Sky Portal

sky puddle

Doesn’t it look like if I were to step across that threshold I might fall into the sky? The thaw of last night has opened up all sorts of cracks in the fabric of space/time.  Meanwhile, I am walking in the morning, paying attention to beauty.  Our congregation is doing a February activity called Fun-a-Day, in which participants choose an activity to do each day that gives them joy. I think mine is this walking with a camera, noticing the beauty that I otherwise might miss. What would yours be?  Feel free to join in!


Finding Inner Wisdom

Woodstove Fire

Wood stove Fire-Photo by Margy Dowzer

During our ritual celebration yesterday evening for Imbolc/Groundhog Day, we scryed with the magic of the fire in our wood stove.  Scrying is a form of seeking wisdom, by gazing into some sort of medium–such as a crystal ball, tea leaves, a bowl of water, a candle flame.  It gets a bad rap on Wikipedia as “unscientific.”  But as one person mentioned last night, while meditation may sometimes be difficult, there is something about quietly staring into a fire with each other that brings one to a state of stillness within.

When we find that stillness, we have access to our own deeper wisdom, and the wisdom of the deeper mystery. Some people see images in the fire. Others notice whatever thoughts or feelings emerge in the stillness of gazing.

Here is what I noticed on the way to the wisdom in me:  First of all, a sense of deep weariness.  Then, a desire to stop doing so much out there in the world, to pay attention to what is happening within.  Then, a feeling of how difficult it is to say no to invitations to activism on issues that are important.  There is so much hard stuff in our world right now, and so many good people are responding.  How do I know when I should be taking action, and when I should be in stillness?

Then, a fear that if I choose to say no, I will disappoint people, lose their love and acceptance. Then, a realization that that motivation, that fear, is not a source of wisdom, but rather a wound that needs healing.  I sat with the fear for a while, gazing still into the fire, opening my heart to the healing energies of the mystery.  We were celebrating Brigid after all, who is a Celtic goddess of healing. We had brought into the circle a small bottle of water from one of Brigid’s wells in Ireland, and I anointed my forehead and heart and hands with some of that water.

Deeper still, I realized that I am in the midst of a profound change.  I am shifting from one identity, one chapter of my life–as the minister of the Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church, to another identity, another chapter–as yet unknown.  What I most desire is something like a cocoon in which to make that transformation, just as the caterpillar encloses itself for its transition to the butterfly.

This “enclosing myself” is not the same as doing nothing at all.  There are activities that directly relate to this transition–processes of ending, closing down, completing the work. I notice how hard it is to turn my attention away from the usual activities of my current/former self, to pay attention to the transition.  And in understanding this, I realize that I have to be courageous enough to say no to some good and important activities and activism. I have to say no, so that I can be courageous enough to say yes to the transformation.



This coming summer, I plan to retire from my ministry at the Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church.  I have loved being a minister and have loved serving this congregation for 12 1/2 years.  I think the congregation would also say that it has been a good match.  But last summer, I began to think I might need a change.  I have been dealing with auto-immune health issues for some time, and just don’t have the energy I used to have. I will be turning 65 this coming summer, and that means I will be eligible for Medicare–which in turn makes it possible to consider this change.

Unlike when Margy and I were searching for greener housing, and had such a clear sense of intention guiding our efforts, this change is more mysterious.  It comes from a deep place of weariness in my body, and a deep hunger for spaciousness in my spirit.  I am not sure exactly what the future will hold.  One thing I do know is that I need to tend the garden in our yard.

We’ve already ordered a bunch of trees and other perennials that will arrive in the spring:  one “Honeycrisp” apple tree, one “Contender” peach tree, an “Illinois Everbearing” mulberry tree (that one is mostly for the birds), three hazelnut bushes, two blueberry bushes–Blue Ray & Jersey varieties, a licorice plant, twenty-five Asparagus plants, and three goldenseal plants.

My spirit feels like the ground hidden under the snow, or the berries encased in ice.  I am trying to find quiet and solitude to listen to what it wants to tell me, to find out, as David Whyte says,

What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?”



Hidden Mysteries

Hidden Mysteries One

I walked to the cemetery ponds yesterday, and was sitting on a log. I suddenly noticed this strange creature in the water. Very quickly, they disappeared. How often do we walk by unaware of the mysteries hiding almost within our sight? Because I knew the snapping turtle was there, I could see enough to take this next photo, where they are barely visible beneath the water, in the shadow of the log. Can you see it?

