on wildness near at hand

For the second time in as many weeks, I rounded a long bend slowly today and came upon a rafter of turkeys, a hen and her dozen chicks, older now and taller and more alert: standing with heads suspended high on long necks, one beady eye each aimed my direction. When I made no further move toward them, they eased on across the lane, melting again into the underbrush.

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And then, rounding another long bend slowly on a paved road that gets a good deal of fast traffic which regularly grinds small creatures beneath their speeding wheels? There they were: twin baby fawns, spotted and thin and standing close to the road, looking perplexed. Curious and perplexed. I pulled off and looked for their mom, for surely she would never have left them in such an exposed place–trapped between a slow-moving slough and a highway. I found no sign of her at all, and the babes were slightly leery of me, so I worked with that natural instinct and eased them along until they could escape into the woods, in hopes they wouldn’t opt to step onto the road again and meet a quick, painful end.

Roadkill here is endemic, unavoidable, given the driving habits of my species. Raccoons, deer, woodchucks, possums, rabbits, skunks, cats—you name it: somebody’s hit it, nearly every day. The raccoons and deer, both of which I raised as a child, have always ripped my heart out and I usually go along angry with the people who refuse to slow down and drive in a manner that would deal less death. Sometimes that lasts the whole trip. I drive the speed limit or below, staying alert for whatever might be hoping to use the road as I pass: I have remarkably rich encounters thus (as with the twin fawns). If there’s a chance that an animal may still be alive, I stop and render aid. I’ve rescued huge old snapping turtles and raccoons and squirrels and birds and helped to get them returned to the wild. Sometimes I stop and simply move the dead ones off the pavement, trying in some small manner to honor their lives, apologizing to their corpses and spirits for the people who cut their lives short, speaking when words make no difference at all to them anymore. I want my own life to be lived in perspective: hurrying has a cost, both to them and to me: slowing down and stopping and helping or just paying my respects is a way to keep my own notions of what’s important more in line with all that lives about me, rather than just me and what I want, when I want it, etcetera. That’s all fine and good but it’s easy to slip into self-righteousness when I’m angry that another small being has died due to someone simply not caring enough to slow down and pay attention. Way too easy.

Today I came upon a baby skunk, lying dead in the middle of the road, the hair on its tail moving in the gentle breeze, no blood evident, just a swift death, and suddenly I understood something different than before: “Walk on,” I said, “Walk on from this beautiful heart-wrecking dream of now.” Walk on. I have had elders who told me this is what happens when we go, that we walk on. But there beside the skunk I had a glimpse of what a beautiful dreamworld this all is: good and evil wrestling with one another so earnestly that one tends to morph into the other, and people seeming to ‘fail’ the second they ‘succeed,’ and death attending the living every step. Instead of crazy cruel and bitter, which is how I usually understand all suffering, there is a grand theatre in which we, at every  moment, choose how we will engage. We make this world what it is: each of us. Believing we’re in time, we get to contribute to its wholeness and healing or to breaking it more. A judgment on anyone else is a judgment on myself. Thoughts of anger and retribution, no matter how well-deserved I might convince myself that they are for some ‘wrongdoer,’ only help to create a nightmare of brokenness, not just for me but for all. Thoughts take form. We get to choose what we contribute while here. Walk on.

For the first time ever, as I came upon each new death—today it was all babies, tiny and only here for a short time, then spirits vanished and leaving only the broken bodies of three raccoons, a woodchuck, and the skunk—I was able to breathe, to smile in acknowledgment of my kinship with these creatures and the drivers who killed them and the fact that I am walking right alongside them all, all the very way, and happily so. Walk on, I said, to each of them and to the humans who had passed this way, and also to me. Walk on and love this grand and beautiful, hazard-strewn dream of now. Place into it all that you are, all that you can give, for what you give you receive. On waking, you love it all.

~

on unclouding a mind for love

Reality can dawn only on an unclouded mind. 

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) 10:4:2.1

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I have begun to pause of late, considering the possibility that nearly all I have doted upon, relied upon, fallen back upon for most of my life to date . . . might not just be wrong, but wrong-headed, steeped in illusions parading as substance requiring strong controls and rigid parameters and impermeable boundaries to be sorted out, mapped, erected, buttressed, and maintained between me and everything else. I alone pick what goes in, seems to have been my story. And now it is as if I have constructed and sit boldly upon my very own walls of Jericho|hannah, my tiny refuge down there somewhere on the floor of my walled city with its selected valuables and worthy holdings, and me perched up high on that outer wall with an array of finely cared for and doted upon weapons with which I may rain molten darts down upon the advancing heads of the enemies of my peace? Mantras, values, good memories, bad memories being forged into decency, stories and songs based on evidence and data, fiery will, the steadying knowledge of my own persistence and resilience: these are my weapons of choice. I have fallen off the wall before, you see, headlong into the moat below or sometimes straight out into the maw of invading forces, and had to swim and scurry and scramble and climb for my life. But what if the danger was all chimera?

