None of my clothes fit when I returned from the Amazon in November. After living a month in a thatched-roof hut in the Peruvian jungle, no electricity or running water, eating only grilled bony fish and chalky plantains for weeks to not interfere with the sacred plant medicines, engaged in a rigorous initiation with Shipibo shamans and vegetalistas, I returned home considerably more slender than when I departed. And for the first week, I simply sat quietly on our couch, stared out the wide windows with a cup of tea beside me, ate fresh food, relished long hot showers, and repeatedly took naps—attempting to integrate an unbelievably transforming experience undergone in South America.
For weeks now, I have wished to write a new post for this column, sharing something of that magical Amazon adventure but, almost like a glistening anaconda who has swallowed something massive, I am still digesting it. As if shedding the last vestiges of a former self alongside that great, muddy river, I donated all my previous garments and I’ve a whole new wardrobe—mostly white. And suddenly I find the winter holidays upon us, that life has rolled on despite the crushing loss of a dear friend and my beloved stepmom, and I am birthing something new into the world yet again as we spiral forward to the solstice, when the light returns in our Northern Hemisphere.
A year ago at this celestial juncture, we were living near Palm Springs in the desert of Southern California. Seated outdoors by the swimming pool, thinking it felt anything but wintry, I certainly didn’t mind the mild, warm climate, yet something in me missed the spirit and feel of so many previous winter holidays. I was lamenting a bit, not only our nomadic life—once again being without friends for a solstice feast—but also the absence of seasons (noticeable ones, at least), or a celebration of light in the deep darkness.
Some part of my cellular memory insists that I should be curled up with a hand-thrown cup of something warm and nourishing—chaga and cacao elixir, perhaps, golden turmeric coconut milk, or bone broth—a book at my side, feeling deeply reflective and turned inwards, cherishing the slim hours of daylight while feeling grateful for a soft scarf wrapped round my neck. Dreaming while both awake and asleep. Fully belonging in some part to the fecund darkness.” (TendingSacred, December 2017)
Like Christmas, moving house seems to be a yearly occurrence for us, but with significantly more boxes and decidedly less cheer. Yet how grateful I am to root down in the Pacific Northwest, the region where I was born, now that our painted gypsy wagon has rolled north to this latest destination and new chapter of life. Here in Central Oregon, as the solstice draws nigh, I am once more plunged comfortably back into the feeling of winter on the doorstep, complete with long dark nights and several snowfalls since my return from the steamy jungles of Perú in early November. Yes, the practice of being barefoot on the earth is decidedly curtailed with freezing weather, and though I find myself mostly indoors, still I feel much more at home and soulfully connected than I have in some years. Indeed, from the moment of our arrival in Bend, the town has flung open its doors for us; in less than six months, both my beloved and I find ourselves with new friends and a burgeoning sense of community—so much so, that for the first time in four years, I’m hosting a solstice dinner at our well-traveled dining room table. Grace, indeed.
Through my home office window, I am watching shaggy-coated deer in our front garden, and a Great Horned Owl has taken up residence in the tall, fragrant juniper outside the kitchen window, hoot hoot-ing in a low voice as I make afternoon tea. While it always remains true that I miss England, especially at year-end holidays when the festive spirit of Dickens’ Christmas still feels palpable in that old land, here in Oregon as my chosen fête of the solstice arrives, I’m feeling very close to—dare I say it?—festive.
❧ ❧ ❧
To be sure, part of this celebratory spirit arises from the fact that my latest book has just rolled off the press. To Kneel and Kiss the Earth: Inspiration from the Soul Artist Journal, is a heart-full compendium of earlier work, wrapped in a gorgeous cloak of burnished, autumn leaves, and I’m utterly thrilled to have this newly-forged offering in the world—just in time for solstice and Yule.
Admittedly, I did not expect to return to the Soul Artist Journal, the weekly e-column (I’ve never fancied the word “blog”) I penned for nearly five years—more than two hundred and twenty-five posts—prior to TendingSacred. Yet, as explained in the book’s Preface, for a long time, repeated requests have come from SAJ readers for some sort of compilation of the Journal—something other than simply the aging website with its archives.
Earlier this year, I finally decided, why not.
To that end, a first collection of posts: some that I particularly enjoyed or received a good share of attention, others because they somehow felt “right” to be included in a time capsule and overview. All years of the e-column are represented, though they are not chronological or in any particular order. Just as the weekly writings were diverse and covered a wide patch of sacred ground, subscribers never knowing exactly what topic might greet them upon opening the posts on Sunday (the usual distribution day), I chose to continue that tradition. Rather than simply select a few categories upon which to focus (e.g. Conscious Living, Inspiration, Nature, Slow Food, The Sacred Masculine, Wild Soul, etc.) for the sake of making a more cohesive book, instead I drew from across the spectrum of what was offered.
