First Imbolc in the Nemeton

I will start off by saying, while I deeply love Imbolc now, and have for two decades, ’twas not always so. In fact, when I was a fledgling Witchlet, back in Toronto in the 80s, I found everything about Imbolc…weird, impossible to connect with, and frustrating. Last week, in preparation for the first Imbolc in my new home, I reflected on my first Imbolc ever, and it was both hilarious and bittersweet. I was living in downtown Toronto, King and Dufferin area, in a warehouse with a loft, that doubled as rehearsal space, and had recently discovered the Occult Shop, Ben Abraham Books, and the Fifth Kingdom – all stores catering to the needs of people such as I, interested in/practising some form of magic or esoteric spirituality. It was the classic case of “coming home” – feeling like I wasn’t alone after all – for many years I’d been reading everything I could on astrology, had been gifted with clairvoyant dreams and was said to have a “mystical” connection with other species (this last one always baffled me, I couldn’t understand how anyone DIDN’T feel what I felt from other creatures). I’d always been said to be a Witch, with my blazing red hair in a dark haired/olive skinned family, my visions and familiars, but it felt like a very lonely thing to me, not a badge of specialness at all, just proof I was a freak. Childhood was lonely, but saved by my weekend trips to the forest, or helping my veterinarian father in his clinic, or just reading my stacks of books on insects, dinosaurs and birds.

P1380744 (2)
me, very excited to be going to see some puppies

Puberty hit, and my need to fit in swelled to incredible proportions, with a temporary abandonment of all the mystical stuff. Still, I think I was 15 when I found my grandmother’s Big Book on astrology and was completely smitten. When I look back, well before I found the Occult Shop and all those books and..others like me, the current was there. But once I did find it – there was no turning back, the long journey had begun.

And so, February 1 1985, I set out on a frigid Toronto night to hike my ass all the way down to the lake, with a bag of candles, an offering or two and a heart full of excitement and hope.

ye gods, how did I ever live there?

It all went a bit sour as I crossed the bridge towards lakefront and the freezing rain began. A hasty retreat, hot tea and an offering/candle in my loft window had to suffice. What I find so endearing about this… earnest, if misguided effort is, I truly did not know what Imbolc even WAS, it’s meaning on the Wheel of the Year or relevance to modern life…just that The Book told me this is what one does. And as is my way, I tried to “do it right”. Getting things done properly has always been a sort of Grail for me, and it’s a double-edged sword – leads both to a laudable focus on excellence, and a painful tendency to set the bar so high I can never relax into feeling truly accomplished about anything. Unscrupulous people can smell this on me and know just where to ram the knife when they go on attack, calling me a poseur, a fake and all the things that people with my perfectionism fear most. Learning that nothing makes those claims real, that they are projections of the Wound of the Other, and that setting the bar too high is a form of self abuse, have been profound experiences for me the past few years. But, in the early days, as (to some extent) now, I wanted to “get Imbolc right”. I was relieved not to have developed pneumonia for the effort.

Nowadays, I still try to follow the Old Ways while incorporating authentic new traditions, but I worry less about things “being correct”. I live the Wheel in a way that honours the ancestors and the Old Gods, as well as invigorates and expresses my own experience of the Solar Wheel and Inner Mysteries. So yes, my very own Imbolc involves dairy foods, leaving my prayer shawl and ribbon outside for Brigid to bless, it involves a little altar and some Inner work – there are candles in windows, bannock, and white flowers(if I can find any). I don’t know if I’m “getting it right”..but it comes from both head and heart, knowledge and emotion – so I think the Old Ones are ok with that. And three decades later, I find Imbolc one of the dearest of the Festivals to me – given its association with the goddess Brigid, and my personal affinity for Her. At Imbolc, I reaffirm my dedication to healing, to the work I do with animals, to the creative fire that keeps me whole. It is a pause after the gorgeousness of Yule, a moment of quietude and rest in the depths of Midwinter, and a time of reflection. For me this year, that reflection centered on my recent move, my new home, and the power of grief paired with hope and vision. I set an altar in the livingroom, on the mantle of our fireplace, I made rosemary bannock (from the Gather Victoria site) I decided against my usual decadent noodle kugel, as it evokes memories too painful to revisit just yet. Alex bought me a small potted heather plant, which I adore, in lieu of cut flowers, likely pesticide-treated, and I spent a quiet day in the woods.
And then, on the 1st, this happened.

A cutting I brought from the Ark in Rupert, and nurtured all last fall, brought forth a bloom. Ten days later, it is still intact.


The Wheel turns, the light grows.
Happy Imbolc, everyone.


Further reading

Snow Falling on Hemlocks

Today I spoke to them again, in prayerful silence and mystery, and let them know I am still wounded, still slow to heal, but that only comes from the depth of love and connection I bear for my last home. You can’t just run headlong into a new relationship, after the old one dies, can you? Not if the old one had meaning and power. Honestly, I’d have endured all the crap of that place just to embrace the silver maple and smell the balsam poplar in spring, after a rain…watch the glint of sun on willows lining a sacred stream, and visit my various mossy thrones and sitspots forever.

