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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

You’ll see a few more posts from me in December than usual. I’m participating in #Reverb10 which is a blog challenge with over 2000 participants. We receive a daily prompt, we write about it and we visit the blogs of a few other participants. I invite you to add your blog to the list and if you don’t have one, feel free to participate by leaving a comment here with your own response to the prompt.

I’m already three days late to the party and I’ve got my dancin’ shoes on!

Day 1  (Dec  1st) –  What is one Word that encapsulates 2010 and the one you’d like to be writing encapsulated 2011 a year from now.

I sat here staring at the page. What word, what word….

Evolving?

Emerging?

Moving?

Shift (with some joke about taking out the f)?

Oh heck, let’s see what the Mystery tells me it is.

I pull out the dictionary, open randomly and point blindly.

Interference

That’s my word! (?)

Hmmmm ….  I read the definitions and the last one hits the nail on the head:

“the disturbing effect of new learning on the performance of previously learned behavior with which it is inconsistent.”

Yep – that’s my word.

I got wise to my old ways and I can’t play the games anymore. The old behaviors feel really stinky and the ones that don’t stink have been rendered impotent.

My word for 2011?

I’m voting for prosperous.

The dictionary tells me:

Supply “to satisfy the needs or wishes of.”

I can go for that. If I satisfy the needs and wishes of my clients, certainly I will prosper.

(Heads up:  I have some big plans to be revealed in future months.)

If I satisfy the needs and wishes of myself, certainly I will feel prosperous , even abundant.

Well, now, that wasn’t so hard was it?

Try it! What does the dictionary predict for you?

Day 2 – (Dec 2nd) What do you do each day that does NOT contribute to your writing and can you eliminate it?

I’m already ahead of the prompt. It was that I play Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook and sometimes got lost in time when I did so. But I got a grip on myself. I quit playing, removed the app from my profile and moved on. That was about 6 weeks ago. I only felt it the first few days; a kind of gnashing of the teeth like wanting sugar, but like a sugar addiction it was a distant memory within three days.

I’m not writing more, but I am getting the files cleaned out. Maybe that will be my answer to this same prompt next year. I’m filing instead of writing….

Nope, certainly the issue is social media. Dare I say we could all afford to stop tweeting, texting, friending and start writing?

Day 3 – (Dec 3rd) Pick one moment when you felt most alive this year and describe it in detail.

Hello! That’s personal……

Truthfully, I feel most alive when I am engaged with wildlife and when I can take photos. Here are some of my most alive moments and I will let the pictures speak for me. All of these were taken in Marin and most of them around Bon Tempe Lake.

Praying Mantis copyright (c) Sep 2010 Kathy J Loh

praying mantis

Bullfrog copyright (c) Sept 2010 Kathy J Loh

Bullfrog

Deer face copyright (c) Sept 2010, Kathy J Loh

Red Skimmer copyright (c) Sept 2010 Kathy J Loh

Red Skimmer

Turkey Vulture copyright (c) Sept 2010, Kathy J Loh

Turkey Vulture post bath

Baby Lizard copyright (c) Sept 2010 Richard A Loh

Life begins (photo: Rick Loh)

copyright (c) December 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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I am incredibly fortunate to have a mom who reads my blog, likes it and, from time to time, comments on it. So mom, I know you are reading and this one’s for you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mom sent me an email after reading my March 19, 2010 post: Spring Equinox Musings with a Touch of Mystery. In it, she wrote: “Always enjoy witnessing your awareness of all nature. Reminds me very much of my mother. “

I got a chuckle from that. It’s true, Grandma was a nature lover. She sent me books about animals and birds. My favorite (and it still sits on my shelf) was a big picture book of birds that included a small record of their songs.  I also received from her plastic models of birds (one was a red-headed woodpecker) which I assembled (no warships for me). I can still smell the paint I used to color them. Whenever grandma came to visit, we’d go to places like the zoo, the aquarium, the hummingbird exhibit, or, if it was spring, to the desert to see the flowers in bloom.

Yet, as much influence as my grandmother had on my love for nature, my mother’s impact was even more profound. Here are some of my memories.

