Owen Chooses a Painting

Owen Chooses A Painting

To: Owen@ nekelew.net

From: Thea@ nekelew.net

Subject: Your paintings

At the risk of sounding like the classic “would you like to see my etchings,” would you like to come up on Tuesday about 5 pm for a drink and to choose a painting for our trade?

 

From: Owen@ nekelew.net

To: Thea@ nekelew.net

Subject: Re: Your paintings

Good timing. Tuesday would be great and I’ve cleared a space on my wall for a painting.

 

“Welcome, Owen. What can I get you? I have wine, beer, gin…and tequila.”

“Actually, I don’t drink anymore. Friend of Bill Wilson’s, you know. I’d love some juice if you have any.”

“Oh. I have apple juice if you’d like. Either plain or sparkling.”

“Sparkling would be lovely.”

If Thea was disconcerted by Owen’s choice she didn’t show it, pouring herself a glass of Merlot after she handed Owen his Martinelli’s. Standing in the kitchen alcove, they made small talk about the craftsmanship of the trim little house. Its previous owner was connected with Owen’s parents and it had been built by Charley with wood from Owen’s family’s sustainable timber operation.

But soon Owen’s eye was drawn to look around at the paintings. “Have you done all this work since you came down here?”

“Nope. That one there is an older one. It’s the Green Seed painting that Ursula and I were talking about when she suggested I come to you for a Soul Retrieval.”

“And this one?”

“That’s a new one about the Mountain – or rather a Wild Woman in the Mountain. I think her name needs capital letters. Have you ever heard of a legend about such a one?”

“I think there are stories of her in the collection called Nekelew Tales, but nothing substantive is coming to mind about her. I wonder if she has any connection to Durga that Ursula was just telling us about the other night or Kali. They are serious wild ones from India.”

“She came to me strongly and I just assumed she was Native American. In fact, the Mountain almost seems to be talking to me. Does that sound really weird?”

“It is weird – in the sense of ‘witchy’ – but I know what you mean. For me it comes through the plants. Which reminds me.” Owen dug through his knapsack and pulled out a small brown bottle. “Comfrey flower essence as ‘prescribed’ by Dr. Ursula and made by yours truly. It’s also known as bone knit so symbolically it’s about putting the pieces – the members – back together. Either literally if you have a broken bone or figuratively such as your lost parts we retrieved.”

“Is that why she said ‘remembering?’ I’ve been wondering about that.”

“Yes, as in re-membering,” Owen separated the two parts of the word as he spoke it.

“But what is an essence as opposed to a tincture?”

“A tincture contains the biological components of the plant. I make those too but these are the subtle energies. I can also make essences from crystals or even the energies of events. They’re more like homeopathic remedies that are diluted so much there’s nothing left of the original substance but the signature energy. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but the more they’re diluted the stronger they are. I make these from Mountain spring water in a crystal vase with the flower or root – usually in both sunlight and moonlight and often created during a special celestial or earth event such as an eclipse, solstice, or full moon. Or a new moon. They contain alcohol as a preservative so I don’t use them myself except when they are fresh – or from the freezer.

“Because they are Spirit Medicine they operate on a subtle level of one’s being. Always they come from a being – a plant, a place, a stone – that wanted to give its gift to us humans. I listen to the meaning & character of each gift as told to me by the being itself.”

“So this won’t cure a cold, say, but might help me find the meaning of my green seed or integrate my soul retrieval beings?”

“Exactly. It could very well help with those processes you are in the midst of. If you did have a cold, it would tackle the deeper basis for why you ‘caught’ it. Often unexpressed grief is involved and it could be very ancient. Or say if you had a sprained ankle or broken limb, it might help heal whatever it was that caused the so-called ‘accident’ in the first place. Why did you lose your footing or what is ungrounded in you? But you started to tell me about the Mountain talking to you.”

“Do your plant spirits come to you in their creature spirit form or in people-like form with distinct personalities like Eliot Cowan describes?”

“They are very amorphous for me. I just get a sort of feeling about them. It’s very subtle and easy to miss if I’m not listening carefully. And I often did miss it in the early days before I learned what was happening…”

“When I was painting the other day…. I’m not sure I’m ready to have you spread this around.”

