Honoring the Henslow Sparrow, Saving Ourselves

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It’s almost autumn in Western New York and the bees and other pollinators are very busy nectaring and gathering pollen from my backyard. Today I walked around and began taking photos again of special moments admiring what I had created. I needed something to inspire me and lift my spirits. This summer has been extremely challenging mentally, physically and emotionally. A sign of the times I suppose, but also of choices I had made. All around the world there is chaos and the friends and acquaintances I once had, have been slowly drifting away year after year.

Everyone is busy with the challenges presenting in their own lives and they are many on a daily basis. I finally realized these relationships have also run their course within mine. The resonance is no longer there. What brought us once together has apparently come to completion. I am also no longer the person I once was. My perspective on life has changed immensely from what it once was, but perhaps more accurately— to what it had always been. My relationship with Nature had in fact deepened, as had my own inner knowing of my self. I could no longer pretend or lie to myself. It simply would not work. A myriad of things would fall in my path to remind me whether via my dreams, pain in my body or syncronicities within Nature or with humans.

My life has never been a straight trajectory nor has my career. I have been searching for greater meaning in my life for as long as I can remember, always curious and needing to learn and understand or challenge myself; endlessly searching for something. I know now it was greater intimacy with myself and all of Nature. I realize now that my path has been filled with a myriad of choices that always led me to my intended destination despite sometimes looking back and thinking how could I have chosen that? Years of insights, synchronicities and quiet reflection piecing together my choices has been the only way to make sense of it all— a pathway defined by my soul’s infinite wisdom yet never random. Of that, I am certain.

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There is no going backward I found. We can only learn from the past, I realized after attempting to contact some people who had crossed my path years ago. I had been trying to gain some clarity once again, but the answers were not in the past but in the present. What did I want to create now and what did I want to attract into my life? Part of navigating our soul’s journey is becoming clear about our desires and yet paying attention to our heart and our body’s inner promptings. These are questions we are all facing during these times of uncertainty when each day presents something new to navigate. I’ve come to realize that forcing something to happen or denying your own feelings, is no longer allowed. It simply does not work when you’ve been on a spiritual path for as long as I have.

My home and my land have been one of my greatest challenges and I continue to reflect on my experiences, despite my absence from writing for quite some time. Today I knew I needed to write so here I am again, writing about what I have learned because it applies to the world at large and the immense environmental destruction and climate change that is currently taking place. It breaks my heart each and every day so much so, that some days I sit and weep and other days I immerse myself in the aliveness of my property to remind myself of what I have done and accomplished in a span of just over 9 years. It is my land that gives me solace each and every day now and reminds me not to give up or give in to the doom and gloom that currently pervades our society. These feelings of grief that some days are so heavily immersed in darkness and despair find a way through and out amidst the bees, wasps and hummingbirds upon my landscape.

Repeatedly in their present moment beingness, razor focus and love affair with the flowers, I am once again reminded that our beautiful planet and all things upon it can come back to their original state of aliveness, beauty and grace. Perhaps that is exactly our task in this century— to restore what once was to a pristine state of beauty and perfection upon this beloved planet we are privileged to call our home. In doing so, we also come back to ourselves and heal our own wounds often going back generations. That has been my personal journey upon this suburban landscape I have come to love and cherish despite the frustrations it has presented repeatedly.

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Each time I have been asked to dig deeper into the depths of my own soul as I continued to learn and read the signs. Our Earth Mother is asking all of us to reconnect to her. To ignore her promptings, is to do so at your own peril for she is far more powerful than any human gathering or corporation seeking to rape and abuse her for profit, greed and power. I realize now it is only the insecure and abused who seek to control her, those who have lost their way— their connection to their ancestral roots, to the cosmos and this amazingly magical life sustaining blue green planet and the cycles of Nature inherent in all of us.

It was yesterday that I had a conversation with a friend regarding his concern over the recent development of land in my suburban neighborhood that happens to be down the street from me. It was a subject of concern for many years due to the existence of a threatened species, the Henslow sparrow that had been found nesting on the open meadows of surrounding wetland. The land had been slated for development of yet another housing project. After a moratorium on building for years due to concerns over this tiny songbird, sadly in 2019 ‘progress’ ultimately won. This spring a developer commenced with his plans and the project went forth. It would appear that somehow the town of Lancaster and the DEC gave in. I’m sure some form of reasoning was given in public and secret conversations.

It’s the way it has continued to be in my town that has a history of overdevelopment of wetlands and creation of retention ponds which divert the underground water in an unhealthy and unsustainable way that inevitably creates more problems over time for the community. I am one of many residents with issues of wet land that becomes swampy after the winter snow starts to melt. The difference is, unlike many residents in my area, I have been concerned with environmental issues since the 90s when I began volunteering for a local wildlife center, so I began approaching things in a creative way listening to what the land needed bringing sacredness back to a wounded and stripped landscape.

