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Bringing Walden Home: Building My Heart’s Home in Nature

Published August 31, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Cone Flowers 1In keeping with my Walden Experiment this summer, I took pictures of the beauty of Nature everywhere I went. These next few were in a friend’s garden, and we spent a good portion of the afternoon making pickles (something I had not done in over 15 years).

Garden 1Bees were flitting from flower to flower, and I tried to zoom in on them.

Garden 2

Garden 3

Garden 4Flowers are beautiful gifts of the Earth, and I just love the array of colors.

Walden Pond Park LancasterSo as I am heading to the Lancaster Arts and Music Festival, I happen to come along this sign, so of course, I had to stop in for a peek. It was on Walden Avenue, but seeing the sign made me want to check it out.

Walden Pond Park, LancasterIt was mostly wide open sports fields, but there was a pond. I looked for hiking trails and came up empty, so I continued on my way to the Arts and Music Festival.

PetuniasThese petunias and the following Rose of Sharon were all taken during the Lancaster Arts Festival.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon 2

Rose of Sharon 1

Rose of Sharon Awakening

I also took some water pictures while in Lancaster. It was a blistering hot day (for this summer in Western New York, anyway), and I found some cool relief by going down to the creek.

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I have mentioned before that the song of moving water soothes my soul, and as a slightly cool breeze alleviated the ferocity of the sun, and creek melodiously serenaded me while I rested.

The movement of the water fascinated me, and I watched it move from what seemed to be a still pool through a narrow opening. As the water moved into the opening, I noticed the patterns in the current as it moved over the rocks. One rock just beyond the opening acted like a dividing surface, akin to a fork in a road. The water split in its path, creating a criss-cross pattern on the surface. My camera does not do justice to the movement of the water, but as I watched, it reminded me of the various paths we face in life, and how our forward movement is dictated by the choices we make along our path.

No matter which way the water moved around the rock, each “leg” of the current did its own little swirling dance before reconvening in the next pool beyond. Although unseen, the current still rides under the water, still moving it forward. And that is what I see in my life. I go off on my own path, then reconnect with others, all the while feeling the effects of my choices within me.

The summer draws to a close, and I begin to plan my new school year, hoping to take with me the tranquility of Nature as my soul attempted to Build It’s Own Damn House of Tranquility.

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Following My Bliss: Nature’s Bouquet

Published July 28, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Since my name, Susan, means “lily” in Hebrew, I tend to take pictures of lilies whenever I see them in gardens.  These are from my Nature Meditation at First Unitarian Church.  I simply wanted them to have their own page because they were so beautiful!

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And those were just the lilies!  Here are some other gorgeous blooms:

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Ahhhh…Nature’s Bliss!

Following My Bliss: Niagara-on-the-Lake

Published July 2, 2013 by Susan Woodward

joseph campbell“Follow your bliss.  If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.  When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open doors to you.  I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.  If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that would have opened for anyone else.”

– Joseph Campbell

My summer assignment from the First Unitarian Church of Rochester falls into this thread.  We are being challenged to go outside our comfort zones and stretch ourselves…and I take that as having the courage to follow my bliss.   I plan to document my summer blissings here with plenty of pictures!

One thing I love to do that brings me peace is to go out and take pictures, especially flowers and other nature shots.  My daughter Robin and I took a day trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada last week.  I have always loved the little town with all its shops and flowers and theatre goers (the Shaw Festival is there).

niagara_fallsIf you click on the map, you will be taken to the Niagara-on-the-Lake home page.

So the first part of the blissful event was getting to spend time with Robin and Sean the evening before, and then she and I got an early start the next day.   It was also much more blissful to drive along the Niagara River on the Canadian side by crossing the Peace Bridge in downtown Buffalo instead of driving across Grand Island to take the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls on the American side.  Let’s face it… the American side is not a pretty drive.

Tuesday was a great day to do this road trip because I do not think we would have had the awesome parking and accessibility to the village if we’d gone on the weekend.   The streets and shops were also not as jammed packed as I have seen them on Saturdays or Sundays either.  One thing that really stands out is the sight of the beautiful gardens that line the streets.

100_0247 This is an Angel’s Trumpet flower.  I had never seen one before, and I absolutely loved the color.  This picture really doesn’t do the plant justice.

100_0248I shot the inside of one of the “trumpets” and was surprised at the swirling star pattern of the petals.

