We’re going to die one day….

I might not wake up tomorrow morning. Yes I am 37, and in apparent good health, but this is not a guarantee of another day breathing, not for me, nor for you dear reader. No matter your age. Life is precarious. Unlikely in fact, and the fortune that finds us here, me behind my screen typing away, and you reading me on yours is almost to much to bare.
This fact that we are alive, alive! and breathing is enough to make me draw that same breath in sharply with wonder, the awe of it all….but only when I am paying attention. Which I do confess I am not always doing, and more likely than not, even though today I am writing of the incredible power, fortune and beauty of being alive, by tomorrow morning I will most likely be griping about going to work and feeling less than charmed by my circumstances. This seems to be the way of it for me, at least for now.

And yet even in that, the remembering and forgetting, the high and the low, is life.  In the words of Mary Oliver- my one wild and precious life. Which is not guaranteed, it has no warranty, no insurance, no claim, only presence. The only claim is the one I stake, the stake I put in my own fertile ground. How alive am I willing to be while I am still alive? How much can I love being here in this body? Today, it is enough to make me kneel and kiss the ground.

There is so much unlikely fortune at play in my life, small wonders that I so often take for granted, the spices and salt I use with such abandon, the foods in my fridge, my fridge itself! Water that runs clean, well reasonably so anyway, from the tap – warm or cold. I know my ancestors would have been in disbelief at these luxuries. My aim, my prayer is that my life be a living testament to the gratitude I feel for all this I am blessed with. For all this abundance and ease and wealth beyond what most women living in this world will ever see or know. These wealth’s I reference here are only a drop, a small one at that, of all that I am grateful for…truly. And sometimes I am still a shitty whiney human being. Sometimes I am pissed off cause I have to plan and cook my own dinner, and I am tired and worn down and so so lonely.

When I try to write about this I feel lost, spiraling around in my mind, the absolute wonder I have at being alive, the knowing that it will end. I will die, all this, all this beauty and wonder and love and aliveness will be gone…. I know it. I know it, deep in my bones kind of knowing, feel it in my belly kind of knowing. Its not a theory or an inkling, or an idea. I am going to die one day. Wouldn’t it seem, that in knowing this I would stay present to the magic that is my life? That I would each moment of each day be singing praise for all that has been given by this great blue planet and my ancestors that dreamed me into being here? If I am going to die, why in Gods name would I ever watch  a TV show?!

But I do, in fact Outlanders upcoming new season is being eagerly anticipated by me right now. I can’t wait for more Jamie Frazier in my life, or on my screen anyway.
So what gives with this dichotomy? Am I missing something, does my lack of vigilance with how I use my time mean that I am less than stunned by the beauty of this human beingness? I am not sure. I seem today to only have many, many questions. Perhaps there are more question marks in this post than any prior one I have written. I say perhaps because I have not counted and I will not, I have more important things to do! Like sit and type and wonder at the apparent insanity of my own existence.

I just don’t want to miss a thing. When I get to the end of this run, this life of mine, I want to leave knowing I drank every drop. Be it next year or 70 years from now, I want to leave this earth exhausted by the beauty of it all. So I wrestle with myself, with my choices, my done and undone deeds. I suppose it is human to do so, to take a tally every now and then. Thing is, I don’t think there is a score per say, only a knowing, a felt sense of purpose, fulfillment or lack there of, connection or disassociation. All in all I think I am pretty damn present to my life. And yet, there is learning to happen there as well.

As I go to sleep each night, I do take time to reflect on the beauty of my days and ways. As I rise I rejoice to feel breath moving in my body once again. I bless my food and know that it is not a given to be well fed and housed. I know I am here by the grace of those who came before me, my kin, human, animal, plant, stone…. the truth is, if I was truly present each moment to the majesty this all is, I would be weeping on the ground. It is to beautiful to ever fully grasp it. This life. To precious for words.

