Around every circle…another…

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a favorite sitting spot at the top of the hill

 

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.   

~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

After a warm and pleasant Fall that lingered long past its usual departure, the trees have at last surrendered just about all their leaves except for the oaks, always the last holdouts. Here and there these stately beings still offer a swath of bronze and mahogany amidst their neighbors gray and brown trunks. The green world had a season of abundance of berries, fruit, and seed. The acorn crop has been heavy, a bonanza for turkeys and squirrels.  It’s been true of the maples as well, winged seeds twirling to the ground in countless numbers at summer’s end.

This late afternoon the day after Halloween is a somber one. The morning had enough brightness to entice me out for a walk up the hill past the marshlands and ponds. With most of the leaves down now, once again the outline of the farther hills is visible through the woods. I picked up an acorn at the edge of the road and admired its burnished brown shell, such a sweetly-shaped container of hopeful oak-prospects.  The wild apples have been incredibly bountiful as well. The deer beat me to one of the two trees I’d been keeping an eye on waiting patiently for their fruit to ripen. I discovered this yesterday when I paid them a visit, bags in hand, anticipating returning with one filled with tart golden apples and the other with the smaller but just-right-sweet red apples. So it was a lighter load of the reds I toted back down the hill. Blessed with this freely-given abundance, I don’t begrudge sharing it with my four-legged neighbors. For much of November I’ll be enjoying my apple-harvest as daylight hours steadily decrease and the darkness claims more of each day.

All Hallows Eve…Samhain in the Celtic tradition….marks the threshold into the months of the land’s deep stillness and resting. While I was apple gathering yesterday, a few milkweed seeds drifted past in their airy flight. Such a cunningly-designed feathery globe with the possibility of far journeying for each seed. Once settled back to earth and with whatever luck is needed, they will join a myriad of other seeds already tucked into the soil and darkness of necessary gestation time. Next year’s Monarchs that saw a splendid resurgence this season, will have their favored food source awaiting them.

I know this as a “thin time” of the year’s vast slow-circling seasons. For the Celts, these days were honored as a time when the veil between the worlds was thin, when ancestors were remembered and honored, and the recently departed were felt to be within reach if they wished to be. Echoes of this are reflected in what Christian believers call All Souls Day. In this last month I have said farewell to two women dear to me. One was in my life since I was born, a many decades’ long and vibrant connection. The other a lively, lovely companion of the past decade and oh how she enlivened my journeying in both the outer and inner planes. I am grieving their departures from this world, a world both loved fiercely and enjoyed with abandon. As this is Autumn’s thin time, I am hopeful my thoughts of love and gratitude reach through the veil to them, and so perhaps some easing of the grief of their going.  And also a certain comfort knowing the seeds we sowed together will continue to gestate, take root, and flourish.

….every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

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September at Lightspring Glen

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Earth Pilgrim report:

It is more than a considerable blessing to live on these seven acres tucked into the northwest corner of the Catskill Mountains. With a conscious shift of my focus the too-often thunderous cacophony of the news-of-the-world can be muted to a tolerable rumbling. Here this late Summer’s important news is how magnificent the fruit crop is, especially the apples. Four years ago I was impatiently waiting for the bank closing on my new home. When I paid surreptitious visits to walk the land that was not quite-yet mine, I was thrilled to discover three or four venerable apple trees from the farm’s long ago orchard, trees likely over 50 years old. Their branches that year were heavy with delicious apples. Weather vagaries in the intervening years resulted in far fewer and nearly none at all last fall. This year once more they are laden with heirloom apples whose names I’ve pledged to discover. How marvelous to be present to fully enjoy them.