So today when I searched the internet for that article about the Henslow sparrow controversy that appeared in The Buffalo News so many years ago around the time we first moved to this street, I was surprised to find that it had disappeared from the internet and the links to all references were broken. Luckily I still have a copy of the original newspaper article in my files. I hardly found the disappearance a coincidence, but I did find a reference to this entire topic of flight paths of birds, overdevelopment and the Lancaster Henslow sparrow issue written in a book which stated “The thought is if this field goes away, then they’re (Henslow sparrow) done in Lancaster; that’s it.” I’d like to believe that these rare songbirds just came down the street to my meadow gardens, but I have yet to identify them amidst the myriad of songbirds my revitalized property now supports. Perhaps one day soon I will. I will not give up hope and I now honor that tiny songbird in this writing for your story has not gone unnoticed.

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Even though I maintain my license with the DEC to rehabilitate wildlife, I now focus more on establishing habitat for wildlife and supporting pollinators, rather than fixing broken animals or raising orphans. Nevertheless, the topic of diminishing habitat for all life forms remains dear to my heart. That is why I have done everything I can to support the honeybees and many other pollinators that now find sanctuary on my property. As I have rewilded my land and created a healthy, sustainable landscape to mitigate the problems that overdevelopment have created in my neighborhood, I have also gained greater clarity in my own life about my personal boundaries and what I will and will not accept from others. Wetland development is after all, a topic that we all should be concerned about now and in the coming years given the changes in climate that are being experienced all around the globe. Where will the development end and when will it be enough? In forthcoming writings I will discuss many of the things that I have experienced in an area that still hasn’t learned from past mistakes. It’s time to wake up and the time is now.

Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.

2019 Copyright Awen Environments. All rights reserved.

I am Willow: a Piece of Hope

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When I first thought to write this story I was full of anger and anguish. About 8 days have gone by and I feel somewhat differently about everything. So much had coincided with my experience this past week, that at times I felt overwhelmed, with little hope for the future of this planet. The recent tragic loss of so much life in the Greek village of Mati near Athens, accompanied by raging wildfires throughout California and other parts of the world grieved me immensely. All I could see was destruction, along with my own recent personal experience that left me in tears and triggered the onset of immense sadness and overwhelm at the state of the world. And yet, I'm sure there were miracles that occurred in Greece, like the story of this little dog that survived against incredible odds. This is my story about Willow.

I grew up alongside a tributary of Cayuga Creek where the waters sometimes reached the level of our home and occasionally flooded our basement. One summer we had left for Germany to visit my grandparents and other family, only to return to a basement flooded with water with many possessions lost. The tributary ran behind our house that had been built in the 1950's. My father had painstakingly planted most of the trees and shrubs that grew on our property. In the backyard was a Willow that I often climbed or played under with my cats. When my parents sold that house, the new owner eventually cut down all the trees and hedges that had given privacy, shade and beauty. At the time, I didn't realize the significance of Willow in my life nor all that tree had been doing to absorb water from a development that had likely been built way too close to wetland. Willow would continue to play a significant role in my life.

When I moved to my current home, the remnants of a Willow tree that had once stood tall lay in a heap next to a wooded area of the property. The tree had been struck by lightning during a storm and its stump later burnt to the ground. I wrote a story of my experiences in The Renewal of Willow. It wasn't until many years went by that I realized the immense need for this Willow tree and her water absorbing/purifying qualities due to the many problems I experienced with the land, which held an underground spring, if not several. I planted many trees to replace her like Sycamore, various smaller trees of the Willow family, as well as numerous gardens, while existing trees matured and meadows were allowed to develop. However, Willow's power and ability to transform were undeniable. The land was former wetland located in a town that had overdeveloped its floodplain areas and often allowed developments or redirected water where it should not have.

In this same town where I now live is a beautiful park that has been undergoing immense transition over the 8 years since we moved here. Many of the older Pines, Firs and other trees have been lost to insects and/or disease or are currently weak, yet many new trees continue to be planted year after year by the park's crew. Many of them most likely I will never see mature for various reasons. The park is full of wildlife. Last year an old Willow tree had fallen over due to strong winds and storm that have been becoming more and more frequent in our area. I was happy this spring when the Willow still lay where she had fallen. No doubt management of the park knew her ability to renew and had left most of her trunk intact with only the branches taken away. 

