A Gift of the Ancestors

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”    – Georgia O’Keefe

I am in the late summer of my life.

I have more days behind me than before me.

I find myself thinking

Of my mother, my grandmother

What were they doing at my age?

They were becoming grandmothers.

And yet even as I await the arrival

of my fourth grandchild, there grows inside of me

an urgency, a longing wanting to push

out into this world, to be birthed,

To take its first breath, infuse life

into its body proclaiming

Here I Am!

Not a human this time but

an idea, a thought, an image

a vision child

Within me lie the accumulated

visions of generations upon generations

of women who carry our family genes

How do I honor them?

I put pen to paper

I pick up the camera

I tend to crops to feed us all

as my grandchildren bear witness.

All I bring forth they eagerly consume

as I did when I was their age

at the feet of my mother.

I am a repository of all the wisdom

of all the generations as far back

as when we were star-dust upon the flowers

I offer this to you my children

In this twilight time

may the seeds I plant today

be the food for your children’s children’s children.

 

Blessed Be…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m an “IST”

I have a confession to make: I am an “ist”, specifically a sexist. Yes, that’s right, a sexist. I’ve got this issue with men, white men who drive pick up trucks and act as if they own the road. They most always have a smirk on their face. I’d like to be able and say that they always drive Ram’s who rev their super charged hemi engines behind me, inching closer and closer, but they could be in Chevy Silverado’s, or F150’s. Seldom are they in any of the foreign made models. They seem to delight in harassing me as I drive peacefully down the highway and, as I look in my rear view mirror, it is often filled with the blinding reflection of their grill work. When they get an opening, they speed around me and seem to cut back in way too close. My blood begins to boil: I plot ways to seek revenge. I begin to understand how road rage happens.

I am not proud of my “ism”. If fact, I try and hide it the best I can. Even my (white) husband doesn’t know. None of my friends know. I have never confessed it to a priest. But it has been with me for so many years, buried away until another incident happens. Then I am obsessed by it.

What is an “ism” anyway?

One definition is that “isms all involve a negative prejudgement whose purpose is to maintain control and power” (Suzanne Pharr). My definition is this: anything that resides in the deep dark recesses of our psyche that jumps out like a boogeyman when we meet someone who reminds us of some hurt, or pain, or shame, or any of those instances when we felt dis-empowered and shut down by fear. These aren’t necessarily huge traumas like witnessing a murder or being mugged, though they can be. These can be everyday events: Dad at the dinner table speaking loudly, offensively, about black people, his tone of voice reminding you of how much it can hurt when daddy is angry, while mom sits there studying her dinner, remarking about how lovely it is to have fresh beans again. Or a bully who has “befriended” you and one of his “fun” things to do is to pick on the little girls in the class. You are pressured to go along with it because you fear being his next target, and, well, he is your friend.  For me, I can see the shadows of my father and his friends, men who drove trucks, who loved to work on trucks. I hear their voices mocking anyone who was not like them; women, blacks, democrats, intellectuals, Jews, the Polish. I hear my father laughing and adding his own comments. I see myself standing there knowing I fit in to at least three of these categories. I am too afraid to speak up or cry.

Here, in the shadows, lie the first woundings. These are piercings to the soul, to the center of our core spirit. It has little to do with men and trucks, or dad’s loudness; it has everything to do with a loss of faith and trust in those whom we have a special relationship. These wounds can be catastrophic…

 

Often we bury these wounds, especially if we feel there is no one who will listen or believe us. In the shadows, these grow and fester. They erupt unexpectedly, uncontrolled, triggered by some piece of memory that has surfaced into our present day like a answer from a shaken Magic 8 ball except we have no idea what the question was. We, and those around us are stunned by our behavior and we do our best to re-frame it in a way that seems acceptable. We look for support from others, from the media, anywhere we can feel justified in our laying blame. All we are really doing is feeding the wound.

The events that took place this week in Las Vegas has brought this to the forefront for me again. What causes us, some who are normally spiritually mindful, caring people, to become racists, sexists, ageists, or any of the multitude of “ists”? And if we came to understand the causes of these within ourselves, would it make a difference in the world?

Yes, I believe it would….

What are the causes? I believe all prejudices are rooted in three things; Lack of knowledge, personal pain, and avarice. For some, it is difficult to admit they do not know or understand. No one wants to be called an idiot. And that word, idiot, brings me to the second root of prejudice, personal pain.