Hidden Mysteries Two

How many other mysteries do we miss, how many beauties, how many blessings, lurking just beneath the shadows as we quickly pass by? May we slow down, may we pay attention, may we see what is all around us today.

The Chamomile & Me

From the Introduction to my new book, Finding Our Way Home:  A Spiritual Journey into Earth Community:

When I was a young adult I became intrigued with the use of natural herbs for healing. I read how particular flowers and leaves and roots were able to address different ailments of the body. I purchased herbal products in the local food coop, and steeped them in teas when I didn’t feel well. I learned, for example, that chamomile tea was calming during a time of stress. Then one day, with a group of peace activists protesting outside a nuclear weapons facility, someone pointed out to me a chamomile plant growing wild by the side of the road.


[Photo by Lazaregagnidze via Wikimedia Commons]

It was tiny, easy to overlook, with tight yellow-green berry-like flowers. Its feathery leaves branched out over a stony patch of ground.

I suddenly felt the connection. Chamomile wasn’t merely something I bought at the store. It was a plant that grew by the side of a road. Something in those chamomile flowers could ease my stress. We were related to each other in a deep, essential way—physically, chemically. And not only chamomile. I understood in that moment I was not separate from any of the plants or animals or people on the earth. We were all one, all interconnected. Something in me woke up.

But if we were one, why did we lose our awareness of our connection? What broke us apart? And more importantly, what could bring us back together? Standing outside that nuclear weapons facility, the contrast could not feel more devastating. If we truly felt our interconnection, how could we even imagine such destruction? Somehow, we had become lost, we had become divided—from the plants, from the earth, from other human beings, from the Mystery binding all of us together. How could we find our way back to each other?

…Without experiencing our connection, we cannot begin to address the dangers facing us in our time.

I invite you to join me on this journey into earth community. I offer stories from my own path, and stories from others who have helped me to find the way. Along this winding road, I had many teachers. Human teachers, to be sure, but also a red bird, a copper beech tree, a piece of bread, a common mushroom, my cats. I have not reached the destination, but I have come to understand a sense of the direction we must travel. We must cultivate deeper relationships with our fellow inhabitants of this planet, both human and non-human. We must understand that the Divine Spirit is here with us as well, not separate, but present in each being, and present in the larger reality of which we are a part.


Magic in the Yard

Today I woke early, it was raining, and I was drawn out to the screen tent in the yard to journal and pray and connect with our land. I was writing about a dream when suddenly I was startled by a loud huffing sound, and looked up to see a deer jumping into the brush and trees at the back of our yard. I didn’t see where she had come from, but wondered if she had ventured into the yard, and then suddenly was startled by noticing me in the screen tent.

I kept peering into the bushes all around the back of our yard looking for her, but all was quiet.  And then I saw her head peering over the bushes at the west corner of our space, perfectly still, almost invisible.  I would never have seen her if I hadn’t been looking so intently.  She was peering back at me. I silently sent her a message–I honor you, I won’t hurt you, I am sorry I scared you. Thank you for being here.  And then she moved away into the little woods of undeveloped land behind the houses on our street.

I sat for quite a while longer, astonished and moved, and pondering how the wild creatures might be passing through at any time, or watching us when we least expect it. Even right here in Portland.  I thought about the future of this space, how this year we are observing everything we can about the land, and also asking the land, what do you want for our partnership? Margy and I had been talking about maybe a little orchard in the sunny space just behind the house, and maybe vegetable beds in the side yard which was also sunny.  Maybe further back a pond for frogs and other creatures to drink from, and maybe a fire circle.

This morning I felt how sacred this space really is, already.  How lucky I feel that we were able to find this place and move here.  And how wonderful to be imagining the ways we can bless this land and be blessed by it.  I had a new thought, too–perhaps we can invite folks into this shady space at the back for learning together about how we journey into earth community.

Then I came into the house, intent to blog about all this.  I was looking on my laptop for possible photos to use with this posting. Suddenly our cat Billie jumped up to the window behind me and was looking into the back yard, and so I looked too.  And there was the deer, standing in plain view at the back of the yard, looking toward the house. I went around to our back door, and even opened the door and looked back at the deer.  She watched for the longest time.  And let me take this photo.

Oh earth, you never cease to amaze me!Deer in our yard

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