Missing Plant Friends + Hike Lust + Books

Everything outside feels dead. I know it isn't.

I reach towards my herb pantry often, just to grab jars of my wild picked plants and smell them. I can smell the sun on the yarrow and the old clear cut I gathered them in, and the hillside and the side of a sun bleached rocky cliff, all stuffed into this glass jar. How do you keep these places, yarrow? I get hopeful and wistful for their return. Little plants of courage and tenacity. I dream of speaking with and touching coastal yarrow, the kind that Ryan Drum speaks of

One particularly fine day whilst harvesting Yarrow on a steep talus slope above the sea, I felt suddenly quite giddy. The feeling resembled benign sunstroke; however, I had been harvesting in complete cliff shade for 3 hours. Involuntarily I sat down and happily laid back into several ancient Yarrow clumps with 3-foot stalks and huge flat umbels 8-10 inches across. Their delicious odors smothered me. As I looked up and all around, all I could see was Yarrow and blue sky. Paradise.
— Ryan Drum, ryandrum.com

The roses smell like a sexy fruit jam, the ecstatic sound of bees rolling in pollen and the thick wet grass I had to walk to to get to them. The minor bloodshed to capture their petals. My still curious thoughts about the smelly resin the leaves leave on my hands – and how I want to make a salve of it. I can't wait to see her in bloom again.

Plants hold memories, my olfactory senses hold memories. Every time I smell something I gathered, folds in my brain open bringing up knowledge, memory, idea. Parts of my brain that go dormant this time of year I feel come back alive. It reminds me that it will be warm again, that the lush green will be back. That I will be able to move about in the world again in shorts and a thin shirt and that my skin will brown and I'll be back in my season. That I will learn more about my plant friends this season. That I will get to see them again.

I have moved my jars from my pantry to my kitchen table now. Until then when spring is back, I will keep huffing my jars.

Winter is just a little rough on me, I'm a solar powered spring kid.

It comes early here though and very soon, maybe in a couple of weeks even – maybe now even! Poplar buds will begin to fall, young nettles shooting up, cleavers doing their cleaving. My brain is sorting and prioritizing my picking places. What I will do with them? What new things I will learn about them this year?

I CAN'T WAIT.

How plans are made. This is not my usual M.O.

How plans are made. This is not my usual M.O.

Right now, I am mapping potential areas to be with plant friends and for hikes... and for backpacking. This being my first full spring/summer season with a car, I am like a horse chomping at the bit. Ready to go! We shall see where, eventually.

For now, this book is great inspiration and updated frequently which is very handy.

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I'm rather keen on getting the Eastern Oregon book too. Right now I am totally mystified by the desert. I eye the maps of the ODT longingly but seeped in intimidation. Looks beautiful, doesn't it?

In this guide you can find the OCT route.

In this guide you can find the OCT route.

I am thinking about a thru-hike of the Oregon Coast Trail over the summer, if I can swing it. 380ish miles. It looks to be a relatively easy and accessible entry point into long distance hiking. While the PCT is just over on Mt. Hood, I do not really want to walk it in large sections. I feel like it would somehow be like a movie spoiler to section hike the PCT with my looming 2017 thruhike.

At any rate, it seems this post is divulging into hike talk. This is what I have been reading as of late. And by reading, I mean that I have a circulating pile of books that sometimes I get around to finishing. These are the few that are frequenting my hands lately. And I just might finish them! I've been a focused and diligent reader lately.

A photo posted by Carrot Quinn (@carrotquinn) on

I'm actually rereading this one right now, before I fall asleep at night. 1. The cover is a play on the Fool Card, which is totally awesome. I am wondering... someone might wanna make a hikers tarot deck. I mean, could be good right? Yes, it would. Tarot all the things. 2. It's just really good. I can feel her feels.

The author, Carrot Quinn has a blog too! She completed the Continental Divide Trail last year and is preparing for the Hayduke, which I can't wait to read about.

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My friend Ashley mentioned his books on IG and I checked them out and bought this one. It's good stuff. I find myself breathing better and smiling at myself randomly. Which, does in fact promote a better mood and brain space. When I smile at myself, while I am driving, walking somewhere, working, washing dishes, cleaning the cat box I suddenly feel like I am standing in a sun beam and in a place I love, like a mountain, yet still present to my place and what I am doing in that moment – and I am happy.

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I feel like this book pairs really well with the writing of Thich Nhat Hanh, I bounce between the two over coffee in the morning as time allows. I recommend it if nature, writing and self-development are things you like. I've really been enjoying it so far.

