Karen Rempel views magical eclipse

August 31, 2017 – My friend Mike Rosetta took me “down the shore” to watch the solar eclipse on August 21. We went to the beach in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a short beat from Bruce Springsteen’s hometown of Asbury Park. Much to my surprise, we had to pay $8 to go onto the beach. Another friend, songwriter Michael Graetzer, took this amazing eclipse photo in Central Park:

August 21 Solar EclipseThe eclipse was very eerie and beautiful. Clouds kept going by, so I lay on the sand with eclipse glasses on for about 2 hours, waiting for glimpses of the eclipse to emerge. I saw the whole path of the moon across the sun and it was magnificent and made me think cosmic thoughts!

Eclipse down the shorePlus I think I finally understand that whole thing from grade 9 science, with the orange and the grapefruit and the pingpong ball.

Mushroom Soup

Mushrooms in the wood

I took this photo series while I was creating the Warhol in the Forest treasure hunt for Val and Garry at Starshine Valley. It was mid-September, and mushrooms were blooming shyly, peeping out from grasses and bits of wood.

Mushroom Soup

Warhol in the Forest

Warhol in the Forest
An homage to Val & Garry’s forest art installation and to Mr. Warhol, with thanks to Marlena for the use of her limited edition Campbell’s Soup collection

This is a treasure map for Val and Garry, to help them find the 28 pieces of gold hidden in the Starshine Forest.

1-beam
Beaming at Andy in the heavens
2-greetings
Stone cairn
3-wildlife cam with camo
Wildlife cam in camo
4-by ford
Hanging out in the creek [Hint: by ford]
5-scenic outlook
Scenic outlook
6-Inukshuk in headlights
Caught in the headlights
7-burnt fence
Burnt rustle fence
On the barbie
9-poo pipe
On the poo pipe!
10-boot geometry
Boot geometry
11-the end of the road
At the end of the road [Hint: go for the gravel]
12-corner post
Corner post
13-Killarney St
The sign is clear
14-3 in the corner
Three in the corner
Cattle chute
16-under the vol-cone-oh
Under the vol-cone-ah
17-wood stove
Cooking dinner
18-triangle rock
Triangle rock in the forest
19-between a cow and a cowboy
Between a cow and a cowboy
20-tripod
Tripod at the center of the universe
21-medicine wheel
Medicine wheel – eat your broccoli, it’s good for you
22-the person by the road
The person by the road
23-sitting by the dock of the bay
Sitting by the dock of the bay

24-rock hill hint-sw corner
Rock hill [Hint: SW corner]
Boulder hill with triangle rock [Hint: S of thinking post]

26-ideas raining down at the thinking post
Ideas raining down at the thinking post
27-at the end of the fence
The end of the [fence] line
28-sitting on a stump
Sitting on a stump

Another Super Shoreline Cleanup!

East Van Pickers
East Van Pickers with 19 bags of trash

Yesterday I met with a group of friends to participate in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Our group of 6 people picked up trash for 2 hours and these are the amazing results:

  • 570 food wrappers
  • 1,074 takeout containers, cups, lids, bottles, cans, and utensils
  • 432 plastic bags and pieces of packaging
  • 1,120 pieces of tiny trash (1 inch or smaller)
  • 19 bags of trash (91 Kg or 200 lbs)
  • Additional furniture, construction waste, and large items totalled another 113 Kg or 250 lbs
  • Total items picked up: 3,592 pieces of trash

    Stefan holds an erotic video and an expired visa card
    Stefan holds an erotic video and an expired visa card
  • Total trail length cleaned up: 2.2 KM

The most interesting items we found were a VHS cassette entitled The Ancient Secrets of the Erotic Arts, an expired Visa card, a bullet, and a car cigarette lighter.

We concentrated on the area of the Trans Canada trail from Bridgeway at Skeena to the Second Narrows Bridge, as this industrial area seems to attract a lot of litter and dumping. We also did the gravel lot immediately to the west of the junction of Bridgeway and Skeena, and a light pick-up on the trail all the way to Willingdon. Check out the before and after photos. My East Van Pickers gang members found the concrete, visible results very satisfying. Not bad for a couple hours on a Saturday morning! Thanks, gang!

