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Foraging with Goats

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I have not written in far too long. I almost put it off another week, but as I lay napping in my bed a few minutes ago, a big spider ran across my brow. I woke up and felt its legs running over my skin and saw it jump off under the bed. Spider medicine is about sharing your story through the written word. Weave your words into the web of life to find meaning. So, here I am, Grandma Spider. Thanks for sending me the message loud and clear.

Summer feels like it’s rushing by and one of my daily chores is milking the two lady goats. At first, I saw milking as a chore, but now I understand it is as much for them as it is for me. We need each other, not only for me to feed them and for me to receive their milk, but for companionship and connection. It is not just a transaction, it is a relationship.

The goats are showing me how grounding routine can feel in this fast paced world. After morning milking, I take them for a walk. Today, we walked up the hill and discovered ripe blackberries growing wild along the path. As I gathered the delicious bounty, placing each berry into my, thankfully, blue t-shirt, I listened to the sounds of the goats chomping on leaves.

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The satisfaction of harvesting food from the earth for nourishment is like no other. To be in direct relationship with nature brings me home. I felt like one of the goats, part of the herd, foraging in the brambles for tasty treats. When we walk together, they move slower wanting to stop and munch. I always feel like I need to get somewhere, hike the mountain, rush back home to tackle the long list of “to do’s.” I was completely immersed in this precious moment on the hill, time was non-existent. How I yearn for these moments, so quiet, connected, and calm.

Also, blackberries have thorns. Therefore, I couldn’t reach in and pull off handfuls. I had to gently pick each one and carefully navigate the prickers. Yet, another message from nature to slow way down and be patient.

The goats are teaching me to pause and notice the abundance right under my nose. Everywhere they look they see food. If I can get out of my own head, then I notice it, too. We are surrounded by food and medicine in these forests and fields of Western Mass. Abundance surrounds us, and we are so very blessed.

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Thyme and Olive Oil Chèvre inspired by Susan at Rawson Brook Farm, Monterey, MA

Goats are also super sensitive, so when I feel stressed, they feel it, too. Lately, I’ve been feeling like there’s never enough time so I rush around doing a million things at once. “Rushing is violence,” I hear from the lyrics of Rising Appalachia. When I breathe deep and sing to the goats, they relax and let down their milk. When I am cranky and yelling at them for kicking the milk bucket over, they tense up. We’re all one, I guess. They are such great teachers.

Off to hang the feta cheese and make blackberry frozen yogurt!

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Blog’s 10th Anniversary + Goats!

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This blog was inspired ten years ago, when I embarked on a journey to learn about homesteading, farming, and raising goats for cheese and milk. I took an internship at a small goat dairy farm in Monterey, MA with Susan Sellew. I left college life behind, and moved into a log cabin surrounded by tall white pines and blueberries. My new teachers were the plants, animals, and Susan.

Rawson Brook Farm became home for over two years. Each day I gardened, milked goats, made cheese, and raised chickens for meat and eggs. I upheld the philosophy that if I were to eat meat and dairy, I had to know how to raise it myself. Our idealistic young minds are too often taught to ignore our dreams and get real jobs. Instead, I chose to deepen my connection to food and all that sustains me.

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I fell in love with the rhythms of homesteading. How each plant and animal nourished my body, in exchange for consistent attention to patterns of life and death, and a good bit of hard work. I don’t even really feel it’s work when the animals and plants are offering us so much. It’s a collaboration. The goats taught me how to be present, live in the moment, and have a little fun.

Ten years later, I invited goats back into my life on my own homestead. Susan offered me two pregnant does in April that kidded in May. Carmen and Stella each had two boys. They are all healthy and get along for the most part, though who can blame the mamas when their boys drive them a little nuts with all their head butting and humping each other. It feels like I have a daycare program when we go for walks, all the little kids running around each other, jumping, bleating, snorting, humping, and chewing on fresh leaves.

It brings me so much joy watching how much goats love uninhibited play. It’s not like they are asking themselves, “Am I being too wild right now? Should I tone it down?” No! They are full on learning how their little bodies work on this earth. Within seconds of being born they are walking, nursing and wagging their tiny tails. At one week they’re already sprinting up and down the driveway bouncing off each other’s backs. It’s a great way to start the day.

