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.

Deep Bows to the Earth

DSCF9175

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

DSCF7926

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.

DSCF8083DSCF8465

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.

DSCF8561

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.

DSCF8301DSCF8502

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.

DSCF8269DSCF8279DSCF8282DSCF8364DSCF8470DSCF8174DSCF8494

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.

DSCF8129DSCF8420DSCF8411DSCF7985

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.

DSCF7950DSCF8134DSCF8956DSCF8958

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.

DSCF8759DSCF8787DSCF8810

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.

DSCF8986DSCF9056DSCF8893DSCF8749

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.

DSCF8666DSCF8688DSCF8693DSCF8699DSCF8709DSCF8713DSCF8724

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

DSCF9221DSCF9210DSCF9158DSCF9237DSCF8740

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

DSCF9258DSCF9259DSCF9273DSCF9281DSCF9292

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

DSCF8993DSCF8995DSCF9176DSCF9178DSCF9036DSCF9039DSCF9073DSCF9103

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.

DSCF9071DSCF9141DSCF9144

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.

DSCF9125DSCF9120DSCF9131

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.

DSCF8029DSCF8035

Healing What Ails Thee

DSCF6715

I haven’t written in a while.

I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The primary complication associated with this disease is that having it increases the risk of developing other autoimmune disorders. It’s a drag on the spirit, because the ways my disease might blossom into other autoimmune dysfunctions is unpredictable, and different from the ways Hashimoto’s will progress in other people.

I’ve been on hypothyroid drugs for about 20 years, but the Hashimoto’s component (which, looking back, I’ve had for most of my adult life) was just diagnosed last summer, when I was experiencing so much muscular/joint pain that I couldn’t walk well or far. And, over the years, I’ve had many “mysterious” health problems that I now understand stemmed from this and not from my “imagination,” as so many physicians like to suggest when they haven’t a clue.

DSCF6321

There’s an extremely restrictive diet, initially followed for a month or two, that can help reset the immune system. The disease isn’t cured, but it can help it be better-managed. So, I’ve been following this for a few weeks and keeping up with my regular exercise. I miss my coffee and glass of wine; I miss boiled eggs and popcorn. The diet eliminates dairy, gluten, nuts, beans, a lot of fruits, coffee, cocoa, and any foods from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers). But families are running for their lives all over the globe. Terrorism, disease, and warfare are daily companions to many; I think I can stick with salmon and an organic salad and do just fine.

The learning curve regarding this has been steep and deep, and it’s tiring in itself, just to educate myself without becoming either tedious to others or overwhelmed by the research. Stress, of course, exacerbates any autoimmune issues, so it’s important not to feel overwhelmed.

DSCF6281

Things were going along fairly well, and then, a couple weeks ago, we learned a dairy conglomerate hopes to build an almost-CAFO (concentrated animal feed operation) in our community, near our home, the bike trail, and the river. The owner wants 9000 goats on this farm; a cozy home for 7000 does and 2000 kids. Legally, there would have to be 10k goats to qualify as a CAFO and meet stricter regulations than a mere 9000 goats will demand, although with the loosening of the environmental laws in our state under our current and disastrous state government, it’s all a bit of a sad, hollow laugh.

The farm will send goat milk to a distant Wisconsin town’s cheese factory to create goat cheese for a company owned and managed in California. But our community will deal with the air pollution, groundwater poisoning, road repairs, smells, and the fertilizer production, sending who-knows-what chemicals spewing into our endocrine systems. We have dairy and chicken CAFOs in operation here already.

DSCF6711DSCF6318

Unfortunately, the Enbridge Pipeline also runs through our state, and also close to our home. It’s the largest tar sands pipeline in the world; every day 1.2 million barrels of toxic tar sands oil flows through our county, and Enbridge hopes to increase that, with another line, to 2 million barrels a day.

DSCF6663

I don’t usually write about these kinds of things; if you’ve read The Daily Round, you know how dearly I love our home, our gardens, the land, and environment. I love the river, and birds, the foxes, and raccoons, and yes, even the mice and squirrels who are also part of our community, as are the trees, wildflowers, and the fish who manage to survive the poison already in the river. We’ve been enjoying eagles flying up and down the river this winter, and have been looking forward to fox kits in April… I worry about having to leave Full Moon Cottage and abandoning all of these companions so I can stay as healthy as I can. I worry about those 9000 goats. No one will know them or love them. They’ll be “production units” and “discontinued” when they’re no longer capable of lactation. I worry about the world we are becoming.