“I won’t breathe a word until you’re ready.”

“As I finished this Wild Woman painting I heard a voice – no, it would be more accurate to say that I saw a voice in my head. I’m such a visual person that’s the only way I can describe it. A voice that said…well, see this fire in the painting here? I don’t know why that came in but it really wanted to be there…. The voice told me it’s a beacon calling me – us? – here…. And that the dragon is protection…. and something about Wild Woman…. I’m not sure what. That’s why I was asking about her.”

“Cool! We’ve often talked in the Medicine Circles about people feeling called here and occasionally the word “beacon” even gets used. Plus it’s not unusual for folks here to see flickers of dragons out of the corners of their eyes as well as in dreams. Or even just turning up a lot in books and cards at propitious moments. It’s a potent symbol. I’d say you are tuning into the deeper levels of what’s here. Good going. It’ll be fun to see what else you come up with.”

“I don’t know whether to be relieved or more worried that you seem to think I’m tuning into something others are also getting.”

“Well, I, for one, would welcome accurate, beautiful depictions of what many of us suspect about this place and its purpose. And it wouldn’t surprise me for you to channel images that give us new information too.”

“ Should I say ‘thank you?’”

Owen laughed. “Did you ever have experiences like this when you were a kid?” he queried.

“Nooo. At least I don’t think so.”

“I’m wondering if it is your psychic self that has been closed off, shut down the way it was in so many of us. Often we had experiences as a child – some can recall them and some can’t – where a grown-up made us feel ashamed or crazy or fearful which, in effect, muzzled us. I know one person who knew her little brother had died before they told her and another for whom it was a grandparent. In one case the story was accepted and the person retained that ability. The other got yelled at for it and clammed up. She’s still working to regain her belief in the credulity of her other worldly experiences.”

“So you think I might have had such experiences and just not remembered?”

“It’s certainly possible. I hear a lot of fear in you about it.”

“Years ago a friend talked me into going with her to a psychic. It was amazing. He saw me as an artist and said I should be showing my work more. He had a lot of specifics about how I should go about doing that. Because of him I went on what now feels like a tangent visiting galleries back east – trying to hit the Big Time, you know.”

“Pretty alluring.”

“He also gave some directives to my friend that got her pretty bollixed up – about leaving her husband and some other stuff.”

“Sounds like by getting so specific, he wasn’t being too ethical. June says one always needs to leave room for free will in the person one is ‘seeing’ for. i.e. making it clear that there are many possible roads and turnings. Choices one gets to make rather than one inevitable path laid out in concrete.”

“Still, in a way it was a good thing. I was so turned off by the push energy of the tangent that something in me began to rebel against what I call ‘Capital A’ Art. It was about that time that I also began to discover Tarot and the Goddess and that led me down here…. So it wasn’t all bad by any means. But the thought of channeling something ‘wrong’ or ‘too much’ for somebody freaks me out.”

“Is it that, more than the fact of it happening to you or people knowing that it’s happening to you?”

“Certainly I don’t want to be considered crazy and all that. I think my mom planted some of that in my head. Hey – I wonder if she’d had some experiences she wasn’t telling me about. Or my aunt…. the one who left me the money that made it possible for me to move down here to the beach.”

“Any of them might have, of course. It certainly hasn’t been accepted in our culture for a long time. As we talked about with Ursula the other day, they burned witches….”

“Well, come on upstairs to my studio and some more of the paintings.” Ready to change the subject, Thea led Owen up the narrow, beautifully built staircase to her studio area. He had to duck under the low hanging eaves where the stairs turned and then opened out into a wide clear space full of canvases stacked every which way, as well as paintings and clippings hung on every possible surface, even the tall file cabinet next to the cluttered work table.

“Oh ho! What’s this one over here?” Owen pointed to a painting that was hanging on the east wall. “It’s really calling to me.” A large green male figure was holding an armload of plants and flowers. Foxglove and daisies stuck out from his arms while nasturtiums and ivy dangled down. A crown of what looked like Oregon Grape circled his head, though it could have been holly. Sitka spruce stood tall all around him, pointing up to the stars of the constellation Orion sparkling in the sky. A tiny figure of a centaur was wheeling near the stars. Thea had used her signature phthalo green and white to give the painting an eerie, other-worldly feeling.

