“Beauty awakens the soul to act.”

Dante Alighieri

Beauty is boundless in nature. From the countless clusters of stars that create the constellations scattered across the dark sky to the multitude of meaningful, microscopic members that mingle and maneuver through the massive, magical world under our feet.  Beauty is almost an effortless feeling or emotion to experience in nature, but often it is the most elusive to embrace within ourselves.  In so much of modern culture, humans have been persuaded to perceive beauty selectively through purposeless parameters, insurmountable standards, exorbitant expectations, and phony filters. Of the infinite species on our planet, there are none that are incontestably insignificant. Each organism is shaped from the same elements, strung together to create the mishmash of macromolecules and other substantial substances that weave together in a unique pattern to fashion its own authentic, beautiful body. By observing the beauty we see in nature – in all its stages, rhythms, cycles, and seasons, we can unearth and embrace our unique beauty and the beauty in others without judgement.

It is easy to recognize the bountiful beauty of familiar organisms or landscapes we see in nature – a majestic mountain view, a spectacular sunrise or sunset, a captivating, brightly colored flower, or balletic butterfly. However, there are obscure organisms and lesser-known landscapes where beauty is concealed and not so conspicuous. We must explore beyond the evident exterior to unearth the elegance of some ecosystems – a forest after a fire, a decomposing log, a vernal pool.  

Vernal pools, or temporary or ephemeral wetlands, are areas of grassland or forest that are saturated with shallow water during variable times of the year. These pools, fluctuating in size and depth, are usually water-filled in the winter and spring months, but dry out in the summer and fall. Although diverse in many water-dependent species, these pools, by definition, lack one particular group of predators – fish.  Seemingly, these sodden, seasonal sites are simply unsightly and insignificant – a breeding ground for a profusion of pests and a muddy, murky mess of a lackluster landscape. Looking closer, we discover vernal pools are vibrant, valuable ecosystems, vital to the organisms that live in these harsh habitats. Many of these animals, several species of salamanders, immeasurable numbers of invertebrates, and infinite numbers of frogs, rely on the pools for reproduction. In form and function, these animals have adapted to survive and thrive amongst the frenzied flow of male and female, the convoluted connections between producer and consumer, and the rapid race against time to fully develop and disperse from the dwindling pool before the dry season.  After the pools disappear, what remains functions as food and fodder for various visitors to the desiccated, dry ground. Natural systems, like vernal pools, are beautiful in every stage – germination, birth, growth, death, decomposition – the entire life cycle – it is all part of the artistry of life – raw, unfiltered, naked beauty. Within nature, ourselves, and others, we often must look deeper than the surface to find beauty and magic.

When we see beauty in all our significant stages of development – through all our cycles, rhythms, and seasons, not just in form, but in function, we acknowledge and appreciate our boundless beauty and the beauty in others without judgement, filter, or expectation. With nature as our timeless teacher, we safeguard not only what we see in the natural world around us, but also our unique beauty and self-worth within.  In addition, we cultivate the other feelings and emotions represented by the mushrooms in our fairy circle – gratitude, love, joy, peace, wonder, and awe – finding our magic as we grow our sense of kinship, belonging, purpose, and harmony.

This post is part of a series beginning with Cultivating Connection: The Fairy Circle Model. Inspired by the fairy circle, a unique and magical phenomenon found in the natural world, I have created a model, or means in which, we as humans, can connect more purposefully and intentionally with nature. I encourage you to read the last few posts to get a clearer picture of the fairy circle model. In addition, I produce a podcast, From the Outside with Sarah C, that explores my relationship with nature and the fairy circle model through stories and essays. It is available on Buzzsprout (click on podcast title), Apple, Spotify, and slew of other podcast platforms. Check it out!

Synthesizing in Stillness

“Sit, be still, and listen.”


Stillness is the absence of motion, inactivity, or inaction. For some, it is nearly an insurmountable state of being. To be still with our whole body takes effort – settling our physical self, suspending our thoughts, and slowing our breath. When we practice stillness in nature, it nourishes our intention to gather guidance from the Earth and frees us to inherit insights from the creative forces that brought us into being. Sinking into our stillness, we find our inner peace, our true power and magic.

