Reroot, Rewild, Retell

Today I enter the third week of “Rewilding Mythology,” hosted and curated by contemporary writer, Sophie Strand, who focuses on the intersection of spirituality, storytelling, and ecology. Compelled by several inspirations including a night time dream; Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation actions; the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer and Richard Wagamese; and the valuing of the dark, decayed and dead in essays by Perdita Finn and Matt Licata, I enrolled in this 8 week online course, and only afterwards read its description:

“For most of human history, myth was a durable mode of knowledge transmission, kept alive and resilient by the breath-laced web of communal storytelling. Just as we plant a seed in soil, so were vital pieces of agricultural and ecological lore planted into stories that were built to survive environmental and social collapse.

Myth-telling, as primarily oral and embodied, was revitalized by the same ecological cycles that depend on a balance of decay and regrowth: breaking down dead wood to generate new soil. Our culture-creating cosmogonies rarely grew stale because they were refreshed and adapted to new conditions each time they were retold. Myths were the maps of communities intimately dialoguing with their environment. Most importantly, they were contextual.

But the rise of empire depended on the deracination of mythologies. Just as landscapes were stolen and terraformed so were whole pantheons uprooted from their social and ecological contexts, coopted by the very cultures that ensured the demise of their originating cultures. Galilean magicians were turned into militaristic figureheads. Serpentine divinities were transformed into gorgon-headed monsters. Uprooted from their context and from the renewing respiration of communal storytelling, these stories ossified into abstraction and reinforced the anthropocentric hyper-individuality and colonial capitalism of today.”  

Following intuition. Knowing little. Not knowing a lot. Catching wisps – from last week’s poet story-teller, and the depth psychologist featured in Friday’s bonus session – that are coalescing into some kind of vague, embodied comprehension. Yet already it’s been informing what I’m hearing and seeing and talking about. Already, it’s re-shaping my context.

Quoting the host from her invitation: “I can’t wait to see how I’ll be changed by it.” And I wonder, too, “How can we reroot, rewild, and retell?


I’m far from integration, synthesis, or even a coherent articulation about any of it, but from my notes, right now this excites me and grabs my curiosity:

“When you uproot a myth, dogma is the result.”

“Reading our alphabetic language makes it available for capture rather than response, while speaking we feel the energy vibrations in our body.”

“Is there a mode of writing that allows for space, breath and context?”

“Consider anthropomorphism as courtship to learn how to be in conversation and communion with the land and interior world, so that we can cultivate subjectivities that are less commodifying.”

“What if magic wasn’t supernatural but the most natural experience?”

“Magic is the logic of the world when the world is experienced from its own depths.”

“We’re used to listening in an habitual, usual way in the body. Let’s awaken the ancestral faculties of listening through the body to then become hollowed out for lightening to pass through…to be seized by a flow…”

“What stories are living us?”

Last week a friend invited me to his podcast conversation centering on wisdom, creativity, and living with uncertainty. As prompt, he referenced a meme he’d seen posted on my Facebook timeline:

“The ghosts of all the women you used to be
are proud of the woman you’ve become.”

@the global sisterhood

He asked what wisdom I’d have for those ghosts.

As is often the case with such a thoughtful question, in such beautifully contained conversation where we listen and are seen beyond habit, a conversation that is generative and holds the possibility for emergence, I found myself saying out loud things I’d never quite thought about before, let alone spoken. The stories living me. Asking to be spoken and shared.

After a lengthy pause, for his question deserved consideration, I responded that I’d ask about what excites them, grabs their curiosity, incites their wonder.

Theirs and mine. Then and now. To help us “reroot, rewild and retell.”

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Porto, Oporto

Rua Santa Catarina tile facades

“What’s needed are eyes that focus with the soul.
What’s needed are spirits open to everything.
What’s needed are the belief that wonder is the glue of the universe and the desire to seek more of it.
Be filled with wonder!”

Richard Wagamese, Embers, 2016

Wonder companioned me throughout my five weeks in Portugal and Spain. Wonder guided my visit to Porto – what the locals prefer calling their city – the second largest in Portugal, with its historic centre, including its cathedral, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (I can’t believe we never made it up to the cathedral, the heat being a factor, and too, that Portugal Green Walks would be providing our Camino credentials during our orientation the eve before setting out. In hindsight, one of travel’s “shoulda woulda coulda” misses.)

Porto’s Cathedral – the “official” start of the Coastal Camino

We arrived via a three hour train trip from Lisbon early Saturday afternoon, time enough to settle into the Hotel Porto Trinidade and make our way to Rua Santa Catarina to meet up with a Taste Porto food tour, one I’d learned about from Monday Night Travels with Rick Steves. Iconic azulejos – those blue glazed ceramic tiles – of the Ingreja do Carmo shone brilliant against an azure sky and marked our rendezvous spot.

Ingreja do Carmo

Travelling solo, I often book a food tour when I land to learn about the city’s food and culture from a local perspective, become oriented, discover places to eat during my stay, and get my first meal. This four-hour, small group “walk, talk and taste,” expertly hosted by Miguel, whose joie de vivre for his adopted city and its local foods and wines, did not disappoint. From sampling one of Portugal’s most popular culinary exports – canned fish – with its signature tinto verde; to munching on savory Chaves pastries filled with ground seasoned veal; to the marinated slow-cooked pulled pork and smoked ham double layered “sandes terylene” sandwich accompanied by a red sparkling wine; sipping espresso with a square of fine dark chocolate at the art deco Cafe Guarany; and ending the feast with shredded cod fritters and “naughty” rice, we left sated with stories, fine local food and wine, and a glimpse into Porto’s rich architectural history and beauty.

