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.

Happily Ever After

dscf2581St. Paul teaches us that “in all things,” we must “give thanks.” In the last few weeks, I’ve totaled a car, killed a doe, found and lost a wonderful job, and, like many of my countrymen and women, perceived the world order has changed in ways that cannot possibly end well.dscf2644Tomorrow is our national day of Thanksgiving, and St. Paul’s words confound me more than ever.dscf2341But if I take him to mean that whatever desolation happens, there is something also happening (or present in the chaos) for which I can be grateful and feel consoled, well, then, it begins to make sense. My task is not to dwell on the seeming despair, but to locate the hope also present, and rejoice in it, give thanks for it, share it. It may be a moment of unexpected kindness; a gorgeous sunrise; a friend; a 4-legged companion; a moment to breathe; a sweet apple; a task accomplished; a recognized healing; an opportunity to witness love in others; a laugh, a life story shared in sacred space; a glass of wine…a husband unwavering in his support and love, when I feel most unlovable.dscf2347The mountain of excrement erupting smack dab in the middle of my life (and in others’ lives, I know) reminds me of the fairy tales I was told as a child. Fairy tales can come true; they can happen to you. Of course they can. They are always happening. The symbols and terrors and loss and despair of real lives lived led to the creation of our fairy tales and myths. They’re all true, but we forget that when birds are singing and the sun is shining. Happy endings are so lovely.dscf2574But the fairy tales exist, really, to help us navigate through the dark forests, complete impossible tasks, and summon the heroines and heroes within, despite mishaps and setbacks. Happy endings have to be earned. Losses will be suffered. But we’ll make it. Or those following us will. Nothing to stop us from beginning. Some heroes die. (But they really never do.) Nothing to fear, just immortality and eventual joy. Believe and begin. In all things give thanks. Ready?dscf2645This is the part when we’re deep in the forest and all seems lost. Up ahead is a clearing leading to a cliff and we’ll be pushed towards its edge; you betcha, boys and girls. Let’s hold hands and solve this. Let’s look for the dragon flying down to help us. Possibly better, let’s fashion wings of our own. But expect dragons when we need them.dscf2617It will end happily. I believe this. If it isn’t yet happy, it isn’t yet the end. All things work together for good for those who love. So let us feast on love and offer it to those hungry for it. Let us name our treasures and be grateful. Let us be the light for others finding their way. Let us take their hands and, together, create the happy ending.dscf2329
I’m looking at you. I’m grateful for you. If I needed anyone beside me in this terrible, very bad, no-good mess, it’s you. All of you. My friends, my family, the strangers who smile and encourage me, the artists, the brave, the funny, the creative, and the wonderful…Let us fill our wings with so much gratitude that we can soar on it all the way to our happy ending.dscf2576Here is a blessing
Tagging you on the back.
You’re it.
You’re the blessing.
Be the light for those in darkness.
Be the love that thaws a heart.
Cause a thank you to fill the world.
Heal the broken.
Charm the disenchanted.
Lead the dance.
Bless us with your gifts.
And tag us, to bless in return.
Give thanks; give thanks; give thanks.

The Finest Music

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There is an old Celtic myth regarding Fionn Mac Cumhail, the hunter and warrior who’d eaten the Salmon of Knowledge when he was a boy. He was sitting with his followers, the Fianna, one day, listening to their earnest discussion about what they believed to be the world’s finest music.

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One said it was the call of the mourning dove at dawn; another the baying of hounds in hunt; still others said, no, it’s the laughter of a child, or the sigh of a lover, or the rush of wind across the sea.

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Finally, they turned the question over to their leader and asked for his response. Fionn considered in silence and then replied, with a customary enigmatic smile, “The finest music in the world is the music of what happens.”

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I’ve been carrying that story in my heart the past few weeks, along with Seamus Heaney’s comment that in creating his poems he tried to “stay close to the energies of generation.” Both Fionn and Seamus seem to be inviting us to bring a focused awareness to the present moment, nothing new in wisdom literature, but stated in ways that caught my attention and pleased me, so both “listen to the music of what’s happening,” and, “stay close to the energies of generation” have become new mantras throughout my days.

