Friday, September 18, 2015

Inside Mountains, There May Be Fallen Stars

I kept thinking, looking at the bare fresh rock of all these granite mountains, what is it, underneath? What is the inside of the mountain? I don't mean literally all that endless dark and seeps of gas and pressure, though maybe I do mean this too; but mostly I mean what is it, the life of the mountain? What does it feel like, beyond the surface my eye can see, to be rock all the way to the center, and trapped bits of light? What is it, that mountains dream?

The Sierra Nevadas seem to do this to a person; shudder your vision out into a thousand bright pieces, so that everything seems very big and old and also full of clarity at once, like the color you feel shot through your body when you jump into a snowmelt lake—yes, I am snow, I am stone, I am pine. Oh god, how could I ever forget? At least they do this to me, turning my thoughts toward origins, toward the source of things, towards the macrocosms of mountains and the microcosms of dead logs, and stones, and the sweet plump bodies of chipmunks. Toward remembrance: that the mountains are also in me, and I am in the mountains, and so are the stars. Heady stuff I'll admit; and maybe it's just the altitude talking, though that in itself is something, how thinner mountain air transmutes the thoughts of a sea-level girl. 

These mountains are the source of most of the water that runs across California, snowmelt coming down like grace through valleys and fields, through culverts and seeps, forty percent of which drains into the San Francisco Bay. So coming here, I come to the headwaters, not to mention the origin of Point Reyes granite. (The peninsula--then island--brushed along the Sierras a hundred million years ago when the Sierras were newborn and made up the edge of the continent, before journeying up to her current position hitched to the San Andreas Fault west of Mt. Tamalpais). 

Being here feels like touching down through many layers to bedrock.

The first night, alone on a rock outside the cabin while my family slept, I sat and watched the full moon, how clouds moving in front of it turned iridescent and vanished like snowmelt. And for a brief but staggering moment I could feel the size of the mountains surrounding me, all that elemental heaving of stone for hundreds of miles in each direction; I could feel their silence and their size, their solemn reckoning of the stars; I could feel something indescribable, maybe just their actual presence, and it quietly astonished me, so that I carried the feeling for the rest of my stay, and watched all of its manifestations closely. 

I saw stars made by the beaks of woodpeckers in silver dead wood, gathered close as the silver constellations that come out by night. And I learned one cold evening waiting with my brother on a boat dock that the first bats seem to come out just when the first stars do; they require the same quality of dark. 

I saw the runes left by beetles, and in them read that the forest floor is one long story of decay and rebirth that goes on without cease, like the rising and falling of mountains. 

This is one of those things you know in theory, and then one day you're walking through conifers, studying the scattering of dead limbs and twigs like the fall of the ancient oracular yarrow sticks of the I Ching—and suddenly you get it; you know?

I love those moments; when suddenly you can see the deadwood turning into a cosy home, turning into food, turning, at last, into baby trees. 

I watched the myriad chipmunks, the golden-mantled ground squirrels and tassel-eared chickarees, marveling at their bustling efficiency and also realizing that they, too, are the mountain. That while a scree slope jutting with granite and blanketed sheer with the green of huckleberry oak may look vast, and elemental, and may suggest a grandeur of feeling to the soul, also every square yard of it is known intimately by some or other chipmunk (not to mention the many tinier beings) who has nosed about each shrub and pine, and knows where the good seeds will fall, and the precise shape of this very huckleberry oak, and how far along its acorns are. 

Knowing this makes looking up at a ridgeline very different indeed—at once expansive and tender and mysterious in ways that are small and homely as well as vast and glacier-smoothed. 

I've more than once wondered at both the abundance of chipmunks and the abundance of conifers in these mountains (trying in vain with my brother to tell the difference between a Jeffrey and a ponderosa from a distance-- up close Jeffries give themselves away by smelling of butterscotch); and then, again, as with the deadwood, the obvious struck—the chipmunks come with the conifers; they are constantly busy dropping bits of cone down from the heavens, and rooting out the sweet little seeds. They are made of pine cones.

And so the mountains are made of pine cones too, which root down in the fall of wood and moss and decay and become trees again, with roots that touch down through the layers to the minerals made by stone. 