I wander out to the firepit and tell them – I hope you will welcome me when my shattered heart starts to say it’s time.
And then a squirrel throws something at me and Danny has a flip-out and I’m back in regular time, the hemlocks are sagely watching, I know they know much more than I.
I trust their wisdom.

Yeah, love like that can endure a lot of crap, and it isn’t easily replaced, not if you have any kind of a soul.

But I think the hemlocks know that.
I’m amazed to learn how old they are,these trees, even smaller ones! and to feel the special magic of a hemlock forest, and feel too, their great energy when I step into the deep shade they create(because hemlocks need that shade to keep growing).

Beech, red oak, hemlock, and grouse, porcupine, great horned owl…amanita.

I bring you my heart, my sad and wounded heart, and you stand silent under the snow, spirits waiting for the quickening of spring, and the turn of the Wheel yet again.



1) What did you learn in 2017 – on a practical level?   With all that was going on last year, it’s amazing I learned much of anything practical, but my studies in feline health and nutrition have deepened and I took an Introductory course in TCM, to augment my work with dogs, cats, horses, birds….   Herbal knowledge is always deepening!  so I would say, just learning some Chinese veterinary formulations and how they compare and contrast with Western, as well as my Oxford diploma in feline studies, those two things. I learned a fair bit about the legalities of forcing a longterm tenant from their home, and how to stand up to  a bad faith repossession, but I hope it’s not a skill I ever have to use again.

2) What did you learn on a spiritual level? Probably that I can withstand heartbreak and still thrive, that no matter how long one practises a spiritual path there is always more to learn (but I knew that) so perhaps, that as we cycle through our years we need to re-learn things, from time to time. I’m completing my second Saturn return, and grateful that I made it with the equanimity and grace I aimed for – more or less.

I also learned, from my dog Amara’s death, that an animal who basically drives you insane can also tear you to pieces when she goes. It’s not that I didn’t think I’d miss her, it’s that I had grown way too tired, and distracted by stress,  focusing more on her endless defecating in the house and pathological level of gluttony than I did on her sweetness, sadness and beauty. Once I knew I was going to lose her I was flooded with emotion. There’s much more on Amara, but that’s all I can give words to at this time.

3) What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment of the year? Surviving the move, no question.  For the last 16 months I was never really sure I would.

4) What did you struggle with most – and have you resolved that struggle, or are you carrying it into 2018?   Taking care of my health, and no, I have not resolved it. I still treat myself as a machine, much as I know the damage that creates. Working on this is high priority in 2018.

5) What did you lose? My home of 12 years, which was more than a home, it was a cosmic landscape into which I was wholly, completely, spiritually embedded. All the plants and trees and animals and spirits that surround and inhabit it – teachers, friends, family, all.   After that, everything else seems small, but also, I lost a huge piece of my history and so much money and time(career momentum).
And, my dog Amara.

6) What did you gain? An amazing house  in an oak forest (MUCH better house, not comparable, really) a renewed sense of my own resilience and strength in the face of adversity, and in spite of all this, the best year financially on record (BY FAR).

7) Can you name your three best moments? Three worst?

Three best…hhhmmm. First court date when the judge threw the bogus repossession suit out, on a legality, there is a sweet, SWEET memory there Alex and I relive periodically. Second would be finding and renting this house, at a time we were so scared we’d have no place to go at all…and third, when the judge awarded a financial restitution to me (not nearly what I was due, and of course they never paid it, but something) after all the total shite we’d been put through. yeah..those three. 🙂

Three worst….leaving the Zoo. I hugged my trees, I cried and cried, I got drunk, I walked around in the bleak, smelly emptiness of what had been such a place of  energy and Spirit and love.  We just loaded all the animals in the two vehicles and drove away, from 12 long, powerful years, from so many “deaths and entrances”, from a place that was more than Home to me, it was Everything.   It was totally surreal.  Second, would be coming back in a couple of weeks, and seeing the garden overgrow,  dried out, dying…all the negativity that remained once I had withdrawn the love and protection.. That was rough in ways I can’t articulate.  And then…later… Amara’s death. There were a few other doozies in there, falling and breaking a rib whilst scrambling after a shrub, for example – but those three were the hardest of all.

8) How would you describe 2017 overall, in a few well-chosen words?   Powerful…Challenging…Transitional….Determined… Triumphant. 🙂

9) What do you hope most for in 2018?   On a personal level (because I can’t even start with the global) just continued good health for my family and myself, for Danny to be with me this time next year, for my work to continue to flourish.. the usual things, health and peace of heart and mind, the power to bring some good to the world, and a little pleasure in this strange and magnificent gift of Being Alive..


2017, in Images
Saying Goodbye

Rowan from a past life, guards the Gateway to Faerie

Someone loves dandelion

I have no words for this image, only tears, gratitude and love

Rowan in bloom

Comfrey announces the Spring
Yarrow and Elfwort

Mallow and White Pine….



Saying Hello

My little kitchen nook

Sunset from the 2nd floor
When we were first here, I had to use the livingroom for my office…distracting wild view…

The Nemeton…oak, hemlock, beech forest surrounds us

Sumac and Red Oak

Danny leads us into Faerieland

These woods are full of owls..and I am watching.

Gorgeous Goldenrod, I made salve and tincture right away

And then there were two..

Goodbye, my darling.

