Field Notes: Eco-Sensuality & Tending the Inner Fire

NOVEMBER 2021


“In the mystery and the energy of loving, we all view time's shadow upon the beloved... We do not think of it every day, but we never forget it: the beloved shall grow old, or ill, and be taken away finally. No matter how ferociously we fight, how tenderly we love, how bitterly we argue, how pervasively we berate the universe, how cunningly we hide, this is what shall happen. In the wide circles of timelessness, everything material and temporal will fail, including the manifestation of the beloved. In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us." - Mary Oliver



Nov. 5: Sky Lover

By Jess


Each day comes, and like a phoenix who rises from the ashes, so too the sun returns after a period of darkness. The light stirs me from my slumber, beckoning me to rise, to greet that flaming essence, and to reach toward what lies within. Light greets light. And so the ritual goes. We are what the whole of life is doing, responding to the mirror image of ourselves, and dancing through the seasons and cycles of things. Whether we are paying attention or not, the dance unfolds. It’s a game of hide and seek. Remembering, forgetting; arriving, returning. Inhaling, receiving. Exhaling, giving back. I breathe and all of life breathes with me.


Each day carries a unique flavor and is shaped by the interplay of all things. Consider today as you read these words. How would you describe the texture of the wind or the quality of light and shadow? What song is being sung? Is the sun hidden behind clouds or is there a full expression of radiance? How might you describe the mood of the mountain? The river? Or the forest nearby? Can you hear the trees whispering? What are they saying? Does the temperature outside invite expansion or contraction? How do you respond? Do you want to curl up in restful hibernation or do you want to stretch, move and generate inner heat? What stirs within you as you sense into the mood of this day? Does it match an inner mood or contrast it?



Today we are in the mountains, staying in a cabin close to Boone. The day feels soft and spacious as the morning light sweeps across the landscape, gently caressing the resting body of earth. My body feels heavy like a sponge as I soak in the pleasure of the warm light streaming through the window. The temperature outside is cold, coaxing me to linger in bed a little longer, while inside it's toasty warm as a little fire blazes in the wood burning stove nearby. The day is singing sweet love notes by activating all of my senses and reminding me to luxuriate in the sensuality of slowness.


Sensuality is the theme song for today. As I make my way out of bed, I shift into slow, sensual movement and notice what is coming up for me (thoughts, feelings, sensations). I give myself space to explore what my body needs without any preconceived notions of what that might look like. What does pleasure feel like today? What does my body need in order to feel nourished, connected and turned on by life? This is my movement meditation. When I move slowly I am able to take in more information, I can show up in greater presence, and I am attuned to the subtleties of pleasure. Slowness encourages spaciousness and softness, which invites ease and fluidity. Slowing down is an important practice for me because so much of my conditioning has been shaped by the pace of Industrial Growth Society and the pressure of productivity, which ends up being a great distraction. The rest of the day unfolds with heightened sensitivity, aliveness and appreciation.


When we finally reached the day’s end, we were gifted with the most orgasmic sunset I have ever known. Have you ever had a sky lover? She was it for me. Everything about that sunset was sexy. She came toward me slowly, warming my inner garden with the soft breath of golden light. As I relaxed deeper into her embrace, her radiance grew and penetrated deeper into my clay form, bathing me in streams of melting butter and honey followed by cooling waves of cobalt and sapphire. I imagine making love to a sunset is like making love to a deity. Her flaming threads of light weaving a tapestry over the horizon, cocooning and engulfing me in intensifying degrees of rapture. Hers was a slow build and just when I thought she’d reached a peak, the flames of passion burned ever more brightly and deeply. It is in these moments when I feel most held in the arms of love. I can’t help but see how a sunset is the final chorus in a day's song. Each day’s end sends a message and leaves an imprint on the soul. And tonight, as I gazed into the face of her glory, she sang a song to the sensual lover in me.



Nov. 10: Becoming Animal

By Michelle


Tonight the sun was setting with a golden glow of soft pink, rustic orange, and a tint of red crimson when I exited the embrace of the pine forest. I approached grandmother oak tree and passed her by in my usual way, with a deep reverence to the wisdom and presence that I sense she holds deep within her roots, and the witnessing space she provides for this community and for me personally. Many times I’ve come to her when I’ve needed to be held, loved and affirmed. Inwardly I bowed to her in acknowledgment as I meandered to the field.


I decided to take the mowed path through the field rather than my usual route along the edge of the forest. The grasses are long, wispy, deeper in color and brittle in texture as winter approaches. As I gazed upon the field and began to see a whole network of narrow trails: small animal pathways. I decided to follow one. I was intent and mesmerized by the twist and turns of the trail. I could sense into the shape, size and footing just by feeling the trail in my own body. I could feel the grasses, smell their aroma and noticed their differences in detail, shape, length and texture, something I am not aware of by just gazing at the field as a whole. As I focused my attention to the different types of grasses, I began to sense my pace slow, curiosity heighten and awareness expand. Eventually I was guided to a small, tiny circular shaped bed. I could tell it was a bed because of the way the grasses were patted down, and it was shaped just like a curled animal resting.


