Welcome!

Welcome! This is a place to share how we celebrate & deepen our relationship to Nature. Here you will find stories, images, & ideas about wilderness, human nature, & soulfulness. Drawing from the experiences of everyday living, the topics on this blog include: forays into the natural world, the writing life, community service, meditation, creativity, grief & loss, inspiration, & whatever else emerges from these. I invite you on this exploration of the wild within & outside of us: the inner/outer landscape.



Friday, July 3, 2020

My (Ancestors’) Land

It runs in my veins and I cannot deny it.

 

Three days after returning from the ancestral lands of my people, I suddenly realize why I have chosen this small island, this Pacific Northwest place in which to live. I might actually say that it chose me

 

For decades I have called this wet, verdant landscape “home.” For good reasons I have left for a few years at a time, but always my heart was called back here; always I longed for the moisture, the green, the trees, the sea-surround. It is the land here that feeds my soul. 

 

The people of my people – my deep family history – root themselves in another teal nature-scape: the island of Ireland. 

 

I have longed to visit Ireland since my early twenties. I managed to tick off my seventh continent years ago but couldn’t make the easy flight to Ireland. 

 

Perhaps I wasn’t ready to receive her as I am able to now.

 

Family business – a commitment to a loved one that involved going to Ireland – got me there. The comfort, familiarity, resonance with, and inexplicable connection to the isle of my grandmas and grandpas sewed me together, in place, on that land.

 

Rolling hills. 

Green, green, green.

Teal, lime, seafoam shamrock seaweed.

Mint, moss, sage and jade. 

 

At the water’s edge.

On the rolling hills.

Across farms, behind cottages, tucked into roofs.

Green that separates green: cultivated fields delineated by living fences.

 

This Pacific Northwest landscape – twin to the Emerald Isle – runs in my veins as does the land of Eire. It is sibling to my ancestors’ land. It is my land. In my depths I come from the seeds planted in that other soil. I am one with this nature and with that one. How could I not be; for it is my lifeblood. 

 

I cannot deny the heritage of my natural history. 




(Originally posted on July 26, 2019.)


All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Image of the Week

"Criccieth, Wales"



All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday Musings GRATITUDE PRACTICE

TEALarbor stories’ Monday Musings are simple practices for exploring the inner/outer landscape. 



Create a small, pretty card and send it to someone who needs encouragement. 




All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, June 26, 2020

Beauty and Wounds

For ten of the past eleven years, I have engaged in a Global Earth Exchange (GEX) in support of Radical Joy for Hard Times, the nonprofit run by a friend and colleague of mine. Each year I have followed the suggested steps for engaging this ritual: to tell stories in a natural place that has been harmed in some way and to make beauty there using just what can be found at the site. Because my GEX always involves trees, I call it “Treephilia.”  

 

Because of the utterly unprecedented times we are now in, I chose to do my Treephilia ritual differently this year. Instead of taking beauty to a wounded place, I took wounds to a beautiful place. Instead of using only what I found at the site, I carried in ritual materials. 

 

For four months now, I have hiked through my neighboring forest nearly every day with the pandemic on my mind and searing my heart. There is a lovely clearing in the underbrush in an area of the forest I variously call “the sanctuary” or “the cathedral.” The trees standing in this holy-to-me place are primarily redcedars. There is one particular tree who I have unimaginatively named “Redcedar.” This tree has been the site of my prayers, gratitude, cries for healing, and silent meditations throughout this pandemic. 

 

I have knelt beside, laid my hands upon, hugged, cried, videotaped a bereavement message near, photographed, crawled onto, leaned against, sighed beside, cupped my hands in prayer toward, and pressed my forehead upon…Redcedar. She has held my process, my fears, my grief, my relief as I daily express in her presence what I, my loved ones, acquaintances, and the world are enduring. In recent weeks, she has also held my emotions about and deepened commitments to dismantling systems of inequity and oppression that bind us as a nation and a world. 

 

So, on the summer solstice (in the northern hemisphere) 2020, I did my Treephilia ritual at the base of tall, strong, beautiful Redcedar. After hiking into the forest until I reached the clearing, I greeted Redcedar and thanked her for being there. I let my eyes scan up her trunk until my gaze reached her needle-covered boughs which seem to touch the cerulean sky. I breathed in deeply. Then I got to work unpacking the ritual items I had carried in. 

