~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Friday, June 30, 2017

Small Town, Big History

I recently returned from a two-night getaway with a good friend, something we have done in the past. We wanted to find a quaint walking-town that would be conducive to good conversation and exploring interesting sights. We decided on Hermann, Missouri, a town in Gasconade County established by German immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century.

We had one full-day to explore and spent a good part of our time touring the Deutschheim State Historic Site, Stone Hill Winery, and Hermann Farm (a type of living history museum). All of these were marvelous experiences!

During our tour of Hermann Farm, we were taken around the property in a wagon where we periodically got off to visit renovated and reconstructed buildings, make friends with the Shire horses, and view the country side up close. At the top of a hill, from the old cemetery, we were afforded a magnificent view of Hermann where it borders the Missouri River.

One thing our guide pointed out is how much the flow of the river has changed since Hermann's creation. Her grandparents remarked that at times back then the Missouri River was much more broad and could sometimes be crossed by a team of horses pulling a wagon; however, "civilization" has resulted in a deeper, more narrow river.

Our visit to the Deutschheim State Historic Site provided us with a glimpse into the lives of the German immigrants. They were woodworkers as well as vineyard owners; most of them were relatively well-off for the time period, building beautiful homes that have withstood the tests of time. This isn't to deny that they all had to work very hard because this was, after all, a wilderness. The Germans used to transform flax into linen; the "tail" seen (on the right) in the photo is spun flax. I've seen lots of displays and demonstrations about the process of spinning wool or cotton; this was the first time I'd seen one on flax.

Because some of my own ancestors lived in Gasconade County at one time, though none in the town of Hermann (as far as I know), and because I've been doing a lot of genealogical research on my family, I was particularly interested in the map on display that provided an overview of ethnic immigration and settlement patterns in Missouri.

The place I particularly wanted to visit while in Hermann, however, was the Stone Hill Winery. I was fascinated, not by the wine, per se, but by the underground wine cellars (those photos online are much better than any I managed to get) that had taken the original owner 22 years to carve out of the limestone (by hand, mind you, starting in 1847 -- it remains the largest underground system of cellars in North America) and the unusual history of Stone Hill. The historical images HERE show the remarkable size of the arched stone cellars and the large casks in use at that time.

This large cask was not one used at Stone Hill
Winery, but was on display in the
As the story goes: 
"By the turn of the century, Stone Hill Winery, which the German immigrant Michael Poeschel began building in 1847, was the third largest winery in the world (second largest in the U.S.), producing more than a million gallons of wine a year. Its wines, such as Hermannsberger, Starkenberger and Black Pearl, won eight gold medals at world fairs between 1873 and 1904."
I have become fascinated by the history of Missouri Wine--specifically Stone Hill Winery and others in Hermann--and will probably delve into the topic further.

All in all, my little trip to Hermann, Missouri, was absolutely wonderful. I look forward to returning and, if you're ever driving between St. Louis and Kansas City, I encourage you to stop in Hermann.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Words and Meaning

I'm still waiting for the sacred to imbue my writing the way it used to ... before the desert and the monster in my mind scared my heart so. Sacred. Scared. Same letters but switch two of them and, oh, what a difference. So it has been with great delight that I sense the wellspring rising and meaning beginning to emerge through my private writing.
"To the alert person, a golden thread may emerge from any ordinary thing and open a doorway into the metaphysical background of the world. ... Writers follow the threads by writing down, as concretely as they can, what they are experiencing, what they are feeling, what they are seeing, hearing, sensing. Robert Bly describes this, brilliantly, as 'following the tiny impulses through the meadow of language.' It must be done slowly. Carefully. Feeling your way."
This is a different kind of writing than what we usually see in fiction, though even there it can sometimes startle us with its shimmering. I'm going to step into that meadow, with reverence, and open to its sensations and follow the golden threads.

Quote from Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, the chapter "Following Golden Threads," by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

What if ... ?

