thinking it was the gardener

I come upon a crumbling wall, previously unexplored, though I’ve passed this way so many times before. Something draws me now.  Circling round to the decrepit stairway, I imagine once led to a stoop, front or rear, I ascend those three to this sacred burial ground. The three remaining walls have utterly deceased. Life has drifted in its place. At once, I note a trinity of birch, of mushrooms, sentinels of stones rolled back.

 

Suddenly, I stumble upon a skull, intact of tooth, a deer I presume.  Oh, I see. Innocence died here in this place.  I pick it up, turn it over in my hands, return it to its imprint in the litter, to this fecund mix where it belongs, where infant pines and fallen giants share the ground with shadows moistening in long and slender forms.

 

Other creatures too have bedded in this place. I come upon a matted surround within a mass of bamboo. (Who would plant bamboo in these northeast woods?) I wonder if the deer thought it to be a safe place, here, far from the water, where domesticated geese don’t venture, to snatch up dandelion petals. Without a pen, I choose not to hunker down, though had I one I could’ve written in this place all day. 

 

Providence. Perhaps it is best to visit briefly.

 

I turn about, retrace my steps, descend the three, alight upon a giant stump. A large limb, fallen from on high, browns at last, here, on the other side of wooden soldiers in a row, remnants of that time.  Above, a redtail glides from height to height, while below, multicolored sojourners pause to inhale lilac and stroke magnolia blossoms. It must be time to go.

 

Slow return, no rush from there to here, passing between garbage can and dumpster. Love is all ways. Here.

 

the cojones of wombs

 

What does God do all day long? God gives birth. From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth. -Meister Eckhart

 

It seems that for some time I have been giving wombs only partial credit.  Just look at the adjectives I’ve used to describe them…receptive, nurturing, soft, warm, expansive, embracing, protective, dark, safe. These adjectives have served me well along my journey of healing. Whether I was expressing them to understand myself in relation to another, or to understand myself in relation to myself, or to understand myself in relation to the Sacred One, or to Life itself, I have sought to claim and bless the receptive and incubating qualities of each.

 

I have imagined myself in the womb of God, deep in Her belly, swimming in her waters, being held and dreamt into being. I have imagined receiving God in my own womb, nurturing what longs to be made incarnate through and in me.  I have been a womb for others, a place of sanctuary and acceptance, of nourishment and embrace. And I have imagined Life itself to be a great womb that nurtures Love’s growth and new incarnations of Spirit.

 

What I have missed acknowledging is the great power of the womb to thrust forth, to exert massive force and expel into being.  Even as I envisioned life’s journey of growth as a series of concentric wombings, in which we are nurtured into growth in one womb until that space begins to feel constricting and then are birthed into the next, I missed this overwhelmingly muscular part. Certainly I understood the painful aspect of  labor, most especially during times of transition when contractions seem to be unceasing in intensity and ultimately necessary in order to break free from old spaces and move into the light of some new way of being ( and ironically, where we necessarily feel quite  frighteningly small again for a time). And yet, caught up in the pain, I missed the vast power behind that impulse to push through.

 

So maybe this then was the grief that was contained in the rage I experienced around my granddaughter’s births — a potent response to a very real loss. I had known that the rage that arose in me was too powerful to have been solely about the medicalization of birth. Much more than that, those experiences felt utterly disempowering and traumatic to me somehow, as if something crucial and essential had been oppressed, stripped and annihilated — a woman’s knowing and trusting of her deeper self and strength.  So saddened and angered was I that my daughters-in-law were not granted access to this hidden, yet profound feminine power, as I recalled in a flash that childbirth had been such a powerfilled time for me, a time when I’d glimpsed something of my spirit/body’s innate capacity and strength. This newest disempowerment felt, to me, a further domestication of Her wild power, a further suppression and silencing of Her innate wisdom, the last vestige of the wilder-ness of women tamed. Like a managed landscape stripped of  its trees, its creatures  were forced into either fleeing or hiding. That is, if they were not completely exterminated.

 

Of course, the loss of  this wild creature I was mourning, was me.

 

I think on some level I have associated the wielding of force-full power—the power of exertion, the power to make happen, the power to thrust forth, the power to assert and send out – with the masculine. As such, I have struggled mightily with extricating and redeeming ‘powerful’ from ‘violation’ and so have likely put my own power to sleep whenever I detected its pulse. Though I have come to know healthy men, who use their power ‘with’ (rather than ‘over’) in empowering and love-making ways, I still associate masculine power with controlling force and domination, and I haven’t been able to reconcile that kind of power in me.  I have been so afraid of violating another, or myself, with my strength that I haven’t allowed myself to be strong. But clearly here is a redeemed view of power for me,  a feminine power, something my own body in its wisdom and strength knows and does naturally.