Last week while walking in the park with my dogs, a Red Tailed Hawk drew my attention. It seemed to have prey in its mouth and flew to where this Willow had fallen. It was an area I had not walked in a while. Much to my delight, the Willow had renewed herself and was now a fountain of bright green cascading branches. My heart swelled to see how beautiful she was though now just probably about 6' tall, a fraction of what she once was. The Hawk sat on her torn up roots, a perfect place to eat his mouse meal and survey his hunting territory. As he flew away, I walked up to the Willow to get a closer look and caress her shining, light-filled leaves. I was happy. She gave me hope that even though something terrible could happen amidst a natural disaster, the power of restoration is always there as long as Nature is allowed to be.

Willow has long been seen as a tree of healing due to  her inherent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties found in today's aspirin. She is also associated with magic, poetry, and music. The goddess Persephone, whose story is one of rebirth after descending into the darkness of the bowels of the Earth, is associated with Willow trees. As time goes on, I realize more and more why I relate so much to this tree and what she has taught me throughout my life, which has followed a path that was never straight and narrow, but ever winding in sinuous ways into the unknown.

"Willows are water loving, and water is an archetypal symbol of the feminine energies of birth, creativity, intuition and the moon. Willow is a magical and healing tree."-- Ted Andrews, Nature-Speak

Three days after visiting Willow, I was walking late in the park. It was almost dark as I stopped to talk with one of the park caretakers that I have become friends with. I took this opportunity to tell him about my experience with the Willow and the Hawk. He hesitated with his response and asked "which Willow?" I replied "the one not too far from here." With sadness, he replied that the Willow had been cut up and grounded that very morning. He had not been there and his supervisor had given the orders to other workers. I could not believe his words. How could they? It was obvious this tree had survived and had still been very much alive. I had just seen its display of vitality the other day. What were the chances of all this happening in a matter of days?

His reply suggested that this tree may not have been part of the 'master plan' and yet he even added "a master plan is what you make it". It was clear this tree had not fit the criteria of ecology management in the park. The Willow's rebirth had not fit into that square box that so often is held by park management and institutions. Given the flooding problems the park had experienced during torrential downpours in recent years, it seemed a huge mistake to me to kill this Willow. Such a water loving tree was at home in this park when so many others were dying or struggling because they could not handle the land and water energies in the park where nearby Cayuga Creek had been dammed and partially redirected.

I thought in anger, how very typical of the male dominated world, where the feminine power is so often intentionally suppressed, controlled or destroyed. The power to heal is contained within all humans, but even more so in the feminine energy that gives birth to all life. Here had been a perfect example of this sacred tree's ability to heal and renew herself, and despite her obvious demonstration, her life had been snuffed out by men who were just following orders from another man without questioning their validity or appropriateness.

In the dark I walked over to where that green fountain of light had once sprung and that night I grieved immensely for that enduring tree that had just a few days ago given me such delight. I was so angry at the ignorance of man and a supervisor's decision to snuff out the light of this miraculous tree that is known for her regenerative abilities. The following day I took my dogs and walked over to where the Willow once was. There was no Hawk. There was only mulch where the green cascading branches once stood. I looked amidst the rubble for branches but there seemed to be none. Of all the times for workers to be meticulous! But there, amidst the ground up remains of Willow, was one tiny branch that had not been carried off. It had so little life left in it but I carried it off anyway and continued on my walk.

A mature Willow (not the ones in this story)

A mature Willow (not the ones in this story)

I had little hope of this branch sprouting, but I put the sprig in a glass of water to see if it would root. Willow is a tree that has the unique ability to sprout roots simply by placing a branch in the ground. The daughter of the Willow tree that once stood on my land, lives on a neighboring property now tall and grand. My neighbor a few doors down, once told me he loves trees and years ago had taken a small branch and placed it in the ground on his property. Now its grace and majestic branches provide shade and water absorption for his land memorializing the Willow that once stood here.

Today is Lammas or Lughnassadh, the day of celebration for the first grain harvest- a day of giving thanks for abundance, practiced for centuries by English-speaking and Celtic traditions. As I looked at my tiny Willow sprig in the jar this morning, I couldn't think of anything more appropriate than a miraculous display of enduring life in front of me. Much to my surprise, tiny nodules had appeared where new roots were growing and there were two new sprouts of leaves. The sight of this new growth gave me a moment of joy. A seemingly insignificant thing many would say, but Nature has always spoken to me in symbolism via tiny details or little things that happen on my path. I am grateful for this tiny message received today. Perhaps I will be a majestic tree once more, this surviving branch says to me. I am Willow...

Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.

Copyright 2018 Clarissa Harison/Awen Environments. All rights reserved.

The Light that is You

I found this to be such an inspirational poem I ran across recently. To me it speaks volumes of how we each have a role to play in this ever evolving world.

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world
All things break.
And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say,
But with intention.
So go.
Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness
For the Light that is You.
— L. R. Knost

Clearing Clutter for New Dreams

Clutter never used to be an issue for me. I am extremely organized by nature and very methodical in how I work. Nevertheless, the birth of my son, years of challenge and transformation and ultimately the death of my parents put a new spin on things. I found myself having difficulties throwing things away or even donating. Once you recognize that everything that exists on this planet has energy and memory, you begin to look at things differently and the detachment that once existed changes.

