Thursday, December 23, 2010

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED!!

This blog has moved! Unfortunately, Blogger won't let me redirect you automatically, so click on the link below to come to the new site.  Thanks for your patience and understanding. 

http://rebeccahecking.com/

Monday, December 13, 2010

Important Notice to Blog Readers

Important!!  I am MOVING this blog.  Hopefully today, but possibly later this week, but SOON!!  The blog will be moving from blogger to wordpress, with the new address being http://www.rebeccahecking.com/   I'm  merging my personal site with the blog site.  Please be patient.  I am doing the move myself, but I'm absolutely NOT a computer geeky goddess, and frankly, this whole process is terrifying!  But if I'm doing it, I've got to take the plunge sooner or later.  It's gotta be done, and better to do it now than after the book's release in March.  I will do my best to preserve all links and subscribers, but I'm not sure how (or if)  the Facebook networked blog subscribers will transfer.  If there is some sort of cyber-disaster, please find me at the new site.  Just keep checking. 


Deep breath now. 

Here we go!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Life Transitions: Being, Becoming, and the Rotten Pumpkin


Underneath about a foot of snow in my backyard is the vegetable garden. Consisting of several raised beds that are home to my tomatoes and peppers every summer, they are mostly empty of growing things now (except for one last brave kale plant which may end up the subject of another blog entry).

In one of them, under all that snow, sits our Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Or rather...what used to be our Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkin.  Right now it's more like a slimy, icky orange-ish half-frozen blob.  It's on the way to becoming part of the soil in which next year's tomatoes will grow.  But it's not soil yet. And it's not really a pumpkin anymore either. It is in the in-between place.

It is becoming part of the soil. It is un-becoming its former pumpkin self.  And it's not particularly pretty.

People in transition can be like my rotting pumpkin. Undergoing a transformative, life-changing experience isn't always a pretty thing either. We aren't what we used to be. We aren't yet what we will become. We are in-between, in that time-out-of-time liminal place where powerful changes take place. The changes we are experiencing might spill over into the lives of those around us as we lash out in frustration or despair. We may instead cocoon within ourselves, withdrawing from the world, not wanting to expose our rotting-pumpkin selves to harsh criticism from those who don't understand.

I've gone through a few rotting-pumpkin transitions in my life. Un-becoming what you were, and becoming something else is not an easy process.  You might be in the middle of such a time right now. If you are, know that you are not alone. Know that the Earth is journeying right along with you.

Next year, the soil underneath where the pumpkin sat will be especially fertile and rich. Something wonderful will grow there.  The possibilities are endless.



Photo Credit:  flickr user Aunt Owwee at http://www.creativecommons.org/

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guest Blogger Tracie Nichols: A Winter Invitation


This week, I'm pleased to welcome Tracie Nichols, from Alchemy for the Earth (visit her here ) as a guest blogger. I hope you enjoy her unique voice and perspective on natural spirituality.  Thank you, Tracie!

***

Fat wet snowflakes fall on everything. Several inches of them coat tree branches to the tiniest twig. Shrubs and herb plants look like spiky sugar dipped candies. Branches slope toward the ground, resilience tested by the burden of snow. The weight of the scant inch of snow on my own shoulders makes me wonder what it must be like to be a tree or a blade of grass holding up that much sky?

Moving beyond my own experience and observations I reach out with my senses finding empathy with all those plants who remain above ground during the cold months here; the trees and shrubs, herbs and grasses. I feel the weight of the snow and the presence of the earth. I know in my plant-self that bowing down with this weight will release damaged and broken parts of myself that might invite disease. I understand that this process will contribute to my greater thriving and the greater thriving of my whole community of brother and sister plants, animals, birds and insects. I know that the loving wisdom of nature offers me this blanket of sky so that I can offer up the spent parts of myself, and become more vibrant.

Stretching my awareness to encompass both my human experience and my plant experience simultaneously, I know that I’m offered this chance in my human life too. I can slough disabling, diseased habits of mind and life patterns and move into thriving. I can grow new ways of being that contribute to the greater flourishing of the ecosystem/community of which I am a limb/member. Being present with the land where I live and moving with the rhythms, cycles, and patterns of life here, I am invited to participate in this winter ritual of releasing dead wood, diseased parts, and readying myself for new growth and life.

What life cycles offer themselves to you where you are? What rituals or patterns are inviting your participation? What gifts await when you join in?


