Hem of my Heart

A poem is like a thread…
Just tug the end gently
And it keeps coming
Before you know it,
Your whole heart is sitting in your lap.

Words are like that
They love to travel together
Make endless lines that
Run on and on and sometimes
Say something grand
But sometimes nothing at all.

Words tumbled on a page
Casually or carefully
Create an image, invite you in
A story told or simply felt
Open to interpretation.

A Poem is made of words
Words and tears,
Words, tears, and callused hands and soft smiles
A human heart, a tattered hem…..
the thread pulled clean out of it.

 

©Marianna Louise Jones 2017

 

 

Finding my Dead~Bones Reclaimed

I have never been a gamer, you know, those who delight in hours down the rabbit hole of an alternate reality created by the enticing electronic stimulus a video game system can provide. I have however known and loved, many who have the obsession. I can now, after weeks obsessing over Ancestry.com, honestly say that I think I understand how they feel. The critic in me would of course say that the mystery I am uncovering is real… not some illusion or story, but my real and true past. But that would be to split hairs, and not serve my story here in any way. I make the comparison to gaming as that activity seems to me unique in its ability to hook and transfix a player into an almost hypnotic state of obsession, willing to forgo many other things in order to be in the game. I know how this feels now.

Beginning with a whim and a trial month for free, I logged on to Ancestry and began entering the names and dates of those dead I know of enough to be able to parse together some actual data about their lives. As these numbers and letters settles in to my digital family tree, the website began to pop up useful tips, data I could then click on and review to see if it matched any one in my own tree…fascinating!
I found birth and death records, military information, lines of kin all the way back to the 1700’s when my people were still living in Scotland, Ireland, England, and Norway. Each time a new hint came up a flush of excitement surged through me. I rarely spend days on my computer, but this feels different. This is an investigation into my people, where I am from, and who I belong to, as well as who belongs to me.

Belong- the prefix “be” is an intensifier, creating a more powerful sense of what is precedes. “Long” to yearn after, grieve for, to anticipate, have eager desire. When we look at even this rudimentary analysis of what belong  really means, quickly it becomes apparent that it does not mean to be accepted by, or part of, as it is commonly used, but it means to long for and be longed for. In a deep, true, lasting and solid way.
This is how I am longing for the kin I never met, the ones whose bones were in the ground long before I arrived here. And you know what? They are longing for me too, across time and space, loving and hoping for me. Not in a passive angelic way, in a way that demands attention and intention. This is the heart of the longing, my dead, want to be remembered, reclaimed, restored into the web of being of all that has come before to make me now what and who I am. Remembered- to gather together and make whole again that which was once torn asunder. Just think of what Dismembered means, and you will get a feeling for Remembered. 

I have written before about this loss and longing that lives so deep inside of me, here on this blog and in poems, some shared, some as of yet still privately tucked away on pages of real paper in fine black ink, the birth place of all my best work. I will link here to a post that will, if read or reread bring greater significance to where I am now heading in  this piece. My Ancestors

The process of discovery that has taken place over this last month has been such a rich exploration, and one I will, I am sure, be sharing about much more as time goes by and I learn more and more. This history is fascinating, like a treasure hunt, I feel like an explorer uncovering lost truths. When I learn a new ancestors name and say it aloud, picture in my own small way what their life could have been like, there is an audible sigh inside of me, a settling, a calling home. They all belong here, and are longed for here, in me.

One of the discoveries that took my breath away was the fact that on my Mothers side of the family, on both her maternal and paternal lines we have kin who are buried here, in the Pacific Northwest. My great grandparents, Alys Mitchell( who in a a round about way my own daughter is named after, as my Alice is named for my aunt Alice who is named for her her grandmother, Alys.), and her Husband Ross St John McClelland are buried in Tacoma WA. My third great grandparents, my mama’s great grandparents on her mothers side, Newton and Amyetta Kirk,  are buried here, in Newberg OR, less than an hours drive from my home, in the Quaker Friends Cemetery.

No one in my family knew this! We knew that ancestors on that line of the family had come west, had homesteaded and built a life. My mom even has stories of them. How each child had to knit there own socks, and they would gather around the hearth at night and knit on the round, a few rows each day so that warm socks could be had for long winter days and nights. No knitting meant no socks for winter. Where there are stories, there is life.
So, these ones were not completely lost to time, but the finding of where their bones lie felt like a small miracle, a piece of who I am that I can claim and physically acquire, tangibly know as my own. I knew the moment I found this out, I would go see them, and soon.

