What More Did I Think I Wanted?


Misty MorningI’ve returned to my beloved mountain valley. After five days the stillness is starting to settle in.
This morning the eastern sky was red.  “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”  It will probably rain today.
The sun is slow to reach the west side of the house. For now the garden is shrouded in shadows and mist.

“Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest.” ~Wendell Berry

Izzy and the crowsIzzy watches attentively while I fill her bowls with food and fresh water. This is her first summer here and her interest in the smallest things is rubbing off on me. I’m unusually attentive too as I prepare my breakfast of coffee, fresh strawberries and blueberries, yogurt and walnuts while she wanders in and out of the house.  Although I intended to meditate every day, I haven’t yet.  But this morning, this stillness, this heightened awareness….it’s all a meditation.
Our walks through our 28 acres bring new wonders every day.  Izzy has been fascinated by flowers since she was a puppy.  At two and a half, she still sniffs every new one she sees.
The crows seem determined to attract our notice this summer. Or am I just more aware of them?  They wake us up in the morning, punctuate the quiet air with raucous caws throughout the day, leave their perfect black feathers on the trail. This year we brought gifts for them. Izzy approves.

“Whenever we touch nature we get clean. People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods, or a bath in the sea. They shake off the fetters and allow nature to touch them. It can be done within or without. Walking in the woods, lying on the grass, taking a bath in the sea, are from the outside; entering the unconscious, entering yourself through dreams, is touching nature from the inside and this is the same thing, things are put right again.” (Carl Jung, Dream Analysis: Notes on a Lecture Given in 1928-1930).

IzzyHike2Yesterday brought us a rare visitation from a beautiful timber rattler who barely moved but eyed us warily as we passed. “A truly numinous encounter with Other-ness, Jeanie. Very auspicious— just give plenty of room for her to move. Many Rattlers do not even carry venom. They come as Teachers of the ancients,” says Facebook friend,  Melissa La FlammeElaine Mansfield agrees, “Wow, Jean. A visitation. Respect and caution needed, but what a gift to mine. I imagine you writing about this soon.”  Yes, I will write about this once I’ve absorbed its message.
This morning I found a skeleton by the back steps. It looks like a baby alligator’s head, but that’s impossible! Not in the Smokeys! What could it be? What can it mean?
SkeletonOther gifts arrived this morning via Grandmother Spider’s world wide web, including the quotes and poem I’ve cited here.  Her messages speak to my immediate experience.  Such synchronicities no longer surprise me.

“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of the same thing.” (C.G. Jung, On the Nature of the Psyche, Collected Works Vol. 8, para. 418).


by Wendell Berry

Again I resume the long

lesson: how small a thing

can be pleasing, how little

in this hard world it takes

to satisfy the mind

and bring it to its rest.

Within the ongoing havoc

the woods this morning is

almost unnaturally still.

Through stalled air, unshadowed

light, a few leaves fall

of their own weight.

The sky

is gray. It begins in mist

almost at the ground

and rises forever. The trees

rise in silence almost

natural, but not quite,

almost eternal, but

not quite.

What more did I

think I wanted? Here is

what has always been.

Here is what will always

be. Even in me,

the Maker of all this

returns in rest, even

to the slightest of His works,

a yellow leaf slowly

falling, and is pleased.

yellow leafJean Raffa’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks

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10 Responses

  1. Exquisite. I particularly resonate with … “this morning, this stillness, this heightened awareness….it’s all a meditation” Indeed it is! Love and blessings to you in this gorgeous space of abundance and peace!

    1. Thank you, Darla. The intimacy I have with nature here is exhilarating and, in the case of the rattler, occasionally terrifying. I’m worried about how much we’ve lost in becoming so highly civilized and insulated from LIFE by technology. As a child I felt bliss and wonder when I walked in the woods. When we hiked today, for the first time I carried a long tree branch to use if I felt the need to protect myself and Izzy from a predator who was several feet away, and a shorter thicker one I could use as a club for a closer encounter! I didn’t like feeling the need to do that. I know I have to be sensible of the dangers out here, but I don’t want to be anxious just walking through the woods. I feel that “civilized” humanity is losing something extremely important that it feels imperative to regain: trust, and the awe, mystery and wonder that is inherent in the wild, instinctual physical world. I don’t want to lose the magic of that. And I want my children and grandchildren to feel it more than they feel the fear and distrust.
      But here’s a bizarre synchronicity about which I’ll be writing soon. This afternoon I went to my summer Jungian study group at a friend’s house and a huge black bear came within 30 feet of her front door, knocked over a bird feeder to get at the bird seed, and settled down in her garden to enjoy the feast!! We watched it for about a half hour, and I eventually got up the nerve to go out on the porch where we could take better pictures. The bear was fine with that. S/He was in Bear Heaven!! A rattlesnake yesterday and a bear today!! There’s definitely something important going on between the animal kingdom and me this summer!