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One of the two apple trees just uphill from the barn

And even more wonderful news, the incredible resurgence of the Monarch butterflies making their graceful way South. The alarming decline of their numbers these last few years triggered an outpouring of concern and assorted remedies including simply planting milkweed, their favored plant, anywhere and everywhere. In mid-August when I began to see lone Monarchs fluttering in a field or crossing the yard, I was delighted that at least a few were again making the annual migration. But then I began to see more and more, sometimes several in one day, and heard that other people were seeing them and in numbers too. And all who are paying attention to this near-miracle are thankful and even a little awed. It is heartening to think our human efforts may just have made a difference. Or maybe the Monarchs are somehow giving us a vote of confidence. Which ever it is or neither, seeing these amazing and seemingly fragile-yet-intrepid creatures delights the eye and spirit.

And so it’s here again, September’s annual summons to release summer’s treasures. This week I saw a photo online of someone holding a handful of beautiful autumn leaves with the meme, “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.” ::: sigh :::  Wisdom, yes, but so much loveliness to relinquish. A few such lovelinesses for me are my morning Tai Chi routine by the pond; hours of leisurely porch-sitting with the cats, the three of us  musing on the beauties of the day-in-progress (at least I’m musing…not sure if they are but they always look content); tending my small veggie patch and watching its progress (which required extra vigilance this summer from a sneaky kale-loving deer or maybe it was a woodchuck?!). And…BIG sigh…having to put on my shoes more again, surrendering summer’s barefoot bliss. (Some of you are nodding in sympathy to this last, I so know)

Still, this is familiar territory…soon newly-arriving Autumn will begin to beguile me with her irresistible charms. The trees’ glorious green canopy will do its mesmerizing shape-shifting, the splendid treetop-fire igniting across the wooded hills. And soon here at Lightspring Glen it will be the second anniversary of the installation of my solar panels. Their arrival was featured in this post of Notes of an Earth Pilgrim when its location was at BlogSpot. You can link to it here: http://notesofanearthpilgrim.blogspot.com/2015/10/a-blazecatching-fire-at-lightspring-glen.html

So the news from here this September offers its earthy, homespun comfort and hope over and against the larger scene. The apple trees continue in their quiet presence, some fifty seasons of bud to fruit to winter dormancy….to bud again. The Monarchs signal their persistence and steady faith in the mysteries of migration and ongoing life.

Let us take heart….

Autumn Blessings to all from Lightspring Glen and from me, the Resident Earth Pilgrim.

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Peach jam made with my granddaughter, Brianna, Bartlett pears, and a few of the wild apples

 

 

 

Lush…Mid-Summer’s Abbondanza & Mary Oliver

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July pond…Lightspring Glen

In the dark and drear of January, it’s summer days like this we dream of…..

Chalice Pond is a serene mirror of the woods here at Lightspring Glen, a gentle breeze is adding just the coolness needed for the day’s low-80s, (with the humidity blessedly comfortable so far ) fair-weather cumulus clouds are sailing their impossibly huge white galleons across the sky’s brilliant blue depths.  Given the news of terrible heat in the West of the continent, here in the Northeast we have been enjoying a most clement Summer with the (mostly) moderate complaint of too many rainy days. And in truth there’s been enough rainfall to cause some flooding problems, especially around the Great Lakes. But since we passed the Fourth, warm, beautiful, abundant Summer has arrived in its fullness so that now making sure to bring along the sunblock is at last a necessity.

Our damp May and June’s silver lining has been what so many comment on when talk of the weather comes up smiling as we say, “…but haven’t the flowers been so lush this year?!” And oh my, how true this is, both wild and garden-flowers lingering long beyond their usual date. The apple trees were thick with blossom and fragrance promising an excellent harvest  Already on my morning walk the wild trees are showing branches increasingly heavy with new green apples. The deer and I are going to enjoy this mouth-watering abundance come Autumn.

