Renewal

I am Willow: a Piece of Hope

20180801_161730.jpg

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...

 

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

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?

20171008_190036.jpg

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. 

 

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...

 

2018 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

 

Natural, Sacred and Wild

20171022_180629.jpg

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.

Daffodil in a Foreign Land

Planted in the earth of a foreign soil
you have been uprooted.
You know not where they are sending you.
You have lost part of your identity
in this unfamiliar land.

Your roots and your memories lie
in the place of your origins
though you know you must adapt
in order to survive.
Your spirit is strong and your beauty radiant.
It needs to be in order to endure and flourish.

Your body is poison to those who
delve too deep and take a bite.
It is sacred, mysterious and forbidden
though some have sought to calm
their torment with your bitterness.
Best just to admire your beauty from a distance.
And yet the land knows how you
heal the soil with your poison.

You have bloomed this spring as you have done before.
But this time your beauty has been diminished
while you lie wilted upon the ground
from the extreme cold of this place
where you find yourself.

Deep inside you know your strength,
from some long forgotten memory.
You know this land only makes you wiser.
Your beauty this year goes unseen
but your roots, your body, grown stronger.
It is your poison, that is your saving grace.
~ Clarissa Harison

2017 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison. 

Orchid Equinox Blessing

My Orchid opened its first bloom the day of the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. I could not have been more thrilled. I had been wondering when it would unfurl its first petals and as spring drew near and the buds grew bigger, I had a feeling there would be a beautiful sign of beauty, love and renewal. I cannot think of a more appropriate sign from the Plant Kingdom. 

I purchased my Orchid last fall and it remained in bloom for many months well beyond what I had remembered from previous plants. This Orchid sat on my nightstand in the southwest corner of my bedroom which receives light, but not so much in the fall due to the heavy foliage of a maple tree outside. Despite the low light, this plant flourished largely I believe because I paid so much attention to it, more than I had to any previous Orchid. I had learned so much about energy and focused attention since the last one had been in my care many years ago. Each day I would tell this plant that I loved her. I really did because she made me happy. The flowers were just so beautiful and the perfect shade of magenta that I adore. Eventually the last flower fell and I was sad not to see its beauty anymore, but I knew I would keep this special plant even if it never bloomed again because it had graced me with so much beauty for so many months.

You can imagine my surprise when suddenly one day weeks later I found a new shoot which promised another bloom of Orchids. I was so thrilled because this had never happened before. I had not even known they could bloom again in the home until a friend mentioned she had a nursery for throwaways from family and friends. Most certainly they can bloom again given the right conditions. So despite the low lighting in my bedroom, I would receive this Orchid's blessings on the Spring Equinox, the time of equal light and darkness and symbolizing regeneration and renewal.

I have found in my life that my plants and flowers really respond to my attention and my own energy. When I am struggling, they seem to be struggling and dropping their leaves. When I am sending out love to them, they are emanating their vibrant beauty back to me. I know that this Orchid blessed me with her greatest gift of beauty on a day that was so meaningful to me. The Spring Equinox brings the promise of new life, new beauty and new opportunities for joy. I cannot think of a more beautiful sign from the Nature Spirits and the Divine. The next day I also realized the deeper meaning of this flower and the message she was bringing forth to me, to love myself and know that I have value even when I don't feel beautiful.