I know there are numerous methods to clear clutter and organize one's home but how many of these methods actually address the issue of our throw away society and materialism on this planet? How many address the underlying reason why we find ourselves with clutter in the first place? How many experts really address the need to respect and honor those things that we treasure or hold on to without explanation? It is true that we cannot take material things with us into the afterlife, but what about cherishing and finding better use for the things that we have?

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As someone well versed in the energy of space, I found myself really questioning the foundations for the principles that I have learned. I realize I'm somewhere in the middle with regard to creating a free flowing organized home and surrounding myself with things that I love and recognize for their potential use. How do we surround ourselves with that which we love and yet honor all that which has come into our life and not contribute to more debris in dumpsites? How do we find value in something that someone has toiled hard on and yet received little or no pay nor gratitude for? How do we bring the sacred into everything that we surround our self with and minimize the consumerism and materialism that is rampant in our society?

My parents taught me to take care of the quality things which they purchased. Both of them repaired and reused countless objects in a myriad of ways. My father had been born into affluence that suddenly one day was taken away from his family amidst devastating political upheaval in his country and my mother had experienced the loss of her home, loved ones and belongings due to war. You cherish and learn to be grateful for what you have with memories like that. Since my parents have passed, I find it difficult to let go of things they held dear because it is a connection to the memories of my childhood and to them, as well as my ancestors. I simply cannot discard their belongings so easily. Given what I now know, how do you integrate these things and yet streamline your home so that it is most efficient, organized and the energy flows freely? This is a topic that I need to make peace with.

I just finished reading Marie Kondo's little jewel of a book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" and I've been inspired. Although I find some of her methods a bit too drastic and difficult for me to follow all at once as she suggests, I nevertheless agree with her philosophy that you should only surround yourself with things that you love. Marie sees the sacred purpose in each and every object and believes that objects love to be loved. Neglect is is a big energy drainer for objects in your home. The more you love something, the more that love is reflected back to you and energizes you. Picking up each and every item in your home and deciding whether you love it or find it to be useful, is the foundation for her approach and something I learned from a teacher many years ago. Marie reminded me of how important this key philosophy is in creating a home that is sacred and supportive.

So I've begun to apply some of her organizing principles to my own home and I've already noticed the difference. By organizing my dresser drawers for instance, in a way that I can visually see everything in it, as opposed to stacking, it is so much more functional and visually appealing. It is amazing how different it makes me feel when I get ready. Just this new approach has inspired me to continue working my way through my books and the rest of my home. I know that I have a huge task ahead of me, but if just small changes can make such a difference in how I feel, imagine how completing an entire home will affect my mindset. 

 Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.

2018 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

Mourning Dove in the Dark

Mourning Dove in the Light, Cliffs of Lima, Peru

Mourning Dove in the Light, Cliffs of Lima, Peru

It had been a day of syncronicities and usually when more than one occurs, there's a strong message there for me. This was one of those days. That morning my hibiscus plant had brought forth a beautiful flower bloom despite it being late autumn. The rich, orange color made me feel gratitude especially amidst the many gray days we had seen as winter approached. It had been a great start to the day for me. Later while driving home, I had also seen a Buck in the distance frantically searching for a safe place amidst the traffic and chaos of the road. His appearance, once again, a special symbolic moment.

That evening I had walked with my dogs amidst a starlit night sky. Despite the cold and darkness, I was determined to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise after a long day of work adjusting to a new environment that had drained me energetically. I could clearly see the Pleiades, as well as Jupiter and Venus that had paired in a recent conjunction. The two planets were still close to each other shining brightly. Somehow it all felt magical as I thought I might even see a falling star that night. Something felt like it was in the air.

I had recently had a vivid dream in which I was sitting beneath a star filled night sky where many meteor showers were displayed. The stars kept falling from the sky. In that same dream, a flock of Falcons also appeared during the night. The symbolism of the contradiction still eluded me since Falcons do not fly in flocks nor do they appear at night. They are day birds of prey. I felt the dream was perhaps a premonition of powerful energies descending upon the Earth, though the symbolism could be viewed in many ways. As time passes, I usually understand the metaphors. As always, I just needed to be patient until the symbolism revealed itself in my life.

Source: Sheila Sellers Images

Source: Sheila Sellers Images

This night I was to once again, have a day bird appear to me in the night. This time it was in the real world and not in my dreams. As my dogs and I continued walking, I suddenly stopped and looked down on the ground with my flashlight and there was a Mourning Dove sitting motionless in the dark on the asphalt paved path away from any protective trees or shrubs. I shined my flashlight on her for quite a while so surprised to see her. I thought she must be injured because this was highly unusual behavior. As I began to take off my gloves, she must have sensed I was about to pick her up and she suddenly flew away. The moment left me in awe with such a feeling of mysticism. This songbird who usually seeks shelter away from predators, had caught my attention underneath the stars.

