Archive for the ‘Messages from Nature’ Category

This Spring – Take a Natural Break

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Natural Path

We who live in the North Country can honestly say we “survived” the last winter.  Records for snow accumulation and low temperatures were broken.  Now that spring is finally beginning to reveal itself, many of us find ourselves going outside to dig into and work with dirt in various ways while taking a natural break.  There are so many benefits from connecting with the outside natural world.

Have you ever noticed how refreshed you feel after being outside and working with the earth?  How about walking around in a nearby preserve to witness new growth in the surrounding flora?  It’s so refreshing.  There’s actually evidence that identifies positive results from connecting with nature.

In an article published by the American Society of Landscape Architects written by Jared Green, Green identified research that shows taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus.” “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.” The same article goes on pointing out a fact, Dr. Marc Berman and fellow researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk through an arboretum. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”

As a massage therapist, I see many cases of injuries caused from repetitive motion, no matter how insignificant the action may be, including moving a computer mouse or texting on a smart phone, not to mention repetitive heavy labor or work outs.  What’s fascinating is repetitive activities in the office place can also create other forms of stress.  Jared Green cited Michael Posner, professor emeritus at University of Oregon who studies attention, saying that our brains get fatigued after working for long periods of time, “particularly if we have to concentrate intensely or deal with a repetitive task.” Taking a break may or may not help deal with stress during high-pressure times. What’s crucial is the type of break taken: According to The Wall Street Journal, taking a stroll in the park “could do wonders” while drinking lots of coffee will just be further depleting.

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Community Vegetable Garden

A 2008 article on “Gardening as a therapeutic intervention in mental health” in Nursing Times, originally written as a study by Matthew Page, MSc, unveiled the positive results found from gardening.  For example, “quantitative studies have found a significant reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety following gardening-based interventions. Qualitative studies have provided insight into service users’ experiences of gardening-based interventions, with a range of potential benefits highlighted, including enhanced emotional wellbeing, improved social functioning, improved physical health and opportunities for vocational development.”

How can some of these examples be implemented into our lives?  The answers and solutions are quite simple when you think of them.

Have lunch in a natural setting.  Take your lunch in a natural setting wether brown bagged or purchased as a take out.  There are probably more “green areas” than you realize that are much closer to work than you think.

Create a raised bed garden.  Creating a raised bed garden accomplishes so much.  You get to connect with the earth!  You can raise your own veggies.  There’s nothing quite like the faste of food from your own garden.  Connect with family members too by making it a family project.

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Enjoy Nature!

Take the dog for a walk in a park or preserve.  Preserves are popping up nearly everywhere these days, so find one nearby and walk Fido there.  Make sure to take a small plastic bag with you too by the way.  You get exercise outside along with your K-9 companion.  You may even find some new places for the future to relax on your own.

Spend time with your yard, roof top garden, or community garden.  Opportunities to get outside are limitless when you explore the possibilities.  Have you noticed?  Gardens are cropping up everywhere – from prison yards to retirement and veteran homes.  Even apartment dwellers now have alternatives for getting their hands in the dirt through indoor gardening with decorative plants and even growing vegetables.  Raking leaves in your yard takes on a different meaning when it’s viewed as personal time and a way to reduce stress.  Regardless of your own circumstances, get outside!

Taking a walk in a natural setting or gardening as examples of connecting with nature can really  enhance our lives.  It reduces stress, provides exercise, reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhances our over all well-being.  So, take a natural break whenever you can for yourself.  Consider it a spring time gift to you!

Natural Path – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51866462@N07/8954971567″></a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Community Vegetable Garden – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42647587@N06/3935703108″>Stars Complex Urban Garden</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Enjoy Nature – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/32008328@N08/4095380295″>HAWAII NOV-09129</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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Tales for the Journey – The Calling Crows

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Photo 1 By Roger Bunting

The American Crow may be found throughout North America.  They can be found cawing their hearts out from California to the Carolinas and Maine to Florida year round while it’s not unusual to find them in most of Canada during the summer.  These very intelligent birds are common sights perched in both bare and foliage filled treetops, gathered in fields, and wandering roadsides.  They can outwit most birds, animals, and even many of us humans.  It adapts to its environment.  They aren’t particular at all about their habitats ranging from empty beach-sides and open woods to the center of towns and local neighborhoods.  They’ll consume most anything as ground feeders especially earthworms, small animals, insects, seeds, fruit, plus garbage, carrion, and even some chicks they rob from other nesting birds.