And if you are reading neat things, do share. I love adding to my increasing book pile ;)

A Declaration: PCT 2017

I heard about it most officially from a wildland firefighter I had been dating, back in October of '14. He said, "...and I was working on the Pacific Crest Trail," in a kind of mystical tone. A small ding went off in my brain. I had this strange vision that it was near the coast for some reason, I suppose I was confusing the word "crest".

A few months went by and while looking over a map of Indian Heaven Wilderness, I saw this bold endless looking red scar across it: Pacific Crest Trail 2000. Ding.

My friend Lacey was planning a visit back in April, she wanted to do some nature exploring, but didn't have a clue what she wanted to go do or see out here. So, I ran a few ideas in my head... and thought of that movie everyone was talking about a while back. The one with the shoe on the cover, part of it was filmed here in Portland, had that girlwhatshername from Legally Blond play the character. I suggested to Lacey to watch it to get an idea of what we have out here, as some of it was filmed in Oregon and showed some scenic views of our state. I had to google what the name of it was... and then I realized, oh. It's about a woman who hikes the PCT. What is this trail anyway? Commence googling.

The memory of brain dings and feelings surfaced. So this is what it is: 2660 miles from Mexico to Canada, along the chain of mountains through California, Oregon and Washington. Pilgrims from all over the US and world come to hike it in sections and even in its entirety. Most northbound, some south bound on a journey that takes on average, about 5 months to complete. I discovered the trail blogs of people accounting each day of their struggle for water, intense hunger, storms, chewed up feet, giving up, mountain lions, hypothermia, heat stroke... a whole strange subculture of these people called thru-hikers. I wanted that life.

I decided, that I was going to become a thru-hiker. I was going to do it. This made me happy in that same way, when I was just 12 years old with a plan to run away to to smoky mountains. There was that embracing of my child-self that I do my very best not to loose. We loose it so easily in these times.

That was early '15, when I had decided. Desire waxed, waned, eclipsed. Am I ready to give up my (relatively speaking) affordable Portland rent, in my pretty damn nice apartment that I magic-ed my ass into? What about my business? What about Tucker? Do I really want to displace myself like this? Become homeless for 6-8 months? What about afterwards? What about the threat of depression that will inevitably set in after I am done? Is it worth stirring up my life for this desire?

Always I came back to: Yes.

The stars, the dirt, the trees, the crossroads. The hunger that will chew at me. The relentless sun burning me. The feeling I know I'll get walking into familiar territory, seeing old plant friends and mountains. Knowing there won't be some great epiphany at the end. Knowing I'll hate it at times. Knowing I will love it. Knowing I will be scared shitless and knowing I will be humbled by vastness and beauty, the kind that there are no words for.

So, now it's 2016. Instead of saying, “PCT in 2017...” I get to say, “PCT, next year.”

Next year.

It is now even more of a reality. Now I can buy data books that will be slightly more relevant to nerd over. Now I can start gear testing and collecting. I have to start saving money and reorienting my business and job to work well without me for part of spring and summer.

Have I ever backpacked before? Nope.

Is this crazy? Maybe. Lots of people do it with no prior experience. Thankfully an ADD mind provides you with a what seems like a contradictory ability: hyper focus (usually only on things we are fascinated by). So I have been adsorbing like a sponge, everything. Stove vs. no stove, tarp vs. tent, resupply strategy, food choices, shoes, foot care, hiking gait, sleeping bag, socks, treking poles, ultralight everything. All the things. Reading all the stories. All the books. All the info.

I know that no matter how much I meticulously prepare, I will not be fully prepared for it.

So, that's that. My deceleration of doing.

PCT 2017.

A Winter Check In – New Year, New Things

That strange year of 2015 is now fully behind me. A lot of destruction happened in order for new growth to occur. It was my year of the Death card and my Saturn return, which was in the sign of Scorpio, the sign that rules the Death card interestingly enough. '15 was rough and I was rough on myself, there's not much else to elaborate on. The end of that year was however, awesome. I got a lot of things in my life straightened out, mainly my health, finances and relationships. I am glad that I finally saw that rising dawn...

Before the new year came, I rid myself of all connection to past unhealthy relationships. Mainly this took the form of physical magical workings I had scattered through my house. I disposed of them in strategic spots, far from home. I refused to carry any of that business into the new year. Clean home, clean mind!