I like thinking on tree roots; how far down they must reach to find groundwater, how they navigate layers of rock, how the rock navigates them, how when you look at a ridgeline the trees stand with such patience, receiving the sun and then the shadows and then the sun again; how their whole lives they stand like this, reaching deeper and deeper into the parts of the mountains that we cannot see, and though they stand still, how their existence expands ring by ring like a stone dropped through a snowmelt lake, and who knows when it will touch bottom. 

The juniper is one such tree, and though I don't like to play favorites I believe also that sometimes we have affinities inside, and part of us speaks especially to some or other being in particular. It is this way for me with juniper, and I could write pages on the subject (in fact, I have done, for the November 2014 issue of EarthLines Magazine)— but I will say simply here that this tree, above all others, knows the stones, and the wind that has shaped the stones. She seems to choose to grow where no one else will, straight out of the heart of granite. 

Her taproot may be double or triple her height, reaching straight down in one long pathway to water, to mineral, to the light inside rock. And you can feel this when you lean up against her rough bark, when you huddle close, give her your arms in an embrace; she is unshakeable, an old grandmother who looks you in the eye and says child, root deep and do not be afraid. 

In juniper, I bring the mountains and their silent presence home; how the whole of them is contained in a single dusty blue berry, which the bears covet as soon as they are ripe. I gathered her green tips in bundles, to burn each morning throughout my sea level home; there is nothing in the world like the smell, all spice and campfire and snowpeak, and the quiet of bears too, and granite; nor is there any plant that feels so protective to me, so clearing, so strong. 

Our very ancient ancestors understood this too, I believe. (Below, a bit from my Juniper essay)

"In at least one very literal instance, a juniper tree really does mark the way to the underworld: the opening to the Paleolithic caves of Lascaux.  The caves were discovered when, in the 1940’s, a young man named Marcel Ravidat found a pit created by a recently fallen juniper. Just below the pit was a vertical shaft leading straight down into the cave. This might seem like nothing more than a delicious coincidence—after all, surely other trees grow near or over other patches of earth beneath which portions of Lascaux echo, and who knows by which route Paleolithic peoples actually entered and exited the caves. But scattered throughout those womb-like chambers, thick with the silhouettes of reindeer and bison, auroch and lion and vulva, were at least 130 lanterns whose wicks were all pieces of juniper wood, soaked in animal fat. A juniper fuse to light the way into the rocky womb of the world. 

There is no way to know for certain what significance those wicks of juniper held for the men and women who painted and likely worshiped deep in those caves. But I would imagine that the wick brought down the shafts of stone and into the heart of the earth, the wick that lit the underworld, was just as important as the animals on the walls themselves, or close—for how else, pray, would you see them, or the caves, at all? Furthermore, many argue that the way in which the lions and horses and rhinos were painted suggests movement, and that a flame held up to the walls, flickering both light and shade, would cause the animals to come to life, and dance. In that case, a juniper wick, afire, would have literally been the animating power, shapeshifting the charcoal marks on the stone into spirits." - The Juniper Tree, Earth Lines Magazine

Juniper makes a pathway straight to the granite source of things, and in this, she is my teacher and my guide on how to live hearty and hale and true, and so visiting the mountains is a pilgrimage too, to leave gifts at her feet and linger long by her heart(h). 

There are many other stories too-- how a weasel almost ran right into my lap, chasing a chipmunk nearly as big as she was (can you spot the weasel up this tree, peeking down at me from the base of a middle-right branch?); how my mother and I saw a mother black bear and two cubs feasting on dogwood berries with their big and hungry paws; how inside the last blooms of the mountain heather, there is still a dream of water, and the faces of stars. 

How all of it—stone, snowmelt lakewater, juniper, bear, heather, weasel, pine, chickaree, glacial talus—is the dream of the mountain, and each one dreams of the mountain in turn.

But there is one more gift to show you, yet, one final mountain dream, found like the answer to a question as I wandered down from a lake called Genevieve, a little apart from my family, musing about pines and what it looks like to be still and spacious inside, about the dreams of stones and bears alike, and this path called life, and how to walk it wisely—and then for no reason I looked down to my left and beheld. This. 