I went home and continued reading Sue Monk Kidd's book When the Heart Waits wherein she discusses a spiritual turning point in her life and how sometimes you just have to be with your question, until the answer arrives. This advice had struck a chord with me due to the many unanswered questions currently in this world and in my own life. The words felt like very wise advice and they gave me peace as they resonated with my own inner knowing that all was well despite what things may seem in this moment. 

Source: Nancy Barrett Photography

Source: Nancy Barrett Photography

Mourning Doves have been very significant in my life. Their soft, peaceful cooing sound has always been soothing to me. They have usually been guideposts that something significant is about to happen. They have come to symbolize transition and new experiences for me. Many years ago while my son was very young, a Mourning Dove hit my windshield on the way to meet a client to consecrate the building of their new home on Seneca land. I will never forget that moment as the Dove died on impact. I was devastated and unnerved as I continued driving to what would be a challenging ceremony. At the same time I also knew that animals often transition to spirit to be your ally. I had been told by a Native American teacher that in her tribal beliefs, it is called "a giveaway". Not surprisingly that day was to be a turning point in my career as I began focusing on ceremonial shamanic work clearing memories and healing the homes and land of clients.

Sometimes it is in their passing that these doves have crossed my path, but never have they appeared at night time. Throughout the years Mourning Dove has appeared on special occasions when changes were occurring in my life, but usually it was just feathers scattered near my bird feeder and once, an injured dove whose wounds were too severe that I could not save. During the beginning of my pilgrimage throughout southern Peru a few years ago, Mourning Dove appeared again this time basking in the sunlight on the cliffs of Peru while I sat dining a few feet away. It wasn't until recently that I realized the significance at the beginning of a journey that would be quite arduous in terms of adjusting to the altitude and endless travel, as well as the shadow and illusion that I would encounter along the way. I know now that she came to reassure me that I was always surrounded by light, despite the tests of faith I would experience as a result of this trip.

Source: Unknown

Source: Unknown

This latest appearance of Mourning Dover under a star filled sky was immensely powerful to my psyche. I felt that because she appeared surrounded by darkness this time and I had needed to shine the light on her, there would be some type of reversal in my life. Not only had I encountered hardships and several disappointments as a result of my trip abroad, but I had also gone through a tremendous healing crisis shortly after my return to the US and had been through a very long and complex healing process. There had been great upheaval in my life as I struggled to come to terms with how my life was and how I would like it to be.

Mourning Dove appeared once more in December. This time it was on Christmas day. I saw her sitting outside my son's bedroom window during a very cold winter's day. I just happened to enter his room to put some things away and glanced outside. She gave me the feeling that all was well as she sat on a tree branch calmly puffed up for warmth amidst the freshly fallen snow. She gave me a sense of immense peace and hope that day.

Mourning Dove on Christmas Day.

Mourning Dove on Christmas Day.

I know now that Mourning Dove in the Dark came to tell me that my life would be changing and that now it is time to write my story on her behalf and this planet. Most of my life I think I have been in mourning for the loss of my true self and my inability to be authentic so early on in life, as well as all the chaos of so many years of learning to remember who I am. Now I grieve for this planet in so many ways, but more than ever I recognize the importance of being authentic in this world. The creatures of the Earth have been such a huge part of my path, always communicating their messages to me, even if I didn't always understand their meaning until much later.

Mourning Dove is a constant reminder to sing a new song for myself and this Earth-- one of wisdom, hope, creativity and peace.  Perhaps she is a more powerful ally than I could ever have imagined. Mourning Dove has come to mean so many things to me. A few days ago a pair of doves sat feeding beneath my Black Locust tree I had named Jupiter. I'd like to believe Mourning Dove has come to remind me of the magic of unexpected gifts and synchronicities when you least expect them. Jupiter is, after all, the planet of blessings. It falls in line with my dream...

Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.

2018 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

 

The Space Inbetween

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I'm in the space of inbetween-- deconstructing and learning from the past, while creating the vision for something new. It is not an easy place to be. It requires faith and an aspect of letting go which is sometimes difficult when nothing intended is manifesting in the material world-- just yet. I've been in this space before, but now I have so many more spiritual tools to work with now. I also have the knowledge and experience that the universe works in mysterious ways often bringing you something that is quite unexpected. I have seen this over and over in my life even with the best laid intentions. Sacred timing is the greatest part of this equation.

