Saturday, December 1, 2012

Snow Falling and Night Falling Fast

The other day we had gently falling snow.  I was driving by the pond and slowed down, as I usually do when going by there -- checking to see if the heron is hanging out.  And sure enough, yes!  There she is.

So I stop and back up.  I'm guessing this alone will cause her to up and fly away.  But it seems she could care less.  I open the window for a close-up view.

This is a different heron. She's beige, perched on a fallen branch, level with the water.  Her webbed feet rest on the snow-encrusted limb. She's hunched,  accumulating snow on her shoulders.  Her feathers are  a tawny blend of bone white and light brown.  The coloring above her eyes is a shade darker than below.  Her beak is long, yellow and sharp.

I take out my phone to try and get a picture, but I have what I refer to as an antique cell phone.  The kind you flip open.  It takes an extremely LAME photo of this magnificent bird.  She looks like a little speck in a lovely curtain of softly falling snow.  The snowfall is so perfect it looks like a movie backdrop, something out of White Christmas.

I've always thought of these  lazily falling snowflakes as blessings from the sky.  Accumulating on our shoulders.  This recalls my essay, The Blessings of Breast Cancer (an Unlikely Title, I know). It was just published in The Door Opener, our regional magazine for healers and holistic practitioners. So I've been hearing from friends, applauding my account of how even the most frightening experiences can yield blessings.

I'm overcome with a deep sense of  gratitude.  2012 has been a tumultuous year to say the least, and yet blessings abound.  We are in the midst of a great awakening -- the end of an epoch and the birth of  a new humanity of oneness and compassion.  These ideals are hard to practice in everyday life where the tension of what's unsustainable is mounting. What's no longer working is inviting change -- that mysterious unknown we're so frightened of.

Ushering in a new self or a  new  world -- it all seems possible in quiet moments like these.  In the hush of the  snowfall, peace descends.

I need to get home.  Like a ghost, the heron seems to fade into the gathering dusk.  I think of that line from Robert Frost:  snow falling and night falling fast.

She seems content to remain in her meditative stance, gathering blessings.

P.S. You can find my essay on line at  The December issue is due out any moment.  Thank you Dory for this wonderful resource!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Go Placidly Amid the Noise and Haste

I set out for a walk but the blustery gusts give me pause.  Brrrr....  Since I'm trying to shake a lingering cold, I decide to abbreviate my route.

At the Highland Street pond, a new owner has shorn an overgrowth of shrubbery on the property, exposing the house in a naked sort of way.  A tumbledown stone wall is being precisely rebuilt.  But they also stripped the pond of surrounding shrubs and trees, so now the herons only have a few clumps of tall grass to hide in.

The pond narrows to a waterfall which flows under the street and out the other side.  The stream meanders through wooded backyards, swift or sluggish depending on the rains.  As I approach, I see a heron standing vigil where the underground culvert opens into a small pool.

With the leaves fallen, it's easy to spy her in time to pause.  She is the exact blue gray as her tangled bramble backdrop.  She blends in like a piece of driftwood caught among clotted leaves dammed up by slender fallen birches.  I approach quietly.  Although she doesn't appear to notice me, I know she knows I'm there.

She is standing in profile, all scrunched up.  I take a silent step closer.  She is putting on a show of utter disinterest, but I know the moment I get too close, she'll fly away.  I can see every individual feather of her  slate-colored wing.  The precise, fan-like pattern looks like an example of sacred geometry.

One more cautious step.  I wonder, where is her neck?  Where does her long, slender neck go when she hunches up like that? She looks braced against the cold too.  

With one more step, I'm as close as I can get without getting wet.  Just then, she stretches out her neck, drawing herself up to her full height.  I see that her neck was folded back so as to rest on her "shoulders." Before she looked guarded, now she looks regal.

I surmise that  elongating is a prelude to flight.  But she simply strides away, one long leg in front of the other, right down the middle of the stream, leaving a rippling V-shaped wake behind her.

