It is Samhain and the moon is full. Samhain and the moon is full and the thinness of the veil is present all around me. This is the beginning of the darkness, the Celtic new year, the time of connection to those gone before, to our old ones and to the fertile, sacred stillness. A magic time to turn within and sense into meaning and rhythm, to ask the questions of our deep selves that have been perhaps hidden in plain sight, the ones we are afraid to ask.
For me this is a time of dying. My old life and ways composting before my eyes. My ability to force myself into the rigor of the do, do, do of this culture falling away. I am no longer able to coerce myself, to occupy the roles I have held, thinking they were my own and now seeing as constructs inherited from an unwell society and the unhealed parts of my family lineage and a traumatized ancestry.
And I am tending the dying this Samhain. My Auntie and Cousin and myself have been deep in it. 7 days now at the bedside of my dearest Uncle, who is walking the liminal line, the space between life and death. He has been without food nine days and without water for seven, and still he breaths, and his heart beats and we sit vigil, we sing, we eat, we talk and cry and laugh. Three women together tending this edge time, we are midwives, weavers, spell makers. The working is thick and deep, alive with potent power and grace.
There is a perfectness to it, a gentleness as well and I am blown open by the love that is present in these walls. These walls made of the clay of this land, thick and strong. Strong enough to hold us up and hold us in as we dance in this space of timeless beauty, of great grief, of tender tending.
There is nothing required, nothing to be done. We are called simply to love and be true and be in presence with each other. Three of us living and one of us living, but also dying. The knowing of his ending is thick around us, it hangs like a cloak on our shoulders. His still breathing body shines with the brightness of the eternal and it seems impossible that soon, he will breath his last. Soon he will leave us in this form, soon it will be three, not four under the shelter of this strong roof and walls.
I find that when I am in the heart of life, as I am now. In the heart of life as I do this dance with death, my words come easily. Poems flow forth, and I have spent some of each day with pen to paper, making sense of life and death through the rhythm and feeling of the pen on the page, and the words the tumble out, I a scribe for whatever it is that moves through me.
I received and image the other morning as I was sitting by my Uncle, of his body thinning out, becoming many, rather than one. As if he was layered somehow, growing more expansive and ethereal, more a galaxy than a star. As I witnessed this I saw also a Raven come, resting on the back of his body, his spine alight with life force energy, connected to the cosmos. The raven bent her head and began to pick at his spine, the base of the spine, somehow unbuttoning or unbraiding him from the corporeal realm, one by one releasing the tethers to his body and his life. This poem arose from that image.
You do not look like I remembered though we have met before – you and I oh walker of the edge place – you one we call death.
Your wings are black- not back of night but black of dawn Black of ebony raven plume black of your beloveds pupil – shrinking and growing with the closeness of your love.
You dark bird who hovers unseen until the end and then appearing vast on the horizon – vast above the bed frame unstitching the woven spine of life with your great black beak.
Morrigan – lady of endings mistress of raven one day you shall feast on my flesh as well.
You circle low above us now so close I can see your breast so close I can see the underside of your beak and the bottom of you scaly feet.
When will you land and sink your talons in claiming this life as your own? the breath keeps breathing -but softer now fly low- fly low we will not chase you away.
Sometimes I go out for a day to ramble, no real direction in mind, no real goal. Perhaps just an inkling of a desire, a thought, a feeling I follow, such as “I really want to get out of the city today.” Or, as it was on a fine sunny day last week, “I wonder if I can find some Elderberries before first frost?”
There is something of the eternal in days like this when I leave all sense of “should” behind and follow my senses and the wise old beat of my heart. I drove up 26 that day towards the mountain, reveling in an unexpected day of freedom, and in my solitude, which is becoming increasingly comfortable for me as I adjust to life as a single woman again. 18 years in partnership left me far away from myself, on many levels, and these days half of what I do is simply learn to be me, on my own. This demands more of me than one could know unless they have traveled a similar path.
The sun was bright and shone in that early autumnal way, where gold fills all the spaces between, and the light imbues everything with a certain magic. Colors are brighter, or perhaps just different somehow, the sun hanging lower in the sky as we weave our way towards winter. Or maybe it is the knowing that days like that are few to come over the impending long darkness of winter in the Pacific Northwest, either way, the spell of the light was thick and lent itself greatly to the beauty of the day and my sense of enchantment.
