Dealing with Seasonal Overwhelm


The trees are deepening their green every day and the flowers are popping off in full symphonic bursts. The wild roses flutter snowlike down the hillside and between the birds, the bees, the peepers and the neighborhood kids there is music every hour of the day.

It is a complete summer paradise.

And here I am, in the midst of all, feeling completely overwhelmed.

This seems to happen to me every time the wheel turns into a new season (but most especially summer)—the deep thrill of change is almost always accompanied by an unexpected roller-coaster drop of overwhelm. The tip from spring into summer is brilliant – but it’s a frequency upshift that can take a whole lot out of those of us who are sensitive.

Some years ago I found Dr. Elaine Aron’s work on highly sensitive people and it all clicked for me. Turns out, there is a scientifically-distinguishable subsection of the population whose nervous systems are simply more sensitive, and therefore more easily overwhelmed, than the general populous. Highly sensitive people experience things more vividly, feel more deeply, and are affected by subtleties that many others wouldn’t even notice.

It’s a gift to be sensitive. It is what allows the sherbet of a sunset to completely melt you, and a summer thunder storm to rinse you clean with its rain-washed air.

But it also means that, like the sweetest softest mulberries on the vine, we need to learn to take care of ourselves that much more tenderly.



Early summer is overwhelming for about a bazillion reasons. But for highly sensitive people the transition from the permission to be interior that winter gives to the flurry of summer social activities, relationships blossoming, and things coming to a head can feel like too much to handle.

It took me a long time to recognize that my tides of anxiety (the ones that cause those heart palpitations, and emotional freak outs and insomnia) arise almost entirely out of overwhelm. The very nature of overwhelm means that our senses get backlogged— making it difficult for us to get clear enough to understand why we feel so off. For me, one of my first signs of overwhelm is that I have trouble making a decision. When I don’t know whether I should go out or stay in, eat rice or quinoa, watch tv or read a book… I know what I really need to do is address my overwhelm.

Today the river has overflowed its bank after a long week of rain. It has come up to the lowest branches of the box elders on the bank and is threatening to submerge the patches of spiderwort blooming further up on the grass. And yet… when I tune into this rush (which, by all accounts, is the definition of bursting) I don’t get a feeling of overwhelm. Instead, I just feel a fullness. A happiness to be in the rushing life of one’s self.


Summer is a time of growth, expansion and output, to be sure. But I think we humans often interpret this to mean that we need to be responsive to all of the outer demands on our time, space, and energy.

But what if summer was actually inviting us to tend the inner lushness.

The plants and animals that come to life in summer aren’t chained to external dictates for how they should put energy out into the world. They are following the thread of their inner desires to bloom, eat, play, rest, make love. They are spinning out from a center of their own flowering and following the joy of that unfurling.

So instead of demanding that you keep up with the pace of growth around you, what if summer was really asking you…. What inside of you wants more lushness? What aspect of your inner life force is wanting to overflow its banks in a rush of joie de vivre?

Maybe it’s your desire for midnight swims or long afternoons to read. Or more time to play. Or stretch or sketch or sing.

Whatever it is, summer is already saying yes to this inner lushness.

All you have to do is say yes to yourself.

.   .   .

Keep reading for my three go-to practices for reducing season overwhelm. And remember that your sensitivity is special, and you are so not alone.

 

 

3 Ways to Ease Seasonal Overwhelm


1. Go for “Weather Walks”

I find that so much of my overwhelm comes when I feel out-of-step with the world around me. One of the first things I do to address any overwhelm is ask myself— how can I go even deeper into the season itself to absorb its natural medicine?

One of my favorite practices is to go out for weather walks, walks that are very specifically undertaken to get out in the elements and interact with the weather that most people avoid (rain, snow, sun, wind etc.). I walk to let the natural mood of the season touch me completely, and allow it to guide me with its natural flow. Immersing myself with what is actually happening within the land around me never fails to help me re-ground in myself. Plus, it’s a good way to get some outside time with less people around! (always a bonus for us sensitives and introverts).

