Remember the French

I emerged from the sumptuous simplicity of the dance appreciating the beauty and support all around and within me. The truth of unity and healing in a peaceful state of vibrant power pulsed in my veins and the expression of it was everywhere. The spider web at the corner of a shelf was a woven connection of creative thoughts. The concrete bridge over the barely seen creek, was a monument to support. The welcoming eyes of my husband and son were a spark of healing comfort.

But a current of something sad and dingy was rising from nearly every surface to cloud that truth. For days, as I prayed and did my best to focus the energy of peace and healing from the dance through my actions, I felt a little confused and lost, reluctant to do anything too visible, too risky, too grateful, too joyful. I couldn’t account for it. Even when my body got used to food and water and noise again, after I rested and transitioned back to everyday life, my will was weak. Then, we had relatives to visit who brought chaos and drama enough to turn my protective attention outward. That’s when I realized I’d been turning to the quiet sanctuary of my heart to find the peace of the arbor. I hadn’t been integrating the parts of my life.

Reminded to listen outward with all of my senses, I stopped swimming solely in the rivers of peace and found the wild open ocean of emotion. The buzz of anger, frustration, doubt, and paralysis rose with the haze of heat to envelop the easy action of service and weight it down. As I observed, listened and absorbed, the tension and heaviness of fear and loss crashed all around me. No wonder I felt so anchored and directionless!

People all around, of different backgrounds, belief systems and lifestyles feel helpless and disillusioned. The general feeling is that our institutions have failed us, and our dreams have let them. Each one sees such mountains of corruption and pain and destruction that the sight has overwhelmed our ability to act. What can I do? “The politicians, the corporations, the thieves, the abusers, my boss, my brother, my mother, my spouse, my kids, my religion, my neighbor, my pets, my clients, my God, the Others are beyond my reach. There is nothing a single small individual like me can do to fix this Awe-ful mess.” This is an illusion too. We are all part of the mess and the order. There are small things every one of us can do. I may not be able to clean up the whole crazy mess, or find the right order to align things in by myself, but I can do something.

The first step is to remember what I believe in. I look at the motto of my country: e pluribus unum – from many, one. Okay, so maybe we’ve gotten caught up in our individualism too much. Maybe we’ve perverted the thought from using our individual strengths to create a greater whole, to taking resources from all to support a greedy few. Not what I believe in – or what most people want. I look to the meaning behind the phrase and remember the French. Yes, there are a lot of people pretty angry at the French for some reason, angry enough that Congress voted on renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries – another silly, pointless game. Still, the French national motto is a clearer version of theU.S.one, a bit closer to my beliefs:

Freedom – Equality – Brotherhood.

As a nation, we tend to obsess about freedom and forget the rest as inconvenient. How much have I done this as a person? How much do I forget that I am no better or worse than anyone else, that my wishes are no more or less important in the grand scheme of things? How much do I put my personal desires before the needs of family, friend, neighbor, co-worker, company, employee, community, earth? How often do I forget that if the weak and innocent aren’t safe and cared for, neither am I? How often do I forget how the health and education levels of everyone in my community affect the services I benefit from? I believe that changing my world starts with changing myself. I want everyone to be responsible, honorable, reliable, considerate, generous, practical, adaptable, healthy, reasonable, balanced, passionate, responsive, creative, loving, spiritual, accepting, aware, fulfilled. If I work toward being those things, I’m doing something useful. So, I have a starting point.

In small, personal, everyday ways, I can stand for freedom, equality and community. I can clean up after myself, try to leave things, places and people better than I found them. I can have my things organized at the check out counter so other people don’t have to wait, give the cashier a smile, ask how he is and actually listen. I can take my son to the Y and the library so my husband can get some projects done. I can park further away from the door of my destination to make room for people who need help, and get a little extra exercise. I can buy local, organic and humane food products. I can move and breathe with reverence. I can make a game of cooking at home with my family. I can hug a stranger at a party who’s waiting for news of a brother’s death. I can do a little dance to make a friend laugh when they break a dish. I can offer to listen when a brother needs counseling and his ego can’t afford a therapist. I can forgive a slight without drama. I can find a use for a cast off bit of material or paper instead of adding to the trash. I can give thanks and credit for everything I’m given, even if I don’t like or can’t use it. I can use less water and electricity. I can howl like a wolf to break the tension instead of yelling when my child won’t listen to me. I can get outside with my family – work in the garden, play in the sandbox, sit on the porch, take a hike. I can support the dreams of those around me. I can object to the nasty way someone talks about a person. I can let people know if I’m running late, or might have to send a check a few days late. I can plan better so I have time to walk to the movie theater down the street instead of driving. I can give away something I don’t need. I can talk, eat, swim and tell stories with people rather than watching TV. I can tell a story with a good lesson. I can listen without waiting for a break to slip in my two cents. I can learn from every experience. I can point out the strengths and beauties of other people and things. I can focus my attention on what I want to grow and flourish.

