This is a guest post by my friend Valarie Budayr at http://www.jumpintoabook.com and http://www.audreypress.com , author of A Year in the Secret Garden The Fox Diaries and The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factor.  Last week we took a hike together and I wanted to share with you our wildflower pilgrimage close to home.

We took a little adventure a couple of days ago and discovered a Secret Garden right in the middle of the forest. We were hiking in the Smoky Mountains, everyone around here knows that the wildflowers bloom over a few weeks and many of us get out to see the forest and mountain sides bloom out in color.

We took a side path and walked ourselves into an ancient moss covered forest. Surrounded completely by mountains we walked deep into the enclosed valley to discover the most enchanted vision I’ve ever seen in nature.

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The forest floor was completely covered in blooming phlox, may apples and another little tiny white flower I don’t know the name of. Moss one inch thick covered fallen trees and branches as well as the trunks of living trees.

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We were all alone here in this ancient wood. The only sounds were that of a water fall off in the distance, the cacophony of birds and the buzzing of bees.

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One of the most important things missing from these photos is the smell. I’ve never smelled anything as this blooming forest. It made us heady with delight. We spent over an hour in this forest soaking it all in. Soon other wildflower enthusiasts joined us and it was nice to meet people who shared in this moment of Secret Garden bliss.

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I learned a big lesson on this hike, that a Secret Garden doesn’t have to be behind a wall locked away with a key but can be found in our daily wanderings.

This week I challenge you to find a secret garden near you. It might be behind a wall, it might be under a big tree, it might be in the forest near your home, or behind a log that’s drifted in from the ocean. Wherever it is, go and find it! Cherish those hidden moments in nature’s Secret Gardens!

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Egypt in The Big Apple

Lotus pond at Frick

Blue Lotus Pond at The Frick Collection

New York City was my final destination on my mother/daughters odyssey trip in August.  Alexandra is spending this semester studying and interning in Manhattan sponsored by her college.   So with our loaded van, I braved New York traffic.   As beautiful as I found Washington, DC, I found NYC overwhelming.   I had been there briefly a few times but always with my sister.  This time I was on my own to negotiate such an intense city.

We got through the Lincoln Tunnel and found a parking place for the weekend.  My sister offered me her adorable apartment in Chelsea on a charming street.   I managed to get our luggage to the fifth floor in the tiny elevator.  All is so different from my small town life where there is no traffic and ample parking.

Moving day was four days away so we had time for some sightseeing.  I don’t have a big agenda for NYC, I’m not a shopper and a lot of the restaurants and theaters are above my budget.    It is noisy, crowded, enormous and not particularly pretty.    So I went in search of things I love and I found one of my greatest loves in The Big Apple;   Egypt.

The first place I found Egypt was in the Frick Collection, in a spectacular home on 5th Ave which houses a world class art collection.  Just recently, I learned about Henry Frick from watching “The Men Who Built America”.  Frick made his fortune in the steel industry at the great expense of the workers.   Much hated in Pittsburg, he went to New York to spend his money on art and redeem his reputation.   I enjoyed the beautiful rooms and masterpieces but my time with Egypt came at the end when I was leaving.  Hidden in a closed off courtyard were the Blue Lotus which I’ve written about before.   They were essential to the Egyptian religion but have been lost to Egypt for 2000 years.   I gasped when I saw my beautiful flower friends peacefully floating in the pond.

The next day Alexandra and I headed to our most anticipated place in NYC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.    She wanted to see her all time favorite painting by Ingres and I wanted to see the Temple.   In a large glass room is a small Egyptian temple rescued from being flooded by the Aswan Dam.   On the far wall are four Sekhmet statues from the Temple of Mut.   I could sit there all day by this small but powerful piece of Ancient Egypt.   There is also a room of statues of Queen Hatshepsut from Deir el-Bahari, whose successors tried to wipe her from history but where she has an honored place.     I won’t make it to Egypt this year but I got my Egypt fix.

