Craig and I spent the last few days in Maine, visiting our granddaughter Gracie, and her parents of course! Gracie is talking up a storm these days and has become her own little person. She was a joy to be around. I'm already looking forward to October, when we'll see her again. (More photos found here.)
A walk around the neighborhood in the bright sunshine.
Guest Post by Chris Chisholm, Founder, Wolf Camp and Wolf College, Puyallup, Washington
Joanna's note: Hope you are enjoying the birds in your neighborhood this Spring! I'm very excited about the robins that are building a nest right outside my back door. I asked my friend and naturalist mentor Chris Chisholm to share this teaching about learning the language of the birds. (Chris is the model for the 5 of Earth and Explorer of Air.) Hope you like it!
My second grade teacher was giving us a written test in language arts and I smugly turned in my paper, laughing at how easy the questions were this time. She was quizzing us about the ways of nature. The next day, I hurriedly looked at my paper, expecting to have aced the test.
I was devastated to realize I had gotten wrong what I had thought was the easiest question on the test. Do animals talk to each other? Of course they do. After playing in the woods of northern Minnesota every day of my young life, and befriending the robins of our family garden, I knew that animals — especially the birds — talked to each other all the time.
But Mrs. Stromwick, bless her heart, marked my answer wrong, and it was a life changing moment. I’m not sure I ever felt a part of nature again for the next fifteen years of my schooling, not until I read Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children after graduating from college.
Upon finishing his book, I went outside to sit quietly, in my garden. I listened, just like I had done as a child, and the birds woke me up again to the spirit of nature. I heard more than bird songs and calls. I heard what Brown referred to as the “concentric rings” of communication in nature.
The concentric rings of nature are, simply, animals talking to one another. Don’t dismiss it, but don’t believe it, until you’ve really listened to them in action. Mostly, the birds are the newscasters of nature, although the squirrels, frogs and other animals are very vocal as well.
Consider for a second the possibility that a whole new world of nature may remain hidden from if you don’t take time to learn the language of the birds. Don’t you have the vague feeling that you hike past a lot of hidden wildlife — the deer laying in the thicket, the coyote silently watching your every move, or the minutes-old cougar tracks indicating that she heard you coming?
Many of us love gardening, maybe for the beautiful flowers the birds pollinate, or to witness the interaction of plants with the elements, or simply to breathe the clean, fresh air hovering over the upturned soil. But how often have we stopped to wonder what a bird visiting our garden is saying to us? We may love bird watching, and we may even be able to identify many species by their songs. But what happens when we finish our checklists?
A hauntingly beautiful song, "Brigid Upon the Highland" recorded by Craig — you can listen here.
And this poem that my friend & brother Lee LaMar wrote for an Imbolc ritual:
The Rite of Imbolc, Invocation of Brigid (Breed)
“We welcome you, Brigid (Breed), on this Imbolc Eve,
We pray for your blessing new life to receive.
O Mother of Poetry, teach us your art,
That your inspiration may enter our hearts.
O Mistress of Magic that stands by the fire
And shapes the bright metal to the form you desire.
O Mistress of Smithcraft, please teach us your art,
That the power of changing may enter our hearts.
You kindle the springtime to quicken the earth,
From under your mantle the old has new birth.
O Mother of Healing, please teach us your art,
That peace and contentment may enter our hearts.”
Thanks again to Beth Owl for reminding me about the Poetry Slam! Blessed be.
(I did this pen & ink illustration of Brigid back in 1985.)
Oh I just had to laugh when I saw this card. Sure, isn’t it an incarnation of Brigit Herself at the forge? And are we not celebrating Her feast day?
I’ll be posting another poem tomorrow for the Poetry Slam, but today I’d like to share this poem my friend Helen Farias (founder of the original Beltane Papers) wrote back in the early 90’s:
Brigid, the Lady in Green
I am that One on High who guides the seasons round the year.
The flame and the forge are mine,
the bridestone and the holy well.
I made the whistle that calls through the night,
for the safety of all women.
It is I who places her footprint in the ashes.
My well is the well of passion,
and my fire burns away fear.
Will you risk it?
Flame dissolves as it transforms. Be careful.
Fire transforms as it destroys. Be brave!
The blessing of all who dwell within this wood encompass you.
Go forth without sorrow to the Land that is rimmed round with music,
where flowers rain down from a crystal sky.
You will not see me again, not for a year and a day.
I go from you with a good heart, be your goodwill to me.
And may Sun and Wind and deep-rooted Earth
grant you happy outcome.
— Helen Farias, 1993