Each choice is small, but in dozens and thousands and billions they add up to a life. My life adds to yours, and ours to so many others. It’s clear that we can’t wait for someone else to fix what’s broken. We’re all there is. We each can contribute our piece. We’re enough.

Thanks for taking this journey with me today.

Advertisements
Posted in Reasoning, Stories, Thoughts, Tools | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dancing Home

I am home from the Sun/Moon Dance. My spirit lives in the center of the medicine wheel, and part of me will always dance in the arbor, but my integrated life is in my home and community here. The single beat of the drum calls me to action and the three beats to rest, every day. The energy I channeled there trickles into my daily practice. Things are different, better, but imperceptibly so from an unpracticed eye. I am so grateful. Life is so good!

The fulfilling beauty and inspiration of the people, space and spirits with which I danced gave my path a new name: The Beauty Way. From the moment the drum called us from our spaces in the circle, I was danced … I could be. Active or passive in the dance, the resistance was gone and nothing pulled me from the path of the Divine. It was bliss and challenge at once.

The heat, the silence, the needs rose up with demands that all of me had to face. There were so many moments where the thought that the work or environment would break me dominated all others. Then, my very cells cried out for help. Every time, relief was there: a breeze, a drum beat, an eagle cry, an ant, a dancer’s movement, inspiration, the fire, the tree, darkness, light, change of place, a single hug, a pillow, a feather, a cold wet towel (oh the towel angels!), a laugh. Every time, I surrendered more deeply into the Love. It is everywhere and nowhere, nothing and everything. It is every being and every thing, natural and man-made. It is real.

I think the biggest surprise I brought home with me was the awareness of objects I had thought of as inanimate. The movement of the cells in my computer, or the sidewalk I place my steps on, or the chair I sit on, or the car I drive, is something I notice still after nearly a week and am likely to never forget. Have I been disrespecting the life in these things by ignoring the slow speed of their constant motion? Just because it’s formed from natural materials into a shape chosen by humans, does that make it less than natural, less worthy of consideration? It seems not.

At the end of the days that were unclocked spaces of eternity, I feel compelled to bring all this home with me and infuse every moment with connection. The infinite possibility of commitment and surrender brought me back to my daily choices with a deeper understanding of faith that can’t help but form a loving foundation. I want to live a “Thank You, I am here for you too.” And I no longer want to do it alone in a cave of illusory safety and separation. I found a second home in the Island of Misfit Toys and can take my connections outside the ceremony at last. That means, I can make friends with the fascinating, honorable, loving, unique and inspiring folks of the circle, right here in square world. We can have dinners and swim and make things and listen to the wind and take our dogs for walks. We can share stories and worries, thoughts and solutions, food and drink, mistakes and inspirations, laughter and hugs. For a long time I thought that wasn’t possible, but now I hope it can be. Ceremony and friendship can dance on together.

My life is full of words and decisions and recommendations I share with others, but the simplicity has hold of me still. I don’t want to speak or write, just solve problems. Or rather –  be a solution, and let the energy communicate for me. Our world is not there yet, and that is lovely in its own way. It simplifies my actions. There is such richness here, such truth and promise in the business of life. And so, a new lesson of patience and commitment guides my days. It is enough that I can be danced in one place, one time or two a year – for now. The rest of the time I can be with friends and family and colleagues in an easier, healthier way.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Posted in Stories, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I am a Spirit Dancer

This weekend, I will be celebrating the 7-year anniversary of my death and rebirth after a 4-day ceremonial dance at Madre Grande Monastery in California, with a 4-day ceremonial dance for Peace & Healing at Birdsong Peace Chamber in Pennsylvania. The symmetry has a lovely appeal. Preparing for the next few days has absorbed most of my focus, hence my silence for all of June and most of this month. The thought brings joy and calm this morning, but it raised a lot of fear and questions that I’ve had to address over the last weeks.
I was hospitalized after that last Peace & Healing dance. Despite good intentions, I was not properly cared for or watched over then, and checked out of my body after day 2, but was kept through day 4 and packed off alone in an ambulance when the ceremony was over, although not complete. It may be disputed, but I briefly died in the hospital and checked back in after the machines screamed and people started running to help. I was resistant and confused to return, but made it. The next Spring, I was ousted from the Tokala Society that hosted the dance. I had completed 2 years of a 4-year dance commitment. Although I was present in spirit, I did not complete that cycle in person.

