Saturday, November 23, 2013

We Are the Light

As the fall winds down in the northern hemisphere and the daylight dwindles a little more each day, it's easy to get caught up in the sadness that the darkness seems to bring. We are hard-wired to the seasons, and at this time of year, we can feel more tired and overwhelmed, challenges seems bigger than ever, and we just want to snuggle up in our caves and hide. The dark nights seem to remind us of our darkness inside...the pain, loneliness, busy-ness of our lives, etc.

I think we forget sometimes that we have the strength and power within us to handle anything that comes our way. We often look outside ourselves for the answers to our problems, when really, we are the ones who hold the solution. We ARE the Light in the darkness, for ourselves and one another. We are so much more amazing than we think and so much stronger than we may feel. We truly are capable of great wonders.

And if we join together, we can really make miracles happen!

So just for today, I ask that you do this: Send a little Love to yourself. Let yourself feel how beautiful, strong, compassionate, and truly wonderful you are. Yes, you are imperfect, but that is part of your true perfection as a human being.

Fill yourself with that love. And then, if you can, allow it to flow like a river and surround the whole planet. Just give a little love and gratitude today...for yourself and the place which you call home. (You can do this anytime you need to, anytime you feel alone or as if the darkness has come and you can't see the light).

You ARE the Light. WE are the Light. Let yourself Shine!

And if you don't feel your light...your amazing, unique beauty that you bring to this world, then "fake it till you make it". Start with a smile. It's contagious, and your body will react just to the effort of you smiling. You will feel it inside.

Or try saying these beautiful words that came to me in a meditation on the Red Rocks in Sedona, AZ:

I am Love
I am Light
I am Joy 
And I Remember!

Above all, know that you are loved, every moment, just for who you are.

Love & Light,
Sue

P.S. If you want to cultivate your love and be able to shine your light even more, join me for the December Loving Kindness Challenge. Just type in your email address at that link and you'll receive some inspiration every day in the month of December. You can also see my previous blog post for more info about it. 







Tuesday, November 5, 2013

December Loving Kindness Challenge!

Many folks take up a daily gratitude practice during the month of November, which is a great thing to remind us of what's really important in life. It can bring us back into our heart space, allowing us to feel love and compassion for ourselves and others. I love this!

I've found that the month of December can be more problematic, however. The gratitude we build up in November somehow comes to a grinding halt in December. We can get overwhelmed with the winter holidays and the busy-ness that those festivities cause. I know I've had many, many, moments in Decembers where my heart was not filled with joy and love and all those things that are supposed to be part of this holiday season. Instead, I felt trampled by stress and expectations and it was just not fun.

To help me refocus this year, I'd like follow on the heels of the month of gratitude with a challenge for the month of December.

Loving Kindness Month!

No matter what your culture or spiritual path, we could all use a little more love at this time of year. 

If you'd like to join me, here's how it works:

Every day in the month of December, find one way to bring loving kindness into your life. Here are just a few examples, but the possibilities are endless: 
    • SMILE, even when you don't feel like it...you never know when that smile will genuinely make somene else's day and even faking it will help enhance your mood.
    • Offer an act of kindness to someone you wouldn't normally offer it to...check in on an elderly neighbor, or deliver "anonymous" flowers to someone who always seems "mean", or drop off a meal to someone who is struggling. Include a little note to tell them they are loved.
    • Take a moment to breathe deeply before speaking when you feel angry or frustrated.
    • Let someone in front of you in line.
    • Rescue an abandoned animal or adopt that holiday dog or cat from an animal shelter.
    • Pay for the person behind you at the toll booth or grocery store if you can afford it.
    • Do a reverse gift-giving: instead of purchasing gifts, see what you have in your home that you can donate to a local shelter, food kitchen, or other needed place in your community (including your time!). Many of us already have too many things while others are sorely in need of some basics.
    • Change one judgmental thought you're having, whether it's about yourself or others. Give thanks instead for our amazing diversity and the mistakes that we make that help us grow. 
    • Demonstrate more courtesy while driving...letting people over in front of you, stopping for ALL the red lights and stop signs, slow down a bit, etc. 

If you'd like to participate, go HERE to sign up for the daily December emails. You will only be subscribed to the daily emails in December for this challenge and nothing else from me...no newsletters, announcements or anything else. Just Loving Kindness. :) (If you'd like to receive my newsletters as well, please sign up in the white box at the top right side).

You can also join my Facebook page and post about your loving kindness each day if you'd like. We're not looking for acts of heroism, though they are deeply appreciated if you feel so moved. It's all those little loving things we do every day that make a big difference! We need more love and compassion in this world - for ourselves and others. Our wells are empty...we get drained from many things in this life and we need to fill up with some wonderful things.

Thank you to all those who are joining me!

For those of you who are "mulling it over": I know you're thinking that you might sign up when it gets closer to December and that you just can't commit right now. (I'm a pro at playing that little game with myself). But if you sign up now, you'll automatically receive a little "love note" in your email on December 1st and every day for the whole month. There's no cost or strings attached. Who doesn't like a little love and inspiration? If you don't like the messages, simply unsubscribe. No spam, no selling your email address, no announcements, no advertising. Just a little love from me to you...and then from you to whomever you choose to share. Start with one little act of loving kindness, at least for yourself. Fill your well this December!