May I wake up tomorrow, another day to learn and love, and maybe even watch a little Outlander.  May you wake up as well. And if the Gods are willing, someday perhaps our paths will cross, and we can speak of such things as life and death, beauty and sorrow, the meaning of it all, the majesty of this life. Until then, may you be known by your old ones, and may you in turn teach your young ones well.

Marianna

 

A Measure of Worth

I am feeling the desire to share this post again, as it nests well beside my newest post In defense of a Simple Life.

Joy Filled Heart

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…

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In Defense of a Simple Life

I can’t sleep. Up too late with thoughts running circles round my mind. It seems that life is moving faster all the time, each year, no, each month, swifter than the last. I can’t catch up. Here, in this culture where woman wear busyness like a badge of honor, I just want it all to slow down.

I an eternal optimist, I can’t help it, I try to be surly at times but to no avail. I always optimistically believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that I will have more “free” time, sometime in the near future…but sometime is never here. It looms, ever in the future, just out of reach, I could almost touch it if I just reach a little bit farther.

The ideal of the woman who can do everything is a crock of shit. I know this,I feel it in my bones. I know how marketing works, how swindled we all are. If it isn’t a fashion mag we are comparing ourselves with, its that perfect remodel on HGTV. There is no end to the cascade of false ideals dumped on our doorsteps each day. How can we know what is real amidst this storm of consumerist coercion? It insidiously creeps into our minds, thoughts we thought were our own, when opened for examination have no origin in us. This is madness. This drives us to madness.

I myself, am in a daily struggle. The desire to “produce” more, be it income, social capital, or even beauty. Weighed against the truth that I am tired, and I don’t want to play the game anymore.  I cannot hold it all up, and hold it to the standard that I desire to. Things begin to crumble. I cannot be it all, I cannot do it all. I feel this, and I am in a two income family with one grown child. What must this feel like for my friends with little ones at home and bills piling up on bills? Is this the equality we have been fighting for? Somehow it feels like we have missed the mark. “killin it” seems to be killing us.
And yes, of course this is a grand generalization, and I can only speak from my point of view. Still, I see so many women suffering under the delusion that we can multi-task our way to a picture perfect life, that it is time to pull back the curtain on that lie, expose it’s ugly underbelly and begin to engage in some real revolutionary work.

Could it be that in my relentless pursuit of becoming, I have lost myself? Lost the thread I am meant to hold throughout my life, the thread that William Stafford calls to us to cling tightly to? If this is what matters, and I think it does, what has to be sacrificed? What must I lay down in order to have a hand to hold the thread in?

There is this thing, called “too much” that surrounds us. We are so inundated by the cultural messages of acquisition that we fail to see how deep this patterning is. Peers of mine who eschew the commercialized ideals of the “American Dream” (who knows what that even means anymore) still ascribe to the doctrine of acquisition and hope, through a Hodge podge of progressive spiritual ideals that are in fact selling us the same thing. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I am not above this, how many weekend courses have I taken trying to become a better version of me? How many crystals and smudges do I have right now in this very room where I write? Spiritual capitalism at its finest.

It seems that the only way to get off this mad train is to turn and face it looming behind me. To stand firmly in my two shoes and say “no more!” I am unwilling to trade growth for depth any longer. I am unwilling to sacrifice the sanctity of my life to meet some ideal that is not even my own. I will no longer be 3 miles wide and 2 inches deep, I want to be a  well, a spring,  dig deep and find sweet water, here.

I am learning to identify barriers to connection in my life, competition is one, perfectionism is right up there as well. What can I reclaim, or claim for the first time to bring sanity back into my life? I’ve been thinking on this and simple as it sounds, and not surprisingly, I think it has something to do with vulnerability and acceptance. If I can learn to see all the ways I am striving towards unreal expectations or doctrines, than maybe I can turn myself around. Connection is the antidote to bullshit, in fact,  I am pretty sure it is the antidote to all the woes of western civilization.

