Tag Archives: mother nature

What Tick’s You Off?🕷Death and BS in the Circle of Life  

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Hiya Radiant Renegades 

💙💚💙 I arrive at Green Diva Meg’s magical home, ready for a delightful stint of dog sitting. 10 days in the woods. 10 days of quiet. Daily walks around a beautiful lake with her devoted dog, Gracie. I get to hang with the heron and gab with the geese. A sapphire sky sprawls out before us. It’s heaven on earth. 🌳💦 🌊

Until. 

The cool camouflaged snake

A sign appears on my first walk. A snake!🐍 I feel so excited to have noticed her, wonderfully camouflaged along the trail. So much exciting life in these woods! 

Ten minutes later, my mood plummets. I see half of a mutilated snake, jaws gapping open in wide-eyed shock. Did it suffer? It’s just the circle of life, I say, trying to soothe my heart. I’ve always loved animals. But I’m pained by predators and not at home with the ways of the wild. 

The next morning, I notice one of the unique brown squirrels… and an adorable baby bouncing behind her! AW! 🐿 I watch them closely, totally enjoying their twitchy athletics. Later that day, I feel a sudden nudge to grab the binoculars and look out the front window (which I’ve never done – it’s partially blocked.) As I’m peering out across the lawn, a fox runs right into view! WHOA! 🦊 I follow the fox with my lens, feeling SO happy that I listened to the nudge. Then I notice a soft bundle in her mouth. Oh. No. As she’s running, she drops it! What the?   

Sunset on Meg’s lake

 The fox zips out of view and I swing my lens back to the motionless furball. What is it? Please not a baby bunny. Please. My heart is dipping into sadness & shock, once again. I wait awhile, but the fox does not return for the meal. I feel horribly compelled to go look. But I can’t look. But it’s right on the path where we walk. Crap. I have to look. No I don’t want to look. 

I’m gonna go look. 

I walk out across the expansive green lawn with Gracie, for comfort and courage. My eyes are glued to the spot where the sweet bundle lies. I’m braced for the bunny. 

But it’s a baby red squirrel. 

What. The. Hell! 

The circle of life… again!?!

I stare bleakly, as Gracie sniffs the adorable baby. Death makes me droop. Is the mama squirrel distraut? Why can’t I accept that death follows life?

The universe is being very loud. What’s the message? 

A few hours later, the lil body is still there. I’m hoping it won’t go to waste. 

Vulture perched above us

As Gracie and I head into the woods, there is a a loud flurry of flapping. A huge vulture lifts off the path and perches above our heads. 

All this LIFE in the woods, and Death will NOT shut up.

I text my hubby the eerie deets of the day. He sends a photo of a ginormous feather he found in our yard and writes, “it’s from a deep doo-doo bird.”

OMG vultures are circling.

Live snake. Dead snake. Live squirrel. Dead squirrel. Vulture. Vulture. Is someone gonna die??

Vulture feather (deep doo-doo bird)

I wake up the next day and find a deer tick embedded in my side 🕷 Nooooo! And there’s a bloody bull’s eye, already! ACKKKKKK! Invaded! After some pulling, pain and panic, I finally remove the beastie, but it’s black grappling hooks are left in my side. 

This is NOT fair! Nature is where I feel at home, in awe, connected, but now the glory of the Great outdoors is circling the drain! Why would the Earth attack me?

As I drive to the health food store, and talk to the naturopath, I resist the answer.

Mother Nature isn’t betraying me. My BS (belief system) is. My fears already had me circling the drain. I’m a wilderness wannabe, but I continually worry that my dwarfed body isn’t safe in this world. Vulnerable. Victim. Ah ha. I’ve become the prey I feared. My BS is confirmed! (BS would rather be right than happy.) 

Bonus BS – I have a deep distrust of the medical world, even though it’s come to my aid in the past. I DO NOT WANT antibiotics! But I know I can’t fool around with Lyme disease. I worship (and cling) to natural remedies. But I’m working to blend the two worlds, of medicine and metaphysics, without judgment.

I’m still terrified. And totally ticked. This tiny pain in my side brings old issues to the surface… and it feels like everything’s all WRONG… but maybe it’s to help me see that in the bigger picture, I’m always alright. 

Magical pond at Meg’s, early morning

At the doctor’s office, the nurse tells me she’s had Lyme’s for 28 years. As she’s leaving the room, she turns back, as if nudged from beyond, and says tenderly, “you know, ticks are a part of the circle of life.” 

