Heart Stone Feathers

Word Nerd – Feather Finder – Heart Stone Hunter – Synchronicity Searcher Winging It While Lovingly Writing Through Life

Month: January, 2013

Earth Artist

Just one of the many display ponds and gardensmy husband has lovingly created here on our property.

My husband REALLY wanted me to post my current writing assignment as today’s blog post. Because he is truly my right hand and second pair of eyes for each piece I put together, I’m happy to honor his request. Besides, HE is the “Earth Artist” that made these words possible. (In case it doesn’t become clear, the assignment was to “narrow in” on something within a 1/4 mile radius of our home and to write about it from the perspective of a bird, a snake, and a cloud.)


The earth is his easel. His medium of choice is soil with a splash of water for contrast. The yellow fiberglass shovel is his favorite paintbrush.

For years, he has heard people portray him as someone who lovingly resuscitates the land with skin grafts and face lifts of flower gardens and lavish lily ponds. To him, they are individuals who paint with words – an art form he is not comfortable using to express himself.

He never questions his own motives for creating. It is who he is. It is what he does. There is simply no other option for him than to leave the world better than when he arrived. He doesn’t even know there are options, nor would he care to explore them if he did. He lets others get lost in defining exactly what “better” is. He just focuses on creating.

The Great Blue Heron certainly has his own definition of better, even if he can only vocalize it to this man as a series of guttural croaks and squawks. Prior to the unfeathered artist’s arrival, his long-legged life had been spent wading around the intersection of Catatonk Creek and Sulphur Springs Creek, as well as the hope that one day the beaver would be successful at reclaiming their share of the land from the jealous humans who kept tearing down their island dream homes.

He knows he should be satisfied with the magnificent home makeover he received when the wingless one allowed the big machines marked “United States Fish and Wildlife Service” to come in and carve their masterpieces, but he is a fish-eating feathered being that simply can’t help indulging himself when he sees the large Koi smorgasbord swimming at the surface of the shallow pools that emanate in the human’s habitat. Crystal clear and chemical free, the pickings are swift and sweet.

He is actually honored by the lifeless, look-alike plastic statue the bird wanna-be has erected as a tribute encouraging him to come closer. He is further humbled by the earth-bounder’s attempts to imitate his winged idol as he flap-dances across the yard whenever he sees him so near to his home, a speared fish dangling from his magnificent beak.

The Eastern Garter Snake also senses that she is welcome here. She perceives no need to hide in the shadows, unless the sun or the heron’s shadow chases her there. Instead, she proudly displays her sleek, checkerboard body for the world to see. Whether resting flat out on the miles of warmed rock walls that snake-like-her through the garden, laying low on the soft Mother Lode Juniper, or coiled up chest-high in the spiky Bird’s Nest Spruce, the man and his wife protect her from inquisitive eyes and flailing hands. She merely waves in salutation with her tongue to human visitors as they joyfully sing out in octaves they never knew they could reach. Big burly men seem to be able to hit the highest notes.

She can simultaneously bathe and brunch with a mere slither into the pool of her choice. Fresh frog legs and caviar are almost always on the menu. Barn mice suffice on the days when she has to relinquish her pool-side seat to the man-mower and woman-whacker. Afterwards, she rests amongst the safety of the hay bales. Soon enough, she’ll re-emerge into the snake-friendly tapestry that the humans have woven to cushion her travels.

Even the clouds like to linger over this colorful swatch of land. There is an unfamiliar lushness here that quenches their thirst as they drink from flowing water that seems to lead nowhere and everywhere. They literally swell with joy as they mix their life’s blood with the palette of colors below. Rainbows bloom in silent applause. Here, life blossoms like nowhere else on earth.

Word of the Week: Chirme

A Flight Feather of a Different Kind

Falcon Feather Left On The Moon

It’s really not a very good photo, but seeing it certainly has made my life a little lighter. What is it, you wonder? It’s a Peregrine Falcon feather that was dropped onto the surface of the moon by the astronauts of Apollo 15 back on August 3, 1971.

I was a few weeks shy of my fifth birthday when this feather – unbeknownst to me – became part on a famous experiment that demonstrated how falling objects (in this case – a feather and a hammer) accelerate at the same rate, regardless of their mass. In the forty-one-and-a-half years that have passed since then, I never heard about this well-traveled feather until yesterday when a copy of “Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle” (one of two books I mentioned in last Wednesday’s blog post) arrived on my doorstep.