A few years ago, I went to my first sweat lodge after that with a group here out East. It was supportive and the energy well-balanced between male and female, light and dark. There are several lodge leaders nearby that follow the teachings of Beautiful Painted Arrow who gifted the Sun/Moon Dance for Peace & Healing to some of them. After several sweat lodge ceremonies with different members of this group, I participated in the Long Dance  at Birdsong for the first time. Contrary to its name, this dance is just one night and self-supported. It was a lovely and healing experience. Last month, I danced a second beautiful and healing Long Dance with the same group at the Birdsong Peace Chamber, and a few different people.

In the hush of early morning, it came clear to me, that I had completed the cycle of my first dance commitment. It is time to start a new 4-year dance cycle in a good way with this new group of people. It must be now, although now is not a logical time. I had just one month to prepare, since I made the decision on the Summer Solstice: find a supporter to stay with me through the dance, find the money to cover it, find the money to ease my mind about our family’s financial woes, find supporters for my husband and son, get fresh sage for my giveaway from Southern California, make prayer ties, prepare things for giveaway, fix my dance dress, find more dance clothes, and so on. My husband is afraid I’ll die for good this time. I’m concerned for him and pray that I will be strong enough to surrender in the right way.

So many good questions have been raised by loved ones concerned with my well-being and answered with love and patience.  I am so very grateful that they would care to caution me as they did, and offer their insights into me and fears for my safety.

Have I thought of my son and husband? A child should have his mother. Yes. I am taking every precaution I can for my health and safe return. What kind of example would it be for my son if I were to deny who I am and what I believe is right because it is unpopular or misunderstood? I’ve taken good care of myself for many years now and that habit is one I mean to keep. I ask my loved ones to have faith in their experience of me rather than in unfounded fears of what could be.

Should I just grow up and get over this “foolishness”? Am I searching so hard for something that’s right here inside me? No. I have found peace in my own heart, love and wisdom in the world I experience every day. Back when I started on this path, I was searching very intently, and reveling in whatever I found that answered my questions. I was a zealot, in the words of one friend, uncomfortably passionate and enthusiastic at times. I threw myself into ceremony with the ecstatic bounce and swagger of a drunk teenager, sober and clean as I was. It wasn’t too much for then, maybe, but it was … too much to last. Consistent practice was bound to focus my unbridled passion, channel my visions.

Warned by dreams I’d had from childhood, I knew I was going to die in my 35th year, but I didn’t know how or when. I didn’t know I was going to come back. Surprise! Oh my friend, I was so angry and sulky after I made the choice. I had my own personal It’s a Wonderful Life journey with a twist. I saw what life could be if I returned and what life would have been if I didn’t. The latter was unacceptable and so I came back, defiant and confused and angry and exhausted.

I took my time to recover and ease back into ceremony. I had my former commitment, but I’d been broken. I had no choice but to be gentle with myself. I tried to find out the specifics of what had happened when I’d been unconscious the last 2 days of the dance, but could never get a full or clear picture. The bits I’ve been able to piece together are consistent with what I experienced watching my mother’s spirit separate from her body while dying of her brain tumor. Nobody knew what to do with me, some thought I was on drugs, some thought I was sick, they tried what they could to help but with modern tricks or intuitions not practical ceremonial responses. Nobody took any responsibility for the conditions of the dance, and so I took responsibility for the whole thing for awhile. I was not surprised when the dance tree was felled by lightning. It felt right to me, like justice.

There was jealousy and undermining that carried on according to friends that were there, but I continued to love and wait. Usually, if I deflect the most obvious damage and keep focused on my own work, after awhile the situation resolves itself with a deep friendship or a separation. This time it was the separation. The shock of that shook me up and made me question my tokala commitment. Am I still a Tokala? What do I do now? I prayed a lot about it and went back to Madre Grande for a final resolution after a few months. After a few days on the land camping and praying, walking and singing, a hawk met me on a path and I sat with her for some time before she turned and hopped off the log she’d been perched on. It was then I knew that my commitment didn’t rely on Daniel Moon and the Medicine Shield Tokalas for approval. The answers came from the land and a hawk at Madre Grande. Yes, the commitment was between you and Creator for the people. You do now what you always did – pray and live in service. If it must be alone, so be it. Every day, I live this commitment in the way of a flawed human surrendering to the greater good as much as I can. My ego and desires still want to take hold more than is good for me, but I manage to make small improvements over time. I help in my small way.