I am delighted that the birds are still singing so late in the season, no doubt due to how the cool, rainy Spring delayed nesting. Both mornings and evenings, but especially the mornings, I am still thrilled by so many voices: robins, cat birds, the wood and Hermit thrushes, the oven bird, and a variety of warblers. The cardinal’s young have just fledged in the past week and the three brightly-feathered juveniles are trailing their parents about the shrubs, already strong flyers. And the chickadee family is making the rounds of the yard too, the young ones talking amongst themselves with their adolescent, slightly buzzy-voices, chick-a-dee-dee-dee. When they at last grow silent which will be soon (and as they must in the order of things), it will be the song sparrow I will probably miss the most. Father-sparrow has been offering his song so exuberantly here in the yard starting early in May. This year, more than others, with the birds still singing….at this very moment a wood thrush offering its exquisite flute tones from the woods…I am of the mind that at least some of the time they sing for the sheer joy of it.

And then there’s the stream and waterfall here in Lightspring Glen, their voices usually a low murmur in Summer’s dryer weeks. So a last blessing to note making for this season’s generous abbondanza is the still-sounding silvery and merry water music offering its magick to all of us fortunate to frequent this special corner of the world.

But beyond my own praise song, it’s Mary Oliver poem, “A Summer’s Day” that to me strikes exactly the right note….so this, and then following her beautiful last line with its provocative question, a photo of the stream.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

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Earth and Sky are Dancing – Summer Solstice 2017

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Below Richardson Hill, Willow Brook Watershed, mid-June 2017

And so the year’s Wheel has spun us gently from Winter’s cold and darkness through Spring’s gradually-lengthening days to June, sweet June. The Sun rose in the Solstice skies at 5:24 this morning, though with Richardson Hill to my east it was nearly 7 before its first rays touched the tree tops here at Lightspring Glen and shafts of golden light began to flicker down into the woods. The huge cumulus clouds sailing past are offering their counterpoint to the long, languorous hours of Grandfather Sun’s light on this Summer Solstice day. Tomorrow will be nearly the same as the sun-stands-still in the sky. Our ancestors knew this phenomena well and celebrated its annual return with fires and fine celebration.

For 21st century folks, especially those of us in the Northeast, Grandfather Sun’s warmth and light is being all the more savored this year after an often dreary and chilly Spring. Winter jackets were a necessity off and on well into May. We can be forgiven if we grumbled. (And for many the unsettling news of the larger world made for a tiring, dispiriting slog many a-day.)

A consolation in those months was the abundance of bloom in our gardens, roadsides, and meadows as spring flowers lingered well beyond their usual time, their colors all the more stunning against the gray. And the spring peepers had quite the long season, perhaps a record one, of night-time chorusing in their over-filled ponds and wetlands (which just maybe they liked a lot!). But Spring’s migration went on as it always does bringing our wonderful feathered-residents home for a new season of nesting. Grandmother Moon waxed and waned no matter what was going on down here at eye-level, with June’s full moon, the Rose Moon, particularly splendid. Such comfort in this ceaseless solar / lunar pas de deux.

I am pleased beyond the telling to be celebrating my fourth Summer Solstice here at Lightspring Glen. The fields and woods are bustling, bursting with life as the season’s Green Fire ripples through the valleys and hills. Not far from the porch where I sit pondering and reaching for quick-silver thoughts for this post, the song sparrow is offering his upbeat notes, and farther back in the woods the ovenbird insists again, “Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!” Last night when I turned out my bedside light, a firefly winked at me through the screen and lured me out of the house into the earth-scented dark of the back yard. Like so much else this year, the fireflies are in abundant number and so I was treated to a magnificent dance of flickering, golden patterns against the wood’s darkness, the silvery cascade of the waterfall and stream brimming with the day’s showers providing the perfect accompaniment.

By Friday, the moon will have come to its dark time, the New Moon in Cancer gliding unseen through our day-time skies. Then over the next few evenings, reappearing magically in its glistening crescent, the cycle begins anew. Though the daylight hours will start their inevitable decreasing not long after, for long weeks the Summer sun will reign, ripening our gardens and shoring up our spirits and hopes. This year more than ever, we so need to feel and be embraced by the rhythm of this seasonal, grace-full pulse, the Wheel of the Year lumbering all slowly, steadily, and reassuringly on.