I remember (at about 8 years of age) standing on the front lawn of our suburban home staring up at the night sky. We were stargazing. With a little book in her hands, mom pointed out Orion’s Belt, the Big and Little Dippers and other constellations. In those days you could still see the night sky in most parts of San Diego. Not so true now. That book was Seeing Stars by W.B.White, published in 1935 and I have it right in front of me now. The binding is held together with scotch tape. The title page bears the inscription:

“To [my mom’s name] from Aunt Leah Dec 10, 1940.”

It also has my own name scrawled in pencil by my 8-year-old hand. To this day, I am an avid stargazer and opponent of light pollution.

Thanks mom!

Two other books that have traveled with me all these years are: Golden Nature Guides to Birds and Golden Nature Guides to Insects.  Everywhere we went, mom would point out the birds. She knew their names and if we could not identify them, we would go to the bookshelf and pull out one of the guides, either the Peterson Field Guide to Birds or one of several amazing books of Audubon drawings. I used to trace them with pencil and tracing paper and then color the birds appropriately, much as I painted my little models.

Thanks mom!

Yellow Warbler copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Yellow Warbler (K J Loh)

Our family did a lot of camping together. We’d pack up the yellow Mercury wagon with tent, cots, sleeping bags, a big cooler, boxes of food and camping equipment and our suitcases. Most of the time, we stayed at CA state or national parks. A visit to the nature center at each park was a must and it wasn’t so that we could buy trinkets. It was to get educated about the local flora and fauna. Then we’d hit the nature trails with the little brochure in hand and stop at every numbered sign. Mom would read the brochure notes out loud to us. Dad would get impatient. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested, but he liked to keep moving. He was an active guy. Even if there was a large sign we could all read, mom would read it out loud. It’s no wonder I became an audio learner (or perhaps it’s lucky that I was born that way) because I got so much of my nature education listening to mom’s voice.

Thanks mom!

Mom was the leader of my Girl Scout troop for a while. Though some of the badges were for rather domestic things (like how to make a bed – can you imagine?) her support of me in scouts also led me to camp where I encountered lots of new and interesting wildlife, like the raccoon that was staring nose to nose with me when I awoke one morning. In scouts we also went into a canyon in Torrey Pines, located wild animal tracks indented in dried mud and made plaster casts of them. I learned to call squirrels with a clicking between tongue and cheek. We watched jays eat our picnic lunch, encountered giant ant hills under our sleeping bags and hiked to the tops of mountains. I was a little chubby as a kid and those hikes were not my favorite time, but I got to see lots of different kinds of plants and animals that live at higher elevations.

Thanks mom!

I grew a deep appreciation for the magical springtime appearance of wildflowers that were only on display a short while. We caught fireflies and put them in jars or paper bags in my bedroom at night. I learned to always be on the lookout for wildlife, for a splash of color hidden in the grasses, for some movement or shadow that gave away the presence of a bird or butterfly overhead. I learned that every creature and every plant had a name and if I wanted to know what it was I could “look it up.” Those words will ring forever in my ears.

Thanks mom!

There was a time when I rebelled against knowing the names of things. My rational was that a tree is no less beautiful if I know it to be a tree or an oak. In my wisdom now, I know that it is powerful to speak names. It is powerful to speak our names and it is powerful to speak the name of a tree, a flower, a bird. There may be spirit names for them that we don’t know (unless we listen and the tree reveals it), but we all can feel that an oak and a redwood are not the same. Their energies, wisdom and medicine are uniquely their own, not only from genus to genus, family to family, but from tree to tree.  So to call it by its name, even the one humans have supplied, is to honor the tree. And if I have to take the time and go to the effort to identify that tree, insect, flower, constellation using my guides or on the internet, then I will, eagerly.

Thanks mom!