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I was reminded of the old question, “Do you want to be a human doing or a human being?” Accomplishing tasks and reaching goals show we’re using our gifts, and hopefully, to help the earth and her creatures survive another turn with kindness, creativity, gentleness, and humor, but we can sometimes “do” without pause, as a distraction from just being, and miss hearing the finest music of our lives.

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Considering events as the music of what happens keeps me from judging them too quickly or labeling them as good or bad. It’s much more peaceful and pleasing to listen for the music they create, and how these chords fit into the established melodies of my day and life.

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I’ve taken a new job, working with seniors at a large facility a far distance from home. I love the people, the place, and the work, but was hesitant, initially, because saying yes meant crating the pups three days a week. (The job is just 28 hours a week, at this time.) Up to now, they’ve only been crated for a nap during the day and at night, for sleep. We were both very concerned about the pups spending long work days so confined.

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But I listened for the music and focused on discovering the best possible outcome.

A dear friend gave me the number of the woman who provides dog-walking services for her. I contacted Jill, who came and met with the pups and me, and we were all smitten with her energy and spirit. She is enthusiastic about visiting Mickey and Malarky at midday, and taking them for a walk, so that has eased my heart greatly.

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The damage from the roof leak I spoke of in the last post will require extensive remodeling: a new roof, some drywall repair, ceiling work, and perhaps some roof beams will need replacement. We decided to forego replacing the skylights that led to the leak, and I’ll miss the added indoor light they provided, but I’m going with lighter paint colors in the rooms, and that will make a difference. Thankfully, our insurance will help pay for all of this, and Phillip can do a lot of the work. And we wanted to update those two rooms (the dining room and kitchen) anyway. So, what began as something akin to discordant crashing and banging has been untangled and quite nicely woven into the music of what happens.

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 St. Clare of Assisi is reported to have said, right before she died, “Thank you for letting me be a human being.” So often, we go through life pinning joy to “someday, not this, not yet,” waiting for all of our expectations of the way life “should be” to simultaneously occur, fall into place, and remain perfect from then forward. Yet, all the while, the finest music, the symphony created right here and now, where the energies of generation in our own once-in-a-lifetime human life are happening, is being played.

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So, let us attend, listen to, and love the music of what happens, my friends, and be grateful for every note: the sweet, the sour, the out of tune, and the surprising grace notes flitting through all.

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Blessings on your week and the music of what happens.

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To Walk in Balance

 

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Wakan Tanka, Great Mystery,
teach me how to trust my heart,
my mind, my intuition,
my inner knowing,
the senses of my body,
the blessings of my spirit.
Teach me to trust these things
so that I may enter my Sacred Space
and love beyond my fear,
and thus Walk in Balance
with the passing of each glorious Sun.
~ Lakota Prayer

 The autumn equinox seems a fitting time to contemplate the balance we manage to hold and honor in our lives.

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And the currently overused word, “literally” does seem to apply to my sense of balance: Since July 8th, most of my time has been spent lying on a bed or couch with my left leg elevated and the foot iced, following surgery. Prior to the surgery, the doctor had repeatedly stressed that the recovery would be a long slog, but the foot wasn’t working well, so I chose the misery for improved quality of life. I’m fairly active and need to be for my joy to flow.

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The past few weeks, I’ve been going to therapy and am now free of the walker and boot that accompanied the majority of my healing. But I’m still working on regaining my balance. I can’t yet support myself standing on the left foot alone, which impedes (excellent word, meaning “to shackle the foot”) my yoga and work outs. The foot still swells to a stunning circumference if it’s down too long. I call her Hindenburg.

The view during my confinement didn’t inspire too much photography.

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I appreciated the 4-legged companions and the friends and family who stayed in touch through visits, messages, and calls. These made all the difference in my healing. The days became static, drifting one-into-the-next, and the world diminished to the size of a bedroom. By week three, I felt like Grace Poole in Rochester’s attic. Highly imbalanced.

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Caregivers are the saints of the earth, and mine was the best. Phillip made Mother Teresa look like an insensitive thug; he was that great a support. There’s a lot to do at Full Moon, especially in summer when the many gardens are in need of tending, and he managed all that, the 4-leggeds, my needs, the housecleaning and laundry, and full time remodeling jobs…I think, for once, he’s very happy summer is over and he can get back to the cushy job of teaching high school students. (!) A good friend visited at least twice a week, sat and chatted, helped clean, made meals…Challenges always reveal so many blessings in our lives, don’t they? And the blessings help to bring our spirits back into balance.

