Nature and Life

Wildfires and New Growth

If you've ever walked through the land after a wildfire has swept through it you've seen the miracle of how quickly new growths begin. I was astonished by the contrast between the lushness of the new green growth amidst the charred and blackened remains of the forest. How incredible that such distinct environments exist side by side. And how they support one another. The natural environment so powerfully illuminates what is possible in this experience of being human. Each and every day we exist with what is clearly in our consciousness- the elements of ourselves that we and most everyone else is aware of and can see. And, we exist with all that we keep hidden and all that we are unaware of that exists within us. We do our best to live most days like the green lush growth, trying our best to survive and thrive. And alongside that is always the parts of ourselves that we hold more privately - our vulnerabilities, our fears and worries, our weaknesses and our traumas, and all that we don't yet know about ourselves. This is our shadow side. Like the charred forest, our shadow seems lifeless and yet, within it is an abundance of potentiality and growth.

We live our lush green aliveness and our charred darkness all of the time. Nature can teach us that both are needed for our survival, our re-growth, and our capacity to thrive.

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Searching for the Whole is Where I Discovered the Pieces

I have this favorite 6km stretch of beach on the east coast of South Africa. I love to run there at low tide and as I run, I keep my eyes open for pansy shells. They can be found just after high tide in the wet sand at the shoreline where the waves crash onto the beach. Given that pansy shells are so fragile they are often broken into smaller pieces. At one point I noticed that I was in search of only the perfectly whole pansy shell. When I’d find a whole one I’d feel incredibly fortunate because they are exquisite and unique to this area. However, I often found half broken pansy shells and most often, I would walk by. One morning, as I glanced a broken one and continued to walk, I turned back. It occurred to me that beauty isn’t only in the perfectly whole ones, it’s also in the broken ones. And that this is quite possibly a metaphor for our lives. Isn’t it essential that we reflect on the pieces that make up the whole? And that if we did that more often, we might find ways to bring the pieces together?

Isn’t the truth that there is far more that is broken than there is whole? I’m curious about why we seem uncomfortable with this and how we might allow ourselves to accept that most of our lives are disrupted, broken or interrupted pieces that are valuable in their parts and also in their coming together as a whole.


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Reflections on 'Wintering'

As I reacquaint myself with the northern hemisphere after many years of living in the southern hemisphere what I have found most challenging is the winter with its short days, dark mornings, grey skies and cold weather. And yet, I've found myself getting more sleep - sound sleep - than I have in years. And how crazy is it that I've felt some guilt for this. The word hibernation keeps coming up for me because it feels as though the winter is asking, perhaps even insisting, that we go inside, eat warm meals, dress warmly, and get rest. I've been aware of both resisting winter and also welcoming elements of this hibernation. This human hibernation seems to be not only a physical turning inward but also a spiritual, emotional and psychic turning inward. It is a chance to slow down, to quieten, to reflect, to journal, to meditate or pray, and to rest one's heart and soul. And in so doing it feels like my mind becomes sharper and clearer. In this sense, winter feels both inward and restful while also profoundly productive perhaps as we prepare and 'stock up' for springtime. 

And so I found myself profoundly 'met' as I listened to this most "lyrical and wise" discussion - 'How Wintering Replenishes' between Krista Tippett of OnBeing, and Katherine May, author of 'Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times'. In this talk May shares that winter is a "time for reflection, recuperation and for slow replenishment and putting your house in order...doing these deeply unfashionable things - slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting - is a radical act but it's essential".

This talk left me with powerful questions to reflect on and journal about which you too might find useful.
What are the changes that take place within me as winter approaches and settles in? spring? summer? autumn?
What does each season represent a time for?
What does the transitional place between seasons offer an opportunity for?
May shares some ways in which she learnt to more wisely respond to herself upon Wintering:
  • Look wintering in the eye, greet it and let it in
  • Treat yourself with kindness and love
  • Assume your needs are reasonable and that your feelings are signals of something important
  • Keep yourself well fed and get enough sleep
  • Take yourself for walks in the fresh air
  • Spend time doing things that soothe you
  • Be curious about what you are experiencing
A song to share for your own 'Wintering' - Get Me Through December - by Alison Krauss and Natalie MacMaster
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For a while now I have been thinking of sharing the pieces of writing that bring me most peace and ease. I've held back because I've felt undecided on what to call this piece of sharing that feels quite personal to me. For today I will start with a short but powerful piece of writing that I read just the other day, that I will revisit regularly. I share it here in case you might also benefit from reading the words of Richard Wagamese, one of Canada's foremost First Nations authors and storytellers. He was an Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nations in northwestern Ontario in Canada.
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Reflections on Returning Home

Over the past 15 years I have privately journaled about my experiences of life in South Africa and life in Canada. I have continually returned to my writings with the intention to eventually join several pieces written on different continents …
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