“That’s the Green Man – I painted him this summer when I first got here and before I had any idea of the European archetype.”

“That’s funny because that image has become really important to me recently. It gives me chills to see it here. It’s like there’s some memory I can’t quite get hold of that has to do with it….” His voice trailed off.

“When you say that it gives me chills too….”

“To get chills is a sign of psychic connection,” Owen said absently. “The plants…?”

“You had just introduced me to Oregon Grape so it felt appropriate to put it in.”

“So it is Oregon Grape… Clearly this is the painting I want in trade for our session. It will be good to live with it and ponder why I’m responding so strongly to it.”

“I have no idea who the centaur is or why he’s in the painting.”

“I don’t know either, but that’s part of the mystery of it for me.”

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I find him really sexy,” said Thea.  She wasn’t about to admit any more about it out loud. She’d exposed herself enough already to Owen, but she was feeling the energy of Osiris on him. Osiris, Egyptian God of the Underworld, was often considered a Green Man as well. Could it be Owen who had been turning up disguised as such in her fantasies lately?

There was a bit of an awkward silence. “Umm,” said Owen. “The plants are indeed the expression of the lifeblood of the earth and they can certainly stir us up. What is more primal than the Pan image of the Green Man? Yours isn’t leering here or goat footed though that’s often how he’s depicted. The Christians made him into the Devil. The Seducer. The Satyr, half man half goat, definitely has a mixed reputation in our culture.” Owen knew he was babbling but he didn’t know where to go with this.

Thea laughed. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. But doing this painting made me feel sexy and now you’re taking it home so that has to become part of the mystery of it. Hopefully it will be disturbing in a good way.” She moved to take the canvas down from the wall and handed it to Owen with a flourish, bowing as he reached to take it. Owen bowed low in return.

“Owen, I’m pretty sure that at least some of this New Age LOVE energy is about sex. And the playful cougar seems to be coming out in me, thanks to you.“

“No worries,” countered Owen. “But I think I’d better make my escape now.”

Mother Daughter Ritual 1

From: Pia Rosen – pia@nekelew.net

Subject: Women’s Medicine Circle Ritual

To: Women’s Medicine Circle list

We are doing a ritual this coming Friday night involving Demeter and Persephone, the archetypal Greek mother and daughter duo. We’d love to have women of all ages play either of the two roles – the daughters who leave to spend the winter months with a lover in the underworld and the mothers who resist their going and stop things growing, bringing on the winter season. Roles are not age dependent, i.e. there can be older daughters and younger mothers. You’ll know which part you want to play. Seems like there’s grist here for all of us, whether we’re mothers and daughters or not. No prep necessary. Pomegranate seeds will be provided. The ritual will take place at Ursula’s house on Mountain Lane.

 

“Looks like you’re off to an early start,” said Charley on Friday morning coming upon Ursula cleaning the toilet still in her blue flannel nightie. “I have meetings ‘til late this afternoon so I’ll just grab a burger at the bar and go straight to the Men’s Group.”

“That works for me,” replied Ursula. “I’ll be able to really sink into my ritual prep.”

“No coming up for air, huh?”

“I want a leisurely day to play with the energies.”

“Will you all still be speaking to us rapacious men when the evening is over?”

“Hopefully we’ll have cleaned out another layer of the ancient stuck and hurt places in us around the patriarchy. We trust you will be doing the same,” she chuckled.

“Have fun,” he hollered as he headed out the door toting his heavy backpack as usual.

Ursula had woken very conscious of a pressure to get the house clean for ritual. It was always a delicate dance. Once her cleaning eye was activated it was easy to fall into tension about getting everything done (as if there were ever a “done”). It wasn’t exactly what her mother called “house-proud.” She knew nobody in this bunch would judge her housekeeping (or fuck ‘em if they did), but she did love it when everything looked and felt beautiful.