Uninitiated in the mysteries of street parking in New York, I parked in an unmarked no parking zone.  But before going to post bond on my car at the police impound lot, I went to see Cleopatra’s Needle, an obelisk from Heliopolis.  Cleopatra’s Needle is one of three related obelisks found outside of Egypt.  One of the other two is in London near Victoria Embankment Gardens and another at Paris’ Place de la Concorde and now I have seen all three.   Much older than Queen Cleopatra, the obelisk is tucked away behind The Met in Central Park.   The inscriptions have been mostly worn away after 5000 years but there is an interpretation on the railings surrounding it.    I wanted to jump the railings and touch it but with my car already on the wrong side of the law, I decided I had better behave.  So instead I just happily sat in the shadow of this magnificent piece of Egypt.

So like me, if you get tired of the intensities of modern life and cities,  just find a piece of Ancient Egypt and sit and soak up the wisdom of this special land.   And please say a prayer for modern Egypt that it will find peace once again and that the wonders of Ancient Egypt will be secure and the people will be happy and free.

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Smelling the Blue Lotus      Sekhmet Statues from the Temple of Mut

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The Temple of Dendur       Cleopatra’s Needle, Central Park


old lady and flowerschild and llama

Something strange happen when I become involved with Egypt, Peru started to call me too. How could a country on the other side of the world have anything to do with Egypt? I’m not the only one that gets called to these two totally different places. There are many things about those two civilizations that are connected such as the megalithic building sites and their many Temples to the Sun.

I was excited to add South America to my bucket list and happily headed off to Peru with Amaru Li, a Peruvian Shaman and several of my friends who were with me in Egypt during the Revolution. Funny that this little group would go to Peru together but we were so bonded by our shared experiences in Egypt that it seemed natural, almost necessary, to meet up again on the other side of the world.

Just like my Egypt trips, everyday of the trip seemed to be a lifetime. Ollantaytombo, Sacsayhuaman, Caral, Machu Picchu, were some of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever been. I enjoyed the markets and brought home lots of treasures. I loved the children in traditional clothes with their baby llamas. I ate wonderful wood-oven pizza and traditional Peruvian food. We stayed in hotels that were better than anything I’m use to in the US.

I will always have the special memories of Machu Picchu on the Equinox but it was the seeming ordinary experiences that also enchanted me. On the train to Machu Picchu we made a short stop along side of the river. Out of nowhere a tiny old lady and young mother with a baby tied to her back came up beside the train waving bouquets of flowers for us to enjoy and in return asking for a few coins. We opened the windows and dropped coins to them, a happy exchange for the beauty of those flowers.

The evening before going to Machu Picchu we were just ordering our pizza and the electricity went out in the entire valley. The waiter calmly got out candles and the pizza soon arrived. As we walked back up the mountain to our hotel, the quiet and the sparkle of the candles in the restaurants and the intense stars over the ancient mountains was an experience that was magical and romantic. At the hotel desk we were handed candles and headed up to our rooms. No light pollution, no noise from televisions or generators, just the purity of that holy land. Still no electricity in the morning but hot coffee and eggs were waiting thanks to a gas stove. I carried that stillness all day as I explored Machu Picchu, absorbing every rock, plant and llama wandering that sacred mountain. The everyday world receded and only sparkling purity remained.

Two days later we were headed back to Cusco after dark. When we got to the highest point on the road and away from light pollution we stopped to see the stars. Being below the equator, this was a sky we were not familiar with. The Milky Way was a sparkling river through the sky and thanks to an Iphone app we could identify some of the most prominent stars in an ocean of stars on the thick dark velvet sky.

The extraordinary was mixed up with the ordinary and the ordinary combined with the extraordinary, making everything at every moment sacred.

