In The Heart Of The Fire

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Just when I am ready to give up on this post, a journal entry not only brings it back to life, but totally changes it and adds a whole new level of excitement of writing and sharing. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post honouring Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes, ever since I arrived here at the Kulana Sanctuary and felt the first tremor shake my little cabin where I was sitting and writing.

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Living only a few miles from the volcano, these tremors are a regular occurrence, and you can’t help but feel her tremendous power. I so loved the welcoming rainbows, the loud calls of hawks and many other magical moments, that gave me a feeling of being blessed by her and a reminder of my own power, whenever I went to visit and hike in the park.

I remember seeing a mysterious orange glow on our drive home from a sweet day of adventures at the Punalu’u Black Sand beach. My friend and I had stayed till after sunset and soon after we turned onto the highway heading home, we saw the glow in the distance. It was mesmerizing and mysterious and we decided spontaneously to take the exit to the National Park entrance, not knowing if it was open or not. To our delight it was open and we were told to drive up to the museum to get a closer look at this glowing wonder. We witnessed with deep awe and respect the spectacular orange, red, and yellow fire and steam rising from the Halema’uma’u Crater. It was stunning to see and to feel the aliveness of this volcano. It felt to me like the heart of Pele, pulsing and fiery with all of her tremendous force just beneath the surface.

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Wanting to find a way to say “Thank you!” for her warm welcome and her teachings around passion and aliveness, this list felt like the perfect way to do just that, allowing myself to feel the excitement of what life is offering me and sharing it with others. There is such tremendous power when we locate and follow our highest excitement in life.

Our Lava Heart Rock – Photo by Ana Cristina

So here is my list of yesterday’s Highest Excitement as I wrote it down spontaneously in my journal last night bringing me so much joy:

  • My insight about my fears and sharing it with one of the women here and how these conditioned fears remind me of heavy luggage that I no longer wish to carry. Throwing it into Pele’s fire on the New Moon on Sunday seems like the perfect way of releasing it.
  • Listening to Mooji and reading Eckhart Tolle’s “Stillness Speaks”, bringing me back to just being
  • The lush green of the Irises that are spreading wildly on the path to the meditation spot and that I am replanting to give them more space
  • The amazing crescent moon shaped like a bowl surrounded by stars….the night sky here in Hawai’i is utterly breathtaking
  • A hot shower, my first in a month! Not luke, not cold, but hot….so heavenly!
  • Sitting on the deck of the new cabin I moved into, called lovingly “The Tree House” and writing in the sunshine…there is nothing sweeter than this.

I don’t know why but sharing this list makes me happy. What about you, what made you feel alive today?

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The Tree House

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The Ancient Ones Are Calling

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Grandmother Turtle was calling me in her mysterious way long before I even knew I was returning to the Big Island of Hawaii. Her vivid image kept appearing in my mind’s eye when least expected. She had been there to greet me when I arrived on my birthday last year and to my surprise and delight met her again in the exact same spot on the day I had to leave. She had a curious mark on her shell which helped me recognize her immediately and there was something special about sitting with her at a respectful distance on both my first and last day on the island. Her ancient presence held me spell bound. It felt like she was transmitting something on an energetic level that cannot be put into words.

As soon as I got back to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago, I returned to the same sacred spot where we had met. Somehow I already knew that she wouldn’t be there, it didn’t matter. I felt her presence as clearly as on the first and last time we met. I stood there watching two much younger turtles make their way home into the ocean surrounded by many visitors capturing their escape on camera.

Leaving the beautiful sunshine and heat of the Kona area behind, as well as the sweetly familiar landscape and landmarks, I made my way towards the Volcano National Park. Turning off the highway a few miles from the park entrance, where eventually an unpaved lane led me to my new temporary home at a rustic artist sanctuary at a much higher elevation with much cooler temperatures and huge amounts of rainfall.

Settling into the jungle and rustic cabin was easy, feeling welcomed by the other women as well as nature. The wild pigs had opened up the path to the rustic cabin I am staying in, which the rain turned into mud. Feeling the squishy mud beneath my feet as I carried my suitcase to my humble home, I had a sense of stepping deeper into an unfolding mystery and this might turn out to be quite different from the dream that brought me here.

