PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree December 2021


Shine a Light on the Path Ahead

by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

In 2021, in a world of often dire news and dastardly acts, finding daily relief on spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical levels is an ongoing challenge. In this newsletter and in our blogs, we often write in great seriousness and want to pause at the threshold of a new year to bring equal attention to little ways we strive to practice beauty and create moments of ease. This is what works for us, and we look forward to any additions you want to share.

Make beauty wherever you are.

We keep an LED candle in the center of our table all year, changing out what decorates this centerpiece, from spring flowers to autumn leaves to evergreen tips. This is a centering place for us — when we hold someone in our hearts, remember those who have departed, support another’s needs — or our own. The lit candle signals that we are paying special attention to someone or something and we add little photos, angel cards, prayer slips. Changing it up keeps us freshly aware of the beauty and how we take care of this bit of “hearth” and what it means.

Notice nature, pause and appreciate.

We are fortunate enough to live embedded in nature on our little 1/4 acre of land. There’s mowing and yardwork, gardening, and dog walks. And sometimes we even sit down on an outside bench or chair, watch the birdfeeder, the parade of dogs and walkers, sunrise and/or sunset and the vista of mountains beyond. This autumn, Ann and Vivi have developed a late afternoon porch sit that they both count on as part of the daily routine. Ann gets settled on a porch chair and Vivi jumps in her lap. In that innate sense of clock a dog has, she comes to get us if we haven’t shown up in time for this ritual. Sometimes both of us sit, share hors d’oeuvres (Vivi’s favorite variation!) and a cup of tea or glass of wine. Sometimes early morning, Christina sits on the porch to write— this time of year bundled in a lap robe, enjoying owls hooting, watching the day ris

Stay attached to your personal story and values.

We both have decades long practices of journal writing. Once a week we write together after drawing a Gaian Tarot card from the deck our friend Joanna Powell Colbert painted. When we are individually inspired to write, we often share those writings around the evening fire or dinner table. The more chaotic life seems on the outside, the more we need to hold our narrative thread on the inside. Christina has written a lot about the power of story to make meaning out of the jumble of life experience. To reattach to our own story, sometimes it helps to write in the third person and see what perspective rises. Once there was a (woman/man/person) who… woke before dawn on the Solstice of the year and here is the question that rose in her heart… or Once a woman and an owl spoke at the turn of dawn… The purpose is to access the long string of guidance waiting for us just under the distractions of electronic/modern life.

Watch what runs in your mind: internal recitations of doom do not help.

Being grounded in our own story, our own belief system and creativity, provides greater stamina for diving into the news and tracking issues of social injustices, climate science, and other topics of urgency. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed, depressed, even despairing, and when our personal resilience wears down, we have to pull back and regroup, replenishing ourselves with the practices of beauty and Nature. There’s a saying we repeat often: Hope is a verb. To have hope, we need to act. We can walk down the beach thinking of the gyres of garbage swirling far out at sea; we can walk down the beach picking up bits of trash that have washed ashore. The gyres are still there… but we are doing something in relationship to them. Every day, we search for some point of empowered relationship to these larger issues.

Watch what runs out of your mouth: kindness not criticism.

One of the ongoing lessons of the pandemic and aftermath is that systems are fragile and in flux. Shelves are sometimes empty of ordinary products. Flights get cancelled and schedules shifted. Long waits occur for service on-line, on the phone, or in person. Even slowed service is still service. Behind the scenes or face-to-face, ordinary people are showing up for work, doing their best to function under stressful conditions. When we are playful, cheerful, we watch their surprise to be treated well — and notice how it lightens our own hearts. Isolation, interrupted patterns and expectations are taking a toll on everyone. Our moms were right: please and thank you are still magic words and we can lighten each other’s load and brighten our own outlook with appreciation and kindness. A smile still works — even under a mask.

Notice someone else’s needs – do what you can.

The world around us wants to speed up again: more cars on the freeways, more consumerism at the holidays, more media choices, more distraction. But the pandemic made us slow down. And when we are moving more slowly, we see more of what is going on around us. And as we notice, we get to practice being present in different ways. Our mailbox is about 100 steps down the road next to a long line of mailboxes. We can make a quick jaunt there and back, or we can purposely intersect with our elderly neighbor’s trek to get her mail, walk with her, and listen to how her day is going.

Learn something new.

It is empowering to learn a new skill or a new set of facts. At our ages (70-something) learning new things keeps reassuring us that we still can keep learning…whether it’s a new card game or exploring new areas of knowledge. The pandemic has made cooks and bakers of people who previously treated their kitchens as an occasional appendix to the home.

We’ve loved trying new recipes, watching friends perfect knitting socks (and wearing the results!), teaching our grandson to fish, and joining webinars and book clubs.

Converse across generations.

Young people need to be seen, heard, and recognized; so do older people and all the people in between. Talking across generations brings a fresh perspective and experience that can be informative, surprising and just plain fun. Getting a lesson on how to use a new feature of our iPhones from our grandson brings us further into the 21st century! Talking about college plans gives us a glimpse into how he sees his path forward beginning to take shape. Talking to our elders helps us make peace with the curves of completion that our lives are in. We adore the new little family down the block. The kids are 2, 5 and 7. They speak fast with a strong Kiwi accent. We don’t always understand what they are saying. But what we DO understand is their incredible curiosity and walk away feeling lighter and more amazed by life ourselves!

Reach a hand beyond your comfort zone. Speak honestly in moments of challenge.

All of us will come across opportunities to do this. We were waiting in the airport at the security scanners. An African American man is ahead of us and a white man steps ahead of him for no reason we can see, just laying out box after box at the entrance to the machine. One for his shoes, one for his laptop, one for his coat and belt and another for his briefcase. We all watch him: he never looks up or seems aware of what he’s doing, darts over to walk through the body scan. As we three approach our turns I say to the man, “Another shining example of white privilege. I’m sorry.” He nods. On the other side of the machine as we collect our things he says, “Thanks for noticing.” Okay, maybe the world is a tiny bit better.

Tend a plant. Pet an animal.

Nurturing is a basic human impulse. And nurturing another species can be as significant as loving one another. Apartment plants call us to tending and caring. Someone else’s pet or our own reminds us of the importance of communicating outside words.

We feed Anna’s hummingbirds all winter in our mild climate. It is a big responsibility. Those that overwinter MUST have sugar water as soon as it is dawn. They go into torpor overnight and have precious little energy left when they wake and make those first flights. Without sugar water they will die. When it freezes overnight, Ann brings in the feeder inside and sets the alarm so she can get it back up in time for early risers. These hummers have extended their northernmost range because of feeders. We must not fail them!

We keep developing the list of things that bring us ease… may we inspire one another. Happy Holidays.