I am a baby forager. By this, I do not mean that I forage for babies, in case you were beginning to worry and wonder if perhaps you are on the wrong blog. No, I tend to leave babies with their parents unless called into Auntie duty. I mean simply that my knowledge and skills in finding wild food are still growing and quite undeveloped as of yet. This being so, I was thrilled to see the plump clusters of dark purple my eyes were searching for, just off the roadside, even while traveling 45 miles an hour. I pulled over, flipped a U-turn, and parked on the shoulder. Basket in hand I made my way to the Elderberry bushes, and after a word of gratitude and a prayer of asking for permission to harvest, I began. Those deep blue, purple fruits, so tiny and fine, coming easily into my basket as if there was no place on earth they would rather be.
I am stunned, awestruck by the generosity of the earth with great frequency. Especially in my garden that freely gives me mountains of cabbage and potatoes, beans, corn, and beets. Yet there is some real labor involved on my end, a bit of a give and take. Foraging is like Christmas. “For me? Really!? Why thank you!” My basket half full in 10 minutes, I bowed my thanks and kissed tenderly the plants leaves, having nothing to offer but my gratitude and praying that this was enough for the code of reciprocity to be upheld.
Back on the highway and with my prized berries, I knew the day was not done, and drove east again, heading towards a place I know so well, to be as close as I was and not pay a visit felt like sacrilege. Bigleaf maples, dripping with golden leaves, hung low over the road as I turned off the highway and onto Salmon River Rd, heading towards a favorite trail, long beloved by my family. I love the way places become kin when you visit enough, much like human friends. This place fills me with a sense of belonging, of knowing and being known. Of all the beauty I have seen in this glorious old world, there is really no place I would rather be than Oregon old-growth forest.
I was not geared up for a real hike, a saunter was more my desire so I took my bag, with my water and journal and walked along the river trail, searching for a place to land for a while, a place in the sun, to put my pen to paper. A poem had been tugging at my heart asking to be born for 5 days, and it was time to let that baby come to life. I found some sun, and a large smooth rock, just the right size for me to sit on, contemplated taking off my shoes but that water, even in early October is so cold, I kept them on. I wrote, and marveled at the beauty of it all, the simple grace of my days, the quiet. All the struggle and worry I carry so heavily on my shoulders felt a million miles away. In that golden afternoon it was just me, and the river and the wild old trees, and God, and as I would soon find out, Salmon.
Poem finished and I stashed my book away, sauntering along the riverbank to a deeper pool I love, one with a pebbled beach, a hole deep enough for a dip on a warmer day. Looking out over that sacred place, sun streaming in the crisp blue sky, I smelled river, and cedar and humus and… Salmon.
I searched the shoreline until I saw her, nearly beached but still in the water, nearly dead but still breathing. Eyes mostly cloudy, but still seeing. I knelt beside her, eye to eye we looked at one another. And I began to sing, a song that came from where, I don’t know, but it moved through me like it was there all along like it had been waiting for just this moment to be born, right now for me, and for her. ” I don’t know how the Salmon sings, I don’t know how the birds get wings, but I am woman and for this I give praise, my body is my vessel for all my days, my body is my vessel for all my days…”
As I sang I began to move, clearing pebbles to make a clear smooth surface, gathering stones, pine cones, and moss, small bright rose hips. My hands making an image of a fish, an image of her, from the materials I gathered, an act of art to show my love, a physical prayer for her and her kind, a way of being in the presence of her dying, and her living, and the place where those two met, which was now and here. I placed three rose hips to be her heart and one last stone to be her eye. The working complete and the prayers prayed, I went to sit beside her once again.
I beheld her in her dying for quite some time, not close enough to scare her, or at least I don’t think so. I noticed others then, their bodies already in various stages of decomposition, her sisters…all around her as she lay dying. I was so moved by this, even as I type these words the tears pour hot down my cheeks. I was and am moved, not by the sorrow of the thing, though that is present as well, but more by the strength, her strength. To travel hundreds of miles to her home place, through struggles unknown, following only the call of her body, her sense of smell, and the knowledge of home. To lay her eggs and then her body down to die in those cold dark waters, next to the bodies of her kin, the cycle complete, she had only her last breaths left.
