Category Archives: Nature

Chasing that hole in the sky.

“So, is this a religious thing, or do you just think it’s cool?”

We were sitting in the office at work, one of my managers and I, and I was making arrangements to leave a little early for the evening.  One of my co-workers had agreed to finish out my shift, and when my manager asked me what the occasion was, I’d told her that the wife and I were planning on driving straight through to Tennessee to secure our campsite for Monday’s eclipse.

She was adjusting my schedule in the system, shifting the little bars that represent my comings and goings, when she glanced up and asked the question.

Most of the folks in leadership at my job are at least somewhat aware of my spiritual leanings, if only in the abstract.  I’m the guy who asks off for unusual days on the calendar, and marks them down as religious observance – often followed by an unpronounceable series of letters:

Imbolc…Beltane…Lughnasadh…Samhain…,

I’d been planning for the Eclipse trip for a while, but I’d only been able to secure three days off from work, Sunday thru Tuesday, during which we’d make the twelve hour trip to our chosen spot along the path of totality, set up camp, watch the big show, enjoy some nature, break the whole thing down and drive back again.

As the trip grew closer, I’d been fussing with the itinerary, worried that our campsite might be over crowded, about traffic congestion in the area, about arriving so late in the afternoon that I’d be setting up camp in the dark.  And finally, with only a week to spare, I’d come to the conclusion that the best course of action was to just drive in over night and through the morning.

“So, is this a religious thing, or do you just think it’s cool?”

One of the other managers, who is fairly new and doesn’t know me as well, glanced over at us with a confused look on his face.

“No, I just think it’s cool.”

It was an honest answer, I thought.

I had no rituals planned, neither prayer nor sacrifice was on the agenda.

This was about a maybe once in a lifetime chance to watch the moon completely obscure the sun.  It was about science, and timing, and prepping to get the best photo I could with the equipment I have.  It was about being in the right place at the right time and seeing something remarkable and rare.

As the date of the eclipse grew closer, I’d seen more and more discussion groups showing up online, asking what were the proper traditions and ceremonies for pagans to observe during the eclipse.  And I’d sigh and shake my head.  Because there are none, not really.

An eclipse is too random, too site specific, and never repeating at the same locations at the same intervals.  The ancients didn’t leave us any eclipse related traditions, at least none that I’ve ever heard of, because there are none.

If spirits that live in the rocks and trees of central Tennessee decided they wanted to speak to me, certainly I would listen.  But maybe, if they could just hold that thought for another 2-minutes and 32-seconds…, that would be fantastic.

I was there for the sun, and the moon, and to see the thing that I’d missed too many times before.

I’d seen five eclipses already in my lifetime, all of them partial.

When I was a kid and the other children in my class had their shoebox viewers at the ready, I came to class with my fathers telescope, sun-lens equipped, and ready to share a first hand look with the rest of the class.

I’d watched that yellow disk slowly consumed by the interposing body of the moon, and I’d watched that shadow slip away again, its mission unfulfilled.  I’d felt the strange cooling in the air, listened to the hush of bird and insect, and watched as daylight faded into the semi-twilight that a partial eclipse can bring.  All that I was missing was that elusive moment of totality.

“No, I just think it’s cool.”

You’d think, after all these years and misadventures, that it wouldn’t still be so humbling to discover that I am an idiot.

Totality.

It was like nothing I have ever experienced and yet powerfully familiar.

Watching the last vestiges of the sun slip away through a pair of solar binoculars, I was visually disconnected from the world around me in the last few minutes before it hit.  And while I was expecting a long, gradual progression, I was totally unprepared to feel the sudden and repeated shifts in the world around me, as layer after layer of the sun’s atmosphere was blocked from view.

And when totality struck, I was unprepared for the noise it made.  There WAS a noise, although I couldn’t tell you if it came from outside or from within, but it sounded to me like something that the sound editor of an effects ridden disaster flick would be compelled to add, because you can’t just have the sun whiff out on screen, without some auditory cue – something between a deep throb and a gasp.