When I allow myself to be vulnerable, to show my multi layered imperfection, I am open to connection. I can have friends at my house that is messy, I can eat with joy and abandon without concern for what others think of my size or shape, I can speak my mind and heart, not tip toe around others. Which in this PC world feels like it is more an more necessary. Truly, it is not. Disagreeing with someone does not mean you don’t love them. In fact, differing opinions are a healthy thing, if we are all the same it is pretty boring out there.

So I am learning to be uncomfortable, to listen when the feelings of ” I need to be….” arise. It takes so many forms, there are so many things and ways I have been taught I need to be to, to  be worthy, to be accepted. It is a lie. I am, and will be, a whole healthy human woman, even if I don’t meet the standards, even if I look a little frazzled at the edges. I am taking a stand. Because you know what? No one else is going to do it for me. I am going deep, holy well deep. I plant my feet on this soil I call home and I will stay here. I will joyfully  grow my food, raise my hens, sleep beside my husband. I will listen to the quite yearning of my own sweet heart, and stay, home. I will, day by day divorce myself from the system that says I must be more. I am enough. I am woman,  I am home, and I am grateful.

Marianna Louise Jones

*image is of St Fumac’s holy well, Canmore Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn

The skies have been dark this week, the air stagnant and toxic. I can feel the burn in my throat. I can only think “this is how it will be forever now. Every summer now will burn.” Summer skies filled with smoke, blue turns grey, and ashen. I am sad, the kind of sad you’re not supposed to talk about. I  didn’t know I would see the change in my lifetime, not really. You know your hear about these things, this climate disaster, global warming. But it is all far away, apocalypse abstract.

These last few summers its been in no way abstract, it has been here, present and beside me. I am unable to turn away. My once blue summer Oregon skies have gone dark. We can not ignore the  truth. It’s closing time. This is only the beginning. Get ready for the fall, there will be darkness.

Our world burns.
Today smoke fills the skies
my throat, lungs and eyes.
Blue sky, a memory of summer gone now.
The earth is hot
103 in Redding yesterday
10,000 people evacuate
running from the flames.
Their cars are hot, on scorched highways
the fumes from their tailpipes fill the sky.
What of those that cannot run?
No gas in their tanks or
money in their banks.
What if they are ill?
In body or mind, those who choose to stay behind.
What of the winged ones, and the 4 legged
It is all too much to bear.
Tonight- the moon is orange and amber
a dark glow in the sky.
It seems to me she is looking down and weeping.
So am I.

 

Marianna Louise Jones

Longing for home

I am alone here, in this foreign place.
This land that is my country, yet not my home
I guess this is what happens when sea to shining sea is 3000 miles.
Birds sing in songs I do not know
trees, tall with bare trunks and high canopies,
tower over my head.
The earth is light and tawny, not the brown humus that I know.
My feet fall soft upon this path, tan and fine
bones of the earth, stones, rise amid the soil.
I am stunned by sound, a cacophony of birdsong,
so sweet and raucous, sharper than the familiar calls of
the birds that call my temperate rainforest home.
Funny how, in all this space and novelty, this beauty,
I can long for home.
A stone sits in my chest, heavy for the lands of the pacific.
Even the spiders know that I am foreign here.
I have walked through so many webs this morning,
torn them apart, unintentionally upon my breast.
The air, sticky, even in dawns light,
clings to the webs and condenses,
small beads of golden dew, warm and wet,
meet my skin and spread out. I am shimmering.
Long time now, since heat touched my skin like this
heat that is alive, moist, and tender.
Still, in the wonder of it all, the birdsong, the frog song, the cicada song
I long for home, oh W’yeast, you have me wrapped around your finger
No, your rocky crags and gentle slopes…I’ll be wrapped around you, all my life.
You’re high peaks and rugged valleys, the ripple of your flesh.
Douglas fir and cedar, my trees, hold me close.
I cannot resist you dear conifers, you hold me, your boughs,
wrap my arms and legs in your green embrace and I am gone.
Gathered into you.