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Within a few days of my arrival three of us drove to a beautiful beach near Hilo where the sun gifted us with some heat, which was most welcomed after sleeping with four blankets at night to stay warm in my unheated little abode. Exploring the beach and cliff, I was immediately captivated by the dramatic and stunning contrast of the green vegetation against blue sky and the turquoise water and white waves crashing against the black lava. The wild beauty was stunning, bringing me deeply into the present moment.

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Yet I felt strangely vulnerable standing out on that cliff covered in black uneven lava rock with huge waves rolling towards me. Both fear and exhilaration took their turns in me as wave after wave crashed against the rocks, some so unexpectedly big and powerful bringing the water way too close for my comfort level.

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Deciding that I wanted to find more peaceful surroundings, I made my way back to a channel I had waded through to get to the cliff. Soon I discovered a perfect spot right at the edge of this channel, where I could watch fish of different shapes, colours and sizes enjoy the calm water leading into a sheltered pool.

It took me a while to notice her. She was sleeping underwater, her shell blending completely into the rocks she was lying on. It was almost a shock when I realized that the giant rock in the channel beneath me was really a giant turtle. This one was even bigger than the one I met last year. A new friend of mine sat on the opposite side of the channel and we both sat silent in the presence of this giant ancient being. People came by, some noticed her and some not. One made a comment that she surely must be dead as she was lying completely motionless on the bottom of the water.

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When another giant turtle swam through the channel right over her, she lifted her head and soon made her way to the surface. Watching her take a her first breath after being under water for a very long time was like watching a baby take it’s first breath. As she looked at me and acknowledged my presence, I had the same feeling I had a year earlier when Grandmother Turtle greeted me. Then she turned her head slowly and looked at my friend on the other side before sinking back to the bottom resting on the matching rocks. My friend and I looked at each other, neither one of us had words to describe this experience. “Awe” doesn’t even come close.

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As I sit here writing this, “Flash Flood Warning” messages appear on my phone every couple of minutes as the heavy rain keeps coming down relentlessly, and I wonder what we could learn from these ancient ones, what messages they might have for us if we cared to listen.

As I slowly break through my resistance of the endless rain drenching me each and every day, keeping me awake most of the night with the intense drumming on the metal roof of my cabin four feet from my head, teaching me to surrender, rather than resist what life is bringing me, encouraging me to open to the gift that is waiting to be fully received in this moment.

I remember last year around this time I volunteered at an amazing fundraising event for Standing Rock on our little island, bringing so many of us together, recognizing the incredible importance of water. The event was a huge success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. “Water is Life” our small community choir sang at the benefit. The powerful words are still ringing in my heart as is the power of people coming together and stand together for what is sacred.

Each day the lessons around water deepen and bring greater awareness. Yesterday we decorated our new “African Shower Bucket”, that has brought us immense amount of delight in decorating, as well as much appreciation for being able to wash our hair and bodies with warm water. After many cold shower this is truly heaven. And it is not lost on us, that there are many in the world who have little or no access to water. So I am letting go of my dream of sunshine and embrace both the incredible abundance, the lesson and the gift, as the frogs start singing their nightly song regardless of if it’s raining or not.

Return, Return, Return

 

P1190884Waking up to Kingfisher’s loud and distinct rattling call, I opened my eyes to see what was going on. The little ducks, that come to stay in the bay and grace us with their presence every winter, have returned and for some reason this is either not to Kingfisher’s liking or perhaps he is just very excited that they are back to keep him company during the darker winter months. As he is announcing their arrival to the whole world, I watch him fly low over the ducks from shore to tree and back again, over and over while rattling away.

This summer to my delight I was lucky enough to capture three of them sitting together on the rope by the dock, a favourite resting place in the mornings, after diving in and out of the water many times for their breakfast. But lately I have seen only the one coming to sit there, pruning itself in the sunlight after the morning swim and meal.