My jaw drops open like the wide-eyed snake. 

“I canNOT believe you just said that,” I tell her. “That’s been going through my mind for two days!” 

“I couldn’t understand why God created ticks,” she said, “so I read up and found that ticks help clean up the environment. Like vultures. 

“No. Way.” I stared at her, gobsmacked. I feel a profound awe and relief. 

The lake where I stayed

We live in a dynamic, interactive ecosystem. It breathes through us and speaks to us, as us. Animals, water, sky, nurses and even ticks. Life and death are divine dance partners. We came here to take the crazy, complicated, courageous steps. To walk in each other’s moccasins. To dive into the dark and remember our own reflection of light. And to lovingly @#$% embrace our belligerent BS.

When we’re in deep doo-doo… it isn’t the circumstances that cause the lasting pain, it’s our beliefs about them. Fear tells us we’re alone, wounded, and the vultures are circling. The truth says we’re One with it all. We draw to our side (or embedded IN our side) whatever will bring up our BS so we can return to wholeness… and let go of the grappling hooks.

FYI I learned that ticks are a major food source for birds, reptiles etc. If we erased them (or mosquitoes, fleas, poison ivy etc…) we’d further mess with the balance of nature.☯

We already live off the Earth quiet mindlessly, and yet she’s a forgiving host. We complain about insects and inconvenience… and yet our collective footprint melts glaciers. Kills bees and trees. We’re the predators. In my tiny tick-attack, the tables were turned. Circle of dark and light.

What ticks you off?
What’s sucking the life out of you?
What fear needs to die, so something better can be reborn in you?

Meg’s dog, Gracie & the setting sun

Fighting our troubles is a form of violence against ourselves. We add to our suffering by insisting that life be other than “what it is.” When we reject what the foxy universe presents, we miss the hidden bundles that heal our inner wild. 

When the old BS is circling, our prayers are bringing unexpected answers. Take that leap of faith. Accept life with an open heart. Trust your soul’s nudges. And smile across the mysterious wilderness.
With a deep bow.

💞✨ Sending lotsa love and light,
☀💚 in the circle that moves us all,

P.S. The oldest known fossilized tick was discovered in a piece of amber in NJ (where I am, lol.) It’s 90 million years old! They must be doing something right. So let’s keep on ticking… just like they do.

 

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Photo from my favorite park and pond

Wake Up, Brave & Broken Dreamers

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Hey Wild Ones,

I recently read Martha Beck’s novel, Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening, and after reading the last line, I burst into tears. My mind was undone. The magic is out of my puny reach. I am too unblissiplined. Too scared. My heart, on the other hand, was dripping with joy 💞 YES the impossible IS possible. If we believe. Somehow. Somewhen. But what will it take? More meditation? Less civilization?

If you’re a nature-loving, animal hugging, fairy following, madness making, fearfully flawed spiritual seeker who wants to save the world (or one or two wolves,) this story might be your cup of sunshine.🌎

I’m a wilderness wannabe. I watch Survivor for the thrill of imagining myself stranded with “nothing” only to discover, that actually, I have everything. I am safe. I’m supported by Life. Gaia. God. Angels. Animals. Trees. Bees. A million dollar prize.

If only I weren’t a scaredy-cat.

My body and I have battled our share of shame and surgeries. Limitations and loss. Dwarfism. Arthritis. Saggy boobs. I adore being outdoors. But I retreat to tamed parks and woods. I’d like to sleep under the stars ⛺ but I’m afraid of getting eaten alive by bugs and bobcat. How can I sweetly commune with the magical Mother Nature, the Elementals, the moon and stars, while worrying about ticks in my nether regions? Bumping into bear? Stray stalkers? 

My body (my meat-self, as Martha calls it) can barely bend over, put on socks, crawl into a tent, kneel down to sip from a clear mountain stream, squat when Nature calls, or run for a tree… When I believe in my lone “I” who “can’t,” I know that my BS is in the row boat and she’s got the oars. If you trust your spirit’s call, your body might get mauled…

When I’m able to see beyond my earth suit, my backyard BS and the world’s weariness, I imagine that we’re just temporary flesh-sicles, fractured from the Oneness. Apparently “you” and “I” wanted to go nighty-night into the most convincing (and wincing) wilderness dream – alone and separated from each other. Friends from fam. God from Earth. Scooby from Shaggy. We split into the dark so we could re-member our Campfire Light. Our Unity. Our S’mores. According to the mystics, separation is just a starry illusion. A Cosmic Selfie. A Big Family Photo Bomb. It’s for Fun. It’s for Love.

