The Erie Pathway

Photo by Prokhor Minin

Monday night, a few things happened:

  • New Moon
  • Another International Space Station pass
  • The Tau Herculids meteor shower

My stepdad and I watched the ISS pass together on the front lawn. It’s really something special to see — and beautiful, like a star floating through my human view of the cosmos.

For the Tau Herculids, I drove to Lake Erie with a blanket and sat by myself watching for any movement in the sky. I didn’t see any massive meteors like I did a couple of years ago during a rare cloudless Michigan Perseid show, but thanks to the New Moon, I was able to catch a few of them. Regardless of size, they never fail to leave me in awe and inspiration.

Taken at Showse Park on the night of the eclipse. There is a lake there I promise!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I got to witness another astronomical wonder in the form of a total lunar eclipse on a full moon night. I had driven out to Lake Erie just to be near the water for a while. I did a bit of ritual work and made some offerings — things maybe she has never seen before, or recently. A couple of stones from her sister, Lake Michigan, an assortment of herbs, and I meant to leave her a feather from my collection, but there were a lot of people there and not much wind. It was the most still I have ever seen Lake Erie, actually. Despite that stillness, she seemed moody to me. I didn’t mind at all. I vowed to bring the feather back another day.

Monday night, as I visited the same place hoping for a meteor sighting, the wind seemed to pick up significantly, and I released the promised feather along with a lot of love onto her slightly more turbulent waters.

Monday night to Tuesday morning as I slept, I dreamed I was free-diving deep underwater. I was following another being, although I can’t remember who or what — they were a vague but familiar shape, almost like a raindrop but not quite a whale. We were looking for something (I don’t know what… a treasure maybe?), and the tone was rather playful and joyful. But eventually, I began to feel the panic of having held in a breath for too long, and I remembered that exhaling can help relieve that feeling. In doing so, I accidentally inhaled a little immediately afterward & found that I could take in a bit of oxygen. I was too afraid to take a big breath and so I made my way to the surface where I woke up in my own bed. I would like to think that I was swimming with Erie herself!

I think about all that she has been through since we modern humans burst onto the scene. Of all the five sisters, Lake Erie has been the most exploited by industry. Attempts at her ruination have been so severe, she has inspired laws offering her personhood. As you follow the coastline where I live, you can witness for yourself the impacts of that exploitation. Her shores teeter back and forth between shabby apartments, luxury homes, and industry all in a few short miles. For me, it’s a very strange mixture to see. Each area provides a decidedly alien feeling from the next.

Photo by Joel Naren on Unsplash

It happens way too frequently that we, as humans, impose ourselves on our environment without consideration of the ways we affect it, and then we seek to blame that place for the problem. We do it all the time when we refer to a place as a shithole, or a dump, or what-have-you. But it isn’t the fault of the land, is it?

Despite all that has built up and torn down all around her, and the pollutants she has been exposed to, Erie is lovely. She’s moody, a little sassy, and sometimes crass, but she’s got a heart of gold. We cannot blame her (or any other place) for something the folks with opposable thumbs & capitalism did.

We do the same thing to ourselves — trashing our bodies and blaming them for it. My own body, my own ecosystem, has been badly damaged by my own hand. It hasn’t (usually) been on purpose or consciously willful, but it has been done nevertheless. Bodies are designed for adaptation. They respond to internal, external, emotional, and physical stimuli — even etheric, spiritual stimuli — and they warp, shift, move, and change based on that stimuli. In studying for my foot reading certification, this was a concept I became hyper-aware of. Many of the changes in our bodies, regardless of the kind of stimuli present, show up in the form of markers on our feet before we are even aware of them. These are all pieces of the grand puzzle that makes up a person, and no two are exactly the same.