 


2. Find a plant who is in their glory right now

Is there plant right now who is truly glowing during this time? An herb that is blooming, setting leaves, soaking it all in, or absolutely slaying during this season of shine? Connect to them. They know exactly how to harness this moment and they will teach you how to ride the wave of this season. One of my favorite ways of working with a plant is to take their flower essence, keeping it on me whenever I need a drop to help me come down off of overwhelm.

 


3. Weed down your sensory input

This season is often a rush for all the senses. It’s wondrous, but can also tip us over the edge. Reducing the sheer amount of sensory input we receive can do wonders to downgrade an overwhelmed nervous system and help you reset your sensitivity so you can really feel again. Try taking a mandatory evening away from the phone. Or turning off almost all the lights in your room during a storm and just listen to the wind. Close your eyes while you smell a flower or pop in earplugs as you walk down the street. Try picking out your clothes by touch alone or wrap yourself up like a burrito in your blankets and watch the sun go down.  Think about letting one of your senses rest at a time, and see if that can help you to refind your roots.

The Slow Dark Enchantment



Real magic takes time… and a lot of it. Like crystals growing in the deep, the biggest miracles often form far beneath the surface, and need a long fertile stretch of darkness before they can come to light. When the possibility of magic is afoot we will often be asked to slow down so immensely that, like the sun pausing on the winter solstice horizon, it might even look as if we stop completely. But really, the ebbing is not an ending at all, but a pause before something magically radical can take place.

Lately I’ve been sleeping. Like, a lot. I get tired early in the night and don’t stir from my bed until long after the sun has risen. Honestly, most days I can only catch a few waning hours of milklight before the sun goes down, it feels as if I’m living in perpetual twilight. These days of darkness are an upside-down time, a slow dusky enchantment. A long dream that begs us to hibernate, rising only to drink from the well of the unseen. With all the electric lights and need for illumination in our culture we often forget that we are literally stepping into the darkest days of the year right now. And that this darkness is an invitation back into the evergreen mysticism of this season.

 

 

As we approach the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (this thursday’s winter solstice) our inner psyches will ask us to do the very thing we are so trained to disregard in the days leading up to Christmas. To slow down, to sleep. To let the darkness be. To tap into what is still formless and court the inner mysteries. To sip from the small thimble of light that we are given, and be okay with what is not yet, what is slow growing, what is coming into being.

So let it happen and just embrace the mysticism.

Over the years I’ve talked a lot about how to tap into the deeper magics of this season. From handmade herbcraft to ritual elixirs. There are so many ways to reconnect to the enchantment of early winter. But when the holidays begin to fall particularly flat I usually journey to visit with the spirit guide who never fails to help me step back into the aurora borealis of miracle consciousness that pervades this time – Santa Claus. Skip on over to this all-time favorite post for a guide to undertaking your own shamanic journey to meet this wondrous teacher and magic keeper and refind the spark in this time of fertile darkness.

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Summer as a Season of Rest

 

Summer as a time of rest is almost unheard of around these parts. For all those that garden or homestead it can feel as though the tasks are never-ending. And even those who don’t tend the land seem to fill their coffers with well-intended parades of vacation, work projects, or pie making, but the end result is often the same. We pray for Autumn to come so we can receive a break from the break.

Like the waterfall buzz of cicadas, the high-whine rush of summer seems to be ever-repeating the need for growth. We see the sunflowers grow twice our height in the span of a month, the grass following quickly behind, and there is some deep internal nudging inside of us that says: You, too, must grow so tall, so quickly, so fast! In high summer, however, there comes a natural time when all our bustling projects fall flat. Like seltzer water left out on a sunlit patio. Try as we might (and, to be sure, we try mightily!) we never get quite enough done as these long sunny days would suggest. And perhaps this is when we should simply it let all fall like the head of a blossom gone to fruit and seed.

We often see high Summer and the dead of Winter as opposite wings on the wheel of the year but the truth is that they have more in common than we might imagine. Like the Yin and Yang, anything that is opposite also holds the other within it. The essence of Winter, and its demand for rest, recuperation and the re-gathering of vision, is flecked like mica throughout the high summer months. In Winter, we rest because there is nothing to plant but dreams. In high Summer, there is a similar pause. At the hottest peak of the day, there is often nothing to do but take our well-mixed creations out of the oven. Let them cool on the windowsill and give ourselves a moment of quiet regeneration and soulful reprieve.