The knowing hit me like a strong wind, a force, a voice almost audible, but not quite, audible in my heart and bones and sinew, “why would you think you deserve more than Salmon?”
See, I am always praying for direction. I joke that creator needs to make some neon glowing arrows to toss at me so I can find my way, my mortal mind so dense I can’t seem to figure out what comes next. But maybe I have had it all wrong, maybe all I need to do, all I can do, is follow the tides in my body and my sense of smell, all the way to home. Maybe I need to leave behind the concept of a mortal body and crawl deep down into my creature body once again, it all seemed so simple, so apparent. What hubris I have been inhabiting. I would have laughed if I’d not been crying.
Why do I cling so tightly to this concept of “should?” Where in nature is there any such thing? “What should come next, what should I do, how should I be…” Does Salmon sing that tired old song? No. She simply swims in the direction of home and completes the cycle.
It would be terribly human-centric to say she came to teach me a lesson that day, but I know I came to learn a lesson, and I was fortunate to find her and to be slow enough to see her, and to be ripe enough to listen to the voice on the wind and in my heart. We humans, the younger sibling of all creatures, so brazen with self-obsession, looking only in behind our own eyes, miss so much. If there is one thing life is teaching me each day and each year, it is to slow down, open my eyes, and be amazed. As our beloved Mary Oliver has said, “Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it.” It may be there is nothing more I need to know.
I give great thanks for this learning. For my teachers who come in all forms, plant, fungi, human, animal, celestial, and, Salmon.
Driving home that day I let the sounds of the forest travel with me, I sang my simple song and let the cars drive by, busy in their doing-ness, and I quiet in my undoing-ness. Unbuttoning the heavy coat of shoulds, and sliding it off my shoulders, one note at a time. All I must be is woman, with my full- broken heart, with all my joy, with my one precious life. I ask for nothing more, I ask for no more than Salmon. May I be so fortunate.
Last year, a poem I published in the We’moon datebook brought a handful of new readers to my sight. I have been touched to receive a few, delightful, emails from readers who were moved by the poem and requesting to read the piece in its entirety, as an excerpt was used by We’moon. I am tender and humble in my heart as I think of others, unknown to me, reading my words and feeling moved to write me, what a gift this is. I have been too long in coming to this post, to share the poem. However, time moves as it does and I have been swept hard into the currents of change, time moving more quickly and more strangly than one could imagine. And now here I sit, nearly a year later than I planned, fingers typing away at these keys once again.
So I shall share, here on this page the full version of the poem, but first it seems only right and necessary to share a wee bit of the story that it birthed from, the story of my grandmother, and of me and a little bit of magic that remains in the world and is concentrated in the forest…
I never met my maternal grandmother, Marjorie Helen Miles, to be Marjorie Helen McClelland, once she wed my grandfather, Roswell Dunlop McClelland. I have wondered if Marjorie McClelland ever really felt like her name to her, or if, in some secret chamber of her heart, my grandmother had always remained- Marjorie Miles, as I had , even after 11 years of marriage always remained, Marianna Iverson. Now divorced and having legally reclaimed my name, I can say without doubt, that we shall never be seperated again.
Having never met Grandma Marjorie, all I know of her life is constructed through the stories of others. Yet she stands strong in my mind, heart, and memories. The stories I carry are like treasures to me, little jewels of knowing. Her service for the American Friends(Quakers) in WWII, her skilled hands, eager mind, adventurous spirit, and also, her sorrow, loss and regret.
This woman that is my Mothers Mother, who gave me the greatest gift, my own Mother and my own life… all the stories she carried in her, so many we will never know. I seek to see her and know her through the way she lives on in my Mother, and my Auntie, I feel a pull and a connection that is palpable, I have even in spaces of great expansiveness felt her behind me and heard her whisper in my ear…there is much in this life that we cannot explain. I myself have given up trying, better to live in the mystery.
