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.

wild-chamomile

[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

Getting Unstuck

Pooltable in doorLast Sunday we contracted with movers to carry another load of stuff from our old house to our new house–stuff from the garage and the basement, including this pool table.  Our other helpers had taken off the base, but it still took quite a bit of maneuvering for the guys to get the table out of the old basement bulkhead entrance.  Then when we got to the new house, it got stuck in the bulkhead entrance here.  It was just that much tighter.

Carve OutWell, they pulled it back out, and then Margy and one of the movers got creative: they chipped and sawed away at the bulkhead framing, to make a little carve out, and finally, with only a small cracked corner, the table made it into the basement!
Along with the rest of the stuff that we hadn’t really been sure would fit into our smaller space.  Now it is leaning against the wall, until we have a chance to unpack enough boxes to clear a space for it.

Not that everything is out of the old house.  This has been a slow process, and there are still items that we are planning to give away through Freecycle, and Margy still has a few boxes to sort and shred, and then we’re likely to have a dump run.  But it is happening, and it is almost done.

A larger feeling of stuck-ness has been in getting the radon levels in the basement to an acceptable level to our buyers.  Our contract was signed on January 26, and we’ve been in due diligence phase since then–two months.  We’ve gone through 5 radon tests, at least as many visits from radon mitigators, drilling eleven holes in the floor to see what was going on, three more “drops” to the system, many hundreds of dollars, and an exhausted feeling that we’d be stuck in this bad movie forever.  I didn’t even have the energy to blog about it all.

But, today, we got the results of our latest radon test, and it passed!  The realtors are preparing documents, and we expect to have a signed contract by 5 p.m. completing the due diligence phase and setting a closing date for April 14th.  I almost didn’t dare to write that down, the last weeks have been so discouraging.  Who could have guessed it would be so difficult?  But it seems we are finally unstuck and moving forward again.

Rain

RainI woke early in the morning, anxious about yet another radon test at our old house, as the rain was coming down and the wind was all stirred up. We’ve had two failed radon tests, before and after upgrades to our mitigation system.  The other day, the mitigation folks were checking on why the radon levels had doubled after their upgrades, but everything  seemed fine, and their instant test meter was showing no problems.  They suggested that perhaps it was an anomaly, and we should retest.

I had read online that radon tends to be at its worst in the winter and/or when it is raining. So I wondered whether that had affected the tests.  According to the mitigation folks, it shouldn’t matter that much.  But both of the tests happened during stormy weather, the last one including a rare winter thunderstorm, with an inch of rain and high wind levels. Now, here we are again, testing, with the rain pouring down, and the sale of our house to these buyers resting on the outcome. Why was it raining once again?

But then my heart took me to a deeper place this morning. I realized that deep in my subconscious I was still attached to that old myth–that when good things happened it was a sign of blessing or favor from the great Mysteries, the Spirits, the Divine benevolence. And its counter:  I believed that when bad things happened it was a sign of abandonment or disfavor.  So I was troubled with the Rain and Wind, the Thunder–Why are you not helping us? I thought. I was wondering if the Rain and Wind were angry with us.

But then, they brought me to a deeper reality.  That myth of blessing or abandonment is the quintessential American myth.  But it is not really true.  Otherwise, what does that mean for the people who have faced many troubles–so much bigger troubles than radon or house sale troubles–are they abandoned or in disfavor with the spirit?  What of every child who has lost a parent, or parent who has lost a child? What of the people who lost lands and cultures to the genocide of the early explorers and settlers? What of the people who were torn from their own countries in chains? What of those who are torn from their homes today, in the wake of war and terrorism? It is not the Spirit who has abandoned them, but perhaps their fellow human beings.

The Spirit remains present with us through everything.  Whether we face happy outcomes or troubles.  Love enfolds us in its widest embrace.  That is the truest reality.  Whether we pass or fail the radon test, the Rain and Wind and Thunder are still our guardians. I have to let my small heart open wide, to move beyond the idea of prayer as an attachment to things going my way, or the easy way, into prayer as an entryway into perceiving that all-embracing Love.

And in the light of that Love, don’t we want the best for the people who are hoping to buy our house?  Don’t we want them to be safe and have the best possible outcome for their home search, even as we hope it for ourselves? If there is a radon problem in the house, don’t we want it to be solved for them? And radon, or a house sale, are so small in the great scheme of things. There are so many bigger challenges that are facing our world today.  Challenges of water and air for all people. Challenges of climate change and war and xenophobia and oppression.

This journey is rooted in an intention–to live in a more beneficial relationship with the earth and all beings. Each step of the way can be imbued with that intention, and can bring us closer to that vision. Along the way, reality will be reality, and if that phrase, “all will be well,” means anything real, it is not dependent on test outcomes or house sales. Now it might be time to take a walk in the rain.

 

 

Prayer to Mother Earth

Earth_high_def_1024Mother Earth, we human beings have destroyed so much. You would be justified in wiping us off your body. But still–we can sing, and write poems to celebrate your beauty. We are your children, we are so intricately made. There are those among us who are heroes of love and compassion. How creative are the artists, and the stories we humans tell! Let us find a way to live into the future. Help us to grow into our maturity as a species, and not to destroy ourselves and so many others of your children.

Still, if you are on a deeper unfolding journey, of which we know nothing, I yield to this flow of your own maturing. I give thanks to you for being able to witness your beauty and your mystery. You, lovely ocean world, you, blue and green and gold and white sphere full of life.  And always–life and death and more life again. I stand in awe to be included in such a world.

Finding Our Way Home

I am acutely aware right now of the parallel journeys I am walking these days. The central purpose of this blog, and of the book I am hoping to publish, is to articulate the spiritual journey into earth community, finding our way home to connection with earth, with each other, and with the Mystery within and between all. And now, Margy and I are trying to “find our way home” in a literal way, to a house that can function more in tune with our ecological desires. Experiencing the ups and downs of that process–the search for greener housing–teaches me so much about the spiritual journey of finding our way home to earth and spirit and each other.

I realize that it is a journey of grief as much as of beauty.  It is a journey of letting go of the things we thought we needed, some of our accumulations of material property, to make room for a simplicity of heart. It is a journey of following the deep desires of our hearts, and sometimes only learning what those desires are when we feel the pain of losing something we didn’t know we desired. It is a journey of many searches, many turn arounds, many disappointments, and yet some surprises that delight.

It is a journey in which we get to know kindred spirits along the path. It is a journey of learning what kinds of systems actually help a house to function more gently on the earth, and what kind of systems help us as human beings to live more beneficially with our planet. It requires great initiative and stamina, but also demands that we cultivate patience, and that we wait in darkness as we experience the contradictions between what is, and what is not yet–what we dream about.

Today I voiced to myself the realization that the spiritual journey into earth community will likely not be completed in my own lifetime. It is a collective journey.  I can give it my voice and my love and my energy, but it will require so many more voices and so much energy from so many people. But most likely I will live in this liminal zone–this space between the world as it is, and the world that is not yet–most likely I will live here all of my days.

So I appreciate more deeply all that I am learning in our search for greener housing. Because experiencing this smaller liminal zone is bringing to me what I need for the larger liminal zone.  Most particularly today, I appreciate that it cultivates in me an open heart to all of the emotions it brings–the anxiety, the excitement, the hope, the disappointment, the grief, the emptiness, the beauty. So when I write of such emotions in this blog, there is a kind of equanimity in me, like a river flowing through my heart. I am glad to be on both of these journeys of finding our way home.
Path in Woods