 

So, what does this mean for me today?  Firstly, I see clearly that the way I have understood compassion (for self and for others) is also but a partial understanding…. the accepting, nurturing, embracing kind of compassionate understanding for all, which in truth often slips into indulgence and enabling.  But the word, ‘compassion’ means, ‘with PASSION’ for goodness sake!  How might that compassion be expressed by me equally through the energy of pushing forth—self or other– into the fullness of life?  How might I say ‘Yes, it is time,’ to this part that has been incubating, empower it to exert itself, to come forth into being? (Likewise, how might the Great Mother be expelling me into being?) This is perhaps the instinctual, wild self I have been seeking to reclaim…. assertive, empowered, expressive, pushing something into life because I know it is time for it to be free.

 

This is something of the yesthat I felt several months ago, when remembering and tapping into the courage, re-called and reclaimed from an earlier me, who had been thrust into life and had thrived.

 

Yet, I wonder if I will ever feel that power in me again. Is it even possible to choose and to harness such an energy, or will IT instead always possess and move through me in a wave of ‘NOW’, ‘THIS’, ‘HERE’!?  I have frequently noted that a woman’s experience of surrendering to what is happening to her, which then leads her to knowing her strength, seems to be quite different than a man’s, with less choice somehow.  Perhaps this is not a universal experience and has only been mine, but things seem to ‘happen to’ a woman that are often out of her ability to control (though medical technologies may be close changing that)…. her body changes and goes through its cycles, the embryo is impregnated and implanted beneath her awareness, labor begins and the urge to push overtakes, and one day the cycles end with or without her permission.  A child is born that is dependent upon her, a child is alarmingly ill or is threatened, a man leaves her alone with children to raise. She cannot say ‘no’ to these things.  These instinctual drives require and reveal her true strength.

 

Each time, something in her rises to some occasion, beyond her control, with power and wisdom and grace. Yet this  raw energy seems to go back inside to lie dormant, latent until it is needed again.  Is it possible then to open that door willingly? To tap into that passion and power and singular focus?  To feel that power for herself? Or must the impetus always come from something outside of or beyond herself?

 

My womb is no longer in the business of making babies. Does that mean its energy is available to me now in a new way, for a new purpose? Oh how I want to feel the power again of that  ‘NOW’ , ‘THIS’, ‘HERE’, to feel the unmistakable, instinctual, unstoppable power of my womb to bring something forth with sheer grace.  I want to be swept into that process, to participate with its raw energy, to feel its undeniable rightness, its undoubted insistence that now is the time, here is the place, and this is the thing I am here to do. 

 

Perhaps Goddess, in Her great compassion, will just have to give me a push.

 

 

 

 

 

 

on a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. today is such a day. ~ rumi

I have dragged my writing chair out to the field behind my house, because it is too perfect a day to sit in the house, because it is too breezy a day to not be drawn to the swaying of long stemmed fragrances, because the field itself begs for the presence of flowing skirts and the chance to blow hair back from faces.  This day, the breeze reassures me of balance- of drying winds following the rains and cooling clouds chasing the sun. Mostly, this breeze reminds me to open, to play.  And so here I am, amidst late-April purples and yellows and greens, soaking up and drying off.   

 

It has been raining a lot lately.

 

I have been thinking a lot lately… of geniuses and muses and guardian angels and such. Never one to find myself drawn to such invisible spirits, (spirits for me have tended to be contained by more tangible things—turtles and trees and the like) I am rather delighted. This is something new opening in me– for this other ‘something-new’ opening in my life.

 

As I sat with this opening to new possibility the other day, I wondered what kind of prayer might be necessary for such a time as this. What kind of prayer would help me to remain hopeful rather than drifting off into fear?  I knew that I would need prayers of great expectancy and imagination, envisioning this thing come to life fully grown, bright and beautiful. I knew that I would need prayers of deep trust, believing that what will flow through me to come into being is not really mine to make happen so much as it is mine to allow. I knew that I would need to let go into that mystery, pondering only Love’s unseen and unwritten blueprint, while holding so very lightly that this thing is at all about me. (Ah, now I see.  This is really not so different than birth after all!) And so I knew that what I really needed was a prayer of openness and receptivity that this red room in me might be open to receive the expression of Love that wants to be born through me.

