Resting is the Door

I just sat down to schedule out the next few months. It’s the first time I’ve had mental bandwidth in almost a month. Now that I no longer feel like I’m wearing a helmet of snot and an iron lung, I feel ready to plan out some projects that I signed on for back in 2014.

Fern, ever ready to take on the world. It’s hard to see in this pic, but she was also wearing a black cape.

I’ve been experiencing a consistent theme of can-do-ness. Not exactly readiness, confidence or even creativity. More of a “Yup. Doin’ that.” This theme, or sense, has shown up everywhere, from internal feeling, to tarot readings, dharma lessons to meditation.

Although, I have to say…now that I have plugged all my projects into the calendar, where they can hobnob with ongoing obligations…I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t totally freaking out feeling nervous about how it’s all gonna pan out. How I’m going to pan out, without melting down in an introvert’s tantrum.

Leo, in the whittling zone. Also, the backdrop to these photos may just be the ugliest corner on the ranch, crammed up against the water tank, pump and the flotsam and jetsam of a backyard porch. Not every moment can be instagramtastic. I just made up that word.

Without divulging too much, I will tell you that these projects include;

1. writing an article as a journalist
2. two teaching gigs at my old alma mater
3. getting licensed as an mft.
4. super secret writing project with a friend

In particular to #3…yes, that’s right. The countdown is on. Study materials have been purchased and test scheduled. By mid year, I will finally be done with what has been A TEN YEAR PROCESS. Cripes.

Whittling a staff for Fern, the super-hero shepherdess.

Within all this is the corner stone of a deeper theme, one chosen for the new year. I recently began a meditation practice with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, a teacher of Bon Buddhist wisdom. Like my former practice of Shambhala Buddhism, the teachings are tibetan in origin, but unlike Shambhala, predate the Buddha:

Bon is Tibet’s oldest spiritual tradition. It includes teachings and practices applicable to all parts of life, including our relationship with the elemental qualities of nature; our ethical and moral behavior; the development of love, compassion, joy and equanimity; and Bon’s highest teachings of the “Great Perfection,” dzogchen.

from the Ligmincha website.

I explored a meditation with Rinpoche on a whim last fall, and was stunned to discover the missing piece to my former practice. Years ago I walked out of the meditation center, called to reconnect with those elemental qualities of nature, the ones that mirrored my internal experience. I needed something embodied and felt, something that included the dynamic wild. The Bon practices feel like coming home.

That deeper theme? It’s one of the primary tenants of this new practice.

Effort is the exit. Resting is the door.

My wild shepherdess.

What does that mean? It means that at my center there is a place of stillness, silence and spaciousness. Within there may also be storms, or calm seas. But it is a place to rest in at all times, and that resting is the door to everything else in my life, including goals. The exit is effort. Striving, stressing, anxiety, worry, avoiding, and frustration are all ways of exerting effort, effort in trying to get away from the discomfort of the present moment. In trying to make the present moment more than it is.

In choosing to rest, to practice peace instead of practicing stress, means re-prioritizing. These last five years since my daughters birth have been marked and marred by my striving. I began internship right when I found out I was pregnant, and like many modern women, I have been trying to juggle ambition and career with motherhood. I also felt like I couldn’t fail, that I needed to make up for the poor timing in messing up my birth control. Not once in all this time have I given myself permission to just be a mom. I have successfully completed my internship, I have built a career, I have kept up a writing practice, I have kept house and made healthy food. But I also have not played with my daughter, I have often felt that she was an irritation and I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy that distracted me away from her glowing face.


The next few months my blogging will be infrequent. I will probably be posting more on instagram, so please do find me there. I will update here with brief posts full of photos. And I may also post a bit more on the professional site.

Blogging is, and has been, a wonderful experience. But it has also been an angst filled one, and has at times served as one of the primary ways I distract myself, a place where I have come when I have wanted to shore up against those feelings of inadequacy. I want my writing practice here to be what it was initially. A way of resting. Of just being, in that stillness, silence, spaciousness, with you. A place for sharing and connecting, not for striving and career climbing.

