“Who Am I Without My Story?”
I cut the barbed wire stretched taught between two sturdy old fence posts,                          first at one end and then the other.
Tossing it away,  I pushed on the posts, each in turn.
They loosened easily from the ground.
Lifting them free, I threw them aside, away from my body.
Lying back, I viewed the scene without them.

I saw a flawless field of blue sky and green pasture untouched by human invention.
Again came the words that had been moving through my mind, like a mantra,          endlessly asking,
“Who am I without my story?”

I looked into the scene produced within and saw now the fullness of nature revealed.
Three wild Indian ponies galloped into the pasture of my body
and I saw them as me.
Body, Mind and Spirit.

This is who I am without my story.
I am wild and free, uninhibited by custom or convention.
I know not my past and care not my future.
I am here now. This is all there is.

In this moment, I dance myself into existence and awareness flows along each breath.
I continuously unfold.

I am neither nefarious nor reputable.
I am either the falsehood of my story or the truth of my being.

I cannot be both.three wild horses

By Thy Grace

IMG_7559I am sitting here with the windows open breathing in the cool, moist air feeling so grateful that Nature has rained her Grace on us!
Yesterday was magical. G and I went hiking in the Santa Ysabel Preserve on the Coast to Crest Trail. It was mid-morning and with a bit of thunder and occasional gentle rains, we had the trail to ourselves as others feared the unpredictable weather of these mountains… but we were called to hike on!

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I started building cairns and the day felt light and carefree and playful. When we finished the west loop we went to the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s annual Gathering which was happening beside the trail staging area. It felt like we were back in our childhood home (South Dakota) when we indulged in Indian Tacos which I’ve only eaten at Cheyenne Crossing in the Black Hills before yesterday.
As we drove back to Mountain Valley Retreat the skies opened wide and the rain started falling. It poured! When we got home the rains continued for an HOUR! It felt so good to walk around and get soaked to the skin with big grins on our faces! The light rain continued off and on throughout the evening and I could hear the plants soaking it in and the water tank filling to the brim.
Today, the weather maps are showing another band of rain heading our way, due to arrive about the same time as yesterday in the early afternoon. The Sweet Grace of beautiful nourishing, nurturing rain is upon us. Thank you, Mom.

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The Way of Life

Fran, Gary and Laura have left…bittersweet ending to a wonderful visit. Stubby is going to stay with us while they are off on the adventures of their individual and connected lives. Finding their own way into the unknown future.
It is the exciting and courageous path of the uncertain future that lies ahead for all of us. I believe in the sacred path and I notice that the Way changes. I am now mostly in the slow rooted, Earth Way and but I have had times when my path was in the mysterious flight and deep connection of the Air Way, other times in the sometimes flowing, sometimes crashing and sometimes stillness of the Water Way and yet other times when I was in the fast ignition path of the Fire Way.
No matter the Way. It is all the Tao. To remain centered in the Way is to be in harmony with life. Then the world becomes a paradise. I feel at peace. I then realize that my name and form is provisional. I know that when the institutions lose their function it is time for them to end. I know when to go and when to stop and thereby I avoid danger.
All things end in the Way as all rivers flow to the sea.
Knowing others is knowledge. Knowing myself is wisdom.
Mastering others is strength. Mastering myself is true power.
Because I realize I have enough, I am truly rich.
As I stay in my center, embracing all that is with my whole heart, I will endure forever.
Lessons from the Tao Te Ching by Chery Owens

Air Way Earth Way Fire Way Water Way

Mountain Valley Retreat…Launching!

Here I go, ready or not! Launching the new website for Mountain Valley
Retreat! Let me know what works for you and what does not…I will greatly appreciate all feedback.

Lessons From a Leaf

falling leaf

I am getting ready to launch the website for Mountain Valley Retreat. Building the retreat has been a significant endeavor for the past year and for the last few weeks I have been creating the website with the help of my friend, Brad Lucas. Every day this week I have lost myself in writing the text and finding the pictures to try to convey the heart and soul of the retreat we are building.  I sit at my laptop when the sun comes up and close the lid after dark.

Today, I received an email from my dear friend Pat Tuholske. I read her beautiful words that speak so poignantly of trust and change and tears well in my eyes.                                    “If you were a leaf on a tree, would you be the first to cast off in the late summer breezes or the last one to cling on stubbornly until bitter winter winds force you to let go?”                                          I feel myself longing for something unnamed.

Lessons From a Leaf
Watching fluttering leaves fall fills me with a contradiction of feelings. I get the slight sadness that summer is over yet the thrill of witnessing the wonder of the alchemy occurring within the leaf. Observing the transmuting cycle of spring’s leaf buds bursting with new life, summer’s fullness converting sun into food, autumn’s grace of falling colors, winter’s patience trusting the cycle.

Have you ever seen a single leaf twirling from the tip of a limb when no other leaves are moving and there is barely a breeze? When I see that leaf I feel the tree speaking to me in a language long forgotten by humans. This tree language shouts in falling curtains of color: let go, trust, fall, don’t fear, change.

Connected to the tree for the entire growing season, the leaf possesses the wisdom of release. Falling to earth, caressed by the wind, it is able to express its own inner timing. Performing its final dance with the air, the leaf gives itself to the soil.

