With the return to the status quo of the J-O-B, the blossoming of a potential new business that will release me from the aforementioned status quo, and, most importantly, the care and feeding of an Angel Baby, there has been little time to pin epiphanies to the screen.
But, this morning I woke in time for a solitary cup of tea and the chance to watch the fullest lady moon set in the western sky just as the opposite horizon gave itself over to the sun’s glow. And before that, when I filled up the kettle from the fridge’s water dispenser I realized exactly what I would tell Moira when she someday asks me what she should look for in the person she will marry.
She’ll know she’s met “the one” because the perfect soul mate will always light her way.
Sometimes when stumbling about in the rocky trail of becoming, it is easy to feel isolated and lost even when someone you love more than life slumbers beside you. But then you need to look around you and find the light shining from most unexpected places, always burning somewhere to guide you home.
In my case, it was the glow of the LEDs on the water dispenser that my husband installed last winter. Filling up that bedtime glass in the dark kitchen always led to spills and muttered curses, and so he made a little addition to our brand new monster of a refrigerator. This morning as I filled the kettle in the thickest darkness, that of a January morning at 5 a.m., I was more grateful for its light than I ever had been at nighttime. I knew I had found the one who would always light my way and that he slept upstairs, sheltering our most perfect creation.
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. The word “epiphany” comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “manifestation” or “striking appearance.” Before Christianity, the word was used to record occasions when Greek gods and goddesses made appearances on earth.
Want a surefire, foolproof, 100% guaranteed way to be recognized as an incarnated deity? Follow these steps:
Be born a woman.
Make love at your most fertile moment.
Act as a hospitable vessel for nine glorious months.
Love the little creature that you have created with all your body, heart, and soul.
Leave aforementioned Angel Baby with a loving grandmother after she has been lavished with two and a half months of dedicated maternal attachment parenting.
Return within four hours to a child with eyelids slightly purpled and swollen from much weeping.
Hold her in your arms and offer her that sweetest mother’s milk.
When this child falls back in a delighted coma of sleepiest nourishment, witness the expression on her flushed face.
Realize that in this moment you will never be gazed upon with such devotion again unless you repeat all of the steps above.
On this Epiphany Day, I was a goddess at lunchtime. When the work day finished, I again burst upon the scene, a brilliant epiphany to behold. Tomorrow, the cycle shall repeat. For now, it is almost enough comfort to get me through these hours mother and child are apart…
This being human is a guesthouse;
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture.
Still treat each guest honourably.
She may be clearing you out for some new delight
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them all at the door laughing and invite them in
Be grateful for whatever comes
Because each has been sent as
A guide from beyond!
The last day of my maternity leave is nearing its end. Though I will only be going into the office three days a week and will be with Moira much more than I am away from her, I somehow feel like I am leaving a remote island where the world has not been able to touch us for the last two and a half months. We have journeyed out a bit, but when the waves crashed too high we could always retreat back to this country of two, of mother and daughter where the spell of the womb still lingered.
I still belong to Moira in ways I will belong to no other entity. No job, no obligation, no passion will be stronger than my devotion to my daughter. And yet, she is not the only being in my guesthouse. Of course, my husband, the rest of my family, and my friends fill up many of my rooms with laughter and with love, but still, there are also the public spaces where others must be permitted to tread.
A week ago I looked to this time of returning and considered about how I grow through each interaction with those difficult people that my work life sends into my orbit. In weakness, I still cringe a bit at having to walk back into certain rooms where the air is heavy with mistakes of the past, where relationships have soured and interactions have become strained. In strength, I can let that old smoke dissipate with one deep breath. I can willfully forget damaged histories and walk back to the office a woman reborn because hey, I was in many, many ways.
Since Christmas, ghosts of answers to those prayers I was slinging into the Universe about finding a way to stay home with baby girl seem to be finding me. There is a long way to go to be sure, but little lights are flickering on and little windows are opening in the house of my dreams. I am realizing that if I am going to fling wide the doors so that such bits of opportunity can make themselves comfortable, then those doors will also have to be open to Rumi’s “cloud of sorrows.”
