Nameless yet extraordinary

oneIf I lean deep into the blood red curves and crevices that mold and hold my heart, I can see them, the winding spiral of stories strung like garland and sewn together with ache and love. It’s all there, layers upon layers of divots and dents, bursts and blooms, composted and collaged together laying fertile for the next planted seedling. I till and I till, waiting for that fresh smell of earth so good I could swallow it down in gulps.

Without really knowing why, I say “yes”. Yes to whatever comes, yes to the unknown, and I walk with eyes closed across a bridge lined with roaring waters. I smell salt, I smell the vast open space, the cool breeze and sun kissing my skin without promise, only trust. Trust is my word this year, and I have taken it into my belly without question, letting it grow and squirm and turn like a new babe waiting to be birthed. I do not recognize myself anymore, I am changed and I am good, so good.

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Magnificent things happen in nameless moments, like pushing a strand of hair away from the eyes just so we can see. We can’t help feel the most dramatic shifts, the ones that steal our minds and drag us through the torrent, the ones that make us grip firm with our toes and dig deep into the dirt that birthed us, the ones that burn our flesh free like the phoenix in promise for something new, but it’s the softness in the subtle that begs me to peel my eyes and watch more closely. I don’t need to fly too high or dive too deep to find the magic that exists behind nothing special. All things can end and all things can begin in every given moment, and that makes any given moment the most important one of all.

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This September, I will begin my journey into becoming a Sacred Passage Doula, or a death doula. It may be the most important thing I ever do, and yet maybe it won’t. Things–people, animals, cycles, relationships, jobs, seasons and so on… die all the time, and my little human brain cannot even fathom the whole of it. I am humbled by all that I cannot conceive and yet I am drawn to this work, to witness with respect, love, and compassion the passing of a soul from this life to the next. To embrace the ultimate vulnerability, work at death’s side by holding hands with the last breath of a human’s heart. Dang… The enormity of it overwhelms me, yet I believe my whole purpose is living this life so deeply and fully that there is nothing  left to feel except the”yes”–to bury myself further into the watery womb of connection and sync my breath closely with the sea of souls that push past in crowds or run and dance through the streets alongside me. This, this is a purpose well worth witnessing and surrendering to.

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Until then, there is summer, sun-drenched and heat brimmed summer, lazy mornings, long hikes, voracious reading and wet afternoons summer. Watermelons, sparklers, dancing with friends, and tubing kind of summer. The digging in the dirt, cooking dinner for the homeless, making trails kind of summer. An “I just turned 45 yesterday” kind of summer. A boy’s 14th birthday, a visit from my brother and nephew, a trip to California to house/farm/garden sit for a beautiful Songbird and friend that I can’t wait to meet in person kind of summer. This will be the best one yet…

Wishing you a wonderful summer, the nameless yet extraordinary kind…

XO

Misa

Winter

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I thought about her so much yesterday as I was writing this. Within seconds of finishing it, I received the call that she passed.

***

A gnawing at the edges beneath my rib cage confirmed what I already knew. She looked so small, so crumpled in the wheelchair, breathing tubes in her nostrils, IVs and machines attached to her wrist. The sour air in the nursing home was hard to take, but watching the beautiful mind of my grandmother struggle beneath her 95 year old shrinking body of bones and skin was almost unbearable. Her strong blue eyes softened as she drew them up to mine, both of us crying now, both of us shriveling at the heartbreak of saying goodbye. I reached for her frail body and rested my chin on her bony shoulder. “I love you”, I whispered into her ear. Her tiny arms did their best to wrap around me one last time and she whispered back “I love you too, thank you for being a wonderful granddaughter.” And I clung, I clung to every last memory–our road trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway, our epic cookie making holidays, BBQ’s spent at her lakehouse, learning how to fish on her dock. She, the only grandmother I’ve ever known, was fading from me and there was nothing tangible I could hold onto except a fragment of her little, naked body under an ugly, blue, hospital gown.

And then I remembered.