I’m still here, so come find me, resting in the middle of the storm and accomplishing All The Things. Big love to all.

(p.s. Oh snap! Did you notice I changed the title of the blog? That was a direct result of not striving, the name came from a moment of spontaneous rest. At some point I’ll write an intro. Maybe in August. 😉 )


Wishing You a Happy New Year…

…and also health and wellness, which is eluding me right now. I failed to employ my herbal artillery in a timely manner, and I have been taken down by the mother of all sinus infections and never-ending bronchitis.

Which is why these beauties have been following me on my morning walks. They’re waiting for me to expire.


So I’m surfacing from under my lake of phlegm and dropping in briefly here to say Happy New Year! and also to tell you that I am now on instagram. After avoiding it for years, I’m now giving it a go, and finding it surprisingly fun. Picture blogging. With a few words. How easy is that?

When I’m not here, you can find me there.

See you in 2015!

Santa and Jesus have a fistfight

I was literally shocked when I opened our box of holiday decor this year.

Living in a tiny barn means uber intentionality around how and where we spruce up the house for holiday celebrations. A large shelf underneath our kitchen window has become the default altar for seasonal festivities. Starting in september there were little pumpkins and pretty red leaves, a badger skull, vases of goldenrod and calendula. We have The Banner Hooks from which we stretch brown twine from one side of the main room to the other, and this past weekend I took off the felt leaves of brown, gold and orange, in preparation for the incoming red and green of the holidays. I thought perhaps I could hang bits of toyon berries, a few windfallen branches of evergreen, interspersed with the ornaments that are too heavy for our tiny tree.

And then I opened the box with all the Xmas bits and bobs I enjoy each year, some as old as myself…but I was surprised at how discombobulated I felt as I took out the vintage plastic Rudolph and Mr. and Mrs. Claus…after so many years of intentional bioregional immersion (with our recent move making it all much more literal), suddenly busting out with siberian reindeer and european saints with norwegian dress was a big ol’ dose of What the Fuck?


Dolly, who is my friend (and ally in Bucking the Norm) recently asked me this:

I want to create a deep and textured experience for my family, celebrating the earth and the seasons, and nurturing their excitement and wonder. How do you blend pagan aspects with contemporary celebrations? What are some fun rituals/traditions that you and your family enjoys?


If you’ve been with me for a while, you may remember my angst a few years back around that very same question. Just what, exactly, would my family be celebrating? Both Jeff and I were raised Christian, but no longer subscribe to the religion. While we both have deep appreciation for the teachings of Jesus Christ, we don’t have stomach for the dogma, and he turned to Zen Buddhism, while my spiritual leanings are an eclectic mix of Shambhala Buddhism, nouveau witchcraft and animism. There are many traditions from my childhood that I still love, even if I broke up with Jesus. Once we figured out what the holidays would mean for us as a family, what exactly would we be imparting to our children? And how would we do it?

I actually became quite stressed around it all, and although I had dropped the dogma from the enforced religion of my upbringing, unconsciously I thought I had to somehow get legit about whatever we were doing and believing.

And there’s the rub, because one of the main components of my personal spiritual foundation is, well…the lack of foundation. One of the tenants of my belief system is I Don’t Know. In buddhism it’s called groundlessness. It looks like not shoring yourself up with a bunch of rigid decisions around how you, or the world, works. Also, celebrating the birth of a savior is pretty silly when you don’t believe you need to be saved. Because another tenant of my foundation is a sense of the basic goodness of myself and others, so forget about original sin. Other than that, the jury is out on Who We Are, What We Are Doing Here, Where Do We Come From and Where Do We Go When We Die.

But you know what I do firmly believe in, unequivocally? This Good Green Earth. So, like a proper pagan, that’s where I began.


