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.
A good supply of fresh water is what anyone would want if stranded on a desert island. I would put water, and my ever-present SIGG bottle, at the very top of my list for purely emotional reasons.
I know that the constant need to carry a flask of H2O is an addiction of my entire generation, but I know I only thrive when I’m secure if I have a source of hydration at my fingertips. At this point, I am pretty certain it’s not indicative of any physical malady. It’s just one of my social crutches – kind of like how I can only speak coherently at a meeting if I have a pen in my hand.
Both because I fill my bottle so often and because the filter is a little slow, I tend to spend a lot of time standing in front of our fancy new refrigerator. When my sister remarked upon how long it took to fill glass when she was visiting on Thanksgiving I told her I usually use the time to consider my posture and say a few Hail Marys.
She looked at me like I was insane (I know I’ve mentioned plenty of time that prayers to the BVM have not generally been part of my repertoire) and declared that she’d spend the time doing calf raises.
In the three months since the whole family gathered here for turkey and feasting I have logged in a lot more time in front of the great stainless steel font. It struck me this morning, as I launched into the fifth “blessed art thou amongst women…” that a lot of concentrated, spiritual attention was focused on that section of kitchen tile. So many books on meditation recommend setting aside a specific place to further empower one’s daily practice. Short of my actual altar, I spent more time talking to God in front of the fridge than I do anywhere else in the house.
Then it occurred to me that prayer has always been centered around sacred springs. Brigid’s Well in Kildare remains one of my favorite places in Ireland. There was most certainly a deep and abiding power there. That power came from generations of prayer as well as from the holy nature of water itself.
There are streams near the house, bodies of flowing life that so inspire me on these thawing days when the hush of spring is in the air. So rarely do I remember that the same water flows from our own humbly red-capped well and fills my cup. It’s that sense of disconnection that is so easy to get trapped in when eggs come from cardboard cartons and chickens are born covered in plastic wrap. Sweet, fresh water comes from the belly of the earth, not from an unending labyrinth of pipes.
And then I realize that I may not be moved to talk to Mary just because I am trying to be more conscious of the divine and because its a good way to kill time. It may be that a part of me I barely recognize is trying to get connected. I am giving thanks for precious water because something deep in my ancestral core knows that to worship at a well is to see the face of God.
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.
A flock of geese cut across my piece of sky as I walked into work this morning after five days away. Five days wrapped in a hermit’s cocoon of fatigue, an illness that bubbles up from the very place where body meets spirit, where mind confuses physical and emotional realities. I am left to piece together whether it is more a sickness of the soul or if I can fall back on the diagnosis that can be found in a typical physician’s handbook. What is really lying in wait – a series of dark nights that I must withstand or a virus in my bloodstream?
The geese were flying northeast, finding signs of an approaching spring that sent them over and beyond what still might look to be a hopelessly icy Hudson River.
And so, there are always signs of return and the recovery of the sort of life that is enjoyed in warmer and sunnier times. And so I am grateful that I remembered to turn my face up to see nature’s messengers and wait for my own internal messengers to reveal their secrets.
Over the past few weeks, I sacrificed myself to constantly undulating experience.
It was not the Zen recognition that I am one with the great waves of the sea, rolling in and rolling out in a constant dancing pattern to eternity. I was making no metaphors to help me realize I bear my own ocean of breath that is forever washing in and out of my faithful lungs.
No, I was letting myself be thrown into the air, high on untethered adrenaline and then allowing myself to get lost in the panic of the free fall back to earth (or the water, to drag that metaphor a bit further).
In a bid for financial security (the buzz word actually is meant to be “abundance”), I actually offered up any sort of peaceful control I might have had over my routines of sleep and recollection, focused work and unselfish love.
Ok, I am being a bit dramatic here, I know. Part of that is probably rooted in that I have written oh-so-little of late that I am just reveling in my ability to weave tangled webs of succulent, hyperbolic words. I guess I am just rejoicing that I caught myself before I really got lost. I came back to this space before all of my dear readers gave up on me. I’m ready to return to my novel before I decided to drop out of my writing group as a failed creative scribe.
But for all that I protest (too much…), I was still living during the last few weeks. I may have strayed from the plan I had intended for myself, and I may have been swinging madly between elation and despair, but it was still all an expression of some part of me.After all, John Lennon told us that “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
I was riding extremes, but isn’t that what living is, at least some of the time? It may not be the ideal – I am definitely excited to return to a more orderly lifestyle that supports dedicated contemplation rather than a fixation on “prosperity” – but sometimes I think we have to resign ourselves to riding the fluctuations of being and give ourselves over to that process.
All this is a way to tell myself that I forgive her for the wild ride. I need to remember that I must continue to take risks and trust that even if things do not end anything like I had planned, I am the stronger for having dared to stretch myself in a new direction.
Am I being a relativist, concocting lessons well learned so that I won’t have to feel so silly for temporarily being the mouthpiece for a company that was not what it purported to be?
Or am I wisely making the best out of a detour, reading it as an opportunity to understand and learn compassion for people who are driven by fears about money and wealth that are otherwise foreign to me? It is so easy to act from insecurity, to make choices based on fear of loss, of downward mobility.
I am blessed to have had this brief chance to see how these fears have played out in my own life and were able to take precedence over my true calling as a writer and a healer.
My dear ones, I will no belabor this awakening too much, but it was such an unexpected gift, this widened perspective. I guess the wonder potion that is Zrii still keeps giving even when its business prospects seem to have gone bust…
And so, these extremes of life… How can you catch a ride on these powerful forces to learn what you can and what you must? And then, how can you most gracefully step off the wild ride?
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.
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.
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?
We 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.