The Crossing

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Photo by Noella M. Deck: The Wild Unknown Tarot

Question: How do I cross this threshold?

For many years, I’ve felt like my life was accelerating to a point. Call it an endpoint, or a threshold or a crossing….the general feeling has been that circumstances were rapidly pushing me toward some sort of “point of no return.” Recently, I’ve realized that I’m here. I’m at the place where one life will fade into another. There is a sense of crossing from “Maiden” stage into “Mother.” A growing up of sorts, an evolution. It has been beautiful but also extraordinarily painful. This reading was meant to clarify some recent hiccups and growing pains.

Answer, read as a sentence: Disconnect (Eight of Cups), Gather Your Tribe (Three of cups), and Face The Monsters Together (Nine of swords.)

Eight of Cups: Walking away from it all. Spiritual journey. Into the shadows of the unknown. Be brave. Leave it all behind. Seek what will truly sustain you.

Three of Cups: Friendship, Support, Community, Tribe, Merriment.

Nine of Swords: Nightmares, Worries, Concerns. Usually internal, possibly external. The Dweller on The Threshold.

“There comes a point in life when you realize that nothing will ever be the same, and that from now on, life will always be divided into two parts: before this and after this.”  -Unknown


Gathering Bones: Full Moon Symbols

Yesterday’s Sagittarius Full Moon brought with it a host of signs and symbols.

A lone dandelion seed head sprouted in the garden, a reminder of The Star tarot card I’d pulled in a reading the night before.

My first time spotting a great blue heron at the lake and immersing myself in her stillness and mystery. An acorn found in my purse, and two spiral snail shells found at the front door.

I returned to the lake with my daughter Grace after her poetry recital to see if we could find a blue heron feather. Instead we were blessed with the heron herself as she hunted for dinner. We sat nearby and watched quietly as she ducked her head into the water and caught fish after fish, and I was once again struck by her magical presence. Turtles at the lake were behaving strangely, which delighted us–swarming to the edge of the water and crawling toward us, instead of away from us as usual. On our walk back, we found a snakeskin at the curb near the car.

I adore symbols. I adore the language nature speaks when we’re listening. And since I’m facing an immense crossroads in my life, I am always “gathering bones.” In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes (and I’m loosely paraphrasing here) describes gathering bones as the process by which we make sense of and begin to chart  the signs, symbols, and messages we are gifted along the path. The synchronicities, the readings, the dreams, the blue heron sightings at the lake.

Here are some photos of the adventure, and symbol meanings — generally held cultural interpretations and my own:

Dandelions: Healing, warmth, wishes fulfilled. The Star: Renewal after a great trial.


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Great Blue Heron: Charting your own course, finding the courage to walk your truest path. Keeper of mysteries and knowledge. Turtle: Longevity, endurance, peace. The Earth, ancient wisdom.


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Snakeskin: Death and rebirth. Something old has fallen away, something new awaits.


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Acorn: Wealth, prosperity. Spiral: Perfection, order, wisdom, change of season, sacred geometry, as above, so below.

The Darkness

Image by Carole Brssan
Image by Carole Bressan

“People sometimes ask me where my own healing energy comes from. How, in the midst of this pain, this implacable slow crippling, can I encourage myself and other people?

My answer is that my healing comes from my bitterness itself, my despair, my terror. It comes from the shadow. I dip down into that muck again and again and then am flooded with its healing energy.

Despite the renewal and vitality I get from facing my deepest fears, I don’t go willingly when they call.

I’ve been around that wheel a million times: first, I feel the despair, but I deny it for a few days; then, its tugs become more insistent in proportion to my resistance; finally, it overwhelms me and pulls me down, kicking and screaming all the way. It’s clear I am caught, so at last I give up to this reunion with the dark aspect of my adjustment to pain and loss. Immediately, the release begins: first peace, then the flood of vitality and healing energy.

I can never simply give up to my despair when I first feel it stir. You’d think after a million times with a happy ending, I could give up right away and just say, ‘Take me, I’m yours,’ but I never can.

I always resist.

I guess that’s why it’s called despair. If you went willingly, it would be called something hopeful, like purification or renewal. It’s staring defeat and annihilation in the face that’s so terrifying; I must resist until it overwhelms me.

But I’ve come to trust it deeply. It’s enriched my life, informed my work, and taught me not to fear the dark.”