I was unprepared for the glowing white ring in the sky, for the deep red clouds on the horizon, and for the overwhelming feeling that this, THIS, is what the otherworld must feel like: detached and superimposed over our own world, always there just beneath the surface, and yet almost entirely out of reach.

Of course it was a “religious thing.”

Or no, not a religious thing at all.  A spiritual quest, maybe.

Because religion implies organization and planning and ritual, and try as you might, I just don’t think you can plan on an eclipse.  We do rituals to try and find our way, if only partially, into the otherworld of the gods and the ancestors.

But from time to time the Earth conducts a ritual of her own, and if we are very lucky, or very privileged, we may just stumble upon her and her sister moon, as they weave and dance in and around the fire of the sun.

And why else would so many of us travel so far to share in a single event, except in pilgrimage?  Each and every one of us, chasing that hole in the sky, and finding ourselves forever changed by what we have seen and felt.

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Filed under Nature, Religion, Science, Spiritual Journey, Traditions

Her Shadow in Wings

The sun, glaring down from a faded sky,
Finds me perched in a high place,
Hammer,
Nails,
Shingles,
Hot asphalt burning my knees,
As I kneel,
An unwitting pilgrim,
At the heel of a solar god.

Relief, unexpected and fleeting,
As shade passes over me,
Accompanied by a cool breeze,
My gaze drawn upward,
To a raven wheeling against the Sun,
The poetic impulse takes me,
And I am awash in a sudden flood of verse,
Until my balance wavers,
Dangerously…,

And the moment passes,
Eyes down and the sun on my back,
I return to the task at hand,
But a single phrase lingers still,
“Her shadow in wings.”

 

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Filed under Nature, Poetry, Spiritual Journey

Sacred Space: Sacristy

In every Catholic Church there is a special room, hidden somewhere out of sight, where the tools of the Mass are kept.  There is a rack where the priests vestments are hung, and cabinets which are used to store the various tools of the Mass: the paten and chalice, ciborium and censor.

In some churches, the Sacristy is equipped with a special sink which drains into the earth instead of into the sewers.  This sink is used to clean the vessels used during the rite of Communion, it being important that no part of the body or blood of their savior, having been washed away, should come into contact with human waste.  This is a part of the sacrament that no one sees, but is every bit as important as all the pomp and circumstance of the Mass.

If the true drama of the church takes place at the altar, before the eyes of the attendant faithful, we may think of the Sacristy as the backstage, a space both sacred and utilitarian, dedicated to the mundane needs of the priest and the fulfillment of his office.

While I grew up in the Church, I could never believe in the miracle it all hinged upon.

The rituals however, the mechanics of it all, these things were always fascinating to me.

I suppose some of the other christian churches must have Sacristies of their own, but I have observed that the further removed a denomination is from its Roman roots, the less likely it is to believe that an object can be imbued with holiness.  In these churches where the pulpit has replaced the holy altar, the robes are simply robes, and the weird little glass dixie-cups that they serve grape juice in are just weird little glass dixie-cups.

If a church like that has a Sacristy at all, surely would be in name only.

Of course, I could easily be wrong on that point.  I happily admit that my knowledge of that end of the Christian spectrum is somewhat lacking, and I am sure that someone among my friends or readers will correct me if I have muddled the details.

Still, it seems to me that if you believe that the tools of ritual are blessed, you must need a sanctified space in which to store them and to prepare them for use.

If you do not believe, or if the nature of your belief is such that you have no place for tools or ritual, the need for such a space is equally absent.

But what happens at the other end of that spectrum?  What if your belief is that everything has a living and sacred spirit, that every rock and tree, that the air we breath and the soil beneath our feet, is all of it inspirited, all humming with power and presence?

If all the word’s a stage, where do we hide all the props and costumes when they’re not in use?

 

As usual, we’ve got it backward.

“Nature is My Church” is a popular saying among pagans.

There are lots of variations of this sentiment, but it is almost always coupled an image of some pure wilderness setting, the idea being that the majesty of the forest canopy or the wind carved arches of desert stone are the pagan equivalent of a cathedrals walls.