Loading the pickup
Cary helps the guy from City of Vancouver load the pickup

Part of Something Bigger

We had a lot of support from the Keep Vancouver Spectacular program, which provided pickers, safety vests, gloves, garbage bags, and buckets. They picked up the full garbage bags immediately after the event. I’d like to thank Riley and the other folks at the City of Vancouver who helped support our event.

I’d also like to thank Katie Rodgers, who hosted the cleanup event at this location in September 2013. The way you laid the groundwork, you made it very easy to follow in your footsteps. Thanks, Katie!

And thanks also to the folks and organizations at the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Local sponsors are the Vancouver Aquarium and the Vancouver branch of the World Wildlife Fund. Nationally, the program is sponsored by Loblaw Companies Limited. And this group is part of a larger effort, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Data that we collected at our event goes all the way up the chain to provide information for global initiatives to reduce garbage at the source.

Under bridge - before
Under the bridge – before cleanup
Under bridge - after
Under the bridge – after cleanup. What a difference!

Shoreline Cleanup Fast Facts

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is one of the largest volunteer efforts in the world.

  • Over 50,000 Canadians participate each year
  • We clean over 3,000 KM of shorelines (equal to the distance from Vancouver to Thunder Bay, ON)
  • Over 110,000 food wrappers and containers are removed every year—the amount one person would produce by having takeout 3 times a day for 100 years. Wow. That’s a lot of people littering.
Illegal dump - after
Illegal dump – after cleanup. Nice work!
Illegal dumping - before
Illegal dumping – before cleanup

What’s with the Dog Poo?

One of the most bizarre items we picked up was dozens of little bags of dog poo, neatly tied in a knot. We puzzled over how a person could take the time to pick up after their dog, doing the right thing, and then toss the bag into the woods, doing the wrong thing. What is the psychology of this? My friends came up with the theory of situational morality. Dog owners pick up the feces either because someone is watching, or because they actually feel bad about leaving poo on the trail. But then when no one is looking, they throw it in the woods, rather than walk another 100 metres to the garbage bin, or carry it home to throw away there. Grow up, people! We don’t need our tiny remaining amount of green space filled with little bags of dog poo.

Why Do People Litter?

This is the bigger question. Not why do people throw away the little bags of dog poo, but why do people litter at all? I confess, I used to throw away cigarette butts. I am probably responsible for thousands of butts on roadsides around the province. I had a technique for flicking the butts, and I thought I was pretty cool doing it. It seemed like an invisible item, that tiny cigarette butt. I had no awareness of how it makes the landscape ugly for people who come along after me.

So I imagine that littering is like this. People are not aware of the impact it has. There is a momentary relief of being free of a burden. Just tossing it away. Feels good, right? I noticed that around the park benches, there was a lot of trash just a little bit into the brambles, as though people didn’t want to see their litter, and thought if it was a few feet off the path, it wouldn’t bother anyone. So this indicates some awareness, some concern for appearances, and perhaps a lack of awareness of the bigger picture, that those bushes a few feet away are worth caring about too.

Increasing Awareness

Trans Canada Trail - after
Trans Canada Trail – after cleanup. Lovely!

So to help increase that awareness, here are some factoids about the impact trash has on wildlife:

  • Trash can travel great distances: a plastic bag can blow away and wind up in a waterway, entangling wildlife. This can cause long-term injuries and even kill the bird or animal.
  • Trash can persist in the environment for many years. A plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to break down. But it just breaks down into smaller pieces, which wildlife eventually eat. The law of the conservation of matter: nothing ever disappears.
  • Eating littler can lead to choking, poisoning, and even malnutrition among wildlife.

To find out more about the impact of shoreline litter, see the GCSC Learn More page.

Parking lot - after
Parking lot – after cleanup. Awesome!

Change Starts with Action

Number one thing you can do to reduce waste in the landfill, litter on the trails, and unnecessary strain on our planet’s limited resources:

DRINK WATER FROM THE TAP

That’s right. Pretty simple. Something you used to do as a kid, right? Bottled water is a Coca-Cola and Nestle marketing scam. Don’t fall for it.

Vancouver’s water is the best in the world. It collects naturally from rainfall gathering in the mountains and streaming to the Seymour Reservoir. The City of Vancouver lightly treats it with chlorine to remove harmful organisms. If you don’t like the chlorine, use a water filter.

