Spirit and Bone Session: Letting Go

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Shadow and Light meet at the edge of Water and Earth

There are times in life when everything you thought you were becomes challenged. You realize the story you created about yourself doesn’t hold up, especially when submerged in unfamiliar surroundings or you find yourself in an environment where the story you grew away from begins to unfurl the threads in the tapestry of the story you’re currently attached to.

Big questions rise up. Who am I? What do I want? What are my gifts? These are the questions Shelli was asking when I shot her Spirit and Bone session.

As I sat and listened to Shelli on the shore of Lake Ontario, she spoke intently of letting go of the attachment she had to who she thought she was. She spoke of how she had gone to her closest female friends, and all of them tried to tell her of her strength, wisdom, and light, but Shelli didn’t really feel connected to the projections and perceptions of how her friends viewed her.

She knew she was in a dark place and feeling a bit demoralized, and Shelli is the type of person who can handle the shadows. She is a good friend of mine, and I know she is a straight-up Spiritual Gangster. She even owns the t-shirt!

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Listening to her tell her story, I witnessed her sink into the watery realm of the emotions behind the story. I knew she was letting go and merging into the flow of becoming something more infinite and less bound by attachment.

Some of my favorite images from our Spirit and Bone session tell part of Shelli’s story of letting go and sinking into that place of flow by intuitively responding to whatever arose.

I swear, she became a never-ending wave form as infinite as water.

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Meeting the edge

Holding on to the attached roots

Holding on to the attached roots

Freedom

Becoming water

Becoming water

Infinite

Infinite

Releasing "Shelli"

Releasing “Shelli”

Letting go: Shelli was quite attached to those shells but tossed them in the water anyway.

Letting go: Shelli was quite attached to those shells but tossed them in the water anyway.

If you are interested in participating in this project, please visit my Spirit and Bone page to contact me.

Spirit and Bone Session: Healing from the Great Mother

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I’ve been fumbling with words to capture what happened in the woods yesterday with Brenda. Each shoot I’ve completed has a different energy to it, a unique message that is wanting to come through. After reading Brenda’s intentions for this shoot, I decided to take Brenda to my Mother Tree. I named this tree that because that’s exactly what she is — a Mother. Her insides open to a gaping hole and you can sit inside of her and truly feel held by our Great Mother. So, I’m going to use my wise mind here and allow Brenda’s intention behind this shoot speak the story and allow the images we captured tell the rest of the story:

“I recently found out my ability to get naturally pregnant is not possible. I just turned 45 and we’ve been trying for our first child for a few years. There’s a whole wise and deep story behind it. I really see myself covered in mud from the legs up to my pelvis and then branching upward covering parts of my body. My wild woman archetype is clawing at the mud to find peace.”

Thank you, Brenda. Your vulnerability and willingness to greet chaos, poison, and pain and transform it into pure beauty speaks volumes of your strength and translates into a message of power and hope.

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If you are interested in participating in this project, please visit my Spirit and Bone page to contact me.

Spirit and Bone Session: Magic and Dreams

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This is a story about magic. This is not a story about potions or spells or rituals (though I can’t swear that Heather and I didn’t fall under some sort of spell during our time together in the woods), but I can say with 100% confidence that Heather and I entered some sort of naturally induced alternative reality during her Spirit and Bone session, which is basically what magic is: a change in our perception of reality.

Heather is not from my area. She’s not even from my state. She was traveling from the New York Faerie Fest and knew she wanted to participate in this project, so she contacted me. She said something told her that we needed to work together. After meeting with her, I have no doubt that we were supposed to meet.

I was particularly excited about this session because it took place at my favorite nature place that has been so healing for me: Wesley Nature Preserve. My hometown was only a half hour or so off Heather’s course on her way home, so doing the session there worked out effortlessly.

I instantly sensed Heather’s connection with nature. She’d spent the weekend camping at the Faerie Festival in pouring-down-not-summer-like-rain, and showed up carrying the energy of the festival with her. I knew that this was a woman who felt at home in the woods.

The moment we entered the forest a hawk came swooping down and landed on a tree stump not far from where we stood. She just laughed, saying hawks always show up for her. It made me smile because I always see hawk as the messenger from the Spirit World. I know to pay attention.

Not too far along the trail, we found a cairn. Of course, she immediately found a rock with a heart in it. All good signs and good indications of the work that was to be done: heart-healing work.

We could have spent 3 hours or 30 years in the woods and wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. As I shot, I remember totally suspending everything I knew about photography, just being completely in awe of Heather’s honesty and willingness to be vulnerable and open. She was ready to do some work. I’m not sure she knew exactly what that work was, but she was weaving magic with every word and every step she took.