What kind of a wake do we leave?  Is it chaotic and breathless? Or is it placid, attentive, aware, like the heron? Unperturbed!  She is utterly unperturbed by me.  I respect her space; I ask permission before coming closer and she gifts me with a simple lesson that brings peace.  Through the lens of my heart, I see her as an embodiment of Mother Nature, the Spirit of the Earth, who bestows grace when we open to the gift of what is.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Moon in the Morning

Last night we set the clocks back, so tonight, or rather this afternoon, dark will come early.

I find myself resisting it.  And lots of other stuff too. 

I have a troubling, ongoing dynamic in my immediate circle.  Trying to be discreet here, honoring privacy and so on -- but also trying to be honest with myself.

So on my walk this morning, my intention is to let go of resistance to a certain person.  To let it drain into the Earth with every footfall. 

I make my way around to the dock.  Because the sky is a brilliant azure, the water  is sky blue and  inky navy.  The light breezes are at cross currents today. Further out, the wavelets are blowing northward, while closer in they're leaning south.

I sit cross-legged on the wooden slats, my back to the sun.  A disseminating, three-quarter moon floats high in the sky this morning, about 9 am.  It looks like a crystal satellite.  Even though I can only see three quarters of it, in truth, it exists whole, complete, round and full.  The rest is hidden from my perception by the shadow of the earth.

So, in keeping with another truth, as above, so below, I  close  my eyes and look within, at my resistance.  I know that what I have so much trouble accepting in another person is the very stuff I'm likely hiding in my own shadow. 

What are these traits  that I can't seem to abide in another?  Neediness. A need to control.  An expectation that when she has a need, everyone will drop everything and trip over themselves to meet that need.  When this doesn't happen, the need becomes a demand and then things really get ugly.

Hoo-boy!  This is the fun part! 

Breathing ... letting my resistance drain into the Earth.  The Great Mother accepts it with grace and compassion:  it's fuel for transformation.

So, I ask myself, am I needy?

Answer:  of course!  But do I show it?  No. 

My neediness is tucked away in my shadow, where it won't inconvenience anyone.  I cover it up with a persona of self-sufficiency. I'm low maintenance, don't worry about me, I'm fine

Sometimes this is true, but sometimes it's bullsh*t.

Moving on to control.  Do I like a sense of control? 

Who doesn't? 

When things are beyond my control I get anxious. 

I'm learning to surrender to what is.  I'm flexing trust like a  muscle; it  strengthens the more I rely on it. 

But can I always go with the flow, not knowing what's out there?  Nope.  I prefer a guarantee before proceeding with anything risky or whose outcome is unknown.  But where can you find a guarantee like that?  It doesn't exist!

So yeah, let's concede control is an issue. 

Do I have everyone running around meeting my needs?  Hmmm, this one's not so obvious.  The sun is bathing my back, melting my resistance.  I let it go with every breath.  The waves gently slap the stony shore. A leaf-blower drones in the distance.  Three snow-white swans sail across the lake, leaning into the wind like the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria on their way to a new world. 

And I see that yes, it's possible other people are getting tired of meeting my needs.   In some ways, I'm high-maintenance, having set exacting standards not just for myself but others too. 


Moment of humility.  Tears fill my eyes.  And I hear those words again:  fuel for transformation.  Self-awareness is fuel for transformation.

It feels like this person who has exasperated me for so long has been holding up one of those mirrors you see at the carnival -- your body might be short and squat but your head is three feet tall and pinched.  She's reflecting a distortion.  It's me, wearing a mask of self-sufficiency, an image of placidly going about my business like a Zen master, when in truth, I have legit needs and a desire to wrap my mind around things that are messy and complicated.

The world is still spinning on it's axis while I admit these things that I have judged as flaws and banished into my shadow. By accepting them instead, I release their power to haunt and taunt me.  They just are, without the negative charge.