I have recently begun a regimen of intermittent fasting because I want a better relationship with my body, and when you challenge the brain, stuff comes up. I have been on an 18:6 schedule, today I moved to a 20:4 — that is to say, I fast for 20 hours a day, and I have a four hour window in which to eat. During that window, I try to consume healthy, nutrient rich foods. It’s really not difficult… until it is. Without fail, my brain starts making claims that I am starving or doing something horrible which is completely untrue. The level of hunger required to actually be starving is far beyond than anything I have ever done. Still, I try to pay close attention to the shit my head says to me, questioning the thoughts as they arrive. The thoughts that come are like little fish jumping for insects, disturbing an otherwise quiet pond, only seen for a moment before disappearing beneath the surface again — but now I know they’re there. As I get further into it (I am only on day 10), it’ll get easier, and will pave the way for some longer-term fasts. For now, I choose to lean into the discomfort of hunger, and the discomfort of change. This discomfort is necessary, it’s temporary, and it’s fine. It’s just discomfort.

Healing is like that. It’s full of things that are unpleasant to look at but necessary to get through. I am on a Lake Erie pathway. As she fights to regain herself, her health, her autonomy — I do the same for myself. I push into the deep of my psyche, and I find that I can, indeed, breathe under this water.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Rites of Spring

We live near a reservoir which butts up to a beautiful woodland area, packed with wildlife. Although our yard is fenced in, we can see the water from our deck. During the day, the area is filled with pedestrians and their dogs walking the trails. At night, after the college students have sufficiently partied and stumbled home, the air is filled with the sounds of coyotes, frogs… life everywhere. 

Beautiful Velda

I have encountered a beaver, muskrat, deer, a couple of blue racers, geese, and many other birds and bugs here. There is a myriad of plant life providing nourishment and shelter to all of these many beings. In our own yard lives a massive oak tree whom we call Velda. She’s a stunner, and she has this undeniable and palpable benevolent presence. I am so grateful for her and to her.

Knowing that trees are connected, I wonder how Velda was affected by the city cutting down another old one last November? I was really upset by this killing. This big beauty was covered in vines and was absolutely teeming with birds in the springtime. I had a great view from my bedroom window, and the cats adored watching the busyness of life occurring on that trunk. I watched as they sawed and took the tree, piece by piece until only a stump remained. Although I wanted to, I couldn’t do anything about it but feel the range of emotions I had. It just seemed so unfair. Then on Thanksgiving Day, workers came and ground the stump into mulch. It was really, really sad. The mulchy remains are still where the tree once stood, now home to some burrowing creature. 

Lumi thoroughly enjoying the bird activity.

Recently, we noticed the dogs getting more excited than normal in the backyard. At first, we weren’t sure what they were after. Often, it’s the regularly visiting fox squirrels causing the stir, but they tend to stay on the deck when chasing those sassy little things. I thought maybe they’d spotted a mouse. The house we live in is really old, with lots of old house issues, and is susceptible to invasions here and there. Just the other night, Henry caught one and brought it into the living room. He promptly dropped it and it got away, so naturally, he and Lumi were hunting all night long and well into the morning. They wore themselves out and didn’t come downstairs all day. Long after they both went to sleep, the little mouse came out from its hiding place and lingered under the window sill behind the vacuum that hadn’t been put away yet. I keep a plastic shoebox of random doodads near my chair. I dumped it out and somehow managed to scoop the little creature up before it could make a run for it. I took it out to the bushes and set it free. 

There were other possibilities. Last year, my mom’s dog, Max, attacked a snake. I was able to get her away from him, moving her with a stick to a spot out of his reach, and then I shuffled both dogs inside. I thought she was mortally wounded at first, as a long string of apparent blobs hung from her, but I was wrong. The blobs were tiny, adorable coiled up babies, seemingly fully formed, but still in their sacs and not yet ready for the hard world they were thrust into. None of them survived.

That day, I learned that:

1. some snakes give live birth, such as the garter snake I encountered.

2. baby snakes are really, really cute, and my instinct to “protect baby” was still present even for a reptile (<3).

3. they can spontaneously expel their young when attacked in order to make themselves faster – a sad but potent defense mechanism. 

But the commotion this year wasn’t snakes either — it was bunnies.

Max and Clara found a nest under the deck and ousted them from hiding. I am not sure where Mama was, but there were three babies in total. Two survived, having run to Velda. They ran straight to her roots, flattening themselves against her trunk. For the second time that day, I emptied a plastic shoebox of its contents. I held the wild bunnies in my hands only for moments to gently shuttle them closer to their nest under the deck. In shock, they didn’t fight me a bit until it was time to take them out of the box. The dying baby I held to my chest, petting her head as she took her last labored breath. 