Love & Light to all!

Sue

Friday, October 11, 2013

Peace, Love, and Sunshine

The world is a bit of a tangled mess right now, so I thought I'd send out a little peace, love & sunshine. My thoughts go out to the many in this world who are suffering in so many ways.

Let us come together for a brief moment, open our hearts, and allow love and compassion to flow, guiding our thoughts, words, and actions...just for this moment. We can lean on one another for support and reach deep down to where we connect at our roots - the place where we are all truly woven together as one. May Love Prevail...





Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cracking

The ups and downs are part of the journey of our lives, but there are times when we get handed something absolutely awful, usually on top of a bunch of other overwhelming things at the same time. It can feel like we are literally breaking, feeling cracked and vulnerable. We don't know where to turn, lost as to why things happened the way they did, wondering if and when we'll "recover", and finally trying to figure out how to move forward. 

Life is a broad spectrum, filled with utter joy, brutal loss and pain, and everything in-between. There is no experience of true happiness without the depths of sadness. During times of extended sadness and uncertainty, we have to be wary of the seductive path of living shallowly in order to avoid pain, for that path comes with its own pain and loss. There is an emptiness that resides on that path, which all too many of us fill with alcohol, drugs, food, electronics or some other addiction. We try to feed our bodies and minds with something to fill the emptiness in our hearts. 

The moments that leave us cracked and vulnerable offer us the opportunity to live from the heart, and offer us gifts that are not available in the moments of joy and ecstasy. We can only find the gifts if we stay around long enough to see what they are.

Life is not all grins and giggles. It's filled with little deaths every day...disappointment in ourselves, our home, work, school, communities, society, and the greater world. We're really good at lying to ourselves, burying and hiding our pain like an injured cat so we're not viewed as vulnerable and weak. Our culture has a tendency to brush aside grief and pain, where we're told to stop crying and suck it up. We're given a few days off work for bereavement of a family member and then expected to return to "normal". If we feel like we want to break down and cry because we're sad and overwhelmed with the way life is at the moment (and sometimes those moments are very long!!), we're asked if we're "depressed" instead of being given a listening ear and time to work through what's going on and come to terms with it. 

We are DEEP and complex beings, and if we just skim the surface, we're missing a whole lot. We need to have more compassion for ourselves and others.

When the challenging times come, we are being given the chance to explore our pain with sheer honesty from the heart. It is hard work to look in the face of our fears, anger, frustration, grief, and the reason why we're in a place of pain. It is not pretty. It takes courage, but we all have it within us to do this work. The funny part is, if we would just deal with the pain and loss as they come, whether big or small, we'd find that it's easier to process fresh wounds than buried pain that has festered under the surface for years. Festering wounds take a lot longer to heal. (Trust me on that one).

When we finally surrender to our true and cracked selves, the light comes pouring in through the openings, and we can see how to release ourselves from the prison of pain. In our acceptance of who we are in the moment, we open ourselves to the gifts of the experience and our own inner wisdom. Our moments of loss will never go away altogether, but they will slowly become less raw, transforming into a gentle reminder of the diverse and meandering paths we have walked in this life.

My heart is with all those today who are working through grief and pain. Accept where you are, honor your journey within, get whatever support you need for yourself, and know this: you are never alone and you are loved, even if it doesn't feel that way right now. Don't give up hope. Open up and let the light in...



Love & Light,
Sue


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Living Medicine

When I embarked on the journey of becoming an Herbalist, I didn't realize how much I would learn about medicine, myself, and life. This journey has taught me to re-align with nature, more deeply than ever before. 

Above all, I've learned how to slow down and be patient, and that it's important to listen. We are constantly guided in this life. We are always given clues, signs, and messages of what can help us be whole and well.

We just don't always see or hear them. 

Healing is more than just taking medicine. Medicine is more than taking something into our bodies to heal an ailment. Many things can be our medicine, but I've found the healing that comes from other living beings to be the most effective.

Within each disease, injury, or illness, there is more going on than something physical. If we treat a physical ailment with only a physical remedy, the healing is incomplete. I have found that the most powerful healing always seems to come from one living being to another.

Sunflowers can brighten the heart and soul simply by looking at them.
Plant medicine has taught me that "medicine" is about healing our whole being. . . body, mind, heart, and spirit. You can't partake of plant medicine and not be changed and healed in some way. There is oh-so-much-more to a plant than meets the eye. You may receive the immediate soothing relief that Plantain provides for an insect sting or bite, but her medicine goes deeper than that. Not only does Plantain stop the itching, stinging, and swelling, but she heals the skin and soothes the mind and heart from the trauma of being bit or stung. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have never gotten that kind of relief from over-the-counter first aid treatments. 

