Fog

For a random interlude …
You know, I love fog. It is my favorite weather phenomenon. Is that weird? It just seems utterly magical to me. Being in fog is like being in another dimension. It always seems to me like the literal veil between the worlds. 

Fog on a river is one of the many special subtypes of fog. These are some photos of the fog’s changing patterns over the Monongahela River valley near near where my mom and grandma live, in the tiny village of Isabella in southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s amazing to me that this wild foggy river is like three blocks from my grandma’s house. I used to lie in bed when I spent the night there as a kid, thinking about the river down there, out the window,   at the end of a long slope that spans several back and front yards. Then there’s a wide, muddy, uneven patch of brambles that discourages walking all the way to the actual water’s edge. It’s difficult to get through, but to me, so worth it, just to be down there, in that energy.

Being in the fog is like being in a temple. This is one of the sacred places in the area where I grew up, that is still my family home. 

 

The Divine Mother watches, at the bottom of the frame; fog hangs low in the river valley

 
 

The colors in the waves. The coal bin. The sunlight.

 
 

Through the kitchen window

 
 

The fog lifts and spreads across the hillside. This view is what we would call in SWPA, “down around.” ūüôā

 

No/Yes

I have this super clear memory of sitting with my family in a pew near the front of the Catholic church in my grandma’s town, attending Christmas Eve mass. The church was so tiny and narrow that my mom, dad, brother and I filled a row.

The memory is of looking down at my hands, with which I’d recently started to feel the flow of energy, and thinking, “No. That’s crazy. You’re being arrogant. You don’t have anything to say about God or religion or the soul. And if you did, no one would want to hear it. So make like an organ and pipe down.”

Ok, I was a little liberal with the recreation of the inner monologue here. But the key word rang out so clearly in my head that its echoes are still quietly reverberating today. “No.”

The funny thing is, I DON’T remember what insight I’d thought I had, and had wanted to share, before that voice shut me down so tidily. What I remember is how the No had the weight of certainty on its side.

I also remember that it was dark outside the stained glass windows. And I remember how I used to feel, standing outside at night in the winter when it hadn’t yet snowed, standing on a hillside in the heart of a Pennsylvania town that was so small, the glow from porch and street lamps stayed in pools on the ground and the sky remained untinted with light pollution – truly black.

  
I could feel the soles of my feet connecting with the earth, right through my socks and shoes. My scalp tingled and my skin sparkled and I could almost see energy arcing between my palms when I held them apart.

I interpreted this within the cosmology I was making up for myself, a sort of pagan-inspired universalism. I called the period between the fall equinox and the end of the year “the Gathering Together of Power.” I imagined magic condensing out of the cooling air like fog appearing on a window. I pictured the earth drawing its energy back into itself, down from the grass stems and tree trunks it had animated through the last season. The nights felt crisp and full.

I felt solitary but connected.

Now it’s that season again — it’s the beginning of the time when static electricity zings through the air and composting leaves release their pungent mystic gases and the stars sharpen their points. And again I’m thinking of things I want to say, and again a malignant voice, a voice that is part of my own mind, whispers, Put it away. Close the drawer. You’ve got nothing to add here. Go do something else.

But this time there is another voice, one that’s been slowly awakening over the course of this year of exploring self love. And she doesn’t say no.

She says YES. Yes. Let it out. Say whatever you want. Nobody has to care. This spring arising needs to flow.  This time say yes. Say yes. Say yes.  

Shrine to the Blessed Mother down the hill in my mom’s backyard

You Can’t Go Back, but You Can Go Again

A few weeks ago I had the chance to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: go back to Yellowstone National Park.

I worked there for one summer after my sophomore year. In hotel housekeeping, which wasn’t that bad. ¬†I actually liked it. ¬†And I also really liked the trip out there on the Greyhound, even though it was supposed to take 24 hours but ended up taking 48. It had to have been some kind of archetypal transition period for me. It all happened during the middle of a much longer period of depression, which stretched back through the college year before and forward across the next year, when I studied abroad. I had a very hard time making friends and generally functioning in a normal social way among people … and had just put myself among only strangers, very far from home, in a place where it was still cold and snowy and full of bears in mid-May, on purpose.

I don’t remember being unhappy, though I was lonely a good bit and may have been homesick ¬†because of my fear of all the strangers. ¬†Somehow I got through, found people willing to hang out with me and drive me places — maybe due to my roommates and all of my early contacts being missionaries, or at the very least active in the Bible studies that my roommates led. ¬†That was cool with me! I remember it being a summer of spiritual searching even before these people entered my life. I appreciated the Bible studies and the discussions about God and morality. I was reading about God — the book¬†God: A Biography, which appealed to my not-yet-quite-admitting-I’m-an-English-major mind with its exploration of who God would be as a person, based on his character traits as revealed by the stories about him in the Bible. I also read a short and unassuming book on reincarnation which drastically reshaped my beliefs (or call them superstitions) about what happens after death and between lives. It was called¬†Life Before Life, and my mom had mailed it to me because it had so rocked her world after she picked it up at Goodwill for, probably, a quarter! (I mention that only because for some reason it seems that a new, mass market paperback edition of that book now goes for $439.11 on Amazon! ¬†:-O )

I was very into build-your-own-religion in those years, even as I was trying on Christianity, particularly Catholicism, one more time. I still made up my own nature rituals. And when I revisited Yellowstone this summer, the presence of nature in its immense power and beauty struck me immediately and deeply. Strong memories came back of how I fell ridiculously in love with the aspen trees and how amazed I had been at the cold, crystal clear waters of the lakes. Especially Yellowstone Lake. Oh man … Now I have always been a fool for bodies of water, and lakes are some of my favorites. And the¬†hugeness and the¬†clarity¬†of this one just blew me away. I remembered on this trip how the lake had been frozen when I first arrived in Grant Village (where I lived, which was on the shore) and how I had heard it when it cracked. I could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence almost tangibly, and I felt the life energy in the molecules of water, and all around me.

Captivated

 

clouds and lake

I would go to the West Thumb Geyser Basin — or sometimes just the shore where I was, by the restaurant and everything — and watch the silvery water. Sometimes I was the night maid, and I got to watch her at night. Can you tell I was in love?

Going back, maybe because I have since read all of those Clan of the Cave Bear books,¬†it struck me how sacred and mysterious this place must have been to the people who lived in that area before the Europeans … the landscape of the geyser basins, the steam rising among the pine trees, the deep pools. I thought that the hot springs must have been seen as beings with their own life forces — I wished for more time to stay and get to know them again. I fantasized about sitting quietly there and tuning in to whatever the energies were, whatever whispers might be in the air.

blue pool

 

deep

 

basin view

Sitting quietly or spending a long time anywhere weren’t to be had on this trip, it seemed. Instead, we encountered an amazing abundance of wildlife! Badgers on the trail, snakes, an elderly fox carrying a dead marmot (!), the requisite herds of elk and bison, and an incredible¬†NINE bears! We watched a coyote being steered away from the grazing herds by a few matter-of-fact pronghorns. All of these run-ins, glimpses, and outright ogle-fests were simply spellbinding.

Still, I think my favorite hour of all was the one I spent at the lake. And if I didn’t get to linger on the misty, mysterious, mystical lakeshore or wander among the pines, I now have an escape fantasy that will last me at least the next fifteen years. But hopefully it won’t be that long before I return next time.

And here are some more pictures that are just cool. ¬†ūüôā

floating tree

 

deep pool 2

 

heart geyser 1