Morning Practice

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.

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Solstice Prayer

The sky is dark- clear and cold,
dawn did not come until 8 oclock this morn.
Frozen ground firm beneath my feet
the first sun of this shortest day
reflects off diamond dusted boughs of cedar
leafy holly, hardy grasses
All ablaze with light.

In days gone by when winter crept into our homes
and cold claimed penance of the skins of those like you and I.
When darkness came at dusk and lasted all night long – all long night,
with only glow of candles flame to keep the dark away and cold away
in those days, this day, this shortest day- had meaning
had power.

The longest night- rabbit, underground
lies buried deep, warm bodies of her kin beside her.
Goose has flown south by now, warmer climes await
Squirrel, now nested, acorns stored in plenty,
even worm is tucked away, slumbering.
Until soil warms and springs good work begins again.

Human builds a fire- to drive the dark away
to welcome visions of spring
call warm days back
recall the smell of sweet grasses
the taste of May’s first strawberry
remembering the living world will bloom again….

the dance now calls our feet to dance, our bones to move, our voices chant
to pound our feet upon the earth- voices raised in sacred laughter
faces ruddy in the firelight
Call back the sun! Sing back the sun!
Pound hard on frozen earth with joy!
We have survived this longest night, to see
a new years morn arise again.

The sky brightens with the dawn
we greet the day, alive and well and grateful
For all that has come before
and all that will come after
the magic of surviving
of belonging – here- on this land and in this time
New years sun above us once again
and kinships bonds to keep us warm.

 

 

Solstice Blessings to Your Home and Hearth.
Marianna

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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)