Any medical practitioner can give us medicine or prescribe a treatment, but it's the ones who take the time to carefully listen to us, delve into all our concerns, show us compassion, and keep working till we get to the heart of the problem that truly help us heal. They are relating to us as one living being to another. Our pets who curl up with us when we're ill or feeling down, blooming plants that perk up our moods, the soothing sound of a bird singing in a nearby tree, and friends who are always there for us...this is Living Medicine.

I have come to the conclusion that living beings best understand the deeper medicine needed to completely heal. I'm not saying that pharmaceutical medications and western medical treatments have no place, for indeed, they do. They provide some life-saving measures, as well as make chronic pain tolerable. I'm just saying that they are only a part of the healing picture. 

Deep medicine comes from people, animals, and plants. I've also discovered that healing can be found in living rivers and soothing sunbaths, as those natural components of our world offer life-sustaining measures to all living things. Humans are complex living beings who are connected with other complex living beings here together on this planet. We all have the same basic needs, and therefore understand what it's like to have a need that's not being met. I believe that we are born with empathy and compassion so that we can help one another and be able to open up to receive help when we need it. 

As living beings, we remind each other how to be alive and whole, and how to heal when we have become un-wholly burdened.

We honor our body, mind, heart, and spirit when we acknowledge that healing is a journey and medicine can come to us in many forms. Long-term or serious conditions take time and personal work to heal. We can be supported by family and friends, plant medicine, animal companionship, and western medical intervention along the way, and indeed have the best chance to heal with that support.

If we're not sure which can medicine help us start our healing journey, we can go outside to bask in the sun or sit under the shade of a great tree. Or snuggle up with our beloved pet or a loved one. Or bury our face in some blossoms and breathe deep. Sometimes the healing wisdom we seek is whispered to us quietly, when we surrender and allow ourselves to simply be. The first step is often quite simple, one that we have overlooked. We truly have so much support around us when we slow down to allow ourselves to receive it.

I wish you wellness and wholeness on your journey in this life. And if you need a bit of a hand, some encouragement, or a little love, know that you can find that almost anywhere. Take a deep breath, ask for what you need, and be open to receiving the medicine in surprising and gentle ways. You are loved more than you know.

Love & Light,
Sue

Lavender offers soothing and calming medicine for mind and body.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Just for Today...

I don't know about anyone else, but I find it easy to get overwhelmed when there are several big projects or events in my life coalescing at the same time, and they're all really important. Today is one of those days, so I pulled out my copy of The Reiki Principles by Dr. Miako Usui to help me center and get to a positive state of mind:

Just for today, I will not worry.
Just for today, I will not anger.
Just for today, I will be grateful.
Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
Just for today, I will be kind to every living being. 


And another little mantra that I've been repeating all morning to help me stay out of worry:



Here's hoping you have an inspired and productive day filled with peace of mind, knowing that you have all that you need to fulfill your hopes and dreams!

Love & Light,
Sue

Friday, July 12, 2013

Into the Wild

Over the past couple months, I've been yearning for a retreat, feeling the need to spend a few days outside in the heart of nature, un-tethered to electronics, obligations, and expectations. And though I'm a Naturalist, I'll confess that I'm not a lover of spiders and I surely don't care for mosquitoes and ticks. But the insights that come when we take time outside and immerse ourselves in our natural world can be enlightening, and worth stepping out of our comfort zone for a few days. 

I finally had the chance last weekend to spend five days immersed in the foothills of the Allegheny mountains. There were long hills to climb, meadows to sunbathe in, a pristine water hole for swimming, clear night skies unburdened by light pollution, and other gentle and like-minded folk to spend time with. There were opportunities to play hand drums, learn Native American drumming and chants from a Lakota singer, and be a part of a community where it was safe to be yourself and your uniqueness was welcome. Blazing bonfires brought out the grace and beauty of people called to dance to the beat of drums, and giggling children were a welcome part of every piece of it, adding their contagious, unbridled joy to the whole weekend.

Despite the rigorous hill-climbing that challenged my legs and lungs, I've not felt that good in a while. Nature has a way of bringing things into perspective. The more time I spend out in the wild, the more expansive my understanding of life becomes. Being among green plants has a way of opening up the heart and shedding light on everything. Even in solitude, there is a feeling of universal support behind you.

As I floated in the river, allowing its soothing coolness to penetrate my body, I recognized that there is something healing about swimming in living water. It's invigorating and restorative...the gentle current moving with your body...blossoming mountain laurel hanging over cliffs and dropping flowers to the water below as if to honor your presence there...water snakes gracefully gliding around to give way to people...water bubbling endlessly over rounded rocks...fish and crayfish graciously sharing the life-giving waters with all who chose to be there. Comparatively, the water in swimming pools is dead - sterilized so we can be bacteria-free and free from critters. I always feel icky and drained after being in a swimming pool, with chlorine clinging to my skin and matting my hair. I'd never really noticed all this before.

I ate home-cooked food with friends, each of us bringing something to the table. Garden veggies and fresh meat baked over a fire and there was plenty to go around as we worked together to craft our meals and clean-up. We respected each other's need for friendship as well as solitude, each going off on our own adventures or hanging about with whoever felt up for hiking or conversation or a card game. There was no right or wrong way to do anything. We could just be.

