Thursday, November 7, 2019

Elder wisdom about climate change

At 71, I consider myself an old person, OK, and older person; a still oyster-farming, drum-making, oracle card reading older person.  And some old people get to be elders.  I have been paying lots of attention to our climate crisis recently, and then I realized I have been paying attention to our climate crisis for 50 years.  And that length of perspective creates some small wisdom I would like to share.

I read The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich in 1968, and was influenced enough by his dire predictions that when I was diagnosed with a pre-ovarian cancer situation in 1976, I decided not to have the surgical option that would allow my choosing to have children later, and instead said, "there are too many of us already," and went the more drastic route. 

Elder wisdom arises when looking back at a decision made not for now, but for decades into the future, without knowing the conditions or consequences of that decision. Do I regret not having children?  No. Because I have learned not to miss what I do not have. And there is wisdom in that learning.

In the late 70's  I discovered Lewis Thomas, and read The Lives of a Cell, and then The Medusa and the Snail.  I was completely taken with the idea that the human species are like locust on the prairie; we are devouring everything until our wall of destruction starves us out.  I began seeing locust behavior everywhere--looking like industrial logging and factory canning ships, strip mining and arctic oil drilling. And of course now we are too slowly realizing that there is no more food, no more prairie.

Thomas contrasted the locust with what he called "climax species."  Partnerships of creatures and plants that create an equipoise of stability. Like the red squirrel and the oak tree where the eating and the planting sustain both. In 1986 my partner and I decided to leave the city and find a place with "more trees than people." And on Cortes Island we learned that we could be more like the squirrel and less like locust.  There is good wisdom in learning not to want more.

Perhaps the most profound influence on my attention to the increasing world crisis was the small book, Good Life, Good Death by Gehlek Rimpoche, published in 2001.  Although the entire book was valuable, somehow all these years later I still haven't gotten past the title. 

What is a good death? I find myself looking at the lettuce in a store for a glow of  vitality because a human hand pulled the plant from the soil, brushed off the roots, perhaps cleared away a damaged leaf before placing it in a box.  This glow is from a good death.  I avoid food that was kept from a good life--kept from being in the vibration of the earth, or kept from moving naturally upon it. 

And I ask this question of myself, "Am I making a good death?"Maybe this is the greatest elder wisdom. Death is coming.  And what we make of ourselves with it is the greatest learning.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The other Halloween is Samhain: the spiritual new year

Samhain (pronounced saah-win), Summer's End, the Day of the Dead.   The time when killing frosts complete the harvest and Earth energy pulls back into death before rebirth.  The time when the veils between the worlds are thin. A time of contact and communication with the other side. A spirit-filled series of days for honouring the turning of Nature's cycles that coincides with Halloween, but is not the same as the secular holiday.

Here is a free reading from the Journey Oracle with a twist of Samhain energy: the messages in the four cards of the reading are arranged to create a journey into reflection and action regarding this beginning of your spiritual new year.  The first oracle card represents reflection--oracle messages about the challenges and accomplishments of the past year, the second oracle card represents integration--messages about your experiences when receiving this learning from the year.   The third card contains messages of release: about what is no longer useful, about creating new patterns that renew and transform.  The fourth oracle card presents a story containing messages of guidance, and suggestions for ways to act to bring this guidance alive in your spiritual new year.

Thanks to Selena Fox and the Circle Sanctuary for inspiring this renaming of the 4 cards in a Journey Oracle reading.

reflecting on the past year

Describe the challenges and accomplishments
of 2019 as shown in this image using simple phrases.  
Do not analyze, doubt or discard what your inner voice is saying.  
When you feel inner quiet, consider the Oracle’s identity. 
 Identity of Oracle: East 
Why is this the Oracle of reflection? 

Message from the Oracle about your challenges and accomplishments: 
more wisdom

Why are you receiving this message? 

pronouncements from the Oracle about your year

An Oracle reveals the forces that are moving beneath your year.    
These sentences are not statements of logic or reason.  
 If a statement draws a blank from your unconscious, 
move on to the next sentence.

This year began by reconnecting.
The prevailing energy of this year was 
dramatically unexpected.
The core energy pattern of this year was a soft covering.
The Mother of this year was inventive.
The Father of this year was burnt.