A corner of the mantle above the fireplace…weary and disoriented but we start now anew..

A very Happy and Blessed 2018 to all my friends. ..and the Wheel turns, and the story goes on.



Bits and Pieces, not Pieces and Parts

So, for many days now my drum has been home, and I’ve been meaning to write a Part Two, in which I thank the amazing spirit that is Nikiah Seeds, and link to her site so people who read these ramblings can see where I had my beautiful drum made. Life is going very quickly now and I may not have time  again for a few weeks – although I must say the inspiration is HIGH – as we are finalizing the move this weekend, leaving for ever the blue jays and the guardian trees and the raccoons, red squirrels, chickadees and deer.
Yes I know there are others in this world…and there will be some I can stay with till the end of my days, the purpose of this next house is to get so many things healed and move to our sanctuary. I know, I know. But still there are days when I am not actually buried alive in work, wherein I do, admittedly, cry and cry and cry.
I stop when Alex produces ice cream, or Korky starts to get agitated and needs to comfort me, or Tatiana rubs her face into my bare calf over and over and I think – well, Hell. All of these beautiful creatures will be in the new house, and it also has a floor (and windows that one can see out of, doors that close fully, toilets that flush etc etc etc.)
The tears, when they come, are hard.

But the waves are only bits and pieces of the whole experience, not “Pieces and Parts”…that iconic song by Laurie Anderson, that foreshadowed and then seemed to perfectly sum up the days and weeks after my brother’s death. Yes, I was in pieces and parts then.

These must be the bones of a fallen angel
These must be the bones of a fallen angel



This state of grief is much different. I remember that black hole I went into for years after John died; this is nothing like that. It’s sadness, only…and we know sadness is normal …it’s part of life, it’s a gnaw at the heart, an ache in the bones, as opposed to the searing pain of grief and irreplaceable loss. Does it seem strange to compare? It helps me keep perspective. There was no good at all to come from my brother’s death – in the case of losing my home at a time we could least afford the financial or spiritual upheaval, well actually much good has, and will come out of it all.

Hence, I am eating Ben and Jerry’s chocolate something- or -other before dinner and I’ve had Korky on my shoulder since about 2 pm (my sweater will be poopy, but really, I don’t care. That’s what soap is for). Earlier today, I was dancing to Beats Antique.We bought a new (used) sectional sofa.

I think for my last dinner here, I’ll make spagetti. Just old fashioned Bolognese. Or maybe a big Nicoise and we’ll drink wine, a really good Sancerre, and fresh fresh bread from Pipolinka. When we get moved in, we’ll make an Ottawa run and get Thai.

I intend to buy curtains for the new house, which in 12 long years here, I never managed to do.


Here is Nikiah’s site. Please go look at all her offerings. I adore her beautiful work,  her jewelry, and this drum. May it carry my song of hope and remembrance all the days that lie ahead.



The Heartbeat of Memory, Heartbeat of the Earth

I moved to this house in March of 2005, less than a year after my brother’s death.  I was completely in pieces. Beyond my inexpressible grief, for months I’d  been having trouble finding a place to live in the area, suitable, and then this amazing house came up – right across the street from where the TTouch trainings are held !  I was heavy into TTouch back then..and this house was quiet, pretty, large enough for me to have an office, a temple, a snake room. It’s right on the road, but there was little traffic back then. There was a garden… not huge but adequate, and the whole area is surrounded with open fields, little lakes and forest, and enchanted trails deep into woodlands. Some of those woodlands and fields were the same ones my paternal grandmother walked as a girl; she was born in a house around the corner. All of this felt more than lucky; it felt fated. Luke and Lila and Alex and multiple cats and my rat Kala and several reptiles, and I *think* a rabbit or two,  and  me! all moved in. I can barely remember those first few weeks, but come April it starts to get clearer. First snow melt, I walked out onto the back deck, slipped and went down hard on my knee. No dogwalking for weeks. And then as the year went on, I lost 60 pounds and went into a very…self-focused phase.  It was as if losing John propelled me into a phase of determination to achieve the things I’d been putting off, and it started with health. As the years rolled by, I lost both Luke and Lila, and many other beloveds, but Danny came into my life, and now Zeke and Amara..and Korky (my parrot and really, kind of a soulmate).

Today I am reflecting on some of the things that happened, and that I did, while living here all these years.
I completed my training in canine nutrition, or one level of it; I went through a portal of deep growth with my herbalism, something I’d more or less dabbled with since the 1980s,  but over the past decade it became so much more.  I rescued a blind horse, lost my father (and thus, all hope of reconciliation, ever) and in 2015 three of the people I loved most in the world just walked out on me, in the middle of much personal struggle with coping here, n my own. Later that year, Alex almost died,  and to make it all worse his crisis happened while he was in Saskatchewan and me here, with no way whatsoever to get to him. That was also the year I was given a prestigious column in Plant Healer Magazine, and saw my business start to expand dramatically (I hate saying ‘my business’, when what it really is, is my calling)… Alex and I moved through estrangement into togetherness and back again a few times, finally settling into the comfortable, connected and contented place we now are.

Somewhere in there, I went through menopause.