I remembered the strong, proud woman that supported and encouraged me through the years, the woman who loved to sing, play the harpischord and survived 3 cancers. I remembered her love for crossword puzzles, pumpkin pie and rivel soup. I remembered her caregiving, generous heart and how she nursed my sick father until his last breath. I remembered that no matter how much aging or disease takes from any of our bodies, what remains is the impenetrable imprint of love on the all lives that we’ve ever touched and that touched us back.

I finally pulled back and looked into her eyes one last time, noticing they really were no longer blue, but a light, hollow gray. She smiled at me, reached for my hands, and we gazed at each other in saturated silence as all that was left to say hung in the air between us. I leaned in, kissed her on the cheek and hugged her one last time.

“Bye Grandma.”

“Bye Honey.”

I walked out backwards from her room, pressed my fingers to my lips and blew whatever I had left into the air, as if it could ever be enough.

***

RIP Grandma. I love you.

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A little bit messy

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I wish I could say 2016 has been off to an extraordinary start. Well, it has been extraordinary but not in the way that lifts me off to the moon in a surreal sort of ecstasy. This is more of the messy kind of extraordinary, the kind where I am desperately trying to grip the mane on an unbridled, runaway horse, trusting that she will take me somewhere I am suppose to go, I don’t know where.

My word this year is trust. Trust what comes next, trust I am where I am supposed to be, trust my children, trust my husband, trust the growth and the shedding process, trust the ever changing ways of evolution, from the magical microcosm within my cells to the expansive universe that I can only fathom in an elusive corner of my mind.

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To dwell too much in the woe of Mercury Retrograde would be self serving, but the parts I do want to share have to do with death and the parting of old souls, letting go and letting shit just happen.

My grandmother is dying. I leave early tomorrow morning to hopefully see her one last time in the body that is no longer hers. At 95 years old she has experienced and seen far more things than I could ever write about. I tried once to record her life story while we were on a road trip together, but in the end what we shared instead was a conversation. A conversation about life and living, sorrows and regrets, the things she will never forget, and the things that made her life worth living. What I know most about her is that our souls touched, connecting on a level beyond language and family. All the other details of her life don’t really belong to me, they are hers and hers alone.

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This week I’ve been locked out of my house twice, my old van’s radiator broke and the garage door cable snapped. Meanwhile, I’ve become the new director of operations in my husband’s business and I will start teaching the love of dance to children next week. My daughter turned 11 last week and we spent her birthday re-creating Alice in Wonderland, having our own Mad Hatter Tea Party while soaking in the wise words of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll.

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A wise friend wrote this past week “The less you focus on how external things, people, or events, are affected, and more on how YOU are handling the letting go and it’s repercussions, and what it means for YOUR purpose, the stronger your spiritual evolution.”

Flux is a constant. Instability is constant. Death is constant, as is birth. I will grieve. I will let the tears flow, and then I will wipe them away. Love will pour in to the vacancies of my body, mind and heart because the messiness of vulnerability allows it to, because I allow it to. We are surrounded by love even when we can see beyond our nose, even in the darkest parts of midnight and the coldest moons of winter. Just extend your arm and reach, just a little further…

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Much much love to you

xoxo.

 

 

Wolf song

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Their howls woke me just before daybreak while moonlight and stars still swept the sky. They always begin the same way. One wolf raises her voice to the heavens and the others soon follow in unison, filling the valley with a most beautiful, haunting wolf song. As I laid in the old, borrowed, pop-up camper listening to their soulful howls, something stirred inside, like cosmic dust shifting deep within my bones, calling for remembrance of a wildness lost long ago. By the time their song quieted and the hush of the valley lifted with first daylight, an intense need lay prominent in the silence, a need for the connection between their ancient, native language and my very own.
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A wolf’s eyes are piercing and penetrating, colored by a depth that can break through any masks draped by ego and fear. Perhaps this is why the wolves draw so many people to the sanctuary. Perhaps this is why people of all kinds come to stay, work and volunteer at Mission: Wolf for months, even years at a time. The wolf embodies raw, primal wildness and holds no pretense, no lies or falseness like the kind our society so readily provides. All kinds of people stay at the sanctuary working for the wolves, many of them seeking healing, truth and integrity, bound by an unspoken desire to be seen as they really are–flawed, yet infinitely wild and free.