I am grateful to Susan Sellew for inviting me into her world of goats. Now, we get to text funny goat videos and medical information back and forth. Whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, I tell her and she always replies with a calm response that makes me remember that I am doing the best I can and the rest is up to mystery.

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What does this close connection with the natural world teach me? I continue learning over and over how wise and intelligent bodies are with the complete knowing of how to heal. We have to trust in the time spirits. I always wanted to raise goats of my own, but I had to learn other things before rooting into the homestead. We never really know how long or why certain things happen. There is great freedom in patience, perseverance, non-attachment, remaining open to things not going the way we think, and living in the moment.  

We’ve come full circle on the blog post with this being the 10th year anniversary of Farming for Justice. Thanks for reading and enjoy the beautiful fresh green spring!

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The Great Remembering

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This post was inspired by a dream I had last night in which I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. I held her and she was precious, innocent, pure. The love I felt was so pure I could not imagine feeling any other way about her. When I woke from the dream, I realized this baby girl was probably me, since we’re usually working out something about ourselves in dreams no matter who the people appear to be. What if I felt this pure love toward myself, I wonder? What would the world look like if each of us loved ourselves and one another the way we love innocent newborns fresh from the womb?

Enough of this scarcity mentality that reinforces those beliefs that “you are not enough,” “only if you do this then you can get that,” you would have it all if you were better at….”

This structure of sabotaging beliefs are false and come from a society rooted in male domination and capitalism. There is actually no end goal to be reached when everything will be just dandy and all your dreams come true based on your performance. I don’t know what happens after death, but I do know that heaven can exist right here right now on Earth. Everything is a choice.

What if we already do have it all? 

What if there is nothing to prove? 

What if everything in your life is a gift that deserves to be recognized?

Last night I posted two photos of myself on social media. I very rarely post photos of myself because:

1) I don’t want to be that woman (judgement of you, therefore judgment of self)

2) I’m not photogenic (old line of shame I use when I don’t want my pic taken)

3) Fear of really being seen because I may not be what you want to see

4) Only super pretty girls do that and I’m only kind of pretty (if you get me at the right angle)

5) I’m not an attention seeker. I’m above all that and I don’t seek your approval to feel good about myself (bullsh*t – I have insecurities, clearly)

The photos are out there because I wanted to show more of myself to you. I want to learn to love all parts of me. I am thinking about the yin and yang inside of me and want to let go of my insecurities around being seen.

Yin and Yang are the parts that complete the whole. Yin can be interpreted as receptive, watery, wondering, being, that inner place we go to when we daydream. It’s often referred to as the feminine, but our society has placed so many negative associations with being feminine if you are a male that I am careful with this word. We all have both yin and yang qualities.

Yang can be interpreted as active, fire, doing, outward energy we put toward getting stuff done. It has been referred to as masculine energy, but again, careful, because of what society has deemed wrong with being too masculine as a woman or not masculine enough as a man. We’ve got some healing to do here as a culture that is founded on the patriarchy.

Yin and yang are not binaries or opposites as the English language attempts to relay, they are part of the whole and we need both. We cannot know darkness without light, calm without chaos, movement without inactivity, silence without noise.

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How can I fully accept my non-conforming habits and desires with all the messages whirling around women to be sweet, kind, nurturing, smart but not too smart, funny but not offensive, and athletic but only to be slim for men to like my body? I realized how much I judge various parts of me as too feminine or too masculine. Even as a CIS gender heterosexual white woman, I struggle to remember I am whole and enough.

After a walk to clear my head yesterday, I sat down next to my cousin who said to me without even knowing where my thoughts had been (because women are usually pretty damn psychic), “Hannah, I can never really describe you to my friends. You’re just you. The moment I think I know everything about you, I learn something I never would have imagined.”

As a young girl I loved physical activity, sports, pushing myself to the limits and doing “boy things.” Whatever that means. I also loved snuggling with my mama, playing dress up and painting my nails. At some point I had to decide which way to go for society to accept me as woman. Instead of conforming, I listened to my heart and chose to ignore those voices as best I could and do whatever it takes to BE ME. 

