One of my everyday tasks is to walk the dogs. It’s not really a task. It’s a guarantee that I’ll spend some time in nature every day. Mostly. I readily admit that in the case of blizzards or pouring rain, both my bulldog and I opt out. But in decent weather, hot or cold, we walk 2 and often 3 times a day, out past the pond, and all the way around the back lawn. Takes about 20 minutes, mainly due to Dozer, 10-and-a-half, and Niblet, 9, insisting on frequent breaks.
When I come back from our walks, I often have to empty my pockets. I’m prone to bringing home treasures.
The other day, I found a pretty pink butterfly’s wing, a small black feather, and a mottled yellow and orange maple leaf. It occurred to me, as I admired the gifts, that not everyone does this, and I bet 90% of the people who do are under the age of 13.
That’s okay. I bring home treasures. I think that’s an indication of what’s unique about the way a mystic’s mind works.
The Mystic in the Moment
When the mystic is outside in nature, she is present in nature. To explain what I mean when I say present, I’ll tell you who keeps me that way.
Niblet. I am very lucky to have a bulldog who insists I remain focused on her and our walk. If I start daydreaming, or hubby and I start talking about projects and plans, we’re no longer focused on our surroundings and the present moment.
Niblet stops walking when this happens. She stands rooted to the spot as we move on, our minds off in la-la land. She waits until we notice she’s not behind us. We’ve never gone more than a few feet. But she won’t move when we’re not with her in the moment.
We have to walk back to where she is and start forward again, paying attention to our feet in the clover, the pond, the fish, the mountains, the dogs, the sky, the birds… The moment.
That’s presence. We’re present when our awareness is on our experience in the present moment.
Bulldog Life Coach
Once past the pond, our task is to spot crickets for the same purpose. We point, she smashes her nose into the ground. Apparently it’s fun. Don’t ask me. As we cross the back boundary of our property, we’re required to find a nice, sweet apple dropped from one of the wild apple trees, break it up, and feed it to her. That’s in the fall. It’s berries in the summer, and snowballs in the winter. She’s a bit of a princess, and in the spring, suffers greatly for the lack of snacks along the walking path, though she’s always grazing on a particular kind of grass.
But with all that, being mystics, being present (even if it is by force) we notice everything around us. The view off toward the west, the best view on the entire place, and how it’s impossible to count how many layers of hills and mountains overlap each other. It’s especially breathtaking when foggy mists rise up between the layers, or clouds cause the sun to fall on some peaks and not others. Oh, and the fall…!
We smell everything. The berries that have fallen to the ground and gone uneaten by birds, slowly fermenting in the late summer sun. The scent of autumn leaves growing ever stronger. The delicious whiff of mint as our bare feet brush over a patch of it.
We hear everything. The fish splashing in the pond as they flip and roll, or jump to snatch a mosquito. The bubbling stream. The wind chimes serenading the fairies. The songs of a hundred birds, some of which we recognize now. The blue jays and robins, the grackles and blackbirds. This morning, bees were buzzing louder than we’ve heard all summer, and we noticed them flying tight to the ground, three different species, maybe more, all in one large area just outside the back door. We walked fast, I can tell you.
We spend time with nature and come to know it intimately. So we notice when something is different or unusual. We see those things as signs, and then we go home and we mull on them. We pay attention to the energy around us, the events unfolding in our lives, and those soon to unfold, and by doing so, we learn to interpret nature’s signs.
And that’s really the only way, because while reference books and legends are remarkably similar, that’s just the big picture. The precise interpretation of a sign is unique to each individual. What it means to us is what colors in the broad outline of traditional wisdom.
I guarantee my associations with the turkey vulture (as a symbol of purification) are different from most.
So we notice. We pay attention. We try to be present. We meditate. Our desire is to maintain a healthy and constant connection between our earthly, dense, compacted, weighty, physical selves and our ethereal, less dense, weightless, wide-spanning, resistance-free, spiritual selves. We keep that tap open, with the waters of understanding flowing in both directions. We feed up experience here in this physical life, and the desires it induces. Spirit shape-shifts into the answers to those desires, and flows them back down the pipeline to us. We shift our awareness from wanting this answer to having this answer, and then we do.
A Mystical Journey
When mystics go walking, we expect to be surprised and delighted. Expecting it means we believe it. Believing puts us on the same wavelength as the thing we’re believing in. And that’s why we tend to get what we most expect. Gifts from nature are the most surprising and delightful things of all, and I’m always on the lookout for them. I know I’ll find them, so I often do.
On my walks I’ve come home with shells, cones, nuts, fossils, snakeskins, fragile little eggshells, intact but for the hole through which the baby bird emerged, pretty stones, oddly shaped branches dropped by the trees, colorful leaves, flowers and their fallen petals. Oh, and twice, a tiny bird’s nest whose residents had left it behind.
These are magical objects. Snakeskins and butterfly wings represent transformation. Butterflies add the energy of beauty and freedom. Fossils connect us to ancient history. Egg shells represent fertility, and have the power to purify. Feathers are for connecting to the higher realms and drawing down inspiration. Nests have to do with hearth and home, the physical things we surround ourselves with, with air energy mingled in due to their link with birds.
That’s what those things mean to me. That’s the part of them that matched up with my energy and drew them into my experience. To you, they might have entirely different associations.
In a Nutshell (protective, thick-skinned)
When the mystic takes a walk, nature’s messages come through to her. Walks can be her spiritual communion with the spirits of the plants, insects, fish, birds, animals and the earth herself. It’s a chance tune in and see what the elements and elementals of nature have to say.
PS: I know I said this week would be about the Mystic and the Dead. But my muse had other ideas!
Until next time!