If you were a leaf on a tree, would you be the first to cast off in the late summer breezes or the last one to cling on stubbornly until bitter winter winds force you to let go?

When I feel stuck on something, I follow the teachings of the falling leaf. If I feel an issue tugging at me, I go watch the falling leaves. It helps me to let go of the struggle and understand falling is not a failure but a surrender to the cycle of change.
Pat Tuholske
This entry was posted in Ozark Flora and Fauna, The Human-Nature Journey on October 14, 2013.

The Fountain (Edited)

I am participating in a writing class called Writing Your Practice. One of the prompts is to write from the perspective of an inanimate object, giving it a voice. I read The Fountain and did some edits and ended the piece by giving the Fountain a voice.IMG_4250[1]

I am sitting at my desk, cup of tea steaming, ready for my morning writing session. Looking out the window, the sky is pale blue with the early morning light. I can see the oaks and pine trees. Large rocks grace the hillside surrounded by sage where the property climbs the hill to the fence. In the lower right corner of my view is the patio. In its center sits a fountain. I feel pleasure and gratitude every time I look at it.
I moved from rural St Louis to a small holding 15 miles south-east of Warner Springs, California in April of 2009. In 2010 I took a position as a massage therapist at The Spa at Warner Springs Ranch. The Spa was a horseshoe-shaped design of low adobe buildings around a central stone courtyard. A prominent water fountain, the focal point of the courtyard, drew me in. As I walked with clients through the courtyard from the lobby to and from the treatment rooms, the sound of the falling water was like soothing music to my ears. Two years later, the owners sold the ranch and closed it for renovations.
Out of work and with an hour commute to the closest city, I rested as I considered my options. The vision of a residential retreat center came to my mind. As I explored the vision I “saw” a patio with a beautiful fountain that would attract birds and bring balance to our high desert climate with the addition of a water element. I remembered the fountain from the Spa!
I called my friend Sharon, the owner of the Spa at Warner Ranch. She told me she was selling all of the furnishings from the Spa, including the fountain, and she would love me to have it.
Today, I look out at the fountain with the hummingbirds and finches, stellar jays and acorn woodpeckers bathing and drinking from its endlessly moving water and my heart expands.
The history of this fountain is unknown to me although I know that the ranch opened in 1849 and the Spa was a popular destination to Hollywood stars in the 1920’s.
For me, this fountain holds the energy of the Spa at the Ranch which was my oasis at a time when I needed connection and roots. It represents a place of restoration and a loving group of compassionate women.
Its previous owner, Sharon, is a sister of my heart. The fountain brings her powerful healing spirit and profoundly beautiful presence to Mountain Valley Retreat. As I gaze at the fountain, I am grateful. My heart sings with joy.
The fountain is a metaphor for chi, the life-force energy that animates all living things. Flowing up its central channel from the base, energy bursts forth from the crown. Waves of sparkling air-and-light-filled-water fill the air descending in rivulets, cascading over the sides of the upper bowl falling like rain into the waiting vessel at its base to be drawn into the central channel. The cycle repeats again and again, mimicking the human energy field.
What might the fountain say if it could speak? “I am of the earth, made of stone. I am the mover of air, water and fire. Like a jewel, my oxygen-rich water refracts sunlight sending elemental energy out into the field. I feed life. Grounded through my stone pedestal deeply into the earth, I sit in the center of this red clay patio. I offer life-giving energy to the plants, the birds, the animals and the people who enter my field. I inspire humans to appreciate the beauty of nature. I am observed with gratitude and therefore, I am.”

Into My Wild

Wild LionsWild…is untamed, undomesticated, uncultivated…in its natural state and habitat.
Wild has other connotations as well. Wild places can be remote, harsh and desolate. Wild children may seem undisciplined and act with spontaneous enthusiasm. Wild weather is stormy and turbulent. Wild people may be disheveled and behave in ways that are rebellious and unmanageable. Wild animals are unpredictable and can be dangerous.
I have certain friends…when we are together in a place that is safe enough we bring out the wild in each other. Our behavior becomes unconventional. We invite out the parts of ourselves that ordinary society finds outrageous…the foolish, the crazy, the irreverent, the irrational, the madcap. We revel in taking off our cloaks of domestication and sensibility and exposing our vulnerable authentic natures. In these times I become the risk-taker I was as a child who raced bareback on horses through the woods and climbed to the top of tall trees not knowing my actions were considered reckless and dangerous. Aliveness moves through me when I let out my wild. I feel open, unrestricted, authentic and free.
I have moved through my life with various goals, aspirations and dreams. I have fulfilled many of them, others have shifted and morphed from one thing to another. I am in the midst of a dream right now, creating a magical place, a destination I call home. When the vision of my Mountain Valley Retreat came to me I didn’t know what it was about. I saw the physical structures of this place and the primary feeling my vision elicited in me was safety and comfort. That was enough for me to follow through and manifest the structures. Now that most of the structures are in place I am feeling into what else this vision is about. The word “wild” keeps surfacing. I like the word “wild.” I like the way “wild” sounds and feels in my body.
I am feeling into my resistance to becoming fully wild. Surely, there must be some resistance to this concept that has such negative connotations in our society. The concept I am considering? I may be losing my concern for what anyone thinks of me. I may have reached the condition of loving myself enough to return me to my natural, wild state of being. More will be revealed.Wild Child