And while I freely admit that many of my most deeply spiritual experiences, come from moments spent in a wilderness setting, I don’t think that this is what that phrase means, or what it should mean.

We have worked so hard, as a species, to compartmentalize our world and our lives.  “Nature,” we think of as a place apart from home and from work.  It is another place we might choose to go, instead of the mall or the gym.  Maybe we make daily visits to the jogging trail at the nearby city park, or we could save up our money for that once in a lifetime chance to gather the family head ‘cross country, basking in the majesty of some National Park.

But ‘going’ to church is what the Christians do.

Nature isn’t a place, and it is not a thing.

Nature is a force, and like gravity (or Facebook), it’s pretty much everywhere.

The trackless miles of old-growth forests are no more or less a part of nature than a few blades of grass, peeking up from a crack in the sidewalk.

Grass in Stone

We don’t go to nature.  Nature finds its way to us, always, crashing through whatever feeble barriers we might like to erect against it.  If nature is our church, then that’s the whole of it.

The world is OUR temple.

But does it feel that way?

Probably not.

If you are anything like me, what you feel, most of the time, is a great weight pressing you down, threatening to suffocate you beneath the endless minutia of the every day.

Oh, we can break through it from time to time.

We can steal a few moments of meditation.  We can light the fires on the special days, breathing  in the smoke, and feeling our lungs clear like we were bursting up from a deep dive.  We can calm our minds with a walk in the sunshine, or the rain, or beneath the light of the moon.

But these are fragmentary moments, and when they pass, we’ll still have to deal with pressure that comes along with the day to day grind of existence.  And most people call this “life”.

But I’ve found another word for it.

 

I call it Sacristy.

All the world is a Sacred Space, all of it, but we have made of it a storeroom.

We have, all around us, the tools of worship, but we seldom take them up.

Instead, we tuck them away in their special cubbies, lest they become misplaced.

Our spiritual selves we leave hanging on a rack, waiting for those ever so special occasions when we’ll slip them on and take ‘em for a twirl.

A couple thousand years ago a new religion, born of an unlikely marriage between a messianic cult and the religious methodology of ancient Rome, began to sweep across the land.  With its arrival the gods were banished from our day to day tasks, and the spirits of field and forest were ignored and eventually forgotten.

Because religion became a separate entity unto itself, and everything beyond the cathedral walls, profane.

And here we are, those of us who are working to resurrect the old ways, still burdened by this terrible idea: church is a place we go, religion is a thing we do, and most of our lives are spent backstage, just waiting for the next scene.

I work, and I pay my bills, and the list of things that need to be done just keeps piling up, and not the least bit of progress on the little temple that I’ve sworn to build behind my house.

Because where would I find the time, or the energy, or the money for materials, when everything else needs doing first?

It has become emblematic for me, my little temple project, of a much bigger problem.

A little more every day, I grow tired of living in the Sacristy.

****

This is the tenth post in this series, following the thoughts, planning, and (I hope), the eventual construction of a small temple space on my property.  If you wish to follow along, you may see other posts in this series by clicking here.

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Filed under Modern Life, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, Sacred Space, Spiritual Journey

Where Nothing is Sacred

I have placed these two pictures together for a reason.

pipeline in sacred ground

Some people might look at these images with a sense of pride, taking from them a message that sacrifice and hard work are what make a nation great.

Others might find this particular juxtaposition somewhat uncomfortable.  There is, after all, a serene perfection in the image of Arlington National Cemetery that we in the West have come to expect in our monuments.  The mirrored layout of the two photos, however, might suggest that someone could tear into that hallowed ground, that the one image could somehow become the other.  And this corruption, this desecration of the sacred, should I hope, put us ill at ease.

And yet, we are even now gouging into the Earth, plowing a petroleum pipeline through sacred land in North Dakota, stripping away the dignity of the honored dead and despoiling the environment, all in the interest of the mighty dollar.  We are beating, gassing, and arresting the people who stand bravely in the path of this desecration.  We threaten them with guns and loose attack dogs on them.