100_0251 100_0254These other flowers are also gorgeous.

100_0260This just gives a taste of what the gardens along the streets look like.

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Part of following my bliss included stopping at an Irish Tea Shop for a “cuppa” and later sharing a picnic lunch that Robin packed at Dufferin Islands near the Falls.

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My plan to continue with following my bliss is to get out in the world and bring parts of it home with me through pictures.   I am feeling more active now and I want to celebrate the time I have left on this earth by being part of it and not my couch.

So, About Adding Color to My Life…

Published May 12, 2013 by Susan Woodward

One way to begin adding more color is to get out into Nature now that color is busting out all over (even if it isn’t June!… musical theatre affectionados will get that one!).   The Lilac Festival has opened in Rochester, and it was a lovely day to see it yesterday!  (Today, however is a totally different story as temperatures dropped to freezing, including sleet in May!!)  I am thankful we got out there when we did!

Getting out was a combination of a Mother’s Day celebration and a birthday celebration with my daughter, Robin.  She was born on Mother’s Day 28 years ago, and this year they again fall on the same day.  After having a family dinner at my eldest, Illy’s house, Robin and I departed for the Lilac Festival.  Because she lives in Buffalo, and we don’t get to spend much time together, I’m glad we got to spend some quality time at the Lilac Festival.

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And let me tell you, the fragrance was bewitching!  I couldn’t inhale enough of the scent… especially now that I have quit smoking and my senses are suddenly sharper.

Here’s my Robin!  Happy Birthday, Robbie!  I can see the resemblance here!

Robin 4   me

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From the top of the hill, everything was green and varying shades of purple, and the air was filled with perfume!

me and lilacs

lilacs

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The lilacs weren’t the only flowers in bloom, though.  The tulips in Frederick Douglass Square were gorgeous, and by the time we walked up there, the sun had come out from behind the clouds.

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And as long as we were there, we decided to visit the Conservatory.

waterfall 2 cactus flower Hibiscus  pink flowerme3

All in all, it was a gorgeous day, filled with all the color I yearn for!

Altared Perceptions: Summer 2012- Cultivation

Published December 26, 2012 by Susan Woodward

Better late than never!!

What a great theme for our summer spiritual assignment!  The creative team worked July through September building a progressive decor as part of our cultivation.  The idea was to create a growing passion-flower, beginning small and climbing up the wall throughout the summer.  It also included the plant bearing fruit.

What a wonderful idea!  I love the choice of the passion flower for the summer assignment… what are we cultivating?  How can we not only make something grow, but how can we grow ourselves?

This was a great challenge for me.  Although I didn’t write about it, I did work on my challenge throughout the summer.

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Summer Altar 1

 

 

My choice for growth came through the Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara, California, sponsored by the Pacifica Institute and the Joesph Campbell Foundation, as well as serving on the planning committee for the Celebrating the Mythic Life Conference held in New Paltz, New York.  My work with mythology is not only limited to what I do with students in the classroom, but in my personal journey.

In Santa Barbara, I had the opportunity to share the myth-centered work I do with my students.  My hope for the presentation was to bring ideas to other educators to use in their own classes, particularly the creative writing project that we do.  Since that time in September, this has grown into an online blog featuring pictures of my students’ work, and the possibility of working with the Joseph Campbell Foundation on a 9-12 curriculum that features mythology while meeting the Common Core Standards and the PARCC framework.   Myth is such a strong part of who we are and how we relate to one another.

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As the church decor “grew”, so did my hopes for expanding upon what I consider to be very important work.  As the fruit began to appear, I started to see some of my dreams regarding both the Symposium and the Conference begin to come to fruition.

The Celebrating the Mythic Life Conference in New Paltz brought me growth of a more personal nature.  Partaking in ritual, listening to fabulous speakers, and actually immersing myself in mythology helped me to learn more about the archetypes that reside within me.  After having withdrawn from the world for some time, it was a way for me to begin to ease myself back from the cave.   It is still taking my some time to figure out what it is I really want for myself at this point in my life, but I do know that the work of Joseph Campbell will play a huge role in whatever it is that I will do!

The final stages of the decor, with its upward-stretching branches, reminded me to continue nurturing the work that I have been doing.   As I watched the vines grow, so did my spirit and my resolve to keep myth alive.

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