On its alluring front cover, the book is further blessed with a lovely endorsement from Marlena de Blasi, internationally bestselling author of A Thousand Days in Venice, and A Thousand Days in Tuscany. An American chef who moved to Italy to marry a Venetian, and then later relocated to Tuscany followed by rustic Umbria, her lushly gilded memoirs inspired and comforted me when I too was an expat living abroad, finding solace in the kitchen or at the market. The story of our serendipitous meeting at a famous Left Bank café, Les Deux Magots, is recounted in one of the book’s posts (“A Paris Encounter: Meeting de Blasi”), and in our long-distance friendship she wrote to me repeatedly with accolades for the Soul Artist Journal. Indeed, “Chou” (as she insists I call her) was among those urging me to gather these kernels together and publish more widely.
Regardless, after closing the cover on the SAJ in January, 2017, I held no plans to return to those posts regardless of their merit or popularity. Yet some of them have now been gathered; available to a much wider audience and, for the first time, able to be held in printed form as a tangible book. Perhaps even more surprisingly, at least to me, is how delighted I feel to offer these soulful nuggets once more.
As I so often write and say, one cannot fathom the Mystery.
❧ ❧ ❧
From the Foreword (and the SAJ website):
We all need inspiration on our journey. Since the summer of 2012, the Soul Artist Journal explored the art of living a meaningful, connected existence that cultivates a sense of well being. Though the posts were diverse, the underlying theme was, how do we nourish the soul?
What does it mean to be a Soul Artist? The SAJ articles offer reflections on those little, ordinary human moments of the day: a cup of tea, a fading flower in the garden, puttering in the kitchen, a stroll through the neighborhood or along a wild riverbank. In differing ways, each entry extols the importance of opening our senses and heart to the living field of intelligence in which we are continually steeped. How does the moment feel? What is on our plate to share? How can we nurture and befriend the body as ecstatic resource for a life of vitality and well-being? What is ours to bring to this multidimensional relationship—with place, humans, earth’s denizens, and planet? What is the Deep Imagination? And how do we heal and evolve?
The Journal traveled its own spiral and arc, varying in length and tone over the years. Yet it always sought to illuminate conscious living and embodiment, gratitude, creativity, personal authenticity and transformation, seasonal food, natural beauty, and a sensual connection with nature and earth.
In short, these writings celebrate a life for the senses… and the ordinary sacred.
Perhaps pour yourself a cup of something and then sit somewhere comfortable and quiet. Inhale a couple of deep breaths, sweeping aside the noisy voices and demands of the day—if only for now—and take a little journey for your soul.
❧ ❧ ❧
Friends, the light returns in the Northern Hemisphere. Darkness begins to slowly lessen its grip through the winter months ahead. I always feel that the holidays bring a special time of joyful allure, especially if we choose to sidestep or distance ourselves as much as possible from the rampant consumerism of the season. Find time for a pause, turn your face to the sun, and inhale a deep breath. Soften your belly. Wriggle your toes inside your boots. Smile.
For me as a healer, the heart of walking a “medicine path” is the ongoing query: how may I help? And how can I add to the beauty of the world…? My sincerest hope is that To Kneel and Kiss the Earth speaks to both those directives, delivering a bit of soulful nourishment into the hands and hearts of readers… especially in what feels like a dark but transforming time.
Certainly, the golden thread that runs through all the years of the Soul Artist Journal and onward with TendingSacred—indeed, in ALL my work, including hands-on healing with clients and sacred ceremonies—is the importance of nourishing the soul (the bodysoul, as I generally think of it).
Gentle reader, in this season of giving and light, alongside the chaos and overindulgence, my wish is that you find ways to nourish your bodysoul. It’s essential, really. Too, just as I wished last year in this column, may you rediscover a sense of sweetly innocent delight, wonder, and sharing. Carry luminosity in your heart and offer it freely to others, for a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
How often I’ve written that each of us has something unique to offer the ‘more-than-human’ world, something that only we can bring. May we give those gift(s) wrapped in generosity and kindness… they are needed these days more than ever.
Whichever hemisphere you may be in, solstice blessings to all… and to all a good night.
❧ ❧ ❧
TKAKTE is available online, in select bookshops, and Hearthside Press. Find more information on the book’s dedicated website: kneelandkisstheearth.com
❧ ❧ ❧