Category: Nature walks


Don’t think for a moment that the plants don’t have the ability to communicate with you! Sometimes to share wisdom and sometimes to tell you off when need be! This really happened to me..

The Greening Spirit

Plantspeak

In various herbal conferences I have attended, I was always intrigued when certain teachers and indigenous speakers would make references to hearing the plants sing, or receiving messages from them about how to use them for healing. As far as I knew in my long years of gardening it had never happened to me… at least not yet until one summer when I unexpectedly became a wandering minstrel gypsy with a performing Ecuadorean family of musicians as their co-ordinator, unintentionally (but rather cavalierly) abdicating my role as garden mistress. That was the summer I finally “heard” the plants…only it wasn’t a song…it was an indignant lecture and chiding.

Attentively planting and raising my heirloom vegetable plants from seed in early spring, I looked after each stage of their emergence and growth with great delight. Planting them in the rich prepared soil of the side garden, I looked forward to seeing them begin…

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Garden June Sacred

Being a Taurus Sun Earthkeeper person, I have always had gardens where I live. The cycle of the seasons in a 4-climate region has captivated me since childhood…each turn full of magic, myth and mystery.

Growing up in an inner city in the northeast USA, I was not exposed to posh gardens in the concrete environment even though I lived in an apartment building on Ash Grove Place which still had a genteel air leftover from earlier times when the neighborhood was lined with ash trees before cars. The plants that came through the cracks and between the buildings in ally-ways were the wild things…dandelions, poke, yellow dock, plantains and the flowers of grasses. Of course back then, I didn’t know their names but I was called to them because they were green growing living things tucked in and around the hardness and grey of city asphalt.

There were two “garden” situations however that served our city spirits. One was the chain-link fence bordering the back parking lot behind our apartment building. In spring and summer, the tall fence was covered by the climbing vines of morning glories. The blue flowers were a never-ending delight…the tight spirals of the buds before opening, which we would pick, blowing at their now- tiny opening at the base .. and out they would flare into full flower by the power of our own mini-godlike breath. Picking the full flower itself , we would also suck at the small opening at the base of it, pulled from the vine, to taste a delightful delicate sweetness,  coming to understand what the bees were collecting while visiting its center!

The second garden was for viewing only through the openings in the chain link fence to the back lot of the next-door neighbor. A German immigrant with a thick accent, he was a crabby terrible tempered territorial old man who yelled loudly and threatened any and all kids who might attempt to climb over the fence to receive a ball gone astray in the air, landing in his green sanctuary. But he was an amazing gardener and it was like peering into the Garden of Eden or a guarded oasis in the middle of the hood between buildings. As an adult, I now understand his fierce and protective personality preserving the peace and order of his sacred garden from a pack of potentially disruptive and invasive neighborhood kids….

My own gardens from marriage, parenthood, divorce, partnership and singledom on have varied. My first planting was of Lamb’s Ears (stachys officinalis) which first captivated me in a re-created colonial apothecaries’ garden at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT when I was age 21. The gardens that  followed throughout my life started with herbs and their charming and healing mystique, and later, flowers and vegetables. Always always green around me.  

Veggie Garden

( One of my earlier gardens )

Several years ago, serious vision problems with early cataracts began to develop and it became impossible for me to see in sunlight and also to just see clearly at all. For the past three years, that, plus a couple of stressful, attention-stealing life situations blocked the ability to garden. I thought that was okay. But there was a flatness in my spirit as a result…unrecognizable to others…but known to my own self. A loss of some sort of energy and meaning. A loss of “veriditas”.

Now, with much excitement and gratitude, my eyesight has been restored through surgeries,  and with the renewal of vision, I could not let another year go by without tending the “Green”.  Three years of not taking care of the yarden turned it into wildness except for the front. This year, I invested in Grow Boxes, not having the time or energy to tame field and woodland and in planting them and situating them in my yard,  I realized that in not gardening the last three years, I had lost some part of SOUL….my own “Greening Spirit/Veriditas”… by not participating in the cycle of the seasons in person and not tending the plants. But now! My Soul has come back home to both the inner and outer gardens!