–Darlene Cohen (author of Turning Suffering Inside Out: A Zen Approach for Living with Physical and Emotional Pain)

The Momentum Of Birth

Photograph by Noella Montoute.

“I want the momentum of birth after
a thousand deaths, I want to do
what I’m scared to do, to do what I love
to follow the embroidery of blood
mapping my grandmother’s voice to where
I have not been yet
The key to resurrection is to re-member
remember pain shooting through you wet and tender,
agonizing in your growing,
the heart sharply green in its need
You never know who will split your darkest seeds,
and draw light from your eyes.”


by Ellen Crow Vodicka

When Whales And Humans Talk

Tattooed Whale, 2016. By Tim Pitsiulak (via Hakai Magazine)

Harry Brower Sr. was lying in a hospital bed in Anchorage, Alaska, close to death, when he was visited by a baby whale.

Although Brower’s body remained in Anchorage, the young bowhead took him more than 1,000 kilometers north to Barrow (now Utqiaġvik), where Brower’s family lived. They traveled together through the town and past the indistinct edge where the tundra gives way to the Arctic Ocean. There, in the ice-blue underwater world, Brower saw Iñupiat hunters in a sealskin boat closing in on the calf’s mother.

Brower felt the shuddering harpoon enter the whale’s body. He looked at the faces of the men in the umiak, including those of his own sons. When he awoke in his hospital bed as if from a trance, he knew precisely which man had made the kill, how the whale had died, and whose ice cellar the meat was stored in. He turned out to be right on all three counts.

Brower lived six years after the episode, dying in 1992 at the age of 67. In his final years, he discussed what he had witnessed with Christian ministers and Utqiaġvik’s whaling captains. The conversations ultimately led him to hand down new rules to govern hunting female whales with offspring, meant to communicate respect to whales and signal that people were aware of their feelings and needs. “[The whale] talked to me,” Brower recalls in a collection of his stories, The Whales, They Give Themselves. “He told me all the stories about where they had all this trouble out there on the ice.”

Not long ago, non-Indigenous scientists might have dismissed Brower’s experience as a dream or the inchoate ramblings of a sick man. But he and other Iñupiat are part of a deep history of Arctic and subarctic peoples who believe humans and whales can talk and share a reciprocal relationship that goes far beyond that of predator and prey. Today, as Western scientists try to better understand Indigenous peoples’ relationships with animals—as well as animals’ own capacity for thoughts and feelings—such beliefs are gaining wider recognition, giving archaeologists a better understanding of ancient northern cultures.”

Read more at Hakai Magazine :

Rewilding An English Farm

Knepp Castle Estate, near London. Photo Courtesy of The Daily Mail

With breathtaking speed, thickets of 3ft-high thistles were advancing over the ground, engulfing acre after acre. It was like the Day Of The Triffids. Every day, as my husband Charlie and I walked over what had once been arable fields on our family farm, we could barely believe what we were seeing.

Not for nothing is this creeping weed known as the ‘cursed thistle’ — it sends out deep tap-roots and, as any gardener knows, it’s almost impossible to dig out. In our case, however, using weedkiller was out of the question.

Several years into a pioneering project to ‘rewild’ the land, we were no longer willing to use the pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilisers that had once seemed so essential. 

Giving up intensive farming on our 3,500 acres had been a difficult, but unavoidable, decision; on desperately poor soil — heavy clay — we rarely made a profit and had worked up an eye-watering overdraft.

Inspired by a rewilding experiment in Holland, we’d sold our dairy herds and farm machinery, stepped back and allowed nature to take the driving seat — the first project of its kind in Britain.

Read more here:

Book Review: Circe

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My copy, courtesy of the Harris County Public Library.

I’m still letting this one sink in.

Madeline Miller’s writing flows like cool water, and I can easily say that this is one of the best novels I’ve read in years. Her reinterpretation of Circe’s myth is a lyrical adventure through the very long life of an all-too-human goddess — her tragedies, her lovers, and her many years spent discovering herself in exile. I deeply appreciate when witches, witchcraft, nature, and magic are depicted as lovingly, accurately, and luminously as they are in this work. (Naomi Novik’s Uprooted also does this quite well.)

I felt aglow after spending an entire weekend immersed in this story. If it’s on your list and you haven’t picked it up yet, you won’t regret putting it at the front of the line.