My work is to hold the spirit line and live as a hollow bone in the center of the Medicine Wheel to the best of my humble abilities. I’ll explain that over time. For now what matters is that I carried on praying and healing, working the medicine and letting Creator work me. I didn’t go to an Inipi for 3 or 4 years, doing ceremony as guided on my own. When I was pregnant with my son, I built the new habit of taking meticulously good care of myself. It started off as being just for his sake, but after 2 years of it I could see the way nurturing myself expanded what I could to for others and the habit was cemented. I’m not searching anymore. The love and wisdom of Spirit is within and around me, undeniable and perfect. I’m integrating now, getting on with my loving and steady little improvements, steady richer joys.

So now we come to the dance and timing issues. I was actively avoiding doing ceremony in groups up until two years ago or so. Then I needed to go West to do some closing ceremonies for all the doors I’d opened and forgotten to close. To prepare, I needed to do a sweat, so I put out the question to people I knew and trusted. One sent me to a lodge in Malvern.

The caretaker of the land and the people there welcomed me easily. The first of 4 water pourers taught by Joseph Rael, Beautiful Painted Arrow that I encountered and sweat with, he was a surprise to me: very human and wise and understanding with the kinder part of coyote medicine. Through him, I met and did ceremony with others. One put lavender on the wood with the tobacco when the foundation for the lodge fire was built and used fewer stones than I was used to. This way is much more nurturing than the way I was taught, which is wonderful. I was skeptical at first, but went to a few more ceremonies, introduced my family to the circle at casual picnics on ceremonial land, and met more good people. There was never any cost for ceremony or guilt to give a donation when times were tight. The leader would say what it cost to put on lodge if you asked for a suggested donation, but always emphasized that you should never let lack of money stand between you and the healing ceremonies. They remain consistent.

I first chose to dance a personal Long Dance, co-chiefed by two water-pourers last year. It’s one night, “self-supported” they said, so I used it as a test case. Yes, I brought my own stuff, set up my own tent and drummed or rattled for myself when I needed it, but it was far from unsupported. Both chiefs were really specific in details that could help me support myself and the incredible force of love there just carried me both last year and in the dance I repeated a few weeks ago.

All of the people supported the others in our own way and never abandoned anyone in need – truly magical. I should have accepted last year the vision of me dancing the 4-day dance at Birdsong with them, but I was too afraid to accept it then. It took having the same vision repeated for me in this year’s dance before I would accept the truth. I didn’t want to accept that I was ready, didn’t want to let go of the past and accept my role in Creator’s plan, so I delayed everything as long as I could. It was making me sick to deny it and so I’ve embraced it in that crazy-love way I have and here we are. As one dear friend pointed out, the dance is inside of me and the spirit is in my dance. I can no more deny that without wilting than a sunflower can turn from the sun.

The question of MONEY made me wonder and hesitate too. The cost seems high for ceremony, but it is also a suggested donation. They try to recoup the costs of the dance and give something extra to the drummers and for the support of Joseph Rael or the medicine person for the dance if they can, but if I’m called I shouldn’t worry about it. Fixating on the cost gave me an excuse to delay the commitment to this dance and that’s one of the few things I’ve denied in the past  years when it spoke to me so clearly and cleanly.

That denial was a mistake. My friends are right that Spirit wouldn’t ask anything of me that would jeopardize my family and well being. When I raised the question of payment, the dance chief and her husband, who’s danced this dance for about 25 years now, both told me there are scholarships available if the need is there. They told me to pray on it and let them know, to simplify my approach to the ceremony. I was relieved. From my part, if I’d been preparing for the whole year as I would have been had I heeded the call last year, it would have been no problem to use the $2 or so per day to help me focus my intentions and preparations for the dance. I do feel called to support those that hold the dance space, caretake the land and support me as I dance, and I will eventually donate the amount that Creator shows to me, probably the suggested donation or more. They don’t call for a giveaway, but I am releasing a number of ceremonial things that will serve others better than they would me at this point.

I know this is the best thing to do for the highest good right now and everything is coming together to support me in this choice. I am one who dances with spirits to amplify the prayers that come for a better world. If I do not dance, a part of me dies, corrupting the rest. Might you understand what I mean? Sometimes things are so clear to me that I’m not sure if I’m communicating well. Thanks for bearing with me.

When I started the preparations last month, I gave myself, this dance and all my worries over to Creator. That was after I broke down and cried with more of my heart and soul than I wanted, of course. A single breath of thought for me as I prepare and dance is an incredible treasure that I value. A little food and water wouldn’t hurt either. It will all come from somewhere, and so much has come already from friends old and new. God, by whatever name, always provides the means to do what is requested of us. The goal of this dance is to promote peace and healing for all beings through dance, prayer and sacrifice. I can’t think of a better way to give thanks for all I’ve been given, particularly those I love.