As I gathered with others in a large fire circle each night, I felt the beat of the drums resonate through my body and my heart began to match the rhythm. My eyes opened up to every movement of every person who chose to drum and dance, and I recognized their movements as prayer and interpretation from their hearts. Not all the "dancers" had the grace and agility that we generally find pleasing to watch, but nevertheless, it was exquisite beauty in motion. To watch each and every person who moved their body in honest response to the rhythm of the drum was breathtaking. Through the beat of the drum, my own heart opened to something more real than I could ever experience online, and I eventually allowed myself to cast off ego and fear and dance too.

"This is living", I thought. Music is living, fire is living, stars are living, water is living, air is living. Living is from the heart. People are living things, but I don't know that we're truly living. 

The weekend made me realize how much time I've spent in what I'm calling the "dead zone". As much as I want to deny it, I've been sucked in by electronics and our fast-paced-instant-gratification-lifestyle as much as everyone else. I find myself checking my smart phone often or checking email or Facebook in case I missed something. Or if I'm not checking, I'm thinking about it.

I've been missing something, alright, but it's not what I thought. While the internet has helped us to have the illusion of a global community and the ability to work and do things for long hours, it is not the same as being in the presence of other living beings. There is just no substitute for that.

The dead zone is inside our buildings, where we're closed off - closed off from the sunlight, the breeze, flowers and trees, insects, living water, living land, and most often, each other. The dead zone is in front of our computers, our smartphones, our desks, in our cars. We're task-driven, which leaves us in a non-living space because we've forgotten how to be in the moment - fully present on the people and activites at hand - and are constantly surging forward, seeking out the next email, phone call, task, etc. 

At least that's what I've found to be true for me. Perhaps other people fare better at taking one task at a time and really focusing on it, not multi-tasking like I try to do, despite my training in meditation and knowing better.

I've spent much time in the dead zone, skimming the very edges of life instead of diving in deep. I have been afraid to feel fully or face challenges, afraid of saying no, and then taking on too much or taking on the wrong things. Or letting chances pass me by because I was afraid to try or afraid I'd fail or afraid of what people would think. I've gotten overwhelmed and often lost my way. I've looked at other people and their accomplishments and wondered how they managed to have it all together, and have often thought that I'm just not good enough and don't fit in. 

And that kind of thinking right there is also a dead zone. 

Living is being true to oneself - honest about who we are, our strengths and weaknesses. It's dancing, singing, creating, moving, music, serving others, and doing work and activities in a way that comes naturally for each of us. Living is about opening up our hearts to make our way through this life together, expanding and growing. Living is making "mistakes", forgiving, and then trying again. Living is accepting who we are, where we are at this moment, and accepting everyone else as they are too. 

Living is remembering that we are all a part of something bigger than us. Living is following those crazy spur-of-the-moment ideas that end up being the delicious moments that feed our inner wild soul. Living is recognizing that we are a part of nature and we have a deep and primal need to be immersed in the natural world on a regular basis in order to stay alive and be well. Living is not being like everyone else, but honoring who we truly are and finding ways to share our gifts and talents with the world.

When we stay in the dead zones, we cannot heal or grow. When we fail to connect to other people on a heart level, we're in the dead zone. When we focus intently on money or the lack of it or when we judge ourselves and others harshly, we're in the dead zone. When we're incapacitated, we're in the dead zone.

Being among living things brings us out of the dead zone. Nature heals, because it's where we belong. Nature helps us to be whole again...to gain fresh perspective and timeless wisdom from ancient trees, wash our cares away in flowing rivers, feel the reprieve of fresh air on our faces, and warm our hearts in the sunshine. We can cry with the rain, and we will be heard. There is a deep well that fills when we allow ourselves time "in the wild", so to speak. Nature helps us untangle our complicated lives and see what's really important.

We are not alone. We belong to one another and to everything else on this planet. Humans belong to the bees, birds and creatures of all kinds, the soil, flowers, trees, rocks, water, air, clouds, sun, moon, and stars, and they to us. We are in their care and they in ours. Without each other, we shall all perish. We are in this all together. 

I'm grateful to have felt the depths of this union with all other beings on our planet as I stood on a sunny hilltop, wildflowers waving in the wind, surrounded by mountains, a hawk soaring through the sky to remind me I can fly by keeping my burdens light. 

I'm glad to have joined my heartbeat with that of the drum and a community of mostly strangers. I'm glad to have allowed myself the space to see my truths, drum and chant and dance with strangers-now-friends, reach out to comfort a lone child afraid of fireworks, try my hands at drumming on a Native American drum and singing (ok, mostly mumbling) in Lakota, breathing in fresh pine, swimming in a vibrant river, and being illumined by glorious stars in the Milky Way. 

After spending five days in a very-much-alive zone, I don't care to return to a dead zone. That place is just an illusion. 

I honor the wild within, and without. 

