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, December 3, 2021

Writing Breaths

I breathe out a sigh of relief: 

a gesture of trust that the next inhalation will come,

a release of all that I have held – we have held – this year, 

an offering to the trees around me.

 

I breathe in deeply, greedily:

grateful that I’ve got this moment, 

eager for the restoration that will come, 

open to the gift of Spirit.

 

Like you, I have given much to this year:

to staying the course when the path was unsure,

to holding hope every day - except in the moments when grief swelled too hard,

to creating anew, again and again, and again once more.

 

Now I will take my renewal, my restoration, my refuge:

in the haven of writing pen, paintbrush, collage papers, piano keys,

amid the soft glow of colored lights, candles, and hearth,

into the darkness and warm fire of winter’s inner and outer landscapes.

 

In order that I may more deeply move:

through the pages of my coming book project,

in the womb of inspiration, 

via the guidance of Beauty, and in the name of Nature …

 

I will be on a writing sabbatical starting December 4th (through January 9th). During this time, you will only find the Wednesday “Image of the Week” posts featured here. Thrice weekly posts will resume on January 10th. Instead, I will put all my writing efforts during this period into my current manuscript. 

 

Thank you for your engagement with this blog throughout the week and over the years. If you find you want more Earthy, nature-based creative posts to read during my time away this month, feel free to browse the blog archives. 

 

Blessings to you and yours during these holy days … each day, every day, a sacred opportunity to live more deeply, love more widely, and say thank you more frequently. 

 




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, December 1, 2021

Image of the Week

"Gold-Flecked Gifts"





























































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, November 29, 2021

Monday Musings GRATITUDE PRACTICE

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



Think about some ways you’ve served the world and offer yourself a gesture of gratitude for each of them. 






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, November 26, 2021

Frankincense

(journal entry a few days ago)

 

I bring in frankincense to these sacred dark early mornings as a gift to myself, 

but—more importantly—

as a way to open up a path to something unseen and divine outside of and within me. 

 

It is a conduit: all that smoke rising up in curls and crooked pathways. Infusing the air, but also the soul, with 

awakening

beauty

a sense of excitement even amidst a deepening calm. 

Settling to roots. 

Open to a miracle. 

And nothing shy of pure abiding in the unknown of the next second.

A reminder to Now: to be without agenda, only with presence.

Over and over.

One breath to the next. 

 

This is how we can do it—this life with its precarious instability that we mistakenly see as “stability”; but then we 

protest beg whine cry 

when life does what it naturally is wont to do by its very nature and physics of aliveness:

it shifts.

We call it “change” and we make it utterly solid: 

steel, cement—locked and impenetrable.

 

But even if we softened our idea about change to 

“solid as a rock” 

we’d be better for it—for at least rocks have the spark within (thanks, Charles Simic) 

and the divinity of being natural (not human-constructed).

 

So here I sit as my pen flows my lifeblood onto the page.

 

And I am made more whole this morning. Again.




 

(Orig. posted in Nov 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, November 24, 2021

Image of the Week

"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."

Monday, November 22, 2021

Monday Musings GRATITUDE PRACTICE

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

 


Tell each family member, or a few dear friends, what you most appreciate about them






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, November 19, 2021

The How of Afterward

Shortly after my very first hospice assignment, I remember being struck by the “issue” of bereavement: how would this family receive support as they grieved the death of their loved one?

 

Before I ever walked out alone into the desert on my first four-day wilderness fast, I remember being struck by the “issue” of incorporation: how would a soul who had undergone such a powerful experience cope with their life in the “developed world”?

 

During my intensive training in graduate school, I remember being “struck” by the issue of professional pressures after graduation: how would someone apply the scholarly insights and depth of knowledge in a change-agent sort of way?

 

In the years I was waking up to environmentalism, I remember being “struck” by the issue of genuine eco-friendly lifestyles: how could a person use as few resources as possible while still being engaged in modern society?

 

As a youth very involved in spiritual retreats in the mountains, I remember being “struck” by the issue of “bearing witness”: how would I ever be able to be a living example of my deep inner convictions in the midst of the vagaries of daily life at home?

 

When I volunteered on the city’s crisis hotline in my twenties, I remember being “struck” by the issue of post-tragedy resolution: how would the suicidal, homicidal, abused, homeless, starving, jobless, or imprisoned find sustaining well-being? 

 

At the conclusion of mediation sessions I’ve done with youth and families, I remember being “struck” by the issue of peace: how would they navigate relationship with one another once the dust settled?

 

Whenever I hear sirens, news of wars, famines, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, I remember how “struck” I continue to be by the issue of survival: how will the communities recover and rebuild, how will they find equilibrium, how will they commemorate lost lives, how will they release the fear of recurrence, how will they ever learn to celebrate again in the face of their potent experience of the thin thread that holds our vulnerable lives together?

 

(There are countless more examples…)

 

It was only this morning, in my private contemplations that I was able to see that this is a compelling theme in my life. I have given myself over, and over again, to this query and to the world: journeying this question of how. And then figuring out how to serve that need. 

