limited

My response to this word feels like pure grace. Contained with its seven letters is the simple invitation for me to remember who i am.

While often the invitation to ‘remember who you are‘ is extended to uplift one who is feeling diminished in some way — as a reminder for instance of how beloved they truly are (eg “little lower than the angels and crowned with glory”, or “O, nobly born, remember the fundamental dignity that was born into you”), an appeal for them to reclaim their birthright as bearers of something divine — this evening ‘remembering who i am‘ feels much smaller than that, a bringing me down to earth, a remembrance of my humanity.

I am as blessed by that remembrance as I am by the remembrance of my sacredness. It is good to remember my smallness. Good to recall that I cannot be Godde, nor even Godde incarnate. An antidote for feeling overwhelmed, for feeling powerless, for feeling not-enoughness, remembering my humanity heals my feelings of inadequacy and shame.

It is good to know I have boundaries and to bless them. Boundaries of body. Boundaries of time. Boundaries of energy and gift. To know that I am but one within and beheld by the One, even while holding the hope that the Love is somehow embodied and working through this particular me in some small enough way.

In the last few weeks, I have had to say ‘no’ to quite a few invitations. While a part of me longed to rush into them, in order to say ‘yes’ required me saying ‘no’ to other equally beloved relationships and/or ideals. Carrying around the weight of those choices was difficult and even felt heartbreaking. But what i discovered is that when i finally let go and accepted my ‘no’, the heaviness lifted almost at once.

I am a finite being and, no, despite what the culture teaches, I cannot do it all, have it all, be it all. I am not all powerful nor all knowing. Thinking that I should be makes me a little neurotic, a lot anxious, and mostly feel like a huge failure. I cannot begin to recount the number of times the word ‘overwhelmed’ shows up in my journals. (When I typed the word into the search box of even this public confessional blog of mine, 25 posts came up with the word in its text.) When I spread myself too thin, try to juggle too many loves, I cannot be generous with any one and am left feeling as if there is not enough me.

I don’t think that’s what we are supposed to take in with the nourishment that we are ‘just a little lower than the angels’. I suspect that our spirit is supposed to be a little (a lot) more grounded than that, that we are supposed to do and to be ‘one’, not all, and to trust that our very finite and earthbound oneness is both beloved and essential.

I also suspect that this is the secret hidden within the word sacrifice, that in order to be and to bring our gift of light to this place, we have to say ‘no’ to other equally light-filled paths, let some other ‘one’ follow that other star, so that we can focus the light of the gift that we are, and so pour it out generously. (I also suspect that this word, sacrifice, will come up later in the list so I’ll save that pondering for later). In the meantime, Indra’s net comes to mind, each one of us a bejeweled knot in the web, holding the world together by keeping our place. Tonight I cherish the preciousness of that binding knot.

tell me what is it you plan to do with your ONE wild and precious life- Mary Oliver

wilderness afterthoughts – what if we truly belong?

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This one won’t let me go.

I couldn’t figure out how to finish that previous post, kept returning to edit here and then there (you may notice the subtle changes and additions) and still it feels incomplete, as if there is more stirring in me beneath that barely scratched surface.

I think (and perhaps that’s the real problem! LOL) that some part of me recognizes the alienation I create in the delineation between what is included as good and what is not, (the good nature/bad human dichotomy) and feels that as heart dis-ease when some deeper wisdom wants my heart to open to hold it all.

I am aware that my heart feels heavy when I walk with my eyes looking for brokenness and devastation. I also know that my heart can choose to seek beauty even there within it. It can and it does see wonder in the ruins when I gaze through those tendered eyes. I am also aware that the definitions I choose to believe color the way that my eyes see. What is good? Who is bad?

To put it simply, have I made the same mistake that my ancestors made when they separated out what was wilderness from what was human? Good over here. Bad over there. Is my desire to keep the ‘bad’ ( man ) out of ‘pristine’ wilderness just the flip side of their desire to separate the bad wilderness ‘out there’ from man. Perhaps both perspectives contain a large dose of the hubris that colors humanity’s vision, as if humans are somehow separate but not equal.

What if we are truly part of the wilderness. Included. As the wild creatures that we are with our particular impact upon the whole. What if we truly belong? – to one another, our wild animal self to the earth’s.

Can I love the creatures that trammel without labeling them as waste-full, even as i love the creatures that perish because of that trammeling, the way that I love the beaver and also the trees that she smothers to death. Can I honor the true needs of both without putting one over the other?

listening….

My heart wants to allow while also inviting healing. Again, it suggests a return to relationship. I see that if we insert ourselves as dominant over and view the earth as commodity at our disposal, there is a huge imbalance of power, which is devastating, of course, in any relationship. Conversely, if we view nature as set apart, requiring our protection, are we not also making it smaller than us and ourselves as master? Hmmm.

Can we envision a relationship of mutual need, where we honor the gifts that the other offers as different than our own, not lesser or more than, but sacred and worthy of reverence? How might we relate differently to an other whom we view with such tenderness and respect? Gratitude is invited, humility is deepened, care is extended. And not to leave ourselves out of this imagined equation, how might we feel to find ourselves viewed through the same lens? Our gifts and our needs also honored? Our place and inherent dignity valued. How might we act differently from this feeling of being valued?