The land on which I live is the ancestral land of the Algonquin-speaking Apamatic, Appomattac, or Appomatuck, people. They are one of four sub-tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy. They nurtured the land along the lower Appomattox River, the path I walk along daily. Although the small park is not far from the main road, this part of the river runs wild. As I sit in stillness along its bank, I often visualize the vigorous life that once encompassed this river – the deep love, respect, and kinship for land and water. I smell the wood fires and hear the wafting voices of those that once walked the river’s slippery edges.  

At the Winter Solstice, I had reverently released the people and things that were no longer serving me. As I stood in stillness along the river one cold, cloudy February morning, I listened to its relentless roar. With large amounts of rainfall, the river was foamy and fast moving. Many of the rocks normally peeking above its surface had disappeared under the deep, deluge of water. As I stood along the river’s shore, I felt a shortness of breath, like I was drowning. The ferocious flow fervently brought forth together all that I had released and requested in the months of darkness. What I had set free was swiftly swept away by the current. I was not ready! Come back! Simultaneously, I stood inundated in the insight and intelligence of nature.  As I sat still, the fertile flow of creativity saturated my spirit. Tears of recognition and relief ran over my cheeks. We are never quite ready, but we are courageous and adventuresome. Standing in our stillness, our inner peace, we openly observe natural systems, actively engage our ecological knowledge, and courageously cultivate our purposeful and powerful relationship with nature, recognizing nature’s role in our own lives when we listen.

Sown in Solitude

“Solitude is the soil in which genius is planted, creativity grows, and legends bloom; faith in oneself is the rain that cultivates a hero to endure the storm, and bare the genesis of a new world, a new forest.”      

Mike Norton

Solitude is a simple place where we can connect more deeply to self and to the world around us. It is in this sole space we sit with our state of mind, sort through our sizeable stack of emotions, stand up against our suspicions and skepticism, and settle into the sentient wisdom of our being. Solitary time with nature cultivates our connection to the very source of life, opens us to our creative forces, and places us firmly on the path to healing.  We find our place and power. Without this purposeful, intentional, soul connection with what shapes and sustains us, we truly feel alone.

In October 2018, I left my community where I had lived, worked, and raised my family for 27 years. Feeling stuck in my comfort zone and in my life, I found myself down in the tall weeds and unable to see a clear path to move myself forward. Living in Alaska had been a life-long dream, so I made the decision to uproot myself and move to Wainwright, Alaska, a small, Inuit village wedged between the Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean.  In a month’s time, I purposefully shifted my life from comfortable to chaotic.  Alone and thousands of miles from my home, I was resolved to step fully into my life and the unique landscape that laid bare around me – to the cold, the isolation, the stillness, the culture, the darkness, the solitude, and the silence.

Solitude, even in its discomfort, is necessary for all of us sometimes. It is an opportunity to check in and be fully aware and present in ourselves, to peer into our heart to see if we are still manifesting the life that honors our vision, to explore our reactions and emotions and let go of what no longer serves us, and to sit in the quiet and hear our own voice.  In solitude, we retreat to our center, recognize, and resurrect our authentic self, and raise our resilience.  Through meaningful connections with nature, mindfulness practice, and meditation, we can discover and discern our own divine voice that proclaims our unconditional self-love and worth, our own wisdom, belonging, and purpose.  

The Soothsayer of Silence

“Listen to the silence. It has so much to say.”


This essay is an updated copy of an essay that I posted here a few years ago.

Within the sacred sphere of the fairy ring, silence, stillness, and solitude are the outward ways of being that connect our whole bodies, our breath and our senses, to nature. Silence soothes us to receive wisdom from not only the natural world, but also deep within our own intuitive center.

Silence – the absence of sound.   Quiet, hush.  There is scarcely a sound in the tundra.  The cacophony of the raucous raven. The dark, dotted silhouettes soaring against the winter white landscape. The oscillation of the ocean. Sometimes it is rowdy. Today, it is silent as it shifts slowly from the sway and swirl of its liquid state to its fixed, frozen form.  The never-ending, nocturnal barking of the dogs that often keeps me awake. The raging roar of the wild wind as it blows brutally through the village.  The high-pitched whine of a skidoo.  The hum of the prop plane as it approaches the village.  It is the rife reminder of my remoteness and my sole connection that will return me to the rest of the world.  A selective smattering of sounds, but mostly a continuum of silence. 