Your relationship to the prevailing energy was 
ready for flight.           
Your perception of the year was obsessive

The impact of your perception was flamboyant.
The connection between the core energy pattern 
and the year was felt as diffident.
The momentum of this year was fed by 
tightening up a few phrases.

integrating what you have learned

Describe your first impressions of this image representing 
how you have integrated what you have learned.  
Do not analyze, doubt or discard what your inner voice is saying.  
When you feel inner quiet, consider the Oracle’s identity.

Identity of Oracle:  Ice  Moon (Full Moon in January)
Why this is the Oracle of your integration? 

Question from the Oracle about your integration:  
Will the rim hold if the centre falls out?

Why are you receiving this question?

Your integration named: 
Mother inside looking out

Your integration experienced:

anxiety, lighten up
the planet, mother inside looking out, consternation
no judgement
detachment, eye tightness

no judgement, consternation
angst, mother inside looking out
reflecting back feelings, anxiety
hello, you look like you’re in pain, 
desperate for nourishment
lighten up, the planet
Exterior support for integration:
an exterior or support system for integration is odors.

releasing what is no longer useful

The Journey Oracle’s answers change the way you see things. 
Your anxieties, fears and desires emerge to be recognized and resolved, 
and hidden transformative energies are released. 

Describe your first impressions of this image representing 
the releasing of what is no longer useful.  
Do not analyze, doubt or discard what your inner voice is saying.  
When you feel inner quiet, consider the Oracle’s identity.

Identity of Oracle: Nion (Ash tree)
 Why this is the Oracle of release? 

Message from the Oracle about release:  
Endless dancing

Why are you receiving this message?

creating new patterns of transformation 

These statements bring an in-depth recognition of change 
that you feel coming.  
These indicate new patterns that are asking to happen.  
If a statement draws a blank from your unconscious, 
move on to the next sentence.

The power needed to transform will be a sound of contentment.
Transformation will come by starting a war.
Your relationship to these new patterns is frigid.
The moment of letting go into transformation will smell of sex.
The concern to be avoided within this transformation 
will taste of famine.
Divine Will
The wisdom of life still going on will empower the transformation.
Completed transformation will be felt as a quality of 
drifting in and out.
Dream on this question:

 Are you willing to trade places?

How is this an answer?


guidance for the new year

Describe your first impressions of this image 
of guidance for the new year. 
 Do not analyze, doubt or discard what your inner voice is saying.  
When you feel inner quiet, reflect on the Oracle’s identity.

Identity of Oracle: Mystery 
Why this is the Oracle of your guidance? 

A guidance question from the Oracle: 
Are you happy here?

Why are you receiving this question?

 a Fairy Tale from the Oracle to guide your new year

The dense weave of meaning in a fairy tale provides insight into 
the hidden forces within your new year. 
In this fairy tale, your unconscious wisdom knows 
the names of all the characters, 
all the actions needed, and what is the happy ending.

A pair of robins built a nest outside a woman’s kitchen window. Back and forth the sleek, strong parents flew, and yet she did not much attend to the new life’s manifestation that might be curling inside that twiggy bowl. Then one day she saw a wee curving form and a flash of translucent orange greet an adult bird’s arrival. The gaping mouths wavering on rubbery stalks counted three, and from that moment the woman’s attention often rested on the little family.
The hatchlings grew until their jostling with each other for the offered morsels threatened to send one over the edge. The woman began to wonder what she would do if a chick fell out, or if the nest itself came down. She plotted how to keep the birds safe, but always stopped short of action because it seemed this is how they are, even when the chicks were so big that they would teeter on the edge of the nest, buzzing their wings like whirligigs, reaching out always to say there is not enough food.
One morning the woman saw a chick sitting on a branch near the nest, receiving a morsel from its skinny overworked parent. It was weaving a bit on its untrained feet and rebalancing frequently with wild flutterings. “How can this be?” The woman thought in alarm. “Surely it’s not time yet for the survival of the species story.” But she resisted trying to help and just kept watching. And then, as if someone said “one of you has to go”—all the birds were gone. No chicks were left in the nest, the one on the branch could not be seen, and the parents no longer came.
         The woman went outside, and saw a robin a distance away in the garden. Then another flew past in the yard. A third dropped to the ground at the edge of the forest. “Is that you, my friend,” she wondered, “or maybe your child?” Suddenly the woman was seeing what she loved everywhere. 

Who are you in this story?  

What guidance is in the story for your new year?