I, being a bit of a seeker and one to delight in the occasional silent meeting with my God, am intrigued by my Quaker line, and long to know more about these relations. It has been fascinating to learn of my Quaker relatives connection to Oregon history, as pioneers in the late 1800’s to an area near where I now live, Scotts Mills, an incredibly beautiful place in the world, lush Willamette greenery, springs and streams, gentle pasture, this is where my people settled .
I wonder what that little place was like back then, and who was pushed out to make space for those white settlers. After all, we are living now on occupied territory…I can’t allow the amnesiac quality, the seductive dream of the bravery and strength of my kin “settling” the west to lay claim to me. There is so much more to this story, and there was consequence in my people arriving here, I may be some of that consequence.
I wonder at the forces at work that cause it to be that, this poem I will share here was written on land less than 80 miles from Scotts Mills, this poem written about the death of my grandmother whom I never knew, written on the sweet land of this Willamette Valley, land her father, my great grandfather, Walter Miles, lived and grew on, in his childhood all those long years ago…
There is so much to wonder, and so little to know. Knowing being so concrete, I have less and less of a desire to cling to its stability and form as I age. In the timeless words of dear Anne Shirley Cuthbert, it leaves too little “scope for the imagination.” I am willing to suspend knowing in favor of wonder, and surety in favor of possibilty. In this case it is highly possible that the words I type here on this page are able to travel to the ears of my Grandmother. In case this is so, I will take this small moment to say, “Grandma- you color all my days with your wake, and I am so grateful to be of you and your kin. All the days I live I will carry you with me, in the secret chambers of my heart. May this poem be pleasing to you, I am forever in your debt and glad to stay that way. The braid of beholdedness weaving us always together. I love you.”
My Grandmother said- “Nature is my temple.” And so I worship there as well. Cathedrals of green canopy above me, prayer rugs of Violet and Clover at me feet, the blessings of life giving Holy Water. These are my sword and shield, my crown and chalice, my strength.
When Grandma was dying, we moved her bed out of doors. To the garden, under the edge of the green cathedrals boughs. The place where she could see, the face of God above her. She lay still for a long time, just looking up- and then, almost silently whispered, “Thank you.”
Green fills my spirit as I think of her, My hands become hers, brown with soil, rich with life and food. I draw her from the Earth, Root, Stone, and Bone. All she left unfinished, now lies in my lap. I release the mantle of her sorrow, and we both are freed. I have only one wish left- May my last words be, “thank you”
I wake in the morning and pray for gratitude. In the darkness alone I feel only sorrow, even the birds songs, delicate and joyful, pierce me with their nearness, and the delicate nature of their singers, who hang now by a thread, species collapsing each day, the losses staggering. I can barely breath. I wake in the morning and the birds sing, and I weep.
Could my tears be a libation? An offering to the earth and her many children, an offering to my own broken heart, and to yours? I offer them as such, I of many tears, a woman who weeps, my lamentation pours forth in this time of trouble. I am witness and I will not look away. I hold a steady gaze through my tears.
How can a heart hold it all? This world we walk is so out of balance. Every which way lies a new disaster, a new ending, a new possible apocalypse. I try to remember the world never ends, she only begins again and again. I try to remember the transient nature of being, no-thing ever stays the same. I try to remember that the world has already ended for so many people, all across time. It ended for someone today, I am sure of it. How could it not? All over the world, individual and collective endings, sometimes it feels like it is all about to collapse. I try to remember to just take the next breath.
My name is Marianna. Mary from the Hebrew Miriam meaning something akin to, sea of sorrow, sea of bitterness. Or in some interpretations, longed for child. And Anna, from the Hebrew Hanna, meaning graceful one, of full of grace. I am the bitter grace of the sea. I am the sea of sorrow. I cry salt tears for the whole world. As it all burns around me all I have left to offer is my mournful grace, my heart of sorrow.
Do not discount the power of weeping. It is said in some religions that the power of prayer is more potent when tears are shed. The sincerity of heart and the humbleness of weeping makes the Gods take notice, turn an ear to us. The earth needs my tears, needs our tears, hell, you, reading this now may need my tears. I weep for you, wherever you are and whatever sorrow is lodged in your heart. In the words of the great Bob Dylan, “go on and give it me, I’ll keep it with mine.” I will, I’ll keep it next to mine. Your sorrow nesting in my heart will cause no harm, the cult of happiness failed us long ago anyway and I walked away. Tears streaming down my face and my hair flying wild as a banshee.
