hope

I dreamt you on October 16, 2011.

It was the hemlocks, of course. Something stirred to life in my heart by the intense tenderness I feel for them that brought you to my heart. They are dying, you know, here at the beginning of the 21st century.  Entire stands of hemlocks are being decimated by the wooly agelid, a tiny insect that drains their verdancy, until hillsides that once were painted deep green now appear to be swathed in smoke.

There is something tender in me around them. I champion their survival when I find pockets of survivors, hidden away from the wooly agelid that would destroy them. Likewise, I mourn for mountainsides, once flushed with them, now a dusky shade of gray, like the face of an old one before death.

My tenderness for them leapt up, almost tripping me there on that ridge above Little Pine Creek, with an fierce longing for them to survive. I yearned for them to be safe, there in that place, at last.  Surely, the agelid would not find them there somehow, on that secluded ridge where it seemed that no human feet had trod for some time.

So full of joy I was that day. It’s always like that for me in the woods. All my anxiety, my fear, my pain seems to lift and dissipate, like low lying fog over morning waters with the rising of the sun. Suddenly, there you were, standing right in front of me, alongside my earnest hope for their survival. I beckoned you then to return to this spot, to visit some day when you are grown, to check on these ones. I wonder how tall they’ll have grown by then, if you’ll be able to imagine what they were like as I saw them that day in their nursery beds.

I want you to know them.

I wonder. Is it something in me I want you to know? Is it something of an earlier, ancient way that I fear will be lost to this world? Or is my tenderness linked to something in me that I fear is dying also, falling prey to parasites that drain the life from me steadily over time, and seemingly all at once.

Is that why I celebrate so when I see young ones thriving on the top of the ridge, even as I suspect they were probably offspring from some giant that fell prey? Are they also alive in me, springing to life in abundance after the fall?  Or are those seeds perhaps hidden in the bellies of my granddaughters.

I wonder who you think I am? Likely I’ll seem terribly old fashioned to you, as my great-grandmother at the turn of the last century seems to me. Will you imagine me old or young? Thin or fat? Beautiful or homely? Wise or naïve? Ignorant or educated? Will you wonder what part of me runs rich in your veins?

I’d like to believe that by the time you are here, we will have figured a few things out. For instance, that humans make mistakes and it doesn’t at all mean the end of the world, the damnation of a soul, or the end of your life. I hope there is more gentleness, more mercy, more kindness. I hope there is more beauty, that we haven’t destroyed it all… and yet, I suppose, that too won’t be the end of the world, for I have learned that beauty really has little to do with appearances.

I hope that women will give birth to babies again without the interference of drugs, that you will know that great pleasure of that. Yes, I hope that numbness to true power and beauty will not prevail.

…and so I suppose there is much tied into my hope for the survival of the hemlock.

I want to see how it turns out. I’ll need you to be my eyes.

 

moonshadow

Dec 31, 2011 — nearing the end of the holiday week of copious extroversion and most ready to climb back into my cave.

I remember when my children were young, there was a popular children’s book, Five Minutes Peace, which featured a mother elephant struggling to find some slice of time to herself. If I recall correctly, even the baby elephants climb into the bath with her, when she retreats to the tub for some quiet. Now, this may be starting to sound like a broken record  (or an old tape, whatever the case might be) but here I am again seeking that place of peace.

A few days ago, I wrote (because I have no voice again) to the woman who leads the women’s writing series, which was so blessedly gifted to me by my children (they do indeed recognize this need in me). I realized that it was probably 18 months ago, perhaps longer, when I spoke with her last about that empty book, which I longed to remain empty of others’ needs and expectations until I’d discovered for myself what it was that I wanted to fill it with. Here I am some years later, my ‘book’ full of dates and obligations.

‘I am so weary’.

As I read through my journal entries from the last 6 months, here at the close of the year, it struck me how often I’d written those words. I hadn’t realized my weariness was so present, so much on the surface, though I’ve felt it both physically (with a respiratory infection that just won’t go away, which causes me to lose my voice time and time again) and emotionally. I suppose I hadn’t made it quite so conscious a realization until noting it in those pages, as the naming aloud of anything will somehow make it suddenly real.

How did I miss the exponential element of having so many children (not to mention step-children) and the toll it would take … of course, always commensurate with the blessings it also bestows.  How is it that bells toll with both resplendant joy and harrowing grief? Where does abundance tip over the edge into overwhelming?

I am so conflicted.