Check out my new video below for a guide to Summer as the Season of rest, replete with my favorite herbs for taking it E A S Y.

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Learn more about Passionflower medicine

Visit the Hibiscus flower essence in the shop

 

Thunderstorm Medicine

Jeremy Brasher photo

 

Like an anxious spike high on the thermometer, a hot summer day can hold a whole lot. The heaviness of the past, the humidity of future-tripping, the density of a too-tightly-packed schedule. It’s life, intensified, with everything being experienced at once. Like the sound of the cicadas rolled into one giant buzz or the morning glory vines inching back into your freshly weeded garden, the tangle and overwhelm of summer is real on almost every level.
Continue reading “Thunderstorm Medicine”

The Season of Pleasure

 

In the wheel of the year each season has its distinctive gifts, its own character and flavor. There is a time for hermitage and planting, harvesting, seeking, risking, budgeting and even dying. But it’s only in summer that pleasure takes center stage.

Here in the mountains, we are just now tipping into the true growpoint of summer and a particular richness is beginning to take center stage. An invitation to kick back, practice relaxing and let sensuousness take center stage.
Continue reading “The Season of Pleasure”

A Flower Portal

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Every spring is a kind of portal. An opening where absolutely everything has the possibility to change. When what was dormant can become activated in an entirely new way. Every winter I forget something of what it means to be alive, and every spring, in the softness of the mud and rain, I remember.

A portal is something that brings you through, beyond, helping you to move past what was once a boundary and step into the subtle winds of a new threshold. Portals deliver you into a place that has always existed, but that you haven’t yet glimpsed. They open gateways to other worlds, and deeper universes inside of oneself.
Continue reading “A Flower Portal”

Awakenings can be Gentle

 

 

a·wak·en·ing
Coming into awareness, a shift in consciousness, appreciating previously unseen aspects of reality, enlightenment.

 

In our culture we have an enduring belief that awakenings, in order to be profound, must be hard won. That awakenings always tangle with struggle. That they will be dramatic, epiphanic, and arrive like a bolt of lightning. And while it’s true that struggle can lead to great revelation, there are as many paths to these big a-ha moments as mice trails in a large wood. Awakenings can also be subtle, incremental.
Continue reading “Awakenings can be Gentle”

Autumn is the Dying

Thistle down in Autumn

If Winter means death, then Autumn is the dying.

In our culture, death is often synonymous with dread. Like late blight to tomatoes, it seems devastatingly final and achingly unfair. But the idea that dying is an event to be feared is a very human story, and one we have only recently started telling ourselves. To our ancestors death was an inevitable heartache, and an inevitable liberation as well. For most of our predecessors, death was never considered an ending. Rather, it was a transition into mystery itself.

This Autumn, allow yourself to experience the deep liberation of dying.

Autumn Road Revere

Life itself is a cycle— a circle, a wheel, a constellation turning and fading and appearing once more. Anytime we want to remember the truth, all we need to do is look around us. Turn our gaze to the harsh eloquence of the natural world (which is to say, the entire world), and witness how everything in existence both lives and lets go in the same motion of welcoming. Every day that the sun rises and dies beneath the humus of the horizon, the earth will remind us that even dying is an act of life.

Dying can be exquisite, and every bit as freeing as being born. In autumn the earth shows us just how soul-quakingly beautiful the act of letting go can be. As the sun moves lower and lower into the bed of the sky, the life force of the deciduous world buries itself in the roots. Fruit bursts open and feeds the earth. Seeds are carried away on the rapture of wind. Each leaf, having lived their own lifetime of cupping their faces to the light, flames and in a singular burst of ecstasy, dies.

Autumn canopy

In autumn, the world changes before our eyes. The background blur of green dropping away so that we can no longer sleep walk through the sameness of our days. In hues of sunset and ember, ocher and flame, the earth demands our full attention. The maples set themselves on fire and ask us to find the parts of us that are aching to be alive— and the parts of us that are ready to be thrown on the pyre.