Other things you can do:

  • Put your garbage in the trash can.
  • Buy less stuff.
  • Organize a garbage-less lunch day at the office one day a week.
  • Recycle, compost, and reuse as much as possible.
  • Donate items to charity or sell them on craigslist.
  • And for items that you really can’t get rid of any other way, take them to the dump and pay the fees. Don’t leave them in the bushes so that other people have to come along and clean up after you.
East Van Pickers
East Van Pickers – Cary, Stefan, Karen, Mike, Jill, Patricia

 

Thanks again to my awesome friends for coming to help clean up my favourite running trail. Hundreds of people use this trail every day for commuting by bike, running and jogging, and recreational enjoyment. Lots of people thanked us as we were working, and it was a great feeling to know that we were making this trail a more beautiful place for everyone to enjoy.

Water runoff channel - after
Water runoff channel – after
Water runoff channel - before
Water runoff channel – before
Stuff we picked up 1
Stuff we picked up. Coach, mattress, plywood board.
Stuff we picked up 2
Stuff we picked up. Cushions, a decomposing particle-board bed frame.
Stuff we picked up 3
Stuff we picked up. A table, lawn mower, and carpet.
Stuff we picked up. Full paint cans!
Stuff we picked up. Full paint cans!

I choose Drive Organics, not Choices

Drive OrganicsWith the recent takeover of Drive Organics by Choices Market, I am very concerned that I will be losing the store I love. I walked into the store this week and already the apple bins had been changed. Staff had been “offered the choice to leave” due to Choices’ corporate dress policy, and a number of people I know and appreciate are gone. There was a section of pre-packaged, non-organic, pre-made food items. The bulk food section has been decimated. And this is just the beginning.

I am very sad to see the end of my beloved Drive Organics. I have written this letter to the CEO of Choices Markets, describing what I love about Drive Organics, hoping to stem the tides of change. And I am preparing to vote with my feet…

———-

Dear Ishkander Ahmed,

I have been a very loyal customer of Drive Organics for many years. I currently do all of my grocery shopping there, as well as purchase supplements and household cleaning products. My monthly spending at Drive Organics is between $500 and $1,000 every month.

I am concerned about your intention, as stated in Business in Vancouver, to rebrand the store as a Choices Market. I believe you do not understand the culture on Commercial Drive. It will be a mistake for you to rebrand the store to be like the other Choices Markets. The people on Commercial Drive value different things than your customers in Yaletown, for example. We value cultural diversity and individual expression, political dissent, and local and sustainable food sources. The current branding at Drive Organics reflects these values.

I am aware that you have already begun the rebranding by forcing employees to leave Drive Organics because of Choices dress policies regarding tattooing and piercing. Big mistake! This will drive away customers who are not only loyal to the store but to the members of our community who work there.

These are things I love about Drive Organics:

  • Employees with dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings, and odd clothing choices. I don’t want to shop at a store where the employees are forced to conform to a mainstream image. No uniforms!
  • Eclectic alternative music that reflects these employees’ tastes. Not elevator music or Top 40.
  • The feeling of being in a hippie market in a small town, not a sanitized corporate chain store.
  • All the produce is organic. Yes—100% of the produce is organic. I don’t have to read the labels on the shelving to sort out which products are organic and which are not. I don’t have to limit my menu because only a few items I want are available as organic—as happened on those few occasions when I tried shopping at Choices Yaletown.
  • Very little meat. The customer base at Drive Organics is mostly vegetarian and vegan. We don’t want to see a big meat section with a display of the flesh of dead animals. Currently Drive Organics has a very small selection of ethically raised and butchered meat and fish. If you change that to offer the type of meat selection most markets carry, you will drive away a large portion of your customer base.
  • Organic choices for every type of food and grocery items, including bulk foods. I have seen at Choices that you offer a lot of non-organic items. Not interested! There is a reason that I do all my shopping at Drive Organics and that is because whenever possible I only buy and eat organic food.

I advise you to think twice before making any changes that will change the vibe and ethos of Drive Organics. There are other grocery stores that Commercial Drive customers can choose, including Sweet Cherubim, Eternal Abundance, East End Food Co-Op, and Donald’s Market.

I will be watching closely to see the changes you make. If you try to make this store into a regular Choices Market, you will lose me and many other customers.