Personal pain, as I said before, is often caused by trauma which generates shame, fear, and anger. We are left feeling powerless. These are ugly feelings for sure, buried deep within us, and, when reminded by some trigger, they can get projected uncontrollably out into the world. We now become the perpetrator. I once knew a person who, having had a rough childhood in post war England, had shared with me that he only saw two ways to be; a user or someone who is used. He chose the former. He was a con artist, a manipulator and a thief. He thrived on taking from others to fill a void within himself. Our wounds can harden us in ways unimaginable. We disconnect from our soul. We disavow our compassion. We objectify the world around us. We become obsessed with self.

Avarice has become a plague in the Western world. We are bombarded with ads that essentially say, “You are not….pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, stylish enough, own enough. It is a form of brainwashing that begins when we are toddlers trying to focus our senses on the world around us. By the time we enter school we are doomed. And the more we are indoctrinated this emptiness of alienation becomes a pit in our stomach that refuses to ever be sated. We become envious of others who we are convinced have some sort of advantage over us. We covet. We fill our lives with stuff, hoping the next guy is impressed, but not so jealous that he wants “our stuff”, because we know in our hearts, we have thought about taking his. And so the cycle begins.

There is a way out of all of this…

All powerful emotions offer the opportunity for catharsis. This catharsis can come as a form of spiritual renewal and reconciliation, acting like a red flag waving in front of our moral compass, saying, “There’s something not right going on inside of you, pay attention!” If we catch ourselves before we speak or act, an opportunity to heal can take place. If we choose to remain blind to the source of our emotion, it can explode out in acts of hatred and violence. This is why awareness and reconciliation with our past is so important. It might just prevent us from saying or doing something that will wound someone else, thus causing the cycle of prejudice to spin again.

Let me say this again…We are the source of prejudice when we choose to project our pain, ignorance and greed onto others through words and actions…

Heavy words, for sure. But I believe if we are to overcome the overwhelming feelings of powerlessness we feel every time we listen to the news of yet another shooting/bombing/act of discrimination, we need to look at how we may be contributing to it. We need to come to terms with our own inadequacies, own our pain and find healthy ways of reconciling them so we do not start the cycle again. We need to stand up for ourselves if we feel uncomfortable with what someone is doing; we need to support those who we see being mistreated, and we need to hold accountable those we repeatedly thrive on mistreatment of others. We need to take, as the 12 steps say, “a honest and thorough moral inventory of ourselves” and see where we may be caught in the grasp of an “ism” and make amends where needed.

The “isms” we hold are seldom based in absolutes. In my case, I know many white men, some of whom do drive trucks, who are kind, loving, thoughtful individuals who would help anyone in need. So many of them were there in Las Vegas, angels rushing toward danger, carrying the wounded to their trucks and taking them to hospitals. So many souls were healed by their actions. My eyes were opened. May you all have messages from angels in your life, and we all join in their angelic ranks….

Blessed be..

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The Autumn Equinox

It is the autumn equinox

A time when Light and Darkness come together

Hesitate for a moment

Perhaps even share a cup of tea and conversation

Before they once again chase each other across the sky

In this time of holy pause,

I look out onto the ripened fields

Crops which have been lovingly tended, watered, fed

Nurtured for a whole season

Now being plucked up and stored for winter

Darkness will soon cast her veil over this land

And all will enter the deep Rest.

Raising my hands toward the sky, I say a prayer for this bounty

I cradle in my hands like a baby just born, the fruits of the harvest

Washing gently away the remnants of their wombs

Root, leaf, stem, soil,

Mother/Father sacrificed

Tilled beneath the soil.

To give birth means there is always something

that must die, must fade away, must be cast back to the Source

As Light concedes to Darkness

I renew my trust in the turning of the wheel

When Light once again teases the seed forth, saying

“Come, let me caress you in the warmth of my arms!”

And life bursts from the deep crevices of Mother earth.

There is no vitality, no means

to create without first disintegration.

It is the very act of letting go

that ignites the passion of regeneration.

In this abundance of final harvest

I release all that no longer bears fruit.

It is now food for decay

the building blocks of life.

 

Blessed Be….

 

 

 

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September Grace

The wheel is turning….

A time of transition these September days

how quickly they come.

I look out into the garden

at spent tomato plants and fading flowers

as geese fly in formation

south, away from the impending darkness.

I look at the house plants who have

vacationed outside my backyard, basking

in the summer’s breeze,

“It is time to go home, dear ones,”

I whisper.

My world expands in May,

windows open, porch and backyard

become like vacation spots

where I commune with all that surrounds me.