“To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul.” ~ Aldo Leopold

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Wolves, in the Native American tradition, are deeply respected as powerful teachers and guides. They are intelligent, social, and free spirited animals, loyal to their lifelong mates and to their strict, pack order. Most Native American cultures would never think of killing a wolf. A wolf is their kindred spirit, a brother and sister. Having watched these beautiful animals play, nuzzle, and greet humans with friendship, it’s hard to think of them as the terrible predator that they’ve been targeted as. What makes me sorrowfully ill is the existence of people and websites that promote the hunting of wolves for sport, claiming them to be the “top predator of the Northern Rockies”. Oh the irony…I say look again sirs.

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As with most of Earth’s wildness, somehow we have come to believe that if we can tame something, we can possess it, and by possessing it we can do what we want with it. Human affliction is obsession with possession. The pain and repercussions of the lies we tell ourselves is felt by every living thing on this planet. Slowly, the language of our own wildness has been lost, pushed far beyond recognition. The reality of this lies before us every single day. People have been breeding wolf and wolf/dog pups for years, selling them to humans who want to possess them as a pet. The friendly nature of wolf pups can have people fooled. Soon they learn that the independent spirit of a wolf cannot be tamed, contained or owned liked dogs. As the pups grow and mature, problems arise, particularly if genetically they are more wolf than dog. Wolf and hybrid owners eventually lose control of their pets, causing them to be euthanized or shot unless a sanctuary can adopt them. Wolf sanctuaries like Mission: Wolf exist to save these pet wolves and hybrids if they can. More often then not, pet wolves and hybrids are turned away due to lack of space and limited resources. Mission: Wolf, named in reference to the movie title Mission Impossible, has the primary goal to eliminate the need for wolf sanctuaries. People like Kent Weber, the founder, are trying to make amends for human error by making a difference. Healing for our human recklessness in every sense, can begin with just one person–or one animal inspiring us to do the same.

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On the day I met wolves, I didn’t know I would find myself looking into a mirror. I didn’t know that a wolf could reach into my soul and pull pieces I’ve left un-mended, challenge a truth I’ve left un-attended. I walked away from those wolves wanting deeply to change that truth, and become something entirely different, something already coded inside with a divine, primal right to embody my own bold and wild soul.

It was the afternoon of our first day when Kent sat us in a circle before entering the Ambassador wolves’ enclosure. Mission: Wolf trains certain wolves who particularly enjoy human company as Ambassador wolves. Ambassador wolves travel the country educating groups about wolves, allowing people to meet them, touch them, and hopefully understand them better. Currently, there are three, Abraham, Zeab, and Magpie. On this day, we were a group of approximately 15 visitors, some having had the privilege of meeting these wolves before. Kent explained that a wolf’s nature is not like a dog’s. Most dogs seek your attention and approval, needs it even, but not a wolf. In a wild setting, wolves are afraid of humans and will hide from them. In a setting like the the sanctuary, where they see and interact with humans regularly, they do not feel any obligation to humans. In daily relationships with humans, wolves will begin to treat them as another wolf, including disciplining them, seeking order and rank just as they do in a pack. Wolves must earn the respect of another wolf in order to be in their family, their pack, and a human is no different.

Wolves can sense deep fear, insecurity, instability, just as they can sense strength and confidence. In other words, they know immediately how a person feels about him or herself and will treat them accordingly. If you see your self as less than an alpha, so will they. Kent also let us know that wolves love small children and feel protective of them. They often will approach children first, sniff them, inspect them, even lick them. I don’t find this unusual, younger children have little need for self doubt as their wonderful, wild spirits shine through their skin, still unspoiled by the confines of ego. The wolves see this and are drawn to it. So am I….

