Book Review: Braiding Sweetgrass

I love this book.

Unexpectedly, I received this book as a gift. A new friend was telling me about it. She was floating and swirling with emotion and passion as she spoke of this book I was so intrigued. I put it on my mental list of “get this book and read it”. What is truly amazing that although RF and I are new friends, she knew me well enough to realize my TBR pile is LONG. We are kindred spirits in that sometimes you read a book and you NEED to talk about it. You NEED to share it and know that it is wrapping up your loved ones in its wisdom and imagination. We saw each other on a retreat in April when she was gushing over this book. In May she presented me with the book and I was overjoyed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect and found myself pulled into this book with self examining interest. Although it isn’t a book about self healing and change, it is exactly was it became. I appreciate the opportunity to look deeply into my own practice of reciprocity and my relationship with our natural world. I discovered a liberation in sorts and began to embrace gratitude on a whole new level. “Braiding Sweetgrass” has begun to assist me in understanding my role in global harmony and change.

 

Approaching the New Year

The Post Christmas Pre New year window has always been a stressful time for me. I noticed an increase in relief when I let go of making plans for New Year Eve’s festivities. The year I decided that I didn’t need to be somewhere special or with someone special in order to conjure up good things to come was the year that I began to find some peace with this emotionally charged time of the year.

This year I was hoping to relax and disconnect from everything that is swirling in my mind a million miles an hour. That however is not in the Universe’s plan. I was silly to think that disconnection would ever be in the Universe’s Plan for me. Christmas Day brought me what felt like endless waves of emotional discomfort, being rushed, ignored, and angry. I tried to articulate my feelings, send up the flares that I was in need of some help to process. Looking back I realize my mistake was in looking to someone else to help me through instead of spending the time to look within and find my answers and strength.

Christmas night I walked alone. I walked and walked. I sat and watched the water and the moon. I listened. I sat still and listened to my heart. I am taking time now to seek comfort within myself. I am taking time to allow myself to work through what is unfolding. This process may seem trivial to others. I am on a journey. I know this.  I have spent a lot of time recently trying to build a communities,  teams of emotional support and guidance. I have poured myself into relationships and I am feeling alone and exhausted from the efforts. I am looking around and realizing that I am going to redirect my energy into my own body and mind and build that community.

I am engaging in my morning ritual of meditation, yoga, and prayer. I was wavering on this practice, but now I feel peaceful and committed to my practice. Two days ago I went outside and practiced in the rain. As it misted over my skin and I stood in warrior, I felt a voice call out “Power and Motivation.” It became a mantra through every asana and breath. Power and Motivation will thrust me into the day and guide me. The next morning I sat and sank into Dirgha breath as the wind blew the large leaves around me. It whispered “Open and be Willing.” I unfolded and allowed my self to float in love with what was and what is to come.  This morning I sat. I breathed. I moved when an impulse took me. I allowed my body to go wherever it was driven. I felt nothing. I breathed and allowed my impulse to move me. I did this not planning out my sequence or even opening my eyes. I dropped into someplace of purity between breaths, a place of prayer. And then it came, the voice inside asked me to purge. To let go. I felt another whisper reminding me not control what that means but allow. I took a deep breath and agreed to let go today. Then my body said step forward, step out of that puddle and into New.

I am listening. I am creating. I am breathing. I am letting go.

Stepping out of the puddle into New.

Saucha part 1

I don’t really want to take up residence in the office at work. Although I am always happy to take on projects, help out, exceed expectations. I don’t like having a desk at which I might sit for hours at end. This week it was clear that I am needed in the office and hiding is not an option.

So I am taking my yoga training off the mat and realizing that I am going to clean the space thoroughly. I am getting furniture down to minimum and making it an environment that is more conducive to thought, productivity and mindfulness. I had the custodians throw away broken or old furniture. I am reorganizing files and looking forward to mopping and disinfecting.

Did I just say looking forward to mopping and disinfecting?!

 

Things Change

I am sitting outside on my deck getting some much deserved reading and relaxing done. The glorious babble of our river lulls me into quiet gratitude and joy. As I am looking up from my pages, I notice a few dried leaves cascading to the grass from the canopy above.

