Dear Great Blue Heron

[Photo courtesy of NCWildlife.org]

As I walked my daily path in the woods yesterday and came upon my favorite bend in the creek, I was stopped in my tracks by your presence. 

You see, I’ve been a great admirer of yours for many years.  Your exquisite grace, the slow beats of your very broad wings, your long purposeful beak and winding neck.  It seems the whole world pauses to marvel at your beauty when you depart from the earth into the sky. 

The day we encountered each other, we were both taken by surprise.  But you noticed me before I noticed you.  In that moment you took flight, emerging from the shallow creek into the nearby treetop, just far enough to listen in as I shared some words of awe and admiration: 

Great Blue Heron, you have been an essential connector for me and the more than human world.   When I moved back to North Carolina in 2004 after having spent 15 glorious months in the wide open spaces of Sedona, AZ I felt claustrophobic with all of the tall greenness of this state. I didn’t know if I would find the divine as easily as I had in the high desert, with its dramatic red rocks and bright blue sky.  

And then I found you. 

Your beauty emboldened me to spend more time near the river, in the woods, learning to be quiet and observant so as to receive the many gifts the natural world has to offer. 

For this I will always be grateful.  

Thank you for choosing Earthseed as a resting place along your path.  Thank you for allowing me a moment in time to share all of this with you.  Thank you for continuing to inspire and bless my existence with your marvelous ways.  

May we all learn to glide, swoop and soar through life as gracefully as you.  With gratitude and respect, ~Zulayka 

Ardea Herodias: Our most familiar and frequently seen wader, the Great Blue Heron has shown a remarkable increase in numbers across the state since about 1980. In fact, it was very poorly known as a breeding species as late as the 1970’s, with nesting colonies few and far between, mainly in remote swamps. However, with the great increase in beaver ponds, and a smaller increase in reservoirs and other man-made lakes and ponds, Great Blues have taken advantage of these new freshwater wetlands. Birds now nest in most of our counties away from the mountains, and nesting colonies are often easily visible around the upper ends of reservoirs and at beaver ponds. The species forages mainly at freshwater ponds, lakes, and streams; however, they also feed in brackish waters, especially at coastal impoundments, and rarely in salt water. Unlike most other waders, the Great Blue shuns nesting on coastal islands with other herons, egrets, and ibises. Instead, birds nest mostly by themselves, or with Great Egrets and/or Anhingas, with nests placed mainly in living trees — almost always in standing water — to deter predators.

http://ncbirds.carolinabirdclub.org/view.php?species_id=136

Cocoon, Vol. 1, Issue 7

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Reconnecting with Ourselves, Each Other, and This Land

I come here to listen, to nestle in the curve of the roots in a soft hollow of pine needles, to lean my bones against the column of white pine, to turn off the voice in my head until I can hear the voices outside it: the shhhh of wind in needles, water trickling over rock, nuthatch tapping, chipmunks digging, beechnut falling, mosquito in my ear and something more—something that is not me, for which we have no language, the wordless being of others in which we are never alone.  After the drumbeat of my mother’s heart, this was my first language.  —–Robin Wall Kimmerer, from Learning the Grammar of Animacy

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Today we honored the Winter Solstice at Earthseed by spending some intentional time listening:  to ourselves, each other and this land.  In a society that is so chock-full of noise, where we spend so much time in front of THIS screen, taking moments of pause, where we can actually listen carefully, become precious gifts,

We walked intentionally.  We sat quietly on the forest floor.  We listened. We reconnected with our breath.  We heard each other clearer.

We remembered that when we cut through all of the clutter and chatter what is  REALLY most important, is our ability to love ourselves and love each other.  If we don’t get that right, then all the rest seems meaningless and empty. As we mark the end of another exhilaratingly beautiful and excruciatingly heartbreaking year, may we continue to grow our relationships stronger, rooted evermore deeply in the practice of love.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for the support, encouragement and inspiration you’ve offered along the way.

Cocoon, Vol. 1, Issue 6

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Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn

by Wu Men Hui-k’ai
English version by Stephen Mitchell
Original Language Chinese

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

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Photo: Snowy Day at Earthseed Land Collective, 12-9-18. Zawadi Luna on the bottom left included for perspective.

Cocoon, Vol. 1, Issue 5

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Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue.  We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things.  So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People.  Now our minds are one.

We are thankful to our Mother the Earth, for she gives us everything that we need for life.  She supports our feet as we walk about upon her.  It gives us joy that she will continue to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time.  To our Mother, we send thanksgiving, love, and respect.  Now our minds are one.  

—The opening paragraphs of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, known more accurately in the Onondaga language as the Words That Come Before All Else.  The actual wording of the Thanksgiving Address varies with the speaker.  This text is the widely publicized version of John Stokes and Kanawahientun, 1993.  

Today, many people across the United States of America gather with their loved ones to offer collective gratitude.  This holiday has some heartbreaking history attached to it (to say the least) and we are currently living through some heartbreaking moments.  Yet somehow, today we can choose to focus on the many gifts this life offers. In particular, the MANY gifts that we have received, and continue to receive the people who were indigenous to this land long before its European ‘discovery’. We are so thankful.   (more…)

Cocoon, Vol. 1, Issue 4

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And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

From the poem “When Great Trees Fall” by Maya Angelou (more…)

Cocoon, Vol.1, Issue 3

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The land is the real teacher.  All we need as students is mindfulness. Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart.  -Robin Wall Kimmerer, from “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” 

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These tiny flowers refused to go unnoticed on Earthseed Land!  They started arriving a few weeks ago, and now they’ve managed to fully inhabit significant swaths of land.  Erigeron annuus is their formal name, but the children and I refer to them as ‘tiny daisies’.  Once you take the time to notice them, you’ll begin to see them most everywhere: along roads, trails, in fields and even in areas full of waste.

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Robin Wall Kimmerer writes, “Names are the way we humans build relationship, not only with each other but with the living world.”  I struggle with feelings of awe and humility every time I sit to write this blog.  How could I, not formally trained in anything plant-related have anything to say about the natural world?  And yet, there is a deeper longing to reconnect that pushes me forward.  I believe there are some other truths, not found in a university setting that nature bountifully reveals to us. (more…)