A valentine poem for you, for the earth. Perhaps especially for those who are in solitude this Valentine’s Day. Jai Maa ❤
Here the earth curves in welcome
meeting my back with the sure comfort
of a wizened love.
I lean into the embrace,
inclined to believe
this is meant to be.
I rest against stones in their fullness, round
rising from the ground
warmth penetrating my cold, jagged edges
as I sink into the flow
that caressed their shape
Here so held solitude
My awareness slides
into the ever flowing river
surely as the salmon
in rushing depths.
This as simple and precious as breath
Here a truth:
You are not loved.
You are love.
You are not on this earth.
You are of this earth.
You can not be separate from who you are
and even the strongest of forms
will change with the flow of time.
Whenever I am be-ing outdoors, awe and gratitude often strike me to the core, like a ray of sun suddenly slicing through the dense canopy and illuminating the forest floor in a shocking glow.
I realized a couple of weeks ago that on many of my recent outings, I had been much more focused on getting somewhere or on the physical activity of hiking, my body wanting to move while it could and my mind wanting a distraction from itself. I hadn’t been sinking into the still receptiveness of winter.
Well, cue a flare-up of body pain and an injury. Unable to exert myself I was forced to slow down, to be still and pay closer attention, to notice what was going on in my body and in the world around me. To be present with the pain* and my reaction to it, to notice where grief was rising, bubbles from the cracks at the bottom of an emotional sea.
It was then that the light of awe and gratitude that had recently been only like the first light of sunrise, rose high. The cracks broke open and a great flood washed over me.
Driving south along 101, the Washington coast rising and falling in great curves that seemed to match the sound of the waves breaking upon her shore, I made a sudden left turn onto a dirt road with a sign that read “Big Cedar.” I had driven past this sign near Kalaloch many times on my way to other places, promising myself I would make a more leisurely trip and stop at this and all of the other heritage trees.
Just a few steps from the rough parking area ,this giant tree looms colossal. It is said the tree is over 1000 years old; part of it has fallen and there is only one living branch, and it is breathtaking. Standing in the presence of this ancient being I felt time spin and grow very still, each breath seeming to be an eternity. I found myself circumambulating this kin’s** great trunk like a temple. Stooping beneath a huge root that was well over human height and must have grown out of a great nurse log, I felt like I was entering the most sacred of places. Walking around the tree, seeing where new life was growing from the decay, I acutely felt the cycle of life and death and the gifts that the forest holds. Tears wet my cheeks at I slowly stepped forward to touch the exposed roots and the soft, decaying bark. I spoke a prayer of gratitude, and a promise to work to protect the tree’s kin so that they too would have the chance to live full lives of grace.
Following several days of winter rain (finally), the weather cleared and the steely dome of the sky lifted into a high blue cathedral ceiling. Still feeling sore, I decided pain be damned and went to Rialto Beach, on Quileute tribal land, now the Olympic National Park.
It was impossibly beautiful. The horizon was completely clear so I watched the bright orb of the sun as the horizon rotated away, dipping the sun into the ocean to turn the water into surreal shades of orange and red and pink and purple.
Then just after sunset, as I’m watching the colors shift in the fading light, overcome by the beauty, an eagle flies by. And then another. And then a raven circles me. And then another raven. And then an eagle circles me. And then two more eagles fly by and land in the tree above me. One after another after another in wave after wave of awe, me turning in circles with my face lifted skyward: bird, pink sky, sunset, purple ocean, bird. Feeling the incredible throng of life.
Before I knew it I was sobbing. Like tears pouring down my face grateful the ocean covered the sound and all the people had already moved on sobbing. I stood there and just wept for a while, the waves of awe and gratitude crashing against waves of pain and grief in a beautiful spray of tears.
Yes, I was sobbing for my own pain and loss, which we all have. But I was also crying in gratitude, crying for the sheer impossibility that I, or any of us, could be here to witness such beauty, and how fleeting it is. Crying for the loss that the earth has experienced, me listening to her cries, even as she hears mine. I felt awe at the continued celebration of the cycle of life and death, against all odds. And I felt a fierce protectiveness for what, who, I love.