 

The thing I am most certain of is that I do not want this thing to be about me. I want it to be about what wants to be. I want it to be about what is needed here that I can assist in coming into this place. And so I will pray only to ask what it wants to say.

 

I remember a story I once heard Elizabeth Gilbert tell about the poet Ruth Stone, how she would be out in the fields working and suddenly hear/feel a poem coming towards her from across the land, how she would have to run into the house to find a scrap of paper as fast as she could in order to write down what she could catch before it moved on, across the landscape to be caught by some other poet farther along. Perhaps that’s why I sit in this field then today.

 

Maybe this is what is meant by ‘catching one’s muse’. Gilbert also explained that the word ‘genius’ once had quite a different meaning than the one that we hold today. Today we see genius as something inside a person, an exceptional giftedness, an aspect of an individual personality. Evidently the Greeks used the word in quite a different manner to describe the presence of a guiding spirit, a tutelary being, WITH an individual. I rather liked this idea that the genius is a companion, Something Else altogether separate from us, one who gives tutelage.

 

And so it was that I got to pondering spirits and muses and guardian angels.

 

I wonder if this is not really the same thing as what is often thought of as soul.. that unseen guiding presence within that seems to know what we are doing here and where we are going when we don’t have a clue up here on the surface the ‘whys and the wherefores’ of our lives. Perhaps we call it soul when we hear it from within, Spirit when it comes from without. The words that we give it don’t really matter, after all.

 

I thought of the times in my life when words flowed so effortlessly through me, unstoppable, as if they were coming from some place I had not known before, as if my very life depended upon those words coming. I thought of the experiences of which I wrote — dark places and times that needed releasing or redeeming. And as I pondered those times, I suddenly realized that, even moreso than in the telling of them, it was in the experiences themselves that Spirit, or guardian angels, were indeed most present.

 

Specifically, I recalled those long moments with the noose, standing on the red padded bench, which I’d also dragged to that place, so close to the edge. How ‘lucky’ I was that an accidental tipping didn’t accidentally end my life as I dangled one foot over its edge to feel my weight on the rope. Who was with me that day, keeping me safe, encircling me with a profound sense of the sacred… of calm composure… even peace… and then as I so violently sobbed, releasing those long-pent-up, painfilled memories?

 

Of course, I didn’t really want to die, though I did scare myself that day (and which one is the ME in that sentence? ). I desperately wanted the pain to end, that is true, but more than that, I think I wanted to know that I had the power within me to end it. I wanted to know what it might feel like, to know if death was less painful than life, just so…. just so….just so I could put it in my pocket for the day when things got worse. 

 

But they didn’t.

 

There were other things I was killing that day. Other demons I was exorcising in that basement where ‘it’ happened. And there was Something Else with me that was so much more intense than my pain.

 

Although on some level I felt so very alone, I was not at all alone on that day…  Love was there with me, profoundly and palpably present , holding me, receiving me, not forcing me, but ready to take me into its arms on either side. Beside Spirit (Mary, Angel, Christ, God, Love  or whatever that Presence was) my children were there with me too, in a very real way, and perhaps moreso than those invisible Beings, it was my deep Love for them that kept me here…and my love for them has always somehow been far greater than my love for myself… yet another example of profound Love that never abaondons, and never desires more suffering. What an interesting twist on sacrificial love is that?

 

It is interesting to me that this memory surfaces here for me, in this place where something new is asking to be born. Perhaps these thin places between this physical life and the spirit world… between birth and death specifically… are not so different from one another.  Both are fearfully Holy places, palpably close to the Sacred. Both are surrounded by Love. And both require the escort of guardians – midwives and angels alike. Yes, there is fear here for me, and there is Life  … here on the edge of birth where I stand.

 

Several weeks ago, a Mandorla came out through watercolor crayons onto paper with a message for me, which I have since been praying and pondering. It too was expressed into being during a period of fearfulness and self-doubt, following a time of prayer where I felt utterly stilled and quieted by an internal image of deep forest shelter. In the Mandorla, clearly there appeared a vivid light in the center of a profound darkness,  in the center of the mystery of ‘I am’ (whether that ‘I am’ be myself or Godself –it is a mirror really), which for some very good reason remains unseeable and unknowable. Protected, surrounded, inviolable, hidden, the flower/gem is both bathed in blessing and beheld only by a Sacred Eye-Witness.

 

Today, as I gaze upon this image held in this mind-frame, I clearly see in it both a tomb and a womb. Something is buried in me — in my very darknesses — and something is being nurtured in me – in the unknowable mystery. In both places, that which is vibrant is hidden away, yet also protected and nourished—as is a seed in the earth left there from last season’s dying. At the same time this space feels virginal – original, inviolate.

