This is a poem that birthed itself. The words beginning to spill from me, catching me off guard, without pen in hand. i’m beginning to be able to recognize this sensation more quickly, and quite literally run to get a writing instrument if there is not one in reach. Mary Oliver said that a writer should never be without a small pad of paper and a pen, I haven’t quite learned this lesson yet.
Snake has been growing in me for sometime now. I have never been afraid of snakes, in fact I’m enchanted by them, The cool smoothness of their bellies, their direct eye contact, the flick of a forked tongue tasting air, so beautiful to me. Yet this thing snake and I have going on, is really tied to the divine mother. Since I began in earnest last year reclaiming my relationship with Mary, now in a garment untied to any religion, and since finding a deep love of praying the rosary, snake has decided to show up in a big way.
Mary is often pictured with her foot upon the snake, some folks have said that she was squashing out evil, casting out the serpent, the temptress, the snake in the garden. I don’t believe this to be true. Yes, Mary has her foot resting on the snakes back, but perhaps more as a sign, A signature mark of her affiliation with the wild and wise serpent ones. Back and back through Time the snake has been a symbol of the goddess. And Mary is, with no doubt in my mind, a manifestation of the goddess. Not only is she the mother of God, she is God the mother. The fruit of her womb is life, and life is sacred. She rests her foot upon the snake with tenderness, and kind regard, a shared lineage of women and serpent, an ancient contract, steeped in magic and mystery.
When I was recently in the desert I was hoping so much to be visited by snake, I spoke aloud calling her, I drew her, as pictured here, courting her with my pen and my tongue. But she did not appear in her corporeal form, only in this poem, dropped into my heart whole and complete. Notice, I did not say that she did not arrive. Indeed she did arrive, hearing my calls and coming to me, gifting me with her presence through my own words. Sly like a snake she is…
What could it be that I have to learn from a snake? There is something about waiting, about not being too hot blooded, about taking the moment of opportunity when it arrives, without hesitation. Snap! Her jaws clamp shut, she does not wait for the perfect, precious moment, she needs to eat now. And all of life is death too. As I fall deeper into the practice of seeing nature as a mirror for my inner world, there is so much to be contemplated, and the thoughts that come into my mind and heart, the creatures I see with my eyes, the way I move through the wind and the rain, all become gifts meant entirely for me. I know how much I do not know, and how much I am willing to unlearn to be open to learning anew.
Blessed are we, creatures living on this earth and under the sun to be gifted teachers, teachers that come in all forms. Today I am giving thanks for snake, and all of her relations, and the gentle wisdom I am learning through contemplation of their ways.
I have sat down three times in the last week, preparing to write a post about a journey that I took, both an outer journey in the form of a road trip, and an inner journey, diving deep into my soul and the lap of nature, through the ancient practice of vision fasting on the land. I sit down to write, and yet the words don’t seem to want to come. My attempts at coaxing them have been trying and I think I’m going to allow that experience to settle into my bones a little bit more before I share it here, though pieces of it may come forward sooner.
However, there is something coming forward to be spoken tonight, something unbidden and wild and terribly alive. Something that came clear to me on my time on the land, and made clearer over the last 24 hours. My body hums with something electric in nature, it’s not exactly excitement, it’s not exactly grief, I think it might be purpose. I think it might be my soul speaking. I think all of this time of wandering around and saying “what shall I do with my life?” It was right here in front of me. No, inside ME. Begging to be birthed into the world.
There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “sometimes you need a story more than food to stay alive “
I agree with this, and I believe this. And what has been coming to me the last week is this deep knowing that what we need, much more than food, is ceremony. We are starving for a ceremony. Our children are starving, our families are starving, our schools and public organizations are starving, our souls, especially our souls are starving. And this is not something to be taken lightly, or turned away from, or seen as inconvenient, or that we just don’t have enough time. This I believe is deadly. We are starving for ceremony, and without it we are dying.
