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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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Image

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.

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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?

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Imagine the dancing Goddesses with their candles dancing with the trees.

Imagine the dancing Goddesses with their candles dancing with the trees.

This is a slightly different post. My previous posts have had a lot of emphasis on nature. Last year I spent a lot of time unwinding and singing in solitude in nature. With this New Year, the Year of Gratitude beginning, I am exploring ways of expressing myself through sound, movement and story in collaboration with others.

Recently I went dancing with a group of women. I was new to the group. Everyone else knew each other. I wondered how to begin dancing, so I followed the cue of others and began with stretching, listening to my breath, and the breath of others.

Others started to move to their own intuitive flow in synergy with the music. I moved to the music tentatively at first, slowly unwinding, acquainting myself to the floor, the music, and the dancers until I started to feel my own flow. Feeling the flow I became the rhythm, being the music, feeling the presence of others I opened my eyes and saw another beaming face whirling past me. I stepped out of rhythm, stumbled in choppy steps, swaying my head and body, feeling separate from the group. I embraced the cacophony.

Feeling, accepting, flowing, I found my rhythm again, being the rhythm, the breath the music, being the other dancers, all as one. Being the flow, I danced fast, building to a release, witnessing sorrow and judgments. Flowing with them and through them, moving past them. The music slowed down, the dancers slowed down, my breathing slowed down. We dancers smiled at one another and settled in a circle lighting candles on paper plates. We danced with candles!

The lights lowered and we danced with our candles, moving slowly, ever so slowly in circles, sitting with the flames, pondering, honoring, respecting, praying. Two dancers with candles above their heads swayed in unison, gracing the hall with their movement. Hands danced across flames, weaving mudras, kissing the air with wishes and dreams.

It was an evening of freedom of expression and acceptance of that expression. Absolutely stunning! Absolutely liberating! It was a wonderful opportunity to discover more of myself dancing with community. I am thankful!

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On a mound I stand

Spreading branches far and wide

Sap trickles down my bark,

Mixes with earth —

Sap drenched roots

Dig deep down into Coyote Den

Where Silent voices

Wait —

Until Night’s embrace

And Howl

My husband Theodore and I went to Folsom Lake Willow Creek Recreation Area yesterday. We were stunned by the tall pine trees and extra huge pine cones. The pine cones had sap on them that neither of us have seen before.

It made us consider making an essential oil out of it. The color of the sap is golden amber beautiful. The pine cones evoked images of dragon claws. They curled and pointed just like claws.

The first tall pine we encountered was on top of a large mound. Imbedded in the roots was a coyote den. I wondered how they could sleep with hushed voices of humans and the pecking of acorn woodpeckers above their home.

Brilliant blue sky, lake sparkling with so much light you could almost hear it singing, children laughing, we walked over water sculpted stones to admire mushroom like plants with feathery roots and tiny purple flowers that sprayed out like fans.

Theodore and I sat on a bench and listened to the sky, the woodpeckers, the pine, the lake, our hands softly touched, we smiled. A breeze whistled through the pine needles and for a moment, it felt as though the pine trees sighed. Perhaps they too felt a sense of well-being.

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Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Magik and I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. When he starts to run around the house in circles I know it’s time for a long hike. So I chose a longer path that would work us both out. Part way through he was lagging behind and I wondered where all the energy went, but I think he just wanted to sniff and sniff some more. Eventually we made it to the top of the hill and I stopped to soak in the light, the warmth, the breeze and sing to the trees.

Photograph ©  2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Magik of course waited patiently. When I was done, we continued our walk, easier now because it leveled off, so again I gave more attention to the details of my surroundings. To my delight we found branches and feathers. Hands full of twig, feather and stone, hair mussed up by the wind I encountered an athlete and his golden retriever. Judging by his response to me, I must have appeared as some sort of wild woods woman. Magik and I scooted out-of-the-way, and runner and dog sprinted by. Shortly after, I found a spot where Magik and I could rest, thinking that the runner was probably a good ways away, and I could sing to my heart’s delight.

Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

I put my crystals on the ground, rose quartz, and serephanite with its beautiful earth green color, and started to sing. Some days I come into the forest with issues in mind that I want to resolve or send healing to, sometimes they are personal issues, or concerns about loved ones, and sometimes they are global issues. This day I just wanted to be with nature. I am learning that in intimate relationships sometimes we “do” things together, and sometimes we just “be” together.

Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Yesterday, my being together took the expression of song and dance. I sat but my arms moved like they were dancing. As soon as I started to sing the wind bellowed. It almost knocked me over. I sang and danced my arms into the wind and it sang and danced right back. I was in full force singing and moving to the music of the forest when Magik started to growl, the faithful guard Corgi that he is. Wow. There was the runner, and his golden retriever. I stopped singing and said, “Oh, I was just singing.” He responded with, “I thought the trees were singing. Your voice carried all the way to the other side of the hill. I was running and I heard this singing, and it sounded like the trees were singing. Then I realized it was a woman’s voice.”

Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

As he continued his run, I sat quiet, contemplating the experience, amazed that the trees and the wind had carried my voice, and that it sounded as though the forest was singing. I was quiet for a while just listening to the forest’s song, and then joined in, the two of us singing and dancing together again.

Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Shortly after this adventure I felt as though our outing was complete. Magik and I headed back down the trail. All the while it felt as though the trees were still singing. I don’t recall ever being so aware of the Forest’s voice. What a life changing experience! I am grateful.

