Finding Light in the Moonlight

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.

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Kitchen Table Revolution, Interrupted

On Friday, my Mom and I spent the day in the kitchen talking about a revolution.  Well, we were talking about the state of the world, daring to broach our  fears about countless taboo topics.

What happens when we all find out that Al Gore has been right?  What happens when people really start to run out of water?  How many links in the chain have to break before our global network of food distribution?  How many days of product are in an average supermarket?  For a proud liberal, why do I have a funny perspective on guns that I don’t talk about much?  In what part of the psyche and the spirit should stories like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest reside?

Ach, Marisa!  What are you doing to your dear readers on a Monday morning?  The sun isn’t even up yet and with gloomy thoughts like this you are practically daring it not to rise!

Fear not, if you are anything like Mom and me you will plunge into your seas of worry and dredge up all of your 3 a.m. thoughts even though it is the middle of the day.  But then you’ll get up for another cup of tea and the phone will ring and you’ll pay the cable bill or head to the dentist and you’ll pretty much forget this little dip into the nastiest recesses of your “what if…?” consciousness.

Of course, we all do this.  I, for one, have no idea how I would get through each day, full of all sorts of mundane beauty and banal ugliness, if I was truly tuned into my concerns about the state of our collective future.  It is pretty much impossible to fully enjoy an infant’s laugh if you allow yourself to focus on all the evils that might endanger it.

And so we engage in these impassioned discussions and stir up the sediment that our modern, Western, wasteful lives have created in the riverbeds of our awareness and then we start making dinner.  The conversation I had with my mom was so amazing and touched on so many important topics, it had me wanting to take meeting minutes.  But, I had my hands full with the baby when I was not clearing up the endless piles of clutter and I never got around to writing til right this Monday morning minute.

If I had had the chance to play scribe and record the litany of ills and the faint glimmers of solution would we be any closer to solving any of the world’s problems?  The tragedy of the whole conversation was that, as much as we were both so invigorated to trade ideas mother to daughter and back again and to flow along in the tides of conversation, we really felt pretty powerless.  Talking about Washington’s party politics and the conservative pundits’ maniacal desire to debase our president’s every action and motive left us rather deflated.  We were saved by a gently shaken snow globe of a January day  and by an infant just discovering her voice.  A baby who has not yet had to worry about the lies that the media propagates and the impossible search for truth.

We are not powerless, of course.  We have the loving bonds that allow us to dive deep and surface together.  It is as true that enough of these conversation will change the world as it is necessary to believe that they can.

Poetry Doesn’t Pay, and Prayer Doesn’t Either

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.

But nothing,
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

Rita Ann Higgins, “Poetry Doesn’t Pay”

On a Scale of One to Ten – Thirty

Pam Snow/Canadian Press)
Pam Snow/Canadian Press)

This has not been a winter to speak aloud.

My words have frozen in my throat or in the pages of my private books and rarely been able to cross the ice to the outer world.  I know that sound carries best over open water.  It seems that those waters have to be flowing freely, not suspended in a bitter February’s thoughtfulness.

Wait, I misspeak.  It is not I that is bitter, but the weather.  And even then, I am spinning frigid tales and  manipulating them for my own rhetoric.  The view from my front window offers grass like straw and sad heaps of forgotten leaves with only the occasional sad mountain of snow.  We expect flurries throughout the weekend – it’s still winter after all – but she has let her white cloak slip low enough to prove that not even the ice can last forever.

I spoke of returning the other day.  Returning is a long and careful process.  It can mean the traveler is still a great distance from home.

When my healer experiences great spiritual shifts she talks about all the internal furniture being rearranged. I still live in a new house that is short on chairs and couches, so I’ll stick to the images of the landscape – the view is always free even if we can’t yet afford new bookshelves. 

My inner landscape has been reformed during a 10 days of sickness and soul searching. I’ve watched new river valleys form and have shored up my retaining walls.  I have repaved a concrete wasteland with a rainbow of precious stones.

I only weep a little at the changes being wrought, the unfamiliar, though beautiful, territory being forged within.  A new home is a great milestone, but one that is surely accompanied by mourning for all that was.  New houses also mean a great many stubbed toes when one needs a glass of water in the middle of the night.

So I am rejoicing in my new caverns of joy and testing the echoes against my new interior walls.  But I am still receiving snippets of news reports about the maelstrom out there that seems to have nothing to do with this inner transformation or the February sunshine beyond the shadows of my front porch.

I am still a creature of this world for all that I have spent the better part of two weeks diving in my own ocean.  I realize that I am caught in this web of shift and discomfort and even chaos that has caught hold of our societies.

In the midst of all this tumult, there was the voice of a man from Canada who spoke with the disjointed music of Scotland and the mid-west and the southern Maritimes that I know so well.  Give yourself a couple of minutes to listen to the story of five men in Seal Cove, Newfoundland who saved a pod of dolphins trapped in the thickening ice of their harbor.  Listen to his harmonies and his tale and think about what you might do that would lead you to reply “Oh, on scale of one to ten, thirty” when someone asked you how you feel.

There are parts of me feel like I am at a thirty, and there are bits of me that feel too lost in the flux of the soul to take stock and realize this journey is all about elation.  But, as I continue this process of returning I think I have found one more guidepost of inspiration that will help me redefine my internal measurement of all that is good.

