Tag Archives: Mystical Experience

The Oldest Flowering Plant in North America

Lately, my daily practice is more and more a matter of getting grounded enough to learn from the mycellium that connect everything in my little Bit of Earth.

(Random mourners at the funeral: “You can’t deny, she was an intelligent woman, a successful lawyer, very well-respected in her field. Imagine her dying out in that back woodland and no one finding her for days! They said her hands, and mouth, and lungs were full of soil!

Accumulated a nice nest egg, owned her home, paid her taxes, always voted, bought cookies from the girl scouts, donated to the local library, did a lot of pro bono work, and brought bundles of herbs and baskets of muffins when new neighbors moved in.

Too bad she went so crazy in the end, imagining she could talk to the fungi attached to tree roots or some such! Just think! She spent her evenings thinking that she was “talking” to fungi and that they were the Earth’s brain cells! They say she died happy, though. Wonder who’ll get her Hermes collection.”

“Well I heard she fancied herself a Witch. It was a rather extensive collection, wasn’t it?”)

One thing that I’ve learned is that mycellium value very highly the ability to communicate/carry information between not only, say, my two Japanese Temple Pines, but also between, for example, the Temple Pines and the Bracken’s Brown Magnolias, and the White Oak, and the Daisy Gardenia shrubs, and the, well, you get the idea. And the soil keeps shifting and the plants keep shifting and the mycellium that connect the plant communities of the Eastern MidAtlantic to the plant communities on the other side of the Appalachians are very important. Information, for them, is material; it’s cells, and microbes, and droplets of sugar water, and it’s also concentrated sunshine, and it’s also the way that the stars were formed. They’ve/It’s been doing this for a long, long time. The planet didn’t just get connected when someone developed the internet. (Some say that mycellium are “sentient,” which, duh, of course they are, and that they know when you are present. After you walk, “the very ground leaps up” to absorb the nutrients you’ve left behind. Of course it does. And that makes walking a holy act. Maybe that’s one reason why I love to go outside barefoot.)

And, so, I was delighted today to read this story about one of America’s oldest flowering plants. I wonder about the mycellium that connected its roots to those of its neighbors. The article says that:

There’s also a much more recent history of this fossil that’s just as fascinating. Jud[, the student who wrote about the fossil,] did a bit of research and found that it’d been excavated in 1971 by a former Smithsonian curator, Leo Hickey, who went on to Yale and died in February before working with Jud to re-analyze the fossil after all these years. Hickey had found it during a dig at the Dutch Gap, in Virginia, in sediments that were exposed over a century earlier, by freed slaves who were forcibly taken from the Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony by Union troops and forced to dig a canal in August 1864.

While digging, they exposed ancient fossil-filled rocks, and a few decades later, in the 1870s and 1880s, scientists worked there to collect fossils and create some of the Smithsonian’s first fossil collections. Later, Hickey and other researchers returned to collect remaining specimens.

Jud honored this recent history in naming the ancient species that this specimen represents. “Potomac refers to the Potomac Group beds where the fossil was found, capnos is a reference to living poppies that are quite similar to the fossil and apeleutheron is the Greek word for freedmen,” he says. “So the new plant will be named Potomacapnos apeleutheron: roughly, ‘freedmen’s poppy of the Potomac.’”

I love that. I want to go see the site in my state where this earliest flowering plant was found. I want to pour a blot for the Freedmen for whom this Potomac poppy was named and for the likely-still-extant mycellium that talked to its roots. Maybe they’ll talk to me.

What’s the gossip in your landbase?

Or Else, to Alter Plato’s Parable, Into the Yolk and White of the One Shell

I’ve been pulling all-nighters and working like a mad woman on a brief, but, early this morning, aching and taking a hit of coffee the way that I imagine a junkie injects heroin, I came across this picture.


Dawn was just breaking, rainy and beautifully grey, over Columbia’s District. And for a few deep moments, I remembered what’s real.

All day, at odd moments — in between fights with co-counsel, waging politics, comforting secretaries about misplaced footnotes, encouraging associates who’ve done good work, pushing for better answers from the cases — the image kept returning, tugging at me and saying, “There’s a deeper truth here.”

