“Sage – The Wise One”


Sage, photo © David Kopacz, 2018

Joseph Rael and I have just had an article published in the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy entitled, “Sage – The Wise One.” (IJPHA, Volume 6, Issue 4, Spring 2018).


The article is only available through subscription to the journal, or it will be eventually available as a back issue after the next issue is published.

I will just give a few excerpts here:

“I have been working with Joseph Rael, whose Tiwa name is Beautiful Painted Arrow. Joseph is of the Southern Ute tribe, but spent much of his childhood at the Tiwa-speaking Picuris Pueblo, in northern New Mexico. I asked Joseph for some teachings about plant medicine for this article. Joseph often teaches using the medicine wheel and I thought maybe he could teach me about a plant for each direction of the wheel. However, he went straight to the heart, straight to the center of the medicine wheel, and said there is only one plant that we really need to under­stand with the medicine wheel—Sage.”

Sage Smudge

Paua Shell and Sage, photo © David Kopacz, 2018

“I recently visited Joseph in Colorado. While driving around he always talks about different ideas and teachings. Several times he commented on Sage as we were driving. He said when an area opens up, for example if there is a fire or a place is abandoned, “Sage is the first plant to fill in the empty spaces.” That reminded me of something else he had been teaching lately, that “God is in the empty spaces, not in the words.” The word for God in the Tiwa lan­guage of Picuris Pueblo is Wah-Mah-Chi, Breath-Mat­ter-Movement. Breath is one of the ways that we come into a relationship with the plant world. Breath is one of the functions of God, Spirit, or what Joseph sometimes calls “Vast Self.” Breathing in the scents and aromas of plants is therefore working through the spirit of Wah Mah Chi—it is breath moving the matter of plant medicine, connecting inner and outer worlds.”

Sage Woman Becomes Visible to Bless the People

“Sage Woman Becomes Visible” © Joseph Rael, 2008

After speaking about Sage, Joseph continued by speaking about the secret mys­teries:

Mysteries—you get insights into consciousness, but you will not ‘get it’ until you get to a certain level of essence and spiritual understanding.

Secret—in your work, in my work, in everybody’s work, you have to dig it up, you have to bring up the secret from the darkness of the earth and bring it up.

Power of the Purple Sage Being

“Power of the Purple Sage Being,” © Joseph Rael, 2016

We close the article with the following:

“May we have the Sage wisdom to find the place of goodness within our hearts and bring it forth into this divisive world of trauma and suffering. Aho!”


A Short Trip to Walden Pond


I was in Bedford, MA for work recently and it turned out that Walden Pond was just 7 miles away. Our team was able to get away after the course finished one evening and had a lovely time visiting Walden Pond.

I had been to Walden Pond once before, almost 6 years ago to the day: 06.26.12 and had put up a blog about that visit.

This time it was getting near dusk and the light was beautiful on the pond and through the trees.



There was cloud iridescence over the pond.

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We walked back along the pond trail to the site of Thoreau’s original cabin. There is a long-standing tradition of putting stones near the original site of the cabin.


I had purchased Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls and read a little bit of it sitting by the cabin.

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Here are a few quotes from that book:

“Everyone who comes to Thoreau has a story.”

“By the time Thoreau built his house on Walden Pond at the edge of town, he had come of age among a circle of radical intellectuals called ‘Transcendentalists,’ for their belief in higher ideas that ‘transcended’ daily life.”

“Moving to Walden Pond thus had a double purpose: it offered a writer’s retreat, where Thoreau could follow his calling as a spiritual seeker, philosopher, and poet; and it offered a public stage on which he could dramatize his one-person revolution in consciousness, making his protest a form of performance art.”

“In writing Walden, Thoreau encouraged his readers to try the experiment of life for themselves, rather than inheriting its terms from others – including himself.” (Walls, xi-xiii)

[I will pick up the thread of the recent trip to UK and Iceland soon in another blog…]




Journey through Cymru (Wales)

After visiting Little Solsbury Hill, we continued on to Cardiff (Caerdydd), Wales (Cymru), where we stayed with some friends of ours who had recently moved back to Wales after a number years in New Zealand. We spoke about transitions, about what “home” means, and about working to transform the health care system. They graciously let us stay at their cottage in Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) and we drove out to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro).