Based on who you are in the story, 
now what are you now going to do
to begin your new year? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Make little rituals for nature

We are all persons of ceremony. This is a quality of being human traced back through our most ancient ways.  I do not mean religious ceremonies, or large community celebrations, but rather repeated daily acts that bring mindfulness and order to our lives. If you are Canadian, you probably take your shoes off when you enter your home.  And you probably do not leave them in a heap to be stumbled over, but rather, arrange them in some order.  It is this kind of small ceremony I am talking about.

These small acts of daily ritual appear in our relationship with the elements of nature.  Do you deadhead flowers in the containers on your deck, finding yourself quietly appreciating their beauty while grooming them?  A little ritual for praising the earth.

Have you ever made a tiny boat of twigs and leaves to set upon a flowing stream, just to see how long it would last, and then realized that its distance traveled was a mirror of something moving in your life?  Did you thank the water with a smile born from synchronicity? A little ritual for joining with water. 

Do you sometimes find yourself in a moment so awe-filled that your spontaneous response is to inhale deeply and stand as still as you can while you exhale slowly, gradually becoming aware that everything is breathing with you?  A little ritual for acknowledging air.

Have you ever asked a fire to do a special task of baking or clearing, and found yourself unexpectedly offering a gift of song or words to the flames?  A little ritual for feeding fire.

Craig Childs writes about such gestures, that they are each "the remembering of a code, a single word of an ancient language. These become like a map of trails through hazardous territory."

Sometimes the hazardous territory is our mind--our fearing for our future.  When we notice these small acts of honouring, when we attend to them, make much of them, we discover that ceremony is communication, and that these little rituals for nature are an Oracle that can guide us to balance.  With balance comes equanimity--a quality of mental and emotional equilibrium with all that is. And from equilibrium comes true even-mindedness, rather than worry or indifference, with regard to the future.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Spiritual authority in Shamanism

A few days ago I had a conversation with a monk about my ability to talk to stones.  The conversation ranged widely--is it a spirit in the stone, or the stone itself?  Do all stones talk, or just some of them?  What is the difference between a stone and a rock, and does one talk more or rather than the other? 

I did not do very well with my words.  I felt like a small child trying to share something that cannot be explained, but only known.  And who really takes a child's knowing very seriously? The monk was very kindly and supportive, but still, I felt inarticulate of spiritual authority.

What is spiritual authority in Shamanism?  This authority does not come from an outside power, nor is it bestowed due to a set of beliefs or customs.  Spiritual authority in shamanism grows from one's own actions and experiences in the physical world.  The power that is generated comes through a connection that is at the same time both ordinary and spiritual.  It is not possible to obtain this authority through reading, or watching, or thinking, but only through doing.

Here are some ways of encouraging the connection that opens into spiritual authority.

Experience sets itself in whatever the landscape allows.

Arrange to be in landscapes where deep experience is possible.  This does not mean you must hike through a desert or scale mountains, but rather, be willing to sit in the rain, walk without a flashlight,
climb a tree, crawl beneath a hedge. 

Have a love of setting out on journeys.

Learn from the strongest beings what it means to  journey into the unknown.  This begonia top broke from its tuberous root during a strong wind, and yet stays alive by growing roots from its stem.  

Discover the terrain of an inner journey by visiting an Oracle, or journey into change just by taking a walk across rough ground that requires being awake to where your feet go.

Be rooted in nature's orderliness.

We all move within and without.  Keep track of your cycles of gain and cease, and how these fit in the widening circles of  the tides, the seasons, the cycles of moon rise and sunset. 

Honour your goodness of fit within nature's orderliness with a song, a gesture, a moment of beauty.

Understand there are no coincidences,
only omens.

Once you feel the connection, what appears ordinary becomes spiritual, and you realize that everything is always speaking, even through its apparent silence.   

This feeling is spiritual authority.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Spiritual Manifestation: A free reading from the Journey Oracle for Autumn Equinox

Autumn equinox is a time of harvest.  Of gathering into the storeroom of our awareness what we planted and tended with our physical, emotional and spiritual intentions.  This is the time of receiving nourishment from our inner garden.

Here is a Journey Oracle reading for you to use to access insights about what you are manifesting during this season of harvest.  My own reading notes are written in blue to serve as an example of how you might conduct your own reading, but they are not a "right" or "correct" way to explore the analogies and metaphors of the Oracle pronouncements.

The Situation
How is this an image of my garden?

My intention for the year has been to 
accept what I have already been given; 
to not be in doubt but in trust 
of my connection with the Spirit world. 