It is happening. Already. I feel the pang of wanting summer to last forever. I feel the need to capture my time in a jar with fireflies and laughter. I hear a soft cry hanging on to the wind and realize it came from me.

Things change. Life moves.

In that moment I remind myself of the apple picking to come and the amazing crisp bite to the air. I think of the cozy blankets cuddles and the warm cider kissing my lips. I allow myself to feel excited for the squeals of delight at our first snow. I welcome the thoughts of sledding, baking, and wrapping presents. This delight gives way to seeds and garden plans. Then onto another splash in the river and harvest in the sun.

Change can be so thrilling when I see it through a lens of joy. Knowing that it can be challenging and sometimes difficult. Yet I greet it with compassion and kindness for all the wonder it continues to bring.

Friday Surprise

I am not even sure exactly how I feel about this yet…I am putting this down in a post so I make sure to come back to this and remember this moment. I work in a Title I inner city school and wore this shirt to work. I have worn it before. However, today, a colleague told me to go home and change my shirt. They said it “should say all lives matter in schools.” I was surprised given the location and situation that we are in everyday, that someone I work with would even question or pause on this movement. At first I thought they were trying to joke with me. I let the comment hang out there and let them see that I believe in this movement. This is not a message of Black Lives Matter more than anyone else…but they matter just as much as everyone else and you CANNOT work where I work and possibly think that things are equal. I know I have much more to say on this but need to get back to work. Wow. (not to mention the ONLY person who can tell me to go home and change my shirt is…ME.)IMG_7856

Town Pool

July 2017!

A couple of days ago, we had a wonderful day spent at the Town Pool near my mother’s house. We are visiting for a a couple of weeks and sometimes we trek over to the town pool rather than spend the whole day at home in my mom’s pool. The town pool has diving boards, a sprinkler park, and water slides. It is a really nice facility and the population who uses it is diverse. It has a very laid back atmosphere while still upholding top notch safety regulations.

While we were there, a little girl was wading in the water near us. My mother and I were in the kiddie section with my little guy watching my daughter go down the water slides. This little girl was bobbing around and hanging on the ropes looking a little lost or bored. Eventually she spoke to my mother and told her that she didn’t really know how to swim. My mom had a lovely chat and while I was helping my 2 year old float and kick, my mom convinced this girl to paddle around and gain a wee bit of confidence. It was enough to ignite some life into her smile and also glue her to our family for the day. Shortly after this, it seemed every where we turned, there she was. My daughter played with her and swam, but this little girl really didn’t know how to do much but float and dunk her head under water. They had a hard time choosing what to do because my daughter, although a year younger than this girl, is a strong swimmer. The girl’s mother came over at one point wading through the water only to inform the girl that she was going to go over to the deep pools with a friend and she should just have my mom and I look after her. I was stunned. The woman made no attempt to even introduce herself to us or even speak to us, but hooked her daughter to us.

We did look after her. We included her into our conversations and played in the water. However, when it was time to get out to have lunch, I felt torn. I wanted to invite the girl to our table and blankets to eat. But something about it felt strange. I do this a lot. I take on other people’s stuff, or even other people without thought or question. However, I have committed myself to taking on MYSELF more than others and this felt in violation of that concept. I am grateful for my ability to pause and get lost in thought. It allowed the Universe to step in to guide me. The little girl waved and made her way through the sea of swimmers to find her family. I saw her across the pool deck seated slight away from the swarm of family surrounding bags of snacks and accessories. She waved again. I waved back. Moving forward and touched by an invisible strand of human connection. I am reminded that not everything NEEDS to be defined, solved, or analyzed.

Morning Practice

April 29 – I was convinced last night that I would be up before the sun and ready to approach the day. I had been waking so early recently that I figured it would be like all the others. However, I slept right up to my alarm and even then was not enthusiastic to peel myself off the sheets. I stumbled my way to work and parked my car. Sitting there I was reminded that in order to embrace this life and steer myself in a direction toward my goals and dreams, I would need to break habits of self doubt and negative energy.

