“Shamans bridge the night flow…” the first lines from a poem I wrote long ago keep coming into my mind. Frustrated because I can no longer access the poem, I accept that the first line is what I need… ‘bridging the night flow’ of intrusive negative feelings/actions on the part of others (as well as myself) is precisely the edge I am on. Even smoke – filled rooms remind me that I need personal protection.
An Indigenous healer and impeccable scientist and naturalist friend of mine reminds me of what I know, spiritual forces are moving. When I told him of my dream his response was to focus on protection, create the intention, and let it go… I tried to do this in my mind with limited success but apparently our discussion around this subject opened a door for me or we both did as I remembered how important it is for me to ground my intentions in something concrete. How had I forgotten?
I have a terrarium that I created from plants and debris from a beloved forest, and it occurred to me to put my need for protection into this square container allowing nature to take the lead. My friend and I are both aware that this is a dangerous time of year – a time when Shadow is on the move. What’s critical is to acknowledge the danger but not to get caught by either extreme (fear or aggression), allowing these forces to dissipate over time. Winter solstice is over, but fire lingers on; the bridge to a new year is in the making, but new year’s eve is still caught in dark revelry – the kind that hides violence under fun… again, a continuation of this dangerous time (a personal example: last year I broke my foot on new year’s eve shoveling ice away from my door, and that turned out to be the beginning of a negatively charged year, the details of which no longer matter ). Taking an active stance is necessary. As is staying with the process.
After making the necessary offerings, the identity of one of which came to me directly from a plant, the other from a plant scientist’s remark, I continue to hold this awareness of the need for protection close. The child nudged me too and I brought down our spirit animals putting one bear and a frog in my terrarium as she requested, and the rest she directed me, needed to circle my crisped balsam wreath. I recalled the Pueblo Animal Dances beginning on or after the 1st of the year extending into spring. She was right again! Having specific animal protection is necessity. Animals ground us in our bodies.
I peer deeply into the shadows gathered around me with the eyes of the mystic turned realist, a person who seeks solid ground within her own little forest, self and in nature. I heed the warnings of smoke; the fire is not yet out. I make a promise to nature to remember that I am part of earth and sky, and both are always present in me along with humans and their non – human relatives. When bad things happen it is a challenge to keep this door open, but I commit to doing my best not to turn away. And most importantly, I get on with my life…
I will digress into natural history to use as my example: I spied a tangle of Usnea lying on snow I couldn’t reach. The lichen kept calling, so out the door I went on a quest to gather this lichen that is called “the lungs of the forest”. Indigenous peoples have used the herb for respiratory issues for millennia. Usnea is also useful for wounds helping them to heal faster.
Walking up a dirt road near my house I was impressed by the amount of Usnea present on the ground even though it is only December. Usually, I collect this lichen in the spring on those first rainy days that turn the clusters bright green. Every piece I pick up reminds me that this organism, composed of an alga, a fungus and cyanobacteria (sometimes) was the first to inhabit dry land perhaps more than 400 million years ago (there is an ongoing debate on this issue of the oldest land plants). The alga photosynthesizes feeding the fungus, and in return the fungus attaches itself to rock and breaks it down creating the first soil. Imagine. Today, neither can live without the other. Out of twenty thousand lichen possibilities I found hirta, a branched version and glabrescens, one that looks like hair. It wasn’t too long before I had a whole bag full. I deliberately took some from each fallen branch but left some tufts for the deer. Many animals need these lichens for winter food. I was pleased to see that the heavy winds had also deposited plenty of birch seeds on the snow so birds would not go hungry, at least until the next storm. There are so many trees down so early into the winter season that I cannot imagine what the woods will look by spring. The forests as whole are under so much stress from abrupt weather changes, wind, insects, drought, flooding that they are more vulnerable now than ever before. Broken branches lay everywhere. Usnea likes high places, and not surprisingly I picked most of my bounty from fallen topmost branches – many from pines. Returning to the house I cleaned my lichens while thanking them and tinctured the whole with alcohol – Within a few weeks I will have yet another useful medicine on hand. This helpful diversion helped me deal with my general unease.
I believe that having adequate protection from dark forces within and without becomes a priority during the times when our Cultural Shadow is on the increase. Indigenous and countryfolk historically dressed in masks to protect their identity from being stolen during the dark of the year. Masking is also useful when dealing with personal shadow. Reflecting. Holding oneself close. Saying less not more. Collectively, political and economic forces are intent upon keeping the public unaware of the extent of the ecological danger we are in. Add to this the normalization of violence on every level from noise (that destroys the cells of all living creatures) to rape and murder. All commonplace. Forests are on fire. Weather is just beginning to show her darker face and humans are responsible. We have lost 60 percent of our wildlife, three percent of our forests remain, clean air and water are under assault from pollution. We have lost ourselves because of our belief that we are separated from nature. What happens to one species will happen to the others even with denial firmly in place.
In the hopes that some will take heed of the need for personal protection, I close with this offering to others, while I give thanks for healing plants and nature as a whole.
BIO: Sara Wright is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.
5 thoughts on “Answering a Call by Sara Wright”
Once again Sara your writing reaches into the soul of the wildlife. I kept a written Nature journal for many years and learned so much about my immediate environment, especially since I am technically at 10 degrees in the northern hemisphere….but I discovered that what I experience in Costa Rica is a mixture of southern and northern hemispheres and that which I now call the tropical hemisphere. This year, I am combining small paintings with written observations. In his book “The Zen of Seeing” Frederick Franck writes “I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is”.
Interesting you write about the Pueblo Animal dances after January 1. The indigenous boruca during the first week of January and again the first week of February have the 3 day festival “Dance of the little devils”. The boruca are well known for their intricately carved masks and the village men put on those masks to drive out the invading Spaniards (represented by the bull mask).
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Drawing helps you see!
I love that you are letting nature lead you in this essay. It is so easy to forget that nature is waiting for us to listen and to be led, to take the wisdom and guidance they offer but which humans so often ignore to our peril. This is another beautiful post!
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You know so much of the time if w e can just do this it makes all the difference…I have had to train myself…it is not easy to undo that conditioning
Sometimes old conditioning wins out anyway