Still, this tiny treatise veers toward ‘us and them’ thinking, when what i am feeling is so much more whole than that, more ‘one’ if you will.

We are wilderness.

Untameable, pristine, dark, mysterious.

Everything.

wilderness

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Hiding in plain beauty.

When I noticed today’s word, wilderness, in the queue along with such heavy-laden words as confess and sacrifice (to be fair, beloved and presence are lined up there too), I admit to wondering what the list’s creator’s relationship with the word is. One of darkness and fear of the unknown? Or of delight and sacred wonder?

Earlier this week, I pondered the word ‘awe’ with a similar bewilderment* wondering why we use it the way that we do. Why does the word ‘awesome‘, for instance, connote something amazingly wonder-ful and inspiring while the word ‘awful leans towards the terrible.

For human beings the line between beauty and terror is a thin one, and that line is likely crossed somewhere between Some and Full. Some wildness is awesome?… but too much is terrifying. When confronted with something that fills us with awe, that something often can make us feel humbled (notice the root in that word is the same as in the word ‘human’). We can be brought to our knees in the presence of great beauty. Perhaps to be human is to feel overcome in the presence of intensity, be it vast or deep or mighty or dark or unknown.

Perhaps it is also human nature to run from that.

So, back to the word of the day, wilderness. When I looked it up in the dictionary, I was brought to my own knees, in a way, with sadness and bewilderment, to see there in entry after entry its association with the word ‘wasteland’

Wasteland?

Wasteland, because it is deemed ‘inhospitable to humans’, ’empty, neglected, abandoned, undeveloped, uncultivated’, as in a ‘garden allowed to run amok’. As if somehow the taming of the earth (or a person, place or thing within it) then makes of it something worthwhile, makes of it something hospitable and worthy.

Only once did the word ‘beautiful’ enter the descriptors, used with it in a sentence. Only once did the word ‘pristine’, which I associate with the word, appear, whereas wilderness for me (and I suspect for many) sings of such untrammeled beauty.

Now, I realize that the usage and meaning of words changes with time. It is likely that when the word ‘wilderness’ first came into usage, it was defined more by our fears -on that terrible side of awe- than by our wonder, at a time in the human-earth love story when we had fallen out of the right-relationship with the earth and had separated ourselves from her goodness. During those middle years, between that earlier consciousness (romanticized naively by me?) of sacred trust and reverence and our current consciousness, where there now dwell men and women like me, who long for a wise return of that primal belonging, perhaps we were simply afraid. We feared monsters and so sought to evict, control, or tame them to our will.

Oh, who am I kidding, we still live in that place, where trees are cut down because they ‘might’ fall on houses or heads, rivers are dammed because they might flood, insects are feared because they might carry disease, and children are kept indoors because there might be monsters out there.

As I write this, I sit in Urgent Care because there is a tick deeply embedded in the flesh of my rear ribcage. I’d plucked 3 others off the surface of my skin when i returned from a walk in the ‘wastelands’ near my home earlier this week. The irony of the word ‘urgent’ in response to an insect is not lost on me. I had thought not to come, as i am fairly certain my little bugger is not of the lyme-disease carrying variety, and I tend not to panic, refuse to stay inside that prison, but a small seed of fear the size of a tick has been planted in me. I know one who has been struck ill for years by its tiny bite.

Ironically, the word, wilderness, comes from the Old English ‘wilddeornes’, meaning a land inhabited only by ‘wild deer’. Today, deer run rampant because we have tamed them, tamed the landscape, stripped it of its wildness, making it inhospitable to the flora and fauna that would keep the deer in balance. These ‘tamed’ deer now harbor on their warm blooded bodies the insects that embed fear in their human hosts when they nuzzle their way under our skin.

These woods behind my home became a wasteland when the Gypsy Moth caterpillars feasted and thrived in a predator free paradise. The forest managers then decided the best response was to clear cut the forest. What was thus stripped has grown up into this thicket of wasteland in which the deer thrive. It seems to me that most of the wastelands of which I am aware are thusly created by human hands through toxic waste, resource extraction, introduction of nonnative ravaging species, the list goes on. Does that make of them wilderness, then?

My idea of wilderness is richer than that. I want my wilderness to be untouched not because it is unworthy or inhospitable, but because it is inherently worthy of dignity, and is hospitable to legion – wolf and bear, coyote and deer, mouse and tick, trees that fall and human beings that falter. I want my wilderness to fill me with wonder and awe, even if that awe can sometimes lean into ‘ful’ness, because I understand that reverence and belonging grow deep in that thin space between some and full, the wise place between naivite and fear where terrible beauty exists. I want my wilderness to keep me humble, to remind me that I am a part of something vast, of which I am something quite small.

And I want the wilderness within me to be afforded the same grace and dignity, hospitality and fullness, reverence and belonging, for all the terribly beautiful ways that I am.

And I don’t want it to be a waste.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

– Rilke, Book of Hours,

*bewilderment- from the same root, wilder (pronounced with the short ‘i’) , state of unknowing,to lead astray, lure into the wilds

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