What. The. Flock.

Of. Seagulls. 

It feels so freakin’ real. Heartbreakingly hard.

I was shaken the other day by my inadequacies – the weight of ancient fears and powerlessness. I AM ALL ALONE IN HERE!

Help!

And it felt like no one heard me crying. Except the chocolate chip cookies🍪

It started with tax paperwork – my boggy brain began inadvertently fishing in fear: It’s your fault we don’t have savings. You don’t work hard enough. Next thing I know, I’ve jumped in with the Great Whites: 🦈 There’s something VERY wrong with you. You’re letting your family down. You’ll never be good enough. You smell like a sea slug. Etc.

When caught in a riptide – turn over on your back and breathe. As waves slosh over you, keep calm, relax and let the tide take you. Beach your BS like a whale 🐳 Bask like a seal.☀

Wait, trust the tide?? To take me where? I should have stayed safe on the shore!

I tend to paddle myself very hard.

The path to awakening calls us to many jagged cliffs and cold quarries. Most of us distrust the necessary swan dives. Imperfect landings. Getting caught in our own net. We tend to fight the current of trials and teachers (ingrates, partners, presidents, kids and squids🦑) which can actually deliver us from our illusions, judgment and gefilte fish.

We swim with the challenging ego, again and again, even though it keeps smearing our vision board. It’s the way we learn about our creative power, though. We’ve been given the glorious ability to choose. Focus on the fins you fear, and things start to stink. 🐟  

Martha calls the inner party-poopers and groupers, “The Furies” and that’s just how it feels when our meat-self grabs hold of the Fishing Rod. And Motor Boat. Our Meta-self watches with amusement, not at all worried about our pathetic belly flops over the side. Or those jelly fish. Of course, when we feel that lonely sting, it’s hell in water. Abandonment. Overwhelm. Up a creek without a green smoothie. Disconnection from the soul.

But that’s an illusion, too. Our humanness can’t escape our spirit. It’s part of the package. Bogo.

So what’s an earthbound sack of seawater to do? 💦 

After reading Martha’s book, I wanna move to the country, befriend wolves, gather food with woodland friends 🐿 hibernate with mama bear 🐻 and live by the lake of freedom and joy. And never pay taxes. 

Oftentimes, we creative trail blazers find ourselves feeling like salmon – a mysterious pull toward some distant, dreamy Home. It inspires us to leap out of the conventional thinking and trappings. Woohoo!  

But BS Belief Systems like to backstroke by. They swim me right past the tropical island 🌴 and then make camp in my head’s polluted harbor. The Furies shout to NEVER push off from that goddamn shore again, you idiot.

Roe is me.

After these attacks, I tend to wade in my small selfie pond awhile. Then, when I’m not even “trying,” my soul starts to float me downstream again. Phew. Soon… I just gotta see what’s comin’ round the bend. I gotta try to direct and duct tape the tides. Suddenly. I’ve lost sight of shore! I’m doomed! My hair dryer is at home! And while I’m wailing about the Great Whites, I miss the life savers. 🍄

There are a lot of us out there “trying hard” to change the tides. We tend to cling to the last clammy rocks right before we’re spit out into the abundant ocean.

Carp-e diem, my lil sea horses.🦄

Happiness is ours, when we can enjoy the river we’re riding, today. Our mind yells, hell no, it’s not enough! Our heart says, oh heavens yes, LOVE IS RIGHT HERE. We don’t have to fight the current. Unless that’s your jam, then go for it.

Otherwise rest.

Stop paddling for awhile. Turn on your back and breathe, sweet otter. Call for kelp. Trust your soul’s flow. Ride it like a mofo. And release. It’s the crack in the crab shell where Spirit (or butter) gets in. The open air allows our soul to love bomb the Furies (BS, sea-monkey mind, ego, mental diarrhea etc.)