Tuesday one month ago, I woke to clear skies, frost on the ground, a chill in the air, but also a brightness that comes only when cold and clear meet. Not a common occurrence here in Portland. A perfect day to make the drive to Newberg. My Mother and I drove together, enjoying the scenery and the conversation. As close as we live to one another, and as close as we are emotionally, time alone, just the two of us does not happen frequently. A pleasure indeed to undertake this pilgrimage together. Make no mistake, I do not choose the word Pilgrimage lightly. This trip had the flavor of seeking, of travelling with purpose and supplication. We were seeking the bones of our ancestors, no small or slight endeavor.

The night before, I was in conversation with my husband, expressing my joy at the opportunity to visit the graves of my relations, how moving this was for me, and in a sense how I was puzzled by how much it was effecting me. I was as excited as a seven year old on Christmas eve, the burbling feeling in my belly, joy in my throat. He paused and said to me ” when do you think the last time someone visited these graves was?” I of course, had no idea. Having no relations living here from that side of my line I can’t imagine it was recent. His question planted in me a seed of even deeper knowing that my going to visit them was of utmost importance, we are beholden to each other, tied in an invisible but very real bond of kinship that exists through time and space, eternal, tangible, alive.

Arriving at the cemetery, made our way to the office, where a kind man greeted us and walked us to the block where the graves were listed as located. He shared information about the cemetery and the area, and as we came to the graves, kindly left us there to be with our kin. We stood mama and me, and then began to talk, to clean leaves off the graves and the plates in the earth that said “Mother” and “Father”, these stones where placed at their feet, and we saw this throughout the cemetery, simple markings of parental status, claiming of the ones who bore us into this life. More powerful words there may not be, when we get down to it.

I had brought some greens to make an offering, red cedar, rosemary, and some lovely dried red berries from our yard. We set these on the headstone making a rough altar, and lit candles, in small glass votive holders. Then we, holding hands, sang to our beloved ancestors. “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free….”  the only Quaker hymn I know,  every line or two Mama’s voice, or mine would break with a soft sob or shuddering breath. My whole life long I will remember this, this day, being with Mom in the cold bright morning, singing and speaking to our long dead kin. This is closing the loop, this is caring for the bones of our dead, this is solid action to bring this longing for them to light in my life. This is family.

After our prayers and song, we left the candles burning and walked the grounds of the cemetery. Beautiful old trees, headstones of all shapes and sizes. Stopping here and there to read names and sorrow over the death of babies young children, so many dead, so many women suffer that pain of the death of a young one. So much suffering in our past. We talked as we walked, about death and life, what it means to be human and how we can change the death phobia of our culture. I reflect here as I sit to write this, how conversations such as the one I am sharing of now, are a rare gift among mothers and daughters. To talk openly of what our dying will mean when it comes and what we want to have happen to our bodies when we no longer occupy them. This conversation will, God willing, be the first of many on this topic, as we make our way through this life together.

The prayer that is living in my heart, the one that pounds on the door so fiercely is this. May I remember them and may they remember me. May we belong to each other and claim that longing, that kinship, that hugely messy and strife ridden thing that is family. May I live in a way that is of great honor to the ones who came before, may that my way of living cause them to rejoice and call to me from the great beyond, singing to me my way home. May I be worthy of their songs and worthy of the singing of them. And may I not forget, or be too busy, or distracted, to recall that there are bones in the ground that are mine to attend to, and tending those bones is the greatest honor of my life.
May it be so….IMG_0030IMG_0029IMG_0031IMG_0031 (3)

Consequence ~ Grief and Wreckage in my Joy Filled Heart

The deep work in wondering, sorrowing and learning that took place in the most recent session of Orphan Wisdom School, with Stephen Jenkinson, is starting to settle into my bones. Just beginning to form into something I can begin to speak, or write about with some semblance of coherence. What happened there last week, or was it longer than a week now? What magic distilled in the hallowed mead hall has been imprinted on my mind, heart and spirit? This I am still in deep wondering of, and will be wondering until again, we meet next spring at the Iron God of Mercy Farm.