I buried her near the mulched stump of the old tree where the burrowing creature now lives, and found that the fuzzy discarded shells of magnolia buds everywhere looked, rather serendipitously, like bunny ears. 

When things like this happen, we are challenged to find a reason for them. I think it comes down to the fact that wherever life is present, so is death. Springtime, though filled with newness, is often filled with pain as well. We can try to avoid it, but we will fail because it’s inevitable that we will be touched in some way by loss. The animal world knows it well and takes nothing for granted. 

It is both a privilege and a hindrance to us to be so tightly bound to our conveniences. So here’s to Nature – the great Mother, the great Teacher, the great Reminder – that death is guaranteed, but not necessarily today, so go and find your joy already. Revel in it. And when you find the sadness at its end, drink that in, too.

The Reservoir

Update

I know have been absent for a while now — initially because I was busy with my copyediting coursework, but for the last month, it has been because I have been locked inside myself trying to figure some things out. There have been catalysts for this disruption, but there isn’t anyone to blame. No one but me, here in my confused head. Nevertheless, it’s been a lengthy hiatus, and I am sorry to any frequent readers who have wondered where the fuck I have been. I also knew there was a potential that I would burn out on posting weekly, and I have. I may get back to that, though I would like to explore it in different ways… maybe videos… maybe art posts… maybe magic things! This is partly because I like doing different things, but also because I have some writing projects in the works and I want to devote more time to those. I want to push myself, of course, but I don’t want to force anything. I don’t want this platform to feel like a chore, so I am allowing myself a lot of grace around my absence. I will not be pushing for weekly communication any longer. I will be pushing for regular creation though… I have been working in Yellow Door (my workspace) a lot lately, trying to make it exactly what I want it to be. I will have a few products available on my Ko-fi store very soon.

My friend, Matt, and I walked a mountain mile to see this waterfall when he visited in December. It was worth every sore muscle I got.

On the subject of writing, I hadn’t intended to keep myself locked (predominantly) into a singular subject, but animism is a really important part of my life. For the last year, I have been studying animism with Cyrene Harding in her Animist Study Circle, which just concluded in December. Through the weekly prompts and exercises, as well as our live video calls, I feel my connection to nature has increased 100 fold. Animism informs all that I do, all that I see, and how I see it. While I have always been an animal and nature lover, this course of study has enriched my life and my perspective in far greater ways than I can currently articulate, and I will be forever grateful for the connections this work has inspired. I have joined for a second year, and expect that I will go even deeper this time.

As seen on the mountain. Aren’t they beautiful?

Also, I did finish my copyediting course! I am still in the process of figuring out my freelance career, but that’s on its way as well. I am rather stuck on pricing after having my confidence shaken a bit this fall. I honestly don’t know what I should be charging. I don’t want to low-ball myself, but I don’t want to overcharge either. The other matter is trying to decide on what services I want to offer. How niche do I want to go?

And, as is my way, I am probably overthinking it. Ugh.

Anyway, I suppose that’s all. 2021 was its own mood. It was often delightful but often strange, too; and now I am here in 2022 experiencing the first real wintery part of winter. I haven’t left the house in I don’t know how long. I mean, I know it was kind of recent, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why or what date. I haven’t got a major schedule right now so it’s easy to get lost in time.

Brent of Mad Cow…and Elvira!

One of the best parts about 2021 was getting to be friends with the owner of my favorite store in town, Mad Cow Curiosity Shop. I had wanted to be friends with him since the first time I ever went to his store years ago. I never thought I would have the opportunity to do so, but then I never thought I would live in Ohio again! Brent is super cool–way cooler, in fact, than I ever knew. He is genuine, personable, kind, loves animals, has great taste in stuff, and he has an eye for the awesome. He hand draws his own tags and signage, and has a really cool art style. If you follow him on Facebook or Instagram, you will see some of his work. (He would also really hate it if he knew I had said nice things about him, so don’t tell. Fortunately, I don’t think he reads my blog, so I may be safe from his scorn!) Sadly, he is facing some major challenges right now and could really use support. Here is a link to his fundraiser. Every little bit helps, and I assure you he’s worth every penny. If you don’t do it for him, do it for me so I can continue to go there and loiter.

