Forests of Norway and Scotland

Late this winter I was so lucky to take a dream of a trip to Norway and Scotland, including visits to several beautiful forests.

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Trees and trolls, in a gorgeous forest up at the top of Fløyen Mountain above Bergen, Norway, February 28, 2023

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A Hurtigruten Cruise up the Norwegian coast, way beyond even the Arctic Circle!

Bergen to Kirkenes, Norway, Early March 2023

 

 

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Then on to Scotland!

A woodland walk up Kinnoull Hill, Perth, Scotland.

Beautiful lichens in a mature forest of Beech, Pine, Oak… many species I don’t know; and a spectacular view, as far as the Cairngorms, from the top.

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Still in Perth, Scotland, we visited the Scone Palace grounds where there is an amazing ‘Pinetum‘— gorgeous old trees in a plantation established in the early 1800s by the botanist David Douglas — who our Douglas Fir is named for! At 13 years old he began travelling around the world, from his home here in Perth Scotland, collecting seeds of notable conifers from around the world, which he brought back to Perth, establishing this plantation of international exotic trees.

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Then on to Edinburgh, and a side trip to Roslin.

Such a storied place, even especially personal stories from my own ancestors, as my great-great grandmother, on whose birthday I was born, left this place in the early 1800s to emigrate to Canada. A poem of hers has come down to us, in which she speaks of her sorrow at leaving Roslin Glen, the beautiful woodland valley of the river Esk, that she so loved. I have spent many hours walking the forested paths here, communing with the Oaks & Beeches, Yews, Hazel, Ivy and others I don’t know the name of …and soaking up the magic and mystery of the chapel—Rosslyn Chapel of Dan Brown’s ‘DaVinci Code’ fame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-Tailed Hawk

It occurred to me a little while ago that it had been quite a long while since I had been gifted with the finding of a feather in the forest (except of course the ubiquitous Wild Turkey feathers which are everywhere! and are quite wonderful in their own right but so common here as to not be a notable find).

So I asked, the over-lighting intelligences that be, if I might be sent one of these missives of flight and freedom from the soaring heights.

Well…

first Raven, and oh my! two glorious primary wing feathers to add to my collection of shining blackness; then Flicker, so vibrant and beautiful, orange and black; next Robin, such a friendly kinda down-home soft grey message. And then…a crowning glory: Red-Tailed Hawk tail feather!! and I thrill with the excitement of rare magic called forth to me.

All we have to do is ask.

He is to be seen here, every once in a long while, riding the lofty streams, far-sighted noble master of the skies; but never before has he engaged me with this intimate offering of himself. And then as I sit here in the forest writing this I hear him!!! high above me, his iconic clarion call from some unseen height. What a gift he is and I am so grateful for him.

I am uplifted.

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Hawks are known to be messengers from the ancestors, guiding visions of spiritual connection and high aspirations.

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~Barbara Brown, from upcoming Volume II, SYLVAN REFLECTIONS: Wanderings, Paintings & Ponderings From the Forest

The Lap of Mother Cedar

THE LAP OF MOTHER CEDAR

Come sit a spell

under a big old Mother Cedar tree

In the gentle warmth of sunlight dappled through graceful boughs,

caressed by cool breezes;

tell her your troubles, your worries, and your dreams.

Snuggle in, as a child sitting on the lap of your Mother,

and listen to her stories.

This place, the base of the tree, where she stands, rooted, for the whole of her long life.

Where tall trunk disappears into nether world below, with its interwoven endless connections of wood and mycelium, intermingling fungi that span the globe.

This place, where the first miracle happens, where seed and soil first meet and bond giving rise to the majesty of the great Mother Tree.

This place, where the singular beauty of the cedar boles rise rooted; where the soft strong curves of graceful fluted columns connect Earth and Sky.

This place, designed perfection for you

to sit grounded, sheltered, supported; in her welcoming embrace.

In motherly fashion she tends to you, with clean air and healing

attentions;

even as she nurtures and nourishes the vast network of the forest surrounding her.

Come sit a spell.

You will never receive wiser counsel.

You won’t ever find a better listener.

Mother Cedar

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This painting is a miniature oil on canvas, 5″ x 5″, of a Western Red Cedar growing on unceded Sinixt land in the Slocan Valley, British Columbia, Canada.

These trees grow to 130 feet tall and 1,000 years old. First Nations used the bark to weave baskets, bedding, and clothing; the wood to make buildings, canoes and utensils; and the oil for sweet-smelling and antiseptic elixirs.

The square embedded in the painting speaks to the tree’s solidity, stability and protective qualities —masculine attributes within her motherly nature.