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Wolves depend fully on a social order that is dynamic all the time. The one they truly need acceptance from is their alpha, their leader. They are drawn to alphas and will look for them in a group of humans such as we were. They greet the young children first, then the alphas, then move down the rank. Kent told us that as we walk in to the enclosure, walk in tall and confident, like we could care less there were wolves among us. He told us to not to appear needy or wanting of their attention because if we do, we will be ignored. In a culture where humans hunger and crave attention, recognition, praise, approval, acceptance and the need to be “chosen” so we can feel our own self worth, it can be difficult to pretend indifference to be chosen by a wolf. What Kent didn’t tell us and what I soon realized, was that pretending was useless. Within minutes of being in that enclosure, acting was utterly unnecessary. The wolves knew, just by walking by, how you felt about yourself. They could sense in an instant if you were trying to be something you were not, or something you weren’t sure you could be. For me, the challenge was just trying to muster authentic, self confidence, it did not come naturally. In that moment, the truth of my insecurities rushed to the surface exposing my weaknesses. I felt naked and I knew, I knew as I walked in grappling with those feelings, a wolf would not find the alpha in me, because I could not find it either.

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In a culture where our worth is based on what we think we own and possess, our titles, and our degrees, and how we think we are perceived, it is easy to confuse what our true worth is with what we acquired both materially and egotistically. Wolves cut through the bull with one look. They can see right through you and leave you exposed and vulnerable with feelings you thought you had buried, or even worse–could live with without repercussion. And herein lies the lifelong journey to answer the questions that surface in all of us. Is it possible to strip away the burden that keeps us weighed heavy and hollow? Can we find the self acceptance, love and forgiveness needed to be the strong, confident, self-assured alphas we all have the capability of being? What keeps us down? What keeps us afflicted? What keeps us from finding the worthy treasures hidden within?

“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?…The universe buries strange jewels within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic

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It’s been nearly three months since our trip to Mission: Wolf and I can tell you that in that time I have accepted the challenge of excavating my raw, authentic voice. Daily, I face unforgiving mirrors and embrace my weaknesses before transforming them into strengths. I continue to climb every edge and stand at high noon, inviting failure to be another badge of courage. I am answering the primal call to seek and unearth the alpha. I can tell you that I have faced fearlessly the parts in me that have kept me tethered to ego and fragility, challenging the need for approval from anyone but my own powerful voice. I can tell you there is little use for coincidence when divine energy knows you want to abolish the shackles that binds the wildness hidden within. I am stepping into the skin that has been waiting for me and I am no longer afraid of my purpose. I am raising my voice to the heavens, answering the wolf’s howl with my own undaunted, gritty, and beautifully wild wolf song.

Much love

XOXO

Tracing tracks

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I know, it’s still summer, but the season’s permissive laze and daze has snuck out quietly and left us. Autumn’s invigorating breath has found her way into our mornings and soon I will don my fuzzy slippers, robe, and plan soups for dinner. Like many, we are into school schedules and events, after school chauffeuring, teacher meetings, Fall trips and volunteering. I look back and remember where we last left the hurry. Tracing the tracks we’ve left behind, I touch with fondness the moments that made these last few months memorable.

I started teaching dance at a beautiful studio a little over a month ago, not traditional dance like tap or ballet, but heart-centered, choreographed dances that pull from all styles to inspire soul, emotion, awareness and freedom. It’s a dance made for anyone and everyone, no formal experience required. This is the manifestation of a dream–to call myself a dancer and share my love of dance by teaching. “Inconceivable” is what I would have told you 10 years ago. Truth: The rules we live by in this world can often feel unyielding, but to challenge them, un-define and re-define them, we can surprise ourselves by becoming something completely unexpected. My choreography now unfolds on a wooden dance floor spilling from a well of creative freedom that I knew existed, but never tapped openly until now. Teaching, leading a class, and exposing my heart and creativity to be judged and used by others has brought me to challenge and question the necessity of old insecurities. I see it now and I find myself peeling again.

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This month, in Issue 5 of Bella Grace Magazine, a piece I wrote was published. For a few weeks now I’ve let this soak in, and thoughts of my father have surfaced again. I am so different from the daughter he knew before he died 17 years ago, before I began healing, before I became wife and mother, before I began my climb out of the many shells that kept my soul hidden. Yet, somehow I know I am the woman he always knew I’d become. I use to resent the goals he once had for me, like the one where I would be an engineer or the one where I would go to military school, but I understand those really weren’t the dreams he had for me. What he wanted more than anything was that I just try for the things I wanted most, that I believe in myself, and find what true happiness is. And those dreams, Dad, have come true. Perhaps this joy is fleeting, perhaps the next big catastrophe is around the corner, but for today these tracks are very real, and they are, gratefully, all my own.

