Spring is spreading Her verdant carpet across the land, even in the deep woods, where the morels rise and release their spores in billowy clouds amidst the gentle breezes. Walk softly, gently today, my friends. Life is emerging from beneath our very feet, so tread lightly. #ReportFromTheBack40 #GetOutside #SquirrelRun #kippinitreal
Report From The Back 40
We had quite a chilly day today. I rose well before dawn and felt the cold almost bite into me as I walked outside. It was overcast then, but the air was so crisp, I remember remarking on its quality. I was out again later, just after the sun came up, and the cheery birdsong that I heard all around me almost melted my heart. I have not heard such joy in the air in what feels like weeks now and their riotous singing was so contagious that it lifted my spirits so. I sort of floated into the now cloudless morning after that. Later in the afternoon on another short walk, I saw a pair of Bald Eagles soar right overhead. From my first glance at them I saw with rapt wonder that they were cavorting some incredible aerial acrobatic dance. I got the distinct impression that this was a pair in mating mode. It seemed to me that the theme for the day, between the birds and me anyway, was one of pure joy. While I have been keenly aware lately of some of the darker, shadowy aspects of life, here was the perfect counterpoint right in The Back 40. Leave it to Mother Nature to flash Her sacredness with such gusto and grace. Never ending miracles most certainly abound. I did a little research and discovered that it is indeed the mating season for Bald Eagles here. So we are in the heart of winter, yet just one day after Groundhog Day, the signs of the coming spring reveal themselves here.
The spirit of the Bald Eagle is one that is caught between the two realms – revealing to all who behold his/her beauty, sheer majesty, and strength of the eternal struggle we two-leggeds and non-wingeds have to transcend the ordinary and experience the Soul taking flight. There was certainly nothing ordinary to me about what I witnessed in the skies above me this day. I cannot get over how appropriate I felt it was that these, our national birds, symbols of greatness, dignity, honor, and endurance, were out and about in all of their glory today! Their spiritual significance buoyed what for me had been spirits sorely in need of bolstering. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #BaldEagleMedicine #kippinitreal
Frogs, snakes, turtles, snails, skinks, blue-tailed and otherwise…and so many other such creatures are quietly resting in their hibernation holds for the winter. They show us the slower pace that can be had in this season. Sometimes when we slow down, we find that we concentrate our energy. As I look at the creek today, the snow and ice atop the flowing current of Baldwin Creek here at the base of The Back 40, I wonder at the ongoing turtle and frog dreams just below the surface…dreams of soft mud to lay fertile eggs to come, tender grass to walk upon, abundant fly fantasies of the frogs, and sweet dreams of plentiful water and warm sunbeams…I imagine there are a few delighting dreams that I will never understand, as a mere human, but I have no doubt that dreams are alive and well under this creek’s snow and ice cover.
Contraction comes after an expansion…and the swelling, and expansion of summer, followed by the full fruition of all of it in autumn, leads to this natural contracted period of winter. It seems to me that we really have three seasons of expansion to one season of contraction. We are in this natural state, with all its cold, blustery, still, grey, even stark and bleak scenes, yet how would we even know it was even a contraction if we didn’t also know the flush and blush of spring?
So I walk this land today and notice the missing antics and activity of the groundhogs, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, and yes, even skunks. (We have a mother skunk who raised her young ’uns in the retaining wall up by the house one spring. Watching her take her eight kits out for one of their first walks and then what she went through to wrestle and cajole them back into their den was one of my funniest memories on The Back 40.) I see the quiet, senescent nature of these days on The Back 40 and find my heart filled with peace and a knowing that all is unfolding just as it is meant to. There is no rushing this process. Take a breath. Listen deeply. Mother Nature is breathing Her sweet rhythm of life and we are all breathing it together right along with Her, whether we are hidden away in the deep dens of winter slumber or out and about. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #BaldwinCreek #kippinitreal
The land is covered in snow and temps have dropped and stayed down for a few days now. Though the winds have slowed to less than biting, I feel their presence as I walk The Back 40 this day. The landscape looks almost bleak, clouds hovering overhead covering the sun and fair blue skies. I love to watch the trees this time of year, their branches bare and revealing so many ways of carrying their branches aloft in the air. Although the trees have a wide range of browns to add to the snow’s whites and the greys of the stones, rocks, and today’s clouds, my eyes yearn for some additional colors. Even the green of cedars and pines 🌲 appears weighted to the grey side today.
I stood quietly down by the creek and looked all about the woods and fields here. I could not see a soul out. Then the flicker of red caught my eye as a cardinal landed in the brush nearby. It called it’s clear, sweet song, seemingly a greeting to me, the only other soul out and about in the area. I felt my heart quicken and my breath catch in my throats as I witnessed this red companion. My wish for more color was granted almost on cue. How sweet.