It may be sleep exhaustion talking, but, to me, this picture is about the deeper reality of all of our lives. Every minute of every day. We’re busy paddling along while, silently, the entire time, deep mystery is just beneath us, inhabiting the very waters that hold us up, swimming in communion with us. It’s visible, if we just peer through the water. And the mystery longs for us to dip our fingers into the icy water and to stroke it.

What WAS that whale thinking about the kayack? Am I the leaf, the blossom, or the bole? (Maybe it’s the reference to blear-eyed wisdom born out of its own despair that calls this poem to mind just now.)

May it be so for you.

/Picture found here.

Tuesday Poetry Blogging


The Unknown Flute

~ Kabir

I know the sound of the ecstatic flute
but I don’t know whose flute it is.

A lamp burns and has neither wick nor oil.

A lily pad blossoms and is not attached to the bottom.

When one flower opens, ordinarily dozens open.

The moon bird’s head is filled with nothing but thoughts of the moon.
and when the next rain will come is all that the rain bird considers

Who is it we spend our entire life loving?

~translated by Robert Bly, found in Risking Everything, 110 Poems of Love and Revelation, edited by Roger Housden.

Picture found here.

Constantly Reveal Them (As If)

Italian Parsley

Italian Parsley

The Mysteries are never in danger of being revealed imprudently, because They are, by Their nature, incapable of being discussed in a way that makes any sense except to those who have already experienced Them. My goodness, the Goddess is wise. And that is why we say, “Guard the Mysteries; constantly reveal them.” And, my goodness, I am foolish because, once again, I am going to try to write about that which cannot be described.

Such prosaic things can lead to the Mysteries! A chicken, a pot of parsley, sunlight.

At the end of a pretty insane week at work, I stopped Friday at the local Lebanese grocery and got a roasted chicken, some cous-cous, and some salad for dinner on my porch with a friend. A bottle of Sancerre from the fridge and a long talk were the only necessary additions.

This morning, in between doing laundry, drinking coffee, and reading briefs, I cut up carrots, celery, onions, and garlic and threw them into an old blue soup pot with the remains of the chicken. Salt and peppercorns, and, from the herb bed, lots of thyme and a few leaves of sage. The thyme and the sage are beginning to bloom, so I was careful to pick around the flowers, which the bees adore. The early morning was cloudy and cool and the kitchen windows were fogged with steam from the soup.

Boring. Prosaic. A Sunday morning that has been, with minor variations, repeated by generations of women.

Once the broth was done, I decided to make chicken and dumplings for lunch. Standard Southern Sunday fare. By then, the sun had burned away the clouds.

I love parsley in my dumplings and I walked out the kitchen door to pick parsley from the pots just outside. The parsley overwinters, but it goes a bit dormant; it’s there and you can pick it, but it’s less than fully “wick.” But here we are on the fifth of May and the parsley is exuberant — as full of wick as wick can be.

Bending over the pot, picking parsley with my right hand and holding the picked leaves in my left, and giving my usual thanks to the green things that let me pick them, I could suddenly feel in the curve of my back how many of my ancestresses had done this very same thing. I began to move into the river of time, flowing along on the brook of my blood, feeling my great-great-many-times-great grandmothers standing over the pot with me. I thought to “myself”*: “How many hundreds of my grandmothers have done this very same, very prosaic thing! How many have bent over a pot in the sun and picked herbs for soup!” From a spot along my back, just between my shoulder blades, I could hear a chorus of some subset of my ancestresses: “Well some of us have. And some of us would have thought ourselves privileged beyond measure to have a kitchen, and a door, and sun (those were the Swedish ones, I’m sure of it), and pots full of parsley.”

While I am considering that, I turn, cup my hands around the emerald leaves that I’ve picked, lift them to my nose for a hit of that incredible scent, and then, and then, and then it happens.

Then the sunlight hits the parsley and the flesh of my hands and I suddenly see how blessed are both the leaves and my hands. I suddenly see that my hands are made, directly and indirectly, of sunlight on chlorophyll and Mystery. Whatever I’ve done with my hands throughout my life — crawled on the floor with them, grabbed toys with them, held pencils and books with them, wiped my tears with them, washed dishes with them, pleasured myself with them, dressed my baby with them, typed briefs with them, knitted caps with them, waved to friends with them, scrubbed floors with them, polished silver with them, lit incense with them, planted seeds with them, chopped celery with them, carried signs with them, lifted chalices with them — I’ve been doing with and in and through and by the sunlight, the chlorophyll, and the Mystery. I suddenly “see” into the deepest Mystery of this planet: sunlight on chlorophyll. I suddenly feel through my third eye how I have always been a part of that and how that has always been Everything. And then, “I” just “AM.”