 

*image of a lake just outside Oxford Ohio, where I walked as this poem came to me last week.

Marianna

Blackberry- A Tumultuous Love Affair

I have been waging war on blackberry. Since early spring her shoots have come, bursting forth with great voracity, taking over my yard, my garden beds, my fence line and grape vines….my whole life it feels at times.
This poem came to me as I was out working, clipping away at her lush vines. My arms, covered in scratches, my brow damp with sweat. I felt the first line come in, burbling like a spring coming up inside me. I put down my clippers, went inside, took my notebook and wrote.

 

Sometimes blackberry feels like my enemy.
Her thorns catch my skin and I tear
her roots, gnarled and strong
wider than the thickness of my thumb
hold deeply in the earth
and won’t let go.

She seems to come up everywhere.
Bright shoots, thorns still soft
sprouting among the snow peas
twining herself around artichoke,
befriending a fellow spiney one.

She reaches her tips out from under my house.
Just now I blinked-and thought
I saw her growing out of my wall sconce
she is even growing in my mind now.

As I write, my arms are red with scratches.
My back tired from bending to dig and pull her roots
and still I hunger for her ripe, purple fruit
it’s a hot cold kind of love affair we have
blackberry and I.

Bee’s nuzzles blackberries white flowers.
Enthralled with her fine yellow pollen
an eruption of white blossoms now fill the places
in my yard, where blackberry reigns.

We have made a treaty of sorts.
A line of demarcation
she is fair game when she rears her head in the vegetable beds
but the hedgerows are hers to dominate
and there she will grow to sweet fruition.

White blooms soon will, thanks be to bees favor.
Turn to hard green fruits- and then!
Lush purple mouthfuls, full of sweet juice
staining my fingers and my tongue
my clothes and my counters
my good wooden spoon.

She leaves her mark on me it’s certain.
I suppose it’s like any other love affair
hers and mine
prickly at times, and at others
sweet as nectar.

Clear Cut, Reclaiming the Desecrated Lands

I walked alone, gravel beneath my feet, rough even through the soles of my worn rubber boots. These are not boots for hiking but foolishly were all I had brought with me. I love them, red and well fitting, perfect for foraging in wet land and working in my garden, less than ideal for gravel and elevation changes. Yet, they would do. I walked slowly, no dog, no company, I set my own pace. The pace at which I could absorb the most green freshness possible, breathing it into my lungs, my whole body aching for this, this communion with the more than human world.

I had gathered greens already that day, the sink at the cabin had a large bowl of nettles in water waiting for me to feast on them that evening. My foraging bag hung empty, tied to a strap on my backpack, no goal in mind, no aim. I simply walked.
It is cool along Shot Pouch creek, dense canopy above and moving water beside the road creating a tunneled effect, breeze moving through, kissing my body. It was not hot, but warm in the sun and to walk there, in the shade felt divine.

As I crossed a small bridge and rounded a bend in the road, my path began to move upward, leaving the creek behind, now only a small trickling stream ran beside me, silent as it moved over rocks and fallen branches, forming the occasional 3 inch deep pool, travelling down to meet with the waters of Shot Pouch. Ahead the canopy was fading, giving way to sunlight. I could see the brightness ahead of me as I continued to climb, focusing on the plant life, the birds, 3 butterfly varieties I had never seen before. And then I was in the sun.

I stopped suddenly, trees behind me, in front of me a graveyard. A torn mountain top, a logging truck abandoned on the side of the road, tires flat and vines growing up, reclaiming it, nature is not elitist, she takes everything as her own. I felt stunned a moment, unable to walk, I just stared. I have never been in a clear cut before, harsh and jarring, I could smell the sawdust in the sun, the wind was stronger here, the butterflies were gone.