Garden rainy

A week or so ago, as I walked through the front border to the road, I stubbed my toe on an exposed corner of a flat rock buried under moss and matted grass. I bent over to scrape away dirt and plant matter to find a garden plaque that my partner David had placed in my new herb garden almost 20 years ago when we moved in. I had at that time also been teaching a nine-month internship in folkloric herbalism, natural foods and earth spirituality, called “The Sacred Garden”.

Garden June Sacred

How synchronistic was its surprise emergence from “under” to welcome my SOUL back home as I became a “gardener” once again.

They are BACK! My garden, My Soul !

Veriditas! from  Christine, the Greening Spirit

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St Johnswort (2)

“When I first moved into the house I live in, there was no Mullein in the yard so I went outside and called it in, singing my need. Within a year, it started to appear.”  ~ Ellen Evert Hopman (Secret Medicines from your Garden: Plants for Healing, Spirituality and Magic)

Herbal book

I was delighted to read this little vignette as I perused her wise and charming book, newly arrived to my herbal library. It reminded me of my own experience of “calling in” a desired plant ally and the on-going surprise and merriment of connecting with the magic communications and interaction between us and the Green Kindred Spirits of field, forest and garden.

I was teaching an herbal/whole-foods/women’s spirituality internship and living in a little house with a wonderful herb garden bordered by small and pretty wooded lots. The herbs in my garden were there by design for culinary and medicinal purposes, raised from seed or purchased at local nurseries: Calendula, mints, angelica, lemon balm, rose, lovage, thymes, basils, elecampane, borage and the like.

There is an “agreement” between  us and those kinds of plants who allow themselves to be semi-tamed and happy living within the borders of a planned garden, but one summer I needed a wild-er companion to make a healing oil, and so I set out to find a stand of St. Johnswort which is not so tame as to be usually found raised in packs of six or eight at the garden center.

The seaside neighborhood  where I lived had many little cottages, groves, wooded or field-like lots with no houses and I walked up and down the bumpy roads hoping to find St. Johnswort getting ready to bloom. I searched carefully and looked intently here and there and then back again, hoping to find this now-desired ally,  but to no avail. There was no St. Johnswort as far as I could tell. Sweet fern waved hello in the breeze, yarrow swayed in the wind, yellow dock’s long curly leaves signaled its presence and I was happy to find them where I had not known they were…but they were not what I was looking for that day….

Coming back home I sat on my front steps and pondered an eventual walk at one of the nearby nature preserves although I was used to finding what I needed in my own garden or in the neighborhood.

I sat and pondered “St. Johhnswort” and in a mischievous and playful mental moment, I called out to it in my mind, asking it to PLEASE show up so I could make the precious blood-red oil for bruises and boo-boos!

I kid you not…and I am not telling “fairy tales” (or maybe I am) but about ten days later I was out in the yard in my garden when something little and yellow caught my eye at the edge of the woods at the property line. I KNEW! I KNEW as soon as I walked over to it…St. Johnswort!!…one little stand of about 3 plants in blooming where there had been none before. And I knew, in my “inner child’s magical heart” that “The faeries” (or the St. Johnswort’s plant deva) had  brought it and installed it there, just for me because I longed for it, sought it dearly and asked!

Of course, I laughed out loud and said thank you, thank you! But just to be sure, I once again roamed the neighborhood and the vacant field and wooded lots through which I had searched previously to see if St Johnswort had been in the area all along and I had missed it.

But NO!…there was no other St. Johnsworts anywhere to be found anywhere else around. Only …and only…in my own garden, over there at the edge of the wooded border.

This is a true story.

*photo credit, St. Johnswort:  Barbara and Peter Theiss (The Family Herbal)

From Christine,  the Greening Spirit

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My daughter and grandsons on our Christmas woodswalk..a tradition

Follow the Leader:    My daughter and grandsons on our Christmas woods walk..a  family tradition!

Isn’t it wonderful that many libraries have a shelf in the entrance hall with books for free or a small donation (.50 to $1.00) for the library fund? Treasures are often found there, a brilliant way to recycle books and wisdom.

Recently, dropping “overdues” at the library, I found in the hallway a gem of a book entitled “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv…an absolutely wonderful inspirational guide to unplugging  from technology and taking our children (and ourselves) outside to reconnect with nature, especially “the woods”. Although it is not a new book, it was the recipient of the 2008 Audobon medal and is probably even more relevant and urgent today than when it was published.