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The last thing I wanted to share just happened this past weekend over Labor Day, our family’s camping and volunteering trip to a wolf sanctuary here in Colorado. I will write an entire post on how deeply this experience affected me. Wolves, truly, are one of the best teachers this earth could have ever graced us with. The problem is that generally wolves are seen as a threat to man and livestock and, by stories, movies, and misconceptions, thought to be mean, menacing, and aggressive animals. This is false and documentaries such as “Living With Wolves” and The Wolves of Yellowstone serve to educate those who will listen about the gentle and social nature of wolves, as well and their importance to our ecosystem. But this is only a micron of what I personally learned from meeting a wolf, and, as I look a little closer, flows not at all surprisingly with the undercurrent of my latest lessons on strength of character and how true we are to our spirit. This, I will share in a new post sooner than later, but for now, a glimpse…meet Zeab.

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Much love to you
XOXO

A dream in December

December 24,2014

I want to share with you a story, a journey, a waking dream, one that I had this past week.

It begins with bare feet, mine, and I am walking. Beside me is Wolf. We are in a dense, dark green wood. There is a mist in the wood, one that lays like a thin veil hiding visions of future and past, bringing the present deep into the nostrils and down into the chest. The only sound that penetrates is our bare feet, lightly patting along the forest floor.

The gray and white Wolf walks with me often and I understand him to be one of my great teachers. We don’t speak, instead we break into a run. I am fast, so fast I feel the wind pull my hair behind me. My legs are burning but I feel no pain. There are feathers on my arms, in my hair, on my gown and legs.

I am air, I am wind, and I run until the pictures at the edges of my eyes blur.

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We come to a great pine tree, the largest and greenest I have ever seen. Wolf has stopped several feet behind me, watching with his bright yellow eyes. I am to climb and I am to climb alone.

I reach up onto the long, laddered branches of this great pine, and pull myself up. Though the tree doesn’t move I know its spirit, strength and age wills me to be nimble and quick. I climb and climb, all the way to the top without looking down, until the air is so thin I should not be able to breathe, but I can. I stand at the top of this great tree, above the entire forest. I see the green tops of pines, canyons of brownish red and gray, and a blue horizon overseeing all.

My arms spread but they are no longer arms. They are wings, powerful wings of gray and white feathers that stretch far into the East and West.

I hesitate to jump as a flicker of fear begins to burn, the first I have felt so far. I shove it back down into its pit. I am to soar and so I will.

When I jump, I feel elation and a freedom that doesn’t exist when my feet are buried in the earth. The breeze that whisps across my face also carries my feet and body as if they were hollow. No weight, no burden, just a lightness that I feel could last forever.

But something changes.

In moments, I feel terribly wrong and I feel myself sinking towards the earth. A rise followed by a sudden decrescendo– I am falling and my wings are failing. The ground comes to me far too fast and now I am tumbling, tumbling, encircled by dust and dirt and pain, not a physical one, but one of shame and doubt.

Dusted and broken, I am no longer made of feathers and lightness. I feel heavy knowing that I fell without knowing fully why. I stand bare, covered only in skin, before the edge of a cold, blue lake surrounded by white mountains. The air is fresh, cool and crisp, a gift to the senses. I see movement beneath the icy water’s surface and I understand that I am to dive in. When I do, the water isn’t cold at all, rather, the water is warm and welcoming.

Dolphin comes to greet me and we begin to swim. I grab her dorsal fin and she pulls me through the deep, dark blue. Once again my hair is pulled behind me through waves of healing and cleansing. The dirt is no longer embedded into my skin. My wounds begin to close and fade. We swim for seconds, minutes, hours, it doesn’t matter as time disappers. If only I could stay here forever, safe, enveloped, and protected, but I am not meant to.

I am out of the warm water now and standing at the water’s edge once again. Wolf is waiting for me at the shore. As I turn to thank Dolphin, she is already gone.

Wolf speaks and tells me a great and wise teacher is coming.