 

When I painted this side of the mandorla, it was clearly both an expression of bewildered confusion and a response to an experience of deep sanctuary. What I didn’t perhaps realize is that these two are in truth often one.  On the other side as well, the green bulging, a green as deep as the forest sanctuary,  is on one hand part of the birthing that is greening in me, and on the other more of that same sense of protection,   The greening goes before the blossom, shielding it, and lined up along its outer perimeter are so many jewel-blossoms. At first I thought of these as vast aspects of God, which are beyond me and my awareness. Later, I saw them as various expressions of myself, multi-faceted and abundant. Today I see them as guardian angels, protecting, revealing, inspiring, accompanying and going before that which is to be birthed. Perhaps they are all three…. a trinity of jewels… God, me, and Spirit.

 

I ponder these things in my heart.

 

I ponder who ‘I Am’ and why ‘I Am ‘ here. I ponder who i am, and why i am here. I ponder who is accompanying me here on my journey, what it is that my Soul, or my Genius, or my God wants of me, what It is doing with me and my life that I just cannot see, but I trust. And I trust it is good that I can’t see and don’t know.

 

As I sit in this field, I know only that I want to open to and run with the Poem on this wild, fragrant breeze that wants to be caught by my heart, to become wide for the Love that is here with me, both seen and unseen, to welcome It ardently into my womb let It be birthed through me.  I want to trust deeply that this oh-so-Profound Love, so palpably present during birth and death and birth again, is here with me in each moment of my dying and birthing –holding, upholding, beholding, embracing and penetrating, pulling me back from the edge and taking me to it again.

 

On a day like today, you can see it, you know. The wind. It moves fast across the field in a sudden undulation that ripples the grasses in bursts of delight, coming up from the southeast, passing through and out the other side toward the place where the sun is beginning to set.  And you can hear it, in the clapping of so many new leaves whose applause sounds like so many birds taking flight.  And I am here.

 

With It.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

letter to my daughter

 
Dear daughter of mine,

I long for you to know your own beauty, to look in the mirror and see the reflection of you that I see– beneath your sorrow, and fear, and pain. But beyond that, I suppose, I long for you to one day look in the mirror and see all your sorrow, and fear, and pain as beautiful. 

I long for you to find that place in yourself that sees and loves all — a safe, clear place where no thing can encroach to hinder your vision.

I long for you to find life …. most especially your own life.. to be beautiful and free.

I long for you to trust in your goodness, your wisdom, your grace. To know yourself as gift, to gift yourself with blessing.

I long for you to know the power of your voice, and your heart, and your womb.  To trust in your womanhood as blessed.

I know that you will have to experience much to find these things, for these knowings are not found on a gentle path.  It is easy to find life beautiful during breath-taking sunrises over vistas, but it is to truly know beauty when one sees it in the violence of hurricane. I know you will have to one day fall in love with yourself and so realize how life has sculpted you with such care, for you to begin to see life as artistry. I long for you to so fall.

I long for you to know love.  I long for you to be seen.  To know what it feels like to be loved in a way that sees the whole of you as you are and finds incredible beauty there. To know what it feels like to so see the whole of another as beloved.

I long for you to feel the incredible power of giving birth to something so precious it breaks your heart wide open … whether that birthing be child or art or some other thing that requires your specific body to nurture and bring it to life. To feel then the bittersweet pain/joy celebration of letting that thing go to experience a life of its own.

I long for you to be free from suffering… knowing you will never be free from pain, for to love is to open yourself to pain, and I would never wish for you a life without love, and to know pain is to open your heart to compassion and I would never wish for you a life without compassion…. but to be free from those definitions about pain — what it means about you, or life, or God — which bring you suffering.

I long for you to stop hurting.

I long for you to know passion and peace in the same breath.

I long for you to love even your fear, to hold it tenderly, to not leave it alone in the dark.

I long for you learn to love mystery, to let answers remain in its shadows, to lean into its dark embrace.

I long for you to own your wisdom, to bless your life, to dance in the mystery.

I long for you to laugh….. and then to cry at the terrible beauty of it all.

I long for the child you once were to inhabit your woman’s body. I long for the woman you are to trust in the joy of the child. I long for you to mother your child into life.

I long for you the end of striving, competition and measurements, of ‘not good enough’ and earning love.

I long for you an embrace, a gaze, tenderness.