Last child (2)

This book did not suddenly “wake me up” to a new idea for a thing to do with children and specifically, MY grandchildren. I had just returned from a Christmas Day visit to my daughter and her family in a nearby state. Following our family tradition to take a nature walk during the day of a visit, we  had driven to Sedgewick Gardens/Longhill  in Beverly Massachusetts and hiked through the winter woods blanketed with dried crackly leaves, fallen twigs and branches and climbing over old logs lying prone on the ground. We have always taken these walks in nature whenever my daughters and their children come for visits or I go to visit them…sometimes to the woods, sometimes to the ocean, and often to hang out at farms, parks or garden centers. And we always had taken these walks as a family when my daughters were growing up.

On this particular chilly afternoon, the boys were full of little boy energy…jumping, running, losing a sneaker in the leaves… and even accidentally stepping in some hidden doggie poo, a true and pungent experience of nature! I had given the boys a clear quart-sized baggie and some tweezers so we could collect nature treasures to bring home. (The magnifying lens I had ordered for close-up inspections unfortunately had not arrived in time.) But we did collect special odd stones, dried leaves with but a hint of orange, strange twigs, pieces of dried tree moss…and even a bug. The woods were filled with strangely shaped trees “with no clothes on” during the cold season and the colors around us were mostly brown, black and gray. Going out on that Christmas day with no snow was a very different experience than when we walk on Easter or in May. A walk full of crackling, snapping dried sounds, and pungent scents of decay and earthiness.

I recall now a quote from the  book The Last Child in the Woods:

“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are”  ~ a fourth grader in San Diego

I admit that my own grandsons living in this culture know where all the electrical outlets in their house are as well and there is a constant challenge to balance monitored technology time and offline projects time. One cannot escape it and it is a challenge in just about ALL households these days.

But I am so happy and proud of my daughters and the attention they give to nature time …. in our family picture albums are so many photos of a  Mommy in the lead…follow the leader!…as we tramp through woods and paths and along the beaches and tidepools and corn mazes in the various seasons of the year.

This Christmas, my gift to all my grandchildren was the game Wildcraft Craft! An Herbal Adventure Game. They know that Noni and their Mumma’s have magical and healing herbs in the garden and cupboard… what a lovely idea to play a game to recognize these helpful plants on their own!

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From walks in nature, to educating the young ones in the healing power of both wild and garden HERBS, this Noni and my daughters hope to keep ourselves and the children close to Nature…. physically, mentally and spiritually.

With love from Christine, The Greening Spirit

 

Christmas 2015 and a walk in the woods

Christmas 2015 and a walk in the woods with the boys!

 

 

 nasturtium ED(2)

Planting flowers in the vegetable garden brings color and good cheer to all that green while we are waiting for the fruition of the harvest, and so with happy planning, I raised the multicolored nasturtiums from seed and waited with goodly anticipation for the bursting open of those flowers of red, orange and yellow.

Garden Nasturtium

They did magnificently, and grew with such vibrant largesse and color in a special patch in front of the bush bean bed. I don’t think there was ever such a beautiful display of their large rounded leaves and multi-colored blooms (both edible btw) in any of my former gardens.

One morning a friend stopped by to see how my garden was coming along and we walked through this particular fenced-in and highly organized cluster of beds. She was taken by the lushness and beauty of the nasturtium patch which was really quite stunning, delighting each of us…

When she left, I drove into town for a quick trip to the market, and upon returning, stepped into that vegetable garden to harvest some beans for lunch. And WHAT A SHOCK!!!!

A once- vibrant full bodied lush nasturtium plant in the center of that community lay flat on the ground, almost totally drained of life, surrounded by the rest of the nasturtiums in distress also though not quite as almost fatal as the center plant. “WHAT is happening???” I must have cried out in alarm as I rushed to the center plant, lifting its limp and floppy leaves to assess this disaster and search for the cause.

The cause was… the hatching of thousands of tiny black aphids on the underside of its once-sturdy leaves, sucking the life out of it and infesting more lightly the nasturtiums around it.