So I wait, still standing at the water’s edge. I feel the soft, comforting pebbles and sand beneath as a ripple of water tickles the tops of my feet. A large shadow looms overhead darkening the sinking sun’s reflection in the water. I look up and see an enormous blackness coming down from the sky, my heart stirs and the hairs on my arms stand on end.

Overwhelmed and surprised, I see a majestic creature of enormity and grandness. He is the most beautiful dragon I have ever seen. His wings are long and wide, and shimmer like jewels waving across a dusty sky. His face is wise and terrifying at the same time. He is dark and iradescent, made of colors that cannot be described should they even exist in our world.

He looks at me long before he speaks to me.

“You will learn to create fire, to brew it, bundle it and breathe it out with every ounce of energy you have within you.”

And so he does.

We stand at the water’s edge and he shows me how to inhale, to gather, suck in and swirl all the fear, joy, happiness, pain, anger, helplessness–all the emotions that serve and do not serve–to roll them up into a fiery ball within my hearth space, my solar plexus, the pit above the stomach and below the ribcage. Everything begins here, he tells me. We are energy, but only the diligent and perseverent can create more. To live on given energy is not enough as most often it is squandered and wasted with useless pursuits. We create energy and ignite fire to forge new paths. We create because it is how we survive and ultimately, thrive.

I watch him as his chest balloons upward and outward, burning bright red and orange, a brilliant glow of heat that flushes my cheeks and forehead. He opens his mouth and exhales powerful orange, white, and yellow flames, roaring with pure light and energy, surging forth with committment and purpose. The fire reaches out across the lake reflecting the light of its flames toward the dim-lit sky.

“The fire we create is not one that we should be afraid of, for without it, we are dead inside, cold and alone. The darkness exists because like the night sky, it serves a purpose and a teaching, sometimes even a restful place. But if we stay in it too long, it will consume and devour whatever energy we have left. Fire is an intense and ambitious source, but to work for you, you must summon it. You must create it with a sincere and humble heart.”

And with this, he turns, lifts into the air, and then he is gone.

I whisper “Thank you”.

Wolf and I walk back to the edge of the wood and we begin to run again.

I am tired, but I run and run and run until I am at the great pine tree once more.

I raise my arms up and grasp it’s hearty branches.

I begin to climb.

***

I cannot tell you what happens next because that moment still lies within my bare hands and feet. I am humbled by the teachings that continue to guide me and lead me to a better path. In the end though, it is still up to me to create the fire. It’s up to all of us.

I wish this for all in this new year. To create our own purpose. To dream of those that teach us how to run, climb, fly, swim, breathe fire and conjure pure energy.

I wish everyone much love and
a Happy New Year.

Hello and welcome 2015.

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Endure

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So much to say but the words won’t come easy.

November.

November was a deep clean cycle, the kind that digs into the darkest crevices and unearths dusty truths. I spent much of November sick with old shadows. Physical manifestations of lurking demons perhaps. I was barely able to celebrate Thanksgiving as I was hit with 2 separate illnesses, both involving my immunity and the intestines. Today I am better, but my internal machinery is still trying to find balance.

In truth, the cleansing began before I became sick. It began with an invitation from Deer in the East in the early morning of Nov.2, and a painting class that appeared spontaneously in a feed I was reading that same evening. Inside, an intuitive seed sprouted and spread when I saw the class and I knew spiritually and creatively this was an offering. The class was to begin the very next morning so there was no thinking involved. More so, I was compelled. One week later as I crumpled into my first sickness, I understood this offering was more than a gift, but a life preserver and candle in the changing fathoms of darkness.

To call Visual Quest just a painting class is grossly insufficient, but words hold minimal power in that space. Visual Quest is straight soul speak, a travel into each direction as we unearthed, cleansed, healed and communed with the energies around and within, all with the mediums of meditation, music, animal medicine, paint to canvas, and pencil to paper. As I navigated the entire compass of this wonderful class, I accepted the path my body was being challenged with and worked to quiet the naysaying shivers of ego. I painted freely through the physical and emotional conversations between spirit and self. Holes mended as they appeared–healing, holding, and rebirthing.