I wake in the morning and the birds still sing, they seem to be saying “just do” – “just do”
And so I do, do. I climb out of bed and turn my face to the sky. I remember that I am a living emissary of my family line, and even if I can’t see the purpose, I have to show up for duty. I remember that my heart, broken as it may be is also broken open, and that means it is fertile ground for something beautiful to grow again. I wake in the morning and the birds sing, and I weep. And then I go to work. In the seeming impossibility of continuing this life as I know it, I go on, and the birds sing me to my car. I think ” I do not know if birds can cry, but am so grateful that I can.”
So the gratitude I prayed for in the dawn arrives, gratitude for the tears, my gift to life, my offering of one heart, broken open to the divine.
I was born a Christian. My parents, deep believers in a life of service to the divine, we called this God when I was young. But it was the heart of love of the divine that was the bedrock of my childhood. I longed to be a nun, as my stop over on the way to sainthood. I loved the stories of the female saints, rebellious and generous, willing to risk it all to love God, casting off the role’s society assigned to them to heed a higher call. I gathered flowers from the park and left them in front of Mother Mary’s icon in the church, gazing at her so long that I would well with tears. I am devotional by nature, and by nurture.
Also, I am no longer a Christian, neither are my parents. Yet I can say with most confidence that we all still carry a deep love of Christ, and the Christ story that we know. And we carry, each one of us, wounds from the false ideals, condemnation and shame woven deeply into most Christian traditions. I call it my “religious shrapnel” I keep pulling pieces out that I didn’t even know were there.
It is a strange thing to navigate no longer identifying as a Christian, while still carrying a tenderness and love for the traditions and beliefs that I was surrounded by in my childhood. I am moved deeply by hymns and prayers, I speak aloud words of blessing to God the Father, I hang images of the Divine Mother, in the form of Mary on my walls and light candles to her, sing her songs and kiss her well-loved face. I know that I can claim her as my own and not have to attach to a set of thoughts and structures that are not congruent to what I hold Holy.
I am in love with God, wildly and madly, and in all forms. But I am not in love with religions laws, the path of carnage wrought on the world in the name of God, the terrible tyranny that plagued our ancestors and continues now across the world in the name of religious colonialism, this now tends to wear the face of “missionary work.” Before anyone gets up in arms, I am not saying that all mission work is based in ulterior motives of conversion or control, but it seems to me that an awful lot of it is. If food, medicine or education is given at the cost of giving up ancestral beliefs and practices, that is a terrible tyranny indeed. How many cultures have been lost this way? “Christianized” away from the voices of their old ones, severed from the threads that held them together, the ancient ways of praising life. Is this what is called “being saved?”
Even with all that in my consciousness, when this time of year comes around and the air is filled with songs of Christmas. As soon as I hear the strums of a well-loved carol, my heart fills past brimming, and my eyes frequently do as well. Some of that emotion is linked to the oldness of the thing, the knowing of how many humans have sung these same words across time, we, all linked in timeless union through these words. And then there is the longing present…the hunger to call the sacred to the earth, to wed it, to have it live in us.
I can see my Mother in my minds eye, face lit by the light of the advent candles, eyes closed and uplifted as we sang together , Oh come Oh come Emmanuel, and Silent Night, and so many of the oldest carols, the ones still tasting of the hunt, and the rising of the sun. Her devotion, the pure love of praise in her face and her voice, this image alone could feed me for 100 days in the dark and keep despair at bay. I will be, all my life grateful for this ritual of advent my parents gave to me. I am in awe that after long days with children and work and the immensities of family life, that they carved out those precious moments every night( or nearly every night) of advent to bring us all together and offer prayers and songs to welcome the Christ child and bless his mother. What an act of love.
One of my favorite songs as a wee one was The little Drummer Boy. I loved the pa rum pum pum pum, how we would roll it off our tongues, the somewhat staccato rhythm. My body has always loved a beat.
The images of the song were strong for me. I was a young one too, I was a poor one too, not boy but girl, and not drummer, but I did have a recorder and that was something I could play. I longed to play for that baby, that child to be born in the manger, with all my heart.