Wild Iris - copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Wild Iris

I used to gather flowers and leaves and press them between sheets of wax paper with an iron. I still gather feathers, shells, rocks, leaves, and wildflowers that I press between pages in my guidebooks. I take photographs of every flower, butterfly, insect, bird, tree, moss, mushroom, rock that calls to me when I am hiking and I even record the calls of birds by day and hooting of owls at night. On my hikes, I say “hello beautiful” to the amazing creatures I come across and I let melodies drift from the wind, into my consciousness and out my vocal chords as I go. I observe the changing of seasons and the cycles of growth, of moons, the way everything changes. I marvel at the many shapes of clouds and catch as many sunsets as I can. For me, the world is alive and magical. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is traveling with delight and being truly enchanted by the Great Mystery

Thanks mom!

Thank you, mom, for teaching me to love and honor the world around me and to find delight and wonder in the beauty of nature.  There’s something about that love that I have for nature that cycles back and I always feel loved by the nature in return. This is how I know, in my being, that I truly belong.

Thanks for teaching me to slow down long enough to observe; that there is a time to be getting one’s exercise and a time to be present to our surroundings.

Thanks for teaching me to “look it up.” I know you probably never thought you’d hear me thank you for that, considering all the times I complained about it, but I am a master researcher as a result.

And mom, while I may remind you of your mother, my grandmother,  I am truly my mother’s daughter. It has taken me many years to be OK with that. Most of us don’t want to hear those words “You’re just like your mother.” Now I am not just OK with it, I am thrilled and extremely grateful. I could not have been any more fortunate and I know, truly know, why my soul picked you. And I didn’t even get to mention the ballet and music lessons, money management, writing skills,  gardening, pruning roses or my ability to cook from scratch. Yes, Dad was influential too and there are many memories I have that come from that side of the parental team. I’ll write about him next month.

So here it is, from my heart to yours , mom.

Happy Mothers Day!

And yes, I did interrupt writing this post several times to take photos of creatures that sailed by my window while I was writing; one Turkey Vulture,a Variable Checkerspot and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, a Red-tailed Hawk  and a Carpenter Bee.

Note to readers: thank you for indulging me this personal thank you letter to my mother. It is my hope that you will be inspired to write your own love letter to your mother as well as to know the treasure you are to your daughters and sons.

copyright(c) May 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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Big wind today

Crazy excited about something

Clearing the air

Releasing the leaves, pollens and dead weight

From trees and bushes

and

Me.

Madrone Blossoms copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Walking the trails

I encounter my past

Strewn about the pathways

In dizzying array.

Pea hail of Madrone blossoms

Gentle blue-snow dusting of California Lilac

Needles, cones and leftover leaves from the fall

Prints of canines and critters that have passed this way before

deeply embedded in dried mud.

Only crazy people walk in the woods on a windy day.

Squirrels scold and Jays sound the alarm

Trees creak, clank and moan

Consider releasing what no longer serves

Be it leaf, twig, bough or branch.

A few will give up altogether

Surrender their roots to time

Come crashing down to meet the earth

Face to face

Unless another stronger tree

Happens to catch them in their descent.

Crow copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Crow or shadow – crow won’t tell

Hawks and crows surf the currents

(Oh, I know you won’t believe me

But just after I wrote that line,

Two crows dove dramatically

Within twenty feet of my window.

Where’s my camera

Where’s my camera

I’m not surprised

Crow medicine has been showing up lately.)

Songbirds dive like bullets

For the next safe haven

Strategize to avoid being blown sideways.

Falling leaves twirl like little girls in

New skirts with petticoats.

I swear I can hear their laughter.

On the trail, beneath the creaking trees

A splash of white feathers

Sign of angels

Sign of a kill.

feather amid pine needles copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

After a time of solitude

The path is enlivened with neighbors

A trail runner

A couple and their show dogs

A couple with no dogs

A woman walking her horse.

Who dares walk on a windy day?

We do!

the walkers, the runners, the riders.

All that mental energy needs a bit of earth

A bit of dirt and trail under our feet

Some blazing sun to make us squint

And a good wind to face into.

I feel it pull my thinking right out

The tips of my wildly flying hair

And send it God only knows where.

Butterfly copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

I release an invocation

And let it fly on the wind as well.

I sing for all the butterflies

That emerge today,

Or on any windy day,

Who had no idea

It would be this blustery

Once they left the ground.