I long for you time in the forest, by the ocean, in the desert, on the lake, under a million stars. I long for you to know the deep sacred nourishment of earth. I long for you time in the forest, oceans and deserts of your Soul, for you to know the deep sacred nourishment of spirit. I long for you a balance of  feet on the earth and wings in the air.

I long for you fresh water.

I long for you ease.

I long for you joy.

I long for you hope.

I long for you Love.

woman at the well

This morning, perched over a bowl of water, peering inquisitively over its edge and discerning my reflection there, I recalled the lady of the lake, the one I’ve been beseeching, ‘Come’ and ‘Help!’. There she was, of course, staring back at me.

Of course, I’ve known now for some time that She was waiting there, inside my own reflection, for me to turn my gaze, but these waters have not been still for quite some time. What I have been perceiving has been a quite distorted image of Her – a muddled image of inadequacy, a jumble of self-judgment and self-doubt.

And so it was in the quiet this morning, as I regarded Her countenance and allowed at last the One in the water to see me, that She blessed me.

                A droplet on my forehead to bless my knowing

                Two moistened fingers on each eye to bless my seeing

                ….on my ears, to bless my listening, my hearing

                ….my lips and throat, my speaking                                                          

                ….my heart, my loving,

               ….. my arms for embrace

                ….my gut, my instincts

               ….my womb, sacred receiver of a Love that longs to be born in me

                ….my back, my strength and flexibility

                ….my hips and legs for their carriage, and for wrapping themselves round a horse or a man

                ….my feet for their connection to earth

                ….my body for its wisdom

And so it was the She reminded me of my own goodness.

This water was good, so good that my discerning cat came when I had finished, to lap up its refreshment, clearly affirming for me its blessedness, that this is water I should also lap up, take into my being.

I have been reminded repeatedly lately, in a variety of places, to notice what I take in, what I ingest, and to be mindful to take in only Things that Bless. Lately, however, I’m afraid I have been chewing on a lot of negative judgment – ‘ what’s wrong with me’, ‘not good enough’ words. Words I likely ingested and digested long ago, so that they became a part of me, a part of my own cells. Now these words attack me, like some toxin, from within.

Today, I also entrust my body, through this same life-giving water, to eliminate these toxins in me, to discharge that which is not needed, not good at all, for me. I devote my sweat, my exhaled breath, my urine… all water-full….to cleansing me.

Several weeks ago, on retreat, in a foretaste perhaps, I imagined myself sitting deep in a forest sanctuary, next to this life-giving, greening water. Not ready to get my feet wet, I was content to be serenaded by its peace, but clearly understood that it was to this sacrosanct, unpolluted, invulnerable, virginal place I needed to often return. This was a lush place, a womb space, and quiet and uncluttered space, where words such as ‘broken’ and ‘inadequate’ could not gain entrance. Today I waded into that refreshing water … just a bit…  with curiosity and playfulness and deep respect, and I was blessed.

I thought about baptism, for this felt vaguely familiar in some way, yet felt entirely different at the same time. The practice of baptism for me has always been mixed up with feelings of shame, unworthiness, … as if those ugly wrongnesses were really inherent parts of me that needed to be washed away. This morning’s water-bath was more of an anointing really, for I knew somehow that those things were not a part of me at all, but rather taken in by me, or force fed to me, wrongly. This water has come to wash away those false beliefs of who I am, to clean the mirror that I gaze into, so that I might trust in my belovedness,  in the presence of the Wise One who dwells within …

this reflection that I am.

waiting for something to hatch

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs;
ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that.
…Because what the world needs
is people who are alive.” Howard Thurman

This afternoon, a goose and I sat in prayer, be-holding each other  –she, perched on her nest (not much more than a depression in the earth atop that man-made brim of a lake), and I, perched on the damp wooden seat of a bench, butted up against the parking lot, perhaps 15 feet from her.  Though she was not really ever completely still – in truth, she spent quite a bit of the time preening — now and again she would stand, ostensibly to roll the eggs over so they could benefit from her warmth.   I knew she was simply restless, in that way of mothers everywhere, trying to get as comfortable as possible while confined to 2 square feet of earth.  Wordlessly, I asked her how it was for her to sit that way, unnaturally exposed on this domesticated plot, displayed in a way she might not otherwise be were she not attending to those eggs in this place.  Her reply? –her only recourse – lie low.  Domestication does that to a creature. 

I wonder if her wings alternately grow stiff, and then twitch… if she dreams of flight as she sleeps.

