The Soft Animal of Your Body

Lei Lines Sedona Arizona Photo: JoHanna Massey“You do not
Have to be good.
You do not have
To walk on your knees
For a hundred miles
Through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let
The soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.
Tell me about despair,
And I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun
Kairns 3 (1)And The clear pebbles
Of the rain
Are moving
Across the landscapes,
Over the prairies
And the deep trees,
The mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese,
High in the clean blue air,
Are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself
To your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese,
Harsh and exciting –
Over and over
Announcing your place
In the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver










To welcome the New Year I wish to share  a special place. A place  that can appear close, right on the edge of something else. If I am able to get fully present I  experience the exquisite surprise of how multidimensional the world is.

The cairns come and go. Only three times in all my years of visiting have I seen another  human present, building the statuary. Three dear friends whom  I showed the way there to honor the passing of a parent, another to consider health options, and a third before the birth of her daughter.  They still inquire after ‘their special place .’ There are many shoe prints in the area, so there is no magic involved in how these beauties of river-rock get created. Whenever I visit  I look at each of the Cairns, see them varied  as the people who come in my absence. Some to build, and some to dismantle. Their reasons their own, made manifest by their own unique stacking of the rocks.  There is a sense of being part of something beautiful shared sitting among the cairns, listening to the creek.   I often see raven, coyote, scorpion,  jackrabbit, or rattlesnake .

It’s calm, light, and fresh here. A special place to honor, query, listen, and be still.  A good place for psyche housecleaning. Refill mind, body, emotions, spiritual self with the calm light clearness of this special place.

Part of the   Lei Lines,   a vortex, a variation on Medicine Wheel., or just a quiet pause along a creek to stack some rocks in the Verde Valley? Whatever it is,   I know it is a Special Place, and I am happy  to share it with you on this           Top of the New Year. Thank you for visiting with me. Wishing the best and highest for you.

In response to January 1 WordPress Weekly Photo Theme: Circle

Today’s Music: David Crosby- Set That Baggage Down


  1. Thank you, JoHanna, for such a lovely thoughtful post. I loved the poem. Really says what I needed to hear today, as did your photographs and the article you wrote. Thank you.
    Here in Scotland, I found a place up North, on a hillside overlooking a beautiful loch, where there is a cairn field like the one in your photos. Because of its location, it is wild and windswept, yet still it has that tremendous sense of calm. There are little notes tucked under many of the cairns, some encased in little plastic bags to preserve them from the fierceness of the elements in that area, some mere fragments of yellowing paper, the loving words stripped from them and scattered to the wind.
    It impressed me so much that I have written about it in the book I am about to release. One of my characters finds her personal peace there.

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  2. I’ve been to a place of cairns … in Montana it was … it was a place of stillness; it made one hold one’s breath … it made one take root of want to-

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  3. In Greece we don’t have cairns, but we do have magical places. They are the sites of the ancient temples: Delphi, Olympia, Sounion, Delos and so many more. The ancients had a talent for choosing these sites – walking on the old stones, you can feel the energy.
    Having read your post, I would be very tempted to build a cairn…

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  4. I believe that once a person has been to Sedona, it remains in their heart.

    Cathedral Rock is one of my favorite places. I love sharing it with visitors, as well as go to place for a Christmas holiday climb.
    It is so good that you are able to return to visit with your family.
    Thank you for your visit and sharing your thoughts on Sedona.

    Thank you for


  5. I like nature but water is part of humanity’s beginnings. We come from water inside our mother. I love the way waves usually calm me with their constant back and forth, splashing and whispering messages from far away or long ago. Stacking rocks up at Lake Erie we find them in the water, choosing pretty quartzite or granite, sometimes flecks of gems or fool’s gold. We use the pretty ones to leave our mark. Your story of those who consider this their special place was warm and heartfelt. The moments last forever in our memories, Jo. ♡

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  6. Sedona is one of my favorite places. I went to school there for three years and every time I go back, I’m still awed by the majesty of the red rocks, especially Cathedral. I was there last month, briefly, with my husband and daughter, and we were rewarded with the most gorgeous sunset! I’ll post those pictures on my blog soon!