This year, my card is Temperance, which follows Death. It too has a rising sun on it's horizon and a path leading deep into the mountains. A foot in two worlds, while processing and amalgamating. There is a serenity and calm here I just love. Graceful movements. Lush growing things. Tempering myself and my actions so that I may find balance and wholeness in my life.

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If you’re curious about your own year card add together these numbers: your month of birth + day of birth + current year = number, then you break that number down into smaller bits and add those together. Example for myself: 4 + 19 + 2016 = 2039 ... 2 + 3 + 9 = 14. Temperance.

Looking back on my Samhain reading, I can see the passage of Winter happening. I struggled, mentally … but I had that little lantern lit and I kept on going. I am not a winter person, I find it depressing and frustrating a lot of the time, but I know it's a necessary seasonal process. I've been enjoying hunkering down and getting very hermit mode. Like the little Kingfisher, I have been fairly focused on some very specific things. I've done some weeding and am currently still weeding out unnecessaries – this is helping my focus and aims. The Mirror is all mystery, reflection and illumination of the darker aspects of ones soul. A surrendering to that knowledge, a healing of wounds though guidance from the otherworld. Dreams are vivid these days, so I pay attention. My inner voice is being found on a multitude of levels, I am hearing her.

I feel like this year is taking the actions that will manifest dreams and desires into reality.

These desires require funds. So, I have done a few things this month.

  1. Canceled my home internet.

  2. Lowered my grocery bill.

  3. Canceled other luxury monthly expenditures

  4. Selling off a good hunk of my unused and unnecessary possessions.

For some, not having home internet might already be a thing and not a big deal. But for me it is. I have always had an internet connection from the comfort of my home since I was on my own at 18. I also run an online business as my primary means of income, so this was a difficult thing. Thankfully I have a separate work space, so yes, there's internet there for me to access obviously.

You know what though? It's awesome not having it at home. There is a brightness I feel like waiting for me there now, not a black hole. It means I can actually read the books I have instead of being distracted by the internet. I mean, how often do we discontentedly sit scrolling through our facebook feed feeling frustrated and pissed with the world? Yes, I could probably summon the willpower to have home internet and not waste time like that... but, that feels almost impossible! It's pulling and calling... usseee meee.

I'm not faced with a barrage of adds telling me how to look, what to buy. Or opinions of how I should live and what I should eat. That I need to buy this thing to feel complete. When I look at the internet too much, my mind is even more of a mess, my dreams become junk, I'm scattered and longing for... who knows what. Something I can't put my finger on. So, at 6:30am on Monday the 11th, I canceled that shit. Not a singular doubt in my mind.

I come home and I read books, conduct research and work on my own little projects. It's wonderful. Through this disconnect in my dwelling space, I feel like I've been better able to find my own voice through the internal noise that constant and chronic internet use creates.

If I need internet, I can walk to the nearest wifi spot two blocks away. If I really, really need something I have my smartphone.

Beyond that, it's just working on the tiny things to build the bigger things. Slowing down some processes to speed up others. Right now, I just want less, so that I can have more enrichment in my life.

Slowing down some processes to speed up other things in my life. It's a strange thing! But all of this feels like the right move. Hell yes to a year of learning the lessons of Temperance. I thought that this card from the Wooden Tarot pretty much embodied my choices lately. Slowing down, thinking about what home means to me, thinking about what I really, really need, what really matters. This snail dude is going places and growing things. Slowing down to speed up, in a strange manner of speaking. Look at the little dude! All confident and rolling right though it. This one knows where they're going.

This was my little New Years day road opening spell with Temperance as my 2016 card and the Sun as my randomly drawn card for the year as well. What good omens!

That's 2016 for me: taking actions and steps to making dreams become reality.

On Choosing Decks + Decks I Use

I was asked a question on how I choose decks for readings, which I thought was a great question because it isn't something I've really thought about doing, but just do. Short answer is: I go with my gut.

Currently I have about 13 different decks to choose from. Of those, I actively use three. Two traditional tarot decks and one oracle deck. I am a bit of a collector and prone to "shiny!" grabby-hands impulse tarot purchases, especially if it is an independently published deck. There are so many people out there creating really cool decks right now.

I have a very deep bond with my Smith-Waite deck. It was the very first deck I have ever owned and we have done some serious shit together. As a result, this is my default deck, the old trusty friend I can always go to and know I'll get a solid unwavering answer from and I know that when I read for others, the same applies.

