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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The Pain of this Moment: Powerlessness and Perseverance

changeling

About twenty minutes in, I was begging my husband to let me shut it off. I’d rather watch third-string Saturday evening crime dramas than have to bear the pain and frustration of this movie for another minute. He was fascinated and watched intently even as I squirmed on the couch beside him.

Based on a true story, The Changeling is a film that threatens to tear you in half as you witness relentless power of the the heartless, misogynistic political and legal machine that was 1920s Los Angeles. The police return a stranger to a mother whose son has been kidnapped, forcing her to claim the impostor as her own and question something that should never be questioned: her ability to know her own child. When she refuses to break before their authority and continues to protest that her son is still out there, missing, the authorities do everything to discredit her: declare her selfish, unfit, conniving, insane. To watch the sadistically manipulative power of the doctor at the state mental institution to which she is committed is maddening beyond belief.

The more I wanted to leap out of my skin the clearer it became that a) this was quite the movie if it could get to me in this way, and b) there was something in the plot that I had to face in myself.

What was it that challenged me the most? Powerlessness? Ruthlessness? Unreasonableness? Arrogance? Wanton blindness? Humanity’s ability to be inhumane? The value of the establishment over the dignity of the individual?

They all combine to be a bitter, bitter cocktail, but it is the first sin on that list that made me want to run from the spectacle of suffering before me.

Powerlessness.

So many modern self-help texts and teachers talk about the way to personal empowerment. It is a clever enough buzzword that is as essential as it is destructive. Victimhood does not serve us at all; we all have to drop the chains of the beleaguered party in order to take full responsibility for our lives. At the same time, it is an illusion of sorts to believe that we have power over every aspect of our lives. To believe in a higher power is to know that we do not hold all of the cards, even those that directly influence our own fate.

And yet, I find myself warring against my feelings of powerless all the time. Right now, one of the greatest challenges I struggle with each day is watching my husband grimace from the constant back pain that has marred our lives for the last two straight months. The shooting nerve pains that keep him from sleeping, sitting, and standing in peace have sapped the joy and ease out of life. As a wife and as a healer, I constantly struggle with the fact that my will to fix him and my fervent prayers for his recovery have offered negligible results. I know that he bears the infinitely greater burden, but I find myself wrapped in my own vicarious hell as I mourn the easy laughter and decry my own abilities and those of a benevolent God to offer him some relief.

changeling-rainTo watch Angelina Jolie’s character struggle with seemingly indomitable forces who cared nothing for her story or for the truth was to see a dramatized life-or-death version of my own battles. I don’t want to give away too much of the film, but I will say that I am left with the awareness that life offers neither pure victory or utter defeat. There is joy and hope in every moment, and we must chose that over limitation and agony.

I have not conquered all of the self-pitying parts of me that believe that my husband and I are a four legged Sisyphus, pushing against his pain only to have it well up again each morning. But to look at that thought in writing makes me tired of my own defeatism.

There is a link between powerlessness and the ability to accept reality as it is at this very minute. I need to think through that connection more deeply, but I believe that the way forward for me is accept that this hurt exists for him and that it affects me deeply, but that the pain in this moment does not mean that every other moment that follows will be marred in the same way.



A Sacred Way of Acknowledging Each Other

‘The way you bowed to each other. Every time he handed you something, or you handed something back to him. I know that was part of the Church ritual, too, but I was lying awake last night think about it in a different way. I was thinking, maybe couples ought to have little rituals like that, where they bow to each other. Maybe once at the beginning of the day and once at the end. Maybe at other times, too. As a way of acknowledging each other – oh, I don’t know, that there really is a sacred aspect of what they’re trying to do with each other.’

Gail Godwin, Evensong

dsc00116This novel, the continuing story of a preacher’s daughter who becomes an Anglican priest herself and marries another man of the cloth, offers this comment by a character who watches the couple offering a mass together.

What should be more sacred than the bond one has the partner she has chosen for life? What other relationship or situation should lend itself to the creation of ritual in such a way?

Except most of us are not married or devoted to a fellow member of the clergy. For most of us, faith is not both vocation and avocation. I have always found that balance in which both partners share the same sort of passion for the Divine to be more than elusive.

big_loveRight now, my husband I am more than a little obsessed with Big Love, the incredibly well done HBO show about a “mainstream” polygamous family. Theoretically, their shared faith is so fervent and irresistible that it inspires them to walk against the tides of law and society. (Of course, if it were that simple the show wouldn’t be so addictive and compelling…)

I operate outside of the bounds of a specific religion, as does my husband. He knew that “spirituality” was important to me when we first met, and I knew that he was cool with that. Over the years my sort of amorphous pining for the Goddess has taken more deliberate shape and we have had more conversations about the role of a Higher Power, but in certain ways, the arrangement is still the same. My own journey has progressed and my Love is always there by the side of any road I choose to travel.

Because I have never committed my adult life to a specific religious, where I assumed it is much easier to find a like minded soul who is interested in approaching God in a similar way, I have sort of resigned myself to a rather solitary path marked by my partner’s interest, but not necessarily his participation. There are so many other things that I get from our marriage. Plus, it makes sense to me that I am engaged in an individual relationship with Spirit.

But this section from Godwin’s novel offers a couple an alternative to some formal, or even informal, worship of God.

Modern books on the Goddess and feminine spirituality so often seem to offer a chapter or two on sacred love making and blessing one’s union. They always seemed like the dreams of women whose lovers would always hold their witchy dabbling at arms length. In the same way, books on Eastern paths that talk about Tantra as the ultimate union between male and female (with little answer for same sex couples) as some distant ideal crafted by the sorts of people I could never imagine my husband and I to be.

