Usually, I feel it first on a bright sunny day when the wind is suddenly crisp and the shadows carve sharp angles across the landscape. “This is autumn,” I tell myself, “here to visit.” And I smile because I love autumn. But this year, the season crept up silently upon me, shifting with a subtly I did not immediately feel. Autumn came with a date on the calendar and with the soft hiss of still-warm rains.

I feel it now, this kiss of fall, and my inner world is suddenly turned on end. In the puddled yard, with clouds the shape and weight of dark smoke all around me, I acknowledge the end of garden time, hot sun time, long-day time.

When I lived in the Rockies, autumn was a time of seasonal anxiety when I hurried to get the yard and house prepared for the deep snows to come. Was the snow shovel out on the porch? Had I made arrangements with the plowers? Were the garden beds covered in mulch, and was there enough wood or propane for the heating stoves? Where were my winter clothes? Enough boots and gloves? Emergency provisions in the car?

Even though death by cold is not so much of a factor here on the coast, there remains in me that edge of tension: am I ready for the winter that is coming? I’m guessing that that edge is really not about the season outside at all, but about the seasons that turn and churn inside the heart. In times of transition, seasonal or otherwise, the soul pokes us in the belly and whispers with just the smallest hint of agitation, “Are you ready? Ready for what is coming…?”

Are we ever ready for what is coming?

I divide my life by two seasons, really: The indoor ones and the outdoor ones. Spring and autumn are the shoulder seasons that can go either way. I’ve been mentally preparing for winter ever since the summer began. Each time I say to myself, “Susan, you need to do more writing,” I answer, “There’s time for that come winter.” Each time I want to eat my own homemade bread but the kitchen is already summer hot and suffocating, each time I pick up a handcraft to paint or sculpt, or look at the dusty state of our wood floors, each time I think of the sailing book I’ve carried inside of me for 30 years, I say to myself, “Winter will be here soon enough.”

And then, as suddenly as the coming of this rain, winter is on my heels and I feel in my chest this intense drive to surrender the season just past and turn my full attention to the one greeting me just outside my window this morning. It wears a welcoming face, this fresh season, all scrubbed clean in grape-scented wind.

This summer just behind me has been one of the best I can ever recall. My sense of home and peace has been great, and I was able to hold onto the stability of a positive, happy outlook for weeks on end. This has been huge for me, and I am hoping to carry this calm and gratitude into the winter with me as I begin reclaiming my inner ground for the next few months of increased inside time.

Autumn announces the coming of the dark months and the traditional goes-within times. In many native traditions, these were the story-telling months. Outside, the plants and trees in my yard are beginning the process of taking down their foliage and exposing their bones. I used to think that the plant nations slept in these seasons, but I know know that they are busy deep below the ground in their own goes-within process. All the growing we see so visibly in the plant nations continues in the dark of the soil, where conversations with the mineral spirits and dreams for green expansions are all happening beneath our feet.

I, too, exchange one kind of activity for another come the cold months. I, too, converse with different spirits that come close to us in the winter months, and dream of my heart’s expansion—where I may go, what I might undertake—come spring.

I look forward to the coming months, while at the same time, I feel these daily emotional jolts—like tiny electric currents in my blood—as my body notes the leave-taking of summer with each kiss of warm breeze and each touch of honeyed sunshine. I find it fascinating how quickly simple distracted activity can pull me away from my cherished awareness of the autumnal shift in my body and very cells, and allow me to miss this precious and profound inner transformation.

For many animals, as winter comes, their chemistries change dramatically, enabling them to digest different sorts of seasonal foods, and survive extreme climate changes. I believe our chemistries shift, too, but we are often too numbed or busy to take notice of it. And so instead, we get sick or tired or angry or weepy as our bodies adjust to changing light and temperature.

I want to notice these turnings inside, and honor them. I want to become ever more my animal body, and appreciate that instinctual, deep aspect of myself that for all of my younger years has been given over to work, bills, and many very stupid concerns. This, then, will be part of the magic of growing older for me, this slowing enough to notice my most earthbound  and earthy self. Along with the returning salmon and the migrating birds, I am a part of this noble march of creatures from season into season. I can feel it inside if I just listen and allow my inner turnings to join hands with the outer swirl of autumnal changes.

May you step forward into the coming sweet and fertile dark months with peace and good dreaming. May the colors of autumn melt your heart into sweetness and mellow you like fine wine. May you steep in the potential of this sacred goes-within time and make good medicine of these months.


Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Uncategorized



Lucy and Snow, watching the air.

Lucy and Snow, watching the air.

For our seventh anniversary, after breakfast out, Carter and I spent part of the day assembling a Costco chicken house. It is not especially well-constructed, but is better than we could have built on our own. I really had no immediate plans to fill the abode. But critter houses rarely sit empty with us for long.

The next day, I followed my long-pondered desire to add a pair of ducks to our mix. We took our five-year-old granddaughter, Taylor, off on a farm adventure to a place nearby selling muscovy ducks, chickens, turkeys, and red worms for vermiculture. From the flock of speckled ducks of all ages we selected two juvenile muscovies: one with green and white blotches, and the other mostly all white. On the drive home, the ducks were dead quiet. Not a peep.

Although I had thought about keeping a pair of ducks for years, the act of bringing them home happened rather suddenly in the end, and as we neared our house I began hazily awakening to the awesome responsibility of incorporating new creatures into our family.

The older I get, the more sensitive I become to “inflicting” my intentions on others. As I carried the ducks into our backyard, my mind was ticking off directives: “Now, Susan, don’t rush the ducks. Let them find their way into their new yard. Be patient. Leave them alone. Don’t force this…” Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


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From the happy kingdom.