I want to write that I “came to” about ten minutes later, but that’s not right, because I was present and aware for the full time, but it is right, because it was about ten minutes before I took a deep breath, made myself hear the birds and the breeze, and walked into the kitchen to mince the parsley for my dumplings. As Salinger explained, it’s just all God pouring God into God. And mincing parsley is not different from standing in the sun and Being sunlight and chlorophyll and Mystery.

And I think that that is all that there is to say about that. Except: May it be so for you.

* “Myself” is such a funny concept when I am with my mother’s mother’s mothers. And yet, it is the right word and it does describe something that I can kind of see out of the corner of my eye when I float on the brook of my blood. Ditto for “I” and “AM.”

Picture by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

That Which Isn’t Flint Is Tinder

If the landscape reveals one certainty, it is that the extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation.  After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusion on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor.  The whole show has been on fire from the word go.  I come down to the water to cool my eyes.  But everywhere I look I see fire; that which isn’t flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames.

~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

It finally turned really cold today.  I spent most of it walking, sitting, and paying attention along the banks of the Potomac River.  I needed it.  May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Where Work Is Play for Mortal Stakes

It’s all, at the v same time, deadly serious and completely, brilliantly ebullient. It’s so grimly important that it’s time for skipping, throwing your cap into the air, dancing a grande jete as you do the Most Solemn Thing. It’s all real, it’s all metaphor, and there’s always more. It’s so serious and important, that the only proper response is gaiety and a completely conscious freedom.

Well, no one’s really said it exactly, but Mr. Frost came close. Or, maybe it was Rumi:

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let’s buy it!

Well, maybe Aunt Doreen said it:

You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites.

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.

. . .

Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.

Or, maybe, well, maybe Kenneth Grahame really came as close to saying it as it can be said:

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror–indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy–but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

`Rat!’ he found breath to whisper, shaking. `Are you afraid?’

`Afraid?’ murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. `Afraid! Of him? O, never, never! And yet–and yet– O, Mole, I am afraid!’

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

Sudden and magnificent, the sun’s broad golden disc showed itself over the horizon facing them; and the first rays, shooting across the level water-meadows, took the animals full in the eyes and dazzled them. When they were able to look once more, the Vision had vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that hailed the dawn.

You know, this was always meant to be marvelous fun. It is. It’s meant to be like clear dawn with birdsong just after the Piper disappears beyond the Gates and it’s meant to be perfect champagne and babies’ laughing and seeds unfurling and children learning to read and bells pealing and freedom happening and people finding their way and fathers holding toddlers and old people telling hilarious jokes and women reaping wheat and trumpets pealing.

It’s meant to be like good magic, the way it feels when a real Witch casts the Circle and you know that it’s all true, all working, all fitting perfectly into place like the Goddess dancing awake the World. It’s meant to be the way that it feels when a healthy priestess makes the whole world whole.

It’s meant to be like poetry clicking and bricks snigging into place atop each other and Sally Smith making ice sculptures in the Winter sun.

If we’re too miserable, too grim, too morbid, well, then, we’re just not doing it right.

We owe this work, this deadly serious work of trying, here, when it’s maybe already too late to try, this work that is nothing less than saving the planet, we owe this perfect work that must, in the end, be executed with exacting care, we owe this work the deep respect of approaching it with joy, with glee, with sparkling good will.

It’s kind of like this.

Becoming Transparent

Time is our mentor, but one we grow beyond. As our bodies age, we weather, just as these stones do. Refined and redefined, our essence begins to show. Eventually, we may become so transparent that it’s clear we’re made of [E]arth that carries light; so transparent it’s clear we’re star-born. We’re deeply connected to Gaia, but also, as her children, a part of the far-flung worlds, the unity in which [S]he lives, moves, and has her being.

~Mary Kate Jordan, The Tribe of Wise Old Women in Crone: Women Coming of Age, Issue No. 4.

Picture found here.