Cleansing Symphony of Rain

I frequently review my journal entries. The one I ran across today and wanted to share is about listening to the melodies of rain in her gentle purity, and within one’s surroundings. I love sitting on our screened porch that overlooks our back yard and property, ensconced in the sanctity that is our own grove.

Woke up to the day’s cleansing rain. The birds are mostly quiet although I can hear some, including the chatty one [who I later learned is a Carolina Wren], through the sounds of the rain hitting various objects.
The rainwater is flowing through our yard along its usual route but also within the small riverbeds I dug this week. I will rock these in to provide some guided flow and protect our yard from further erosion. I can watch its distinct flow and know where to help it along its natural path.
The rain, if we listen, creates its own symphony. Pinging as it hits our aluminum patio table. Thudding with a deeper tone as it falls upon our woodpile tarp and grill cover. Sounding like a gently running brook as it nourishes and replenishes Earth Mother, and our precious and sacred water supplies of the Chesapeake Bay watersheds that sustain life. There is naught a breeze, so rain is coming straight down to Earth Mother and her beings.
Our birdbath was still full from the last rain and I had the honor, pleasure of watching a robin fully soak Friday when aerating our yard. Robin rolled around as I crouched and remained still, not wanting to spoil the moment and interrupt its
[her] cleansing and nourishment.

If humans make and/or take the time to listen to the sounds of nature, we can learn more about living than most books can teach, and certainly reflect on our own actions and perhaps become better humans…if we listen and observe. Time away from the constant blur of multimedia and social media is critical to our well-being and survival as a human race. A human race that has become hurried, impatiently demanding everything now, acting with disregard and disrespect to other humans and the creatures of nature – all of whom are living beings with whom humans share this planet called Earth. So, carve yourself out time to sit, listen quietly and observe the wonders of our living Earth. Breathe them into your mind’s eye and replenish your own body, mind and soul; be cleansed from the detritus of humans.

The Trees Are Crying

I have not written anything on my blog since late May and my entries have been sporadic since late spring hit and with it the abundance of yard work. Then I flew back out west to help my family. Life has been busy for us but that is okay.

Nearby…too close…developers have cut/are cutting down all of the trees, clearing yet another area for more stores and townhomes. This work began while I was out west with my family and I asked my wife what is going on when she picked me up from BWI. It is not only going to add to our traffic backlog but create worse results for our friends in nature. They are destroying more of Earth Mother’s habitat for her living beings outside of the human race. Too many people do not comprehend how important the trees are to all life on our planet that has been gifted to us and that we are destroying them on a daily basis. I doubt that the construction workers with their big machines asked the trees or said even a quick prayer of thanks and apology before they felled them all, clearing the path for the real estate developers. The industry of humans involves wanting more and more, well beyond what each of us really needs. We waste our natural resources that provide for our daily lives. Trees are the filters of our planet. They give us oxygen.

In my daily somewhat random readings in Earth Prayers, the pages opened this morning to a poem that is relevant to the disturbing mass felling of trees in the section entitled “Healing the Whole.” We must be better stewards of Earth.

Let the Trees be consulted
before you take any action
every time you breathe in
thank a tree
let treeroots crack parking lots
at the world bank headquarters
let loggers be druids
specially trained and rewarded
to sacrifice trees at auspicious times
let carpenters be master artisans
let lumber be treasured like gold
let chainsaws be played like saxophones
let soldiers on maneuvers plant trees
give police and criminals
a shovel and a thousand seedlings
let businessmen carry pocketfuls of acorns
let newlyweds honeymoon in the woods
walk don’t drive
stop reading newspapers
stop writing poetry
squat under a tree
and tell stories

John Wright, in Earth Prayers from Around the World – 365 Prayers. Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, ed. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1991), 105.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is one of the best books I have read, ever. Dr. Kimmerer’s writing and teachings had me hooked at the “Preface.” I learned about sweetgrass, which we burn along with sage for cleansing our home and other spaces and take for granted. I learned about this wonderful gift from Earth Mother and her other gifts that we take and use, sadly often more than we need, then fail to replace them to replenish Nature and ensure there is enough for everyone to share. Every section seamlessly weaves into the next and every chapter offers a lesson from Nature deftly interwoven with indigenous knowledge and the science of botany, which is fascinating. Dr. Kimmerer’s sharing of indigenous knowledge and her writing encourages reflection.

Per my usual, I tabbed chapters or pages that perhaps imparted even deeper lessons. The chapter on “Allegiance to Gratitude” reveals the Thanksgiving Address with which the kids of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of the Onondaga Nation begin and end their school week. I am a Veteran, career US Army Chief Warrant Officer and am loyal to our Republic; however, I believe that if all kids were to learn at least some portions of the Thanksgiving Address they would grow into humans who would take action to care for and nurture Earth Mother and tend to our beloved Republic and her citizens. I share below one such verse that the kids know by heart and recite in their native language.

Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass – Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2013), 107.

