I watched an osprey dive feet first
wings spread like benediction
when it rose with a silver, fluttering trout.
That trout, oh! That trout plucked from
the dense tug of water
into the effortless current of air.
Gasping with astonished breaths
that rash unknown sunlight
only now obscured by nothing, nothing.
tasting that sharp bite of
sage and pine, of star particles and meteor dust.
Mouthing what! What?
That abrubt death and
that equally abrupt rebirth.
I’m asking you, have you felt it? I know
That moment when razored talons grab you by the neck
rip you out of the sweet spiraled current of
your one native life
into an alien other.
I’ve been a trout
Gulping and amazed at fire light and
the unsound emptiness of air
offering no rampart nor shore
When death comes as Winter
a dream dashed
A love lost
An unwarranted “no.”
A life upended.
I think it will be like that, too
at the very end.
That astonishment that
sense of angry
and betrayed wonder.
Can you become a silver trout
with sudden, unexpected wings
gulping unheralded star dust
shouting Hallejulia! with your
when you are called to soar?
How outrageously new are
you willing to be?
I wake up this morning in the dark of predawn. At my bedside is a cup of hot coffee with cinnamon and real cream, curtesy of my husband who brings me this tender offering each morning. My morning pills are within close reach and I open up the small jar after snapping on the light by my bed. Four pills, tiny things, but powerful. Without one of them—the thyroid medicine—I would not remain long on Earth. Without another—the antidepressant—I would not want to, anyway. Medicine, the need and the ingestion of it, should always be a ritual undertaking because it is so powerful an act. Yet I slosh down the pills with a mouthful of coffee, without a second thought.
Already, my mind is lurching ahead into the day, then past the day into summer, into the summer garden, then off sitting by the bees, then ruminating about my 92-year-old mother. Still dark outside, the world is peaceful and my room is like a soft, downy cradle, but my thoughts yank me away from this comfort and careen me forward again: What to defrost for dinner? Do I have any appointments today? When did I last clean out the duck pen? Read the rest of this entry »
“Winter Sojourn: An Intimate Exploration of the Cold Moons”
Winter-to-Winter, our spiritual and physical nature is matured and ripened by the seasonal, circular celebration of the seasons. This December, I am offering a winter web retreat to explore and build upon the natural gifts and qualities of Winter. Crafted from my book, “Why Buffalo Dance,” this extended 3-month program will use stories, your commentary, and brief outdoor activities that will genuinely anchor you in the natural healing energy of these dark months of nature. (Don’t worry about the weather! I promise the activities require no physical effort and only 10-15 minutes outside each week.). Total time commitment for the course is around an hour a week, and you can tailor it to fit your schedule.
This retreat functions as a “circle gathering.” The support, validation, and insight of your fellow Winter Travelers are a key component to the very real potential for personal/spiritual transformation along the path of this Winter Sojourn. Once a month, we will participate in a group teleconference call to kindle and deepen our relationship as Winter Travelers.
We’ll be conducting our winter travel on a private Blog I will be creating just for us. My hope is that by keeping the course fee very low, we’ll have a good-sized group of us to keep the momentum going. If you have a rough week or so along the way, no matter—you can make up explorations along the way, or just pick up the current thread. The cold moons can be hard on body and spirit, and I don’t intend this program to be another hardship, but a comfort and inspiration to us all.
These are my goals for this retreat:
*That you complete the journey with a newfound, sustained connection to Nature where you live, and to the unique power of Winter.
*That you are able to call on this new connection/relationship for insight, comfort, grounding, and peace—no matter what the circumstances in your life.
*That you feel safe, supported, and strengthened on your Winter Sojourn by the human community of your fellow travelers.
DATES: Begins Winter Solstice, ends the day before the Spring Equinox.
RETREAT REQUIREMENTS: (1) About hour of your time each week, (2) A copy of my book, “Why Buffalo Dance,” (I’m certain you can purchase them online used and inexpensive), and (3) Access to a computer and email.
FEE: $65 paid by check, money order, or credit card to my PayPal account. Foreign travelers are welcome! Send funds to Susan Knilans, 1213 NW Ash St., Camas, WA 98607. If you want to use Paypal, my email address is listed below. It is the place you can “send money” on Paypal. Payment for the retreat is due by December 20.
TO REGISTER: Easy! Email me and tell me you would like to participate. (My email address: susanknilans at gmail dot com.)Your email to me will serve as your registration. Questions? Email me!
Several years ago now, I offered a winter web seminar on the gifts of the winter season. It was three months long, conducted through email lessons and posts, and all of us who walked this winter path together had a grand time. This morning, I took down the full course, and began reading it again. I thought, goodness, why not do this again??
So, in the next week, I am going to be posting information on the particulars of this “retreat,” and I hope you will join me. Last time it was limited to 20 participants. This time, I’ll take all comers. Last time, it was $300. This time, I’m offering the full six weeks for $65. Pretty good deal, huh? I figure more of us can participate with a pricing that low, plus all of the course work I needed to create from scratch last time is sitting here, saying to me, “Oooh! Let’s go!”
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.
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 »
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 »