After spending the last year immersed in the world of academics and very little rest, I decided that when I graduated, Jay and I needed to get away. Far away from the everyday hustle and bustle of our lives here in southeast Texas. We needed a break, some fresh air, a little perspective and an opportunity to reconnect with our families and the divine in nature. So we planned to make our way back to the west coast for a 2 week vacation that consisted of spending time with family, friends and the great outdoors. It proved to be exactly what we needed.
We flew into Orange County California and on the flight we were giddy to see the peaks of mountains reaching into the sky. Silly, right? It felt like seeing an old friend after a long time and it was a welcomed sight. Jay seemed to be as excited about it as I was, so that was funny and secretly made me happy to see him feeling the same things I was. We were like little kids flying over the mountains with giant Cheshire cat smiles on our faces. It was hovering over these first peaks that I started to really feel the presence of the divine greeting me and welcoming back home to California. I’m not sure what it is about the Pacific Northwest… if it’s just the familiarity, the history I have there or simply the beauty of the landscape, but being there always makes me feel a concentrated surge of spiritual nourishment. Like water on a hot summer day it quenches my thirst in a way unlike any other place.
Once we arrived in Orange County we picked up our luggage, rented our car and drove to my Dad’s place in Corona. The traffic on the way there was ridiculous and quickly we remembered that the good always comes with a little bad. Even though the majority of the drive isn’t particularly lovely headed from Santa Ana to Corona, the climb over the grapevine was an opportunity for us to soak in the fact that we were really there! When we arrived at Dad’s place in Corona we were greeted with enthusiasm, hugs and an invitation to Indian cuisine! Yum! We spent a few days spending some quality time together. I got to visit with my Grandma and talked about art, family history and just enjoyed her comforting subtle presence and her dry sense of humor. She didn’t disappoint!
After our visit with Dad we headed up north to San Francisco. The place where we met… the place where we grew up. It was another welcomed change of pace. Despite dealing with some potentially disconcerting news regarding his moms cancer prognosis, we managed to find a few moments to enjoy our time in San Francisco. One afternoon we spent time in Crissy Field with a friend from high school and had lunch together. Watching the fog roll in across the Golden Gate bridge brought on a sensation of being wrapped up by the divine. I think I may have been looking for a sign that things were going to be okay with Jay’s mom, but the divine did not disappoint in revealing them just when I needed them. We enjoyed the sunshine, the company, the cool ocean breeze and the best deli sandwiches in the Marina district from Lucca Deli. Walking familiar streets, shopping at old haunts and seeing the faces of cherished loved ones filled me with a sense of wholeness and rejuvenation in a big way. It was a good visit and we both left there feeling like we had achieved the sense of connection to our family, our friends and the divine in the place we both hold so close to our hearts.
From San Francisco we made our way up to Southern Oregon. The drive up is so beautiful. Even though I’ve driven it probably a thousand times I never tire of the bounty that nature provides in that area. It’s so green and lush with the fullness of evergreen forests and groves. The entire way up I found myself drinking in the vision of the treetops, mountain sides and valleys. I held them in my thoughts and made space for contemplation. I reached out to the divine the whole way up and offered up prayers of thanks and gratitude. From the sunlight peeking through the trees to the hawks flying beside our car to reaching that first point where Mount Shasta was visible I felt the presence of the Goddess. Usually with a long drive your thoughts are focused on just finally arriving, but much like life truly is… this trip wasn’t about the destination, it was about the journey. I made every effort to savor the drive, our conversations and every part of reconnection and rejuvenation we started our vacation seeking. We sang songs out loud, joked as we usually do and enjoyed the space. Jay couldn’t help, but tease me about acting like a complete tourist… I took a lot of photos. I guess I just wanted to make sure that I was able to document the time we spent together on this little adventure.
We took turns driving and when it was his turn to ride shotgun he spent a lot of time looking out of the window and resting. I know that he had a lot on his mind with his concerns regarding his mom so I just kept quiet and let him have some peace and time to relax. As much as the time we spent “doing” something helped deepen our connection to each other, our families, our friends and the divine… the time when we weren’t doing anything, but driving seemed to satiate our spirits in a different, but equally vital way. Many times I looked over to see his smiling face and knew with a deep sense of certainty that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. In those moments my connection to the divine felt even more palpable and alive. When you are immersed in routine, daily tasks and the ritual hum drum of daily life it’s not nearly as easy to find, feel or see that clarity. So I was thankful for that.
We stayed with my Aunt & Uncle in southern Oregon, which was a smart move. They live out in the country on a mountainside. Talk about quiet serenity. The creek running through the back part of the property, the redheaded woodpecker visitors and the explosion of stars in the night sky away from the city lights met and exceeded our expectation of a calm, drama-free and quiet place to just be. Our second day there Uncle Paul, Jay and I headed to a favorite swimming hole and he was pretty amazed at how beautiful it was right there in town. We took advantage of the alligator-free, crystal clear water and took a dip despite how cold the water was. A few minutes to adjust and it was fantastic! We stayed a few hours enjoying the quiet cove, the cool water and the quiet buzz of nature. Unfortunately the skies weren’t clear due to the fires in Glendale, Oregon just north of my Aunt & Uncles home … but even with the haze-filled sky Jay couldn’t stop gushing about how much he loved the area, the scenery, the sense he got about the community and the overall vibe of where we were. The more we talked about our future, the more we realized that we belong out there among the trees, the clear rivers and star filled skies of southern Oregon. As the days went by we started to think that maybe we had some reevaluating to do about what we need to be happy. Sure, you can be happy where you are, but shouldn’t you seek out where you want to be? We think so.
