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San Diego Sunset 1Dear reader,

Based upon recent research, I have decided to carry only our own photos. Recent previous blogs have been deleted.

Sincerely,

Vlatka

Soundhealher

Photo by Theodore Herzberg

Deer Song Story

Deer Woods, MagikMagik and I went into the woods before the day got hot and the workday got underway. Sometimes we play follow the leader, sometimes Magik follows me, today I followed Magik. He had a mission in mind, to find the crunchiest piece of bark in the forest to munch on.

We walked up one trail, down another. Earlier that morning I used a newly learned grounding technique. I ran cold water on my feet, then hot, then cold, then hot, then cold again. Walking, I felt much more connected to the earth, sure-footed.

Magik rounded the bend, I rounded the bend and to my delight I found a sleek black and white feather. A little further down the trail I found two owl feathers.

Magik hopped over and under fallen tree trunks. I followed until we got to Grandmother Oak tree with Bay Laurels for arms. I greeted Grandmother Oak, she greeted me. Magik took the opportunity to munch on bark, while I got settled. I took my crystals out and waved the feather over them and over me. I didn’t wave the feather over Magik in case he thought it was food.Deer Woods, feather I started to sing, checking in to my surroundings, finding my comfort. Mostly animals, not people visit this sacred place, so I felt comfortable to let go quickly.

When I sing, I can feel what emotions are hanging around in me, I can observe them and start to loosen them with sounds I make. Thoughts drop away and the raw feelings are exposed. I softened into sadness, a soulful sadness. When you sing sadness, you can stretch it and dive deep into it. You can be intimate with it, and you can witness it. You can sing on the outside of sadness and find joy there. You can sing sadness and joy, back and forth until you slip between into the liminal.

An Old One came to watch her. Perhaps she was an old Faerie Queen, or maybe she was the crone, or a Shamaness who came to just sit and be with the singer. Folds of eyelids closed over bright, keen, hawk eyes. White wisps of hair feathered her face. Her nose was strong, and determined like her character. Her lips flat and used to smiling a lot. She held her head with a soft majesty. Her presence filled the liminal with peace. Together the Old One and the singer sat waiting, listening deeper. The singer wasn’t sure what she was waiting for or listening to, but that didn’t matter, she surrendered to the peace.The singer sang, and the Old One listened. The singer sang cascading waterfalls, and silent moments. The singer played hide-n-seek with notes that darted around the trees and back again. Somewhere in the play the Old One disappeared and the singer opened her eyes. A deer was watching her. The singer sang tender, tender gentleness to the earth. She caressed the trees with butterfly kisses. Her voice echoed through the forest, leaping and skipping, and eager to play. The deer was still, so very still for the whole song. Nary an eyelash moved. The singer lowered her voice, still circling notes, making them rise with the wind and fall with the leaves. The deer moved closer, each step purposeful, eyes focused on the singer.

Deer Woods, deerThe singer finished her song, honoring the tree, the earth, and the deer. The deer watched the singer. Their eyes held a long moment. Then the deer walked away, raising legs over brush, one leg, two leg, three leg, four. It was rhythmic, almost like a deer march. The deer made its own sounds, singing short bursts of air. One breath, two breath, three breath, four. They walked away, down the hill, leaving the singer and Magik alone, sitting before Grandmother Oak with Bay Laurel trees for arms.

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.
Photos © 2014 Vlatka and Theodore Herzberg

Red Rock Raven, Magik and ManzanitaIt was one of those mornings where I felt the push to get work done. My Corgi Magik who is often a gauge munched on a small branch he found in my collection of rocks. I proceeded to lecture him on how it was important that I work and that I will take him out later. He pouted and looked up at me with those big brown eyes and if he could he would have said, “relax”. I remembered that sometimes when I am frazzled busy that is exactly when I need to go into nature and my place of beauty. So off we trudged into the woods. Walking down the street, a small red rock was on the sidewalk, I picked it up and looked at it more closely. It reminded me of the large Red Rock. I had not intended to go there today, too much to do. I had lectured Magik on how today was going to be a short walk, but I looked at the red rock in my hand and decided to listen. We trudged towards the woods. I was in my head and stomping my feet, moving forward, wanting to get the walk over and done with fast. Just as we climbed the hill I heard Raven’s “cawing.”

