Wild Flowers

I just returned from staying in Vermont for the past several days, and the lovely family I was visiting lives on a large expanse of land: it was serenely spacious and quite beautiful.

All around us was the beauty of mother nature: trees, mountains, ponds, greenery as far as the eye could see, the eternal vastness of sky, and a wash of wildflowers in every direction.

Each night we would dine on the cozy porch, comfortable on well loved couches overlooking a pond filled with an entire village of singing frogs and swaying lily pads.

古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音
Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

Old pond…

a frog jumps in

water’s sound

Haiku by Matsuo Basho, literal translation by Robert Hass

Along with listening to the loud chorus of ribbits and peeps, one of my favorite experiences was the tradition we shared before our evening meal. One by one we would take a moment to express something we were grateful for: be it the glorious weather we were having, the beauty of the trees, or the sweet happiness of creating endearing new friendships.

Around and about there is another pond, this one quite big, with a wooden dock to sit at, reflect, and place one’s feet in the chilly water.

There were tadpoles, and many salamanders swimming and exploring in the dappled sunlight.

A fuzzy caterpillar came to greet me…….

I was generously given the use of a small cabin built upon a hill nestled among the trees.

Once we were ready to settle in for the night, I would carefully make my way up a slightly steep, meandering path towards the cabin. My only light was the headlamp I carried in my hand, and the flashing of fireflies, whom you may also know as lightning bugs, flickering between branches and long grass.

As I wended to the cabin one cloudless night, I saw the brightest shooting star streak across the sky and I wanted to lie in the grassy field to gaze at them for hours.

Another time soon I will return to do just that.

It was very magical to be outside like this, long after the sun had gone to rest, where the darkness was deep, untouched by civilization.

All around us was the beauty of mother nature; trees, mountains, ponds, greenery as far as the eye could see, the eternal vastness of sky, and a wash of wildflowers in every direction.
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com
Photo by Flash Dantz on Pexels.com

I could have stayed in the house, but I was happy to have a chance to enjoy the intimacy of being immersed in nature, and so I chose to live at night without electricity, plumbing, and running water.

Earlier that day…..

Basically, there was one bed, two side-tables, a long counter which held a camping stove, a makeshift sink, and a tray of brightly colored Calendula flowers that were slowly drying.

In one corner a large screen was placed over two chairs, creating a natural rack for drying more plants; the one below is Motherwort.

In another corner hung a fragrant bunch of Lavender, which made me smile just to be near it.

Some of the the windows were glass, but many were only screen, with an entire wall of them perfectly placed in front of the bed. There was very little between me and the great outdoors.

Once inside I would turn off my meager light and with only myself to confide, deep in the stillness of the forest cathedral, every one of my senses came to life in a way that was both invigorating and free.

The croaks from my froggy companions continued to serenade me as I stood there in the sanctuary of my solitude, surrounded by tree guardians on all sides, while the song of two owls called to each other to celebrate my arrival.

Photo by OVAN on Pexels.com

I stood there at the window for a few moments just to soak up every exquisite moment of peace. After, I crawled into bed under my heavy pile of blankets, and kept my eyes open for as long as I could, looking out into the shiny, flickering darkness.

I slept well each night and woke gently with the first rays of light. When I was ready to re-enter the world, I slowly made my way down the hill, my bare feet cold and wet from the morning dew as I walked through the grass and back out among the wildflowers.

One of my all-time favorite songs!

I absolutely love Tom Petty, and am so grateful I was able to see him in concert before he sadly left us. I will always carry his music in my heart.

Wildflowers by Tom Petty

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

In Beauty & Peace, Raven

Summer Day

the garden of Ann

It’s raining, almost twilight, which is my favorite time; my beloved dog is laying close by, I’m listening to Chris Stapleton, it’s the first day of Summer, and my windows are wide open so I can hear the

Pitter-patter-drop-drop-drop

I haven’t been able to write for a while.

Due to my need for expansion I was pushed by the universe to leave my cozy nest and go back out into the world for a little bit

Pitter-patter-drop-drop-drop

I no longer fit within the lines of my dreams

To create a future where I am to be the most authentic version of myself, I shall slightly alter the course of my present flight…left at the fallen rock, a slight right when I reach the star

Pitter-patter-drop-drop-drop

Thankfully I am home to stay for several days of complete emotional freedom to wander barefoot through the byways of my sanctuary and ponder the beauty of life

I am in deep recovery from way too much people-ling

Pitter-patter-drop-drop-drop

It’s not that I won’t leave my house, it’s just that I don’t have to, and that makes all the difference in the world

Pitter-patter-drop-drop-drop

My name is Donna Marie

but the trees know me as Raven

Pitter-patter-drop-drop-drop

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Hope Springs Eternal

People often ask why I like the East coast so much more than the West coast where I grew up, and I would have to say that experiencing the seasons is one of the things I love best of all.

Forsythia; one of the first flowers of Spring

Living in New England for the past 30 years has attuned me to the rhythm of life in a way I had never understood before, and learning to enjoy each season for its unique blessings and challenges, is a good way to create harmony between us and the natural world.  