 Of course, I know she won’t abandon her nest, don’t expect nor desire her to, but I’ve learned that she won’t even leave  for something to eat while incubating those eggs. Fasting eliminates feces after all (no substance to digest) so predators might not identify her nest by its fecund scent, (though there are in reality few predators here to stir her to life, so little environmental miscellany in this whitewashed, mani-cured, loss of habitat).  Starvation makes a mother just a little crazy.

No food, no trace of fecundity, and just a little crazy….domestication does that to a creature too.

How was it for her, last evening, to sit unprotected through that sudden severe thunderstorm, through this morning’s plummet in temperature, when so easily her wings or feet could’ve carried her to shelter?  Was this merely instinct of one sort overruling another or did her lack of nourishment make her numb to the pummeling, the way other geese have frozen to death during 3 foot snowfalls through which they sat tight. Did the pummeling almost push her over the edge this time?  

 I wonder what she’ll do once those goslings are hatched and fledged, assuming nothing addles the eggs that she’s brooding? Will she fly then, back to that lake up north? Or will she and her mate decide to simply remain, die here, no longer heeding that ancient, instinctual, but somehow suppressed, urge for flight.* 

 Does she yearn for those long sacred journeys; Does something in her memory stir when she hears the instinctual call of that great quest for home;  Does she remember the feeling of power in her wings, which caused her own breast to swell—grow fuller, more muscular, lean; Can she even recall what it is like to trust those internal navigational instincts? 

God, I wish she would hiss at me….God, I wish she would hiss at me!

 I once imagined myself a swan, an ugly duckling to be more precise, but I always knew that the swan lay in wait, deep within. For many years she was a totem of mine, though the turtle has supplanted her in my consciousness these recent years.  Still, each spring, when the cacophonous migration of snow geese and swans passes overhead , my heart threatens to hatch from my chest, re-join them at last, and take flight.  I am drawn to their riotous racket.

For too long these skies have been silent.

There is this rising in me. It rises up through ‘I-cannot-keep-silent-and-still in prayer any longer’. Lately, I’ve wondered if silence for me has not simply become pacifying, anesthetizing. SilencING. I find myself craving movement and sound and image   … a camera, a paintbrush… for beauty to become embodied — alive once again in me! 

It rises up in defiance of this stifling voice, the one which decrees I can’t speak for fear of breaking some rule or some role, when all that I am wants to sing, or to honk, or to shout, or cry out…. express this feeling that comes with no words.

It rises, strugglng to thrust out from this 2 foot circumference, in which I am permitted to move just enough to shift my position in order to ease what’s grown numb;  out from this ‘thin line’ and narrow tightrope on which I must tiptoe … when the entire sky and vast fields beckon ‘out beyond ideas of right and wrong’. 

 It rises up with this yearning for something fierce, full of passion, instinctual, with this yearning to feel like i am who i am and to breathe, free from the bonds of gentility.

I long for my own wilderness.

 

  

* in this out-of-balance environment, many canada geese no longer migrate. Manicured properties,  which destroy more ecologically balanced habitats, provide ideal, ready-made food for geese and eliminate predators, creating environments where canada geese become pests and their feces toxic.  For many persons, they no longer symbolize life’s great journey in that space between heaven and earth , but rather have become nuisances. What feels even more out-of-balance to me is the concurrent loss of balance for the instinct-injured goose itself.  No longer balancing time spent on the ground nurturing family with time spent in the sky on that great migration, no longer following instincts for both community and nesting, no longer listening to that powerful instinct for survival that is their migratory instinct, their very survival is threatened as communities adopt practices to reduce their numbers.

this river in me

I awaken early this morning, rested, though not yet completely peaceful, simply knowing it is  time to rise into the quiet of the day. Yes, quiet is what my body craves much more than another hour of sleep.  

My husband in the shower, I tiptoe from the room, down the stairs, and head, not to the computer, which is often one of my first stops in the morning (to check on my belongingness, I suppose, through my connections to others) but to the far corner of the room, next to the hearth, where my dulcimer stands propped up, waiting for me to bring her to life.

I’ve recently read that some of us bear the archetype of ‘hearth-maker’ into this place, and that those of us who desire to create such places of warmth and sanctuary for others are often called to create complementary spaces within, for ourselves. Places at the center of our being, where we can be quiet, warm, uncluttered, and fed. And yet, both my home and my inner house seem to be in chaos. Perhaps it is time to rekindle that connection to my self.  

The inner is outer. The outer, inner.