The second deck I work with I feel is a more nature, pagan and witchy version of Smith-Waite, so the suits translate fairly well between decks. They're similar but not the same. I often go to this deck when I am dealing with more wild, green and witchcraft oriented situations. It's also a great deck for me to understand my dreams, as I dream often of plants, animal and wild places.

Third being the Earthbound Oracle. I really like this as a supplemental deck to draw on for tarot readings. To kind of back up another card or use as an action card, or energies surrounding the situation. A good example is how I used it for my Samhain spread.

Example of Earthbound Oracle supplementing the main reading. Basically it stepped in to tell me to stop being deceived by my own doubting mind, to really see what I have and trust my intuition.

Example of Earthbound Oracle supplementing the main reading. Basically it stepped in to tell me to stop being deceived by my own doubting mind, to really see what I have and trust my intuition.

When it comes down the choosing a deck for a reading it usually goes something like this:

*sits at table and stares at decks for a while, while contemplating an issue, question*

*knocks on table three times, has conversation with familiar spirits, gets feels*

*looks at decks again*

*picks deck giving good feels*

Hah. It really is hard to describe. But I feel that each deck contains its own spirit and depending on what I am needing to read about, or on, it will reach out to me. And they do, every single time.

So if you're all starry eyed and deck lusting as one does when one loves tarot, I would pick one deck that sits close to your heart. Study and work with it daily, then pick another deck that you're very attracted to to act as an alternative and go from there.

Another useful trick is the good ol' pendulum! I employ this when I am reading for clients. Actually, especially when I am reading for clients. I set both my RWS and Wildwood decks side by side and while holding the pendulum, I state, "who wants to read for Brunhilda Birchswitch?" (I made that name up, I don't know where it came from). And 100% of the time the pendulum swings one way or another and the deck is chosen. If you wanted to apply this to a personal reading just ask, "who wants to read for me?"

Another angle to approach this is knowing your deck. Decks have personalities of their own and I can tell you that I have experienced some decks getting snarky because I haven't used them in a while. Yes, I am looking at you RWS. Conduct yourself an interview! Ask your deck what areas of life it specializes in, what situations it works best in, how you can best read with it. That can help you in knowing when to choose the right deck for the right situation. Or just giving you a better feel for the appropriate time to use it.

Above all though, don't think too critically about it. Go with your gut feeling. If it feels right, it more than likely is! Trust the process.

A Samhain Spread + The Year Ahead

Yesterday I finished up that Instagram tarot challenge and for the last day I did a Samhain spread for the year ahead. I wanted to discuss and share it with those who might be interested in my method if they'd like to give it a try sometime. This spread isn't limited to any time of year I think, but it is geared towards seasons and the traditional wheel of the year. So, one could do this spread at the start or end of any season.

Samhain is also known as the Celtic New Year. Running with this in mind and the idea that we sort of descend into the underworld/underground for winter during this time, I wanted to map out the year ahead as this is the perfect time to do so.

For some reason, I already knew what the spread was going to look like in my head. It just sort of happened so I ran with it.

Three cards for each season: winter, spring, summer and fall. I chose Wildwood because of its connections to the wheel of the year, the cards and suits are all based upon elements and seasons. Being a very plant and nature oriented person, I gravitated towards this deck for that reason too. Earthbound Oracle (which I want to review soon!) came in to give the overall theme for each season, the main vibe.

Now, I read rather intuitively. I don't very often give each card placement a specific meaning. I find that with my brain and reading style, I just let the cards do their thing and then the story seems to weave together all on its own.

When I shuffle cards, I speak aloud my questions...

What is in store for me in the year ahead?

For each season, what should I focus on?

What should I be aware of?

What will I learn?

And of course, a card flew out as I shuffled. Or flipped, rather. When this happens, many readers take it as a sign to pay attention and run with it - I do this too, so I set the card down in the middle to represent myself and my "aims" for this coming year. Too funny it would be The Archer... a card that has been showing up for me frequently. The season associated with this card is the Spring Equinox, my season as I am Aries.

Card 7 The Archer, is akin to the Chariot in Rider-Waite systems. Here we see the practice of form and focus, before the arrow is set loose. This is the breath before the great strike. This is the culmination of practice, gathering of information and thoughts put into action. The Archer is backed by spirit companions, they are supporter of their cause, guides. The Archer has their eyes on a goal and they aim for it unfailingly. This is the energy I will carry with me into the following year. I do love how there is a cowrie shell dangling right above the sex of this individual.

