Oaks, Spiders, and Miracles in the Desert

 In Interspecies Awareness and Wisdom

14711138_1086566811438607_6098995232257549048_oThis is a post about recognizing miracles…the miracles that surround us every day in our life here on our beloved and magnificent planet…the miracles that are available to us if we take the time to soften, get quiet, pay attention, and stay awake.

Our 10-day women’s canoe trip retreat on the Green River last month was full of magic, mystery, miracles, and, well….a LOT of rain. And wind. And more rain. And then some more wind. And the river rose high and the sandbars disappeared and there was mud, mud, mud, glorious mud…everywhere.

We christened it: The Year of the Tarp.

The weather spirits challenged us…and the canyon protected us. We were blessed with amazing campsites and safe places to lay over for the worst of the weather. We had a full double rainbow after the first, and worst, storm.


Our group of women, many new to the wilderness, responded to the challenges with love and kindness toward each other and us, and remained openhearted and good-humored about receiving all of the facets of our experience…even the muddy, drippy, uncomfortable ones.


And then there were the magnificent beings of the canyon, who taught us, held us, protected us, and supported us. As our group deepened into silence and stillness, rocks,  clouds, trees, birds, insects, plants, the canyon walls…all became our teachers.


One afternoon, weary from the rain, we arrived at a potential campsite. The takeout was hard. Anne and I climbed out of our canoes and up the muddy, steep bank to check out the site. We were tired. Our group was tired.  We knew getting our heavy gear up the slick, steep, muddy bank would be hard. And as we walked next to the canyon walls scouting the campsite, I knew we had to stay. I said to Anne,

“They are already talking to me.”

I could feel a particularly strong pull, a calling, from a beautiful grove of scrub oak trees who were offering to work with our group as our teachers. The place was magical: high canyon walls, the oaks, a perfect cold eddy for swimming and bathing. We unpacked the canoes, hauled up the steep, muddy bank, and made camp.


Anne and I pitched our tents near the grove of oak trees. The next afternoon, our group slowly walked in silence to the oaks, spent time with them, and received their deep teachings. Some of us napped in the welcome shade in the bed of leaves under their canopy. We gathered dead branches, with permission from and respect for the trees, for our campfire.

14500201_10154123994866634_1391603457448201687_oI sensed how the oaks were deeply connected not only with each other in this particular grove, but all with all of the scrub oaks of the canyon, through their root systems, their awareness, and their consciousness. They were one organism, one sentient intelligence, made up of many individuals. They also showed me that they were connected in awareness and consciousness to oaks of all species all over the world: eastern oaks, the great oaks of Europe and the Druid circles…I perceived that all of the oak trees of the planet were sharing each others’ consciousness, experience, awareness, and energy.

And then, just when my heart was so full it felt like it would pop out of my chest, and I thought I couldn’t possibly take in any more goodness and beauty and grace, we were given yet another glorious gift.

As I prepared for bed in our camp under the oaks, exhausted and grateful, I was stopped in my tracks by what I saw illuminated in the light of my headlamp. I didn’t know what I was seeing. Hundreds of tiny, sparkling diamonds glittered in the leaves, branches, and on the low parts of the trunks of the oak trees.

I closed my eyes. I opened them. They were still there. I closed them again. What was I seeing? I had no idea. The nature spirits? An optical illusion created by sleep deprivation and exhaustion? Maybe I’ve completely lost it, I thought…I saw the headline: “exhausted woman hallucinates in the desert…” (yup, I still have these thoughts….)

I called Anne over.

“Are you seeing this?”

I asked…really hoping she’d say yes. 🙂

She did. She saw them.

“What are they?”

Anne got close enough to one of the “diamonds”, and she was able to see with her headlamp what was creating the magical sparkling in the forest:

“Spider Eyes.”


Hundreds and hundreds of them…small, delicate, beautiful spiders…with their eyes reflecting like prisms in the light from our flashlights.

We were sleeping in a nest–a web–of spiders…of elders…of grandmothers…the Ancient Ones.

Spiders of all species carry some of the most ancient and deep wisdom of our planet. We were sleeping among them…they made their homes in the nest of the oak leaves…my eyes filled with tears and my heart nearly burst with gratitude as I realized the depth of this experience.

In our sleep, we were surrounded by, held by, these beautiful, gentle, ancient ones. They showed me their relationship with the oak trees, how they worked together in symbiotic connection and communion…not only sharing their physical lives but also their spiritual awareness and purpose. These ancient ones, gentle giants of wisdom, made their presence known to us.

When I got up a couple of hours later and went outside of my tent, the diamonds were gone. Back under the leaves, back into the earth.

I slept more deeply that night than I’d slept on the entire trip. I knew that the spiders had made themselves known to us not just for Anne and me, but for our group…and also for all with whom I’d share the story.

Their message to us was simple, deep, and profound:

Feel us. See us. Recognize us. Receive our gifts…our wisdom…our gentleness…our strength. Let us show you how we walk on the earth..how we make our homes in the leaves of the oaks…how we sense the vibrations of the earth with our bodies, our legs, how we know the trees and the soil and the leaves and the sunshine and the moonlight…we are in connection with all of what surrounds us. We feel you. We sense you. We know you. We’re available to connect with you. Although we have different bodies, different life experiences, we can exchange our awareness, our wisdom, and our perspective with you. Lie down near our nests, in the strands of our webs. Let us hold you in the dreamtime…let us teach you.

This kind of connection is available to us–all of us–of all species. It requires simply being open, being aware, being present and awake, to what is here…right now…in our bodies, in the land that surrounds us, in the air that we breathe and in the sun on our skin.

We are held in beauty…in miracles…in grace. As we re-member how to walk on the earth this way, in connection, the wisdom and awareness of all of life becomes available to us.

Our bodies…our lives..our planet…our fellow travelers of all species…all are miracles. Miracles surround us every day, in every moment. As we open our eyes, open our hearts, open our awareness to all that surrounds us, life becomes a continuously unfolding blessing.

{special thanks to Emily Busam, Cheryl Nason, and Kerri Toepfer for photos}



Anne Dellenbaugh and I will be facilitating another women’s wilderness retreat in Baja, Mexico: Journey to Baja: Pilgrimage of the Heart March 9-23, 2017. We’ll sea kayak  with the many non-human teachers in the Sea of Cortez, and spend extended time with the blue and grey whales of Baja. We’d love to have you join us!



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