Livraria Lello Bookstore

Sunday shone sunny and fresh, with the morning cool a deception for what would become a 30+ C day. Ambling towards the Douro River, we encountered a line of people waiting patiently outside building.
“Sunday brunch?” I wondered. Approaching, I realized this was the famous bookstore that inspired JK Rowling’s Hogwart’s library in the Harry Potter series. Once free to the public, now the thousands that descend daily to visit are charged 5 Euro per person for the privilege, reimbursed with a minimum purchase.

Bookstore Interior, second floor

Passing more colourful tiles and street art, now early afternoon, it proved prescient to have pre-booked tickets to sit outside on the upper deck of a boat for an hour’s sailing up and down the Douro to see Porto’s six bridges. The Puente Maria Pia, attributed to Gustav Eiffel, is one of several bridges built in Portugal by Eiffel. We’d walk across another in an early stage of the Camino.

Eiffel’s Puente Maria Pia

I’d learned about the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum from my co-editor, Karen, who with her husband and a group of fourteen others earlier in the spring had walked the Portuguese Central Camino from Lisbon. Featuring an expanse of park with outdoor metal installations by Ai WeiWei, and a Joan Miro exhibition in the Art Deco building, meandering inside and outside the foundation’s buildings and grounds, with a delicious buffet lunch on the roof top terrace, was a perfect transition from the heat and crush of the “peopley” urban centres and sights of Lisbon and Porto. The following day, a week after having arrived in Portugal, we’d be delivered to the beach and boardwalk to begin stage one of nineteen of the Coastal Camino, where once again, wonder would be my guide and companion.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Lighting Our Way

Yesterday, I woke before dawn to make preparation for the ritual of Advent. Journeying on the “road home,” I’ve become comfortable visiting different spiritual traditions, some for extended stays. So it is, drawing from my Lutheran childhood and early adult years, I made ready my altar to light the first of four weekly candles.

“lighting our way to Christmas…the shared ritual of symbolizing joining my light to another, to another, and so growing our light in connection and caring…”

Nancy Steeves, Minister Southminster-Steinhauer United Church, Streamed Service, November 29, 2020

The German embroidered cloth, a gift from my chosen namesake aunt…the trio of tiny angels, delicate with age, from my Oma… the whimsical magi… a Celtic inspired Father Christmas… a “glassy baby” candle from my circle sister, Sarah…the arrangement of “ice wine” grapes, crystals and gold leaf I created years ago because it all caught my eye. Everything in its place, the same place over the years. My German heritage shimmers.

“The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a mission for children created a wreath out of the wheel of a cart…Eventually, the wreath was created out of evergreens, symbolizing everlasting life in the midst of winter,  while the circle reminds us of God’s unending love and eternal life .”

“The Beautiful Meaning and Purpose of Advent,”
http://www.crosswalk.com

Within months of marriage, my husband and I, with our first English Setter, Beckey, packed up our VW Scirocco and drove west from Ontario in early January to make our home in Alberta. We consciously chose that next Christmas to not fly back to Ontario, but to learn how to make our own traditions. It’s been an evolving journey. Over the forty years there have been trips back east, joyous celebrations with friends made here, and years being on our own, alone.

A few years after our first Alberta Christmas, now settled into our own home, I purchased the white ceramic Advent wreath I’ve been using ever since. Its simplicity and safety appealed. Growing up, I was most familiar with white candles, though upon reading learned and now use purple candles on the first, second, and fourth Sundays, and a rose pink on the third. In some traditions, the candles are all red, or blue. Too, I didn’t recall qualities being attributed to each of the four Sundays, but was reminded when my friend posted a note yesterday:

  • The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival.
  • The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
  • The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the color rose signifies joy.
  • The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace–He came to bring people close to God and to each other again.
  • The fifth candle (optional) placed in the wreath’s centre, and lit n Christmas Day, represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s Candle.”

“Hope shines as a solitary star; love is the inner light.
You and I together mirror the light of lights
and illumine the pathway home.”

Catherine Faith MacLean

Yesterday in still dark dawn, that first purple candle flickering, I sat with letting go, letting be, laying down what no longer serves nor is. Deaths and endings. Literal and otherwise. Not with hope, but not without it either. Just that soft quiet space of allowing, with grace and gratitude.

Later, in a Sunday practice learned a couple of years ago when visiting my  elder heart sisters, I shuffled the Gaian Tarot deck four times, cut it three, and felt moved to draw the top card, not one from a fanned spread. The Ten of Water – with its five salmon carcasses on the shore of the stream in which five more were swimming upstream for their lives for life – and immediately I recognized its timely portent: the cycle of descent and return, transitions and endings but within which are encoded beginnings.

Advent. Four Sundays to pause, prepare, and anticipate. The birth of the son. Here in the northern hemisphere, in the ever darkening, deepening winter. The return of the sun. From the dark, the light. From the endings, beginnings.

“Watching morning break, I realize again that darkness doesn’t kill the light – it defines it. I believe that now. For years, I didn’t. I believed I was my failures, mistakes, midjudgments, shortcomings and wrongs. But I’m not those things. I am the light that shines from my faith, my courage, my willingness to be vulnerable and to be responsible and accountable.”

Richard Wagamese, Embers, 2016

And so are you, dear friends. With much love and kindest regards.

What Traveling Gives Me

Iceland, Perspectives with Panache, 2018

What’s needed are eyes that focus with the soul.
What’s needed are spirits open to everything.
What’s needed are the belief that wonder is the glue of the universe
and the desire to seek more of it.
Be filled with wonder.

–  Richard Wagamese –
Embers, 2016

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