The second the mailman rang the doorbell to let me know the Amazon box was sitting on my porch, I turned into the proverbial kid in a candy store. I dove into the middle of the book, planning on taking a quick peek at the wonders that I just knew had to be woven between the covers.

I never made it past the first page I opened to…..page 133. The one featuring this lunar lying feather.

Supposedly, the experiment was conducted under such a time crunch, that the astronauts didn’t even have a chance to retrieve the feather before they lifted off in – what else – “Falcon,” the flight module that had brought them safely to the moon’s surface. Just knowing that this feather is (hopefully) still gracing the moon with its presence, captivates me.

Why, you wonder? I’m not certain I can adequately explain it. I think it simply has to do with the fact that I believe every world – whether it’s deemed a planet, a moon, a sun, a star – is better with feathers in it. Even if it’s just one.

To me, feathers are such a strong symbol of living lightly – in our own skin, with others, in unison with whatever astronomical object we’re blessed to carry out our lives on – that I feel more hopeful knowing they’re potentially floating around out in space. That or simply lining other lunar surfaces.

Wite-Out Words of Wisdom

Word of the Week: x 1,078

Red-Tailed Hawk Feathers

In last Friday’s post, I introduced my intention to write a “Word of the Week” column every Friday. As a word nerd, it just seems like the perfect way to usher in the weekend.

Since then, I began work on the second level of the life-altering writing course that I discussed in my very first blog post. I was BEYOND thrilled when I discovered that our very first writing assignment focused on – what else – birds! In fact, this was the exact prompt, “You are a bird. Briefly describe yourself. Then describe in great detail the flight from one tree to another one mile away.” With that, I was off and running. OK – flying.

In an attempt to honor my 2013 desire to share my writing, I’ve decided to take a leap of faith and to post the piece I wrote for my homework. Two days and 1,078 words later (give or take a few words, depending on which “word counting” program you use), I think it’s sufficient for public viewing.

I hope you’ll forgive me for momentarily diverting from my “Word of the Week” intent. By choosing the title of this blog post, I tried to reassure myself that I really hadn’t gone astray from that goal (and now you know what “Word of the Week: x 1,078” means).

I would GREATLY appreciate any and all feedback…..positive, negative, or neutral. I can only improve if I’m open to honest input. On that note, I take flight…..

Final Flight

Looking down from her daily perch on the 60-foot-tall power transmission lines that dissected the southern portion of the seventeen acre parcel, Yana saw the protected one begin her own circadian voyage around the perimeter. She was honored to have been her totem Red-Tailed Hawk for as many years as the protected one had resided on this piece of land.

Yana had been unaware that she had such a name until she heard it lovingly whispered on the wind one day as she circled in salute over the protected one. The wind not only explained that it meant “You Are Never Alone,” but that the protected one wanted her to know that she was aware of her presence and the blessed guardianship that she provided.

Yana’s Broad-Winged Hawk cousin had actually been responsible for uniting the protected one and her husband back in 1987 when they were studying the Buteo family in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Now mated for life, as was Yana, they shared many other similarities.

They both stayed true to their voice, even when they were referred to as “screamers.” Stocky in build, but fast when they needed to be, they utilized their energy best by riding the wind and letting it carry them when their load simply seemed too heavy to bear alone. While they both adored their red attire, Yana looked far more fetching in hers. Both also seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time searching for food – one out of need, the other out of greed.

Sadly, the protected one was rooted to the earth and had not been blessed with hawk-eyesight. It was therefore Yana’s job to soar into the heavens and to relay the messages and visions she received to the protected one. It was that insight that gave wings to the earthbound one and – for that – they were both eternally grateful.

The day had finally come though for Yana to pass the totem torch to one of her own young. She had been blessed to witness the arrival of thirteen winters, but it would soon be her time to soar into the depths of the heavens she had only been allowed to skim the surface of for so many years. Serena, her winged daughter, would now be the caretaker of the human.

Yana timed the lift-off from her perch to allow her to effortlessly dip her wings in a final feathery bow to the flightless one she had come to love. The featherless wave of acknowledgement that came from below was all Yana needed to begin her last turn towards the west with a full heart.