And I wondered, just for a moment, how WE would react if the shoe were on the other foot.  What if it was something WE considered sacred that was being ruined in the interest of corporate greed.

And then I wondered if we, as a people, hold anything sacred at all.

And I am being very liberal with my use of the word “we” here because I don’t think any of us are clean from these particular sins.  If ‘you’ or ‘I’ am offended by these latest outrages against the heritage of our native peoples, we have benefited, willingly or no, from countless others.  It’s something we were born to, I’m afraid.

We are raised in it.

Or do we not still teach our children the old lie, that Christopher Columbus sailed out from Spain in the spirit of adventure and exploration?

Maybe we’ll tell them later that he actually sailed off looking for cash and prestige, and that when he failed in his quest to discover a new and more direct trade route with Asia, he settled instead on exploiting the unfortunate natives he encountered for their gold, and then selling them into sexual servitude and slavery.

The church didn’t like it.

They eventually jailed him for it.

But he still gets the bloody parade, doesn’t he.

We honor him, butcher that he was, and with good reason.  The impressions made by his boots on the shores of the ‘New World’ have never really faded, and for over five hundred years we have followed in his swaggering stride, sweeping across two continents in our hunger for the resources therein.

And the people who were already there?

We did what he did.  We slaughtered them, starved them, displaced them.

And when the folks back home became uncomfortable with the carnage, we displayed our great civility and generosity by writing and signing treaty after treaty, only to break them before the ink had time to dry.

What DO we hold sacred when no bond restrains us, neither word nor contract.

So what is the difference, really, between a rough circle of stones in a weed choked field in North Dakota, and that field of crisp white markers on a perfectly manicured lawn in Virginia?  Is it just that when WE hold something sacred, we throw money at it until it is suitably majestic.  Is that what makes it a holy place?  Or is it the bones of our fallen that lay in the dirt, that give the place its power over us?

Are we really so blind that we cannot, as a people, see the spirit in the land?

Or is it really just the money that we worship after all?

I’ve been following another story.

There is a proposed development project at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, a 420-acre resort complex, complete with hotels, restaurants, and upscale shopping on the canyon rim, and a tramway designed to carry tourists by the millions down to the canyon floor.  There at the sacred confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, if the plans go through, the rugged beauty of the canyon floor will “improved” by the addition of a restaurant, a river walk, and a several thousand seat amphitheater.

Welcome to America, where nothing is sacred, except for the dollar.

Columbus wins.

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Filed under Culture, Holidays, Modern Life, Nature, Philosophy, Religion

Lessons from a Spider

This is the nightmare…,

It is nighttime.

You step out into the perfect darkness of a summer’s evening and almost immediately feel a strange tension spread out over the front of your person.  For the briefest second there is resistance, as if the air itself were trying to hold you back.

You are slowed by this unexpected resistance, minutely, imperceptibly, but not enough.

The momentum of your stride carries you forward and suddenly there is a barely audible twang, several of them actually, like guitar strings being tightened to the point of snapping.

That feeling of subtle resistance, which you had just enough time to notice, is gone.

In its place, it leaves two sensations which will last far longer.

The first is a strange tickling which plays upon your face and hands and hair.

The second is that creeping horror that comes with the certainty that a spider of indeterminate size and temperament is crawling somewhere, everywhere, upon your suddenly uncontrollably flailing form.

Crawling on you, in the dark.

****

My feelings toward spiders are generally of the friendly sort.

I appreciate their efforts against insect pests in the outdoors, and on those occasions that I find one somewhere in the house, I make every effort to transport it safely back outside again.

I find them to be fascinating creatures, and aside from the really dangerous ones, I bear them no ill will.

That being said, should I blunder through a web in the middle of the night, I will still go through the exact same set of jerking convulsions which millions of years of instinct have firmly imprinted within my DNA.

I should know, I did it twice early last week.

On the first occasion I walked out into my backyard to leave a little something for my cat, before retiring for the evening.  I didn’t bother with the porch light because I enjoy walking at night, in the dark, and I was only going a little way into the yard anyway.