 

How? And so yesterday, I found myself sitting with people who are struggling with current circumstances all over the planet. I’ve announced several times recently on this blog that I would be offering a free opportunity for callers to learn about and engage some very simple practices for coping…possible only through the generous hospitality of the Charter for Compassion; that video conference occurred yesterday. There were people from all over the globe in attendance. And I was just delighted to be of service in my very small way…the only way I know how to be – which is – simply – to be present with them. It takes guts to show up to strangers: all those callers to me - and introverted me to all of them. And yet, our common experience of being humans in difficult times, our honest vulnerability and intrepid willingness to look in the face of one another and ourselves, our shared desire to find peaceable and loving paths forward led us to convene in the geography-free, timeless, bias-neutral space of the online call. 

 

For this one small step deeper into the knowing of how to I am so deeply grateful. For I don’t see any breaking of the pattern above: my apparently lifelong pursuit of how we cope with and live through the “afterward” of our powerful life experiences. And not just how we cope and live. But also, how we thrive in the immediacy of difficult circumstances, how we move in balance, how we empathetically breathe in the pain of “the other” and breathe out the blessing of compassion. How we reach within, and how we reach out. 


(Originally posted in Dec 2016.)





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, November 17, 2021

Image of the Week

"Quintessence"





















































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, November 15, 2021

Monday Musings NATURE PRACTICE

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

 


Arrange some fallen boughs and leaves into a wreath. 






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, November 12, 2021

Transformation Through Water and Sound

A few days ago, I was doing my annual autumn cleanup in the lily garden bed. 

 

This is the place where … 

 

I have buried three juncos.

 

A variety of lilies sprout green leaves in late winter, bloom greatly vivid flowers in cycles from late spring to mid-fall, then do some sort of generative sacred thing underground for a season and a half.

 

Slugs of all sizes and colors feast year-round.

 

Swallows’ poop nourishes the soil from their eaves-nests high above.

 

A tiny little green frog climbed the stalks of the lilies a few autumns ago.

 

The rising sun first lights the yard.

 

I’m not fond of cutting back all those lily bushes; it feels harsh and destructive even though most of the greenery has dried to the color of death by this time of the year. But the other day I was taking advantage of a short window of sunshine in between torrential rainstorms so that I could get the task done. The carillon choir I belong to had spent the morning ringing bells and I was feeling chipper as the melodies continued to reverberate within.  

 

Starting on the west side of the bed, I cleared out most of the dead leaves. Despite myself, I was really enjoying how tidy the bed was becoming. And my hands in the wet soil felt delightful. I found a few stray plants (what some would call “weeds”) who had taken shallow root, and I gently—though apologetically—plucked them, adding to the large pile that I would haul to the compost. 

 

For some reason I couldn’t explain right then, I skipped over the second to last lily and cut back the plant on the far eastern edge of the garden. 

 

As I returned to the final plant and stooped to grab and prune it, I saw something reddish on the dark, sodden soil. I paused. 

 

Looked closely.

Put down the shears. 

Parted the tall lily leaves. 

 

And there was—for the first time ever in my garden—a northern red-legged frog! He was a male, by the palm-sized width of him. Although he was very still, I could see him breathing; he didn’t appear harmed in any way. 

 

I began, as I typically do with someone I’ve unexpectedly encountered, a conversation. After an initial greeting (Oh, hello!), I started in with a long litany of reassurances that I would not harm him. He did not try to jump away. Red Legs just sat there and occasionally nosed a bit deeper under the plant. I very carefully picked off some strands of wet vegetation that were tangled around his torso and back legs. I photographed him from many different angles, being sure to thank him and offer compliments each time his likeness appeared on my phone. I touched him a few times, parted the leaves to get a better look, marveled at his ample girth and brightly hued skin.  

 

And I expressed my dismay to him for cutting away so much of the foliage in which he had found a haven. Had I known Red Legs was there, I would have gladly forgone the garden task so he could abide in that Eden for as long as he desired. It was too late for that. Instead, I promised him that I would leave the remaining lily until he found a new cozy place to reside. It reminded me of a few months ago when I guaranteed the bees that I would not harvest all the lavender flowers that sustained them in another garden bed; I kept that vow, and I kept this covenant to Red Legs.  

 

The next day when I returned to the garden bed, Red Legs was gone. Though our encounter had lasted less than an hour, I was appreciably touched by his presence. 

 

Frogs are sometimes thought to symbolize transformation through water and sound. 

 

Indeed, the bellringing, the torrents of rain, and the upwelling of love for Red Legs that day seemed to converge into the shape of a small inner transformation: the ability to be moved by the huge and unexpected gift in a tiny chore. 

 

Even more than that though, I treasure the opportunity to:

 

be captivated by my nonhuman neighbor,

have time to slow down and hang out with him, 

speak and listen to him, 

look carefully at his small form breathing, 

imagine his life in my garden and beyond, 

cease my pruning before the task is completed - as a gesture of ongoing welcome, 

honor his life, wellbeing, individuality.

 

Wherever you find shelter now, Red Legs, I send you love and gratitude.

 

 




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, November 10, 2021

Image of the Week

"Decay is a Painting"
















































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, November 8, 2021

Monday Musings CREATIVE PRACTICE

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

 


Create a handmade card with a love note inside and place it where you can see it every day.






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."