As for me, stay tuned! I have a lot of irons in the fire and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Treeline

I am not feeling very writerly right now, so instead, I am spending time in the Yellow Door Workshop/Hag Room. I have been (foolishly) neglecting getting it organized and usable, and I am starting to really get mad at myself and my reluctance to create new things.

I will return next week, hopefully with a few additions to the ko-fi shop, but definitely with a usable workspace. This week please enjoy Treeline–a beautiful (and short!) documentary about the earth’s most ancient inhabitants.

Rooting Deeper

I don’t feel at all positive about having missed my usual posting time this week. I was going to take a whole week off because I am having a lot of difficulty focusing on my work and connecting to exactly what I want to say and how to say it. This is particularly frustrating since I have been wanting to work heavily on my connection series, but it’s just not flowing the way it should! I thought I had it together, but what was intended to be one piece was actually four or more, and none of those individually had enough info to fly solo, if that makes sense!

Stuck by mood.beams.art

I have been feeling a little disconnected in general. I am going to chock it up to the retrograde season we’ve been in — not that I am any expert on such things! Also, my beloved trail is closed to the public right now, and that was my primary source of physical activity. My body feels strange to me, my face looks weird, my hair is. . . blah, whatever. In a sense, I feel kinda frozen in place. There is a TON I want to do and need to do, but getting into anything sets my brain into a panic. 

A Carrick Mat and a Carrick Bend

Also, I started a certification class. I know damn well this class has the potential to change my life and offer me a prolific career within the writing world, and that scares me a bit! I have been doing everything under the sun to avoid my work as a result, including spending hours learning how to tie beautiful knots which didn’t start as avoidance! I was trying to create art work for Muse & Metaphor, and it is far easier to draw knots with a visual reference. If you read my last post, you may have noticed that knots had quite a presence. Because I wanted to focus a whole huge series on connection, I thought knots could be a sort of mascot. And now I am feeling both stuck and behind in my work.

Because I am having such a struggle in moving forward using my current tools, I have decided to take a cue from trees and other plant life this week. 

One of the things that I’ve loved the most in observing nature is seeing the way the base of an old tree twists as it comes up from the ground in a perpetual spiral toward the sun. Plants instinctively know how to find the light. This is why we turn our houseplants periodically so they grow evenly. It’s why plants at the edge of a wooded area lean toward a clearing where the sun touches everything. 

Roots work similarly. They instinctively know that in order to maintain stability and growth, they must constantly move deeper and reach further to where water and nutrients are present. Without these capabilities, trees would not survive the seasons and storms they have no choice but to weather. And yet, as far as they spread and as tall as they grow in their searching, they are always home.

No singular thing can be the source of all my inspiration. No one person or thing can meet all my needs, nor can I meet all of theirs. In moments like I am having now, where I am struggling to find my footing or to feel nourished, I know that I need to root deeper. When I can’t find the proverbial light, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I just need to turn.

So I am giving my connection series a little bit of a breather as I gather my thoughts and explore new inspirations. This doesn’t mean I won’t be posting weekly, I am just not going to do it in the way I had initially planned. Such is life!

My Animist Values

I try to bring a little bit of the sacred into my everyday existence, even if it’s just taking a 5 minute walk through Tappan Square and visiting with the glorious Beech tree, the ever-so-magical Dawn Redwood trio, or any of the other lovely beings residing there. It doesn’t have to be long or complex to be meaningful, and there are no special tools required — just me, and a willingness to connect with the lives around me, human and otherwise.

Connection is a word I use tirelessly because, for me, it is absolute necessity. Connection is everything, and behind nearly everything I do. If I do not feel connected to what I am doing, the home I live in, the land I occupy, the people I am spending time with, or the things I surround myself with, then what’s the point? Where’s the actual magic, if not living within the connections we foster?