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Photo 2 By Hornet Photography

In the winter months of Maine, there aren’t many species of birds that tough out the winters.  Crows, among a few others, do.  As I walk a nearby nature trail, I see and hear them as they make their daily rounds wether perched, wandering, or on the wing in their methodical flapping with very little gliding.  They always seem to be up to something.  Their activities don’t appear haphazard, but rather calculated or coordinated  with a planned creative purpose.

Though the typical “caw” identifies that bird as a crow, I’ve noticed slight differences between the cawing voices of northern versus southern crows.  One seems quite magical while the other seems static.  One is multidimensional… the other myopic, but it’s still a familiar “caw” that catches your ear.  They actually do have a language that sounds… magical.

It’s a privilege to hear all our winged friends talking to each other as the day begins.  The deep blackness of the crow ushers in the brightness of the new day almost like its caws give birth to the new day.  Native American elders have shared that the conversations of birds are very complex.  Crows (along with many other birds) greet the new day and tell the other “winged ones” and forest inhabitants the news throughout the day.  To the animal kingdom, they’re the original morning news team without the necessity of television, radio, or print.  Their watchfulness tells every creature about their discoveries, current events, where some of the other inhabitants, including predators, may be, locations for the best food for the day, or simply telling everyone, “Wake up. Wake up it’s time to greet the beauty of the new day”.

Watching crows will show them as very organized.  They post sentinels to keep a watchful eye over the area.  Nesting high in the treetops is common for a good view over where they feed and live.  They communicate with each other to work together.  Like many animals, crows have been known to predict tornadoes, rain, and other weather patterns by the way they fly.  They help all those around them in addition to those closest to them.  They really are quite magical in deed.

Cultures throughout the world teach that people should look at the natural life around them because it will help teach life lessons in order to live better lives.  The longer we listen and the more time we devote to listen and observe, the more often truths are recognized and their language can be understood by us, who are also part of that same creation.

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Photo 3 By Donald Portlandia

What can be learned from crow?  Though a great deal may be learned from the stories and legends of crow’s wonder, uniqueness, and even magic from Greek and Roman mythology to the ancestral words of the Native Americans, there are few basic truths that may help us in our daily lives for today.  Crows have been associated with creation and solitude in various cultures of the world.  Typically they not only symbolize creation, but spiritual strength as well.  Illustrating these various qualities they encourage us, “caw” to us, to maintain that same creative awareness and spirit that embraces our being, never losing sight of the magic that surrounds our life while maintaining our spiritual strength gained through our solitude.  Think on these qualities the next time you see or hear a crow “caw”.

Wanderings in Search of Weeds

I do realize that a weed, by definition, is a plant in a place where it doesn’t belong.  Who decided that anyway.  Can’t a plant grow where it wishes or does it require a planting permit like societies and municipal governments require building permits?  But I digress.

In the last month, I’ve enjoyed watching the many plants kept under winter’s cold wraps, come to life.  What started as a few sporadic specimens grew to grand examples of flourishing communities of plants, some opportunistic, some invasive non-native plants, some native plants, BUT all with their own captivating beauty.  In my personal lists thus far, wild ginseng, jack in the pulpit, wintergreen, lady slipper, horse tail, indian cucumber, wild lily of the valley, bittersweet, partridge berry, comfrey, mullein, marshmallow, blood root, blooming rhododendron, and flourishing wild watercress to name only a few.

What fun to lead and share with a group of like minded pilgrims of the plant world in late May to observe and even, dare I say it, “taste” some of these scrumptious plants. (I’m the guy in the checked shirt talking with everyone else) The crisp morning was inviting for the group of herbal plant enthusiasts at Pondicherry Park in Bridgton.  The Lakes Environmental Association (LEA), a non-profit organization dedicated to the care and preservation of land in the Lakes Region, sponsored the herbal walk.  The May day was ideal following one of our harsher Maine winters.

The reward of participating with such a group is understanding that we are all students in the natural world around us regardless of whether you are leading or following the group.  Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) will be conducting another herbal plant walk on Friday, June 24.  Participants will meet at the LEA Headquarters on Main Street in Bridgton at 9:00 am and then head to the next exciting destination, the Holt Pond Preserve.  The Herbal Walks are part of the Caplan Education Series of Lakes Environmental Association.  More information and sign ups for the next event may be through Sarah Morrison at LEA by telephoning 207-647-8580.