In this way I am like the moon in the morning.  Part of me is hidden in shadow, but in truth I'm whole, complete, round and full.  I reflect divine light and it contains All. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Bluster Before the Storm

This morning I asked my daughter Meredith to take photos of the stunning foliage we are blessed with on our property.  From our upstairs window it's a blaze of blustery red.  Downstairs, waves of rippling gold leaves heave,  sway and swirl. The lawn is a crinkly carpet of yellow and tarnished brass.  It  casts a light like no other time of year.  The kitchen and great room are bathed in coppery radiance, like the light that streams through the stained glass of a cathedral.

I want her to photograph it to post for Michelle, our daughter in Italy for a semester, because she's missed this annual display and it will likely be gone after Hurricane Sandy blows through.

I venture out for a walk, umbrella in hand, just in case.  It's mild and gusty, perfect for a good aura cleansing!  I send prayers on the currents -- safety for all, especially friends in vulnerable places.  I plant my prayers for the Earth herself, honoring her awesome transformation process, willing to shift with her.  Requesting a most benevolent outcome for all beings as the hurricane crawls up the coast.

So in this auspicious year, very near the cross-quarter day of Samhain, (Celtic for "summer's end," more familiarly known as Halloween), we mark  the start of the dark half of the year.*  Mother Earth is ushering in this time of inward reflection by dancing like a swirling dervish over land and sea. 

At the pond, swaths of wind shudder across the surface like the rustling train of a lady's gown.  Almost all the leaves are fallen.  There is the radiant burning bush.  A string of leaves clings to a vine, fluttering like  Tibetan prayer flags.  Bittersweet has woven itself along the split-rail fence.  The long, leaning grasses of the cattails are fading to straw.  The leaves fly in a tumult -- head over heels or like spinning tops, their stems whirling in a spirally descent onto the water.  At my feet, at the end of the dock, they float, still colorful -- speckled red, mottled pumpkin, crimson flame.  Overhead, the clouds are alive -- low, grey, scudding across the open sky. 

A trio of geese fly overhead, honking and flapping in unison.  A lone swan bleats.  Sparrows hop among the twigs gathered for kindling, restless.

I'm poised in this space between earth and sky.  On the cusp of the dark part of the waning year.  Wanting to save it via photography.  And also willing to let go of what needs to be released.  All these elements -- the trees, the pond, the air and the sky -- are our teachers.  They show us how to yield to change.

Let's see what Sandy has in store for us.  I get home without having to call in a rescue, without having to open my umbrella.  We stow the pumpkins in the garage for safe-keeping until the storm passes through.

*  Sharynne MacLeod NicMhacha, "Samhain," Llewellyn's Witches' Date Book 2012, p. 115

Resonance, Rhythm, Creative Self-Expression: Fifth Chakra Balance

Last week's meeting of our meditation series, Sacred Silence:  Connecting to Your Inner Compass, introduced the group to fifth chakra dynamics.  The fifth is located in the throat, so common ailments like a sore throat or a stiff neck may indicate some balance is in order.

We begin by transitioning from our everyday world of cares and duties -- into our space of rest and renewal -- with a breathing exercise and simple invocation.  We are learning  the calming benefits of a few minutes of conscious deep breathing.

Then we go around the circle for a  brief update from each.  Our circle consists of busy professional women juggling lots of work responsibilities as well as some who are home with children.  Every one of us needs time apart for reflection.  Our meditation practice is a centering tool in a chaotic world.

My energy awareness tip this week is to show the women how to see energy.  It's easy!  Are you practicing ladies?

Then we review the issues of the 5th chakra by watching the power point presentation I created. (Can you tell how happy I am with my technical prowess?!  Would not have happened without my IT person, my daughter Meredith.)  We learn that in the fifth chakra we have our creative identity, where self-expression is vital.  Here we have the right to speak and hear the truth, but how many of us were raised to keep family secrets?  When we are taught to lie, or asked to believe a lie -- our throat chakra suffers.

