I am reading The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky which is just about the best nature writing I've found since Annie Dillard. Poetic, clear sighted, funny, fully alive and achingly aware, the book is by Ellen Meloy, who left us far too soon. I will be in the high desert this September and her books are coming with me. These are Eating Stone, The Last Cheaters Waltz, the Anthropology of Turquoise and Raven's Exile.
I finished Nation by Terry Pratchett a while back and I was thinking about it's lessons again today. It is a novel written for young people which deals with the idea of belief in the gods and cultural teachings, some of which survive after a disaster hits a small island nation and some of which does not. As readers of this blog know, I love Pratchett's work and this book is no exception. No matter your age, I think you will find something of worthy and compelling in this story.
Another book by Terry titled Wintersmith is good read for anyone who is snowed in just now.
The sun came out the last two days and I am feeling much better as we dance the last turn of winter. The days are getting longer now and the light is changing and the nights, for now, are clear. Standing under a glittering dome of stars last night helped my mood immensely, as does seeing Mt Hood gleam across the valley under it's thick cap of snow.
I took a walk with Madam, my dog, in the very early morning last week and we found a lacy spider's web on a moss covered branch near the river. It was full of water droplets that had condensed on the web. Each drop shined in the sun like so many tiny crystal balls; each one a little round rainbow. Some days I just stand still in awe, looking at the beauty around me. Gods, how I wish that I could paint.
Someone asked us all the other day - as seekers always do - where it is that the earthwise can find the teachers to take us to the next level of our practice. My best answer for that has always been "Ask, and the lessons will come. They will come from the oddest places and often from people you don't expect. Just keep asking." As for me, I hope that reading writers like Dillard and Meloy and taking my daily walks with god-in-the-form-of-dog, is teaching me how to look more closely at the world so I can take in more of it's mystery and joy. Does looking closer take us any deeper into wisdom? I think it does, especially with such good companions as these to share the journey. I need this wisdom every day and my thanks go out to friends and the many fine writers who choose to share their insights with the rest of us.
I don't have a lot to offer to their wisdom but I'll try. (1) Take a look at the picture of the necklace I've posted here. The stones aren't a perfect match but they make a lovely, potent circle. Earthwise lessons are like that. Don't expect to learn everything about your practice from books, rituals, teachers or groups. I know that many of us long for guidance and some guidance from those are further along the path is both is good and necessary. Let us ask ourselves if they have life wisdom to go with that learning. It also important - I would even say crucial - that we allow this journey to become one that is uniquely our own. Our connection to the sacred (however we choose to define that) is one only we can forge. For what it's worth, few of my deepest Pagan experiences were anything like the mystic costume fantasy we read about in books; so much of it is simple, daily and quiet. We don't need to create intense drama every time we want ritual, and certainly not in our teaching, which is best done when it's heart to heart. I would urge any seekers to look for bits of wisdom and experiences that will mix in ways that form a greater and more beautiful whole. We will find wisdom and connection when and where we least expect them but only if we have learned to recognize their value. To anyone else they will seem like so many rocks and burdens. We look and then we see and in doing so we find gems of meaning that were hidden and unregarded right under our feet. From this we can make something special, a necklace, prayer beads, altar stones or art; something that truly suits our unique, creative spirit and supports us every day we walk this path.
May you walk in beauty,
Hotel California Cosmology by Anne Hill
When I was working out my thoughts about this some years ago I wrote an essay titled "The Shadow Knows". It's not an answer for everyone, it is simply my own answer, which in brief is this: We get beyond teachers and circles and at this point we learn from ourselves and our choices. We turn around, look in the mirror and ask the hard questions that lurk in the shadows. We go back to blood and bone. In doing so we often find others on the path who ask the same questions and who aren't afraid of the answers. Sometimes we walk a path together for a while, not in ritual, per se, but simply by living as earthwise people every day. It may come to be that the only rituals we do are to go outside and say "Thank you" or that we keep them only for special times in our lives.
Paying attention was crucial for me then and now. Clearing out my emotional closet was also key because there were things there that were standing between me and my highest good (define that as one will). This is a challenge, a deep one, but there is no pass or fail here. It is simply that we choose to walk through this time and learn what is next for us or we do not. The essence of this journey for me was to seek my highest good, as I said, but also to find the will and the wisdom to follow it.
So, for what it's worth, I'll offer the link to the essay: The Shadow Knows
Take what you need and leave the rest. It may be that no one can lead us because the path becomes so deeply individual at this point - that's necessary because so much of it is about healing - but it still doesn't mean we walk alone. Many of us leave our original circles, groups and teachers at this point. Many go on to find our teachers in the oddest of places. Some of us find that we need to seek out new companions, as well, people of like mind, people who's emotional and spiritual health matches our own, and we start our own circle, avoiding some mistakes of the past while we learn from each other. It's always been that way; few of us have ever found everything we need ready made.
May you find what you seek.
Go well, stay well,