Tuesday, April 26, 2016

poems with wings

Perhaps I conjure up what I want to avoid? Each April I cannot help but hear echoing throughout the gradually warming days:

"April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain." 
- T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Spring rains accompanied ceremonies of grieving and celebration. The month began with a fire ceremony marking the passing of one friend ...

and ended at our city's botanical center with a memorial for our neighbors whose unexpected deaths while on vacation has me stumbling pass their house in continual confusion and disbelief.  Witnessing the rawness of grief in their daughter's eyes has stirred up emotions that had settled to the bottom of my own heart. Each new drop of sorrow and loss is added to a swelling pool: my mother, my aunt, my friend, my neighbors ... the list swells backwards and forwards.

I suppose that is how it is in middle age. The longer my tenure here, the more I will have to say goodbye. It is the balance to so many hellos. What has become apparent to me with the loss of my neighbors is the urgency to making each hello count. At their memorial service I was made aware that I really hardly knew them. I mean, we would often meet while walking our dogs and talk of neighborly things: the dogs, the weather, our gardens. A little residents gossip and updating on local events. We each had busy and full lives and our worlds intersected in a narrow margin at sidewalks and driveways. 

Hearing their children, grandchildren, lifelong friends and colleagues share their memories was a privilege. For it gave me pause to consider: What will my legacy be? What do I hope to create with this, my "one wild and precious life?" (Mary Oliver) For my neighbors certainly lived full, attentive, loving and passionately engaged lives.

By opening myself up to the vulnerability of deep grieving, I discover within that dark pool immense inspiration. Listening to person after person talk about my neighbors what slowly emerged was a picture of life anchored in love and purpose. That purpose was to nurture within each individual their unique passions, interests and gifts. 

Assisting me in uncovering purpose and meaning are my art journals and words. My own words, yes (scribbled in more notebooks) but also the bountiful collection of words, insights and meaning found in poetry. As David Whyte so astutely noted, all poets eventually become philosophers.  So I gather close by those books, those writers like Oliver and Whyte who offer so many thresholds into deeper meaning and living.

"One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting 
their bad advice--"
- Mary Oliver, The Journey

I lay in my bathtub listening to David Whyte recite the above poem along with other favorites (like Wild Geese) ... the water and the words soothing aches of the body and of the heart.  (I believe what I've found is an excerpted segment from a longer recording of  The Poetry of Self Compassion.) 

Still feeling raw and tender, I am easing myself back into everyday routines. I don't want to lose these gifts of insight. Considering what would be the most loving action I could offer myself, I headed out for a long walk.  Inspiring me is the work of Sharon Blackie and these words which I had read the night before from her new and immensely powerful book If Women Rose Rooted:

"We spend out lives searching for meaning in ourselves ... trained to be ever-mindful of what is going on inside us -- our breath, and our thoughts and emotions -- when so much of the meaning we need is beneath our feet, in the plants and animals around us, in the air we breathe. We swaddle ourselves so tightly in the centrality of our own self-referential humanness that we forget that we are creatives of the Earth, and need also to connect with the land. We need to get out of the confines of our own heads. We need -- we badly need -- grounding; we need to find our anchor in place, wherever it is that we live. Once we find that anchor, so many of our problems fade away. And once we find that anchor, so often we uncover the nature of our true work, the nature of the gift we can offer up to the world."

On this day many winged ones greeted me. To truly grasp I share the same space with these powerful and magical creatures is to crack open some secret chamber of hope and possibility within. The fullness of life - life with stunning and unexpected hellos and life with heart-wrenching good-byes - flew up before me. And it slipped quietly below me. All around me ... and within me. 



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

circles of support

Like a jar you housed infinite tenderness
And the infinite tenderness shattered you like a jar
- Pablo Neruda

You would think given my silence here, I have little to say.


It seems my words (along with images and miscellanea of my days) are filling a growing assortment of notebooks and journals. It actually has become a bit of a job keeping things in some semblance of order ...

It strikes me that my many notebooks are like jars housing the various collections that comprise my ever-increasing curiosity which is the strength and the vulnerability of a multi-passionate creative.  

Or the makings of a looney bird. But I've always admired the eccentric, the independent minded, the cackling and colorful crone making her own damned way thank-you-very-much!

My little neighborhood has been rocked by devastating news. Neighbors on an exotic vacation were in a terrible accident. They won't be coming home. I look out my front window and I see their dog being walked by their adult children and my knees buckle.

They won't be coming home. 

It's not like we need any reminders that life is incredibly short and unpredictable. But we do ... I know I fall into the trance ... that I will have second chances, that I will continue to have options, that I will skirt accidents and disasters along with illness and traffic jams. When the veil drops and life comes crashing in I realize how grateful I am for the many circles of support I've gathered about me. My spiritual practice. My family. My friends. My notebooks filled with reminders of why I choose to live life with an open heart, even though doing so leaves me vulnerable to the pain of loss and grief.