DSCF6575DSCF6588DSCF6540DSCF6528

No one needs to cram 9000 goats onto a bit of acreage. The universe doesn’t need that much overpriced goat cheese. I don’t understand how anyone can continue to willfully destroy the earth so rapaciously, when we’re told, over and over and over what this is doing to our atmosphere, air, resources, and quality of life. It doesn’t matter to me how “green” the technology will be; the earth is better off without it altogether. Small farms, sustainable living (within our means), community welfare, and an environment that doesn’t destroy our immune systems make so much more sense.

DSCF6720

Greed alone is driving the frightening, rapid increase of factory farms. And in our state, as in the greater world, greed is always connected to wealth and power. How to respond?

DSCF6753

Well, a merry little band of activists is creating itself and working, researching, learning, and planning to mount an opposition. Full Moon Cottage will be welcoming some of them here tomorrow…it’s not the usual way one celebrates Valentine’s Day, but if we are to heal ourselves and our world, it’s a grand way to start.

DSCF6634DSCF6652DSCF6671

Blessings on your Valentine’s Day. I hope that when you list your loves, your name is on the list. May you be gifted with any healing you are seeking, and may you be the healer you’ve come to be.

DSCF6658

All is Bright

DSCF4030

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day. As kids, we’d make cookies for Santa and hang our Christmas stockings on the night of December 5th. We’d hear a story from Daddy and go to bed excited about the enchantment imminently expected to overtake our home: a visit from St. Nick! (Technically, Santa Claus, but we didn’t question magic. Why question anything that brings chocolate and gifts? Just be grateful!)

Old Christmas 001Old Christmas 2 001Old Christmas 002

The stockings held our precious letters for Santa that outlined our Christmas wishes and promises of continued good behavior. The next morning, we’d discover an empty cookie tray, small treats in our stockings, and an elegantly-scripted note from Santa. These memories always conflate with images of snowfalls, sledding, skating, snowmen, and icicles…

Old Christmas 003

This year, my poppies are leafing out in spring viridity and the lawn is ready for the Easter bunny to come hopping along. Chickadees are singing spring songs and, although our mornings can be frosty, our afternoon temperatures have been climbing to 50° F/10° C.

DSCF4111DSCF4105DSCF3864

We had a beautiful snowfall just before Thanksgiving, and Malarky’s excitement and wonder as he explored this new phenomena made it almost as magical for me.

DSCF3522DSCF3529DSCF3533DSCF3571DSCF3614DSCF3656DSCF3644

We even enjoyed our November full moon midnight-potty-excursions (his, not mine). Somehow, being roused from sleep isn’t so bad when the outside world is sparkling with snow and stars.

DSCF3816DSCF3827

So the current experience of climate change is odd, but not without its blessings. Although I’m not transplanting anything in the garden, I can remove the dandelions and other weeds that are taking advantage of the warmth. Getting my hands muddy in December is an adventure. I received this link from a friend last week, and better understand why mucking around in soil is good for the spirit. Much better than a bout of winter-induced seasonal affective disorder!

DSCF3868

Our home is decorated for the season, too, so indoors, it looks like Christmas, even if outside, it looks like we’ve moved to the South.

The 4-leggeds are blissfully content, another reminder that letting go of expectations for how things should be, or hanging the joy of now upon its conformity to memories, even happy ones, is pointless. I’m grateful for a happy childhood, but I’m happy for now, too.

DSCF3979DSCF4058

All is bright.

I hope it’s the same for you this lovely, wonderful holiday season. Happy St. Nick’s!

DSCF4098DSCF3994

Aremus

DSCF3505

I collect quotes and snippets of wisdom wherever I find them. This usually results in happy synchronicity, when I rediscover scraps of paper in drawers, pockets, purses, and books, upon which I’ve scrawled sources of inspiration. The words I saved and tucked away months, or even years ago, often so perfectly describe or deepen my current experience that it’s like receiving a perfectly-timed gift from myself.

This morning, as Malarky took a blessed nap, I cleaned out my top desk drawer. I’m addicted to “neat,” but my top desk drawer is like my psychic shadow, where all my secrets are shoved and stored until I confront, assess, and reorder them into a semblance of intentional and meaningful wisdom. Again. This happens only when I can’t actually close the drawer. Again.

Today, I came across a piece of paper that held this sentence: “The Wabanaki Confederacy of Native Americans called their dogs, ‘aremus,’ an honored reference that meant, ‘the one who walks with us.’”

DSCF3336

I have no idea where I first encountered this, or if it’s true, but I love its identification of the way I’ve deeply experienced the companionship of all of my 4-leggeds as we’ve traveled through our days and years together. Their physical and spiritual presence colors my memories, which would be incomplete without them. 

