Are you complicating what is really simple?

If coyote has shown up, you may wish to ask yourself…Are you being too serious? Have you forgotten that play time is essential to health? Are you complicating what is really simple? — Ted Andrews, Animal Speak


From the trailhead…
the colonnade of maple
the brook, the path sub rosa
the slight overlook
a shaded crest
relieves the wearied
a slow curved decent
to somewhere else.


Here, the primeval sweep
reveals its community…
tree and shrub and vine
glade and pond, stand
silent in the morning still
but pine song and robin trills
an earthy incense lingers
on low draped mist
revealing change
  night to day
  weary to worship
then sudden breath.


We see each other
suddenly, unstartled…
I heard you singing
I say to her without words
Yes, she nods, and I
heard you breathing

We stand as if in prayer
silent, heads bowed
Can I stay with you?
Greet the day on all fours
howl at the world
rising with the southern wind?
But she is suddenly shadow
  or ghost
  or dream
Namaste, I whisper
heading east to meet the sun.

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, the new book by Jen Payne. Click here to buy your copy today! ©2017, Jen Payne

Why did the turtle cross the road?

“Turtles remind us that the way to heaven is through the earth. In Mother Earth is all that we need. She will care for us, protect us, and nurture us, as long as we do the same for her. For that to happen, we must slow down and heighten our sensibilities. We must see the connection to all things. Just as the turtle cannot separate itself from its shell, neither can we separate ourselves from what we do to the Earth.”

— Ted Andrews, Animal-Speak

Common Snapping Turtle, one (Chelydra serpentina)

Common Snapping Turtle, two and above (Chelydra serpentina)

Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

• • •

Photos ©2013, Jen Payne

A Chance Sighting

I was feeling rather aimless yesterday — from the start of the day at work to the meandering afternoon of house chores. At 2, I set off into the woods for a walk, thinking that might calm my restless spirit, but it remained just so.

Instead of going right, I went left. Instead of the familiar path, I followed a little foot track that curved this way and that in the snow. I doubled back to where I started, once, twice, then found my way to the path by the stream and thirsty trees.

Overhead a heron, in graceful and primordial ease, set down onto a pine branch felled in the fall storms. I stopped. Quiet. Watching as she slowly and meditatively scanned the water passing in front of her.

She saw me then and softly walked several feet down the stream, and I followed. We danced this way, in quiet ballet, until a bend in the river I could not pass.

She continued on her way and I on mine — the chance encounter a salve to my rambling mind, now suddenly quiet.


“They are symbols of balance,” writes Animal-Speak author Ted Andrews of Herons, “and they represent an ability to progress and evolve….The long thin legs of the heron reflect that you don’t need great massive pillars to remain stable, but you must be able to stand on your own.”

“When it feeds, it stands in the water, reflecting a connection to the earth – while implying the exploration of other dimensions on the earth (water element). It is important for anyone with a heron totem to explore various activities and dimensions of Earth life. On the surface, this may seem a form of dabbling, but those with heron totems are wonderfully successful at being the traditional ‘Jack of all trades.’

This ability enables them to follow their own path. Most people will never be able to live the way heron people do. It is not a structured way, and does not seem to have stability and security to it. It is, though, just a matter of perspective. There is security in heron medicine, for it gives the ability to do a variety of tasks. If one way does not work, then another will.”


Like my breath in yoga, I am both expanding and contracting today.

Full inhales of breath open me up and stretch me farther.

Deep exhales draw me inside, grounded.

A desire to set my writing out into the world has me reaching, taking bolder steps. Stating my intentions clearly and with full purpose like full breath.

At the same time, recent health concerns find me going inward, centering myself and my thoughts on healing. Quietly meditating on positive and easy outcomes.

This morning,

as I inhale

and exhale

I spy an Owl perched upon a branch outside my window. It is the second day she has kept watch, and it is magical.

“The Owl is the bird of magic and darkness, of prophecy and wisdom,” writes Ted Andrews in Animal-Speak. Over time, the Owl has been associated with the feminine, the moon, the night, fertility, higher wisdom, protection, clairvoyance. It is believed to have healing powers, and is able to extract secrets from the darkness of the human spirit. Owl brings with it the message of truth and awareness.

In my breath today there is both.

There is an inhale of truth as I claim my words and my story as my own to tell.

There is an exhale of awareness as I listen quielty to what my body needs to say, to the story it has to tell.

And so this morning,

as I inhale

and exhale

it is no surprise that my spirit guide the Hawk alights upon a tree just three branches above the Owl. Hawk is always with me, guiding, protecting. Hawk “can wake visionary power and lead you to your life purpose,” Andrews explains. “It is the messenger bird. Whenever it shows up, pay attention. There is a message coming.”

A message. A blessing. And breath.


• • •

Oh Deer! How Time Flies!

There is so much I have been meaning to write to you about…

Like the day I went to collect pictures of shore birds for you. They were wading out across the marsh at low tide. But then I got stuck in the mud and laughed so hard they all flew away.

And then there was the fairy house I saw on a walk in the woods a few weeks ago. More like a fairy lean-to, but I thought it would be fun for us to imagine a life in the woods, living just like that.