Connection by Kali Adriantje

Over the last several months, I have been working to define my values as an animist by way of a course of study with the oh-so-wonderful, magical Cyrene Krey of Shadow Animism. I have talked a bit about some of my foundational beliefs in past posts, but I want to take a little time to highlight what I have come up with thus far, as this exercise in definition has really helped me to deepen my experiences and increase the depth of connection I feel to the world. These may shift a little as I continue to cultivate my path, but the bones are here and ready for the flesh.

  • Allowance – I honor other beings without the expectation that they conform to my ways of expression and behavior. I allow them to exist as they are, rather than as I am. I lower my demands on their existence, as they are not mine to rule or preside over.
  • Connection & Communication – I understand that communication and expression are not limited to my human ways. I allow myself to connect from a deeper source of understanding beyond my oral language; and to be moved and changed by releasing, at times, my modern human logic and desire to explain away my experiences.
  • Creativity & Deference – As I belong to the Earth, I offer my deference to Nature as greater than myself. I use creativity to move through challenges presented to my person. I pay tribute to my experience of other beings through creative means.
  • Equality – I hold all beings as equal to myself with the recognition that they each have spirit, consciousness, intellect, wisdom, and emotion — even when their expression differs from my own. All beings are valuable by merely existing. All beings deserve respect. I actively work to shift my language to foster inclusivity among human and nonhuman beings alike.
  • Gratitude – I hold high the intricacy and beauty of life, even when it proposes an inconvenience to me. I express my gratitude to the land I occupy, and the beings I share it with.
Love Knot by Kali Adriantje

Of course, this is my pathway and my set of values. Defining them, for me, has brought a greater sense of peace and meaning to my life and all the encounters in the natural world that I have been blessed with (I have several stories that I’ll share down the road), deepening my sense of connection to my world. Your values may look a little or maybe a lot different, but I would encourage you to take a look at them and try to define them clearly for yourself. The truth is we are all here on the Earth doing the best we can to live our lives. We all arrive at our understanding of life and the divine at different times and experience it in different ways. Regardless of these differences, I think we can agree that a life without connection is no better than an empty, obligatory handshake.

Some Thoughts on Nature and Culture… (and the nature of culture)

Just going to toss this out there and get right into it…

Animals and plants have culture. 

This statement is one of my core beliefs and has guided me to include animism as part of my spiritual path. By the current scientific understanding of what culture is, you could easily tell me I’m wrong. (I mean, I’m not wrong, but you could say I was if you really wanted to.)  By definition, culture is a human-centric concept held together by “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group…” Animism asks us to broaden our concept of what culture is to include everything in our natural world — to perhaps expand our understanding of what life, sentience, consciousness, and soul really are. One of the ways we can do this is through immersion. 

Consider how we learn other languages. It is one thing to take a class and study them from a book or an app, but the deepest understanding of a language is acquired through exposure to people who live the language, and experiencing the culture from which it sprang. Otherwise, one word can run into another, and much is lost in translation. For instance, in Sanskrit there are 96 different words for love, and they all have their own variation in meaning. Use the wrong one and you’re conveying the wrong thing.

The same goes for nature. We can memorize facts until our faces turn blue, and those facts will be true. They will also be cold — lacking in nuance and dimension kind of like office metrics. We can still love nature from that distance, but there is no replacement for the magic that occurs when we stand in a space of allowance for the idea that the millions of other beings we share the earth with, just like you and me, are individuals with their own needs, desires, opinions, and preferences.

Photo by Peter Lloyd on Unsplash

For a spectacular example of what immersion can do, check out the 2011 episode of Natural World from PBS, My Life as a Turkey. This is a reenactment of the experiences of naturalist, Joe Hutto, as detailed in his book Illumination in the Flatwoods. I have watched it numerous times now, and I’ve found it deeply moving. I hope you will as well! Once you’ve checked that out, I recommend you read the Q&A that took place afterward here, as Hutto provides some wonderful insights about the program and his experiences with the turkeys. 

Without immersion, Hutto might not have been able to witness variants in their personalities, or the subtleties in their appearances that made them unique from one another. While wild turkeys are thought to have 29 calls, it was due to immersion that Hutto identified more than 100, acknowledging there were even more he couldn’t catalog. These are just a few examples, but he experienced these things when he chose to become a turkey instead of asking the turkeys to become human.