Plants begin their tiny lives in silence.  Within the dark soil they remain still in silence, snuggled tight within the seed, awaiting just the right moment to burst forth.  In silence, plants communicate with each other and their pollinators using a fragrant language, a collection of volatile chemicals that in certain combinations, produce “words” and “sentences.”  Together, trees and fungus create a silent, underground, interdependent, communication network that transfers water, nutrients, nitrogen, carbon, and biochemicals between organisms, influencing germination, growth, survival, and reproduction of other trees within the stand.  In turn, trees alter their behavior. Trees and other plants are not growing in isolation. They are connected to the rest of the plant world and receive important messages in silence. We, too, are connected in silence to our source of life, our environment, of which we are an integral part.

Silence provides us space to listen to Nature’s wisdom.  It allows us to pause and position ourselves to hear our own inner voice of silent knowledge, our intuition.  We center our silence in breath, releasing our compulsions that manifest in our mind’s eye. In our calm, we return to heart-centered thought.  It is in the quiet where we can clearly cultivate our relationship with nature and ourselves, creating a silent network of feelings and emotions that relieves us of our isolation, connects us to others, and helps us regain our bearings that are so often lost in a world of chatter and noise.


“The world is magical. Magic is simply what’s off our human scale…at the moment.”

Vera Nazarian

Nature is magic. She provides us with a vast variety of landscapes and opportunities in which to immerse and restore ourselves. Her remedies are limitless. A daily dose of the outdoors saturates our senses and encourages emotions like joy, gratitude, wonder, and awe. It clarifies our thoughts, centers our awareness, and calms our anxiety. Nature’s countless concoctions connect us wholly to ourselves and our own magic.  We ARE nature.

Recently, I spent time in the Sonoran Desert outside of Tucson, Arizona. Living along the East Coast for the last few decades, I was delighted to discover the distinctively different desert flora.  The spectacular species of succulents and copious collections of cacti caught my curious eye. However, none of these significant species of the Sonoran Desert so swiftly swayed my sight as the spectacular Saguaro cactus. These towering, tree-like, time-worn, columnar cacti are the sacred symbol of the Sonoran Desert. The creation stories of the ancestral and present native inhabitants of this land, the Hohokam and Tohono O’odham, are saturated with the sanctity of the Saguaro’s origin and the significance of this species to their subsistence. The Saguaro fruit is faithfully harvested by the Tohono O’odham people and feeds their livelihood.  Each Saguaro is an honorable relative, an ancestor that has passed on, returning to watch over and sustain them physically and spiritually. I, too, felt the presence of the Saguaro. By day, their ancient arms reaching out lovingly to me, welcoming me into their arid, acuminous landscape.  I stood in their prominent presence, human-like in their habitat, hearing their whispers of wisdom. As the light drained from the sky at sunset, their shapes and silhouetted shadows were spellbinding! They danced joyfully! Their acicular appendages extended eternally towards the sky, or encircled a contiguous cactus like the cradle of an ancestral mother or the amorous embrace of a beloved. The Saguaro are people too! Even in death, the woody skeletons of the Saguaro are stunningly similar in appearance to other species, including humans.

As humans, our relationships with other humans are ideally cultivated with purpose and intention. Yet sometimes this may not be so. We sense ourselves still feeling lonely, disconnected, and insignificant. We should not limit ourselves to the human-human experience. We need to explore and expand our interactions to the non-human entities with which we share our creation, our source of life, and our planet. Nature, and life in general, is creative and transformative. Every being has a purpose and a part. In consciously cultivating our communion with the Nature collective, we honor harmony, balance, peace, and beauty as we immerse ourselves as an integral part of the system that sustains us.  Standing fully connected in the bigger picture of Life we discover our planetary place, purpose, and power – our magic.

Cultivating Connection: The Fairy Circle Model

“The Universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”

Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story

A fairy circle, or fairy ring, is a scientifically sound structure, but magical, nonetheless.  Just the presence of the colorful caps of mushrooms supported by sturdy stalks scattered across the dark forest floor, creating a community of kaleidoscopic canopies, leaves me awash in wonder.  Much like the fruiting bodies of flowering plants, these unmistakable umbrella-shaped designs are the sexual reproductive structures of these spectacular species of saprophytes. The fairy ring is brought to life when these prismatic parasols of fantastic fungi, originating from the far-reaching fungal network underfoot, protrude above the ground to create a circular pattern. This awe-inspiring arrangement begins underground as a single spore settling and spreading its small, hair-like filaments called hyphae outwards to absorb nutrients from dead and decaying matter in the soil. Soon, other spores settle and join this covert circle, creating a colony of connected hyphae, a mass network of root-like structure called mycelium. However, the magic of the fairy circle manifests only if the fruiting mushroom bodies of the fungal network appear above ground. These mushrooms are mesmerizing, but short-lived. The fascination of the fairy circle is not without folklore.

