Woke this morning thinking of Womanrunes The Winged Circle, rune of freedom, and the sense of lightness and freedom I have as I let go of residual stress, tension, and overwork from grading. As I tried to lay out a lovely, symbolic, “letting go” mandala this afternoon, the cat, the baby, and the little girl all walked on it. The wind blew my leaves out of pattern and scattered my seeds. The blue jay feather I’d synchronistically found kept flipping over. I had to laugh at myself as I kept trying to make it “right.” I get it, I get it. Let go. 🌀❤️🍂 (yes, those are baby toes in the lower left corner).
…Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
— David Whyte
I’ve written several times about the value of Endarkenment. Last night at our Red Tent Circle, we had a seed ceremony and talked about how beautiful things can take root in dark places. Time spent curled up in the dark is necessary before things can bloom.
What is it that calls me in the night?
I look up
She’s pouring tea across from me
a patterned rhythm to her movements that speaks
of sacred knowing.
A door opens
She is ready to share
and yet, I slip away
through the undercurrents of time
falling down out of space
out of memory
out of song
and out of touch.
in a soft bed
my arm curled around my nursling
hearing his breath in the dark
what I am missing
what I’m forgetting
and what remembering is right here.
I’ve been craving solitude and time alone to simply think. My dreams have felt very significant and yet skitter away from me during frequent night-wakings with my nursling. They roll just out of my reach and dance at the edges of my consciousness with the promise of something forgotten…
Yes, I know, my subject for today’s photo is a real shocker! I took all of these pictures today on the very same rosebush (no filter or color manipulation). The very epitome of ephemeral. Luckily, also ephemeral is my personal sense of tension and overwhelm at having end of session grading to complete. May I release it with as much grace and beauty as my roses lose their petals…
My workload has been significant lately, as it always is as we wrap up another school session. I could really use some rich solitude lately!
One of the best things about verandahing very day is the opportunity to literally stop and smell the roses. This sacred pause feels more vital than ever as I enter the busiest time of the school session. It is interesting that the busier I feel, the more important it is to take some time to go out on sit on the deck. I feel almost compelled to go and so restored and more capable when I come back inside. I rarely take any tech out with me (except when I want to take pictures of roses!) and I often don’t even take a book. I just sit.
September roses are magic.
“…When we work together cooperatively, the final product is one of synergy — it is more than each of its separate parts. The pleasure we take in each other’s company finds its way into the medicine we create.”
— Joanna Powell Colbert, The Gaian Tarot
Today was the final day of Gaea Goddess Gathering and my sister-in-law took this picture of me by the lake. It was a re-creation of a similar picture she took two years ago that now graces the back cover of my new Earthprayer, Birthprayer book (published just last week and still waiting for me to write some launch posts about it!)
I’m feeling relieved to be home now from Kansas after five days away. Gaea Goddess Gathering was a multifaceted experience as always. Vending was so rewarding with lots of lovely connections woven and stories shared. Many other elements felt like something we survived! It is quite physically taxing to be there–not enough food, water, or sleep, too much climbing up seventy steps up a steep hillside while breastfeeding + babywearing! And, this year there were weather extremes–first, 90+ degrees, follows by rain and wind, then cool. I couldn’t have done it without my mom’s help with my daughter and with the help of my SIL and my mom with set up/take down of the booth.
As we approach U.S. Independence Day and I continue to work through the Womanrunes course, some themes of interdependence emerge. There is so much strength in interdependence or being in-dependence together. How do we balance the twin forces of separation and connection?
For me, I spend a LOT of time in direct connection with my immediate family. It is rewarding, but I also crave time alone. I am introvert and I need time alone to restore my soul! The Two Circles remind me that I need to carve out the solitude my soul needs for restoration and renewal—and, I need to stop apologizing for that. I’ve cobbled together a solution of sorts, that in itself is an illustration of balancing the twin forces, in that when my baby takes his nap, I retreat with him to my bedroom. I sit next to him while he naps (he wakes up otherwise!) and write, work, and sometimes I even journal and read and make art. I usually set up a mini altar on the bed next to my laptop–sculpture, stones, salt lamp, cards. It isn’t “perfect,” but it is what sacred space looks like for me right now. Most of the course was developed while sitting next to a sleeping baby or even nursing the sleeping baby and typing with one hand! I’ve come to see this intensive time of baby-mothering as a peaceful sabbatical, rather than a denial of myself/what I need.