Disillusioned with Wicca, I committed to studies in the Western Mystery Tradition with Mara Freeman, but found myself more and more drawn to Druidry, a craving I have neither  fully explored nor resisted, with the result I am not entirely sure how to define myself, or if that really matters, after all. The entire OBOD course is sitting in my upstairs cabinet, waiting for that magical moment when I know I will have time.  After I make time for more exercise, for yoga and to send more time with my animals…more cooking, playing my bass  again.

I lost several of whom was a soulmate to me and precious beyond what I can convey . Not that the others weren’t – Howard the Duck and Batia and Ogden and Quinn the Eskimo – cherished, all. It’s  just that Amidala and I have known each other through many cycles,many incarnations.  Her loss was monumental for me, even as I know without question we will be together again.

I watched Danny grow from a wide eyed, completely hyperactive little boy, to an elegant (but still crazy) young man and then into midlife and now, a distinguished and somewhat less wound up senior. It had been my deepest hope that he would be able to live his whole life in one place, but that is not to be. He is 11  next month and while I look for several more years, the final ones will not be in his beloved house. I hate to move him now, but Hell.

We’ll just have to make them the best years of all.

“Love” is nowhere near a strong enough word.

I learned to love deer, and made friends with a small herd whose presence changed me in ways I could never share on a simple blog post…my understanding of the wild, first and foremost.

The chunky,bossy  littleWhitetail with the rounded ears on the right, is Goatdoe, with whom I have had a blessed and beautiful connection for years. I had prayed to see her one last time, but it’s ok. Not knowing what happens to them, is the Way of the Wild. She is in my heart forever. The others are Tulsi and Tilia, one of whom came to me last year when she was struggling to give birth. I helped her gain strength, and she, and her twins, went their own way back into the forest, as it should be.

I grew herbs – all the herbs I had loved for years but only knew through purchased tinctures and teas, and even ten years later I walk the garden everyday and just say their names, a magical litany of everything in the world I find so beautiful….Elfwort…Artemisia…Lady’s mantle…Wood Betony…Hyssop, Motherwort, Self Heal, Borage, Horehound, Catnip, Sage, Comfrey, Lavender, Avens, Thyme, Salvia,  Calendula, Monarda, Melissa, Althea…. and then the ones who showed up just to teach me, Evening primrose, New England Aster, Mullein, Cleavers,  Meadowsweet, Goldenrod, Bidens, Nettle, Agrimony…and then again, the trees.  All teachers, guides, all so dear to me that it tears my heart to write these words,  as I know I am two short weeks away from saying goodbye.

Evening primrose, Oenothera biennis, from whom I learned so much and came to cherish as such an ally

From this land I have taken nine sacred woods for Beltane, for incense, for runes and charms and wands and staves.
From this land I have collected antlers, from a little spiker and a larger buck, left at the Gateway from my garden to the fields out back.

I have sheltered an owl three days on my porch, right after the dog we nicknamed Minerva was laid to rest there.

I have gathered feathers and made Witches ladders to protect this magical dwelling.

Made rose beads from the gorgeous wild rosebush right outside the back door.

And innumerable rowan crosses from the trees I planted after one of the departed friends gifted me with three.

Solar crosses from the Virginia creeper… pot after pot of healing salve from the resinous buds of the trembling aspen and my beloved balsam poplars.

I set a little Faerie corner, with a huge piece of natural quartz I found in the woods, a teapot of my grandmothers,  and a mask that represents the spirit of our house and life.


I rescued more wild birds than I could start to recall.

Just two of so many; top pic is a red eyed vireo, I had actually rescued two of them and brought them around, released. The bottom is a female rose breasted grosbeak and man, was she feisty! I hope to post a few more images of some of the birds I’ve encountered here.

I learned to live alone, to carry much hurt, to manage my fierce and sometimes reactive nature, and how important my work is to me, how inseparable from my spiritual path. In this house, I grew into a more deeply authentic self than I would have believed possible. I am not remotely the person I was, when I moved here 12 years ago last March. I had found my centre, found my way through the ancestral patterns and baggage and pain, and was on a very strong trajectory towards my goals, when  the sky fell, sixteen months ago last week.

16 months ago, after a pleasant, casual chat via email with the owner, I was perfunctorily handed an notice of repossession, informing me  I would have to leave, that the long standing repairs would be more easily done if the owners moved their son in, and despite my horrified pleas for clemency, and offers to pay for many of the needful things myself,  there was no quarter. We did take it to court, and we did receive a stay of execution, so to speak, and a minor indemnity for our losses (not close to what we actually lost, but better than nothing). I  went through months of Hell – gut wrenching anxiety and confusion – my partner lost a significant position out West due in part to my need to have him here, until we discovered that the owner’s initial demand for repossession was procedurally invalid, and we had grounds to protest. A very intense course I set up online became disrupted in development after I realized I’d have to continue consulting fulltime and try to develop the course in the small amount of the day that’s left over. And on and on. It cost my  health, it cost a ton of lost income and I cannot describe the anxiety of not knowing where we could go anywhere closeby, now that this area is so trendy (and thus expensive) and we wouldn’t have references (and just a “self-employed herbalist” as an employment check).

But… now it is all  behind me. ..the struggle of the last while, the growth, the losses, gains, deaths and entrances…as we move heart and soul, body and mind,  all the animals and, err, my books…to a new place and a new beginning.