From the happy kingdom.

Our last post ended with me leaving the newly combined Rose Hive Tower to “sort things out.” I stepped out of the bee yard, stripping off gloves, veil, bee jacket, and heavy shoes as I made my way to the back door. Normally, I don’t “suit up” as extensively—or at all—but I had expected to be tinkering around in Rose and Freyja pretty extensively and sometimes the gear comes in handy. Handy, yes, but bee gear is an extra layer of heat on a warm day. This day, I finished my tasks in a drenching flood of sweat.  Yanking off the jacket and hat was—literally—a breath of fresh air.

Actually, though, I love putting on my bee gear as much as I like pulling it off. I’ve put on sacramental robes before to assist in church services, and at Sundance when I dressed each morning in my sage wreaths and shawl. There is a joy to stepping into the traditional garb of sacred realms, and I’ve come to view donning my bee gear in the same manner. But sometimes I don’t follow through with ritual in the ditching of the garb. On a hot day, I tear it off as fast as my hands will work. I think I made it from the bee yard to the shower in a minute flat.

After my shower, I hurried back to the bee yard to check on the progress. My concerns about a possible bee battle melted the instant I saw the hive. Bees clustered as usual on the entrance landing to the Rose Hive. Maybe the cluster was a bit larger than usual, but not by so much. The air around the hive was no longer a buzzing amber cloud. Yes, hundreds of bees were coming and going to and from the hive, but with the focused purpose the Rose Hive exhibited daily. There were no battles at the door, bee-on-bee. There were no bees milling frantically where the two hives had formerly stood. All was in order…. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Happy bee on phacelia.

Happy bee on phacelia.

The weather has been glorious here at MillHaven this past week. Some heat, some clouds, some booming thunder, and some blessed rain. A little bit of everything, and all of it good. Things are changing in the garden quickly at this time of year. Many summer flowers are brown and bent now, and my lawns, which I don’t water, are getting crispy. Things that were lush and juicy are going woody and dry.

Some plants are still waiting to show off their colors: asters, goldenrod, coneflower, and herbs. The bees are waiting for them. It is a time of dearth for them as the big bloom of summer flowers is over. I see honeybees drift over to flowers they don’t normally spend much time with, like the yellow-blooming cat’s ears. Today, I was inspected by several curious bees who were wondering if my blue garden dress was, perhaps, some large, exotic flower… Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Chopping "Freyja" out of the floor.

Chopping “Freyja” out of the floor.

I have three hives of bees right now, all stacked next to each other under a sun-rain roof in the upper part of our yard. The first hive I collected off a rosebush in Portland, and I call them the Rose Hive. They were a small but mighty bunch, and are now populated with thousands of new, young bees. No robber bee would think of setting so much as a toe on their entry board. The guards are always out, policing the perimeters.

My third hive, I cut out of the floorboards in someone’s home. It was a mess of a job and I got stung to pieces, but they are settling in well and are busy and focused at their door—just what you want to see. I named them the Freyja Hive after the Goddess of  War and Fertility, which I thought suited them to a Tee.

My second hive I named the Shanti Hive, as they have always been very quiet and gentle. And from the day I brought them home, I sensed that in addition to being quiet and gentle, they were just not quite right.

Now, I am very new to bees. I’ve only seen four hives in daily action in my life since I started with bees last year, but I have learned to trust my gut, and my gut said “Uh-oh.” While the Rose and Freyja hives gained in numbers and were always very intent on their work, the Shanti girls were distracted, wandering about on their entry board as though they weren’t quite sure what to do next. Sometimes no one would be attending the door at all, as if the guard bees were napping or playing bridge or something. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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imgres I was in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago for a few days. I wrote most of this post while there, but held onto it and did not post. It seems especially timeworthy, in light of Luna and Dex:

Over the solstice, Carter’s daughter, Jessica, married a wonderful young man, David, in an informal, sweet ceremony. Southern California is about as different as it gets from my little town in Washington. I had forgotten what real traffic looked like. And wall-to-wall buildings and houses that go on forever. I was surprised to see an empty lot there, a bit of weedy wild amongst all the pavement and tamed plants.

In the course of six days there, Nature granted me two miraculous moments, unseen by anyone else in my company. The first was a hawk that catapulted down right next to our car as we were stopped at a red light. Its target was a large pigeon, who exploded in a mass of feathers as he was struck and knocked over. The whole thing happened so fast I only had a chance to blurt out “Did you see….?” before the hawk noticed the traffic and lurched back into the sky on muscle and wing. The pigeon leapt to its feet, fluffed itself, and flew off in the other direction. Lucky pigeon, I said to myself. Lucky, lucky pigeon. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Little Dex, head down.

Little Dex, head down.

The day began in a whirl of confusion. I was up early, planning carefully for a swarm removal an hour from my house. I had all my goodies packed in two large baskets: sheets, tools, carry boxes, gloves, bee jacket, honey water and far more, because you just never know what you will find when you arrive. Unless, of course, you have a brainstorm at the last minute to ask the person to send you a photo of the swarm.

Which she did. And the swarm of honey bees turned out to be a hornet nest hanging beneath her mailbox. I made a quick note to myself to always ask, from now on, for a photo, if they can get one easily.

Well, suddenly, I had about four unexpected hours on my hands. What to do? It was going to be ninety degrees by that afternoon. I was wanting something cool for dinner. So, I grabbed my large pot and put up some water to boil pasta for macaroni salad. When I dumped the pasta into the boiling water, I turned on my stove hood fan. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


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