Speaking of a life in the woods, I am reading a book that inspires me just about as much as Thoreau’s Walden did last year. The Power of Myth, with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, is full of amazing commentary about life, god, and the narratives that are woven into our souls. I can’t wait to share more with you, soon!

Meanwhile, there has been a daily occurrence of ant picnics on my kitchen counter. I thought ant traps were a good idea until a PBS documentary about John Muir reminded me of the divinity of all creatures, great and small. I’ve been apologizing ever since!

(You can watch the entire documentary, John Muir in the New World, on the PBS website, here.)

Lest you think it’s just about small creatures, I was delighted last week to spy two sweet fawns in my back yard. I have lived in this house for 13 years and never seen such a magical sight!

Ted Andrews, in Animal-Speak, was quick to remind me that:

When deer shows up in your life it is time to be gentle with yourself and others. A new innocence and freshness is about to be awakened or born. There is going to be a gentle, enticing lure of new adventures. Ask yourself important questions. Are you trying to force things? Are others? Are you being too critical and uncaring of yourself? When deer shows up there is an opportunity to express gentle love that will open new doors to adventure for you.

Ted, as always, is spot on appropriate. Self-care has been a resurfacing concept this summer. A summer which seems, more than anything, to be asking that I realign a great number of things in the name of health and peace. How nice to have a reminder wander into view, right?

I hope the summer has been kind to you, and offered up chances to laugh, wonder, be inspired, remember important things, and see magic!

• • •

©2012 Jen Payne

Answers: Here

There are moments in this life when I cannot find explanation. When searching for why becomes too much to bear. And so I walk off into the woods where, instead of answers, I just find peace.

• • •

“If a dragonfly has shown up in your life, you may need some fresh air in regard to something emotional. You may need to gain a new perspective or make a change.…Are you resisting change when you shouldn’t? Dragonflies remind us that we are light and can reflect the light in powerful ways if we chose to do so. “Let there be light” is the divine prompting to use the creative imagination as a force within your life. This is part of what dragonflies…teach us.

Life is never quite the way it appears, but it is always filled with light and color. Dragonfly can help you see through your illusions and thus allow your own light to shine forth. Dragonfly brings the brightness of transformation and the wonder of colorful new vision.”

— Ted Andrews, Animal-Speak

Photo ©2012, Jen Payne

Auspicious Sightings

Yesterday, as I was walking in the woods, I came upon a frog sitting in the middle of the trail. He humored me for a while, as I chatted about the pretty day and the cool of the shade we had the luck to be occupying.

It was only when I moved a little too close for comfort that he decided to be on his way, and me on mine. Besides, summer bugs are fond of inert bodies, and I knew it was best to be moving mine soon if the buzzing about my ears was any indication.

As I walked away, down the path, across the footbridge and into a small meadow of wildflowers, I thought about how favorable a sighting this was.

– – – – –

Frogs carry an ancient mythology about them. They are often associated with the magic of the elements, the gift of rain, and lunar energies. Frogs have been known to be heralds of abundance. The frog is a totem of metamorphosis, and always has connection to the creative force from which it came.

— Ted Andrews, Animal-Speak

– – – – –

To reinforce the idea of abundance and metamorphosis, a late-morning video from my sister showed some of my nephew’s very first steps. What could be more auspicious than that?

Click here to purchase a copy of Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak.

Photo ©2012, Jen Payne

Sweet Dreams

“It takes a bee 10,000,000 trips to collect enough nectar to make one pound of honey.” — Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

My 16 ounce jar of Swords into Plowshares honey, then, is just that: a jar full of 10,000,000 bee trips.

(Do they get frequent flyer miles?)

Swords into Plowshares is a New Haven-based company owned by Vincent Kay, who started beekeeping in 1982. The name of his company comes from a passage in the Bible:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.— Isaiah 2:4 (King James, Cambridge Ed.)

“I’m not a really religious person,” Vincent told a reporter for the Record Journal back in 2007. “But that particular verse made a lot of sense to me in terms of how people should learn to live together.”

Vincent seems quite pragmatic about many things, actually. I had a chance to talk to him this weekend, when I called to ask about recycling.

“Do you take back your glass jars to reuse?” I asked.

I was just about to toss the sweet little, beehive-esque jar into the recycling bin. But it seemed such a waste.

“I do,” he said. “But I also buy the nicest jars I can find so folks think about re-using them, for rice or beans or things like that.”

I could drop them off at his home in New Haven, he said. We exchanged names and phone numbers — but I was already considering what I could save away in my sweet little jar.

Rice. Beans. Sea glass, perhaps? I have a handful of pale pink pieces from a walk on the beach last week.

Or just more honey.

“The elixir of life is as sweet as honey,” writes Ted Andrews in Animal-Speak, “and the bee is a symbol that promises us that the opportunity to drink of it is ours if we but pursue our dreams.”

Perhaps the jar is for dreams, then? A sweet little spot for whispers of what may be, what will be, what already are…in my dreams.

