October in the woods in SW Michigan, just minutes from my Three Oaks home…
Moving from the heated expansiveness of summer, a refreshing and introspective autumnal forest calls. Come walk and linger, enjoy scents and colors, experiencing the restoration and inspiration of the trees, plants, and earth. The shadows are long and the days shorter, heightening our pleasure of the moment. Falling leaves reveal the skeleton of a tree. Scent of decaying leaves is both dank and sweet, a curious embrace.
I imagine most of us woodsy fans are aware of the Forest Bath movement, Shinrin-yuko. (I rambled about Forest Bathing previously in a wintry blog – Winter Forest Bath). In Japan, formal studies are conducted regarding the health benefits of spending time in nature. A recent study explores the immune strengthening abilities of essential oils from trees and plant life. ‘Scuse me while I dab on some Hinoki Oil…
Most beguiling is the personal creativity that awakes in a Forest Bath. If we step into the woods with senses open we begin to feel very deeply. We let the forest in – into us, our psyche – and we experience profound pleasure and the rarified activity, play.
Yeah, it sounds “woo-woo.” Well, it is “woo-woo.” Let’s just lighten up go with it.
Here’s some sensory forest bath games to explore.
Find a scent and breathe it in. Close your eyes. How does it make you feel? Where do you feel it in your body. Open your eyes and follow the scent until you discover another. Repeat.
Pine, I feel in the head, throat, and heart. I walk through the woods tracking pine until I discover a fungal-mushroom scent. This I feel much lower in my body, it is heavy and rich. Something about the mushroom seems mischievous to me… Colors seem brighter after the scent of mushroom.
Let yourself gaze at something until your eyes go in and out of focus. Explore trying not to focus on anything! Find some lovely objects and make a design with them.
I feel connected to my inner child when I do this.
Sit in silence. Close your eyes. What do you hear? Repeat, this time with a smile.
Here’s a favorite. Find a tree. Go ahead and rest your hand on it. Feel. Move your hand away, slowly, and see what you feel now. Ok, umm. Just wow! Next, silently introduce yourself to this tree. “Well, hello there, Tree. I’m Doreen. It’s so nice to be in your company.” See what happens…
Go ahead and revel and twirl! Don’t be perfect! Be wild and wonderful! Be present! Be you in the deep, deep woods of autumn!
Dust off your wings! Faerie Festival season is here!
First, here’s a little bit about faerie festivals. Then the roundup of festivals I’ve been to, or want to go to, or want to go back to.
But first – Questions.
Just what is a faerie festival?
A bit of a hybrid festival, faerie fests are a little like a music fest, only more family friendly. A little bit renaissance fair, only with faeries, and in any time period. A bit steampunk and rainbow tribe. Only with, faeries. Expect music, dancing, activities, street performers, craft vendors and lots of creative expression. Expect – you guessed it – faeries!
Are costumes required?
Nope! Although, many folks do dress up in costumes though. And you’ll have more fun! All kinds of costumes are welcome- ren fair, pirate, steampunk. Faerie costumes are very imaginative, have fun with it!
Is there food?
All the festivals have food, but some have more selection than others. Check the website for each fest. Bring water.
What about shopping? Is there cool faerie stuff for sale?
Absolutely! Bring cash! Sometimes swipe devices don’t work so well in the woods.
Do people spend the weekend or the night?
Yes! Most festivals have camping or bunk houses of some sort. Recommended – bring twinkly faerie lights and such to deck out your tent. The camp ground and the after hours parties are where much of the fun happens. Plus you make friends and get to hear impromptu music jams. And many festivals have the best after hours dance parties ever.
Are pets welcome?
Mebbe. Again, check the websites of each fest.
If you can purchase ahead of time, do it. Camping may fill up.
Here’s the Round-up
(Photographs are my own but not necessarily from each festival they are tucked under)
Indoors – Get your Faerie fix in the cold months! Workshops and fantastic music and vendors.
A Faerie Poem
The following poem is by east coast photographer, and faerie soul Cathleen Newberg. I met Cathleen at Maryland Faerie Festival and she kindly responded to a verdant faerie newsletter with this inspired enchanted poem. Enjoy! Thanks, Cathleen for letting me share here!
I dreamed a dream
of pretty things
Of starlit nights
and Fairy Wings
Of dancing lightly
with feet bared
As if Gravity
no longer cared
My spirit soaring
no longer bound
such sweet sounds
dreaming the dream
of starlit nights
and fairy wings
~ Cathleen Newberg
Know of any of faerie festivals not mentioned here?