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For a time, I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing more with my enforced free time…I could have written an entire book series in the time I sat and watched old movies and read several mystery series that others wrote. I could have taught myself to knit, or taken up some other craft, or bettered myself in some laudable way, despite the pain in my foot and the humiliation of being utterly dependent on others.

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But those feelings led to one of the great gifts of my healing time.

 I’ve always powered through my schoolwork, my jobs, my chores, and my days, and done more than I should (I think, trying to make Sr. Mary Someone take notice and validate my wonderfulness) so the second-best gift I’ve received from this experience (Phillip is always the first), is the chance to finally learn how to stop and say, “Enough. For now.” I think I’ve always feared I’d just slide into indolence and never rise again, but I think I’m discovering a better rhythm for my days that allows me both productivity and peace. Both can call upon our creativity.

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For my first outing, we went to the dogpark. The weather was grand and, although I sat at a picnic table with my leg raised and iced (sigh), I cried, just to be there and enjoying the lovely world outside my room.

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I’ve managed a couple trips (again, literally) down to the bridge since then.

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And I’ve even spent time weeding gardens, although the first time I overdid it, and Hindenburg rebelled. Learning the parameters is tricky, but being in the garden heals other parts of me, so not a loss, but a lesson.

I’m also back in the kitchen, making candy, roasting veggies, baking treats and feeling like myself again.

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So we roll around our lovely sun to autumn. The combines in surrounding fields are running from dawn to dusk, when they’re able, and the birds are emptying the feeders maddeningly fast, preparing for migrations. The gardens are nearing the time for cutting back and cleaning, harvests drawing to an end.

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We’ve received 15.5 inches of rain since the beginning of August and more is coming tonight and next week. The river is high, but we’re not experiencing the flooding that others are. A roof leak has led to drywall damage we’ll need to rectify, so that will be the Next Big Thing. (At Full Moon, not nationally, as we all know.)

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Autumn, the time when our world becomes a thin place, begins, and my spirit feels strengthened and ready for the sweet encounters with mystery it always brings. We make commitments and then we make them again, revising, reviewing, respecting (to “look again”) them, honoring the challenges they present and gifts they yield. The equinox is a lovely symbol of the balance that’s come to me, finally, and which I hope to integrate more profoundly into my life’s dance, however inelegantly executed it currently is. I have faith I’ll be pirouetting on the left foot one day soon.

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Deep Bows to the Earth

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Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal to us their real meaning.  ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen, Clowning in Rome

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March ended with a glorious full moon. I remember it, because that was the day our dear friend was admitted to the hospital. For a week or more, she had been suffering from violent bursts of headache, much worse than her usual migraine. We’d accompanied her to the ER one long night, when the pain was excruciating and, when it happened again, another friend got her to the doctor who (finally) admitted her. Over the course of the next two weeks, a nimbus of neurologists poked, sliced, scraped and analyzed her brain before concluding with a diagnosis that left her ravaged spirit and body heavily drugged and cautiously hopeful. The headaches continued, but gradually abated to an endurable level.

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As with any hospitalization of a loved one, our days slid into overtime. We drove back and forth to the hospital to visit and support our friend and her son, and twice a day, drove to her home, to care for her sweet, old, almost-blind, mostly-deaf pup, Jax. He seemed more at peace in his own familiar spaces, but clearly missed his “mom,” despite our attempts to comfort him. He always perked up for treats, we noticed.

Her son flew home from Brazil and helped mightily for a time, until his mother was discharged, but then, after she’d been home for a few days, he had to return to work, so she and Jax came to us for a week of rest and recovery. Their presence and spirits blessed us.

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Malarky, Jax, and I went for a few walks every day, while our friend rested. Malarky was a good host, leading Jax to all of our “treat spots” and waiting for him to catch up.

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Winter seemed to be tilting tentatively into spring. One day, we’d hike through a glorious snowfall, and the next, a sunny trail beckoned with robin song and wildflowers. All of it seemed to intrigue Jax, and his spirit and energy thrived.