First, however, we stopped in the town of Neath (Castell-nedd), which is where my Great Grandfather, Iorworth Roberts was born. He immigrated with his family to the USA when he was about four years old. A wrong turn and we ended up at Neath Abbey (Abaty Nedd), so we got out and looked around. The abbey was established in 1129 CE, disestablished in 1539 by Henry VIII, it thence became an estate and in the 1700s was used for copper smelting. It is now a ruins.

We then proceeded to the city where we had brunch, walked around and saw the ruins of Castell Nedd (Neath Castle).


Castell Nedd

We carried on to the cottage and I took a little drive around through Broad Haven (Aber Llydan) and Little Haven (which had the most hair-raising intersection – a narrow, blind T-intersection on a hill with a manual transmission). A lot of the driving was challenging – rather than a proper two lane road, I got to calling the roads 1.5 lanes, or 1.25 lanes, sometimes one lane, and sometimes it even felt like I was driving on a 0.75 lane road! I do recommend being very cautious on these roads. There are periodically little widenings in the road and if you meet an oncoming car, one or the other of you has to back up until you can pull slightly off the road to let the other car pass. I took a little walk along the cliffs, got some groceries and headed back to the cottage. The grounds had a beautiful mural of a badger on the side of one of the buildings.

View St. Brides Bay (Bae Sain Ffraid)

View of St. Bride’s Bay (Bae Sain Ffraid)

BadgerBadger Mural

The next day I headed up to the city of St. David’s. St David (Welsh: Dewi Sant) is the patron saint of Wales and lived c. 500-589 CE. He is often portrayed with a white dove on his shoulder and founded a number of monasteries and churches.

St David Stained Glass @ St. Non's Chapel

St. David Stained Glass, St. Non’s Chapel

Legend has it that St. David was born during a great storm on the coast at a site which now contains the ruins of the Chapel of St. Non, which was built on a pre-Christian site, in the centre of a circle of standing stones. A holy well is located to the east of the ruins.

The Chapel of Our Lady and St. Non was built nearby in 1934. When I was buying some chocolates in St. David’s city, in the course of the conversation I mentioned to the shopkeeper that my name is David and that I have Welsh heritage. She looked deeply into me and said, “You have to go to the Chapel of St. Non, it is a very spiritual site. You have to go there.” I was already planning to and it was a beautiful walk from the city to the coast and well worth it.

Cliffs St Non's

Cliffs Near St. Non’s Chapel

In the 6th century CE, Dewi Sant founded a community near the place of his birth. It was sacked by Vikings a number of times over the years. Construction of St. David’s Cathedral began in 1181 and it is still a functioning cathedral.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit St. David’s is that I have been working on my family tree and genetic heritage. I found a branch of the family tree that goes back to Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132-1197), leader of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth. He fought a long war with the English. He was defeated and imprisoned by Henry II, eventually released and won back his land. He maintained peaceful relations with Henry II after that, but went on the offensive and captured a number of Norman castles in a war against Richard I. Rhys ap Gruffydd is buried at St. David’s Cathedral and there is an effigy of him there. My sister thinks there is some family resemblance, particularly when I pull up my hoodie!

I drove out to Whitesands Bay (Porth Mawr) and hiked along the coast to St. Davids Head (Penmaen Dewi), a finger of cliffs that divides the Irish Sea (Môr Iwerddon) to the north from the Celtic Sea (Y Môr Celtaidd) to the south. This was a beautiful walk out to a site of a series of stone circles which were possibly the foundations of Iron Age buildings. There are also Neolithic structures, such as Coetan Arthur (Arthur’s Quoit) burial chamber which dates back to 3000 BCE. (I unfortunately didn’t realize how close I was to Coetan Arthur and did not see it and had to make my way back to meet my wife for dinner, I spent a lot of time sitting in the stone circles and climbing about on the rocks above them).

