Monday, April 4, 2011

Forest Medicine

Long ago and far away, in the time of my great, great, great grandmother's 
grandmother's grandmother's grandmother, it wouldn't have been odd, living at 
the edge of the forest, knowing medicine to be something other than what comes
in bottles from a store. I am grateful, that the source of greatest healing for me 
wraps me in evergreens and softens my footfalls with great tribes of mosses. 

Months, days, hours of doing, accomplishing, making lists, grant paperwork, setting
up shop, web sites, meetings and lastly a shiver-making dentist drill and novocaine 
piled up one upon the other like sacks upon my back 'til worn out I halted, and remembered the wild that would heal me. 

Walking out into the forest in a healing way, a medicine way, requires a deepening
into the moment, a slowing - reverence. Beginning inside unplugging phones and
holding an intention to bring with me on my journey, I packed a basket of offerings.
My prayer eggs from Equinox, nuts, and cornmeal, sacred to the first people of North America. 

Snow boots still needed, but, thankfully, not snow shoes. I crossed the paths 
of many critters, though with the wet snows of late, hard to know which was 
animal and which snow-plop. Some places full of deep snow, some bare ground. 

I left my offering at the Forest Circle, pouring cornmeal into the toe track of a 
fisher who trotted right across the altar. I wonder which furry neighbor will
be the first to eat from it? 

It seemed that everywhere I looked, Tree Spirits were watching me... 
Do you see the one below? 

At a favorite spot, I stopped to place a spiral of cornmeal on a stone, 
and to listen awhile. 

      When I turned, another face peered down from a towering, hemlock snag
      This old tree is a favorite of the woodpeckers and I imagine a home for many. 

 Faces, everywhere, with astonished open mouths and wide eyes.... 
I realized this might be the reason my sculptures look as they do. 

Such a beautiful, slow turning to spring. Grandmother Winter gently pulls the snow 
away from the edges of things and collects it in her cauldron to take with her as 
she journeys to the south. Delicate ferns emerge as the snows recede, many having 
stayed green under the warm snow blanket all winter. 

A tall, healthy beech tree, rare in these parts because of a blight. Her 
smooth, silver trunk right next to one gnarled with disease. 

 Peeling bark of the paper birch. 

Pasha, off on his own journey, finds me at last. 

He invites me to sit with him to share stories.  

He tells me of Partridge Berries and looks quite dashing 
on his stump-perch: moss-colored eyes and coat of 
hemlock brown. 

I see what friends have long said, that he and I have 
the same mossy eye color.... I think my mane is also turning 
into tree bark. 

 With me on my travels these days, is a beautiful, 
Enchanted Forest necklace from Delila in Finland, 
a country not far from my father's, father's father's home. 
I like that. 

There is magic in this necklace, I feel the forest whisper 
to me when I'm away.


illustration poetry said...

"Walking out into the forest in a healing way, a medicine way, requires a deepening
into the moment, a slowing - reverence."

i so need this.

Valerianna said...

What a whacky new photo! Yes, I sure did!

Jasmine said...

Beautiful post. Your forest pictures always feel healing. I remember as a child the school took me to Keilder forest and we spent a lot of time following animal prints and disecting owl pellets. Your posts often remind me of that closeness and awareness of nature. xJ

mairedodd said...

as always, my chest expands as i slow down to absorb your words and world... i thank you for the gift... and am so glad that you were healed...

steven said...

valerianna, the magic of walking alongside someone making themselves available to a space is indescribable. what a privilege! thankyou. steven

mirsini's creations said...

Hi Valerieanna! What a magical post!! I missed the forest!! I have a long time to visit an enchanted place like the one you live, but soon i will make a long visit!! Till then i will look at your wonderful photos and make dreams!! I can see the faces and i can feel the spirits in the woods!! Your wise cat is very beautiful and you too :) !! I agree, this is the best medicine!!! Have a lovely and magical week!! :0)

oil painting courses said...

I like your blog!...Daniel

Donna Iona Drozda said...

Thank you...for a lovely beautifully paced exploration, forward and back, through time to the ancestors singing the trees.

kd said...

Thankyou for a healing ritual for all of us. Pasha is such a fine fiesty spirit too. Love the updates.

Ms. said...

Iam concerned for wandering-off Pasha (forgive me for injecting a warning not) "While fishers are usually shy and elusive, urban encroachments into their forest habitat has placed them in uncomfortable proximity to human habitation. In recent years there have been several reports of fishers attacking small dogs and cats and in at least one case, a small child"...Hopefully he is as wise a cat as his companion...and perhaps has special spiritual protection when he walks with you in the healing way. Do be watchful.

