“It’s a wild snail festival out here!”
—Tanner (age 3)
This spring we took a family mini vacation to Table Rock Lake, about three hours away from home.
At its best, working and schooling from home with our family of six feels like a beautifully seamless integration of work and life—there is no need to compartmentalize or draw distinctions between “life” and “work,” because it is ALL just life and living. At its worst, it feels like the work bleeds into everything else in an all-consuming way and the to-do list just never ends and something or someone is always getting overlooked or shortchanged. We find that it is helpful for us all sometimes to just all step away and be somewhere else, while the to-do list stays at home! We try to take at least five family adventures/trips a year (some of them small and some more involved).
One morning, I went out for a walk with our youngest son, Tanner, to collect supplies for a goddess grid. As we came up the steps near our room, we discovered that there were many different sizes of snails crawling along the rain-dampened stone steps. Tanner exclaimed: “it’s a wild snail festival out here!” and squatted down to admire the snails. I crouched and admired the snails with him, watching them slowly investigate the goddess figurine I’d set on the steps and reflected that if we hadn’t made the time to squat down, to get to a snail’s eye level, we would never have seen them. I loved it. I loved the rhythm of this “wild snail festival.” He meant wild in the sense of “crazy party” rather than “opposite of domestic” and I loved his choice of wording. How beautifully incongruous and wonderful it was to think of “snail” and “festival” or “snail” and “wild” in the same context and it felt like this charming moment, time out of time, just partying with the wild snails.
We found snail shells later and collected them for our mandala, examining each one, upon which he would announce: “Nobody’s in this one!” or, “Oops! Somebody’s still in this one!” We set up our goddess grid on the balcony and when returning to it a little while later, I noticed an “error” in my snail shell pattern from the center…as my eyes slid over the altar cloth I saw the culprit. Part of our mandala had made a break for it and was sliding away across the cloth to the edge of the table. One of our “empty” shells was still inhabited! (We took it back to the rocks and set it free.)
Crouching beneath cedar’s arms
studying the stained-glass effect
of sunlight through oak leaves
two things are clear:
there are stories
in the smallest places
there is magic
When we returned from the beach this February, I reinstated my daily “woodspriestess” practice–visiting the same spot in the woods behind my house every day, rain or shine, without fail, and seeing what I learn from the woods, the world, and myself. It is vital to my well-being and I cannot believe I ever let my dedication to this practice slip. Each morning I awake with a sense of excitement and anticipation to see what I will discover and doing this has re-enchanted my daily world and more deeply connected me to a sensation of everyday magic.
One recent morning I became fascinated with the sound of two dry leaves dancing together on an oak tree. The fascination to me came because the sound of those two leaves caught my ear above all other sounds in the woods that morning and I was oddly exhilarated by being able to differentiate the sound of two leaves out of many in that way. I reported this climax of my story to my family with glee: and then I heard two leaves! (They appeared mysteriously underwhelmed.) About an hour later, I turned to that day’s page of my Meditations for Living in Balance book and the quote of the day was this:
“To be able to listen to the silence is to be able to hear the infinite.”
–Anne Wilson Schaef
She goes on to say this:
“Silence is almost a lost experience in today’s society. See if you can develop a way of listening to what is being said in such a way that nothing is required of you. Conserve your power.”
Bringing it back to listening to the leaves in the woods and watching the wild snail festival, I would add that I find it vital to discover a way of listening to the world around you, as it is, in this exact moment.
And, that reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite books, Listening to the Oracle:
“Ancient people saw and heard oracles everywhere because they lived in an ensouled world. The phrase ‘ensouled world’ may inspire us today, but perceiving everything around us as truly alive, brimming with consciousness, intensely present, and gazing back at us is an experience of a different order. Few adults living in modern culture are able to sustain an ensouled relationship with creation for more than a few moments at a time…”
This very week, one morning I laid on my back on the rocks, stuck my legs straight up in the air and then spread them open to the sky. I brought my knees into my chest and laid there on the stone like a stranded beetle for a while thinking.
I had the sensation that I was waiting for something, some insight or inspiration or magical something to happen, and I had a vague feeling of disappointment in such a “normal day” with no special lesson or encounter.
But, then I heard a small voice from within say:
“Well, you got your spirit back, so there’s that.”
And, I decided that was enough.
On my way back to the house, right in my path, there was a snail on a leaf.
May we always
to take part
in wild snail festivals.
Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.