I went home as the gloaming deepened. Later that night I went out to walk my dog, and was surprised to see to see something I had not seen here yet: the sky was perfectly clear, the moon was old, and the stars were flickering brightly.
I live close enough to town that there is enough light pollution to obscure the full majesty of the starry sky. So, I hopped back in the car and drove to Rialto again. As I drove one, two shooting stars crossed my sight, seeming to call me forward. I stopped where the Quillayute river pours into the sea, the electric lights blocked by mountains, and again turned my face skyward.
Its a good thing I was leaning against the car.
Above me stretched a tapestry of light against the darkness and the Milky Way in near-full glory, the river mirroring the flowing. Another shooting star with a tail that trailed across half my field of vision flashed brightly; I felt as if I could reach out and grab the star like a firefly in a jar.
And there I was, one being held by the cosmos, the earth supporting my feet, the stars as gateways to the unknowable. Time again began to spiral, the flickering stars seemed to giggle and sing as the river hummed softly and the waves added their crescendos. What greater miracle than this?
Nature can break us open in the most beautiful of ways, reminding us of our own wildness, of the connection we have with the world and with other beings. This connection remains whether we acknowledge it or not, and demands our attention and reciprocation.
*Pain and disability sucks, make no mistake about that. But for me, I have to see it as a gateway. Not to make the pain go away, but to understand myself as a person with pain and how fleeting life is, and to empathize with the pain of the world.
**I strive to remove inappropriate pronouns from my vocabulary, and to always address a being with the pronoun they use, human or non-human. I do not feel comfortable referring to the earth and the many beings that exist here as “it”. Kin is one alternative that I use, as it is non-appropriative, gender neutral, and reflects the relationship we have with other beings. Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks more about this, and has inspired me to continue to reflect on language.
I am offering free writing services through my consulting business Awakened Solutions. There are so many things in our culture that are centered on writing, but not everyone has skills in writing. If you have a need that can only be fulfilled through a writing project, I want to help. Go to the Free Writing Project.
Bow to the wood pile
Flesh of this great earth,
Home to many:
you have carried water in your cells,
your breath allowing me to breathe
now your body offers me warmth
Gratitude to you for this offering.
Bow to the wood pile
I carry your bones in my arms
One, two, a bundle cradled
hand supporting the edge against my breast.
Bow to the fire
wood, hollow against stone,
chiming this altar to life
Bone to flesh
flesh to spark
spark to flame
of this one brightness.
Water hisses, rising from flesh
as smoke, greets the space
Is it returning to its source?
I step beyond these walls
Smoke escapes, the night
Rising toward the stars
water into the darkness.
It’s true that the dark days can make us appreciate the bright ones more. When the clouds clear and the sun makes a sudden, stunning appearance painting the sky in an impossible play of colors, the gratitude I feel is overwhelmingly blissful.
Gratitude changes everything.
But I have gratitude, too for the dark days. The days when a different set of eyes allows me to see the play as the clouds pass over the sky, in as many shades of grey as there are colors in a bright sunset. Oh there is beauty and magic in that play too.
…[H]ere is the work of patience: to be ready for the world to slit us, the full length of us, opening our hearts with the pellucid attention that is the watchfulness of the heron in the cove at the end of the day, when wood smoke slides onto the rising tide and slanting rain pocks the water. This patience is the birth of gratitude. pg 109
I found this to resonate with such truth. The US has just celebrated Thanksgiving (which I abstain from, as I do not celebrate the colonialist and genocidal roots of the day) and expressions of gratitude have filled our tables and our media. But what is this gratitude that comes around once per year, expressed when so many people are sitting around incredible bounty that, for the most part, they are disconnected from?
Gratitude is relational; it’s opening is found through our connection with others, be they human, plant, animal, or spirit. In our willingness to open ourselves to the experience of being in relation with the world and all of its joy and sorrow, we open ourselves to the experience of deep gratitude. It requires steadfastness, attention, and patience as the world goes by, not to be swept away by its tidal pulls. Gratitude is not appreciation as someone spoons another helping onto our plate. Though it is a building block of gratitude, appreciation so often begins in entitlement and passes as quickly as the spoon to our mouths.
