A Forest Mass

So it’s Christmas Eve, and I have a yearning to attend a midnight mass … but in thinking this urge through I realize that I have no desire to attend a Catholic mass or any other church service. I grew up Catholic, and my medieval mind has a yearning for something like Gregorian chant … but my wild heart yearns for the forest.

Yes, I may head out into the woods at Midnight, light a candle, sing and improvise a few songs under this dark night (it being the New Moon, there will be no moon in the sky; it being cloudy today, stars are not likely to be here either). But what sparked into my heart was an old idea of mine, newly remembered: to create a “Forest Mass” — ignited by Celtic soul and sprinklings of song and poetic word, and the wisdom of the trees, stars, earth, the Light that returns (harp too!).

So this is my quest for the next year (in addition to completing my novel “Because Of The Red Fox”) — to discover and create this Forest Mass, a quiet song and celebration woven of the trees and earth, the stars and true things. Breathed in by dreams.

I’ll share my journey with you here. Please join me.

And merry everything to you, in this Season of Miracles. May you know blessings and beauty, and the holy light that burns in your heart!

Snow Forest - photo by Jane Valencia

Unexpected Answers To Mysteries Of The Heart

Each morning I pass time at what I call my “Sit Spot” — a special place in nature (in my case, in my backyard) where I absorb the more-than-human world around me, open myself to these other companions, and attempt to simply be (easier said than done!). For months I’ve watched the changing of the plants, the dropping of fruit and leaves, the bareness, then growth of the new, the continual ebb and flow of life that does not depend on humans but continues alongside, despite us.

Back in February or so I first became aware of the liquid song of a bird in the neighborhood. The song went straight to my heart, and I yearned to discover just who this bird was. It sang each morning from the top of a very tall birch a few yards away, and the song changed, sometimes several times within a few minutes.

I tried to spot this bird, and what I glimpsed revealed a bird that was small. A sparrow? And yet, when I pulled out field guides I couldn’t definitively to myself identify the bird.

Which bird loved to be in the treetops, or on phone wires — high up? Which bird appeared to be shy — for whenever I heard this bird, or other birds like it in the neighborhood and turned my attention on them, trying to “figure them out” — the bird would invariably fly away. Truly. My very attention and focus on the bird seemed to disturb it so much that it fled.

I realized quickly that this golden-song bird, this Mystery bird embodied some important teachings and lessons for me, was in some way a mirror to my spirit, to something I would in time come to understand. Maybe. In the meantime I perused a bird book for this area, trying to narrow down just who this bird might be, listened to bird songs on the internet — and dashed outside whenever I heard the bird, wandered the neighborhood with my neck craned, struggling to spot the small bird high in the trees despite the leafing of the branches. And I despaired of ever figuring out who this little bird is.

In time I gave up listening for the bird. I didn’t really hear it anymore — certainly not at my Sit Spot time. Maybe it had moved on, migrated with the spring. Sometimes I thought I heard this bird — but the song seemed different. I know longer recognized the patterns, though the changing, liquid quality seemed similar to what had originally captured my attention.

I spotted the bird at times that I thought might be it — yes, sparrow or wren size, with a narrow tail, a pale throat, a thin beak. But the birds I listened to in the audios were not what this bird sounded like. This bird was not a vireo, for example.

In my own heart I’ve been journeying for quite sometime, moving to a renewed understand and embodying of who I am in this world, this life. I’ve come to an end of a couple of ’story arc’s, the most recent being that of our time in the West, which I understand in an energetic and metaphoric sense as well as geographically. I mark that as the New Moon my family had moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from NE Oregon. As of Sunday, we’d been here a year and a day — a length of time that is of significance in Celtic traditions. For example, many agreements were trialed for a year-and-a-day before making a final commitment to it. Hand-fasting, where a couple might live together for a year-and-a-day before committing to marriage is one such example.

And so, when I stepped outside on Monday, I felt I was stepping into someplace new in myself, some new understanding, some new cycle of Mystery and being. And as I stepped outside I suddenly became aware of a bird singing close by. My golden-song Mystery! I spotted a bird in the lowest branches of our incense-cedar — clearly to me, a wren of some sort — a winter wren? Though the tail didn’t tip up quite as much. Still, clearly the tipping up tail of a wren.

As soon this detail registered the bird darted across the yard, and I heard the golden-song from a different place, from the direction that bird had flown, though it seemed to my ears that the song came further out. Still, I crossed the yard, spotted the bird, listened to the song and knew that this was the bird that had been singing all this time.

This morning I took the time to peruse my guidebook. Yes, a Bewick’s Wren. The book even said plainly that a particular bird sings several songs, and that the songs vary from bird to bird. I got on the internet, listened to some audio clips of Bewick’s Wren, read some more about how the songs are different but there’s a certain quality that you can recognize. Bewick’s Wren.