Kind regards,

Karen Rempel

A new book about cougars

The Cougar by Paula WildMay 3 is the night of the BC Book Prizes gala, and up for the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award is a new book about cougars. Given the popularity of the blog entries about cougars that I’ve written on this site—it’s the topic that I have received the most comments about—I thought readers might be interested to know about The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous by Paula Wild.

The Cougar is a skillful blend of natural history, scientific research, First Nations stories, and first person accounts. With her in-depth research, Wild explores the relationship between mountain lions and humans, and provides the most up-to-date information on cougar awareness and defense tactics for those living, working, or travelling in cougar country. Both feared and admired, cougars are rarely seen, but odds are that a big cat has watched you walk through the woods while you’ve been totally unaware of its presence. And that’s part of what makes the cougar an icon of all that is beautiful, wild and dangerous. Paula Wild is the author of Sointula Island Utopia, winner of a BC Historical Federation Certificate of Merit. Her work has been nominated for National Magazine Awards and she received the John Alexander Media Award for “On a Mission for Life.” She lives in Courtenay, BC.

Here is some more info about the book on Paula’s publisher’s website.

Are you ready to connect with your wild nature?

Wild natureOn June 21 I will be guiding another medicine walk excursion in North Vancouver. The medicine walk is a way to connect with nature, and especially the wildness and beauty of your own inner nature. I will be teaching the nature psychology of the four directions, and then people will have the chance for a 2-hour solo walk to find out for themselves how this ancient teaching can connect them with their inner guidance and the guidance that nature offers us.

Do you have a burning question about your life, your purpose, your soul? Are you seeking guidance, and ready to look within? If so, I invite you to join with a few other explorers on a day-trip to discovery. June 21 is the summer solstice, and the energy of the universe will be adding to the powerful energy of the beautiful spot in nature where we will be walking. See the Programs page for more information.

Afterward

Seymour summer solsticeJune 21 was a gorgeous day on the west coast. My friend Marvin and I hiked 16 KM along the Seymour River. We didn’t follow the strict format of the medicine walk, but did spend some time in contemplation as we rested by the water. He taught me how to say “moss-covered stones” in Esperanto: musko kovrita stono. Sounds pretty Russian to me! The cool water flowing over the musko kovrita stono was serene and refreshing. The green of the forest was a soothing balm for my soul. Spending time in nature was a wonderful way to mark the turning of the seasons. It heralded a new way of being in the world for me—more at ease, taking time to enjoy the pleasure of my friends’ company and the beauty of the natural world. While I didn’t consciously bring a question as on a traditional medicine walk, the spontaneous unfolding of insight occurred nonetheless. Life can be gentle and flowing, like the river on the first day of summer. Perhaps that can be my default position, rather than the frozen stillness of winter or the turbulence of the spring run-off. We’ll see!

Environmental awareness resources

Organizations for Wild Ceremony

  • The School of Lost The beaver in the middle of this photo is a small creature who loves the waterBorders, founded by Steven Foster and Meredith Little, has been developing, teaching, and guiding questers in contemporary rites of passage ceremonies for over 30 years.
  • The Wilderness Guides Council is a professional organization for wilderness guides that promotes the health of wilderness ecosystems and is committed to reintroducing meaningful rites of passage to modern culture.
  • Wilderness Reflections offers wilderness quests in California and Utah.

Friends’ Web Pages

  • One busy winter she chewed down the small trees in the foreground...Fran Weinbaum has been guiding vision quests in Vermont since 1995 and uses this ceremony to strengthen community bonds. Her web site provides info about the contemporary vision quest.
  • David Johnson is a Buddhist and ecopsychologist. In his web site he reflects on Buddhism, ecospirituality, ecopsychology, and coping with despair in the face of environmental damage and the impending peaking of oil production.
  • John Harper is a web guy and spiritual adventurer. He’s an old friend from the Diamond Approach, and set up this site and blog. Thanks, John!
  • Karen Rempel is the author, designer, and illustrator of this site. She is a technical writer and she can help you with your website too, whether you need someone to write new content or to edit and refresh your existing site materials.