Sun Being

St. David’s Head

We had a lovely dinner at Druidstone Hotel and had magical views of the sunset from the cliff, our last night in Wales…

Druidstone Sunset

Druidstone Sunset

Druidstone Wall

Druidstone Wall and Steps


Trip to UK & Iceland

We just got back from a holiday to England, Wales, and Iceland. I’ve got quite a few photos, so I’ll post them in several batches. We had 5 sets of friends we visited, most we knew from New Zealand, although Roberto is an old friend from back when we lived in Chicago.

One of the most striking things to me was how familiar England felt, even though I had only been there once when I was 16 years old. That trip I was very focused on punk and new wave music and came back with a suitcase full of vinyl. I was also interested in castles and we visited quite a few of those. That trip with my family came about because my Great Grandfather, Iorworth Roberts, had passed away and left my mom some inheritance and she felt a good use of it would be to visit the land of his birth: Wales.

England felt very familiar this trip. I think this was partly due to all the accents we were surrounded with in New Zealand. Almost every place we visited reminded me of someone’s accent we heard in New Zealand. Forty percent of the population of Auckland, New Zealand was born in another country and there is a sonic landscape of different accents there. Another factor is that New Zealand, as a commonwealth country with close ties to the UK, has many cultural similarities with the UK. New Zealand also has many UK brands and shops and a few things I thought were New Zealand brands actually turned out to be from the UK, so even shopping at the grocery I found things that reminded me of “home” in New Zealand.

I will share with you, Dear Readers, some of the photos and itinerary of the trip. We will start with England. We took Icelandair, a direct flight from Seattle to Keflavik, with a brief layover (we stayed 5 days on the return trip), then on to Gatwick. I had come down with a bad upper respiratory virus, so the first week and the traveling was a bit rough. We first stayed in Sevenoaks, a little town south of London. We visited Knole Park, with its over 500 year old house.

Knole House

Knole House

Knole Park

Knole Park

We took a day trip to Hever Castle, the family home of Anne Boleyn, who was executed by Henry VIII who then took possession of Hever. Henry the VIII had 6 wives, two of whom he had beheaded, which was part of his break with the Catholic Church. Henry VIII also began the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. Many of the Abbeys eventually fell into disrepair and are now ruins. It is worth noting how much chaos one man in power can create.

Hever Castle

Hever Castle

We took a day trip up to London on the train, disembarked at Charing Cross, walked through Trafalgar Square, through St. James’ Park, past 10 Downing Street, and back to the train. We stopped in a couple book stores and cafes along the way.

Train to London

Train to London

Picadilly Circus

Picadilly Circus

St James Park

St. James’ Park

After leaving the Sussex area, we hired a car and drove West, stopping at Little Solsbury Hill on our way to visit friends in Cardiff, Wales. This was the site of an Iron Age hill fort, dating back to 300-100 BCE. The name “Solsbury” is thought to be related to the Celtic goddess, Sulis, who was worshiped at the thermal springs in what is now called the city of Bath. The etymology of “Sulis” is as follows: “the exact meaning of the name Sulis is still a matter of debate among linguists, but one possibility is “Eye/Vision”, cognate with Old Irish súil “eye, gap”, perhaps derived from a Proto-Celtic word *sūli- which may be related to various Indo-European words for “sun” (cf. Homeric Greek ηέλιος, Sanskrit sūryah “sun”, from Proto-Indo-European *suh2lio-).”

Triangulation Stone Solsbury Hill, Bath

Triangulation Stone, Little Solsbury Hill, Bath in the distance.

Solsbury Hill was also the site of a spiritual experience that Peter Gabriel had around the time (1975) he was leaving the band, Genesis, and starting his solo career. He describes climbing up Solsbury Hill, seeing an eagle fly out of the night and having a visionary experience of hearing a voice that gives him guidance, saying “Son…grab your things I’ve come to take you home.” The song “Solsbury Hill” was his first solo single. Gabriel said the song is “about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get … It’s about letting go.” The song also works with the theme of “home,” whether our home is here amongst our “things” or whether it is elsewhere.


When we climbed up on Solsbury Hill it was warm and sunny, skylarks were singing. I found a stone outcropping on the North side of the hill. I sat for awhile in the warmth and meditated, trying to reach back into the ancient past of the hill and the humans who have lived on and around it.

From Little Solsbury Hill, we traveled West and crossed the border into Wales and we will continue with the journey in the next blog post.