There were two of them sitting in a tree, like sentinels, and they were making these “purring” sounds. I hadn’t heard them before. Then they started to make these “popping” sounds also new to me. I watched as they arched slightly backwards to make the low “popping” sound. It’s almost as though their tone or voice dropped lower in order to make the “popping” sound. I was struck by the uniqueness of the vocalization and that they looked like two sentinels on either branch of an oak tree. I stopped to take my camera out, go figure they flew away. “Well I guess I needed to be in the moment with them,” I thought to myself and off we trudged, although my footsteps were a little lighter and my head a little less full.

As we approached the second climb I heard the golden dry grass humming. I wasn’t sure if they were crickets all chirping at once, but something in that steady “hummm” calmed me, it was almost like a chorus of dry golden grass and crickets humming or toning together. The sky was this brilliant blue and the last of my heaviness and mental busy-ness dropped away.

Red Rock Raven, Ravens on Red RockAs we rounded the bend two ravens flew over us, “cawed” and landed on the Red Rock! I was totally awed, and full of wonder and joy! Despite feeling the urge to push myself to work I listened to Magik, listened when I found the smaller red rock, and listened when I saw the ravens. I and others call it listening to the “whispers”. I’m so glad I listened. Magik didn’t notice the ravens and traipsed up to the rock. They flew off, circling above me making that wondrous “purring” sound they made earlier. Gratitude rushed over me! I sat on my usual stone chair on the Red Rock, made myself comfy, got out my aquamarine and started to sing. It was one of those moments where I felt like I stepped out of one world and into another. There was no-one around, the sky seemed electric blue, the golden dry grass sang with me, and the sun and the salamanders seemed to be celebrating, flooding me with passion. Passion for life!

I sang to the forest all mottled with light. I sang to the gnomes who tend the forest, trees and shrubs. I sang to the old woman who tends the woods with such tenderness and care. I sang to them all about the pain in the world, about the violence against women and abuse of children. I sang of regrets and mistakes that I have made. I sang compassion into all the cracks and crevices of the world and my world, to people I remembered, and to those I didn’t know. I sang peaceful blue skies to the places of violence. I sang golden singing grasses to women lost in their pain. I sang raven’s purring to children crying. I sang compassion to eyes watching me. And I sang to the earth gentle as the breeze. Grass “humming”, ravens “purring”, insects “buzzing”, wind “whispering”, ancient tones “droning”. Something deep from within the forest stirred. I could hear her breath. My eyes were seared shut by sunlight, but I could still see the mottled light of the forest. I could hear the flutter of her wings, born anew. Somewhere in the heart of the forest with its mottled light, new life was being born. It was a life filled with the innocence of a deer, and a heart so tender it ached as her wings unfurled and she stepped forth on the earth for the first time. I heard last fall’s leaves cracking under her bare feet. I wondered if they bled? She stepped forth undaunted by the sunlight and caught her breath, the beauty froze her for a moment. Electric blue, golden grass, red rock beauty sang to her, this creature born anew. The wind greeted her, caressed her cheek. She spread out her wings, jumped into the sky and with open arms flew!

I stopped singing and put the aquamarine in my pocket. The wind tousled the golden grasses and the electric blue sky was still there, tangible. Magik came out of his hiding place in the shade and sat, his polite way of begging for a treat. “Not today, you had your treat, we both did.” We got up and headed back home. A shadow of wings flew over me. They were long. The bird was long. But as it flew over me I heard her feathers whisper, “thank you.”

What wildness is born out of our creative play? I would have never known had I not listened to the whispers.

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

photos by Vlatka Herzberg

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A neighbor is freaked out. There are rats in his roof. He blames it on the wood pile next to our house, even though the rats have had homes on the hill behind our homes long before we both lived here. I look at the news. My heart saddens seeing the devastation in the streets of Syria, a ruin of broken buildings and people. I watch a video about a gay teen suicide and cry. I am in a coffee shop in a new town, chatter, chatter, noise, jazz, and espresso machines hissing.

In the midst of the chaos I become a tree. I feel roots growing out of my feet, breaking out of my boots into the rich, moist earth. I feel the earth energy flowing up my trunk, into my branches that bust out of the walls and roof reaching for the aquamarine sky. My branches burst into fragrant blossoms, vibrant green leaves unfurl.

In the midst of the chaos, I can root myself. I can use my imagination. I can be a tree. I can imagine releasing excess energy through my feet into the earth. By doing this I can come back to myself. I can find my center.

