Early Autumn Forest Bath

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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.

Scent

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.

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Vision

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.

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Hear

Sit in silence.  Close your eyes.  What do you hear?  Repeat, this time with a smile.

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Touch

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…

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Have Fun!

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!

An Invitation

If you are interested in exploring forest bathing, yoga, and mindfulness in a cozy group setting  you will want to know about this fantastic retreat offered by Inseus at their retreat center in Harbor Country, Michigan. “An Invitation to Be.”  October 11-14, 2018.  Experience meditation, yoga, massage, acupuncture, Soulcollage, and a Forest Bath experience (led by me!).  Hope you will join us!

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Copal + Dunes = Bliss

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Was it the new moon?  Already?  And a spring new moon!

Time to plant seeds of intention!

If it wasn’t for my dear friend and aromatherapist, Miriam, (Kindred Earth Botanicals) reminding me of our shared monthly new moon mermaid card spread ritual, I’d have missed it in the frenzy of all my doing and then subsequent crashing overwhelm in the form of a nasty cold.

I’m doing and busy and running and late…

Trying to do all the things.  And be all the things to all the people I hold dear.  Which sometimes seems like everyone…

If it wasn’t for this new moon reminder (thank you Miriam!) I would have neglected, again, to tincture my Copal Resin.  (I got a sizable chunk on a trip – read here – and was instructed in sacred Mayan alchemy to tincture on the new moon for 9 days.)

Back to all the things.  The dilemma.   All the things!  I want them all!  Do them all, be them all.  And how to impart the faerie message to humans the beauty that is life and that each person is a perfectly imperfect incarnation of beauty, power, and infinite love?

Admittedly, I get jealous of people with single-minded focus.  They make progress.  They get shit done.

Me?  I have so many passions and struggle to coax myself into just one or maybe two.  But I get itchy feet, and I love so much all the things…

Sometimes I am harsh with myself though.  You must decide, Doreen!  Sigh.  It happens.

So I thought this new moon I’d ask life, aka spirit, what to do with this dilemma of passion for many things.  After all, why must I hold the reins?

Life, what will you have of me?  That is what I will plant this new moon.  Send me little messages, drop me a trail of breadcrumbs through the forest, and I will follow you.

First bread crumb.  The mermaids (cards) told me to go to the water and feel. (Typical mermaids, water, sensuality, emotions, feelings, sex, love.)

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I took the already scent-blossoming Copal tincture , a thermos of tea, my journal, and my dog, and hiked up a dune to a favorite contemplation spot…

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Missy kept a look out.  She can be very protective when I go into meditation / ritual mode.

Second breadcrumb.  Scent-savor the copal.  Inhale.  Open the flood-gates.

Ethereal-sweet-resinous copal, I see you.   I feel you.  When I anoint myself and inhale slowly, I feel you in my heart and solar plexus chakra.  You melt into me a lover’s caress for my psyche.  The tingle-glowing within begins.  From my heart you spiral down warmly engulfing my radiant center.  A sweetness of crying for beauty of life.  Love-tears crystallize and drop but do not sting.  Bliss.  You bring a miraculous bliss, sacred Copal.  You bring me to my nature.  My nature is bliss.

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From this state, I persist with my query.  What does life want of me? What does it want me to do?  I’m ready to take notes…

I wait.  In my mind’s eye I see a flash of lightening.  Then, the surprising answer.

Nothing.

Life wants nothing of you, Doreen, except for you to do and be yourself.  Life wants you to live.  To live and feel your extraordinary self in this extraordinary experience of life no matter what you choose to do.  So, the activity you choose to do matters not.  Only feel into it.  Be present with the extraordinariness of you.

Yes, do all the things.  Do anything.  Do nothing.  Just feel.

Including having a nasty cold from overwhelm.  Feel the sweetness and bliss of THAT!

Society will try to tell us life is ordinary and mundane.  But it is not so.  Do not believe this.  Choose otherwise.

But we all know this, yes?  Inside, yes, we do.

I guess I just needed a little reminder.  Don’t we all from time to time?

Thank you, Sacred Copal.  Thank you, Mermaids.  Thank you, Missy.  Thank you, Me.

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Belize & Guatemala Part I

Scent & Faeries

What perfumes to bring on a jungle faerie hunt…

“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…

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Hmmmm – packing bags in my bag…

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.

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Rare Hawaiian Jasmine and Butterfly

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.

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Duskblossom

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.

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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.

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J. Hannah’s Skive with its leather ‘glamping’ wrap
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That’s my scotch over there at the Lamanai Lodge.

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.

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Copal

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.

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Miss Garcia

 

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Miss Garcia’s shop.

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All the gorgeous imperfections.
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Cutting it is like cutting a very firm cheese
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The tree is nicked to cause the resin to flow.

Mayan Faeries – The Alux

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The faerie hunter.

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.

“Ummm.  No.”

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 –

The Redolent Mermaid

Do you travel with perfume?  How do you decide what to bring?

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Winter Forest Bath

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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?

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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.

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Why Imagination Is Your Superpower

(in defense of  faeries)

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Queen Mab

In the crisp, quiet snow, through the sleeping woods we quest.  The forest, at once muted and subtle, is laid bare with winter.  The naked skeletons of trees impose themselves through the softness of  white drifts.  The trees relieved of their autumnal frippery are akin to deep soul-urges exposed.

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We seek the Winter Faerie Queene, Queen Mab, my Fae companion and I.