When we reaching the Two Circles in the course, I felt stressed at the beginning of the day—torn between the needs of kids, baby, students, myself. I was fretting over this seemingly eternal struggle for “balance” and criticizing myself with an old, tiresome story of not being a good person, what’s wrong with me, etc. I decided to listen to some old saved voice recordings from my Woodspriestess experiment that I never transcribed. Interestingly, the first one I listened to (from 2012) was practically verbatim the “tape” that was replaying for me at that moment–balancing the needs of connection with the need for solitude, separation, and independence. And, interpreting my own, legitimate need for time and space on my own, through the lens of being “selfish” or somehow inauthentic as well as not being able to meet everyone’s needs for my attention and time. I told my husband about this and he said: “how old was Alaina then?” I paused and realized that she was almost exactly the same age Tanner is now. Suddenly, we realized that this sensation is probably related to having an eight month old baby, rather than a personality “defect” to be corrected! It was actually really freeing then to realize this is not a new experience, but is situational.
My favorite quote about the concept of existing in the context of relationship comes from another of Christ’s books, She Who Changes:
“[According to] Martin Buber, there can be no ‘I’ without a ‘thou,’ no self apart from relationship. Martin Buber said that before speech is developed, the hand of the infant reaches out for its mother (or other nurturer).’ In other words, before Descartes could formulate a thought, and certainly before he knew that he thought, he reached out his hand in relationship. The existence of the other is as certain as the existence of the self. Long before infants learn to speak, they come into relationship with others besides the mother, and with the physical world, with cribs, toys, sunbeams, shadows of leaves blowing in the wind. The existence of a world and the existence of others can be doubted only by someone who imagines that he or she could exist apart from relationships. According to process philosophy, a person who imagines he has no relationships is to be pitied-or committed to a mental institution. His thoughts on this matter certainly should not have become the foundation of modern western thought.” (Christ, 74)
Today, we reached the Crowned Heart, Rune of Unconditional Love. I knew right away this morning what this rune was going to remind me about. I think that the most unconditional love I’ve experienced is from my babies TO me. I’ve never been loved so intensely wholeheartedly as my babies love me. I know that might sound weird and that we think of parents as the ones having unconditional love for their babies, not vice versa, but the depth of the mother-baby attachment is extremely profound and incomparable. It is also feels so simple and uncomplicated. I had the same depth of attachment with all my children, but with each one I feel more aware of how short-lasting this period of intensity is and I just love how much my baby loves me. While we’ll always love each other deeply, right now we are a motherbaby—a single psychobiological organism and there just isn’t anything else like it…
Let’s celebrate in-dependence together!
“And I toil and sweat
And watch and wonder
And am full of love.
Living in place
In this place.
For truth and beauty
While I expected to participate in my own photo prompts for the Womanrunes Immersion course, I didn’t really expect or plan to fully experience the course myself, personally. I am so familiar with the Womanrunes that I guess I didn’t know they still had more to share with me! As I developed the course, I kept saying to myself, “I guess this is my immersion!” When I described it as an “immersion” course, I meant it for the participants—to have daily contact with the symbols, to uncover their own truths, and to be alert for this work and magic in their own lives—but to develop the course materials, I had to be immersed myself for several months. And now, as I read my own words as they arrive in each daily lesson/prompt, I find the immersion continues and I still have more to uncover. As I touched on in my last post, what this course is uncovering for me is a desire, no, a need to reconnect and re-establish meaningful practices and contacts that I have let fall away since my baby was born in October. I also need more gentleness, patience, and grace when faced with the unexpected (which pretty much happens every day). I am receiving that I need to tend my relationships. And, at the same time, I am feeling the tickles of multiple additional course ideas and possibilities and I feel exhilarated and excited about this inspiration. I often feel as if my work comes through me, like I am a channel for it and this fire of inspiration just wants to burn through me…to be expressed and birthed into the world. It is an intense experience and it can lead me to be a little skewed in my personal life—to burn and burn and burn with “just one more thing! I’m almost finished!” rather than heeding my body’s call for rest or food or hugs.
Yesterday morning, in response to the prompt for the Pentacle, Rune of Protection, I took a picture through my roses at the woods leading down to overlook where I wrote the Womanrunes book. I love this place so much.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been delighting in harvesting various plants. I made a rose elixir and also started a plantain infusion for salve. I finished drying raspberry leaves for tea and some chocolate mint leaves as well. And, I made four sage smudge sticks from sage that grows in front of our house in the flower boxes. I’m having so much fun lately with this herbal craft. As I mentioned, one of the things I’m recognizing as I work through this course myself is that I really want move these self-care, nurturing connections and practices up in my daily priority. While much of my work takes place online and I am grateful for that, I simply must cultivate more time to be offline, restoring my soul.