A theme that ran throughout Braiding Sweetgrass is that of asking Earth Mother for permission to take what we need and only what we need and what is given to us. I think of the abundance of waste humans create that includes food and other natural resources, and things we buy that we think we must have then toss aside later…parts of the unnecessary clutter that disturbs our spaces and our lives. This applies to the gifts of Nature and other commodities. The human race as a collective is and hoarding species and not a responsible steward of our planet and her resources. Dr. Kimmerer lists the guidelines of what may constitute an Honorable Harvest.

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others.
Harvest in a wat that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.

Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 183.

Braiding Sweetgrass is so much more than the tidbits I shared here. Check it out for yourself. I am growing better from its reading. I look forward to reading Dr. Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss, which she wrote prior to this beautiful book. In the meantime, let us learn to value the cherishments that Nature is willing to share as long as we ask permission.

Earth Day 2021…Reflections

Greetings on this Earth Day, 22 April 2021. For many of us, every day is Earth Day and we do our best to make a positive impact to repair and sustain Earth Mother, she who gives us all everything we need to survive and thrive. Some of us are fortunate to have plenty while others live and struggle daily worrying from where their next meal will come, how they will pay their bills, if they will ever have a place to call home besides our cities’ shelters and areas where tents or other makeshift structures are allowed. Citizens and governments can work together to bridge the chasm between those to have and those who have not the physical means to survive, based on one’s circumstances.

While discussing issues about disparity and racism with a friend, she highlighted that we are all of one race, the human race. It had crossed my mind throughout the years as to why I had to always select a color, among other characteristics that really should not matter, except for perhaps a census or medical records. Progressing the global mindset from categorizing humans into different, even disparate races, a practice that began in ancient times, to realize and act like we are the human collective would be a good start. Realizing that everyone, and by this I mean humans, flora, fauna, the lives in our waters, forests, and so on, embody an energy and are living beings would be another step to honoring all life on our Earth and working to repair the damage and envision a better hope for sustainment for generations to come. Our ancestors surely did not foresee the widespread destruction, intentional in cases, that is killing our Earth Mother. Education about the resources that sustain all life should be at the forefront of discussions regarding reparations, yes I said reparations to Earth Mother for bad human behavior that is killing us all. We have been endowed with plenty yet while our needs are met, we want more…more things that do not benefit our lives but end up in the landfills once they no longer seem to meet our temporary desires. This excess of garbage we have the means to stop.

I do not want to be all gloom and doom on any day. My wife Kathy and I are supporting the Chesapeake Bay Foundation tomorrow by volunteering at Clagett Farm to pot saplings. The weather is supposed to be nice so it should be a good experience working in the soil, helping to secure the future of our forests. I have always loved trees and their energy that gives life to everyone and provides shelter for so many beings. As a Junior Scout, I worked hard to sell cookies so I could attend Meadow Mountain Ranch summer camp in my Colorado Rockies. The mountains and woods called to me, then and now. I read a poem last night when perusing a book this friend recommended that connected with my soul.

My help is in the mountain
Where I take myself to heal
The earthly wounds
That people give to me.
I find a rock with sun on it
And a stream where the water runs gentle
And the trees which one by one give me company.
So must I stay for a long time
Until I have grown from the rock
And the stream is running through me
And I cannot tell myself from one tall tree.
Then I know that nothing touches me
Nor makes me run away.
My help is in the mountain
That I take away with me.

Earth cure me. Earth receive my woe. Rock
strengthen me. Rock receive my weakness. Rain
wash my sadness away. Rain receive my doubt.
Sun make sweet my song. Sun receive the anger
from my heart.

Nancy Wood, Unnamed Poem under “Healing the Whole,” in Earth Prayers from Around the World – 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, eds. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1991), 97.

The Old Oak

I saw you today
Like the first time
Like an old friend
I had passed by
My attention elsewhere
Walking our pups
Staying on the path
But not today
We were restless
Needed to see you
Yet more…

First I met your friend
You know her
With the twin trunks
I touched her
Caught in her trance
Then I turned
And saw you
Late winter glory
Magnificent strength
Awed by your beauty
Touched by your strength
When I felt you
Shared your heartbeat
Grounded in your roots…

I needed you
To meet you today
To feel your presence
To sit in silence
Feel your energy
Feel your love
Listen to you
You are old
You are wise
You are strong
I had shields up
Yet felt your flow
Glimpsed your glow
Lessons another day
I shall return
Connect then
On your invite
Come sit beneath you
In the safety of your arms
In the comfort of your heartbeat
Grounded in your roots…


The Celtic Circle of Belonging

The title of this post is taken from a section heading in Anam Cara – A Celtic Book of Wisdom by John O’Donohue. Since my childhood I have been one with nature and animals. Later in life I finally learned why and am now on the path of my choice…my destiny. My ancestors are the Celtic peoples – primarily Irish, Scottish, and Belgic. Belgic Gaul was comprised of tribes of Celtic peoples, Celtic-Germanic, and those who were primarily German, and the Belgic Gauls were among the first to immigrate from Continental Europe to the southeast coast of Britain when fleeing Belgic Gaul during Caesar’s conquest of Gallia Belgica (58-55 BCE).1 The Celtic peoples have a rich history that is replete with the arts and scholarly learning, among other traits, honoring of Earth Mother, the waters, trees and sacred spaces via which to practice rituals to honor our ancestors and God/desses.