When we let go of everything that is ready to decompose, we make space inside of ourselves for newness to be born. Dying has never been a finale, it is only a brilliant bridge to a new section of life. Like compost turned to rich and seed-ready soil, dying prepares us for a new phase of living itself.

Though our smaller selves might dissolve, dying has never been an ending at all. It is, instead, an ecstatic transformation into a wider self.

Autumn color

Rose Hips and Hills

A time of harvest and longing, celebrations, endings and melancholy, autumn is a potent mixture of all the exquisite fulfillment and color that accompanies the ritual of dying. It reminds us that dying is, in truth, a time of the deepest abundance and celebratory release. Blush-colored apples and pumpkins left glowing like lanterns in vine-withered fields. Gourds and sunflower seeds, cracked black walnuts and hickory nut milk. Hardy chestnut cakes and food literally falling from the sky. As we lose everything from the crown of the trees down to the weeds, our forest floors fill with nourishment. Our tables are heaped, our pantries plentifully lined, and we are left with nothing but thanksgiving and the luxurious space to wean ourselves off of that which actually robs our sustenance. To let the aspects of our life that aren’t feeding us die.

And this, after all, is the beautiful truth of dying. That if we can see beyond the waning and our own fear of ending we will notice that the burial ground itself is one of abundance. And a feast of great fullness is what awaits us on the other side.

Marshall Train tracks

Autumn is often a nostalgic season for many people. A time in which we look back on what was, the moments that have flickered and passed. The different versions of ourselves that were born for an era and then were snuffed out in the winds of time. Nostalgia is a potent draft. It can make your mind spin with just a sip. Sometimes nostalgia can even stretch to include the entire sensation of living itself. As if we are looking back from our elder years to feel that sweet and painful thanksgiving for the very opportunity to be alive. In autumn we experience the nostalgia of a well-seasoned soul in the warm blessings of their death bed. Autumn gives us the permission to simultaneously love it all, and say goodbye.

For if autumn is the dying, then winter is the death. And in autumn we prepare for that space of deep reunion and soul quiet that accompanies the soft banks of winter nights. In autumn we are invited to a unique banquet. A table laid with sassafras tea and pumpkin pie, wild nut butters, acorn pancakes and rich apple tarts. And all we must do to enter such richness is shed our old clothes at the door.

Autumn SIlver and Gold

This Autumn, let something die.

A worry, a relationship, a project that has run its course. Let go of anxiety over the future. Let go of guilt.

Let go of other people’s dreams for you. Let go of the fear that happiness or success or love or joyousness somehow isn’t for you.

Let go of feeling unwanted. Go outside, can you feel how deeply your presence is craved here?

Let go of the small and burdensome things. Gifts never opened. Keys without a lock. Broken earrings, old love letters, the ephemera on your fridge.

As David Whyte writes, “Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” This Autumn, let go of all the clothes you have outgrown.

Let go of comparison.

Let go of doubt.

Let go of the feeling that you are somehow not good enough.

Because every imperfect apple that lays soft in your hands, and every ray of low Autumn sunlight that warms you through woolens will tell you a different story, a much truer story. The story that you are more, much more, than enough. That you bless this world simply by being alive.

Barn view

Now is the time. In the knobbed hands of the wind, the antique scent of dried leaves and the warm cinnamon feeling of fire in the trees. Now is the time to let the dying enter you as clean and beautiful as the stone that was forgotten and then exposed in the wheat gold of fading weeds.

Allow in the beautiful melancholia and heart-throbbing abundance of life itself. Let every day end like a cello on its last note. And relish. Relish, relish this season of profundity and release. Because, despite what we have grown to fear, dying is a beautiful thing. For then, we can rest. For then, we can embrace the unbelievable joy of what comes next.

<<  Practices for Dying >>

Death Mound

A Death Mound

Autumn is an important season of reflection and ritual for me. It is often a time when I look back and take stock of the year’s harvest. The ways in which I have grown, what has been gathered, and what burdens I am ready to lay down.

A potent ritual for me has been to build a death mound. This time of the year the forest and any wooded areas are filled with a bounty of leaves. They give us the perfect opportunity to create a ritual around enacting a much-needed release.