Cardinal powers … whatever it is that is facing you, the cardinal imparts the power that you can handle it. Well, there I was in the woods wondering if I would be able to keep my spirits bright in this pretty bleak looking day, and a cardinal with all of its qualities joins me as a companion. Of course my spirits brightened even more! Cardinals encourage us to open to our creative energies, to believe in yourself and own who you are. Its red feathers reflect the fire element and its qualities of vitality and passion. Bright spirits indeed. The cardinal is said to have the power to lift you out of a moment when you feel your energy ebbing. In addition, it red color brings the qualities of the root chakra: survival, security, and stability. Who knew that such a small bird could bring so much to the world? I said farewell to this little fellow, thanked him for his positive energy and his kind visit, and wished him well as I turned back to go inside and warn my chilled bones. What’s up in your neck of the woods? #ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #Cardinal #GetOutside #kippinitreal
The cold reached out so deeply this morning that it touched my bones. Brrrrrr….! The air is dry, but the sky is a bright robin’s egg blue and the sun is doing its best to beam warmth down on us all. I didn’t see many critters out and about this morning. I did see fresh evidence of a fox, though. Now that is characteristic of the foxes I have known through the years on The Back 40 – elusive, and barely noticed. It’s rare for me to even see their tracks, let alone get a glimpse of their beautiful black-stockinged, red, black, and white furry bodies. I have heard what sounded like their yaps or barks, but my experience of The Boots Family, as I have come to call them, is that they love to play in the shadows in a never-ending game of hide and seek, heavy emphasis on the hiding part — only they are far more adept at this game than me. This species has been hunted relentlessly by us humans, so it is no wonder to me that I see any clue of their presence at all.
Before any of you farmers get all up on arms about my love for the fox, please know that I have seen up close and personal their handiwork amongst a covey of chickens holed up in winter in a barn – my barn. It was not a pretty sight. Shocking really. But here’s the thing. Everybody has to make a living, even foxes. I figured that if I was not up to the task of keeping the chickens safe from a fox or other critter getting into the barn, that the demise of the chickens was on me, not the hungry fox. It took me a while to forgive myself for all the death and destruction I witnessed and felt I had allowed to happen that day. What a lesson Mother Nature brought forward. For all the beauty and majesty that nature reveals as a part of its truth, the truth of the tooth and claw way of life remains. I just want to be clear here about this relationship between the fox and humans. We both live here after all. May it be in mutual respect and peace.
My first experience of foxes on The Back 40 was early in the spring a few years ago, when there was still snow on the ground. I saw a pair of red foxes, both with all four legs with long black stockings way up past their hocks, cross the road by the east woods. I saw this pair just a few times, once with the female and her kits in tow – just briefly. I felt so lucky to have been around just at the right time for this sighting. Foxes, whether red, white, grey, or black, seem to be consummate camouflage artists… as well as accomplished escape artists. It seems like their agility and talent for getting exactly where they want to go and without getting caught is uncanny and reaches into the realm of the magical. And here’s the thing – I watched quite a few foxes as a child growing up and wandering the woods many an afternoon. My impression of the fox is that it positively revels with joy in all its antics. It has this attitude of ‘I’m going for it. All of it!’
The spiritual energy that fox medicine brings reflects my experience of this animal through the years. It seems the fox is superbly adept at being one with its environment, for to be able to play with almost reckless abandon while being chased by humans on horseback, well that takes some special juice, that’s for sure. The lesson for me here is to go with the flow of life, in all its twists and turns, in gratitude for and embracing every bit. In addition to its powers of ‘living in the joy’, the fox brings the power of invisibility and the power of observing undetected, a handy tool from time to time. This animal’s powers impart one with the ability to move through the world unseen and swiftly. Being a night creature, it brings the power to see in the darkness. Yes. I feel lucky to be honored with even the most remote of visits from a member of The Boots Family today. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #FoxMedicine #kippinitreal
I saw a flash of slate blue and reddish-brown feathers in flight today. The colors caught my eye, of course. Then the owner of this fab affair stopped and perched in an oak at the northwest edge of The Back 40. To my complete amazement, I realized I was looking at a kestrel. I could see its multi-colored feathers shining in the sun: blues, reds, browns, black, and white. It really took my breath away since, although the American Kestrel is found throughout the U.S., I have never seen one in all my days. What a beauty this bird was sitting atop the tree surveying the field to the west! I may have missed being able to identify it altogether if it had not been for the sun shining just the way it was on the feathers and the bird being close enough for me to get such a good look. It’s especially wonderful to me to see this species, as its numbers have been reported to be in steep decline in the last decades. The American Kestrel, commonly known as the sparrowhawk, is the smallest of the Falcon genus, but has plenty of fierceness and ingenuity of spirit. They hunt insects, and other live prey such as frogs, I suspect mostly of the tree frog variety, rodents, and snakes. The thing about kestrels and snakes – well that works both ways. The kestrel feeds on small snakes, but the larger snakes feed on the kestrel. The kestrel’s relatively small size makes it fair game for other birds of prey to hunt it, so it is a nimble, fast flyer and I imagine it is good at hiding, and quickly if need be. They tend to hang out near human developments, so they benefit greatly when we provide them with nesting boxes. (See http://www.instructables.com/id/American-Kestrel-nest-box/ for nest box instructions.) Sports fans may have seen them hunting moths and other insects attracted to the light of high-powered stadium lights. Keep your eyes out for them in your local park land, too.
