Feeding the Birds….Refuge, Part 1 by Sara Wright

It’s another gray snowy day with large white flakes falling from the sky… January lasts “forever” every single year. I feed chickadees on my window ledge until the squirrels show up; then I scatter seed on the ground. Chickadees begin their day just before 7 AM when it is still dark, coming to the ledge. Today the turkeys are absent, fluffed up monks still hidden under hemlock boughs. The blood male cardinal appears with his usual message. I peer into the forest as the turkeys make their way across the brook and start up the hill while gazing at sage green shield lichens and two pure white birches that stand out like sentries, peeling white skin. Some maples and many hemlocks border the brook that is running clear of ice. A multitude of twigs and evergreen spires sway, branches twist and bend filling every inch of space, a comforting sight, even though all the deciduous trees are bare. Global warming turns snow to rain and back again in every storm creating ice bound paths, easily traversed by my little dogs. Dangerous for me. Often now I am housebound.

This gray world of mine needs animation from within…

 The birds and my little night- flying squirrel remind me that flight can be a good exercise, even if it is only in my mind – but any flight I may make must be attached to my body. My body needs solid grounding and the separation I feel from rich brown earth, now covered by snow threatens to sever one from the other, I know. That I need extra protection at this time of year is sharply etched in my psyche. I light sage daily as I invoke the Four Directions. Following my dreams closely I receive nudges like those I feel and sense when I am free to roam through my favorite forest. I meditate on a dream of a blue green serpent with red crosses on his back. Blue green earth and betrayal behind my back. I am forewarned…

 Paying close attention to my beloved dogs and indoor plants, I take deep pleasure from the fact that all are thriving. Twice now two plants have spoken; one imaged an offering I needed to make for personal protection. Another produced an illumination: The root connection to my children remains, part of the great underground mycelial network, regardless of their behavior. I feel ambivalence around this news having suffered for so long, and finally being purged of want or need, the latter a Life Blessing.

 A second dream tells me to add a frog to my enclosure, a place where a child that is also me lives …

The next dream reveals that this child is no bigger than a little red berry (berries contain seeds) and that living inside a protected space allows her to thrive because she is safe.

 Yet another dream reveals an emerald evergreen princess pine, a diminutive forest ground cover shimmering through the snow. The meaning behind this plant dream remains obscure until I spy the spore bearing tuft in my winter bouquet. Severing the ‘candle’ from the plant I carefully spread the seed dust on the moss of my terrarium. Seeds! Offering or Intention – I am not sure – probably both.

My terrarium is bursting with life. Last fall I collected wild plants from the beloved forest, where my little brother roams free, to fill a container…. By creating a miniature woodland without conscious intention, I created a safe space, not just for a child but for me.

 Every morning I open the doors to mist the air and let the sweet earth scent of a forest in miniature remind the adult that winter is but one of four seasons and spring will come. Inside this oasis a partridgeberry catches my eye immediately. Little stone frog sits at the edge of the pool, the She Bear is in the foreground, head bowed, her red heartline hidden. Both Zuni fetishes. Lichen and mosses abound, dripping from lichened wood. Hemlock heartwood, driftwood from the deep lies against the glass; two hemlock seedlings are planted just to the right. Death to Life. Rotting leaves curl, brown edged, like Pulmonaria, once common now a rare lichen. Gradually a few stones move in, chert from Changing Woman’s Mountain, granite from my friend an Oglala Sioux Medicine Man. The first two offerings I was instructed to leave here for Winter Protection… A few wispy turkey feathers lay against the back glass wall. The child directs who and what enters this space; plants and my dreams fill in the blanks.

 Imagination turns the key.

 Until this morning I thought we were finished with offerings, but I was wrong. As I read an article that Carolyn Lee Boyd had written about witch stones, I suddenly recalled my brother’s Algonquin amulet, one he used to wear around his neck. Rummaging through my old jewelry bag I discovered the leather thong, but inexplicably it had been cut. The round stone with its hand drilled hole was gone. How could this be? Bereft, I tore through everything I had before finding lost treasure. Clasping the stone in hungry hands it suddenly hit me. The anniversary of my brother’s death was five days away. Every year for the last 51 years there has been something that re -attaches me to him in a visceral way… Here was the final offering. This one for the dead. When I examined the petroglyphs etched on the stone I remembered the fish, the sun, and the arrow on one side. The opposite side held the end of the story picturing a teepee – like structure, a place to hang fish, and stars falling to earth. A prayer for good fishing? A Witch Stone. When I looked at the rounded edge I was stunned. I didn’t remember that a serpent circled the periphery, meeting up with a lizard, face to face. Serpents and Lizards – north and south. Both grounded, both sleeping under the earth during the cold months of the year. I smudged the stone before placing it in the terrarium; at last the enclosure held all the objects it needed for Great Mystery to work. It makes perfect sense to me that the little girl would need a talisman of her brother in the terrarium created from bits of our beloved forest because she lives in there and misses him so. Now we both have what we need. This terrarium has also become my bridge to Refuge and the forest when I can’t be there during the winter. When I open those doors, I join the child and am pulled into a magic place.

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.

Categories: Earth-based spirituality, environment, Environmental Spirituality, General

Tags: , ,

7 replies

  1. So glad you found both your refuge and your stone! How amazing that it appeared at a time that is so meaningful for you! Sometime I would love for you to post the details of how to make a winter terrarium so I can make one next year. I have gotten a sense of what you put in it, but I’d love to know how you water it, how much soil to put in, what things go together, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Carolyn it is a simple process really and so easy to care for – terrariums are a true joy – the key is to stick with plants you know and soul whoops soil – well mycelial networks are soul aren’t they? Soil that is dug from the place where the plants are found and to add detritus that will slowly break down and mosses and lichens from same area 2 inches of crushed granite 3 inches or more good soil and a teeny pond – mist every day – and that’s that – of course the container must be enclosed – mine has screen on the top and if it’s in a dark place full spectrum light is helpful – needs light but I choose woodland plants and tree seedlings that prefer some shade – again just let your imagination guide you – little pond is always full of water – isopods – bugs break down debris creating richer soil…. When you choose plants from the woods you have no idea what will start popping up in January… I have wild lily of the valley coming and I sure didn’t plant it! It was hiding in moss – another key is moist but not soggy – you can tell by the walls – if there is too much moisture it will bead up – I love these things on dark days especially…. So worth time it takes to construct it….


    • I allow nature to direct me – meaning that s/he shows me the plants that like growing together and choose some from the diversity present in any woodland space…

      Liked by 1 person

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