Dashing to the hose to spray off those little buggers, trying to rid the plant(s) of every last one, I gave it coos of consolation and encouragement. “Come now, you must come through this…we’ll make it all right”… and I headed out to the hardware store to purchase the soapy insect infestation wash, SAFER. Back home washing the plant, which in about 1/2 hours time, had once again become totally covered with more aphids, sucking away draining its life force. Another wash of this unfortunate nasturtium and it companions, this time with SAFER and water to cleanse the plant of these invaders.

This process continued for several days…and each time I went out there, my once most magnificent nasturtium plant..the largest and sturdiest of the group.. lay prone, flat and devastated with the continued hatching of these little black sucking pests, although the other nasturtiums began to be untouched.

Frustrated, with another cleansing of the hose…I talked to the plant…a pep talk of great energy..” Oh Dear! Please do not give up…come on, you can do it! Pull yourself up by the bootstraps…don’t let the buggers take you down….”

And then, right with the ears of my Heart, in the center of my chest, I “heard” these words:

                                           “I AM THE CHRIST PLANT”

To say that I was stunned by this communique is an understatement for really, my cheerleading was quite secular and not a prayer. But in a flash, I UNDERSTOOD the message.

The strongest, most vibrant plant in the center of the communal patch of nasturtiums had taken it upon itself, in nature, to become the sacrifice for the rest of the garden. It was the “Christ Plant”… the archetypal One who gives its life to save the others for the survival of Good. It was because of that plant that bore the intense onslaught of the aphid infestation that helped the other plants to escape relatively unscathed, and in good health.

I took great care with that plant after that, understanding something new about the mysterious workings of the garden and its inter-connected inhabitants beyond my usual knowing or bookish research. Eventually, the onslaught was over, the Christ Plant survived, never quite regaining its former unblemished beauty and the garden thrived.

It also made me think of heros and heroines in culture who in their strength of character, stand up for what is right in the midst of infestations of wrong-doing or cultural slides into wrong agendas and how often they run the risk of mockery, banishment or even danger and death. I think of goodly mothers and fathers who sacrifice much for their children and of good friends who accompany each other in times of trial.

I come to understand the bigger meaning of the archetypal  Christ Consciousness beyond religion and alive in the soul, the garden and the consciousness of the earth and its inhabitants.

*** This story is a true experience of the plant’s speaking. It took place a number of years ago, and so I have no pictures. I have substituted pictures instead from this year’s bean garden in which there is one plant in the center that looks terrible and is just not doing well, altho the plants on either side, just a little compromised, are doing well and fully productive. I have resisted the impulse to pull it out, entertaining the possibility of it being the Christ Plant, giving itself over to the infestation more fully allowing the other plants more health and resistance.

From Christine, The Greening Spirit

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Sunflowers and smiles  at Buttonwooods Farm in Griswold, Ct.

Sunflowers and smiles at Buttonwooods Farm in Griswold, Ct.

What is it about Sunflowers that makes us so smiley and happy? In a world full of bad news and upset on a daily basis, and the constant barrage of vapid or divisive media chit-chat we sometimes need to FLEE into our gardens, or garden centers or those wonderful land-trusts and farms offering creative Greening Spirit delight and refreshment.

Sunflowers speaking;

Sunflowers speaking; “Hello there, Humans! Lighten up!”

I have decided at a time of personal life challenges and change at this time to purposefully include happy “field trips” to places nearby that I have always meant to visit, but had not yet done so. Calling a friend who is always ready for a spur-of-the-moment adventure, we took off to join throngs of smiling people who were doing the same to visit Buttonwoods Farm during this two-week only sunflower festival.

Peekaboo You....Look this way! Down here!

Peekaboo You….Look this way! Down here!

Point and shoot digital cameras, cameras with BIG closeup lenses and busy cell-phone cameras were in everyone’s hands…stop, snap, stop, snap…taking home a sunflower picture if not a bouquet. My friend Margie had her little camera and focused on a happy sunflower being visited by a bee gathering its pollen.

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The sun was bright, the path through the acres of Sunflowers was long but upon exiting there was a lovely hill and a big shading tree and cool breezes to stop and view the field from a higher vantage point and rest up before making the return trip…

Cool breezes on the hill up there

Cool breezes on the hill up there

People, young, old, of all shapes and sizes made the journey through the Sunflowers to be greeted and blessed by all that good cheer.

