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?
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.)
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…
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
We seek the Winter Faerie Queene, Queen Mab, my Fae companion and I.
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?
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.”
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 yourimagination.
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.)
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.
But why am I telling you this? You know it all already. Enjoy!
May you find yourself loving you. May you love you first among all things, in both action and contemplation. May you soak up the returning light to the depths of your beautiful being and shine, shine , shine! Step into the light, Baby! For when you sparkle, so does the world.
Views of the studio…
The wild and beautiful faerie heart in me,
honors the wild and beautiful faerie heart in you.