So much is existing in me, my mind feels swirled, upended, fractured. I can only begin to piece by piece digest all that was, in such radical hospitality, placed upon my plate. I had the blessing yesterday of a few hours in the company of my good brother, Gabriel, 9 years my junior. To sit and talk and share, my notes on my lap. He willingly, and even eagerly dove headfirst into the wondering with me. The type of wondering where each answer begets another question, shimmering in the distance, floating in the corner of your eye, tantalizing and untouchable. I longed to stay up all night after our conversation, reading, researching, etymologizing…

One theme came clear for me as a result of being gifted the time and attention to wonder allowed with Gabriel about the mystery that I have entered into in the teaching hall. Consequence~ my own, my ancestral, my lingual…so many layers rolling out before and behind me. It feels too much, too real to be true, too much to bear. The world is too much with us…from my notes, I did not write the name of who originally spoke or wrote these words, but they feel too perfect for this moment to not give them voice upon this page.

Consequence and animism live together in my current inquiry. Let us see if I can bring these concepts here in any from that could be understood by those not sitting beside me in the hall, I will do my best and if I lose you, the time is not yet right for me to speak these words or you to hear them. So be it.

For all of our time here in human form on this planet, until the very recent past and our current time, humans have lived not separate from the natural world, but in, inextricably linked, to the more than human realm that surrounds us. A lived form of animism, breathing within and around us was our way of being and relating to the world. The reductionist Newtonian way of seeing the earth and all creatures and forces that reside therein is a construct so new in the scale of human life, a blip, a heartbeat….the blink of an eye. Yet to us, who live as we now do, days when everything, no everyone( I do not mean only human ones) was infused with the power of life, seem far away, perhaps even trivial or uneducated. We see our way of living and thinking as the right way, the cultured way, the scientifically accurate way.

I can attempt to wrap my mind around animism, in fact it stirs in me a knowing that was strong in my childhood. I knew the trees had fondness for me as I did for them, I knew my fairy houses loved being tended by my small hands, that roses offered their sweet smell and perfect blooming bodies to me in an act of benevolence, and I awed at how the moon followed me as I gazed at her face from the backseat of our station wagon. These remembrances could easily be perceived as a child’s dreaming’s, fantasies of an overactive imagination, or a girl who loved Anne of Green Gables just a little too much. But no, this was real for me, and learning as I have, that this is how most peoples throughout all of time perceived the world, brings singing into my heart again. Our world, our home, this earth and all that rests on and in her, is alive and singing back to me. What a wonder, what a forgotten treasure, and….what a responsibility. Consequence.

In seeing this, it becomes so achingly clear that how I conduct myself in relation to all beings, not only animal, or plant, but All who live here, in all their varied forms, actually matters. It matters a lot. If life extends beyond the human, animal and plant kingdoms, into the realms where life may be harder to recognize as life by my human eyes, then the wake I am creating is far vaster than I have ever know. This realization brings great sorrow to my heart. I feel how hard I have become, how practical. How I participate in the genocide and destruction of fellow life mates, for the sake of my laziness and convenience. Again, I feel I should explain, I mean all that exists here beside us on the earth, from a hand carved wooden spoon, to a spatula from dollar tree.  All these ones we see as only objects, bereft of soul or meaning, all these ones we have forgotten or cast aside. After all, nothing comes to us save through the generosity and sacrifice of our earthy mother. It is all made of her body in one form or another.

I have this sense of thawing out, I have been cold as stone. Growing a granite carving in my chest where perhaps once a beating heart lived. The cold stone covering and numbing so that I don’t have to feel the sorrow we inflict on all around us. The emptiness and poverty of living in a world we see as dead, inert, and soulless. Could I survive in my present way of living if I felt my wake for what it is…
I am finding out. As I allow myself to really see and feel the life I have succumbed too, tended and accepted as my own. The cold stone of my heart melting, allowing the harsh truth to enter my consciousness, the ice drips into my belly, and cold tears run down my cheeks.

It is all too much. My own life, your life, all our lives. Broken from the chain of being into which we were born, fractured from the very life that sustains us, false separation and despair cloaking us from our sweet communion with our living earth, our kin, our birthright. How can I now seeing this survive here? My mind keeps travelling back in time, to our first June night in the teaching hall, when Stephen said “First, I will simply say I am sorry” Many of us laughed. It seemed then a lighthearted thing to say, almost in jest. I had no idea how true it was, how he knew then what now I am just learning. That to embark on this path of learning will cause an inner crumbling of all we thought we knew, of much that we have held dear.

