Archive for the ‘Messages from Nature’ Category

Climbing the Mountain of Life

Living in the mountains of Western Maine offered several delightful memories including breathtaking vistas all year whether verdant spring greens, a dramatic pallet of fall colors, or white cotton snow.  After living near oceans, in the subtropics, and the desert southwest, my favorite place to call home remains among mountains, now the mountains of western North Carolina.  DSCN1735.jpegOther geographical sites offer their own beauty, but the mountains… they offer a splendor, ofttimes beyond words.  We can observe the weather-worn peaks of our mountains close-up or far away, each one with its own unique beauty.     

    Observing these magnificent mountains generates a deep sense of appreciation, climbing them takes us to other peaks of gratitude, including respect, joy, exuberance, satisfaction, and maybe fear. Doesn’t traveling through life offer those same levels of recognition?  So then, climbing a mountain could equate with moving through life, not only on the cited levels but many others.  No wonder wise sages, philosophers, poets, screenwriters, and many others use the analogy of climbing a mountain when contemplating life.     

    My good friend and mentor, Ken Two Feathers, compared life to climbing a mountain. “We’re all climbing the same mountain.  There may be different paths for different people, but we’re seeking the same summit.  We all have our own path, and the path we choose is the one that feels right to us.” Not everyone has the same path.  That is an essential truth.  Someone may not be doing the same thing as you or I.  It may be entirely different from our way of thinking.  As long as no one and nothing is being hurt as they climb their mountain, who are we to criticize?

    As a path is chosen to scale a mountain, it is determined based on our own abilities and limitations.  We decide to hike a particular way because it suits us.  It fits us.  Others may follow, but they will not experience it in the same manner.  We can even show others a route to take, but they have to hike it to experience it.  We cannot walk it for them.IMG_3201.jpeg

    When obstacles block or complicate the hike, we may choose to walk around, climb over, or even temporarily seek another route to avoid the obstacle.  No one else can hike it for us.  We must place one foot in front of the other and continue to move forward.  A guide can point the way, but it is we that must make the journey to learn.  Even if we follow someone else’s lead, choices remain, to continue, rest, or quit. Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski once said, “Never follow somebody else’s path; it doesn’t work the same way twice for anyone… the path follows you and rolls up behind you as you walk, forcing the next person to find their own way.”     

    When you think about climbing a mountain from this perspective, living life takes on a deeper meaning. In life, it is easier to follow someone else who’s been there.  That is an excellent first choice, but at some point, we must move ahead on our own to learn our own life’s lessons.  The juvenile fledgling will never learn to fly until it leaves the safety of the nest.  Sometimes the parent pushes it out because she really does love her offspring.    

    So how do we create our own pathway as we scale the mountain?  The answer is simple.  The action may not be.  As we walk our path one step at a time, gather and evaluate information from our friends and mentors.  How does their guidance relate to us and our own needs and circumstances?  Some advice may fit well while another may not.  We must choose.  When we falter, don’t give up.  Stop.  Evaluate. Choose an alternative, and move on, one step at a time, then another, and so on.  We may still seek wise counsel on how to proceed from the same people or new ones we meet along the way, but they do not walk the path for us; we must walk the trail on our own.  We may even strike out and blaze a brand new trail.  Move forward.  Keep moving.  Seek rest when needed.  Make sure to take what you need along the way and above all, enjoy the journey! That’s the way we climb life’s mountain path.

    Our reward, like climbing any mountain, is the elated sense of accomplishment we claim, for our own, when we view the world from the summit of life’s lessons.

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Become the Butterfly

It’s been said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Please understand, I’m not against planning and organization, they keep us focused. Consider this though, how’s our willingness to change so we can improve, grow, and strive to become our highest and greatest self? Joseph Campbell provided some sound guidance about this. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is awaiting us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one is to come.