Wake me up when September

On Friday, I took the opportunity of a beautiful, early September evening to enjoy a walk along the shore in my neighborhood. It’s a different time of day for me, as I am often awake before the sun and asleep before it fully leaves the sky.

I could feel the waning warmth of the day, and the humid purple shadow cast across sky and trees and lawn. The near-full moon was already up and sharing the sky with the setting sun, which poured golden light across the water and the rocks along the coast.

According to The Oracle Report, Friday’s moon was in a Gibbous Moon phase, a time of trust and analysis; on the Mayan Calendar Cycle it is a time of awakening and rebirth.

I mentioned these things because there was something in the air that night — a breath of fresh, perhaps? A sense of change, or alignment. I felt it in my solar plexus, the chakra of our innate power and will.

I was not surprised by this. I’ve said since early spring that I could not wait for September to arrive. A psychic I saw in July echoed the same thought — wait until September, she told me, it is the better time.

Friday, as I slowly found my way home, I saw – up in the darkening sky – the silhouette of a bat, swooping and dancing in the shadows. I stood and watched it for a long while, thinking how lucky I was to witness this evening performance.

The bat, according to Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak, is a sign of transition and initiation.

“If a bat has flown into your life,” he writes, “then it is time to face your fears and prepare for change. You are being challenged to let go of the old and create the new.”

“Changes and transformations are blessings. They are not triggered from without but from within; and the world is our mirror….To understand and enjoy the blessing of change, begin by taking or renewing responsibility for your life. This means opening to the power within which will override all fears.”

“Look beyond the immediate and limited circumstances,” Andrews continues. “There can be no death without there also being rebirth. Everything reflects the divine…. Rebirth and life are found by choosing to follow the flow within. The choice is always ours. Remember that each time you trust your own inner promptings, you chase the fears within the dark corners of your mind away.”

The bat, he explains, is “a symbol of promise amidst the sometimes chaotic energies of change. It reflects the ability to move to new heights with the transitions.”

Andrews compares the message of the bat totem to that of the Hanged Man tarot card. “This card reflects the piercing of new barriers and the opening to higher wisdom. It symbolizes a new truth being awakened. It also implies great strength and stamina to handle the ordeals that may beset you as you open to new consciousness. Its message contains the promise of new horizons and unexpected views about to manifest.”

“The bat is powerful medicine,” Andrews concludes. “It can be trying, but it always indicates initiation — a new beginning that brings promise and power after the changes.”

This morning, as I mediated on the intentions of this blog post, I found the following quote in Permission to Dream, a collection of inspirational quotes.

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment, and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

— Gilda Radner

• • •

You just gotta love serendipity! The Hanged Man, by Roger Williamson, reproduced with his permission. Please visit his website to see more of his amazing creations:

• Click here for more about The Oracle Report

• Gilda Radner quote from Permission to Dream, a 48-card deck of inspirational quotes by Lisa Hammond.

Click here to purchase a copy of Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak.

She does not play small, why should I?

“Which causes me to wonder, my own purpose on so many days as humble as the spider’s, what is beautiful that I make? What is elegant? What feeds the world?”

— Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

• • •

Orb Weaver. Doesn’t that conjure up an image of some great goddess weaving planetary trajectories through the paths of comets and falling stars?

She may as well be a goddess, this nimble and beautiful Orb weaver spider who marks times outside my bedroom window. Like Arachne of Greek myth, she weaves her magic in gestures more remarkable than Athena. Each night, offering up the gift of a newly constructed, perfectly elaborate orb-shaped web from which she gets her name.

I’ve watched for her weeks now, my lovely Orb weaver. During the day, she wraps herself into a corner of the window and rests out the sun. As shadows fall, she positions herself in the center of the web and waits with great and unmoving patience. Is she meditating, I wonder, as I pass her on my way to sleep. By morning, she is resting again, a new web sparkling in the morning sun.

This fascination is new for me—this great and unmoving observance. Fear has always gotten in the way. Fear, and a giant wad of paper towels!

But fear has a way of keeping us from things—new discoveries, new adventures, new connections. So, I’ve been pushing at its boundaries…with spiders. And elsewhere.

“Spider teaches you that everything you now do is weaving what you will encounter in the future,” writes Ted Andrews in Animal-Speak. “Spider reminds us that the world is woven around us. We are the keepers and the writers of our own destiny, weaving it like a web by our thoughts, feelings, and actions.”

“Let your light shine,” a friend keeps encouraging me. We are talking about being our authentic selves—being as great as we are, with no excuses.

It’s a bigger hat than I’m used to wearing. Like watching spiders—I do it tentatively.

He reminds me of a speech by Nelson Mandella, who quotes this passage from Mairanne Williamson’s book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

As we are liberated from our fear…of spiders? I think I will start there.

“If spider has come into your life,” advises Ted Andrews, “ask yourself some important questions. Are you not weaving your dreams and imaginings into reality? Are you not using your creative opportunities? Are you feeling closed in or stuck as if in a web? Do you need to pay attention to your balance and where you are walking in life?”

• • •

Photo ©2011, by Jen Payne.

See these related links:
Orb Weaver Spider
Animal-Speak, Ted Andrews
Mairanne Williamson