He was just laying there, already detached from whatever fallen pine log he'd lived on for many long years, old and a little battered but sitting in wait. Often I am hesitant in my gathering; I like to circle, and say hello, and sometimes I get a no instead of the hoped for yes, you may gather me-- and I am careful of this. But this mycelial being-- he practically leapt up into my arms. Seriously. Much to the alarm of the rest of my family, who are still a little uncertain of the fact that I will, at some point, turn this great wise one into medicine to be consumed. For this is a Pacific Northwestern variety of reishi, that most holy of mushrooms called by the Chinese the plant of immortality; auspicious one; being possessed of soul power; numinous mushroom. This particular species is, I believe, Ganoderma tsugae, which grows off the trunks of western hemlock trees, turning their sugars into its own nourishment, turning the mountain into medicine. 

For several nights, I couldn't let this being out of my sight. I put it beside my bed to gaze upon before sleeping, and inhaled its chocolate-humus fragrance at dawn. And it gazed back at me wisely, smiling a small, sage little smile, saying: see, all the things you need are there right along the path, if only you are looking, if only you let there be room for the dreams of mountains in your heart. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Where the Mountain Lion Walks

Although we didn't come bearing handfuls of hazel catkin, or juniper berry; although we didn't come scattering mica in our wake or chanting or praying or walking down on our knees in honor, it still felt like a small act of communion, or pilgrimage. At least it did to me. To come to deep and lonely forest canyons, to high and misty ridges, for the sake of mountain lions. For the big cats who call Mt Tamalpais home, more so than I could ever dream. 

I said it quietly, to myself, to the trees, to the serpentine outcrops and into the mist so the message might somehow be passed along—I love and honor you, great cats. I always have. 

The equipment of this pilgrimage came in the form of plastic bags full of data cards and a plastic box full of dozens of different keys. I like to dream that reverent words and juniper berries left at tree roots, stories written with a strange and wild seam through their hearts, might be enough in this world to change the way we relate to the animals and plants around us.

 But the truth is, wildlife cameras help a great deal. I daresay a great deal more. Especially in places like the Bay Area, which are rich with open space (a huge, blessed amount of wild open space preserved largely in the 1960's by heroic & saintly human beings who fought hard and long), but also very dense with human beings, and only becoming more so. The Bay Area Puma Project, part of Felidae, an organization that looks to protect big cats world-wide, came into being originally in the South Bay, tracking and tagging mountain lions in the Santa Cruz mountains, because of legitimate fears that the encroachment of development in the Silicon Valley would start to cut off wildlife corridors, creating a kind of island out of those mountains that could result in inbreeding, more aggression toward human beings, and therefore more lion fatalities at the hands of Fish & Game.

Now the whole project is moving into Marin and the East Bay, putting up wildlife cameras in all the windy wooded wild places that mountain lions like best, to try to make sure that they always have room to roam, to hunt, to stay secretive and silent as they are most wont to do. 

A lot of the work involves actually tracking and tagging mountain lions with radio collars, great bulky things that make them look strangely like pets. And while the romantic and the luddite in my heart both balk a little at some of the implications here—I've read terrifying plans to create Facebook pages for wild radio-collared animals, to affix tiny needles to the collars that release a sedative into the bloodstream of an animal too close to a road or a livestock pen (seriously, this sounds like science fiction; but then we seem to be living a lot of the fantasies of science fiction all around us, don't we?)—this is deeply important work.

We've made a mess of things, and while we can work to deeply re-align our stories and re-wild our bones, in the meanwhile development can happen brutally fast, and without hard data that says--mountain lions use this ridge, this canyon, right here, right now—no amount of reverent words will be worth a damn. So I am really grateful for Felidae, for the scientists of the Bay Area Puma Project-- and very happy to be tagging along to check cameras and walk the canyons where the lions come down in the quiet hours to roam and hunt and rest and love.