I got out of my car and before I grabbed my bags or did anything else, I breathed. Several enormous gulps of fresh Spring air entered my body. I was then inspired to give the day some Sun Breaths right there in the parking lot. I said Yes to the day and brought myself into the light.

I remembered a recent commitment I made that involves a daily gesture of self care, self love, and a moment to deepen my practice. I put all my bags and work aside. Went to a locker and unrolled a yoga mat. In the new sun of this new day I greeted it with some gentle yoga.  I spent some time examining my balance and where I am placing weight through my feet on the mat. It was liberating to reclaim work space as a place of love, healing, and spiritual practice.

And then there were 5

 

I am at work doing my best to be present and focused on what is at hand. This is no small feat given that I am getting continuous updates from home as to the comings and goings of The Foxes. It is so amazing and I am grateful for the diversion. I got a lovely note letting me know there are five babies. We now have confirmed visual on five babies. I was giddy with excitement.

And then there was a short wave of panic. Five? Wait, how many babies do foxes have? So I looked it up and found out that Red Foxes tend to have 1-10 kits at a time…then I screamed. Ten?! Oh my goodness, can we handle ten little foxes soon to be big foxes running all around our hill? I breathed and gave over to the Universe knowing it’s all going be alright. The Foxes are here and bringing joy. That’s where I will stay.

Matt and I are constantly chuckling now and empathizing for that Mama Fox. Every time we see those wee ones pop out and my wee ones go running up the steps to see them, the foxes zip back into their holes. We giggle but apologize to that Mama who has probably been out hunting all night for them and would simply like five minutes to nap or do whatever and she can’t get it. We know. We know all too well.

Wednesday Morning Meditation

May 8 – We only had 20 minutes to discover our stillness and find the light within ourselves. We began from a standing spiraling energy and gently took each breath to settle and go inside. We took care of our bodies. We took care of our hearts. I am so blessed to have this opportunity and doing my best to take it every time.

Tadasana and Utkatasana brought us swiftly into concentrated power. I am so proud to look out at the room full of young people taking the journey to be healthier and more mindful. It is in these moments of sustaining postures that I am no longer agitated by discomfort. I am finding ways to allow it to be there while also being appreciative that I can experience this. I enjoy reminding my students that they have control over their experience and can adjust accordingly. It is liberating.

Cobra today was transformative. We focused more on our alignment and less on how high we lifted and it became a new experience. I am hoping to show them that pushing through sometimes leaves you empty. That in yoga it is important to explore the stretch and sensation in the small movements and adjustments. My students took the time to allow their bodies to gradually rise and stayed present to what slight shifts could reveal.

When is came time for our closing mediation I encouraged my students to focus on recognizing their inner strength and power. With every inhale we invited thoughts of what we most want to become. We inhaled the strength and power we wish to possess. With every exhale we expanded and rejoiced that we are already what we wish to become. We celebrate the path and continue the cycle. I saw the light beam out from every face in front of me. These kids shine. Be the light.

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Magic of Foxes

Not too long ago, we noticed a large dirt mound on our hill. It had not been there before and it was strange how it seem to simply appear. My husband climbed over the railing of our steps to take a closer look. He reported back that it was a large hole, like a den some animal has built.

Then the most amazing transformation happened to our household this week. An adorable family of foxes emerged. From what we have seen there are four babies. They tumble around the woods and race around with their lunches hanging out of their mouths. It is exciting and soothing all at once. Everyone in our family is so in love it is invigorating. Yesterday we spent most of the day watching them race around and watch us watching them. It is wonderful what they have released in us. I am so grateful for this new bit of life and joy in our world.

My daughter desperately wanted a fox from Santa Claus. A real fox she could have as a pet. We convinced her that it would not and could not happen. She kept believing that a fox would come to her. So this experience has caused a sense of hope and universal connection for us all. She believes they are there because of her wish.

We have been doing research and learning about foxes. We have told the children that we are going to do our best to live in harmony with the fox family. We are happy to learn that they will help limit the rodent and tick population as both of these felt out of control. Maybe the Universe answered my pleas for help on both accounts. The foxes are here and we welcome them with open hearts to our River Cottage.