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, February 26, 2021

Amazing Sky


I was pulling out of the Safeway parking lot at the end-of-day rush hour. 

 

Tired, and a bit grumpy (I admit), I made my left turn and proceeded up the road. I knew I needed a little refreshment; I was thinking that a forbidden food might be nice…a gooey, warm chocolate chip cookie; an inch of whipped cream atop a short, half-caff mocha; a hot, greasy eggroll, even. I denied myself, kept driving away from the stores offering such temptations.

 

And as soon as I made the next right-hand turn, three roads from home, I saw my treat: 

 

the wide expanse of sky opened up and I could immediately see a collage of color! 

 

…nearly a baker’s dozen of distinct, nameable hues thickly painted the sky: pear gold, silver, peach, slate gray, bright blue, milk-white, cream, dark ash, baby blue, lavender, the barest touch of rose…I couldn’t begin to quantify or name the many shades of paler or darker variations in color made by thicker clouds, thinner accumulation, sunbeams that illuminated particular areas…

 

And I stopped. Literally. On the side of the road. And I said aloud to nobody in particular, “Thank you!” as I gazed up at the most unexpected and ordinary-take-it-for-granted-sight: the firmament above. 

 

An ordinary-seeming day. A spectacular gift.






(Orig. posted in Feb 2017)



All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Image of the Week


"Smiley Wily"






























































All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, February 22, 2021

Monday Musings GRATITUDE PRACTICE

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



Tell someone you love a few things about them for which you are grateful. 










All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, February 19, 2021

I Love You

Today we were given four minutes to handwrite a love-letter, my friends and I who gather weekly for compassionate conversation. Here’s mine, unedited:

 

Dearest Hemlock, 

 

I love you. 

 

First, I want to start with apologies:

 

for calling you by the wrong name for many months, 

for not yet staying for a long time to listen more deeply to you, and

for not having visited you now for a while.

 

I love you.

 

I admit that our visiting cougar has distracted me from staying my course along the winding pathways of our shared forest. But I’m working on this and will return soon - 

to you, 

to the forest, 

to the trails – 

cougar or not.

 

I love you. 

 

I think of you daily. I also tell my friends and family how much you mean to me.

 

I love you. 

 

Your strong bark and steadfast height inspire me to stand tall and to use my own strength and power 

for good, 

for love, 

for peace, 

for interconnection.

 

I love you. 

 

And your lovely cones remind me to create grand beauty in this world. 


Then we were told that our writing time was up. So I hastily scribbled an ending:

 

I love you so very, very much. And I’m really excited to know that I’ll be seeing you again soon…

 

xoxo 

Love, your kin - Jenn

 

But I could’ve written so much more, recounting detailed stories of our shared experience:

 

the four or five altars I have made at the base of Hemlock over the past couple of years – for 

whom I made them, with what natural materials, and why, and how I felt;

the poetry, prayers, meditations, and gratitudes that I have silently - or whispered, or in full 

volume - recited as I stand or sit near, lean against, or press my hands on the bark of 

Hemlock;

the tenderness Hemlock showed me as I spilled tears of grief, worry, sadness; 

the request I heard from Hemlock that I: “stay awhile,” “listen,” “sit still”; 

the unusual, beautiful moment of species richness and abundance of birds we witnessed together 

in The Cathedral on that one, late-spring day last year; 

the unusually strong wind that shook Hemlock’s canopy far overhead on another day as it also 

tousled my uncut hair just five feet above ground... 

 

This list could go on and on. I’m only stopping here for the sake of a blog post that is of read-able length. (And, indeed, some of these stories of Hemlock’s and my shared time together are unfolding in great detail in my current book project.) The ways in which I feel held, supported, cared for - even, by being in relationship with Hemlock over time, are too much for this small piece of writing.  

 

One of the dozens of gems I’m receiving from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass (a long overdue read) is this: 

 

“When you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street to a sacred bond.”

 

This is quite the point of my love letter to Hemlock. I’m expressing my love, but I know and feel how this tree, this being, my beloved Hemlock, is loving me too. 

 

For months I’ve been discussing with my spiritual ecology intimates, meditating and writing about, exploring and seeking reciprocity of relationship with nonhuman beings – including with Hemlock. Today I found it – in part via the wise words of RWK and in part via my earnest love letter to Hemlock.

 

My love for Earth, and for Hemlock too, is reciprocated. It is requited. And our relationship is a sacred bond.





All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Image of the Week

"Canberra Sunset"



All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, February 15, 2021

Monday Musings NATURE PRACTICE

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

 


Notice one natural thing that you love outside your home. 





All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, February 12, 2021

Meditations: The First One

Over the past several weeks, I have been exposed to, engaged in, or guided a greater variety of meditations than ever before.

 

Here is one that was gifted to me from the Sufi Tradition. I gently modified a few words and offered it, in turn, during my events for last week’s World Interfaith Harmony Week: 

 

The first breath, the breath of Earth, in through the nose and out through the nose. 

Connect to all the Earthy things: soil, rocks, minerals; the solid parts of the world, bark and fur and flesh; your own flesh and bones, because you too are made of Earth.

The second breath, the breath of water, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Connect to all the fluid things: oceans and rivers, glaciers, falling snow; blood and sap, the water within cells and within bodies, within your own body, because you too are made of water.

