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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Emerge from the Shadows: Calling Me Home

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

Tree, Sunlight, CCO
Tree, Sunlight, CCO

This time it’s different. Whenever I experience the shift of one season into the next, there is often an aspect of longing. The transition from winter to spring dips into the quintessential symptoms of cabin fever. I am certain that by enduring winter in a cold climate, this is a rite of passage. We have earned this delirium. Therefore, when it happens, I own it. Bidding farewell to the wasteland of winter, making room for birth and rebirth, is uplifting—a reminder of life cycles in the macrocosm.  The bridge from spring to summer is its own call for celebration. When the greening, blooms, fruits, and other immeasurable offerings emerge in abundance, you know that you’re home. Magic and reassurance dwell in the thriving life that exists all around. Here comes that word again—acknowledgment. It serves us well.

I was assessing my gloominess. Yes, it is common for me to lament the dying back of plants, the absence of feathered and furry ones who have migrated or nestled in for a long winter’s nap. I do embrace the return of the winter ones as well. This season wove its tentacles into my heart, begging me to hesitate, assess what was lost, and what was gained. As you know, at the tail end of the previous winter, we experienced a global pandemic. And you also know that nothing will ever be the same. Although somewhat wobbly and often dismaying, I view it as a positive step in our evolution. The news broke, and the shutdowns commenced. We were advised to wipe down our groceries, leave packages outside for so-many hours before bringing indoors, wear gloves, don’t wear gloves… What was true one day was false the next. Some businesses remained open, while most others were closed down, some permanently. We had partial and full openings. We sort of got used to the disorder and chaos. We did what we could to sift through often conflicting information, forcing some inward to quietly reflect on our own reserves to navigate the unknown. I have a vivid memory of overwhelming uncertainty washing over me. I spent a great deal of time sitting outdoors (on my rock seat), recording my thoughts and listening to the spring peepers and wood frogs. As always, the reliable sounds in our natural surroundings were comforting, providing light and direction where darkness threatened. Back in late March, just before sunset, I went outside to fetch firewood. The great white pines—the council—stood against the backdrop of a blend of creamy pink and ripe melon skies. After a slight pause, the peepers continued to trill, and I heard my first wood thrush of the season. This promise of beauty, for which I relied on more than I had imagined, brought forth tears. At this time, I was uncertain if they were tears of joy or sadness. They represented all things. I dropped the few pieces of wood that I held in my arms and began to sing. At first, my voice was somewhat shaky and weak. I stopped, wiped the stream of tears from my cheeks, drew in a deep breath, and lifted up my voice—louder and higher. The handful of chickadees that had perched in the apple tree for the suet stopped. Other tree-clinging birds fluttered in, curious, unafraid, and a bit hungry. The trees swayed in the soft wind that wove through the upper branches as I began with a few familiar lullabies that I sang to my children. Each stanza brought forth more life and passion, where there had been none for some time.

Finally, my new found strength brought me to singing a spirited Norwegian song, which is more like a chant, a way to call the cows or sheep in from the fields. For me, it was rising up to meet a better version of myself. It was calling me home and anyone or anything else that needed to be with me at that moment. From then on, I had a new healing ritual. It wasn’t just about me. It was about all life. I went outside, usually just before sunset, and sang to the council, all within earshot. It became a custom for me to bring in the feeders (to keep the bears safe). It was a message that I had come and gone for the night.

During this time and throughout most of the summer, I made some friends; the most meaningful was the Gray Fox. My song had become familiar to her, and she made her way to a spot outside of my window. She was an appreciative audience as I played my cello while she found bits of apples and berries. My bond and the knowing of my place in the natural world are not new by any means. However, during this time, the bridge between the waning winter merged with a pandemic’s darkness. When we cut off our own oxygen and connection to each other, the light and miracles of life-giving creatures in a thriving environment became an unexpected treasure. Although vital regarding my exposure to a life-threatening tick-borne illness and a mud-related injury, this is more than plant medicine. The act of merging into the great outdoors had reached a new level I would never have believed possible before this worldwide event. I was greatly dependent on my time spent around lakes, rivers, fields, and woods than ever before. I focused not only on talking to the beings in my surroundings but also on listening. They share symbolic messages as we share the space. This is Our Mother. As I tended the gardens and walked the fields, I had slowed down, foraging for berries and medicine. This was not a simple act. I had almost come to a complete stop. I listened harder, walked barefoot more, inhaled deeper, and looked closer. I had entered into a zone that was unlike anything I had encountered before. It wasn’t as simple as it seems. I had no choice. When I went outdoors, it often felt as if it were the first time. I saw many new things in these fields, but I knew that they were always there. It was how I was seeing them that was different. I am always appreciative of the night sky. I love stargazing and have made it a point to comprehend as much as I can. So, it was both predictable and unavoidable that I would spend more time looking up. Along with the planets taking turns gracing the skies, Comet Neowise visited. Hidden by trees, I found a good open field for viewing. I had become a vessel for all that ever was, is, and will be. If someone observed me from afar (but close enough to hear), they would witness a woman singing and talking to everything down to a small bee on a flower. This was me upping my game and deepening my connection to what inhabits this place. So, with snow mixing in with rain this morning, I asked myself, why was this different? Was it just an old familiar dreading of going from one season to the next? No. It was much more. I allowed the melancholy to come up and out.

As I stated earlier, at the closing of the previous winter, we faced an unprecedented global pandemic. We are collectively in the throes of deep division, fear, and the unknown. Without judgment and prejudice, I will exercise my right to vote. I have removed myself from the act of taking sides. I am an observer who refuses hate. I choose stability and trusting the process, just as I choose to opt-out of mountains of chaos and misinformation designed to instill fear. I fear not. I am aware of the bare bones of what is going on—the outer chatter. I have chosen to dig down deeper, burrowing my roots into the rich, black earth. I am here for the duration of what is meant to unfold. The glass is half full and about to overflow with possibilities. I do not take fright of the truth or necessary change. I support life. We cannot fix or heal that which is not broken or wounded. From these wounds that can no longer rumble beneath the surface, we will brighten and expand. From this, we can emerge from the shadows, reigniting our light, regaining wholeness. Big things are often never easy. As I have always said to my children, you have a choice. You can go up or down.

1 Comment

Oct 29, 2020

Like you I have felt the seasons come and go and never thought about it. Of course I dreaded winter. I began to sense the change a while back. I couldn't watch the news. I wanted no part of the bad news or the disinformation. I wanted it to stop. In August I was remaking the jungle we had in our garden. I tried to hire someone from the outside the year before. I hired them because I was afraid of destroying flowers or plants and my knowledge of gardening was amateur at best. This year I said, okay I can replace what I have to get rid of

with something new, but the jungle has to go and I…

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