May you hear the call of the wild to soothe your own heart and mind. There is much wisdom and solace within the tender care of our natural world.

Love & Light,
Sue


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nature's Call

I've come to terms with something important about myself. I am an outdoor person and I need to live according to the seasons. I know the rules of blogging state that you should blog regularly in order to keep an audience interested. I get that, I really do. 

At the same time, I get who I am, and in the active outdoor season, I don't belong inside on the computer. I belong outdoors...teaching, growing, harvesting plants, learning, and being submerged in our natural world at its peak. (I would also argue that all humans should be outside at this time because we're hard-wired to our natural world).

So, I thought I'd share a little about what's going on out there and what I've been doing. I hope you'll take some time to get outside, drink in the sunshine, breathe in the fresh air, and appreciate the abundance that the summer brings...

Mandala made with a friend at Cape Henlopen. We created it on the summer solstice in gratitude and love for all the water on earth which sustains all living creatures. We sent out our thanks and love to our planet and all beings upon it.

Seeds of Violet...so tiny! Edible, though these are not quite ripe yet. 



Wildlife is active and abundant!


I've been introducing people to this amazing "weed" that is both food and medicine...Plantain. This is the best remedy I know for bee and other insect stings and bites. 


And a little gift for you - I wish for your day and week be filled with all the love and joy you can hold!


Love & Light,
Sue


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Labyrinth

Today I walked a labyrinth to clear my head and heart. It's amazing what happens when we allow ourselves a few moments of silence. 



Rain threatened, but held off while I circled around, close to the center and then back out again. Along the way, I came across a few things in the path.


There may be obstacles in our way, but they give us the chance
to tap into our creativity and find ways around.



Sometimes we may feel as if we've lost a part of ourselves.

An egg reminded me of new possibilities.



And we are always filled with all we need.



In the end, we will come back to our center, and we are never alone.
The curves are just part of life's colorful journey...the lessons and the blessings for our growth.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wild Goose Chase

Some days, it feels like we're trying to chase down something elusive. But today, I was part of an actual wild goose chase.

When I arrived for my work shift at Ashland Nature Center this morning, I discovered that a wayward gosling had followed around one of our school groups on their morning hike. They tried to leave him down in the marsh, where he would be most likely to be found by his parents, but the little one stuck like glue to the group and finished the hike with them. He dined on the fresh plants surrounding the lodge while they ate their breakfast inside.

Gosling!

Since I was leading the next program down in the marsh, I took the gosling with us and hoped to leave him there. I asked the students to refrain from talking to or touching the goose, as he needed to stay wild.

There was no sign of any adult geese in the marsh or the creek, much to my disappointment. The gosling contentedly swam around, munching on duckweed while we explored the marsh. As we tried to sneak out of the area quietly, he came excitedly chasing after us, calling as loudly as he could, which amounted to a muted squeak. 

Truth be told, it's insanely cute to watch a gosling chase after you and try to catch up, wobbling to and fro on his webbed feet and flapping tiny wings that don't have flight feathers yet. But it was very concerning to me, as there were no signs of his parents and he was clearly content to hang out with us, which is not normal, nor good for him. He needs his parents to learn how to fly, eat, and all other manner of bird-being. While I am a mother and enjoy nursery rhymes, I am not a Mother Goose.

He followed us with earnest dedication for the rest of the program. While I showed some aquatic animals to the kids, the gosling roamed the area, tasting the various grasses. When we headed to the stream, he followed us across the parking lot and enjoyed a brief swim in the cool water. We made the long trek across the street and covered bridge to the pond, where I had to stop traffic longer than usual so he could cross the road safely. He followed along as if he were one of the kids. The students all looked out for him, but were cooperative in not touching or otherwise interacting with him as I had requested.

When we finished our program and headed back up the steps to the lodge where we had met the gosling, he followed us, tentatively working his way up the hill next to the steps. The kids headed inside for lunch, and the gosling found some more grasses to chow on outside the door. I was unsure what to do, as I had not seen geese in any areas where I had been, which were the areas at Ashland where they tend to hang out. I looked at him to see if he was going to follow me, and as soon as I started to head down the hill to the steps, he quickly came after me, squeaking as if to say, "wait up!"

He bounded down the first step with a thump, half trying to fly and looking slightly surprised. He decided that wasn't going to work, and skirted around the edges of the steps and onto the steep hillside, sliding a bit at a time and working his way through some thicker areas of foliage. It was a slow descent, but we finally made it down to the main building. Excited to see new plants, he began browsing the area. I started to go into the building when he came running after me. I held the door to see if he would enter, but he wasn't sure about that. So I closed the door, with me on the inside and the gosling on the outside.

That was not okay.

While he definitely didn't want to come inside, he surely did not want to be left outside alone. He started flapping his little wings, standing up as tall as he could, and I could see his open beak calling to me. I stepped back outside and sat on a bench to wait for my supervisor and colleague so we could decide what was best for this little guy. He went back to eating while we waited.