I took a moment to softly lay in the bed as an animal would, sensing what it might feel like to rest in a field of tall grasses, hidden from sight. I noticed my arms and legs wrap into a small ball in order to fit into the bed. I closed my eyes and felt my body soften, relax and sense safety from being tucked in by the surrounding grasses. It was quiet and warm. It was comforting to imagine the animal's breath, heartbeat and warmth against the softened grasses that I now lay on as I listened to my own breath and heartbeat. I allowed myself to settle into that image for awhile, almost as if I was curled up with the animal among the grasses.


As I began to re-emerge I saw about five other trails creating a wheel with different directions from this bed. There was an entire trail system through this field that only the animals knew and touched. I chose the trail opposite from the one I had just came from. Again, I felt into the twists and turns until I came out at the trail where the field ends and the forest begins: the edge zone. I could see that the small animal went into the forest, so I followed the trail until I could no longer track their route. I realized tracking in a field is much different than tracking in a forest. They each use different senses and awarenesses. I felt my body attuning and listening more deeply.


In that moment, I paused to sense and appreciate the presence of this other life by the imprint they've left upon the earth: this visible and sensory experience of their presence without actually seeing them. I realized that I can experience the way this animal moves, rests, and explores earth by walking in it’s footsteps. I found the way they are with the field... their movements, route pathways, and place of rest. I even sensed how their fur caresses the grass and how the grass caresses their bodies in return. All of this nourished me completely.



Nov. 14 First Frost

By Jess


This morning I am waking up to the first frost of the season… well at least I think it is! I’m going for my usual morning walk and the air is chilly and crispy. My body shudders at the cold and begins to constrict as if to conceal every pore to keep out the cold, but I know that within 20 min of walking I’ll feel warm on the inside. This practice of getting out in the cold first thing is something that I notice my body is starting to actually crave. Similar to my experience with cold plunges, in the beginning it was hard to appreciate, but over time it’s become another practice that my body feels so nourished by, even if there’s a bit of a “warming up” period of time.


Winter is a time for rest, dreaming, and tending the inner fire. For me, I’m learning that movement is a really important piece of inner flame tending during the cold season. I actually notice how I feel much more drawn to running in the cold than I do in the warmer months. Something about feeling the cold sting against my cheeks and generating heat in my body feels so deeply nourishing and right for me. It also reminds me of home (Ontario). When I think about the inner flame, I think about inner aliveness, passion, and love.


As someone who is prone to holding patterns of tightness, constriction, and control I’m learning that generating inner heat and fluidity is necessary for my overall health and wellbeing in the winter. I think another piece has to do with integrating the awareness of what my nervous system needs before I fall into parasympathetic immobilization tendencies when stagnant energy builds in my system. Movement is my medicine at the end of the day. This actually allows me to relax and rest more fully.


As I walk through frosty grass fields, I bend down low to the ground and watch the heat of my breath warm the tips of the grass. I imagine the roots beneath the soil resting and yet ready to take advantage of any heat that reaches them over the next several months. I look around and take in the beauty of this landscape covered in frost while simultaneously noticing how warm and energized I feel. I smile and face the rising sun, who reflects back to me the light at the center of my own essence. I give thanks for the turning of the wheel and the opportunities that always lie hidden in the dark time.




Nov. 26: Back to the Beavers

By Jess


This morning Michelle and I spent a couple of hours meandering off-trail to explore the area where the beavers have created the most incredible wetland ecosystem! As I’ve mentioned before, beavers play crucial role in the ecology of place. Their infrastructure creates wetlands used by many other creatures, and because of their effect on other organisms in the ecosystem, they are considered a keystone species. Keystone species play a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community, affecting many other species in an ecosystem and helping to determine the types and numbers of various other species in the community. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.


Getting to the wetland is hard during the warmer season since the foliage grows so thick, but when everything dies back in the winter the forest becomes naked and it’s easy to pass through. We walked all along the edge of the lake and got to see how vast the area is. Ducks, birds and many other creatures call this place home. We followed a tributary through a grassy meadow and discovered new dams as well as many beaver trails. It was amazing to finally take in the fullness of what they’ve created and to meander through their many pathways. Next, we’re planning to go out at night and maybe set up some chairs to hunker down and watch the beavers do their thing! And with hot chocolate of course.


What stands out for me from today’s experience is that there’s a palpable difference for me between going for a walk on the trails (which I do just about every day) and meandering off trail to explo