DSCF3075

Malarky is proving to be a “good boy,” who takes to training happily and isn’t shy about exploring and realizing his own personality as well. I conveniently forgot, after 15 years with Riley and Clancy, what a great amount of energy and attention puppies require, but we’ve settled into a fairly reliable rhythm, dancing mainly around the needs of puppy’s bladder, puppy’s need for exercise and play, and puppy’s naptimes. My free time to write, photograph, shop, garden, cook, bathe—you get the picture (but not from my camera)–has diminished greatly, but I know it’s a phase, and a worthy one we trust will result in a healthy, happy companion. Hopefully, when that time arrives, I’ll still be mentally capable of being his companion, because right now I’m not so sure.

I’ve developed a new-found love for Tuesday nights, because that’s when Malarky goes to Puppy Kindergarten with Phillip, and comes home ready to spend most of Wednesday in recovery from all the fun he’s had. Yes! Thank you, God of Puppy-Training!

DSCF3092

He seems to enjoy practicing commands, which is encouraging, but responding to them when one of the cats is approaching is probably the best test for all involved. In casting about for the “gift in all things,” let us say that establishing these feline-canine relationships will strengthen and improve my patience considerably. We’ll leave it at that, for now. (Sit, Malarky…SIT, Malarky…SIT, MALARKY!) I’m supposed to use a high voice when I praise, and a firm voice when I command, and they get mixed up and have even been directed at Phillip, at times. Oh, dear. (But he sits like a charm.)

We’ve been held in the spell of an El Nino weather system for the past two months, which allowed us to set out on a warm, lovely canoe ride last weekend. Malarky seemed to enjoy it, although we kept it brief for his benefit.

DSCF3408DSCF3417DSCF3444

Phillip is great about thinking of little field trips to broaden Malarky’s experience and social skills. We went strolling through a local park filled with effigy mounds a few weekends ago, and he’s accompanied Phillip on weekend remodeling jobs, too.

DSCF3125DSCF3128DSCF3131

He helped us (finally) clean the gardens, on Sunday, and his obvious delight with everything he encounters continues to renew our own delight with life. I’m excited that we might receive several inches of snow tomorrow night. I can’t wait to see Malarky’s reaction when we step outside Saturday morning. Every day, his wonder lifts my heart.

DSCF3141

I’ve been baking for Thanksgiving in fits and starts. Family will be visiting and making merry with us next week, my favorite time of year, and this year we have so many blessings to celebrate!

The last time we gathered was the day before our sweet Riley died, and so the turning from sorrow to joy marks the holidays as especially sweet this year. That, and the “Dina Tates” we harvested this autumn. They are named for a friend who encouraged me to plant potatoes and relish the taste, compared to store-bought spuds. She was absolutely right!

DSCF3146

Yet it feels like we’re traveling into the holiday season with heavier burdens of anxiety, fear, and sadness regarding humanity’s failure to forge lasting, loving relationships. I continue to believe humankind’s currency can be kindness and our common language compassion, but the fires kindling these hopes are dying down, due to the violent and angry choices so many seem to be making. It breaks my heart to see a world of such magical and miraculous potential lack the imagination, energy, and love required to be realized.

DSCF3471

But my darling aremus continues to pull me along into joy, each tiny miracle revealing itself and reminding me that there are mysteries of endless delight to be uncovered every moment. And each time I open a book, a desk drawer, a purse, there are words from another traveler to inspire my journey, while the one who walks with me is at my side kindling fires of hope.

DSCF3513

May hope, grace, gratitude, and compassion bless all your gatherings and partings. May your journeys be safe and your love returned, in abundance. May hope grow and fear depart; may peace live joyfully within your heart. May we dream and then create a new world, fiercely and deeply aware of the great good possible, and believing it’s already being accomplished.

DSCF3455

Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for.  ~Seamus Heaney

Hope is the deep orientation of the human soul that can be held at the darkest times.  ~Vaclav Havel

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.  ~ Hannah Senesh

We can start from where we are, with what we have, and imagine and work for the healings that are necessary. But we must begin by giving up any idea that we can bring about these healings without fundamental changes in the way we think and live. We face a choice that is starkly simple: we must change or be changed. If we fail to change for the better, then we will be changed for the worse.  ~ Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community

There is no way to peace. Peace is the way. ~A.J. Muste

If planetary peace seems beyond our reach, recall: Miracles are natural when we rely on the Source of All to carry our burdens with us. Then, even peace is possible. ~ Nan Merrill with Barbara Taylor, Peace Planet: Light for Our World