We called Tri-State Bird Rescue for some advice. They suggested we bring him in, as we had already made several attempts to return him to the marsh and there was no sign of his parents. My supervisor grabbed an animal carrier, and I ran inside to grab my car keys and wallet while my colleague stayed with the gosling. 

By the time I got back outside, the gosling was in the carrier. Apparently, the moment I went in the building, he stood right outside the door calling for me again. I sighed and headed to the car with the carrier in hand. 

Then all of a sudden we heard some adult geese honking. My colleague and I went up the hill in the direction of the goose call, hoping to reunite the little guy with his kin. We didn't find them, and decided to make one last loop around the marsh and Red Clay Creek just in case his parents had flown in. We walked all the way to the back of the property and across the street. No geese at all. At some point in our journey through tall grasses, I realized we were actually on a wild goose chase. The gosling chased me all morning, and now we were on an elusive search for his parents.

We weren't able to find them, so I drove the gosling to Tri-State Bird Rescue, having to stop myself from talking to him the whole way there. He squeaked quietly at me a few times, but spent most of the car ride preening his feathers. I took him inside and relayed our adventures. The receptionist said that it sounded like we had done everything we could and thanked me for bringing him in. 

I was saddened a bit that we couldn't find his parents, but he will get loving care there and maybe they have some other geese who can teach him all the birdly wisdom he'll need. (Tri-State is a great organization, and it costs a minimum of $50 to care for an abandoned or injured bird. If you feel moved to make a donation or would like to learn more about what they do, please visit their website).

As for me, this was the best wild goose chase I've ever been on. Thanks for spending the day with me little one, and may you grow into a beautiful, healthy bird and maybe work your way back to Ashland for a visit sometime. We'd love to see you!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Creating Dreams

Since it's Mother's Day, it seems appropriate to honor all facets of creation. Mothers bring life and love into this world in so many ways, and an idea popped into my head this evening that I'd like to share, as I think it could be a worthy project to manifest some good in this world.

I've been inspired to create a "Dream Garden" in a corner of my yard. I'm inviting others to add their dreams to this sacred space, and we'll tend it with love together.

Click the link below to my newsletter for more information...
Dream Garden Newsletter

Sweet Dreams!

Love & Light,
Sue

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Depths of Life

Life is a deep, deep pool. If we're only willing to skim the top for fear of having to occasionally skim the bottom, we'll miss all the glorious heart-filling stuff in between.

Sometimes we get to experience the various depths in a short span of time, where the clear and brilliant breath-taking moments are quickly followed by a time of uncertainty and fear, stranded in murky waters, where we feel choked and overwhelmed. 

This was my past weekend.

I volunteered at the last minute to chaperone my middle-school daughter's 4-day choir competition trip to Boston since another chaperone had to withdraw. I admit I was a little nervous, as the itinerary was ambitious, and to be in charge of someone else's children in a city where bombings had occurred the week before was a bit...intimidating. Despite my nervousness, I felt compelled to step up. So I jumped blindly into the pool, not knowing how deep it was going to be or if the waters were clear or turbulent. Sometimes ya just gotta jump.

I was rewarded with many golden moments on the journey, manifesting in snippets of student tenderness and responsibility as they genuinely cared for each other while we toured the city by Duck Boat and on foot all weekend. They joked and smiled, encouraged and kept after one another, checked back to make sure they were still with chaperones, and did a fine job of respectfully representing themselves, their families, and the school. Even on day three when we were all getting tired and punchy and miscommunications occurred, they soothed each other's tears and followed with "I'm sorry, I love you" and group hugs.

Our three choir groups cheered one another as they performed, and our Women's Choir gave what I can only describe as an exquisite performance, one that actually made me catch my breath. All the groups scored well, and the Women's Choir was told by one of the judges that they were the best choir he's heard in a long time and their last song almost brought him to tears. He came up to the stage specifically to tell them that, which is uncharacteristic.

The journey also had its darker moments. Horrendous traffic plagued us at almost every turn. I had to fight my own deep fatigue at the reduced sleep and less-than-ideal diet that accompanies trips like these. There were times when I would have been completely content to curl up in the sunshine and bask like a cat on Boston Commons or anywhere else with green grass and brown earth to support my weary head. This pace was not one I would have chosen, and I could see that even the kids would have appreciated just a little down time to hang out in their rooms together at the hotel or swim. Pockets of middle-school drama broke out at times, which required gentle handling to soothe raw nerves and hurt feelings.

Overall, our trip had been clear and fairly smooth, filled with meaningful connections to one another and our nation's ancestors, as history unfolded through vibrant tour guides. We shared ferocious belly laughter at the crazy antics of the Blue Man Group, made all the more funny by the chaperones being seated in the front two rows, plastered in some sort of banana-goo and coming home with the spit-ball art of a Blue Man. And our hearts soared with unending joy at the kids' amazing performances.

On Sunday, we loaded our two buses to head home after a few hours' stop at Six Flags New England, all blissfully exhausted and a bit sore from four days of pounding the pavement on tours and a competition. We celebrated the successful competition, discussed our favorite activities, and settled into our seats, eagerly anticipating our arrival at home. 