I spent a great deal of time at the end of last year getting clear about where I needed to focus my efforts. There were strong astrological aspects around the new year particularly in my own chart with a Saturn return in my 6th house that takes 29 years to reappear. It was the end of one cycle of my life and the beginning of a new one. It was clear that I needed to create a new foundation for my life and begin making plans. While walking in the woods one day, a Beaver had appeared in the unfrozen portion of the creek that runs alongside the woods.

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I was reminded of how industrious these creatures are and their power to transform a landscape tree by tree creating an entirely different environment as a result. I knew his appearance was a powerful message for me to take things one step at a time and know that something special was underway. Beaver had appeared earlier that summer with just a portion of his head visible gliding through the still waters. Now he was here again-- this time fully visible. Beaver reminded me that creating and transforming is, after all, what I do best.

There is a time to make plans and act, and a time to wait. Everything in the universe is a matter of timing. I need to just be still and allow this space of inbetween and unknowing to exist for a while. I need to be okay with it until I receive clear guidance. Winter is, after all, a time to rest and wait for the return of life and beauty to the barren landscape. Sometimes just being is the hardest part, but my voice has gone out to the winds and my intentions have been made clear. Now I just need to allow what I desire to reveal itself through the next step of my journey.

Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.

2018 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

Forging a New Path

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It had been almost a week since I had walked my regular path through the woods with my dogs. Due to extreme fluctuations in temperature that had turned a frozen landscape into rain and melting snow, I stayed away from the trail alongside the creek knowing it would be too mucky for my dogs. Within days it had snowed again and the frigid temperatures had returned so I knew it would be too icy. We had been walking the roads and paved areas of nearby parks during our daily walks.

Yesterday when I anticipated the path would be pretty much better to walk on, we found an unusual surprise when suddenly the footprints in the snow veered off in a totally different direction and then I saw why. Huge blocks of ice the size of boulders were strewn all over the landscape. During the high temperature days, the frozen creek that had subsequently flooded, had broken off large blocks of ice and carried them great distances over the floodplain and the footpath we always followed. The sheer magnitude of what I saw was incredible and in that moment I began to understand what people around the country must have experienced as similar weather patterns had flooded their towns.

I was once again reminded of the awesome power of Nature to control and transform a landscape in a matter of days. I was mesmerized as we continued walking the newly created path viewing all the ice boulders. Eventually this new path lead us to a ravine area where I suddenly realized I had become totally disoriented and no longer knew where we were despite, having walked this woodland park area for 7 years. It was a very disconcerting feeling as we continued on and came upon a slightly frozen area of a tributary that flowed into the creek. I began to feel unsafe as the dogs' feet broke through the ice and I realized I did not feel comfortable nor like where this path was going.

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After several moments of regaining my orientation within the park, I realized that the trail had taken us to a high point at the top of the ravine which looks down to the trail. I began to feel my confidence restored, but I also realized in that moment the symbolism of the obstacles that had been put on our path.  While obstacles can appear in our life at any time, in this instance, they had showed me how I easily I had been rerouted following someone else's footsteps. I also realized that I didn't like the path that I was on. Because I had followed someone else's choices and walked somewhat blindly into the wooded area off the trail I was familiar with, I eventually found myself in an area that could have become dangerous.

Had I forged my own path using my own inner guidance and knowledge of signposts and direction, I would have taken a different way. While the entire walk was relatively peaceful despite becoming temporarily disoriented, I was nevertheless reminded of how quickly we can follow someone else's lead when it is not necessarily the direction we need to take. A simple experience for me that proved to be an eye opening revelation through the forces of Nature.

Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.

2018 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison. 

Natural, Sacred and Wild

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Sometimes the state of the world seems overwhelming, but there is always inspiration to be found in our natural world. We are part of nature and nature is part of us. Many of us have forgotten that state of wonder and joy that we knew as children, that connection to the Earth and all things. but nature is always there for us ever renewing with the capacity to reawaken that which was lost.

Let the trees bathe your breath
Let the meadows embrace you
Let the mountains and bees remind you
Let the sky flood in and
Allow the clouds to guide you
Let your undoing be as total
As your becoming is beautiful
And when the living world
Has climbed inside enough
For you to feel
Four legs, scales and wings
May you finally know yourself
Alive as all things
Indivisible and responsible
Reborn into wholeness
Natural, sacred and wild.
— Clare Dubois, Founder of TreeSisters

The TreeSisters organization is doing amazing things to empower women (and men) to change their lives by becoming a restorer species through the revitalization of this planet. We all need to look beyond the chaos in this world and the needs of our everyday lives and begin envisioning a new future. How can we begin giving back to this planet which nurtures us and provides our every needs? How can we alter a future that seems bleak? If you seek inspiration and would like to get involved, visit www.TreeSisters.org or www.billiontrees.me for more information on restoring what once was and creating a new relationship with our beautiful planet. It just may change your life.