Why hadn’t I considered wrens in my obsession with discovering the name of this bird? Why hadn’t I considered Bewick’s Wren for more than half a second? For one reason, when I’d glimpsed the bird on the phone wire or high in the trees, I’d been at such an angle beneath it that I hadn’t noticed the tipping up of the tail — or at least not for more than a moment. The tail appeared to be tipping down. For another, when I read the description of where the bird liked to hang it, it mentioned that it favored shrubs. It said how common these birds were (when in my experience they seemed so few and so shy!).

I had suspected that following — and releasing — the Mystery of this little beautifully-singing bird would reveal something I would do well to pay attention to in my own heart. And again I resonate to these truths that knowledge is available but in the end we must let go of what we think we know, let go of “trying to figure it all out”, let go and be. Then the little bird will fly right in your yard at just the right time that you can see exactly its nature — oh, a wren of some sort — but even that is not so very important to the fact that here is a being — a little bird — who is a companion in my journey, whose flight and song have interwoven with mine.

My life is more beautiful and song-filled and harmonious because I have chased the Mystery embodied in this little bird, a path that involved hammering the question with my mind, and surrender, and — when I reached a reordered/ released sense of self — finally unexpected discovery.

As I start this new day I’m so very aware of the directives my strategic mind injects into each day, each moment, and — I have an expansive sense of what might be possible if I flip-flopped this with just being present, in love with what is right before me, open to discovery. Strategic thinking (the ego) is necessary for us to live out the visions woven in our heart, the story/dream/song that our soul yearns to live in the world, but in this moment I suspect that the directive threads can really be as light and open and subtle — and effective — as a spider’s web spun between branches.

At least, that is the experiment, the wondering in which I set forth into this day. The magic that is opening between my hands.

Tell me, dear reader. What mystery do you chase? And where in the natural world is it mirrored back to you? What is the golden-song that is “out there” that you actually have resounding in every cell of your being. We may feel that we are small birds of no consequence in this huge, many-forces life, but in the language of the soul birds have always been messengers of the heart, always the ones who communicate from beyond the visible world.

What message, song, expression do you bring forth right now? Sing it here if you wish!

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Celebrating Our Spirit Fire: BrightMoon

The moon is at perigee  right now — at its closest to the sun for the year— and so, being a full moon, is at its brightest.   Here in the northern hemisphere we are also at the first cross-quarter of the year, midway in the cycle of the year between the Winter Solstice (longest night, shortest day) and the Spring Equinox (day and night of equal length).

This luminous time of year is celebrated variously as the Celtic festival of Imbolc,  St. Brigid’s Day, or as the Catholic Candlemas or Feast Of The Purification of The Virgin — honoring Mary’s ritual purification after birthing the baby Jesus (celebrated at the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary), and also the Feast Of The Presentation Of Jesus At The Temple.

As an agrarian festival, Imbolc marked the beginning of spring by the lactation of the ewes.  St. Brigid/the Goddess Brighid herself is associated with midwifery, as well as the hearthfire, poetic inspiration, smithcraft, healing, and more.  There’s much lore surrounding all these festivals, and I invite you to explore some of it by following the links.

As I gaze at the BrightMoon rising and engage with that feeling of newest beginnings quickening in the ground of my life I feel a sense of fragility, possibility, and grace.  That the Lady herself (Mary, the Goddess, the Moon, illumination …)  however you understand this warm, pure presence is offering blessing and beautiful promise to all of us, even if the times may still be dark, the buds just beginning to nudge forth, the trees bare.  Mystery lies at this time of year, but also the stirrings of excitement regarding how we will be moving forward in the year.

  • What hopes and wishes are stirring in the rich loam of your heart right now?
  • What inspiration flickers or burns with steady flame as if on a candle sheltered by your hand?  What are you doing to shield this flame from the winds of the world, to safeguard it and hold it sacred?  It is best not to reveal the flame too soon!  Instead, carefully tend your inspirational fire.  Prepare a hearth with all the materials and care it needs to thrive before revealing your ideas, projects, whatever-it-is to the larger world of family, community, colleagues.   The time of public welcome will come soon enough ….
  • How does the BrightMoon reveal something mysterious, whole, and shining in yourself?  How can you coax that hallowed nature into your everyday life — into the way you tend your food, your family, your work?

I offer to you a “Deer Song” to help you in your musing, meditation, reflections.  As always my song is infused with Reiki healing energy and my good wishes.  May it serve you to open a shining place within you so that you may sit by the hearthfire of your heart and discover the warmth and beauty and unique expression that is you, and some possibilities for stepping forth in the coming year as a practical and inspiring herald of something that is very dear to you.

I invite you to write any wishes, visions, intentions, or inspirations in the comment box below.   Envision that each one is a sprig of lavender, rosemary, or cedar, and that you are offering them one by fragrant one into a shared fire of imagination and promise, and that we, as a circle of women and men on the sacred path of our lives, are tending the fire together.

Click here to download or listen to BrightMoon

(This mp3 is 4.30 min. long. Our peninsula rail service offers some lovely counterpoint to the song — listen for it :-)!)


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