Light Wins by Shining

 

 

dscf3123We’ve been healing from the daily news explosions by taking long walks in the snow and listening for what is needed that we can offer our family, community, and world.

The Lord of Misrule used to be a peasant appointed to “rule” over the manor’s Christmas revelries, a kind of topsy-turvy silliness enjoyed for a few hours every year.dscf3218For us, the Lord of Misrule and his minions will begin their reign on January 20th, and the Feast of Fools will last four years. Maybe. The world is in a dangerous mood and silliness is not the proper response, so the feeling that anything could happen is more pronounced than when educated and sensible minds are at the helm.dscf3220So we lie awake and worry, or enjoy a few hours of denial here and there, or divert our attention to complete the tasks before us, or…well, you get the idea.dscf3162Walking in the snow, especially if it’s falling while we walk, calms the heart like nothing else. The world, so far as we experience it, is stilled, hushed, and peaceful. The expansive white engenders a quiet hopefulness, and if a full moon is rising, our spirits can’t help but rise as well.dscf3114dscf3018Last weekend, we went out to gather a few gifts. On the way home, Phillip dropped me off at the state park near our home. The snow was falling and I was alone, walking around acres that supported a thriving community 1,000 years ago. I walked through the spirits of babies, mothers, fathers, athletes, leaders, gossips, and artists. Most, I expect, were what we’d call “good” people; I imagine there were also a few who upset others routinely, and perversely pursued ego gratification, just like people in our culture do.dscf3066dscf3060dscf3047The only signs they were here at all are several mounds and reconstructed “forts” marking where theirs existed, because scholars and scientists cared to do this and, at the time, our state supported them. The ancient community seemed to end rather abruptly, after thriving for 300 years, and archaeologists are still trying to figure out what happened. I wonder if they elected a Lord of Misrule.dscf3086dscf3076dscf3032I walked home musing about all those who walked this land for centuries, over a thousand years ago, and what it all meant. We have no records of them as individual personalities, just tools, jewelry, artifacts, and suppositions, but they were real; they lived and breathed and laughed, and worked, and played, and maybe walked in the snow when worry overtook them.dscf3077dscf3058dscf3095dscf3112Phillip and the pups met me, and we walked along the trail and over the river where the Aztalan people hunted and fished. We enjoyed Micky’s navigation of his first snowfall, and then the sweet grace of just being here and now and present to small joys lifted my heart.dscf2930dscf2993dscf2979Life is a flicker of light and then we’re a long time dead, and possibly, in a thousand years, forgotten altogether. The miracle of being here at all is far too precious to waste on worry, I know, especially when the possible nightmares that are keeping me awake are utterly out of my control to prevent.dscf2951What I can do is find my peace, speak my peace, and be my peace. What I can do is be present to all the beauty, and the joy, and the great love that lights my life, and not avert my eyes or attention from it to fret about bogus and hollow men in power. When their madness affects me, I’d rather meet it as one practiced in love, peace, joy, and presence, then as the Mistress of Worry and Fear.dscf3217Dying and being forgotten isn’t a problem; not having infused every day I lived with as much love, peace, and joy, as I believe we all should—now that’s sad. Light doesn’t win by cowering and hiding; light wins by shining.dscf3168

Bless your gatherings and partings during this season of hope.

Bless your giving and receiving, your traveling and nesting.

Bless your heart and its tender yearning,

Bless your mind: May it be free of worry,

And deeply nourished by cheerful thoughts and merry company.

Bless your actions and their congruence to your words;

Bless your words and their congruence to your heart.

May you be the Light you’re here to be, and shine in the darkness

So others may see.

Joy to you,

And to the world.

Love to you,

And to the world.

Peace to you,

And to the world.

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Energetic Legacies

DSCF4030If the eye of the heart is open, in each atom there will be one hundred secrets.  ~ Attar

We’ve had a lovely holiday this year, slow, together, and merry…a welcome sabbath. It began in deep frost and snowstorms, but mellowed, offering warmer days to snowshoe in companionship with the 4-leggeds. 

DSCF3881We hiked up the road to Aztalan State Park, a geography that to me always feels suffused with the spirits of the ancient people who inhabited this region. Snow-shoeing around the perimeter and then entering the vast spaces where the Woodland people and Mississippians lived brings me to stillness and contemplation.

DSCF3891The views are stunning and the quiet allows my imagination to see these ancient people planting, harvesting, gathering together for rituals…over there, two friends stand together, sharing their stories and village gossip, watching their children run and play. Individuals, families, a society, all the dreams and acts played out upon this stage so long ago seem to be present here still.

DSCF3853The essence of places, how they become saturated with the joys and sorrows that have been lived within their confines, have always attracted me. I’ve entered churches, homes, museums, hospitals, and battlegrounds where I’ve felt powerful energies washing over and through me. Specific emotions are often attached and sometimes jumbled. It doesn’t have to be an “obvious” place of personal or historical importance; I’ve been stopped in my tracks walking a forest path or an otherwise nondescript city block. Something happened here; what is it? Past and present both unfolding and overlapping: something or many things happened here, the energy of it/them is still moving here and now.