When the throat constricts, we may have a fear of speaking, be extremely shy, have a weak voice and a poor sense of timing (why did I just say that?).  We may have difficulty putting our thoughts into words.  On the power point we have  the stuttering king from the movie The King's Speech as an example.

Someone with an excessive fifth chakra, on the other hand, can't stop talking!  The powerpoint shows a cartoon woman with her mouth wide open. The words spilling out:  "Blablablabla...." You can't get a word in edgewise!  This person is a poor listener, interrupts often, dominates with a loud voice and enjoys gossip. 

Balance in the fifth?  Martin Luther King.  He exemplifies the resonant voice and a masterful sense of timing and rhythm.  We are drawn him; we want to hear what he has to say.  People with balance in the fifth live creatively, expressing themselves in any number of ways -- dancing, cooking, writing, singing, painting, photography.  The options for creative self-expression are as varied as we are as individuals.  What activity do you get lost in that 'gives voice' to who you are?

We also discuss healing practices for fifth chakra imbalance -- neck rolls, chanting/toning, journaling, practicing silence.  To speak our truth with love reflects vitality flowing through your throat chakra.

For our meditation, we had the Dali Lama himself chanting OM (On CD.  If he was in Wethersfield you would have heard about it.)  His voice echoes and reverberates through the silence.  The sound vibration is soothing --gentle, strong and loving.  I invite everyone to hum or tone along with him.  After the meditation we practice OM breathing (thanks, Mary), activating our fifth chakras.  After this, we feel clearer.

In closing we enjoy the group energy we generated together over the course of the evening.  We sense it flowing around our circle as we hold hands -- recieving it with our left hand and giving with our right, picking up a little heart energy along the way.  We are grateful for this little community we are creating together; we take the group energy with us back out into the busy world.

Someone mentions getting home in time for the presidential debate and we laugh and groan.  Maybe, in our newly-recovered sanity, we'll record it and watch it later?  We want to enjoy, for the rest of the evening, the stress-free zone we have created for ourselves.

Because of hurricane Sandy there will be no meeting tonight but we will meet for the next two Mondays, November 6 and 13, to cover the remaining two chakras.  All are welcome to join us.  Please call 860-563-5682 so I can set a place for you in the circle.  The fee is $10 for an evening of peace and quiet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Self-Acceptance (Just Do It!)

Our meditation circle met again last Monday evening to learn about the heart chakra.

This is the center of our being, poised above our three lower chakras and below our upper three.  In this center, we strive to balance the earthly and the spiritual, the inner masculine and feminine, love of self and love for others.

As I presented characteristics of a person with a deficient heart chakra -- cold, critical, narcissistic -- everyone nodded; we all know people who isolate themselves, avoiding the joy and intimacy of unconditional love.

But how can heart chakra energy be excessive?  How can we love too much?  Here we talked about love that's given with strings attached.  Sometimes it's a smothering feeling: "If you loved me, you'd eat this lovely meal I spent all day preparing and you'd skip your zumba class tonight and spent the whole evening with me!"  Someone whose heart chakra is running excessively is demanding, clinging and overly-sacraficing; they give to others in order to get their needs met.

Someone with a balanced fourth chakra is self-loving, compassionate, and empathetic.  Because they care for themselves, they are able to give generously.  Caring for ourselves isn't  selfish; it's a pre-requesite for service.  When our inner well is  full and replenished, we can offer others a drink. 

One addition to our energy system anatomy this week had to do with the colors of the chakras.  The rainbow light that's cast by a prism hanging in the sunlight? Those are the glowing, vibrant hues that radiate from our chakras.  The first is red, the second is orange, the third is yellow and so on.  We visualize these when we explore our inner territory in meditation.

In our meditation this week, we focused on our breathing.  Deep breathing is such a powerful healing practice -- we can't do it enough!  We practiced inhaling, letting the belly expand and drawing the breath up, up, up into our lungs (fourth chakra organ).  As  we do so, our rib cages gently flare outward.  Then, while the breath flows out on the exhalation, we allow our rib cage to pull back together  and bellies to contract, deeply expelling the breath.