Right now, I am in a mood that allows anything to be possible, and that includes being grateful for all the good and all the bad that I may encounter in this fully lived life. Going back to work tomorrow may not be my ideal way to spend a day, but it is the only January 5, 2010 that I will ever see, so I might as well show up and be a good hostess, come what may.
January 5, 2010… Sounds like a pretty mundane sort of day. What sort of magic will you allow to find you in all its wintry midst?
Irish poet Rita Ann Higgins has a poem called “Poetry Doesn’t Pay.” I began the decade living for poetry. I end the 2000s with one half remembered line and a focus on payment rather than poetics.
I’m still working on imagining my way out of my day job and into being an at home mom. Oh what a passel of worries (“gremlins” as Magpie Girl calls them) have been stirred up as I imagine stepping into the void that is life without guaranteed salary and benefits! One of the more bizarre worries that has emerged is how I’ll find spiritual nourishment in this new venture.
The role of spirituality in my life is not a bizarre concern, of course, but it’s generally considered rather superfluous to one’s career choices. My current job certainly does not have a spiritual dimension. Why would I expect the new home business I hope to pull together to have any direct connection to the way I talk to God?
I am coming to realize all the pressure I am putting on myself, on how I expect that earning money in a new way will change everything that motherhood has not already rearranged. As much as I have liked the general direction of my life, Moira’s birth began the seismic quake I was waiting for. Now I am looking for everything to shift; I am impatient for all of the random puzzle pieces of me to fall into place.
Some who know me in the “real world” might laugh to hear this, but my ideal job would be to be a priest. There are several impediments, of course, seeing that I am female, and even if I could become an Episcopalian or something, I still cannot commit to Christianity solely enough to convince a congregation of my piety. Since I don’t think I am quite ready to start holding revivals in my backyard and no established religions will have me (or I won’t have them…), it seems that prayer isn’t going to bring in a paycheck. At least not directly…
I am overwhelmed by the weight of my dreams, my burdensome need for poetry and and a life that is purely mine from waking ’til sleep. The love of my child, my husband, my home is a crippling curse and an incessant blessing and the only thing that matters at the end of the day. This love is the stuff my prayers are made of.
May this love be strong enough.
May I be strong enough.
you can’t pay me in poems or prayers,
or your husband’s jokes,
or with photographs of your children
in lucky lemon sweaters hand made by your dead Great Aunt
who had amnesia and the croup
There was a time when my spiritual life was anchored by two things: the moon and animals that had been killed by oncoming traffic.
Seeing a white crescent hanging in a blue sky would bring an unaccustomed smile to a face that was creased with worry over a life I could not figure out how to live. I’d whisper “Hi, Lady” and feel the glint of some divine power in what I considered a very bleak existence.
Catching sight of a crumpled, furry corpse would make me shiver in the way you might expect, but it also offered me my only experience of prayer. Again in a whisper I would say, “I commend your soul to the Goddess.” I’d drive on, convinced, at least for a few moments that a great, compassionate Being watched over us all, especially her most defenseless creatures.
I was in a relationship that dissolved my sense of self and power and I was working in a job that truly soul destroying experience. (If ever I weary of an idyllic college library, I need to remember the gigantic orthopedic surgeons’ office in a high rise; I’ve never met people so miserable as the female secretaries of all those male doctors.)
My boyfriend, whom I thought I had to love beyond all sense and reason, was a great guy – but just not for me. For all that he could not understand or reach me, he did have his own stores of wisdom as he tried to create a life with the very depressed woman who shared his home. I remember him saying that he wished I had a cat to come home to so that I could be able to look forward to coming home each night to a creature who loved me (he worked nights, so he was apparently looking for a four legged substitute for himself). As much as I yearned for a pet, I know I despised him a little for that comment and for leaving me alone so much that I needed to find friendship at the ASPCA.
Of course, looking back I salute him for being so right.
Each day I awake to count my blessings. A man I love with all the right mix of sensibleness and unreasonableness and everything in between. A pair of cats who greet me at the door and make me laugh every day and warm the bed each night. A clear, open sky full of the moon and the open eyes to see her. An awareness of the Divine in all things, not just departed squirrels and waxing celestial bodies.
I bask in the empathetic gaze of animal friends as well as the awesome, changing power of the moon and understand that hopelessness is a habit long outgrown.
