The Pacific Northwest has been drenched for several days, during which time I had to drive hundreds of miles through the downpour. I returned home safely, with much change to orchestrate, like the storm. The rain abated for a bit, and there they were. The elk in twilight, appearing as if out of nowhere.
OMG I said to the Stone Giver, who I was talking with on the phone. The elk are here! And, for the first time in the three years I've lived here, the herd of women were accompanied by a majestic buck with a huge antler rack. Although it's really too dark and this photo is zoomed as much as possible, you can just make him out on the left, looking up at me from grazing. He felt me aim the iPhone at him from far away inside the house.
Elk medicine! Just exactly what I needed. Native wisdom on this sacred totem animal speaks of their medicine gifts of strength, endurance, protection. People with Elk medicine don't give up easily. They see a long ways ahead, and go there, even when there is no road, and no visible means. Elk medicine gives the strength to see long projects or plans through, maintaining energy for the long haul. Elk people avoid discouraging energy, and rise above feeling discouraged themselves.
Elk medicine is also about the protection of women, and feminine strength. This venerable old buck is protecting his women, certainly, but they are also protecting him. It's hunting season, and this twelve-pointer is a prize hunters literally kill for.
Elk hang out in groups of men and women. Elk medicine people are very comfortable in such groups; there is no feeling of competition. The vibe is comfortable, friendly, warm, cooperation in community, with a natural ease and grace that allows these huge, heavy animals to move as if they are weightless.
Another aspect of elk medicine is that they show how to live magnificently with duality. Things are and are not as they appear. The invisible is where a lot happens, and contrary to popular belief, creating 'something' out of nothing is an everyday occurrence. The way the elk suddenly appear and disappear in the field reflects that.
Just now five or six young elk ladies have gracefully walked up the field to graze all around Sir, my 33-year-old horse. He loves it when the elk come, but is respectful of males, keeping his distance in a friendly way. He too is deriving strength and community from their presence.
Nobility, stamina, feminine power, balance of male-female energies. Seeing a project through to completion. Watching these ladies and young elk girls flank Sir in the field as Tigs and Tux (the cats) watch through the windows with me, I am filled with calm strength and loving feminine energy. The whole herd is coming up into the field again. The warrior even is coming closer. This is getting interesting. Time to wish you well and take up my binoculars. Peace.
This is the first in a tri-weekly series on the power animals, totems, plant and elemental signals that show up each day as helpers in this middle world existence. A friend to the work suggested these could be of benefit to you, gentle reader, and I'm happy to write them. They happen every day, all around us.
Clouds: and I have to stop.
They are saying what's not found in books.
Those two lines, from a poem I wrote some years back, allude to my full-time job as a cloud augurer. I've been reading clouds forever it seems, and was delighted to discover it was a traditional thing for Celtic seers. The clouds capture my attention easily, put me in an altered state that Carlos Casteneda's Don Juan terms 'heightened awareness'. They really are saying what's not found in books.
For example, just now, sitting on the front porch with the morning coffee, sun streaming over my body, I had 'conversations' with several totems. First, a hummingbird flew right up to me, before either of us were aware. Oh! we both said. Good morning! That told me that there was harmony happening, and nature was opening to me in invitation if I opened to nature. Then, there were bees in front of me, and the clouds went all majestic. So I went into their state and attuned. They spoke of change, and the harmony of change. They spoke of the natural shifting of forms, and how they themselves, stupendous in form as they were at that moment, would soon transform into something completely different.
Then, a hawk cried out and flew in front of the beautiful, tall cloud directly in front of me. Hawks are messengers. The question to ask when one is called to by a hawk is, 'What is the message?" The hawk said, get ready! And flew into the blue.
I went inside to get the iPhone for a snap of the clouds, and the thistle said, 'don't forget me too!' This blessed thistle had insisted it be allowed to live when it sprouted outrageously right by the front steps some months back. Heard that, and so it was. What I didn't know was that its medicine, in flower essence form, is about giving and receiving. Bingo! A core subject I am working with during this same period. Roger that.
Think about it: it's an interesting way of showing giving and receiving, a thistle, right? It is an ancient, revered but also eradicated plant, with definite Scottish affiliation, that serves as medicine and food, with thorns that make it more than prickly to get near. Yet, when the bees and other insects are finished receiving pollen from its bright purple tufts, they dry and simply open from the crown. Then, the softest, lightest, most benign seeds simply float up out of the plant, giving themselves freely and abundantly wherever the slightest breeze takes them. Hmmm. Plenty to meditate on there. And I have been.
So, in the short time it's taken me to write this post, the weather has completely shifted and it is pouring with rain. It began instantaneously, before I'd even noticed that the distinctive cumulus clouds had given way to a solid gray cloudbank. The sun is gone, the temperature has dropped, the downspouts are rainsticks. I'm still tapping away on the porch, smelling the beautiful fragrance of rainfall. Don't know where the hummingbird, hawk, and bees are; perched somewhere out of the downpour I imagine. The thistle is enjoying a drink.
What totems are showing up in your world today? They are saying what's not found in books. Listen. And give back with your acknowledgments, your love and thanks. They are such a part of this beautiful world.
This is the second in a How Things Happen series of blog posts.
As a kid, I constantly asked How come? I've pondered and studied the subject enough to know that once you understand, you can make things happen very effortlessly. Lao Tzu's statement that by doing nothing everything gets done is a clue to the value of examining How Things Happen. So, like how do they?