Since I was a little girl, big cats have always held a special, fierce place in my heart. They've always stirred an almost painful longing in me. I remember a very clear memory of wanting so badly to know what it was like to be a cheetah, running at the speed of wind over a savannah, that it made my heart hurt. As an an adult, I went through several years of intense mountain lion dreams, in which I would finally, at last, encounter one face to face, and it would  lunge at me, ready to bite-- and then I would wake. When I started tracking animals almost four years ago, the dreams stopped. I've seen the flash of a mountain lion, golden and quick, only once, so fast and stealthy across a trail and up a fallen log I almost could have imagined it. It was fluid as a dream. When I walk alone I walk with mixed nervousness at the base of my belly, and intense, quivering longing-- to behold this quiet, beautiful animal. She has such a hold on my soul. 

To walk up here on the misty ridges of Mt. Tamalpais, near Kent Lake, where serpentine outcrops grow deep green under the hands of fog, in honor of mountain lions, for the sake of mountain lions; even if it is a small thing, this makes me feel happy inside. It feels like an honor. Like I am reaching out to her with my head bowed.

And the serpentine looks on, with stories in its creases about time, about stars, about fire, about the great fleeting beauty of animal life.

Tarweed is in bloom now up in the dry hills, one of those hardy, resinous wildflowers of our summer season, a thousand fallen suns.

The mariposa lilies, which look to me so delicate, so enchanted, wait for this dry time of year to bloom too, opening up the furred cups of their bodies to the heat and to the fog-drip.

And the pearly everlasting blooms have arrived too, white and papery and smelling so warm, like incense.  Like summer heat held in tiny hands.

Past all of these, the lions pad silently, leading secret lives of deep rest and sudden blood-sharp strength, of languid tenderness and terrifying precision. It is so good to remember that other feet pad where our feet tread; that other lives are watching ours with light, knowing eyes as we pass through the dry grass.

I learned recently from a friend that the spiders who build tunnel webs, or parachute webs, only do so once in their lives. The classic webs of orb weavers are often re-spun daily. But these webs, hammocks full of mist in the chamise brush, are the work of a spider's lifetime. What sacred baskets, these little homes. What a precious thing, a wild home, safe in the hands of the hills.

I pray that we begin to see, more and more clearly, with gathering strength,  in greater numbers, that we are not the only ones deserving of homes, and with a right to space and security. That in preserving the homes of the more-than-human people, we are also preserving a home for our own souls. As Jay Griffiths writes of the English poet John Clare, in her magnificent A Country Called Childhood (Kith in the UK)— "as a child he could feel safely nested only when the land around him was a safe nesting-place for every other kind of creature, knowing that the human mind can nest or make a home only when the ecology provides a home for all species." (p. 25)

Yes. Yes. (Thank goodness for Jay Griffiths.) And may we do what it takes to honor again all the nests, all the homes, all the quiet cat-lit dens of this world.

Mountain lion image caught on a Bay Area Puma Project Camera

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Kelp & Mist & Badger Claws

My father's ancestors are from this land. The bluffs of coastal Mendocino. Before that—the journey across this great heaving country, and a ship from Ireland. 

We spent a long weekend at the end of June gathering here with my big and kind and raucous and beautiful extended family. But I felt that we also spent time with an older family, the family of the sea wilds. Something happens in me, in both of us (Simon's people are from Nova Scotia and long before that, Scotland, so the rugged kelp lorn coast sings up through his heart just as strong as mine), when clambering over rough tidal rocks to gather seaweed. A quieting. A happy peace mixed with that mournful terrible beauty that the ocean can stir up. A sense of being perched between the greatest beauty and the greatest awe, together. 

As I knelt on a rock covered in mussel shells, my knees searing, the waves knocking up far closer to me, perched out there, than was probably entirely safe, leaning down to gather a variety of kombu off the cold-tossed stone, I felt for a long instant a dizzying sense of the world's power, and myself enfolded within it—ocean rocking against stone, kombu growing into the salt, the immense lapis tide, the ancient wheeling cries of oystercatchers, watching us with red eyes and black wings, the animal thrill of all of my senses, soaked. And the feeling that women before me, women of my blood perhaps very long ago, knelt on stones and gathered seaweed, crooning little thank you songs, surging with the mystery of it all, of the soaking salting foaming living sea. 

