For those who don’t know of them, we have the honor of introducing you to the completely amazing tardigrade. Also known as “water bears” and “moss piglets,” these animals have evolved mind-boggling ways of enduring the changeable conditions of life on earth. Remarkably adaptable, they are able to live everywhere—from the highest elevations to the darkest depths of the sea, and nearly every place in between. Tardigrades are able to drastically alter their physiology in response to their environment, for instance, suspending metabolism for up to 30 years. Scientists became interested in these tiny beasts and discovered they are nearly impossible to kill. Tardigrades have been subjected to extreme temperatures (high and low), extreme pressures (high and low), dehydration, starvation, radiation, even the vacuum of outer space. In each case, the water bear survived with its astounding ability to suspend its living processes and—once returned to comfortable living conditions—was able to return to its normal physiology and behavior.
About the spell
This month, we let a wild banner fly in celebration of resilience and adaptability—and the particular magic of very, very tiny things. “Still Here” is a spell to help us remember what it takes to survive. Endurance and hard work have their place, but when conditions are harsh, it doesn’t always serve to just truck on through. Sometimes, what’s needed is a kind of retreat—even if just for a moment—a major simplification of what we are asking ourselves to process, digest, and deliver.
This is a spell about trusting in our passive strengths rather than relying too heavily on our active efforts. We ask you to remember how to get quiet and small without feeling defeated or shamed. There is actually something miraculous in taking a break from all the normal stuff of life—it becomes a wild opportunity to notice more subtle aspects of our survival strategies. Our diaphragm keeps us breathing when we’re deep asleep; our hearts keep beating when we’re staring out a window. This month, we celebrate and bow to that which remains when all other efforts fall away.
Meditation on Still Here:
For this meditation, please find a comfortable place to be and, if possible, enough time to forget about time for awhile. Let your mind have its thoughts and, as you settle into position, begin to watch them. Notice if what you’re thinking also carries any emotional charge—any mood or attitude. Without trying to change your thoughts or feelings in any way, try to watch them as they move through you. Then, refocus this inner gaze towards your breath and the sensations of breathing. Let the thoughts and feelings be—however they are—and let the breath be as you give it your warm and consistent attention.
If you’d like to, hone in on the sensation of exhaling—sensitize yourself to the experience of being emptied of breath. Perhaps you notice the exhale as a kind of dropping down. The inhale comes, and then the exhale releases you down again. Now, see if you can notice the space between breaths—after the exhale and before the inhale. No need to strain here, or stop breathing—keep breathing and breathing and let it take as many breaths as it takes to amplify your attention on the place where no breathing happens. Perhaps you can feel that being empty of air is like resting at the very bottom of it all, before the inhale comes and picks you up again. Be sure to let the inhale come!! Spend as long as you’d like breathing in and out, gradually becoming more and more intimate with the bottom of the exhale… the bottom of your spine… the ocean floor of your pelvic bowl… the stillness of even a few seconds of no-breath. What do you notice is happening in your body now—what is wanting, what is letting go...
If you’d like to take this one step further, you can try to inhabit the emptiness at the end of your exhale, as though you were stretching out to rest on the ground of being. Resting here, see if you can remain while the inhale comes, almost as a surprise. It may take many breaths—and even many times revisiting this practice—to let go of the need to “take” a breath. It is very brave and can feel very strange to trust that the inhale will come without your effort. Resting on the bottom, you are poised to receive—the inhale, yes, but also the life force that offers itself to you through breath. No matter how empty we get, that breath will come and fill us once again. You do not need to work for it, to achieve it, deserve it, or take it. Feel free to spend long moments in this practice, and you may notice that, when the inhale comes and picks you up, you can feel yourself remaining on the ground; and when you are resting, empty on the ground of being, you can feel the force of life remaining within you. No matter where you are, where you go, or how you find yourself, there is that which is always still here.
About the painting:
Corina: About ten years ago, I was researching tardigrades while drawing Portable Fortitude. I thought I might make a tardigrade card for that deck, but never did. I’ve remained fascinated with these creatures ever since, and always wanted to draw them for something. When I learned that tardigrades may adapt so well because they engage in horizontal gene transfer, I delightedly told my sister about what that means—that tardigrades, unlike any other animal that we know of, can steal DNA from everything they encounter and knit it into their own. My sister in a characteristic moment of brilliance, blurted out, “You mean they go a’yoinking!?” For a long time I wanted the phrase on their banner to say, “Here We Go A’Yoinking.” Perhaps someday we will make a calendar of our very, very strange first ideas. Meanwhile, I’m glad we decided on a spell that encompasses more about their whole way of being, as it turns out the yoinking genes part isn’t as crucial to their survival skills as initially thought.
Jocelyn: My sister is a compositional genius. We both got very excited about the idea for this one—even more excited by the sense that we could “get away with it” (whatever that means)—and then I was unspeakably delighted by my sister’s sketch of this fine and miraculous little beast. It’s always a blessing when our images move so quickly and easily from idea to sketch to painting. That was certainly the case with our friend the water bear.
This month's offerings:
2020 Calendar Preorder! We did it! Stay Close, the 2020 Calendar, is completed and sent off to print. Now is the time to preorder! We are going to send out another email about this in about a week, but you’re also welcome to preorder now!
The Big Crafty! For those in the WNC area, Jo will be set up at The Big Crafty this Sunday July 14th from 12-6pm. It will be a fabulous time, so please come visit our booth as you wander through the extensive gallery of beautiful creations.