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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.

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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”. 

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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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Red Rock is a huge outcrop of red jasper rock amidst trails and hills. It’s a place I go to sound heal. The walk there allows me to think and feel, releasing my thoughts and feelings, aware of my breath, and slowly letting myself attune to and align with the beauty around me. 

There is a trail of crushed red jasper that circles the Red Rock. Before I enter the space I always take a moment to feel the reverence of this place and think of the people who have passed this way before me, days, weeks, years, or lifetimes. My corgi, Magik usually beats me to the slab of stone that makes a comfy seat. Magik settle’s in, ears pricked up at the slightest sound, bird or hiker. I look out to swaying grasses, shadowed hills with secret stories and white billowy clouds in an aquamarine sky. 

Connected to the land, one hand on the red jasper, one on my heart I close my eyes and sing. The wind kicks up, a whir of wings, the sun comes out from behind clouds and illuminates my voice. The earth stirs and I feel the presence of an ancient, Native woman, sitting on this spirit rock, rocking in rhythm to my singing. Our communion is in song. Our communion is with the oneness of the sky, the earth, the fire of the sun and the water deep in the crevices of the earth.

I sing, moving my hands like prayers in the wind. The old Native woman smiles. I hear a hiker walk by, Magik woofs, and I am back in the present moment, only the wind and the crunch of stones remain. The sun radiates its warmth in me. I sigh and sit in silence, breathing in the elements, feeling the oneness and the joy.

Before I leave, I thank this place and I breathe the experience deep into me, so that when I am away from nature or feel stressed out I can come visit this place in my imagination. Imagine the sun filling me with its reassuring warmth, the red rock, sturdy, steady and grounding beneath me, the old Native woman smiling, as I sing to the beat of birds wings and the swaying of the tall grasses. No sooner do I touch, taste, feel and smell this place in my imagination than I am there, feeling the harmony and peace.

The presence and alliance with nature holds many gifts and empowerments. 

Red Rock Blessings, 

Vlatka

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Our Christmas had been wet, moist, full of waterfalls and mushrooms. New Years Day was a “change of scenery”. Theodore and I went to Point Reyes. When we leave Marin and head for Point Reyes with the winding roads, rolling green hills, sitting stones, and munching cows everything slows down, nature imbues my thoughts and feelings with sweet ease.

PointReyesHills

We strolled around town for a bit and then headed to what seems to be a wildlife or bird sanctuary. Theodore and I have spent the holidays taking photos and sound healing in the woods. New Years Day was a change. It was full of warmth, the countryside, barns, the Bay and families picnicking together and laughing.

PointReyesHeron

The path was wet and muddy but not for the heron whose solitary stance had an air of majesty. The ducks waded in the pond as unaware of a cat spying on them from the bushes as we were.

PointReyesDucks

We didn’t notice the cat until we zoomed in on the blurry photo later. Watching the heron, for a moment time stood still, then with a quick inhale of breath wings spread out and the majestic bird took flight.

PointReyesHeronFly

From a distance, geese honked, and flew over head in formation, one lagged behind.

PointReyesGeese

The barn was empty, its white washed walls a stark contrast from the blue sky, waving green grass, and sunlight peek through branches and kissing water.

PointReyesGrass

White heron, white barn stood out as touchstones in a vast landscape of rolling hills and people like us who came to commune with nature. Here it was easy to feel a sense of belonging with nature and each other. A deep sense of peace filled me.

PointReyesHeronBarn

One family stood out in particular. Two boys, a baby and a couple were sharing a picnic, then walked, while mom took photos. What a beautiful way to share New Years Day together. The boys walked near us toting a heavy, picnic basket and complaining that their parents were taking too long. I smiled remembering such days with our daughter.

PointReyesBayFence

When we passed the couple, the husband commented on how one of the hills was like a hill in Australia. He called it the Point Reyes version of that hill.

PointReyesAusiHill

We thought that’s actually what it was called. The wife laughed and said, no, her sweet and creative  husband just made it up. We laughed too. That’s probably how some hills get their names. All the laughter attracted the boys and from there on they seemed to enjoy their walk more. Again, I took a moment to appreciate  the beauty of family and nature together.

PointReyesSun

I started the morning feeling peace and gratitude and ended the day feeling peace and gratitude, perhaps for different reasons, but nature is always at the heart of it all. Happy New Years.

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Magik the corgi and I started our adventure the other day going down a popular trail. We bumped into a woman and her skinny, long-legged dog who only will eat when walking on the trail. She was telling me about an old couple she bumped into down another trail and how they were bickering over their new dog. The dog was too big and too much for them to handle so the woman spoke up and suggested they take the dog back to the Humane Society.

I was amazed that she had such courage to speak up on the dog’s behalf — that she had voice. She doubted herself. I said, “You spoke up for the dog — that matters.” Then she looked back and said, “Where’s your dog?” Of course Magik was nowhere to be seen. “Oh he’s probably munching down a bunch of bay nuts.” Sure enough my predictable corgi was munching away. I come into the woods to exercise, he comes out for the smorgasbord. Smile.

So I back tracked, headed back from where we came until I saw the bridge where this woman had bumped into the old man and old woman. Ok, so I figured they were long since gone and the path was clear. Magik and I crossed one bridge, headed towards another when we saw them. Well actually at first, I heard them. The old woman was singing. What a delight that was. Her hair was white and seemed to glow, her face too seemed white with glowing light and she held a big purple-blue purse on her shoulder. Her husband tried to reign in Tessa, but was slipping and tripping. Tessa was dubbed a black lab, but she was much bigger than any black lab I have ever met. She defiantly had control of the situation, as she tugged at the leash the old man slipped and slid down a declining path. He almost fell, got so mad he hit the dog. Stunned, I watched as they walked by.

I thought about the woman earlier on the trail, and how she had voice, and I really desired to do the same thing. I couldn’t just do nothing. So I headed back from where we came and sure enough down the main trail was the old couple with their new dog. I approached them just as he was getting frustrated with the dog again. They told me how they just got her at the Humane Society the day before, and she wasn’t trained yet. I spoke up and suggested that maybe she was too much for them and that maybe they should return her and get a smaller dog. He protested and said, “Oh no. I love her.” So I suggested that they go to the Humane Society that day and ask for help, that way the dog would receive support and so would they.

I’m not sure if they ever did. I hope for Tessa’s sake as well as their own that they did get help. When I walked away from them I stood a little taller and moved more confidently. I had voice around an issue that mattered to me.

I wonder if we are sometimes afraid to get involved in the world around us because we are afraid of what might happen, but if we do get more involved, I wonder what positive impact we could have and what wonderful changes in our world we might see?

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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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