Do this for ten minutes and transmute stress and agitation into clarity and balance.  Guaranteed.

After several of these deep cleansing breaths and getting settled on our cushions, we begin our meditation.  Progressive relaxation helps.  Knowledge of our inner workings helps.  Guided by Spirit, I lead the group  to an inner fountain of inexhaustible love and self-acceptance. Mantra:  I deeply and unconditionally love and accept myself.  This inner wellspring flows with vibrant, emerald green light.  It is Source energy, available to us always.

Please join us on Monday evening October 22 when we explore the fifth chakra, center of creativity, communication and self-expression.  We begin at 7 pm.  The fee is $10.  Bring a cushion or two.

Join us for another evening of Sacred Silence:  Finding your Inner Compass.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Igniting Your Personal Power

A Summary and an Invitation

Here's a review of our last gathering, the third in our workshop series, Sacred Silence:  Finding your Inner Compass.

 Homework (always optional) from our previous meeting included creating a sacred space at home as well as a self-care challenge -- what can you do to take care of your self (for a change)?  One woman, noting that in her entire career she had only taken 4 sick days, invited herself along when a friend mentioned she was going to the beach.  Excellent choice for nurturing one's self.  Another  shared how she decided to use her mother's hope chest in a spare bedroom as an altar; she had already begun collecting meaningful objects to place there.  A+ on our "energy homework"!

I also presented an addition to our energy anatomy -- liberating and manifesting currents.  The liberating current flows upwards -- from the dense realm of the earth up through our divine awareness  The manifesting current flows in the reverse direction, enabling us to bring our inspiration  from the ethers downward into reality.

Over the last three weeks, we've moved from the solid ground of the first (tribal) chakra, through the fluidity of the second (emotional) center, to igniting  fiery autonomy in the third chakra.  We looked at the variables that enable us to be "in our power" as well as obstacles that leave us feeling dis-empowered.  We scratched the surface of how to recover our inner authority.

One source of inner authority is the higher self.  For the meditation, I led the group on an interior journey where the higher self was invited to make "herself"  known.  This aspect of ourselves, connected to All That Is, presented an exquisite gift to each meditator.  The wisdom of the higher self is available to us at all times, if we can clear space for her -- which we are getting better at each week.

Next Monday we visit the airy realm of the heart chakra, the bridge between the upper and lower chakras.  Please join us, all are welcome.  Call 860-563-5682 to register.  The cost for this evening of peace and quiet is $10.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Misty Morning

This foggy morning I can't see the end of my street.  It's like that scene from A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is making his way home through the streets of London.  The lamp light is shrouded in fog when a horse-drawn coffin passes by and disappears into thin air.  It leaves Scrooge blinking, famously doubting his senses.

These impressions echo something I read yesterday in Stuart Wilde's Infinite Self:

This sacred and holy journey -- the journey away from ego toward the infinite self -- is a journey through a fog.  You're only going to be able to see a few steps in front of you.

Right.  I get it. 

Let me back up here. 

This week, the town where my family lives, in upstate New York, has been rocked by tragedy.  A beautiful young woman, 18 year old Alexandra Kogut, left her hometown for SUNY Brockport last month.  Last weekend she was beaten to death by her boyfriend.  I'm not clear on the details; he may have been a former boyfriend, but he traveled to see her and now she's dead.

The entire town, where both the victim and the perpetrator grew up, is in mourning.  Last night when I called my sister, she was on her way out to a candle-light vigil.  My niece graduated with this girl, class of 2012.  My nephew is in the same grade as her younger sister.  My parents know her grandparents.  Someone posted a tribute on facebook, photo after photo of groups of kids, laughing and smiling, with their whole lives in front of them.

Or so it would seem.

At my sister's request I settled into meditation to send healing.  I tried. I tried not trying.  But it felt futile, too late.  It seemed to me that there is no healing.

So here I am groundless, lost in the fog.