Persephone's Hive

A view of Hope's Garden, a naturalized garden filled with wildflowers that was once mowed lawn and former wetland where many trees were dying. In the distance, the former location of my hives behind my beekeeping gardening studio.

A view of Hope's Garden, a naturalized garden filled with wildflowers that was once mowed lawn and former wetland where many trees were dying. In the distance, the former location of my hives behind my beekeeping gardening studio.

My new hive of honeybees arrived in the middle of the night during the new moon in Libra. It had been a disappointing summer for me with my bees. The one hive that had remained from last year, after my stronger hive disappeared completely one day, had survived an unusually warm and wet winter. I was thrilled when I saw in the spring that they were still alive and active. However, as the warmer weather arrived and I opened the hive, I saw that it was all full of mold and that most of the bees had eventually died leaving only a a small group of loyal bees surrounding their Queen. I almost didn't see her as I opened the hive, but there she was having fallen to the ground. I named her Milagro, Spanish for miracle.

I carefully placed the enduring Queen in a new hive box with the remaining bees. The box had to be located right where the other one had been because otherwise the bees would not find the hive. I knew that I had made a mistake in placing this hive behind my studio shed given all the wetness in the hive and the loss of so many bees. Despite being elevated and insulated from the wet land where there was an underground spring, the dampness had permeated all parts of the hive. I had to find a new location but I couldn't move this hive to a sunnier area on my property. I had to leave that up to them.

I decided to place an empty hive box in a sunny area right in the center of a six-sided mandala garden I had originally created when we first moved to the property. Interestingly the six sides correspond to the shape of the honeycomb, something I wasn't really thinking about when I originally created it. Little did I know at the time that this garden would eventually surround one of my bee hives. Much to my surprise, my bees did eventually swarm to this empty box. I even saw the magic of that day as all the bees swarmed round and round the gardens above their new home. It was an incredible moment. A few days later, I saw a new Queen outside the hive box, something she only does when she mates. I knew the old Queen had died. It was both sad to know the Queen that had survived beyond all odds had passed shortly after taking one last flight of freedom (she remains almost her entire life inside the hive laying eggs) to arrive in her new home and yet it was also exciting to know a new one had been born.

Sadly, this new Queen and her bees only stayed a few weeks before they swarmed once again. It was that kind of year. It seemed the bees were searching for something. What it was, I may never know, but it seemed to reflect the uncertainty within my own life and the swirling of activities around the world, whether they were natural disasters or human caused activities.  Somehow I sensed that they were telling me a phase of my own life was coming to an end. The next few days I felt the terrible silence in my gardens. It became very noticeable as there seemed to be no bees of any kind anywhere on my property, not even bumblebees. I began to question whether some aerial spraying had been done somewhere. The fear began to set in as I began to feel that all these years of creating a wildlife sanctuary had been for nothing and that possibly something awful was happening in my area to make all the bees disappear.. 

My fear prompted a conversation with one of my shamanic teachers who suggested I communicate with the Spirit of the Land to determine what was going on. As a result I journeyed and did a subsequent offering to the land of fruits and granola to honor the Insect Kingdom. Almost immediately the next day a new swarm made her home in my empty box once again and the same day, a friend told me that he had also caught a swarm for me. The arrival of these new bees coincided with major flooding in our area of a nearby creek. My joy was to be short-lived, however, when a few days later this new swarm disappeared also and eventually my friend's swarm did too. That's when I began to give careful consideration to whether I would continue beekeeping at all. Nevertheless, I could not ignore how quickly the Insect Kingdom had responded to my communication and offering. Our co-creative relationship had been profoundly renewed.

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Eventually bumblebees and other wild bees returned but I still missed having a hive of my own but I saw how quickly I could move into fear and think the worst. I knew in my heart that despite what I might see around me, I needed to maintain my focus and trust all the work that I had done. My land had become a sanctuary for all lifeforms, a haven where wild bees could nectar endlessly and even wasps were respected. Despite what I might see temporarily, I needed to have faith in the natural world around me.

Some time had passed when my friend told me his nephew had caught another swarm for me, but I had mixed emotions. It was very late in the summer and the bees would not have much time to build their hive and store their honey. He mentioned that his nephew could continue feeding the bees and keep them over winter. Somehow this idea didn't sit right with me. I felt that either they should remain with his nephew or I should have them. It was shortly before the Autumn Equinox that I decided this new swarm should be here. After all, I had loads of late blooming flowers on my property that would help them and also some empty frames that still had honey on them. I would do my best to strengthen them and take the chance.

