Good Morning, Blue Jay (Part 1)

When I am asked for suggestions for connecting with nature, I tell folks to feed the birds. Nothing breaks down the myth of separation from nature like hearing insistent tweets outside your window when the feeder is empty.

This is never truer than with blue jays. I once left a peanut on the rail of our back deck, hoping to attract a crow, the living manifestation of one of my helping spirits. The peanut disappeared, but I did not see who took it. For a few weeks I left a peanut daily and, for a few minutes, watched.

blue jay sitting on rock looking at nuts

Apparently not satisfied with peanuts, the blue jay eyed up a walnut I had put out for the squirrels.

One day I caught sight of a blue jay swooping in and grabbing the peanut. I was excited! While not a crow, a blue jay is also a member of the corvid family. I continued putting peanuts out every day and watching from just inside the door. For the first week or so, the blue jay would sit on a branch in the tree that overhangs the deck and watch me watching him until I gave up and went about my day. Once I stopped looking, the peanut would disappear. Over time, the jay became less concerned about my presence and I would often see him fly to the deck rail and grab the peanut before he disappeared into a tree.

Eventually, the blue jay would come to the rail to watch me through the door. While I was trying to be consistent with the timing of my peanut offerings, there were days when I was distracted from my morning ritual by household goings on. The jay must have stayed close enough to keep an eye on the deck rail, because he never missed his treat. One morning, he was on the rail before I was back through the door. I said, “Good morning, blue jay.” He picked up his peanut and flew off.

After that, each time I left a peanut, I would look into the trees and say, in my best “yoga teacher projecting to the back of the room” voice, “Good morning, blue jay. Here’s your peanut.” He must have heard me, because he would arrive in an instant. My morning ritual expanded to include a greeting to my friend.

One of those distracted mornings, I became aware of the short, sharp “caw” of the blue jay and looked out to see him sitting in the tree watching the back door. I brought him his peanut. The next morning I was again reminded by the caw, and every morning after that he would be in the tree demanding his breakfast peanut. I felt as though me and the blue jay were friends.

This story will continue in tomorrow’s post.

Imbolc 2022: Meeting Brigid, Again

My year of Druidic studies was intended to be ecology-focused, but I find I am curiously revisiting the Celtic pantheon as well. The goddess Brigid, who is honored at Imbolc, was one I had gotten to know in 2013. I opened my journal from that time and saw that I had noted that after Imbolc that year I had been drawn to all things Celtic and Druid for a while. Funny how I find myself there again.

Brigid is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the fey who ruled Ireland until Milesius’ invaders (the “final Irish”) sent them into hiding in the fairy mounds. She is a mother goddess with three aspects. She is the patroness of poetry and the creative arts, and was revered by the Bards, who memorized her in poetry in the Druid oral tradition.

Brigid the patroness of healing and fertility, particularly the fertility of ewes, dairy cows and other livestock. Herbal medicine and midwifery are part of her healing arts. She is also the patroness of smithcraft and the martial arts, and so was honored by the warriors who, at the time, would have battled with swords.

candles and a Brigid's cross made of twigs

My 2013 Imbolc altar included a Brigid’s cross I made from twigs found here.

Fire, particularly the hearth fire, is associated with Brigid. At Imbolc, her fire energy is represented by lots of candles, and some people include making candles for the year ahead as part of their Imbolc activities. Although the fire that warms our house is hidden in a furnace, I have an appreciation for the importance of the hearth fire for comfort and survival during cold North Country winters.

Brigid is also associated with water, but mainly wells and springs. These are thought to be portals to other worlds and are a source of wisdom and healing. There are many springs in Ireland named for Brigid. Her ties to both water and smithcraft may have given her a place in the Arthur legends, which I love. Some believe that the Lady of the Lake, who forged Excalibur, King Arthur’s unbeatable sword, was Brigid.

Imbolc crafts include Brigid’s crosses, small, equal armed crosses typically woven from rushes. The crosses were hung on doors and windows of homes and barns for protection. She was so beloved that she was made a Catholic saint and Imbolc is now called St. Brigid’s Day in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some Anglican churches.

Please celebrate Imbolc with me, virtually, on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Visit the ceremonies page for details and registration.

Garden for Life

While I had always been ecologically conscious, Shamanic Reiki training drew me into a deeper connection with the land and the Earth’s beings. When I added wildlife rehabilitation into the mix, I became aware of the needs of those beings and how best to help them. With both a spiritual and ecological imperative, I committed to garden for life.

dark eyed juncos enjoying the garden for life in winter

Dark-eyed juncos enjoy the garden for life in winter.