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~Barbara Brown, from upcoming Volume II, SYLVAN REFLECTIONS: Wanderings, Paintings & Ponderings From the Forest

 

Under the Cedars‘,  5″ x 5″, oil on canvas, miniature original painting is available for purchase on my Etsy Shop

Imagining Cougar

Imagining Cougar

A Meditation:

Calling Spirit Animal to Come

I imagine I sit in stillness in the forest in the night,

my back to a sheltering tree,

senses alive in the darkness.

Fear is up within me, excitement,

…and courage arises as I call for it.

In this black night alive with anticipation

I invite what/who-ever wants to join me

…and Cougar comes

The small hairs on the back of my neck stand up in greeting,

my animal nature meets her,

with all senses heightened, I have never felt so alive.

Cougar sits down just behind my left shoulder,

joins me in the darkness.

My fear subsides

…and I know her companionship.

I ask how best can I know

the lessons, the wisdom, the beauty

of the forest…

She begins her teaching to me of the wild…

Cougar embodies these questions

–her mystery, her wild instinctive knowing,

her self-possession, her grace

–and oh my her beauty!

She is magnificent, a perfection of relaxed power.

Instincts so fine.

Senses so attuned.

Body supple and strong.

Fur soft, blended tawny to umber, gold to buff, groomed sleek.

She sits back on her haunches, self-contained, regal.

Tail circled ’round her oh-so-long and lean,

resting but ever-alert, dark tip lifting and inquisitively swaying

with the subtlest of movements.

And then there are those eyes…

hooded, fathomless pools of deep brown luminous mystery.

Looking out from her sovereign soul.

Old and patient.

She waits for me

On SURRENDER

On SURRENDER:

In my daily walks through the forest I do a fair bit of communing with trees,
and lately what they’ve been wanting to tell me about is surrender.

Imagine . . .
From seed planted, randomly falling, miraculously germinating;
brand new roots searching . . . trusting;
the most tender of green shoots reaching . . . trusting.

Imagine what it feels like to be a tree
~ to surrender to rootedness,
with endless patience reach for the sky,
lean into the light.
Gather up all sustenance offered by soil and sun, air and rain.
Offer up all your givings-back, there for the taking,
from air cleaned, through food and medicine given, to shelters built and warmed.

We can learn a lot about ‘surrender’ and ‘trust’ from trees.
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I’ve taken to going barefoot on my forest walks this summer,
it’s a big help in coping with the extreme heat we’ve been having here,
and it’s a wonderful lesson in surrender
~ with every footfall I’m learning to trust that I won’t be hurt,
to trust that all my reflexes will engage as needed;
and in doing so I’m learning to accept the benefits the forest floor offers to me
~ a new level of connection,
a new exchange of physical sensations,
a new depth to my feeling of belonging.

~ yet more layers, never-ending, on the spiral that is the learning of surrender.

– Barbara Brown

Follow along with me here, in your imagination.

Follow along with me here, in your imagination

We can feel spiritual blissfulness through experiencing beauty.  Beauty can move us so deeply in nature, in the forest ~ through our senses; it is with this body that we’ve been given, with its great capacities to feel, that we experience the beauty that surrounds us.  This is an amazing gift of life ~ the joy of beauty experienced through our physical bodies.

In the forest, when we stop our minds and place our awareness in our physical senses, all our stresses and troubles and busynesses fall away; we come into the here and now, become present in the moment and are filled with awe at the beauty of nature, of life, of wild and free, that surrounds us.  We connect with our creative source, our own true nature.  This connection to the beauty that we experience and the wonder that we feel, is the tonic, the medicine, that can heal us.

Follow along with me here, in your imagination:

Imagine yourself in the forest.  Envelope yourself with its healing green.  Smell the pine, the soil, the clean fresh air.  Hear the wind rustling in the aspens, the ‘cheerios’ of the robins.  Feel the breezes on your skin, the earth beneath you, supporting you.

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See the sunlight shining through those leaves ~ take it in.  Sink your awareness into the microscopic world of mosses and tiny creatures at your feet ~ take it in.  Gaze up and travel out through the treetops into the blue infinite ~ take it in.  These are gifts of the forest in its beauty.  Feel the rush of awe and wonder that floods your being ~ and soothes you.  Let yourself be transported ~ nothing is wrong anymore ~ be at peace and in joy.

~

As an artist, it’s the experiencing of beauty that inspires me to paint ~ to try to capture and share the images that I see that open me up so wide.

Experiencing Beauty in the Forest

What places a little vine growing in the forest can take me!

