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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

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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.
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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.

La Luna

The people of the village use their torches to light up the dark bog and together they remove the heavy boulder off of Mother Moon. Her radiant face shines with such beauty she touches the hearts and minds of all the villagers and fills the bog with illumination. She lifts into the sky and fills the village and the world with light.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes goes on to talk about her insights into the story of “The Lost Mother Moon”. She talks about how the bog in the story represents emotional wounds both in us personally and in our world. She suggests that the way to work with our wounding is not to avoid it, but rather go into it, feel it, be in the center of it metaphorically and meditatively. While being in the center of the wound, feeling with intensity, we can find the light, even if it is just a flicker. We grab that light and fill ourselves with it, we can come back into our lives and into our world being that light for others and ourselves.

After I finished listening to this second cd of “Theatre of the Imagination”, I checked my Facebook page. A friend had posted a story about a man who had gone to a school where there was a tragedy and he stood in front of the school as a bodyguard, helping everyone feel safer. He came everyday to stand as a bodyguard. No one asked him to. No one paid him. He went right into the center of that wound in that school and in that town, and he was a light.

How can we be a light to each other, our world, and ourselves?

Magic in the Telling

 

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Photograph copyright Theodore Herzberg

Saturday, I went to a storytelling workshop by Ruth Strotter, founder of the Dominican College Storytelling Program, who is also a folklorist and international storyteller and teacher. Seven storytellers gathered. We learned new techniques and hopped right into telling stories. As the day flowed and undulated with the sounds and movement of the telling of tales, I experienced the magic and mystery of the oral tradition.

There’s something about the oral tradition and the alchemy of symbol and metaphor as elixir for the soul. It engages the imagination, yes. But there is something more that happens. Something I can’t quite put words too. But there is a shift, a change that happens, people are renewed. You can feel the spell, a real sense that magic is happening. You can’t see it but you can feel it. Mystery is engaged.

After the experience I wanted more, so I listened to Clarissa Pinkola Estes Volume One CD’s of “Theatre of the Imagination”. I listened to the story of “The Lost Mother Moon”. Mother Moon is lured from the sky into a dark bog, trying to help a lost old man, but she is tricked, beaten, hurt and shoved deep down into the bog, covered by a heavy boulder.  The people have to work together as a community, creating light together to help rescue Mother Moon.  

The telling in it self is enough to start creating movement in thought and feeling, but then Clarissa enriches the telling with insights and more stories. Mother Moon is wounded in the story, and Clarissa talks about how the origin of the word “wound” is related to wonder. And later talks about how within a wound there is a door. If we go sit in the center of a wound, we can open a door. We can be the light that walks through that door, a light for others.

In the words of a dear friend, “there is magic in the telling”. 

Inspired Creative Play

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I went for a walk with a new friend on some of my favorite trails and sacred places. We stopped at the Gathering Place – a stone chair covered with moss, surrounded with bay trees, nestled between two hillsides. We sat on the mossy chair and talked about singing, healing work, sharing stories and ourselves. 

 As I listened more deeply, I heard my friend, a gifted soundhealer, tell her story of making up songs and stories when she was a child. I also remembered a story that Rhiannon shared in her new Vocal River book that as a child she used to make up songs for animals and buried them when they died. I thought of how I started singing and storytelling. I remembered that music and stories were always a part of my life but it wasn’t until I had my own children that I started singing and letting stories flow out of my songs.

Listening to my friend and remembering how I started singing and storytelling helped me to connect with the authenticity of who my friend is, and of more of who I am. It’s like when someone asks you “what do you do?” And you reply, “I’m a healer,” “I’m a storyteller,” “I’m a musician”. But really how do you express that uniqueness of who you are? Yesterday I touched that through story, through hearing and feeling someone’s passion and fascination with story and song, and remembering my own.

Recently, I have received other people’s music and stories in ways that inspire me to express my voice and truer self. And what I have been discovering is this incredible and delicious freedom to express my creativity in all its unique ways and expanding that into collaborations, really it is creative play, with others.

Our hike through the woods meandered to where the Manzanita’s in all their cherry colored splendor dance and laugh amongst the orange-green Madrone. My friend stopped for a moment, and quietly began to sing, in her gentle intuitive way, singing with the wind. I felt an urge to start telling a story. At first, I held back, but then I went for it and a story about a Madrone Tree Spirit flowed through.

As we continued our walk and talk, insights flowed in and out of the conversation for both of us. It seemed to give us both greater direction. That’s the magic of nature, of co-creating with nature and others. That’s the magic of song and story, and of friendship. I’m inspired to keep creative playing!

 

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