Yet, inevitably there were more grimy corners lying in wait and it was easy to get sidetracked into tackling accumulated piles, not to mention drawers…. None of which anyone else would ever notice, yet could make for an underlying freshness that added to the whole in a subtle way…. But she could also wear herself out and not have energy for the ritual itself. That would be a mistake….

She wanted the house to feel “right” – not “right” in the sense of “correct” but rather in the Buddhist sense of aligned and in true with what wanted to happen. Clear. She didn’t know ahead of time what that looked like exactly but she knew if she stayed attuned the unfolding day would show her what “right” was for this particular occasion, different from any other time. If she stayed relaxed and open, the process would take her deep into the ritual space she craved. “Sounds like a few drops of Oregon grape essence is called for here,” she counseled herself, remembering Owen’s description of it as bringing one “into True.”

Rummaging in the cupboard for the Mahonia, she also came across some usnea tincture – always good for clearing the air and for inspiration. She took both and then noticed a woven band of orange and yellow on a hook by her dresser and tied it around her head. A deep breath signaled to her that she was taking the first steps towards her conscious priestess self. The headband tingled around her forehead – echoes of ancient crowns and sacred headdresses? Inspiring, anyway, and grounding at the same time. “I can’t recall a single detail of the Demeter-Persephone story right now. Hopefully it will come to me during the day.”

Time for a pipe of locally grown. She took the sacred smoke deep into her lungs and then blew it towards the houseplants (“which need watering,” noted her cleaning self).

A tarot card was next. “The Empress,” she said aloud. “Help me connect with the earth today and stay deeply in touch with my ancient motherly self….” She propped the card up on the mantel against the little rotund Venus of Willendorf. “Sorry, Old One. I’ll get this jumble including the jug of feathers all sparkling again…. Oh yay. The snake earrings I’ve been looking for. Help me be in transformative, priestessy power today.”

She dug into the hall closet for the bag of dust rags, sidetracking for a minute to clean up the mouse droppings in the corner behind the spray bottle. Then Loreena McKennitt went on the CD player, her Middle Eastern rhythms just right for Ursula’s dance with dry mop and broom.

“Cleaning and clearing is sacred feminine work, isn’t it, Dear Mother. And not just for women,” she added as an aside to the statue of an antlered elk she dusted.

“I remember now.” She took a centering sigh. “The house is a temple and cleaning a renewal of its sacred space. Let it go too long and the energy stagnates. Our uneasy dreams, harsh words and unfinished business get caught in the corners. It’s not house-proud at all. It’s being in touch with the energetics – the Feng Shui – of the space we occupy both in its everyday functions as well as its reverent and celebratory ones. Over and over, we renew. The ritual times force the cleansing and the cleansing inspires ritual….” She lit a yellow candle made by Illahee children last spring…. which act brought the children present energetically….

Thus went the day. Her grandmother’s silver vase got polished, ready to be filled with Demeter’s grasses Pia was bringing. She picked new lavender for the cut glass vase her son Salal had brought her from his travels. A sweater was mended as was the broken wing of a ceramic dragon. An errant tie-dyed sock turned up under the ottoman in front of Charley’s old-fashioned easy chair and her antique blue sparkle earrings fell out of a book of Greek myths that was overdue at the library. Photos of her off-spring and ancestors were lovingly dusted and blessed. Not quite seven generations behind and ahead but the best she could do today. Spiders were carefully set outside or allowed to scuttle into crevices in the rough-hewn walls to watch while Ursula gave them opportunities to renew their own homes. Old candle drippings were scrapped out and the new beeswax ones from the market installed…. Pea soup and chocolate kept her going.

Late in the afternoon Ursula shut the door firmly on the still messy study. “The rest is as clean as it’s going to be,” she declared. “I don’t need to tackle that space today.” Her final act of this stage was to walk slowly about the living room and kitchen with a burning wand of sage and cedar, smudging out the last of the old energy and calling in any friendly spirits who were hovering. “Come in, come in,” she invited feeling the arrival of the trancey space the sage always called up in her. “Join us in our sacred play. Are you bringing tonight’s story to me?”