Winter

I'm none too surprised here. There will be some struggling this winter, perhaps more of a mental struggle. It's odd, because as I am typing this I am feeling it. Highly introverted and a strange self-inflicted loneliness that in all truth, isn't really actually loneliness, but it feels that way. It's all in my head. The isolation, the cold, the depressing aspects of winter - it gets to me. It's pouring rain outside right now and while cozy, it has my moods dark and swirling. There's something reminiscent of the Hermit in this card too, the lamp a guiding internal flame and source of direction even in cold bleak times. Move forward...

The Kingfisher, it almost seems like he's smiling. He, like the Archer, knows his aim is focused. He does not cling to what doesn't serve him. He overcomes obstacles by sheer force of will and intelligence.

Oh the Mirror! This is a very wintry watery card of spiritual journeying, of surrender, of digging deep into oneself. This is not forced inner reflection, but one of acceptance, of knowing its coming. This is about messages and insights gained in dream and meditation.

The overarching theme for this season, is finding my spiritual voice, weaving song with it.

Spring

With the ruminating of winter behind me, it will be time to clear away the old and make way for the new. Clearance is about making that room, so that I can expand upon new ways and methods of doing things and allow growth to happen in those areas. A spring cleaning will definitely be scheduled.

Ohhh, some heart stings perhaps? Stinging the heart of another? Dealing with some relationships issues? This card, akin to the classic Three of Swords is called Jealousy. Feelings of resentment, emotions out of control ought to be checked and it will be good to be mindful of them during this period.

Mm, Ecstasy. I know what this means and it means the return of my feet back into the lush greenery of the forests here. If there is any time I feel most alive and stirred it is in my time, late April early May when everything is bursting with life and growing. This isn't about pleasures though, it is about ecstatic trance, a time of spiritual revelation and experience, which I know to be found readily during my "power" time of the year.

The theme of this season, is trusting my inner visions and being guided by them.

Summer

The path continues through the green mantle... a Reunion. A returning to place, while not maybe physical - it is spiritual. What also comes up is recognition that I spend a lot of time working on myself and in things in a solitary way... this could be a coming together with my people, my tribe, my kinfolk. The land is what brings us together. I should keep this in mind.

The Ancestor, the great call from within that is tied to my blood and my bones. This serves as a reminder to stay on the path, to stay the course of my spiritual journey and the call of spirit. Sometimes we really do need a reminder, because we get a little lost, we make pit stops, we take side trails... but always there is the path I know I must walk. It might change its shape and texture over the years, the landscape may shift, but it is always there and to stay upon it means everything to me. This also may be the start of a new spiritual cycle and beginning for me.

And speaking of path walking, there's the crossroads. This will likely be a transformative and fulfilling summer. This is about follow through and commitment to my goals, walking my talk and my path - in doing this I will find Fulfillment.

With the Ancestor in mind and the idea of new cycles and beginnings, it's almost no surprise to see this being the overall theme for summer time. Death is transformative and skin shedding is vital. This will be a very interesting time I think.

Fall

There will be some misses I think coming into this season. But that Archer, again! There will be a need for focus and determination. My job becomes increasingly stressful during this time of year and very often (as I found myself doing this year) I pile up too much on my plate and dilute my focus. I'm scattered and uncollected. I must be mindful of this.

Here is the first stones and earth based card to show up. This is something to note, there's a lot of air, water and fire happening, but not a lot of grounding earth. 10 of Stones, Home. This card is flanked by frustration and challenge, so the emphasis here I think is sanctuary creating. One thing I have always been curious about myself (astrologically speaking) is how very significant my home is to me and creating sanctuary space. A place to retreat from external pressures, stress, the elements. It is where love resides, I think. Building something. Growth is happening in this card, an apple tree reaches up and out of the roof. Sustenance, sanctuary and support are themes here and will be important during this time.

One cannot grow without challenge. The thing about challenges is to not become petty, or to act out of insecurity when enduring them and instead, to act of integrity and sincerity for best results.

Labor will bring in the sweetness and rewards. While working through frustrations and challenges can suck, one can definitely work them to ones advantage. This also touches on home and home base being a place to recharge and gain sustenance.

This is a big ol' spread! The biggest I have ever done actually. What I think I will be doing with this, is returning to it at each season and checking in. So, I think there will be subsequent posts about how all of this plays out into the coming year.

If you ever decide to use this spread, do share it! I would love to see others take on this, or how it might play out for them as well.

Many blessings to those making their wintry decent!