The Tree

The symbol of the evergreen Christmas Tree is an ancient one, extending farther back into our collective past than the birth of Christ. It is a symbol of life in the dead of winter, especially in areas where the snow lies deep, the plants die and the deciduous drop their clothes. It is also representative of The World Tree, a symbol universal in many cultures. But it is still a tradition from a bioregion that does not include California. If I look to the land around me, I might choose native reps…the toyon, bay laurel, cedar and redwood.

I have another belief, one that feels more like a knowing, which is the sentience of all living things. Given this, the idea of a cut and dying tree in my home is pretty antithetical. We used to decorate my norfolk pine that I had for years. But it’s now too big for our tiny home, plus it’s not doing well. So we decided to buy a little living tree that our landlord is thrilled to have us plant on her property after the holidays. We also make pinecone birdfeeders, string popcorn and berries, and decorate outdoor trees for feathered friends.


Local Weedwifery

As a forager, I choose to forgo the figgy pudding. Our temperate climate offers many once a year treats that offer their deliciousness in December. Shaggy Mane mushrooms pop up, miner’s lettuce is abundant and the rose hips are ready for picking. Elderberries harvested in the fall are dry and ready for tea, particularly delicious with the fresh mint that has revived after the late summer drought. Persimmon trees all over West County are loaded and ready to be pulped into cookies. Sprigs of rosemary and eucalyptus leaves simmer on the stove, a local potpourri for that Christmasy smell.


The Darkening Days and the Return of the Light

As a young Wiccan, I believed the widely accepted new age belief that Christmas was held close to the Winter Solstice to conflict with the pagan celebration of Yule, as a means of converting the heathens. But, like most new agey things, this theory was loosely cobbled together with poor research. There’s a lot of stories out there and they all disagree…Christ Mass means the birth of Christ, it means the death, it means a celebration of the light, the Yule Log is pagan, the Yule Log represents the burning of the world tree and is anti-pagan, Christmas is/is not based on the Roman feast of Saturnalia, Christ was born in the winter, Christ was born in the spring, Christ was a real person, Christ is a reinvention of the god Horus, Santa is Saint Nick, Santa was a siberian shaman who drank reindeer piss to get high off the red and white amanita mushrooms, which is why he wears those colors…

I shit you not. Google it.

My theory of I Don’t Know applies to historical context, but what does this time of year mean to me? What is happening to the earth under my feet, to the sky above my head?

The days are shorter, the nights long. The full moon takes on more presence, like the summer sun. I am tired earlier, and don’t care how uncool I am if I go to bed at 8:30. My animal friends are harder to find, the jackrabbit stays underground, the coyotes are quiet, but the gophers are enjoying the fresh roots of wintry greens.

At dinner we light a candle and afterwards turn off all the lights except for the ones on the tree. We stay home more, we drink a lot of tea, we begin long craft projects. We don’t have to impress Fern with it all, and she remarks upon it of her own accord. We go for walks in the dark to listen to the frogs who have crawled out of the dry mud to greet the rains. We count down the days on an advent calendar, which goes all the way to Xmas, but which has a special stopping point on the 21st for the solstice.

We speak of the darkening days and the light in our hearts. Of the importance of family, hearth and home. Of the importance of rest, and it’s place in the cycle of growth. We think about the garlic bulbs and fava beans we planted in our gardens and wonder what they’re up to. The kids get it.


Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

But what about Santa Claus? What do we do about the Big Guy?

A couple years ago I learned about Saint Nicholas Day. We began celebrating it last year on December 5th, and the kids LOVE it. They love the stories about St. Nicks generosity, the connection with goodies in your shoes or stockings, and how he became Santa Claus. We read books, we do coloring pages and make shoes out of felt for St. Nick to fill. Fern especially has a huge affection for him, and it feels right to have a special day to really focus on Santa, so that Solstice and Christmas are freed up for a deeper meaning. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand that Christmas wasn’t really about Santa. I was so confused when the Jesus piece was brought in, as if Santa and Jesus were going to have to duke it out to be number one.