And still, recognizing that I still greet the Lady when I see a smudge of white on the morning horizon or repeat a prayer over every departed animal, just as I did when my life was at its worst, reminds me that there is worth in every moment of life, even when it feels wasted and pointless. Back then, despite the thick fog of despair that was my twenty-third year of life, a connection to my true self still blazed forth.
I have never felt so distanced from that chain-smoking girl as I do now, but I must respect and remember that poor lost girl. She helped to create the woman I love to be today.
I honor the person I no longer have to be. She is every bit a part of me, just as the phases of the moon and a connection to animal life is a part of my every day.
Recognizing that even when life seems to be at its maddest, there is still a connection to true self. I feel so much closer to that and ususally laugh off my past as an unrecogniable dark period, but in fact, that woman created who i am now. Honoring her, just as I honor the moon and the animals who lost their battle with oncoming cars.
This phrase has woven itself through my consciousness ever since I saw it painted on a sign at the country store.
It seemed more than fitting in this time of economic craziness. We all need to reframe “greed is bad” into some sort of life affirming mantra.
A post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago about finding an alternative to the consumerist imperative has managed to get a little bit of attention. It also connected me to Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus and clued me in to the fact that there are a lot of people out there who are dedicated to living more simply, desiring both to leave less of a dent in their savings accounts and to leave a less toxic footprint on the planet.
It’s as much a spiritual exercise as it is fiscal one, this learning to decipher the difference between want and need.
This last windy evening of the year has me looking both at the year’s spiritual legacy, as well as some more practical elements of life.
We bought our first house this year, a decided stretch into the luxury of three bedrooms and a huge kitchen and a perfect writing/yoga/meditation space. Money is a little tighter than we might like. Luckily, we have mastered the teeter totter of marriage in this respect – one of us always seems to remain optimistic and calm enough to comfort the other through bank balance related panic.
Are we living within our harvest or within the bounds of what the bank was willing to loan a nice young couple with a great credit rating?
It’s easy, and probably pretty useless, to look at the monetary decisions we made this past summer through the gloomy lens of this fall’s economic, um, fall. Were we victims of easy credit living or part of the problem, Americans with aspirations bigger than their incomes?
Now, we try to pare down our spending. It’s not enough to make up for the gigantic leap up the housing ladder that we’ve made, but maybe I should quit worrying about that so much.
I have accepted “live within your harvest” as a sage bit of chastening wisdom. A sweeter, less cliched way of saying “live within your means.”
But what if I have been looking at it all wrong? What if we reexamine the meaning of “your harvest”?
I was wasting my energy on resigning myself to the limitations I have assumed were placed upon my harvest. There were thoughts of my paycheck and the hoped for tax return, but no trace of the metaphysical ramifications of the idea. I saw no more than a single August field, already having calculated how many rolls of hay it could produce.
In a matter of hours, a new year will begin. Many of my friends have already toasted its arrival and find themselves in 2009. I will awaken to fresh snow fall and the knowledge that I am the only one who can reign in my potential, who can set the boundaries around my harvest.
I look at this still inspirational phrase with fresh eyes. To live within my harvest is to exalt in all that I have created and be content with all that I have.
It is also a reminder that I must work to gather the sort harvest that I most need to live within. Why would I ever want to exceed my lot in life if I understand that determine so much of what my lot is in the first place?
Why not sow more powerful seeds so that the eventual reaping will be all the sweeter?
What do you want to harvest in this flawless, sparkling new year?
Creeping around in the early evening gloom. Fumbling for cords. Flipping antique switches.
Bringing light to the darkness. Filling the house with the glow of hope.
This is one of those epiphanies so obvious, I cannot believe I never realized its significance before.
It’s got to the be combination of a new house of our own and my own expanding awareness. I have fallen in love with the ritual of switching on these Christmas sparkles when I get home each night.
So pedestrian, the twinkling of colorful bulbs each December, and yet stringing these lights connects us to an amazing deeper consciousness. This tradition of decking the halls can be so much more than doing what’s expected and decorating as soon as Thanksgiving has passed.
Isn’t one of the best ways to really integrate changes into your life to introduce new habits? This habit, formed when there are a few extra, lovely tasks to do every day as we cast our homes in a precious, brief kaleidoscope of color can be the sort of thing that changes our whole outlook.