When we feel ourselves pulled or drawn into emotional drama, or anxious it is a sign. We can shift things instantly by using our imagination, by becoming a tree, or remembering nature. It is easy for me to imagine being out in the woods, or imagine feeling the rain falling lightly on my cheeks. I can imagine tasting the rain on my tongue, and smelling the freshness of the air and feeling the aliveness of the grass, earth, trees, and leaves all around me.

If I am at home I can go into the garden, stand on the earth, or near a tree, or sink my hands into a pot of earth and sing. I don’t have to get frazzled, caught up in the drama. I don’t have to shrink, instead, I can choose to be more of who I am and who I am becoming.

I wonder how much easier life and chaos can be to navigate when we find our grounding? What would our lives be like if we could each discover what our grounding is? The questions to ask are: “What brings me home to myself in the midst of chaos? What empowers me? What grounds me to myself and to my center?”

Being able to find our grounding doesn’t mean we never lose our center, maybe in some ways it is good that we do, so that we know what it is like to lose our center and to be in chaos. Chaos comes with all change, with all acts of creation.

What helps you ground and center in the midst of chaos? When you know, you can empower yourself. So when you are in the midst of chaos, or when you feel the hooks of drama dig into you,  use the energy as a flag. You can say to yourself, “I’ll be a tree, I’ll remember walking in the woods, and I will root, ground, center, align with more of me, and from this place I will be a light in the chaos.

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I’m so excited to share this with you. One of the most naturally beautiful places in the world to me is Iceland. My daughter is currently going to school there for a semester. On the weekend she went on a historic tour of Iceland with a professor and other students from the Icelandic University. During the tour they stopped at museum where the Tapestry of Iceland is being created. The above photo is of some people stitching the tapestry.

While my daughter was waiting for lunch, she saw the tapestry behind a window. A woman asked her in Icelandic if she would like to stitch a thread into the tapestry. My daughter was first surprised that she understood the Icelandic and that she was asked to participate in such an honor. She was the 3041 person to stitch thread into the Tapestry of Iceland and also got her name recorded!

What excites me about all this is the history being woven, and being woven into Icelandic history. The tour was focused on some of the history of Iceland being told through a Saga, the history and saga were as one woven together. What also amazed me is that there are physical landmarks still in Iceland today that were a part of the history and Saga being told today. The Saga’s and their physical landmarks are kind of like an Inuksuk of Icelandic history.

The significance of the tapestry and so many people coming together to weave it reminds me so much of the Tibetan Story Scrolls, Thanka paintings. In Tibetan history, there were holly men that walked from village to village with these ancient and sacred Story Scrolls. They would stop at this village or that, roll out their scroll and start telling the stories, the history and spirituality all woven together as one, and they would tell the stories for hours. At the end, tears would be streaming down the listener’s faces for something sacred was transmitted. That’s exactly the word that a Chicago dancer I met in Canada many years ago used when referring to the sacred and ancient dances of Tibet, “transmitted”. He said that the dancer would become the deity and in that process transmit the spiritual teachings to the students. I believe something similar and miraculous happens with the Thanka’s, the Story Scrolls of Tibet.

I wonder if that kind of magic and mystery is being woven into the Tapestry of Iceland, and for that matter other tapestries, or Story Scrolls that we create with friends, family, and community. Look at quilts for example; often many hands and many stories have gone into their creation.

When I used to teach through story in schools in Canada, I would have the children create their own Story Squares. In groups of 3 or 4 they would draw a story onto a large square cloth and then be able to tell and share it with the rest of the class later. One of my favorite memories is walking into a school and seeing the Story Squares hung like large prayer flags from the hallway walls.

Whether drawn or sewn, weaving ourselves and our history into cloth, we become aware how we are all threads woven together in the Great Tapestry of Life.

Singing with Vultures

vulture sigel 1
It was a brilliant sunny day. The sky was electric Moonstone blue. The trail had just the right amount of moisture so I could smell the pungency of earth. Shadow and light played hide-and-seek through the woods. Magik the Corgi had a perma-grin on, finding extra smelly things to roll into.
We took the long way around to the Red Rock. When we finally arrived someone was already there. It was a woman and four year-old-boy. I was going to just walk by, but Magik did one of his stubborn Corgi antics and wouldn’t budge. Instead he looked at me with that big, silly grin that said “We’re going to the Red Rock, huh? How ’bout it?” So of course he won.