Thanks for taking this journey with me today. I’ll dance for you tomorrow.

Aho, mitakuye oyasin (amen, for all my relations)

Posted in Reasoning, Stories, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Active Resistance

Resistance for a cause is not futile

however simple its form.

Individuality seems chaotic,

free will threatening

when hubris has solidified

a viewpoint into a mandate

for everyone else.

 

If love and nature have chosen

to express themselves in a form,

its viewpoint is sacred,

its life inviolable,

its choice unlimited.

 

If a mandate is carried out by Force,

the touch of grace fades from it

and resistance becomes

necessity

in defense of the forms

without the will or ability

to deny another.

Posted in Poems, Reasoning, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Human Hero – Heroes Part I

It is easy to deceive someone who longs to be dazzled. It’s so easy to follow the pretty shiny thing in the dark night or too bright day, when the steady work has worn us down and we can’t see far enough, from lack of light or exhaustion, to recognize another soul making an ounce of effort. We get discouraged, put down our tools and cry for a hero.

The greatest mistake we make is ignoring the beauty woven into our lives to search for the shining holy grail. Enticed by dreams of jewels and riches and sparkling people, our gaze fixes beyond the breathtaking strokes of color on the horizon. Our vista may be cluttered with battered buildings, streets and wires or as freshly open as a waking field and we can not see it. Reality weighs on our spirits, dingy and uninspiring, when we’re desperate to taste a nectar so sweetly refreshing it must belong to another world. And if the subtle art of a morning sky, the delicate scent of a juicy fruit, or the sweet trill of a calling bird can’t penetrate our distraction, how could the heavy grace of another flawed human?

What if the holy grail is the rough cup in my hand? What if the hero who will save me is… me, or my mother, or my next door neighbor? What if we don’t need a hero at all?

We plan our adventures to beyond the horizon, but the treasure always lies just out of reach. Where do we start? Is there a passage across space lurking in a cave on the outskirts of town that ends at the treasure trove marked with a giant X? Is there a secret club in New York or Paris or Dubai that will unlock the secrets of the universe once I’ve earned my first billion? If my beautiful image is splattered across the screens of the world, will I at last be enveloped in the arms of true love? The days and disappointments accumulate. The un-granted wishes tarnish as a growing mass in our hearts until they threaten to break our chests open. That’s when we’re the most vulnerable. If all of my constant efforts have led to nothing, maybe I’m not the one who makes my happiness. Maybe there’s someone smarter, richer, more beautiful, more talented who can grant my wishes. I must need a hero.

Along come the Deceivers. The most ancient tales of temptation glorify them with their richly textured condemnation: the serpent, the talespinner, the illusionist, the dark wizard. The ripe scent of longing lures them in. In a flash of clear perception, they know what we want. The wry smile curves their lips at our blindness. What we need is all around us, it’s even part of us and we have no idea. Friends offer a pleasant chat over dinner, but we hold out for King Arthur’s Court. Children invite us to play, but the next dollar beckons from just one more transaction. Lovers open their lives with a glance, but we turn to the beauty on the screen that flickers behind them. Clouds in the sky form answers to the formless questions in our minds, but we have to answer this tweet. The warm beat of our very full hearts taps out the code of unconditional love, but the soft message is drowned by the buzz and clang of the rushing crowd. We are tired of searching, tired of waiting, tired of wishing. We long to be dazzled.

They dazzle us. Oh, the glory they paint over rough boards is stunning, if a little lurid. They give us just what we beg for and we pay through the nose for it. Smoke and mirrors and perfumes overwhelm our greedy senses. Humans are made to absorb sensations with every cell. We’ve turned ours off to the world we fill as we strain for clues from the one we seek. When we’re starved, any food is manna from the heavens. And when the sordid truth rises up from the fine print on the glossy package, we ignore it, too hungry to stop gorging ourselves. But the tricks only last so long, and the deceivers know it. When the listlessness crashes back in, and our nerve endings throb from the onslaught of flash, all that’s left of the show are the echoes and scraps. The frayed curtain flaps in the wind. We suffer loudly.

Usually, this is where we blame whoever put on the show, grab our pitchforks and call for an avenger to chase down the deceivers and wrench from them the dignity we handed over with our cash. But the longing creeps back and we’re too tired from the rush and crash to do more than complain. The little energy that remains channels into long and vibrant strings of words that blend into a muffled roar.

