Happy New Year from my muse!

Happy New Year!

img_6768Water holding fire, stones & blooms, with little birds & evergreens, usher out the old and welcome in the new.

15823007_10208383395523141_4978219945121430358_nWhen I shared a favorite poem in a post after the election, I was inspired by its message: those who survive difficult times keep active learning, creating, writing, playing music, sharing conversation. (poem re-posted below)

With the goal of making a mandala ‘almost’ every day til the end of the year, I made 41 mandalas and 8 angels in 50 days. Some days it was a challenge.  There were several weeks of “sick days” with the winter “bug” going around, and 20-30 degree days in our old funky, hard to heat house that left me less than inspired, but my muse persevered.

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Such simple acts of creative expression and reflection, with Nature to inspire, can help focus in the moment, focus on the gifts and beauty around us. I recommend you let your own muse shine in 2017, in whatever ways you are inspired!

Not sure where my muse will take me next!

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A Christmas Eve lesson from Nature on Gentle Strength

christmas-eve-mandalaAs I thought of each plant while making the mandala above, (neither as pretty or even symmetrical as I’d hoped for Christmas Eve!) I pondered how in Nature gentleness, softness or diminutive size are traits not exclusive of strength and purpose.  A lesson from Nature.

Dusty Miller’s soft fuzzy leaves hardily survive in the garden next to plants blackened by below freezing temperatures. Flexible Cedar trees sway in the wind, thin tops vulnerable to breaking out in strong storms, yet baskets woven of cedar bark will carry stones and some have survived hundreds of years.  Star Anise’s fruit, fleshy and soft, when dried hardens into pods hard as the shells of nuts, protecting tiny seeds.  Delicate white blossoms of the spider plant are fragile, yet spider plant is a powerful detoxifier of polluted air. The Lilliputian ‘cones’, barely noticed on the forest floor, fall from Red Alder, a tree straight and tall whose wood, strong enough for building houses and making furniture, makes for hot fires. (My analogies aren’t a perfect fit, but you get the idea! And there are many more examples!)

The celebration of Christmas focuses on the birth of a tiny babe over 2000 years ago who grew up, according the gospels written after his death, to teach of love and forgiveness, to teach that in the eyes of God everyone was equal and anyone, regardless of social status, whether they were criminals or ‘sinners’, men or women, could find the “kingdom of God within“.   The stories and events of his life will forever be discussed and debated, but it is known that he lived at a very tumultuous time in history and was likely seen as a revolutionary leader with a growing following who, among other acts of defiance, confronted greedy money changers and disagreed with the ‘temple tax’ every man had to pay.  An advocate of the poor and working class at a time of tyrant leaders, Jesus represented a caring, protecting presence and gave hope to those who followed him, but to those in power he was a rebellious troublemaker.  He died young, a victim of political conspiracy because  he was ‘anti-establishment’ and his ability to attracted great crowds of people was a threat to religious and political leaders.  He was, from what was written after his death by those closest to him, a compassionate person, kind to all, who could be strong as steel and hot as fire when he needed to be, especially in the face of what he saw as injustice.

Whether you are celebrating the birth of Jesus this weekend, or the the miracle of light as Hanukkah begins, I hope you have an opportunity to spend time in Nature on these wintry days and see what she has to teach you.  In the winter Nature can be peaceful and calm, for it is a time of rest before the energy burst needed for spring. But she also has a powerful stormy side as witnessed in winter storms.  She can teach us the same lessons that Jesus and other great religious leaders have taught – be gentle when gentleness is needed, and strong when strength is needed.  Love all, protect those in need, and stand up to those who are unjust and driven by greed for power and money.

Not much has changed in 2,000 years has it?

Peace and Happy Holy-days!

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Solstice Thoughts About Our Thoughts

A few seasonal thoughts and a warming recipe with star anise, my gift for you!

from-the-dark-to-the-with-glowHere in Northwest USA, where days are quite short on the Winter Solstice, frosty fog obscures the sunlight, a fitting welcome to this turning of the seasons! Outside my window three deer munch along the trail into our yard, hesitate, and munch back up the trail. I have not seen them in months and it is a sweet solstice gift to know they survived hunting season.

If you are not feeling celebratory as we enter this holiday season, I hope this quote posted on Facebook by a friend, might help you along.

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.            img_6473-2
All things break.  And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
L.R. Knost

Christmas and Hanukkah both celebrate hope, love, peace.  Because many are feeling we are entering a time, not of light, but of darkness and despair,  it is doubly important to embrace the message of hope, love and peace and carry it into the New Year in all we do.  Let it influence how we relate to others as we fulfill our responsibilities at work, in our families and in our communities.  Let it influence actions we take, decisions we make.  Most of all, let it be in our thoughts.  Regardless of outer circumstances, or who is in “power” we alone control our thoughts, and our thoughts have power.

I recently listened to an interview with Anthony Ray Hinton, sentence to death for murders he did not commit, held on death row in solitary confinement for 30 years.  His story is compelling. I read other articles and interviews of him, wanting to know all I could about how a person survives such a horrific journey into darkness.  Anthony Ray, a good person, raised to live a decent, law abiding life, was convicted because he was black, though evidence did not prove he was even at the crime scene. Anthony Ray went through many phases of anger, mental escapism, and spiritual faith.  He said he learned he could take his mind wherever he wanted to go. For 30 years he went every where, beautiful places, football games, to visit the Queen of England. No, he did not lose his mind and go crazy.  He survived through the power of controlling his thoughts, for his surroundings and circumstances where not intended for his survival.  He consciously and with intent created a life through mind power, a life he was deprived of by an unjust criminal justice system. Bryan Stephenson, attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative worked for 16 years to open the case with new evidence, and was turned down three times. Finally, the case was reopened, the evidence examined, and April 2015 Anthony Ray was released into a world he knew only in his mind.  (His case was not overturned because of DNA, but DNA testing has resulted in many other people freed after equally long prison terms for crimes they did not commit.)

Anthony’s story is an example of the power of the  mind, not the usual example where people say they ‘manifest’ what they want in their lives, or bring about miracle healings, etc., compelling as some of those stories are.  His story is the power of the mind to bring light and beauty into ones soul regardless of outer circumstances. To survive in the face of feeling powerlessness. It is a story of hope.

Let your mind take you where you want to go in the New Year, let it envision the world as you would like it to be, regardless of how outer circumstances may appear.

Have a wonderful holiday season, celebrating in whatever tradition you celebrate, the message of hope, love and peace!  Let peace guide your actions, carry hope in your mind and love in your heart, even when outer circumstances do not seem to reflect any of these three.

Below – a recipe for a warm, spicy, easy winter comfort food, made from most the elements of this mandala. You’ve probably made it yourself, if not, it’s a yummy treat alone, or as a condiment or sauce with other foods.  To make it sweeter, I recommend adding maple syrup to taste. (Makes everyday morning oatmeal a holiday treat!)

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I’ve add many seasonal mandalas to my mandala page: Flora Mandalas.

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Odsc01752ther posts for the season:

Seasonal Reflections
Sweet Silver Bells
Spice Up Your Winter Days
Christmas
The Turtle and The Star
The Chaplin’s Christmas Message