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My friend fatigued easily and felt apprehensive about the thunderclap headaches returning, but, as the week went on and spring began to settle in, I noticed her spirit lifting and confidence returning. Every day, she set new tasks to complete that would support her return to independence after almost a month of being bedridden. She made a meal, did her laundry, came on a short walk. She weaned herself off the pain meds. (I can’t imagine the courage that took, after what she’d endured and feared encountering again.) The syndrome she suffered from is known to debilitate and devour energy, and it can require up to six months before the patient feels like her old self, or—more accurately—her new self, since these experiences always transform us.

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My friend deeply honors and tends her spirituality, and we had interesting conversations about the ways she felt herself transformed; the gifts she perceived had come to her through the ordeal; the struggles she anticipated in returning to work; and her hopes for healing.

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My heart filled with gratitude to see her strength returning, even in tiny amounts, and I loved how spring’s brighter days contributed to this. My friend blooms in warmer weather, and the sunshine and flowers, open windows, and sweet breezes contributed far more to her recovery than my vegetables and broths. I think I saw her blossom on one of our walks. It seemed like her spirit came back into focus.

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She returned home the night of April’s Full Pink moon. My tulips were just opening to the sun that day. We stayed in close touch, and I took her to a few appointments the next week, but her recovery since then has been glorious and all due to her own body and soul-tending.

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I missed her presence after she’d returned home. It was fun to have human conversations throughout the day. The 4-leggeds and I had to adjust to the unfilled hours and reserves of energy we now had to fill and spend. Malarky and I took long walks through county parks and marveled at a Great Blue Heron rookery. To see these huge nests tended by their prehistoric profiles, even at the distance we kept, took us deep into silence.

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We gardened and watched the spring birds gather at the feeders.       

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We watched this fellow court various ladies, it seemed with little luck, over the past few weeks.

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But we discovered that we still longed for another presence…and settled on Mickey.

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Two weeks later, we’re all adjusting to our new companion. We’re grateful for the hard, often heart-breaking work at the Houston rescue that saved Mickey, and for its local satellite that brought him to us. He’s sweet and feisty, and a good buddy for Malarky. Of course, we planned on a girl, about Malarky’s size (25 pounds) and age (9 months), and came home with a 4-month-old, 6-lb boy. Funny how love works.

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And Mickey was in need of love. Full Moon is working its magic on his little body and spirit as it did on our friend’s recovery. And just as her presence blessed us, Mickey has brought gifts to each of us, completing a puzzle we didn’t know was missing a piece. Till now.

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And so I make deep bows to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, and to the fields, and flowers, and birds, and 4-leggeds who teach us about resurrection and love, and the possibilities these hold for us in our brokenness and loneliness. May we be healed and offer our mended energy to the world.

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Giving Up the Ghost

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Autumn has shaken out her flaming hair, lowered herself upon the hills, and settled in for her season’s reign. Yesterday presented one of those moody gray, metallic days that oversaturate the colors along the trail. The air was damp enough to deepen the perfume of a fallen tree smoking down to ashes. The scent flowed along the trail like incense, consecrating my walk. A strong wind clattered through the aspen and ash trees, and farmers’ combines rolled through the cornfields, harvesting food for livestock.

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Abandoned nests reminded me of spring’s bright eggs, hatching to chicks that grew to fledglings who have now flown away to warmer homes. The blue herons have migrated and the ghostly white egrets are passing through, another sure sign of autumn.

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My gardens will be dying back in the coming weekend’s frost; all the lovely blooms and vegetables have been harvested. This year’s turkey flock has matured and travels daily through the yard, feasting on seeds.

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All around me, it felt as though the spirits of the woods, gardens, and fields were rising, their annual works of art complete and their fruits ready to harvest.

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The expression, “Give up the ghost” passed through my mind, and, while I imagine it’s a euphemism for death, I thought about the ways the spiritual journey calls us to continually surrender our self-image, casting away what we’ve learned is false regarding who we thought we were, and trying to become more authentically true to the self our experience and seeking has revealed. This is a journey of compassion, delight, and gift, as we try to open to our eternal essence and live consciously from its light.