I’m also remembering to consciously center in my heartspace to consider what is actually required in each moment. What task actually needs my attention and what is self-generated, self-imposed busy-ness. And, I’ve implementing a daily, one minute grounding practice after being inspired to do so by Enchant Your Everyday.
While I was walking in the driveway on our nightly walk, I came across a gigantic frog. I’ve never seen such a big one! It was the perfect reminder of how this very same patch of ground upon which I spend all my days still finds new ways to surprise and enchant me!
Frog spirt animal associated with water:
Life mysteries and ancient wisdom.”
(*Past post with the rest of the “I stand on holy ground” poem quoted above: I stand on holy ground | WoodsPriestess.)
Too busy. Too buzzy. Not enough time.
To do. To do. To do.
Listen to Summer.
Languid. Warm. Sweaty. Hot.
Kissed by sunlight
Bathed with rain
Summer is heavy.
Hot and ready.
Blooming and dripping.
Unfolding. Becoming. Ripening.
Sweet. Tangy. Biting.
Feel it in the air.
Greet it at sunset.
Throw your arms around it.
Dig in. Hang on. This is IT.
Taste it. Hold it. Enfold it. Be it.
Lick it. Know it. Be it. Embrace it.
This is your life.
This is your life.
Do you love it?
I’ve been working really hard for the last month preparing my Womanrunes Immersion course and I feel a little unbalanced and skewed off-center. I keep telling myself that it is okay to keep working hard, because I’m “almost done,” and sometimes pushing is exactly what is needed. But, I’ve realized as I participate in my own course, that since there is always something else immediately around the corner, that “break” I keep holding out for never comes. I have to create it for myself. The course is going so well and has been really inspiring and magical so far, while also needing a lot of energy from me. I’ve committed to working through the course myself, not just guiding others through it, and I’ve already had to take a deep look at several issues…feeling on the verge of some kind of breakthrough now. From yesterday’s lesson this reminder:
“When we lack proper time for the simple pleasures of life, for the enjoyment of eating, drinking, playing, creating, visiting friends, and watching children at play, then we have missed the purpose of life. Not on bread alone do we live, but on all these human and heart-hungry luxuries.”
–Ed Hayes (Simple Pleasures)
And, then from another article:
“The more fully we experience life’s beauty, the less regret we have that we didn’t live and love in the ways we most longed to.”
Yesterday in response to my own Womanrunes prompts, I literally went outside to smell the roses.
It was just what I needed and I need to move these experiences up in priority in my day, instead of being the last things I attend to. I’m also participating in this free offering:
This is a beautiful world. Don’t miss it!
(Traditional Native American saying)
One of my favorite books to have available on the resource table of our local Red Tent Circle is Moon Time, by Lucy Pearce. I reviewed it in this post, but didn’t have room for all the juicy quotes I wanted to share! One of the ideas I include in my own Red Tent Resource Kit book is to use womanspirit wisdom quotes to stimulate a discussion in the circle. Here are some quotes from Moon Time that would make great launching points for a sharing circle at the Red Tent:
“It is my guess that no one ever initiated you into the path of womanhood. Instead, just like me, you were left to find out by yourself. Little by little you pieced a working understanding of your body and soul together. But still you have gaps.”
Questions for circle: Were you initiated into the “path of womanhood”? What gaps do you feel?
“You yearn for a greater knowledge of your woman’s body, a comprehensive understanding of who you are, why you are that way. Perhaps you have searched long and hard, seeking advice from your mother, sister, aunts and friends, tired of suffering and struggling alone. You may have visited doctors, healers or therapists, but still you feel at sea and your woman’s body is a mystery to you. Or maybe you have never given your cycles a second thought … until now.”
Questions for circle: What do you feel like you need to know about your body? What mysteries are you uncovering?
“Through knowledge we gain power over our lives. With options we have possibility. With acceptance we find a new freedom.
Question for circle: How does menstruation matter?
Additional information about why menstruation matters on a physical, emotional, and relational level:
We start bleeding earlier today than ever before, with girls’ first periods occurring at 12.8 years old now, compared with 14.5 years at the beginning of the last century. Coupled with lower breastfeeding rates, better nutrition and fewer pregnancies, women now menstruate more in their adult lives than at any time in our history.
From the age of 12 to 51, unless you are pregnant or on the pill, every single day of your life as a woman is situated somewhere on the menstrual cycle. Whether ovulating or bleeding, struggling with PMS or conception, our bodies, our energy levels, our sense of self, even our abilities are constantly shifting each and every day. And yet nobody talks about it…
Each month our bodies go through a series of changes, many of which we may be unconscious of. These include: shifts in levels of hormones, vitamins and minerals, vaginal temperature and secretions, the structure of the womb lining and cervix, body weight, water retention, heart rate, breast size and texture, attention span, pain
threshold . . .