Belize and Guatemala happened for me this past January because of adventurers Deb and Bob Stelton, through their mom and pop travel company Mexi-Mayan Travel.
And they really are my mom and pop.
Forever curious, an inspiration to countless students and seekers, hosts and trip organizers of expeditions since the 1960’s, they are only now at 88 and 91 years young just starting to slow down.
I’ll admit to a tug at the heartstrings. Climbing around ruins and getting in and out of boats or beat up trucks is a challenge at their age. I am an arm for my mother to lean on, (darn arthritic knees!) or a cheerleader as she navigates a high ledge, on her butt, backwards. I am an ear for my dad’s failing hearing, and also sometimes a stabilizer for him also. It’s not easy for them and sometimes I worry. Well, enough of that. You get the picture. We treasure each of these excursions.
It has been an honor and delight to accompany them and sometimes work as guide on many of their madcap journeys.
Talk about gratitude, my life has been rich with culture and experience. They’ve modeled viewing the world with wonder and curiosity.
Follow their lead, my friends! Pursue your passions, interests and loves as long as you can! It keeps the mind, body spirit, strong and supple like a cheetah…
Other than the ‘rents and I there were 12 more adventurers. All intelligent, mature, considerate, and often hilarious individuals, including 3 archeologists. All curious about and considerate of the culture of Belizeans and Guatemalans. Many archeology passionistas who appreciate a cold local beer at lunch.
More People, Local People
A few words about the people of Belize. They are funny, kind, patient, and generous. Names of businesses and street signs reflect their humor and generally easy-going nature.
More good natured monkey bizness…
Our local guides took care of us like family. Once even ingeniously packing a home cooked lunch feast (made by one of their sisters in the wee hours of the dawn) which we enjoyed at a ruin in the open air replete with china plates!
I was touched to see a young taxi driver holding my mom’s hand and slowly walk her to his old cab with the cracked windshield and peeling window darkeners.
In San Ignacio the dogs are plump and adored. They wander the streets freely and bark all night. All night. They bark all night! All. Night. Yawn. Supposedly they are watch dogs, but I think they are more just party animals.
I’ve been to Guatemala about 6 times. Here too I find the people are kind. Traditional Mayan spirituality is intriguing and very alive in Guatemala. If you can experience a Mayan shaman ceremony or visit a Maximon shrine, go for it!. The shamans will speak directly to the gods on your behalf, building a sacred ritual fire. Maximon is the saint of drunkards and whores. He can be bought off with offerings of cash, booze, and cigarettes. I mean just do it! Can’t hurt, right?
In San Ignacio we stayed at the Rolsen Hotel. The Rolsen sits atop a hill a bit out of the hustle and bustle of downtown. Modest and clean accommodations, very kind and helpful staff. Nice Pool. Although the coffee was dreadful, the breakfasts were hearty and the fruit plate was super fresh. Best thing on the menu – Pork Pibil. There is a lovely view of the city from the dining room. And it’s easy to get a cab or tour company and take excursions from here. We used the dependable and friendly family-run local tour company,
BTW – we about fainted over the food at San Ignacio’s restaurant The Crave. So yummy!
Also the Belize Zoo is lovely place, small in size with lush flora. I am not keen on zoos but this zoo is more of a rescue center. I petted a rescued jaguar!
In the Peten area of Guatemala we stayed three nights at the remote El Sombrero Lodge. Run by an Italian woman who came to visit as a young lady then fell in love with the land (and a man) and never left. She is assisted by her adult sons. This lodge was my favorite on the trip. Outstanding service and delicious home cooked meals (they baked me a birthday cake with only an afternoon’s notice, and served it warm for desert!) The lodge is tucked in the jungle on a crocodile filled lake (no swimming). I found the rooms utterly charming – screened-in thatched roof structures. You will hear the howler monkeys! Some rooms are more “communal” then others. You may hear your neighbors! The lodge generates their own power (which goes off at night unless you make other arrangements), keep their own bees, and serve the honey with homemade pancakes. Excellent coffee. The owners are highly knowledgeable about Mayan archeology and offer excursions to nearby ruins by boat, horse, or car. The road to this place was exceedingly bumpy, but worth it!