Now, in this time of year

there is the impulse in me to contract

to go within, to go into a type of dormancy.

Plants return to their winter home in the greenhouse,

decorations and furniture put away until

the tulips, pink, yellow, red,

call us forth out of hibernation.

Is this impulse toward dormancy and down time normal?

 

Yes…

 

And it is different for each person.

 

My body moves with the rhythm of the seasons

Others move to the rhythm of the sea, or light, or color, or sound.

It is important to find your own rhythm and align with it

And respect the rhythms of other beings

This is the way of harmony and well-being…..

Blessed Be…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Journeys, Letting Go, Simple things | 1 Comment

The Fifth Season

A solitary leaf falls to the ground signaling a shift

between the heat of summer and the final fanfare of fall

as the earth tilts toward darkness in the northern lands.

Mother moon, now sovereign, will soon kiss our world goodnight

and begin the great Rest.

But here, in this space and time

Where what was and what is to come

co-exist and boundaries are permeable

the surrender that is autumn waits patiently.

In still presence

Breathe in the spicy air

Relish in the abundance the earth offers you

Be grateful with an open hand

Rejoice in your creations.

All that has been birthed must be released.

As the tree relinquishes its seed

so must we let go of the fruits of our labor

allowing them to come to fulfillment

beyond our sway

Soon enough the wheel will once again turns toward the sun

and ignite nature’s passion.

But for now –

Relax, Rejoice, and be at peace.

Blessed be….

 

 

 

 

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Unfinished Business

The season is changing. It is already dark now when I wake up. The familiar birdsong that acted as my alarm is absent. Too many times these past few weeks have I overslept, getting up well after I had intended to, rushing out of bed and heading to the kitchen for a strong cup of black tea to shake off the last bit of sleepiness from my body.

Where has the time gone?

I look around the yard. It has not been a good year for the garden. The cucumbers and the tomatoes which started out well in May, have stuttered, stop, and are dying before producing much fruit. I waited patiently for the jasmine and the bear’s breeches to bloom but, here it is, mid August, and, no blooms. The list of things I planned to do this summer, lost somewhere in the pile of papers sitting on top of the microwave, no check marks next to items completed. Day to day distractions and  vague “busyness” caused those tasks to be put off till “later”. Busyness, because it is so often ill-defined, is deadly to both to-do lists and goal setting. It creeps into our lives silently and without warning, leaving us unawares of its impact until it has eaten up all of our time. Now, is beyond later. Now is too late. How often have I said, “It’s too late now. Oh well, there is always next year.”

Or is there?

How often have I said this throughout my life. I will do it tomorrow, or next week or next year. Tomorrows  turn into years, then decades. There comes a time when it really is too late. My experience this summer with severe hip and leg pain has made me acutely aware of this fact as my body warns me that “too late” may be happening very soon.

It has given me time to think about all those things I said I was going to do in my life: hike the Appalachian Trail (at least some of it), visit the redwoods in California, or go into the depths of the Grand Canyon and raft the mighty Colorado. Is it too late to check these off my bucket list? For most of my life I have lived vicariously through others, watching in fascination T.V. specials or paging through images taken by others who were brave enough/rich enough/skilled enough to venture out into the world. I have become an armchair explorer, ever dreaming, convinced that those experiences are both necessary and, out of reach for me. I stay in this spot until I am forced to stand at a crossroads where a decision needs to be made from which there is often no turning back.

But what are these bucket lists anyway? They are a list of things we want to do before we “kick the bucket”. Many of my friends make them and I listen as they describe them, admittedly more than a bit envious when they check off another one from their list. They often include destinations like the Grand canyon or India or Italy. Or, they may be more adventurous like a safari or scuba diving off the Florida coast. While these all sound exciting, is this what I really want to experience before I die? What is my soul longing to experience? What is my soul list? Are there things my soul wants me to experience in this lifetime, things that have such an impact on me that it changes how I ultimately respond to the world?

It is at crossroads that our soul speaks the loudest

It seems that these crossroads occur more often as I get older, as if my soul senses the urgency of a clock ticking toward the final bell. But looking back over my life, I have come to believe that this soul list became evident while I was just a small child. I was eight years old when I wrote my first poem, and speaks of one of these soul experiences.

The roses my grandfather grew

Were big and beautiful

Curl and curl of beauty

That seemed to flow like honey.

 

I was young but I still remember

Walking through the garden

Holding my grandfather’s hand

As we listened to the birds sing.