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In the tempestuous seas of now, I find a little flicker of a light, beckoning me to shores hitherto glanced toward only to avoid, outwit, or outright deny, chin set for a tomorrow that was bathing itself riotously in all my yesterday’s todays. What if we create our perceived realities by what we believe we fear? What if we really do increase whatever we focus on? What if there exists an all-encompassing love that cancels out fear, as light does darkness, not by fighting but simply by being? When light comes into a dark room, it doesn’t start up a war with darkness to get it to leave: it simply shines; it is itself. What if love, the love that encompasses all beings bar none and dwells within all that lives, is all that we are? And what if we forget that when we’re busy building refuges and the walls of hannahed Jerichos and moats and our little weapons and materiel stashes? What if we are one with everything that exists, now or ever, and so the construction projects take us off-path enough that we just forget it?

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Way back in 1999, exiled from the last two people in my family by yet more non-family members intent on interloping and upending all that I still held dear, I was walking in the hills of southern Minnesota one day, sorrow my only companion except for a steely will to survive. I did not mind being alone, for solitude nurtures me, but betrayal? That was my hard spot, the thing I could not understand. I desperately wanted to know why. All my life I’ve relied upon my mind to get me through things: if I can just understand why something happens, then I can get through it. No matter what it is. Period. This is a core, lifelong truth to which I have clung, heedless of any other options. But the people weren’t talking, wouldn’t give me a reason for the personal attacks, wouldn’t in fact speak to me at all (only to others about me, which stings like the very dickens when you believe yourself trapped thus), so there was no place for peace.

That day, as I frowned in my whole being at the universe, feeling unjustly treated and undeservedly so to boot, I heard a kind voice say aloud—precisely as if someone had been standing next to me and speaking in a normal tone:

See me in them and them in you, and us all in God.

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Suffice it to say I was stunned, having long been estranged from everyone else’s notions of god, for what I considered good cause. The voice was not threatening, though, and I was still sane and the world wasn’t ending (I reached down and picked up a rock just to double-check those last two). I sniffed and made to walk on, but didn’t. I dropped the rock and picked it up again. It made a satisfying thud on the dirt. I exhaled hard, blowing out and reaching for the rock once more, and threw it hard down the road ahead. It skittered a few times and came to rest. There were birds in the trees, a slight breeze, and a whankish heavy smell of manure from down the hill. Nobody but me was there. So then I repeated it aloud, slowly, still resisting on the first word but losing all will for that as I spoke: “See me in them and them in you, and us all in God.” And then I just stood there and let that sink in.

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I am a slow learner, valuing the process every bit as much as the destination. I trudged down the hill, slowly at first and then faster, breaking into a run, the sentence filling my mind and crowding out all other thoughts. I wanted to get back to write it down. I wanted to learn of this, too, of the great upwelling kindness I felt in these words and how as I spoke them the kindly voice itself seemed to come from within me, too, to be me, in some inexplicable way and yet to be much more—a kindly elder brother, perhaps, which I have never had and always wanted in my regular life—but I did not know where to turn. So I just said out loud, I could use some help here. A few days later, at the LaCrosse Public Library, I was browsing shelves as I have done since childhood, waiting for the right book to pick me, and suddenly I felt the kindness in that voice again as I mindlessly lifted a heavy blue book and thumbed through it. A Course in Miracles. I checked it out, purchased my own copy before I finished reading the borrowed one, and thought I had found my path.

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With the book’s help, I processed pain and loss and no answers on which to hang my hat for the why of any of that, and small miracles began to appear almost daily. Some of them harkened back in unsettling ways to a healer I’d met years before who’d told me I was on the path to becoming a healer (to which I responded with barely civil, frank skepticism and a boat-sized grain of rock salt). I had stumbled into relevant encounters every year since (with healers in the deserts of southern Africa, north-central Australia, and the Mojave; as well as spiritual teachers among tribes in the northern plains and coastal areas), and I had great respect for all of them and what they told me but was scared out of my skull about all of it, too. The healing part was fine and good and even dandy—I studied reiki and it worked—but there was an edge beyond all that which was unthinkable, and I am a thinking being and simply do not know how to be otherwise.

