Monday, March 23, 2009

This land is starting to take hold of me.  As much as I long for the lushness of Pennsylvania, I think I’m starting to bond with this land too.  Lately I’ve been feeling an increasingly strong need to get out of this town, where nature has been too domesticated.  I see myself living in a little cabin amid the rolling wild prairie, with its sagebrush and yucca, coyotes and pronghorn, under the vast skies.
I want to be able to set my bare feet on the wildness and to feel it flow through me, and to learn from it.  And I need privacy that town life can’t give me.  It’s such a deep, aching need, much like what I felt in Longmont when suburbia was threatening to do me in.  I want to understand this ecosystem and participate in it.  I want to know the plants and the animals and bugs and to feel the energy of the land.

I feel like I’m turning a corner and entering some new phase of my life.  I’m about to enter (or have entered?) the second half of life, so it seems right that this is a time of transition.

Mentally and emotionally I’ve already moved into the next phase.  I understand that my life will only be meaningful if I pass on what I’ve learned.  It makes little sense to accrue knowledge if you aren’t going to share and apply it.  I’ll have to become a teacher as well as a learner.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Every night I dream about plants and herbs and preparing foods, it seems.  Last night I was making brown rice syrup, but in some beautiful, tribal, traditional setting.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it in real life because someone contacted me recently on the internet about a post I made two years ago where I was trying to figure out the process.  Last weekend I managed to create a syrup but it had a horrible bitter aftertaste.  I will try a new batch in a few days when I get more barley sprouted (barley sprouts provide the necessary enzymes to break the starches down into sugars).  The dream leaves me with the feeling that what I’m doing is important.  I’m trying to re-invent the wheel, basically—trying to rediscover traditional knowledge that, while it hasn’t actually been lost, is not readily available. It feels important, in this instance, not for cultural reasons but for personal reasons.  What I sense is that this process of discovery is teaching me things that are important to my development right now.

There have been a lot of interesting synchronicities in my life recently.  On Tuesday I was thinking about animal allies, and trying to figure out what my greatest animal ally would be, if I actually had one.  I know it would be one of these four: black bear, mountain lion, great horned owl, or eagle.  All four of those have figured into my life in various significant ways.

I was thinking about the eagle and how I hadn’t seen one this year.  The thought flashed that if this was my ally, I might see one in the next few days.

Driving home on Wednesday, Collin and I were crossing on the overpass just out of Brighton, about to get on the interstate.  Collin said, “Ooh look, Mom, a bald eagle!”  There it was, wheeling around on the currents created by the cars and trucks whooshing through the underpass.  It was practically at eye-level to us, just right off the north side of the overpass.

On the drive in I had seen two dead hawks along the side of the road and thought it was really odd—I don’t remember ever seeing hawk roadkill, let alone two.  It got my attention and made me think about the ally question again.  I guess it was a nudge to remain alert.  But actually, if Collin hadn’t been with me, I wouldn’t have spotted the eagle.  I had a splitting headache and was only focused on getting home.  So thankfully he was there and alert!

Birds seem important, symbolically, these days in the way in which they seem to bring earth and sky together.  And the weird way my hands morph into hawk or eagle wings and I see a hawk or eagle flash before my reflection in the mirror sometimes.  There definitely seems to be something I’m meant to learn from these birds.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My intuition tells me I’m transitioning into a new phase of learning. I can’t quite articulate it yet, but it feels like the things I’m being taught bear some resemblance to a shamanic path.  I think that as we try to uncover our full humanness it’s inevitable that we will be brought back to a connection with the land and with nature.  And when we have that connection we’re able to fuse with the matrix and become more than an individual ego, and when we’re more than ego, creation can flow through us and seemingly “miraculous” things can happen.  Shamans and healers are people who can shift into that higher form of being—they fuse with the matrix.  The teachings I’m receiving seem to be leading me along a similar path.

In January I had a dream which I wrote down elsewhere.  It keeps coming back to mind so I figure I should probably jot it down here.

I was with a group of people crossing a mountain.  We had been told by this wise, elder, shaman-type man before the start of our journey that we needed to find a particular pass through the mountain and only take that.  But as we searched for the pass (the shaman wasn’t with us) several of the men became frustrated and began suggesting alternate routes over the mountain. Eventually we found the pass and the shaman was there waiting for us.  He was rebuking the men and insisting that this was the only way we should go.  It was implied that it might be okay for others to take different routes, but for us—to achieve our mission, whatever that was—this was the only way.  The mountains were very tall, rocky, snow-covered and treacherous-looking anyway, under very ominous skies.  And the pass was more of a passage. I’m not sure if it was a deep, deep fissure in the mountain or an actual tunnel—it seemed like a tunnel.  It was a narrow, well-lit passage, about two feet wide with a sandy or dirt floor, sloping downhill.  It seemed extremely ancient.  Over time, logs had been brought in and placed as steps to make the descent easier.