It’s a different kind of freedom

And freedom, none-the-less.

copyright (c) May 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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In conversation with a redwood tree

Redwood Tree

(c) K J Loh

Walking to the river on a misty morning

trail inthe mist

(c) K J Loh

In or on water

toes in water

(c) K J Loh

Coolin’ my heels in the river at Big Sur River Inn

sitting at the River Inn in the river

(c) Rick Loh

An uncrowded beach

Footprints on beach

(c) K J Loh

On a road trip in my van

Van at campground

(c) K J Loh

There’s one favorite place that I’m unable to photograph, so I will attempt to describe it.

This place is an intersection of the outer and inner worlds, somewhere near the third-eye and not really.

It is a spark, an essence, the smallest point of a point and yet it’s as deep and expansive as the universe.

The stillpoint perhaps?

I’ve been there a few times.

Once was during a shamanic journey when I found myself on some distant star.

Other times during meditation.

It is a peaceful, quiet place. A place of no time (and hence no urgency) and no judgment.

The only word I have for this place is home.

It is a place where the I that is my ego, my identity in this lifetime, discovers a new me which doesn’t know separation from all the other me’s.

It is a place of unconditional love.

Not so much a love I feel.

More a love that I am.

Copyright (c) December 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved (including images)

This post is in response to Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 blog challenge for the month of December

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(This is a follow-up post to Informed by a Fallen Oak)

The guys showed up at 7:24 Monday morning. I watched them walk by in the dim light of dawn; the boss and the three workmen, looking a bit grim and bracing themselves against the cold morning air. Within moments the disturbing whining of two chainsaws broke the silence.  The men had been summoned to cut up the fallen oak and remove a couple more live ones.

I sat on the edge of my bed and wept after hearing the first limbs fall. I cried for the tree and its life and I cried for all of the creatures it has supported. I cried for the beauty of life. It felt important to me to honor them by being present to their demise. I decided to take some photos too and this is when something magical happened.

I was struck by the relationship between the tree cutter and the tree. They looked to be in intimate embrace, tied together by the ropes that keep the tree cutter from falling. He wrapped his rope around the tree and after he sawed off some limbs, he climbed higher by moving the rope up the trunk with the saw hanging by a separate cord. He used the limb stumps like telephone pole staples; stomping heavily on each to be sure they would hold before applying his full weight.  Once in position, he pulled the saw up and removed the next batch of limbs.

I thought: The oak allows the one with the chainsaw to climb it for the purpose of taking it down.

Fallen and sawed up oak tree

Oak remains (K Loh)

The oak that fell the week prior, spoke to me of being done and not knowing what’s next; of being uprooted with no sense of a new home.

Watching these live oaks being taken down, I thought of the structures, external and internal, that present potential hazards and blocks to who I am becoming now. I wondered what those structures are.  Internally, I know they are beliefs and fundamental choices. Externally, there are many options, from the amount of time I spend online to where I live.  It’s possible they are also the spiritual practices to which I’ve become somewhat attached. They’ve served me so well, that it pains me to let them go. They will support me as I disassemble them.

And so, I am in an intimate dance with my structures, climbing to the top, chainsaw in hand, removing limbs as I go and allowing enough to remain to support me as I climb. At some point, I will remove the top and begin the decent and dismantling of the trunk.

With the root, the original essence of all that is my calling, remaining in the soil, new sprouts will grow. These will be the new structures and new ways of doing and being that will arise in service of that calling.

firewood remnants of fallen tree

Firewood (K Loh)

The logs from the original tree will become firewood to warm us and our neighbors through the cold winter months.  As my coach, Jeanine Mancusi,  reminded me, the energy of the tree lives on in every piece of firewood, every stem, every leaf. There is a phoenix that rises from the ashes of all that I’m willing to burn.  The ashes feed the seeds.

There is more spaciousness in my view with the trees gone. There is more room to breathe and more room to move without some of those old beliefs and habits. The sunsets and stars are more visible. I can see beyond the forest.

I have tremendous gratitude for the old practices and how they helped me survive some very rough times. I grieve for them even as I embrace the adventure of creating and easing into new ones.

