Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Crafts’

Up-Close and Natural

Because we are part of the natural world, our earthly story can offer us inspiration, healing, a sense of peace and balance, or a profound feeling of belonging. What is happening now outside your window? As I look out, I see that once again a soft blanket of white covers the ground and rooftops. The new snow clings to the tree branches, creating a fairyland in the ravine behind my house. Once again, the world has been reborn.

Today I will take a walk and look for messages. These messages may take the form of a sharp cold scent on the breeze; the sound of some water trickling beneath the snow; bird calls; animal tracks in the snow; the soft kiss of snowflakes on my face; the winter light, with its gray, blue, and sepia shadows; the shape of the bare tree branches against the white sky. My walk will be different from any other time, and though the place may be familiar, it will be new.

To dive even deeper, I may take out my loupe, a lens that goes with me everywhere, nestled in its tiny, wine-colored pouch. It allows me to see a world that is usually hidden from our everyday eyes. Through the loupe, a tiny area becomes an entire world from an insect’s point of view, evoking images, memories, and inspiring art and poetry.

We will do this together, looking for messages, exploring the outer world up close, seeing what that experience evokes in our inner worlds. The listing with the date and time for this gathering will appear on the Services / Gatherings page of this blog.

Sacrifice of the Balsam

As a child, I spent part of each summer at my grandparents’ house, where my younger sister and I shared a little attic room that they had prepared for us as a bedroom. The pine-paneled attic was also the storage place of items I found fascinating: books and clothing from the last century, postcards my grandfather bought in Europe in the early 1900’s, old furniture. One day, exploring the attic, I came upon a small pillow, made of rough, beige fabric. It felt peculiar, so I squeezed it, and caught the scent of balsam.

Balsam was our family’s tree of choice at Christmas. Discovering in my grandparents’ hot attic a scent I associated with the cold winters of Northern New York State transported me right back to the wonderful feelings I associated with that winter holiday time of year.  The pillow also reminded me of the happy, lazy summer days I spent at our cabin on the Raquette River in the Adirondacks, exploring the pine-scented trails, climbing rocks, and swimming. I slept with the tiny pillow each night of our visit, but left it behind at my grandparents’ when we returned to our New York home. A few years later, my grandmother died, the house was sold, and I never knew what became of the balsam pillow.

Many years later, not knowing this story, a friend gave me as a Christmas gift a balsam pillow filled with needles from the Adirondacks. I don’t think he realized how special that gift was for me. The scent was just as evocative as it had been when I was a child. That’s when I decided that I would make small, fragrant balsam pillows to give as gifts. I’ve done that each year, and I also sell some of them.

It’s become a January ritual. Earlier today I removed needles from our undecorated, dry, balsalm tree. This year, as in years past, I found myself entering a light trance state, as I methodically performed the repetitive motion of removing needles from each branch into a bag on my lap. I thought about this tree, about taking its life to bring fresh greenery into the house at a bleak time of year, which my Northern European ancestors did for centuries. Using the needles is a way of recycling part of the tree, but today, the word “sacrifice” came to mind.

The root word of “sacrifice” comes from a Middle English verb meaning “to make sacred,” from the Latin sacrificium: sacr, “sacred” and facere, “to make.” Perhaps I can regard cutting down the tree as a sacrifice of a living being, making the tree sacred as part of our mid-winter holiday. The tree is a symbol of life, because it holds its green throughout the winter. At this cold and dark time of year, the sacred tree reminds me that life does go on, the green is with us, and will return in full as the days lengthen. Hildegarde of Bingen (1098 – 1197) wrote of the greening power of the Christ, viriditas, green power and energy.

Creating the balsam pillows, I think about the tree’s sacrifice, and about the life that abides and returns. These thoughts transport me into the past of my ancestors, to my childhood, and into the future, as I daydream of the return of the green, with balsam needles in my hands.