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The last few experiences I have had in nature have shown me how when I let go of my day-to-day life, suspend it, and allow myself to commune with nature that I start to see through different eyes. Recently, Magik and I went for a long walk in the woods. We live in Northern California, so the forest is mostly Bay Laurel’s and Oak, with patches of Madrone and Manzanita. I entered the forest with the intention that I would pay attention to detail. I entered the forest as though I was entering my own safe place, as though the entire forest was my home. As I walked, I paid close attention to the light shimmering between and on leaves, and the substance, the shadows. I listened for the voice of the forest. I touched this leaf, that rock and mentally acknowledged their beauty. I took time to walk slowly and to stop and pause, to look and listen, feel and sense. In these moments I really feel a communication between me and the forest. Again I notice when I enter the forest how the wind kicks up and the leaves quiver as though the forest is greeting me and it is such joy to receive its embrace. It fills me with reverence and I can’t help but feel the bounty of this relationship I have with nature. It is exquisite.

Photograph © 2012 Theodore Herzberg

Magik and I meandered up a hill to the very top until we entered a grove of Madrone and Manzanita. They are unique trees to me. There presence is different from that of oak and bay laurel or other trees. The richness of their color speaks to me. I feel a strength from Madrone and a creativity from Manzanita. I especially enjoy the way Manzanita branches twist and dance without movement.

Photograph © 2012 Theodore Herzberg

Magik and I made our way to an ancient one Grandmother Madrone. I sat with her for a while and sound healed, sang from my heart. I happened to have a rose quartz crystal with me, so we sang together. There was a gentle energy, one of healing and tenderness. From this place it was easy to let go of my daily and world concerns, and just be in this oneness with the trees and the earth. Singing with the trees transports me into a liminal place, a place between worlds, where boundaries blur and I can more than feel, I can be the oneness with the trees and the earth.

Photograph © 2012 Theodore Herzberg

When I was finished singing, on cue as always Magik begs for his treat. He is silent and reverent while I sing and connect with nature, but the minute I stop singing, he figures that’s his cue for a treat. Smile.

Photograph © 2012 Theodore Herzberg

We thanked the Madrone and the Deva and nature spirits of this place and off we went heading home. It was on the walk home that I noticed I was seeing through different eyes.

Photograph © 2012 Theodore Herzberg

I noticed an old Oak that I had not noticed before on my walks. I stopped and touched it and connected with it, receiving some ideas for meditative work that could allow me to work through an issue I was dealing with more creatively and expansively. I thanked the Oak and its Deva, and asked for a piece of bark so that it would be easier for me to connect with the Oak meditatively when I wanted to work with it. There were many pieces on the ground so I chose one and thanked it.

Photograph © 2012 Theodore Herzberg

On the way down the hill, again we stopped. Magik and I have this understanding, sometimes his nose will take him off the path into delicious smells he wants to explore, so I will stop and wait while he explores. He does the same with me. When I feel called to connect with a tree or rock, Magik will sit and wait until I am done. Such was the case near the end of our walk. To my right I sensed something. I looked at this oak tree through my renewed eyes and felt a presence. I acknowledged it and sang to it. My way of saying “I see you seeing me”.

Photograph © 2012 Theodore Herzberg

As we continued our walk to the car I pondered how singing with nature (which is my way of letting go of the “yamma-yamma” and entering that oneness with nature) allowed me to see through different eyes. I saw things that I would not normally see or sense in nature if I was preoccupied in my head. Also One-ing with nature allowed me to see the issue I was working on more clearly. What a gift!

Photograph © 2012 Theodore Herzberg

Meditation:

Go into a favorite spot in nature on a day when you have a lot of time, no other commitments, so that you can really let go.

When you enter the forest, allow yourself to enter like you are Coming Home — as though you have been away on a trip and you have come back home, and now you are reconnecting with everything in your home. So you walk slowly with intention, paying attention to detail. You notice that spray of leaf, or the hardness of this rock, or the light and shadow of the leaves and trees. Open yourself to seeing what you normally don’t see when walking quickly through the woods.

Then go to a place that is sacred or safe to you, and as you enter this place find a spot where you want to sit. Maybe it is against this tree, or on a fallen trunk, or on some moss. Find a place that feels safe and good. Then start to connect with nature. Maybe it is through breath — where you enter a meditative state through breathing. Or maybe it is through closing your eyes until they are partly shut, and you look through the haze of your lashes, allowing your focus to blur until the leaves, the trees all seem to become one haze. – Or maybe you tone or sing. For me, singing without words, from my heart and soul helps me to enter the oneness with nature.

Let yourself be there for a while, you probably won’t sense time, but let yourself be there awhile. Let thoughts and feelings come and go. Maybe you have an issue or a question about your personal life, or about someone you love and care about, or maybe an issue in the world that you would like to see resolved. Bring that in and ask for clarity and guidance or insight and healing. Be creative with it. And then allow yourself to receive, knowing that you are receiving in this moment even though you may not hear the answer, know you are receiving.

When you feel complete you may feel a desire to thank this place and those that helped. Please do. Nature responds to loving kindness and thankfulness. Make sure to ground with your breath, maybe touch the palm of your hand to your heart or brow or solar plexus. Breathe in and breathe out to ground more fully.

As you walk back to your car, or home, give attention again to your surroundings, to this rock, this tree, this shadow, this light. Give attention when you go back into your life, for insights will surely come. It’s important for us to recognize and acknowledge them when they do show up, however subtle or profound they may be, and most of all have fun!

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