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.



Thursday, May 28, 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. 


"Watching"

Over the past two and half months, I have spent close to one hundred and fifty hours in this forest. Walking. Hiking. Meditating. Making offerings. Burying creatures who have died here. Offering blessings for health and safety for the world, and saying blessings for peaceful passings for those who are dying. And in all of that time (as well as before our world broke open into something we've never known), I have never seen a deer anywhere in this  forest. Of course, because I live a few minutes' walk from this forest, I know that deer must bed down here; they certainly visit our home frequently enough. But a few days ago, I was given this beautiful gift: two deer walking (though only one is visible in this clip) through the part of the forest I call "the cathedral." She watched me; I watched her. We abided together peacefully, unhurriedly. Somehow I felt like she knew me, knew my prayers, knew my heart. 









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, May 27, 2020

Image of the Week

"King Shapes"



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."

Tuesday, May 26, 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. 


"Curlicue"

These unfurling fern fronds stopped me on the trail. The curves, the curls, the S-shapes, the symmetry and the lack of symmetry, the many shades of green - all delight me. For a week or two, I had repeatedly tried to capture an image of a curlicue. And then one day recently, the lighting and the fronds conspired to create the perfect conditions for a photo. What are you seeing in new ways from day to day? What thrills your eye? What from the beauty of nature do you carry to the places within you that need love, comfort, healing, respite?






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, May 25, 2020

Monday Musings GRATITUDE PRACTICE

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

Engage in a random act of kindness for a stranger. 



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, May 22, 2020

Kindness Feels Better

I just came across this post from a year ago. What I find so remarkable is that every bit of it is true today, despite "life" and the world being so utterly changed.

Kindness feels better than …

angrily debating right and wrong, 
judging others’ “meanness,” 
fearing a lack of reciprocity,
being closed-hearted,
serving only oneself,
shutting out others, 
avoiding vulnerability,
holding a grudge,
or
carrying a burden of unspent love.

Kindness is soft.
Kindness is necessary – for others and for ourselves.
Kindness is needed, always, as an antidote to the fear of difference.
Kindness is a bottomless well. Or at least it can be replenished by nurturing, tending, loving the soul.

And kindness is very, very simple. 

I have received great, unexpected, and unconditional kindnesses recently. (I might have offered a few small ones, as well.)
The kind that make a person weep.
The sort that evoke an immediate hug-response.
The type that rock the spirit right back to equanimity.

As the robin sings her morning lullaby and the moist, Earthy breeze crawls in my window to caress my heart, I am suddenly moved to indescribable elation. This is kindness – strong kindness - too.

(Originally posted in May 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."

Thursday, May 21, 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. 


"Creativity Camp - Charter for Compassion"

Next Wednesday May 27th (at 12 PM Pacific Time), I will be the guest presenter on the Charter for Compassion's new online webinar series, "Creativity Camp." The presentation is free and open to the public (for children and youth, families, and the young at heart). I will briefly read selected excerpts from my writings and then spend the bulk of the ninety minutes showcasing some of my nature-based creative pieces, describing how you can make them yourself, why and when we can make Earthy art, Earth-friendly ways to harvest materials, and a short bit on how to use nature in creative writing. Please join us. We hope to provide a fun, beautiful, and inspiring session. Learn more: https://charterforcompassion.org/programs/creativity-camp Register here to hold your spot.







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, May 20, 2020

Image of the Week

"Sated"



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."

Tuesday, May 19, 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. 


"Kiss Me"

This is a lovely neighbor-buddy who makes me feel special when I pass by. He leaves his breakfast to come over to the fence where I'm standing and he presses his face as close to mine as he can. I feel like he's saying, "Kiss me." (Or perhaps that is what I'm wishing he would do...) Who - human or nonhuman - in your life makes you feel loved, appeals to your playful side, or otherwise makes you smile? I hope you enjoy this short, fun clip:








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, May 18, 2020

Monday Musings NATURE PRACTICE

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



Take a ten-minute walk during which you place your full and undivided attention on the natural world you’re encountering.





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."

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Hearth: comfort, beauty, nourishment for the soul

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




"Piecing it Together"

What have you created in bits and pieces? A piece of writing. Collage. Meal made from random leftovers. This is an image of some pieces of orizomegami (folded, dipped in dye) paper that I had practiced making one afternoon. Each one means something to me, evokes a particular memory or feeling. But all together they become something new and unexpected. Whether I see this image as satisfying (aesthetically-pleasing) or dissatisfying (flawed, messy, hard on the eye) depends less on what is actually on the page and more about what is in my heart. What can you piece together from the fragments of disparate objects, experiences, feelings? What can you make whole and new from the bits you already have?






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, May 15, 2020

Hope?

What we see and hear around us is pressing in. It’s real. 

Devastating news was delivered to me twice this week, bringing the reality a lot closer to home; my heart breaks for the grievers. 

We also receive horrid news every day via various media channels. It’s bad enough to see the inconceivable numbers associated with disease and death. Now we’re receiving news about the indeterminate return to what we used to consider “normal” life, "normal" socializing. 

I pray that things do not go back to “normal.” I’m up for a change. A big one. Like universal compassion, deep patience, an unambiguous embracing of difference, justice and equity for all, and unconditional, widespread gratitude. Like a greater focus on what really matters – those things that people who are dying have continued to convey to me over the decades: relationships with loved ones, the solace of poetry, the beauty of nature, the giving of one’s gifts to the world. 

A few days ago, I spontaneously ended up on a favorite beachside trail and ran into a dear soul who I infrequently see. I chatted up a storm and she was a very good listener with her big, beaming smile. I talked about a podcast I’d listened to weeks ago and I relayed to her the message of hope that it ultimately contained. After I finished, she exhaled a huge sigh of relief and said something to the effect of, Thank God! I didn’t at first know where you were headed with that story and I was afraid you were going to take away my hope! I hadn’t realized that I might’ve edged in the direction of hopelessness as I relayed my tale, and I woke up to the deeper imperative of holding onto hope during these times. 

We all need hope. Tenderness. To receive a kind word, a check-in from a friend, the dose of cheer contained in a wave or a smile. 

It’s hard to guess at the fragility within that clings to hope – whatever shred, whatever shape, from whatever source. A fragility that can be easily shaken into a dirty mix of angst, despair, desperation. 

That huge red cedar tree in the forest? It gives me hope. It reminds me what strength looks like. She shows me how a balance can be struck between fragility and courage: the scale-like leaves blow easily at the distant top of the tree; the thick solid trunk is immoveable. 

I want to be hope. It mostly doesn’t feel like my M.O. But, as David Quammen said, hope is an act of will…a responsibility. I can muster an act of will. I can take responsibility. 

Hope meets the tender part of us - that shallow place in the wellspring, that deficit in conditions that equal thriving, that thin veneer of coping that needs shoring up – and it fills to overflowing, it balances circumstance so that flourishing occurs, it rolls in with the tide and washes us anew. 

Hope. We might not have it in a moment; that is when we turn to others who love us and seek comfort, drinking from their well. 

Hope. In the moments we do summon the act of will to be hopeful, to be a carrier of hope, those are the moments when we touch the lives of others. 




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, May 14, 2020

Hearth: comfort, beauty, nourishment for the soul

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



"Walk with Me #2"

Join me here again on a different stretch of the forest trail. 
We will walk in silence, with a deep sense of shared humanity and our embeddedness in the web of all life: Nature. 
We relish this journey that once again soothes us. 
Come back to experience this walk later, too. 








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."