Since there's no making sense of it, my only option is to place it on the altar of reality -- this horrible thing has happened -- and give it to the Great Goddess of nurturing and healing to lead every stunned person wherever it is they need to go.  To accompany them through the realms of sadness and immeasurable grief.

My prayer is that they find relief and peace.  But it seems to me that there will never be relief or peace.  I watch my mind wrestling in the roped-off  ring of my awareness, valiantly trying to pin down a much more muscular challenger -- a chain of events that have it clearly overwhelmed. 

And yet there's that part of me that's witnessing this struggle.  This larger awareness, like the overhead light that illuminates this whole inner boxing match, is somehow able to contain the tragedy and my futile attempt to understand it.

When I can find this part of my being, which seems strangely outside of time and space, there is relief.  There is peace.

Alexandra has returned to her infinite self.  May she spread pebbles of peace in the path of her loved ones as they integrate their senseless loss.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Tilt of the Earth Toward Autumn

Yesterday I went out too early and  ended up walking in the long, chilly shadows. So today I set out a little later than usual.  By the time I got to the reservoir, the sun had crested the treetops. I sat on the deck with my back soaking up sun. Aaaahhhh.

The water was smooth and sunlit.  Occasional breezes shivered across the surface.  Bright blue sky and feathery clouds admired themselves in the mirror.  A heron flew across, low over the water,  seeming to admire her regal reflection as well.  As I'm peering to watch where she lands, I see there is already a heron in the shallows.  Her neck and long beak form a question mark against a  back-drop of emerald lily pads.

A squawk turns my attention to another heron.  The dead branches she hangs out in are dappled in sun and shade and she's chosen a sunny spot too.  She is in the same question-mark pose as her twin in the lily pads.

Question mark on my left and question mark on my right.  Appropos of the 2012 equinox,  I sit between symbols of uncertainty as the earth tilts toward autumn.

I silently ask these birds what wisdom they have for me, as long as they're raising questions.  I reluctantly close my eyes, fold my legs, lengthen my spine, and breathe.  The sun penetrates my back.  A bee buzzes lazily.  The silence enfolds.  My breath reels in and reels back out, like the whirring of invisible fishing line casting out into the depths.  And from the depths, they answer my query in unison:  Be still.

So I follow their advice, sitting and breathing.  The breath rising up softly ... releasing ... and falling back down,  as gently as the red leaf drifting ... dropping from the hand of the wind onto the pliant water.

In stillness, the questions,  the uncertainties -- which make me so uncomfortable -- transform into possibilities.

The unknown -- which can be scary -- transforms into potential, excitement about what may lie ahead.

In stillness, I can abide questions with openness and wonder; I don't need to scramble for anwsers.

I can resist the turning of the wheel of the year or welcome it.  Because guess what?  Summer is fading into fall whether I approve or not! 

Despite the long shadows and shorter days, a brisk chill runs up my spine, reminding me of the abundant beauty and bounty ripe for  harvesting now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Light and Shadow

This morning on my walk I find myself irritated after a long night of restlessness. It's early, barely light, and a guy on a scooter on Two Rod seems to be making an unreasonable amount of noise. People are still trying to sleep, I mutter inwardly.

Also it's chilly. Sixty degrees. I threw on a light sweatshirt, but I'm annoyed that I didn't put a layer underneath.

Truth be told, several of my close friends are dealing with some serious life issues right now. Stuff happening that causes one to succumb to fear and worry. If I had to face these things, I think, I don't know if I could handle it.

And I notice how uncomfortable I am with my uncertainty. All I can do is listen. I can love them and be available when needed. But it seems feeble in the face of life-altering circumstances that are seemingly everywhere right now.

I notice how uncomfortable I am with the knot of fear lodged in my third chakra, center of personal power. How distressed I am at my inability to calm the thoughts chasing themselves around in my head all night long. This sinking feeling of powerlessnes. I try to allow it, to sit with it -- what else can I do at four o'clock in the morning? After a (long) while, daylight is seeping through the blinds. With a sigh, I'm up and looking for my sneakers.