I found a perfect swimming place, a long pool where the waves were tamed by rough rocks, so that they moved the water only gently, with a rocking exhalation and gentle inhalation, moving the thick-haired kelp in and out in a motion so delightful, so completely beguiling, I found myself leaving my clothes in a pile and plunging in to that shock and sweet of cold.

Let me tell you--as I am sure you know-- there is nothing in the world like standing waist deep in the bracing cold arms of a tidepool with kelp dancing soft around your knees and the waves rocking and seething with all the pull of the moon through them. Maybe it's a memory of the womb. A memory of being undivided; entirely held, without question made of the same substance as the universe. Of course, we still are. But we forget. Gosh, is it easy to forget, especially as the cool quick interiors of our little touch screen boxes, our keyboard click oblivions, further and further fragment our inner resources and keep our minds in a scattered state of spin.

But then, no matter our strange modern addictions, the way our necks are growing hunched and our fingerpads more sensitive to the touch of screens, in many cases, than soil, a fact we may recognize and mourn but see no easy way out of—go down to the shore, put your feet in the cold, and I swear the wholeness of your own self will flood you, the wholeness of yourself in the world. It is much older than the brief veneer of our modernity. Our bodies are very wise, and they know the language of the world, even if our minds have been trained to shut it out. 

We slept on the dunes, under the mist. Sometimes I forget that fog is sea-made. That it is ocean-drops condensed around salt, cold air sucked in toward the hot inland valleys by the air-pressure vacuum made between hot and cold. All night long, it sprinkled us. It laid tiny fingers across our noses. It tasted of kelp. It tasted of that mystery, the great tide.

On our way home, we took the long winding route along the coast to greet the rocky, sheer blue breadth of the edge of this land; to remember its span, which can be forgotten flying down freeways lined with gas stations and strip malls. 

Beside a cow pasture and a stand of willows, Simon spotted this beautiful being, recently dead. During my most recent tracking work this spring, we focused on the life and natural history of the badger. But she is a very elusive, very mysterious being, rarely seen. 

She is a deep digger of hillsides, bringing huge amounts of necessary aeration through the soil. Since badgers dig to hunt (mainly gophers, their favorite prey) the amount of holes they can riddle a landscape with is truly staggering. They churn the tidal sea of soil. The plumb that depth with broad scooping claws. It was a true honor to behold these enormous sickle claws, the perfect toe and heel pads, to imagine all the soils she swam in life.

We pulled the beautiful badger away from the road, down into a patch of willows, where we partially covered her in boughs, sprinkled juniper, said small words in the hope that her badger-soul had found its endless dirt-dark peace, returned to the great womb of things, the salt and tide of all hope.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Seeding the New Moon Heart (And Introducing Two New Story Projects!)

A small revolution has been recently taking place in my heart. A humble upheaval of an old order. Perhaps it is better to say that the revolution has taken place in my mind; my heart (all of our hearts) always knows, always has known, and has been doing its work despite certain aspects of my mind for many years. The revelation is really quite simple, but its effects on me have been rather profound.

Over the past few months it came to light in me that for a very long time--since I was a little girl, in fact--I've been using urgency and high stress to motivate myself to get things done. This is hardly news to any of us I'm sure, because this is the story of our culture. This IS the story of Western Capitalism, no doubt about it. A story of urgency, fight or flight panic, even competition over who is the most stressed out, the most burnt out, who gets the least sleep and never takes a weekend, etc. For some people, this model may work well enough; for others, like myself, it's actually quietly devastating. I'm a very stress-sensitive person; I've struggled with anxiety and panic since I was small. For a long time I've seen them as the other side of the coin of devoted creativity; two sides of one whole. As richly as I can spin a story onto paper, I can also spin off into obsessive panic about any number of worst case scenarios.

But recently, I've come to see that by following the story of the over-culture, I am helping to create conditions in which this kind of mindset can thrive. By using urgent stress to motivate, I create a landscape in which anxiousness and fear thrive. (Sound familiar? Sound like the world we see on the news?) It is not an inevitable state, nor is it even native to me. I don't have to claim stress as a birthright. I can see it as a product of the power of storytelling. It's funny, because I make my living, and feed my own spirit, by writing stories that grow taproots through the cement, that offer wild windows, old valleys and firesides full of hope, that attempt to give voice to the more-than-human world, to offer another set of narratives in which to view this place, this life, the problems at hand.