What’s been impressing itself upon me, calling me to ponder upon it recently, is the experience of  beauty in the forest ~ what it feels like, what it means.

Come into the forest with me . . .
Look at that little vine (Sweet-scented Bedstraw), in its spiralling embrace of the big old cedar; does it know what a perfectly pretty-as-a-picture vision it’s creating?

VineIt seems to me that we must all of us beings ~ plants, animals, humans, mountains, galaxies . . .  all of us that form matter in this vast creation ~ we must all be hard-wired to resonate with each other, our senses all in harmony to recognize beauty in each other.  We’re all made from the same stuff ~ stardust! from the big bang.  We’re all one.

My goodness, what places a little vine growing in the forest can take me!

 

Give-Over

After a difficult week of sorrow, leave-taking, confusion of feelings, relief, drama and frustration:

This afternoon, as I stopped for a while in the forest, in an attempt to settle myself:

I laid myself down and curled up for a nap, wanting to sink my troubles down and out of me into Mother Earth through the thick mossyness at the feet of a friend, a sympathetic young yew tree I wrapped myself around and snuggled up against seeking oblivion.

However, the forest had other plans for me.

RavenSquirrel6Jay

I was conspired against:

~ squirrel, not six feet away, needing desperately to proclaim my presence as far and wide as he could;

~ raven, whooshing wings round and round through the tree tops above me, responding to my earlier attempts at conversation (mimicking him with no idea of what I was saying);

~ a second raven, back-and-forthing with some unknown melodic caller (perhaps owl?);

~ then a jay, a gorgeous shiny Stellar unable to contain his rambunctious exuberance.

Oh well.

All I could do was give-over, and laugh, and welcome in the comfort and regeneration I had been seeking with the nap.

 

 

Beauty and Sadness

and the inextricable connection between them

When we witness beauty, profound beauty, it near to breaks our hearts.

A beautiful piece of music makes us cry.

Beautiful actions, expressions of love between beings also bring us to tears.

We feel we can hardly bear the poignancy of such beauty.

The emotion that we feel in its presence is sadness ~

a deep and graceful, even joyous, sadness.

We can’t feel those deep joys without feeling sadness ~

they are inextricably connected.

And what about sadness?

Is there beauty in sadness, just as there is sadness in beauty?

When the sadness is pure,

not mixed with fear and not the result of any wrong-doing;

then I believe it is somehow a beautiful feeling,

one to be embraced and leaned into.

When we do embrace it, we come upon the same grace we find in beauty.

There will always be a life lesson there to find, which brings us to profound joy.

The joy of being alive.

Beautiful life ~ so beautiful that it hurts.

The One Song

The universe, the ‘uni’ ‘verse’, the ‘one’ ‘song’,

singing itself into existence, into beingness,

and into beauty, endlessly, forever;

singing us, and all that is, into being.

The music the heavens dance to.

The dance of the cosmos.

Huginn & Muninn

Huginn & Muninn

Oil on canvas, 18" x 30" HUGINN & MUNINN Huginn ("memory") and Muninn ("thought") are two Raven helpers of the Norse god Odin. He sends them out from Valhalla every morning to travel the world, returning to him at the end of every day to sit on his shoulders and...

Autumn Triquetra

Autumn Triquetra

Oil on canvas, 16" x 20" AUTUMN TRIQUETRA This place, deep within the forest, makes itself known to me every Autumn when the deciduous Maple and Hazelnut trees emblazon a bright saffron splendour, set off by the rich dark greens of the surrounding conifers. The gentle...

Grandfather Stump

Grandfather Stump

'Grandfather Stump' Oil on canvas  24" x 18" ~ Look at this gentle giant, dead a hundred years ago or more and still commanding such presence. Ancient Cedar, my Grandfather tree; I often sit with him and feel his calm wise influence. Burnt and toppled, worn away and...

Gateway

Gateway

'Gateway' Oil on canvas, 24" x 12"   Let me set the scene for you: It was a winter wonderland of a world; with fresh snow falling daily bringing down that deep silence of deep snow at the dead of winter, when the stillness finally reaches my bones and settles me....

A Wide Open Winter Wander

A Wide Open Winter Wander

'A Wide Open Winter Wander'  Oil on Canvas 12″ X 24″ ~~ This is the forest floor beneath the Cedar ‘Cathedral’ grove in my forest,here in its deep winter slumber. Its open nature draws me in; inviting freedom of movement and expansion of spirit. Sense the clear...

Cedar Intimacy

Cedar Intimacy

'Cedar Intimacy' Oil on Canvas 18″ X 14″ ~ This image captivated me in the forest.First, up close and personal,I fell in love with the pretty surface patterns thatthose intense green twinkling cedar frond fingers makeas they reach for the sun at the edge of a clearing...