I watched her bond with certain trees, stop mid-step just to reach down and touch the Earth for no other reason than it seemed that a particular rock or clump of dirt seemed to call to her. I watched her move with ease and grace through the forest and hula-hoop like she was spinning circles of liberation and manifestation all at the same time. She was absolutely beautiful to me — an enchantress weaving her story in her own authentic way.

There was a certain way that we were both tending to the present moment that words fail to describe. But this keeps happening to me lately; I keep experiencing moments that are clearly connected to a layer of reality that is deeper than surface-level reality. I think that’s why it’s taken me so long to write about our time together. It’s hard to find words!

One particular moment stands out the most though — this was where my own perception of reality was challenged and shifted. When Heather and I walked down into the gully, she froze. She told me that she knew she had been to this particular place before, but not in ordinary reality — she had dreamt of this place years ago in a dream that she has never forgotten.

I couldn’t even comprehend what she was saying in the moment. Most of my photos from the gully didn’t come out. I remember being frustrated with my camera, like it wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. Later, when we returned to the pond, I consciously got it. I mean — what was going on? Here was this woman who I had never met before, who had dreamt of this place she had never been to where I had decided to take her to do a project that was all about connecting to the Divine Feminine, her inner Wild Woman, her Knowing.

She was able to describe the gully we were standing in, reached out to certain rocks that had been there for years and years like she was becoming reacquainted with them, like she knew who they were and that they knew her, too. There we were, in that moment, connecting beyond the present moment to layers that neither of us could have predicted or seen coming. Fucking powerful stuff!

Post session, we connected some more. We learned that we both felt deeply connected to our grandmothers (I called mine Oma) who both nurtured our connections with nature. Both were of German descent. Both Heather and I were in similar places in our processes: no longer judging our emotions, we were both allowing ourselves to feel and release really old stuff, reconnecting with our core essence and re-awakening to a deeper level of trust in our intuition.

Heather reminded me to trust the magic that is happening and that letting go of judgment is part the awakening process. We bonded like long-lost sisters would, speaking each other’s language and instantly recognizing and celebrating the essence in each other.

Here’s just some of the photos from Heather’s session. There are so many more, but these are some of my favorites:

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If you are interested in participating in the Spirit and Bone project, please check out my Spirit and Bone page.

 

 

Ghost Plant: A Cure to Ease Emotional Pain

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

One of my favorite plants to find in the wild is the Ghost Plant or Indian Pipe. A parasitic plant, its roots draw into the surrounding tree and fungi mycorrhizal network, sucking up the nutrients there. It requires no sun to grow, hence its lack of chlorophyll giving it its white color, and its flowers seem to nod down to the very earth from which it grows.

A few weeks ago, I woke one morning with the words “Indian-Pipe-Ghost-Plant-Indian-Pipe-Ghost-Plant” running over and over in my head. It didn’t take long for me to head out into the woods and find that this plant was poking its head up through the ground. Herbalists say that when you feel particularly drawn to a plant, there is something that the plant wants you to know, and clearly, this plant was calling me. I sat with the plant for a while and wondered about its medicinal properties. I got the sense that this plant had much to teach me, growing in places where the sun doesn’t shine, drawing life from the decaying bits of the forest. It felt pretty symbolic to where I was in my own process of drawing my shadow into the light.

I’ve always been interested in herbalism, growing and drying my own herbs for teas to sustain me through long Winters. I went home and researched the medicinal properties of this plant.  I learned that the Ghost Plant is a type of nervine, used to work with pain, both physical and emotional. Most interesting and relevant to me, Ghost Plant is known to help folks dealing with buried emotional pain of traumatic events. While it doesn’t take away one’s pain, it is known to put a person outside of their pain so that they can work with it and understand it in a new way.

Herbalist also say that you only need to look at a plant to understand its healing properties. The roots of the Ghost Plant resemble a brain, and when made into a tincture, the liquid turns into a deep and beautiful purple, resembling the crown chakra. Makes perfect sense, considering what this plant is known to do.

Back into the forest I went to harvest some Ghost Plant. It is strongly advised to only harvest a few stalks from each colony that grows. As I walked, more and more colonies of the plant seemed to show themselves to me. I gathered what I could and went home to make a tincture. Here is how I did that: IMG_3369 This is one the stalks I harvested — notice the roots. They really do look like brains. The weird wormy looking stuff is not from the Ghost Plant. Those are roots of a fungus from which this particular colony of Ghost Plant grew. I gave the Ghost Plant a bath to remove the dirt: IMG_3371 Next, I chopped up the Ghost Plant and smooshed it around with my mortar and pestle. I felt quite witchy. IMG_3372   Finally, I put all of the Ghost Plant I had harvested in a mason jar and covered it with grain alcohol. You can use vegetable glycerin, too, which I think I will use next time I make a tincture. IMG_3377 And finally, the magic happened. After only a few hours of soaking, the tincture turned into the most beautiful purple I  have ever seen: IMG_3402 I will let it soak for 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, I ordered some from an herbalist who made her own tincture in the same way I made mine. I wanted to do that as a way to compare my own tincture to one that was made by someone who has experience in making these type of medicines, and I was eager and feeling a bit too impatient to wait 4-6 weeks for my own tincture to be ready.