Photo Credit: flickr user Wonderlane at http://www.creativecommons.org/

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hazelnuts, Gratitude, and Ancestors


I'm blogging a little early this week, due to the American Thanksgiving holiday.  For my non-US readers, a little explanation is probably in order. Thanksgiving was made an official holiday in the mid-1800s, but its origins go back to a harvest feast shared by early European settlers (called Pilgrims due to the religious convictions of some, who arrived on the ship Mayflower the previous year) and Native Americans in 1621.  Today, the tale of that first feast has grown to mythic proportions, and the darker legacy of European colonization of North America is often glossed over.

Thanksgiving today is celebrated with family gatherings, a huge meal, parades, American football on the TV, and lots of stress in the kitchen. It is followed by "Black Friday," the official big shopping day that opens the season of Christmas consumerism.  Every year, crazed shoppers head out at 4 a.m. on Friday to line up at stores. It's absurd.  Anyhow...

While sorting some old family documents, I recently discovered that I have an ancestor who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620, and likely participated in that first Thanksgiving.  On one hand,  I've had the "wow, that's cool!" reaction, and suddenly felt more connected to my country's history than I had felt before.  Fair enough. But then, the realization hits me that this ancestor, and those who followed him likely participated in the genocide of the Native people who lived on this land for thousands of years, and the decimation of the land that accompanied it. 

Most Native Americans today do not celebrate Thanksgiving. To them, it is understandably a day of mourning, and marks the beginning of the European colonization of their land.  Occasionally, some sympathetic European-Americans also choose not to celebrate. But most of us do, even if we acknowledge the history.  Gratitude is a good thing, and a holiday that has gratitude at its center arguably has a lot of potential for good, even while the past is remembered.

I cannot change the past. No matter how I wish it, I cannot undo centuries of my country's history, nor send my ancestor back across the Atlantic.  But I've come to realize what I can do, and what all of us who might not be indigenous to where we live can do. I can honor the spirit of those who walked this patch of Earth before me. I can work to create and restore an Earth-honoring spiritual tradition that takes inspiration from Native peoples, while not co-opting their cultural legacy. I can say once again that this Earth is sacred ground, and all of us, no matter our race or history, must learn to live in a sustainable way.

My family will adopt a new tradition this year, which I've adapted from an idea I heard from my UU minister.  As we sit down to eat, each family member will find two hazelnuts on his or her plate. Hazelnuts symbolize wisdom in Celtic mythology, and on our table they symbolize the wisdom of gratitude.  We will pass around a small bowl, and each person will put their hazelnuts into the bowl, naming two things for which they are thankful as they do.  The bowl will sit at the center of the table, embodying the best spirit of the holiday. Later that day, we will take the nuts out to a nearby forested area, and leave them there as a symbol of gratitude for the Earth. We will return our gratitude to the wild, to the natural world, and in so doing, acknowledge our connection to it.  We will also remember those who lived here before us, and take a small step toward healing the legacy of my ancestor. 

To my US readers, Happy Thanksgiving.

To all, blessings and peace. 


Photo Credit:  photograph of hazelnuts by flickr use Lamees (L.Y.S.) at http://www.creativecommons.org/ 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where are you? Who are you?



When I doubt myself and  my ability to write a coherent sentence that someone else might actually want to read, I come here and take a look at the map down below on the right hand side of this page (just scroll down an click on it if you want).  I am always amazed and astonished that people from all over the world read this blog.  It lifts my spirits every time I look at that map. 

When I write, it's necessarily "local" in the sense that I am grounded in this particular place, this bioregion, my little corner of the world here in northwest Pennsylvania, USA, which is likely very different from where you are. Here, we experience four distinct seasons. We have deciduous trees that drop their leaves each year. We get snow (sometimes a lot!), as well as sweltering summer days.  Our local fauna includes great blue herons, black bears, and lots of whitetail deer. Right now, outside my window, it's cold and rainy.

Enough about me. How is it where you are?  Cold? Hot? Sunny? Are there clouds in your sky? Do you have palm trees or pine trees? Or no trees at all?  So different... we all come from such different places, with such different lives.

One thing we all do have in common is that we are sharing this tiny little slice of time together here on the itty-bitty blue marble we call home.  We share a common ancestry. We share a common path. We look up at the same moon, dreaming and wondering together. 