Take an afternoon this autumn to reflect and write down everything you are ready to let die. Gather this piece of paper and any other earth-friendly items that represent those aspects of your life that you are ready to shed and find a quiet spot with a lot of leaves. Dig a small hole and bury your bundle. Then heap over the spot with the leaves to make a mound. You can get creative with colors or patterns or simply toss them over and let your release be messy and complete. Make this pile as high as you dare. If it is a private space, try burying yourself as well. Close your eyes and imagine all of the heaviness dropping from your body like fruit, eager to be given as good compost to the soil. When you are ready, emerge as if you are truly leaving a layer of yourself behind. Cover over the hole with more leaves and say goodbye.

If you can, take a walk by this place on a later date and when you see that the leaves have scattered in all directions (or been carted away), you will know that what was buried in your mound has been released.

Mushrooms

Expose yourself to Wildness

Each season holds its own particular medicine. The best way to imbibe this medicine is simply by getting outside to experience the shift. Go for a walk underneath the changing trees. Jump in your neighbor’s leaf pile (when they aren’t looking, of course). Collect your favorite leaves and hang them temporarily on your wall. Place them back outside when the trees are bare and make a wish with every one.

Eat wild food. Whether its rose hips, or a cracked black walnut, or an apple from a feral tree. Get a bit of autumn’s wildness within you. In the presence of wildness death becomes just another beautiful variant of living itself. Allow the wildness of autumn to teach you how to die.

Ask the season to guide you to new medicine. Autumn is often when I begin to shake up my herbal routines of the summer months. Sometimes dying requires a new medicine, and you will know what you need because you will encounter it and a part of you will spark to flame to say “Yes, I am still alive.” For me, this was a life-altering combination of Ghost Pipe Flower Essence + Carnelian last year. You can read more about their medicine in this story.

Cow Skull

Recognize the Otherworld

Honor the memories. Honor the Ancestors. Honor the ghosts. With Samhain drawing so near, that traditional holiday of influence from the otherworld, autumn is an important time for engaging with the beyond and righting your relationships with the unseen world. Visit more of these potent autumn rituals in this Samhain reflection.

Autumn Road

Above all, give yourself permission, every day, to both die and find the way beyond death. Let yourself live. Spend an afternoon this fall on your back on the forest floor. Make yourself a nest and watch the sky. Follow one leaf from its first brave leap all the way down to the forest floor. Give it time. And one day you will wake up and feel as deep and complete as a maple flame extinguished in the compost of rich soil. You will feel, innately, how very good it is to just let go.

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p.s. If you’d like to hear the soundtrack that created this blog piece, take a listen here

Allowing on a Late Summer Day

 

There is a specific slant to the late afternoon sun that floods my living room with a cast-iron butter of deeply heated light. It’s always that last stretch of sunshine that seems to glow the hottest. In the downward arch of day, the fever of collected sunshine gathers like a stove coil around the rim of the sky, flooding the world with heat. That glow itself kicks up a kind of exhaustion, the feeling of every hurried project just aching to be complete. Recently, it seems the close of each day comes with a command: find your completion or, for goodness sake, find some release.

Max Patch

In Appalachian summertime each day marks a creation in progress. The basil leafing out in pairs from where it was last snipped. The sunflower rotating like a mandala from pollen to seed. The bees carrying fulfillment from one flower to another, rubbing their bodies against everything soft and petaled in their path. Every morning it as if the rising of the sun turns on the great hearth of the world and each new creation, stirred of dirt and mineral and rain, is placed within the hearth of the earth to ripen.

Flower Essence Bowl

Throughout the summer months there are so many individual projects, visions and collections, tiny destinies awaiting to be fulfilled. I imagine the sun must be like a pâtissier in the great kitchen of kings, sending out emissaries in every direction to tend the grasshoppers and zinnias and bees. Perhaps the clouds take part as well, gentle assistants roaming over the hillsides to check the cobalt beginnings of the blueberries bushes or tend the heavy branches of peaches. Each cumulus a white haired women, trailing cotton aprons and the tracks of great care.

Just as the embered end of a long day in Summer bring forth an almost overwhelming peak of heat, the last stretch of August can, at times, seem almost impossibly bright and big and full of needs.