Ursula now set about getting her own self prepped for the coming ritual. A soak in the hot tub cleared off the dust and cobwebs from the tasks of the day, though she didn’t dare stay too long, being in danger of going all limp. She also discarded the idea of renewing her morning smoke, letting the fresh air center her mind towards the next steps of adornment.

She felt drawn to a green ceremonial dress whose soft draping folds always made her feel like a Greek goddess, particularly appropriate for this night. “Yup, confirmation shivers.” She added the amber necklace she’d been wearing ever since she’d begun this journey with Demeter the previous week. She left the woven wool band around her head but stuck short pieces of grass in it making it more than ever like a crown.

Heading outside again, wrapped in her blue chenille power shawl that dangled with meaningful beads and nature objects, she walked slowly in the misty late afternoon light to the Stone Table. A slight drizzle was falling now and the large flat rock was wet as well as sticky with Sitka pitch. She stepped up tall on the slab. “Figuratively tall,” she giggled thinking how very short she actually was compared to most grown folks. “At least for the moment I am fully into my own height.”

She looked south out over the magnificent expanse of ocean and coastline and, raising her arms to the sky, felt her priestess self pour down into her crown chakra with a shiver of familiar electricity. Turning north to salute the Mountain, she grounded down into its depths until she was as rooted as the Sitkas around her. Knowing another degree deeper now that all would go well tonight even though she had never gotten around to rehearsing the story. She turned to each of the four Directions asking for the wisdom of the old tales, the inspired discovery of new ones, a kindled open heart, and a washing of tender emotions.

Was that what tonight’s ritual was about? New tales out of current emotions? She had been feeling odd with this delving in the Greek stories. Although they were the ones she had learned first in childhood, they were not the ones that inspired her most often. Yet, Demeter had come unbidden to her recently and she had learned to trust such notions when they arose. Had Demeter appeared to help Ursula and the other women clear the decks? “Are we to bring about a healing of the old so that the new can move in? Whatever that may be….”

She knew for herself it was time to surrender to what the Mountain and this place wanted of her and of her children. She had stopped cajoling her offspring a while ago but the mourning for those birds flown from the nest was still thrumming inside her. These feelings weren’t doing her or her fledglings any good. They were on their path. She and Charley had sent them out of the nest with the best their own skills and love could provide, which she knew was very good indeed. Throwing her hands up into the air she felt a gust of wind blow a more serious flurry of rain around her.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” she called out to the elements and to the Mountain itself. Dashing the raindrops out of her eyes, she stepped down off the rock, satisfied that she was prepared for the evening and trusting that it would bring a release of this particular tension and longing inside her.

 

Grounding at Illahee

School family in the spring

 Ursula walked down the hill through Sitka and hemlock, salal and fern to Illahee – the little alternative school where her kids had spent their formative elementary years, leaving to go to 9th grade in the public high school across the bay. She loved this long familiar path and took it often though usually she was headed on towards Mahonia and just gave a nod and a wink to the school as she passed. There was a road to the school also, of course, but she preferred this slightly more round-about route.

She and Charley had been part of starting the school, along with Pia, Owen, and Molly, and five or six other families almost 30 years ago, when their kids were all small. They had called it “parent run” though there had been much debate about what that actually meant. Probably there was still conversation about this, though the intervening years had laid down some patterns and traditions that could be followed…. or returned to….

Ursula was no longer directly involved but still got asked to stop in now and then, either for a special class or to help untangle some crisis or another. Wrangles were inevitable in such endeavors and institutions. Somehow the school seemed to have more than its share of upheaval but she always figured it was because people were extra touchy about their children – both around their individual child’s issues and about the curriculum, not to mention the direction of the school itself.

It had been a miracle every day it lasted in those early years. It was a miracle still. And now – “blessings on us all” – some of the children of the original students were attending. In fact, Owen’s daughter Robin was chairing the Board this year. “And soon,” she thought, shivers running along her spine, “My granddaughter Menolly will be coming.”

As she approached the schoolhouse tucked into tall alder and hemlock trees she thought back on the process of building it. The land was donated after they had been operating for a couple of seasons in people’s homes and garages. It only had an old stable on it and it took a loooong year of weekend work to turn that into two classrooms, an office and a commons area. In the interim they had rented a portable classroom trailer. Pia, who was the school secretary at the time, had her “head” office in the bathroom. Things were a little fancier now and at some point, long after her family was out, the parents had added another classroom.

