"Look, I want to love this world
as thought it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get
to be alive
and know it."
- Mary Oliver
October 5: A Ghostly Fog
For every fog in October, a snow in December...or so says weather folklore. It’s the first week of October and I am walking along the field’s edge through a blanket of fog spreading wide across the landscape. It’s early in the morning and a part of me is still in a dreamlike state. I make my way through an encircling cloud of mist and become hyper sensitized to the fairy-like kisses of each tiny water droplet moistening my skin. The cool dewy air hangs suspended all around me, and I pause for a long while to let this cloak engulf me, taking in the moment fully.
Fog is most frequent in the autumn because the nights are getting longer and the longer nights allow the temperatures to fall to the dew point. Night time hours will continue to get longer until the Winter Solstice. As the air cools, it can’t hold as much moisture, so the water vapor condenses into tiny moisture droplets that remain suspended in the air which we know as fog.
I can’t help but sense the magical quality inherent in this vast nature bath; a ghostlike body forming and giving form to the changes taking place in the seasonal shift. It’s as if a doorway into another world is opening, inviting me to pass through a veil into another dimension, and preparing me for what’s to come as we descend into darkness. The winds of change bring the cool kiss of death to the fertile lands, and everything begins to slow.
As I continue walking, the descent toward the dark time of the year integrates deeper into my system as I literally walk through the fog, which is a common symbol of the unknown and a mediator between the seen and unseen. I am reminded of my Celtic ancestors and how the Mist (Féth fíada) appears throughout Irish mythology as a magical property of Tuatha Dé Danann. As a kind of veil, they obscure their presence, making them invisible.
October 10: My Sacred Place
When I think back to my childhood, I often think back to the maple tree that held me through so many of my tender and tearful moments as a young girl. My body still holds the detailed memory of how I used to climb her. The placement of my hands, the swing of my feet, how every branch was perfectly suited for my small body. I would climb high to the top where two branches came together to make the perfect seat. I would hug and lean onto the tree as I swayed in her branches. I loved the feeling of being alone up there in my little world. I felt safe. This was my sacred place.
I think of that tree often and feel blessed to have received that kind of intimacy and love from nature as a child. Having a sacred place or friend in nature where/who you can return to again and again for connection and support is a true gift that many people never get to experience. This was a formative experience that would define my relationship to nature and the role of healing it has played in my life. Whenever I travel back home, I like to swing by my old neighborhood for nostalgia's sake. It’s not the old house that draws to me as I pass by, it’s the aging maple tree. The connection lives on and never seems to fade. I always cry and have a strong urge to sneak into the backyard, to place my hands on her body, and to climb her as I once did.
It’s not like I was intentionally seeking out that kind of connection then. The relationship just was. There’s something special about choosing and being chosen by a place or more-than-human kin. I didn’t realize I was missing this kind of intimate connection in my life until rather recently, when a new sacred place in nature called to me. For six months now, I’ve been getting to know my new home at Common Ground, spending my favorite pass times meandering on and off trail. Recently, while out for a walk I found myself heading in an entirely new direction and came upon an area of the land I hadn’t yet met. As soon as I entered that place, I felt a warm presence wash over me, and I immediately recognized the feeling from when I was a little girl. My sacred place.
I immediately felt drawn to lying on a small trunk of a tree which lies horizontally over the stream passing through. I was surprised at how comfortable it was and played with different positions until I was finally able to relax and surrender my weight fully to the tree. I laid there for a long while watching the trees sway this way and that, and after some time, moved on to further exploring the area a bit more. One tree I held in a long embrace, another had an eye which I pressed my third eye against. I laid in the leaves, caressed the ferns, spoke love offerings to my new sacred place, and vowed to return again and again.
October 20: An Otter's Hiss
It’s 7:30am. The sun is rising later now, and the light glows through the forest like a warm candle. I’m in the midst of my morning run, a daily ritual that sets the tone for my day and clears my energetic body of stagnancy. I’ve just come from the field, which reflects a wispy pallet of fading goldenrods, red-purple grasses and rustic orange hues. I make my way around the field toward the pond, which is clear in complexion with a slight greenish tint and reflecting the fall tree colors against its watery, absorbent body.