Pussy Willow

Being part of the changing circle of creation, forces us out of our everydayness into something flowing and alive. Just when we have reached our limit of cold winter days, the warm tendrils of Spring make their way across the land into our hearts, whispering softly of its promised arrival.

Like the finest of connoisseurs, I can feel it coming from miles away. Waking up from our long slumber, siblings to the trees, bodies stretching up towards the sun, we arrive, rejoicing in our eternal story.

Experiencing both moments of hardship and joy, brought to us on the winds of each new season, strengthens our resolve to live fully and with gratitude, knowing underneath the fertile soil are the miraculous stirrings of new beginnings, wonders never cease.

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; each an opportunity to celebrate the gifts from Mother Earth, and to release any lingering shadows held far too long, inspiring healing choices of forgiveness and love.

The symphony of birds outside my window every morning sing to me of dreams created during long winter nights. Heralding its arrival, robins sent out as tiny ambassadors announce the brightness of a new day.

Every season different, from beginning to end, renews our spirit, offering us a chance to grow and adjust our path. Though the days of time move in a continuous circle, our footsteps, if we desire, never having to be the same. 

Spring is in full bloom here in New England, and has been for a couple of weeks. The tulips and daffodils are lovely and already the magnolia blossoms are losing their petals, yet their sweet fragrance fills the air.

A dogwood tree in my front yard has started flowering, and each day on my walk I see something wondrous. Soon baby geese will paddle gently behind their parents on the lake, and I will take great pleasure in spying bunnies nibbling on clover during my morning walk.

Dogwood tree blossoms

Already the young crows are exploring, their voices loud overhead as they call to each other through the trees; under the fullness of the moon I hear the frogs sing across the water, and just today I saw my first butterfly, it’s wings softly painted white.

The arrival of this particular Spring has gently nudged me out from under the umbrella of melancholy I have long sheltered beneath, and into the cleansing rain of a new season.

“Life is brief and very fragile, do that which makes you happy,” is a quote I saved as a teenager. I made it into a collage which I brought with me when I moved here from California over 3 decades ago. I have it hung in my room as a daily reminder.

Despite my uncertainty in the unknown future, I am determined to remain open to all the beautiful possibilities life has to offer. The magic of each season holds a special message for everyone of us, if only we are willing to listen.

Drip-drop, ribbit-croak, nibble-hop, waddle-paddle, blossom-grow, flutter-fly, caw-caw

In Springy Peace, Happy first day of May!

Raven 

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Happy Birthday Dear Pup

Our beloved dog Skadi just celebrated her 5th birthday yesterday, on April 2nd, and we are so grateful to have her in our life. She is a Great Pyrenees, an immensely powerful large-breed dog originally from the Pyrenees mountains located in southwestern Europe, which form a natural border between Spain and France. My well-read children named her after Skadi, the Norse goddess of winter, ice and mountains, who was also known to be a giantess, which is perfect since our Skadi resembles a large polar bear.

She was the cutest little pup ever! Click on any of the photos on this page for a full view.

The Great Pyrenees are working dogs bred to protect sheep from wolves, bears and other predators on snowy mountain tops. Because of this they are known for their independence, patience, and courage. For the Great Pyrenees, their whole intent and purpose in life is to be a loyal and devoted guardian.

They also make great therapy dogs, which my family and friends can attest to, since Skadi loves nothing more than to share affection and to be cuddled; we probably kiss her sweet face at least a hundred times a day, and if she had her way it would be way more than that. Everyone who has been lucky enough to love such a wonderful breed is familiar with the “Pyrenees Paw,” which is what they use to “nudge,” or rather to smack you with in the hopes of gaining your attention: whack, whack, whack, they are very hard to ignore!

Skadi lives to love and be loved.

Her coat is thick and silky, and so soft to the touch, that she’s like a lush teddy bear come to life roaming from room to room, but what I find most amazing is how self-cleaning she is. Our Skadi will race outside, careening around the yard, barking at everything in sight, while tromping through inches of thick, oozy, muddy muck. She will then come back inside with her beautiful white paws covered and dripping with the elements. Once dry again, she somehow returns to her clean fur, with not a speck of dirt anywhere. I am sure it’s all over my home, but it’s no longer on her. Amazing!

Despite her largeness, (she’s average size for a female, the males can be as much as 160 lbs), she moves through the house with a natural grace on her softly padded paws. I call her a ghost dog: one minute I am tripping over her in the kitchen, and the next to my great bewilderment, she is suddenly out of sight like a thief in the night. Seriously, she is very sneaky, and I have to quickly go look for her to make sure she hasn’t got into any mischief between my peeling and chopping. Most times I find her laying in the bay living room window, guarding the neighborhood from her high perch from any intruders, or cozy on my bed, surveying her domain from my bedroom windows.

Though sometimes I catch her in action, eating my mail, or holding something stolen in her mouth with a defiant look just to get my attention. Believe me, it is a terrifying thing to see her standing there with a pair of scissors, or some kind of kitchen utensil she snatched off the counter. She will then lead me on a merry chase around the coffee table, while I scream myself hoarse telling her to “drop it now!” Eventually she will, but usually only if I offer her something better in trade. You may wonder who has trained whom, but if any of you out there are blessed to know this breed, you will fully understand that they will do nothing, absolutely nothing, unless they want to. I’ve seen photos of people actually carrying their dog home from a walk during which they have decided they were done and refused to take another step. Laugh if you must, but it’s true.