P1170257Looking at the Kiwis lying on the table being kissed by the early morning sun, it is hard to describe the joy I feel looking at their fuzzy bodies and also felt while I was picking them as the snow was coming down in silent reverence a few days ago. Standing on the ladder twisting and turning to get those hard to reach treasures, while icy cold drops from the leaves dripped on my face and neck, running down and making me shiver with aliveness, I could feel joy spreading inside and filling me, as I picked one by one and carefully placing them in my basket.

These old Kiwi vines are a huge tangled mess and I had to laugh when my hat kept getting pulled off by the branches and pretty soon my long hair also got tangled in the vine, making it at times impossible to move. It felt good to laugh out loud, slowly untangling myself and filling the basket with so much abundance. It wasn’t lost on me as I freed my hair of how it was reflecting the untangling that is happening in my own life. Now seeing the hundreds of kiwis lying on the table, I feel awe and gratitude for Mother Nature’s incredible generosity and teachings.

P1200005While picking the fruit I was singing a favourite song I learned in choir: “The Earth, the air, the fire, the water….return, return, return!”  Standing on that ladder while snow and rain were taking turns to awaken me, I couldn’t help but hear the elements around me calling to become truly present: Return! Return! Return!

As my awareness deepened, I saw pictures in my heart’s eye of how we used to honour and celebrate together the elements, the seasons, the sun, moon and stars, and our mother…how we used to dance together around the fires celebrating all that sustains life and how deeply connected and intertwined we were with life itself.

The earth, the air, the fire and the water are singing their invitation to all of us to return, return, return…

 

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A Sacred Journey

P1180481Putting another log on the fire, I nestle into my soft blanket as the day comes to an end. I am surprised to see the soft glow of the moon in the East already, while the intense pink sky in the opposite direction announces the departure of the sun. Settling into the stillness of what is ending and beginning all at once, vivid memories from my recent trip return. I remember clearly my feeling of excitement and some fear as I sensed that this trip was just the beginning of a much bigger journey, as I stood at the back of the ferry watching the little island I call home disappear in the dense fog, leaving a sparkling trail of light.

Three ferries took me to the mainland and my car, after sputtering unhappily for the last two years, was finally back in its full power and taking me effortlessly across the mountain passes back to where my sons were born more than twenty-five years ago. My heart was beaming with joy as I drove the familiar route through the mountains, both delighting in what I saw and the memories that kept resurfacing of two little boys and a big golden dog and all the sweet adventures we shared with their grandparents that came faithfully each summer for an extended stay from Germany, helping us on our homestead.P1180693

I must have stopped at least fifteen times, drinking in the scenery and beauty of the changing season with all my senses, reacquainting myself with the different, yet achingly familiar, fragrances, plants, birds and wildlife like I would with dear old friends. Taking my time to rediscover special spots and stopping whenever I felt the sense to pull over, I was filled with deep gratitude and wonder. For once I had all the time in the world.

As I drove through the fall landscape with beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow I was reminded that this is the season of my life now and that there is beauty and new experiences waiting to be discovered by the woman who I am now, not the young mother I was then.

P1180866It was such a sweet joy to visit with my dearest friend and as always share deeply with each other both the blessings and the pain. One of the many magical highlights was going for a hike together, climbing her favourite little mountain. My muscles were screaming by the time we got to the top. The little mountain was much bigger than I had anticipated. But the view overlooking Grand Forks and the wonderful feeling I always get when I climb a mountain and can leave behind old ideas, confusion and any heaviness I might be feeling, made more than up for the discomfort of my body.P1180939As we sat on the top of that mountain, dark clouds began moving in quickly and we watched a lonesome crow ride a thermal right in front of us. We remarked on how unusual it was to see only one crow and wondered why a group of them is called something as strange as ” a murder of crows”. No sooner had we spoken the word when more and more crows joined the first one. All of sudden the murder of crows had appeared out of nowhere. There were more crows than we could count, all dancing with the strong winds right before our eyes. It was exhilarating and quite the show to watch, making us wish we could join them.P1180780But there was another gift waiting for us. When we got back down to the bottom of the mountain, my friend found a Praying Mantis right by my car and we took turns holding her for a little while. I couldn’t help but feel profoundly touched by the encounter. P1180797This Praying Mantis with one broken antenna captured my heart as she sat there looking at me in complete stillness, helping me find my own inner stillness and connection to the Sacred.

