You might know what these are. They are native artifacts, more specifically, pestles. These were chosen for their shape and used in stone mortars to grind things. Each one is from a different property I lived on while walking this practitioning path. One is from Encinal Canyon in the wild north of Malibu (home now to Daryl Hannah), one is from the North Bank of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River in Brookings, on the beautiful Southern Oregon Coast, and the littlest one is from an elk field near the wilder part of the Sandy River, between Portland and Mt. Hood. But how they came into my hands (and hence this photo) is the real story here.
So, I was apprenticing with my shamanic teacher during the Malibu years, knowing little to nothing when I arrived during the wildfires of November, 1993, and rocked by the Northridge earthquake starting off 1994 with an awakening jolt. I was starting over at 40, and during the next 8 years I would grow into my new hoop, new life, and new vocation. I don't remember the exact year the Malibu pestle came to me; probably c. 1999, as I was completing the apprenticeship, in deep relationship with the spirits of the land and the little stone cabin I called home.
Only one room, the cabin had big windows looking out at the live oaks, the creek, the tiger lillies, and the coyotes who would parade down the dirt driveway at night as a family pack. Cougars, bobcats, deer, owls, redtails and hummingbirds were regular colleagues, in ordinary and non-ordinary reality. Sitting on the wraparound stone porch at night after journeywork, a large ceanothus moth came and sat on my hand, furry as a winged deer. Rattlesnakes and scorpions had their own wisdom, but that's another story.
I was journeying one day, on the floor by the window looking east. I don't remember the details. When I finished, I stood and looked out the window. There was the first pestle, lying on the ground. It was a bare gravel/dirt area, cleared and part of the parking area by the cabin. The pestle had clearly not been there before, and could not have dropped from above, nor unearthed itself from below. I received it as a gift with honor, gratitude, and wonder.
Things appearing out of nowhere were becoming more of a thing during the Malibu years, which led me to buy the Brookings farm in 2001. The farmhouse had a workroom with a separate entry, perfect for the full-fledged practice I intended to begin there. Each day as I settled in, I'd go into the workroom and journey to ask, What am I doing here? What do I do today to further the work and why I am here? I received very specific instructions to find places I'd never seen, up river, on the coast, in the redwoods, and would follow up. Clients began to appear, retreat ideas would materialize with help from contemplating Mount Emily across the river from the property, and one thing led to another. That it would lead me to Oxford was unknown then, but that's another story.
That property had a spring that was part of the hillside spring system that provided water shared by several homes around. The little spring in the forest near my pump house was clearly sacred, and I would often go to pay respects and honor it. Springs, you know, are kind of a big deal multiculturally as places of reverence and spirit dwellers. I loved that tiny secluded watery magical spot, one of many wonderful spots on that property, all of which imbued the work with extra potency. The lingering spirits of the native people played a major role in my years there, I would come to find out. Their energy was palpable, and much respected.
So one day, I go to the spring to say hello. There, lying pristinely, on the wet muddy back part of the little spring, was the second pestle. Clean as a whistle. Dry as a bone. Placed on oozy saturated mud; everything around it wet and muddy. No prints or marks anywhere around it. Its similarity to the Malibu pestle was remarkable. I don't quite remember which is which.
The smallest pestle turned up when I returned to doing the work fully in Sandy, after nearly 7 years of academic focus with lessened shamanic practice. Reconnecting fully with the work, the crystals and stones, and the energy of remote and in-person transformative assisting felt revivifying, powerful. While there elk, bear, deer, owl, redtails and geese were frequent cohabitants. I visited the native museum in the Columbia Gorge and felt the presence of spirits in the woods and waterfall areas where they'd been so heinously ousted. I gave them sage offerings, said prayers, wrote poems, and studied the anthropological and geological details of the area.
Rattling and drumming and smudging and using feathers is not about pretending to be Native American, or a ritual that must be enacted to make stuff happen. Core shamanic practice draws from many cultures, respecting all. But as an empath, I feel what's around me, and who's around, and what they feel. The energy in much of Oregon notes the sorry way things went, and it wasn't long ago, less than 200 years.
Anyway, again, one day I finished my work in the workroom and went out to rake Sir's area near the barn. He had a big pasture to graze in and share with the wild herds when they roamed through, and then a dirt area by his water and shelter which I kept cleaned daily. There are no trees there, just bare earth that sprouts camomile and buttercups in summer and gets muddy in winter. There, lying on the bare earth, was the third pestle.
What prompted this post today was this morning's journey work, which led me to open a basket to see what was in it, which was another found stone, another native artifact, used for scraping hides as seen here. Chosen for its initial shape and moulded by the fingers gripping it and the hours of scraping, the human presence is still very much intact. I put it on my heart and journeyed about gifts, tools, work, and things appearing out of nowhere. It's the deft combination, under grace, that allows such transmissions, transformations, and materializations. I am grateful. Hoy ya hey!
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.