There are things that in seeing cannot be unseen, perhaps you can hide your eyes awhile, hide from yourself for a time, but truth once seen will demand to be seen again. To try to un-see or rationalize or ignore is only a recipe for greater suffering and disaster. It is crack head wisdom, searching for just one more day before you make the terrifying change, before you feel the pain.

The maw of western cultures open, hungry jaws looms in front of me. Demanding to be fed.  Fed by my worry, my adherence to the clock, my chronic sense of not enoughness. Simultaneously the sweet earth calls to me to be seen, the breezes kiss my face, the arborvitae I pass each day on the way to my office wriggles with excitement when I stroke her green body, just as my dog does. These parallel and conflicting realities are both residing in me. Waves of  cognitive dissonance washing over my shores. I am shipwrecked.

My efficient process driven mine is looking for a quick fix, a 3 step process to incorporate animism into my life and arrive at a place where once again my future is planned and steady. This part of my is pissed that I am not complying to its plan. I am not complying because God knows it will not work, there is no 3 step process, hell there isn’t even a 12 step process for this! There are no answers now, only more questions, more ponderings, more palms to the forehead, more tears. I do the only thing I know to do, as small as it may seem. I sit here, typing on these small black keys, finding words to fit this screen, finding out what I need to say as I add line after line to this page.

I made some tea just now, boiling water in my sturdy stainless steel kettle, a prized possession, or should I say, a good friend.. the water boiled quickly, steaming from her spout as I poured over the tea bag. Algonquin Tea – Lucid Dreaming. Herbs from far away now brewing in my mug. A friendly mug, shaped to rest in my hand just so, shaped by other hands, hands I do not know and have never touched. I know this mug so well, the familiar shape so comforting, the warmth of its touch. I love this mug, who brings my tea and coffee faithfully to my lips. I have never heeded how much life is here, in all these years I have never really seen this vessel that serves me so well. Smooth tea, smooth warm lip of the mug meeting my lips, a kiss of sorts. How tender my heart feels in seeing this, in seeing her. Her green curves are subtly female in form. I am awash with gratitude.

I think I’ll take it. Settle in, let my stone heart melt and feel my life. Let my mouth make love to the sweet form of my mug and the smoothness of the tea that slips in to nourish me. I think its worth the pain, of seeing how destructive I have been and will be still, how callous and brash. I can grieve my blundering ways and move forward with contrition. Open to learning how to be a human in this living world. For now I seek communion in this tea, and comfort in a book and my welcoming bed, who oh so gently holds me as I take my nightly rest.

  • the above quote in italics  is from William Wordsworth…This was brought to my attention by a another scholar who has become a dear friend, and who apparently takes better notes than I do! Thank you Jess.

A Mournful Beauty

I spent last week in Ontario, another session of Orphan Wisdom School complete. I am left with the richness of love and heartbreak that this endeavor of learning has filled me with. I would not want it any other way. Before I stepped onto this path all I had was an aching, painful, grey sense that life was not supposed to be this way. I am now learning to articulate in some small and humble way, why it came to be this way and what we are collectively longing for and grieving. Perhaps I should not say articulating, since as I sit here at this keyboard I feel at a loss to even begin to convey the majesty and wonder of what transpired in Golden Lake last week. I am not yet a master of this mother tongue I wield. So I will simply offer here a poem, some of that which comes from the place in me that is digesting, composting, fermenting the learnings that took place. More will be shared when the gods of time deem it right, for now, just this…

Where do the brokenhearted go?
Carrying on their shoulders the weight
of ten thousand years of sorrow
still tall under the burden
eyes open, there is no place to hide.
Let us walk together now.
Lean your troubles on my troubles
Rest your weight against my shoulder
dark times have come for sure.
As we stand to face,
what was behind us, and before us
all along.
The only place I know to go
calls to me so sweetly,
and then howls in the voice of a wolf.
Turn to the river that flows
mound the troubles deep and wide,
this canoe can hold plenty of weight
push of the shores that are no more
let us trust ourselves now to the river
eddies flow around us,
time and abundance carry us on.
Here is my hand…come-come
I will carry the weight with you.

© Marianna Louise Jones 2017

Morning has Broken

Morning comes
sorrow and praise live in my heart together
strange bedfellows it may seem
but no…
All that we love will go
All that we claim will be lost
All hearts that love will be broken
and yet…
The sky pours generous rains
through oak branches
nearly naked now
leaves lie on the soft earth
and are claimed again by her
birdsongs erupt in the still dawn
and I am here
my feet wet on that same soft soil
a heart full of wonder
and eyes to see this beauty
eyes that pour their own generous rain
down the soft curves of my cheeks
Sorrow and praise
resting together in the
dark chambers of my
Heart.