What about the Great Deception? Do I want to lie to my kid and say Santa is real?

Well, yes, actually. Except I don’t lie. We’ve been very clear from the beginning that Santa is, and is not, real. We talk about how the spirit of Santa lives in our hearts, about how good it feels to give and share with others. The kids talk about Santa coming down the chimney and in the next breath mention how some mommies and daddies dress up as Santa. It’s a paradox, but children’s minds are more malleable than ours and they can hold the contradiction. One of the best stories for sharing this idea is the classic book Yes, Virginia. We also enjoy The Night Before Christmas. Ultimately, Santa is a myth, and like all great mythic figures, he is part of our collective unconscious.

Yay Santa!


The Winter Solstice

I took a page out of Heather’s book last year and began a tradition of giving Fern new pajamas for the longest night of the year. We have one special present we open on this longest night. As for a ritual, one that includes children instead of late night bonfires and mead drinking, this is one area we are still developing as a family. I’ll report back after this year.


The Nativity Story

It’s a story, and a beautiful one. I began telling it to Fern the other night, and she grew quiet and attentive. What child doesn’t like a story about a special babe that people travel far distances to welcome and honor into the world? It feels as all birthdays should, and she can relate to that sense of being loved and cherished. Having a solid sense of her own worth is the best thing I know for enabling her to extend kindness and love to others. And isn’t that the whole point?

Love thy neighbor as thyself.


It might seem all a little mish mashy, and perhaps it is. I think some of that firmness I was hoping for may come with the passing of years, a natural result of the repetition. I am perfectly okay with our celebrations being in flux and evolving. How it feels is what’s most important to me, and it feels good. Joyous, playful, anticipatory, intimate, sweet and full of love.

How about you? What are your untraditional traditions? Any thoughts about it all?

I hope your season is Merry and Bright.

Tasty Treats

Fern, at her ripe and cynical age of Five, is already totally over living in the country. For our first few months here on the ranch, she couldn’t wait each night to go for our After Dinner Walk. Now, just the mere mention of the word Walk and she has an allergic reaction that results in feverish bursts of No. So on this particular day, it had been a herculean effort to get her to step outside. At each 50 foot marker, there were declarations of boredom and apathy and Let’s Go Back Now. But by the time we made it to the main road, her curiosity had kicked in, and when I asked her if she wanted to turn around or Just go a little ways down the road? she was game.


We decided to turn around at The Big Curve, where the road bends to accommodate a eucalyptus grove, whose thickly spaced trunks often offer glimpses of an open field and of wild turkeys in a trot. We paused under an old redwood with a funny canopy. Short, broad and thick, the sky and sun above don’t penetrate through. We gazed upwards and I said If I was a fairy, this is where I would live…the words barely out before we both gasped. Turns out, great minds think alike.

Old Brown

It was a first for both Fern and I. I have seen owls in flight, and at wildlife rescue centers, but for all my time spent traipsing through nature, I had never seen an owl in a tree. We were both so gleeful, laughing in whispers and then quiet in awe.

A few days later we took Jeff to meet Old Brown, and he had the presence of mind to look for the really good stuff…owl pellets. In case you don’t know, owls swallow their prey whole…head, feet, tail and all. The non-digestible parts such as fur, teeth and bones are kept back in the gizzard and compressed into a pellet, which owls then ungracefully yak onto the ground below their perch. It’s one of the best ways to find owls, looking at the ground rather than searching the branches. But the pellets themselves are often hard to see, and can resemble leaf litter or a dirt clump or…poop.


But sometimes, you get the good stuff…an old pellet that has dried and contains obvious clues about just who met their awful fate.

Gopher. Some people make a thriving living off collecting owl pellets and selling them to school science classrooms. They are fascinating to dissect.

I just might be the World’s Biggest Fan when it comes to animals (second only to my cousin Katie. Hi Katie!), but I will also say this. Animals are gross.