I decided to try it on a day I was feeling particularly lost in my emotions. This is a strong tincture with a 1:1 ratio, so only a few drops are needed for it to be effective. I became immediately connected to a cool, earthy, mossy feeling that eventually seeped into every corner of my existence. This feeling eventually pushed me away from the intensity of my emotions so that I felt above them. You know how when you meditate and you are able to watch your thoughts and emotions and not let them consume you? The emotions and thoughts are still there, but you are separate from them. I feel like the Ghost Plant provides the same medicine, but in a way that puts you physically and emotionally outside of it. This is particularly useful when emotions become so triggered that you are unable to detach from them. It felt gentle, and I was able to see the root cause of where the emotions were bubbling from and work with it in a way that didn’t feel overwhelming.

That night, I dreamt in purple. I’m not sure of any other way to describe it except that all my dreams had a purple tint to them. I also dreamt that all of the energy within me was being drawn down into the Earth and released. I woke up feeling like I had done several week’s worth of emotional work in only a day. My final analysis is that the Ghost Plant works in such a way that the ghosts that haunt a person can be seen, understood, and released. It is not a medicine to use everyday, but a great medicine to have on hand for moments of acute emotional or physical pain.

I can’t wait to see how my own tincture turns out! I feel pretty grateful to live in a place where this plant grows in the wild. Just remember, if you attempt to utilize this plant as well, please do not harvest the whole colony. Leave most of it behind so it can continue to grow!

Cute and Beautiful Creatures of the Forest

The forest is full of beauty and cuteness.

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

This butterfly obviously wins for beauty.

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

And this Eastern Newt is in a close tie with this teeny tiny little toad…there were hundreds of them near the pond I often frequent. So tiny and new and cute!

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

And last but not least, this little garter snake. I happen to find snakes beautiful, though I know others don’t. To each their own!

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

First Spirit and Bone Session: Dragonflies and Dandelions

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Here is where I am with this project: awestruck.

The first session is complete, and I am certain there is a guiding energy to this project begging women to come out on the land to tell their stories and reconnect with the essence of their inner wild women that is mirrored so perfectly in the landscape that surrounds us.

This energy feels so powerful, I’m a little scared of it. It’s an energy I’ve been dancing with my whole life, but haven’t been able to fully embody because of the stories I’ve told myself that get in the way: I’m not enough, there’s something wrong with me, I’m not worthy, etc.

I mean, this is the Divine Feminine I’m talking about. She is gritty and moist and magical and mysterious. I could understand the Divine Feminine intellectually, but even in moments when she would come smack me upside the head and fill me with awe, I always fell back into the tangled web of patriarchal programming I was raised with.

And that’s where I was when I drove to meet Debbie. Even though the Divine Feminine had come swooping through and people were contacting me to book Spirit and Bone sessions, I still allowed myself to get caught up in the whole “I’m not worthy” mentality. It’s safer there sometimes. It doesn’t serve me well, but it’s safer.

All of that melted away when Debbie greeted me. I heard a still voice that simply said “Let it go and connect.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Doing this session with Debbie reminded me of the power of magic. As we walked the land, her story bubbled through her. When our time was over, I felt transformed. The tangled web of my mind was replaced by pure awe for the connection we made and the raw beauty she showed me just by showing up. Here is her story, as best as I can translate through photos and words:

“I’ve just been finding me after my 15 year marriage ended. I’ve lost 65 lbs and my rheumatoid arthritis is in remission,” she said. “Besides that, I find out the results to a medical test this week and thought this would be a good way to shift my focus.

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Dragonflies come to her. Her son is this way, too. And when they don’t physically manifest themselves in moments when she needs connection, they manifest themselves in the clouds. The dragonflies speak to her. 

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“I picked this place because it reminds me of home. I was that kid who would go play outside and lose her clothes.”

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She sat in the stream and told me about another time she sat in the very same place, recording the movement of the water when two heart-shaped leaves floated by. She texted the video to a guy she had started to date after her divorce — a guy who was wearing a dragonfly around his neck that had been given to him by a stranger during a time he served in the armed forces overseas. Six months later, she giggles when she gets a text from him, saying how nice it is when someone cares about how her day is going. I get the sense she’s perfectly okay being alone, but when someone shows they genuinely care, that’s nice, too. I get that.

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I’ve been struck my lightening twice,” she said. I think: you ARE lightening! Pure fucking magic being thrown at me.

 

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My sister passed. She told me she’d come back as a cardinal, so whenever I see one, I cry.” I can tell she is looking for one and feel sad a cardinal doesn’t appear right then.