Group Sit

Sometimes, in the thickest ring of a day, I’m just able to keep up. Matching my pace with the flowers expanding ever-wider, the vines finding new perch, or the grasses that risebefore your eyes like well-leavened bread. But then, just as the sun begins to ease back towards the horizon it is as if someone finally opens the door to the oven of the world, to halt all of creation at its peak. The earth floods with a deep heat and everything living is given the signal that it is okay, okay now, to nod your head like the sunflower. It’s okay to give up creating for a moment. To take oneself out of the furnace and find a peck of shade. To put your feet in the creek, to allow yourself some peace.

Perhaps, all along, summer has been the ripest season for such reprieve.

Altar at Max Patch

We often see high Summer and the dead of Winter as opposite wings on the wheel of the year but the truth is that they have more in common than we might imagine. Like the Yin and Yang, anything that is opposite also holds the other within it. The essence of Winter, and its demand for rest, recuperation and the regathering of vision, is flecked like mica throughout the high summer months. In Winter, we rest because there is nothing to plant but dreams. In high Summer, there is a similar pause. At the hottest peak of the day, there is often nothing to do but take our well-mixed creations out of the oven. Let them cool on the windowsill and give ourselves a moment of quiet regeneration and soulful reprieve.

The Queen 2

Summer as a time of rest is almost unheard of around these parts. For all those that garden or homestead it can feel as though the tasks are never-ending. And even those who don’t tend the land seem to fill their coffers with well-intended parades of vacation, work projects, or pie making, but the end result is often the same. We pray for Autumn to come so we can receive a break from the break.

Like the waterfall buzz of cicadas, the high-whine rush of summer always seems be repeating the need for growth. We see the sunflowers grow twice our height in the span of a month, the grass following quickly behind, and there is some deep internal nudging inside of us that says. You, too, must grow so tall, so quickly, so fast! In high summer, however, there comes a natural time when all our bustling projects fall flat. Like seltzer water left out on a sunlit patio. Try as we might (and, to be sure, we try mightly!) we never get quite enough done as these long sunny days would suggest. And perhaps this is when we should simply it let all fall like the head of a blossom gone to fruit and seed.

Passionflower at Sunset

This Summer I have had dedicated myself to practicing the art of relaxation. At the beginning of this summer I contracted Lyme disease (for the second time in two years) and so, very quickly, my attention to plans, both bold and bland, fell away. Rest became my most important prerogative; I went seeking the mica speck of Yin amongst the overwhelming sunshine of Yang. Most afternoons, when the heat reaches its peak, you can find me lounging in bed (the darkest and coolest room of the house) with a tall glass of chilled tulsi tea and a good book. Some days this Summer this was about all I could manage. And it was enough.

This season, I find myself asking new questions. What if we can find our fulfillment in long tides of rest? What if, going even deeper into the season, means finding stillness in the rush of summersong? What if, the most profound lesson of all is to be able to bask in that mirror of Yin within the Yang? And what happens when our entire structure of To-Do lists collapse in the face of allowing ourselves something the nectar seekers never once deny themselves– good old fashioned contentment.

Contentment

// Allowing Contentment //

Every day, in every way, we are all trying. Trying to weed the garden, or get dinner on the table, or find the love of our life, or heal our heartbreak. We try to be better, be happy, to take care of ourselves. Some days I think we are the only beings in all of creation who try so hard! The sunflowers in my garden dwarf me, but not once did they ever stop to try to be magnificent. They simply took in their surroundings and grew. The hummingbird tests each fushia flower and never once grows frustrated. Even the ants, those who work to rebuild their colonies with each overturned stone, go about with a dedication that excludes even the option of trying. They are simply doing what they must. It makes me wonder, what would happen if we stopped trying, like the sun in its last sling of heat easing in the horizon, and simply allowed ourselves to move in natural ways of contentment.

Allowing is a difficult concept for most of us to swallow. Allowing doesn’t mean comprising your goals, your dignity even your boundaries. It means making space for what is. And when we allow for exactly what is, doing what needs to be done without telling ourselves that we are trying to do it, we make the space we need to truly live.