Cottonwood Spray

Cottonwood Spray

'Cottonwood Spray' Oil on Canvas 18″ X 14″ ~ This spray of Cottonwood sparkles outfrom the wall of conifers it nestles within.Flaring like a burst of fireworks.Feel the joyful energy radiating outward, demanding our attention,calling out to us to notice it,to...

Dance of the Seven Veils

Dance of the Seven Veils

 'Dance of the Seven Veils' Oil on Canvas 24″ X 20″ ~  Out walking, entranced and blissful through a brand new world of winter wonderI came upon this graceful young Hemlock on the edge of the forest.With her elegant drapery of freshly fallen snow I am instantly...

Dancing Yew Sisters

Dancing Yew Sisters

'Dancing Yew Sisters' Oil on Canvas 20″ X 30″ ~ This image had been simmering away in the back of my mind for years. Every day I walk by these two young Yew trees growing so gracefully (for often-so-straggly Yews!) down by the creek. They are about the same age and I...

Fir, Soft and Thick

Fir, Soft and Thick

'Fir, Soft and Thick' Oil on Canvas Board 18″ X 14″ ~ The healing of that greenness is palpable.You can rest there within the depths of the green, and return refreshed. Nuzzle into the lush verdancy. ~ The geometry of the oval brings to mind the feminine attributes...

Grand Sweeping Spiral

Grand Sweeping Spiral

'Grand Sweeping Spiral' Oil on Canvas Board 20″ X 16″ ~ A vital part of my daily practice of walking in the forest is stopping,and sitting in stillness for a spell.I will usually close my eyes, open my other senses, and meditate for awhile.Then, when I come out of the...

Stone Portal To Beyond

Stone Portal To Beyond

'Stone Portal To Beyond' Oil on Canvas 16″ X 20″ ~ One of those dazzling days of early summer.Sun so bright the shadows intensify accordingly.Sitting in darkness under a tree deep within the cool dark shade of the forest,looking up to see sun-kissed leaves reaching...

Through

Through

'Through' Oil on Canvas 14″X 18" ~ Into the dream… With a swish and a swirl,Swim yourself throughOn a wish and a whirl,Wind your way intoThe green beyond beckonsCalling you home… ~ The leaves you see are mostly those of Hazelnut ~ a shrub symbolic of family happiness...

Graceful Elderberry

Graceful Elderberry

'Graceful Elderberry' Oil on Canvas Board 18″ X 14″ ~ I was thinking I’d like to paint a simple, single spray of leaves, bright with sun shining through them. But while looking for this, I instead came upon by surprise, and was enraptured by, this charming Elderberry....

Birch Bursting Forth

Birch Bursting Forth

'Birch Bursting Forth' Oil on Canvas 14″ X 11″ ~ This is a magnificent Birch tree, over 7 1/2 feet around at its base, growing right up close to our cabin where it thrives on the extra rainwater that funnels down to its roots from the roof. With my morning coffee, at...

Mistical February

Mistical February

'Mistical February' Oil on Canvas Board 12″ X 9″ ~ ~ moody brooding dusky gloaming ~ An afternoon in February ~ already turning to dusk in the forest. The darkness comes much sooner in under the trees. It’s a magical time ~ the most likely of times to catch a glimpse...

Spiralling Cedar Boughs

Spiralling Cedar Boughs

'Spiralling Cedar Boughs' Oil on Canvas Board 12″ X 9″ ~ Walking along, just up the mountainside from the Cathedral Cedar grove, on one fine, sparkly blue Summer day, I happened to glance up to see sunlight catching lacy Cedar boughs in a glorious ascending spiral...

WelCome

WelCome

'WelCome' Oil on Canvas Board 14" X 14" ~ With my paintings I want to give you a place to go ~ similar to the way we can ‘travel’ when we listen to music ~ I want to give you a place where you can rest your eyes and excite your soul, open your heart and soothe your...

Cathedral

Cathedral

'Cathedral' Oil on Canvas 16" X 12" • This Cedar grove,~ living pillars reaching straight for the heavens,dappled light filtered through green and gold like stained glass,lofty arched boughs~ open spaciousness filled to brimming with palpable spiritual power~ sings...

Deep Winter Portals

Deep Winter Portals

'Deep Winter Portals' Oil on Canvas 16" X 12" • The irresistible invitation to enter,deeper and deeper into the pristine beauty of the silent, beckoning, way. It smells of purity, clean and fresh, and cold. The stillness soaks into my bones, I feel the profound...