Deb had the brilliant idea to finish our trip at the most luxurious of the three “hotels.” So we were off by a scenic boat ride to, The Lamanai Outpost Lodge. Private, quiet rooms, service, food and cultural and ecotourism activities here were first rate. Hot showers, air conditioning, comfy beds, beautiful landscaping, hummingbirds everywhere. 24 hour coffee is forever in the communal room. Our hosts mysteriously and repeatedly offered drinks on the house. Was it something about us? Or is it the norm? Hard to say… Regardless, cheers!
Finally, we visited many ruins… I’m sorry the names escape me (there were so many!) but here are a few favorite pictures…
Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear about your adventures – please comment!
“A cozy one, a sexy one, one for the weather, and a wild card.” Inviting advice offered from friend and blogger Julie Johnson of The Redolent Mermaid to my quandary on a last trip.
I confess that mostly I’m a last minute packer. Sure, I have grand plans to pack two-three days before a trip and then re-pack the day before, removing half of the stuff, etc. But no, mostly, I just end up shoving everything into the suitcase last minute. Yoga mat? Check…
Careless as I might be in packing clothes, not so with perfume. Not always. But mostly. Laying the potential fragrances out ahead of time to sniff and dream gets me in the mood. And it’s an adventure to see if the way I predict fragrance interacting in an environment will play out in just that way.
For this jungle faerie hunt I selected a small vial of rare Hawaiian Jasmine in oil for my weather (tropical) scent. A gift from a friend who procured it at a farmer’s market in Kauai it seemed an obvious choice.
A small potent vial of verdant faerie’s Butterfly was my cozy scent. More of an aromatherapy scent than a perfume, Butterfly is bright with Geranium and Mint, and grounding with Clary Sage. It is perfect for jet-lag or the disorientation that sometimes accompanies travel. The bottle is now empty… Somehow it’s brightness was a soothing tonic. Helping me to feel stronger and ready for adventure.
My sexy scent was verdant faerie’s Eau De Parfum, Duskblossom, a rich scent with a seductive heart of Jasmine & Tuberose and a complex narcotic patchouli / tobacco base.
On the trip I ended up slathering Butterfly on my wrist to wake up and then layered my sexy pick DuskBlossom on top, day and night. During the day I would occasionally layer on the straight up jasmine. I found the Hawaiian Jasmine and Jasmine-heavy Duskblossom perfect for the jungle. It’s heady seductiveness lured me into lush jungle spirit. Blooming, thick, both ethereal and and of the earth.
The wild card was J. Hannah’s award-winning Skive. I especially love to take this one traveling because of it’s nifty eco-lux and travel ready packaging. The scent itself is always a surprise to me, although I’ve known it for several years. And its smokey, woodsy, musky, tea scent always brings out unique nuances in the environment I am exploring. I reached for Skive just once. At the Lamanai Lodge deep in the jungle. On a night when I got the itch to enjoy a scotch at the lodge bar. Stay up late listening to the songs of night critters as the Howler monkeys finished their last throaty bellows. The smooth smokiness matched the scotch and the sounds. I felt far away.
Once, as an experiment I put some drops of Butterfly into a pair of smelly sneakers. My brilliant idea did nothing to mask this funk. Then they just smelled like funk and Butterfly. C’est la vie. They are now sitting with good ol’ baking soda.
Interestingly, the lush intensity of the jungle softened all the fragrances, and I was really digging DuskBlossom with Butterfly as I wandered around under massive vine covered trees investigating endless variations of miniscule mosses.
In the off-the-beaten-track shop of Miss Garcia I hit gold in the form of Copal Resin. Miss Garcia opened the door of her pink shop to us on a Saturday night. Her smile and transcendent Saturday night copal smudging scent greeted us. Still soft and fresh, she unwrapped the copal and cut me off a 1/4 pound piece. I mentioned I wanted to tincture it for perfume, and she instructed that it should soak for 9 days, a sacred number as per the Mayans.
I left the shop floating on an incense cloud basking in the radiance of the kindly Miss Garcia.
I will tincture some in organic alcohol and oil. For 9 days, as recommended.
Incidentally, Copal is a resin from the Copal Protium Tree. It is used mostly as an incense but can add a lovely incense base note to perfumes. A bit like Frankincense only sweeter and more ethereal.