I am grateful to be part of many circles of women choosing to come together to hold space for each other. My own local circle met this past weekend and in the spirit of Spring we each shared what the circle has been for us in the past and what seeds we want to plant for our future. 

what remains after circle ... tea leaves and heart wisdom

I look at my girl and I want for her to know how it feels to sit in circle and to have her experiences witnessed and valued. To be seen in such a manner is powerful beyond words. When I was waiting for our adoption referral, I attended a prenatal yoga training program. At the end of our weekend the instructor invited all of the pregnant women to move to the center of our circle for a blessing. Not being pregnant in the traditional sense of the word, I stayed on the outside of the circle. Afterwards, I shared with another in the training my hurt over being excluded. That I could have gotten up and moved to the center, only occurred to me after the fact. My reaction was fueled by my own exclusion, my own lack of imagination to claim what I wanted.

Thankfully, that woman spoke to the instructor and it turned out a group of us traveled to the airport together. There I was invited to the tiny meditation chapel where this intimate group circled around me and blessed me and my future child with chants of love and blessing. 

I am looking at this book as a possible starting point for a mother/daughter circle.  It is a seedling of an idea ... And until it happens, I make sure when my circle meets at my home to invite my daughter over to say hi. These women - who are my dear friends -  are like her aunties. That she knows she is seen and welcomed and love by each of these women is such good medicine. For my heart and hers.

So I circle back to what supports and sustains me. My creative practice.

My spiritual practice. Family time. Nature.

And circles created by loving hearts and arms. 

I am finding deep support and inspiration through Fierce Grace Collective and Painted Pages Workshop. If you want a good hour or so of inspiration, if you want to be stirred by the question "How can I stretch myself to live fully with purpose, with heart?" then watch this and be ready to link arms.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

void-of-course (moon lessons)

~At the edge of my awareness, I am alert to all that is around me. Eagle has made a home here and every day I hope to catch a glimpse of his wide wings embracing the sky. 

~Running in the park, I come upon a herd of deer. I quickly pause as they pause. We regard each other ... "Hello sisters" I like to say. One seems to nod before bounding off to join the others. I linger, watching for her to take a final glance back at me. Yes, I am here, just as you are.

~Rainy weather means I will find my favorite "Old Man" horse inside at the stables. At 28 he is the senior of the herd. I stand by his stall, one hand on his shoulder, the other held palm facing up towards his muzzle. I send him reiki but really he sends it to me. I watch his eyes soften, his breath deepen, feeling the warmth on my hand, feeling his dreams wash through my body. Green pastures, sunshine, rolling with ease and freedom. I feel him slowly ceding his memories with grace and celebration. It is a gift, this time with him. I quietly sing to him "Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you were ..."

~We head out on a Friday afternoon driving west, arriving in time to watch the Sandhill cranes returning to roost overnight at the Platte River. Every Spring they spend a month here fattening up for the journey northwards, heading to Canada, Alaska and even Siberia. Under the cover of a rapidly descending darkness they fly in. We can barely see them, but we can HEAR them. 

These are the many threads jumbled together in my heart and in my life. I am on a bit of a wild, internal ride - remember Mr. Toad and Wind in the Willows?

Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing ...  

Through a route too difficult to fully explain here (it requires a full pot of tea, an afternoon outside of time and a comfortable seat to relax into) I have been examining and considering my own rhythms and cycles through study of the Moon's. Cultivating a Moon Practice has been a source of immense insight, grounding, and inspiration for me. What has bubbled up as a result of charting my days and studying the energies involved in La Luna's monthly travels is a deeper understanding of my own relationship to these rhythms and energies. What hit me today was understanding how the moon moves through transitions - something I do not manage gracefully or with much ease. That I am wobbling through IMMENSE transitions had not really sunk in until I had it reflected back to me through La Luna's example.

Menopause, the death of my mother, my daughter's transition into puberty - hello?! Transition overload!  Making this all the more intense has been my own impatience with myself. Why can't I figure out what it is I want to be doing with myself? Why can't I settle upon one course of action? Why am I so distractible? How is it months go by and I cannot account for myself, my actions? I realize I am judging my life through the lens of a mindset that is useful when the energy of the season supports growth and development. But in the flux of transition - the letting go in order to open to receive - this kind of thinking (productivity, accountability, results, action) only makes matters more intense given the vulnerability inherent in change or transformation. 

Our culture is seriously lacking when it comes to celebrating change and transitions. And especially so when it comes to women's lives.  To talk about menopause publicly elicits uncomfortable laughter and a quick changing of the subject. I am grateful to the woman I met years ago who shared with me her experience of "hot flashes" as power surges. She described what felt like an umbilical cord of vibrant, alive energy reconnecting her to the Universe. The intensity of the internal heat an indicator of energy awakening her to a new potential in her life. 

Give me a dose of that please. 

The period of time when the moon is void-of-course is when she is shifting from the energies of one planet to another. There is - as this site shares - "a pause in the end of the story." How do I manage endings? I tend to linger, to hold on. As much as I love new beginnings, shifting gears is not a fluid habit for me. I am learning. But it requires mindfulness, patience and care. As I release what was - my life as a daughter, as a in-theory-fertile woman and mother - I am rewiring myself to my world. Creating and laying down new relationships and understanding myself as a daughter of earth and moon. Previously my understanding could be labeled as "solar" - me at the center of my life. But now it is understanding the whole within me and my place within the Whole. Relationship, partnership, community ... it is a lot to digest and I need to allow it - and myself - all the space and time it needs.