Environmental Groups

Environmental Information and Resources

Spiritual Connections

Monkey Valley – unique, dream creek-front property for sale – a hidden valley paradise

Log cabin living-dining roomScroll down the page for more pics and info about showings

Monkey Valley is priced to sell at just $598,900. This unique house and property is 160 acres of paradise just 3½ hours from Vancouver, with a creek-front, unique, 3-bedroom, 2-bath home, with two extra showers and five outhouses for having huge parties (or private retreats)! Totally self-sufficient, the home is solar-powered with generator back-up, enjoys cool, clear underground spring water, and keeps toasty with wood heat and propane back-up. This million-dollar dream of a property is priced almost $300K below the actual value for the land and buildings.

The 1,550-sqare-foot home blends the rustic charm of a log cabin and loft with elegant features like stained glass windows and an antique claw-foot bathtub. The top photo shows the new cinnamon-mocha wide-plank hardwood flooring I just had installed as the finishing touch in the main room of the log cabin part of the house. Click it for a larger view. Stunning! This room also features a skylight and windows on three sides. Shrimpton CreekOne of the bathrooms has black slate flooring, and the entryway has warm-coloured stone flooring. There’s a modern addition with a huge double shower in the downstairs bathroom, and an enormous master bedroom with windows in every direction. Step through the door onto a private deck for your morning coffee when you’ve got company. Or enjoy the lower deck overlooking the creek.

There’s a 5,000-square-foot barn, shop, or activity centre. This ½ mile by ½ mile quarter-section has varied terrain, including the creek winding and splashing down the valley, forests of pine, fir, and aspen, lush green meadows, and hills to climb. The property is fully fenced, with a granite-bouldered rockface forming a natural boundary on the west edge of the property. This exquisitely tranquil piece of BC wilderness is suited to year-round living or a vacation get-away, horse farm, cattle ranch (it was originally homesteaded by cattle ranchers), or retreat centre. Solar energy and firewoodThis is a turn-key solution for a vacation property, as I am selling the home with furnishings included.

All the modern conveniences

There’s cell phone service in the house and at many places on the property. There’s satellite internet and TV if you want it, or just use your smart phone for email. The solar power system has provided all the power I’ve needed. Hot water is provided by a Bosch on-demand flow-through heater. There is also solar-heated hot water with a propane hot water tank for back-up. This system is sized to accommodate groups of 25 people. As you can see, there’s a year’s supply of split firewood in the woodshed, and unlimited firewood on the property.

Keep scrolling down the page, or click these links, to read some other postings about the property:

This country was made for horse-back ridingOutdoor entertainment

The property and surrounding countryside offer every type of outdoor entertainment, recreation, leisure activity, and adventure. See the stars and Milky Way like you’ve never seen them before. Occasionally the Northern Lights are even on display. Swim in the creek, hike the property and surrounding areas, visit the many nearby lakes, go trail running or biking, horse-back riding—you name it. In the winter, enjoy cross-country skiing, snow-mobiling, and snow-shoeing. But watch out for the odd moose cruising through the neighbourhood! And of course the birds and wild-life are ever-present. Visitors are enchanted by the countless varieties of wildflowers, berries, and lichens.

Privacy

Did I mention this property is completely private? It is surrounded on all sides by crown land. The nearest neighbour is 30 KM away. Because of the unique geographical features of the property, it is truly a hidden valley. People never even suspect it is there. So if you want a truly quiet, private home or vacation property, you won’t find more privacy than this. This property is the only one of its kind in the region. It’s unheard of to find a whole quarter-section, this private and self-sufficient, this close to Vancouver.

Monkey Valley locationNearby activities and events

Of course this area is famous for “A lake a day, as long as you stay.” There are dozens of places to fish within an hour’s drive in any direction. Kane Valley is a world-famous cross-country skiing and biking destination. Merritt, the Country Music Capital of Canada, has the Merritt Mountain Music Festival and the Merritt rodeo. Princeton has thoroughbred horse-racing, an air show, an agricultural fall fair, and a traditional music festival. Both cities have many other activities year-round and are thriving communities. There is also a solid community at the south-east end of Missezula Lake. This is true country living.

This beautiful private acreage is located between Princeton and Merritt, BC. It is situated between the breath-taking lakes of Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park and Missezula Lake. Just 45 minutes to Merritt, 1½ hours to Princeton or Kelowna.

To view the property

Call Karen to view. 604.251.6337. Or email kyrempel [at] shaw [dot] ca.