I didn’t realize, until I stepped through it, that a web had been built that covered the entire four-foot opening of my back porch onto the yard.

After a strangled cry and several awkward spins, I spotted the culprit, crawling up and away through the tattered ruins of its web.

The next night was exactly the same.  In every detail.

I’d forgotten the first incident, right up until the moment I’d felt innumerable strands of silk pressing against my face.

And again the horror, which I expressed for my nocturnal audience, through the art of interpretive dance.

By the third night I was using my head.

Going against form, I clicked on the porch light, and stepped carefully out onto the small porch.

And there, once again covering almost the entire opening out into the backyard, was a huge circular web, at the center of which clung my nemesis, a tan spider with triangular grey markings, its oblong abdomen roughly as big around as a quarter.

It really was a beautiful web, but I could see no way around it.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  And yes, I really did speak aloud to a spider, “but you didn’t leave me space to get through here.”

And then I reached out a finger and snapped one of the large supporting threads.

The web collapsed in on itself, and once again the spider scurried up into the darkness.

On the next night, I remembered the light again, but the spider wasn’t there.

And again, the night after that, spider and web were both missing, and I made my passage from the house to the yard and back again, unmolested.

And then on the fifth night, I flipped the light switch and stepped onto the porch, where I then stood for several minutes, simply amazed.

The spider was back.  The web was back.

But this time, the design of the web, instead of spiraling out from the center of the opening, was canted somewhat to the right, incorporating a perfect arch which opened up along the left side of it, exactly along the path I walk to enter the yard.  It seemed very much, as if the spider had redesigned its web with a doorway to accommodate the bungling human that kept ruining its careful work.  It was exactly the right size.  I wouldn’t even have to duck my head.

I left the cat her bowl, and then I retreated back into the house, pausing for a moment, before turing off the light and closing the door, to take another long look at the spider, still hanging there undisturbed by my passage.

“Thank you,” I said finally, done for the night.

In the morning, as expected, spider and web were long gone.

But it was back again that night, and the night after that.

And that uncanny half-arch was there too.

****

We give little regard for the smaller creatures of the earth.

We’ll bang on about the intelligence of our dogs and cats, apes and whales, and even those birds which mimic our speech so well, but the scale by which we judge these creatures is based largely upon signs of intelligence which we recognize within ourselves.

To the spiders web, engineering marvel though we might admit, we ascribe neither artistry or intellect, but instead we tell ourselves it is a product of that cold clockwork we have named instinct.

But instinct, I come more and more to believe, is in many ways an invention of our own.

Oh, it exists, I am sure, but I suspect it drives our own motivations neither more nor less than of any other creature.

The mechanics of how to build a web must surely be a product of instinct.  But if a spider can learn, if he or she can use experience to change the shape of its web, and in so doing accommodate the passage of another creature, what else can you call that, but intelligence?

****

Since those first few encounters, the spider has been an infrequent visitor to my back porch, gone one or two nights, and then back again for an evening.

When it returns, if it returns, I am sure it will make me smile yet again.

In a world where it seems we treat fellow members of our own species with increasing suspicion and hostility, to witness the capacity of compromise within a creature so utterly foreign to our understanding, gives me a certain species of hope for our own future.

We look too often, I think, for guidance from on high, and not often enough at the world around us.

There are lessons even a spider may teach, if we were only willing to stop and notice, instead of blundering through.

SpiderWeb

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Filed under Nature, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey

Fragile

The Jehovah’s Witnesses came by again this week…,

…right on schedule…,

…as I was sitting down to lunch.

-sigh-

It was the same old fellow who’s been coming by for years now, only this time he had his wife with him, which I can only remember happening once before.

We exchanged pleasantries and spoke for a few moments about work and the pleasant weather we’d been having.  Then he handed me their little monthly booklet, and began to share a sampling of his particular brand of wisdom.

All while my grilled cheese slowly cooled on its plate.

My mind wandered a bit, I must admit.

Usually I do a better job of paying attention, because however else I feel about his little visits, I know that he means well and I am always interested in better understanding what other people believe.  Otherwise, I’d have shooed him off long ago.