It ain’t easy! I get off course, lost, forget, and end up in places I’d rather not be. This year for me is about Homecoming. I bought a house as a single woman with a vision for gardens, healing, community, peace, rest, and belonging. I am learning what is truly means to come home to myself. Who is Hannah, really? I can never fully know, that’s the beauty of the Great Mystery, but I am always open to discovering more and more. And, right now, I know, I am enough. I am completely whole, pure, and lovable the way a baby is when she is born.

I strongly urge us to be who we are, without caring constantly about what others may think. No one really is watching, and if they are, who cares? I fully embrace the “masculine” and “feminine” qualities which I refer to as Yin and Yang. There just ain’t one without the other. Each one makes a whole. Have love and compassion for all parts of you. Be true to you. Get sh*t done then take a bubble bath. You deserve to know the REAL YOU. We all do. Show us. Show us your darkness and light.

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What we are looking for is already inside. It’s all right here waiting to be acknowledged. Wholeness is achieved when we love all parts of ourselves. Don’t identify too much with any of the parts of you that you uncover because we’re always changing. Be open to the transformations.

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Who would you be if you didn’t care so much about what others think? 

Who would you be if you didn’t put yourself into a box and tie a rope to the wall so you’d never leave it? 

Who are you, no part left out? 

Who are you when you believe you can fully embrace all of you?

You already have it all. You were born with it. Life is about remembering all we have forgotten since birth. Take off the masks and dance in the moonlight until dawn if that is who you are! Cheers to releasing binaries and calling in being, belonging, and wholeness.

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PS: Join me on the Journey to Wholeness! I’m offering a series of workshops at my home this spring and fall. Learn more & apply online at sweetbirchherbals.com

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The Heart Protector

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I write a lot about opening the heart, but there’s something crucial about protecting the heart, too. Our physical hearts are wrapped in a sheathe called the pericardium. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this is known as the Heart Protector.

While we open our hearts, it’s equally important to protect ourselves from unwanted energies and forces. Who says we have to be open and receiving all the time? As a woman, I have learned over and over again that it is not wise to allow any and all energies into my body. To be in my center, I get to choose what comes in and what goes out.

Yesterday I was reminded of this lesson while meandering the streets of San Fransisco. I’m not really a “city girl,” but I can get down with the fast paced vibe for a few days. At some point while pretend dress shopping with a girlfriend, exhaustion suddenly set in. I no longer felt giddy and light hearted about the whole experience of make up counters and sparkly items that cost more than a month’s rent.

The disturbing reality of class divides in America hit me on the train out of the city. I looked around and saw that almost everyone was holding a smart phone in their hands, a young mother was asking for money, and a drunk man vomiting while mumbling words I couldn’t understand.

I took a deep breadth and felt my stomach turn. The nausea crept up to my throat. “Do not take it on, sweet one,” said a voice in my head. But, it was too late. The empathic healer that I am was filled to the brim with pain.

Could this be why so many people choose to numb out with alcohol, sugar, pain meds, opioids, weed, etc?

When I really looked around, I saw so much suffering. Yes, I know there is always beauty in each moment because there is no yin without yang, but inside the belly of the beast, my heart sunk. I now understand what “soul sucking” means.

IMG_1909How often do we take on energies that do not belong to us from others and our environments? 

If we allow ourselves to truly feel the pain, rather than holding it inside, then what is possible?

What does having a strong heart protector mean?

When we are awake and choosing not to numb out, we have to feel it, otherwise it gets stuck.  That night, instead of feeling it, I took a hot shower and got dressed to go out to dinner with friends, hoping to smooth over this deep dark grief creeping into my lungs.

Nope, I was wrong. The moment I got into the car, I became “sick to my stomach.” I asked my friends to bring me back so I could rest. Whatever I had absorbed that day was ready to come out. The nausea built up to my throat and I began to salivate.

In the moment, all I could think about was how to get well. Looking back, I can analyze it through a Chinese Medicine lens:

  • Chills entered the back of my neck – External Pernicious Influence (Wind)
  • Nausea and stomach fire rising – Rebellious Stomach Qi (Fire Rising)
  • Fast Heart Rate / Shortness of Breadth – Unfelt Grief (Heart- Lung Qi Protector)

I asked Spirit to guide me in releasing what was inside and not mine to hold. I tried to vomit, but nothing came. Instead, I found my finger pressing into a Heart Point near the wrist. It’s the same point that AirBands press, which are worn during travel for those who have motion sickness. These things rock, by the way! I wear them while flying and boating.