I see with a woman with a flame of personal power 
holding aloft a heart.
Beyond her is a snake.  Do I see this as a threat or an ally?

How is this an image of your garden? 

Here are the pronouncements from the Oracle about your situation.


This situation began by forgetting to ask for signs.
The prevailing energy of this situation is a downward movement.
The core energy pattern of this situation is old stars.
The Mother of this situation is striped with sun.
The Father of this situation is still alive.


Your perception of the situation is wondrous.
The impact of this perception is alive in fire.
Your relationship to the prevailing energy is flowing on water.
The connection between the core energy pattern and the situation
 is felt as a rough touch.

The momentum of this situation is fed by resting.

This last pronouncement has a special ring of truth for me. 
 I often push too much, try too hard. 
 Perhaps the most important word in my intention is "accept."

The experience 
What am I experiencing 
in this situation?

I see a creature that looks threatening if I look
at the right eye, benign if I look to the left.

Naming it makes it so.  

What are you experiencing in your situation?

Here are insights about your experience
from the Journey Oracle.




blood rush
arched body
something to learn


An exterior or support system for the situation is embryo.

 I like that the support for my experience
is an embryo.  Something just forming; full
of possibility.  I can be in fear or
in delight about what I am growing.
My choice.

What change is calling me; the 
change that will help me be nourished 
 from this situation?

I see an intensity in this gaze. 
I have a feeling of being watched.
Do I actually realize what I have been given?

What change is calling you in your situation?

Here are the Oracle pronouncements about change.


 The power needed to shift this situation will be a sound of clanging.
Change will come by unexpected acclaim.
Your relationship to the change in this situation is shut tight.
The moment of letting go into the change will smell soft.
The concern to be avoided within this change will taste oversweet.

The wisdom of speaking out will empower the transformation.
Completed transformation will be felt as a quality of having claws.


 Are you letting others tell their story in their own way?



There are so many insights here that I think
I won't try and reveal them all.  
Speaking out, having claws, rain
are all the best answers 
for how to be nourished by what 
I am harvesting. 

The resolution 
What are the insights from
my unconscious wisdom
about this spiritual manifestation?

I see a tiny figure going through an opening
while a being made of wood, water and stone
watches from nearby. 

I feel I am being shown to turn around,
 to see what is everywhere surrounding me. 

What is the resolution  of your situation, 
this manifestation you are harvesting?

Here is a Journey Oracle fairy tale
in which you intuitively know the meaning of 
all the characters, the connections to your 
situation, and what is the happy ending. 

A Journey Oracle fairy tale
A long shape passed by. One end formed a slight diamond which tapered to a thin needle. The shape was brilliant turquoise; as if nature’s usually somber palette felt it was time that something went amuck. Four fragile lines of neon orange waved behind the shape, occasionally flaring open in unison and then pumping closed, as if continually pairing and seeking each other. From the center of this motion drifted two electric red lines that were pulled along by the jerking rhythm of the creature. A squadron of turquoise shapes passed by, their pulsing movement like blows at the water through which they swam.
“These must be shrimp larvae” the woman thought as she gazed over the side of the boat. “Even though sometimes I crawl inside some of the logs I find in the woods, I have never seen creatures as strange as these.”
The shrimp squadron moved through a cloud of tiny white lozenges. At one end of each flake was a whirling wheel of hairs, causing the creatures to tilt in different directions as they drifted, like they had a memory of snow.
“There is another whole world in there, and my usual short attention only allows time enough for easy tasks—never enough time to see the truth of things hidden then revealed. Who would imagine that a shrimp on a dinner plate had a life as a jeweled soldier? This might be a place of misunderstanding for us humans. I need to do homework about the whole life of what lives in this place with me, instead of settling for the incomplete view that creatures are only valuable if they are useful to me.”
Minute transparent circles came into view, each with a cross of iridescent rainbow threads marking its four quarters, which fused into a tangle of lines that dangled below the slowly meandering balls.

         “Jellyfish babies,” the woman said. “I guess the spring sun is calling all kinds of food back into the water.”

"...time to see the truth of things hidden then revealed."
This reading is showing me how to be in trust
rather than doubt, how to see the whole life 
of what lives with me in the
seen and unseen worlds.
Turn around.  

Happy Autumn from the Journey Oracle

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The earth is a seed planting itself over and over.  