As her life was now at a juncture with death, it seemed only fitting that Yana’s final flight would begin at the intersection of Catatonk Creek – once called Tiatachschiunge by the Onondaga Indian Nation – and Sulphur Spring Creek. The breeze arched her smoothly through the S-curve of the historic Tiatachschiunge and her feathers remained unruffled as she coasted along the straight section that ran parallel to Candor Road.

Also known by the the locals as Route 96, this stretch of road lies close to the stream and is often littered with the carcasses of critters that have been impaled by cars going at least 55 miles per hour. Yana had found many a meal during lean times when she scoured that paved hunting ground. An occasional fish feast of white suckers could also be found there, as lazy fishermen and women tossed their filleting efforts alongside the folding chairs from where they had cast their lines. The humans always kept the stocked brown trout to fill their own gizzards.

Continuing west, Yana simply coasted along with the wind that rose from the creek bed. The creek itself varied in depth from a mere few inches, to one section that was rumored by the resident Hooded Mergansers to be twenty feet deep. No hawk dared to verify that information. What they did know was that the creek ranged in width from only a few feet where deer were known to cross easily, to around thirty feet where even humans needed a boat to safely make the shore-to-shore journey.

The lay of the land around the creek had changed severely after Tropical Storm Lee left a river of tears coursing through the area back in September of 2011. Gravel and tree debris coalesced into walls where there had never been any before. Beaver were now taking advantage of the work that Mother Nature had done for them; they were busy from sunrise to sunset shoring up areas that they once found unsuitable.

Yana was never certain which tree species the beaver preferred, but she knew the creek was lined with red maples, willow, multiflora rose, sumac, and ash. She and her mate had been fortunate to find the lone birch tree in the area to weave their home and to raise their many broods.

As there were less than a couple of dozen human homes that had grown their own roots along the creek, Yana’s flight filtered her through the hilly and mostly uninhabited woodlands to both the north and the south. She would miss the days when she soared high above the quiet land to gather the precious messages that she would then pass along to her protected one in the form of molted message-laden feathers.

In leftover memories from a previous life, Yana knew that the patchwork quilt of land below her had been made of earth-tone colors and had been stitched together by fence posts, power lines, telephone poles, meandering roads, and evergreens that abutted various shades of manicured field “fat squares.” The streams were merely appliquéd details. The earthen ponds threadbare spots where cooled lava tears congealed. Human habitations fancy baubles attached to the quilt with their cement and wooden threads.

Before she began her descent into the patch of land she had called her own for thirteen years, Yana soared one final time towards the heaven she would soon gain entrance to. From up high, she couldn’t help but notice that the surrounding creek beds she had flown hundreds of thousands of times looked like an ancient hand of glacial fingers that had long ago left its palm-print on the earth. It comforted her to think that it would still be there for decades to come – or at least long enough to guide her beloved daughter Serena as she too soared heavenward, gathering her own precious messages along the way.

Feathery Anticipation

Feathers Book         The Feather Room Book

What tickles the fancy of a self-professed word nerd who adores feathers? For this chick (yes – pun intended!), it doesn’t get much better than the purchase of books with titles like “Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle” and “The Feather Room.”

Committed this year to “investing” in myself and my somewhat unorthodox interests, I’m happy to report that, as of today, my Amazon Wish List no longer has those two items on it. You can be certain that I’ll now be anxiously monitoring the mailbox for their much-anticipated arrival.

I’ll post a review of each book once I’ve had a chance to read them. If your interest has soared and you simply can’t wait until then, click on the above photos and/or Google (I love that word!) the titles for more details. Both have received high-flying reviews. Of course, based on the subject matter alone, that really doesn’t surprise me…..

A Long-Distance Gift of Wings

Feather Bouquet Gift

Hope arrived on my doorstep today in the form of a large white envelope that had been lovingly gift-wrapped in paper featuring swoon-inducing fancy French words. Simply addressed to Donna McSchwender, a name I’ve only known my sister to use, its “First Class” stamp was an understatement to its contents. The package had made its transcontinental flight from an island off the coast of Washington to the red front door of my home in upstate New York, a mere 117 days after I had been blessed to meet the dear woman who had sent it to me.

The threads of my world became intertwined with those of this lovely lady in an online writing course that I dare say changed both of our lives in ways that we could not have foreseen. Somewhere along the way of sharing our stories, we came to discover that, not only had she actually raised her family in the small town that I currently live in, but we know many of the same people who still reside here. Never had the world seemed so small – so wonderful – so magical to me.