Just as I typed those words, a hawk rode a wind gust past my window, through the very space that used to be crowded with trees. It banked, circled and then flew directly at me gliding up over the roof.

It says something to me about where I’m headed these days…

Maybe it feels like being uprooted.

Maybe it feels like deconstructing, removing, rebuilding.

Maybe it feels like burning it all to the ground.

Hawk reminds me… it’s all about dancing with the winds of change.

Copyright(c) October 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved


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I can’t even remember if I was sitting at my computer desk or walking toward it when this happened.  What I do remember is hearing a very loud sound, looking out the window and seeing  a 100+ foot oak tree falling toward me. It hit the ground, branches bouncing around, and ultimately came to rest pressed into my window like an impetuous “please don’t leave me” lover’s embrace. The canopy was so wide it completely darkened a second window at the other end of the room.

The rest of the general story is fairly predictable. My landlords were quick to respond and the details that are generally left up to those who own property were in their hands; assessing damage, contacting tree services, etc. All around there was gratitude for the limited damage and the fact that no one was hurt.

This left me with the freedom to explore and play with it as a sign of some sort; to imbue the event with meaning, as is my nature.  I’m aware that some people prefer to see it as: a tree fell, end of story, move on. I can see it that way too. I choose not to. I choose to live in a more enchanting world. I have been deepening my relationship with Nature for a long time and animals in particular have become lively and important messengers for me. I go to stands of trees to find healing and comfort. We have “conversations.”

Old Vista with Oak (K Loh)

When the oak stood tall (K Loh)

Fallen Oak (K Loh)

Fallen Oak (K Loh)

The lease on another oak’s life is up as a result of the threat it poses by being so close to the house. It will be taken down because of its potential. I could not help but cry about that during my evening meditation; grieving the trees. At the same time, two pines, about 10 and 20 feet, are about to get a break as they no longer stand in the shade of the oaks.

I thought too of how the squirrels have been working so hard to collect their winter’s stash. I didn’t see them yesterday, but today I noticed they’ve already determined their new commuter route. They don’t pause for a moment to complain about the loss or the inconvenience (unless they do). They simply do what must be done and continue “squirreling away” for the cold months to come.

As I waited for the tree “morticians” to show up and improvise a requiem from chain saws and chippers, I wondered what happens when Cosmos decides that it has outgrown the form of an oak tree? Where does the energy go? What will be the new form? Chipper shred or something else? We see the tree, we see the chips and firewood, but there is something else we don’t see. Cosmos is always unfolding and moving and re-forming.

This week, the Tarot of the Spirit card upon which I’m meditating (as part of my class with Lightning Spiral Mystery School) is Seven of Wind – Many Tongues. There is change afoot. Articulation eludes us as we move into a new consciousness. Old structures need to give way as they, fashioned from an old perspective, no longer serve. It makes me ask: how can my mind, having created those structures as a mirror of itself, fathom a new one? What’s coming?

I am in that place between knowing and knowing anew. I have a sense, I have intuition, but I don’t yet have the words. The energy that was the oak tree and outgrew it is moving on and showing up in some new form, but I don’t know what. All I see is the fallen oak.

What comes with the fallen tree is the opening of a new vista. I can now see the previously hidden stands of redwoods and there is more sky which means more light, fuller sunsets, more moon and more stars.  The birds and squirrels will be farther from my view having moved to the trees further down the hill.

A friend and colleague drew an angel card for me, regarding this event. She drew Aspiration which indicated it was time to set my sights higher.  Now I have the vista and sky to do so and it may require the toppling of some structures.

This tree fell directly at me and if I crawled out my window, I could crawl directly down its branches to its main trunk and straight on down to the unearthed root ball. I can make up that a great groan of “done-ness” has arisen from its roots and shot straight up the trunk to me, entered into my field of awareness and left me with that same energy. All the things I am reticent to release, from beliefs to old stories to the stuff of clutter, are gathering, energetically, in me into a full surrender roar of enough!