I've been reading a variety of books on plant intelligence, from conventional science to innovative experiments to holistic perspectives to sacred intuition, and yesterday's reading--the chapter titled "The Function of Psychotropics in the Ecosystem" from Stephen Harrod Buhner's book Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth--led me to a few "what if" questions that I decided to share.

our volunteer patch of
Philadelphia Fleabane
What if ... one of the ways that people in power began to control others was to deny them the ability to empathically connect with plants, animals, and even other humans by limiting their access to psychotropics? (Studies have shown that "serotonergic neurognostics generate, or perhaps more accurately, regenerate, the natural childlike feelings of empathy, the direct experience of the personhood of the [human and] nonhuman other, by altering sensory gating in important ways.")

What if ... some of the visions of prophets and/or spiritual leaders were a result of plant-assisted journeying (as with current indigenous shamans)?

What if ... one of the reasons for our current drug epidemic is that some people intuit (on a level they aren't aware of) that we need to find our way back to the connective, inter-related oneness of all life? That the so-called escape it provides from our modern society is also part of a journey or return to holistic functionality?

Buhner's book is itself profoundly mind-opening and I highly recommend it. This last of his books is a 500-page tome that I have explored slowly, every chapter gradually leading into the next one -- a beautiful journey.

When Robin Wall Kimmerer (botanist and author of the delightful book Gathering Moss) spoke with Krista Tippett of On Being, she commented that, "science asks us to learn about organisms; traditional knowledge asks us to learn from them." This is a sensational way of bridging the gaps between conventional science, indigenous wisdom, and sacred connection with Gaia.

Some people choose lifestyles that naturally lead them into learning from the earth, from Gaia. Even then, however, their sense of the aliveness of every Being around them can gradually become rigid. We don't have to imbibe psychotropics to alter consciousness, though. Remember daydreaming? Remember pretending? Recall the last time you read a thoroughly engrossing novel or were swept away by a piece of music? That altered your consciousness, because you allowed the meanings, feelings and sensations access (sensory gating). We can do this naturally. We can reconnect with Earth when we offer ourselves the space to do so. Creatives are an obvious example, one that any of us can mirror and then become.

Friday, June 9, 2017

POV to Systems

I was struck how appropriate the following quote could be when applied to other systems besides organ systems (and plant systems, which is the focus of the book); for instance, consider its potential for understanding cultural, political, social, or religious systems, not to mention simply other personalities, and how we can relate to them.

"The closer the reality of the organ system is to your normal point of view, the easier it will be to experience its reality. The farther away it is, the more disturbing it will be. Experientially assuming an extremely different orientation will in itself teach you about the narrowness of your normal point of view. The resistance you have to this new and very different perspective is information about how and how much you cling to your normal perceptions." ~ Stephen Harrod Buhner, The Secret Teachings of Plants

The book Secret Teachings of Plants is profoundly moving; I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Will I Ever Read What I Used To?

When an email popped into my in-box, I was curious about one of the authors being interviewed. Not because I currently read his work, but because, until about seven or eight years ago, I had read everything he had written. Dean Koontz. Yup. There was a time when I couldn't get enough of his stories. But I gave all his books to a friend when we moved to Arizona, figuring I'd never read him again; I felt like his books were far too intense for the older me. In hindsight, there were a few I ought to have kept.

Anyway, he is starting a new series and it sounds intriguing; if he keeps the horror parts to a minimum, I might just find myself pulled into the new stories. With a female protagonist who is a rogue FBI agent, I'm definitely interested.

A bit of trivia I liked in the interview -- available on Goodreads -- was that Dean Koontz says one of his all-time favorite authors is Charles Dickens:

This is one of those odd coincidences because several months ago, I became determined to re-read A Tale of Two Cities, recalling how much I enjoyed it in high school. And, hey, if I could enjoy that book when I was 17 years old, chances are I would enjoy it even more now.

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