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For the Winter Queen is queen of sleep and deep dreaming.  She delivers us to new imaginings.  Daring us to dream our dreams and intoxicate ourselves in crystalline brilliance no matter the chill on our fingers and nose.

So we hasten on.  After all, is this not what forest snow is for?  To lull and snap us to the feet of the magnificent Queen of the Winter Court.  To imagine and create.

Is it not the river of life?

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What?

What of her, this Queen Mab?

Shakespeare provides us this, “she comes in shape no bigger than an agate stone on the forefinger of an alderman.”

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But is she really so petite?  I’ll wager it’s an expression of endearment, like “Little John,”  the ironic name given Robin Hood’s 7-foot tall warrior.  Because Queen Mab, Queen of Winter, and of sleep and dreams, is massively powerful.

She is our SUPERPOWER.  She is your imagination.

Imagination

How often have we heard the following?

“It’s just your imagination.”

“That’s just fantasy.”

“You’re just daydreaming again!”

“Just.”  A single, insidious word making fantasy and imagination diminutive, rendering it powerless.  Thus (and here is the true belittling of Queen Mab) we set aside living creatively.   We set aside our power to create.

“Step in line!  Beware the siren’s voice inside of you! Shove away those dreams you hold dear.”

But the seeds sleeping in the depths of winter, preparing to bust out a move in the spring, are like your dreams and imaginings.  And the Imaginal Realm is where you nurture those seed dreams.

And EVERYTHING comes from a dream, a feeling, a thought, and then an action.

Why do you think “they” try to steer us from it?  (Yes, I’m a rebel.)

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So as the light returns with the winter solstice and your dreams start to stir and bud, get yourself over to the Imaginal Realm and curtsy long and deep to the Queen.  The intoxicating Queen Mab, your superpower – imagination.  For she is in YOU.  She is a part of YOU.  SHE IS YOU.

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Deep Knowledge

But why am I telling you this?  You know it all already.  Enjoy!

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Happy Winter Solstice, Dear Reader!

The Blue Faerie Hag

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Here is a story about the old ways. I could give you a historical explanation of its origin, classifying it as myth (The folk story of the blue faerie hag heralds from the Scots.  She was believed to emerge from the underworld on All Hallow’s Eve, etc.). I could detail how the old myths mingle with our collective psyche and bring healing and renewal, etc. (Blah, blah, shamanism, blah.) But then it would make it all sound not so true. Like it’s just a story or something.  And it’s all much truer than we care to admit. So pour yourself a cup, and simply open your heart and read.

Once a girl was, yet she was tender. She wandered the woods near her grandmother’s house and felt her own tenderness with great pleasure and innocence. The eyes and creatures of the woods were on her in hushed respect. The trees whispered and marveled, “her countenance…” The stones sounded silently of her beingness. Sometimes she would sit by the stream and make ‘paint’ of crushed berries and leaves to adorn the rocks. Always she would hold the rocks to her cheek first. Feeling their alliance. She was tender and could feel and sense like this.

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As years the years passed she was a woman, and she was yet tender. But, yet, not so tender as before when she was young. Things happened, not always nice things, as life goes, and the tenderness receded. The woods were far away and lost to her. Then all tenderness was lost.

She wondered, “Where did the tenderness go?” Then she forgot. She forgot about the tenderness she felt. She slipped into the dreamless, sleepless amnesia of the forgotten trees and stones.

The trees and stones did not forget though. They never do. They may not yearn as human creatures do. Yearning for what is gone or cannot be, but forget? No.  Especially the stones.

One autumn day a mysterious task of the ‘no room for tenderness’ variety appeared on her list of to-do’s and she found herself near her old woods.

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She walked into the welcoming hushed admiration of her woods. Sitting by the river she picked up a stone. It was cold and smooth. Bluish, grey. She held it to her forehead and cheek to feel it’s smoothness and then her lips and nose, to smell its dank fortitude. She drank it with her being.

She put the stone to her ear because the stone began to tap and sound. Rattling and knocking. It grew outside of the stone, all around her in a rhythm. It rumbled onto and into her chest like a thousand beating hearts.

Before her, (or maybe in her mind’s eye, or maybe in the corner of her eye), (oh, just, never mind)  before her appeared an old hag. Her aged stone-like skin was blue with cold.  Her hair was brittle with frost and her cloak the color of withered foliage and death. She bore a basket and a staff with the skull of a raven. But her eyes, you guessed it, her eyes, were tender.

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The stone song grew and in an instant she knew inside her was a massive urn filled with the stones. Each stone heavy with the weight of all those ‘not nice things of life.’ The urn too weighty to bear or shift it pressed the tenderless woman down. Without words the blue faerie hag directed her staff at the urn, shaking it open with a massive soul quake, spilling the stones.

The stones danced into the air. The stones rattled and knocked into her basket. Every last one of them. And then the old hag just sauntered off into a mist. Cause that’s how those magical faerie things end.

It was now winter. The woman felt empty and alone without her urn of stones. But it was a good kind of empty. And a good sort of alone. She grew to enjoy it. For she discovered there was, in the emptiness, yet a tenderness. And she could rest in this void for a time whilst preparing for spring.

And she a woman was; yet she too was tender.

Blessed Samhain!

And may you rest deeply in the arms of  the blue hag,

the Cailleach Bheur

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Me in the primeval forest.
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The tender and primeval, Missy.

 

 

Dearest Reader, thank you for reading!

Beauty Returns

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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.