babies and beavers and bears, oh my

I continue to find myself passing through this narrow, but seemingly long, threshold of life, where so much of my old self is being left behind and where I cannot yet see what is to come on the other side. I am keenly aware of passing through the death/birth canal from mother to crone. My body reflects this passage (and perhaps some of the ambivalence associated with it) with changing cycles. In the past 12 months I went from bleeding every 2 weeks to no periods at all for 7 months to 3 ‘regular’ cycles these past 3 months (just when I had no tampons left in the house!!). My youngest child will go off to college next month – I realize have been mothering children at my hearth now for 30 years- and now grandchildren are coming in waves. The first granddaughter arrived last November, I am expecting my 2nd granddaughter any day now and a 3rd granddaughter will be arriving this December. 


As I envisioned this time when the last child left the nest, somehow I always thought there would be a break … a little time between to find and establish myself, separate from the needs of another. In some ways, I see I have been waiting, putting myself on hold all this time. And so the challenge for me now, I see, is to consciously create my own time and space by establishing loving boundaries (despite whatever judgments and misunderstandings and fears of abandonment might arise-in me or in others) so that I can see what might be there, inside this protected circle of me, that has been waiting for its own turn to grow and be born.


What I have noticed is that I am longing (I read something like these words in a novel last week, ‘our longings and our despairs are often the same”) for time and space of pure emptiness….  where there are no demands outside myself…. time for whatever is there to come forth, space for whatever is there to take root and grow.


Of course, I also suspect that there are 2 forces equally constricting this time and space, both pushing against one another

1. The real or imagined expectations of others and my need to not disappoint, and

2. My own fear to truly remain empty for fear that there really is nothing there, nothing in me to be born.

It can be easier, I suppose, to fill the void with anything… even things that appear to be noble and good… when faced with the fear of nothingness. There is a part of me that imagines or desires that the me that has been waiting to be born will rise at last, determined to push everything else out of its way, but there is another part of me that knows that this one needs mothering and nurture to survive, the same as all growing things.


Perhaps I should share ‘the big dream’ I had a few weeks ago, so very simple and clear. In it I was very pregnant, practically bursting, and my water broke. I went to the hospital (or the doctor’s office) and the doctor handed are 3 pills to take at the check-in desk, which I took without question only to learn afterward that they were tranquilizers! My labor immediately stopped and I was sent home, angry at what had been done to me. (Later in the dream, I have the sense that hours afterward; I had another first, faint contraction). I must ask myself these things, what are the 3 things that I accept without question that threaten to put me to sleep, and stop what is wanting to be born in me. Am I presenting this birthing self to the wrong receiver? the culturally accepted and expected place, the institutionalized authority? Glenn has suggested I might re-imagine the dream going to an old midwife, or to a field of flowers (more likely the woods for me 🙂 to give birth.


Last week, I spent some time alone in cabin in a state park north of State College. I had intended from the beginning to stay on for the remainder of the week when my family left on Monday, but still I noticed in myself a real sense of loss as they were about to leave, a wanting to go home with them, and a forgetting why I had thought I needed to come so badly, which in itself was an interesting mirror. After all, finding oneself may indeed require being alone :). Still, I forced myself to stay, even despite the bears that appeared near camp just prior  to their departure…. a momma and 3 bears were spotted foraging in the woods several hundred yards behind the cabin and a lone male bear rummaging through the dumpster near the end of our drive. Suddenly I was alone and afraid… a feeling I’ve never experienced in the woods before. This was a place I’d always felt safe. 


As I hiked the next day, I found myself to be extremely alert… ok, jumpy… scanning the surroundings. No getting lost in my thoughts, I suppose, but not exactly ‘present’ in the way I had hoped. The first day I found myself on a trail whose blazes had been grown over (partially by wild blueberry bushes…. as i thought of those hungry foraging bears) and wasn’t sure at all that I was going to find my way through. Later in the week on a separate trail I noted 3 separate piles of bear scat. Oh, and then there was the highway noise (1/2 mile away), which was constant in the background.  This wasn’t going at all as I had planned. Yet, in the back of my mind, I wondered what black, scary (but likely harmless and shy) creatures were hiding in my psyche that I was afraid to confront as I made my way, feeling lost, through this particular overgrown trail and if my coming face to face with the awareness of their presence in me was not the ‘gift’ I was to receive in this alone time after all.


Strangely, I found myself drawn to dead trees. There was something so elegant and eye-catching about them, and something they seemed to want me to know. Perhaps the way they continued to stand, creating beauty and nurture still?  But I am not dead yet….this does not feel like that kind of final transition….but maybe something in me does need to die….embrace the elegance, vicki.