Skadi loves to sit in chairs, it’s so funny to look over and see her sitting next to me.

Here she is on perched on the back of our couch like a large vulture, or like in one of my favorite children’s book, ‘Horton Hatches the Egg.’

Great Pyrenees are also known for their intelligence, and without a doubt she keeps us all on our toes. Sometimes I look into her eyes and a shiver of awareness floods my body at the depth of knowledge I see shining out. Honestly, it’s like living with a fantasy creature from another world. I am sure Great Pyrenees run with the unicorns somewhere in an alternative universe.

She will stand on everything to get a better view and because she’s so curious.

Over the years, my family has always had pets. I cannot think of a time since I was a young child that we didn’t have some kind of creature companion: cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, birds, rabbits, lizards, tortoises, snakes, frogs, turtles, and let’s not forget the giant millipedes and hissing cockroaches. I tried to be an open-minded, adventurous kind of mother, especially since we home-schooled. I wanted to make sure my children had many wonderful experiences, which is why I allowed the two hissing cockroaches from Madagascar to be in a lidded container in my house. It’s inevitable that one actually escaped, but with the passing of time and perhaps a forced amnesia I soon forgot. Fast forward to many months later, one night for dinner I prepared for my family a bountiful and delicious salad. Later, when I returned to the kitchen to clean-up, there on the pile of vegetable scraps stood our very healthy and especially large missing pet, waiving his little antennas and hissing at me claiming dominance from its leafy mountain. Of course I screamed refusing to go even close, and with much pleading, and possibly some dire threats, I made my children re-capture and place him back into the home with his lonely friend, by this time greatly dwarfing him in size. I shudder to think of the many days and nights in which he apparently thrived living off of who knows what and I don’t even want to think about who knows where.

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

For all of you fellow pet owners, I am sure you can relate to the immense love we have in common for our dearest companions, whether they be covered with fur, scales, feathers or fluff, (maybe not with antennas, but who am I to judge)! We only get to be with them for such a short while in the big scheme of things, so it’s important to treasure every bit of precious time we have together. The heartache of losing our beloved friends is unbearable and I try not to project myself so far into the future where I live in dread of having to feel that again. Over the years since Skadi has graced us with her presence I have gone through significant heartache and trials, but with her sweet comfort and the happy smiles she brings to all of us, I have been able to persevere with grace. I tell her every single day how much she is loved, and how pleased we are to have her in our family. In the here and now, my sweetest most devoted friend in the world is laying next to me while I type this up, with her big head nestled against my side. I am immensely thankful to be blessed with such a holy being such as herself reminding me daily of the beauty of life.

The many faces of Skadi

Happy Birthday Dear Skadi, Happy Birthday to you….and many more!!!!

My daughter Tiana loves to take photo shoots with her, they are both so photogenic

I would like to add that if anyone is interested in this breed that they do their research first. These dogs are wonderful, but can also be difficult. Many people consider them working dogs and don’t interact with them the way our family does. They are known to bark a lot, and like I mentioned before they are very strong-minded, and hard to control. They need training, and patience. We were rather impulsive and ignored many of the warnings…haha…she is hard to walk because of her strength and doesn’t like other dogs. They also need space to roam, with large fences. For our sweet baby she demands a ton of affection, which we are happy to give. Great Pyrenees are not for the faint of heart, but certainly worth all the time and energy you can invest.

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Measure Of Time

Every day without fail, my eyes drift open into the early darkness of morning light and I immediately reach into the data base of my mind to remember what day it is; like a revolving door it returns without fail, the liminal space in time, where in that portal of nothingness, weightless in the unknowing, I am completely disconnected from the outside world, even from my own physicality, without substance or conscious intent. It is that one vibrant moment where I am aware of my soul, with no beginning or end.

One minute I am floating along in my river of dreams and the next tossed abruptly awake into the waters of reality. How far have I drifted from shore, no longer tethered by the measure of time. Until I know what day it is, I remain on the threshold of the in between, without need or purpose.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have been unemployed since the pandemic began almost a year ago. It took many years of struggle to dig myself out of financial trauma, and mostly by working jobs I greatly disliked. Finally I had reached a place of security with my children’s program, something that was meaningful, built out of love, and all my own. They say it takes several years of opening your business before it becomes lucrative, and for me I was heading into my 4th one when it all came crashing down. I think if I were comfortably retired right now I wouldn’t mind the unknowing, but because I am *shamefully* unemployed I carry a simmering pot of angst in almost everything I do. I manage to escape it for the most part by tucking it away into the box of avoidance, but it’s in that exact moment of wakefulness that I must face every day, the decision to leave the sanctuary of my spirit and step back into my human need for physical, mental, and emotional security.