We found an amazing house, so vastly superior to this one in terms of condition, there is no comparison. Clean, new, good floors and windows, no mold, HUGE ( my office will be three times the size of this little space) and so on.  Yes, there are drawbacks and yes, we see it as a bolthole – but, a gorgeous bolthole and one where I can spend the next few years moving to the next level, publishing, completing work, learning.
And to honour this passage, I had a very special thing made – a drum that carries the impressions of several leaves from my surrounding land, trees that were and are profoundly sacred to me.

Balsam poplar

Now, after this long and cathartic entry I don’t feel I can do justice to the beauty and power of this drum, so I will break into another part and show you some images now that it is here, on this land, the land which birthed it’s creation. Right now I am simply filled with gratitude and a sense of balance, of the..rightness, of this passage. As I hold my drum and let the heartbeat of the land resound all through me, I know that in the years ahead, as time moves on, I can call the memories, the spirits of the land, and come back to the loves and losses and lessons that this very old house and this ancestral land bestowed upon me and brought me through. When the new occupants raze my beloved trees to the ground to sell for firewood, and chemically blast the sacred herbs into oblivion, I will drum their spirits into a new reality, I will call them to the land to which I have been heading all my life.

And without hesitation, I know that they will come.

My gratitude has no limits. 

At the end, as at the beginning, stands the archetypal power of the Divine Feminine—the goddess. She is our future as she was our past. With her drum in hand, playing her sacramental rhythms, women can once again take their place in the world as technicians of the sacred. In the pulse of my drum, in the beat of my heart, I erect an alter to her forever.”
Layne Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm

Gifts from the Forest

Sometimes I look back at the younger person I was and think about how much I’ve changed… don’t we all do that? And I like the changes, hard-earned as they’ve been. To some I know it’s pure eccentricity, my Druidry and snakes and plant-whispering and…well all of it…to me it’s allowing who I am to just…be.  When we get older many of us feel freer to be who we are, and that’s certainly true for me. I look back at some of the things I wanted and longed for and I both smile at the silliness and cringe a little at what looks like wasted time… but, in the end I believe as long as we get to where we need to be, it doesn’t matter how long it took. I still like jewelry and clothes and art and good food, don’t get me wrong, but some of the things that mean the most are, shall we say, different from what some might think of as valuable.

This morning on a walk I had one of those compelling feelings I get just out of the blue – stopped in my tracks and right at my feet was a very fresh owl pellet…with the tiniest bones imaginable. I’ve only found two in all these years of living here, loving these forests and Hills – and one of THOSE, was left on my doorstep by a little saw-whet owl who spent a few days with us after Jasmine died.I… felt sure it was thank you note, in that case.

The other was on a small altar I built out in the woods. It’s a place I go for spiritual quiet time, and one day, an owl had just left me a pellet there. Those are the wild magics in my life that mean more to me than anything. I prayed at that altar many times,  and sent up  offerings in handcrafted incense made from the resins of the conifers, but  I hadn’t asked for anything. Somehow, the forest knew what would delight me most.

But today, and recently: I keep receiving gifts from the forest and I’ve been so torn up about moving, it took a while to be clear  about meaning. To be fair, I am always wary of the idea that anyone can be *always* 100% clear and certain about omens and visions; in many cases, part of the whole point is that we have to work for it, to figure it out. But in this past 12 years, in this house and surroundings, I’ve grown confident in what I see. I just can’t figure out if these gifts are in support of my plight, or if they are saying goodbye.
The forest keeps speaking to me and I’m intently listening. Here is my gift from earlier today:              P1360836So, this is Owl Medicine, which advises me to shore up energy, stay true to my path and higher purpose,trust my own intuition,  and make Right Use of magic. I as called out to that precise spot in this large field and called to stand still and look down – when a Voice like that speaks, I think it’s good to listen, and take heed.


Now, many of you know I have fed deer here, and on occasion, nursed an unwell deer, and that my affinity with and love for them is deep and abiding. I’ve written about them elsewhere on this blog and a fair bit on my Facebook Page; I love these creatures with all my heart and have felt gifted by their presence all the time I’ve lived in Rupert. I know it is controversial to feed deer, but I’ve done so very specifically, to help build them for the winter, and until recently, to bring them in close while hunting season was on. (The area is crawling with sport hunters, but until recently the land out behind where I live was protected, no hunters allowed.) I read extensively on deer over the past few years and there are a range of ideas and perspectives about feeding. In many cases it’s not  good idea, but since this area was off limits to hunters, and since I fed mostly in fall when they are fattening up for the winter, I felt it was fine to do.

Some of my sweetest memories of this house will always be of the deer.


Stripey Doe, the last time I saw her, fall 2014.