I do not consider myself a gardener in the usual sense. Each spring I put some annuals into containers and seedlings into my two raised vegetable beds. Anything that needs special care or weeding to thrive is out of luck, because by late spring turtle care takes precedence. I gave up long ago on things like foundation plantings or landscaping. Instead, I let the land go wild.

I learned how the introduction of non-native landscape plants and trees has reduced the food and shelter available for wildlife. Most imported cultivars lack fruit or nuts and repel rather than attract bugs. Typically, the dried stalks of perennials are cut back in the fall, shrubs are trimmed, and leaves are raked. I chose to do none of that.

Instead, after researching which are best for the animals here, I add only native trees and shrubs to my land. Nothing gets cut back or shaped. To give our dogs a safe place to run, we fenced in part of our yard, which gets mowed, but infrequently. We only rake leaves that are covering the driveway, as they are slippery when we get light snow. We do very little “yard work” here.

Compared to the manicured lawns and gardens that have become idealized in America, our yard looks messy. The land, however, is teeming with life. Everyone from squirrels to snakes hangs around in the summer. I am seeing a increase in the variety of birds as well.

A couple of days ago we got our first significant snowfall for this winter. When I went outside, I was rewarded for not “cleaning up the yard” last fall with a flock of dark-eyed juncos nibbling on the remains of a clump of native evening primrose. That sight was a blessing and a reminder of why I garden for life.

Moon Magic: Fourth Quarter Moon in Scorpio

Each New and Full Moon I dig into lunar astrology to write my newsletter and to set the theme for the associated Turtle Journey. I am not an astrologer, but I have enjoyed learning about this one aspect of astrology and share some of what I am discovering here.

fourth quarter moon

Image by Ponciano from Pixabay

In two days, the Moon enters the fourth quarter phase while she is in Scorpio. While the increasing light of the Waxing Quarter Moon can channel the tension of Sun square Moon into action, the Moon’s waning light now shifts the tension of the square to restriction and disintegration. Challenges and delays tend to be externally imposed, such as those from society or natural law.

The Moon in the fixed water sign of Scorpio brings an intensity to emotions that may be hard to escape from. The tension the Moon feels in the Fourth Quarter may trigger over-reactions to every little thing. Scorpio is co-ruled by Mars and Pluto, but I believe Pluto will dominate under the darkening Moon and trigger a retreat. It is okay to seek solitude and regroup now, to get ready for the next New Moon.

The United States will have its Pluto return during 2022, beginning in February. That may mean big, transformational institutional shake-ups. The Fourth Quarter Moon in Scorpio feels like it is telling us to take a big inhale and hold it. Take advantage of this time to find space for what is coming.

If you are not receiving my newsletter, please sign up. I promise not to spam your inbox. I send a newsletter only before each New and Full Moon with a reflection on the astrology and an invitation to the Turtle Journey – a 30-minute shamanic journey experience via conference call – and other upcoming events and classes.

Podcast Ep 104: Empowering Wolf Meditation

After working with grief and frustration around the grey wolves who have been killed in recent weeks and offering a ritual of protection to those who remain, it is time for an energetic recharge. This episode’s meditation is an empowering connection to wolf spirit to restore your activism.

Shamanic Reiki is another empowering practice. Registration is open for Shamanic Reiki Level One virtual training on February 5th and 6th, 2022. Visit my Shamanic Reiki training page for more information and online registration.

If you like this podcast and would like me to keep recording new episodes, please visit my Patreon page and become a patron for as little as one dollar a month. When you do, you will have access to patron-only guided shamanic journeys to meet animal helping spirits and read posts about the animals’ symbolism and archetypal energy as well as the natural history and conservation challenges those animal face in their living incarnation. As you work with different animals, you connect more deeply with the natural world and may be inspired to advocate for one of the wild beings you resonate with.

If you would like to chat about this episode and connect with others who share your love for the wild beings, join the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook. Visit myshamaniclife.com and get the free Guide to Getting Real when you sign up for the email newsletter, which is full of moon magic and upcoming virtual events.

Much love and gratitude to Blair Sutherland for the beautiful intro and background music. Blair is also an outstanding webmaster and makes sure I can share these episodes with you. Thank you, Blair!

While the yoga and other practices presented are intended to be accessible to most, please be open to practicing in an appropriate and safe way for you. It is recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program and that at any time during a practice you feel nausea, dizziness, or pain you stop and seek medical advice. I accept no liability whatsoever for any damages arising from the use of my podcasts and, while I make all reasonable efforts to share accurate instruction, the podcast may contain unintended errors. Before all else, listen to your body and trust your inner knowing.