It turns out it really doesn’t matter what day it is, because I have very few obligations in life. If it weren’t for creating my blog/magazine, and my new idea to become a visual storyteller by taking up photography, I would have nothing in place for the future, and even in this current endeavor my chances for financial security are based on my wish to connect with a gigantic amount of people who will hopefully like me enough to follow. It’s all a numbers game whether my family will thrive or not, but I have faith in my ability to survive and so I move forward.

Marketplace treasures, some of it was given to me for free

The other day I needed cash for some treasures I found on Marketplace. After leaving the ATM I drove out of the parking lot, cozy in my car with it’s special deluxe seat warmers. As I approached the red light, I saw a woman standing on the medium next to where I would be waiting for the light to change. It was only in the upper 20’s, and she was bundled from head to foot with her jacket collar raised to cover her face like a mask, she stood holding a cardboard sign I couldn’t read, shivering on her small patch of concrete. I cautioned myself as I inched forward; don’t look at her, you are not giving her money, what if she has Covid, neither of you are wearing a mask, it’s not safe, you can help someone else another time, you are unemployed…and so on. Mind you all this was happening in the blink of an eye, because I was quickly next to her before I even finished my silent list of why I could not possibly do anything.

Photo by sergio omassi on Pexels.com

Suddenly another voice rose up inside, and not from my place of lack, my simmering angst, or my fear of the plague. This voice was the familiar one I wake up to every morning, the one that keeps me company while I sift through my thoughts of what day of the week it is. The voice that is always there under the surface of my outside self, the voice of my spirit, heart, and soul.

Help her, it said, you proclaim to the world to follow the path of beauty, you know what it means to be scared and alone, you understand desperation, and grief. There is no separation, this woman is you.

I sat there in the crossroads and made my decision. With haste to do all this before the light changed, I reached into my purse, grabbed one of the bills and like a slapstick comedy routine I pressed the lever of my window with the intent to lower it only enough to push the money through. In my clumsiness the window rose up smashing my wrist, and then all the way back down, leaving me exposed to the elements as well as any possible germs. Simultaneously, I called to her, my 20 dollar bill fluttering in the wind while my window rose up and down, up and down. She mumbled something behind her jacket scarf, her eyes crinkling in the corners with age, smiling in delight. With one last attempt to control my wayward window I wished her luck and sped away.

I am sharing this not as a way to expand myself in your eyes, but to express my very real struggle in that turning point to overcome my own fears, and to live by love. The money meant nothing to me as I was able to see it for what it was, an exchange of energy. I had told myself to not even look at her, but suddenly I was looking into her very soul, and she into mine.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com

I thought about her later and wondered if she had a place to sleep that was warm and safe. I want to make a difference in this world and hope to do so by my artistic expression. Maybe I can turn this blog/magazine into something more, perhaps as a way to create change for all people who don’t have a place to live, medical care, or enough food to eat. We all deserve it, not because one person is better than another, or our skin is a particular color, or even because we express our sexuality or gender in a particular way, but just because it’s a basic human right.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think it’s time for us to check into our souls and make choices that are not based on our projected ideas of morality, politics or religion, but on the one undeniable truth. We are all connected as living human beings, and are here for one purpose only, to exchange love. The world is changing, nothing can stay the same, which is a good thing since much of what we know was born out of ignorance and fear.

This time, I am hoping Love wins. So cast aside your judgement, for it all begins with you.

Today my friends, is Sunday.

In Peace, Raven

*I wrote this awhile back, but it’s about questioning our inherited beliefs and why we believe what we do. You may find it interesting! https://ravenwolfsong.com/2020/12/11/why-we-believe/

Wake Up, Wake Up, Wake Up

Welcome dear world to the days of March. Time has inevitably moved on, reminding us how puny we are in the face of a living, breathing universe. I woke up sometime before dawn, only to realize just how close we in the Northern Hemisphere are to the end of winter; the subtle signs of an awakening spring have been minutely revealing themselves and softly proclaiming the season’s coming arrival.

Photo by Sydney Troxell on Pexels.com

I have been hearing it in the drip-drip-drop of the snow, and in the blustering of cleansing winds outside my window; I have felt it in the heart of night, with my blankets kicked to the side their weighted heaviness no longer needed for my comfort; I have tasted it in the sweetness of pure maple syrup on my lips, and yesterday I saw it in the flight of a family of bluebirds that I startled from a hedge of Juniper as I walked by.

Photo by Tina Nord on Pexels.com

Fluttering in unison into the branches of a nearby tree, dressed in celestial feathers, they watched as I stealthily moved close to take their picture–too late–by the time I had fumbled my cell phone into position, with my glasses perched precariously on my face, they nodded their little heads with excitement and quickly flew away.

In the darkness of shifting light, I lie here in my bed and watch the sun rise. I am not quite ready for winter to be over: I still crave the cover of ice and snow to muffle the sounds of the world. It’s been easy to stay quiet, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of what friendly weather will surely bring. Everything will change with the warmth of the sun, and I will be compelled, like the black bears of the forest, to leave the shelter of my cozy den.

Wake up, wake up, wake up. It’s time to rub the sleep from my eyes, and I am not ready.