This quote from Craig Childs in his book: Apocalyptic Planet, had a profound impact on me as I finished this 8th dream painting in my series of  47 paintings based on the cards of the Journey Oracle. Each paintings is based on a question I received in a dream for each card, as I was creating the Oracle deck.  The question became part of the Oracle pronouncements, and these many years later, the question is the title of the painting.

Doesn't anyone else get to enjoy how they look?  
What about Annie Feather and Michael Root?

I do not know who Annie Feather and Michael Root are,
 but they might be these creatures.

What I do know is that, somehow, the dream question is about humans not being so arrogant in their sense of preciousness, or smallness, or bigness. It is about everyone, everything, wanting to enjoy who they are and how they are: tree, rock. flower, fruit, owl, fox.


Perhaps our sense of person-hood, of personality,
 is like the doll forms scattered about.  

We think we are significant in our responsibility for repairing what we have done to this good earth without considering how this self-assigned responsibility isolates us from all that is.  When we think we are outside, it is easy to not look inside the other-than-human experience for parallel consciousness and emotion.

But we are always being watched.  
We are always being invited to the feast.  

The earth is a seed planting itself over and over.  We are not the gardeners.  We are no benevolent being leaving the house every morning with a watering can and a trowel to dig up weeds, wiping our brows midday to marvel at our handiwork.  Instead, we are within the seed itself.  We are part of its cells and the hardness of its coat, our place not to marvel at the futility and smallness of ourselves but to keep life moving.  What we do now, from the inside, determines the vigor of that seed, how long it might live and plant itself again.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

visits from a raven

This story about visits from a raven begins with a stray cat.  She came to our back door young, pregnant, and very outspoken about choosing us to be her new humans.  A year later we were living with three cats, what Ajahn Sona, the Abbot of Birken Monastery calls, "those lovable little serial killers."

More years later, I am wondering what to do with the frequent mouse bodies that are deposited on the back porch or along the path to the cat door.  I am happy not to live intimately with mice, but still, some good could come from the nightly carnage.  So I decide to put the dead mice outside the fence atop a large stump, in hopes other creatures might benefit.  A raven comes.  Regularly.

 I am careful not to create a "human schedule" of food; a mouse appears on the stump if one appears on the porch.  Still, over the months the raven and I develop a relationship.  At one point, after the unfortunate death of a squirrel, the raven leaves one surgically severed hind leg and the tail, in perfect alignment, at the base of the cedar tree just outside my window where he/she often lands.

A month ago I was looking for images to paint on a new frame drum.  The reverse was tied with the star of the 9-fold Goddess,  and the drum's face was a fascinating pattern of light and shade.

I think I see a raven beak and one eye.  Of course.  The raven is inspiring me.  I will ask it to guide me.  (Raven lesson #1: be careful of this request from a trickster.)

I begin painting with raw earth pigments, but the image will not clearly present itself.  At one point I must decide between painting the figure I see crouched under the bird's right wing, or the left foot, which would conflict with the figure.  I say aloud, "Let the raven decide" and at that moment my paint brush catches on the lip of the water jar which when spilling knocks over the film case of cobalt blue  pigment, which cascades over the white bedspread.  Trying to catch the water jar I drop the paintbrush loaded with black iron oxide pigment, which lands on the faint image of the foot.  Decision made. (Raven lesson #2: do not paint with raw earth pigments while sitting on a white bedspread.)

I struggle with finding the left wing and finally settle on a line, only to discover it is too high and only indicates the upper layer of feathers.  Raw earth pigments are especially tricky because although they apply like coloured dust, they create an indelible  tattoo when the pigment interacts with the keratin in the outer layer of the skin. Once the mark is made it is there.  I see the proper edge of the wing further down.  Only solution is to add more of the cobalt pigment which was already used to indicate the first edge.  (Raven lesson #3: there are no mistakes so just celebrate the moment.)

The addition of cobalt becomes the theme that unifies the entire image.

But what about the eye?  I lived with two and then one Cockatiel for 28 years, and I know that birds' eyes are positioned to see from the side of the head, not the front.  But this eye insisted on looking out.  Not at me, and not away, but out toward something ahead.  The gaze very wise, a little bit sad. 
And this became the best lesson of all.  A relationship with raven is not only or even mostly a mirror for receiving insight about my life, it is about looking out together at what we share: a love of place on this good earth.

This new raven drum is offered for sale in my Etsy webstore, and can be heard being played with a felted drumstick on this youtube link.  Good voice.  Thanks for the teaching.