At the pond I find two herons. One is on my left, over in the shadows. Perched on a fallen limb, all scrunched up, looking annoyed. I used to wonder if this bird was even a heron because, with it's shoulders pulled up like that, it's signature long and graceful neck disappears. I have a theory that they assume this position when they're on guard, vigilant. They look like they're not taking any shit from anyone today, so think twice before you get too close.

Over on the right, standing among the sunlit lilly pads is another heron, standing tall in her full glory. At ease. Nothing is bothering her. She looks this way and that.

I shake my head and summon a wry smile at this reflection of my psyche today. Troubled and restless, but wanting to be at ease. Tense, armored against that invading sense of futility and, even worse, the accompanying self-judgment. We are trained to be like that heron basking in the sun -- not to trouble anyone with our troubles. But guess what? Life is not always sunhine and lilly pads. It's ok to glower.

Today I give myself permission to glower!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quadruple Sighting!

OK, this is not going to be a blog exclusively about herons, but I was gifted with the sight of four of them this morning!

First, I'm standing on the dock, amused by a small fish that is following a turtle through a mucky maze of algae. The turtle turns right, the fish follows. This cracks me up. I watch them for a few minutes, then quietly sit down, hoping not to send them scurrying into the depths. This is when I spot the first heron, flying low over the water. She may have been watching me, watching them.

Next, I spy heron #2. I can't see her feet; she's over there in the tangle of fallen trees, so she could be standing either in the water or on a tree trunk. She is a soft gray, just like the bleached wood in the early morning sun. She hangs out for a while then alights, meeting another heron (heron #1?) mid-flight. The two of them disappear around the bend.

I'm wondering how these turtles suspend themselves in the water the way they do --heads poking up, looking intently, shells hanging at maybe a 45 degree angle below the surface. Motionless. No paddling to keep them afloat. Must be something with their breathing. Pathetically, I know I'll be looking this up.

My gaze wanders along the shoreline. And there's another one. Standing in deep water. It almost looks like she's floating, like a goose or duck. But no, she's still as a statue, only accasionally turning her long beak this way or that. She doesn't seem to be hunting. Just surveying her territiory. Eventually she takes flight too, landing in someone's back yard, as far as I can tell, under a big weeping willow.

So that's my signal to leave. Further along my route is the Highland Street pond and from across the street, between branches, I see something out of the ordinary in the grasses sprouting up along its edges. I cross over, keeping behind a tree so as not to disturb. Another heron! This beauty is large, very tall, perhaps a male? From this vantage point, much closer than my spot at the dock, I can see the powerful yellow beak, the long neck, the individual slate-blue feathers of his folded wings.

I'm regarding him wondering if he's aware that I'm there. Ha! I lift one foot, and he's off. I hadn't even taken a step! Huge wingspan lifting him off onto the shadowy treetops.

Maybe it's the full moon, maybe it's the turn of the earth toward fall. But the herons are out, just like we are, soaking up these precious summer days. I don't know why I'm so fascinated by these creatures except that they're so unusual, and they woke me up to the rhythms of the earth and the value of aligning with them. Learning about these cycles, how the ancient cultures all over the world honored them, somehow brings order and meaning -- and aren't we all longing for that?

Joining the rhythm of the universe pulls one into the flow of something greater than our daily list of things to do. It offers lessons in how to be in the tumult of the troubling times we live in.

An hour with the herons somehow brings healing. Breathing deeply, (like those turtles?!) I bring newly-regained peace and perspective into my busy day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Dreaming Heron Moon

My calendar refers to tonight's full moon as The Dreaming Heron Moon, noting that, "like the heron, this Aquarius full moon brings the energies of both air and water. Birds of the betwixt and between, most herons hunt at dusk and dawn, along the edge of water and land." (Llewellyn's Witches Datebook, 2012, p. 91)

Dusk and dawn -- potent times of transition -- are the best times for spotting the elusive heron. She teaches patience, stillness, grace. Whether in the air or on the shore, she teaches us to be still, to explore the constantly shifting borders between here and there, then and now.