I offer more proof. Wait for it at :30 secs. (Also, Jeff’s narration = so cute.)

Now that I’ve got you swearing off Thanksgiving dinner, and your appetite running for the hills, let me make it up to you by offering your new…

Favorite Fall Breakfast


My kitchen has been winter squash central for the past couple of weeks, with brief appearances made by apples and kale and this recipe. It’s weird, and you never woulda thunk it, but I promise it is just the right kind of cozy for your chilly fall morning.


Breakfast Parsnips
(adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into very thin rounds
3 T butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
pinch salt

maple syrup

In a large cast iron skillet, saute parsnips and nuts in butter with a pinch of salt over medium heat until the sugars from the parsnips have carmelized and the ‘snips are tender, about 7-10 minutes. Serve immediately with a drizzle of maple syrup. (Adding another sprinkle of salt after the syrup gives it a salted caramel style. I like adding pepper too.)

Fern thinks cooking parsnips smell like butterscotch.

We’ve had some astounding appearances of rain, the first time we’ve had a rainy November in ever so long. The hills around West County have started to green up, and we are entering our early Northern California Spring. Some of our favorite spring edibles have popped up, and are big enough to forage, which is what we did one early Sunday morning this past weekend.

They started right outside the front door with marshmallow.

Sheep Sorrel. Tangy like wood sorrel, full of vitamin c and puckery goodness. A good topper for salads.

Chickweed. Soothing to both the skin and the digestive tract. Contains vitamin b and iron, and also contains saponins…so don’t eat too much or your bowels might get TOO relaxed. Eat raw or infuse into oil for an healing skin ointment.

Miner’s Lettuce. My favorite. Succulent, tender, delicious…who cares if it’s full of vitamin c?

Leo. Full of good humor and love.

There’s been so much rain, that the pond is actually beginning to fill, and the puddles stick around for a couple of days.




I got excited when I saw this track. With the visible claws, I thought it might be one of the resident foxes…but the placement and shape of the pads tell me it’s from a domestic cat, whose feet sunk in the wet sand.

Speaking of cats, we have the privilege to be cat sitting Petra again, the kitty of a former housemate from our SF days. We are her adopted second family, and she loves us as much as we do her. It’s just what our sweet little home is needing as a finishing touch to our cozy fall days…a purring houseguest.

As Fern says, Life is better with a kitty.


I am giddy over having a week “off”. No clients, no schlepping to the city, just family, our home, a kitty and a celebration of gratitude. My day can be marked by the important things…the appearance of the scrub jay near the dried sunflowers, the barking of a fox at night, the slenderest sliver of a new moon on the western horizon. Thanksgiving is easy this year.

I experience it every day.


What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Any recipes you’re excited about? New animal friends that make you happy? Tell me.

Badger Moon

I hear it every year. The complaint that we don’t have true Autumn on the West Coast. Where’s the blanket of leaves, the forests on fire with color, the snappy air that retires your fingers deep into pockets? When it comes to Fall, there’s a few things you need to understand about Northern California.

Our seasonal transition starts in August, and in drought years, even in July. The drying hills and quiet oaks signal the end of the growing season and the retraction of life deep into roots. Rather than October, this is the time of year that I begin to feel the specter of death. By the time Samhain comes around, it feels like the last exhalation. Our trees do change color, but unless they are non-natives, the color tends to be more subdued. Burnished copper, gold, brass, a little crimson here and there, on the poison oak, the toyon, the rose hips. The coyote bush fluffs out in seeds and crows fly by with acorns in their mouth.


Thank you.

If we are lucky and get a little rain, the seeds that were dropped back in the summer begin to sprout, signaling the onset of our Winter. Rather than a blanket of snow, we get a carpet of little seedlings, barely visible below the brown thatch of dried grass. The mornings dawn brisk and, come November, sometimes there can even be a little frost. By mid day your jacket is gone and you find yourself wondering if it has always been this way.