Last week I was leading a song circle for the elders at the retirement community where I work. We sang The Little Drummer Boy, and as I looked around that circle, seeing the love in each one’s face, the tenderness, the same I carry, a new layer of meaning began to unfold.
The deep ache to have something to offer to life “ I am a poor boy too, I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give a King” We long, I long, to give something precious of myself to life, to the king in this story. Of course we are poor, we are so hungry for a taste of something real, something true that we can sink our teeth into, plant our hearts into, breathe life into. In some ways, we all feel inadequate and unworthy, as if we have so little to offer of value. In fact, I will go ahead and say that I have never met a human that has not felt this way at times and for many of us this belief is absolutely running the show.
The place in the song where the tears always come for me, if they have not begun already is when the little drummer boy see’s that he can play, that his gift, his only gift, is the right one, the perfect chosen one. “And I played for him pa rump pump um, on my drum”
The exquisite beauty of being received. Would that we all find this great mercy.
Then the image of the wee babe, new to life and breathing it all in. I don’t think of him much in a manger, although the image is idyllic. I prefer to see him at the breast, suckling and sleeping, baby milk smiles on his face. Mary in the exhausted and exalted place of new motherhood, holding life in her very arms. You do not have to give birth to Jesus to know this wonder. And you do not have to born as Jesus to be born holy. This is the gift of incarnation, we are born, whole and holy. Trouble is that we seem to forget along the way, amnesia clouding our vision of who we were born to be and from who we have come.
I think it is us we are singing to. I think I am that baby at the breast, new to the world and filled with light. And you are that baby too.
Could we welcome again into our hearts our own divine place in the order of things? Could we learn to offer freely the gifts we have been given, in love and service to the holy? Could we see the sacred, that we could call Christ, alive in each one of us, and midwife that to grow and thrive through all our days? I offer up a prayer for this becoming. I offer up a prayer for us all, knowing that this prayer, and these words are the gift I am meant to be giving.
And I played for him pa rum pump pum..on my drum…
Much Love to you all, may you find space and quite in this fertile darkness.
I wrote this short, unedited piece in my kitchen last week. In a flurry of madness to close the oven, wipe my hands, find a pen and give the words life before they abandon this host and move on to one more ready to receive them. The “bite” of a poem is a fast and fleeting as a fish on the line, if you are not ready, and your hands not fast, you may miss out all together. I have learned to drop everything and write, a charming first line beckoning in my mind seems to stale and sour if kept trapped for later in the notes section of my iPhone.
This poem is a response the fires burning in the amazon, and in my own life. I too, just as the Earth herself am in a massive die off, much of what I have held solid now melting away before my very eyes. I think of Joanna Macy’s language frequently, it seems business as usual has broken in my own life, and this is a great mercy. Could it be the great turning has come? Both within and without?
They say on the news that the Earth is burning
the Amazon is on fire – Earths lungs scorched and charred
in a wicked rain of dust and ash.
I still have to get up and go to work tomorrow
and most likely- you do too
If the Earth is burning up – shouldn’t we stop and pay attention?
My heart longs for reckoning – meaning – action
but my body is so exhausted that I cannot even turn my face away
from that dreadful smoke filled screen.
What is it like to be a woman at the end of the world?
let me get some rest and I will tell you
just now- I am too bone-weary to even begin to think…
The world is burning up – but here it rains in August
my garden could actually use a little more sun
the weather is strange – but is it really a catastrophe?
Or is my own decimated heart
that old woman at work who never knows where she is
my daughter who may never know breath without fear again
These- are these catastrophes?
I don’t know
somehow from where I sit it seems
that both everything – and nothing means disaster
what becomes of meaning when there is no future?
It grows– oh god- it Grows
A woman at the end of the world
learns to love fiercely (she must)
or she has no chance at all.
Another unedited poem, from my morning writing practice.
I love how my home place is a theme in my writings lately. There is something about learning to be in the place where I am and inhabit it fully. Something about courtship of this land and all the ones who live here with me. Something about wonder and wondering and a little bit of wisdom…roots running deep.
The Land Knows
The land knows me, even when I am lost
My inner compass seems to bring me somehow always back to – here.