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It seems right that the bounty of autumn leads to celebrations of gratitude, feeding our bodies and preparing them for winter, just as our authentic life’s work is meant to nourish our spirits and those around us, to propel the circle of creation towards another cycle of excavating the truth of who we are meant to be: uniquely blessed and blessing.

I’ve been reading a reflection on Jung’s understanding regarding the “second half” of life, when we’re called to turn over the garden of our souls, weeding through the labels we’ve assigned to ourselves and digging deeply, sifting for the authentic meanings hidden in our choices and their outcomes. We can uncover the wisdom our lives have yielded and shine it back to the world, recognizing and living from the in-dwelling Presence that is unique, universal, and eternal.

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For Jung, and for me, this is deeply spiritual work, the most challenging, creative, and courageous of our lives, requiring us to encounter our shadows and all the unconscious ways we’ve eluded naming and becoming our true self, so that we may accept and make whole (as fully as possible) who we are, while we are.

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Although Jung speaks of life’s “halves,” I’ve always imagined this creative healing and whole-making to be accessible from birth, traveling in a spiral through all our years. Some hear the music and engage at a very young age, and some never perceive the song, or see the colors, or imagine the possibilities of becoming Who I Am…or they fear and avoid the invitations to explore around the corners and below the surface of the identity they’ve constructed. Self-generated masks protect us, after all, until we’re ready to set them down and become more authentically who we are, in essence.

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I believe that part of our human responsibility to each other is to take the time to lovingly extend the invitations to know ourselves better, through a companionship of presence, listening, and encouraging one another’s gifts.

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Autumn teaches me that giving up the ghost—the self-image I’ve fashioned and that no longer serves my growth or my gifts—is a way to become more fully who I am, as a rounded, evolving flash of creation. It’s a lovely season to search through my past year and name the times I’ve felt most and least like “myself,” and figure out why.

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Such lessons are the true bounty of life; the fruits and soul-food they yield help us to isolate the seeds our spirits need to plant and tend for the next part of the wisdom journey.

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The Forest, Having Blown Up

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We’ve had an unexpectedly dramatically dramatic summer, and I would be most grateful if the energy that’s hurled us thus far through the green-flowered and golden weeks would flatten out a bit into some semblance of balance and peace.

But, there is too much, so let me sum up:

Part One

My soul is a broken field, plowed by pain.  ~ Sara Teasdale

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I guess we’re always, most of us, both prepared and unprepared for loss. We’re full of intellectual wisdom and knowledge about death and grief. We believe we’re fortified by these words and the stages and steps they describe.

And then we step into the land of loss, and the barren, rough landscape opens up, and every surface we encounter in this new world scrapes away at our sense of the known and bloodies our fragile attempts to touch and learn, and sucks the words out of us, and the walls that encompassed the reality we’d come to recognize and rely upon utterly fall away.

Of course, they were only made of paste and cardboard to begin with, but we had so carefully constructed the stage set that encompassed our lives for so long that we disregarded the potential for its devastation.

And how easily, and quickly, it can all collapse and be blown away.

The utter strangeness when a circle of love is broken and the presence of that circle’s heart is removed, requires tricky navigation, and, for a time following Clancy’s death, I chose not to move at all. A week after his death I turned 60 and it meant nothing but that I’d existed for another week.

I didn’t know it then, but I was ill. I had lost contact with my senses, sheltered—or hidden–so deeply within my grief that I didn’t understand that something “out there” was wrong. When I tried to move through my yoga, bicycling, and trail walks with sweet Riley, I felt like the tin man in need of oil. Every joint and muscle hurt, first a bit, and then unbelievably. I stopped trying.

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Phillip, family, friends, the four-leggeds, and the gardens helped, as they always do.

We focused on tending Riley’s loss of her lifelong companion and littermate, began to adjust to our own sadness, and I met with my wonderful physician, who helped identify the disease that had taken up residence in my body. Some knowledge does lend power, and over the past month, prescribed treatments have largely eliminated my pain. It’s being “managed,” as they say. (I say, “Hooray!”)

Gratitude always walks with grief, a partnership that, if we choose to recognize it, helps to make us whole again.