The Kestrel as a spirit animal has similar powers to that of the hawk, such as swiftness, agility, getting a larger perspective on life, and a better overview of the world. For the kestrel, as with other falcons, add in decisiveness in action and fierce commitment. Having reviewed the behaviors of the kestrel, I would add here ingenuity and adaptation, since they hide their uneaten kills in grass mounds away from the view of other such predators and they eat so many different other critters. The power of kestrel medicine includes living life to the fullest, flexibility – that being able to change-on-a-dime kind of living, and grace. I am in awe of this beautiful bird, who has eluded me for so long. I feel honored that the two of us crossed paths today. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #AmericanKestrel #kippinitreal
Well the first snow of the year began falling last night and is still laying down its silent blanket of white all around us here. I am so appreciative of my warm home. A part of me is wondering how in the world I will ever make it to the Spring… as is what I usually hear a voice deep inside of me ask every year just about this time. The holidays are over and now begins the seemingly ‘hard work’ of managing to slog through winter. I do not feel sad, or feel like I am so much subject to ‘seasonal affect disorder’, as I used to believe. I just feel that my work changes this time of year. It’s best if I embrace the change, see the season for all that it is, and step into ‘the now’.
I keep seeing the hawks out lately…every time I walk outside, one flies overhead. We have a few different hawks that I see regularly here at The Back 40: Red-Tailed Hawks, Marsh Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks. I imagine that there are others. I love the birds, and they teach me so much, but I am not a bird expert. I find new species and discover new ways of being amongst the birds familiar to me.
We have a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks that settled into the northeast woods a few years ago. They can be seen regularly patrolling their territory and on their way to and from hunting. They certainly help serve as neighborhood clean-up crew, especially after the turkey vulture tribe departs for warmer climes in late fall. The Red-Tailed Hawks are strong fliers and powerful predators.
I see the Marsh Hawk as an agile flier, nimble in the air, an aerial acrobat really, who seems to enjoy pushing the limits of the air currents. I have seen them flying along one transit line and then adroitly check its speed, hold in the air, and dive down with all due haste after its meal. Mostly I see them either perched almost hidden in a tree, or flying en route in their travels.
The Cooper’s Hawk – well it’s a little different hawk than the other two I mention above. I see this bird quietly aloft in one of the tress nearby the bird feeders. It hunts other birds, so it knows a good thing when it sees it. This hawk can really move through the woods in pursuit of its victim. I see them seeming on the prowl through the trees, needing only a few strong wing beats to glide along with what seems no effort at all.
I took note that I was seeing these hawks with such regularity and almost to the exclusion of other birds. Unusual for me. It turns out the spirit of the hawk is awareness. Now there is a theme in my life. I just completed my teacher training in kundalini yoga – the yoga of awareness, and now I am mostly seeing hawks in the sky. This bird as a totem imparts the power of being able to see the whole picture. This is certainly a handy thing to have as I am planning out this new year. Although hawks seem to prefer live prey, I have seen them work a deer carcass from time to time. In eating fallen animals, the hawk shares a trait with the turkey vulture – it can show up as a spirit of transformation, taking that which no longer serves and recycling it into the great web of life. Their ease and grace in flying and their overall approach to life is such a lesson for me in this month where it can feel like the work is harder, speaking as an avid sun lover. Their ease and grace in flying and their overall approach to life is a lesson for me in this month where it can feel like the work is harder, speaking as an avid sun lover. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #HawkMedicine #GetOutside #kippinitreal
Today is rainy, a soft cool drizzle. Home once again, I am just beginning to look back at a few of the impressions and lessons I learned with the other yogis and yoginis in Florida over the last week. I imagine it will be a while before I have integrated all that I learned, but of course, there is no time table.