Tours to Peru with Amaru Li   www.theshamanpath.com

Return of the Light

the four directions

Blue Lotus, Egypt, Winter Solstice 2012

What a wonderful day. This long anticipated date has arrived with new energies and new opportunities. My husband and I went to my favorite place to see the sunrise over the Great Smoky Mountains. The cloud cover was low and only a sliver of pink let us know that the sun was above the horizon, the layers of these ancient mountains barely visible.

The new Light of the solstice sun is connecting the sacred lands around the world, from my ancient mountains here in Tennessee to the Andes in Peru, Himalayans in Tibet, and Mt Sinai in Egypt, awakening the ancient wisdom of these places and our ancestors.

Today is a wonderful day because for the first time in 2000 years the sacred Blue Lotus has returned to Egypt, gently floating in sacred Nile water. In every temple are hieroglyphs of this magnificent ancient flower. The Blue Lotus is one of the missing keys to the spiritual knowledge of ancient Egypt. When the Greeks took over Egypt 2000 years ago they systematically destroyed the lotus, and the power of the Egyptian religion. Now the Blue Lotus is back hold the vibration of the new Light in the world.

It is a wonderful day for the Spirit of Osiris has returned to Egypt. I was with my beloved teacher Page on Wednesday and she said twenty years ago her spirit guide told her that the “Spirit of Osiris” would return. She expected it to be a man, maybe the new president but that doesn’t seem to be the case. As she was talking we both realized it was the Blue Lotus that holds the Spirit of Osiris, life, death, resurrection and re-membering. Osiris is about resurrection as Isis “re-membered” him by finding his body all over Egypt and putting him back together so they could create the golden child Horus.

At winter solstice we are celebrating the birth of the golden Christ Child. In a few months near the spring equinox we will be celebrating the resurrection of that same Golden Child. This theme of birth and resurrection is critical to the evolution of humanity returning to the Golden Age. The Blue Lotus holds this energy of birth and resurrection and remembering.

The people responsible for bringing the Blue Lotus back to Egypt have had their own experiences of birth, crucifixion and resurrection in the process of re-membering the energies of Egypt. Modern incarnations of the ancient priests and priestesses, they nurtured the Blue Lotus against great odds so the vibration can once again ring through the land. On this day the Sacred Blue Lotus sings “I am back in Egypt and I Remember”.

This is a very special and symbolic day on our planet. The Light has returned, and the Blue Lotus is once again singing the song of Love.

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Lotus Choir,  Winter Solstice 2012


Continuing or enduring forever, everlasting.

Continuing without interruption, ceaseless.

Blooming almost continuously throughout the season or year.

The last definition of perpetual is definitely my favorite.   I love the idea of blooming continuously.  I don’t think flowers ever get tired of blooming.   They need to have dormant times in the winter to rest and store up for the next blooming season but that doesn’t mean they aren’t perpetually being themselves.

Being a pilgrim on the spiritual path also must have this same “perpetualness.”  There may be times of rest and dormancy but the pilgrim is always at heart a pilgrim.   Spiritual life must be always tended, perpetually renewed or the heart will wither.

A rose bush never declares itself finished.   It never says “I’ve done all the blooming I need to do, I’m good now, I think I will stop here”.  There is always a new branch sprouting, new leaves growing and flowers blooming, otherwise it runs the risk of the gardener digging it out or the flower lover overlooking it.    The same way the pilgrim can never declare “I’ve arrived”.   There are places to explore in each new land.  There are vistas yet beyond that.   New interior layers to uncover and constant changes in our world to push you forward.

Several years ago I read and reread a book that has been very helpful.   Halfway Up the Mountain: The Error of Premature Claims of Enlightenment by Mariana Caplan.  It describes the pitfalls on the path, and there are many.   When a seeker claims “I have arrived at the top of the Mountain” they will be surprised to see there is yet another range to be climbed.    So I am a perpetual pilgrim for as long as I’m alive.   If I’m still breathing then I need to keep blooming.