None of this new realm could be comprehended with any of my most burnished tools, you see, and so I would study ACIM for a while, then have an experience that would shake me to my core and put the book away. Forget it. Go live. For months, years even. One time I actually lost the book and had to re-buy it before the first one showed back up. Here’s the thing: Without data, who the heck knows who I might be serving? How close is the line to going crazy anyway? That sort of thing. I would close my mind to it because my mind couldn’t get a grip, and without that—my greatest weapon of all time so far—I was too paralyzed to function. But life keeps bringing me back to ACIM, to this path, to healing, and recently I embraced it wholeheartedly and told my mind to either participate or sit the hell down, shut the tarnation up, and take some frickin’ notes.

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And so at last I go, and the notes my little note-taking self took along the way since that first encounter provide sustenance for the journey, to what|where|why|when|who|how? I have no idea. All I know is that I am going. I’ve been lots of other places and this is the only one to which I have been repeatedly close-minded, closed enough to make myself uneasy with my certainties. In a way it’s like pushing open the door of my darkened room and inviting light to come in, but in another? Light needs no invitation. It just is. I have blocked my awareness of all that is by insisting on keeping my mind in total control of everything I am willing to accept or reject, by not letting myself dwell in mysteries beyond cognition, by not simply being. If miracles are normal—and, as the recipient of several, without which I would not be here to learn jack siccum, I know they are—then I must seek an unclouding of my mind, always so hellbent on discovering and explaining everything; a stilling of my hands always so restless to fix things; a calming of my heart, always so intent on controlling things so that they are what I consider good and decent and compassionate; and an end, for now at least, a full surcease of all labors in service of what I believe I should want, do, think, say, or be.

The course promises miracles and delivers in the voice of that kind, quiet one who walked with me on that lonely and bitter Minnesota road. When I live by those words, “See me in them and them in you, and us all in God,” I know myself as an undifferentiated part of all that exists. For the words have emerged—entirely without my bidding or consciousness—from within, and so I must be part of a Oneness, something too vast to comprehend fully via mind or intellect alone. Studying this big blue book, immersing myself (heart, soul, mind, spirit, body) in it, I daily find succor now. Two recent gems?

You are at home in God, dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality. 

ACIM 10:1:2.1

. . . and . . .

Whenever you are not wholly joyous, it is because you have reacted with a lack of love to one of God’s creations. 

ACIM 5:7:5.1

With the thinking, cogitating part of me, I muse that one lifetime isn’t enough to grasp these, to make them fully alive in the world, and then the kind and loving voice that comes from within, of course, the voice that reminded me to “See me in them and them in you, and us all in God,” gently smiles, as do I. For love operates outside the laws of time and space and physics and what we might deem possible by our present understandings: Love already is, has ever been, and will ever be. I wish for you, for me, for all of us who find ourselves in time now only this: this peace that so passeth understanding.

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~

on who we are in our archives

I embarked on a hunt through my personal archives this morning, searching for a half-remembered line from one of those rare moments when the words had emerged already so felicitous that I only had to set them onto paper (or its kin). My archives now are both paper and digital, organized and everything but, so it was fun to see my friends and acquaintances and myself figuring out these new genres (FB, Twitter, etc.) and ourselves within them.

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We were lively with conversations back then, or so it seems still to me, and shared concerns and joys alike. Some of us still do this, but the tenor of our connections feel different to me now. As if we’ve all grown up more, possibly too much? Or perhaps the weight of the world and the heavy-handed commercialisms afoot have rasped and shaved down our rawer, happier, questing edges somewhat. Our numbers have shifted, too: unsure how to handle as many friends as I was getting when I exceeded 207, I thought about it for a while and went through removing people with whom I had had no meaningful exchanges (a fact that still haunts me, because later I realized this might have been offensive to some, if they ever even noticed). But people have done the same to me, too, just disappeared, presumably for what they believed were good reasons at the time. Others left in a huff, disagreeing and glad to be gone. Some said snippy things, then erased them, and left. (Burned as a child by a religion whose adults revised history regularly, and never in my favor or so it seemed, however, I, of course, have done a fairly good job of copying long exchanges into documents, so I have some evidence of what was and was not said. Why this matters to me, I do not know, but it does.) There is sadness and loss and great joy and companionship in these little archives now, a treasure trove of life lived full tilt and leaning forward, arms wide and unafeared and figuring out together how to be in this glorious and weary old world.

So it is good to go through these old records (even some which are inexplicably missing, such as a FB status I put up and then liked so well I recorded it on paper–lucky thing!) and to remember things I knew for a brief moment in time? And then forgot, whole-cloth, before the ink had even dried.