You are a rare and precious pioneer. A game changer. A lone ranger. A fish shtick. There will be times of doubt and despair. It’s ok. It’s part of the wild earth we came to surf and turf. Together. After our respite, let’s get back on our dolphins and manatees. We ride at dawn!🐬

From my lil aquarium to yours,☀
With love and warm sandy toes 🌊💦

Julie

P.S. If you’re searching for some inspiration and super-soul-support on how to surf through your stress, email me and we’ll set up a free coaching call. Tell me what’s got you crabby 🦀 and we’ll crack through that old shell so you can shine like the sun. Let’s hold hands, like otters do, while we ride out these wavy times. I’ll be a devoted accountability partner so you can get your sh**t done. Talk to you soon, blue lagoon!

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Until then, hang ten 🌊

Weeping Trees: The Healing Power of Nature

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The amazing Green Diva Meg at GreenDivas.com, has created a quick sketch video (one minute!) of me making one of my watercolor/calligraphy cards, so exciting for me! It gave me a whole new and fun perspective on my work :) I hope you’ll watch it!

Also check out a be-you-tiful online course for Mothers and Daughters at the bottom of this post. There’s a generous discount code for all Nothing Short of Joy subscribers :)

Now for our regularly scheduled program… ;) my blog post: 

%22The Tree Couple.%22One of our trees, a Weeping Grandma Cherry, is losing limbs, losing life. I’m embarrassed by the flood of emotion… and I find myself hiding the tears. As I catch my breath, though, there is so much more to the story. There always is.

My hubby, Bill, has been warning me about her demise for years now, but I refused to believe him. He’d first declared it without much compassion, as if her death was a bother. It would cost money. It might fall on the garage. It might hit one of the kids.

Grandma Cherry Tree

See her sweet face?

Year after year, I’ve sat and recharged in her quiet shade, gathering my heart, breathing out the overwhelm, breathing in the peace. I’ve smiled into her gnarly face wondering how to practice her stillness. Under her calming pink parasol, I’ve written out my hopes and dreams. I’ve wept out my fears, anger, and despair.

Today, I wept for her. For the mysteries. For the violence. For the journey. For my Dad.

So many sad goodbyes in life – to those who move where I cannot go. These deep rules of heaven and earth, hidden in the rough bark of life. They leave their love, clues, and gifts in our own backyard.

“Everything I let go of has claw marks on it.Anne Lamott

One morning last year, as I was letting our dog, Merlin, outside, I was crushed by the sight – our restless neighbor had chopped down the colossal lilac between our yards. I reeled back in disbelief. In sobs. Every spring I’d reveled in this lilac’s scented curls. I’d gleefully waited like a kid, for her bountiful blossoms. I’d placed gushing vases in the kitchen and the bedroom just so I could bury my grin into her glorious purple perfume. The blissful smell of God-ness.

I couldn’t look at my neighbor for days.

amber sapAnd now our treasured Cherry is getting ready to fly away. Poison Ivy is creeping up her trunk, as if she has already been reclaimed by a greater night. Her amber blood oozes out from craggily warrior skin. As I run my hand across her Braille bark, some part of my soul understands the big Book of hers. Her silence craves a home in me.

For seventeen years we’ve been held safe in this home, this yard. My boys used to touch the cherry’s soft sap, in wide-eyed amazement. And after it hardened in the sun, they’d run their fingers over it’s glossy smile. They’d tug on her leggy branches to make it snow petals on their heads.

“Vulnerability is a portal to a deeper power.” Chameli ArdaghOne Spring, back when my sixteen-year-old was four, the wind was kicking up a perfect petal blizzard. My boy took one look and scampered toward the back door. As he burst outside, the sun simultaneously came out from behind the clouds. I called to him, “the sun came out just as you did!” He yelled back, “yeah, that’s because it didn’t see me before!” Then he ran through Grandma’s pink waterfall, with arms and heart open wide.

He believed, quite naturally, that the Sun cared. For him. That the Sun saw. Who he was. That God placed the sun and the stars and old cherry trees, for us. And these things, pulsing with life, somehow love us, because Life loves us. My boy didn’t question the synchronicity that day. Why do I question my grief when I’m feeling adrift? When the world isn’t what I want it to be?

I realize I’m trying to hold on to what was never mine to keep.

%22Be like a tree, let the dead leaves drop. .....~Rumi

When I hold on tight, it hurts more. That includes feelings. When I ignore ‘em, they’ll spew forth at the most inappropriate people and places. They’ll create dis-ease. They’ll separate me from me, and me from you.

Rejected emotions, like abandoned
inner kids, need to be accepted,
heard and honored. No matter how
old or annoying. Tears calm the
inner tantrum and clear the mind.
They set the pain free so we can let go. So we can trust the circle of life, again.