After the bees arrived one night, I stood before the hive as they fanned themselves from the heat of the trip. Several bees flew onto my clothes as I held the flashlight. They were sensing me and their new home, but then I became a bit nervous. One bee eventually found her way inside my sweatshirt sleeve and stung me. The sting, however, never produced a reaction in me, as though our energies were already aligned. I found their energy to be very gentle yet strong and somehow I sensed this new Queen and hive were already in resonance with me. I felt hopeful once more that they had arrived for a reason.

I named this new hive after the goddess of the underworld, Persephone. These bees had arrived late in the year and in the dark of night. They would spend much of their time inside the darkness of their hive before they experienced their first spring on my land. Persephone is the daughter of Demeter who was fated to spend part of her life in the underworld but in the spring she brings forth the flowering of the meadows. The archetype of this goddess is one I resonate with and somehow I felt these new bees represented the energy of rebirth on my land and in my life.

Several months have passed since Queen Persephone arrived. I have continued learning from these bees particularly about how to let go and just go with the flow. She has taught me about my own inner shadow and how quickly my thoughts can move to fear and worry. Several times this fear would creep up quickly as I became angry about mistakes I had made which occasionally caused the loss of some of my worker bees. Usually this coincided with other things that troubled my mind. I also worried the bees would have enough honey stores built up for the winter and whether they would survive.

So far we have had a very warm autumn and the bees have been out periodically. I have occasionally fed them raw honey and comb that I had left from my other hive. Feeding sugared water, as is commonly done, was not an option for me. The bees have always been grateful for the honey I have given them and as time went on, I realized that I had no control over whether they would survive. It was all up to them. I could only do my best. Those times where I made mistakes were learning lessons for me about the bees and working with my own emotions that surfaced. I know that all is well. Queen Persephone is yet another teacher and grace has fallen upon my land.

Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.

2017 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

 

 

The Allure of Sumac

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Staghorn Sumac is a tree that has intrigued me for many years, yet I knew relatively little about it. This year the brilliant display of its leaves triggered something in me that was very profound. I simply could not get enough of its brilliant reds and oranges as I walked my dogs along a local trail that I had recently been acquainting myself with. Since the trail runs east and west, along with some incredible sunsets, there has been such a brilliant display of reds, oranges and greens in recent weeks. The Staghorn Sumac has become a new friend amidst an already huge list of trees that I love.

I have two young trees that appeared a few years ago on my land as it has been slowly regenerating and enlivening. I have allowed them to grow in the middle of two gardens because I know I will love the eventual color they will bring in the fall to my landscape. In Europe, Staghorn Sumacs are highly regarded ornamental trees but here in the US, because they grow easily in the wild, they are considered invasive in some areas despite being a native species. I tend to believe that every plant and tree has a purpose and knows better than we do, what needs to be in a certain landscape. These trees provide food for songbirds and other animals as they anchor the soil and prevent degradation of the landscape while slowly revitalizing it, not to mention the sheer beauty that their color provides for the human eye. The brilliant red color is linked to the 1st chakra, the energy center that is primal to our sense of groundedness and foundation within our body, as well as our sense of safety and well being in the world.

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I felt this tree was calling to my heart so I decided to learn more about it and found out that the cluster of red fuzzy berries on the female trees, were actually edible and highly nutritious. I was pleasantly surprised to find out they are loaded with vitamin C and other antioxidants. The tree has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans in treating digestive and respiratory issues, as well as overcoming infections and healing wounds due to its antifungal properties. If I follow the doctrine of signatures and just look at the brilliant color of its leaves, I feel that this tree helps to restore balance to the heart and circulation, not just to humans, but also to the land it inhabits.

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Staghorn Sumac belongs to the family of trees and shrubs called Anacardiaceae which interestingly contains the word 'cardiac' meaning relating to the heart. I know these trees are helping the land breathe again, as they are often found in hedgerows alongside roads or where the land has been somehow disturbed. I also found references to its use in circulatory problems which didn't surprise me because I feel that this is the tree's purpose- to restore balance and flow of energy and to heal with its softness.

I love the soft, silkiness of the Staghorn Sumac's bark. That soothing feeling reflects a gentleness of the properties of this tree that decorates our wild landscapes. I trust that its medicinal properties also gently heal the heart and all the cells of our body as we ingest this gift from the Earth. There is something so vibrant and yet so primal about this tree, that I know I need to develop a deeper relationship with it. What better way than to create a drink from its berries? This week, for the first time I sampled the nectar of the soft, fuzzy berries after allowing them to seep for 24 hours in water. The drink is tart, yet refreshing and nutritious. After my test run, I decided to gather some more berries and made a large batch. I'm excited to get to know my new ally more intimately and reap the benefits of this medicinal tree. After drinking a full glass yesterday, I could feel the richness of my dreaming returning to me and I'm looking forward to my daily ritual of sipping this newfound nectar.

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 Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.

Copyright 2017 Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison. All photos and content subject to written permission by author.