Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Sanctuaries’

Snow-building as meditation

Another post from the Dept. of Post-Collapse Studies.

The icicle doesn’t fall far from the eave.*

Click on the photo below to read the beautiful accompanying blog post.

* If you missed it last year, please visit my post about my love of building snow houses as a child.

A breath of fresh air!

What a beautiful day today! It feels like the beginning of a different life. Over this very busy weekend I’ve entered a new phase:

My mother came home from the nursing home this weekend. Now we are adjusting and seeing how she does at home. After spending so much time in an institutional setting with her, it is a huge relief to me that she can be at home again with her beloved cat.

Photo of Mini by Sharon Lips.

And work continues on the barn. It is finally coming together! Now that my mother is home I hope the unpacking will move faster.

The garden is bursting with green on this beautiful, breezy day. Here is Lady’s Mantle from my herb garden.

Lady's Mantle, May 2010

And wood is drying for the Sanctuary Without Walls fire circle.

Next gathering is on June 20th. Save the date!

Firewood

Welsh Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology

Ethnobotany: the study of culturally important species of plants.

Ethnoecology: the study of culturally important ecosystems.

Ned Phillips-Jones offered the above definitions at a workshop my daughter and I attended today on the Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology of Wales. First we gathered for a power-point presentation about the process of using one’s own ethnic background to research and imaginatively explore what plants and animals might have been important to our ancestors. There are close relationships between plants from Wales and plants here in New England: the Welsh rowan and the American mountain ash, for example. My father (whose mother came to this country from Wales) planted mountain ash trees around our home when I was a child – and now I have planted mountain ash at my home. Many plants (rowan, oak, hazel, mistletoe) were considered sacred by ancient Celts. Ned also spoke about coppicing, creating hedges, carved and standing stones, and building cairns. He has been incorporating these methods into his garden project.

The Forest Garden

After the indoor presentation, we proceeded outdoors to the wonderful forest garden that Ned has created on the Hampshire College campus. There we saw hawthorn, blackthorn, elderberry, sloe plum plants, nettle, tiny Welsh daffodils, and many other plants, beautifully arranged in beds with stepping stone paths. We ceremonially planted a holly bush in the garden (the berries on it in the photo below were not real but were there for effect! ūüôā ). It’s a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary of edible delight!

Planting the Holly

Welsh Daffodil

On the social network Americymru, Ned wrote: “A long term goal of mine is to teach Permaculture through the medium of Welsh. I want to help create forest gardens (and teach about them) in order to help struggling communities produce a diversity of foods and useful goods which require little maintenance to produce for years. A number of traditional perennial Welsh wild food crops are promising as contributions to forest garden ecosystems (hazel, gooseberry, wild leek, sea kale and sorrel).
There are strong connections between language, culture, communities, and locally produced food. I believe there is great potential to reinvigorate communities and local economies by investing in perennial agriculture and designed ecosystems. The opportunity for ‘green’ job creation gives the concept added relevance to current policy discussions.”

To finish our time together we enjoyed Herbal Mead, Black Currant Juice, Laver (sea vegetables), and Cawl Mamgu Tregaron (soup).

Gardd bendigedig, Ned! Diolch yn fawr!

Ned Phillips-Jones

A Seder? Today??

Today we will be attending a family Passover Seder, even though it’s not quite Passover. This family gathering is a large one, about fifty people, so scheduling can be tricky. At the home of a cousin, all ages will gather, from infants to great-grandparents, for a beautiful and joyous ritual meal remembering the Exodus; the themes of deliverance, humility, gratitude, liberation, and freedom; always a political dimension, usually expounded upon by one of the uncles; delicious food; much love. And a place for Elijah.

The children play a major part, reading from the Haggadah, and singing songs.¬† Children are very important on this holiday: “l’dor va-dor,” “from generation to generation.”

All the items on the ritual dinner plate have meanings associated with the holiday. The one most people are familiar with is the matzah, the unleavened bread. And there is much lifting of the cup of wine. The home becomes a sanctuary, a place for expressing gratitude, love, and celebration.

Passover blessings!

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.

Depths

A number of years ago I attended¬† a gathering with Jean Houston. She talked about the special social responsibility of people over fifty years of age, because elders have a life-time of experience and have “access to the depths.”

What depths are these? I think of the Underworld, understood in many ways by different cultures. In myth, the Underworld, or Otherworld, is sometimes a place one travels not just after death, but during life. It is very dangerous, and sometimes beautiful. Time has a different quality there; many years can pass in the outside world while one is entranced and / or challenged in the Otherworld. If one is able to return to this life again, it is with a gift or gifts, which are to be shared with others.

As people who have experienced the depths of life, those over fifty who approach life consciously can see the larger picture. We have visited the Underworlds of life, and returned after those experiences of profound loss and grief, the “innering” work of depression, or deep pain; we have explored the Otherworlds of enchantment, beauty, grace and joy.¬† As pilgrims returning from the depths, we can bring forward new ways of being in our world, new possibilities.

Many systems are in transition now: planetary, political, personal. Think of the “transition” phase of giving birth: the time when you want to call the whole thing off because it is all too difficult and overwhelming. That phase arrives just before the final stage of birthing, the breakthrough, when we push new life into the world. This can be the birth of ideas, creativity, and action. The elder years present a time for a different kind of birthing.

Accessing the depths requires inner space, a cultivation of imagination, and a small community in which to share, nurture, and celebrate the process of integrating our Underworldly and Otherworldly life experiences. You may already belong to a circle of friends which serves this growing-edge purpose.¬† Elder-wisdom. It’s a powerful time to be coming of age, drawing strength and knowledge from our depths, moving into the wisdom stage of our lives, and sharing those gifts.

Ireland

A quick note before we leave for Boston to pick up our daughter who is flying home from Ireland:

The beehive huts at the top of Skellig Michael;

the dazzling blue ocean;

the Western cliffs;

the mist filled, mossy woodlands;

…the monastic ruins.

They are calling.¬† I’m eager to hear about my daughter’s Ireland adventures. Someday I will return to that magical place.