A plain, clear voice rings out from the bewildering noise. This one doesn’t want revenge. This one wants change. This one was cooking dinner, playing with children, growing food, fixing leaks, healing wounds, hugging friends, listening to troubles, watching life unfold, cleaning house, making art, singing songs, while we watched the show. “We’re still here,” the voice says. “We have each other. Why don’t we clean up, get some rest, and see how we feel in the morning.” The crowd of voices shouts its wrath and the voice fades into the distance. We buzz in vain as we wait for the hero to come and lead us to victory.

Oh we love our heroes, the ones we can’t touch. We dress them in armor or leather, or robes or spandex and give them amazing powers. They rise from the mist of other eras, other planets, extreme conditions to glow backlit at the edge of our cloying darkness or unforgiving glare. Storytellers from Homer to Stan Lee have spun tales of their great feats and great flaws. Bards from the first wandering minstrels to the Foo Fighters have sung of their exploits. When the hero is viewed across the distance of time, wealth or fantasy they can make mistakes. No matter how dark their doubtful passage, how thoroughly they embody cruelty, we forgive them when they save the day in the end.

Our flesh and blood heroes aren’t so lucky, they have to be perfect. They can’t be steady and sensible and wholesome. If they swear or drink or lie or cheat or steal or blaspheme or sleep around or have a mole, or have any fat, or have bad days, or speak with a lisp or fumble for words, they can’t be a hero. If they don’t, there is something wrong with them or “they think they’re so high and mighty.” A hero must live beyond the best that we’ve come to know. However smart, creative, rich, beautiful, kind, understanding, strong, skilled, crafty or impressive we are, they have to be 10 or 100, or 1000 times more so. They have to dazzle us.

A human hero is expected to never have doubt or temptation, never make a mistake, never choose among competing priorities, never give the impression that they’ve done anything they shouldn’t, but have every one of our weaknesses. It is impossible to fill that job description. And what healthy person would want to fill it?

The good people I know just shake their heads when no one will listen, and get back to their lives. Those are the ones I started to see when the blinding flash faded enough for my world to come into focus. Those are the ones whose clear voices I started to hear.

They may not be heroes in the flashy sense. They may prefer to lead from the middle where they can tend to the slow and wounded as the fresh rush out ahead to scout the path. They wear no armor but their values. They look out of place in leather or robes, and does anybody look good in spandex? Truly, anyone? They tell corny jokes and argue with their families, bosses or both. They have flaws they don’t hesitate to admit – too quiet sometimes, too outspoken at others, can’t resist coffee or chocolate, beer and fries or wine and cheese, addicted to books or technology or exercise, too trusting of the wrong people, too suspicious of the right ones. They laugh like animals, cry like faucets or rocks, and overflow with information. They have good reason to apologize now and then, but they do apologize.

The good people I know have amazing powers. They listen with their minds and hearts open. They think of everyone involved when they solve the problems that face them. They learn as much as they can and share what they know with those who need it. They appreciate what they have and make the most of it. They consider the consequences of their actions and adjust their course to cause the least possible damage. They agonize over tough ethical dilemmas like whether or not to use the pennies in the cup at the register when they are short 6 cents and have no reserves to draw from. They channel their anger at injustices done to them into soft words of praise for the unappreciated. They choose to live here and now, to help those who are next to them, and forgo distant glory to suck the marrow from the bones of life in their own kitchens.

What if we stop chasing dreams and build better lives? What if instead of untouchable heroes, we embrace real flesh and blood human people to live with and learn from?

In my profession, there’s a lot of talk about influence. The one whose voice is the loudest and reaches the furthest corner of the room is given the most sway by those who value the art of deception. So the mob chatter of anger and bragging and blame gets louder and louder. In our culture too, glamour is more valued than substance. Have you noticed that the chatter may be louder but the glamour doesn’t satisfy anymore? The loud voices are mostly noise. We want to share ideas. The sound grows and morphs until any thread of sense is lost in the thrilling cacophony.

Suddenly the cloud of sound bursts with a bright flash and the roiling emotion pours down. Just like one of those sudden tropical storms, the flood rushes for a few harrowing moments. Then the throb of stillness expands to fill the space. The steady beat of each of our truths sounds out in synch. The clear pure harmony of reason and truth rises again above the rhythm. If we can pause to listen, maybe we can learn to love what we have and cherish what we love. Maybe our heroes can be plain extraordinary good people who sometimes make mistakes.