This cedar knows my name and the feel of my fingertips
this soil know my voice in murmured mornings and song filled afternoons
this creek bubbles on her path, always moving
my feet know well her stony body and cool sweet breath.
Here I speak to fern and hawthorn – blackberry and clover
They, who have lived here long before I came, and seem to sing a welcome to me.
When I am low and lost in the waves and swells of this- my life
I bring my heart to the garden – to the trees – to the earth beneath my feet
I lay down my troubles and my fears
the one hundred things I need to do
that scornful glance that hurt so much
the harsh words rattling around my heart cave.
The earth knows it all- and loves me anyway.
Just as a mother does, she holds me close, caresses my cheek, tends my sorrows
She is always generous.
Chickadee perches over head and call – Chicka dee dee dee…
Let it be be be…
And I listen.
Who could ignore the wisdom of the birds?
Tonight I am writing, cup of tea already finished and the house is quite. I’ve been off work most of the day, had a lovely lunch with my Mama, cleaned the hen house and pulled some weeds. Sun was shining today and though cold wind whipped and gusted being out of doors and not damp was a delight.
As I settle in to my study, letting the day settle around me I am just quietly content. My body tired, my heart full from love and laughter, an easeful feeling in my bones. Such a simple day, fulfilling for me one of my needs, unstructured, unscheduled time.
In my pursuit of a simpler and more spacious life I have been actually creating some of that space, working less, saying no to functions or requests, making simpler food. It all feels quite radical. And I am learning how much I need this- down time- see? we even have a phrase to name this, uncommitted, self directed time. It’s a rarity in our culture and must be guarded fiercely.
I am not a huge new years person, not reveler nor resolution maker, yet I found myself early last month, thinking about my life, my time, joy, commitments, mortality and what the fuck I am doing here…you know the everyday existential dilemma. In response to all this swirling around in me it seemed the only solution I could find was to slow down. Slow down my schedule, my commitments, spending, consuming in all forms.
I said earlier that this feels quite radical, and you know it really is. Our whole society is telling us constantly in everyway to hurry up, do more, be more productive, spend more, earn more. Madness. Absolute madness. It is no great wonder why so many of us are sick, stressed, spiritually bankrupt and exhausted. How could we not be??
I want to take a moment here, to acknowledge that me having the space to consider such things and the implications in my life, is inherently a sign of my privileged life. There are so many women who’s lives do not bare space for such questioning. Let alone for working less and spending more time with their families. I bow in gratitude for the space and the safety I have in this life.
What does it mean to live a life of simple purpose? What does it mean to give up the pursuit of “becoming” something, anything…wealthier, more lovely, as long as it is something you have to work towards, something that makes you not actually – here.
I don’t actually know yet, because you see I am just beginning to discover, one choice at a time. And its easy to get distracted, and thrown off course. For me it is starting with paying attention, choosing rather than reacting, looking at what actually brings joy, and what resilience means… this is enough for now. It is an awful lot actually.
It’s winter, and my mind is tumbling around all sorts of things, my body snuggling in warm wraps, a hot cup of tea in hand and a good pile of books. I let myself enjoy some space, some time to rest. A period of calm before roots and shoots start clamoring for my attention and the evenings are filled again with birdsong and muddy boots. I just want to enjoy this thing called life, trust in the goodness of it all. Another day will come, and God willing I will greet that dawn, humble and quite, no words are needed when the chickadee speaks so well…
I’ll just feed the birds and go muck the hen house, simple work is good enough for me.
I am going to start sharing more of my daily writing practice here. I am engaged in the practice of daily poetry writing, each morning before the world can rob me of my time to create and connect. These poems are not very worked, free form and unfiltered.
I have found it so interesting to be doing this morning writing through poetry, my morning writing used to be in the form of journaling. This poetry practice in some ways is more honest, more sincere, simpler and radically raw, than my journaling was. This form of writing allows me to express feeling more directly. I am enjoying the discipline of this daily practice and happy to share some of the writing that comes to being through this commitment to a daily honoring of the muse.
How long will it take to heal
The shattered pieces of my broken heart?
I sweep the rubble clean away – then low and behold
once again – disaster.
The roof is caving in and hurricane warnings tell me that
a storm’s coming, always is, on nights like this.