      1. These are awakening experiences, aren’t they? Thank you for sharing them! The path many people are now on does seem to be one of discovering how to re-wild, embody, and engage with our more natural world. I was listening to a public media audio just the other day where the discussion was about how much soul was being lost in the removal of “risk” from our children’s lives; i.e., that “safety” was coming at the expense of their mind’s and soul’s growth and wellness (not in the sense of extreme risks, mind you, simply everyday living). I would say that is our adult journey as well. Has our fear of bodily harm crossed a threshold into the space of inhibiting our holistic wellness? Have attentiveness and awareness given way to aversion?

        1. These are excellent questions, Darla. This is what I was trying to get at with my comment: loss of soul. Exactly! And yes, they are awakening experiences. Maybe this is what I’m meant to learn from them! Thank you.

  2. And I’m still at the surprised stage, with synchronicities, like a kid finding a favourite lost toy. How people experience similar insights in apparently unconnected situations continues to leave me in wonder.
    And the wendell Berry piece…the opening lines just blew me away….the again and the resume…the acceptance and the patience beautiful.

    1. How good it is to find a favorite toy, to be left in wonder. How good it feels to be who we are, do what we’re supposed to be doing: joyfully participating in the Mystery…..even if only for a few moments a day. How good that these experiences last longer as we pay closer attention to our true natures, within and without.

  3. Another quick note… It so happens that I started reading a fascinating book today (synchronicity?) that may address some of these woodsy aspects of embodiment and engagement, and how they affect us or leave us lacking if we don’t interact. Perhaps you’ve already heard of and/or read “From the Forest” by Sara Maitland, but here are a few quotes to intrigue if not:
    “Landscape informs the collective imagination as much as or more than it forms the individual psyche and its imagination, but this dimension is not something to which we always pay enough attention.” (she goes on to consider the locations were primary religions developed)
    “At our deep Teutonic roots we are forest people, and our stories and social networks are forest born.” (relating to British origins)
    And, in regard to the author’s own relationship to forest: “the forest gave me the same set of feelings and emotions that I get when I first encounter a true fairy story. For me, this is a visceral response and hard to articulate — a strange brew of excitement, recognition and peril, with more anticipation or even childlike glee than simple ‘terror of the wild’ because of the other sense that this is somewhere I know and have known all my life.”

  4. Yes, another synchronicity. I’ve not heard of this book, but will order it post haste! Maitland’s description of her relationship to the forest describes my own experience. When I was five my father took me for my first walk in the woods near our new home in North Florida. I was wonder-struck and wanted to live there. When I grew old enough to read adult books, my all-time favorite was Green Mansions, about a girl who lived in a tree in a forest. I wanted to be her. Now I live beside a cypress swamp in Maitland. Oh, and two of my biggest, most numinous dreams feature trees, and my father, and thus I, have Teutonic roots. His grandparents came from Britain. The older I get, the more strongly I sense the presence of my pioneer ancesters within me. It’s a comforting feeling.

  5. I’m with Darla, taken with the idea that it’s all a meditation and also with the idea that we are forest people. When I lose this perspective, I lose myself–and I often lose this perspective so thanks for reminding me. I spent an hour before breakfast pulling weeds from a flower bed. Hearing the bird’s morning songs and tending the garden altar brings peace. Thank you for the beautiful quotes by Jung and Berry. I look forward to hearing how the snake image reveals itself in consciousness.

    1. I often lose this perspective too, but this place never fails to bring it back. I’m taken with your ‘garden altar’ that brings peace, It’s really quite amazing how that happens, isn’t it? How could religions ever have decided that the physical world is inferior to the spiritual one when they’re obviously two aspects of the same Mystery?

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