Dreaming Woods said...

when you write about your forest walks, it feels like i would be there too sitiing under the beautiful hemlock tree.

so lovely to see my necklace on the forest!!! i am so glad you liked it so much.


stregata said...

You and Delila are surely kindred woodspirits.
Thank you for taking me along on your walk - I can feel the peace...

Lynn said...

That was a wonderfully healing walk - thank you! You and Pasha do have the forest in your eyes.

Donna~Q~ said...

What an utterly beautiful post! It relays a feeling of deep peace and a great appreciation of Mother Nature and her wonders. I, in turn, am thankful that you shared your healing walk in words and photos. Pasha is a dear gem of a feline and yes, his eyes do match yours :~)

Penny said...

What a wonderful wonderful post, I felt as if I was there with you.
Thank you.

A mermaid in the attic said...

Beautiful Valerianna, I can almost feel I was there, breathing in the cold air and listening to the sounds of the forest. The Wiki article on Snags was interesting, particularly the information about the Murray-Darling. I am saddened that the ignorance of humans has led to the almost complete breakdown of one of the great river systems in the world...a river system that our national 'fruit basket' needs to survive.

Penny Berens said...

Forests and woodlands are magical places. You live and walk in the forest...the forest lives in are magical.

ArtPropelled said...

...softens my footfalls with great tribes of mosses ..... Valerianna you have transported me to your enchanted forest once again and I am feeling so tranquil. Thank you.

Valerianna said...

Jasmine - I just found an owl pellet recently under a tree not far from the house. Probably my owl friend who comes and sits here a lot. Two mouse skulls, must have been a good hunting night!

mariedodd - Can't say "healed", really, healing, is a better description, its an ongoing process! But I did and DO feel much better after my journey....

steven - thank you, as I do this naturally, its hard to have perspective on it.... what it might be like to witness, thanks for putting that into words.

mirsini's - hope you get to the forest soon, there are some beautiful ones in Greece!

oil painting courses - thanks....

Donna - You heard the ancestors, too?

kd - yes, quite a fiesty one, that Pasha!

Ms - Thanks for your concern, it is QUITE a danger and its something we deal with daily. We have strategies - Pasha comes when he's called and he MUST be in before dusk, NO EXCEPTIONS, even if this means putting quite a damper on my schedule. The other option - keeping him in- would kill him as well, so we ask the forest for protection. He is also a very wise cat, and Maine Coons are a natural breed and have their wild instincts well in tact. He is an elder cat - 15 +, not sure of his age as he was a stray in Rhode Island. He's lived on the city streets and now 7 years in this forest. Bob cats, mountain lion, bear, coyote and fishers are all here.... life eats life and I surrender to that, but it is NOT easy at all to see him wander off. In his later years, he sticks closer by..... and when we walk together in the forest, he stays with me and lets me know if he smells trouble. When he does, we go home. If I go on long hikes out into the woods, I go alone.

Robin and the Sage - oh what fun it would be if you were! But you are here in spirit, and your lovely necklace likes the mosses.

Stregata - Thanks for joining.... plenty of peace in this forest.

Lynn - Glad to share my walk with you.... strange that I JUST noticed the our shared eyes... sometimes his actually look amber, too!

Donna ~Q~ Thanks, glad you felt the healing nature.

Penny - Lovely that my journey translates somehow in words and images.

Mermaid - yes, so much destruction to grieve and worry about, MUST be balanced with long journeys into the woods (in my opinion!)

Penny - I like thinking that the forest lives in me... and that I am magical!

ArtPropelled - Glad it worked - a successful post if tranquility is offered!

barbara said...

Ah, thank you so much for all these beautiful faces !! You inspire me to bring an offering the next time I visit 'my' wilderness.

Lunar Hine said...

Thank you. I shall take a medicine walk soon. And thanks for 'snag', my new favourite word :o).
Asalaam alaikhoum

Cozy Knitting said...

It really wasn't that many grandmothers ago that knew the old ways. Until the 1920's when the pharmaceutical companies came into being, the country doctors carried herbals with them or walked out to the yard and gathered things there. Medicine was common sense, not insurance carriers. My grandfather used to take me to a special place in the woods in March to gather violets. He always knew the places to go and taught me how to recognize trees and plants. We would sit down and eat violets and tell stories. Then we would gather for the others in our family. Violets were often the first vitamin C a family could get in the Spring, and then it was the fiddleheads from ferns. Slowly plants wake up and soon there was plenty to eat. This was in the early 1950's, so not that long ago.

layers said...