Until the next season.

“You have to feel it to heal it.”Our culture teaches us, and especially burdens our menfolk, with the notion that vulnerability makes us weak. I realize that this is hogwash… but… I still find myself ashamed of my deepest feelings, even though I feel stronger after I’ve acknowledged them. Even though they make me the most real. They deepen my compassion. Our common humanity. They open us up and pull us together, where we belong. As one.

 Cherry Tree Spence

My oldest sitting in our Cherry tree

I’m such a sapling.

Fortunately, I’ve had a loving Mom who knew the truth about feelings. But even with her gentle encouragement over the years to “have a good cry,” I still resist. And then a few days ago, Grandma Cherry dropped a limb right near my youngest son and his friend. And the dam broke.

“It’s time,” Grandma seemed to say, “to let go. Of the sadness you’ve been stuffing. Let it be.”

%22Everything happens for you, not to you.Byron Katie

 

I walk toward our three towering Mama Maples, who solemnly bear witness with me, bowing to Grandma. We watch her from afar, as if we might catch a glimpse of some holy spirit leaving us. As if the quiet would give up her secrets.

I remember the mourning dove pair that perches together on her high curves, and the crow clan that loves to gab and laugh up there. I return to these natural joys, often, when the world seems off it’s nut.

I wipe away the last of my tears. I hope my neighbors aren’t watching :)

Then I picture, said neighbors, joining me, without judgment or shame, to circle around Grandma, around the confounding mysteries, around the people and the things we love so fiercely. Around the life that can no longer be. Around the Greater Love that will always be.

I imagine the earth’s light coming up through our feet. Lifting us. The world. Higher – above the pain and the losses, to the joy beyond them all.

I thank the lilacs that once loved us, trees that breathe us alive, kids that teach us, a world that needs us, and Dad’s and weeping Cherry’s that leave us… better than we were before.

 I have watched the trees when they pray

click on the pic to read the poem :)

WHEN I AM AMONG TREES

by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often. Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches. And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wishing you
green, green meadows,
cooling shade,
summer fun,
and wide open sky…
~Julie

Signs from Dad: Finding Blessings in the Broken Places

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%22To these memories I will hold. I bid you all a very fond farewell. Billy BoydI’ve been wanting to write to you about my Dad ever since he slipped into the great beyond last year. Sitting here at the keyboard, biting my lip, I’m intimidated and perplexed as to how to tackle something so big. A whole lifetime. A sudden loss.

I’m worried my words won’t do him justice. My feelings are too fumbled. I keep rereading my straggly sentences – and deleting. Grief is such an uncharted journey. What I thought I understood about saying goodbye, pales in comparison to the reality. The questions. The unknown.

So I hang on to the signs.

The morning after Dad died, feeling shocked and heartbroken, I asked him to please send a sign that he was watching over Mom – that his spirit was alive and well. That we’d all be ok.

As I sent the prayer, I pushed the backdoor open to let our dog out, and there was sudden thunderous honking from a long V of Canadian geese! They were flying very low, the lead goose cresting right over our home – I flinched in surprise, but my heart hit the sky! I cried and I laughed – it felt jubilant! Triumphant! Holy! Dad’s answer was swift, certain and celebratory – a lot like he was. Is. A free bird!

%22We go to the grave saying, ‘A man is dead,’ but angels throng about him saying, ‘A man is born’.Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian geese are residents at my favorite pond, and after years of taking personal days there, to sit, write and just be, they feel like friends.

Julie & geese Hedden copy

That’s me and my winged friends at the pond :)

Last year, we even untangled a little gosling caught in fishing line. So on that bleak morning, a raucous and victorious V was the perfect messenger :)

In fact, Dad kind of reminds me of those geese. They can be bold and fierce – they’re not afraid to stand up for themselves or their goslings. They’re protective and proud parents (who are known to be black and white.) They hail from Canada where my mom’s family, and now all our families, have a very special summer cottage.

Since the first day without Dad, and that striking sign, I continue to ask for God’s reassurance that Dad hasn’t really left our lives. And Dad never disappoints. When I’ve asked, he has landed a flaming red dragonfly on my finger, sent sand dollars in ocean waves, perched a hawk right outside my window, and drawn a rainbow hawk in the clouds. (When I was a girl, his name in our Indian Princess tribe was “Thunder Hawk.”)