Desecration- there is no land that is sacred and land that is not sacred, only land that is sacred and land that has been desecrated. The many stumps were themselves torn, a jagged line through the center of each, a spikey crest where the wood tore as the tree fell. The piles of branches, bark and snags were huge, 15 feet high or so. The entire surface of the earth covered with the remnants of the fallen ones, littered with past lives of what once was, bodies of trees strewn like waste on the ground.

“What was it like to watch them fall?” I asked the still standing trees, my heart in my throat and beating very loudly. Waves of grief and recognition flowing through me, I began to walk, still climbing the road, slowly, eyes open and filled with tears.

I recalled a story told to me by my Auntie, of my brother as a young one. Seeing a logging truck roll by them as they came home from a camping trip. On seeing the logs piled high he had become very quite and then asked in his small voice ” but what happens to the souls of the trees?”
My heart broke for him, for me, for the trees who’s souls where displaced as their bodies fell. I can’t speak for all trees, or all clear cuts, and certainly not for all experiences, but for me, that day, the souls of the trees were there, circling that wreckage and wailing like banshees, longing to be seen and remembered and grieved. So grieve I did.

I walked to the top of the cut land, the edge of where green life began again, high above the pits, snags and torn earth. I sat among the dry rubble, rough under my legs, took my boots off and put my feet on the broken pieces of life resting under me. A wise teacher I am blessed to know has told me, “look for your God’s in desecrated places, you may find them hiding there.” I looked, looked hard with my eyes and my heart, and sure enough, the land rose up in answer to me. I could feel the love and longing of this place, the loneliness, the heartbreak. So much like my own.

Hunger growled in my belly, so I took my food out of my pack, this feeling like the right place to take my simple meal. Eggs, cold sausage, seed crackers. I ate there in the scarred land, high above the world. Looking out over the clear cut and beyond to hills forested and green, bird songs filled the trees behind me and circling over the barren land, birds of prey glided softly on currents of air. It was right and good to eat there, feeding my body as my prayers fed the land, feeding my soul as the land filled me. Greif and reverence mixing together in my gut. A witness to this destruction, a sorrowful ambassador, atoning in my way for the wrongs of my own kind.

I spoke to the land, poured out my prayers, begged for forgiveness, poured a libation of spring water on the parched earth, sang medicine songs and stood with me feet bare and my eyes open, sometimes seeing is enough, sometimes speaking is enough, and sometimes nothing is enough, the pain still remains. Some wrongs cannot be righted, sometimes contrition is the best we can give.

As I sat and prayed, my eyes and mind began to see another layer to this place, life. Clinging desperately to the hillsides, growing and rooting even in this seemingly unlikely place.  Sword ferns burned by sun, Salal cheerfully spreading her leaves, Oregon grape so very hearty, even small trees beginning to again root here. Life returning to the land, maybe it had never left, some survived, some remained. A bright bird, red and gold, so very exotic for Oregon, burst forth from the trees behind me in joyful song. Life.

The sun growing lower in the sky I began to make my way down the hill, still speaking to the land and fallen trees, my voice the only tool for healing that I carry with me always. Words with intention have a magic of their own. I picked up a piece of wood, my intention being to take it home, to keep this place with me, to bless and love, to gather in that which was torn apart. Then stopped again to put it down, realizing that it was not mine to take, perhaps that one wanted to stay there, close to the ones that it fell with, touched by sun and rain, kissed by wind and snow, part of this place, not mine.

As I bent to set it down, kissed it and put its body on the earth, my eye saw a familiar shape, Morel. Morel! Here in this harsh dry place a proud mushroom stood, growing in the bark pile at the verge of the road. I was elated, never having found them before, and my gathering sack still hanging near my hip. I felt a knowing in my body that these ones were for me.  A gift from the land, a precious gift. I gathered just a few, cutting them with my small knife. A knife made for me by the hands of my dear husband, may be my most treasured possession, to use it in this way so fitting, so very right. These ones would come with me, in me, become me. This place now living in my bones.