On this notably pagan-inclined day, (Stonehenge was humming and thrumming just hours ago) these words to close: So Mote It Be.

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Lady Slipper, Lightspring Glen

 

 

 

April, come she will

DSCN5547When I woke yesterday, the first day of April, it was to light snow falling, the ground, trees, and woods once more arrayed in lacy-white. Here in these Catskill foothills, we’ve only recently emerged from the remnants of the Blizzard-named-Stella of three weeks ago that paralyzed a good deal of the Mid-Atlantic and New England for several days. Already quite Winter-weary, it was hard to keep from being discouraged at this newly-imposed, longer wait for Spring. There was a frustratingly slow dwindling of the several feet of snow. Finally by the end of last week rain reduced the snow drifts lingering around my house to only a few dirty white piles and in the woods the snow blanket showed signs of tattering at last. And then near dark on Thursday I opened the door to let the cat in and was greeted by the unmistakable notes of a robin tentatively offering his Spring song. I gasped with delight and hurried down the steps to hear it more clearly as it called twice more and then a last time. I breathed in the magic of it deeply, the first Robin-song of the year.

But as a friend said yesterday, “Spring will not be denied much longer!” Bright blue skies reign this Sunday afternoon, and the moving waters of the many streams and rippling ponds of Lightspring Glen are everywhere sparkling in the sunshine. And as I rose yesterday morning it was to Simon and Garfunkel singing in my Inner Ear, “April, come she will / when streams are ripe and swelled with rain…”, a song I had not thought of in a very long while.

I have always been delighted with my country-life where there are four such distinct Seasons. In the interest of full disclosure, the rigors of Winter sometimes seem more demanding as the years move along. But I will never tire of this inevitable, magical shift from Winter to Spring and how it brings rejoicing…re-joy-cing…as the Earth warms and life quickens once more.

A few days before Stella arrived in her snowy fierceness, news reached me of the passing of the poet, Derek Walcott. He left us on March 17th at the age of 87. His poems have touched my life at several points with their singular and beautiful messages. In the tributes I read that weekend I discovered one new to me. It feels a perfect tribute both to him and to this always-wondrous and mesmerizing turning of the Wheel of the Year.

Earth

Let the day grow on you upward
through your feet,
the vegetal knuckles,

to your knees of stone,
until by evening you are a black tree;
feel, with evening,

the swifts thicken your hair,
the new moon rising out of your forehead,
and the moonlit veins of silver

running from your armpits
like rivulets under white leaves.
Sleep, as ants

cross over your eyelids.
You have never possessed anything
as deeply as this.

This is all you have owned
from the first outcry
through forever;

you can never be dispossessed.

~ Derek Walcott ~
January 23, 1930 – March 17, 2017
(Sea Grapes)

Valentine for Mother Earth

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Lightspring Glen Valentine 2017

This year’s Valentine’s Day dawned beneath calm and brightening skies following several days of quite wintry weather, our snowiest week of the season. Nearly a foot and a half of snow has fallen in these past eight days keeping me close to home with the pleasurable tasks of monitoring the bird feeders, firing up Penguin now and then (my trusty snow blower) to keep the driveway passable, and simply enjoying the deep country-quiet of my hill-home. Given the strangely mild winters of recent years, this year’s snow-globe beauties are delighting my Earth-loving heart.

Some time in the past year a serendipitous connection on the world-wide-web brought this Celtic blessing to my notice when I saw it on the Facebook time-line of Caitlin Matthews, a Celtic scholar who I have long admired. She offered it as a simple ritual for a morning and evening gift to Mother Earth, suggesting if possible to step outside and quietly say it aloud in your dooryard, your garden, your snowy deck, your front stoop. It didn’t matter a bit how urban or rural the setting, only that you acknowledge the sky above and sense your connection to the sweet earth beneath your feet.