It’s nice to be able to hug a hero and have a real conversation with one. I was sick of making up the answers to my questions. Thank you Jeff, Wendy, Stephanie, Aunt Janie, Pat, Grandpa Karsten, Aunt Kate, Shirley, Eddie, Rebecca, Roxanne, Jim, Sally, John, Sharon, Brian, Pete, Tom, Morgan, Mark, Sidney, Susan, Kelly, Spyros, Mary, Dale, Linda, Frank, Gwen, Jeanne, Peggy, Harvey, Carol, Larry, Richard, Reggie, Barbara, Kathy, Shazia, Diana, Ann, Karissa, Claude, Virginie, Michiko, Bill, Zave, Carolyn, Jun and so many more. You make real life feel like a fabulous adventure.

Posted in Reasoning, Thoughts, Tools | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Small Loss

One week it was money I was missing, the next week … a life.

It shouldn’t have been significant; the evidence was weak. I felt uncharacteristic nausea at odd times. The tenderness in my breasts was uncomfortable. A touch of fatigue made my head heavy despite solid rest. It was the wrong time of month, too early. It can happen any time. But it felt different. The focus of my energy had shifted to my belly and my hands drifted there unconsciously more and more often. My little one took to kissing it and smiling when he hugged me. And I so wanted to believe.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Last year wasn’t easy, with two miscarriages within 7 months. The rise of hope, the shadowy image of a child growing on the ultrasound, the hormonal shifts, the sparkling expectation, the whispered promises of love and laughter, the family tour of the birth center, the satisfied prayers of our happy child. Then, the horrifying public gushes of blood, the calming explanations that mommy’s okay but the baby may not be, the life-wringing pain, the hospital drama and cool decisions, the fierce stabs of loss, the recovery, the cremation, the ceremonial planting of a tree. Then, the deep comfort of faith, dizzying hormonal shifts, waves of unconditional love, remembering it’s not our fault, slow healing, nascent forgiveness, gentle answers to innocent questions, survival.

Months pass and the desire to welcome a new being into our lives overcomes the fear of such crushing disappointment. We have to eat and laugh, play and dance; it’s who we are. This grace of beauty in a life of routine is undeniable.

The first one started at the dining room table. A surprising gush of blood as I sat down to lunch. How hard I struggled to convert the roar of dismaying anger into soft and steady action. Our boy was there and I couldn’t do anything about it but comfort him and smile my love as I confirmed that no one had hurt me and I just needed a few moments of solitude while my blood spilled uncontrollably through my clothes.

We managed, with the help of loved ones and the openness of our grief, to hold together. The days after “surgery,” as I lay alone in bed, I felt the most secure sense of nurturing love all around and within me that I’d ever felt. Expecting emptiness, I was overflowing with a love that glistened with truth, more precious than any gem I’d longed for in my childish dreams of reigning queen in some rational universe. That was faith flooding in, the creative power at its most tender, and I felt supremely blessed.

It was hard to arrange, harder than I would have imagined in a compassionate world, but we held a private wake for two, in a lonely hour at the funeral home while our cherished boy played at school. My mother-in-law offered the cremation money, bless her. The three of us buried the thimble of ashes at the base of a tree gifted by a good friend for the occasion. I could go on, we could grow closer in our frustrated wish, we could honor the life for the time it graced our lives, and dare to dream of another. But could we connect so easily again, give ourselves over to hope so completely when the memory was glazed a transparent red?

The next one was more majestic, less dramatic. Again at 10 weeks, this time with no ultrasound picture to prove our loss, the blood betrayed our hopes. Nana was watching the boy at her home while we hiked to the top of a water fall to honor our anniversary. The day was gorgeous and happy, but laced with the fear that a few dark spots had unearthed in me. The bleeding was easier to conceal, the loss quicker. No need for surgery, inept blood draws, debilitating anesthesia, or invasive procedures in the wee dark hours. It was only a day, instead of a week, before I could stand still for long periods without the room spinning.

The enthusiastic lobbying for a baby starts more quickly this time and escalates beyond subtlety in a heartbeat. His friends have babies, why can’t he? A new cousin arrived at Thanksgiving, can we have a baby for Christmas? “Not this year sweetheart, I’m sorry.” Rocky, his lovey, becomes “Baby Maya” in more of our adventure games. He declares that Rocky won’t have to be the baby anymore when a real baby comes. “Gaga googoo, I’m a baby,” he whines, crawling to me and clinging so heavily I ease  to the floor. I sit “criss-cross-apple-sauce” and hold the nearly 4 feet of him in my arms as much like a baby as I can and sing to him in “brother’s room” until he becomes his big boy self and his transformers and pirates and books and blocks are his own. The sharp pains recede when we’re building a tower again and weaving the threads of an adventure together.

Easter weekend, I was sure again. The subtle signs were there. My smiles weren’t quite so bittersweet when I held my baby niece and my sweet boy sidled up next to me to indulge our collective fantasy. “I’m pretending she’s our baby that just came from your uterus,” he confided, and we cooed and rocked and kissed her gently. I was so sure.