Spending those moments to consciously fill my house with beauty reminds me that it can be so simple to let a similar glow fall upon the rest of my life.
We light the Advent candles to prepare for a coming birth. We bring trees and boughs into our homes to spin some sympathetic magic, in hopes that the green will return once again to the earth. We fill our lives with all this light, both secular and holy, because we need it to guide us through this darkest time of year.
I have created my own sacred circle of candles to further help me remember that the sun will own the sky once more and that there is always promise on the bleakest of nights. I gaze into each flame and ask that I may always remember the sacredness of fire, the divinity of inspiration, the blessings that dance around my well lit path.
Now that I am alert to this November chill, these late autumn doldrums, I see lives being eked out in the shadows all over the place.
It is happening on a global and national level as economies falter and threaten to fail and we come to realize that capitalism might have been some sort of cruel joke. This gathering darkness even after all that shiny hope of only a week and a half ago (can you believe that the elation over our new president has slid into naked financial fear in only eleven days?) is crippling everyone to some degree.
I am watching it happen to the people in my own circles. Relationships are changing irrevocably or are falling away. New illnesses are emerging and some are losing in their battles for wellness. The ability to pretend everything is fine is dissolving. It is time to admit that life cannot continue on this twisting track, at this breakneck pace.
Like I said, I am watching this happen to those around me right now. I find myself wrapped in a blanket of blessing and abundance that I thank the Gods for every day. My friend BlissChick talks about how such good fortune can set us questioning this luck, and sabotaging ourselves because we fear we have been granted “too much blessing.” I completely understand that impulse to throw on the hairshirt and deny ourselves the joy of what we have been given, and have fallen into that trap countless times.
This time around, however, I am able to look at my blessings and comfort as a divinely given shield and solace. I am so well shrouded in a soft cloak of peace that I can stand beside those who suffer and absorb their stories without the interference of my own fears and losses. None of this is to say that I am cleansed from all of the selfish whining that I regret occasionally mars my conversations, but I recognize that I am free of the deeper dramas that others need to be supported through right now. I can strive to be a vessel that takes in tears and offers them back as different brew of solace and hope.
For all that we are all marked by the wheel of the year, but the ebb and flow of nature, I think that we are occasionally chosen to stand outside of time. With all humility, I admit that I am caught in a time of joyful midsummer even as the skies turn a dirty pearl and wasted wet leaves choke the walkways. I give thanks for this role as spiritual midwife, a candle burning in the fog for those who are lost in the early evening gloom.
Have you been given a warmer coat to ward off the first frost? Is it big enough to wrap around a friend who needs it?
Christine Kane is collecting intentions. She is inviting everyone to contribute their dreams in delicious sort of group effort to manifest their hearts’ desires. I threw my wish for balance into her Great Big Prayer hat. I want to be able to dance more effortlessly between all that I want to be and all I want to do, and yet still live in accordance with the plans that the Universe has set for me.
Essentially, I want to quit fighting with the fact that there are only 24 hours and I am only going to be functional for 16.5 of them. I want to quit worrying about all that I cannot do in a day (90 minutes doing yoga, 30 minutes meditating, 60 minutes writing a blog post, churning out 1,000 words of fiction, practicing as a healer, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, reading inspiring books, being a fully present spouse, talking to God) and just be content with what IS possible.
This morning, fifteen minutes of yoga to really wake up my hamstrings took me to a place of such deep breathing that it felt as powerful as a half hour on a mediation cushion. I was a couple of minutes late to meet my carpool buddy because I stepped out on the back porch to hear the birds and watch the squirrels. I was offering my prayers and setting my intention for the day more powerfully than I ever could if I had scheduled time for the Divine. Though I dislike being in perpetual rush, I know I was a better commuting partner and a better employee because of those few precious, stolen minutes, so it was a fair exchange.
We miss out on so much when we hold ourselves to all or nothing rules. How simple it is to limit ourselves by refusing to engage in all the activities that nurture and sustain us, just because we decide we cannot give them enough time or focus. I am not about to start advocating leading a half-arsed life, but I am rethinking my perspective on the fact that a little is almost always better than nothing at all.