The changes are biological. Measurable. They are most definitely not ‘all in your head’ as many would have us believe. This is why it is so crucial to honour these changes by adapting our lives to them as much as possible.
We cannot just will these changes not to happen as they are an integral part of our fertility.
From there, another relevant quote:
“There is little understanding and allowance for the realities of being a cycling woman—let alone celebration.”
Questions for circle: What allowances do you make for yourself as a cycling woman? Are you able to celebrate the experience?
In my own life, I’ve had to reframe my understanding of the impact of the monthly moontime experience by looking at it through the lens of healthy postpartum care following birth—it is crucial that we care for our bodies with love, attention, respect, and time. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s lifecycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives through gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I’m so excited to offer an online Red Tent Initiation Program this summer. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.
Back to Moon Time quotes!
“There is no shame in tears. There is a need for anger. Blood will flow. Speak your truth. Follow your intuition. Nurture your body. But above all … Let yourself rest.”
Questions for circle: Do you allow yourself anger and tears? Do you feel shame? How do you speak your truth? How do you give yourself time to rest?
To be clear, I wouldn’t use all these quotes at one Red Tent Circle! I would use them individually at different gatherings. This one blog post has enough potential circle discussion prompts to last for more than six months of Circles! 🙂 This month I also bought a bundle of copies of Moon Time to have available for women at our local Red Tent.
More good discussion quotes here: Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon | Talk Birth.
And, there are others in my Red Tent Resource Kit.
Please consider joining us this summer for the Red Tent Initiation Program!
Deep peace of the singing earth to you
Deep peace of the calling bird to you
Deep peace of the quiet stone to you
(*doesn’t feel right to end a “deep peace” blessing without this line from the original Gaelic blessing)
Sometimes I can be hard on myself about my drive to be “productive” and about not allowing myself time to rest. Today, I decided to acknowledge and celebrate that it feels really good to do hard work on something I’m excited about. It is exciting to watch projects emerge and take flight. It is fulfilling to have ideas and to stick with them, doing the work to birth them into the world. Rest is good too, but today, the love is in allowing myself to burn with feverish productivity and enthusiastic hope. I’m working on the finishing touches on the Womanrunes Immersion e-course that begins in June and also on the planning and preparation for an even bigger project, a Red Tent Initiation Program. I’ve been gestating the seeds of both ideas for a while, but they felt “too big” and almost scary. However, gradually, step-by-step they kept unfolding and I got brave enough to name and claim that, yes, I am doing this.
“When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.”
― John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (via 30 Days of Bringing in the May)
I’m in the middle of finals week right now. I know finals week is hard on students, but it is seriously hard on professors too. Teaching fits into my life and is very rewarding. Grading is an enormous energetic expenditure that doesn’t feel like it fits (i.e. it “takes from” other important areas). It takes a while to rebound from being thrown off balance like this. I always feel as if I’m “getting home” from being out of town when I resurface after finals week, and just like getting home from a trip, there is a lot to catch up with and it takes time to recover. I literally feel energetically drained, like something has been taken out of me that I didn’t really have available to give. I also notice a pattern of depressive thoughts at this time: not a good mother, not a good friend, not a good wife, not a good daughter, not enough, not enough, not enough, no one likes me, what is the point of anything, why do I try, who do I think I am, what do I have to offer. (Usually accompanied by a headache.) I’m trying to just observe and notice this as a pattern, rather than getting stuck in the thought-ruts. However, even this noticing usually involves a hearty dose of self-beratement: how come I can’t remember this, how come I can’t be more zen, how come I can’t “unclench” and flow, how dare I claim to be a “spiritual” person when this is how I think and feel, and blah, blah, blah.
Today I went outside after finishing my stack of final exams. We were supposed to get family pictures taken this afternoon and I’d finally come to the conclusion that it didn’t make sense to do pictures today and I should reschedule. Right then, my photographer-friend messaged me to suggest the exact same thing! Sweet relief! It is interesting how a fairly small adjustment to a day can relieve some of the drain and restore some of the energy. Just then my four-year-old brought a clover flower over to me and said, “I picked this for you, Mama, to help you have a happy day!” I smelled it and realized I may never have truly smelled a clover flower before. It was beautiful. I sniffed and sniffed the flower. My husband and daughter picked more flowers and we all inhaled the smell of them deeply. Indescribably lovely. And, then I realized…this is “approaching the beautiful.”