But I’d been looking forward to that sandwich all morning, and they’re never as good reheated as they are right off the skillet, and…,

…then he said something that DID catch my attention.

He said that we were “not built to die.”

In my mind I quickly rewound the last couple minutes and then skimmed it forward again, this time listening for content.  He’d been speaking of the subject matter of this month’s Watchtower, having to do with how people should react when a loved-one dies.  “People are always surprised by death,” he said.  “And the reason for that, is that when God made us, we were immortal.  Death always takes us by surprise because we were not built to die, and so we lack the programming to deal with it properly.”

When I caught back up to the present moment my visitor and his wife were already making their way back down my front walk.  We’d exchanged parting pleasantries, and as usual, I’d assured him that I would consider his words carefully.

And I have at that.

“Not built to die,” he said.

I couldn’t get those words out of my head as I sat, munching on my cold sandwich.

He’s a nice enough guy, but he could not possibly be more wrong.

Living is a thing that we do in absolute defiance of the odds.

And dying?

Death is not the enemy, it is hardwired into our biology.

I wonder if my door-knocking friend has ever heard of the Hayflick limit.

It turns out that the cells in our bodies can only divide themselves a set number of times.  With each division, the length of a cell’s DNA is slightly shortened, and eventually, just shy of about 60-divisions, our cells can no longer reproduce and they begin to wear out and break down.

It’s a bit like that “best if used before…,” tag that we see stamped on a loaf of bread or a carton of milk.  Barring accident or disease we’re fine up until that predetermined point, and then from there it is only a matter of time.

And this isn’t something that just happened to us one day.

It’s not an accident, and it’s not some ridiculous punishment for eating fruit off of the wrong tree in a magical garden somewhere.

If your belief is that we were designed, than that designer built us to die.  If you don’t believe in a designer, it’s still true, because the way life evolved on this planet is that it can only exist through the action of death.

Life is precious precisely because it is temporary.

****

I had another unexpected visitor this week.

Just a couple days after the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by, I arrived home from work to find a screech owl sitting in the middle of my front yard.

The sun was long set, and a bird of this kind should have been on the wing, hunting for insects and the like.  Instead, it sat almost motionless in the grass, hard to see in the darkness but still an easy target for neighborhood cats.

Assuming that it must be injured or sickly, I tipped an empty laundry basket over it, to keep it in place, and then, wearing thick gardening gloves, reached under the basket to collect the little creature and place him in a cardboard box, for ready delivery to another of my neighbors who does wild bird rescue and rehabilitation.

I’ve never held a screech owl in my hands.

They seem profoundly fragile things, and lifting it out from under the basket felt a bit like holding a feathered soap-bubble.  I was moving quickly, so as to cause as little stress as possible, so I only caught a brief glimpse of those big yellow eyes.  It made an alert sound with its beak, a bit like flicking your fingernail against a hard wood surface: tap-tap-tap.  And then it was safe in a box and, I hope, off to a speedy recovery from whatever ails it.

Holding that small creature in my hands, I could feel the fragility that is life.

For an owl, a mouse, a blade of grass, or the mightiest tree.

The soul may move on to some other place.

It may even return to live again.

But immortality for this life or any other is a false hope.

We cling to life because it is temporary, because it is fragile.

Why else do we cling to each other?

May Mushroom

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Filed under Death, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Spiritual Journey

Sacred Space: Healing Wounds

Robins arrived this morning, and they came by the hundreds.

I heard them before I woke, a cacophony of chirping song, seeping into my dreams, drawing me steadily toward wakefulness.  When I stepped out of the door and into the backyard they were sweeping too and fro from tree to ground and back again, foraging for breakfast.

Breakfast…, just the thought of it had my stomach rumbling.  But rather than turning back toward the kitchen, I made my way down the steps, and sat crosslegged on the landing, facing out into the yard, and watched the airborne circus for just a bit.

This, I should point out, is a change.

Up until two days ago, I’d been avoiding the backyard altogether.

Oh, I’d set a bowl out for the cat, but then it was right back inside.

And it has been that way for months, truth be told.