The dream-time magic of winter can’t last forever, and soon the aura of my surroundings will be transformed from the misty hues of silvery grays and sparkling whites, into a wild symphony of unavoidable brilliancy in every color.

And I, withdrawn and curled up in the deepest of waking-slumber, must stumble out from the shadows of myself, and face the coming light.

Wake up, wake up, wake up. It’s time to rub the sleep from my eyes, and I am not ready.

In Misty Colored Peace, Raven

Going Pro

I have decided to become a professional photographer so I can better develop my blog/magazine; it seems like a natural progression to enhance my words by adding photos. Even though my phone’s camera works very well, it is not satisfying my artistic vision, especially when it comes to taking pictures of wildlife and nature.

I see stories everywhere I go, some that I would dearly love to unravel through the eye of my lens, and the words of my interpretation.

The idea of leaving for the day with my camera-bag slung over my shoulder, to wander the forests, rivers, fields, and trails of all the beautiful places I love to visit; sounds like an adventurous dream to me. I would also enjoy taking photos of old buildings, gardens, design ideas, and to capture candid snapshots of daily life.

Just yesterday while on my neighborhood walk, an elder man was carefully making his way up the street, pushing a small shopping cart with a few grocery bags. Appearing out of nowhere, several miles in any direction from a store, there he was walking right past me. Dressed in winter-wear from head to toe, elegant in his movements, he seemed to step out of a scene from another place in time. He had stopped to fuss with his bags, and as I drew near we both smiled and greeted one another. I was filled with curiosity and wanted to ask him so many questions, like…was walking to the grocery store something he did often… how much further did he have to go…does he have a wife waiting at home ready to help unpack their supplies…or did he live alone with his cat…how pray tell, has he been holding up during these difficult times?!

Note* Any photos I take of random people are from a distance, and do not show their face out of respect for the individual’s privacy, unless I otherwise have their permission to do something more formal.

Luckily for him I was feeling quiet and asked none of these things, although most people are charmed by my friendliness, and usually responsive to my chattiness — I was too comfortable in my solitude to say anything beyond hello. Understandingly, by his age he has lived through the after-effects of the Great Depression and several wars. Perhaps this is why I perceived a certain easy-going-travel-weariness that enveloped him like a cloud. Having already endured so much, his suffering through a pandemic, insurrection, domestic terrorists, combined with political corruption, was nothing more than a regular day in his life. In my imaginings, (because at the end of the day that’s all I had, having no real idea who he is or how he thinks) I admired his savoir faire attitude. Maybe in the future I will be the same way, unmoved by outside chaos, and no longer surprised by the fall of man.

You can’t say *savoir faire* and not also be reminded of this!

I consider myself a visual storyteller, teacher, and inspirational writer, so I think adding photography to my repertoire is the next step. It’s hard not to be intimidated by the cost of a good camera, not to mention needing to buy a new computer that is able to handle editing programs crucial to my expanding career.

I am trying to justify spending such an exorbitant amount of money while I am currently unemployed and living off of prayers. It would be a gigantic leap of faith to believe I could become skilled in something so technical. I am an artist, so hopefully photography will come easy for me. Although I am able to self-learn, I will most likely have to take a few classes, and maybe find myself a willing mentor.

Either way, I believe it’s never too late to begin something new. I have been lost in the land of despair for so long it feels good to be inspired again with my writing and now perfecting my use of photos/videos.

When I lived in Southern California, for several years as a young adult I lived within feet of the boardwalk in Mission Beach. This was back in the early 80’s, I didn’t know it then, but those were my glory years. Too bad they were also filled with so much angst, but I still had some of the happiest and most memorable times of my life there.

My daughter and I went home to San Diego to visit my family in 2018, and it was such a joy to revisit my youth.

Back then, being a little more daring than I am now, I would get up every morning and walk to the boardwalk, coffee in one hand and roller skates in the other. Outfitted in my beach girl uniform; mini skirt, bikini, favorite Grateful Dead t-shirt, my Sony walk-man and headphones, I would lace up my skates, put on my music and fly down the boardwalk. I averaged about 60 miles a week, and would skate both day and night. I loved those times and smile in my memories to see myself navigating around bicyclists, surfer boys, scantily clad girls, skate boarders, and a myriad of other fine characters….especially because I wasn’t the greatest at stopping or going over curbs. It’s a miracle I survived.

Me, probably around 22 years young, when I lived at the beach. Thank you to my friend Russel for taking this photo!

To this day I can feel the sunshine, cool wind in my hair, and the sound of Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Eagles, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, and all of my favorite bands blasting in my ears. Never have I felt so free!

On quieter nights, I would walk along the boardwalk with the Pacific Ocean to one side, and the wealthy beach front owners, or those who could afford summer rentals, on the other. I loved looking in the windows (not in a creepy way) but to catch casual glimpses of people going about their daily lives. I have always been fascinated by the mysteriousness of how others live, which is one of the reasons why I like to write.