Here are three of those: two that soar and one that kept my feet planted on dirt.

The price of caring is feeling. The price of knowing peace is weathering storms. The price of being here is illimitable joy and pain and beauty and suffering and fear and death, cheek by jowl with one another and with you, merrily connecting your soul to all that exists every day. Let go and fall into your grand journey. There are no missteps, no mistakes, only lessons in being while here.

~FB status update, 27 June 2013

I am done with planning and planing the path ahead, knitting nets for the abyss. I won’t leave here breathing, rich, or worry-free, nor will I have done all I could. But from this moment forward? To hell with the rules of the road.

~FB status update, 29 June 2010

Parable III. I go merrily along, placing clean new straw in all the chickens’ nests. Get to end, look back to beginning? One little pearl leghorn’s comin’ along behind, Kicking Straw Out Of Every Single Nest.

~FB status update, 30 July 2010

Legs shared on FB

Legs, done with the nests, dealing with this here

 ~

on paying attention and then some

I saw an op-ed this morning decrying us for having lost sight of what is happening in Syria, now that our attention is on Gaza and how children are being treated at U.S. borders and the NYPD killing another African American man in an illegal chokehold for no reason (except the suspicion that he might be distributing illegal cigarettes?!) and even the EMTs failing to render aid . . . and so on. Truth tell, I haven’t forgotten Syria or Guantanamo or NSA abuses or the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers and nonviolent protesters or the increasing militarization of domestic police forces or the rampant increases in inequalities and hunger and poverty not just here but in many lands or global warming and our planetary do-nothing approach to that or a slew of the other critical issues of our time.

But there is no way to pay attention to every single horrific thing at once; there is no way to do justice to all of them period; there is no way to signal, of any given day, that you still even care. We work where we live: we sign petitions, call and contact world and local leaders, make common cause with grassroots groups, donate money and time, do whatever we can where we can. But we also have to find some time and places to smile, to laugh even, to regroup and remember the good, to honor the kindhearted and generous, to pay tribute to those who try no matter what the cost. Some see this as being flighty, attached to nothing. I disagree. To be a human today means dwelling fully in spaces of freakish cognitive dissonance.

So when I cook or play music or share a clip of a funny moment on social media, I am not forgetting that the horror is still hot and bitter, always, for someone else—and in our world today, millions of somebodies—somewhere else. I am always better off than so many of them, from sheer dumb luck of birth and happenstance and g-ddamn skin color, and I cannot presume to understand fully their situations. I can weep from far away (or even close at hand), I can rage against injustice, but I cannot fully get inside their pain and suffering, even if I may previously have shared some small measure of it myself.

But I know that humanity needs all of its selves for transformations to ever fissure the hard systems and habits of now, and so I engage from where I am with that little goal in mind. I do more praying now than ever, to no particular god: just a part of me directed to the larger energies of which we are all a singular part: that we heal and be healed, that we find better ways to transform ourselves and our world for compassion, for love, for peace in our times. And then some.

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 ~

on reading to children as a shortcut to glory

When a friend shared A Mighty Girl’s list of resources with this photo/quote on their Facebook wall, I commented there and then realized it would do my Mama proud for me to say it here, too.

I credit my mother entirely with the fact that I was beginning to read on my own at age two. It was a highly valued skill to her, and she started reading to me on the day I was born and, by the time I could walk, she was carefully showing me which word she was saying as ‘we’ read, and I was given books and encouraged to tote them around all day long (and did; there are photos of me running through mud ditches barefoot and carrying a book). So it was just normal for me to be reading whatever I could get my hands on—by myself, with only occasional help for sounding out the big words and without the help of any formal instruction in phonics or the like—long before I darkened the door of a school.

Whereupon the sudden screeching thud back-to-the-pre-reading stage for a couple years running absolutely horrified my small self. My second grade teacher figured it out pretty fast and gave me a pocket-size blue New Testament with a shiny silk ribbon in it: likely she figured I could use the edification, but she also understood that I needed to be reading something besides Dick, see Spot! Jane, see Spot run! Mama also began taking me to town once a week from about the third grade on and turning me loose in the public library, where I could read any book I could reach. This was a glorious, glorious gift for the old little soul that I was. Glorious.

For this and so many other things, I remain deeply grateful to my mother. I wouldn’t have amounted to a hill of beans without her.

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For my mother, who taught me to read, encouraged the habit, and then had to live with the consequences for life.

God bless her strong and willing heart!

