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!
George Harrison's classic opener to Side Two of the Beatles' immortal LP Abbey Road, Here Comes the Sun knocked us all out on first spin. I was at boarding school in 1969, when Wheeler in Providence was still an all-girls boarding school going by its traditional name of The Mary C Wheeler School. Someone brought in the brand new LP and put it on the turntable. By the time we flipped it over, young minds forever blown, George's catchy singalong joy at the sun coming out after a long cold lonely winter, masterfully played on acoustic guitar in a complex time signature, won us completely. May Day – and May Eve – are all about this.
There are many ways to celebrate the coming – at last – of the darling buds of May, to the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Most of them harken back to the olden days of pastoral village life, a closer connection to nature, having only seasonal food to eat, and a deeper acknowledgement of and interaction with folk lore and ancient ways as a means of survival. Which, at May Eve included dancing with the fairies and sprites, shapeshifting and walking between worlds, in league with the invisibles. May poles may have been involved.
While I am a core shamanic practitioner, not a Celtic shamanic practitioner solely, I do have knowledge both experiential and academic; you could say it's in my blood. So I do refer to May Day also as Beltane (BEL-tenn-ah). And I thought I'd use this timely blog post to tell you a bit about it, using information from Celtic experts John and Caitlin Matthews as well as the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, without going nuts so I can get back out in the sun and frolic with Sir Galahad. That's my horse, not the Arthurian champion.
Basically, the Celtic sun god, Bel, the Shining One, returns officially on May Day, and everyone's greatly relieved to be through the dark cold lonely winter. Darling buds are blooming, clothes may be shed, birds are singing, and hey! we survived. You may be feeling much the same; I know I am. Hence, 'tis a fabulous time for celebrations with libation and dancing and a certain amount of bonhomie having to do with flowers and phallic pole symbols.
But there's more to it than party party party. Or driving cattle between two bonfires, or eating special foods like May Eve bannocks (cool rolls). There is heightened awareness, an atunement with the natural cycles and our being influenced as a living part of them, a reverent knowing of the power of prayer, love and gratitude, and the expression of these things to the invisible forces and their third dimensional counterparts. We're talking flora, fauna, trees, stones, clouds, waters, and dare we forget: bees! The bees need us to protect them, and we need them to, well, stay alive.
Beltane (and its many derivative spellings depending on location and date) is one of the four Celtic fire festivals, welcoming the sun god back to rule and all. Remember another track on Abbey Road, John Lennon's Sun King, a strangely dirge-like mash-up of May Day-esque feeling and stately Louis XVI pomp (and opening crickets)? It really was a long cold lonely winter recording Abbey Road. Then, the world got the Summer of Love. Woo-hoo!
May Day is the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, what is called a cross-quarter day. On these eight holi-days (spring and fall equinoxes, summer and winter solstices, Imbolc (February 1), Beltane (May 1), Lughnasadh (August 1), and Samhain (November 1), our connection with this world and the unseen is stronger. The Druidry.org site info hyperlinked here mentions that at Beltane the summer literally begins to buzz.
Just yesterday, on this fair and lovely emerald isle of Vashon, a local gardener mentioned that she's not yet hearing the familiar buzz of bees in her century-old apple trees. The blossoms are again returning, let's hope the bees do too. Maybe a little extra bee love would not go amiss this May Day.
While being outdoors, frolicking, giving thanks and tokens of love and gratitude to nature, for its beauty and sustenance and spirits, while enjoying being part of it all is apropos for Beltane, no matter what tradition or none guides your revelry, there's more to it, as previously mentioned.
The veil between the worlds is well known to be thin at these points in time. Beyond witchy superstitions and customs is the perhaps more shamanic appraisal of power times for the work. Shapeshifting is a very natural part of the work, which doesn't mean the raven you hear cawing from the wires, or the dragonfly on your hat is me. Necessarily.
Beltane is a 'work day' for me, and I'm grateful for it. I love my work in all its forms. The energy will be optimal for walking between worlds, within and without. And I love nature, especially the darling buds, and bees, and all the beauty of this world. May you enjoy and appreciate the natural and supernatural, visible and invisible forces that rule the universe, keep us alive and allow us to simply bee.