So: I received a beautiful gift from them, too (and yes, all this does feel like the forest saying goodbye)      just last week, out walking Danny in the back, and it was a hard walk (since the bursitis in my hip started, pretty much all walking is challenging, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let a little pain tie me down)..and here is what I found right out back, by the entrance to our yard:


Now, in my own spiritual life and practise I am a great believer in learning what others have written about an omen, a spirit animal – I respect the insights of other witches and medicine people, and like to research across cultures to see how, various animals and birds may figure in ways both similar and unique, in world mythologies and religions. But at the end of the day I heed my own counsel;  what  something meant, what lesson it offers, how am I to respond (if indeed a response is called for)… these are personal conclusions. With these antlers I felt something so powerful and important,  that it can’t be ignored. I also believe, that once we have received a message and understood it, in many cases the wisest thing is to keep that knowledge to yourself.  In this case, that’s what I’m doing- sharing the gift but not what it means to me. I share a sacred bond with these deer, and these lands, and there are challenging times ahead. No matter where I move to or when I go, the spirit of the forest will be with me..and my spirit will always know how to fly back here, when needed..  and so these gifts have eased the pain of what has been a terrible time of uncertainty and loss.
May the animals bless you as they bless me, and may you honour those blessings and send them right back.


Animal Medicine

This morning as I sit down to write what is a somewhat emotionally challenging article for the Spring Issue of Plant Healer Magazine, I find myself musing on the many ways in which I have personally been affected by my work as an animal empath and healer. Those who know me, know I don’t use words like “Healer” lightly – this word in particular is often bandied about by people  who have no business using it at all, in my opinion, and it carries with it  a huge responsibility. My belief is, that once we use a word like healer or teacher, we need to be sure we are embodying that which we purport to be, otherwise it’s  hypocrisy… and in many ways, an insult to others who do walk these paths with integrity. I can often become caught up in the need to run a business and make income, and this takes sacred time away from my life – so frequent check-ins are important. I had the opportunity to do one such check- in over the Christmas Holidays, and I found, predictably, a few areas that need evaluation. (I’d worry about myself if I didn’t – the goal of embodiment is not perfection but authenticity, and who among us doesn’t need ongoing work?) These areas, in my own life, include resisting the impulse to anger, when confronted with values or behaviours I find undesirable, and my recurrent  difficulty in reconciling the work I do professionally with the demands and prerogatives of the Inner Path I walk. But perhaps hardest of all, is remembering the importance of  focus and intention in ordinary,daily life – the good, the bad, the (sometimes) really REALLY stinky.


I work with animals professionally, but they also form the central hub of my daily life and spiritual practise. And by that I don’t mean meditating on  Animal Guides, wandering through the forest listening deeply, studying the mythological and folkloric  attributes of various species, or lighting candles on a shrine to Flidais, all of which are lovely and meaningful and yep, spiritual parts of my life. What I mean here is, the other stuff, the gruntwork – cleaning the litter, cooking the food, prepping herbal formulations, washing the bird cages and snake tanks, traipsing through snow to get the dogs walked, TTouching an ailing feline, filling bird feeders, making sure I spend time with them all (including the snake) and generally honouring their needs to the best of my ability.
This is where my focus, my intention, the purity of my heart and my discipline to not waver,  are tested. Yes, there are days I’ve wanted to run screaming into a snowbank when it all became to much, but I didn’t. There are moments nearly every day where I would give my eye teeth to have somebody else do the work or at least help out, for a bit.But whoever said that waking a Path of Spirit, with your whole being,was going to be easy, or fun all the time? If we are not challenged, if we don’t have to face head-on, the Shadow aspect of our goals and dreams, and grapple with it all – where is the growth?


I estimate that every day, including walking dogs, I spend between 3 and 4 hours on animal duties, some of which are a pleasure and others, not so much.I have fibromyalgia, so there are days this work takes much longer, as I have to take constant breaks to manage anything heavy or demanding. And I  fight the resentment on those days – that I have FMS, that it all takes SO SO LONG, that I feel relatively alone in this task and always the pressure to get to my day job…but still. My goal is to perform all of it with focused love for my calling, and steady, conscious gratitude I am able to do the work I do at all. Once I get to my desk, there are flurries of emails from people who respect my knowledge enough to reach out for help, and that is humbling.. Once I get to the forest, there are mossy meditation seats and hidden woodland altars to be fed, prayed or meditated over….once I can put my feet up at night, there is a ridiculous stack of books by my bedside to inspire, inform and delight me, with magical tales of Animal Medicine from all over the world, or simple stories about how an animal changed one human’s life, and so on. I often start my day by pulling a Medicine Card and considering the meaning, how I might need it that day, what I might need to be on the lookout for (within or without). And it’s all good, a blessing….but, the real test of commitment is what we do when we don’t feel like doing it, when it’s smelly or late or tedious or otherwise unrewarding. I can’t say I’m always this perfect person, scrubbing the poopy bed or reeking litter  or shoveling the yard full of dog droppings with gratitude and glee…but, I hold the goal in my head and heart, keep clear and conscious about my sense of calling and blessing – and day by day, one task – one breath! at a time – I am getting there.


Finding Strength in Dark Times

Although I have wanted to post many times over the past few months, drafted entries in my head, sometimes made aborted starts on writing – there’s just been so much going on I have to relegate this work to the back burner, but that is becoming increasingly hard as my creative energy wells up into a volcano that has to erupt or I may actually, physically explode. Over the past year I’ve been dealing with the challenges of a partner who basically lived 1500 miles away all year, an INSANE workload, and the seriously traumatic pressure of suddenly having to leave my home of 12 years..stress…stress…stress. My health is holding, but it took a hit – and the constant uncertainty about where on earth we will live, is terrible. It’s a tough time – but it pales in comparison to what’s going on in the world stage, and by that I mean, of course, the election of Donald Trump to the White House.