I finally found some peace when I discovered a beaver pond, down over a hill, on my drive to the showers at the adjacent park. After this discovery, each night following I’d pack my chair, camera, walking stick (mostly to ward of those bears!) some water and my cell phone (to call for help?!). But as I sat for hours each evening, captivated by the setting, I became quieter. I came to know the songs of the red-winged blackbirds, the wrens, and the swallows (diving for insects); to be surprised by the sudden hollow echo of the woodpecker on standing dead wood; to expect the first spaced-apart croaks of the frogs just before dusk; to wait quietly for the appearance of the first beaver; to sit in anticipation as the adults did their border patrol, ears, eyes and nose above water, scanning for me as I did for them; to delight when the little ones appeared, coming up on the dam for an evening snack while the parents drug branches and saplings back to the lodge. Hours I’d spend here not noticing time, feeling spacious perhaps, until reluctantly I would leave as the sky grew too dark and I knew the trail back to the car would be getting difficult to pick up.


I suppose I should look up both beaver and bear in my totem book, though I’d like to ask myself first if there is a lesson or wisdom for me. The beaver has always been a fascinating delight and a draw for me…. almost as much as the turtle. I’ve like the way she creates her own habitat, (establishes her own boundaries?), choosing a place that will provide much future nurture and building a place of safety for herself at the center, surrounded by a moat that keeps most visitors at bay. I have pondered her underwater world, her interior world and how much time she spends there. I have felt a kinship to her. She too is creator.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. emmaatlast
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 23:25:58

    I care to live only to entice people to look at nature’s loveliness. My own special self is nothing. (I want to be) like a flake of glass through which light passes- John Muir

    “Muir’s great love for nature was intensified by his ability to forget himself completely, totally immersing himself in the beauty of his surroundings, becoming so absorbed in the natural world that he would be barely conscious of the passage of time. Sometimes he would lose consciousness of his own separate existence entirely and feel himself merging with the totality of nature.

    Muir exemplifies the true power of humility- not meekness or smallness, but an ability to forget self completely and absorb himself in the joy of nature. This quality is perhaps the most necessary of all for deepening our appreciation of nature, because when we forget ourselves, we are able to receive Spirit.

    Self-forgetfulness gives birth to these qualities, which we need to develop an active environmental ethic.

    -Humility, which opens the inner doorway to love, because it is the barriers of our self-interest that separate us from the rest of life. In absorption in what we love, our thoughts become quiet, thus love brings a wonderful poise and serenity into our lives.

    -Reverence for life, which is the result of love, because in love we begin to feel ourselves in everything around us. Our actions toward other beings becomes more caring, because we understand that, in harming others, we are harming ourselves.

    -A natural outgrowth of the inner fulfillment we feel in nature is a desire to share and to selflessly serve the source of our inspiration.” -from Listening to Nature by Joseph Cornell

    In reflecting further upon my experience of this week i realize, that while my head was full of thoughts of self, which were difficult to extract myself from during this time, these two experiences helped me to get outside myself, to ‘lose myself’ and be more attentive to the beauty of which i was apart. The mother bear and 3 created a situation in which I could not take a hike without being fully attentive to my surroundings in a new way. No more wandering lost inside my own thoughts as is so often the case, such that I might trip upon the mother and cubs unknowingly. While not exactly ‘present’ in the way I had imagined, attentiveness, that oft elusive state of being fully present and alive, was demanded of me.

    In the second experience, the evening visits to the beaver pond, I was so captivated by the setting and the activities that took place there that i was ‘lost’ in another way, this time ‘outside’ of myself, Sitting in complete stillness, so as to become part of the scenery, I grew quieter and more deeply alive at the same time. .

    I was given many gifts that week. Often reflecting upon my experiences upon my return to the cabin, something would be revealed to me, much of it in self-awareness as I noted my responses to my surroundings and experiences, as I reflected upon the inner/outer mirroring that is so often a part of our experience of nature, as I gleaned wisdom that seemed to be just-for-me from animals and trees. But I’d have to surmise as much was healed in me that week in my self-unawareness, in the falling out of self and in to love.

    I once had a friend who told me his greatest spiritual practice was looking for beauty. He said he could find it anywhere, and this became for him a way of staying present to God in a way that had eluded him in so many other attempted spiritual exercises. This practice resonated with me so, as I had once heard the words in a dream ‘You are bound to beauty’, and my own practice had become the same – re-membering, seeking and reclaiming the beauty of life here on earth. Through this practice, I have come to realize that the love I experience within and flowing from myself when gazing upon the beauty that is life, is the same love that is also poured out upon me by the One who gazes upon life. It is this unity in love of gazer with gazed upon that helps the small self to realize its oneness with all that is and erases all boundaries between self and the other. As this essayist surmises, Our oneness is the source of Love.

    Where are the places/times/experiences where you forget self? Where do you notice yourself out of yourself and ‘falling in love’? Do you know yourself to be caught in these times of ‘falling’ in the arms of something greather than yourself?

    looking forward to seeing Beauty together,



  2. Trackback: diving deep and surfacing « Emmaatlast’s Weblog

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