There is a myriad of folklore that follows the fairy circle. Most of the stories do not bode well for humans. Fairy rings are the gathering spaces for nature spirits and fairies. Although humans are forbidden to enter the sacred circles, they are a symbol of good luck if you come upon one. I honor and celebrate the fairy circle in my model design for cultivating an intentional and purposeful connection with nature.  If we look above and below the simple ring on the forest floor, we can imagine the 2-dimensional circle as a 3-dimensional sphere – a sacred sphere of life.  Within that sacred sphere, we immerse our whole body to connect to the natural world through stillness, silence, and solitude.  As we deepen our engagement, we explore and experience certain emotions and feelings – wonder, awe, love, peace, gratitude, beauty, and joy. They are the fruiting bodies of our richer relationship with our natural environment. It is in these emotions and feelings where we cultivate our deepest connections with nature, ourselves, and each other – kinship, belonging, purpose, harmony, and balance.  It is here in the sacred fairy circle where we embrace our life source, unearth our place and purpose, and celebrate our magic.

Join me here, as this is the BIG journey for 2023. We can connect in-person and via Zoom for those interested. Look for my podcast announcement as that is coming in the very near future! I appreciate your continued support and look forward to connecting soon!


“Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.”

Doug Larson

Rosemary is the final plant in the series Pondering the Plants of the Winter Solstice. Rosemary is an easily recognizable, pungent herb often infused into our seasonal savory dishes. Its aromatic aura aids in memory and recall. It rouses our senses to remember, recollect, and reminisce.   Memories of by-gone gatherings may muster up a mosaic of emotions and feelings that we must maneuver through in the latter months of the year.  Where I reside, rosemary is a tender perennial and its presence in my winter garden is a fragrant reminder to be gentler with myself amongst my memories.

Ringing in a new year comes with a lot of expectations. Expectations of letting go of our old attachments and ideas, our tired negative self-talk, and our ancient patterns of worry. However, our genetic gifts of consciousness, creative thought, and nuanced, nostalgic tendencies rich in emotions and feelings, make letting go a much more complex construct than a calendar countdown to a new year.  We must wallow through our ego, fear, illusion, and a myriad of memories and muddled feelings – sadness, loneliness, anger, resentment, insignificance, and a loss of control and connectedness.

With some practice and in our own time, we can live fully and free ourselves from suffering, attachment, and mental and emotional fixation.  Engaging in daily mindfulness practice, grounding ourselves in the present moment, setting aside time for sacred self-care, and holding space for and fully feeling our emotions, wholly affirming that it is OK to not be OK.  As we let go of  what no longer serves us, honoring its place and purpose in our growth, we cultivate and carry forward a sense of wild freedom, unbounded happiness, limitless personal growth, and deep, engaging relationships with others.


..”When in that quiet aisle my feet have trod I have found peace among the silver trees,…”

Andrew Greeley

Although not all birch bark is white, in the winter season we often see the bark from the white or silver birch species wired into wreaths. The bark is perceptible as thin, papery plates of peeling layers with a distinct, horizontal, parallel pattern. Seemingly dainty and delicate, birch bark is strong, flexible, and water resistant.  Typically, birch is a pioneer, short-lived species that populates an area after a perturbation. They are widespread in the northern temperate and boreal climates of the Northern Hemisphere. The beautiful birch trees represent renewal, growth, and adaptability. They arise quickly and acclimate easily.

In this time of rest and inner reflection, we contemplate what we intend to cultivate and grow as we welcome back the sustaining solar energy and light into our lengthening days. In our acknowledgement of the Winter Solstice, we can rejoice in our renewal and release our regrets. As the birch, we can arise quickly and acclimate easily if we root ourselves firmly in our grounded center and reach toward the light. We can peel back our tender, fragile layers to expose the essence of our authentic self.  From here, we grow in our resplendent resilience, sensitive, yet strong and pliable, yet powerful.