It may sound trite, but using the weapons of the enemy, no matter how good one’s intentions, makes one the enemy.  ~ Charles de Lint

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.  ~ G. K. Chesterton

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.  ~ Albert Einstein

Gratitude is so close to the bone of life, pure and true, that it instantly stops the rational mind, and all its planning and plotting. That kind of letting go is fiercely threatening. I mean, where might such gratitude end? ~ Regina Sara Ryan

No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in all life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s own culture, but within oneself…If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts the responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.  ~ Barry Lopez (excerpted from Arctic Dreams)

All Hallowed

DSCF2908DSCF2952
We’ve had some frosty mornings this past week, the world glittering at dawn and sun-fired, gradually warming the carpet of diamonds and rolling it back for a new day.

DSCF2932 DSCF2935 DSCF2950
I’ve been fallow for a season, it seems. My spirit, my art, my relationships…nothing’s sparked my best effort or finest energy; my words have been encrusted with sorrow and loss, or dwindled down to unspoken altogether. The room around my heart has felt dusty and closed.

DSCF2318
But while spring is often the called-upon symbol for rebirth, every gardener knows that autumn works to crack the hardest seeds and shells, and plants green life deeply, to be uncovered when the time is right.

DSCF2942

Last Saturday morning, the garden’s dew-scrubbed, vivid brilliance invited my gaze for a time. The shining river flowing beyond provided a pathway for crow gatherings, departing geese, and choirs of red-winged blackbird.

The music of autumn is reverent and mysterious. It beckons.

DSCF2710 DSCF2790DSCF2939 DSCF2940
I went for a walk early enough in the new day’s life that the only others I met were two men out for their morning run, hushed by the dazzling views, and pausing to share exclamations in stage-whispers, as though full voices would shatter the magic of this enchanted world. “What a morning!” one cried softly, and then, “Oh, wow! Look at the raccoon tracks on the bridge!”

DSCF2917 DSCF2913
Such beauty this autumn morning offered up; the former ways of knowing and perceiving could not sufficiently meet it or absorb the utter loveliness of the encounter. A new way to be and breathe and pray was needed. I heard God with my eyes and saw God with my ears and felt so held by the love of the glowing world that I sensed transformation and quiet invitations. A holy language moved through me and I knew I would have to harbor its music and puzzle it out later, when thinking became important again…

For the moment, it was enough to witness and enter the light.

DSCF2941
You wouldn’t have thought the day could be improved upon…but it held greater surprises.

DSCF2891
Malarky came to join our family, and we have spent our first precious week together at Full Moon Cottage. Routines have altered. Sleep comes in the form of naps that are the end punctuations to long bouts of exploration, play, learning, eating, piddling, and sitting for hugs and kisses.

DSCF2966DSCF2992 DSCF3038 DSCF3041
He is a smart boy and a dear one. He is my heart’s newest resident, crowded beside so many others who nestle within my love and grace my spirit and days. To be over-brimmed with gratitude is a fine, fine feeling.

DSCF3016

Late, late on the night of the full moon, we stepped outside (good boy!) and took a moment to listen to the owls and watch the glittering stars. The entire yard was lit by the moon’s soft glow.

My expectations and weariness regarding the old world are breaking away; all is new, soft, enchanting. Everything must be explored and renamed. 

DSCF2989

That holy language flowing through my heart began to find form.

Malarky’s first full moon smiled, shining through the pines and blessing us with hope. My puppy seemed silenced by the view and by something deeper as well, as all newborns carry that connection to mystery we seem to shed as we grow, forgetting the sacred we come from and yearning, always, for the home of our creation. But infants come to teach us the music again: we’re still connected, still held, still being created, here and now.

I will relearn the language; I will study and ponder and bring my finest, fiercest energy to mastering its music in this new year of surprising revelations brought by Malarky, like all the little ones who come to our world reminding us it is all hallowed.

DSCF3052

Happy Halloween! May your parties be surprising and fun!

DSCF2792DSCF2718

Spinning Straw Into Gold

DSCF1494 

A hard summer of loss has eased into a colorful autumn full of comforting signs and wonders, like the love and presence of supportive family and friends, a hummingbird’s kiss, encounters with a visiting butterfly, walks on the trail, and last night’s amazing full moon in eclipse. 

DSCF1615 DSCF1643 DSCF1668 DSCF1694

A good friend asked me what was getting me through all this loss…and had I perceived any spiritual invitations? (I am blessed with many friends who are chaplains, healers, and spiritual directors; these are the types of things we ask each other: how cool is that?!) Another dear friend asked when she could come and hear stories about the pups, another profoundly loving response to loss.