My Aunt & Uncle provided a comfortable and non-intrusive space for us to call home base during our stay and reflect on all of the things you need to reflect on when you’re taking a break from “the real world”. Their company, my Aunt Tina’s delicious home-cooked meals and the free reign of their property was amazing. It was the first time Jay had met my Aunt Tina & Uncle Paul and my first time seeing them in nearly 8 years. There are certain kindred spirits in this life that no matter the time, the distance or the changes life throws at you… when you are back together in the same space, life carries on like you were never apart. That was my experience with my Aunt Tina & Uncle Paul. We caught up on our lives, talked about our plans for the future, hung around playing games and did a bit of adventure seeking together. It was the perfect balance of rest and activity.
During our adventures we went to the Redwood Forest in Klamath Falls. We hiked for probably close to an hour and stopped several times to listen to the audio tour. There were some bizarre trees growing in all different manners. Redwoods are so resilient, they can grow sideways and uprooted and on the side of cliffs. Those great big trees teach an important lesson about staying power, resilience and silence. They stand guardian watching on the coast in all their majesty. Standing among them is a humbling experience… it makes you realize just how little the space is that you personally take up on this planet. Even more humbling was the opportunity to see what they see from the tops of their canopy. I didn’t anticipate facing my fear of heights during my vacation, but my desire to see the top of the trees outweighed my fear. So, I went for it. I’m one of those people who gets the racing thoughts when fear creeps in… and being hundreds of feet in the air is a sure-fire way to feel vulnerable when you are petrified of heights. I kept trying to tell myself to “JUST LOOK AT THE VIEW”… “LOOK AT THE TREES”… “LOOK AT THE BEAUTY” and of course “Don’t think about crashing to your death. This lift is safe. You’re okay. It’ll be worth it when we get to the top.” All this internal dialogue going on was doing very little for me. The racing thoughts kept racing. Finally I had the presence of mind to just close my eyes, take a deep breath, say a little prayer and LET GO. A feeling of complete calm washed over me almost immediately.
The rest of the ride I spent taking photos, watching the squirrels play high in the trees and taking in how awesome what I was doing was. I was so high up in the sky dangling from a little lift and life was pretty good. I wasn’t willing to let fear ruin the experience and I’m glad I didn’t. When we got to the top of the tree lift my reward was a bird’s eye view. Despite the fog, we were able to see the ocean on one side and massive osprey nest on the other side. I stood there just taking in the panoramic view. It was pretty awesome. I couldn’t believe how sweet the air was that high up. My lungs filled and I imagined blowing out every bit of anxiety and shred of fear that I had been feeling. Getting up was one thing… but now I had to ride the lift again to get back down. My only other option was a 1.5 mile hike recommended for advanced hikers that included extremely steep inclines to navigate. Call me crazy, but I was more willing to risk safety in the lift again than I was to try my hand at advanced hiking down a steep cliff.
Just before heading back down Aunt Tina and I decided to make a pit stop at the ladies room. On my way back towards the lift I was giving myself the pep talk and out of the corner of my eye something caught my attention…
Who needs pep talks when the Goddess puts a symbol of feminine energy, patience and the weaver of destiny right in their path. Not this girl. I took this beautiful web as a sign to take comfort in her presence and to rely on my own internal strength as a woman and a daughter of the Goddess. No more fear and the ride down I was cool as a cucumber. For some reason I have never feared spiders. Even as a child I can remember allowing wolf spiders to take up residence in my room from time to time. I never squished them. Something about them seems sacred and worthy of respect, so I give them that.
Our trip to California & Oregon brought Jay and I closer together. It also gave me the peace of mind and serenity I was hoping for when we left on our adventure. It was the perfect escape from the sweltering humidity of southeast Texas and a great transition from my life as a student towards my new life as a registered nurse. Even doing simple things I felt like I had the time to see the magick in all that was around me. I took the time to be present and grounded in my surroundings. It was a welcomed change of pace and something I hope to do more often in my every day life. Life gets busy and you forget to do the little things that make all the difference. I’m going to try to stop what I’m doing and take that time. It really is it’s own reward. In the coming months I hope to seek out mini-adventures for Jay and I to fill our cups with spiritual nourishment and rejuvenate from the mundane world. We don’t need to “get away” for that though… we just need to shift our focus. Work on the core instead of seeking out fulfillment somewhere else. We are all we need. This trip made me realize that in a big way. Life is truly what you make of it… no matter where you are. My challenge to you is to not wait to take a 2 week vacation… take 10 minutes in the morning or an hour in the evening… take an afternoon or a weekend for yourself or for you and your partner to reconnect to what is sacred. Find some place where you can be alone with the divine in nature. You will thank yourself for taking the time and your every day life focus will shift from seeking the divine outside of the mundane to seeking the divine within. Do it! You’ll be grateful you did. I know I am.