In the approximately 2,808 hours that we have now known one another, this soul sister has given me a newfound appreciation for the cliché of “someone knowing me better than I know myself.” As if the 24 feathers that had been lovingly labeled and placed inside the envelope weren’t enough of a gift, many of them are red, my favorite color. Some even have different colors on the reverse side. And polka dots?!? Oh my!!! Talk about eye candy! I have no idea why she also enclosed the glittery paper “13” (red, of course) that you see in the photo, but – perhaps the bigger question is – HOW did she know that’s my favorite number?!?

It only seems fitting that the container this beautiful bouquet of feathers will now reside in has a quote by Marjolein Bastin (an artist for Hallmark’s ‘Nature’s Sketchbook’ collection) on the lid that reads, “Finding a feather that a bird lost from his plumage is like finding a treasure! Always kneel down and take it as a gift from nature.”

Perhaps in yet another universal nudge, as I was preparing to arrange the feathers in the box, out fell an oId fortune cookie message reminding me to, “Do your work with your whole heart and you will succeed.” It brought a smile to my face as I could envision it being written (or kindly spoken to me) by my new friend.

I understand that some people would look at this pile of reclaimed finch, mallard, turkey, chicken, lovebird, macaw, and African Grey feathers as just another bunch of detritus littering the pathway of their world. I look at them though and I can’t help but see a glorious gift of wings. Something my friend would want me to have, to trust in, and to take flight with.

Receiving such an uplifting and inspiring gift has left me feeling as if my heart is regenerating nerves that died long ago. When and if I do take flight, you can be certain that these 24 feathers will have been sewn securely into my winged cape. Until then, I’ll simply keep gathering more feathers and offering up a prayer of gratitude for every one that falls like yet another gift into my life. Much like the many wonderful friends that have flown into my life these past few months….

Word of the Week: Ananda


The word nerd in me just HAS to dedicate a weekly post to my love of linguistics. As this is my first official week of blogging, my goal is to feature a word of the week every Friday. From the viewpoint of a grammar geek such as myself, it seems like the perfect way to usher in the weekend. I hope you agree.

The term “ananda” entered my world for the first time last November while I was enjoying a free online sample of The Chopra Center’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge™, Creating Abundance. Perhaps it was the way Deepak Chopra uttered the words, but the moment the mantra “Sat, Chit, Ananda” left his lips, I had to stop the guided meditation audio to look up the meaning of such a glorious phrase. I immediately understood the tug on my heartstrings when I learned that the transcribed Sanskrit words mean “Existence, Consciousness, Bliss.”

The word bliss has long been a favorite of mine. The sound, the spelling, and oh-oh-oh the meaning…..simply divine. Bliss encapsulated within itself. Even its Sanskrit appearance is gorgeous.

Ananda Sanskrit Word

I just knew I had to find a way to add such a word to my daily world. As anyone who knows me would agree though, I am NOT the type of person who would actually use such an overwhelmingly positive term in a spoken sentence more than once a decade. No. I’m more of a “mind talker” who finds joy in rolling the words of the world around inside my head and bathing internally in their beauty.

Call it divine intervention by the universe (or whatever you believe in), but around the same time that ananda became a part of my vocabulary, my sister asked me for a Christmas wish list. While searching for ideas on Etsy, an online marketplace overflowing with uniquely handcrafted (as well as vintage) items, I was elated to find the bracelet shown at the top of this post. It was the first item on my wish list. Thankfully, it was a wish my sister happily fulfilled.

At one end of the bracelet, there is the symbol for “om,” another marvelous mantric word. At the other end, there is a lotus flower – significant, as my husband owns a garden center that specializes in aquatic plants.

Namaste and Lotus on Etsy Bracelet

I don’t pretend to know much (if anything) about Buddhism, but supposedly, Ananda was the name of one of the Buddha’s main attendants and disciples. It remains a popular name among Buddhists and Hindus. If I ever had to change my name, I do know that I would be honored to have others call me Ananda. I would literally smile every time I heard my name uttered to the heavens.

A Light Stone

Small Stone #4

Difficult Stones To Cast

My small stones for yesterday and today….

Some days, it can be so difficult to get up and move:

Small Stone #2

Other days, it can be even more difficult to watch loved ones in your life move:

Small Stone #3

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