There were still occasional conflicts about “academics” and the “3 R’s” vs. more elemental work and play, but at least at the moment, the parents seemed comfortable with a laid back approach. She thought perhaps it was because more of her children’s generation had experienced some sort of “free” school in their growing up, even if it wasn’t until attending colleges like Evergreen or Bennington and Hampshire. In her day only Pia had any direct experience at all of another way of going at it – she’d actually gone through progressive schools back east. Ursula and the rest had only been able to feel their way by instinct. At any rate, the kids heading off into public school still did just as well as they always had over the years.

She smiled at the multi-topped cedar that graced the entrance, thanking it for the protective presence it always seemed to provide. She patted the now fading totem pole that a parent from her day had helped the kids carve. The school’s name was a Chinook jargon word meaning something like “home place,” so the pole had always seemed appropriate even if it wasn’t part of the local native culture.

Ursula thought back to Halloween two years ago, the first time she was asked to come to school as its “resident witch.” She had arrived dressed for the part all in black, complete with the classic pointy hat. Studying natural cycles was integral to the school’s learning process so the kids immediately understood the compost she brought to connect them with the season’s energy of plants dying back. The cast iron cauldron she carried it in had been an added theatrical touch.

The children had told stories of their beloved dead – grandparents, pets and one father who had died the previous year – as they placed mementos on an impromptu altar to which she added a small animal skull and a photo of her uncle whose legacy had paid for the kiln they still used. She would never forget asking Flicker that day what he had in the largish box he lugged in from the carpool. “Grandma,” he’d said succinctly. “She died this summer.”

“Can…can I see her?” little August had asked. “Nope,” came the reply. “The box is sealed.”

When they gathered for Circle she’d told them how it was a witch’s job to be consciously in tune with the seasons of life and of the year. Once upon a time all people had felt connected to the sequences of birth, growth, dying back and rebirth, but gradually the job had become relegated to a special few. Then in a terrible development – part of a growing fear of and denial of death and nature in general – those few had been persecuted and even killed for their wisdom and role in the community.

Together Ursula and the children had brainstormed a list of remnants and reminders of the old wisdom that appear at Halloween – ghosts and ghouls and harvest pumpkins, witches characterized as warty crones, and the Hispanic culture’s Dia de los Muertos skeletons. Then exchanging her pointy hat for a crown of dried flowers, she had declared it time to celebrate all that they were learning of the old ways.

 

Today a lovely hum greeted her from the classrooms as she entered Commons. Was it just her imagination or did the children themselves seem calmer now than in her day?

Cindy was on the phone in the office so Ursula just waved a greeting. She could see evidence of Owen’s regular presence in the drawings of Oregon Grape and Oxalis on the walls. He came over often to be their naturalist expert.

“Oh goodie. It’s an Ursula day!” Otter Logan, Owen’s granddaughter, appearing from the bathroom, hugged her merrily. “Come see what I’m doing.”

Ursula allowed herself be led into the West Room where most of the ten older kids were absorbed in writing in their handmade books. Nestled in the corner, one of the older girls was reading aloud to August who was apparently visiting from the younger group. From the artifacts and the children’s own artwork spread about the classroom, it looked like the group was studying the Mayans. A partially built step pyramid was on the big worktable next to well-thumbed reference books opened to pictures of jungley ruins. Someone had been working a loom that was tied to a chair in another corner like those still used in Guatemala.

Ursula admired Otter’s illustrated report on the Mayan calendar, enjoying the “best guess” spelling that had “egul” for “eagle.” “A much more sensible way to spell it,” thought Ursula.

Celeste finished what she was doing with a new little girl that Ursula had never met before, and came up to give her a hug. “It will be perfect having you talk about grounding today,” she said quietly. “I’m feeling like we could all use a little of that, especially Sedona there, who is new to us. Her folks – Mom and Grandmother – just moved to Mahonia to open a B&B. I think she has a tendency to leave her body a lot – she kind of gets to bouncing off walls and doesn’t know how to choose a project and settle in.”