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Debbie is ridiculously talented at making jewelry. “I let the stones speak to me. I wrap the wire around each stone in the way it wants to be wrapped. Sometimes I have no idea what’s going to happen.” When she first greeted me, I got a tour of her studio. She works with metal and stones. It’s not just jewelry she makes. It’s an entire conversation. (An aside: you should really check out her work).

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Everything has come early this year. Look at this!” and she’s off down the path, showing me something I’ve never seen before. 

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Thank you, Debbie: just by showing up and sharing your story, I was able to let go of my own. This is how we heal. This is how grow.

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If you would like more information on participating in the Spirit and Bone project, you can find more information here.

 

 

 

 

Spirit and Bone: A Call to Wild Women

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

For months (years?), I have been dreaming up ideas of how to utilize my gifts and strengths to help others in a useful way.  Thinking of my own journey, I knew that it would somehow include bringing women out into nature and connecting with their stories through some sort of creative means. No matter how many different versions of this vision I have dreamed up, there are always certain core components I return to: nature, women, and creative healing through various modes of story telling. These are things I know about and can share.

A natural setting is important because that is where I learned to answer the wild call of my soul. When I moved to the country and lived by myself for the first time in my life, I realized I had a lot of healing to do. When I needed to ground and get out of my head, I’d spend hours outdoors, connecting with the beauty of the present moment. I learned how to turn down the volume on the voices that told me how I “should” be and learned to tune into the one true voice of “I AM.” Out on the land, just the trees and me, I truly felt free to be who I am — raw beauty, dirt, skin and bones, and all.

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

Out on the land, I cried my eyes out, clawed at the soil, curled up into a ball, danced with joy, ran through the woods, and felt held and seen and nurtured by something so much greater than myself. The Earth gave me a sense of purpose and belonging. She has been my most powerful teacher, mother, and friend.

I know this is true for so many women. Because that is what the Earth does — she sneaks in, whether through wind or birdsong or rain or mud, she finds her way into our bones.

Sharing our stories is important because this is how we heal. Those of us who have worn a mask for too long and have felt the gentle pull from somewhere deep within to rip off that mask to reveal the truth of who we are have the most profound stories to tell.

I believe that sharing stories, whether visually or verbally, has the power to transform because any attachments to the story can become realized and released. I want to provide a space for those stories to be told.

I know I am not alone in this. So many women are tuning into their inner wild woman and answering their own wild call of the soul. I see it every day. We are waking up.

Have you ever felt so strongly and passionately about something that it is hard to clearly see the steps needed to manifest the vision? That’s how all this felt to me. So when I saw that Carrie Hilgert, an artist and photographer I deeply respect, had manifested a nearly identical vision with her Spirit and Bone project and was looking for collaborators, I jumped at the opportunity. You’ll see why when you read Carrie’s vision below:

Make raw portraits of the inner wild woman. I want to capture your essence in the magic of the outdoors where spirit and bone meet to reveal our most potent selves.

Keep your clothing simple and free. Minimal or no clothing is also an option. Minimal or no makeup. Perfectly styled hair not required.

I want to show you the magic you are.

This isn’t about the photos. This is women, walking the earth together for a couple hours, holding up a mirror for each other’s journey of awakening. Of claiming our lives. Of owning our shit and making our own rules. Of connecting with the earth. It’s a walk of sisterhood, of discussing the subtle nature of growth. And I bring my camera and document the raw, natural woman in the sacred spaces of nature.

No need to perform, only to just be who you are right in that moment. Breathing in the air around you and grounding down into the earth. Simple and beautiful.

 

So, I offer this to you today: an opportunity to participate in this project. Like Carrie said, this is more than just the photos. It’s about capturing something much deeper: the vulnerability of women awakening and the bits of light that connect us all.

To find out more details or to book a session, please visit my Spirit and Bone project page.

 

 

First paddle of the season

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

There is little that makes me happier than launching my kayak into the water and paddling along the pristine waterways of where I live: Honeoye Lake. It’s instant peace. In a silence so loud and clear, everything — absolutely everything — disappears.

That is, until I came upon this goose, whose honking reverberated off the hills and trees:

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

He was a pissed off goose, and I figured out why after my kayak floated into this:

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

He was protecting his lover, who was protecting her eggs. I was so busy getting shots of the pissed off goose that I didn’t even notice her until I looked to my right. You can see the immediacy in her eyes: “Hey human! What are you doing? I’m trying to warm my eggs here!”

Of course, no geese were harmed in this shoot.

And noticing this goose honed me in to the fiddleheads that were unfurling. I do love a fiddlehead — so fuzzy and vibrantly green in their newness:

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

© Heidi Spitzig

I’ve been trying to figure out if these are the type of fiddleheads that you can eat — anyone out there know?