If you have ever lived at a beach in Southern California, you would know that most people tend to enjoy a life of celebration, especially on the weekends. I would see versions of this playing out everywhere, some functions private and small, others grandiose, with families and people of all ages and backgrounds. Often we would find ourselves pushing our way through a sudden crowd of keg drinking party goers spilling out onto the boardwalk, dancing to some live band tucked tightly into a corner patio. Obviously we didn’t have cell phones back then so I never really had a camera handy. Too busy making memories, but I wish I would have taken more photos.

I looked up, “How to be a Professional Photographer” which was slightly discouraging. The first thing I read was that since we all carry a phone with a built in camera, almost everyone has illusions of being a photographer. This sort of brought me down a peg or two, as I know I have an incredible amount of information to learn, but I am determined to begin my journey either way.

Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t the most creative of roller skaters. Some people could literally dance circles around me, many could skate backwards, and leap over curbs with such dexterity I would be in total awe.

Here is a local legend, filmed on the exact same boardwalk I spent years on. I love what he has to say, this video is totally worth watching.

Nonetheless, I had the most wonderful time being the best I could be. I understand there will always be amazing photographers better than me, most who have studied for years, with experiences and equipment I may never have, but I won’t let this prevent me from following my dream.

I will do it my way, and on my roller skates!

In Professional Peace, Raven

These are actually my daughter’s skates, hers are much more modern. Back in my day the stopper was in the back, which always made me feel like I was going to fall over backwards. Never did I wear a helmet, that absolutely did not go with my California beach girl outfit!

The Cardinal

Here in New England we are having a 48-hour mini-storm, complete with ice, sleet and snow. I recently discovered that walking on icy roads, though adventurous, is not always the best idea (see my previous post for my most recent perilous expedition). So, here I am now staying inside enjoying my hibernation. With my guardian-polar-bear-dog Skadi on mostly high alert, and my cozy wood stove, I am safe and warm.

A day in the life of Skadi, a snowstorm, and a couch

The weather is always interesting, which is one of the reasons why I love living out here. Several days ago it had warmed up to a balmy 43 degrees which turned the snow to slush and melted all of my beautiful window icicles. Everything is frozen again, but for a brief time I smelled the coming of Spring. Last night it was back down to a seasonal 19 degrees. Brrrrrrr!

Frozen-slippery-cold outside, and our firewood is almost all gone, but I still love Winter.

Several days before the storm while I was taking my walk, I found myself deep in thought; haunted reflections of my past and stressful concerns for my future ambushed all focus and I was unable to think of anything else. Immersed in a labyrinth of contemplation, I walked like I was asleep, my gaze turned inward, oblivious to everything around me.

Step, step, step…the sound of my feet hypnotized me as they hit the rough pavement.

Step, step, step…”You are going deeper and deeper, deeper and deeper” they sang

Step, step, step… I was a captive to my thoughts, unable to escape the spirals of my mind; remembering, pondering, questioning, worrying, thinking, thinking, thinking.

Step, step, step… side-tracked from one corridor to the next, I explored all the reasons why.

Step, step, step…searching hidden corners I considered every possibility.

Step, step, step…my mind is filled with corridors, spirals, and corners.

Step, step, step…I no longer remembered what I had originally been thinking about in the first place.

Step, step, step…sometimes it’s exhausting being in my head.

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

Out of nowhere, a beautiful streak of red cardinal flew swiftly across my path and into the trees, startling me from the deep caverns of myself and back into the vibrant presence of my surroundings. He, with his brilliant red plumage, darted by so fast that I didn’t even have a chance to formally greet him.

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

Females are a tan color, with an orange beak, while males are red, with a matching red beak.

If you are curious, or maybe a little superstitious like myself, you may already know that cardinals foretell good luck, most likely because seeing them is always a cheerful sight. Some people believe when meeting up with a cardinal, they are being visited from someone dear who has passed away. Because cardinals mate for life, with both recognized as caring parents, they are natural representatives for love and devotion, two of my favorite values. These loyal cardinals are also known for their lively songs, sometimes performing duets with a list of over a dozen romantic hits.

All of these fun facts rose quickly to the surface of my memories, but the main tidings I understood from this delightful messenger’s sudden appearance were unmistakably clear:

“Stop thinking, stop trying to make sense of everything, let go of needing answers, accept uncertainty, move forward, and don’t look back.”

In that fleeting speck of time, I did exactly that. I stopped thinking.

You may consider this to be a small thing, but I have been working towards this moment for years. Today a line was drawn in the snow, and the bright flash of my red-feathered friend ushered me unceremoniously over to the other side. To stop thinking means to remove the well-worn bookmark, creased and tattered from constant use, out from the recesses of my history book. I am ready to turn the page and begin the manuscript for my newest chapter.

Leaving the labyrinth of my mind means liberation from my past, with a new hope for the future.

*See if you can find the camouflaged snowman*

And so unchained at last from the endless loop of my thoughts, I was free to enjoy the rest of my walk, this time completely aware of my surroundings (which is actually a much safer way to travel) and awake to whatever came next…

…which, strangely enough, happened to be several versions of snow-people, my loud talking crow friends, and a somewhat muddy white chicken crossing the road.

A lot can happen on a 3 mile walk!

It’s a little blurry, but here it is!