Part Two

Little by little God takes away human beauty:
Little by little the sapling withers.
Go, recite, “To whomever We give a length of days,
We also cause them to decline.”
Seek the spirit;
don’t set your heart on bones.
~Rumi

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Since I felt stronger, we traveled to an area Phillip had already explored for our retirement. Never sure if that should happen now or later, we visited the communities we found most attractive. We looked at some homes for sale. Mostly, we hiked and sat, and listened. Sweet Riley’s ability to join us on the trip proved a wonderful opportunity to reconfigure our circle of intimacy, settle into each other’s energy, and learn more about the family we are now, without Clancy’s physical presence. Knowing the felines were in good and loving care, we relaxed into the healing offered to our spirits by a landscape we love.

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On the way home, we looked at another home that intrigued us, and made an offer to buy it. It was a Friday afternoon, so I called a realtor in our hometown and arranged for her to visit Monday morning, to list Full Moon Cottage for sale. How exciting, to make a change, we thought…perhaps this was the new path Clancy’s death had created for us.

The universe had other plans. Early Monday morning, a storm propelled straight-line winds speeding across the area, and twirls of small tornado tails bobbed down, here and there, twisting bits of the world into unrecognizable designs.

A single kind of thunderous crash caused us to leap out of bed, adrenaline lending us a rather impressive athleticism. Phillip grabbed the flashlight and, through the darkness, assessed that possibly a tree or two had fallen. As the sun rose and daylight scattered across the yard, we saw instead that, without warning, and in an instant, the forest beside our home had exploded.

Part Three

My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.  ~  Mizuta Masahide

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Through a fog of dazed shock, I began to clean the decks as Phillip saved what he could of the front garden. Several of our trees had fallen, but the more dismal reality was that about 30 or 40 of our neighbor’s white pines had crashed across our front yard. There was no way we could clear the havoc ourselves.

A few hours later, covered in dirt, mud, and pine needles, we greeted the realtor, an impressive false smile frozen on her face as she stepped over branches and bravely proceeded to draw up the contract, assuring us that when the home actually came on the market, 10 days later, all would be well.

Home insurance doesn’t pay for storm damage, except for that sustained by the physical house, and we miraculously had little of that. But that’s where the miraculous aspects of the story stopped, we felt, since we did have about 40 trees, in a hundred thousand pieces, that had to be removed.

The morning after the storm, I watched as the two turkey hens we’ve come to know over the years paraded their new chicks through the rubble, over and under branches, accepting of the changed landscape and inviting me to be as well. A doe and her fawns leapt across the yard nimbly. Easy for you, I thought. Can’t you see the world’s been upended?

A few days and a small fortune later, we were left with what we called a muddy “trail of tears,” and worked about 80 hours between us lugging, raking, tossing and scraping together branches and limbs, in 91° heat and a sour funk. I mourned the little crab tree that had anchored my front garden, the vegetables and berries we’d lost, the lovely old hickory tree. A sad business indeed.

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Still, Riley seemed happy to be home, reunited with her cat buddies, and unfazed by the need to jump over or circle around trees on the trail, or stop and re-route altogether, so that was a blessing. And I was feeling physically stronger every day, another light in the darkness.

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By Friday, we decided to put off buying a new home, moving, or selling Full Moon Cottage. We were fairly spent, almost on empty, and fully exhausted.

We set down the rakes and shovels and took off our gloves and sat on the deck, sipping ice cold beer and surveying the altered scene before us.

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And we began to laugh. And, of course, we counted the many blessings that had equally fallen all around us. We had been spared injury; the house was minimally damaged, the gardens would recover, and many were still growing madly…

I shared that I’d had the Masahide quote running through my mind all week. And then I told Phillip, making a sarcastic joke, that, at least we could now receive better internet and phone reception, which the wall of white pines had always prevented. He replied, “The forest having blown up, I can now receive three bars,” which really set us off…and I knew we would be OK. Better able to see the paste and cardboard of life for what they are, we can set them aside and focus on what’s really real and lasting. Like the turkeys, and the deer, and sweet Riley, we will make our way across these losses and come to new places, feeding on the blessings that are all around us, and loving the memories of all that’s come before. Our family’s circle of love was never broken; I see that now. It’s only changed, and Clancy, and Riley, and our precious four-legged felines will always be that circle’s heart.

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