The third breath, the breath of fire, in through the mouth and out through the nose, breathing through the heart. 

Connect to all the fiery hot things: lightening and lava, sun and stars, the heat in the body, the heat of your deep self, because you too are made of fire. 

The fourth breath, the breath of air, in through the mouth and out through the mouth.

Connect to all the things of air: wind in all its forms, from breezes to hurricanes; the breathing of plants, carbon dioxide in and oxygen out; the breathing of animals in exchange, oxygen in and carbon dioxide out; your own breath moving through your lungs, catching your fire, activating your blood, feeding your body, because you too are made of air. 

The fifth breath, the ether breath, so subtle it might look like you are not breathing at all, perhaps in and out through the mouth and nose at the same time.

This last breath connects all things: all the elements and all that is more than elemental, the divine spirit moving through the cosmos, moving through the spirits of all - and through your own spirit. Breathe gently, and rest in this interconnection with all beings.

 

I invite you, too, to explore and broaden your own path to interbeing, interpresence, and a deeper reliance on abidance in the moment of “right now.” 

 

Whatever words you choose – or perhaps you’d rather meditate in silence, 

whatever posture your body makes, 

from whatever traditions you draw – or from none, 

 

may you reconnect with the inherent goodness and sacredness that is available to us all through the life-sustaining and peace-giving breath – the wondrous gift of air – that comes from our interrelationships as a member of the community of Nature. 




All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Image of the Week

"Earthy Love"




All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, February 8, 2021

Monday Musings CREATIVE PRACTICE

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

 


Draw a simple shape that represents compassion.





All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, February 5, 2021

Caged in Nature

We hiked along a path that took us into the old, dried-up creek bed from our childhood adventures. But now at 50- and 60-something, we sisters made a startling discovery… :

 

 

the places where we had freely clambered down and back up – park to creek to riverside to neighborhood,

 

the locales for make-believe stories and a symbol in recurring dreams, 

 

the rich terrain for rockhounding, hide-and-seek, dares, and treasure-hunting,

 

the hiding spot from authorities after benign childhood hijinks, 

 

the secret space where dreams and worshipped sweethearts came alive in our imaginations,

 

the site for youth groups, family outings, bicycle breaks, and friend-romps, 

 

the place that became embedded in the inner landscape “map of childhood,”

 

the hillside that seemed almost dangerously steep: only true superheroes could traverse it, we kids said,

 

the rocks that we hoped would disappear from view under a deluge of floodwater (thirsty souls we were)

 

 

… : this area is now caged in, cut off, separated, segregated

 

by a twelve-foot-high, thick, metal fence with no toeholds or hand-grasps. My middle-aged self still held a fantasy of climbing up, over and down the other side. To prove that the creek bed and the park, riverside, neighborhood could be – would be - reunited by a traversable fence. 

 

From the caged-in creekside, I asked the abuela pushing her little ones in swings on the park side of the fence: ¿Donde está la apertura? Her unambiguous response came clearly, No hay ninguno. No opening to the park? I couldn't believe there was no way out of the creek. But I stood there clinging to the fence, staring in disbelief at the park from my childhood that I now could not access from the creek as an adult. I felt like a monkey in the zoo looking out at freedom. (Though the creek wasn't a bad place to be, it lost something if separated from the parks it adjoined.)

 

I rattled every chain-and-padlocked gate farther down the creek. I fancied slipping through the gap between two widely-spread gates, but the chain binding them was too tightly held. I hoped I could use a cement wall as a hoisting spot up the fence; the busy road that loomed below talked sense into my desperate desire to be freed from the now-jail of a creek bed. 

 

So that one-mile jaunt eventually turned into five miles of dusty, cobbled hiking – down the creek bed and then back up when every avenue of retreat was fenced off. 

 

A child’s dreams dashed by the fact of a fence. Too tall. Too sturdy-thick. Too slippery. The perfect barrier between what was and what is. 

 

The adult me knows why they built that fence. She understands why neighbors want to protect their privacy. She sees scattered along the once-pristine rock bed the needles and rusted shopping carts, the makeshift beds and mounds of litter, the hidden bent figure in the shadow of a tree, the stinky empty bottles, the wrappings from things I won’t mention - indicators of not-child-friendly activities…

 

But the little girl in me remembers the freedom of climbing and searching, rolling in cool green grass in the park, wandering aimlessly from friends’ homes to the creek bed to the next park north of there, throwing my bike down in my haste toward the next adventure crawling underneath the wide sweep of a tree branch overhanging the waterless creek. 

 

And I mourn what isn’t, even as I rejoice in the beautiful memories of a nature-filled childhood – 

a childhood in which everything was part of the story, everything was part of me: 

 

trees, branches, leaves – dried or budding, rocks too large to carry and stones just right for little pockets, the imaginal river that I wished could’ve moistened the creek bed, the grass stains and ants, the scent of eucalyptus, unrelenting sunshine pouring down on our tableau of childhood reverie. 




 

(Originally posted in Feb 2020)



All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Image of the Week




"Womb"






All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, February 1, 2021

Monday Musings WRITING PRACTICE

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



Journal about your greatest loves.






All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."