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  7. Widget away dear Aquileana. You have such an interesting and beautiful website.

    Oh, I thank you so much for recognizing the description. I am making an effort to strip my sentences and thoughts down down to what I really want to convey is my experience and perception. That was just such a phrase.

    I so enjoyed your writings on Hermes.

    Love to you my dear. X0X-JoHanna

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  8. The Cairns seems to be a perfect magical and perhaps even mythical location.
    I liked the way you describe it … As A place that can appear close, right on the edge of something else´, before making reference to the world’s multidimensional characteristics…Truly beautiful, dear Johanna…
    On another note, I will be adding a widget from my blog to mine, as I truly like yours and want to place it among my favorites…
    Sending love and all my best wishes. Aquileana ✨🌟 –

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  9. Hi Johanna — Happy to connect with you. Chicken Lady is my sister who lives on a poultry estate with about 500 geese, Indian Runner and other ducks, chickens, pheasants, etc. And five Australian shepherds. She’s not writing much any more; focusing on her superb photography. I continue to blog as Wheatavore (

    The cairns remind me of walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain a couple of years ago, where people had built cairns large and small along most of its length. As with your area, they are alive, built and added to daily (there’s the giant cairn that is Cruz de Ferro in this post, and a smaller one that is a memorial to a pilgrim also in the photos: .

    Pleased to make your acquaintance and see your excellent photos. I look forward to more.

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  10. I love the cairns. I have 4 in my garden. My neighbors like them and they have emulated them in their gardens. Thank you for taking me along to your sacred place which I must say is magical. I felt peace and serenity and as for the builders they may come early in the morning or late in the evening before night time. That has been my experience. It is commendable that you take people you know and they view as a sacred place as well. Be well.

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  11. The cairns are beautiful, and immediately show that this is a very zen place. It’s nice to read that so many poeple are connected spiritually, to nature, and maybe their loved ones. Lovely post for the new year.

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  12. I am trying to build into my life more rituals. When I was younger I saw rituals as simply consuming time I could be using productively. Now I see rituals – like stacking stones as a representation of an important moment or person – as substance. Thank you for writing this, for sharing your special place, for the poem and for allowing us to have a glimpse into your world.

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  13. JoHanna, this is an exquisite gift to us all, as the New Year moves in. The poem and then your sharing of your own experience, and the description of the place brings great peace to my being! Thank so much!

    I’ve built a couple of cairns in our back yard. Though the dogs next door run rampant over the lawn and they have tumbled down more often than not.

    Wonderful song by David Crosby!

    Bright Blessings!


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  14. We stopped through after backpacking in the Grand Canyon. I heard about how pretty the area was. No one mentioned how much there was to do and how big the pretty area stretched out for. I can’t wait to get a chance at exploring the trails. 😀

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  15. Excellent poem and story! And the stacked rocks were so interesting – and even though I cannot hear the video (vids never play for me I the reader. – I like that song and perfect for wpc- 😏❤️

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  16. Yes, The Verde Valley includes Sedona, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Jerome, Clarkdale, Cornville, Page Springs, and the Yavapai-Apache Nation. The Verde Valley link towards the bottom of the post but before the music, will help steer you in the right direction for more in depth information on this beautiful area. Part of Arizona in the United States. Best wishes on a successful transfer.

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  17. Love the cairns. But I have to ask, where is verde valley? I’m hoping Arizona. I’m actually trying to transfer to Camp Verde – Cottonwood area. I’ve heard of vortices near Sedona. Curious if they’re in same area.

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  18. Very much so. I’ve visited this area when there was only narrow space to navigate among the cairns, and arrived at other times and years to find it a blank slate or only a few cairns in place. The peacefulness of the area never changes though, which is probably why the building begins once again.

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  19. WOW! Your special place intrigues me. Many present but not seen as we would see them but they are there! Looking at the pics I felt that I was back on the reservation seeing and feeling those who have gone before me – oh the stories they tell – more than a special place….beyond sacred! Thanks for sharing!!

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