DSCF3342It’s taken a lifetime to master the effects of sensing and entering this residual energy: to name it, recognize its power, and stand peacefully within it, holding my place with humility, awareness, appreciation, and an understanding of how to maintain the integrity of my own energy while honoring the stories lived out here, perhaps unfolding still.

DSCF3945It seems to me that where our lives are lived and experienced vividly, and where intense, or just authentic emotions are named and shared, we are more likely to imprint the space with “memories” of these feelings. Perhaps that’s why so many modern office buildings and shopping malls fail to make an impression altogether; the people moving through these spaces are often numb, hurried, and out of touch with their hearts and spirits. More driven than present.

DSCF3922Take more time; cover less ground, wrote Thomas Merton, and over and over, I chant his words and notice my breath, and look again at the world around me, sensing the energy that’s passed, or that lingers and shares the space with me. How does one live fully? Wholly? How do I bless the world around me? How do I alter the energy here or amend it? How can I heal it? Where have I damaged it, and can it be mended and made right?

DSCF3879Hallowed spaces continue to bless us; those places still in need of healing deserve our blessing in turn. And the places where we live and move and have our own being need gentle vigilance regarding the energy we’re creating right now.

DSCF3696We weave our being into the earth and lives with which we share space every day. Or not. Our choices and actions, the degree to which we participate in our lives and connect to others, the devotion we give to conscious awareness of our world and its balance, the gifts and gratitude we offer openly, and the ways we shut down, avoid, deny, and disconnect–these create an energetic legacy. Whether our name is recalled or not, our energy affects what others feel now and will feel in the future.

DSCF3940I wish you a new year of grace and gentle peace; of wisdom and merry-making; of holy surprises and opportunities to share your gifts; of living from a joyful center; of good health and plentiful art; of laughter and holy tears and all the rounded offerings of being human; of the deep knowing that you are held by Love; of finding yourself in places sacred, and made more so by your presence; of creating energy that feeds your spirit and those spirits you love and those spirits yet to come.

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Breath of Life

Phillip, my cousin, Don, and my Aunt Mary

Phillip, my cousin, Don, and my Aunt Mary

My beloved Aunt Mary died several weeks ago, early one Sunday morning in February. She was my mother’s younger sister, but not by much, and their close bond throughout their lives always made me long for a sister, too.  It often surprised the three of us how much more I resembled my aunt in attitudes and preferences than I did my mother. And in the years since my mother died, Mary and I had become even closer, sharing e-mails and phone visits regularly.

My aunt was a remarkable person, utterly funny, charming, intelligent, and alive to the society, interests, and amusements that paraded through her days, the kind of person who had many lifelong friends, enamored children, nieces and nephews, and beholden strangers who benefited from her kindness and acts of charity. She was someone whose wit, wisdom, ready listening and encouragement were vital to making others see that a better world, or just a better day, is always possible. She had a vital spark most lack. She breathed greater life into those around her than they sustained alone.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 041I write this not as a eulogy, for I cannot do her gifts or influence on my life justice in such a brief forum, but by way of sharing that my grief in losing her has been gentle and so coupled with relief at her peace that it’s traveled with me these past weeks more like a soft grey cloud than a terrible storm, as my parents’ deaths engendered. I am grateful for her gifts and presence in my life and I am grateful that she is no longer yearning to be with her husband or suffering from ill health.

But I sure miss our e-mails, visits, and shared laughter.

I was thinking of her one morning when spring beckoned more than chores and I’d wandered outside to see what the world could tell me. I saw this daffodil, so earnest in its reaching for light that the dead leaf circumscribing its leaves couldn’t restrain its rising momentum.

Fox babies, dogpark, roly-poly puppies 007That is how the dead can be with us, how grief can restrain joy…The next day, the leaf had fallen away, joining others that surrounded the plant, becoming food for its continued growth. In death, still the breath of life.

Fox babies, dogpark, roly-poly puppies 011Grief takes its own time—and must—but what a gentle reminder that winter leads to spring, and death to life. Just the kind of message my Aunt Mary would send me.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 062

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 064Another gift of spring has been these darling fox kits, just emerging from their den to smell the world and take a few tentative steps into its songs and mysteries. They make every pore of my being tingle with maternal instinct, but, like everything wild, including my own nature, they also teach me over and over again to respect their boundaries and not interfere with instinctive patterns followed for centuries. So I observe from a distance and leave them to their necessary dance. I hope they will know peace, and comfort, and joy, in whatever form these may be known by foxes. I breathe a prayer and send it to their den at night.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 090I read about a wealthy inventor, futurist and engineer who believes people will, eventually, live forever, and who has hopes that his dietary, vitamin, and exercise regimen will allow him to remain healthy until this is possible.

I have no desire to live forever; I just want to be alive for all of the life granted me, and, if I’ve done it well, maybe I can feed the growth of others in their reaching for the light after I’ve gone, breathing still through their lives and the ways they love the world.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 101Like my Aunt Mary.