As I turn the corner and cross over the stream I hear a startling loud splash and catch a glimpse of a tail. My immediate thought goes to the image of a beaver, but then I recall seeing otter scat on the trail a few days ago. Could it be an otter? I pause my run (nature encounters are a valid reason to pause a run) waiting to see if it would emerge. All a sudden two otters begin to raise their heads from the surface of the water looking directly at me. I can’t believe how close I am… perhaps 12 ft. away.
The otter closest to me starts hissing, indicating alarm and anxiety. I’ve never been hissed at by an otter before so I get the message and slowly begin to walk along the path creating more distance and hoping that it might stop hissing, but it doesn’t. Without wanting to scare them off, I continue on with my run and begin to wonder if there is an unoccupied beaver dam somewhere in this area. I’ve come to learn that otters sometimes occupy old beaver dams. Turns out my hunch was right. I checked in with land stewards who have been here much longer, and this pond was once occupied by beavers and the otters were exactly where the old beaver dam was.
October 26: Into the Dark
It’s a cool, gusty morning and everything is glistening under the bright light after last night's storm. It’s been a while since I felt that kind of deep rumble reverberate through my body… stirring up the dust that has been settled. The thunder gods are proclaiming the significance of this time, shaking loose more leaves and dead skins hanging on by a single thread. There’s a lot that I’ve been carrying emotionally and I’ve been knee deep in my own inner shadow work. If there’s a time to be doing such work, now is it. Shadow work is never easy though. Descending into the dark requires that we go naked, with no ego adornments to protect us.
I’m reminded of the ancient Mesopotamian myth of Inanna, the goddess of Heaven and Earth, who is called to listen to the Great Below, the realm of dream, death, depression, and the unconscious, because she seeks wisdom. Without knowledge of loss and mortality, she is not whole. So she makes her descent into the underworld where her sister, Ereshkigal, is Queen and mourning her dead husband. Inanna arrives at the gates of the Underworld in her Queenly regalia, but in order to pass through each of the seven gates, she must give up one of her powers, symbolized by each of her adornments. By the time she reaches her sister, she is naked and is sentenced to death. There her body hangs for three days, and after a complex series of events, her body is rescued and brought back to life.
This myth is multilayered with many meanings, but the part of the story that resonates deepest for me is the journey of relinquishment, egoic death, and the restoration of power. We descend, not because we want to, but because we must. It is an integral part of the great feminine cycle of life and death. Birth will always follow death. Spring will always follow winter. The Goddess of Heaven and Earth rises and the cycle of life goes on. Looking at all of the parts of myself that I’d rather not see can be tough stuff. It’s so much easier to spot the shadow in another and to cast blame. It’s a lot harder to see myself in their reflection, and to own the parts of them that live in me. And yet I understand that this is a necessary part of healing and wholing.
If you liked this blog post, we'd love to hear from you! What miracles are you bearing witness to? How is nature teaching you? What forces, practices, awareness, or insights have shaped you over these past several weeks? Leave a comment below :)
Want more? You might like to read my Field Notes from September!
Yours in wonder & beauty,
This morning the goldenrod are all wearing
their golden shirts
fresh from heaven’s soft wash in the chill night.
So it must be a celebration.
And here comes the wind, so many swinging wings!
Has he been invited, or is he the intruder?
Invited, whisper the golden pebbles of the weeds,
as they begin to fall
over the ground. Well, you would think the little murmurs
of the broken blossoms would have said
otherwise, but no. So I sit down among them to
think about it while all around me the crumbling
goes on. The weeds let down their seedy faces
cheerfully, which is the part I like best, and certainly
it is as good as a book for learning from. You would think
they were just going for a small sleep. You would think
they couldn’t wait, it was going to be
that snug and even, as all their lives were, full of
excitation. You would think
it was a voyage just beginning, and no darkness anywhere,
but tinged with all necessary instruction, and light,
and all were shriven, as all the round world is,
and so it wasn’t anything but easy to fall, to whisper
- Mary Oliver