Celeste turned and raising her voice to teacherly firmness, said, “It’s time to finish up and gather for Circle. Otter, do you want to go tell the Youngers that Ursula is here? Flicker, can you offer Ursula a cup of tea? And who wants to see if she wants a cushion or a chair? Remember how we like to treat our Elders.”

Ursula chucked inwardly at the idea of being an Elder, especially as Celeste was older than she was and white-haired to boot. But the truth was she rather liked getting such royal treatment. It was a nice attempt on the part of the school to begin to honor the wisdom of those with a few more years under their belts. There was a lot more conversation generally in the world these days about the need to have the Elders stay vital parts of the community rather than the marginalization pattern that had emerged in previous generations.

Soon the sliding doors between the classrooms were pushed aside and the little ones from Rhea’s group in the East Room joined the circle on the floor in the wide doorway. Ursula was now ensconced on a purple cushion, appropriately decorated with a child-painted bear.

Some of the little ones were still squirmy and the new student looked at her self-consciously. Ursula reached out to pat Anise’s patched knee, the wiggler to her left, and smiled at Sedona on her other side.

“I really like that sweater you have on. Did someone make it for you?”

“My grandma,” Sedona answered shyly, though more at ease now that she had been noticed and acknowledged. “She lives with us.”

“Cool. I’d like to meet her one of these days,” said Ursula, making a mental note to ask Celeste what the grandma’s name was. She was probably no older than Ursula herself.

“Ok, kids, have any of you ever felt all wiggly and unable to focus?” Ursula began.

“My mom says I’m like a puppy sometimes,” said Otter.

“Sounds like you dash around a lot.”

“Yesterday I felt all twitchy and I had to go outside,” volunteered another child.

“I feel like that too sometimes,” said Ursula. “And sometimes that is exactly what I need to do. But today I’m going to teach you a process that will help when you need to concentrate or get your work done. It can help each of you on your own or when you all want to focus as a group. It’s called grounding.”

“My mom does that in her Medicine Circle,” said Otter.

“Does that mean like you touch the ground?” asked another child.

“Exactly. Good thinking. So I want you all to sit cross-legged, Indian style and settle your bottoms firmly on the floor.” More wiggling ensued for a moment, of course, and excited anticipation filled the air.

“Now take a deep breath….” said Ursula demonstrating. “And another…. Now pretend there’s a string in your tummy just below your belly button. It could be brown like a root or it could be gold or white…. Or any color. Red or blue.… Now imagine that string reaching down through your body into the floor…. See it going through the crawl space and into the dirt underneath. It goes past the earthworms and the bugs and other roots and the rocks…. lots of rocks and some water…. down, down. Deeeeeep into the Earth. Miles and miles. Feel it way down there, warm and cozy, settled in like a root does in the garden. Is it still the same color?” Ursula paused to let the potent image take hold.

“Take a deep breath, you’re not forgetting to breathe are you? Now leave the string rooted there and bring your awareness back up the string. Imagine yourself rising through the dirt and stones. Bring with it the settled, calm feeling you found down there. Bring that feeling and your consciousness up past the earthworms and out into the air under our building and up into your body again. Feel that warmth deep in your body. Feel yourself still connected with the Earth but back here in your body in this room sitting in a circle together.”

Ursula breathed quietly for a minute or two and the children did too, deeply grounded. “How did that feel?” she asked at last, turning to Anise. “Let’s go around the circle.”

“I feel like we’re all connected right now into the earth like trees in the forest.”

“Me too and I feel really calm.”

“My string was yellow and it liked going past the worms. I even saw a salamander.”

“The Earth said she liked me coming to visit like that and she hopes I do this more often.”

“I don’t feel like talking yet. Maybe I’ll draw you a picture later.”

“We could all do that after Ursula goes,” offered Celeste.

“I could feel my granny down there with me. It was like she was cuddling me on her lap,” said Flicker.

“It felt like I was swimming in the earth.”

“Wow. Out of the mouths of babes,” thought Ursula as she listened to their observations on around the circle. “Why am I not surprised? Maybe next time I’ll teach them about opening their pineal gland to connect to their Third Eye.”