© Marianna Louise Jones 2017

IMG_3930

A golden heart leaf- photo by yours truly. Taken one cool morning on a trail at Elk Rock.

Mine is the Morning

Rising before dawn, greeting the day to come, a steaming kettle, my pen and ink, real writing on real paper. The air is sweet and cool still, Autumns turning feels fresh on my skin, I love edge times. When seasons bleed into each other, chilled mornings and bright afternoons, the potential for change is ripe.

Morning has always been my time, when Alice was young it was the time I had to spend a few minutes alone, frequently writing, praying or a combination thereof, with my morning coffee comfortably beside me. My ritual is much the same, now, Alice may be readying herself for work, or sleeping in. I no longer wake her and ready her for the day. Our relationship is no longer one of hands on parenting in that sense, at 19 she’s now her own morning maker. I find myself with more space for quite goodness, reconciling with the day to come, more writing, some yoga and perhaps an extra cup of coffee some days.

I have this image in my mind of gathering back together, like pieces of a broken mirror, or rough edges of quilt patchwork being lined up before stitching. I feel this way, I am unstitched. Sleep seems to separate me somehow, it is hard to put into words, morning gathering time. All of me arriving in one place, as if perhaps I travelled elsewhere through the night and only now arrive home. Maybe it is so, dreams seem to hold a power and purpose of which I cannot claim to begin to understand.

I have read about the idea of a “power morning.” A purposeful start to the day, early morning achievements to set the tone for positivity and productivity. I have even been accused of this practice by some well meaning folk. This is not so, my morning ritual is one of habit rather than one of virtue. As often as I find myself in simple contentment  I find myself in a fractured sorrow and wondering what the meaning of this all is, if there is a meaning at all. Quiet reverie is lovely and all, but this is real life, and real life hurts.

What I notice in my experience is that this time, be it in joy or in sorrow, connects me to myself. Mornings of bustled busyness and podcast listening as a get ready for work, feel like an attempt to not feel me. A scattered escape into the worlds demands, a diversion from really feeling. Stephen Harrod Buehner, one of the great thinkers of our time says that Descartes got it all wrong when he famously said ” I think therefore I am.” Stephen’s take on this is that ” I feel therefore I am” would be much more accurate portrayal of what it means to me human. We feel, some of us feel a lot. Unless we keep ourselves too busy, distracted and medicated to allow the feeling to enter.

I am a feeler. Sometimes to my great detriment, or that is the perception I grapple with. Sometimes feeling a little less would seem to be an easier path. I often wonder how other people do it, by it I mean make it through the daily deluge of human sorrow, and non human sorrow that surrounds our lives. Yet, I guess I make it too. I am here after all, writing these words as the sun streams in and simultaneously rain falls. A wonderful image for me as a look deeper into the many waves of feeling and being that make up my experience.

My morning rituals help me to bring presence to my life, and create space for the feelings. I settle in the same spot most mornings. A little nest I create on my floor by the bed. A blanket over my legs and a cushion to rest my journal on. A bookshelf serves as my coffee table. I have a view of the oaks from there, and one splendid Big Leaf Maple. Often a cat is resting his head on my shoulder as he sleeps on the bed, and my old Jasper dog curls up beside me. This is my perfect space to think, feel, and write. Sometimes the words I put on the page are beautiful, sometimes a list of fears and worries. It is not so much what I write as it is that I write that makes meaning of my morning time. I have these journal all the way back to my teen years.

I learn myself through writing. I see my patterns, my thoughts, my fears and my beauty. Sitting and sipping a hot creamy cup, breathing and looking out at the trees. Until the words come, and spill forth on the page just as they are meant to. This is my first act. From here the rest of my day grows, and in a sense from here the rest of my life grows. Quite time, then movement, then what ever else may need to happen.

I am in general not a very consistent women. My interests change, I fly off in new directions of fascination and inspiration frequently. I start and do not finish many things. Yet I always find myself back here, pen in hand, and a full heart waiting to pour onto the page. This feels like grace. A small wonder that holds me together, the pieces fitting back in place, a renewal of some sort, or an offering…to who or what I do not know. Perhaps it is an offering to myself, this ritual act of writing. If so, I accept it, and hold alive in me the wish that 70 years from now I will be still sitting and writing, and that birds will still sing to me as morning arises from the dark earth.