Never too old to greet the Sunflowers!

Never too old to greet the Sunflowers!

On the way out, we met a real Sunflower Smiley Face!

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After our trek through the Sunflower Fields…back to my own neighborhood for Ice Cream across the way, sitting in the shade and enjoying every single lick on a warm day.

I didn’t bring a bouquet home with me from Buttonwoods.. I knew there were, on a much smaller scale, but still smiling, emergent sunflowers in my own garden…they are just beginning to open now as will add to the greening spirit joy and delight as I also daily prepare to release this home and venture into a new chapter.

I want to take these smiles with me wherever I go …..  🙂

My Garden, My Soul

My Garden, My Soul

From Christine, The Greening Spirit

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Cukes Overboard! Escaping!

Cukes Overboard! Escaping!

You don’t have to go far from the garden to learn lessons about life, plants and people. For instance, Cukes have a mind of their own…being such a watery vegetable, their emotions are quite sensitive. If the environment of their daily life becomes too small and contained, or they have to partner up sharing space with others who have a different temperament (like Italian Frying Peppers), they can only put up with so much.

Cukes have the propensity to wander…and wander far, as well as have a rather secret life. That is, in search of emotional freedom and adventure, they travel by their vines right out of the box and across and around the green, yet sending out their fine tendrils to hold on to something steady and reliable…you know… that means anything in its path, to assure a modicum of security as they wander far…just in case.

Cukes on the move.... vines heading out!

Cukes on the move…. vines heading out!

Their “secret life” manifests in tossing themselves..the cuke itself…right out of the back of the box where they remain hidden from your eyes even though you thought you had spotted and collected every delicious one.

But NOOOoooooo…. out back over the fence behind the box or border, hiding in a mass of tangle of their leaves and vines are the BIG guys. Having “jumped ship” before you could shout…”Ahoy…Cuke overboard!” they live out that secret life of competing for the biggest and best of the group before in a slant of light, quite by accident…you..the Master Gardner…catch a glimpse of them and fight your way through the vines getting all prickled and itchy to round them up to accompany you for dinner.

Fighting your way through the viney jungle

Fighting your way through the viney jungle

…Which of course, they are happy to do. Vegetables know they are here to serve as food, and are happy to fulfill their mission being at table with us.

I often think how necessary it is for creative people to break “out of the box” of traditional culture and our home base as we mature when the familiar and static patterns become too routine, and too small or tight for exploration and self-expression. Sometime to grow into our bigger soul-selves we just do have to jump ship, go over the side into the wilds of life to find out who we are. It serves us well to send out kind tendrils of friendship and connection as we move about, even if we have to hide out back at times to do our creative work inspired by imagination and dreams.

Sometimes we just have to go rogue and become “cuke”.

But after a while, we must remember to come back to the table and share our goodness! Our crispness, moisture and stories…

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From Christine, The Greening Spirit

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Plantspeak

Anyone who has attended an Herbal Internship knows this exercise of being sent out into the garden or fields to sit with a plant that “calls you” and just listen….. listen for a message about it or from it as an answer to a question. You most likely will NOT experience this kind of communication task at your  local gardening club monthly meeting, or the University course in landscaping and horticulture who are about things other than talking and listening to plants.

You have to hang out with the herbal people who tend to be more than a bit a-cultural or with fans of Findhorn!

Plantspeak 5

We have done this kind of communication with nature often here in my own garden whether it be with other plant people or with our Dreams/Peer Mentoring Circle and no one….NO ONE…ever comes back to the group without a special message or insight. But then again, these are the kind of whimsical, open and yes, magical, people I tend to hang with.

Plantspeak 3

I mention herbs first because they have such a long tradition of both medicine and magic which both push our boundaries to entertain unusual or unexpected sources of wisdom and guidance. They DO have a propensity for words sent directly to the human heart. But you can listen to flowers and vegetables too…perhaps the devas that represent them are the ones who speak, but if you LISTEN the way children…young ones under the age of six..would listen, you will be amazed.

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It is good to take a notebook and write down the thoughts and inspirations as they come, for like a dream, they may fade as you come back into the mundane and ordinary mindset.