Within seconds, I felt my stomach Qi fire travel downward, which caused me to have to pee because the stomach controls fluids. I’d so much rather pee than vomit any day, phew!

I crawled into bed with a hot water bottle, wool blankets and ginger tea to Release the Exterior, or sweat it out. When something comes inside, before it gets too far, let it out through the skin. Bundled with the hot water bottle on the back of my neck and AirBands pressed into my heart (Shen Gate) point, I felt my spirit come home.

When my energy came back, I burned sage and palo santo to dispel any lingering unwanted spirits. I heard the voice from Spirit,

“You are an empathic being, and you must to protect yourself. Grieve and feel the despair of the world, let it move through, do not harbor it inside your body. It is not yours to hold onto anymore, it never was to begin with. Fill yourself back up with love and light, Sweet One. Have compassion for all beings, including yourself. It will not serve you or anyone if you take on what’s not yours.”

IMG_1627The various ways we take on pain manifests differently for each of us.

What happens for you when you take on energy that’s not yours? 

How does it manifest in your body?

How do you protect yourself from energies that do not serve you?

What do these experiences teach you? 

How do you balance loving compassion with taking on energy that’s not yours to hold?

What practices do you turn to for dispelling what’s not serving you?

IMG_1541A few tools I use for dispelling unwanted energies that I pick up from time to time:

  • yarrow flower essence for maintaining healthy boundaries
  • burning sage, palo santo, mugwort
  • a good cry
  • rage work (see previous blog post)
  • sweat it out with a hike
  • balance my attention by spending time in nature’s beauty
  • hot bath with epson salts
  • lemon water
  • connect with a friend to share what’s on my heart
  • music
  • activation statement: “command by body and being to release all that’s not mine and gift it back to the light of consciousness!”

IMG_1664There is a mountain of healing needed on this planet, so remember to protect your heart in the process and release the grief as it arises so you can show up more fully, in service to the Heart of the World.

 

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Metamorphosis

screen shot 2018-11-11 at 11.00.41 amLike a caterpillar going into metamorphosis, I have been through a major transformational moment in life. This recap of 2018 emulates the power of trust, dreaming big, and choosing to say, “Yes, I am whole and completely worthy.”

Nine months ago on the Spring Equinox I wrote in my journal that I wanted to buy a home. I didn’t take the thought all that seriously, or get attached. From where I stood at the time, this dream seemed a long way away. Business was cruising, the gardens were blossoming and I liked my rental situation, enough. 

Six months ago on the Summer Solstice I shared this vision of a home and land with a friend in the Tulsi beds while we made a flower essence. Life got super rocky after that and everything about my housing situation combusted. “Be careful what you wish for,” rang loud in my ears.

The tides had shifted and psychic healers warned me about a major transformation taking place that would only lead me closer to my heart. Even while my heart carried deep pain and grief, I refused to close down and say, “Why is this happening to me?” Instead, I saw it as my heart breaking open while asking, “Why is this happening for me?”

On the Fall Equinox I visited a house in Ashfield that a friend told me about that wasn’t on the market yet. I made an offer, negotiations began, and no realtors involved, the closing took place on the Winter Solstice.

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Any doubts I had about the power of intention are now gone. As a single female deciding to buy a house, there were many fears and hesitations. It felt way to fast and risky, but there was a strong current underneath the fear that I could not ignore.

Walking with open palms each day, pouring water in the garden for the ancestor guides, filling out piles of paperwork for the bank and lawyer, writing enormous checks –  this current was a force I could not argue with. Everything about the home fit my wish list. Everything. This fate could not be ignored. I had to listen to the call of this home, to my heart.

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This morning, I look out over the hills as snow falls from the sky blanketing land which I now “own” and feel so much gratitude.  I put “own” in quotations because despite how society views land as property which can be bought and sold, I do not believe the Earth can be owned. The first thing I did upon arriving to “my” house was offer tobacco to the land and share:

“I do not own you. I release all ownership that has come before me and that comes after me. I am here to listen, learn, and be of service to you, land. I am sorry for the way we treat you, please forgive us.”