Ritual of Protection for Yellowstone’s Wolves

While grey wolves no longer roam the wild in New York (they were eradicated in the late 1800s), I have had opportunities to sit with, witness, and learn about captive wolves. These experiences have deepened both my connection with my wolf helping spirit and my desire to help North America’s wild wolves.

collared yellowstone wolf seated in the snow where wolves have protection

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

This month has brought distressing news, as reports of wolves being poisoned and shot come in. One of the most upsetting was reading that twenty of the wolves from Yellowstone National Park, where they were reintroduced 25 years ago and became a conservation success story, were killed by hunters in the months since protections were lifted, just outside of the park’s borders. The news from Yellowstone inspired this ritual.

I acknowledge that rituals alone are not enough to save North America’s wolves. Rituals like this, however, ground me and reaffirm my intentions, creating an empowered center from which to make phone calls and write letters to relevant elected and appointed officials. I am sharing my wolf protection ritual in hope that you, too, may feel ready to pick up the phone afterwards.

I have a working altar which is always ready to go for short workings like this. I only added a printout of a map of Yellowstone Park, to help me journey there. If you do not have a standing altar, you might gather a few things that you associate with protection and that bring in wolf energy.

I like to work in safe and sacred place. You can cast a circle any way that you like – I use the Reiki symbols to clear and protect the space – and call in the directions, your helping spirits, and any deities you work with.

Next, sit in front of your altar, close your eyes, and put yourself in the center of Yellowstone. If you have experience journeying you can do that, otherwise just imagine yourself sitting there in middle of the park. See or sense the presence of the wolf packs. The wolves know you are there for their benefit. You are safe.

Now bring your attention to the base of your spine and drop a cord down into the Earth. Draw energy from the Earth up into the base of your spine and into your heart. Next, notice the crown of your head. From your crown, extend a cord up to the Moon. Draw Moon energy down through your crown and into your heart.

Empowered by the Earth and the Moon, feel a bubble expanding from your heart. Send loving and protective energy into the bubble, surrounding the wolves in safety. Grow the bubble in all directions until it encompasses all of Yellowstone National Park and the wolves that have roamed beyond the human-made borders. Continue to supply protective Earth and Moon energy until the bubble feels strong and solid, impenetrable by anyone who would harm the wolves. Feel the power of the bubble of protection you have created and know that it will hold when you leave this place.

Now add a prayer, such as:

Mother Earth, I come to you humbly, with gratitude for all you have given me, and ask that you hold this protective bubble around your children, the wolves.
Keep the wolves safe from humans who kill for sport or greed.
Provide them with clean water, abundant food, and warm dens.
Empower me with a heart full of compassion for all your beings.
Grant me the strength to stand against those who would harm the wolves, the courage to speak out, and the presence to change minds, until the wolves are free to thrive.
May it be so.

Release the directions and open your circle.

Moon Magic: Full Moon in Cancer

Each New and Full Moon I dig into lunar astrology to write my newsletter and to set the theme for the associated Turtle Journey. I am not an astrologer, but I have enjoyed learning about this one aspect of astrology and share some of what I am discovering here.

full moon reflecting on water

Image by Patou Ricard from Pixabay

Today’s Full Moon is in Cancer, barely. A few hours after the Moon is full she will drift into Leo. Until then, though, the Moon is in the sign she rules and all of Cancer’s watery, emotional energy will be amplified. You may desire emotional support and comfort today.

The Moon is full when she is opposite the Sun. Planets in opposition are energetically at odds. The Sun in Capricorn wants to be organized and practical and can be unsympathetic to your emotional state today. The Moon is also opposite Pluto, activating power and control issues. I feel that the theme of the day is, “Crying won’t get you anywhere.”

The thing is, I am tired of hearing that my emotions do not matter to the people in charge. Stop telling me that I should stick to the science and think about the economy and human convenience when my heart says that land or that species is worth protecting. We should not ignore the science, nor should we ignore our hearts.

My take on the Moon’s energy today is a call to lead from your heart. Find a like-hearted community who can hold you in grief or anger or whatever comes up for you, then, with their support, tell the world why you care. Let the Full Moon in Cancer validate everything you feel.

If you are not receiving my newsletter, please sign up. I promise not to spam your inbox. I send a newsletter only before each New and Full Moon with a reflection on the astrology and an invitation to the Turtle Journey – a 30-minute shamanic journey experience via conference call – and other upcoming events and classes.

Podcast Ep 103: Gentle Yoga to Soothe Agitation

As I record the second episode of 2022, I am working with grief and frustration I feel after reading news of grey wolves who have been killed in recent weeks. Wolf is one of my animal helping spirits so I feel very close to Wolf Spirit manifested. The gentle yoga practice in this episode helps you center and release agitation and other emotions that come up when you receive upsetting news.