The day that I took this photo, I realized that I had gone over a week without talking to or seeing a (incarnate) human being, but I was very much ok with that. I had spent the week settling into my new home, getting to know the Place and patiently watching the storm clouds roll in and pass away. I was missing the Place that I had come from (by which I mean the plants and spirits) but feeling very joyful to get to know new ones. My heart was opening into deep gratitude.
In that space, I put my very excited dog into the car and went to check out the State Park down the road. I quickly realized it was primarily a campground and there didn’t appear to be much hiking but decided to wander around, noticing the trees and variety of mosses in a small area. As I wandered I ran into the campground host who was also out for a walk with her dog. The pups made quick friends and she warmly invited me to join her on their walk. She took me to a trail I never would have found on my own and we talked about mosses and how many ferns can grow on a tree and how creeks each have their own individual sound. Giving me more tips on hiking in the area, she invited me to her church and to come back to hike with her anytime. In accepting this offering of connection from her, I left full of gratitude.
From there I drove up the hill over a gravel road through logging land, and as I rounded a curve the trees sparkled as the sun dipped beneath the clouds and the sky started to clear. I gasped with surprise and delight and my heart burst open. The joy I felt in this moment, after days of patience and the offering of my attention to the world, was indescribable. Then it clicked: it was my gratitude, the gratitude that I have held on to through all of the trials I have endured, that was the key. It was the key to my grief and sorrow and my bliss and joy.
If we open to it gratitude has the power to slit us from stern to bow, to show us the power of connection and relation – even in our sorrow.
It has been a little over a week since I moved out to the Olympic Peninsula, to the town of Forks. Yes – the Forks of Twilight fame, though I am doing my best to avoid vampires of all sorts at this point in my life. 🙂
This is a fresh start for me, a place to get settled and find some stability; even though it is temporary, it is safe and will allow space for any number of possibilities to open.
I love it here so far, and being 20 minutes from the coast and 20 minutes from the Olympic rainforest is a dream come true. But yes: it rains a lot. It is very rural. Winter will be a test of endurance for sure. It is also a quirky, friendly place. It will be the perfect place to focus on writing and doing my work.
So I’ve created a new blog just for the poems and stories of life on the Rainforest Coast (does anyone else call it that?). I’ll try to cross-post here, but please do follow The Forks Poems if you’re interested in reading about this place. It will be another way for me to fan the flames of the writing spirit, and I hope to have some fun with it.
A prayer I wrote to Hekate in 2009, which has popped up again through social media so I am sharing it with you here.
My relationship with Hekate has shifted in recent years, as relationships tend to do. She was my first – the first deity that I felt a true kinship with, the first deity that I made a dedication to. I joke that we are old friends, content in our relationship, sometimes not speaking for lengths of time but knowing the other is always present.
This is partially a result of growth in my practice, as contradictory as some people may find that. As my polytheism grows in complexity and nuance, and as my work in Tantra and my relationship with Kali Maa deepens, duality starts to blur and the lines between “hard” and “soft” no longer seem as fixed.
Hekate Soteira, the World Soul, is the one who truly started me down the path I am on, or perhaps She is the one I first recognized as calling to me in recognition of my path. As such our connection will never be taken for granted. Io Hekate!
Soul of the World
You who were created from darkness,
born from the womb of nothingness
Hekate, Mostly Lovely One,
to You I pray.
Guardian of Crossroads
You who sees what came before, what is, and what lies ahead
Propolos, guide me on my path.
Keeper of the Keys
Protectress of the ancient wisdom
I pray to thee, as your daughter
Most Magnificent Goddess
Phosporous One, bare your torch for me.
Through you, I face my fears
Guiding me into ever greater depths,
until you stand with me at the final mystery.
It is in honor of you that I pray.
written by Syren Nagakyrie
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