Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Abundance, Moths & Magic

luna wing and spiral stone

Gratitude is flowing through me these days. On Solstice 
afternoon, just a few hours before our gathering, 
I received news that I was awarded the grant I had applied for 
back in April. It is a significant monetary award, granted to me from 
the Forest Viability Program - an incentive program that 
supports forest owners in developing a business to keep forest 
lands forested. I agree to put my land in a long-term conservation 
easement, and they give me money and a 
team of advisors to help develop my plan! What is exciting 
is that one can apply with a traditional forest product such as 
maple syrup, mushrooms, timber, or with a non-traditional 
product such as craft, education, etc. 
My plan falls into the non-traditional category 
(I imagine you're not surprised!) for nature and arts education. 

For many years I have been dreaming a year-round workshop space. 
This winter I became very clear that to fully birth my vision 
for RavenWood and my work, 
needed to have that space NOW. 
And, as it is with dreaming, when I birthed the dream 
with such clarity of nowthere was action 
to be taken... manifest money! So, I did! 
With great excitement I announce the birth of:

RavenWood Forest   
Studio of Mythic and Environmental Arts 

There will be much to do, meetings, a business plan, 
advice from foresters and who knows what else. 
I will build my teaching space and integrate the teaching I have 
been doing in the university with the magic of this forest, the 
mysteries of seasonal cycles, exploration of the natural 
world and with the stories whispered from 
the land and from deep 
within our bones. 

Speaking of magic...... 
RavenWood has been full of luna moths. 
For days nowI have been finding wings 
on garden paths, in the driveway, 
on the front steps. I'mhoping I will see a live one, 
they are so extraordinary. Last year 
I had one visit my front porch for two days. 
Truly amazing. 


On the front door this morning, however, 
was another amazing moth, the giant polyphemus. 
I've been seeing many of these, and fortunately they 
are alive. What a pair of antennae! 
Two have stayed the whole day, not 
minding my comings and goings and
luckily well hidden from the blue jays. 


Also visiting for the day were three sphynx moths 
attached to various places on the house. 

 sphynx moth

Garden magic abounds as well. 
I've been a busy bee, building arches, 
planting, spreading compost and enjoying 
the colors and structures of flowers. 
Below is the mountain laurel and spirea at peak. 
Today I noticed the last of the little laurel blooms 
drifting to the earth, an extraordinary 
year for laurel it seemed. 

This year's garden arch for the morning glory to 
dance with and to mark the entrance to the garden. 

I walk under this sweet and sublime sun face on 
my way to sip tea amongst the ferns. 

At the end of the day, when he knows its almost time to come in, 
Pasha often sits on the front step pleading with me with 
his love-eyes for one last jaunt down the forest path.... 
and sometimes I can't resist.....

(PS - I've been having formatting issues.. 
so this is the best I can do with the text!)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quiet Gifts of the Forest on Solstice

"Goddess Shrine", America's Stonehenge 2007, 
by Valerianna Claff, Katja Esser, and Lisa Bouchie

Today we mark the longest day of the year in 
the northern hemisphere. At RavenWood, 
we will gather for a ritual fire and witness 
the light fading into dark. For many years I 
co-facilitated a huge celebration at America's Stonehenge 
in New Hampshire. My friend, Katja Esser
had been creating a big, public celebration for 
years before I joined her in 2000. We took it to a whole 
new level together employing our artistic skills to create 
impressive clay shrines and ritual spaces. My favorite shrine 
was the one that had been in my mind for several years - 
a huge, clay goddess at the center of the circle. We built her out 
of artists clay and natural clay that Lisa dug from the side of 
a river bed. We spent the whole day prior to the celebration 
building her. Below, Katja and I work on the detail of her face.

In the ritual,the participants each had a 
moment to enter the centerof the circle and 
place a flower symbolizing their authentic selves 
in the belly of the Goddess. It was a ritual 
of coming home to the Mother. 
It was a very sweet ritual, one of my favorites 
that I facilitated with Katja. These gatherings grew 
to over one hundred participants, quite a thing
to hold, and a wonderful experience. 

Dancing in the summer...

Last summer, for the first time in 10 years, I decided 
to stay here at RavenWood to celebrate solstice. 
It was a hard decision, some scheduling things 
contributed to my choice and also the need to 
create smaller, less complex and more intimate 
ritual space. My time facilitating at Stonehenge was such 
an amazing ego boost - everyone would bow down to us and 
rave about the shrines, our singing, our facilitation. 
So, in giving up this ritual, 
I gave up a big bit of ego boosting for the year! 

But it felt and feels important to me to honor 
the profound healing I receive in this gentle forest of RavenWood. 
There are no huge views, no amazing standing stones, 
no throngs of revelers to celebrate with wild abandon - 
the gifts here are the simple beauty of moss covered stones, 
humble forest flowers, a gathering of red mushrooms amongst twigs. 
It is a quiet, introspective forest that gathers me in and asks 
me to be myself beyond the masks and roles of the 
world beyond. I feel myself woven into the web of all life as 
witness the flow of seasons and the creatures living their lives, 
sharing the land.It is a place I feel sometimes more owl, 
tree or bear than human. I wander for hours in the forest 
and perch on logs listening to stories sung 
by frogs and held in the stones, not knowing until I move 
alongthat a raven was perched in a nearby tree, watching. 

afternoon sunlight on just one trunk

Our gathering tonight will be intimate, calling on deep 
truths - spoken, sung, danced - shared and witnessed around the fire, 
reflecting the quiet magic of the forest here. We will be blessed 
with luna moths and owls, bobcats and coyotes, with wind in 
hemlocks and a growing crescent moon - though we might see only
the beauty of ourselves reflected in the eyes of another, speaking a 
prayer into the fire....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Acorn Dreaming Oak


A tall oak tree sits in the center of the clearing, shading me from 
the mid-day sun. I eat my lunch at the table in the garden and 
collect acorns the porcupine has not yet found. 
Feeling the smooth seed husk 
and the rough-patterned cap, I am reminded of the 
mystery of dreaming and becoming. The acorn dreams the oak, 
becoming what it already is. I remember, breathe, and tell myself 
to be patient. I am a dreaming acorn, 
I am dreaming a magnificent oak. Dreaming is blurry at times, 
my life feels blurry at times. I wonder if the acorn spends time 
pondering life and what it should do next. Hmmm. 
Seems the acorn flows into the oak, breath 
by breath, season by season, 
not knowing how to be anything else 
but an acorn becoming
an oak. 
I remind myself of thisas the world around me tells 
me I am suppose to become something. 

I sit under the oak,holding the small acorn 
in my hand thinking -there is a grand mystery here - 
if I breathe and remember to sink my roots deep into earth 
and dream, then it must be the same for me. 
I will be what I am. For I see the pattern.

And in the forest, 
the mountain laurel is dreaming flowers.

Flower mandalas of white and red and green. 



Green and ancient growing things cling to rock ledges.


As the shadows lengthen, Pasha and I 
meander through hemlocks and 
gaze into pools of green, 


and dash straight up 
as far as we can climb
(well, at least one of us does)

and perches on stumps while 
the other one sits and listens to
raven wings beating air
and remembers the truth
of who she really is....


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rain, Rain, Rain...


A thunderstorm is upon us. I hope the phone and electricity stay on. Last week the storms here were intense, I lost my phone for several days, and the tallest lupine got flattened. Sitting at my desk today, I was cold and damp, and finally pulled out my sheepskin boots and lit a fire in the wood stove. Even Pasha cat decided his sheepskin rug was better than outside, he came in with all kinds of forest floor stuck to his tail. I won't complain too much, after all, days like these inspire my paintings. 

"Blue-Gray Sky"

I just got a pile of images back from the photographer, all of watercolors on paper. It is my most recent work. Actually, this work was made for a show last October, but the images didn't work the first time, so they all had to be re-shot through glass. They came out quite well, and though I'd rather be painting in the studio, I am needing to focus a bit on the business of art... wouldn't it be great if I loved that as much as painting and dreaming, listening to the sounds of the forest and teaching...!

"Violet-Yellow Sky"

I'm anxious to get through the business list and get back to painting. I can feel the bursting of new images inside me and the pull of my newly organized studio. But tomorrow I MUST get my oil changed, thank goodness I scheduled it on a day forecast to be rainy again. I have a hard time leaving the beauty of the forest when the sun shines and the trees caress me in their gentle dance with the wind. 

"Blue Evening"