Registration is open for Shamanic Reiki Level One virtual training on February 5th and 6th, 2022. Visit my Shamanic Reiki training page for more information and online registration.

If you like this podcast and would like me to keep recording new episodes, please visit my Patreon page and become a patron for as little as one dollar a month. When you do, you will have access to patron-only guided shamanic journeys to meet animal helping spirits and read posts about the animals’ symbolism and archetypal energy as well as the natural history and conservation challenges those animal face in their living incarnation. As you work with different animals, you connect more deeply with the natural world and may be inspired to advocate for one of the wild beings you resonate with.

If you would like to chat about this episode and connect with others who share your love for the wild beings, join the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook. Visit myshamaniclife.com and get the free Guide to Getting Real when you sign up for the email newsletter, which is full of moon magic and upcoming virtual events.

Much love and gratitude to Blair Sutherland for the beautiful intro and background music. Blair is also an outstanding webmaster and makes sure I can share these episodes with you. Thank you, Blair!

While the yoga and other practices presented are intended to be accessible to most, please be open to practicing in an appropriate and safe way for you. It is recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program and that at any time during a practice you feel nausea, dizziness, or pain you stop and seek medical advice. I accept no liability whatsoever for any damages arising from the use of my podcasts and, while I make all reasonable efforts to share accurate instruction, the podcast may contain unintended errors. Before all else, listen to your body and trust your inner knowing.

Resilient Wetlands, Resilient Humans

Resilience: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens (Merriam-Webster)

In my last post, muddy and buggy wetlands were something people wanted to change so the land would be usable for recreation or development. What humans fail to notice, however, is the value of unaltered wetlands in keeping us safe and helping us recover when bad things happen.

wetlands ecosystem with forest in backgroundThose bad things include flooding, erosion, wildfires, and water pollution. Made larger by climate change, storms more frequently bring flooding rain. When rivers overflow, floodplains absorb the excess water and release it slowly. Without the spongy barrier, the water flows quickly onto roads and into houses, sometimes washing away whatever is in its path. Fast water that remains in the river channel erodes the riverbanks and can undermine nearby infrastructure.

On the coast, brackish marshes reduce the impact of storms by slowing and shrinking the size of ocean waves as they head inland.

When wildfires blaze, wetland areas provide shelter for many animals. Wetlands also slow or stop a fire’s spread. Unfortunately, most residential and commercial development reduced or eliminated the wetlands that would have provided a barrier against wildfires.

Wetlands act as water filters. When water flows through wetland vegetation, sediment is trapped; nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which feed harmful algae blooms, are absorbed; and toxic chemicals are buried or neutralized by sunlight. Clean surface water enters the aquifer to provide safe drinking water for humans.

Wetlands help humans become more resilient in the face of climate change, but we need to help them, too. Existing wetlands should be preserved and altered wetlands should be restored wherever possible to mitigate against flooding, erosion, wildfires, and pollution. Not only will we be safer, but the whole web of wetland life will thrive.

Imbolc 2022: Let There Be Hope

herd of sheep in snowy field are a symbol of Imbolc and hope

Image by scott payne from Pixabay

I had wanted Yule and the end of the Gregorian year to feel magical and peaceful, but 2021 refused to leave quietly. Nor did hanging my new calendar create an instant reset. In addition to the kind of drama which is typical when the family gathers for holidays and our old house gets snowed on, surging COVID-19 cases, a string of natural disasters related to climate change, and the lack of progress towards justice on any front left me feeling wrung out and not the least bit calm or bright.

Still carrying that heaviness, I began to create the ceremony I will offer for Imbolc, the Pagan midwinter festival. “Imbolc” is an Irish word that is translated as “in the belly” or “ewe’s milk,” and marks one of the earliest signs of spring: milk coming in for gestating cows and sheep. Imbolc is usually celebrated on February 1st or 2nd, and associated weather divination is believed to be the root of Groundhog Day. Before there was refrigeration and grocers, the middle of winter was a time when food stores might be getting low. Although we can certainly do without it now, the availability of cow and sheep’s milk then could help humans survive the second half of winter. With the flow of milk came hope.

I look around at the pandemic, devastating weather events and wildfires, and system-based injustices, I hear the anguished cries of frustrated and burnt-out activists, and I say, “Let there be hope.”

It is with the intention to restore hope that I am writing the Imbolc ceremony script. While my reach is limited to the number of people my Zoom room will hold, I know whatever work we do there will reverberate out. The ripples of our hopefulness will flow around the world and reignite passion for change. It doesn’t get more magical than that.

Please join us for a virtual Imbolc ceremony on Thursday, February 3rd, 2022, at 7:30pmEST. You will find more details and easy online registration on my ceremonies page. I hope to see you in the Zoom room.