For as much as I crave solitude and silence in my life, sometimes I’m acutely aware that the chaos inside this boundary of skin that I call me is at times much louder than cacophonous riot about which I lament out there. Perhaps then, all of my fears and objections, projected onto the screen of a technologically-possessed and surface-scattered culture, one which I perceive (judge?) as being unable to think deeply, move slowly, and breathe quietly, are  merely projections of my own fears at being unable to truly remain for any period of time in such a place.

 The inner is outer. The outer, inner.  

Just as entering into a wilderness experience of external silence (at least the absence of the external sounds of HUMANITY— the humming and drumming of machines, the bells and whistles of technology, the constant background banter)  makes me acutely aware of how much noise I have grown accustomed to shutting out (though not really shutting out at all, but rather accommodating myself to), so does entering into the wilderness of my own internal spaces make me acutely aware of the similar background noise within myself. 

How have I accommodated myself to this noise, either by making myself numb to its background influence or, more likely, being profoundly influenced by it beneath my awareness? Do I avoid the quiet in order to not hear the noise?

 Silence is a wild and frightening place at times and I suspect I often race back to the relative safety of noise rather than hear what is there. But is noise really safe? If it is cutting me off from the deeper roots of myself, or if my internal chatter is in truth controlling me in unacknowledged ways?

 Perhaps the reason that I crave the silence so is because I rarely truly taste it, let alone savor it, digest it, experience the saturation and the sustenance of its nurture……On the other hand, I suspect that there are times when I impose silence upon myself, not as a way of listening deeply at all, but as a method of silencing myself.

 Periods of imposed external silence vividly accentuate just how loud it is in here, how much lies, interrupting the signal, between these surface expressions of myself and the deeper Self that waits to be born, . This weekend, in the midst of the noise that spilled out of my riotous head and scrawled itself madly, exclaiming its fear and distress, its uncertainty and despair, its torment and contempt, across the pages of my journal during such a period of imposed silence- one which I couldn’t run from nor escape-came these words, smaller, quieter than the rest , ‘there is no stillness in me’ . And again, much later, having ignored that first silent cry, ‘there is no stillness in me’.   

And then, clearly, I heard the whisper of the Midwife of my Soul, reminding me to breathe.  If I am to birth my Self into this world, I must remember to breathe.

 Perhaps if you looked at my life from the outside, you might disagree that my life is filled with noise and distraction. I spend most of my days alone and never turn on the radio or tv. But solitude is not the same as silence, after all. There are as many ways to be alone and filled with distraction as there are ways to be caught up in the distractions that others bring to our lives. One can use a book (or the words on a computer screen) after all to create noise to take you out of yourself … and sometimes that is very good!….or prayerfully let those same words be carried inside to connect with something deeper within yourself. Perhaps I needed those hours of imposed silence this weekend, in the midst of community to which I held myself accountable (after all, I was the one leading the retreat!), to finally hear! all that noise, to let it up and out to be acknowledged and released — with all of its ranting-and-ravings — in order to make space for the still, small voice that lay beneath it. Perhaps that last bit of winter debris needed to be carried away to make room for some new bud to open.  

Actually, I pondered this space quite a bit during the retreat, this place of nagging and lingering winter that won’t seem to let go and let me get on with growing. On April 1st (April fool’s day) I’d awakened to notice ground outside my window, covered once again with a coating of snow,  even as crocus and daffodil buds were opening. It made me wonder what could possibly remain, which still requires winter’s stripping, winter’s freezing, winter’s call to stillness. Quiet. It made me realize my own impatience, my own desire to force the bud open.

Here I stand, once again, as always, at the point of tension…. at the point of union.

Hildegard von Bingen gave me the word, veriditas, or greening, to describe this process of yearning and becoming that humanity undertakes throughout life. She lived in a landscape in Germany, much like my own here in Pennsylvania, and so her natural-world icons for God speak the language of my soul. (The inner is outer, the outer is inner). No wilderness or desert imagery for her, though she did speak of dryness being a symptom of a soul in distress, or of one’s own sense of separation from the life of the soul. To address this dryness, Her imagery for Spirit /Love, and thus the source of our greening, is Water… in all of the ways that Water comes to us…. in the air and on land, in dew and flood, river and storm.

 It became clear to me the way in which my own yearning is met by this nurturing and green-making (lovemaking) water as I imaged myself deep in a forest, seated next to a mountain stream, which is flowing over moss-covered stones and bordered by moss-covered trees, budding rhododendron and virgin hemlock. This is clearly a hearth-space for me, a place of internal and external sanctuary and nurture, of peace and tranquility. Here, I am not exposed to heat and other drying elements, protected as I am by a dense canopy of leaves. Here, I yearn only for the water to sing its song,  to be present to the refreshment it brings to the profuse and blossoming greenery rooted along its banks, and for myself only to be witness to its beauty. My eyes long for this water, but I am not in the water. I am deeply content to be by its side, witnessing its beauty and the beauty of the things it brings to life. Today, I’ve no desire to get into the current, to slip on rocks or get tripped by the current.  Here in this place there is both presence and shelter, solitude and beauty. Here I am quiet, invulnerable, still, at peace. It is to this place I must go for clarity and wisdom.