Yesterday my older brother called me when I was at work. He asked me if I was somewhere I could talk, he told me I might want to sit down. This is never good to hear. He told me he was going to tell me something that it was hard to hear, but he wanted me to hear from him. God, what a loving brother. He told me that a dear friend of ours had died the day before, that it looked as if he took his own life. These are the things we are never ready to hear, never ready to cope with, cope is a crap word, but you get the point. These are the types of wounds and sorrows that rip us open, that can fester for a long time,that call us reevaluate things in our lives.
My heart sank, like a cold stone settling down into my belly, the only thing I could say was “we loved him so much “and Matt said, “yeah, we loved him so much” and we wept together then, me sitting in my small office, and him at home, but both together in this grief.
This friend, this man that went down never to rise again, was a bright light of a human. Beloved by everyone, cherished, valued, believed in. He was gracious, hilarious, connected, and so very alive. The sorrow of his death is rippling out through our community like a boulder dropped in a small pond. The stories of love and care keep arising. My own memories keep surfacing and growing in form and texture. The vastness of the hole he leaves behind astounds me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about heartbreak lately. About love and grief and the way that they are twins of one another, the way they are inextricably woven, wedded. Like an infinity sign looping back on itself forever and ever, where one ends the next begins and so on and so forth.
I’ve been thinking about how to truly love is to be broken open. To be broken open again, and again allowing love and sorrow to rip through the very center of your being, and to not turn away. To keep your heart awake and aware, to keep your eyes turned to face whatever comes, to truly love is to lose. Is the fall, is to be broken. To love is to mourn, to regret, to weep. This may sound dark, that is not my intention. Nor is it to say that all of love is grief, of course this is not true, blessedly. But to be willing to stand in the fire of what love really means, requires a certain fortitude. A certain willingness to be with the trouble. To make one self large enough to hold suffering more enormous than you thought possible.
Let me now return to ceremony. In my four days and nights alone, fasting on the land, I came into the presence of myself that I had never known before. Deep healing happened and seeds of the future were planted. Both in my heart and in the land. I came away with an inarguable truth and knowing that my path in this life, and one of my offerings to this life, is the gift of ceremony. It seems so clear now, so simple, as if everything I’ve ever loved or longed for has been leading up to this, to step into the role of serving myself, and my community through offering healing ceremony, working in conjunction with the land, my guides and ancestors, the more than human realm, and the fully human realm.
It seems clear to me that ceremony is the key to bring us back into right relationship with all of life. And that this return to our place within the order of things is the balm for the broken-heartedness of our times. Wise, well, initiated adults are what are needed, to heal one another, to pull eachother out of the darkness, to know our purpose. When we are on purpose in this life, it is to precious to even consider throwing it away. We need a return to the tried and true ways of becoming human on the earth. And I am stepping in. I am stepping all in to service of life through the container of earth based ceremony. ￼
My soul has spoken, and I have heard her. Loud and clear, the direction has been given, and to turn away now would be futile. The thing about the soul is she makes you work for it, she doesn’t deliver a full packet of instructions, she speaks in image, glimpses, urges and feelings. What does it look like for me to make my life a living vessel for ceremony to grow and to wrap around me, and my community? I’m not exactly sure yet. But I am sure that this is the healing that I am being called to, but this is the healing that is really needed in the world right now, and that I can think of nothing more important to do with my life.
Thank you for being here, for reading my words, for being a human in the world at least for one more day. If you need support in creating or tending in the ceremonial realm, please reach out to me. If you need an officiant for a wedding or a funeral, please reach out to me. Those are areas I have already had some practice in. As I continue to listen to the voice of my soul, and this calling from within grows and becomes more solid in form, you’ll be hearing from me. What a beautiful gift it is to travel through life together, hold your loved ones close.
Tonight the sky is clear and the air is calm. I’ve been working hard on the compost pile, washing buckets and jars, doing the good labor of keeping my home. My beloved cat is playing just outside the door, and the chickens are reliably putting themselves to bed. On nights like this when everything is so perfect it’s hard to even believe that we are at the edge of extinction. That about 24 species a day are dying out, that scientist say we are inhaling about a credit cards worth a week full of aerosolized plastic, I can’t feel it in my lungs but sometimes I’m a little short of breath, are my bronchi becoming filters for crystallized fossil fuel?