I trudged up the trail behind the happy Corgi, and asked the woman if she wouldn’t mind if we sat at the Red Rock. She said, “Sorry, no English.” We managed to communicate well enough for us to agree to share the space. She offered us some food. I declined, although I’m sure the Corgi would have loved to chow down on granola bars. I looked at various red jasper rocks as I listened to the Aunt and her nephew talk in Italian. There is something lyrical and mysterious listening to the rhythm of a language without knowing its meaning. If you listen intently you start to intuit some of the meaning. It was beautiful to watch Aunt and nephew picnicking on the ground, enjoying nature, each other, and the drooling Corgi. I really wanted to sing and wondered if I should just go ahead or wait. Well as though they read my thoughts they said their good-byes to me and Magik and left.

I took a twin crystal out of my pocket and began to sing into. There are days when I sing when it feels like I’m stumbling, eventually finding my way. Sometimes the song seems like the same one I have been singing for a while, and then other times magic happens, and I’m in the zone.

Today, magic happened, and I felt this utter oneness with the Red Rock, the wind, the sun, and the water. I felt connected to all things and in that oneness I could touch people in the Ukraine, or Afghanistan with my song. I could touch polluted waters, and people I love and care about in different places in the world. I felt not only moved by the Divine, I was singing the Divine, and the Divine was singing me.
vulture sigel 2
The song finished sweetly and completely. I opened my eyes and noticed that there was a group of vultures circling and cresting the air in the forest across from me, and then in an instant they swooped over me, so low I could hear them.They pulled my attention to the electric Moonstone blue sky. I gazed in awe and wonder as 30, 40, maybe 50 vultures danced swirling, and swooping patterns in the sky. There wasn’t a kill! They were flying merely for the joy of it! That was so clear! It was utterly amazing! I felt such wonder. I watched until the patterns of vultures undulated over the hill and back into the Unknown. I was in awe. What an enchanting moment!

A long time ago a shaman told me not to listen to the books or even videos about what certain animal characteristics (totem meanings) were about. He instead suggested to observe animals in nature. I have noticed that often when I sing, actually almost every time, vultures circle above me when there is no kill. I have written stories about vultures twice. They have always felt like boundary dwellers, the guardians between worlds, gatekeepers to the natural world. A sound healer and musician from Peru suggested that vultures are the American version of the condor and therefore can symbolize protection, and transformation and transmutation of energy.

To me, vultures are more than scavengers. Today, I experienced the sacred in them, and am grateful!

Celebrating Water!

It’s still raining! We woke up this morning to the sound of rain and rejoiced. As many know California Governor Brown has alerted us that the California drought had reached unprecedented levels. Photos on the Internet show cracked earth in dried up reservoirs and brown grassy hills. Many fear that a drought could last many years.

When my friend and I went for a walk a few weeks ago she stopped to sing to a small pool of water. Nearby was a dried creek where there is usually a waterfall flowing this time of year. My friend told me of how she always sings to water to honor it. I believe the Celts and other cultures followed a similar tradition.

When the drought first started, people talked about praying to water, sending it gratitude and healing. Water is universal – it doesn’t matter what your spiritual or religious beliefs are we all need it, and we can all appreciate it.

With the concern of the drought and its long-term impact in our hearts and minds, Theodore, my husband and I started to be more conscious of how we use water and how to conserve it. We also went to water sources took photos and sang to them.

When we first started singing to water and more consciously appreciating it, it didn’t rain magically the next day, but we still continued to thank and bless water. Then last night, we decided to go visit a sacred place with a dried up waterfall during the twilight time. To our great delight, there was no one out walking but us.

As it got darker, we found a spot to sit and I started to sing. Magik our Corgi of course thought that was a good time to find the remnants of bay nuts and snack. I sang and danced to the Undines, the water spirits. I sang gratitude, and I sang hope. I sang imagining that all over the world people stopped what they were doing and started to sing to water, appreciating it, thanking it, loving it. I sang until my heart felt like it released a deep longing into realization, then we walked home. As the woods got darker, I felt a calm and reassurance. We rounded the bend, crossed a bridge and entered a mist. I felt moisture press against my cheeks for a moment then we walked through what felt like a veil and headed back home.

To our delight, this morning we woke up to the rain falling, and after we got up it still continued to rain! We decided to go walk in the rain and celebrate. We weren’t the only ones. Others had a similar idea. We saw families, and friends, dogs and their keepers, salamanders and birds, all enjoying and celebrating the rain in their own, unique ways. I don’t want to always wait for the absence of something to feel gratitude for it, but I won’t miss the opportunity to deepen my gratitude and appreciation for water again.

copyright 2014 Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved.

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