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.

 

 

An Act of Love – Learning Right Relationship with our Holy Earth

So much loss is present here, in this earthly realm. We witness daily the loss of species, destruction of habitat, astounding lethargy in the face of great crisis. It feels like it is all tearing apart, that we are living in the greatest time of destruction and dissolution in present memory. It is overwhelming.

Having only lived in this time, I see that I can only see through my own eyes, the eyes of a  woman of European descent living in the west. In saying this I know and own that my own individual life is a comparatively kind one. Many have lived through times that are fraught with greater struggles than I have ever known, and live so now.  Scale out and take in even a wee portion of our history and the trouble grows deeper. In many ways this time may be one of the most peaceful and comfortable times in post agricultural revolution history.

Yet another truth lives now and here, we are in the only time when humans have witnessed the large scale destruction of environmental ecosystems and species, in a large part at our own hands. There is a deep sorrow and heaviness in these words. My generation may be the first to not know if the Earth will sustain us, if she can sustain us, and if we will survive as a species. Pair this knowledge and fear with the ready images of aforementioned destruction through the ample media sources, the lack of elders to help us navigate, and the general malaise many people feel, and you have a ripe recipe for despair.

Despair, as honorable and worthy as it may be in the face of all we have on our minds and hearts in these times, is not necessarily the path that will lead us to make the changes we must make to come back into right relationship with the living Earth on which we are so blessed to live. Despair, in my experience, can easily lead to apathy and a lack of personal power and determination to see change.

This is not to say that despair does not have a place, it surely does. Those of us who have not felt the grey blanket of despair on our shoulders at times, are somehow not allowing the fullness of  desperate times in which we live to lodge in their hearts and bodies. In fact we would probably be better off if we all fell down on the floor in a heap from time to time, truly feeling the sorrow of it all. But after the fall, we must rise again. To face what we cannot face and begin to gather in the broken pieces of what remains.

My mind turns to the question, What do we DO now? What can we do as we stand to see the fractured, sorrowful state of life as we now know it?

The answer that whispers back to me, the only answer I know today, is to love and care for the beauty and bounty of the earth that lives right here under my feet. Yes, I live in the suburbs of Portland Oregon, and true it may seem that there are places more requiring of my love and care then this place. What about the Tundra? The Amazon? Bears Ears? What of the wild places wracked in misery and wrecked by greed and ignorance? Yes, they too need our care and concern, our voices and dollars raised in objection to the powers of industry and economic growth. Yet the voice that calls to me, the voice that answers speaks clearly- stay home.

This land under my feet needs tending too, the quarter acre I call mine, the trails leading down to the river I so often walk, the verge of the roads where numerous wild beauty’s thrive. This is my place to love and give to, as it so often gives to me, as she so often gives. there is much that can be done here. Perhaps the first act of honor is to stop it-ing, to give personhood to this land I love. If corporations are given legal personhood, most surely our sweet earth should have the same respect.

So what can we do? What can I do? I have a few answers to this question, small as they may be, they are a start, and we must start somewhere. For me, it is right here. I start here, where I am .

Honor the earth- Notice her each day. The way  the wind blows fiercely through the trees, the dance of crows as they great the dawn, the soft muddy soil under my feet. How often is she even seen, appreciated and loved. This simple act of seeing brings us right back into the heart of  life. Breaches the rift of separation between us and brings us back into the start of a real relationship. We must slow down to do this, walking seems the perfect pace for noticing the life around you. Make time to see and praise this life. She hears you.

Eat with intention- All life is built on life. Be you a vegan or an omnivore, something died so you might live. Feel this and know it to be true. If you doubt my words here I would invite you to do some deep looking and even research into modern agricultural practices. No foods are guilt free, death begets life, your life and mine. This could be paralyzing, but no! This is a great honor and provides a sense of weight to our actions and choices. Knowing that sacrifice happened so that I may eat and live guides me to choose well and relish that which I choose with great reverence and consideration. Growing food with our own hands deepens this even further. Gardening can be a form of worship, working with, not against the earths desires, to lovingly bring forth life to sustain us. It is Magical. If you do not know the pleasure, please learn. She will thank you in a thousand ways.

Make Ceremony– For all the years that we humans have lived on this earth, until very recent times we have honored her with ceremony. It seems we have forgotten this, especially here in the “modern” western world. Our ancestors praised the sustenance provided and marked the turning of the year through ceremony and thanksgiving.  There are so many small ways that we can do this. A small altar in the corner of the garden, gathering friends in prayer under the full moon, silent sitting in gratitude as you watch the birds wheel by, so free and high in the sky. These simple acts bring us home to her, let her know that we are still here, in gratitude, that we have not forgotten our sacred contract.