Thank you for reminding me that a walk through the woods and connecting with nature can be quite healing--with you beautiful images and words.

RPLancaster said...

How wonderful that the trees let you see them and that you shared it with us. What wonderful beings the trees are!

Valerianna said...

Stille Linde - its astounding, sometimes, to monitor the offerings. When we do a big ritual and create a large scale offering to the land with food and flowers, etc. sometimes it takes days before the creatures decide its time they can eat it. As if they want to let the prayers sit for a bit and sink in before taking them... I wonder how long my recent offering stayed...

Lunar Hine - Snag is a good word!

Cozy Knitting - Very true, there was much foraging for medicine until very recently, but what I'm speaking about is a very ancient thing. It has survived in some indigenous cultures, but it really is a VERY old way of being in the world. It is the Spirit of the plants that heal, not the ingestion of them as medicine, where everything is known as alive and full of energy, intelligence and wisdom - tree, stone, flower, creatures- and all with miraculous abilities to be allies in our healing if we know how to enter into a sacred relationship with them. Known now as Plant Spirit Medicine, I believe it requires a much more shamanic and animistic world view/knowing than what our more recent ancestors had, though I;m sure there were exceptions!

layers - you are quite welcome!

RPL - Trees, yes, well, they are my dearest allies!

Velma Bolyard said...

i like how you know who's there in the woods. the presence of more and more.

Acornmoon said...

Did Pasha take the photo of you i wonder? In that enchanted forest all things are possible.

Lauren Raine said...

wonderful sacred walk you take us on through your woods....thank you. I remember when I lived in upstate NY, there was a place I would leave offerings, and the forest people I felt very much were present, observing, and listening. Thank you for reminding me..............

Spring blessings

Reading Tea Leaves said...

Beautiful Valeriana. I felt myself there, with you and Pasha on your healing walk through that enchanted forest. Inspiring and enveloping. Thank you for reminding me to just 'be'.


ullam said...

Absolutely enchanting and such a lovely way to greet spring - who surely must be around the corner...

Snowbrush said...

I loved your photos (especially the one at the top), and will use some for my desktop picture if you don't object.

As I face a serious surgery later this week, I wish there were a gentle and natural way to cure all things.

Valerianna said...

Velma - the woods is so full, yet I only see a very little....

Acornmoon - possibly!

Lauren - The forest spirits here do seem very welcoming and appreciative... I think they know me after 7 years, at least maybe enough to let me see an occasional blur of one.

Cottage Garden - you are welcome... it is a practice, the "just being" in our world, isn't it? How crazy.

ullam - well, now a week or so after your comment, YES- I see spring evidence in the garden, finally, though I still have snow piles around. I think they might make it to May!

Snowbrush - If they can be helpful in bringing some peace, I'm glad to share! Good luck with your surgery. I hope in the future we will get better at gentle prevention ( and plants are GREAT for that!) and avoid serious surgery as much as possible!

mycuriousteaparty said...

Hello Valerianna

This is just what I needed, thank you for taking me on this walk. I've had a difficult week, laying to rest my friends ashes, reminding me that life can be short and to enjoy every moment. I have loved this walk with you.... Thank you once again.

As for your 'mane' turning into the tree bark, mine is aiming for a silvery moon and is almost there, it's been trying since I was just 19 years old so, it's had a lot of time to pratice.

Have a lovely day Valerianna, I shall think of you as I tend my garden this morning ~ Julie

Jo Potter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo Potter said...

Beautiful, beautiful post!
I loved seeing the trees around where you live. Their faces are full of expression and I can totally understand why they inspire your artwork.
You really do live in a magical place. I also liked seeing Pasha enjoying the sacred space.
Like you, I have mossy green eyes too! ;-)
Have a lovely weekend in the woods.
Jo. xx

Umā said...

What a beautiful offering.

You will love the Secret Teachings of Plants book. One of the first things he speaks of in Section 2 is how so many have lost their respect for plants and therefore can't enter into communication with them. There are also lots of inspiring quotes scattered all throughout the chapters...

Wasn't today's fog gorgeous?

Medieval Muse said...

So much beauty in this post - I'm speechless and soothed by nature's offerings. Thank you so very much for sharing this.

Clytie said...

What a beautiful and inspiring post. I walked along with you, and can still feel the peace of the forest ... the living souls of the trees. Thank you so very much.

afrederique ferret said...

j'aime ce que vous faites....
j'aime les arbres et la forêt!

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