1) We know what we want and need and that scares us. It sure scares me. It’s the doing…actually taking the action step…it’s the stepping that is the journey after all. For me, I tend to put up resistance to things that scare me, to the unknown in general. Noticing the resistance, allowing it to be what it is, and then moving through that resistance by opening to the unknown – this is the work for me. My experience at our Winter Solstice celebration yielded plenty of opportunities to release resistance, drop expectations, and just allow the moment.
2) I found I had all kinds of mind chatter: “I don’t belong here. I will never get through this. I will not measure up. I will disappoint my partner, the group, and myself. I will embarrass my teachers.” I found myself comparing my insides to everyone else’s outsides. I saw myself caught up in the Comparison Game – and I felt so blessed that I was aware of it and could watch myself in this place. It’s often said, “We teach what we need to learn.” I teach people how to drop comparing themselves to another. I teach and practice dropping the chattering of the mind. I find that the practice of constantly living this work and the different aspects of it and how it can show up in life – I find this to be such an extraordinary and powerful way to live. I teach people how to live, really thrive, beyond the suffering of chronic pain. I teach what I live…moving through my stuff, living in the moment, a rich and full existence. I actually practice what I teach. I feel I exist in a place of living in my gifts. What an honor.
3) We know the truth, yet for me, life is an exercise in coming back again and again to the truth. This moment, whatever it brings. Accept. Meet. Allow. Embrace. Love – the unconditional kind. Living from this space opens me to a world of constant discovery and to what I feel is almost a heavenly flow. Possibilities arise here. Intuition and all its wondrous gifts lie in this place.
4) My concept of ‘time’ is a total illusion. My experiences over these last six days have borne this out again and again. Time appeared multi-dimensional: shortened into a mere nanosecond, expanding out into what seemed to me to be ‘forever’, and then vanishing altogether. The moment – it lasts forever, is always, eternal, and as such is a constant…but ‘time’, it seems ever changeable, mutable, fickle, the opposite of eternal. I felt that I was sitting amid a great paradox as I experienced both the eternal and the mutable.
5) The process of meditation, especially done in a group setting, with each of us bringing our energy and merging as a whole – it is in the power of joining together in community and literally holding a pose, as the 600+ of us did during the white tantra practice over Winter Solstice – it is here that we discover our own power and sense so deeply into its vastness, and it is here that we experience the power of the connection to each other and us to Oneness.
I imagine that there are many other impressions and lessons that will surface in the future. For now, I bid ado and wish each and every one of you a sweet expanding life of light, love, and peace.
#ReportFromTheBack40 #WinterSolstice #SatNam #kippinitreal
“I live in a house of miracles, held and guided by a light deep within…” from Jai-Jagdeesh, Ardas Bahee, a chanted prayer that speaks to prayers both known and unknown to us… this was the refrain that resonated for me through yesterday, Day 6 of the Winter Solstice celebration and our 3rd day of the white tantra yoga practice.
Inside the heart is that eternal space. I feel like we are born fully connected to this and somehow during our early years, we become disconnected to it. For me, it has taken my lifetime to fully reconnect and truly realize, reactivate this sacred union. To discover the essence of who I am. This yoga practice has accelerated my reconnection. While the meditations were challenging, thanks to the group conscious, my steadfast awesome partner, Katherine, and my own inner strength, I was able to stick with the postures each time and transcend into another level of consciousness. I had a number of pretty much indescribable experiences. Each one left me in awe of the vast nature of my body and awareness.
So after 3 days, 12 meditations each 62 minutes long holding a different specific pose, and then 6 – 31 minute meditations holding a pose, we completed our white tantra yoga experience. I was amazed that my voice held out after so much chanting. Now the icing on the cake for me, and I feel everyone else there, was the dancing afterwards. What an after party! These yogis and yoginis really know how to shake loose! Imagine 600 people all practicing together for 3 days, holding poses and consolidating their energy. Expanding themselves from within. And then allowing to release. I felt like we were all rubber bands that got stretched and held to our absolute limit…and then finally released into the air. I never saw or felt such energy in a room dancing and just pure all out celebrating the sheer joy of being alive. I’m pretty sure we actually raised the tent roof at least a few inches. We say, “Ang sung wahe guru!” ‘Every cell in my body is vibrating to that of the Infinite.’
I close for now with a precious quote from beloved spiritual teacher and yogi, Yogi Bhajan: “Peace be our prayer. Peace be our motto, motive, and mission. May we have peace of mind, peace of self, peace of the Universe and peace in our families. Peace in our relationships between our friends and all humans, and may we achieve peace between our enemies and ourselves.” Sat Nam, dear friends.
#ReportFromTheBack40 #WinterSolstice #WaheGuru #kippinitreal
#ReportFromTheBack40 #WinterSolstice #WaheGuru #kippinitreal