 Again, in this place, I hear the so-often-repeated call to Beauty. Always this call to Beauty — to be Her witness, to seek Her presence, to be Her eyes. Always, always this call. I have known this call to be a call to prayer, for if I am constanting seeking and perceiving, noticing and receiving Beauty, I am in constant prayer– my way to remain present, mindful, in love.  But today I wonder aloud in my journal,  ‘is this enough?’ (as if there could be anything more?) Is this place merely the place that I go only for refreshment? .. …… perhaps so, AND perhaps there is a complementary call to express this Beauty, to Be  Beauty?  How does one go about being that? ….

The outer is inner, the inner is outer.

Hildegard was given to the church as a tithe, as the 10th child, when she was 8 years old. It was not until she was 42 years old that she heard the voice telling her to ‘speak and write what you see and hear’.  How long was her own gestation in the darkness of the womb? How long did her own sense of who she was called to be go underground before it burst forth prolifically into abundant blossom—in poetry and art, music and prose, theology and cosmology, apothecary and horticulture. How long was that blossom in bud?

 I recall my own dream when I too was 42 years old. In it, a woman’s  voice startles me awake with these words, ‘You are bound to beauty.’  –as if I cannot be rent from it, as if it is tied to my back like wings, as if there is no place to which I can be drawn but to Her.  (These are profoundly healing words to me, for much of my own wounding occurred when I was bound in quite a different way.)  Again, and again, I am reminded that Beauty is both who I am and Whose I am… that I must seek Her blossom as She also seeks mine, that I am to be a witness to Her Beauty in all things, as She is a witness to mine. I recall this dream this morning as I rise.

I recall as well another dream, 10 years ago, when I was not yet 40,  yet another voice in the light, a light that I ached to remain rooted in forever, in which I heard the voice clearly instructing me to ‘let myself be filled, be filled, be filled, deep into my roots, and that I would overflow from the filling’. I go back to the message in that dream again and again and I know that there is not at all something I must do in order to fulfill my purpose, but that there is something I must allow. I must allow myself to be filled, to let the water, or the light, pour into me, drench me, fill my roots and my trunk with moisture. Green me. Let myself be grown into a beautiful ‘ leaf-perfumed tree that sways without breaking’* . When I take myself out of that flow of receiving Love, I dry up, and I suspect that what I am getting and giving from that place of dryness is not always of Love at all.

 It’s time to get wet.

 And so I climb from my bed in the predawn, to catch the dew while the grass is still cold. Still so close to that place of deep sacred slumber that I am able to feel the heat of God’s breath, I sit with the music on my lap. I begin to strum the strings… the drone of the chord, constant, the same, oneness, deep peace, eternal, all is well…the moving melody that I am laid out atop it, and the love-making begins.

 And it is as if all of the chaos in my cells– all of the self-scornful, fearful, doubt-filled and screaming voices in my head, all of the taken-in negative energy from others– are like logs in a logjam,  blocked up behind some obstruction and the music organizes them somehow so they are able to move at last.  The chaos becomes order, and the peace begins to flow. Perhaps it is merely something in the vibration of the strings that causes something in me to vibrate, the way the cells in my body also vibrate in rhythm to the rocks and the trees when I place my hand or my heart on theirs. Creation is Divine music too, of course. I have read that the vibration of the earth has been measured to be approximately the same vibration that is measured when a human being goes into prayer or meditation. Yes, this is most definitely prayer.

 It is as if the music tunes ME, and as if it attunes me to the sacred. The outer is inner. The inner is outer. I have not felt Divinity in music so clearly in this way before, known it in my body this way…. oh, of course, now that is not true either, but this is today, fresh, now, present. I feel powerfully and quietly the last residual pieces of dis-ease, which are swimming in my cells,  flow out of me.

I am peace.

 I have stepped into the flow, let myself be filled and healed. Let myself be touched by Beauty. Let myself be seen and loved . I turn the page in my journal and there She is, in quotes, ‘All God wants of you is a peaceful heart’~ Meister Eckhart

 

*quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in ‘The Joyous Body’

 

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