There is so much to contend with in our times, how challenging it is to stay open and present, as the world begins to crumble around us. And to also stay present to the incredible beauty that exists in each day, in fact this day may be the most beautiful day I ever know and all my days, and I don’t want to miss it.
I don’t want to miss anything, the way the dew gathers on the grass in the morning, the way my feet feel as they hit the cool and moist grass, how the grass tickles between my toes, the inhale of dawn air and the site of my tall friends the Doug Firs towering above me. The last few mornings the air has smelled so sweet with their aroma that I can barely take it. It certainly doesn’t smell like micro plastics in the air… But that doesn’t mean they’re not there. And it doesn’t mean they’re not in our waters, and in our soil.
The paradox of being is so intense, at times I feel like I will buckle under the weight of trying to figure it all out. And perhaps, if I try to figure it all out I will buckle. But instead of trying to figure, what if I learn to dance? To dance between the joy and sorrow, to be firmly rooted in my body, and the beating of my own heart, in the beauty that my eyes see, in the way my breath moves through my lungs, inhaling the scent of the Doug Fir incense on the morning air.
What if I learn to dance my way through days of work, and the heartbreak of witnessing so many endings in the elders that I serve, to dance within and between my own endings, all the women I have been and will yet be. I see my many selves dancing behind me. Me, rolling in the grass, childlike and free, me curled up in a ball weeping, me reaching my arms towards the sky, me holding my daughter when she was a baby and kissing her sweet face. All these ones that join together inside this one self, this one woman, this one body I call home.
Sometimes I wonder if this is really it? If we are living in the end of days, and no, I don’t mean the biblical end of days, that’s really not my cup of tea. But the end of all we’ve known, the end of the surety of the cycles of the earth, have we broken the web? The scientist say so, but in my heart the verdict is still out. What about the power of our prayers? What about those of us who sing to the dawn and implore the earth to live on? Those of us who dance our prayers on her body with our firm, naked feet. Can she feel us? Does she love the feel of dancing on her skin?
I cast my vote for yes. Yes, our prayers matter. Yes, our songs and dances matter. Yes, our beloved mother the earth, feels our feet dancing on her body and rejoices. So many of us humans have forgotten how to praise, but not all of us, and even those of us who have forgotten, or who never were taught in the first place, can learn, and are learning again, how to worship life. I cast my vote for yes, because I cannot bear to believe the answer is no. I cannot bear to live in a world that is only dying, and I simply don’t believe that that is true. There is too much flourishing, too much beauty, too much synchronicity and grace, for ending to be all that there is.
In the face of darkness and destruction, in the presence of complexity and overwhelm, in the truth of brutality and extinction, I still choose to put my feet on the earth and dance. I choose to see the beauty of each day, and give thanks for all that is still flourishing, for all of the ways that life is still living, including, through me. The only answer I am sure of is that how I show up matters. That I am alive and on the receiving end of such incredible gifts, and that I can apprentice myself to the learning, and the open heartedness required to hold the complexity of it all, to be connected and aware with my eyes wide open to the beauty and grace present in this broken world. So, this will be my intent, my prayer, my offering. All that I have and all that I am I offer into the service of and the worship of this wild, green, magical home, we call Earth.
The wheel of time turns on. Autumn Faded to winter, which here in Portland really means grey skies, rain, and squishy ground, rather than the picture of snowdrifts that the word “winter” evokes in our minds. And now we find ourselves again Holding on to times wheel as she turns us from winter solstice to Imbolc. The halfway point between the longest night and the spring equinox.
Each year I age I feel the wheel more solidly, I feel my place in time and feel it spinning all around me, or maybe it’s me spinning with it. It seems so long ago, the days when I cared not what season we were in, unless it meant that I could be next to the river with the summer sun shining on my skin. Now I pace my days, my work, and my energy in relationship to where we are in the wheel of the year. This time, this gestational time “the in the belly” time, when traditionally livestock would be carrying their babes in the belly, feels of such great importance. I too, in my own way am gestating, not a baby, but a whole new life.