Hank’s Poem

This poem was left as a reply to my recent post,A Measure of Worth. Hank has left me poetic responses to a few of my posts and I always treasure his skill to respond to my musings with his own mythopoetic beauty. This one I felt called to share and do so here, with his permission. This makes Hank Delison my first guest poet on the blog. It is with great joy I share this poem here. If you have not read the post I linked above, please do, and you will see the powerful lines of connection that Hank weaves here. A big thank you to you Hank, for your support of my blog and your willingness to share your poem here. The thistles on the header are in remembrance of our mutual Scottish heritage ♥

Worth is a false idea, it is empty.
It was invented a very long time ago
To control behavior.
We accept it as we accept the mountains

There must be a scale
From worth to non-worth
For worth to exist.
And there is no such scale.

For such a scale to exist
There must be a worthiness judge.
For thousands of years people
Have tried to create a worthiness judge.

We have called these judges
God, Gods, Goddesses.
But they have all been false,
Because they are all human made.

But God, Gods, Goddesses are useful.
Priests, holy men/holy women use them
To mold their bit of humanity into
An understandable controllable whole.

What if you do not accept
Worth as having meaning?
What if you accept yourself
As who you are?

Without worth?
Beyond Worth?
Outside of worth?
Worth-less?

Then you cannot be controlled.
You
Are
Free

Delison 2017

I too, am Animal

I wrote this poem last May. While away at my first solo writers retreat. You can read more about that experience here,  A New Old Forest, My Birthday, and the Power of Following my Heart, a few poems are in that post as well. I am sharing  this poem today as it seems to connect so well to my post from yesterday, A Measure of Worth. This inquiry around worth has been burbling inside me for some time, asking to be examined. I do not usually write in rhyme, but for some reason quite a few of my poems from this particular retreat came in the form of rhymed couplets, I do not know how I feel about that, to be honest… but here it is. I desire to share this anyway. Rhymed couplets and all .

I too, am Animal

Swallow does not question God,
he just proceeds to fly
Bear is steadfast in his good,
he needs no reason why.
Deer knows she is worthy,
it was built within her bones.
But somehow, I have lost my way,
can find no path to home.
Otter plays and feeds herself,
she does not need a list.
To track her time and plan her days,
to make sure nothings missed.
Yet it seems that I have chosen,
to live another life.
Away from being animal,
in worry, debt and strife.
I doubt my good, I cannot fly,
I rarely play or fish.
I live my life within white walls,
And always have a list.
To check a box, to prove I’m good,
To set the markers high.
So that I deserve a place to live,
I rarely question why.
Yet somethings shifting in my bones,
I am seeing crystal clear.
That I have picked the short straw,
I would rather live as Deer.
Or Bear or Otter for that part,
live free and take the risks.
Then settle into servitude,
and securities deadly “gifts”.
I’ll tear my hair from its confines,
Let my face grow brown with mud.
And sun and wind and wildness,
feet planted on the ground.
I’ll bathe in rivers cold and clean,
until my skin is pink.
And live on wild berries,
and the shoots and leaves of green,
I return to the Earth,
And her enormous lap.
To suckle on the breast of God,
And never to look back.
Oh, culture you have tricked us well,
But you have not won just yet.
I return to the wild now,
With no pains of regret.
Welcome me home-
Sweet green ground.
Take me as your own,
The bride of life,
The soils wife,
Marvelous and brown.

 

~ Marianna Jones 2017

 

A Measure of Worth

What does it mean to be worthy? This thought has been gathering in the corners of my mind for some time now, and in fact I have done some writing on this line of inquiry, but nothing that seems to articulate the true question I have fermenting in my heart. It is not how does one become worthy, but what does this worthy even mean, and where did this concept originate from?

In Indigenous cultures living their original life ways the idea that one could be worthy or unworthy would seem preposterous. Being human, being alive, you are obviously part of the fabric of life and therefore belonging to your people, sharing in life and community, and the joys and struggles therein. I am reminded as I write this of the stories of early missionaries attempting to bring the concept of original sin and baptism to native populations, who were so thrown off by the idea that they would just laugh at the missionaries. It was preposterous! Of course babies are not born as sinners, what an insane concept that it. I believe those cultures, so much older and wiser then our own, would have had the same reaction to this idea, spoken and unspoken that we all carry here in the west, that we are somehow unworthy and can attain worthiness through actions and appearances. Through becoming something other than what we are right now.