Oh, how often do we not recognize that our creative energies not only feed on the light we breed from mindfulness, but also on the emptying of composted waste that has churned ceaselessly in those dark crevices? The purest of messages and vibrations walk the tightroped path between ecstacy and despair if and when we have the courage to walk with it. The courage of warriors is within each of us and the power to endure shows itself when we ask for it.

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I do not dare guess what December holds for me or any of my family. Expecting and accepting the unexpected is possible if we know that we are not alone and unguided, if we believe that we are warriors, healers, and creators all wrapped in skin and held together by bone.

It is a full moon tonight and the winter solstice is approaching. More than list making and gift giving, more than merry making, and schedule filling, more than the good and bad news we are having or hearing, more than the physical and or emotional sicknesses we are all carrying and fighting—we are all still souls having a human experience. Transcendence is available to each of us.

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May your December be the most inspiring ever
With much love and gratitude
xoxoxo
MJ

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wide awake and wild

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I took one small step closer, cautious, curious and completely aware that all he had to do was take one powerful leap in my direction to spear me with those handsome antlers of his. His watchful, deep black eyes were on me. Though his munching jaws would seem to say that he could care less about my presence, we both knew better.
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This was the first of three encounters I had with wild animals this past weekend. The second was with the Gray Jay. We were over 9500ft. high having snowshoed nearly 2 hours into the southern heart of the Rocky Mountains. There was no wind, just the blinding whiteness that comes with fresh snowfall. The sound of our feet in deep snow and my breathe from climbing in it provided the haunting rhythm to keep placing one foot in front of the other. It was not an easy climb to Emerald Lake, but when we reached it, I understood wholly the meaning of the phrase “deafening silence”. Surrounded by jagged spears of rock resembling a crown, I would have fallen to my knees in reverence had I not already felt dwarfed in the mountain’s majesty.

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(If it helps to understand scale in this novice photo, please look at the tiny black dot at the base of the mountains on the right. That dot is a person.)

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After a few awe-inspiring minutes of quiet, I was startled by a low swoosh that came from behind and flew directly above my head. She landed on a branch 15 feet from me, looked at me while cocking her fluffy head, imploring me to see her, to be mindful of her. She wanted my attention and she found it. She posed left, then right, then looked at me again to make sure I was still watching. I worked quickly to get my camera out again, but she waited patiently, long enough for me to rattle off at least 10 shots before she flew back in the direction she came from. She, like the Elk, felt tame in ways that didn’t seem plausible. An unspoken language passed between us, one that I had forgotten, one that I might have understood again if I could have stayed there in that space with her just a little longer.

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The last encounter was with two foxes. My husband spotted them first on our return to Rocky Mountain National Park the next morning. They were fast and they were less willing to take chances with a human like the other two. I jumped out of the car with the camera and ran to the edge of the meadow that they had run into. I followed them with my lens, first one, then two, too far to get good details thanks to the autofocus on my camera. There was no time to switch to manual, no time to play with light and catch the glint in their mysterious eyes. They were gray and they were very smart, dancing along and pacing the meadow, watching me to see what I would do next. They never left or ran away too far. As I walked back to the car, they got closer, comfortable with knowing that I was leaving their domain, their protected space that I was invading, that we all invaded long ago.

twofoxes

fox1

These wild animals are medicine to me, a balm to the coldness that comes with our reality and domestication. Once I dip in and wander among the messages these creatures provide, I find myself in the folds of something bigger. I awaken knowing that we are not so different. We are both dependent on the environment that surrounds us, both dependent on the the earth that provides for us, both hungering for a language that connects us all, both free and not free, bound by instinct, duty and limitations, both extremely fragile and weak at the helms of the unknown.

On a crystal clear yet windy morning, on our last snowshoe trail in the tall pines and bare-boned trees, I found a mark on an aspen, a mark left by someone that did not know it would be meant for me. I stopped to pull off my gloves and dug for the cameraphone in my snowpants pocket. A wind gust rushed in lifting the snow off their feet to sparkle and swirl in the air behind, just in time for me to take the shot. And I did take it, all of it. I am not sure when I will be back there again, but I will remember. I will remember how it felt to be wide awake and wild with the spirit of the earth.

MJtree

much love to you fellow earthwalkers…
xoxo