~

on genial tornados and their offerings of food

My kitchen (and, were I to be honest about it, my living room and writing nook and front porch and the back half of our truck)—after the first 12 of a likely 42 days of canning and freezing vegetables and fruits of all sorts? Looks as if a small tornado hit my house and was trying to make up for the mess by fixing dinner in its own wake. Or at least ensure that I never go hungry again.

cukes, not pretty enough for stores, but fine of taste for a picky farm-grown palate

cukes, not pretty enough for stores, but fine of taste for a picky farm-grown palate

 

There are cucumbers in every state of pickledness: washed and drying on any remaining horizontal surfaces (and a few that are headed for vertical, but serving anyway); bathing in an overnight lime-and-vinegar solution; ready for triple (quadruple, were I to be honest about that) rinsing and the ice-water bath before the cook-down stage and then the canning. There are fresh blueberries and cherries and corn and peas slipping into the deep-freeze of hibernation from which they are not intended to awake fully again until they’re roiling in someone’s digestive juices.

cukes colonizing even the piano, which I cannot play till they're gone, a heck of an incentive for sure for one who plays every day!

cukes colonizing even the piano, which I cannot play till they’re gone, a heck of an incentive for sure for one who plays every day!

 

There’s a small, pretty, blue, hot pot cradling a batch of fresh raspberry and currant jam, cooling and awaiting its own fateful end. And there are bits and pieces of everything on the compost pile which will never completely go to soil until the little critters that come to feed there day and night—squirrels and birds and chipmunks and woodchucks and butterflies and bees and ants—die and go dust to dust. Dishes and glasses and pots and utensils serve, then await washing, but being of a non-timed nature their wait can take some hours, so they pile atop one another in levels of disarray that have their own hint of grandmotherly charm.

just-picked, just-cooked raspberries and currants, quite fine for farm palates, too!

just-picked, just-cooked raspberries and currants, quite fine for farm palates, too!

 

Normally I would be holding the top of my head on to keep it from flying off in such chaos, but this week? Not so. I grin, duck, weave, and bob my way through the lot to my next task, and when I trip or reach for the hot oven rack sans oven mitt (or thought of one prior to the reaching) or knock four things off when I was not really even trying to pick up one yet? Even that is funny these days. For this all—this littered gift of the congenial food-bearing tornado? Is a beautiful cornucopia of life and death and carrying on, no matter what and right to the end.

~

on edible volunteers

Venturing forth to gather fat red raspberries from the wilding patch in our back yard—on a break from canning pickles and freezing blueberries—I was heartened to find evidence today that my winged neighbors have been helping to harvest the berry crop. We stuck eight bare berry canes into the ground some 15 years ago, and they cheerily took more of the bluegrass every summer, until now when there’s little more than a winding path amongst their edge. I’d always meant to plant black raspberries, but never did: this year, however, I found that several had volunteered themselves into a segregated patch as far as they can get away from the reds.

In between the berries runs a spreading single grapevine that we planted eight years ago and have tried our deadlevel best to kill and chop out every summer since . . . but it has managed to colonize the big middle of the yard not claimed by the berries or one giant bleeding heart. The grape’s vines reach hard for the branches of the lilac tree and swing high into another shade tree, and we have to cut them loose every year or they’d take ‘em clear down. Ripening grapes now sling themselves willy-nilly, tucking in even amongst the burdock, whose roots are delicious and highly prized. The burdock arrived as an invading army on a yard of topsoil sold to me by a farmer long ago, and I cussed and went after it with a slingblade for five years running until a macrobiotic cook informed me of how nutritional (and expensive!) burdock roots are, and now we grow it on purpose but don’t lift a finger toward that except to dig roots. In one odd-shaped corner off by itself I dropped two canes of currants one year, too, too long ago to remember when: but they return faithfully, slick round sweet fruits hanging from the slightest excuse of a branch.

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 I never fertilize, never water, never do anything but harvest and cut it all back (not always in that order!), but this fertile little patch of ground has convinced me that it is willing to grow anything dropped into it—deliberately or not. In the mid-90s, my children and I, not understanding this capacity, planted four tomato plants. On the day the first one ripened, we made a big deal out of it, celebrating the start of our ‘crop’. Then for the rest of that summer and well into the fall, we ate and canned and gave away so many tomatoes that the mere sight of them made us all gag halfway through winter. When it finally snowed, we had a party to celebrate not having to go pick tomatoes—which were hanging in iced gobs, fat and red and still-delicious-if-you-haven’t-had-900-already. The soil here loves seeds, nurtures life and nutrition, steadies a wandering soul. How I wish all who hunger and yearn for a home could have one as giving as this.

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~

 

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