The etymological roots of the word worth come from multiple sources and cultures and vary some through the ages.  Many sources state a connection to value, price or merit. Old English, weorp, has the meaning of high value, equivalent, prized, but also hence, and toward. So you see even woven into the roots of this word we so casually and thoughtlessly use is this idea that we are heading toward something, that we are becoming. My teacher Stephen Jenkinson eloquently speaks about the concept of hope being a cruel sort of tyranny. I would propose that this idea of worth and the false god of hope live very close to one another, perhaps they are even bedfellows.

The idea that hope is anything less than a supreme healing and guiding force has been a hard sell for me I must say. I have long loved and quoted our dear Emily Dickenson’s poem that so beautifully states “hope is the thing with feathers that perches on the soul, and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” It has taken some time, sweat and befuddlement to arrive where I sit today, knowing that in hope we lose the moment we are in, forgoing the life we are in for an illusory golden someday that will, as much as we desire it to, never come to pass. When I fall into judgment of how my life looks, when I question my value in the world, my worth, I collapse into the idea that someday I will be more than I am now. This is a false belief.

I do not mean to say that I will never change, no contrary to that, I am changing all the time. I grow older, and a little wiser. I become more grounded and kinder. All this is true. And yes I can make more money and travel, finally write a book, get in better shape. All this can happen. Yet none of this changes who I am , and none of it affects my worth, or perceived lack there of. I am, by birthright, whole. This idea that is lodged in our culture and thereby in me, that I will someday be more worthy, is an illusion, a false god, a decoy.

I believe that trying to be of more worth, takes me away from the deeper work of  trying to be more me. It isn’t just me suffering with this affliction. I would wager that most of us, living in the west, suffer with this same damaged and distorted thinking. Fall prey tp that false god of perfection and attainment, and go to bed worrying about what we aren’t and what we could be, if we tried harder, if we had more self control, if we had a different set of circumstances at our doorstep. I know I do. I know many nights my last thought is a plan of how I will do better tomorrow, and on waking my first thought is how I will do better today. The idea of just being ok with how I am now, and now, and now…seems almost impossible. What would I do with my life if I was not chasing some ghost of perfection and worth?

The self help world does not help. I can scarcely begin to imagine how many guides to finding your worth, creating self worth rituals and becoming worthy there are lining the shelves of the local new age bookstores. The sorrowful thing is that as well meaning as this all is, it is actually nothing more than a distraction and a fantasy. What if we could simply feel that we were already worthy, that we have great value, that we are in fact mandatory to life as we know it. How would it feel to live in that reality? Awesome, it would feel awesome. You know who would not feel awesome about it? The publishers of self help books, the marketers that sell us products, the fashion industry, the car sales lots. The list could go on and on.

The capitalist, puritanical, colonizing voice of our culture sings loudly in our ears, ‘you are not enough” from the cradle to the grave, and we listen. We listen and we purchase. If we stay distracted by this never ending hunt for value and a sense of worth, we will continue chasing our tails in circles in a dark room. It is by turning to face the faceless voice that beguiles us, and challenging it that we can begin to come into right relationship with our own lives and the lives of those around us. You cannot put a price on that. It is valueless, or, is in invaluable.

As a woman living in North America I am personally deeply and darkly acquainted with this quest for feeling enough, and I see it in other woman as well. We all walk around quoting the same two lies, I am fine, and everything is ok. We say it so much we believe it, we say it so much when another woman breaks the mold, we condemn her. We are our own thought police. Living in cages that we have created and enforced, the cell walls of our own denial of suffering. In failing to speak our fears and inadequacies we add bars to the cage, so that less light can come through. All this is part of the ruthless oppression of the concept of worth and the constant searching and hoping that we can become more worthy and more whole.

I do not know how to banish from  mind and spirit the idea that I am unworthy. I do not know how to disconnect from my cultural conditioning and let go of these thought patterns that live so deeply in me. This way of viewing myself and my life may be here for the long haul. Thank god I do know, that I do not have to believe everything I think, and that shame cannot live in the light. It is dwells in the unspoken darkness and does not care for conversation. In being brave enough to dissect in myself this worthiness lie, and speaking of this process to others, I am putting a nail in the coffin of this manifestation of our cultural madness.