One of the things that drew me to purchase this particular house was the great oak tree which stood at the center of the backyard, itself surrounded on all sides by a thick canopy of overhanging limbs.  This yard was a secluded haven which quieted the surrounding neighborhood bustle, while speaking in a voice all its own.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you may remember that the character of this sanctuary has changed dramatically in the intervening years.

The central oak died some two and a half years ago now.

In May of 2014, I wrote in the first of these Sacred Space posts, about my intention to incorporate the remains of that great tree into a shrine or small temple, in an effort to win back the spiritual center of the yard which was lost when the tree finally died.

A year later, with only the most rudimentary plans in place, calamity struck.

Due to my own failed stewardship, the yard had become overgrown and a major cutback was demanded by the city.  The aftermath was, and still is, hard for me to look at.  My secluded haven was no more.

Worse yet was the wounded feeling of the land beneath my feet.

I’ve always been one to feel the deeper currents of a place, but the voices I’d become so accustomed to were gone, replaced by something more like a cringing animal, withdrawing from any contact for fear of further hurts.

And even as I tried to sooth the insult to the spirits of that place, one of my neighbors began hassling me, demanding that I cut down the rest of the trees which ran along our fence line.  Claiming that they posed a danger of falling into her yard, and that they were interfering with the new privacy fence she wished to erect on her side of our chainlink boundary.

When I demurred, said neighbor arranged to have someone cut two of those trees down without my approval, reaching over our common fence to cut down two healthy trees on my side of the property line, and leaving the toppled remains stretched out across my yard.

When I discovered this, I shoved them back over the fence, along with an angry note explaining that any further trespass would lead to legal action.  Words were bandied about, and a long stalemate has ensued.

And so I’ve avoided the backyard.  Partly to avoid further conflict with the neighbors.  But mostly because it still hurts to see it and feel it in this condition.

I thought it would be better at night, when I couldn’t see all the damage, but it’s actually worse.

The same neighbor with whom I have been in conflict, apparently believes in 24/7 illumination of every square inch of her yard.  There are no less than seven security lights illuminating an area barely a tenth of an acre in size, and with the brush and trees so throughly cleared away, my former sanctuary is, by night,  awash in a halogen glare.

It hasn’t felt like my yard at all.

Which brings us to Friday afternoon.

It was an unseasonably warm and sunny day, and I’d forced myself out into the yard to do some cleanup work.  Just hauling some branches, leftover from the great purge, into a new pile a little farther from the house, and hanging up a couple new bird feeders I’d bought.

Old habits die hard, I guess, because in the midst of these chores, I found myself wandering out into the greater yard.  I circled past the ramshackle gardening shed, past the trunk of the dead oak, and into the area beyond, now vacant of overgrowth…, or any growth really.

I circled back toward the house, intent on finishing with the brush pile, but just as quickly I was drawn back out into the back third of my property again.  And so I allowed myself to be drawn, circling round and round, drawn in new directions by new currents, until finally I was brought to a stop in what I believe must be the new spiritual center of the yard.

Almost eight yards ahead of me stood the great tree trunk where the center had stood, but in my minds eye I could see the sculpture of the horned god which will stand there, cloaked with ivy, rising up from the center of a spiral which curls around him and then outward, passing under my feet and away to the right and left to become two more spirals, one surrounding a fountain, the other…, a kiln?

The design of the temple space which has eluded me for almost two years came suddenly to mind and just as clear as day.  It was like a watching a flower bloom suddenly from the ashes of some terrible fire.  And for the first time in months I was excited to be in my backyard again.

nightbloom

Saturday, saw more cutting and sawing, moving and piling, but done with my (our?) purpose in mind, and with permission of the local spirits both asked and granted.

And then on Sunday morning the robins came and the yard seemed to be truly alive again for the first time in a long stretch of days.

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This is the ninth post in this series, following my off-again on-again progress in the planning and construction of a small temple space on my property.  If you with to follow along, you may see other posts in this series by clicking here.

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Filed under Nature, Religion, Sacred Space, Spiritual Journey