I was five when my grandfather sold his house and moved to Arizona. The experience of walking through the garden with my grandfather left a mark on all my senses, even at such a young age. And not just the roses; but lilacs and hydrangea; the sound of water streaming over rocks; the comfort of the “fort” I built in amongst the shrubs that lined the creek bank. Nature taught me its language and how to converse with it in that fort. That knowledge changed the course of my life.

Soul lists often are not extravagant; they are seldom trendy or considered fashionable. Sometimes it is simply taking a road trip, a true road trip, where you get in the car with minimum possessions and take off, avoiding the super highways, and stopping at whatever calls to you – no plans, no expectations. Or it could be attending your grandchild’s weekly sports games, sitting along the field, the sound of children playing mixing with the sweet scent of dew on grass as the sun descends in the late afternoon sky, your presence affecting generations to come.

These soul experiences simply ask us to show up and be fully present. To put down our smartphones, turn off our cameras, stop all our busyness and running from whatever it is that scares us half to death and,

Be.   Here.  Now.

Our soul reminds us it has unfinished business every time we encounter a crossroad; every time sadness, or pain, or a crisis enters our life. The best thing I can do is throw away that bucket list, be still, and listen. What is my soul telling me to do before it is too late?

Blessed Be….

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A Lesson Learned

The fledglings have left their nests and are exploring the world around them. As I sat and observed them one morning, I watched as a mother starling brought her young chick to the feeder. The young one landed awkwardly on the top of the feeding station, almost falling off. Mom starling jumped down to the tray, ate a seed, then scooped up another and flew up to the chick, offering the seed to the vocal youngster. She repeated this several more times, then one time she did not bring a seed, but squawked at the chick. The chick demanded a seed – all that was offered was a peck and more squawking. Back and forth they went, the mother bird appearing more  and more agitated until, finally, she flew off, leaving the chick to fend for itself. The chick looked around; I could sense its fear, confusion, the alone-ness. It crouched on the feeder as a merlin called out and flew overhead. Eventually, the mother starling returned and again fed the chick. This behavior was repeated for the next couple of days until one day, I saw the chick at the base of the feeder, eating away! The lessons had finally imprinted on the chick and now it was able to feed itself.

There are days when I fret over how best to contribute to the betterment of this world. Do I write and try to publish? Do I take photographs and share them on the internet? What will be my gift to future generations? There is a very good chance that when I die all the multitude of poems and essays I have written will be tossed in a dumpster as they clean out my study. The same with my photographs. This is the harsh reality of life. So what is to be done?

The next day after my observing the starlings I was with my grandchildren at a local fair. It was nearing dusk and the lights of all the rides were blinking red, blue, green. They were wide-eyed with the sights, sounds and smells of the world around them. As we walked through the crowds, we talked about all the myriad of things we saw – what we liked best, what ride seemed scary, past times when we had gone to festivals such as this. My husband, who has a better tolerance for swirly rides, was the designated ride companion for the younger ones. As I watched them all navigate a fun house, I saw my husband pointing out the best way through the mirror room; how best to climb the rope ladder. My granddaughters watched and listened, then followed along. Hi-fives were given as each one reached the top. My mind drifted to a time when I was young, in my grandfather’s rose garden, how he would have me sniff each type of rose, telling me its name, instructing me how best to care for them. And although I was young, it instilled in me a passion for gardening and a desire to learn more. When I garden, I feel my grandfather beside me, the deep connection established so long ago bridging across the realms. My grandfather’s wisdom is eternal in me.

As my eldest granddaughter joined me after the fun house, she reached out and took my hand, looked into my eyes, and smiled. We were connected in a most beautiful way. I realized at that moment my life calling was in this bond, this bridge I had become between the generation past and the generation of the future. The most important thing I could ever do for humanity was right here in my hand. The experiences I share with my grandchildren, like the ones that my parents and grandparents shared with me, last forever. As I pass down my knowledge, each child, when they become adults, will pass it on to their children. This is immortality.

In a sense, I was a student of the universe as I sat and watched the starlings that one morning, as much a student as the fledgling. And again, with my grandchildren, learning how the most important contribution I can make in this life is to pass on the wisdom and knowledge that was given to me, to learn the dance of observer and teacher. The universe never stops teaching us if we have the humility of beginner’s mind and the generosity to share it with others. This is all we need to do. Everything else is inconsequential.

Blessed be….

