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!
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.