Immediately I felt a sense of relief in my body and the land. It was like centuries of tension began to soften. The “property” and I were meeting on equal ground. The more I surrendered to the land, the more I felt held by her. This is called being in relationship with land. I look forward to our evolution together in hopefully many years to come.

I call her Moon Castle. Inside this snow globe I am grateful for the many hands and hearts who made this “purchase” and transition possible.

  • The friends who lifted all the heavy boxes of glass jars
  • The family who believes in me
  • The wood from local loggers that burns in the stoves
  • The clean water that runs from the well
  • The fire that warms the hearth
  • The housemates who share this space with me
  • The food that fills my belly
  • The kittens who are tumbling around pulling Christmas ornaments off the tree
  • The forests, fields, barn and stream that have been here way longer than me
  • The chickens for living outside all year even in this blizzard and still laying eggs
  • The music and dance parties already had and more to come
  • The skilled professionals I call on to paint, install, repair and maintain the home
  • The perfect cozy space for my business where I can operate from
  • The willingness to listen and say yes

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What did I learn from this wild ride known as 2018?  I learned to deepen my trust of myself, first and foremost. From there, I surrendered to a force much stronger than myself. I opened to the mystery. I listened to my heart. I learned never ever give up on my dreams. When my dreams are in right alignment with the health of our planet, they will be supported in more ways than I can ever begin to imagine.

Thank you, 2018 and welcome 2019!

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Beauty Way – asking for help

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“You might worry that if you ask for help, you’ll never be able to pay the other person back. Our culture tends to see reciprocity is a quid pro quo. “You give to me, so I need to give back to you,” as opposed to “You give to me, and I commit to paying it forward.” Cultures before ours knew that when we know how to dance in the flow of giving and receiving, we weave strong webs in which our communities can flourish. When you gather people around you who have your back, it’s so much easier to be brave.”

– Katherine Golub

I want to speak to the beauty of tribe and asking for help. When shit hits the fan, who do you call on and who shows up? Make a list. These people are your tribe.

Who do you show up for when they call on you for support? Make a list.

Let the lists change and evolve, of course, but remember who’s really got your back.

This idea of who’s got my back came in last night when I finished my 100 outdoor farmers markets for the season. My loyal market staff loaded up the car with me, one last time until spring, and we hugged goodbye. I felt swarmed with gratitude for her help each week, rain or shine, muggy hot weather or below freezing. She was there, often with snacks for me and thoughtful gifts, like a fairy godmother. I never ever took her for granted. I always wanted to give her more ghee, more herbs, more money for her dedication.

When the giving and receiving flows effortlessly like this, I remember why I am here. The true kindness of humanity shines brighter than anything else. It’s such a gift to be part of this exchange of love and energy.

After the market, I came home, unloaded the car and my housemate had prepared us a salmon dinner. Because she wanted to. I didn’t ask her, she just felt the call to give. Why? Who cares! It’s love flowing from her hands.

Then, I bent over and my back went out. Now, on the floor moaning with a hot pad, my housemate offered to gently press my low back as I laid in child pose. Tears welled up. So much pain and so much love all at once. Isn’t this what the heart needs? To be held, especially in suffering?

Just in time to spend the next day hauling a 450 pound wood stove to my new house – and my back is shot. Yep. So, I rested, cried, felt frustrated, then asked for help. I had a few friends lined up to help me, but we didn’t have the proper equipment to load the stove. I called a friend at 8am. He said, “I’ll be there with ramps, a dolly and straps, Hannah. Just tell me when and where.”

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This new friend who I’d only met twice before, offered to take the whole day off from his work, drive two hours each way to help me.  The shame and disbelief rolled in like a tidal wave.

Do I deserve all this help on such short notice?

Am I worthy of all this support?

What did I do to deserve this?

When are they going to realize I’m not as nice as they think?

And, you’re probably thinking, what is his motive, what does he want from Hannah? Nothing. He would barely take any gas money, I had to force it into his hands.

Oh, sweet mind, please rest.

IMG_2348The more generosity I experience from others, the more I want to give generously. It’s a beautiful infinite circle of gifts. Such a blessing.

Of course fear creeps in at times and questions whether there will be enough, will I get my needs met, am I making the right choice? Generally, it’s just fear talking. Welcome fear. You have a place at my table, but you may not dominate the conversation, thank you.