Special note for realtors: a $10,000 signing bonus goes to you for bringing an offer on this property for the asking price or higher.

Selling Features  Monkey Valley is a self-sufficient, off-grid home and 160 acres. It is probably the most unique solar-powered home for sale in BC right now. It is a very private property located in the wilderness near Aspen Grove, BC, between Merritt and Princeton. The closest lakes are Kentucky Lake, Alleyne Lake, Loon Lake, and Missezula Lake. In fact, if you follow Shrimpton Creek south from the property line, Missezula Lake is less than a mile away. This very private property offers a sustainable, green home and acreage that you can live in year-round, or use as a vacation or recreational property. It is also an ideal investment property, as the land only increases in value and it is extremely rare to find such a private, pristine property so close to Vancouver and Kelowna. Rural land for sale is common enough, but to find a quarter section of fully fenced ranch land with no neighbouring properties is very unusual. The fencing, 5,000-square-foot barn, year-round creek, and grassland make it an ideal horse or cattle property. This remote acreage also has timber that can be logged, and it is surrounded by crown timber land. The 3-bedroom house is one-of-a-kind, blending an old-fashioned log cabin with a modern addition that offers all the comforts of solar power, cell phone service, and internet. The home, barn, and outbuildings are clad in country-style board-and-batten of Princeton fir. If you’re looking for creek-front real estate, you’ll love this home that’s more peaceful than most waterfront properties. Sound carries over water, so if you share a lake with neighbours, it’s never fully quiet and peaceful. This ecoproperty is the only land for sale near the Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park, and it is accessible for RVs. This could be a holiday property for a group of families who enjoy RVing in the wilderness. This unique character property is located at the north end of the Cascades foothills, in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Part 5: Ceremony for owl and the wild ones

Great grey owl, photographer Chris DoddsAs I have mentioned previously, a wise wild woman suggested that the great grey owls I encountered this summer were angry. I considered her interpretation of the events, and decided to follow her suggestion of performing a ceremony to let the owls know of my good intentions.

I have long been interested in sacred ceremony and ritual, and first learned the pagan method of working with the four directions. Interestingly, the four directions, which often correspond to the four elements of water, earth, air, and fire, are used in many cultures the world over. The pagan rituals I learned had their roots in Celtic traditions. When I studied to become a vision fast guide, the same four elements were assigned in the same order around the wheel, but a quarter turn further along! This usage arose out of the ways of the Native American traditions of the Lakota people. However, the roots for the Lakota medicine wheel are said to arise from the ceremonies of the ancient Mayan people. It can become very confusing and perhaps impossible to determine which traditions originated where.

But what is clear is that earth-based peoples the world over have identified the usefulness of a nature-based psychology and ceremony that uses the four directions, orienting by the path of the sun across the sky from east to west and the north and south poles of the earth. Similarly, different cultures have selected similar elements as being significant to work with, including the four I’ve named. Other cultures sometimes incorporate additional elements too. For example, in both Buddhist ceremony and pagan ritual the element of ether or space is sometimes used. The Dagara people of West Central Africa use the elements of earth, water, fire, mineral, and nature (green growing things).

I’d like to tell you about a way of beginning a ceremony that I learned at the School of Lost Borders. This ceremony is used by many different Native American and First Nations peoples. It involves calling in the spirits of the seven directions (earth, sky, and centre are the other three) with the use of the smoke of the sacred sage plant.

I put an egg-sized amount of dried sage leaves into a seashell bowl, and lit different spots with a wooden match. I blew on the embers to help the leaves burn. When the sage was smoking nicely, there in my kitchen, I began by greeting the spirits of the east and asking them to be with me in the ceremony. I named a few of the qualities of the east direction, and offered the smoke of the sacred sage to the spirits. Then I repeated this for the other six directions. This act is called “calling in the directions” and it is often performed at the beginning of nature ceremony.

The second step is to smudge oneself with the smoke, for purification, and also to help shift consciousness into a ceremonial openness. If there is a group, the smudge bowl is usually passed clockwise around the circle, and each person smudges the parts of their body they feel moved to cleanse. I smudged my whole body from head to toe, using an eagle feather to brush the smoke over the front and back of my body.