We came out into a room in the rocks. There were all sorts of strange botanical items available.  I was intrigued by some exotic nut-type things that sort of resembled tiny pinecones.  They were about ½ inch to ¾ inch long and nubby all over.  I was told that if eaten in large quantities they would induce visions and hallucinations, but in small quantities they were just a highly nutritious and tasty snack.  I was going to take a small bag with me but I marveled that the US would allow them into the country given their mind-altering properties. (I got the sense that we were in another part of the world).  Then someone was displaying this green jelly—a big long glob was spread out on a table-like rock.  I was getting some of that too when they told me it was catnip jelly.  I thought, Oh no, I’ll be attracting every cat for miles around on my way back.  (As we had come down the passageway, we had passed a dog and two cats curled up together, shortly before we reached the room.)  The dream shifted then and Collin and I were moving back into the Longmont house.  I was working out front, which was very lush and abundant—everything was much, much nicer than in reality.  I realized that the energy there was actually exactly what I most needed to be immersed in at that time in order to accomplish what I needed to accomplish.

Parts of the meaning of this seem pretty obvious.  There is a particular path to knowledge, very ancient, and you must be willing to listen to the guidance you receive about the way.  It is actually a far less treacherous path to follow than the paths others take—it is well-protected.  Many have labored over the centuries to make the way easier for those who follow.

The foods I figured were metaphors, at least the nutty things were.  A few days before I had this dream I had written on my blog that a full immersion in voluntary simplicity was necessary to experience its transformative power.  Individual, discrete changes were good, but nothing like the transformation made possible by a radical immersion in simplicity.  That’s what the pinecones represented—a few of them were nutritious, just as a few changes in your lifestyle would be good for you, but a full dose led to something transformative.

The green jelly I couldn’t figure out, except for a weird synchronicity that just happened in the past few days.  At the library on Friday I took out a few books on herbalism, a topic that has always interested me but that’s really reawakening with force now that I’ve gotten back into growing things.  One book was called The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green.  I’ll have to get my own copy at some point because it teaches you how to make tinctures and distillations and there’s a myriad of other techniques for preparing herbal remedies that I haven’t seen compiled in one place before.  In the middle of the book he described how he was trying to make a glycerin-based suppository but something went awry and he ended up with a quivering mass of jello.  Eventually he tasted it and discovered it was good—the jello quality helped to diffuse any unpleasant tastes in the herbs.  He had invented herb jello.  On the next page he included a recipe for herb jello that uses regular, store-bought lime Jell-O—just the very color of my catnip jelly in the dream!

Then today I was reading another library book called Tales from the Medicine Trail: Tracking Down the Health Secrets of Shamans, Healers, Mystics, Yogis, and Other Healers, by Chris Kilham.  In the first section of the book, where the author was in the Amazonian rainforests of Brazil, I came across this:

On another occasion she and Nonata made a drink of buriti (Mauritia fluxuosa).  The fruits of the buriti palm looked a bit like small pine cones and were hard when picked.  But after a day or two soaking in water, the scaly outsides of the fruit were easily scraped off, revealing a pumpkin-orange starch.  Maria and Nonata mashed the fruits, mixed them with sugar and water, and strained the whole concoction, producing a rich, sweet, creamy drink.

While it didn’t say anything about this fruit having hallucinogenic properties I just find it odd to have come across a reference to something edible and pinecone-shaped so soon after having this dream.  (I looked Mauritia flexuosa up on the Internet and it did not look like the nubby little things in my dream.) Still, I consider it a synchronicity of sorts and I feel that I’m supposed to be learning about herbal and botanical things at this point.

Monday, March 16, 2009

When gas prices were first starting to skyrocket a year or two ago, I learned to slow down. Instead of 75 mph and above on the interstate I incrementally kept slowing down until I reached 55. And now, even though prices have dropped, I still stay between 55 and 65, except when I’m in danger of creating a traffic jam—and that almost never happens. This slowing down has taught me many things.

One thing it taught me is that speed is not healthy, not for me at least. And an arbitrarily set speed limit is not necessarily going to be a speed that’s right for me. I’ve noticed now that I go slower, that driving is rarely stressful anymore, as long as the weather’s fine. Icy roads or whiteouts are a different story, but most trips are very peaceful. When I do have to speed up for some reason, I notice how quickly my stress level rises and I realized that, when I used to drive fast, that was how I always felt. It was such an ever-present state back then that I could hardly notice it. But its absence is very noticeable, and very much relished. Seventy-five or eight-five was just way too fast for me.

When we move from place to place we move through shifting energies. I’ve been learning for the past few years just how sensitive I am to those energies and how important it is for me to acclimate to the energy of a new place. The latest piece of the puzzle is that I can’t move too quickly from place to place or my body can’t keep up with the shifting energies. Even fifty-five I feel is too fast, but I think I would get pulled over by the cops if I went any slower. It’s the best I can do. My goal, once Collin’s grown, is not to need to travel fast or far very often. When I move, I want to move at a human pace. To be present, I need to arrive with each footfall. I need to have my feet on the ground, to be supported by the earth, and to breathe in the local atmosphere. Moving so fast, as we do in this age, feels like an act of sacrilege. It disregards the earth and the skies and ourselves and our place in creation.