I feel like I've just been reborn. That's what happens when you get your connect with the Spirits of Place. And particularly when, like me, you've just moved somewhere and it's extremely magical, and you discover a path you can walk to from your new home that leads through the woods to the Sound. Living on an island, as I now do, water is an important part of the place. I knew I would be doing a lot with the water, but I didn't know I could simply walk down the lane and through the madrone and maple forest on this lovely little footpath and be immersed in a magical connection that feels timeless.
The lady at the honor farm stand on the road mentioned the path when I picked up some organic greens the other day, or I might not have noticed it. It's an easy saunter out the gravel lane, past some more horses besides mine and his two newfound friends, and across Vashon Highway, which most of the time has no cars visible upon it. The footpath then winds around through the woods, sloping gently down as the sound of the creek increases, the world falls away, and the view of the water grows more visible. Birds and water sounds lull you into an attentiveness that signals the Spirits of Place are aware of your presence. The trees begin to signal, the budding mallow and currants catch the light. Someone, as you can see in the photo, even planted daffodils near the trail by the Sound.
I'm settling in after the chaotic and strenuous labor of moving. My workroom is ready, but I was not. This morning I journeyed for myself, to connect and ground, and was told in no uncertain terms to chill and ground and go connect with the Spirits of Place. I was also advised to renew faith. So I did. I didn't know what I would find, or even if I had the strength for the walk. I've been pretty knackered, as the English say.
But the Spirits of Place fixed that. I don't even remember what the other worn-out feeling felt like now; a feeling of exhaustion I've had for weeks. Instead, I feel deeply connected to exactly where on this incredible Emerald Isle I live. I now know I have the perfect place to wander, for myself, and in which to work with clients who want to heal, train in shamanic practices, or both, to find their connect in nature and learn the ins and outs of interactions with Spirits of Place, nature spirits, water work, tree and flower lore, etc etc.
There's so much shamanic work to do in nature. It performs miracles for the human beings and the nature spirits love it too. They sure rebooted me. I'd be delighted to introduce you, and was so inspired by the trail and where you arrive at the end that I created a new service: the half day island visit. Or heck, come for a daylong intensive and build it into your studies and healing work, a fabulous dinner and deep dreaming sleep.
I wish I had a readout of my energy, happiness and groundedness levels before and after today's meeting with Spirits of Place to illustrate the power of such nature work. And it's not even work. It's a stroll with a natural heightened awareness. It's a giving and receiving of love and gratitude and beauty and delight. There's lots of oxygen involved, sun and shade and clean air, greenery and circulation. And the invisibles do their thing through the natural wonders all around.
For example, I was walking along, discovering it all for the first time, and I thought of a line that I couldn't place right away. Now the way leads to the hill... faintly recognizable, why did it pop up just then, just that little scrap? I knew it, but couldn't place it right away. The path didn't even lead to a hill, it was leading down a hill, but there was something just at that moment that popped it into my mind, so I explored. Then I got it.
It's a line from a very old Joni Mitchell song, one of her early ethereal ones. The song is called I Think I Understand, and I used to play it in my teenaged acoustic folk singer days as well as love to hear her recording. Then I got why it popped up now that I'm on the island. It was a gift from the Spirits of Place. Here's the full verse and chorus:
Now the way leads to the hill
above the steeple's chime
Below me sleepy rooftops round the harbor.
It's there I'll take my thirsty fill
of friendship over wine
Forgetting fear but never disregarding her.
I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones on sinking sand.
Feel free to hear it by clicking on the title link to a YouTube. I haven't thought of that song for decades, nor had I truly tuned into to the level of disconnect and, yes, fear that had sapped my energy for some time. As the Spirits of Place arranged for all of that to coalesce in my mind, body and spirit, the lyrics and melody came back to me and I got the reboot. Boom! Instant, delicate, gentle, complete. Aha. I don't believe that would have occurred were I not in that place.
A hummingbird is swooping and chirping and popping in agreement as I write this. it's another Spirit of Place happening. And I think I understand.
