Enchantment, Fungi, Nature & Healing

An Enchanted Autumn

It was a crisp morning when I declared to my husband and son, “I really want to reconnect with nature today.” Underneath this longing was a desire to reconnect with myself.

Lately I had fallen into a familiar pattern of overanalyzing—too much research and Googling, too much social media scrolling, and reading too many books on all the things. The more information I consumed, the less clarity and inspiration I found.

That morning I followed my intuition and footsteps, which led me on a path to an antidote. Enchantment. As I ventured into the woods, I unexpectedly found a living field guide of fungi on the forest floor at a local park. At every turn there was novelty and delight. All sorts of mushrooms burst forth from earth’s soulful soil. An autumn rainbow of oranges, browns, reds, and whites peeped out from a bed of pine straw.

I took photos as I often do as a contemplative practice, receiving these images as a gift. Stooping down to get close, I changed perspective. And at ground level I inhaled the earthy scents created by the decay and regeneration process. I was amazed at nature’s art work in these tiny wonders. The colors. The textures. The designs. And I was reminded of the mystery and enchantment that lies beneath as fungal networks stretch out in vast webs. The mycelia of these mushrooms intertwine with tree roots to send nutrients and water to trees in a spirit of reciprocity.

What about this experience enchanted me? There was an element of surprise as I discovered secrets of the autumn forest. It felt pure. Just me and nature. It was a sensory feast that activated my sense of wonder and creativity. And I felt rooted as I connected to beauty and seasonal rhythms.

Words often associated with enchantment include delight, wonder, and magic. It has etymological roots in the Old French encantement meaning “magical spell; song, chorus.” And it is fitting that so many fairy tales take place in the woods—a landscape teeming with life and possibility. A setting to get lost and be found. By opening to nature’s song, it cast its spell on me. And I discovered my own notes.

Enchantment is unique to everyone. For me it is cozy and intimate, yet expansive. It glimmers and sparkles. It is both meaningful and playful. Novel and familiar. Enchantment is a dewy spiderweb. A bunny lounging in a patch of clover. A snail nibbling on a mushroom. A simmering pot of soup. A wren’s morning song. A child’s kiss.

I believe enchantment is an alchemy of curiosity, connection, and imagination. These gifts are available to us on a daily basis if we slow down enough to attune to ourselves and the world around us. And it is a practice that can be nurtured and cultivated. A dose of enchantment may just be what’s needed to soothe what ails us.

For Reflection

Do you remember the last time you felt a sense of enchantment? Was it unexpected or did you seek it out?

Is there a person in your life (now or from your past) who embraces an enchanted way of being that inspires you? One who seeks out wonder in simplicity, the every day, or the small things?

You may want to take a moment to explore your own recipe for enchantment.

Write “Enchantment is…” at the top of a blank page and then write freely without overthinking. It could be in the form of a list, notes, a poem, or prose. Ponder what delights the senses. Tickles the imagination. Warms the heart. And creates a sense of belonging. You may want to incorporate visuals such as colors that evoke enchantment in you or a sketch that symbolizes enchantment.

Consider venturing outside to discover a few special ingredients as I did that October morning.

Ecotherapy, Sanctuary, Seasonal Wisdom, Summer

A Summer Sanctuary

Summer is a season of fullness. It invites both play and rest. Creation and incubation. Exploration and retreat. Wildness and cultivation. Journeys and homecomings. It’s a season expansive enough to hold all of these ebbing and flowing rhythms. I’ve noticed that it gets very quiet in our yard in the afternoon. Birds, bunnies, and squirrels honor the need to forage and play in the cooler hours, while seeking shade and stillness in the heat of mid-day. They tune into their innate wisdom, following their summer rhythms and retreating as a form of self care.

In the spirit of rhythms and self care, I have been contemplating a seasonal sanctuary—a place inspired by wisdom from the natural world and our wisdom within. A space that honors the rhythms of this season as well as our needs and desires. A haven that restores the body. And a harbor of inner hospitality that sustains the heart. This may be an actual location or an imaginary, metaphorical space. Or perhaps a combination of both.

When I envision my summer sanctuary, there is flowing water, shade trees, and the softness of the evening as the sun rests on the horizon. There is respite from suburban noise. There are life giving books, a blank journal, and my favorite pen. A bowl of freshly picked blueberries is close at hand. In this dwelling, I savor the quiet and listen to the voice within. Wildflowers grow freely here, bordering this half-real, half-imagined sanctum of wild peace.

As you ponder your summer sanctuary consider what nourishes body and spirit as well as your natural rhythms. You may want to use the prompts below to explore these ideas through writing or imagery such as a collage, sketch, or watercolor.

A Summer Sanctuary

I imagine . . . (a place in nature, a landscape, or an imaginary space)

With scents of . . .

Sounds of . . .

Textures of . . .

Surrounded by . . .

I am nourished in this space by . . .

A place where I . . .

This season invites . . .

My sanctuary welcomes . . .

My hope is that you will seek out restorative places, find pockets of sanctuary throughout your day, and honor the ebbs and flows as you embrace all the hues of summer.

May This Be a Place
by Stacey M. Hayes

May this be a place of respite when you are weary,
Inspiration when you are stuck,
Calm when there is chaos.
A place of quenching coolness and inner warmth.
A space to reflect, dream, and create.
May you find peace and delight here.
May this be a place of embrace that lovingly holds all that you are.