Within the first hour of our drive, our trip took a turn for the worse. Kids began suddenly vomiting on both buses and we had to pull off to clean up and get supplies to handle the situation, as more were becoming ill. Long story short, our stop was extended when one person had to go to the hospital. We wearily and worriedly got back on our way, with a daunting 4-hour ride still ahead of us. One other chaperone and I were also having some stomach issues. We handed everyone on the bus an empty bag to keep handy just in case they needed it, and by the end of the trip, many people did. Rumors ran rampant about possible food poisoning because of the rapidness with which the illness hit, but two kids had been sick on the trip earlier, so we don't know what caused it. It didn't really matter anyway. People were s-i-c-k.

The rest of the ride home was as bad as it sounds. New people would get sick, and the closest adults would fly into action, supporting the child and cleaning up as best we could. It was the longest ride of my life, and as I fought my own queasy stomach, I tried to sit still, meditate, and contain myself during the quiet times between sick kids. Part of me was wondering why this was happening to us and it was beginning to feel as if we were in a horror movie.

I'm normally a very positive person, but I was reaching my limit. My spirits dropped further when we stopped at a rest stop about 1 1/2 hours from home and one of the bus drivers got sick. I tipped my head heaven-ward, and said, "Dear God, that's enough. No more. We must get home. These kids are so sick. ENOUGH." I was almost in tears by this point.

And then I remembered that I chose to jump into this pool, be it clear or cloudy, and I knew in my heart that we had what we needed to get through this. I took a deep breath and changed my perspective. My sour mood legitimately matched my sour stomach, but it was not going to help and there was still work to be done and miles to go. Though life was extremely difficult at the moment and I was exhausted and feeling awful, I decided that I would not have traded my weekend, even if it had to end like this. We would survive this trip, if by sheer will alone. We were all in this together.

I switched up my thoughts to gratitude for my amazing and fearless chaperones-in-arms. No one hesitated to clean up vomit and comfort a kid, knowing they risked succumbing to this vicious illness themselves. I gave thanks for the gracious and kind assistance we received from the Kmart employees where we stopped to clean up. I felt immense relief that three of us were there to catch the child who fainted so they didn't hit their head on the concrete. I offered silent words of appreciation for the strangers who stopped and asked if we needed help, and for EMT's who were true angels and lovingly took our student and accompanying staff member to the local hospital for medical attention. Everyone worked together to get through this mess. And even though kids freaked out and moved away while someone vomited, they alerted the adults when their friends needed help and tried to comfort one another as best they could.

This trip offered the very depths of life...from touching and joyous experiences to horrendous illness. 

If I had to be at the deep and murky bottom at the end of last weekend, I am so grateful for the people who were down there with me, most of us strangers at the beginning of the trip. Before our descent, we had many sparkling moments of laughter, success, comradery, and kindness, and we held onto those moments like flashlights as we tried to see our way out of the darkness together.

As soon as I'm able to drink something stronger than water or Gatorade, I'll raise a glass to my fellow chaperones who I consider nothing less than heroic, the teachers, bus drivers, and even the students themselves who all made the best of the situation and took care of one another, no matter how badly they felt. To each warrior who carried on, despite the desperate need to rid bellies and bowels of that foul ailment, I salute each one of you for your courage.

We shared amazing sights and sounds, then survived the bleak deep together. We reached down within ourselves to gather the strength we didn't know we had and pushed through with compassion when things seemed the worst. This was an incredible growing experience for us all.

Someday we're going to look back and laugh at this adventure. But not quite yet - my stomach still kinda hurts. 

And in a few weeks when we've all recovered, I think we need an adult-only field trip. :D

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Re-Entry

I just returned from a restorative vacation with my family, visiting some friends in California who have been inviting us for over a decade to come visit. I'm struggling a bit with the re-entry this time, more so than usual. We had amazing excursions in places of pure, natural wonder.

We had the privilege to stay in Santa Cruz, a place of immense beauty where cliffs meet the sea, colorful sea stars and anemones can be found clinging to rocks during low tide, playful sea lions call to one another and sun themselves on the pier, and a rich culture of eccentricities is summed up in the motto of "Keep Santa Cruz Weird". 


Vegetarian diners are designed to fool the tourist, with window displays advertising "burgers, fries, and shakes" and looking like something out of the 50's. Vegetarian fare is just fine, as long as that's what you're expecting. If not, then it's just pretty dang funny when you suddenly notice that the word "chicken" is in quotes and there are a lot of potato entrees. The food at the Saturn Cafe is delicious, by the way, in case you're ever in the area.

We also visited Monterey and Point Lobos, where words really do fail to describe this paradise...

Point Lobos

We drove to San Francisco for an evening meal at Fisherman's Wharf and watched the sun set over the bay. We drove to Muir Woods on a treacherous, curvy mountain road in the fog, where I'm pretty sure we could see the back of our car on those sharp turns, but not much else. We were enchanted by the ancient redwoods and immersed ourselves in the magical feel of the forest there, so green and lush. 

Muir Woods...so magical!