Here on our little farmlette, as my momma likes to call it , we too had hopes of young ones being in the belly this winter, but the small goat who was sent for breeding did not receive the seed and so we wait for spring to try again. This time is still fertile, I feel myself putting down a taproot. Learning to be of this land. Not quite a year yet under my belt in my tiny home in the Doug fir trees, yet it’s beginning to feel like my place in the world. And I know my tall standing friends, are growing used to me as well.
Just tonight as I came out of my parents’ house after a nice shower in the hot wate, making my way across the dark yard, my footsteps know the way, I don’t need a light anymore. Out of the darkness came a sound, a large, low hoot of an owl. An owl who must be very grand to see with your eyes indeed because their voice was so resonant, I could feel it in my belly. I stopped and called a greeting. “Hello owl, hello!” and gave a hoot of my own. The owl responded, as they tend to do. I never stop delighting in this fact, that I can converse with an owl. So I stood there for a moment with the wind blowing and a few raindrops coming down around me, and my wet hair streaming down my back, and I sang, just a small song for that owl. Thinking maybe if I try to speak owl, he will think I’m a bit Daft, but if I speak human and offer a song with a certain lilt and cadence perhaps it will be well received. Owl didn’t seem to mind, but hooted again, as I said goodnight.
It’s been a quarter of a year since I was in New Mexico tending to my beloved uncle John through his death. Only three moon since then… a quarter of a year more of this pandemic, a quarter of a year more of learning how to be a woman on my own without a husband, a quarter of a year more of living in my little home with my cat under these tall trees. It seems such a short burst of time, and yet also so drawn out. Another sign from the gods that time truly does not exist even though we dance with it.
We’ve been looking at seed catalogs, dreaming about little ones to plant in the ground and raise up and grow come spring and then summer. And I’ve been looking inside the catalogues of my heart wondering what pieces of myself I would like to attend to and grow up into something flourishing and bright as the sun again returns to the land.
I take such comfort in this quiet dark, such comfort in not having to know anything, rather just feeling my way through my life, just like the baby plants feel their roots sinking down through layers of soil and when they hit a pebble they don’t freak out, they just gently go around it and keep on rooting. We humans, we are much like baby plants. And we are also much like tall trees.
Each morning when I say my prayers, I finish by smudging my body, my brow, my heart, my belly, and then drawing the smoke down each leg and grounding my hands to the floor, and through the floor to the earth. I often refer to this as smudging myself in. Smudging myself into my body and into my life, into my commitment to my ancestors and my descendants. I use Cedar for my smudge bundle right now, Cedar gathered from the land here on which I live. And I send up a prayer every day for Cedar to help me be a little more like them, a little more regal and tall in my stature, a little more rooted deep to the earth, a little more sweet smelling when the rain of life falls on me.
There’s nothing left to do this evening, except for make some tea and pour it in my cup. Give my cat a little bit of a snuggle and settle into bed with my book. I’m grateful to be aware of the pause this time of year. I’m grateful for the silent darkness, this potent present, the pregnant fullness that lives in the dark.
I have lost my map. The whole, well structured cartography of my life slips and shifts before my very eyes. North now points, gods know where South spins on some unknown axis, and I am spun as well.
All I knew to be true now in question, One thousand planned futures collapse around me, the unknown looms like a sneaker wave not yet seen, but growing.
How do I step forward when there is no ground? Beneath my feet is only shift and play, no solid earth to hold me. where do I step when I cannot see? only darkness, fog and shadow.
Perhaps stepping is not the issue at hand As a wise man says – “The times are urgent, we must slowdown.”
Maybe I plant my feet here like the roots of a mighty tree maybe my roots will, in good time hold the earth solid, and me along with her.
My roots snaking and growing once again to create a new cartography of my life.
In darkness I was born and will be born again. now I wait, spreading roots, spreading roots.