Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Earth’

The Green Man Archetype

We should not be seeking the Garden, it is not lost. It is we who are lost. It is we who are alienated from the Garden of which we are a part, which is around us and within us now, and always has been.

Green Man

So says Billy, one of the many Green Men present at the Convention I am attending this weekend. I apologize that his photo, above, is not more clear; the light was low.

Brian Froud said that a first step in reconnecting with the spirit of nature is to acknowledge that it is possible. Before “taking things” from nature, we should seek permission. Communication, he said, is possible and necessary, and there are no “rules” about how to do it; it is individual and intuitive process.

At the end of the Green Man Panel, Brian was made an honorary member of the Blessed Order of the Greenman (BOG).

Blessed Order of the Greenman induction ceremony

Other members on the Green Man panel included Celtic scholar John Matthews, folklorist Steve Winick, artists Wendy and Brian Froud, and BOG founder Shane Odom.

So far (it’s not over yet) attending this event has been a colorful, inspiring, and thought-provoking experience. There have been many other workshops, gatherings, and events here. More posts will follow as time allows – it’s a busy time!

Stairway to Heaven

If you could see the stairway to heaven, what would it look like? Would it be ethereal? Made of rainbows or mist? Would it be gold and ivory, studded with pearls, emeralds and sapphires? Would it be a simple wooden stairway, leading up through a canopy of trees? Would it be within a whirlwind which sweeps you off your feet?

Since I am agnostic about the existence of an afterlife heaven, (or anything else after death, agnostic meaning I simply cannot know) – I have no idea what a stairway to heaven would be like. Nevertheless, today I found myself on a staircase that made me look twice, three times.

In a big brick building, possibly an old factory, which had been converted to a many-leveled bookstore and café, going from one level to the next was an ornate iron staircase which had been painted in shiny black enamel. It was huge, very sturdy and strong, yet appeared (to my untrained eye) to be suspended. A suspension staircase. The idea caught my attention.

Stairway

A stairway to heaven. What does yours look like?

Today I vote for iron, the metal at the core of our planet. Iron: magnetic, malleable yet strong – because creating heaven here on Earth is a messy business. It’s a process, much like climbing stairs. We can get stuck, go down when we mean to go up; we can wonder why we need to struggle against the flow, or how we will find the strength to lift our leaden feet to the next step.  In creating heaven on Earth, we each have our own small part to play in making the world a greener, more compassionate and joyous place, so it’s a good thing the stairway is wide enough for all of us. And it needs to be strong, for those times when we are not. And through our struggles, our rejoicing, and when we stop to rest, we remember that the stairway to heaven is suspended. From what? From whatever we find to be true, foundational, sacred, ultimate, holy.

Fresh Beauty, Heavenly

From this morning’s garden:

Snowdrops with Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocus, March 19, 2010

Time for Tending

“It’s a question of discipline,” the little prince told me. “When you’ve finished washing and dressing, you must tend your planet.” –  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The sun is shining, the air is relatively warm, and a stroll around the back forty (ha! forty would be nice!) reveals that crocuses and other spring green shoots are fighting their way through winter’s dead leaves and other debris. It’s time to tend, time to move or get rid of the stuff that’s in the way to make room for new growth, within and without. It’s a question of discipline.

From the book The Little Prince

Confessions of a Religious Naturalist

I confess.

I confess that my primary locus of concern, meaning, and spiritual experience is the world in which we live. I find my religious orientation in nature, in being part of this world. This includes not only what we typically consider to be the “natural world” apart from humans, but also the cultural forms which have emerged within nature, including our human expressions and creativity regarding ethics, aesthetics, relationships, and – yes – spiritual practices and experiences. The Universe seems to love profligate diversity: natural, cultural and religious diversity. Can our small minds wrap around that? Can our common experience of life on this Earth expand our sense of who we are and what we understand our places to be? Can we come together to share and celebrate our understandings?