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. ~Tagore

%22fire rainbow hawk

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks ago, I had four blissful days to myself while cat-sitting at a friend’s. The morning I was leaving, I happened to read a post from Karen Noe’s newsletter ~ she recommended asking our loved ones for *without a doubt* signs that they are still with us.

So as I drove over to kitty-sit, I asked Dad for just that. Later in the day, I walked out into my friend’s beautiful backyard and noticed the woodpile. I thought Dad might send a chipmunk, which I adore. Although I don’t see them that often, I then dismissed them as too common to be *indisputable.*

But as I continued to walk, a chipmunk did pop up by the house… and then ran straight at me! I froze in place half wondering if a shy chippy would zip right over for a cuddle. It came within five feet. Wow. As it ducked under the shed, I laughed to myself… but not so sure that this was my sign.

Within a minute, something caught my eye in a nearby birch tree. I don’t know why I noticed it, really – the soft blush color was well hidden amidst the white and gray. As I walked closer, though, I saw her – the sweetest baby robin seamlessly camouflaged in the birch! See her? So precious, she melted my heart. The fuzzy white tuffs of new feathers were softly blowing in the breeze. Awwwwww! (You can see a quick video of her here, close-up! Sorry the video is sideways, I was too excited to realize!)

baby robin camouflaged

beautifully camouflaged baby robin :)

This is Dad’s work! He knows I’m a sucker for nature’s babies! I marveled and cooed and appreciated and photographed that adorable little robin.

As I turned to walk away, thrilled in my treasured discovery, a shadow from above caused me to look up, and there it was: a majestic great blue heron sailing across the sky! Another one of my heroines from my favorite pond. I could just imagine Dad cheering and laughing along with me!

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. Shakespeare

An old photo of my boys watching a V of geese!

Dad knows what I love, and from his heavenly place of camouflage, he speaks fluent heron, chipmunk & baby bird. He hit a loving triple play that afternoon, speaking *indisputably* to my soul.

Keep ‘em coming, Dad. I love you so much.

%22For all that has been - thanks! To all that shall be - yes! Dag Hammarskjold

wishing you victorious signs, comfort, and lotsa love, 

Julie signature copy

P.S. I wanted to invite you to a free online summit called,

The Intuitive Child, Nurturing The Inner Wisdom Within

❤  The Intuitive Child is hosted by my wonderful colleague, Abby Gooch, the founder of Life Force Connection. She’s a talented intuitive coach who helps her clients listen to, trust and act on the guidance their intuition provides.

I’ll be one of the 21+ speakers, so I hope you can join us! I’m looking forward to listening to all the interviews myself :)  Please register here. ❤ 

%22how fortunate are you and I who’s home is timelessness we who have wandered down.e.e.cummings

The Queen of Autumn: Leaf Piles and Present Moment Magic

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How beautifully leaves grow old(Originally posted at my Huffington Post Blog in 2011!)

As my neighbors grumble about the leaves covering their lawn, my boys wait wide-eyed, with mighty rakes in their hands. The time is here; our delicate Japanese maple has finally shed enough of her red robe for a ginormous leaf pile.

Our maple stands on duty, everyday, a quiet nanny to a neighborhood of fast friends. She stoops down low for even the smallest of sneakers to scale and reaches high enough for the bigger kids to walk on air.

As the seasons move past, dependable and reassuring, she’s alive in our photos: summer kids dangling like earrings from her limbs, green leaf stew at her feet. There are winter snowmen around her waist and a count down to Christmas in her ears.

But her infamous time of year is Now, when ruby-red leaves dance and drop from her skies. The dogwood nearby offers a generous contribution and the old oak by the street throws in her golden leaves. But no one is fooled. We all know who is really Queen of Autumn.

autumn maple n snow

Our autumn maple in an early snowfall, 2011

“We can rake now, right Mom?” my ten-year-old asks as he watches a squirrel tight rope through our bare maple. “Yup we definitely have enough leaves,” I answer, as he breaks for the garage. “C’mon Ky, let’s get the rakes!” My six-year-old scurries behind him, a bagel in hand, no shoes on his feet.

I grab my camera and step out front. Long rake handles appear first, bobbing above our front bushes, taller than both boys combined. As the work begins, our maple occasionally catches their hair in her branches or snags the wooden handles. Nothing inconveniences the boys, though, as they move with purpose and enthusiasm. Spencer tugs at the glorious crimson carpet, sweat beading on his forehead, as our maple exhales oxygen and inhales CO2 in a beautiful exchange.