Sunflower heights

After I was diagnosed with Lyme disease this summer I was left with one simple goal. How can I enjoy, I mean truly, enjoy myself. How can I be so filled with my own contentment, that spilling fullness of life, that there is room for little else in my body but more own vital vigor, my own zest for life?

On the days when all I can do is lie in bed with my books and watch the fan whirl, I embrace allowing. There is no trying in this moment, only the sense of doing what I must. It has been rough in patches, I won’t lie. But over my time spent in bed this summer I have learned something incredible.

Juliet's Garden

 

Flower basket

Allowing is the gateway to loving what is, yes, but it is also the gateway to embracing exactly who (and where) you are. And when you can love that person, and all her needs for quietude and nourishment and podcasts and comfy pillows then you can accept almost anything. Including the slow tendriled creep of healing back into your life.

Self love is a term that is often thrown around, but not fully embraced. And frankly, it can feel incredibly difficult to try to love oneself. And so I say, stop trying and instead, on this hot and humid day, simply allow yourself the pleasure of finding contentment. Contentment is a gateway to recognizing yourself in your most peaceful form. It is a way of being receptive to oneself and ones destiny. And it feels so damn good.

Tea

So, for today, I ask you. What brings you contentment? Can you take yourself away from the To-Dos for an afternoon and let yourself be like summer scones just out of the oven. Sighing, resting, sweetening before your eyes. Because this is the truth that is sung by the hearth and the oven, the fire and the sun itself. Creation never becomes complete until it is taken from the heat and allowed, with time and space and tender breath, to let go of the hubbub of transmutation and find its final shift into peace. After all, this— the cooling, the rest, the reprieve— is what makes any fresh baked delicacy ready to dined upon. And what makes that banquet of being alive so very delicious indeed.

Mandala

Summer’s Fullness

 

 

Red Clover Blossom

On the other side of the strawberry moon, after the late spring blossoms of Beltane and the thick pulses of Hawthorn blooms arises a season that weaves itself around the helm of a single word – fullness.

At this point in the season the full arrival of summer is undeniable. Roses are spilled like wine over the countryside and the branches of riverside trees are heavy enough to sweep the water’s surface with their wands of green. Light finds its way into every leaf of the day and even our nights are lit by the floating embers of fireflies.

rose wall with stool

Here, the fullness of summer arrives in waves both infinitesimal and quick. Like a jar left open in the rain. Slowly, in swells beneath the perception of our fast moving eyes, everything becomes full. The arrival into summer can be like waking up with a jolt in the bright light of late morning. As your eyes adjust to the fullness of the day you realize that the slow trickle of dawn, with its dispersed moons of early morning fog, have all but disappeared. There is only the high sun and ocean-bright light and insects running like waves through the thigh-high grass.

Motherwort Essence

Summer’s fullness is a mantra, known and carried by every species in these hills. For us humans it means planting the last stragglers into our gardens and tending the sudden tangle of weeds, late-night parties and an endless train of events. It means wild harvests of herbs that last only a week and calendars so full of bustle there is barely enough time to keep the floor swept of barefoot dust and weeds. To embrace summer fully is to be like a bee, in constant motion from the lip of one sweetness to another, to exhaust oneself with so much color and opportunity.

Harvest

We are just a few nights away from the longest day of the year, our Summer Solstice, and the very strand of life has tightened into an almost watertight weave. Open fields are a ticket of thimble flowers, blackberry fruits and rose thorns. The canopy is crowded thick with ropes that wind themselves from forest floor to crown heights in a cordage of grapevine. What was once a wind blown cove is now a cave of green and shadow. Every branch is so full of life, the mountains themselves change from the blue hue of a winter-colored moon to a newborn coat of emerald. In Summer, the entire world of growing beings weaves itself into a kind of container, a place to hold even more than was possible before. The crosscatch of canopy and forest floor braids itself tight as rivercane, the traditional baskets of the Cherokee people of these mountains. The sheer abundance of life works together to create space for more.