Healing does not happen in isolation, it happens in community. In the community that I share my sorrow, grief and shame in, and in my own inner community. I am learning to welcome home the parts of me that I have been hiding from. Learning that the very things I have felt made me unworthy are actually some of my greatest gifts. Retrieving  the pieces of me that I abandoned and beginning to do the work of figuring out why I abandoned them in the first place. This internal family that makes up who I am.

Instead of measuring my worth, I want to feel my life. Knowing that simply being here is enough.. The pleasures of having a body, a quite moment alone before dawn, the unspeakable beauty of morning birdsong. I am as whole as the birds that sing, as worthy of life’s beauty and abundance as the squirrels that visit each day. I do not have to be, do or change anything in order to claim my place in the order of things. I simply and sweetly show up in my life, and today, that is enough.

 

 

Soul Food

A few weeks ago, the Fourth day of September. I gathered in some of my closest kin, to my home for a very special dinner. It was a celebration, as well as a declaration of who I am and who I am becoming. I invited my beloveds to come, feast and hear, what I could share, in my  own stumbling way, of the learning that was bestowed on and in me in my first session of Orphan Wisdom School.
I prepared food all day long…
A leg of lamb, to honor my Scottish Kin.
A Potatsalat(Norwegian Potato Salad) to bring in my Norse roots.
Fresh cucumber salad, an ode to the bounty of Oregon summer gardens, my homeland.
Bakewell Tart with a British custard sauce, to honor my English ancestors.
The meal was scrumptious, a victory for me as I was creating foods that I had never cooked before, not my usual when having a dinner party. Everything came out so delicious, the timing was right, the flavors on point. I truly enjoyed treating my loved ones to such a feast, that I prepared with my own hands. I also send a shout out here to my little brother, Gabriel who chopped, diced and supported me throughout the last mad dash to get the foods on the table.

The real beauty was in the people around me and the love shared that night. As the food came to the table and we gathered in. I welcomed them, and lit two beeswax candles. One for all those who came before us, and one for my dear sister Sarah who was working in another state and could not be with us in the flesh. She was invited in through the flickering flames of that small candle. I shared a poem, in the place of a prayer, not that there is much difference… the power, the cadence, the same felt sense of the sacred.

As we joined in a spirit of convivium, I shared some of my learning. Although I must say that it felt like a paltry offering in the face of the immensity of the undertaking of knowledge imparted to me at school. How could I weave a web that even begins to touch the depth, power and sorrow of my studies? I regret that I could not. Years of learning, speaking and grieving will need to pass before I can do anything close to justice to the grandeur of these teaching.

And yet, that is not really the point. My heart is called to this work and I have answered that call. I gathered in my loved ones and welcomed them into this piece of my life which is so sacred to me. I cooked for them with the wood chips saved from a spoon I carved in Ontario, each chip seen as the sacred thread of the web of life it is. I blessed the food with song an prayer. I wove into each mouthful the bit of grace I have to offer, and offer it I did. My ancestors, back and back and back, the good, the bad, and the ugly were all honored on this night. All given a place at the table. That is the point. That I showed up in my life to offer of myself, of my heart. And it was received with deep gratitude.

How blessed I am, to have not only a family of origin that holds me and sings my life back to me, but also one that hears the deep call of my soul, and at least for a time, sits with me as I sing my song. My Parents, my siblings, my husband, my daughter and her partner and some dear friends, all there to hear my voice and offer to me their attention and sincere interest. I could not ask for anything more.

I still have some chips of maple, and somewhere in the garden at Orphan Wisdom School lies the spoon that came from that branch. It was carved by my hands, with  a knife made completely by the hands of my husband. The chips may long to be wedded again to the body of the spoon but they are with me. Saved for a time when I can again light a fire and offer their fragile bodies to the flame that cooks another meal, one I will share with my dear sister, Sarah. I will tell her then the story that I need to tell, and gather her into my heart and the folds of my learning.

This meal, this learning, this sorrow in my heart. It is all part of my becoming. Becoming a woman of consequence. Holding my place in this world. Owning my life and living on purpose and with purpose. I matter. You matter. We matter. As humans we come in with original gifts, our offerings, our destiny. I am on the road of destiny, I cannot call it a happy one. I can only say that this grief soaked time in which we live is all I know and I will walk it faithfully until my end time comes.  And as I walk I will gather my people in, offer a hand and say in my strong clear voice ” welcome home, let us feed our souls together”

OWS1OWS3