Of course, we can’t all imprint on a clutch of turkey eggs (nor should we), but we don’t have to. We simply need to see that, just like people, not everyone in a species is the same. We all communicate differently, learn differently, and emote differently — we are all here together, individual and valuable beyond the meat on our bones.

The Velveteen Rabbit Hole

In 1932, Douglas Herrick went hunting with his brother, hoping to snare a jackrabbit. When they returned, the jackrabbit carcass was laid next to some antlers, and thus the jackalope was born. And Douglas, Wyoming was forever changed.

This story, although just a snapshot, inspired the creation of Anthony, pictured here.

So why am I talking about and painting jackalopes?

Recently, during a visioning/energy healing session, a jackalope showed up. I laughed at first, a little thrown off by the appearance of an American made myth, but I now think he came in to talk about how stories shape us and how we see the world. 

Stories are important. They are carriers of culture, identity, and metaphorical truths. Every country, community, family, and individual has their own that convey to those looking in exactly who they are. Stories can do great things — offering beautiful perspectives and guidelines for living, and they can also do greatly damaging things — like when we spread untruths about others, or when we hang on to tales about ourselves that aren’t true.

Stories can empower, and they can disempower. 

We can get stuck inside old family tales (as in “that’s the way I was raised”), and we can get stuck inside our own heads (as in “everyone is judging me,” “no one likes me,” “this always happens to me,” etc.). It is vital that we be willing to look deeply at those we tell ourselves and shift them where necessary. We absolutely can control the narratives we ingest and those we project to the world. 

Look at little Douglas, Wyoming, population 6,120. What started as a gag has become a huge tourist attraction for the little town, now known as “Home of the Jackalope,” where they hold an annual jackalope festival and issue thousands of jackalope hunting licenses every year during jackalope hunting season. The season lasts only one day — June 31. (Yes, you read that correctly!)

Great for Douglas, not so great for jackrabbits and deer, but the point is, they literally changed their story, and created a claim to fame in the process, not to mention an entire mythology. This is actually really powerful! 

*Note: It is preferable you create a story that doesn’t needlessly harm other beings in the process. 

By creating the jackalope (which arguably already existed in some form beforehand), they gave life and personification to a concept. Children are great at this. Watch the way they personify the world around them. They give a soul to just about everything they touch! The way they interact with their environments is pure poetry.

This got me thinking about The Velveteen Rabbit. Actually, I thought about that story a while ago during a discussion with one of my teachers, Cyrene. I had been trying to figure out a way to tie it in with another blog I was working on, and it didn’t work. Tonight, as I showed Anthony to a friend, she said he reminded her of The Velveteen Rabbit, and lo, there was the connector!!

Earlier in the year, I was reading a text about animism which drew a correlation between animist thought and the thought patterns of young children. I had a bit of a “chicken vs. egg” question: is it that animism is merely “primitive thought,” or; is it that our natural proclivity is toward animism, and children are just absolute naturals? I remembered myself as a child, assigning spirit to everything around me — including my stuffed animals. This made them very difficult to part with when the time came, even into adulthood. I really feel it’s just inherently within us to desire connection with our surrounding world, even the objects we use. Animism is a natural answer.

The Velveteen Rabbit was a toy so beloved, he was made real. Of course, since the book is kind of from the rabbit’s perspective, he had already achieved personhood by simply having been created. But he didn’t know this. How could he? His purpose had already been assigned to him — he was a toy, nothing more. That was the story he told himself, and that was the story he was told.

I want to be clear — I am not saying that if he had only believed in himself he would have been hopping around with other bunnies sooner… (wait, am I?) I am saying that, simply by the act of having consciousness (I think therefore I am-ish), he was already real.

I think this is where we come back to just how important stories are. The Velveteen Rabbit didn’t think himself enough until he was out chewing real clover, but the truth is that he provided great joy and comfort to the boy long before he had hoppity legs. His purpose was far greater than “just a toy.”

And the jackalope — a story created in silliness brought to life by all who participate in the gag, and a very present visitor in a healing session.

You may very well have isms assigned to you by birth, but only you get to decide who you are. If your internal stories are harmful to you or to others, you get to change them, and I highly recommend it.