Tales For The Journey – Planting Seeds

        Seeds and seedlings have been planted. Now comes the time of the caretaker, to cultivate, weed, protect against predators, and nourish so the seeds grow into plants. Those plants in turn will mature to produce the desired fruit, and so grows the garden. At the end of this cycle we harvest the fruit from the plant we have cared for, lovingly nurtured. Sometimes we think back as we harvest, this fruit all came from a single seed. Miraculous isn’t it when you think about it. All this from a seed.

        We began by looking through the volumes of seed catalogues and choosing the standard veggies we always enjoy mixed with a few new ones perhaps hybrids or heirlooms, then the herbs, ah the herbs used for culinary and medicinal needs.

        Taking this a step further, consider what’s contained in each seed, locked inside is the DNA for each plant. The DNA holds the family, the color, the shape, the genes for the plant. Most of the seeds will, hopefully, germinate through another miraculous process where the seed begins its transformational journey. It begins through a spark of life and that spark is fanned into a flame of life. Whether you wish to call the process a scientific process or recognize divine intervention, the process is the same. Provided with the proper environment for germination, the seed musters its strength, bursts through a hardened protective shell, sending out shoots and roots, seeking food, water, and sunlight to grow. We intervene to insure that it grows well, so we can harvest the fruit and…grow…just like the plant. Are we that different from plants? As the seed becomes part of the earth and all elements to insure growth and fruit, so we are related to the plant. We are seed, we are plant, we are the fruit through a wondrous spark we call the circle of life.

        That spark of life, divine or natural, dwells within each of us, but it needs to be drawn out and fanned into a flame. Before the growth begins, like the plant seed, that spark of life needs to be acknowledged beforehand. Our charge for our growth, wake up from our slumbers and acknowledge the spark of life within us, nurture it and allow it to grow and flourish. The seed has to be planted in the soil before it can grow. It has within its walls all its potentials, but those potentials remain dormant until they are given the right conditions to grow, develop, and produce fruit. There are many souls in this life who will not wake up to their divine potential and they are like seeds stored away in packets. If you wish freedom in your life. If you wish to grow. If you wish to produce fruit, you must desire to break your bonds to be free. When the desire is there you will receive help in every way possible, It begins with the desire in you to grow and produce fruit.

Kevin Pennell, an author from Bethel, Maine, wrote Two Feathers-Spiritual Seed Planter and has written for other periodicals and media. He is a Usui and Karuna® Reiki Master/Teacher, Herbalist, Certified Hypnotherapist, Ancestral Healing Practitioner, and Intuitive Medium. He conducts Reiki and other workshops that assist spiritual and personal development. Kevin and wife Vickie Cummings own and operate SpiritWings their Compassionate Healing Center and Therapeutic apothecary located in Bethel, Maine


Tales for the Journey – The Work Within

The daffodils’ brilliant colors, the leaves sprout from their roots, and sleepy burdock wakes from its winter slumber to share and enjoy spring. These plants now begin to show their fruits of their unseen labors, their labors that began from within.

Ever stop to consider all the work that went on behind the scenes, the labor that the plant doesn’t show to produce the beauty that’s revealed for all to see? It’s the work within that we do not see that’s so vastly important. If it weren’t for the work that takes place within the plant, the unseen work, we would not behold the beauties that we do. With the naked eye, we don’t see the germination, the fertilization, the cellular divisions… all are necessary, to show the plant, the flower, the fruit. We usually don’t see the shoot break through the seed’s hull, but if it’s done its work within, the unseen work, it does. We see the leaf or flower bud, but we usually don’t see the cells and molecules moving about to create the bud. Only after internal effort on the seed’s and plant’s part, do we just begin to see sprout and bud appear.

The plant in all its magic and splendor shows Itself after it completes the unseen work within.

We can learn some valuable lessons from the unseen efforts of our leaved relatives. Do the work within, the unseen work. Go within, to produce the beautiful foliage, the nourishing fruit, that you are or can be for yourself and others.

As we look within, leave that which is no longer necessary behind. Once the seed husk has completed its task, the plant deems the seed husk as unnecessary baggage and sheds it. The hull protected the seed until the seed was ready to produce the life within. Afterward, the hull was no longer needed, so it was left behind. It served its purpose. After certain objects in our life serve their purpose, shed them, leave them behind. The memories may remain, but we no longer need to nourish them or give them power in our lives.