I need to take The Spell of the Sensuous back out of the library again because there was a place where Abrams talked about how various tribes placed knowledge in the landscape—what we would today call a mnemonic device, but which I feel is far more significant. It gets back to my idea that the land is our brain (more than brain, really--soul?). There was one story he told--I can’t remember it well--but the gist was he was traveling with an indigenous man who was telling stories connected with the landscape. He was behaving oddly it seemed, because he was talking unnaturally fast. Eventually they realized the stories were meant to be told at a walking pace as they passed the particular landmarks, but they were traveling in a truck going over 25. Once they realized this, they slowed down to a crawl and the man was able to slow down his storytelling.

There is knowledge held in the land that we will never have access to as long as we’re just quickly skimming over the surface.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I never set out to learn about weather, or the confluence of earth and sky. The subject matter seems weird, frankly. Which makes it so undeniable to me that I’m being taught, that guidance is always available to me, that the universe is alive and wise. It has knowledge it wants me to awaken to.

What I feel like I’m approaching is a metaphysics that has practical applications. You have your sky god religions, you have your earth based religions both old and new, but what’s most urgently needed is a stitching together of both parts of the matrix--a reintegration.

What do I know about earth and sky? Sky is about time, earth is about place. Sky is cerebral, rational and innovative in a technological way. Earth is grounded, creative in a generative way, nourishing. What kind of humans result from a balanced meeting of earth and sky influences? How would we live differently if the meeting of earth and sky in our hearts and our blood was balanced?

And how do we balance earth and sky? As individuals there’s little we can do about such imbalanced sky issues as pollution, but at the least we can make sure we take in enough sun energy. As for earth influences, there’s a lot we can do—everything we eat should have been allowed to express its true and full nature and only ingested when in its fullest glory of self expression. That means organic foods grown in living, mineralized soils. That means no caged or confined animals. It means eating animals who have been able to live natural lives, doing what is natural for its species to do. It may mean a return to more hunting and gathering, for only in truly wild foods can earth and sky be fully mingled. It means honoring the bird kingdom for its role in stitching together the matrix.

The foods we grow should be as close to ancestral form as possible. Plants that have been bred to mature much faster than nature intended or yield their fruits much more prolifically than nature intended will not be as nutritious and will not bring in enough earth.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I was awakened in the middle of the night a few nights ago by a dream that seemed important to remember. Even as I lay there, recalling it, I felt like I might not be recalling it accurately or remembering all of it. In fact all I really remember was seeing this small rectangular patch of wheat under a blue sky, accompanied by the knowledge that in order for earth and sky to meet, a plant must be able to express its true and full nature.
It sounds bizarre, I know. I’m not even sure what to make of it. Was the wheat field healthy (it sure looked healthy)? Was it stitching together earth and sky? Or was it so hybridized and weakened that it couldn’t participate fully? Can only ancestral wheat stitch together earth and sky or are there human-influenced wheats that are still able to express themselves healthily?
Beyond wheat, what are the implications of this? Does it go beyond plants to encompass all living things? If a human being is expressing his fullest potential, does he stitch together the matrix? A shaman who calls up the weather is doing just such a thing.
It’s such a weird concept. Why would earth and sky need to connect through living things? It does connect of course, in our blood and in the sap of plants. I suppose if our blood is deficient in one part of the matrix, like I suggested in my last entry, then earth and sky can’t fully meet.
In Secrets of the Soil, one guy said that our intestines are simply roots turned inside out. I had never looked at it that way, but it’s true. Just like microbial life attaches to the root hairs and makes nutrients more available to plant, so the beneficial microbes in our guts make nutrients more available to us.
And our lungs are like branches and leaves turned inside out, taking in the sky. And I read somewhere (probably in Secrets of the Soil) that blood and sap are almost identical substances. [Edited to say it’s actually hemoglobin (C55H72FeN4O5) and chlorophyll (C55H72MgN4O5) that are nearly identical.] We’re really nothing but mobile plants, and plants are stationary animals. Earth and sky meet in blood and sap.
So, how is a plant or animal supposed to express its fullest nature? My dream almost feels backwards—shouldn’t it have said that in order to express our fullest nature, earth and sky must meet within us? But it was the other way around.
I woke up this morning thinking about the way that people fight against their own natural way of manifesting. They’re always trying to be something they’re not. Changing straight hair to curly and curly to straight, red hair to blonde hair to brown hair to black. Getting facelifts and Botox and tummy tucks. Modulating personality with alcohol and drugs—both legal and illegal. Adopting false and shallow personas in their work and social lives.
What if everyone would just be who they are? There would still be just as much diversity and uniqueness, only it would be genuine. And somehow, according to my dream, that means that earth and sky could meet in all of us.