Plantspeak 2

It is always exciting and amusing to compare notes afterwards as it is quite fun and inspirational to share the magic, validating that there ARE worlds around us and within us besides the one we usually think of as the “real”. Share away and enjoy…but maybe not right away at “the office”.  🙂

Plant speak 7

I find that entering the “magical mind” is a wonderful way to balance those many other complicated issues we deal with in living our lives. Escaping into a good novel, or attending a wonderful play (Think “The Lion King”) or viewing an imaginative movie (Think “Avatar” or “Lord of the Rings”) we really enter various dreamworlds that are rich resources for creative thinking. Listening to the plants is a wonderful exercise of loving connection to that green world that indeed is our ground of being.

Highlighted in these pictures: Echinacea, lamb’s ears, milkweed, arugula, blackberry brambles, sweet pea and much more hidden in the green.

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From Christine, the Greening Spirit

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JHS

For a number of years I taught a green internship called The Sacred Garden on herbal wisdom, natural foods and women’s spirituality. The yard and garden highlighted in this series was (and still is)  our classroom.

One meeting day, one of our lovely students came with a rolled up yoga mat, blankets and her usual bag of special necessities for all situations. She was very stressed out, dealing with several major life issues needing discernment and sorting. Life was chaotic with many competing voices demanding her attention.

What she desperately needed, she said, was to have a little time out from the group to think those things over. “Of course”, we said, and went into the material of the day, setting her free to be there but on her own.

Several hours later, during a break in our projects I noticed her car still here altho she seemed not to be. “Where is she?” I asked myself..with a little concern I might add.

Walking through the yard and edge of the bordering woods there was no sign of her. Not in the shed, or under the trees out back, or a bedroom in the house. Coming along the side of the back yard and behind the garden I wrote about in Part 11, between it and the sheltered thick hedgerow of the property’s boundary, I caught a flash of white low to the ground and deep into the green narrow hidden overgrown splinter of land.

And there she was, lying on her yoga mat, hat over her eyes, little camera in her hand, comfy blankets around her legs in the warmth of a bright sunbeam yet cushioned and sheltered by a carpet of overgrown green.

She had run away to think and balance and heal a tired soul. She had  run away to find her greening spirit. Which actually, she did.

I often find that when I too am burdened with concerns and decisions needing to be wisely made, that writing, dancing, playing music and “running away” into the green world and the rhythmic misty world by the sea lifts those burdens and brings clarity and calm. The music of wind and crickets and birdsong, and the coolness of “veriditas” in nature has such a loving Soul that longs to bonds directly with our own.

Maybe because it is that we and it are all one thing…… one Soul…

I have learned that seeking refuge by periodically “running away” into nature is absolutely necessary to keeping connected to that One Soul when we have wandered away.

I have also learned that by running away in this way, we actually come home…….

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From Christine, The Greening Spirit

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Kale with water droplet-look!

Kale with water droplet-look!

Yesterday morning when I went out to the garden very early, the whole front yard and plants were awash in brilliant blinding light. Everything shimmered with moisture and dew that was rapidly evaporating in the heat.

The morning light was behind the plants as the sun was coming up and everything was back-lit with halos and transparencies, not the best conditions for taking a picture.

Blinding Light

However, close up to each plant, there was light behind them and a radiance around their edges that revealed things not readily seen in other more mundane situations. Once again, I was grateful for this time in my life that allows a mindful presence before my day starts, grounding me in mystery with the opportunity for deep-seeing and new in-sights.

We live in a culture of speed touted as a virtue, and distraction, a tool for programmed consumerism…both of which are Soul-thiefs. We miss so much that is grounding and heavenly combined as we run (or are chased) through our lives pursuing a dream of what is supposedly important.. imposed by popular culture, not revealed by Presence to the miracles and messages all around us and within us.

Stepping out into the world, early morning, shocked into stillness by radiance..(it is said that to look upon the face of God or Angels is a blinding experience). Even squinting, Illumination can come out of awe and prayer. All of which can change our lives.

This was it. Were there Angels in my garden?

And…. can you find the water droplet in the kale leaf (?) not noticed until magnification and deep seeing.

There is ALWAYS more than initially meets the eye…….

With love from Christine, The Greening Spirit

Me Light  My other blogs are full of illumination for body and spirit too!

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