Fall in the North Cascades

Dear friends,

I wrote this several weeks ago. I’d hoped to post it sooner, but wasn’t able to do so, so am posting it now…

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I’ve once again returned from a deeply renewing weekend at the North Cascades Institute with Kurt Hoelting, where we taught a workshop together called: Sit, Walk, Write: Nature and the Practice of Presence. This is the fourth time we’ve taught this workshop together and each time, I’m reminded of the value of providing space and time for us to gather together and re-affirm what we know in our bones: wilderness matters and meditation and writing can help us remember this, remember that we need to pay attention to both our inner and outer landscapes.  I’m so grateful to Saul Weisberg, who co-founded the North Cascades Institute in 1986 for his vision.  Here’s an interview with Saul, where you can find out more about all the wonderful programs NCI offers.

When we gathered Friday night, we asked what drew the 28 participants to this session, and for most it was the combination of meditation, writing and being in the natural world that appealed. And that’s what we did, rising before dawn to greet the day in silence together, walking and writing together in the morning, then returning to share our words in a circle around the classroom. After lunch on Saturday, we were blessed by a break in the rain and headed up the trail to the waterfall, lead by our intrepid naturalist Katherine, where we enjoyed the fall sun on our faces, listened to the waterfall, and wrote in our journals. On the way back down, we encouraged participants to peel off from the group and find a place to write and explore more deeply—responding to whatever spoke to them along the way.

On the way up the trail, I’d been astounded by the variety and abundance of mushrooms bursting through the dark hummus with the return of the rain, so knew I wanted to spend more time with them. Write from the point of view of what you’re seeing, I’d encouraged. Try to go inside whatever it is you’re observing and write from its perspective, see what it might have to teach us. Here’s what I wrote in my journal after sitting for ten minutes with a red Lobster Mushroom:

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“Burst through the earth when the season is right, after the rains have nourished. Dwell at the feet of the cedars, your elders, nourished by their wisdom. Make use of it all: the green fir needles that fall to the forest floor, scarlet vine maple leaves, ghostly shreds of lungwort that sail down from high in the canopy. Embrace your neighbors—even though they may be different from you—all the forms of fungi that inhabit this earth. Be bold— wear red —even though you once thought it too loud. Hold hands with your family under the earth, even if no one sees or knows. Remember that we’re all connected in all ways, always.”

You don’t have to go up to the North Cascades to do this, though I hope you will someday. Just find a quiet corner of your yard or a park and sit in silence until something speaks to you. Pay attention, using all your senses and enlist your imagination, too. Then write what it might be saying.

yours in fungi fellow feeling,

Holly

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