Visiting my sons on Mayne Island on my way back was just as special and filled another part of my heart. More delightful hikes and discoveries on this small Gulf island with the highlight of a fun ride on the back of a motorbike through the autumn woods with a picnic by the Sea. Probably the most magical moment was hearing the most astonishingly beautiful song by a raven I have ever heard. It took us a while to identify who made these enchanting sounds as we sat in wonder and listened. Eagle watched carefully as two families of otters came for a drink of water and passed beneath the tree he was sitting on and disappeared in the woods perhaps for an afternoon nap.P1190046When it was time to go back home and the ferry pulled away from Mayne Island at sunrise, I felt quite differently than when I started out on my trip. And one thing that became clear is that my journey isn’t over. As I allowed myself to first entertain the possibility of listening to a deep inner calling to visit the Big Island of Hawaii on my own, that possibility quickly took on a life of its own. I will be leaving for the next part of this journey in just over two weeks. My heart is filled with much gratitude and wonder, but also fear arises in the dark hours of the night, as I continue on this sacred journey into the Mystery.

A sacred journey

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing.

Make sure before you go,
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you towards
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life;
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

~ John O’Donohue

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In response to the Daily Prompt: Gratitude

 

 

 

In The Softness

 

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This morning I pulled a card from my beautiful new Yantra Deck, the Art of Being Present, that I found in Nelson, BC, on my little road trip. The card was Simplicity’ and it inspired the following journal entry, which I would like to share with you on this Thanksgiving Day here in Canada:

“I love being in the here and now, immersing myself in the peacefulness that I find beneath the busyness of my mind. The soothing freshly brewed nettle tea brings warmth to the inside, while the crackling fire in wood stove wraps me in its warmth on the outside.

Life feels so simple in this moment and so full, as Raven glides by, clucking its unique sound in agreement perhaps. The ‘trying to figure it all out’ mind has receded into the background for now. I can tune into it if I wish, but I don’t, staying instead in the contentment felt in this moment, where breath, sounds, the beauty around me, all call gently for my attention, just as the hand holding this pen glides softly across the page, mirroring the softness I feel on the inside.

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I’ve been noticing it a lot lately: this softness, when I yield to what is in the moment, rather than resist or try to change or stop what is happening. Allowing all the emotions and the changes to occur in me, in my life and in the world has somehow brought me into this more open, vulnerable state of acceptance, allowing and embracing the not having any answers. As I soften to whatever arises, I discover the joy of  my heart opening to receive it all.  In this softness I can hear a whisper “All is well”. I hear my mind faintly protesting in the backseat while my eyes fill with grateful tears: Yes! All is well!”

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Happily giving thanks for this moment and all it contains, especially this softness and love permeating from the inside and coming to me in so many forms and disguises on the outside. Giving thanks for life, each breath, each moment, each opportunity to discover, receive and express love and life, meeting and welcoming it as it is, not as I want it to be.

Sweet hummingbird comes and looks at me through the window, bringing more tears of gratitude and joy to my eyes. And with that image of beauty in motion left behind by hummingbird like a soft imprint on my heart, I want to come to your window of awareness and say Thank you for your offering of your love and presence in this world.

Wishing everyone a “Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Close Encounter

 

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Preparing for my little road trip and getting caught up in all the things I had to do before leaving, I lost track of time and suddenly noticed that the sun was already setting. I still had to get my car which I leave parked where the pavement ends, but now needed to bring back to the house to pack up for my journey. With darkness was fast approaching I grabbed my keys and started walking quickly through the forest

As it was getting darker and darker I realized that I had forgotten to bring a flashlight and began walking as quickly as I could. In the darkest part of the forest trail, normally so magical with light streaming through the trees, I suddenly heard the eery sound of a wolf howling. I stopped for a moment to get a sense of where it was coming from and realized I was walking right towards it.

Turning around wasn’t an option, so facing the fear that had arisen, I walked on and was glad, when I finally came out at the more open and wider logging road. The half moon had risen and P1170912was there to greet me and I was delighted to see it. If felt strangely comforting. The sound of the wolf’s howling was very close now. It was beautiful, wild and also sad sounding. I waited for a few moments to see if there was a reply, but no other wolf answered. Feeling a sadness and loneliness that wasn’t mine, I walked the rest of the way to my car and got there just before it was completely dark and happily drove home.