The very thought of talking to or communing with plant spirits might seem strange, odd or downright delusional to the average person. Fortunately, I don’t consider Pagans, occultists and witches “average”, not by any stretch of the imagination. Our very existence flies in the face of average, mundane and status quo. Most of us live a life that is immersed in magic, beauty and mystery. We live for those moments of connection… to each other, to the divine and to other living beings.
This weekend I attended the Houston Pagan Conference hosted by Blackberry Circle. The featured speaker was Raven Grimassi and he spoke a lot about communing with plant spirits. How to do it, why to do it and what you can expect if you do it. I was mesmerized by the idea of being that in touch with plants to have them actually appear to me in spirit form. How cool would that be?! He told us a story about getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and returning to his bed in a bit of a sleepy stupor. There he found 2 mandrake spirits about mid-calf high, standing next to his bed looking up at him. His initial thought was “I don’t remember leaving my boots here.” and as he rubbed the sleepiness from his eyes and saw their little faces he said all he could muster was a weak “Hello.” as he climbed into bed. He jokingly said that when plant spirits appear to you at 3am for the first time “Hello” is about the only thing you can get to come out. He went on to talk about them disappearing and reappearing at the foot of his bed in full human size. They started to dance, shuffle and sway. Initially he thought “This is really creepy.”, but after a few moments of watching them what seemed creepy soon became beautiful to him. Their dancing and swaying was calming and as they carried out their little routine he started to receive a message from them. He had wondered why they appeared and they told him telepathically and given him a sense of calm. Just as quickly as they had appeared, they disappeared leaving him with the message they wanted him to have. It was a lovely story… one that stood out for me.
I’ve never had a mandrake plant spirit appear to me to dance and convey messages, but I have felt a sense of connection and knowing
with plants and trees. I have felt an overwhelming wash of calm come over me in certain places. I have felt a sense of being remembered in others. Some of my earliest memories of feeling connected to the divine, to nature and to my authentic self have not been in the presence of other people, but in the presence of the giant redwoods in Muir woods, under the wispy branches of the willow tree in my Gram’s backyard and lying on the soft needles of the pines with nothing but earth below me and sky above me. Those moments are the ones I often try to recapture in my current surroundings. They brought me peace, serenity and a greater sense of self.
So what does any of this mean to you? Well, it means that if you want to feel close to the divine, find a way to connect to the life around you whether big or small. Don’t be afraid to stand barefooted in the grass or to put your hands in the soil. Lie on the damp ground and listen to the hum and chatter of nature around you. Be open and willing to accept even the most unexpected messenger. Whether that’s a talkative little robin or a dancing mandrake… this life you’ve chosen (or that may have chosen you) isn’t meant to be ordinary. Magic doesn’t reside among the ordinary… it’s the unbridled possibility of what if’s in this world that makes the life of a witch extraordinary. So don’t be afraid to truly live it out loud.
The next time you are tending to your herb garden, rose bushes or house plants… whisper to them that you are a witch and that you mean them no harm. Tell them that you are thankful for all of the amazing things they are capable of. Name their uses and properties one by one. Touch them, praise them and nurture them. You will be amazed at the ways in which they will communicate with you and how much closer to the spirit of the land you find yourself.
“I challenge you, by Mystery and by Majick, to become the person you were meant to be –
to cherish the sacred earth –
to honor the blowing winds –
to nourish the healing fire –
to drink deeply of the living waters.
I challenge you to live Life more fully –
to awaken to the infinite possibilities around you –
to know that you are the only limiting factor in your life.
I challenge you to free yourself from both nation and race –
to recognize all humans as your family –
to know that war is not the answer.
I challenge you to become more aware of the other-than-human beings –
to share habitat and nourishment with them –
to acknowledge them as your teachers.
I challenge you to truly view this planet Earth as a living organism –
to understand that She is divine, as are all living things –
to find your purpose in relation to Her’s.
In time to come there will be darkness and dissolution,
There will be raging anger, pain, and deprivation,
There will be loss and there will be violent death.
I challenge you to continue in your chosen path, living joyously.
Be deaf to the words of the unawakened;
lest they give you unease.
Let not fear immobilize you,
nor despair make you weak,
For the Eternal Ones are with you, now and forevermore.”
Elspeth of Haven – 2004
I found this piece of prose online recently and it resonated with me in such a way that I felt it needed to be shared with others. Sometimes it only takes a tiny spark to kindle the fire in someone elses heart. One tiny ember to do what they already know they are meant to do, but for some reason can’t find the motivation to do it. Or there is always an excuse as to why they haven’t started… or “maybe tomorrow” goes on for days, weeks or months. Well, I challenge you to read these words and to truly understand the meaning of them. Let today be the last day that you say “maybe tomorrow” & start living your path. If we talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, we are not living our path. There is a difference between studying a path and living one… the choice is yours, which do you plan to do?