Yesterday, Don and I drove through the lands of a state park, and I noted the sighs involuntarily escaping my lips, as if they were simply a part of my breath in that place, those sighs that radiate from me when entering the darkening forest. Those are sighs of deep peace, of release, of belonging. I am recalling Glenn’s premise that I follow those sighs (those were not his words exactly, but I know that my body sighs when I am experiencing pleasure and he DID suggest that I might indeed listen to my pleasure)

Why is it so difficult for me to follow those sighs? To think of moving from this world full of granddaughters’ love in order to move to a place that makes me sigh? The truth is some part of me sighs in each place, and my heart breaks when I ponder either possibility. The proverbial rock and hard place I am stuck between. Layla’s hugs melt my resolve each time, even as my life calls beyond these walls.

Sometimes I even wonder if I would have anything at all to write about out there? No angst. That’s perhaps simply because so much of my writing of late has been on this one broken-record theme that I can’t recall what truly calls my heart to writing.

I write to express something human into the world. I write to reflect the beauty that surrounds me off the mirror of my own soul, reflecting it back out into this place as more beauty — I hope. I write to discover what is beneath. I write to listen beneath the noise.

Am I listening?

How long it has been since I’ve been to the woods. Already, so much time has passed since Don and I were in the smokies that it seems a distant memory. In that place, the words flowed. In that place, I heard. In that place, without angst, there were also words —amidst the peace, amidst the quiet–words that longed to be sung into being.

At my depths, I know there is something in me that needs the forest for more than mere escape. Something in me that will break into song in that place, like a bird in spring time that has returned to its nesting place.

In my faintest of memories, I recall the feeling of rightness, of aliveness, of deep pleasure and joy, of hope that I have in those places. The feeling of me, as if I move into my own skin somehow, as if some part of me is not asked to step aside and wait, as if it is asked to join me in the dance. In my most distant of memories, I recall the feeling of spaciousness I have in those places, a spaciousness unencumbered and yet full.

And yet, creativity is perhaps too narrowly defined by me, when in truth the whole of my life, across the depth and breadth of my days, is a creative endeavor, into which I pour my energy, my love, my lifeforce, my time.

Sometimes I suspect I am like George, of Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ renown, imagining my life’s purpose has passed me by, when in truth the place where I have been has needed my creativity so much moreso than any book or painting I might create from this well of love inside of me. My greatest works of art surround me.

I have read that attention is like sunshine – full, vital, and affirming – to our children.  The kind of attention a sun gives to the earth is constant, like the kind of attention required of a child when s/he is growing, ‘illuminating through the overcast, shimmering through the haze, eradicating shadows, and overcoming obstructions. It endures, in its infinite, replenishable power’ (Karen Maezen, Hand Wash Cold)

Fully present, loving attention is the ultimate in creative energy bestowed upon a child – or any another human person, for that matter.  I remember also reading in Brian Swimme’s book, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, a similar reflection upon the creative energy of the sun, how it literally burns itself up in the ultimate creative giveaway, how we might be invited to follow its example.

If the loving, creative energy of the universe is condensed in this body of mine as fuel to be burned, perhaps there is no greater expression of that energy than the loving attention I have bestowed upon my children, and now my grandchildren. As a young mother I consciously, lovingly, most willingly made that choice. In truth, I could choose no other as each time I attempted something outside of that role, my love for them drove me back time and again to be at the center of their orbit, shining the full life-force of my light into their lives. It was no choice after all, it simply was who I was.

When I was a mother, that transformation of my body into nurture for the other’s growth was both automatic and quite literal, as my body grew a placenta of nourishment for the growing child and my breasts filled with milk for the infant to suckle. But I wonder, how does that transformation look for the crone?

There are those who have passed this way before me, women who I know only by books for the most part, who have culturally understood the cessation of menstruation to represent the retention of ‘wise blood’, blood no longer flowing for the purpose of birthing and nurturing new life in another, blood now contained, available to the woman for her own growth. Somehow the letdown of milk as an automatic reflex, in response to the cries of another, ceases too. What the crone has to give is less ‘on demand’, more contained in a vessel perhaps, the vessel that has been molded by her life up to the moment she crosses the threshold of the kiln and is fired by the heat of transformation into a shape that dictates what she will now offer and hold.

And there is something here about containers again, like the cup imagery that captured my imagination a few years ago. How can one offer a drink to anyone when there are no walls…like the walls of a cave,perhaps… into which one can pour oneself and by which one can prevent oneself from spilling all over the place, making only a mess and not offering nurture at all.

Last week, at the memorial service I attended for Hugh, I ran into an old friend, who had struggled a year or so ago with a lingering respiratory infection. She said that what finally cured her was rest, deep rest, the kind of rest that she had fooled herself into believing she’d been giving herself but hadn’t until her body made it so.

Perhaps I cannot be the sun after all. Perhaps I am invited to be more like the moon now, waxing and waning, reflecting and turning my face. Glowing and resting. Offering light to see in the dark, and inspiration for dreams.  Silent and cool. Gentle, never over-exposing nor casting harsh shadows.

The moon. Of course. How could I have thought myself otherwise.

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