When I listen to love and abundance, miraculous things happen. The biggest miracle that is only possible because of millions of tiny miracles is, I just bought my first house. I want to say “we” even though I’m the sole “title owner.” I want to say “we” because of the countless people, privileges and forces that are part of such a big life event.

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Buying house and land brings up a ton of emotions. First and foremost, I do not believe in “land ownership” or “private property.” I simply don’t think anyone owns land. The earth is wild and free. But, we live in a society that functions with “private property” being the foundation of reality, even when it is acquired by mass genocide (another thing I’m not supportive of).

Rather than fight this enormous systemic oversight made by most of humanity, I’ve decided that being a strong female homeowner with intentions of creating a sacred space encompassing gardens, healing, community building and giving back to the land is a good place to start. If anyone is going to own property, how about women, first nations people, people of color, LGBTQ people? Let’s put the “private property” into the hands of radical change-makers, please. After all, the revolution begins inside the walls of our homes.

I truly believe this land I am “purchasing” called me home. Last August, a few major things I thought I knew to be secure shifted out from under my feet – home, primary relationship, car. Some big root chakra stuff, right?! Instead of turning inside and giving up hope, I turned my palms open to face the mystery and said, “Where do you want me now, Spirit?” Because usually, when tectonic plates like these begin shifting, there is something much much bigger waiting on the other side. We just have to be open to receiving it.

Kaboom! Almost like a lightning bolt, I found myself making an offer on a house, buying a new car, deepening relationships with my tribe family, and sinking my roots deeper into the earth than ever before.

I considered other options rather than home-buying, questioning my desire to feel security with so much uncertainty. I considered putting everything in storage and buying a ticket to South America. I considered renting a room. My body told me neither of those options were going to bring me the level of growth I was ready for. It was time to plant my roots deeper into the beautiful soil on which I was born here in W. Mass.

IMG_2344When you’re in a time of big transition, ask your friends for help, and also ask the Universe, Spirit, Divine, God, whichever name you call the great mystery that flows around and through us. Just like your friends, it has your back, too. Do not give up on the great mystery. We all have ancestors, guides, plant and animal spirits pushing us closer to our divinity. They are waiting to be called in.

For me, that has been pouring water in my garden, sprinkling cornmeal, calling in the seven directions, offering tobacco smoke to the ancestors. Smoke carries our prayers out into the great mystery. Someone is always listening. I thank my Navajo and Ojibwe mentors for teaching me these ways of offering prayers to the Earth & Sky and who encouraged me to seek a home for my garden where I can really sink my roots deep this time. “It’s time for you to show up to your garden,” they said. “So, you may need to find that land, sweetie-pie.” 

Right after I signed the Purchase and Sale agreement, I went for a walk around a lake where I spent my childhood roaming in the woods. A bald eagle soared over my head, circling me for what felt like 20 minutes. If that isn’t a clear sign from my guides, I don’t know what is.

 

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 Mystic Mamma image

Thank you Eagle

 

Thank you Great Spirit

Thank you new friends

Thank you old friends

Thank you family

Thank you Grandma

Thank you Grandpa

Thank you Tulsi

Thank you Snake

Thank you death

Thank you rebirth

Thank you great mystery

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Thank you Frost Moon

Thank you Attorney

Thank you Social Media

Thank you hot cup of tea

Thank you sunrise in the east

Thank you teachers, mentors

Thank you fairy godmothers and godfathers

Thank you contractors and all your equipment

Thank you muscle, bone, and ligaments

Thank you diesel and gasoline

Thank you bank

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Thank you gardens

Thank you chickens

Thank you technology

Thank you body

Thank you clean water

Thank you butterfly

Thank you drum

Thank you winds of change

Thank you Pachamama

I give thanks from heart to all the millions of seen and unseen magical influences that make my life possible. I see the beauty in all of them, even the diesel and credit reports. Lastly, thank you, Mom, for my birth – for modeling power, strength, compassion, steadfast commitment to truth and love, always following your heart even when it feels scary.

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Honoring our Ancestors on Samhain

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I’ve never really felt connected to the trick or treat aspect of Halloween since being a kid when candy was the goal of knocking on peoples doors. I love that there is still one holiday celebrated which has the potential to meet your neighbors. What I woke up with today, though, is a call to honor my ancestors.