One recent evening I was able to pause at length, sitting on the dock on the resevoir, as the sun set between moody clouds. One moment they were tinged with blush; the next, deep lavender. After a few moments of meditation, I open my eyes to find darkening clouds amassed like the gaping jaws of a dragon, with fiery "breath" blazing across the sky.

When the summer stars blink overhead, I scramble up. Time to get home. Dusk is coming earlier now and I start to fret. High summer is turning toward first harvest. Then I remind myself to align with this rhythm. Breathe. We still have many more long evenings to read out on the porch until the fireflies blink under the bushes and across the lawns.

Pausing at twilight teaches us to yield to coming changes as seamlessly as day gives way to night.

Kristen Madden, author of this little piece in my calendar, says of the heron that she "can lead us through the veil between worlds and allow us to commune with the Divine." May tonight's full moon open that portal for any who wish to enter!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sighting II

This morning I set out on my walk, pausing at the corner to stretch.  Forward bend, triangle pose, side stretch, plank -- my asanas are rusty at this hour.  In these few minutes the early morning shadows recede.  As I sink into warrior pose, every damp blade of grass ignites into a filament chrystalline radiance.  The lawn shimmers.

This seems to be a good omen on a big day.  First, it's my mother's 76th birthday -- Happy Birthday Shirl the Pearl!  Second, we are driving with Meredith, my oldest daughter, to help her move into her first post-grad apartment in Boston.  This is my baby, starting her career.   In truth, she's a very capable young woman but my intention for this morning's walk is to reconcile myself to the truth that she's leaving home and not for a dorm room.  My babe. 

My favorite spot along my walking circuit is a friend's backyard dock, on the 1865 (I think that's the right year) Resevoir.  I meditate or just gaze out over the expanse of water, rimmed with lush green this time of year.  I soak up the peace.  And quiet. 

This morning there is a gaggle of geese hanging out in the tangle of fallen trees in the shallows over to my left.  Adults and there a name for baby geese?  They aren't really babies, they were born awhile ago.  They're toddlers, I'd guess.

So I'm scanning the shoreline but not too closely because I've learned that the heron is all but impossible to spot, the way she blends in with her surroundings.  So I settle in, cross legged on the dock and compose myself for this day of parting from my daughter.  Endings and beginnings intersecting in my heart like these overlapping concentric circles rippling outward at my feet.

So, how will I manage today, and how will my beloved manage, leaving his first born in the big city?  With a sigh, I watch the geese, setting sail, a fleet of 15.  As I'm watching them, I spy the distinctive profile of the great blue heron, standing on the ground

I scan my memory:  have I ever seen her on firm ground?  I once saw a heron standing on a frozen pond.  A usual spot for perching is the pipe spanning the pond.  I once saw her land on a high branch, surveying her kingdom. And of course in the shallows.  But I have never seen her on solid ground.

She is standing where a dirt path ends at the water.  She takes a few long-legged steps, disappearing behind a clump of cattails.  It's like she slipped through a portal into the shadowy woods.  And then she comes out the other side.  Her long, S-shaped neck scrunches as she appears to regard the parade of geese out on the sunny, glassy lake.  As if taking a cue from them, she unfurls her great wings, elongates her neck and takes flight. 

I am surprised that the first beat or two of her flight are a bit ungainly -- that leap from earth into air.  But in seconds she is effortlessly gliding low over the water.  As her wings rise and fall, their tips meet their mirror images in the water.  In the down beat, her wings appear to touch their reflections. 

As above, so below.

As I follow her flight I see she's meeting a friend across the water.  They both land in the rushes, and I give up trying to discern them.  Like spies on a mission, they have seamlessly blended into their surroundings.

So perhaps I am fit to leave my child on her own.  Perhaps I have an inner "firm ground" to stand on as she takes flight.