But it could be made more simple, to keep it within a place of safety and comfort for all involved. What would it be to simply acknowledge the other, to take it above the sweet, but perhaps mundane level of making dinner breakfast together and cuddling on the couch for another few episodes of a mutually enjoyed tv show?

There is something delicious and necessary about finding the sacred in the every day. But isn’t there a way to plant the sacred in that every day experience so we do not have to overturn so many humdrum stones to find it?

But it can be a great bridge to cross – allowing one’s private passion for God to permeate a relationship in more overt ways (a true spirituality will always be inflecting a relationship in beautifully subtle ways). Perhaps on this day that has been forced to represent love by countless flower shops and candy companies there is room to introduce the equivalent of a sacred bow to recognize the wonder of love’s power.

How will you do it?

Wise Woman Nurturing

Months ago, when I was trying to describe my vision of why the Girl Who Cried Epiphany had to rise from the virtual ashes, I tried to craft an title for my pursuit of wisdom and spiritual connection. I came up with Wise Woman Working because a wise, wise woman was just who I wanted to be.

Yet again, it was an Ani song that has been my soundtrack.dsc00871

it’s a long long road
it’s a big big world
we are wise wise women
we are giggling girls

Wise Woman Working. I loved the way “working” was such a multi-layered verb. It encompassed both the idea that I was an active creature, trying to get something done and also that I was like a piece of wood, being worked and crafted by my experiences.

The other day in a talk with my husband that covered the mysteries of marriage and the growing pains of personal and collective growth, I kept talking about the work that we had to put in. Usually it is my role to dole out the relationship maxims, but I know I am not the only source, especially when my love is the one to urge me to stop with all this talk of “work.” “Let’s talk about nurturing each other,” he said.

And so I look back, three months after my initial dance with all this Wise Woman Working and realize I need heed my own wise man. How does my vision shift if I think instead about Wise Woman Nurturing?

dsc00860Life is full of work and struggle, but true, respectful, and focused nurturing are all too rare.

This change in language helps me understand in one more way that I am not the only one in control. I cannot force my way to wisdom by putting in long hours and gritting my teeth really hard. I have to wait and coax and midwife this wisdom with all of the tenderness and honesty I can muster.

“The business of life.” “Working on a relationship.” “Spiritual exercises.”

I know I have used all of these phrases to show that I understand the rigors of conscious living. I want everyone to know that this stuff is hard and is worthy of all my efforts. Thing is, I am realizing that my work ethic is very rarely in question, in my spiritual life or anywhere else.

This delicate process of awakening so rarely requires elbow grease. What it does cry out for is sensitivity and creativity, patience and passion. Just like when a couple journeys through life-long love, when an individual walks the path to wisdom she needs to be nurtured. Neither wisdom nor love will be wrestled and forced into submission.

And so, like any good plan, mine is open for constant revision. For now, farewell working, hello nurturing.

Trusting the Abundance of the Feast

On this final Sunday of our winter retreat, this blissful stretch of days at home, I searched through the furthest reaches of the pantry for some “special tea.” I found a forgotten bag of loose chocolate mint roobois from our local tea room that I simply adore. I looked to my husband and remarked that he had bought this for me, once upon a time. He looked confused, “uh, must have been a long time ago.”

0172It was. Early in our courtship I would often go away on the weekends. Determined to prove my independence and let him know that I would be maintaining my own life, I resisted commitment every step of the way. I would return home to little gifts from a brilliantly persistent man intent upon taming a young redhead convinced she valued freedom over security, spontaneity over real love.

The morning’s tea was lovely, but not as nice as it might have been if I had enjoyed it back when it was first given to me as a token of a young romance. It was rich with memory, but it lacked the piquancy it once had when it was fresh.

This is not some oblique metaphor to say that my marriage has gone flat. Instead, it just sets me thinking about the odd ways we hoard our little treats, delaying our pleasures until we eventually we realized they have gone a little stale.

How many perfumes and lotions have you saved for special occasions only to find them in the back of the cabinet, their magic faded, their sweet essences separated into their uninspired base ingredients? How often has the treasured saffron turned into flavorless threads of crimson while you waited for that golden day you would create a paella your beloved ones would never forget? (Last night I threw my saffron saving self to last year’s hungry dogs and made this amazing North African chickpea and kale soup.)

This year, wisps of resolutions are coming to me in the form of little lessons, like when I sip my tea’s faded glory and when I generously toss spices into the mix.

Trust in abundance. Believe that you can enjoy what the Universe has given you. Be secure that what you need will come to you, even if you open your cupboards wide to share your bounty. Don’t hoard your own talents or your material treasures for a rainy day that will never come. Live in this moment. Allow your wings to spread to their fullest span.

Now, I am not celebrating the feckless grasshopper at the expense of the assiduous ant. I stand by the belief that frugality is not a crime. I am just talking about enjoying the simple luxuries you have and allowing them to make each day a little sweeter.

* * *

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photo by: xllukins

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany. The name of this blog was fueled only by a purely secular glory of revelation, and never even knew when the Epiphany was or what it really meant until last year.

And though I am growing more comfortable with Christianity in many ways, I realize that this feast does not necessarily speak to me directly, at least not the story itself does not. The appearance of the Wise Men, the giving of the gifts, heralding Christ’s birth to the gentiles. I think the weight of this story is finding me on a more subterranean level. The gift of tea seems to conjure frankincense, perhaps?

One symbol that does speak to me: following your star.

As a watcher of the skies and a dancer of the moon, I can hook myself to that great star that guided the Magi. For now it is leading me to epiphanies much more mundane that the birth of the savior, but it seems that it is all this sweetly contented moment in my life seems to require.

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?