Arriving at the house I noticed the moon was shining brightly over the water in the bay. It looked so beautiful and I just had to get my tripod to try and capture the moon and the first star lighting up the sky. As I set it all up on the dock, I could still hear the wolf calling in the distance. Playing with different settings of my camera and noticing how more and more stars were appearing in the night sky, the sound of fish jumping brought my attention to the water lit up by the moonlight. Suddenly I heard a big splash just ahead of me and something rather big with wings rose from the water coming straight at me.

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To my amazement a Great Blue Heron landed right beside me on the dock. That first surprised look from both of us, as we looked at each other, would have been quite comical to witness, I am sure. I couldn’t believe that I found myself standing beside this large beautiful bird and I am not sure what he was thinking. He looked at me intently, as both of us stood completely still.

Knowing my camera was right there but pointing the other way at the moon, I realized there was no chance to capture this moment, any movement and the Heron would be gone in a heartbeat. Instead I allowed myself to be fully present and receive the gift of this close encounter.

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I was sure that this was the same Heron that I had been visiting with out in the kayak, watching him catch his dinner, sometimes with amazing precise elegance and other times jumping into the water with an ungraceful splash, but coming out of the water triumphantly with a fish speared in his beak. I have seen him land on our dock numerous times and hang out there, when no-one is there. A few times he made me laugh as I watched him grab and shake the white rope playfully as if he is bored or practicing catching fish.

On this night he didn’t stay long with me on the dock, but long enough for me to feel like I had stepped out of normal reality into some other magical realm. As I made my way slowly back to the house, wolf was still calling and waiting for an answer. The pictures of the moon didn’t turn out as I had hoped, but that didn’t matter at all. The experience with the Heron on the dock in the moonlight was far more precious than any photo.

Leaf, sunlight

The next morning I set out on my journey, letting go at some point of all the things left undone and trusting they could wait till I returned. Getting to the ferry terminal, the morning fog was shrouding everything in its mystery. Standing at the beach waiting for the ferry to arrive and suddenly seeing it coming at me through the fog, I knew some magical journey had already begun before I even left our little island.

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Exploration

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Being still and sitting with what is, is not always easy, especially when life feels like it is unravelling. It has been for a while, but admitting it to myself has not been easy. Sitting now in the uncertainty of possible changes in so many areas of my life: relationship, home, work, etc., I find moments of clarity here and there, as if clouds are parting and suddenly I can see the brilliant blue sky beyond.

Change is in the air. The Fall Equinox is happening as I am writing this at 1:02 pm here on the West Coast. Summer has ended. You can feel it in the cool crisp air and see the leaves turning bright yellow and brown, some letting go, gently drifting to the ground below. The theme of the Equinox of finding Inner Balance, as the sun enters the sign of Libra, certainly speaks to me in a big way and my sense is for many others as well.

Looking at the passing clouds and watching the interplay of different layers, shades of grey and their transformation before my eyes, gives me the opportunity to view change not through the lens of fear, but with openness and wonder.

 

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What I love both about photography and writing is that it exposes unseen layers, discovered through both the stillness of the image or the words and having the opportunity to dive deeper into what is being shown. Often I may see something that I couldn’t see before, revealing a deeper magic and a much wider perspective on things.

It is in these layers and different textures of life as well as the spaces in between, that I slowly find the clarity I need to move forward on my path. Exploring all that is happing and taking time to look from different angles, close up and from a distance, creates a field of vision that is needed to see a more complete picture and also allows me to open up to what is being uncovered. Some of it is easy to see and some of it is painful to receive and be with.

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As I witness my inner restlessness pushing and pulling, I am reminded of one of my favourite poems by Mary Oliver “The Journey“, whose words describe so well that deep inner calling to step out of the familiar and into the unknown. For now I soften into the restlessness, the not knowing, the fears and the dreams, trusting that love will guide me on this journey, wherever it takes me.

 

The Journey 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

 

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In response to the Daily Prompt: Leaf  and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Layered