This is a challenging moment for me to connect with my ancestors in the aftermath of the murder of Jews in a Synagogue, including a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor. Many of my ancestors are Jews, including my Grandmother who is a Holocaust survivor from Poland.

I did not learn about the terrifying news via the media because, I admit, I do not watch or listen to the news. I’d rather learn about it from people directly so there is someone on the other line to express our emotions about the updates. I also easily become stressed, anxious and afraid when listening to the mainstream news channels.

I learned about this awful event in a dream early Monday morning. I woke with fear. I dreamed I was in a large hall with my village. We were in prayer and suddenly a smoke like gas began seeping into the hall through the ceilings. We ran and only a few escaped before the doors were locked. I broke through one of the doors as the last person out. I escaped the gas chamber.

I ran into the arms of my sisters and brothers. I wrapped a sheet around myself, covering any bare vulnerable skin exposed to the cold. An angry man found me and scolded me for escaping. I lied and told him I was not escaping, I belonged outside with my family. As I was lying to him, I felt terrible for not telling the truth. I do not like to lie. But, I knew my words were the only hope for protecting myself. I feared what would happen if I told him the truth. The truth that neither me or any of my people were meant to be gassed to death.

How often do we fear what will happen if we speak our truth?

My body and spirit knew what happened last Saturday night as Jews gathered in a temple to worship during the Sabbath, even though my mind had not yet learned of the news. My body knew.

How much information do our bodies carry that is connected to our ancestors? 

I received a call later that day from a friend who was checking in on me to see how I was given what had happened to my people, our people. This is a powerful action that should never be underestimated – call your friends and loved ones when anything happens that impacts their hearts. We have to check in with each other when scary events happen real time. We cannot forget how important it is to listen to oppressed groups.

I believe we are all in heart-ache and break given what is happening in our world. So, the simplest action we can take is to call one another and deeply listen to each other’s hearts and minds no matter what state we’re in. We need to feel safe to share whatever is ready to come out. We cannot hold it in or it will eat away our souls. The heart-break is an opportunity to let the light in, I’ve been told. It is an opportunity to let in those we trust to hold us in times of grief and pain.

My reaction to my friend’s call was first, numbness. I was not surprised given the turmoil in our country. I felt sadness, but also a feeling of…are those really my people? Am I really Jewish? Am I really connected to an oppressed group? Do I deserve this compassion from my friend? Should I pretend I am not Jewish now? Where can I hide?

I am Jewish. I am not hiding. I love my Jewish relatives. I love all my relations regardless of race, gender, sexual preferences, age, religion, culture. I love all my relations. We are one family.

What do I love about Jews?

We are powerful social justice activists who are not willing to give in to systems of oppression. We are fighting for what is right, for equal rights, for freedom of expression. We love delicious food and sharing it together!

Now is not the time to separate people based on their identities. Now is the time to unite together as one family rooted in love, compassion, and hope for the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. And, I believe your life will improve by getting closer to all oppressed groups, including Jews.

My Jewish heritage has inspired connection to the cycles of the moon and the seasons. Tonight at sundown begins Samhain, the Celtic harvest festival marking the beginning of winter, heading into the darkness. It is also nearing Dia del Muerto, the Day of the Dead, a time for honoring our ancestors, feeding them food, offering gifts and expressing our gratitude for all they have given to us. Remembering and rejoicing in our ancestors feeds them, which nourishes us because our ancestors are always guiding us.

I am grateful for my birth and all the ancestors who made it possible for me to be here now. Thank you for your wisdom even in the moments of deep suffering. I would not be here without you Grandmas and Grandpas. And, big thank you to my last living Grandparent who is 90 years old, a Holocaust survivor, living independently in her own home, was the first female President of her Synagogue, and generous beyond belief.  Thank you for teaching me to be courageous, trust my heart, not take any bullshit, and follow my dreams, Grandma.  I see you and I love you. Always.

-Hannah Lee Jacobson-Hardy (Given Name)

-Hashke Hasaan Ya Nimela Yenezbaa Yehatipa (Navajo Name)

-Sacred Goddess Rainbow Warrior Woman (Warrior Name)

-Chana (Hebrew Name)

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The Jewish Witch

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