From across the street, our twin nine-year-old neighbors, Manuela and Thomas, spot the fun and rush to join the leaf brigade. Thomas refuels the effort where Ky has petered out. “We can make a pile as high as the house!” he yells with glee. Spencer’s tired rake is reluctantly passed off to Manuela, who moves with invigorating new purpose. A monstrous pile is built.

autumn 1

Can you find all three faces…

My maple and I smile with motherly pride. Appreciating the present moment, I remember where peace and joy resides. “I jump first!” Spence yells. “Second!” Ky pipes in. “Third!” “Fourth!” Thomas and Manuela add. Our eight-year-old neighbor Danny suddenly runs into the yard yelling, “Fifth!”

I balance my smiling camera as Bill comes to enjoy the spectacle. Like our maple, the kids stand ready for the joy ahead, for snuggling in next year’s shade, for the long upward climb into adulthood.

We watch as Spence backs way up to begin his debut run. He takes off with a bang and then, with an enormous leap and a giggly shout, he dives head first into the autumn womb.

“Laughing is jogging on the inside

With laughter spilling around like sunshine, I feel reconnected with it all. The smell, the crunch, the gratitude for a world breathing in and out. I have the boys to thank. They won’t let their childhood pass us by too quickly. At least not today.

Soon our maple will be hailing the holidays, branches lined with elegant white snow. Although I may get distracted by the busyness, scurrying to get it all done,  I can count on our maple to etch our lives in peace.

In the years ahead, as our sons find new joy and work in this world, Bill and I want to be there with them, celebrating each new season of their lives. All the while we’ll remember the days of autumn leaf piles when friends and family (and an elegant Japanese maple) were there to steady our souls.

Be like a tree, let the dead leaves drop. .....~Rumi

“Everything I let go of has claw marks on it.Anne Lamott

Let it go,

let it be,

for love,

XO

Julie

How Will I spend My Heart Today? On BS or Mindfulness?

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Hiya Radiant Renegade,

How do you feel about really truly deeply being seen? Including your insecurities, shadows & secret darkness? I had an enlightening run-in with some of my old BS just last week.

As I’m basking in the quiet of my favorite park, writing by this very peeeaceful pond (in the photo), a noisy group sauntered into my sanctuary and plopped down in the shade behind me.

Ugh.

I continue writing, trying to ignore the prickly feeling of eyes and action behind me. One dude is particularly loud. Generally, I love listening to other languages – I have this excited feeling that I understand what’s being said, even when I don’t. But today, his foreign tongue is like a jackhammer and he seems to be the only one carrying the conversation.

I ask my angels if they’d help !@#$ quiet him. Oh wait. Trying to change him is a disempowering focus. Instead, I need to shift my own intention and response. It feels better to say, Thank you angels, in advance, for helping me tune out the distraction.

Soon enough I notice a tremendous turtle sunbathing on a rock. Some swallows are swooping and playing in the air. A goldfinch flies past. Colorful dragonflies are whisking all around. Ducks and geese are feeding nearby in their funny bottoms-up way. Earlier, a small snake had swam seamlessly through the sunlit water.

While marveling at this wide-eyed world, I forget my cares and remember what matters.

And I’ve been able to ignore, somewhat, the incessant talker, who is still rattling away. My goodness.

It’s getting too warm sitting in the sun and I want to gather up my books, beach chair and snacks and waddle over into the shade, about twenty feet away. But I hesitate. I fear the roving eyes behind me. Oooph.

My residual BS has bubbled up – the old Belief System that fears my dwarfism & I will be judged, rejected, humiliated. I shake my head. Why do I care what they think? What will they do, throw stones? Tomatoes? Call me ugly? Laugh? WHO CARES!

Apparently, I still do.

I take some deep breaths, relax and prepare myself to stand up and BE SEEN. Go ahead Jule, they can’t hurt you. You are free to be yourself in this world. This is a great opportunity to bust through the BS. Reclaim the joy.

I awkwardly stand and . . . you know what?

The chatterbox shuts right up.

Hee hee.

By facing my fear, I get my wish ~ his mouth is firmly muzzled. (My inner BS was speechless, too.)

In the past, I’ve dreaded that hushed reaction to me. The shocked looks. Today, the quiet is my reward.