“This oak tree and I , we’re made of the same stuff.”

Carl Sagan

As part of the Pondering the Plants of the Winter Solstice, I am reposting this essay that I wrote in 2021. It is published here on my blog page and in the Plants and Poetry Journal anthology, Plant People: An Anthology of Environmental Artists.

 Oak is the overseer of the lengthening light and is often burned as the yule log on the eve of the Winter Solstice. It represents long life, endurance, strength, and protection.  In my work, I have an activity in which I ask my participants, if you could be a plant, what plant would you be and why?  My participants are often hesitant to answer, so I begin – I would be a tree – never a specific species of tree, but strong, sturdy, wise, grounded, and deeply rooted, nonetheless.   After returning from a short respite in remote Alaska, I found myself living in a small cottage with a large yard surrounded by forest. In my front yard, grows a gnarled, old white oak tree, Quercus alba.  After observing the life of this time-worn tree over several seasons, I have decided that the queenly Quercus alba is the tree I would most like to epitomize.

Quercus alba, the white oak, is a deciduous tree native to eastern and central North America. Most grow to a height of 80-100 feet and live for 200-300 years. If undisturbed, some trees can reach a height over 100 feet and thrive for 600 years.  Although both its common and species name (alba means white) indicates ivory attributes, the names refer to the lighter, ash-gray color of the bark.  The bark of the white oak is its most distinguishing detail.  Its exquisite, exfoliating exterior is a pattern of imbricate, protruding plates, a thick, vigilant veneer encircling and protecting the vital, living, inner sanctum of this stately species.  This aesthetic armor acts as a shield, a physical adaptation to protect the tree from fatal fire damage.  The wood of Quercus alba is heavy, hard, strong, durable, and naturally water and rot resistant. Artfully used in the construction of ship hulls, wine and whiskey barrels, caskets, and furniture, white oak is a valuable resource that withstands the test of time both in structure and story.  In addition, its acorns are sweeter than those of other oak species, making them the most palatable and preferred food source for forest-dwelling animals, including white-tailed deer, black bear, squirrel, several species of bird, rabbit, and mouse. Native Americans ground the white oak acorns into flour.   The white oak is a species strong and persistent in presence.  Wrapped in its picturesque, protective bark, the white oak’s majestic form grows in grace and beauty. 

Like the worthy white oak, I stand strong and deeply rooted. My unconditional love, unremitting joy, and intuitive wisdom spread out from my sacred center to others, like the farthest-reaching branches of a tree. At 58 years of age, my exterior, a pastiche pattern of wrinkles, laugh lines, age spots, and stretch marks, is as exquisite as the beautiful bark of the white oak.  My silver hair is akin to the ash-gray color. Like the queenly Quercus alba, I am wrapped in a resplendent, but resilient skin. Grounded in gratitude, and sustained by self-love and compassion, powerful and persistent, I continue to age authentically in grace and beauty.  If we lean into our strengths, grow our self-acceptance, and surround ourselves with our protective support systems, we stand strong and endure like the time-honored oak.


Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.”

From The Holly and the Ivy , a song by Andrew Peterson

If conifers represent the peace and beauty of the winter season, then holly heralds as the protector.  It is the sanctioned species of plant in the time of lessening light. Holly’s glossy, green leaves and brilliant, red berries brighten the barren, winter landscape.  Often used in decorative, front door wreaths, holly gleefully greets guests with the classic colors of season. With sharp, serrated leaves, she entangles evil spirits before they can enter. Holly is the guardian of the nature spirits and fairies. If you have ever found yourself encircled by a bent, bowed, bulwark of holly tree branches, you have felt her placid, protective presence.

Holly’s protection is amiable, not armored. Her lancinating leaves let in birds and other wildlife, providing protection, food, and a place to rest. Like the pointed apex of the holly leaf, we have honed our habits to protect us from physical and emotional damage. In this solstice season of darkness, we contemplate our collection of self-preserving behaviors and safeguards.  Our we securing ourselves from a place of peace?  Rooted in peace, we grow in safety from our grounded center. We remain wholly exposed and engage with others more authentically. We surrender our shield of salient insecurities and smooth our sharp, jagged edges to welcome others in.