My heart is well versed in this way, devoted to it, and fiercely loving. When I am writing a story, I am deep in the heart of the pulse of things. Everything else falls away, and there is only this, the flow of words which is a flow of blood and wildwater and light through me. And yet crowding in around the work, when I step away from notebook and writing desk, are the tensions and conflicts of the overculture. I run my own business and make my own days and yet I find that the stories I am trying to subvert in my writing are still there in the narrative I tell myself as I work—a narrative of urgency, of stress, of strain. I've bought into the scarcity mentality our economic system feeds us, despite my every effort! This is rather funny, all of it, when I step back and look at it. Quite hilarious, and humbling too.

I know I am sharing more personal details than I normally do here, but I am doing so because I have a feeling that a lot of you out there know exactly what I mean; because I hope that sharing something of this struggle and the ways in which I am moving through it may be helpful, or galvanizing, to others, in addition to the hope that some of you may have wisdom or stories in this regard to share in the comments with all of us!

So, back to my revelation. It came while I was on my moon cycle last week. I think this is an important detail to share here in part because I will admit that it makes me slightly uncomfortable to do so, despite the passion I have around the deep feminine power of menstruation, the rage I feel at all the subtle and not so subtle stories we're told from a young age that make us feel shame and shyness and embarrassment around this most sacred of cycles. My slight discomfort is another example of an over-culture story that has deep roots in me, in so many of us.

Anyway, the revelation was really a synthesis of thoughts that had been stirring in me for a while, and amounts to this—let the heart, not the mind, be in charge. The heart is its own mind; let the brain-mind bow down before the way of the heart. Let beauty motivate you. Let the absolute astounding beauty of this life motivate everything you do. 

None of this, I daresay, sounds like news. In fact when I look at it, it sounds very obvious, like I've heard it five million times. But sometimes something shifts subtly in the way of the telling, and everything becomes clearer. In part this shift in perspective came from an interview I'd listened to earlier in the week, on Unlearn and Rewild, with Charles Eisenstein. In it, he discussed the "sickness" our culture has around time and efficiency. That it's an obsession with being efficient that makes us get things done (aka urgent stress). He suggested this alternative, to ask yourself--how can I create something in the most beautiful possible way? And this just astounded me. When the hostess, Ayana Young, asked him--well what about those environmental concerns which are really quite urgent, shouldn't we be efficient there?—his reply was: and how well has that been working for you so far?

And I just had to laugh, and laugh! Not well at all, of course! Not well at all on the cultural, global scale, nor on the individual level either! The mind balks at the idea of doing things with beauty alone as a motivation, fearing that nothing will get done. The mind balks at the idea of letting the heart really and truly lead the way. But perhaps what's really balking is an old story, hearing its death-knell. For there is a great, deep relief in the body at this idea too—what if I let beauty and heart lead me, truly? What if I trusted this wholly, every step of the way, not just with pen in hand? What if we all did? What would this world look like? Oh my.

The radio program Unlearn and Rewild describes the revelation occurring inside my mind rather well. Commitment to really unlearning the stories we are fed, not just the stories I see outside myself, but also the stories hiding within me despite my best efforts. Commitment to rewilding the body and the mind by letting the heart lead. Herbal healer and writer Stephen Harrod Buhner has written extensively on the neural networks that exist within the heart, and between the heart and brain; I think we all instinctively know that the heart "thinks," the heart knows things, before even the mind. It is the heart the speaks with the plants, animals and stones. Indigenous and pre-modern peoples the world over located the self not in the head but in the heart. If you think about it, the heart is a far, far more ancient organ than the human brain. The human brain, beautiful thing, is a troubled brain. The heart is the wilder of the two in the sense that it isn't very different from the heart of a rabbit or a doe or a fox. So by letting it have full rein—well, who knows what might come?