So from all the beautiful and magickal Beings of Lightspring Glen, from me, the Resident-Human, and from Angus and Tiger Lily (the resident felines), here is the blessing as our Valentine to you:

Blessed be the precious and preserving Air

by which we are given Life

Blessed be the precious and preserving Fire

by which we are warmed

Blessed be the precious and preserving Waters

by which we are cleansed

Blessed be the precious and preserving Land

by which we are sustained

Blessed be the precious and preserving Spirit within and around us

Blessed be the precious and preserving Ancestors,

now, then, and to come

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Hands embrace Earth in the shape of a heart.

Love Letter to the Seneca Falls Marchers

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It took little time to fall in love with you, my Sister and Brother-marchers, all 9,999 of you. We began to gather shortly after 9 am last Saturday, every one of us grateful to be together on such an incredible day like none other in anyone’s memory. Around midday our number was reported at between 5 and 7,000, but the final tally pushed this to 10,000!  The after-glow remains vivid even six days later, and I have a hunch it will continue like this well into the future. We will need every bit of this light and warmth. We’re already confronted in this post-Inauguration first week with outrageous, cold-blooded actions out of the White House. There’s a sense, for me at least, that some of this is retaliation for the actions of the three million of us (and that’s a conservative figure) who joined together on January 21st all across America and around the world (all seven continents! photos of those lovely folks in Antarctica have warmed many a heart!) …to speak our solidarity in opposition to all the Trump regime stands for and seems hell-bent on perpetrating.

But back to you, you gorgeous women, fabulous men, and wonderful kids who chose to travel to Seneca Falls, the birthplace in 1848 of the Women’s Rights Movement. Over and over the names were called out from the podium and spoken to each other in later conversations…Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Matilda Joslyn Gage. How keenly aware we were of walking in their footsteps, offering our thanks for their lifetimes’ efforts and for showing us the way. Among the morning’s speakers was 101-year old Mary Simpson Smart who shared the memory of marching with her mother in the 1920 victory parade when women gained the Vote. How marvelous to have her sprightly presence and oh my did we cheer loudly for her! And before Mary, the equally inspiring voices in song and word of women and men of the Oneidas and Mohawks of the Haudenosaunee Nation (Iroquois) whose lands these were before the European invasion of the immigrant ancestors of most of us in the crowd. Their words were not angry (as none were the entire day) but of blessings for Mother Earth and cautionary ones to us who until now had little or any experience of those who desire power and control over us. The First Peoples are among the new way-showers. They know the path ahead well and have endured to guide us now.

And then came the time to move out onto the streets of Seneca Falls reveling in the day’s spring-like warmth and cheery sun. Off we strode in our numbers, admiring each others’ signs, sharing conversations of where we were from, why we were here, thanking each other for coming to join together in heart and mind.

Here are some of you that I had the delight of meeting:

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Bonnie…we stood together during the opening ceremony applauding and whooping at the speeches and music. This sweet little girl and her lovely family, mom, dad, and baby brother (that’s her dad in the upper right corner). She wanted to hold my sign as we waited to start the march and wanted her doll to help too. And at the end of the march, another beautiful family who wanted their picture taken with me and my sign.

The last photo is of this wonderful man, a new grandfather who stood on the sidewalk holding his sign for us to see as we marched past. It read: “I march for Reese Honour Cassavaugh, my granddaughter, 2 Weeks Old Today”. dscn5428Of all the wonderful speeches, signs, and conversations, this man’s love for his newborn granddaughter crystallized for me the reason we’d all journeyed to Seneca Falls that day. Radicalized love was fully birthed on January 21st, 2017 and it will be the Fuel and Light that will sustain and guide us in the work ahead.

We are the Ones we’ve been waiting for. And I so love you all.

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Landing on My Feet

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December 9th, 2016, an anniversary like none other and one that I’d been anticipating with increasing gratitude as this day drew closer. This past year has been a healing journey, one that not only allowed my body to heal, but brought more ineffable gifts for which I will forever be grateful.