 

Just on the exposed roots of Redcedar I created an altar on which I laid: cones, feathers, shells, acorns, moss, lichen, various types of bark, and seaweed; these are all items I have gathered in natural places near and far. Some of the natural items I used to create this altar represent the people and wounds I was carrying in to my ritual. I also placed a sage smudge wand, birch candle, and stacked a rock cairn on this altar. In one corner I added a swatch of an old Radical Joy T-shirt with its signature bird image. In the center, I added a number of tiny cones that cover the forest floor at the site of Redcedar. 

 

I had taken with me a list of the severe crises that my friends, clients, and family are facing. I had on that list the people I know who have died in recent months – some passed away from COVID-19; others died from different conditions. I had created a global list of names, families, groups that I know are suffering in these times. 

 

In synchrony (though not planned) with the GEX this year, my loved ones on the east coast were holding a ceremony to honor a beloved who died of COVID-19; their memorial occurred on the same day that I did my GEX ritual. 

 

Just below the altar, I added a large split bouquet of dandelions from my yard. This “weed” flower represents the many ways we have not been able to show up for one another during these illnesses and deaths; people are dying alone and their loved ones are not able to hold traditional memorials and funerals. These rites of passage are significant, as is their omission during this crisis time. As a longtime hospice volunteer who has been at the bedsides of many, many people who are dying, this has been an especially difficult aspect for me of this COVID era. 

 

And just below the dandelions, I created a stylized image of a bird/sun using a senba tsuru that I made thirty-five years ago for my mother’s fiftieth birthday. I had learned about the symbolism associated with stringing up one thousand paper cranes during the year I lived as an exchange student in Japan. That year, I had also been instructed in how to make these origami forms. The crane is considered holy in Japanese culture. Origami cranes are a symbol of peace. One of the meaningful ways in which senba tsuru tend to be created is as a wish for recovery for someone who is ill. This particular senba tsuru has also recently gained greater significance for me; after my mom’s passing twenty months ago, I “inherited” this gift I had made and that had hung in her home for three and half decades.  

 

I knew the senba tsuru, for all of the reasons I mentioned (and more), had to be part of my GEX this year.

 

After shaping the cranes on the ground next to Redcedar, I said some blessings and then slowly read the list of sufferers that I had compiled. 

 

Redcedar bore it all. She stood, stalwart and healthy as I offered wound after wound (in the form of people’s names). 

 

I felt a release after it was over. Redcedar’s beauty, the beauty I had made, the natural beauty of the sacred place all converged to heal something deep within me. I did not realize until right now – in the writing of that last sentence – that I had also taken wounded me to the site for the GEX. 

 

 







All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Image of the Week


"Sacred Passage"


All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday Musings GRATITUDE PRACTICE

TEALarbor stories’ Monday Musings are simple practices for exploring the inner/outer landscape. 



Take a pause in your day to reflect on what is working well in your life right now. 





All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, June 19, 2020

Fledglings

I have been observing and journaling about my backyard bird neighbors for thirty years. While living here in the Pacific Northwest, the common dark-eyed junco has been prevalent in my writing. 

 

Over the years I have:

 

buried small birds who didn’t make it, 

watched the flight patterns of acrobatic avians, 

placed fallen babies back in their nest, 

been wing-tapped by owls, mockingbirds, hummingbirds,

felt the tug of a penguin’s bill on my thick jacket sleeve, 

made a death altar for a great blue heron, 

collected fallen feathers, shells, carcasses, 

seen birds use tools to crack open seafood and nuts, 

calculated egg hatch dates, watched feedings, photographed every stage of nestling, 

used special feathers as smudge wands in ceremony, 

seen a crow steal a robin chick from its nest,

sneaked a peek at a bird hiding its cache, 

enjoyed the wobbles of day-old fledglings, 

been kept awake at night by birds, and woken in the morning by birdsong,

watched nests being built, and watched nests get destroyed,

counted eggs one by one as they are laid over days,

delighted in the glimpses of chicks in the nest, 

been observed by birds – intently, and followed by them too, 

witnessed the empty nest within hours of the fledge …

 

But through these decades, I have never seen a bird actually fledge … until five days ago.

 

Having put the likely fledge date on my calendar for a brood of junco babies, I went to the nest site on the noted day. Using the telephoto on my camera, I could see from a distance that the chicks were still nestled in.

 

I watch what, within me, is fledging today – even as I notice what is fledging in the wider world of humans.

 

One guy flapped a bit and his eyes were wide open, blinking. Then – quite unexpectedly and suddenly – out he came … flapping to a gentle landing on the nearby gravel. 

 

I wonder in what areas of life we are taking those first test flights.