I happily anticipate the dogwoods each year. Today, the 30 Days* photo prompt was to photograph a blooming tree. The dogwoods are already waning, the edges of the flowers browning a little, spots on the petals, the centers yellow instead of green. Looking back at previous years’ posts shows me that this happened earlier this year than the two prior years, with early May sometimes holding the full splendor of the dogwoods. We’ve had a warm spring so far and that must be why.
I spent today at an all-day spring retreat with my women’s circle. It was just what I needed. While I was feeling rushed packing everything up to bring and lamenting about my to-do list and upcoming busy week, I really enjoyed myself and felt like it ended up being really important to have given ourselves this time together.
“The tools are unimportant; we have all we need to make magic: our bodies, our breath, our voices, each other.”
“Individually, and in like-spirited groups, we and our culture can be healed; we can come fully alive, and recognize ourselves and others as deeply holy.”
–Seena B. Frost, SoulCollage
(*In case anyone is wondering, the Thirty Days of May class is about ushering in the May, which is why it began prior to May 1st!)
In direct contrast to the sweet contentment I felt on Earth Day, today I have felt tense, taut, stressed, unhappy, unsettled, depressed and discouraged. Yesterday was a hard day for a variety of reasons (primary being a baby that doesn’t like car travel + a long day in town with much ins and outs of the car). The Judgmental Committee in my head not only decreed that I’m a bad mother, but also a bad friend, wife, daughter, and overall person. I feel pulled between the needs of my older children, my baby, my work, and my business and end up feeling like I’m not doing a good job with anything. Today, I returned to an old conclusion/realization: much of life about discernment. I have a tendency to become dualistic in my thinking, either I DO IT or I QUIT IT FOREVER. At the same time, I am very harsh with myself at my perceived inability to “flow” and surrender (even though, when I look at my life objectively, I see that every single day, I actually demonstrate great capacity to adjust and adapt and be flexible).
This morning, I woke up remembering that today is the second anniversary of my grandmother’s death. No wonder I feel a little “off,” sad, and out of sorts. I also was harping at myself about not being able to “unclench my life” and just be with it. Why must I always push and force? Why don’t I know when to stop pushing or grasping? But, then the image of a seed came to me, pushing its way out of the shell and up through the soil. Life, Nature, pushes all the time. And, she refuses to give up. One of the daily miracles I witness in the forest is life’s refusal to quit. The refusal to give up, the tenacity of trying again, even when the ground is rocky and the wind blows fiercely. So, in response to the first prompt for 30 Days of May today, I realized the call of the “May Queen,” to me is of discernment. To find the balance between when to hold, when to fold. When to yield, when to resist. When to coast and when to swim against the current. When to push and when to pull. When to rest and when to keep going. When to laugh and when to cry. When to (temporarily) surrender and when to fight. When to soften and when to contract.
Pushing is not wrong. Sometimes it is exactly what is called for.
These are not unique or amazing revelations, but I needed the reminders anyway. The prompt for today also suggested pulling a tarot card and so I drew a Womanrunes card and it was The Cauldron. In a sweet synchronicity, it reminds me: something is waiting to be blended.
…Be alert for feeling like a stubborn child, who feels cheated because the perfect day at the park is over and digs in her heels, stubbornly turning away from the cool glass of water and the freshly made bed. In other words, continue to give yourself what you most desire – the time to meditate or write, the time to hike in the patch of forest by your house – even if it isn’t the hours you would have on retreat or the pristine wilderness hundreds of miles from humans. Because to follow your desire, to tend them with care, is both the path home and a wonderful place to be right now.
Be alert to telling yourself, “Well that was pointless, why give myself _____ again?” Retreats and deep dives and walkabouts are precious. Period.
When I first led retreats, I used to feel like a charlatan because after the retreat was over, in a few weeks, people were back to regular life. It took me years to understand that’s normal! It’s okay. It is what we do with what we experienced and how we generously share that matters…
I’ve had this feeling before about our women’s retreats—how to “carry over” our sense of centeredness and connection and sisterhood and positivity. Or, how to maintain and hold the sense of personal equilibrium, stillness, connection, and understanding that I feel while sitting along on a rock into the chaotic noise of life with four kids. Maybe it is fine simply to sometimes feel it and sometimes not.
This tree took root over a slab of stone in the woods. At some point it tipped over, pulling the rock up with it. It continues to grow from a prone position along the forest floor. Its huge, strong roots stretch out on either side and you can peek right under it…
And, nearby, redbud flowers bloom directly from the partially split trunk of a storm-damaged redbud tree.