That confession made, I must also say that the world-to-come also concerns me, if the term is understood to mean not some after-death realm, but rather the future of this world and its life-forms (metaphorically, the Kingdom [kindom] of God, which is present and yet to come). This concern is born of compassion, of a sense of belonging. As a religious naturalist,  I understand and take part in the beauty, mission, and yearning of other forms of religious expression, including those of the little country church I attend. At the same time, I am fascinated to see what forms of ritual and community emerge around the growing (yet deeply historical) “religious naturalist” orientation.

One reason I find Celtic spirituality so appealing is that in the early years, Christianity in the Celtic lands evolved separately from Roman Christianity, and retained a deep understanding of the world as sacred. A Celtic religious orientation is intertwined with daily activities, events, tasks, relationships. More about that in a future post.

So, I confess – yet it is an open confession, because my understanding is evolving as I learn from life. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Today is Sunday, a good day for a confession; this post will suffice as my Sunday meditation, because it’s a wild day – I’m not driving to church given the wind storm, fallen branches, and the power going off and on.

Now to post this while the power is on!

Persephone returns!

In the Garden, March 5, 2010

When the first green shoots appeared in early spring, I took my then-young daughter out to the garden. There we sat on the earth while I told her Charlene Spretnak’s version of the  myth of Demeter and Persephone (Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths).

There are many Spring-related stories, myths and legends, but I chose this particular version because of the themes of mother-daughter love, the removal of the “rape” element (which was added in later, Hellenized versions), and the message of our deep embeddedness in nature.

Now I have granddaughters, and can share stories with them. Brigid’s light grows, and she spreads her green mantle across the land; the Christ-light will soon be resurrected in our hearts; and this month we celebrate the Celtic saints David (with daffodils) and Patrick (with shamrocks, seamrog– clovers and trefoils). One of my favorite Celtic saints is Melangell, patron of rabbits and hares, small animals, the natural environment, and healing. Bunnies and chicks! http://saintspreserved.com/Melangell.html

The daylight grows stronger, and will soon equal the hours of darkness. The robins are here, the mounds of snow are shrinking, and the green is sprouting. At last.

In the Garden - March 5, 2010

Snow Day, Flowing Sap and Animism

We canceled our trip to Vermont; now we’re digging out from a deep, heavy, wet snowfall – and it’s still coming down. It is absolutely gorgeous outside because the snow is sticking to the tree branches, creating a visual fairyland. The power is still on right here, but down the road the power is out. As the wind picks up, more tree branches may come down. It’s beautiful, and it’s destructive – nature’s pruning processes.

Snow, Maple, and Barn, February 24, 2010

A few days ago, before this snowstorm, we trimmed a low-hanging branch on a young maple near the barn, thinking it would be best to do this while the sap is still in the roots. Well, we were too late – the sap slowly dripped from the cut, and I had an urge to fetch a bandage for the wound. Who knew that in February the sap has already begun to rise? I didn’t.The sap froze into skinny, sweet icicles, and now the tree’s branches are piled with snow.

I’ve begun reading a book on “new animism,” by Graham Harvey (Animism: Respecting the Living World). First he gives a survey of the historical, problematic uses of the word “animism,” then explores case studies and the new life that the concept of “animism” has taken on in the lives of people today. I’m not very far into the book, but so far it is intriguing reading. It also has made me feel especially disrespectful toward the tree for trimming his/her limb at a time when the sap is rising. The book helps me better understand why I felt like bandaging the wound, murmuring apologies to Maple, and listening for what Maple might be “telling” me.

Communing with Oak, Ireland 2004

Having been raised by botanists, I have a strong leaning toward science and rational explanations, but the world is a very complex and dimly understood place. Short shrift is given to “other ways of knowing” in our Western culture. A few years ago, I found myself researching ‘highly sensitive people’ to find stories of others who share my intense sensual involvement with the world in which we’re all embedded. Discovering and creating my place, my earthly tribe, my cosmic clan, in a way that goes beyond including just human persons, has been a life-long process begun in childhood. The circle has been ever-expanding: hence, sanctuary without walls.

Now I’ll wade through knee-deep Sister Snow to take a photo of this lovely day.