 

Thin Places and Sacred Ancestors

When my Celtic ancestors felt the energy of a place was sacred, they called it a “thin place,” meaning the boundary between this world and others was easily crossed at such locations; spirits might travel freely; the ancestors—and other spirits—were close.

Halloween, in part, is derived from Samhain, which marked the New Year for the Celts, a time when the souls of the year’s recent dead traveled beyond earth, and the long-deceased came back to “visit,” their presence welcomed.

When the Catholic Church sought to convert indigenous cultures (or “pagans,” the term Romans used to designate “country people”), it took their sacred days and translated them into Christian observances, and so November 1 became All Saints Day and November 2 is called All Souls Day. (These latter souls, presumably, await heaven and sainthood in purgatory, where one’s lingering sins are “purged.”)

Regardless of one’s theological views and practices, in the Northern Hemisphere this is the season when all the world’s considered a thin place. It seems natural, as vegetation dies back, exposing nature’s stark architecture, to enter the time of darkness and long shadows and consider the spirits of the newly and long-departed.

It’s fitting and important to set aside special days to focus our attention and gratitude upon single themes, events, people and memories. The danger is that we relegate our awareness of these important bonds to one-day-a-year only, as we relegate our acknowledgement of the Sacred to barely an hour a week, or less. (And heaven help you if a church service is ending as a football game is starting! The Sacred better get out of the way quickly.)

For growing numbers of people, however, it’s important to integrate connection with the Sacred in meaningful ways every day; nothing is profane unless we see it as such, and I think that explains the increasing attraction to non-Western cultures and their spiritual practices, as well as seeking new ways to honor the earth and all those who live in communion with us.

I’ve mentioned the books of Malidoma Patrice Somé before. My favorites are Of Water and Spirit and The Healing Wisdom of Africa. In both, he illustrates repeatedly the link between the deceased ancestors and the living community of his people, the Dagara tribe of West Africa. The ancestors are sources of wisdom and counsel for tribal leadership, choices, and direction. It is a natural behavior to commune with them daily.

The elderly in the tribe, because of their advanced age and proximity to death, are viewed as living on the bridge between worlds and therefore closer to the ancestors, and the newborn are viewed similarly; they have “just arrived” from the ancestral land and the company of the Wise Ones. This forms a tribal link between the young and the elderly, whose relationships are very close, sometimes edging out deep connections with those who, by necessity, are more fully engaged with “the things of this world.” The elderly and very young are believed to have the ability to speak with the ancestors more fluently and are respected for this connection.

In our materialistic, work-focused approach to life, we cart the young ones away to day care and the elderly off to nursing homes, or we move far away from childhood communities, severing connections that follow us from birth to death, and denying ourselves the deep riches of lifelong community. Relationships and the wisdom of our ancestors don’t matter so much to us. The immaterial, the insubstantial lacks value; or rather, it can’t be accorded a price point, which is what we most value. We’re often connected to our money and our desire (or frustrated desire and anxiety) more than to relationships with family, living or dead.

The recent Presidential campaign has clearly illustrated that “what should be important” is jobs: making money and spending money. One candidate is perhaps a bit more blatant and aggressive in his disregard for the earth, the ancestor we all share, by promising mining, fracking, and the extraction of resources needed by corporations (and robbed, if necessary, from lands that are currently federally-protected). Whatever it takes to get and keep people working (when they’re not shopping), will be accommodated.

But both candidates have neglected to confront the lack of reverence we have for the earth and the resulting devastation wreaked by storms like Hurricane Sandy. No mention of conservation, our role in climate change, global warming, or the sacrifices we might make to correct these, has been made. No invitations to alter our worldviews or perspectives have been offered. People who lost their homes along the coast are being urged to “rebuild” instead of to “rethink.” And how could it be any different when the campaigns’ exorbitant costs are funded by the wealthy corporations (i.e., “persons”) and their officers, who reap the short-term benefits from these ill-gotten resources and the new slave laborers we’ve consented to become?

We carry our ancestry in our DNA. I’ve enjoyed episodes of a program that connects people with their ancestors through investigating their genetic roots. Their DNA leads to unearthed connections played out across charts, and they learn about their ancestors’ stories, sometimes going back hundreds of years. It’s profoundly moving to see the featured guests weep, share their amazement, or evidence stunned silence as these deep connections are revealed.

We yearn for sacred connection, all the more because we have forgotten who—and what—we are. Imagine the wealth afforded by conversations with our ancestors. What can we do differently? What did they learn from their trials, errors, successes? Are they proud of the people we are becoming and the world we are creating? How can we better steward our gifts and those of the earth?

Perhaps, instead of just rushing, working and shopping during these sacred days of early November, we could stand in our thin places and listen for the wisdom of our ancestors and the lessons of Mother Earth. Perhaps we could kneel in reverence and gratitude for all of these holy connections that exist to nourish our souls, offer us wisdom and energize our spirits.

Perhaps we could change ourselves and so, the world. Because we’re always standing in a thin and holy place, being held by Mother Earth, with the wisdom of our ancestors circling in our hearts.

Just listen.