How Things Happen is an area of inquiry at the heart of the examined life. Socrates famously said the unexamined life is not worth living, but it takes a certain je ne sais quoi to examine the invisible. Which is precisely what you're looking at when you examine How Things Happen at the root level. Like when you're cooking up something new.
Creating new forms, re-inventing yourself, coming up with an idea for a story, a song, a poem, a work of art, a new project ... the list includes discoveries, inventions... has several stages, like a recipe. Much of the stuff of the finished product happens in the abstract, in the invisible realm of thought, emotion, imagination, sentient awareness, spiritual connection. In the quantum field. As if it's out there somewhere. Or in here somewhere.
Sometimes you see it before you know what it is; sometimes other senses ping first with a feeling of knowing. The saying, it's on the tip of my tongue is an apt metaphor: while we are not quite ready to actually say the thing we're thinking of, the tongue already feels its presence as the mind works on the information it is organizing, retrieving, bringing forward. Our desire, intention, need to know initiates the activity; our attention to the tip of the tongue helps pull the remembering into the physical, to re-member or make it appear in the now in the form of spoken representation.
Another, less abstract analogy for How Things Happen is cooking. We say we're cooking up ideas because it's a metaphor we can access easily. Cooking's part of everyday life, keeps body and soul together, and is a sentient pleasure as well. It can be easy or complicated, intuitive or totally mapped out in instructions and procedures. Either way, the results can be unpredictable. Ingredients, procedures, tools, heat sources, and timing are involved: materials and conditions. But what comes before those things? The recipe. And the inspiration for the recipe.
Genius is an interesting word: a person with exceptional abilities of creativity, imagination, intellectual ability. Many have thought processes that are quite extraordinary, tapping into the unknown in an uncanny way. Many think about How Things Happen big time, or not at all, and simply let it happen. Wikipedia says research into what causes genius or mastery is still in the early stages. Imagine that.
But the word itself is ancient and has not changed a bit from the Latin genius: the guiding spirit (of a person, family, place). These spirits and the word are connected to the verb to create, or to bring into being. So, since ancient times, How Things Happen has involved guiding spirits to help bring things into being, from non-being. Sorta like magic.
Maybe you're cooking up new forms from the invisible, with guiding spirits helping the realization of the intention and the desire – the genius recipe – the first stage in creation. Energy follows thought; they are both invisible forces. This abstract stage is one of winnowing, focusing, identifying, envisioning, dreaming, and choosing. Did I mention huge amounts of uncertainty? Part of the recipe. Along with childish curiosity, trust, abandon, fearlessness, courage, support, and ways of following your knowing, of connecting with the genii and powwowing.
It's okay if you don't know every detail, don't have all the ingredients, don't have the recipe all worked out before you begin. What are you cooking up? Take the thing that's on the tip of your tongue and let it tantalize your senses until you can taste it, use all that vast space of uncertainty as a playground. Throw your ideas out there to the genii and ask that they play ball with you, toss a few ideas around, pitch some possibilities. Mix up metaphors and ingredients, free associate. Creative directors do it all the time. Then, someone gets a genius idea.
Oh, and creating from scratch can make you hungry. For that, there's Amanda Hesser's Genius Recipes. Yum. Leave a bowl out for the genii. And set a place at the table for the unknown.
Right now, at midday on this placid Labor Day weekend Sunday, I am looking out from the back deck onto this. Sir Galahad, my 33 year-old horse, has finished his mid-morning nap and is back out, grazing in his field. And all around us, visible and chatty to us but unseen in the photograph, are flights of swallows. They are today's teachers, advisors, entertainers.
A flight of swallows is the collective noun, as is a murder of crows or a gaggle of geese. All around me for the past few days are flights of violet-green swallows, barn swallows, tree swallows. The barn swallows that come each year to build their nests and raise their babies on top of the fluorescent lights in the barn have been joined by other barn swallows. Each year the swallows gather in flights, dive-bombing the cats and chasing each other about in the air, eating bugs in preparation for their migration. They become my teachers for this period.
But I'm not going to relay facts about swallows, or even copy any of the many poems I wrote about them in the past two years of writing Into the All Empty. Suffice it to say they feature prominently among a host of other feathered friends. At this moment there are hundreds of them flying and chattering, as a red and blue light plane flies overhead, one of several small aircraft that populate the skies over me on the weekends in fair weather.
The swallows teach me that uncertainty, movement, change, and the urge for going can be beautiful, graceful, natural, effortless, and fun. They show me that you don't have to take anything with you except your joy in being alive, your energy, and your natural instincts. They demonstrate that community is important, and that community shows up when it's time. Playfulness is an obvious part of their preparation for a journey of thousands of miles, along with gathering, self-expression, and eating whatever food they encounter in the sky. The are flying madly about partly because it feels lovely, partly to feed up for the journey, partly to gather together, partly to pair up, and partly to get in top shape for the long flight ahead.
What are they saying to each other? I always wonder what birds say to each other. What do you think?
In a half hour I'll be preparing to fly myself, in a remote shamanic journey for a client. I never know who my helpers might be for the work. Perhaps a swallow, or a flight of swallows, will show up to guide me to a lost soul part, or take away a thread of energy that does not belong to my client, or bring some energetic gift that is needed. Whomever I work with today, the swallows have helped me find that place of detachment, of lightness, and openness to simply be, that is required for the work. The wind chimes softly play a note here and there on the breeze. A few cottonwood seeds drift over the house from the woods. In each moment we can connect with the field of all possibilities, the invisible that creates the visible, whatever we need. This is where the work happens, where we know, and receive. This magical anything can happen feeling is pervasive this weekend. I hope it's surrounding you wherever you may be.