I can sum this up simply by saying, I just have no idea how this farce ever got this far. Or as the meme goes:


But, it is happening, and it is terrifying – and the waves of despair, outrage, anger and fear have hit many of us who are sensitives, empathics – Hell, I think it’s hit anyone with a heart, really. And people are responding in various ways…outreach, demonstrations, escapism and denial – I see a range, and my own feeling is, do whatever you need to do, to get through it and be strong. If you feel up to working for change right now, do it! but if not, or if you are unable to/more inclined to inner work, don’t feel bad about that…prayer, is always needed…and so too, does personal outreach, a shift towards kindness, forgiveness, solidarity, make for some powerful Medicine in these challenging times.
And this last thing,this focus on an inner shift – is what I plan to do, my small bit, over the next year at least. (After that, if I’m more settled, time to reassess).

When I look deeply, I see how personal experiences – negative ones, or superficially so – have influenced behaviours well beyond what is reasonable, for me. Professionally, I enjoy overwhelming good results, great clients, and love the work I do…but, one difficult situation or unreasonable person and that seems to overwhelm all the good I am able to do, and calls into question whether I can continue in my calling or not ( not for long, but it happens). Likewise, I’ve chosen a fairly reclusive lifestyle, and while I’m very comfortable with that, there are many cherished people in my life whom I have often failed to keep up with, and that is a sad state of affairs. In 2015, I had some truly awful personal experiences, losing three people I would have called among the most important in my life, for various reasons (one, a long series of disagreements and differences arising; two, a bad mismatch, wherein I thought I was dealing with a friend, but was in fact, not the case at all; and three, I actually have no idea about, she just vanished without a word). That year damaged me, in ways that haven’t been clear until recently – I allowed the hurt and anger to drive me away from people in general – well, that and incessant exposure to animal cruelty (thank you, Facebook) combined to push me further away from feeling like “people matter”…. and into feeling more and more, that we humans are just parasites and channels of negativity here on this earth.
Not a good place to be in.


Recently, a number of personal events called attention to the fact that I have buried my pain in workaholism, avoided my anger with a cloak of “forgiveness” I didn’t really feel, and allowed my reclusivity to become isolationism and estrangement. With the election of Trump into office and the terrible threats to so many of my friends and so many, period – the threat to all strides made in protecting the environment and animals in general – I felt slapped upside the head, snapped out of my focus on the personal. I can no longer allow myself to be weakened by unresolved conflicts and emotions, I cannot afford the apathy and bitterness that comes with resignation and retreat. I have accepted that I will never receive the apologies I am owed, the hand in reconciliation I waited for, and that is absolutely fine – we should not expect nor crave relationship with those who are not capable of it, in any adult and meaningful way. So those chapters close. And I am amazed, even after all these years of Innerwork, how intense is the response once we turn our attention to our pain, and how rapid the healing once we make it a priority.


How does this relate to our troubling world situation, you ask? I believe we all have to do something, have to act in someway to offset the energies that have made their presence known of late – I am not going to use the darkness/light paradigm, as for me, darkness is not evil – it is as holy and as  much a part of “goodness” as the light. But there are…energies, now, awakened. And  I do believe this:

So – for me, I intend to reach out more to my community, to those I love whom I sometimes don’t check with for months, I intend to set up my initiative to bring accessible herbal medicine to low income people (I mean for humans and pets!) and to start up my local classes once we have moved, on a pwyc basis. I’ll call friends more often and invite them over, go out and visit just a little more – strengthen the bonds between me and my loved ones, my new and old friends, and my community.I decided FINALLY to set up a woman’s group (again, once we are moved) and share support, healing and celebration with like-minded sisters. All of this will be supported by intensified personal Work, and reflected too, in a shift in attitude professionally. While I have long been irritated to the point of distraction by what I see as quackery, undermining the validity of my profession, I plan to let it go and just focus on my own contribution. A kinder, gentler me – with more social outings.


These are hard times, scary and surreal, but we have to stay strong to face them. And we have to face them together. If there is any personal good for me in  the situation, it’s that it has taken me out of the slump – maybe even the depression I’ve been in for a year and a half now. I’ve worked on myself, worked on my spirit, I’ve studied, learned and grown for close to 60 years now – I hope my own contribution can be that of solace to others,  a sanctuary to visit and be held in safe space, even from afar – to bring what I can through the conduit of my spirit and outwards to those who may need it. And do so with good cheer, good humour, and  above all, good coffee.

Much love to the world, I will leave with this quote, which I believe to the core of my (somewhat recovered and optimistic) being.