Citizens of the snow

Here are a few of my crow-friends, eating the roasted-unsalted peanuts I brought for them as a treat.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

I have no answer for you, I told you, I stopped thinking.

In Winter Peace, Raven

Winter Wonderland

Cozy in my bed, I woke up this morning to read the weather report stating we would be getting 3-5 inches of snow starting at 11 a.m. Many of you must know by now that taking my daily walk is very important to me, not just for my health, but also for my emotional well-being. Because of severe weather this year I have already missed eight days, breaking my walking streak. Reluctantly, I forced myself to leave my nest of fluffy blankets to take my exercise early, even before my tea and morning oatmeal. I figured I might end up with a little snowtime, but it sounded like fun to me.

Feeling adventurous and a little proud of myself for being such a maverick to walk in the snow, off I went.

Bundled from head to toe wearing my new ivory fleece pants (after all, how dirty can one get in the snow), my thrift-store find of the century, a hooded, black, faux fur coat, my gray scarf and gloves, my black beanie covered in white dog fur, and the best snow boots ever, in black of course….. I am only now realizing how fashionably coordinated I was. Considering my usual pandemic wardrobe has been the vibe of an eclectic unemployed wandering-forest-river-hippie, this was an unexpected feat.

It was only 10:15 when I left my driveway. Apparently the weather report was off by 45 minutes as there was already snow drifting down at a steady rate. The roads were covered in some areas, looking like yards of white satin ribbon, and everything sparkled in a magical-fairy-land kind of way.

Growing up in Southern California, the weather was mostly the same. Here in New England I have completely embraced the seasons, and winter is no exception, especially when it means there will be less people out. I don’t mean to sound like a walking snob, but I have been taking my daily jaunts around the lake for about 10 years now, and it used to be that I was the only one around for miles. Even on beautiful days, it was just me, the bunnies and the crows, it was a wonderful life!

Everything has changed since the pandemic, and I find myself sharing scattered bits of walking time with people of all ages, some with dogs, some alone, some with family or friends. Since we don’t have sidewalks in my neighborhood, we use the street instead. With only a few cars now and then it’s quite safe, plus there’s extra room for social distancing when necessary.

Aren’t these two couples so cute, holding hands and walking together.

I love the freedom of the wind in my face while sauntering down an open road. My only goal in life is to put one foot in front of the other, to keep on moving. Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely happy for the house-couch-people who have discovered the joy of walking, especially when I see an elderly person slowly making their way up the very same hill I am soon to be striding.

I see this elder man and his companion often. It’s 24 outside *photo taken after original post, but I wanted to include them for their dedication!

I sincerely hope to encourage everyone to begin their own walking practice, but it’s always a gift when I have the streets to myself.

So there I was on this beautiful, snow stormy day, sashaying down my path with nary a soul in sight. I felt a little self righteous thinking I was the real walker of the neighborhood, the other wannabes were probably home in their pajamas, sitting by a fire with fluffy socks, drinking their coffee or something vanilla like that. Hah! I still got it I thought, as the cold bits of snow fell gently on my face, completely covering my coat. Protected and snug under my hood, in that moment I felt invigoratingly wonderful.

Just as I was heading into the first quarter of my 3 mile journey, my foot gave a tiny slip on the pretty snow. I regained my balance easily but realized I better be extra careful. Suddenly the white satin ribbon I chose to follow had a decidedly ominous glow shining from underneath the surface. Having the first of many second thoughts, I quickly altered my usual course and made the decision to avoid going down any hills just in case it became slippery.

A long and most assuredly slippery hill I chose not to take

When I arrived at the first beach; the lake was a vast sea of snow covered ice, in the distance I could hear the crows, but nothing more, no people, no cars, it was beautifully peaceful.

To leave the beach area I have to walk up a very steep hill, and no matter how many times I have done this, I am always a bit winded when I reach the top. I began my strenuous climb and immediately felt grateful I was going up and not down such an incline, imagine how disastrous that could be I was thinking, when suddenly all my jauntiness flew by the wayside as I hit the ground. One minute I was determinedly trudging up a hill, counting my blessings, and the next minute I was on my knees. Thankfully my gloves are thick, so it didn’t hurt too much. I innocently tried to stand up again on the sheet of ice, and promptly slipped. With zero purchase, I did what any sane person would do, I began inching my way, some might even call it crawling, to the side of the road and into a deep bank of snow so I could safely be vertical again. Finally, standing in over a foot of snow, I considered these new circumstances from my vastly altered perception. Somehow I had to miraculously make it to the top of the hill, walk another 2 miles through a winding, up-and-over kind of neighborhood, and arrive home without falling. I was lucky I landed like a cat the first time. Hopefully no one saw me from their drinking-coffee-by-their-fireside-view as I crawled across the road in my new ivory fleece pants, now covered in black icy asphalt.

I had no choice but to climb out of the snow bank, and continue my journey as carefully as I could. There was no one to call, I was on my own.