Today I'm trying something completely new.  Below is a video I found on Facebook and posted there a few days ago. I know that many of you who read this blog are not on Facebook, so I decided to share it again here. IF you've already seen it, that's ok. Take a second look.   It catches the essence of our oneness as humans sharing the journey of life together. 

Enjoy.


video


Photo Credit:  milky way photo posted by flickr user forestgladesiwander on http://www.creativecommons.org/

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Peace of Exhaustion


"There is a seasonal exhaustion in the air."  John Hay  from Poor Will's Almanack 2010

Here in northwest Pennsylvania, John Hay's description really rings true in November.  The land is utterly worn out from another season of budding, growing, blooming, fruiting, and going to seed. The trees are bare. The wildflower seedheads are brown and bedraggled on their stalks. The grass has stopped growing. Having given itself over completely to the tasks of spring, summer, and fall, the edge of earliest winter brings a sense of completion, exhaustion, and peace.

Peace. This is the same sort of  peace that comes from doing all you can, to the best of your ability at the time, knowing that your limits have been reached and that the outcome is in the hands of powers greater than your own (fate, God, the Universe, whatever...)  You are spent. 

Nature, when it has reached such a peace, sinks into the sleep of winter's sweet oblivion. Time for the long nap. Pull the sap to the roots, and forget about blooming for a while. Sleep. Dream. Rest. Go underground. Burrow.

So many times, when we reach our personal limits and have done all that we could do in any given situation, instead of sinking into a time of rest, we continue to push ourselves. We second guess. We judge our work inadequate, and beat ourselves up over our perceived shortcomings. Enough already. 

The apple trees here in northwest Pennsylvania don't always produce a bumper crop. Sometimes they have an off year, because of circumstances (aka weather) beyond the tree's control.  Even so, come November, they too pull the sap to the roots and sink in for a winter's rest. No second guessing. No self-critical, "I should have grown more apples!"  No shoulds. No oughts. Just exhaustion, peace and rest. 

So...

are you exhausted and spent?

Yes?

did you do the best you could at the time?

Yes? 

Okay. Then enough self-criticism.  Be like November. Pull your sap (energy) to your roots (your deep self) and settle in for some down time. Rest. Sleep. Dream.




Photo Credit:  flickr user anslatadams at http://www.creativecommons.org/

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Land Management and Vampires


I got an email this week from a blog reader named John.  In addition to pointing out a ridiculously silly (and rather embarrassing) error I'd made, he shared with me a bit of news from the UK.  It seems that the current approach to land use planning there involves taking "ecosystem services" into consideration.  At the face of it, this sounds good. Recognizing the services provided to us every day by the natural world (such as oxygen from trees, waste breakdown by fungi, etc...)  is absolutely necessary. So what's not to love?

And where, you may ask, do vampires fit into all this?

Stay with me here. You may have heard the term "energy vampires."  If not, let me explain. An energy vampire is a person who just seems to suck the energy right out of you.  Their constant complaining, endless problems, bad moods, and general pessimism are exhausting to be around.  You know someone like that, right? Whenever you see them, you walk away from the visit feeling like you need a vacation!  You have to get away from them just to recuperate. People like this are psychologically draining to those around them. They extract what they need from you, then leave. A relationship with such a person tends to be very one-sided, with one person doing all the giving and the vampire doing all the taking.  Needless to say, such a relationship can become very dysfunctional.

The problem with the ecosystems services approach as it was explained to me is that instead of recognizing, supporting, and restoring the natural systems that provide us with so much,  the attitude is "how much can we take without absolutely collapsing the system?" It is extractive rather than restorative.  Such an attitude approaches Nature with the same dynamic as an energy vampire approaches a friend.  And the relationship is just as dysfunctional.

A healthier approach to relationships involves give and take. I know you. You know me.  I support you. You support me. We can rely on each other. Trust grows. Both of us are enriched by knowing the other.  Substitute Earth for you in those sentences. 

I've been Earth Pausing (see here  and here if you missed it)  for a couple weeks now, and as I do, I notice that an awareness of relationship is growing in my consciousness.  I know Earth. Earth knows me. We are interdependent. 

Let's leave the vampires to Hollywood, and cultivate a healthy relationship with Gaia instead. 




Photo Credit:  flickr user Jayt74 at http://www.creativecommons.org/