Of course, all that is hiding now, under a blanket of snow, but we included spring, summer and fall photos in our listing, so folks could see the loveliness of its other seasons.

We still have a couple of days before there will be any showings.  Time to do more de-cluttering and cleaning, so others might be able imagine their own lives here.  I hope that someone will come along, really soon, who will want to love this place and care for it, and be cared for by it, as we have.

Chipmunks DSC06513

Chipmunk babies

Waiting

After going back to the beautiful window house, we are feeling more confused than ever. We are hoping to simplify our lives, yet this house would need so much work before we could move in. And would it really get simpler after all that? I made a rough to-scale sketch of the floor plan, so we could try to imagine ourselves and our basic furniture fitting into the spaces, but there were complications there too.

As I fell asleep, I called to mind the face of my ancient grandmother who guides me, and it seemed she was shaking her head “no.” This morning I am also remembering that feeling confusion is itself sometimes a signal that the answer is no. If it were yes, there would be a sense of joy and clarity.

But letting go means leaping into the void–there is nothing on the market right now that fits the dream we created in our search for greener living. Still, that is the ultimate work of magic and mystery–to let our longings go out into that emptiness, and trust that the emptiness is like a dark womb in which beauty is born.  And so I leap into that void and wait. And the sun shines warm upon my face.

Later this morning, through the window I hear a ruckus and a loud chirping, and look to see a cardinal feeding her child. I am like that baby bird calling out and being fed by all that lives around me. I am like that mother bird, giving to the next generation in the ways I can. I am like the person who fills the bird feeder, making an offering to the cardinals who are beauty and hope in the flesh.Cardinal Feeding MJ DSC00761