It’s funny how time gets away from us…today was one of those days where I struggled to pace myself and not get sick, but somehow I can’t recall how, the whole day is a jumble. I spent time with Korky, and that’s so important to me…I did my usual workstuff, but right after supper I realized Danny had not had his walk, and the days are growing shorter all the time…so off we went, “marching” as Alex calls it, around the perimeter of the big field out back. It was one of those early fall evenings wherein the light is so gorgeous and the air so beautifully sweet, you want to grab the nearest camera and video it to share with the world…just loveliness…but then the realization that it’s impossible to capture the essence of some beauty on any kind of film.In front of the house, the ancient Bur Oak was, as it always is in September, filled with starlings to such an extent it actually shimmered with the setting sun catching their iridescent feathers, and they all rustle about emitting their magical, mysterious sounds. That oak full of those birds…is something I will miss like I can’t describe. But I’m not going there right now, into the pain of upcoming change and uncertainty. I just stood and reveled in the magic, and then headed out back with Dan, shuffling a little in my inappropriate shoes, as he bounced about cheerfully, as only Dan can do.

No deer anywhere….last night Tilia and her two fawns, plus the sweet female I call Funnyface, were here by the end of the news, 6:30 ish. Tonight was clear. So we followed the treeline, around the little spring lined with hawthorns – amazing red berries! and past the  silent place where an oak, ash and thorn intertwine, where Amidala’s spirit dwells. I let myself think back on the 11 years since we moved here, all the changes – so many changes! and settle into gratitude for the opportunities, the growth, the passages and  the time.
Certainly, I will leave here almost a different person from who I was when I moved in, 11 months almost to the day after my brother’s death…still dazed and numb with disbelief and pain. And the air stayed heartbreakingly sweet and fresh, a lone mallard flew awkwardly overhead, the birches sighed sympathetically. It was sorrow without despair, intermingled with immediacy, the starlings, the promise of fall everywhere, from the crimson Virginia creeper to the soft yellowing on the maples, to the lengthening shadows at 7 pm.
September. We come home to hot elderberry tea and a quiet snuggle, all of us together in our den….windows still open to catch the owls and wolves deep into the night.
And this I know…there will be another sanctuary, and with any luck, the right one this time.

When in doubt – cook something!

This summer has been challenging – well the whole year really, with our terrible news aobut having to move, and then the death of my precious Amidala…another year where Alex has been gone much more than home and I am literally aching from head to toe with the burden of doing two jobs.  My hope of a regular helper fell through, and it’s a battle to get anyone to cut the grass, as it has been for over a decade now. Today, my hands and feet literally ache, ont *just* my usual joint pain and sore back. I’m so exhausted! But  when I reflect on 2015, with all that happened in that transformative year, 2016 seems pretty light. So, crazy as it sounds, even though I am overworked and very  sore – I have to make room for what keeps my heart light and my spirits high. And that can mean different things at different times – working on Materia Medica under the silver maple, with a bottle of spicy cider, or binge watching some fantasy tv series (I’m on Round Three of Fringe… and never tire of GoT) or just spending time with the garden, the birds, the forest. All pretty reliable methods of helping me stay positive – but truth be told, there is not anything as reliable and as invigorating to me, when I need a break from it all, than cooking.

And, I might add, not for dogs or birds, although I think the need to keep Korky supplied with fresh veggies and bird bread has re-ignited my passion for food.
This, by the way, is Korky. Isn’t he amazing? He’s even funnier and more amazing in real life, but then he also clams up and won’t say much around new people, till he gets to know you. With me, the conversation is nonstop, except when he’s sleeping.



With my dogs, I often make a week’s worth of food and freeze – if I have time I make two weeks. Then I add steamed fresh veggies and garden herbs plus their extras and oils daily.. Korky doesn’t seem to like foods I freeze , like the popular CHOP or Grainbake recipes.. the exception is  bird bread, and trust me, bird bread is THE best thing on the face of the earth, fresh from the oven OR freezer. SO I am spending time in the kitchen more these days, and with a dire need tot feel as well as I can, my own diet has to be important along with the animals. But there is so much more to the  magic of cooking – the peace, contentment and satisfaction it brings – then simply meeting nutrient requirements and getting all the antioxidants one can.

For some of us, cooking feeds the soul, and in my case, reconnects me with my happiest, most grounded and peaceful Self.

So, despite having nowhere near enough time to accomplish all that I am called to do in a day, I am insistently doing more cooking for myself and partner (the infamous HouseViking of Facebook fame). Because it makes me happy, and we have to eat anyway, so why not enjoy?

My earliest memory of this cosmic draw to the  kitchen, came courtesy of my Nana, who reminded me a few years ago (this Nana who lived to be 99 and was one of the stalwart Scottish ancestors to whom I owe a specific debt of obstinacy, erudition and strength) that often, as a child of 8, 9, 10 who came to visit her over the summer, I would decide, at about 8 pm, I needed to bake a cake. And she had learned to  allow this little eccentricity, mostly because the  products of my inspiration were, pretty delicious. ..and even the failures brought me so much joy. The deal was, if I started baking I had to do the clean up too – no dishes left overnight in THAT kitchen! and I always did. I don’t recall the recipes, but apparently they were mostly taken from the side of a Fry’s cocoa can, or a cereal box. I wish I remember it all more clearly. But, 50 years later , and with possibly more sophisticated taste – – I still often turn to the kitchen to work through sorrow, to calm my heart, to just have fun. And, these past few years in the midst of stress, striving, turmoil and growing presence online (that requires a LOT of maintenance..) I haven’t been cooking nearly enough.


That’s all about to change.

First in a series of my adventures in the kitchen. And no – not dog food recipes. You have to check that other blog, for those.
Stay tuned.