I grab my gear and shuffle into the shade, chuckling to myself. I am an anti-gab Goddess. A shift in perspective is everyone’s super soul power, available anywhere, anytime.

I sit back down and put my notebook on my lap. Suddenly a white-tailed dragonfly (I Googled it) lands on my writing. I watch in surprise as her tiny velvety body breathes. It isn’t a quick flutter – her whole body expands slowly and then contracts. Wow!

Then I realize her fabulous domino looking wings are perfectly covering just one sentence. I’d written it in the upper corner of my page this morning~

“How will I spend my heart today?”

Will I give away my joy because of other people’s reaction? Or will I stand up and be who I am, in peace (or flat out enthusiasm.)

Will I focus on an argument with an old friend/partner/sibling/kids? Or will I send them love bombs and release thoughts of right or wrong.

Will I try to control the outcome of some ‘uncomfortable’ circumstances? Or will I breathe deeply, expand my heart, my love and my willingness to grow.

Will I judge what’s ugly in me/them/the world? Or will I search for what’s beautiful around me and within me.

Will I spend my heart on self-doubt? Worry? Criticism? Shrink away from my challenges?

Or will I trust life to unfold in spectacular ways.

The dragonfly’s work has dominoed and is done. She lifts off the page, hovers for a moment and then zips toward the open water, taking some of my black and white BS with her.

How will you spend your heart today?

Let me know in the comments, I loooove hearing from you : )

You'll never rise any higher than the way you see yourself

I see you, 

with lotsa love~

Julie 

 

Mama Maples – Finding Peace Amidst the Fast Pace

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Three gentle giants wait for me in the backyard. Eighty feet tall or so, my magical maples watch over our home, guard our dreams. They stand in a curved row, committed back-up singers, ready to harmonize with those who’ll listen.

Daily, I feel them calling me away from the computer, out of the rush, past my worries. Humming, encouraging, being. They know when I’ve forgotten to breathe again. Meditation has fallen away this week, as I push for more book promotion, more people to contact, more life to live. I’ve been captured by the pulse of perfectionism.

I search for what’s missing in my post-its, my emails, on my to-do list. I’ve forgotten that joy and gratitude are productive companions. The kids call, the laundry moans, and the phone screams my name. I plug my ears. I can’t hear myself over all the questions. So I answer the maples.

I step out the backdoor and we sigh in unison. They are the quietest of teachers and it is their peace I seek. “There you are,” they whisper sweetly. “Come sit down with the dandelions.” The lawn chair scoops me up and I rest in it’s arms. I stare at the maples, waiting.

In the front yard, someone is crying. Drat. I get up, unlatch the gate and walk away from my sanctuary, knowing I may never return today. Down our drive, I spot the two five-year-old friends facing each other. I check my son Kyler’s face, but the hurt isn’t his. I switch to our neighbor, Jeremiah. His mouth is wide and wailing. Both boys are sitting on the sidewalk, scooters flung to the side.

Just as I’m about to call to them, I see Kyler raise his finger and gently, lovingly, touch Jeremiah’s nose. I catch my breath. A tiny giggle spurts out of Jeremiah, defying his tears. Ky blesses his friend’s nose again, light as tinker bell. They both giggle more. I back away quickly, not wanting to disturb the vision, the sweet sharing, the love being passed on. I walk back to my place in the sun with a heart open wider.

As I sit back among the maples, I remember an email I must return. My busy train chugs out of the station when I hear a firm and penetrating, shhhhhhhhhhhhhh. My body freezes. My mind dumps it’s contents. Did anyone hear that? But no one is there. The maples are definitely addressing me. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Whoa, there it is again. They are swaying inside their own message. They are perfect in their tone and their lullaby. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh they coo, as their leaves wave and laugh. The sky is rocked clean in their easy, soft spell. My smile sails across the yard.

I hear the clank of the gate unlatching and I turn to tell the intruder that I need time alone. But before I can, Ky asks brightly, “Mommy, wanna a piece a gum?” My smile surprises me. “Sure,” I answer. “Jeremiah had to go home,” he reports, as he hands me a soft piece of Bubble Yum. We unwrap the pink puff and eat our gum together, in silence. Kyler rests so naturally, cross legged in his chair. His breathing is free, his spirit, whole. The maples say shhhhhhhhhhh one more time and I remember what I’ve forgotten. I close my eyes. The magic sits before me, within me, like a wide-eyed child. My son, and the mama maples, have settled the breezes inside me, again.