If there is negativity in our life, leave it behind. It serves no purpose to promote our growth. Remove it from our life. Once you perform this work within, you will begin to see your life differently.

To work within is a very real and practical exercise for our daily life, not just a life of theory, and as you live it you will see how wonderfully it works. You’ll experience incredible changes and see how these changes can have a positive effect in the people and situations around us. You will realize more and more that so much more is possible when we shed the unnecessary objects that clutter our lives. All things ARE possible.

You will be able to move forward into the unknown with absolute faith and confidence. There will be no fear in you as you enter uncharted waters, for the spirit of adventure will be in you as you see the New unfold in true perfection. Look within and see how everything you do this day can contribute to the whole, and to the needs of all those you contact and then give your very best.

It all begins, when you work within.

Spirits of the Land

“You know, I think if people stay somewhere long enough … the spirits will begin to speak to them. It’s the power of the spirits coming from the land. The spirits and the old powers aren’t lost, they just need people to be around long enough and the spirits will begin to influence them.”  Thus spoke a Crow elder.
A dear friend shared this quote via email, causing me to think about our connection with the land, Mother Earth, the Spirits of the Land.  How long do we stay in one place of residence before we feel the urge to move on?  Many families and individuals arrive at a destination long enough to decide where they’re headed next.  They may comment like, “We’re glad that move’s over.  We’ll be staying here a long time.”  Then they talk about how much they dislike moving.  Yet, two, three, or maybe four years later they move on.
In today’s world of mobility, most people stay in one place no longer than a couple years owed to changes in career, job advancements, or educational endeavors to name a few reasons.  What ever the reason(s) many people stay on the move.  Another reason, often heard, “Let’s move, things will be different then.”  Maybe things will change, but often they don’t because the same unseen baggage stays with them.
If we try staying in one place long enough, like the crow elder said, the land begins to talk to us.  We hear the voices of the trees, plants, and animals.  We sense their presence when we walk around and with the land.  We begin to see the grasshopper on the branch as more than a pest, but as a fellow resident, sharing our space, and a potential source of wisdom.  We look at the old tree that provides shade, protection from the winds, maybe even a place of security and serenity when we feel “out of sorts”.  Ever wonder why you feel so comforted by one old tree, after all it’s just a tree… or is it one of the spirits of the land that calls gently… communing with our spirit?
That old tree has seen and experienced many events in the years it’s been in that one place.  It’s weathered and felt many a storm, yet remains steady.  It’s learned how to bend with the wind, draw its sap, its life blood into the roots for long winters.  It shouts for joy with spring sprouting new buds, leaves, branches, and new life.  It shows off its beauty of verdant green providing shade from summer’s heat and then shows its true colors in the fall.  As we watch the drama of that old tree year after year, we learn valuable lessons for our own lives.
Spirits of the land can also reveal themselves through other residents through sharing their families with ours.  With a certain fondness, I remember a red-tailed hawk flying above as I walked some land deciding if I should live there.  The hawk seemed to introduce itself to me with a welcoming “Come, stay with us.  Be our neighbor.  You are welcome here.”  The same hawk shared the land with us.  I watched as it found a mate and later on the proud parent brought the fledglings out within a matter of feet from our front porch, like any human parent proudly showing their children.
An intimate relationship with the land guides us to an intimate relationship with the spirits who will encourage, teach, and influence us.  Our lives will be more fulfilling and focused through our connection with the land.  Our own self image improves.  Our relationships with others improve.  We can begin this intimate relationship the moment we step onto the land realizing we are not a part from, but in partnership with the spirits of the land.
Try this.  Walk onto a piece of land.  Close your eyes. Take four deep cleansing breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, then open your eyes slowly and allow the spirits of the land to awaken your soul.
“I think if people stay somewhere long enough … the spirits will begin to speak to them. It’s the power of the spirits coming from the land.”

Benefits From Observing Nature

We connect with spirit in many ways. Art expresses your inner self while music may transport you to realms of new insights and self discovery. Observing nature also opens horizons of new perspectives and reasons for living this particular life, whisking you on to the very core of your spirit and soul.