caterpillar-3529835_1920    Just imagine if a caterpillar decided, “All I wish to do is eat” never allowing the metamorphosis to take place. I wonder if the caterpillar even knows of its destiny to change before its urge to spin and encapsulate itself in a cocoon, shed its old skin, and expend all its energy to transform into the magnificent splendor of a butterfly? Or is it merely willing to go with the flow, relinquish its own plans, and move on to its unknown destiny?
Storytellers, authors, even history share incredible accounts of how the hero enters as an average “Joe” or “Jane.” They then face an insurmountable challenge which often demands changes in life, attitude, and environment. The changes usually cost them everything, including their life as they know, to pursue this quest. Despite hardships, our hero moves on, driven to complete the challenge. We listen, read, or watch intently as the story unfolds. The hero or heroine continues on, despite challenge after challenge.
Further hardships encumber their journey, but they are tenacious. We even may ask, as their story unfolds, why… why don’t they just quit? As we become even more engrossed in the story, we wonder, what keeps them going? Given, some know and see their goal, yet others, like the caterpillar, do not. Some of these familiar stories include tantalizing opportunities for a return to the safety and security of their ordinary past life, one far less complicated life than their present circumstances. After all… wouldn’t that be easier? Though we’re just following the story, we even get frustrated, wishing to jump right into the account screaming “Just quit!”. But they don’t quit, something urges them, drives them on as though their very existence demands they continue their quest.
The hero keeps going, keeps shedding their figurative skin of old ways and habits in pursuit of their new life. When they reach the goal, we applaud their success, shed tears of joy, and cheer for their victory.
Our own reality returns.
We wish we could be like that person. We sigh, wipe away the tears, shrug our shoulders, and return to the familiar, a life we know, a life of safety. Our events are safe, known, with no surprises waiting around shadowed corners. Some, however, recognize they have the same “stuff.” All they need to do is embrace a willingness to change. Shed their old skin, pursue their own magnificent life, and achieve the perceived impossible.
Life is full of opportunities. cocoon-39353_1920Sometimes we, like the caterpillar, incubate as the changes evolve. Similar to embryos, we grow into maturity, to become the hero of our own story. As the hero, tantalizing opportunities may emerge tempting us to stray from our quest, though they are really just tests. All we need to do is continue our journey. Don’t run from the coming challenge, embrace it! Believe and accept our true destiny. Then the inner beauty of true self will emerge. But death to our old ways must take place.
We are so much more than the shell that is our body. The process of death and resurrection is demonstrated throughout nature, only “death” isn’t dead. Death’s a transformation, a metamorphosis, that must take place to allow the beauty within to come forth. The caterpillar doesn’t hold on to its cocoon, it casts it aside because the old skin has no value, no purpose, in the new vibrant and beautiful life. So, as we enter into the transformative changed life offered to us, don’t hang on to the things that no longer contribute to our metamorphosis. Lay them aside, emerge from your cocoon, and enjoy your flight as the butterfly.
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We are as butterflies waiting to shed the old and emerge into the magnificent splendor of our true nature and destiny… a spiritual being enjoying the nectar of each flower during our human experience.

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;

Tales for the Journey – The Calling Crows

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Photo 1 By Roger Bunting

The American Crow, found throughout North America frequents most of Canada in the summer, also caw their hearts out from California to the Carolinas and Maine to Florida year round. These brilliant birds are commonly perched in both bare and foliage-filled treetops, gathered in fields, and wandering America’s 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 of nesting birds.

In the winter months of Maine, there aren’t many species of birds that tough out the winters, but crows do. Walking nature trails along the east coast, crows I’ve seen and heard them making their daily rounds whether perched, wandering, or on the wing in their methodical flapping with very little gliding. The precocious crows always seem to be up to something. Their activities don’t appear haphazard, but rather meticulous and even creative.

Though the typical “caw” identifies that bird like 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 the familiar “caw” that catches your ear. They actually do have a language that sounds… enchanting.

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 its caws declare the dawn. 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, their territorial boundaries, where some of the other inhabitants, including predators. Birds, in general, announce locations for the best food for the day, or simply to declare to everyone, “Wake up. Wake up, it’s time to greet the beauty of the new day”.

Watching crows reveals their organizational skills. They post sentinels to keeping a watchful eye over the area. They nest high in the treetops to keep a watchful eye over the terrain where they feed and live. They communicate as they work together. Like many animals, crows have been known to predict tornadoes, rain, and other weather patterns by the way they fly.

Cultures throughout the world teach that we should look at living things around us because they can help guide us along our individual paths. The longer we listen and the more time we devote to them, the more often truths are recognized, and their language can be understood by us, who are also part of that same creation.

What can be learned about the spiritual medicine of crow? Crows have been associated with creation and solitude in various cultures of the world. Typically they not only symbolize nature but spiritual strength as well. Illustrating these numerous 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. Though a great deal more may be learned from the stories and legends of crow’s wonder, uniqueness, and even magic, a primary lesson says that crow teaches us to speak our truth, be true to ourselves, and honor our own unique qualities. Think about these qualities the next time you see or hear a crow cawing to you.

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.