On what was an unusually mild December afternoon a year ago, I went searching for my cat, Angus. He’d been missing for what was an over-long time, and I was very worried. A favorite place of his was the upper floor of the barn and I strode hurriedly across the ramp fearful that when I slid back the haymow’s heavy door he’d be lying inside injured or worse. It’s in moments like this when you forget caution. Dangerously near the edge of the ramp, I tugged on the handle and felt my feet begin to slip on the damp wood. My body tilted away from the door and I knew I was going to fall a long way down to the ground ten feet below. Instinct told me to relax, to not struggle against the inevitable, and I fell backwards in the oddest slow-motion flight landing on my back. Woomph. No pain. I was conscious. I lay looking up at the sky and leafless branches above the barn, uttered a primal yell or two, willed my breathing to return to normal, and then calmly began to assess”what next”.

Feeling no pain (yet) the “what next” was checking myself out very cautiously, discovering my right leg wasn’t about to hold me up though my left leg seemed okay. My neighbors weren’t home, that I knew. So there was nothing to do but to slowly crab-crawl to the house. No cars passed on the road as I made my way oh-so-slowly across the lawn, hoping I wasn’t doing myself too much further harm. Shock is a helper of course, and I got myself up the four steps to the kitchen door, scrabbled slowly to the phone, and called for help.

Over the next twenty-four hours a marvelous retinue of medical helpers saw to my aid. First the marvelous and caring local EMTs who fetched me for my first-ever ambulance ride to the local ER and then a second to the Cooperstown Hospital an hour away. (mildly disappointed that no siren was necessary either time) The bigger concern was possible internal trauma, lesser focus was the quickly-discovered severe fracture to my sacrum (tail bone) and badly bruised right hip and leg. Angels work in all these places and I was blessed to meet and be cared for by a dozen or more. My son, Justin, was with me for all of this, a most comforting presence. We were told again and again that I was very lucky not to have sustained a paralyzing injury and that time would be the healer. A year’s time….I must allow for that, said kind Dr. Diaz.

So many lovely folks, family and friends, came to my aid as I convalesced at home. Such an outpouring of concern and support came via the internet, especially in that sweet cyber-neighborhood of Facebook. It’s a special place as many of you reading this know.

I was unable to drive for several weeks, navigating slowly about the house with a walker, determined above all to regain my self-sufficiency. Winter’s natural hibernation-option let me slumber a lot and receive deep healing. And it was actually a bonus to have all that wonderful reading time. Blessings come in all sorts of ways if you let them.

It was a banner day in mid-January when I drove out for groceries for the first time, made it into the store with my walking stick, and maneuvered about the aisles on one of their electric carts. This and other signs of returning agility and stamina slowly arrived as winter gave way to spring and spring to summer. But I had to learn new levels of patience at many turns, especially when over-exuberant gardening on Memorial Day triggered a set-back to my right knee. Aarrgh.  Time and again I reminded myself of how fortunate I was to be upright, getting about slowly but under my own power.

My daily woods-rambling was restricted to shuffling about the yard, so it was an emotional day indeed when I at last made my way slowly over the path at the pond’s outlet and stood beneath the trees, weeping at their welcome. It was late August before I was able to take a cautious hike up to the top of the hill…again such a triumphant and gratifying accomplishment.

As cooler days arrived…and oh what a glorious autumn we had…I became keenly mindful of the nearly eleven months gone by of this required healing-time. Apart from an occasional grumble of pain, nearly everything about walking or climbing steps or being able to practice Tai Chi again announced I was nearly completely healed. Often now when I walked in the woods I was conscious of the blessing it was to put one foot in front of the other, to feel my connection to Mother Earth, to be navigating this beautiful land under my own power.

It has been an extraordinary year and I am beyond-grateful for the gifts this healing journey has brought me. I’m not quite sure I’d do it again if I had the choice…but musing over this recollection this day, very likely I would give it careful consideration.

11th of December 2016 :: Lightspring Glen ::