Now I was ready to greet the owls. My plan was to drive to the North Shore, and run through the woods until I came to the place where the owls lived. Since I would be running, I didn’t want to bring all the gear to do the smudging in the woods. But I will tell you, this is the first time I’ve done a ceremony in stages like this. Which is a teaching about ceremony: it is creative, flexible, and responsive to circumstances! Before I left the house, I did tuck a few items for the ceremony into the pockets of my running jacket. Plus of course grabbed my driver’s license and cell phone in case of emergency! I had another ceremonial object waiting in the car, which I would carry while I ran…

I drove over to the North Shore, taking the route up Lynn Valley Road rather than Lillooet Road because I knew I wouldn’t be finished before the gates at the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve were locked. It was getting near dusk already. I parked near the trail that crossed Lynn Creek, and ran through the woods until I reached the place where I had the two owl encounters. I had noted well the tall dead tree that the owls had perched on during both encounters, beside a small creek at a bend in the path. I’ve been on this trail hundreds of times, so it was easy to find the spot again. From their behaviour, I believe this tree marked the edge of the great grey owls’ territory. 

I have to tell you, I felt somewhat fearful that the owls would appear during the ceremony, and perhaps attack my poor head again.  I even wore my glasses while running (something I never do) so that I would be able to see them better if they appeared. So I was on the alert for their presence, and performed the ceremony rather more quickly than I might have otherwise.

I carefully climbed down the steep bank in the semi-darkness to a very wide root that was at the base of the owl-tree. Following my wise guide’s suggestion, I had brought a bouquet of flowers for the owls, which I tucked behind the root so they stood up nicely. Then I took out a small pyrex bowl and placed it on the wide root. I filled the bowl with a mixture of sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and sesame seeds. I blessed the spot with my hands using Reiki. Then I climbed back up onto the path.

Whew! No sign of the owls yet. But I was sure that they were aware of my presence. I faced downhill, into their territory, and addressed the owls quite loudly. I figured it was unlikely anyone would come along the path since it was almost dark, and the creek was bubbling away at high volume, so my voice was drowned out anyway. But I trusted that the owls would hear what I had to say.

First I thanked them for the blessing of the encounters I had with them, and told them that I had meant no harm. I expressed my appreciation for the learning I have received, and told them I heard their message that they and the other wild creatures need wild places to live in. That people are encroaching too much, and not leaving them the room they need to thrive. I expressed my intention to help protect the wild creatures and wild places. I also explained about the offerings I had brought; the red and yellow of the tulips represented the red strength of the owls and my golden joy at meeting them, combined together into a single flower. The seeds I confessed I didn’t think they would eat, although some birds do eat seeds. But perhaps their favourite prey, the vole, would eat the seeds. Thus my hope was to nourish the creatures that would feed them. I wasn’t about to bring some voles or mice as an offering! (But I didn’t say that.)

After I had said everything I could think of to the owls, I blessed the land and all the creatures who live there, again using Reiki. I bowed, rose, and then turned and headed back up the path. An interesting thing happened as I was driving home. It was now dark, and all the tail lights, head lights, and traffic lights appeared as bursts of colour. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw that my pupils were very dilated, like the eyes of the owl! It just so happened that I had an eye exam earlier that day, and my pupils were dilated from the drops the optometrist gave me. But it seemed fitting that I was now seeing through the eyes of the owl!

The final step of the ceremony was to close it where I had opened it, in the kitchen. I held the eagle feather up, faced east, and thanked all the spirits for being with me in the ceremony. Then I scattered the ashes of the sage on the wind.

I performed this ceremony on Wednesday. Saturday morning, an email from the Green Party arrived in my inbox. It was a call for volunteers to fill three roles in the party leadership, including Publications Chair. Wow! A role I am completely qualified to perform, right now, with my existing skills and life experiences. I went to the Green Party website to have a look at their policies and documentation, and my heart sang as I reviewed their 10 Core Principles. They include sustainability, ecological wisdom, social justice, respect for diversity, non-violence, and participatory democracy! My prayer for the right work I can do to help protect the wild ones has been answered! And I don’t even have to go to law school for three years! 🙂 I think this is strong medicine. Maybe it’s owl medicine.

Photo Credit: Image Copyright Christopher Dodds, used with kind permission. All Rights Reserved. See other examples of Chris’s beautiful work at Chris Dodds Photo