Connecting with nature through observation provides countless opportunities to learn, grow, gain new wisdom, receive guidance, and resolve difficult situations. Observations of nature become more active and less passive when you integrate, partner yourself with nature instead of being apart from nature. For example, when you pause in a garden, simply letting the cares and concerns of the day slip by, you may find yourself visited by a butterfly, bird, or small woodland resident like a chipmunk or squirrel. Stay a while longer, sit on the grass among the flowers, pick out one personal concern in as concise a manner as possible then put it out to the universe. For example, “What can I do to begin improving my life”? Then, let the thought go, and return to simply watching and observing the butterflies, birds, and chipmunks. Nature becomes your partner as you observe the inhabitants, watching them with not only the eyes of an observer, but the eyes of a participant. Watch closely, seeing if any of them or anything new presents itself, particularly if they do something unusual. Then ask yourself and the universe how this may or may not relate to your question.

A dear friend of mine often said, “Remember to look to the little things”. Maybe the butterfly lands on your nose followed with the thought, “The answer is as plain as the nose on your face”. So, you move on to the next level, by seeking further insights. Suddenly a crow comes up and starts “cawing” interrupting your solitude… but is he? He comes back a few more times, nothing else happens, so you decide to leave the garden and attend to the day’s activities.

For some reason, you begin to think about that old crow interrupting your wonder-filled moments of solitude by coming back time after time cawing and cawing, sometimes close enough to slap. Curiosity causes you to study crows. Your study leads to a book that moves beyond their physical characteristics and on to their spiritual qualities. You discover crows depict personal truth.

The answer rings clear, all the pieces come together as the answer to your question reveals itself. “What can I do to begin improving my life”? Begin by being true to your self or walking in your own truth instead of someone else’s.

Another example with the same circumstances, but this time you just want to sit in a garden for relaxation. Without posing questions to the universe, being quiet and alone are your only goals… but the crow still keeps coming by. That afternoon, the next day, or a week later, something happens, causing you to return to those moments with the crow in your mind. Perhaps you found yourself in a situation where you know you should have followed your feelings and “spoken your truth”, but you didn’t. Then you did the same research and found the same reference of speaking your truth, honoring your truth, or practically speaking, be true to yourself. In the first instance, you sought guidance in the second, the universe provided the crow to teach an important life lesson. Nature provides countless examples when you take time out of your day to simply enjoy the being a part of nature.

Learning to look beyond the academics of species and genders opens up our hearts and spirits to infinite lessons and practical teachings, transforming us into better people. Consider a tea rose. The tea rose is classified as flora, plant life, a flower. Certain specific characteristics classify it further as a rose then, depending on who identified or created the strain, the specific group and type of tea rose is determined. That is one view. Our senses begin to awaken feelings. Focusing on the gentle fragrance blended with delicate beauty we are transported to another dimension of appreciation. Like the aroma of fresh baked bread stimulates our physical appetite for physical nourishment, the little rose stimulates spiritual nourishment. The spiritual applications are endless, limited only by our current needs in life. This takes us to the next step.

We may be facing a dilemma in life that may appear complex, layered with countless alternatives. A walk in the garden seems an appropriate tonic for our muddled confusion. While walking, we stop short of stepping on a small tea rose, still in its budding stage. For some unknown reason, the little bud calls us toward a closer look. We observe enough of the little rose to see shades of pink blended with a bit of pastel yellow. Scrutiny adds a delicate aroma to our observation. Looking around, we see it is alone in the dirt, with no apparent support or help.

Then a warm feeling inside begins to envelope us like a warm and tender hug from a loved one. This little rose will soon become a beacon of beauty out of the dirt. Creator will help open the petals, so it can become what it is meant to be. Then… a practical application blossoms, presenting an answer to our dilemma. If Creator can unfold petals of beauty out of just a root and some dirt, what can happen in our lives if we stop trying to do everything for ourselves? If we relinquish control to Creator and the Universe, what beautiful creation can come from the apparent dilemma? We return to the dilemma with another view. We claim a renewed assurance that circumstances can work themselves out and hopeless situations fade. All this comes from watching and observing a little rose… paying attention to a seemingly insignificant part of nature; watching a little thing. Think of the other treasures that await our discovery.

Several avenues transport us into the environments providing opportunities to get away from the ruts of life and back to nature. A hike in the woods nearby, caring for the small garden in an urban setting, or weekend volunteer ventures that benefit nature. Take your choice, but begin by walking slowly and enjoying simple truths taught through nature.

We desire to learn how to become better people or better souls. These desires can be met through observing nature. The cliché “getting back to nature” suggests something has been left behind or ignored from life. Perhaps we should reclaim the wealth of knowledge available to us through taking time to observe nature.