It’s edgy business, this being done with no sense of what’s to come. There is no new structure already built and in place for me to inhabit and by which to live. I’ve purposefully invoked the unknown, the Mystery and here it is; a big gaping hole in the space where once a mighty oak stood; a hole where the light can now shine and from which the stars can be viewed.

I am setting my sights higher, wider, deeper,  broader. I’m setting my sights and getting insights; familiarizing myself with the lay of this new terrain and feeling incredible gratitude for the Beauty we call Nature. In these ways and so many others, I allow myself to be enchanted an  in-formed by a fallen oak.

Copyright (c) October 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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The long days of summer are over. Fall has arrived, if not in your backyard, then at least, on your calendar. The Autumnal and Vernal (spring) equinoxes are the two times a year when the length of the day and the length of the night are more or less equal.

The weather, fickle as it always is, is less reliable than the angle of the sun when it comes to knowing Fall has arrived. It snowed in Denver the other day and then returned to a sunny 70 degrees. There are deluges in Georgia and heat waves in California.

Some will know it’s Fall by the return of football season, children returning to school and the final race to the world series in baseball.

What tells me it’s Autumn is the gray and black squirrels (newborn last Spring) scampering about the oaks gathering acorns. The Jays and the Acorn Woodpeckers are competing for the same booty and then burying it the ground or  hammering into the telephone pole. The persimmons are turning orange. I am going to bed earlier and awakening a bit later as the nights grow longer.

Persimmons (Kathy Loh)

Persimmons (Kathy Loh)

Ancient cultures made monuments to honor the solstices. That we make meaning from this time is built upon the wisdom of the ages. How we make meaning is personal and cultural.

In general it is known as a time of harvest. The harvest invites gratitude and the observation that we reap what we sow.  With the shortening and cooling of the days comes the natural desire to hibernate by slowing down, reflecting, preparing.

Just as those squirrels gather their bounty for the winter, we can take time to reflect upon how well we’ve lived our year to this point, what needs cleaning up and completion and how we want to prepare for a new cycle that begins at Winter Solstice.

As we are in the sun sign of Libra, the perspective of balance between the dark and light, balance of polarities, is especially poignant. I had a wonderful call with a client today that illustrates how we can work with polarities with one simple question that accommodates “and.”  As we explored her vision of her most robust future, she mentioned both adventure and living at a relaxed pace. She then laughingly wondered how she could have both. At first glance we assume adventure and relaxation to be contradictory. Curiosity offers another perspective. I asked her what it would be to be in relaxed adventure? A new doorway opened.

I invite you to take something you are playing with as either-or, that creates a black and white debate in your mind, and write your own inquiry similar to the one above. The Autumnal Equinox may well infuse your contemplation with balanced energy.

Another Autumnal sign and energy is that of Scorpio. Scorpio is all about the sting, the transmutation of energy, initiation. It’s a great time to reconnect with the soul and inquire as to your soul’s purpose. It’s a good time to heal old wounds, create alignment in your chakras.  You might like to meditate upon the chakras, do some chakra chanting, work with a healer, shaman or spiritual coach/guide to facilitate these processes.

Finally, many of us have been busy discarding old items, clearing out closets and garages, clearing our very hearts of clutter and things we no longer need. It turns out this is natural energy to feel this time of year. The Autumnal Equinox encourages it. As we head toward the nadir of the Winter Solstice, as we head toward the end of the year, it is natural for us to assess the path we’ve walked the past 9 months and release that which no longer serves. It is also natural to begin to prepare for the upcoming year, the beginning of a new cycle at the Winter Solstice when the days begin to grow longer again and the energy is just turning toward expansion.

You might like to assess your year so far and ask:

What will you claim and celebrate?

What will you release?

What feedback or learning are you taking with you to prepare for your next adventure?

What seeds will you gather for next year’s crop?

How does your heart wish to express gratitude?

Then pick one and follow through in some way that resonates with you.

Happy Equinox dear ones!

A nod and apology for my northern perspective to the Southern Hemisphere where they are experiencing their Vernal Equinox – may your Spring be abundantly joyful!

Copyright(c) September 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

Resource (book) for ritual: Nature-Speak by Ted Andrews

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