Vacations always bring me new insights, and this one was no different. I felt as if I watched the world with new eyes this week - everything was different, new, magical, and filling every one of my senses as I slowed down and integrated everything around me. I appreciated the breathtaking flow of the waves crashing on the shore, I giggled at the conversation of the sea lions, and lingered in the refreshing scent of the eucalyptus groves. I watched delight cross the faces of my family as we saw redwoods bigger than we could put our arms around. We laughed together at the snorting and belching sounds of elephant seals, and we felt our muscles strengthen as we climbed the many hills on our adventures. We indulged in the companionship of long-term friends and met some new ones. Life was truly full and luscious.

I feel like I had a glorious, rejuvenating time with my family, and yet came back with some "homework", so to speak, which is making re-entry into my life space a little on the rough side.

On our flight out, we had a layover in Chicago. The sight of the smog over the city as we came in to the airport was ominous. I had no idea it was that bad. On the way home as we flew into Philadelphia, there was smog as well. I had not seen this in my trips over the past few years. I was sadly unaware. <grimace>

We stayed in our friend's gorgeous, clutter-free condo. It was so refreshing to be in that beautiful space with only what we needed and no excess. It made me painfully aware that we need to do some decluttering in our own home.

We didn't expect to encounter the large homeless population in Santa Cruz, and I recognized how much we take food for granted. Our hosts would often get boxes to take home any leftover restaurant food, with some of it being a small amount that I would have not even bothered taking with me. They explained that they sometimes just hand it to a street person on their way home, and in fact, we had the opportunity to witness that. It really made me think, as this is not something I see so openly where I live. Out of sight, out of mind. But our hosts regularly provide small miracles by giving someone a meal they wouldn't have otherwise had. It humbled me. (My own attempt to give away my fresh hot coffee proved unfruitful, as the person I tried to give it to was only interested in something he needed for his bong, which I didn't see as I approached him, and surely couldn't provide. He loudly and emphatically declared, "Then you're no good to me!" I guess I need more practice at this sort of thing.)

The other thing that was prevalent was notices about water being a precious resource, as California is a dry state. This again, is something most of us take for granted, as we feel that we have an ample supply of water coming from our pipes. We tend to think of water as a renewable resource, when that's not really the case. There's a finite amount of freshwater on the planet, and when that's no longer viable, that's it. I've become more aware of water myself over this past year, especially after spending time with the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers who spoke about using Earth's resources wisely. They believe that the next war will be over water, for there are already many people who are struggling for access to clean water, and the problem is getting worse. I hold out hope that we can be more wise.

So I have some things to think about and take action on...the food consumption and waste of my own family, the homeless people in our local area, improving our use of water, and some decluttering, for starters. 

There's also the recognition that I want to live every day as a vacation day, and in order to do that, I need to make some changes, at least in my perspective. I should love what I'm doing and where I'm living. I should allow my senses to fill completely with the simple delights and miracles of every day, and count every blessing and lesson. I shouldn't have to leave my home and "get away from it all". I should want all of my life...every last, juicy bit of it. If not, then something needs to change. A vacation should be a time to explore new places and do new things. If I feel the need to take a break from my life, then I'm out of alignment somewhere. 

This vacation has reminded me of what's truly important. I've lost sight of my priorities at times in the tumultuous seas of daily living, where it's so easy to get caught in the rhythmic waves of routine. I'm craving more simplicity and freedom, and want to step away from what I once thought of as abundance. An abundance of things you don't need is simply clutter.

I want my home and life filled with only the people, things, and work that matter most to me. I am so grateful that I have a wonderful family and friends and work that I love. I still have things I need to release though, to make room for the new amazing things I want to bring into my life.

I guess it is time for spring cleaning. :)

Here's hoping you get the chance to witness the little miracles that arrive each day. And may you become aware of what you no longer need and have the courage to release it.

Love & Light,
Sue

Monday, March 4, 2013

Holding Space

This is just a quick little post written after a long-but life-affirming day of creating, scheduling, and listening to stunning, talented local middle and high school kids play heart-filling music for three hours at a public venue. Ahhhh-mazing day.

I'm blissfully exhausted and not quite up to spilling out a full post, so this one is literally holding space till tomorrow or the next day. The first post people see should no longer be about Valentine's day. (Seriously. I'm way behind. Sorry 'bout that).

But I don't like to waste people's time, so here's a little thought from me to you...

You are amazing, lovable, compassionate, kind-hearted, and talented in so many ways. Some of them you may have not discovered just yet, some aspects you may have forgotten about. Look at yourself in the mirror and smile, because you are so needed and wanted here in this world. You...as you are...in all your glory and your faults...we need every blessed part of you to show up in your life and just be you. 

Chase your dreams. Fall and get up again. Give another person a hand up, and accept the hand that's offered to you. Love yourself. Love others. Be kind. Be authentic. Live life fully and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Face your fears and stand them down. You are stronger than you think, smarter than you know, and braver than you feel.

I'm holding this space right here for you to just be you. Know that you are loved here. Peace and Love to all...

 
Namaste,
Sue