It took time to discover invitations, and I’m still working on it. But the question brought to my mind the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, who helped the bragging maiden spin straw into gold. Rumple bartered for her firstborn… but she learned his name, spoke it, and sent him packing.

DSCF1066 

Straw is dried grain, and so many tales and parables tell us bread made from living grain is the staff of life. Straw, then, seems a natural symbol of death, loss, and grief. I’ve imagined the grief that marked this summer as straw, piling into mountains before me, waiting…

DSCF1025

So I’ve entered the grief and it’s entered me, and I’ve sat with it and listened and wept and watched, and now, finally, I’ve begun to spin…

DSCF1278

If I wove a tapestry with these golden threads, it would include images from the day my sister-in-law dropped everything, drove over an hour, arrived with a bouquet of sunflowers and zinnias, and remained tenderly present to my grief. At one point, we sat beside each other on the steps of the deck, watching dozens of butterflies flitting so energetically around and within the great purple aster that it seemed it might fly away.

DSCF0680

We spoke of “visits” we’ve experienced after losing those we love, that felt sense that the one who has died is able to be present in new ways. I said I’d received a few feathers from Riley and Clancy so far, nothing more. “But,” I said, “these visits never happen when I ‘expect’ them; they just seem to gift me when I most need them.”

No sooner had I said, “…need them,” than a hummingbird flew to the space between our heads and froze there, for 30 seconds or longer. Neither of us moved as the tiny bird “hovered and hummed,” its wings beating mightily, nearly brushing our cheeks. After a long while, it flew off, its message deeply held in our hearts. We hugged and then sat in silence for a few minutes, both of us tearful. Such a sacred experience, and all the better because someone I love shared it with me. Someone who also believes the proper response to mystery is awe, and silence.

DSCF0096 DSCF0219 DSCF0225

Spinning straw into gold…All the daily routines that stemmed from the dogs’ needs have vanished, and–as with any loss–there are now many holes in the day when I miss them especially dearly. If I’m home during the day, I take my camera and go out to the gardens, seeking diversions from the constant and tiring “missing.” This butterfly visited the garden another day, and stayed for a few hours. Her company offered delight and peace. When you’re grieving, such hours of respite are truly restorative. She let me follow her all around with my camera and seemed to enjoy posing from every angle.

 DSCF1223

It’s been challenging to head out on the trail without Riley and Clancy. I tend to check both directions for bikers and walkers, and when I’m sure I’m solo, I talk to the pups, as if they were with me. I grew quiet watching this heron in the river last week. He looked like a monk doing a standing meditation, calling me to deeper reflection. One of the great gifts that comes with grief is this call to go to the center of the center of our being and houseclean, in a way. All of our values and goals and beliefs come up for inspection and reassessment. Certainly, this is another source of gold on the journey of transformation that grief creates: Grief creates.

 DSCF0819

The pups and I celebrated our walks with parties up and down the trail for over 14 years…I’d break little treats in pieces and we’d have routine and spontaneous parties that always ended with Bridge Party. They’d each give me a paw and I would thank them for coming on the walk, and then they would get the last treat before we ran up the path to our home. A little holy communion, like our morning party.

 DSCF1967

So it seemed fitting that Phillip and I bring wine, cheese, crackers, and our cameras down to the bridge last night for a perfect viewing of the eclipse. What a lovely Bridge Party, with owls calling, frogs and toads singing and distant coyotes howling. Their cries rose and tangled as the moon became fully eclipsed and shadows disappeared. Then it seemed that everything fell to silence. Definitely a keeper, as far as memories go, and the sense that the pups’ energy surrounded us made it all the more special.

 DSCF1985 DSCF2008 DSCF2017 DSCF2022 DSCF2043 DSCF2060

Something in my heart was woven back together during those magical hours on the bridge. I felt my spirit, eclipsed and resting in darkness, was ready to begin moving back towards the fullness of light again.

I’m still spinning these last piles of straw, still weaving, still healing, but so grateful for all the blessings in my life that are helping me turn the straw into gold.

DSCF1563

We never want to lose those we love. But we do; we will. And what saves us is the rest of those we love, and who love us. They carry us through our grief and help us see the glints of light that guide us towards greater light, until we can stand again in the sun, in joy. Gradually, we’re led towards those wonderful moments in the world when we can see its devastating beauty and the eternally renewing cycle of life. Through the love of others and the love of the world (all of which, to me, is the love of the Sacred) the grief, in its time and the time of our hearts, transmutes to golden memories, a lifetime tapestry that tells us who we are, finally, as lovers and loved.

DSCF1518