Rainsoaked Woods

++ Weaving Yourself into the Basket of the World ++

In Appalachia, life grows upon life. There is no end. As a temperate rainforest with some of the highest biodiversity in the deciduous world, the warmer months can be dizzying. Summer here is an initiation into a world of almost overwhelming life. This year I seem to have taken on more than ever before (Hence my two month delay in getting up another blog post!). My schedule from now until the last sigh of summer is already at its brim and, if I’m to be honest, sometimes I wonder if I have enough hands to hold and plant and tend it all! On those days, I like to walk out into the arms of our forest caves, or find the perfect circle of a deer bed in the high grass, and remind myself that the world can contain it all, and so can I. I must only let the earth weave me into its own way of embracing fullness.

Red Clover Basket

Catbriar on Hemlock

Whenever it seems that I am whittling away my life with To-Do lists and calendar dates, I remember this—we are, in truth, nature creating itself. We are a part of this vast and precious ecology, a spectacularly tiny but unbelievably special node in the consciousness of this entire world. When I feel as if I couldn’t possibly hold it all, I return to my place as co-creator on this earth. I bring my heart back to its roots, at the humble foot of this mountain of growth. I am here to bring the gift of myself to this world and when I allow myself to become a prayful part of the container of life on this earth, I can always hold more. In nature there is always space for growth that benefits the whole. When I connect into the gifts that arise from a consciousness of connection, there will always be space. When I give such soul gifts, the world itself expands, and I end up finding more fulfillment than I ever thought possible before.

Wonder

In Bill Plotkin’s book Nature and the Human Soul he talks about this idea of widening the circle of your identity to become a part of this basket of the world. In an eco-centric society (a culture based around the ecology in which they live), as a person ages they naturally come to a place where the hoop of their recognized identity includes the more-than human world. As we come to understand ourselves deeper we can find more levels on which we can identify with the earth and through this widening we stretch ourselves into vessels of meaning that can literally hold more.

Valerian Essence

Circle of Identity

What makes busyness so exhausting is its divorce from soul. The problem isn’t that our days are full, it is that we don’t fill our days with that which truly fulfills us. The only reason why we can look at the growing world and feel such dismay at the blackberry bramble that continues to peek up through the steps or the weeds that must be pulled is because it strikes such a low-hearted chord of recognition in us. So many of us are like gardeners, pulling that which grows wild and cultivating perennials that don’t actually bring us joy. So how can we begin to grow gardens that truly sustain us? Find work that, through its fulfillment, we feel deeply soul-full? Perhaps the best place to begin is simply to ask yourself what you truly want to be full of…. Curiosity passion, wonder, trust? Begin here.

Fog in Madison County

++ Into Emptiness ++

In these mountains the stumble into summer means the arrival of near-daily storms, afternoon tempests of thunder and green. After a full day of humid rocking the very mountains themselves seem to creek with the need to release. Soon enough, a dark, wasp-like cloud gathers on the late afternoon horizon and you know relief is just a strong wind away. The fullness reaches it brim, and then it spills over. The gardens are watered, the plants in the meadows drink deep. There is an almost audible sigh as the forest refills its streams. It is one motion, the filling and the spilling. Without reaching such a state of fullness, the rain in the wooly tangle of clouds would never be released. Without this constant emptying, Appalachia wouldn’t be the unbelievably ecological rich place that it is.

Pisgah Stream

If I watch long enough everything in the world seems to tell the same tale. Fullness leads to emptiness, and emptiness to full. In order to experience emptiness (the pause before the inhale, that space in which anything can shift, the nothingness out of which newness can take hold), we must always move through a moment of being unbearably full. Even as I resist the fullness of my schedule I look out upon the world and see a place that relishes such a brimming basket. Waterfalls and the full blown bloom of lupines. An entire ant colony under each rock in my garden and the red clover blossoms that arise every time I neglect a corner of my lawn. The world speaks in such tones of fullness, and so I embrace my own place in creating more. I spend my mornings writing, I prepare for classes until late into the night. I eat honey by the spoonful and tend my garden between bursts of harvest rains. I buzz from flower to flower covered head-to-toe in the sacred paint of this earth’s pollen and, in between, I find moments, if only as brief as the span between a hummingbirds thrum, to empty once more.

Butterfly on Clover