There may not be time to make love, but there is nearly always time for a lingering kiss. I may not be able to immerse myself fully in the world of my novel, but I can at least add a few lines of dialog. These days I may not be up for a full speed ahead one and a half hour yoga class, but how can I expect to get back there if I will not reintroduce the postures a little bit at a time?
I was blessed tonight to steal away for the 37 minutes that a yoga podcast by Eoin Finn requires. It is a sweet little sequence of standing postures that reminds me that there is so much truth in the union that is yoga. Find this little gem, called “Honey Routine,” as well as several others at http://www.eoinfinnyoga.com/downloads.php or on iTunes. There’s my unsolicited free plug of the day!
So here’s to taking little sips of bliss and balance and walking in abundance instead of running ever onward in that torturous state of “not enough.”
On this unusual solitary Sunday I found myself in in a noontime twilight when I yearned to fill fruitful hours with reading and writing and meditation but instead wandered between rooms, giving a few minutes to a novel before remembering I had left a cup of tea steeping in the kitchen a half hour before. Though I often resist the wisdom that tells me to pull on some boots and get outside, I looked out to the melting snow and realized that I had to leave my cocoon.
I was tempting nature to glitter through its bleak February palette with unmistakable manifestations of the divine even as I consciously settled for the mundane beauty that is a false spring: forty degree sunlight air hanging over mud and snow that will invariably freeze in a few short hours. Really, this is how I gaze upon life much of the time – resigning myself to reality but coloring it all with a sense of hope I am sometimes unwilling to admit. As you will see from the picture above, this ended up being a much more sacred journey than I might have expected; it seems that there in fact must have been some magic delighting in the sunshine.
Gradually I was able to release the expectation of revelation and even stopped chanting the vaguely frenetic mantra that was intended to shape this tramp through the woods into a productive walking meditation. I pulled back the layers of ego until I was simply a woman on a path on a warm winter day. Soon, I started noticing sounds beyond those of the crunching ice and the squelching muck beneath my galoshes. I pitied myself and the wonder of the earth for a while; our perfect communion was marred by distant shots from the gun club and the low hiss of the thruway – destructive neighbors that I so rarely acknowledged. For a time I let these impostors excuse my neglect of the natural world: being outside barely worth it when any signs of wildlife that hadn’t been hunted or pushed into oblivion by human incursion were drowned out by all that human noise. But eventually even those pretexts melted away as I watched blue jays chase one another from birch to birch and realized that the little movements at the corner of my vision were due to an underbrush alive with busy squirrels. All of my intentions of really being present in nature were forgotten in the act of actually being there.
Everything I “should” have been thinking about melted away under the flame unmediated experience. My thoughts turned to flowing wax that was free to drip through my consciousness to form new shapes, loosed from their old forms and patterns. Finally my sense were opening wider so that I remembered to take a deep breath of the sweet fresh air. It tasted just a little like spring, and I remembered that in Ireland the weather had seemed to turn at the first of February in celebration of Imbolc.
That is when I stopped to stare dumbly into the middle distance. It was February third and I had not even thought of the festival of Imbolc, Brigid’s Day. For so many years the feast of goddess/saint whose image I had worn around my neck had been deeply important to me, marked by rituals both public and private. I remember so clearly the first Brigid’s Day of the millennium when I hung my cloak out in the damp Galway night so she could pass by and bless it.
What does it mean that I had been thinking of how to make Lent more meaningful but had not remembered what I had always considered what I thought to be the most important day of the Celtic year? I have been so disconnected from the relationship of time and nature that I don’t even know if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow (just Googled it, he did). As I began walking again I marveled at strange new focus my awareness has taken – Catholic traditions treasured over pagan rites? Who was I? I mourned a bit for all it seems I have forgotten.
But then I realized how artificial our calendars are, how arbitrary our scheduled holy days. Certainly the winter solstice is a moment in time, but unless you are standing in the inner chamber at Newgrange how can you know for sure? When celebrating Brigid’s qualities such as fire and home and healing and poetry, does the divine care if we are off by a day or two? After all, time has proven to be a plastic thing when we remember that the Church imposed December 25 upon the newborn Jesus.
After that walk through a wintertime awakening, I am feeling graced with a deep peace to realize that I remembered Brigid not because I turned the page on the calendar, but because I heard the whisper of the earth.