When I was a little child growing up in California, my dad would often get us up at 5 in the morning and take my siblings and I to the beach to go fishing. I would look for seashells, and eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches with my sticky hands. These are happy memories for me. Being so early it was usually cold, and we would have to wait a couple of hours until the sunrise. I have always loved words, even though I didn’t know how to use mine until much older, but still I remember standing with my bare feet in the chilly pacific ocean looking out into the darkness, and chanting a simple prayer-rhyme I made up, it went like this:

Sun, sun, sun of gold. Come on out because I am cold.

I would whisper this over and over until eventually the Sun would hear me and come out. It was foolproof and worked every time!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now years later, standing knee high in a snowbank, I quickly came up with a new prayer-rhyme to help get me home in one piece. I imagined I was wearing the special snow things you slip on to the bottom of your boots to provide more traction in icy conditions. The ones I meant to buy before winter. Anyway, it went like this:

Sticky shoes, standing tall. Keep me upright so I don’t fall.

And this is how I got home without falling; by repeating my prayer over and over, walking like a super cautious person who wants to grow old gracefully, one careful step at a time, avoiding the biggest hills, knowing when to keep to the middle of the road and when to zigzag myself into a snow drift.

It was a fine and slippery line guessing exactly where to place my feet, but I made it, my prayer worked. Indeed, if you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, you are more than welcome to use it. Personally, I suggest buying yourself some winter bootie slip-ons, and maybe thinking twice before heading out into a snow storm.

I hear it’s real nice to be inside, sitting safe by the fire on a winter wonderland kind of day.

In Snowy Peace, Raven

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Watering My Plants

Today is watering-my-house-plants-day, which is something I do once a week when I know I will be home alone. It’s a dedicated time that I set aside specifically for their care. Tending to my plants has slowly evolved over the years from being a basic chore to a sacred ritual that I find very calming.

Being surrounded by my plants brings me such happiness; they are my ever flourishing reminders to the beauty of nature.

I believe creating rituals that are significant to you, will strengthen your ‘soul-er system,’ by opening up pathways between your body, mind, and heart. This holistic perspective will give you the clarity to live a life that is more genuine, purposeful, and truer to your inner convictions.

Traditionally, many rituals are practiced by performing a meaningful course of actions, with the intent to honor and/or connect with the divine. However, rituals don’t always have to be elaborate in order to be authentic: you can easily take a simple routine such as making your morning meal and turn it into a ceremony of gratitude, just by adding purpose and higher intention to your actions.

My leafy pals are my daily companions, each with a different personality, energy, and personal story. For instance, I found my giant Fern on the side of the road while on a walk last Summer. Another time while driving I saw a person about to place this full grown Spider plant on the curb. I quickly pulled over and they handed it right to me.

My large aloe, and pink geraniums were freely given to me by a generous gardener two summers ago. She carefully dug them up from the ground and I brought them home wrapped in a blanket, dirt and all. They are now potted so I can bring them outside during the warmth of summer, then back in for the cooler months.

These origin stories are only a small part of what I see as I water each one: they are also reminders of who I was when they first arrived and who I have now become in the present. Watching my plant friends evolve through the changing seasons has been a helpful way for me to measure my own personal growth.

Recently, my potted geraniums have begun flowering, which is amazing since we are in the coldest part of winter; they are very pretty against the backdrop of ice and snow.

Establishing rituals can support one’s belief in the divine, and manifest the possibility that we are part of something magnificent and holy. By our very actions we become active participants in beauty.

baby bay leaf tree and thyme

Watching my plants grow in size and seeing their newly sprouted leaves is so rewarding. Some of my favorite plants bloom throughout the year: delicate little whites, tubular fuchsias, purples, and rosy pinks, all blessings of joy to brighten my world; I have several heirloom varieties of scented geraniums: lemon, apricot, nutmeg, lime, and orange, along with my organic herbs: rosemary, oregano, and lavender, all delightfully fragrant and pleasing to the senses. I also have the added joy of caring for my friend’s Patchouli plant while she is away being a ‘traveling nurse hero’ during this pandemic.

patchouli plant

I find the ancient custom of rituals found in different religions and cultures to be fascinating, which is why I follow my own. I have learned in my quest for emotional healing that rituals can help reduce anxiety, just by the weight of comfort and stability they provide by performing familiar steps. Rituals offer up a sense of spiritual continuity which by its very nature is a reminder of peace.

My three eldest are trees, two Ficus, and a Norfolk Pine, all standing over 6 feet tall. We have known each other now for more than a decade. They have been my non-judgmental, supporting witnesses during significant times in my life, such as raising my children, divorce, financial struggles, romance, loss, and of course everything else woven in between.

Many leaves have since fallen, and dried branches broken off, yet we continue to thrive and reach for the sun.

I know my plants are happy to be here and I sincerely believe they love when I compliment and praise their beauty. I am also certain we have the same taste in music.

Prayer, walking, cleaning your house, building a fire, preparing meals, bathing, making a cup of tea, writing, exercise, art, gardening, can all be forms of rituals if you want them to be. The key is to stay mindfully focused, step by step, and to engage your entire self in the process; body, mind, heart and soul.

In Ritualistic Peace, May we Walk in Beauty, Raven

“A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life. I think ritual is terribly important.”

Joseph Campbell

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Inspirational Wisdom from a Free-Spirited Soul