Superimposing seasonal stereotypes only works if we live in a place that fits the mold. Like New England. Or old England. Or even the mid-west. But what about all the other everywheres? Lucky us, we get to discover it for ourselves. I hereby give you permission to make up your own nursery rhymes and autumn folk tales, inspired by the signs in your bioregion. Here, in the Blucher Creek Watershed, I am proclaiming the current lunar cycle Badger Moon.

The season truly belongs to the blackbirds, who arrived for the harvest in September. This same little group perches in the poplars at the back of our house every afternoon around 3pm. Jeff calls it the blackbird tea party.


On my morning run, I pass by what I now call The Badger Field, an open and beckoning space, pocketed with large holes in the sandy soil. Mistakenly, at first I thought it was rabbits…then I found tracks, and even more thrillingly, a skull. Badgers, highly secretive, digging deep, mysterious and elusive. Sounds like a Scorpio to me.

For my birthday, I played the reaper in my garden. We spent hours outside tugging out scrawling tomatoes and dried sunflowers, shoveling truckloads of manure and laying mulch. Fern and I tucked in fava seeds and garlic bulbs, as she whispered little songs about Mother Earth cradling you and sleep well little seedy. (Thank you Waldorf).

She also claimed the hay bale as her house and set up shop.




Our Halloween was so stress free that I kept wondering what it was I was forgetting. She came home with a big haul of candy, and after some anxiety and strict limitations I listened to my intuition that said, “It’s one freaking day a year and not only is it her candy, but she “worked” hard to get it. Just let her eat it. Within reason.”. Which is what we’re doing and it seems to be the best way for her to learn self restraint, as she parcels it out and makes choices. She’s also interested in doing the Switch Witch.

These two girls push each others buttons like no-one else can, but several times that night, when asked if they were sisters, they replied No, we’re just best friends.


With an extra hour on Sunday, I arose early, sneaking out of the house for my run. Knowing the light would be nice, I brought my camera to capture some of the beautiful things I see each morning.

For the first two months, he barked at me territorially, but now Scout waits for me each morning.


For the past two weeks, this friend has been out under a large oak that I now call The Jackrabbit Tree.

I waited for 20 minutes for the sun to light these candles at the entrance to The Badger Field.


The day of my birthday always has a clarity of light to it, the spaciousness of the first in-breath when surfacing from underwater. Perhaps everyone feels this way on their own birthday? A friend gave me a sweet reflection, saying I can’t get over what a perfect birthday it is for you. The bridge between worlds, a liminal power, a navigator of realms. Being born right in the midst of Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead is an entrance with some gravitas, and, especially as a kid, I have sometimes struggled with the weight. But when the day rolls around, when the ancestors draw near and the shadows are faced, I thrum with the resonance of inner and outer experience, and I feel fortunate. (Also, as a kid, it was pretty cool to get candy on one night and to get cake the next day.)

But this year I truly counted my luck upon waking, when my daughter leaned over into my face and said

Mama, guess what?


Today is your birthday!

And she wrapped her arms around me, kissing my cheek and rubbing my back.

Best birthday present, ever.


P.S. No, you’re not crazy, and yes, this blog address was supposed to have changed. But guess what? Since I last checked, someone has “reserved” the url for this blog.


So it’s back to the drawing board, to find a new title, new url, new intro. At this point, I’ll take suggestions.

To Go A’Soulin’ on Hallowe’en





A bajillion sequins.
1/2 bottle of stretchy fabric glue.
7 rolls of tulle.
A leotard.
Some elastic.
Sheer material to make wings the “color of mist”.
All for $25 dollars and the best 10 hours I ever spent to help create ecstatic joy that lights up the whole sky.

Just as a rainbow should.

Also, a little reminder that the url for this blog is changing this weekend: Turn back your clocks and update your RSS feed. See you on the other side of the veil.


A very happy Hallowe’en/Samhain/Dia de los Muertos to you!