Winter Moon at Dawn: Possibility and Potential

With what degree of certainty does the Old Farmer’s Almanac guarantee its weather predictions? Add twenty percent to that. I promise you that I can predict when arctic temperatures will hit the Hudson Valley almost without fail.

For the past several winters we have taken care of my folks’ dog while they are off on vacation. Next winter, give me a call and find out when Mom and Dad are heading south – it means that the thermometer is plunging southward too.

Chris Darling, EveryStockPhoto.com
Chris Darling, EveryStockPhoto.com

Through the tiny gap between my scarf and my Red Sox ski cap I watch Saoirse, the oh-so-delicate 100 lb. black lab nose along the tracks tracks of some mysterious creature who is not hiding in a cozy den, despite the frigid wind. The moon lights the western sky at just after 6 a.m. and I feel as if I am walking through a different world. Amazing how being a dog minder introduces you to the smallest details of a new neighborhood at the most unusual times of day. Only when she has moved on and I raise my eyes from the icy snow banks do I realize that the whole world is markedly brighter. Pastel morning is just beginning to color the east, and the landscape glows as if someone just turned on a light in a distant room. In this case, I guess that would be Connecticut.

Even in the near blackness a surprising number of cars idle in driveways, trying to motor themselves awake in the bitter cold just as their drivers nurse that last cup of coffee. As much as getting up early and donning boots and shearling is a chore, Saoirse’s visit offers me my my first chances to learn the rhythms of my neighbors’ lives by piecing together what clues they leave in this coldest, darkest time of the year.

There is so little to go on – you have to have impeccable timing to catch the bundled figures gingerly make their way across the ice from the coziness of the kitchen to the tepid warmth of a car whose heater strains to keep the windshield from fogging. Instead, I am left to look into the glowing windows and see figures passing back and forth, engaged in the sacredness of the morning routine.

What is it about looking into the glow of a home’s lights at dawn that seems so much more intimate that seeing those same lamps ablaze in the evening?

mypictureWe are all a confederacy of early risers. Though some may be cheerful enough morning people, we are bound by what still seems an unnatural act, getting up when it’s dark as midnight. Who are we to rise before even the sun has climbed into his seat in the sky?

I found my heart warming to the residents in the houses where I could see someone standing before the kitchen sink, washing up a few breakfast dishes before she dashes out the door. We begin and end this day as strangers, but for this handful of moments between rising from bed and braving the world, we are all united in this process of preparation for the work ahead.

In this brief time between night and day I can believe wholeheartedly in a common humanity that we all share. A dream of still warm blankets and hopefully someone we love who lay beside us while we slept. A vision of hope for the day ahead before the winter chill and the vicissitudes of life challenges our resolve.

To think like Anne Shirley, this is the time when it is still a new day with no mistakes in it yet. All people and events are merely beautiful possibilities in the frozen morning lit by the grace of a waning moon.

Live Within the Harvest of Your Own Creation

Live within your harvest

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.img_1052_2

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”?

img_1007_2I 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?

Sunset Magic on a Monday-less Sunday

As we watched this phenomenal sunset, I said to my husband on this final Sunday evening of the year, “Doesn’t the sky look more beautiful when you realize you don’t have to go to work for a whole week?”12/28/08 sunset

I caught myself as soon as I said that and tried to take it back. I said something about working out a new year’s resolution that meant that Sunday evenings do not have to be panic laced affairs full of sorrow for another used up weekend and dread for the five day slog to the next reprieve. (The kaleidoscope above us had me feeling rather poetical, so I may have actually used that many words to say “we have to quit giving into the ‘Mondays suck’ mentality.”)

The struggle with my job has been a near constant companion for the last couple of years. It was inevitable, really, that a chronic overachiever who decided against getting her PhD should begin to chafe in the confines of a traditional work week, even if it is in a gorgeous college library. Lately, the madness has cooled and I have been able to extricate my ego from my professional life so that I can appreciate the salary and the perks (including this luxurious time off and that sack of books and DVDs that walked out the door with me for the near-two week break). I worry a bit less about whether I am fulfilling my life’s purpose as junior management in a windowless office.

Still, it seems that the drama lingers on and shows its ugly little face in trite “everybody hates work” kinds of comments. I don’t hate working – I do not necessarily enjoy frittering away my time and talents on less than inspirational tasks (who does?), but for now I think the peace I have made with my job is authentic. My life is so full in every other aspect, and I learn so much every day choose to walk through the office door with an aim to practice all that my soul has learned.

dsc01574At the same time, I have a quiet sort of confidence that things will shift when they need to. Life will make way for my healing work and my writing. Things will fall into place so I don’t lose my mind and all my creative expression when motherhood becomes my main focus. In a way that still allows us to pay the mortgage and eat organic food, the job I hold now will be able to fall away and make way for these bits of self that are now relegated to the edges of my day. I just know it.

Thing is, how much “quiet confidence” is enough? When does it become time to leap? How many sunsets need to paint FREEDOM, BEAUTY, RELEASE across the sky before I realize I need to get out of a position that offers me no portal to the outside world?

It’s that age old dance between “follow your dreams” and “you need a day job, kid.”

Like I said, it is less urgent for me at the moment, but it is just this sense of relaxation that allows me to pose the question: when am I allowed to embrace the life that I really want?

Let me rephrase that: when will I allow myself to embrace the life I really want?

The beginning of the answer: as soon as I allow myself to let the Universe know I really want it.

The time for leaping into a new book of days is here.

What do you want?

Have you begun choreographing the dance that will get you there?