lions and tigers and bears, oh my

It was an instant and easy answer for me, a simple “No, thank you”- a straightforward and poised response, informed by a deep and assured knowledge of self – my strengths, my energy, my needs, my preference, my fears, even. There was no lamenting, no deliberation, no anxiety. I was at ease in a way that I often am not in my more people-pleasing stature. I even joked that I was modeling resisting peer pressure.

And I was fine, for awhile, watching the others make choices different than my own. Being a witness without judgment – of self or the other – creeping in.

Of course, soon enough it slipped in that open door. Was there something wrong with me that I didn’t want to do this thing? Was there something wrong with them? Was there something wrong with what was being asked – some contrived measure of the human heart?  Was I merely defending my own weaknesses and failings with such judgments?

And without another person saying a word, I noticed in my chest and my belly the same sensations I do whenever I am feeling judged as unworthy, when I am feeling inadequate, when I am feeling alone and rejected, when I am feeling as if I have failed- in being a good woman, when I am second guessing myself and my choices, when I am feeling Shame. And, because the feelings were so familiar in me, I wondered if this is the same thing I do to myself whenever I say “no’, whenever I set a boundary that is simply right for me.

The invitation was intended to offer an opportunity to challenge oneself, to push one’s limits and, so, to learn something about the fear that holds you back, I suppose. And I suppose I became familiar with the face of my fear after all… without needing to strap on the harness, scale 50 feet, or jump.

It was a valuable experience after all (though I still maintain that it has the potential to be harmful to young persons, girls in particular, who may, no matter how carefully the proposition is offered, be made to feel isolated and ashamed of their own saying ‘no’) , a good connection to make, a new body-mind awareness. As I integrate the experience, as this particular self awareness takes root, might I recognize in this feeling in my gut when I am feeling shame for my own needs, preferences, and desires, my own choices, and my own right to say ‘no’.  This is a groundbreaking (speaking of taking root) body wisdom to discover for one such as me whose boundaries have been pummeled so that they are easily crossed.

Might I also learn to recognize where it is in my own body that I do the judging of myself as inadequate and so allow the crossing to occur? Then thank her for trying to protect me from whatever it is that she fears (Being alone? Rejected? Punished? Unwanted or unloved?) and reassure her that I will respond to her with Love. Just think how high I might climb ?

 

climbing tower

Protected: kneeling down

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healing this – part 2

These weeks, since I’ve been back from Ontario, I’ve been digging around quite a bit in this piece of earth that so graciously offers a home to me here. Getting my hands in the earth has always been healing for me and, I was sorely in need of a bit of that.

For some reason, it’s not been an easy acquaintance between the earth and myself here in this place. At times, I have considered that I really may not want to get to know her too well. It might get too intimate, I might fall in love, after all, and then I’d be stuck.

Though I’ve not wanted really to alter the naturalness of the earth here with formal gardening of any sort (after all, I’d spent all those years at the last place in my life, working so hard at trying to reseed and reroot a wilder, less domesticated, more native landscape), I have planted a few natives here and there – few of which have survived my misplaced notions of what belongs, some of which stubbornly refused to ‘bloom where they were planted’. Alas, I am still learning her ways in this place, what it is that she is trying to tell me.

As I consider our relationship now, I wonder if it could be that we have been giving one another permission somehow to be free. She has set me free by not demanding of me that I be constant caretaker of her.  I have set her free, in a way, by pulling out the stranglehold of exotic intruders planted by generations of folks trying to tame this woodland village , by letting the leaves fall and remain where they will, by allowing her the space to emerge and create what is easeful and natural for her to do, and by feeding to her here and there what might provide her the energy to do so…. shovels full of compost each spring from the worm bin.  As I spell out each of these phrases, I can hear echoed her reciprocal invitations to me – the untaming of self, the letting go of control, the allowing of space to emerge, the letting die what does not belong (no matter how many times I try to replant it), the ease of being myself, the feeding of unseen roots.