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Who I am is Not Who You Think

Don’t tell me I am not straight enough

because I won’t wear a dress or watch romantic comedies

that has never been me.

And don’t tell me I am not gay enough

because I fell in love with a man

though I have known the love of a woman

that is none of your business.

I am

who I am.

Walk with me for just one day

see the joy in my heart

as I tend to seedlings and offspring

feel the depth of my tears

as I reach out to comfort the scarred mountains

when brother trees are clear-cut from their faces

I draw a line in the earth proclaiming

“No More!”

I am not this woman you suppose

who will shrink from a confrontation

nor am I that man who browbeats his way

 to position and status.

I am not the old person

who reminisces about the good old days

and how things were better then

when my muscles were tight and strong

and death seemed a million light years away.

These are the best days!

And do not mistake me for a christian

because I embrace the teachings of Jesus

I  hear and see the magic of the Divine as passionately

in wood, rock, wave, and birdsong.

Gone are the pretenses

I have cast off all ill-fitting labels

A new-found freedom!

Today I delight in shaving the gray hairs from my face

Lathering up the brush with spicy suds

exhilarated by the scent and edginess of the blade

and

I immerse myself in the magic of herbs and hearth

creating tonics of well-being

a cup of tea and heart-felt conversation

always at the ready

Queer, you say?

Yes!

And I would not wish to be any other way…

 

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Scream!

You think all you’ve got

inside you is a dainty little yell

all prettied up, a composed

AHHHH……

Careful not to offend

agitate disrupt cause a scene

lest people think you uncouth

hysterical, crazy even.

All these years patient and

dispassionate as the mighty oak

always there for everyone, every cause

working smiling comforting reassuring

until you were about to break

a veritable giving tree in a growing storm

No one saw not even you

the tempest brewing

inside your being.

 

SCREAM!!!

 

No, not a dainty yell all prettied up

Scream rises from your tailbone

hot fierce deep

in the recesses of all things primal

Your groin pulses, aches

your ovaries spin, spinning

so rapidly they want to launch

down your vagina and

take out the world

like a rock hurled from a slingshot

toward the Goliath.

 

This is Scream

 

For too many years

you prayed to God to take it (fill in the blank) away.

It (fill in the blank) is still here.

Convinced that God was not listening you shouted,

“Why aren’t You answering my prayers?”

Then, as you sat among the rocks

on the shore of a great ocean

the only voice, the waves, answered.

“I cannot do this for you for I did not create it, you did”, God said.

“Only your kind can change it.”

 

We are all accountable for things made by humankind

 

Now is the time.

Let loose the bondage’s that confine

your David

Breathe in pain bigotry abuse greed

Let them sink deep into your bowels

Inhale your discontent with convention

smell the ripeness of frustration with injustice

Inhale the smoldering rage of

that last verbal jab you just received

Feel it in your marrow

 

SCREAM….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Boundaries, Divine witness, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Awakening or What I Learned in My First Session with a Personal Trainer

It doesn’t have to be this way…..

 

I carry this excess baggage

of the injustices, missed opportunities, regrets

on an already abundant journey as if my existence depended on them.

Those should haves, would haves, meant tos

but couldn’t find the courage tos.

I keep looking in the baggage to find out why

I cannot move forward.

 

This is my suffering

 

This is what prevents me from standing tall

This is what chooses the refrigerator instead of going for a walk

This is what searches every how to book

Looking for an answer, THE answer, to my pain and anger

Hidden, I believe, somewhere amongst my dirty laundry

and the kitschy possessions.

The answer is never there.

 

This is the cause of my suffering

 

Pain radiating from my hip and back and knee

The prospect of giving up my beloved gardening

Spending the rest of my days sitting in a rocking chair, watching

As the world passes me by

Sends waves of grief throughout my being

Tears wash over me like spring rains

Wind penetrates the cloudy corners of my mind

A storm gathers strength, a breaking point

Flash!

Illumination….

 

There is a way to end suffering

 

Awareness is not the end game

It is just the beginning

My eyes open, heart soft, breathing deeply

I let go.

A phone call, an appointment, a time is set.

 

The Path

 

I show up.

I listen.

I ask questions.

I allow someone to show me a different (better) way.

I try, fail, then try again and again and again.

I take responsibility for what I do in my life.

I am mindful of what I put into my mind, my body and my spirit.

I set perimeters and keep (enforce) them.

 

This is my practice

 

 

I leave the baggage behind

And choose a new path….

 

Posted in Aha moments, Letting Go, Uncategorized | 1 Comment