On days like this when the sun comes out after days of cloudy rain, the river calls and I walk on down the road. I just took this snap of the Sandy River coursing down from Mount Hood fresh with rainwater and snow. Yesterday's big rain had it churning brown when I drove over the high bridge where I stood today to take this shot, now transformed into its frothy jade green look. Two ravens circled high above, giving an oracle that I heard interpreted as keep going, and variations including perseverance furthers, and go with the flow.
The Incredible String Band's Water Song came to mind and I sang the line wizard of changes, teach me the lesson of flowing back to the river, as I often am impulsed to do around flowing water. Being in flow as part of All instead of sitting on the bank with your worries feeling out of flow is an image I've received from others who work with invisibles, with assisting self and others in raising frequency, transforming fear to love, trusting and participating in flow. The way we assist each other, encouraging, inspiring, and sometimes directly transmitting information or energy through and to each other is reflected by the mirror all around us. Just then, the message from the ravens, the sound of the river swollen with yesterday's rain, the resonance of what I was watching with the metaphor from the written material on flow, and the welcome rays of the sun did their stuff and I received the benefit in mind, body and spirit, helping me sync with flow.
In doing shamanic work – and in many other modalities of healing, lightworking, wayshowing, channeling, dreaming up – part of the assist comes from the practitioner's connect, gifts, and medicine, certainly. But a lot of what is going on is in the connect in us all: the connection of the people working, but also the connect that happens within the person receiving the work. What information, inspiration, guidance, helpers, wisdom, energy, power you personally connect with that was needed, to return to flow and raise your hum.
Sometimes I describe shamanic work as energetic jumper cables from one human battery to another. Sometimes each of us needs a jump to start up again and get back on the road, so we can go with the flow. Sometimes we need encouragement, support, information, affirmation, or a key energetic component we don't feel, can't see or locate. News we can use. The receiving of that is deeply connective and reflective, awakening parts of our soul that were fragmented, lost or sleeping, freeing shadow parts from the dark shameful closet we've locked them in. Helping each other through our helpers, our shared fragility, our innate insight and gifts, our connection happens in each moment, all around us in nature and beyond, throughout the universe.
When we're in flow, the universe flows to us and through us. Our brains light up and we feel that sense of group belonging psychological experts tag as essential to a person's well-being. We can each connect with flow and allow it to flow through us as we travel through our day, in traffic, at the store, at work, with our peeps, or in nature, seemingly solitary as I often am, but never alone. When you're in flow you can feel you are one with Source, and things are easier, simpler. What you're looking for turns up, whether it's a parking space, that thing in the junk drawer you need, the name of the guy you were supposed to contact, or the next step in your career, home, or relationship situation. The phone rings, the email pings, the eagle flies by overhead. Ideas come to your writing or project and revisions are obvious, delightful.
Living so close to a river is an excellent mirror, or flow chart if you will, and I've been fortunate to find myself living near several through the years. Each day the river is different and fluctuates wildly. Each drop of water is unique and different than any before or after it. Yet it's all river, and all rivers flow to Source. And from the source, come to think of it. Conditions affect flow but flow continues, sometimes more than we think we can handle, sometimes less than we think we need. Learning the lesson of flowing is the work of many lifetimes, but in essence, simplicity itself.
If you are feeling out of flow, what will help you return? It might come through stillness, movement, silence, or sound; words or dreaming or nature or love. It might be all of the above. How do you restore your connect? If you need a jump you feel I can assist with, let me know. Our work might be in the Lower World, in water flowing underground [yes, cue the Talking Heads], or emanating in Middle World from an ancient water bubble in a crystal, from a waterfall in a past life, or from a few drops of a flower essence, or from a celestial Upper World wash of light that jumpstarts your cells into resonance and healing. We might actually be working at river's edge in an intensive nature training session. Or you might be on the other side of the world. Maybe a part of you returns, carrying the heart medicine you lost in an estranging event, re-lighting the fire in your head after a bewildering situation, renewing your thirst for life.
Wherever we are, may we be going with the flow, awash in the ever-present universal glow.