There have been a few discovered delights in these most recent days of making our reacquaintance. A family of cohosh multiplying where the creeping nancy was pulled away. A clutch of ash saplings sprouting up where the pachysandra once choked. An enchanting dogwood toddler peeking out at the hem of my skirt as I fill the feeder. A spindly adolescent rhododendron uncovered with the lopping  off a burning bush.

I consider also the relationship between a man and a woman at this time of transition from working so hard at supporting a family and a career to discovering who you are now that you are cutting away those entanglements. At times it can feel as if nothing is taking hold. At times the old ways of being can grow smothering. At times it can even feel dead. But then there are sudden surprises revealed — old, long-covered ways you once knew how to blossom and new ways of being green- with just a little pulling back of vines that have grown unheeded from misplanted seeds, and a few shovelfuls of rotted and foul-smelling compost turned over to nurture the depleted soil.

Oh you, earth sister, how you continue to surprise and delight, to heal and transform, to offer your fruits just when I need them the most.

Protected: restless souls – merton and me

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healing this epidemic

 

pooh and piglet

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’ “Supposing it didn’t”, said Pooh, after careful thought. Piglet was comforted by this.

 

 

There is an epidemic in the neighborhood.

Trees are dying. Unexpected, unsuspected.  Even the season before they succumb, they appear on the surface to be healthy, but suddenly (so it seems) with the coming of spring there is no budding, no leaves, no hope. The arborist is called. The tree is felled before it falls…. on some unsuspecting passerby.

But the sick trees… chestnut oaks, ash, hemlock… are not the epidemic I am referring to. For the sickness has spread to the people, infecting them with a caution that verges on paranoia. Now, trees that have sap flowing through their veins, trees that are in full leaf, trees that are thriving, or merely struggling to do so, are suspect. Red ribbons are tied around their bellies like scarlet letters. Soon enough, the cacophony of chainsaws rings through the air.

I once heard a medical doctor state that he could find something ‘wrong’ with any patient over the age of 40 who stepped through his office door, given enough poking, prodding and testing. His ethics, however, cautioned him as to whether or not it was prudent to aggressively treat every ‘abnormality’ that presented, often causing more trauma, at the very least doing more harm than he intended to prevent, to a patient who otherwise would’ve lived well and long.

When we moved into this home 4 years ago, we were advised that the Hemlock on our property was dying and should come down. There is an ordinance that holds the property owner responsible for taking care of such matters and also for any damage incurred if s/he does not.  Looking at her, I could clearly see she was hopelessly sick – polluted with parasites, thinly needled, ghostly gray, missing her top. We were ‘this close’ to ceding to the arborist’s blade when he knocked on our door, like the grim reaper.

Unsightly though she was, I chose instead to let her live out her life to its natural conclusion. Let her at least become food for insects and fungi, woodpeckers and eventually cavity dwelling creatures, I thought. Soon, however, I learned of something that I could feed to her roots, which she could take in to protect strengthen and protect herself. Being such a large tree, with so few remaining needles, I wasn’t at all confident that a few cups of granules every 12 months would help her. I supposed I was merely offering palliative care.

You probably cannot begin to imagine my delight when this tree flushed out with fresh, lush bright green growth a few weeks ago.(along with her sister on the other side of the house, the one that the birds love to use now as shelter when diving to and from her heavy, low hanging branches to the feeder that stands in her shade) I felt like dancing!!(well, in truth, I did)

So, I have selected 4 additional trees, not on our property, but deeper into the common area, where the arborist is frequently called to make rounds in the sick ward.  I am concerned, as I know that he will be called soon to address the dead chestnut oaks there. I’d like to be given a few years to see if I can heal them.

‘I’d like to be given a few years to see if I can heal them’

Yes.

We may appear to be dying, but perhaps rather than massive amputation, instead of inducing more trauma, we require just a little attention, some nurture applied to our roots, so that we might be convinced once again to thrive.

 

Protected: a third way??

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Protected: summer of my discontent

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