Then the day of the resurrection brought a few dark spots. It was a week or so early for my moon time. I meditated and found the unconditional love I needed all around and within as before. But I felt a flash of desperation. It couldn’t be.

Not having a community of my own to pray with, I honored my mother-in-law by going to church with her. Prayer is prayer, wherever it is. You could feel the contentment emanate from her as she held the baby girl, while one son held his older boy and my husband bracketed me and our son halfway down the pew. She normally goes to church alone. I rarely join them, no longer being Catholic.

On my knees, I felt the flood of loss rising, and I kissed my son to hold it down. I sang unfamiliar hymns to focus my voice. For the first time in years, I took communion and the communal wine. My son was excited to come with me until he didn’t get to eat the crisp white wafer the lay minister offered me. He groaned and squeezed my hand imploringly. I smiled and hugged him to me as we returned to our family. At the end of mass, we went together to light candles – for my mother, for the two lost babies, for new life. There was still hope.

Oh, but Monday…. I was grateful to have said nothing, to have hinted nothing about the growing suspicion I’d touched gingerly with my spirit. The moon time is a period of cleansing, rest, renewal and feminine strength that I honor with as deep a silence that my life will allow. I greet it most months with a grumbling joy in the wonders of nature. Despite the pain, the gentle tide of surrender gives me such relief I consider it a blessing.

That morning, a stab and twist of wretched clarity came with the vibrant blood. I just managed to catch the renting wail in my throat before it woke the family. I forced down the tears with a ruthlessness bordering on the despotic, dropped my head to my hands and transmuted the wail into a hushed, anguished moan. Oh, how do I explain to my darling boy for more harsh, dragging months that God hears him, it’s just not the right time? And I breathed. And I moved softly to bed and curled up against the warmth and sleeping innocence of my husband. Routine overtook the grief.

At work, I cried in the bathroom before any others had arrived to hear the pain roll out. I blotted cool water on my face, fixed my makeup, and tugged up a reluctant stream of gratitude to create some forward momentum. The days rolled by in a blur of passionate routine until yesterday afternoon. “Hey!” I heard a colleague shout through the silence of a diligent office. “Anyone want to see our family of foxes play out here?” Half a dozen or so of us rushed to the window of the second edit suite.

For me a fox is more than an animal, it is a symbol of a commitment I’ve made to be a Tokala. The translation of the word, I’m told, is “kit fox.” Once, as I was praying on the question of taking on the responsibilities of the role, a red fox emerged from the darkness and approached our fire, its coat blending into the dancing flames. It stopped a few feet away, captured my gaze for an infinite moment and trotted confidently back into the night. I made the commitment with all my being.

I knelt next to the bay window under the lens of a film camera focused on the remarkable activity outside. Amid the excited chatter, I watched the mother fox nuzzle her three babies as they wrestled each other in the sunshine on the small patch of green next to the office parking lot. I ran to collect the refuge of my still camera when the emotions bubbling up in me were too hard to bear. Snapping useless shots turned me into a chronicling observer and the delicate pangs transformed into wonder as I watched with fascination. The mother fox retreated to her den in the dense foliage, followed by one of her cubs. The other two played relentlessly and fearlessly in the afternoon sun for a warm space of time. I sighed for my lost babies and the one I still hold in my arms several times a day. As the others peeled away to their desks and devices, I dropped the silver rectangle from my eyes and watched the cubs play. A single tear rolled down each cheek for each of my children. And I let another one go.

Perhaps the ones that left us came to experience unconditional love. Perhaps they learned enough of it in the short time they were with us to satisfy their curiosity. Who am I to say? I’ll continue to love and hope until the truth shifts again.

Posted in Stories, Thoughts | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Daily Scales

In the bright haze of doubt

only the work has meaning,

not the manicured bravos whispered from a discreet distance

or the perfect twist of thought

or the raging grief for what has been found and lost, or painted blue

In that place where there is no good or bad or talent

where there is no charmed or gifted,

where there is only

you

and a need

It is the commitment

that matters

the scales twanged out to offended ears

the nouns, verbs and adjectives numbered on wide-ruled pages

the master drawings copied upside down, by space not line

the symbols translated from tangled code to clear answer

the habits mixed to match a fully molded life

the single sacred exercise devoted to craft,

not to art

or to money

or to the god forsaken for the Muse,

is the key

When the certainty of love is shadowed

and the transformation loses its shape in the fierce white light,

the touch of discipline,

firm and trusted,

will open the dream that you no longer see

Posted in Poems, Thoughts, Tools | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment