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....


Jasmine said...

It sounds wonderful. Ravenwood will be glad of your company tonight. Blessed be!

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Your description of Ravenwood makes it sound like the perfect enchanted spot for this most magical of nights.

Ruthie Redden said...

ravenwood sounds a most perfect place to be on this night , magical midsummer blessings to you x we are off to watch the sun setting into the sea x

Jo Potter said...

Solstice blessings!:)
Ravenwood is a magical place to be for midsummer. The Goddess Shrine is very beautiful with the flowers around it. I also love the little pink mushrooms. Very fairy!xx

A mermaid in the attic said...

Sounds like a fabulous, intimate way to celebrate. We had our midwinter yesterday, I didn't do anything special, but it was the most glorious sunny day so I sat in the garden beneath my washing drying on the line, crocheted in the sun, and dreamed of the time (soon I hope) when we will be leaving suburbia and all its noise and light and pollution behind, and finding a sacred, peaceful place in the bush where I can hear only the birds and the wind, and reconnect with nature. My midwinters and midsummers will be quite different then!

Valerianna said...

Jasmine - yes, it did feel like RavenWood was glad of our company last eve.... we were gifted with the enormous polyphemus moth that flew right through the circle...

Lorenzo- yes, enchanted it was!

Ruthie- mmmm, setting sun over the sea sounds pretty grand as well!

Joanne -lately a lot of magical, faery mushrooms are popping up... last year, with two straight months of rain (no kidding) I had mushrooms growing on my front door mat. Now THAT was a little over the top!

mermaid - sounds like a perfect thing to do on midwinter.... magic thread work - crocheting and dreaming of a new home. Happy manifesting!

illustration poetry said...

so magical...

mairedodd said...

seeing the beauty of yourself reflected in the eyes of another sounds profound and wonderful... your gatherings in both places are so meaningful - and that is what it is all about, right?!

Acornmoon said...

You paint such a beautiful picture with your description of the forest.

Nature does seem to facilitate healing, I heard recently of some research that hospital patients recovered more quickly if they had a garden or natural view to look at.

merci33 said...

You got me at 'trees' on your profile page (yes...we do look at those don't we)
...and then I entered your Ravenwood world...I love your images, your ideas, your environment...I of Wren House know the value, after years of larger engagement, the beauty and the wonder of the sacred fire in the back under the sentinel oak guardians. Quiet. deep peace.
Welcome 'OM'.

Tammie Lee said...

changes, of seasons, of where to celebrate, within ourselves, with others; life is full of changes. It is lovely that you honored what you needed and stayed at Ravenwood. Lovely post and that sculpture is amazing!

Lauren Raine said...

I was at America's Stonehenge many years ago........wonderful place to celebrate the solstice. I love the Earth Mother you made!

Umā said...

That fire pit goddess is absolutely amazing. I wish we could have made it. But yoga class was fun, and the forest was waiting for me the next night...

Valerianna said...

mmmm, everyone... thanks for your feedback... I've been away for a couple days and reading your many comments on my return is wonderful.

lakhismita indira... magic is what feeds me... but, the magic that is present right in front of us, not the kind born of wands and sparkles!

acornmoon - I'm glad they are finally studying these things, I think most of us could have told "them" about nature's healing gifts already!

merci33 - glad you followed the trees to RavenWood! And, that we are now co-followers. Glad you resonate with my world, as I with yours.

Tammie Lee - I've been learning more and more each year about how to deeply listen to myself and act from this place of deep listening, even when it seems counterintuitive - its been working well for me.

Lauren - the Earth Mother is still standing there in the center of our Sacred Circle at Stonehenge. Each year, Katja has re-built her as the center of the shrine. She is there quite often offering ritual, so, she sees it change and decay over the seasons... interesting. So, if you get out this way again, and visit Stonehenge, you can check her out, in whatever stage of decay she's in!

m. - Glad yoga was fun and there'll be other celebrations here I;ll be sure to let you know about.

Lorna said...

This looks like a dream I wish I could visit. Pure magic.

Valerianna said...

Line Lorna -You're welcome to my dream anytime!