 

He looked as startled at his feat as I felt watching him. 

 

Then, just as quickly, two more nestlings made the grand transition to “fledgling” by kind of haphazardly flapping, taking low altitude flight, and landing on the ground. 

 

One huddled by an outside door. 

 

Where, with whom, and in what do we seek refuge?

 

Another sprinted to the soil underneath a rose bush. 

 

How do we balance the need for sheltering in the fallen rose petals with the hard work – and possible falterings – of testing our ability to fly?

 

The third escaped my attention long enough to scramble across a vast distance for a baby (thirty feet through six-inch high clover and weeds); he ended up posing for many photographs – conveniently standing atop a gardenbed’s brick border. 

 

Which natural instincts fuel our movements in the broad world, and what can we consciously strive to do to come together stronger, more effective, and whole in the web of life?

 

The fourth stayed in the potting-soil-bag nest (where mama had cared for them) for almost an hour, sometimes trying out her wings but never exiting. I missed seeing her fledge because I was consumed with watching her siblings on the ground. When I checked the nest and saw she was gone, I heard a soft peep and realized she was several yards away running toward the front yard. As she rounded the corner of the garage, one of her parents was waiting for her with food. I watched as the adult placed her beak, full with a meal, inside the baby’s gaping mouth. 

 

With whom do we congregate once we’ve left our haven of home? And are those “others” the ones with whom we can be our real selves, working together for a more compassionate, just, healthy, safe world for every being? 

 

***

 

I spent a miraculous moment completely absorbed in four juncos who turned from nestlings to fledglings; I spent the next two and half hours taking telephoto shots of the babies moving about the yard … documenting their first hours out of the nest. 

 

There are infinite reflections from a morning immersed in the everyday life of another species. Nature offers never-ending fodder. For growth. For inspiration. For strength, respite, insight, healing. It is not separate from the causes for which we rally; it is the very source from which we can draw to deepen and expand them. 

 

 




All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Image of the Week


"Golden Moment"


All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday Musings NATURE PRACTICE

TEALarbor stories’ Monday Musings are simple practices for exploring the inner/outer landscape. 

 


In a comfortable position outside, look toward the sky and imagine what it might feel like to expand your perspective about a challenge you face. 







All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, June 12, 2020

Anew

             I found this piece from a year ago. As I reread it, I noted how it doesn’t take every one 

of these listed items in order to have a “conversion” (change of heart, inspired moment, greater sense of wholeness, refreshed perspective…). All it takes is one small noticing – with deep presence … a dragonfly passing by your window, a shift of breeze, sunlight as warmth, shade for respite. When I write "conversion," I'm not intending that a beautiful moment in nature is a cure-all for the huge, protracted issues we face personally, systemically, globally. But I do suggest that we need to refill our inner well in order to continue on the paths of service to which we are called; nature's healing power can offer that to us. 

 

the thick scent of wet Earth: conversion experience anew


banana slug on path

the perfectly-rolled, dried-up maple leaf and the other huge, perfectly-flat-open, supple 

maple leaf

two dozen fat figs ripening on the branches

aching muscles and heaving breath from trail-running

a breeze that suddenly arises, strong, and then quickly fades

the squirrel on the tree trunk who screeches loudly as we pass by

garden lettuce and strawberries warmed by the sun picked sixty seconds ago and now in 

my dinner bowl 

            fresh moss in piles along the edges

            a sage-green, agate-white, mousse-black wad of lichen

            fur-fortified coyote scat

            thin threads of redcedar bark, vertical bliss climbing high overhead

two halves of a day stereotypically blue sky, white clouds, green fir trees, yellow sun: 

cleaved by an abrupt torrent of chunky rain for thirty-two minutes

rose petals, snapdragons, peonies, lilies, petunias

and one hairy bee climbing inside pansy after pansy, emerging from each with 

ever-thicker golden pollen-socks


the sweet images of burgeoning Earth: conversion experience anew


Having read this, may you consider how you can take a moment for yourself to rest 

briefly in the healing world of nature. 





All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Hearth: comfort, beauty, nourishment for the soul

TEALarbor stories’ “Hearth” blog posts offer a tiny, gentle respite during this incredible transition we’re in. Rest for a few seconds here in the hearth of everyday nature and creativity. 


"Preparing to Show Up: Writing Practices that Serve"

Please click on the photo to read an article I wrote for Pallimed (a hospice and palliative medicine blog). You'll find some simple writing practices that might be of service to you and those around you during this challenging time:







All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Image of the Week

"Cradle"


All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."