I plant seeds on the good days
days when warmth blooms in my chest
and I can see vision of summer evening – soft tides – soft smiles
I bury the seeds deep , to keep them safe until the grow
after the flood waters have receded
after the strong words have died down.
I place my hand on my chest
a shelter of a sort
to hold close this heart of mine
the temple of my love.
You are not forsaken – I tell her
Life leaves rubble in us all
we sweep and sweep again
we plant seeds and wait
it’s like the garden love-
give time – take time
one day a mighty Oak will grow
just don’t stop planting acorns.
These words are scattered seeds
this page a love letter to my own sweet heart
Take root now- grow.
photo- coast range, near burnt woods Oregon, baby big leaf maple.
I am stirring inside, something sharp teethed is nipping at my heals tonight. It is more than the restless wind that blows through my sails with some frequency, more than the weary discontent I know so well. This sensation of being pursued is darker, rougher, it has grit and weight. Its alive, real, and vicious. This, this stirring that is following me, brewing inside me, this is fear.
I see it on the news, though I do not purposefully engage in the habit of news watching, I still catch glimpses. Or I hear it on the radio. Homes burned to the ground in California, the fastest moving fire on record, starving children in Yemen, and Congo, and here too, in Oregon many are food insecure, though not( to my knowledge) starving to death. But there are houseless families in the streets, and folks lying on the side of the road in their own piss, as we all drive by. Too busy to lend a hand, or a dollar. Refugees wait at our borders to seek asylum, fleeing lives far darker than I can even wrap my mind around. This is happening all around me, the times are baring down now, its getting hotter and heavier, it’s hard for me to breath….
In the face of these sorrows I have mentioned, and the thousand more that wait in the wings, I feel the desire to run away. To run from the city, find a small patch of earth and live out my years in quite, maybe quite desperation but still, quite. I want to turn away from what I see, from what I feel, from this nipping at my heals, this fear, and maybe even more than fear – dread. Thing is, there is no where left to run, this whole place, our sweet and kind blue planet is heating up, systems changing. Even if I found the little patch of earth to live on, there is no guarantee that summer sun and spring rain will bless my fields, no knowing that life will go on as life has always done.
I have long espoused my desire for an all out revolution. Not just in America, but globally. For the people to rise up and say “No More!” In this dream we come together for the voiceless, we tear down systems of oppression and we are victorious, united, a human family. I have a revolutionary heart, an inner fire and the courage to stand for what I believe in. This has long led me to hold this belief that change is coming, and that we will all be ok in the end (cue the triumphant yet soothing end of scene music.)
I am somehow just now, at 37 years, seeing that this ain’t no Hollywood movie, this is real life, and revolution means blood on the ground, maybe mine, most definitely that of at least one I love. Even if we did somehow come together in the name of all life and stand against the corruption and greed, would we have any where to stand? I guess I am saying – is it too late for us? Have we passed the tipping point and now all we can do is maybe learn to become human in the face of this heart wrenching catastrophe we face?
And if we see the days has come, and darkness gathers all around, can we find the strength to see this ship down. Or will we claw our way over top of the broken ones, fighting for the last breath of clean air, the last sip of sweet water, the last gaze of cedar reaching her tips high to the sky….
My mind keep spitting out lyrics to The Future by the esteemed and grieved over Leonard Cohen
“Give me back the berlin wall
Give me stalin and st paul
I’ve seen the future, brother
It is murder”
When I feel dark, and dread filled, I long for music that seems to mirror that back to me, or perhaps even increase the intensity of feeling. I want to wade deeper into the mire, feel the sorrow and despair rising around me, put aside all my over used hope and succumb. This is scary, we are slowly, and so quickly loosing the world that we know. And it’s not pretty, and we are not ok, and I am terrified, raging and desperately sorrow filled.
Even here and now, as I write these quavering truths, just feeling the immensity of this fear and sorrow, I find myself wanting to turn it around some how, find a positive hope filled spin. Finish it off with some well wrought words pacifying the gut deep fear for a moment more….I am not going to do it. I do not comply.
I am broken hearted, sometimes it feels finished, but no, life still blooms so strongly all around us. I hold my loves closely tonight…the future so uncertain.