Speak Truth- We are caught in a fog of amnesia, we do not remember that we come from the earth. We have forgotten the scared contract- take only what you needs. As we reawaken to this truth in ourselves, as we begin to hear the rustlings of her voice in our ears, we must not be afraid to share. Rather, we can be afraid, but we must share anyway. It is hard to see things in life that many do not see, harder still to open your mouth and speak them aloud. Still, be brave enough to do so, you may not know the path your words can lead another on. Your willingness to share your views, truths and experiences may free up others to contemplate and share their own.
I have experienced this myself, feeling foolish that I felt plants speaking to me. I shushed myself, told myself it was all imagination. When another human told me of their experience in learning to listen to the plant beings, it freed me from the confines of my own analytical mind and open the doors to a new reality for me. I am eternally grateful.

This is a wondrous world we inhabit, we are so provided for. Feel the truth of that, let it permeate your bones.

The tools I have shared here may seem  small in the face of the darkness that gathers so deeply around us. The despair that cloaks our days and nights. I see these as swords held high against the demons of apathy that crowd my doorstep. The power of presence, of praise and remembrance, is not quantifiable. I am ok with that.  I don’t need to measure my progress, I don’t need to make a chart or a graph. The real measurement is in the feeling in my heart. I know beyond any trace of doubt, that when I show up and love, really love this earth. this mother, my home. That she feels me, she sings to me in flowers, calls to me in the breeze that touches my cheek. I am learning to listen, I am starting to hear her. Will you listen a while with me?

If this touches something in you, please reach out to me. Together we can learn and grow, together we can make ceremony and restore our connection with our land and our people. The sacred is touching our fingertips right now, if we put our hands together, perhaps there will be space for it to land solidly and grow.

In greatest love,
Marianna

 

 

 

Longing for Home

There is living in me a deep yearning. It pulls at me, like the ocean waves dragging back out at low tide. The intensity changes, the force ebbs and flows, but the tide always comes back in and goes back out again. I am not sure quite what the yearning is for, it is a somehow felt sense that there is more than all of this. More than work and play, more than family and obligations, more than creative work, even more than joy. It is a pull equal to the calling of the magnetized lines of the earth that call to the flocks of geese that make there way south in the winter, spilling out in long v shaped formations through the sky overhead. There is something missing, we have lost that which makes us human, I do not know my way home anymore, I do not know if home exists. Not here, not now. How do we make home alive again? How do we learn to become human?

A wise man once told me “hold on to your NO.” This is the “NO” that screams in the night, that this is not the way it all should be, we are built for more than this. We have been robbed. This is the “NO” that echoes in my bones and pulls at my heart like that ebbing tide. People talk all the time, this is wrong, that is wrong, it is all wrong. Hell, I am one of those people….but this “NO” is deeper. This does not speak simply of what is wrong, but of where we went wrong. What befell a people whereby more than half the women take medicine to make their lives palatable? Whereby children are drugged to sit in school all day, forced to ignore the innate wisdom of their own young bodies urge to be free? Oh, wait, there I go again…asking what is wrong, it’s a beginning I will give you that, but a sorely one. My skill at deeper questioning is still a developing one, I am a fledgling, seeking meaning, falling hard onto rough ground.

As Painful as it is to hold this aching longing in me, to feel the resounding NO! that echoes in the air… there is beauty here too. To have this heart that sees the folly of our cultural doctrines and searches desperately for more, is a true gift. If I could not feel the pull, I would not dare to ask the questions, or to embark on the perilous journey of seeing what is hidden, hearing what is silenced, feeling what hurts so deeply. The cult of hope and potential would have me firmly in its grip. As it stands I have found a chink in the armor of this empire, a small fissure in the stone of cultures wall. I can place my finger tip there, and feel a breeze on the other side. The whisper of how it all could be. I have abandoned hope, but I have something much truer, faith. I have faith that we can learn, and unlearn, break down and build up, fetch and carry. Grow a new way of living in right relationship with the wild eyed world we dwell on and in.

I hold my “NO” close to my breast, I hold it like a soft flame, tending it from the wind that blows, like a tiny rabbit, so small yet so strong. My body feels the “NO”  and tells me when I must remember to kindle it alive. When I am torn between ease and rigor, when I might choose the shortest way but the longest is the truer path, when I might say what I do not mean but mean what I do not say. My “NO” beats loudly in my ears and whispers sweetly but urgently…”Don’t go back to sleep….”

Sometimes I do not know where to turn, what comes next, how to proceed or believe. Yet I do feel the silent aching pull of my body, calling for home. I know ways to connect and give. I know the power of 3 breaths in silence before I act. I know that others too feel the call for home, for something more than all this chaos. All these busy days and sleepless nights, torrents of noise and light, the stars hiding their faces behind the glow of cityscapes electric fog. From a 1000 miles away I can feel your hand reaching for mine. I can feel soft soil calling for our feet to bless her with their footprints. I can hear a soft high fiddle that plays as we gather around the fire at night, voices joining with her stringed melody. I know the feeling of your body warm and swaying next to mine, hand in hand. Visions of home calling us. I can taste it on my tongue. I am hungry.

 

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