Mayan Faeries – The Alux
This dapper fellow and frequent travel companion is my dad. In addition to being an incredibly literate professor, he shares my curiosity in faeries. He always gets his question out in the most serious and professorial of manners, asking our local guides what they know of the Alux (pronounced ah-loosh) a Mayan sprite or faerie.
As children our Belizean guides were cautioned not to go into caves. In the caves the Alux lie in wait and will get you. And parents are advised to have more than 1 child as the Alux are less likely to talk a child into going off with him if a sibling is present.
“Does anyone ever come back from there after being caught?” asks yours truly.
Now, doesn’t that make you just a touch suspicious? Don’t you wonder what it’s like in the land of the Alux? Maybe it’s super nice and the children don’t WANT to come back… Hmmm.
Belize & Guatemala Part II coming very soon..
In the meantime for more scented beauty, check out Julie Johnson’s blog –
My favorite forest primeval, Warren Woods State Park, lies sleeping under a blanket of snow and the spell of winter. I am out in the woods, practicing winter Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing” – a nature inspired body-mind spiritual practice. By experiencing the winter forest in a liminal meditation state, through my senses, and without agenda, I’m connecting with nature and practicing meditation in motion.
The simple and dreamy practice of Shinrin-yoku comes from Japan and is encouraged by the Japanese government as a way to decrease stress, elevate mood, strengthen the immune system, and improve quality of life since 1982.
I walk slowly and use my senses. Or come back to my senses! For this experience I’m not trying to identify plants or birds. I’m not counting my steps or trying to work up a sweat. I’m just being, in the forest, in winter.
With the absence of the leaves and plants, sounds are clearer, yet at the same time the snow mutes. Rasps and groans from the trees cut through the crisp air. The chatter of birds, woodpeckers rapping, an occasional soft thump of a heavy snow dropping from a tree limb. The curious sound of my feet in the snow makes me laugh out loud.
The landscape is awash in an endless array of subtly magnificent shades of cobalt, grey, browns, and white. A solitary snowflake sparkles like a faerie kiss on the snow – white, blue, or gold.
I pause and feel the snowflakes land gently on my face; I follow a single snowflake on its path fluttering down. In the air lies a hint of the scent of fresh linen (washed in unscented soap, please). In the winter forest there is scent, but at the same time, no scent. The scent of snow is almost more of ‘scentsation.’ I open to the idea of feeling the scentless scent.
Eventually a chill creeps in. I wish I had brought a thermos of tea. I could have stayed longer! Next time. For now I return to my car, my spirit cleansed and bright.
Maybe I’ll head over to a local beach community, now pleasantly sleepy with winter, Union Pier. I can warm up with a sandwich at Milda’s or a soup and vegan pastry at Black Current Bakehouse. Life really is good.
Interested in a talking a winter forest bath of your own? Here are some ideas to try:
Walk as slowly as you can while still keeping warm.
Fix your gaze on a single snowflake and notice how amazing it is!
Stop and listen. What do you hear?
Lean your back against a tree, feeling it sway (or not) and look up at the bare branches in contrast to the sky beyond.
Place your mittened hand on your heart. How do you feel?
For more info about Shrinin-yoku go to http://www.Shinrin-yoku.org or check out the book The Little Handbook of Shinrin-yoku by M. Amos Clifford.
Warren Woods is located in Harbor Country Michigan. A few miles from my sweet home in the magical village of Three Oaks.
After a year and a half of travel this beautiful Tara returned to me.
She was with me in my condo before my beloved nomad year. Another lifetime ago it seems. A treasured gift from one of my parent’s many travels. She was my companion in plenty of my ‘dark nights of the soul’ as well as joyful days of dancing yoga in the sun.
When I went nomad she was tucked away in a friend’s space.
And now she is returned. Upon opening her storage box and seeing her, I gasped, with pleasure. I nearly forgot. But I remember now…
Tara was returned to me to coincide with the flash of beauty in death that comes with autumn’s spectacular blaze of vibrant leaves before the deep sleep of winter.
Both remind me to treasure the beauty of things passing. To enjoy the cycles of life. And to allow myself rest and reprieve when the time is right. To ready myself for rebirth. And beauty.
A little blog I wrote, published on the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce website about the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, MI. My home village…
By Doreen Stelton
To feel enveloped in a welcoming place with friendly folk. You know this feeling? You know it. We all share it. That desire to connect with others, to get social and commune. Perhaps even sharing a deeper experience together, basking in the beauty and mysteries of life. For a lifetime, a day, …