The Celtic circle around the well, the fire and the tree is something I have understood at my core but was unable to realize fully due to various life circumstances. It is in this circle that I can now be comfortable, belong…be myself and understand who I am and have always been. I find the freedom to practice what I believe and continue to take action to protect our natural resources. I share a poem from a book my Irish Mom gave me and that I also gave to my own daughter – Anam Cara-A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

I arise today
through the strength of heaven, light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

(Trans. Kuno Meyr)

John O’Donohue, Anam Cara – A Book of Celtic Wisdom (1997; repr. New York: Perennial, 2004), 3-4.

The citation is from my recent MA thesis entitled Revisiting Ancient Celtic Civilization: Threat to Roman Supremacy? (Oct 2020)
1 Maureen Carroll, Romans, Celts & Germans: The German Provinces of Rome (Gloucestershire, UK: Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2001), 17; Julius Caesar, The Gallic War 2.4/Edwards, 93-95; ed. Jeffrey Henderson, trans. H. J. Edwards (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, 1917).

Some days it is difficult to rise out of bed and greet the day. Everyone is unique with her/his/their own beliefs and religion. Whatever your religion is get up, be thankful, honor it, live it, and devote yourself to virtuous action in our shared society.

Find your own circle…Blessings…

Death Comes for the Archbishop

I vaguely recall that I read something by Willa Cather…decades ago. Like many of us, my life became focused on other missions and their recommended or relevant readings. Furthermore, I generally have not been focused on American literature. That is changing as I continue to evolve and broaden my scope. I will read all of Willa Cather’s books in due time as her work is revealing and so descriptive of the Native American Southwest and other adventures that pioneers endured in settling America’s breadbasket, where I grew up.

Within a few phrases I realized why Claire Messud referenced Death Comes for the Archbishop in her book that I briefly discussed in a prior post. I was hooked and could not wait to keep turning the pages. Those of us who have visited our American Southwest, especially New Mexico and Arizona, understand the awe of the desert landscape and its reverberating energy…Native American spiritual energy that is unmistakable in its mystical, pure, and raw forms. When I visited the Grand Canyon in 2002 and arose early with my friend to watch the sunrise, it was a priceless moment, an exquisite example of nature’s splendor. More recently, when my wife and I visited Sedona, and when I visited Taos, the energy was ever-present, tingling one’s senses with its wonderful vibrations. Each time I go to the Southwest, it calls me to be there and live among the ancestors.

Willa Cather paints a beautiful and picturesque scene with her words, strung together like an artist, perfect in their description and ability to transport the reader into her book, a vibrant movie reel in one’s open mind. I share a passage below that popped out when my book simply fell open to its pages. Cather painted the natural yet deliberate array of the vast rock mesas, the grandeur of the Indian pueblo at Ácoma, New Mexico.

In all his travels the Bishop had seen no country like this. From the flat red sea of sand rose great rock mesas, generally Gothic in outline, resembling vast cathedrals. They were not crowded together in disorder, but placed in wide spaces, long vistas between. … The sandy soil of the plain had a light sprinkling of junipers, and was splotched with masses of blooming rabbit brush,—that olive-coloured plant that grows in high waves like a tossing sea, at this season covered with a thatch of bloom, yellow as gorse, or orange like marigolds.

This mesa plain had an appearance of great antiquity, and of incompleteness; as if, with all the materials for world-making assembled, the Creator had desisted, gone away and left everything on the point of being brought together, on the eve of being arranged into mountain, plain, plateau. The country was still waiting to be made into a landscape.

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927; repr., New York: Vintage Classics Edition, 1990), 94-95.

Come one, come all and join Willa Cather to vividly explore the adventures of America’s construction. Through her illustrations, find rays of light and rainbows that shone and glittered, in the bitter and destructive wake, of those who were strong and fought for the right to live, and the missions who understood, respected, and supported their way of life. Reminisce in the stars that shine down upon us in our own worlds.

Renewal via a Prior Path

I have wandered for long enough.
Tried to belong where I did not fit in
Always uncomfortably out of place.
Formally- and self- taught
Educated and career-oriented.
It is time to seek my spiritual path
One that I know suits me…my ancestry.
Deep inside I have always known
Always been at one with nature and animals.
I have many books, my skulls and stones.
It is time for me to enter the grove
To seek my enlightenment, enchantment of my soul.
I begin this journey without fear…
My journey to who I am supposed to be.
I ask Earth Mother to welcome and embrace me
Cleanse me and open up my senses
So that I may comprehend, heal myself, and
Potentially help others heal.