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A Message From my Heart

I found this poem in a file, saved from years ago. I had forgotten this one, and as I read it so much flooded back to me form this time in my life. Writing is like that, a secret window to a time before. I am glad to have discovered again this sweet, small poem to share now with you.

 

I was walking today
and I saw in a window
a reflection of my physical self.
I said ” hello, you!”
that house so well my own
true love, my spirit, my heart.
My body staring back at me
with equal wonder in her eyes,
reflected the reverence of my soul.
I look so like a mountain, my head
held high, my shoulder strong,
my solid body filled with a thousand rivers of blood.
Of sacred Earth my heart was formed,
to sacred Earth I will return
a mountainside I will become
my heart returning to its home.

© Marianna 2011

 

Daughter of Earth

Earth-
I am your daughter
Born of the darkness
Bathed in the light
Earth dweller
Sky gazer
Guardian
I walk upon your firm brown skin
Run my fingers through your grassy hair
Taste the sweet ripe fruit of your lips
You leave treasures everywhere
Simple gifts
And magical tokens
Of your love
Roots, shoots and berries
Smooth stones and feathers
The light on the field at dawn
A gleaming spiral shell
You speak to me in sunsets,
Moonrises, shooting stars
A thousand ways you say
I love you
I am listening
I hold out my hands in gratitude
And you fill them
Wherever I am
I am with you
A daughter of mystery
Born of the darkness
Bathed in the light

Marianna Louise Jones-May 2017

Praying to the Peas

The air is warming where I live. Young dawn with her rose red fingers now lights the sky as I walk out to tend to my hens each morning. A mild winter has come and gone, leaving no trace of our brief snows presence. In the garden plants are thriving, brassicas planted late last summer that struggled then, and barely lived through fall, are now already giving sweet leaves of dark rich kale and purple broccoli is bearing small dense heads. Life is shining here, showing me her bright smile, her golden underbelly. My fingers already know the touch of the damp earth.

Tomorrow peas will go in the ground, and scallions too, small seeds an offering to the dark mother, and a promise of good things to come. The sacred contract renewed again each year. I plant and pray, she feeds me. As she feeds all beings, last year the slugs ate much more rutabaga then I did, and the cabbages were ripe game as well. I am under no delusion that it is all for me. I’ll take my share and be satisfied. Earth care, People care, Fair share…right?

This morning I put the peas in a water bath to soak, small round brown seeds, tumbling into my hand and then through my fingers. The soft sound they make as they roll into the glass bowl, a cascade, rough and rhythmic, a husky sound, solid. The gratitude I feel for these ones was so present with me. These ones who will grow and feed me, send strong white roots down into the cool earth and then green shoots up, reaching, always reaching for the sun. Flowers will come and then the sweet tender pods, tendrils of green wrapping and grasping, pulling their way upwards on anything they can claim and hold.

That I could, for a moment hold this majesty of life in my own hands! A call to honor them rose in my throat and I spoke. A prayer and a promise, we are indebted to each other, bound.  Remember to feed the ones that feed you.
I may not recall word for word the prayer that arose from my heart to these good seeds today, but the flavor of it is in my mouth and heart.

Dear ones…
So we have arrived again, here together
you small and brown in my hand
may you grow strong and tall
may the light kiss softly on your face
may your roots run deep and your vines be hardy
I know you will grow abundantly!
I will care well for you
give you strong support to climb on
I will cherish you and love you
watch you climb in your spiral dance with awe
as I eat you, you will become me
life for life, nothing is free
we belong now to one another
grow well my dears
a promise I will make to you
some of your young will live and go to seed
seed I will save and hold all coming winter in good place
until again next year, I will plant
plant your daughters in this fertile land
thank you!
I await our spring and summer together with great joy!

This is ceremony, learning to be with the ones that feed me. This is the way I believe we should be with each other. Aware of all that is given and received. I, in my own small way am learning….
Learning what? to be human, to respect, to see the grace that holds me up. The same grace the holds the peas in their soft beds of earth.