I would add that it's all well and good to come up with this kind of decision, to say oh yes of course, my heart is in charge, Let the Beauty You Love Be What You Do, etc. I've come to this decision many times before. What has changed this time is the realization that in order to change a story you have to tell yourself the new one all the time. Just as obsessively as you told yourself the old one. You have to practice telling it. You have to bow down to the heart, take the leap, putting your hand over your chest every time you forget, starting again each moment.

All of this leads me, in a very wordy fashion, to two new projects which I'm very excited to share with all of you. Both of them are as much medicine for me as I hope they will be for you—for in the end isn't this how the cycles of nature work? The berries are as much fed by being picked as they are food for the eater? And the creation of them as necessary to the plant as their consumption?

The first is called Morningstory. Here is its description from Wild Talewort.

For twenty-eight days, the number of days in a moon cycle, receive an illustrated story-vignette (500 words) in your email box, a cup of story to wake you into the wildness of your own body, to help re-story your morning, your afternoon, your night, your month, with the voices of the wildly human and more-than-human worlds.

In the face of the social, ecological and spiritual starvations and destructions of our time, we cannot hope for true transformation without also transforming the stories we tell ourselves and each other about our own hearts and our relationship with the more-than-human world—our belonging (t)here, and also our necessary humility in the face of so much robust, miraculous, diverse life and all the ways that it cradles us, from birth to death. We become the stories we tell, for good or for ill. May Morningstory be a cup of embers to fill your morning with, to warm you through the day, to help your soles stay wild, stay on the path of dust and elk-hoof and beauty, despite all attempts to sway you.

Every day, the culture we live in will try to steal you from yourself, says the inimitable Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Every night, she says, you must steal yourself back. Every morning, come sunrise, full of a skein of star-thick dreams, you are your own once more. The night has made you wild. Your heart has moved the rivers of your blood through every bit of you as you dreamed quietly under a changing moon. The earth has turned on her axis in the great black ember-bed of the galaxy and the sun has climbed up over her rim to feed every last thing the warmth and light it needs.

May Morningstory help to keep you stolen back every morning, back inside the great, feral cup of your own heart.

I've written a full sample Morningstory vignette, and it's available for you to read over in my shop! The first cycle will begin on the new moon of July, the 16th.

The second is a long awaited and deeply treasured collaboration, called Kith & Kin Medicine, with the wondrous medicine maker, writer and dreamer, Asia Suler, of One Willow Apothecaries. Back around the solstice, a dream fell into my mind—Asia's medicine is always so full of story, so full of her own potent dreaming (truly, this woman is amazing), so full of threads and lands that resonate deeply in me. A vision came to me of a project in which Asia, in her wildwood witch way, would brew up a special medicine whose ingredients she kept secret from me. I would then take the medicine and write a story based on the visions, paths and beings that arose in my imagination through it.

We decided to call it Kith & Kin in honor of our own storied connection, in honor of the kinship between stories and plant medicine (stories, after all, are one of the oldest medicines we have), in honor of the lands and all their inhabitants which we both love and are devoted to, me in northern California, Asia in the mountains of North Carolina. Originally, the term Kith referred to the living land, the countryside upon which one lived, and so the phrase "kith and kin" meant family, friends, and all the wider relations in the more-than-human world. Asia puts it beautifully: "Named Kith & Kin Medicine for the wild lands that gave it life and the kinship (between medicine and makers and dreamers alike) that it arose from." This is a deeply co-created project that blurs the lines between story, stone, root, petal and word.

Today the collaboration officially began, under the dark moon of June. I sat down at my desk, cleared my heart and mind, took several drops upon my tongue, and let the sensations and images begin to flow in. For several days, I will make no attempts to grab at stories; I will simply sit with the medicine, and see what tidbits, seeds and feathers come in. I will get to know it. More than that I will not yet share, for it is a secret place, the early stirrings in the creative heart. As the project evolves and matures, we will be sharing little peaks into the journey, here, for you to follow and see. In the spirit of intuition and wild-heartedness, we have no set release date yet, though rest assured it will be within the summer season.

The end result will be a story in the mail and this vial of Asia's extraordinary, earth-moving medicine, for you to follow into your own heart of hearts.