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.

Worshipping at the Sacred Well

I really, really love water.

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.

dsc01624I 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.

photo Mario Corrigan, www.kildare.ie
photo Mario Corrigan, http://www.kildare.ie

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.

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.

Returning

everystockphoto_1020899_l

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.

Living in the Place Between Elation and Despair

dsc01119Over 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.”

dsc01122_2I 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?



Moonlight and Roadkill and Making Peace with the Past

imageafter, everystockfile.com
imageafter, everystockfile.com

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.)

dsc01228My 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.

img_2040And 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.

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.

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?

Winter Solstice: Mary, Mother Earth, and the Stories that We Tell

In the end, all we have is nature.

My teacher offered this wisdom during my healing class a few weeks ago, and only by going in the opposite direction, by dipping into myth and stories and ideas have I begun to understand the profundity of this statement.

I was blessed with the most incredible, nourishing Winter Solstice I could have possibly prayed for. The snow continued to fall while the Christmas lights glowed all day in the cozy house. I had the luxury of spending hours in my sacred little room: lighting my Advent candles, meditating, drawing, writing, discovering new territory in the realm of spirit.

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This December has offered me previously unimagined insight into the power of both the Solstice and Christmas.

For some time now, I have been experiencing visions of Mary. In them, she tells me that she is not just that silent, blue veiled vessel with the alabaster brow. She is the Mother who carried the weight of the world between her hips and who gave birth to a God. She is not some distant creature to be locked up in churches. She is a vital ally, a friend to all life. Mary is the supreme realization of the Divine Feminine.

Never before would I allow myself to get close to Jesus’s mom. A girl who got tangled up in all that Biblical stuff just because she was passively filled with angel dust? Not my style. Instead, I sought the Goddess in myth and legend, rock formations and prehistoric art. The statues of the blessed virgin that graced the churches I passed were just dull marble decorations that helped other kinds of people through their day.

But Mary has been insistent, and I realize how foolish I have been to refuse her. I now allow myself to drink deep her story.

Two phenomenal posts that I came across today, both based on today’s Gospel reading about the Annunciation, opened new doors of understanding for me: Christine at Abbey of the Arts and a blog that’s new to me, Magdalene’s Musings.

The more deeply I fall into the stories of the Annunciation and Jesus’s birth, the more overcome I am by their power. Suddenly it makes sense that these events would form the basis of a faith that endures 2,000 years later.

At the same time, my understanding of these miraculous moments is colored by the new “relationship” that I have with Mary herself. As she becomes something other than an iconic character for me, and instead emerges as a face of the feminine aspect of God, I realize how the stories that bind her to history are just that: stories.dsc01518

The time I spent soaking in Paganism and Celtic magic left me with a strong understanding of the way the Church strategically scheduled Christmas to coincide with a holiday as old as the earth itself: the celebration of sun’s return around December 21. The overlapping events and the connections between them are becoming increasingly clear to me:

The earth is tilting back on its axis so that the sun shines longer in the sky each day.

Mother Earth is offering up her Child, the Sun.

The Feminine Divine is making way in order to give us the Divine in human form.

Mary gives birth to the infant Jesus in a manger.

When I fully realize that the nativity story is not about shepherds and stars, but is instead a beautiful allegory for the cycles of the seasons, I arrive on a new plane of respect for Christianity and for all of nature. The interconnectedness of humanity’s stories with the basic laws of this earth make me stop and allow tears to fill my eyes for the incredible beauty we are all permitted to be a part of.

Did those events in Bethlehem really happen? I would not deny it. And if they did, I believe it was because God knew humanity needed to watch the power of his love enacted in human form. The passing of the seasons and the miracle of the earth’s rebirth of the seasons is too abstract a miracle for us to understand. What genius and power, to give us these holy beings, Mary and Jesus, to guide our story-loving souls.

solstice sun setI stood outside as the sun set on this shortest day, and I understood completely that the only sure thing is the natural world. The ideas, the living beings, the manufactured things, they will all fade away. Only the mountains and the seas, the sun and the moon will remain.

But still, I know I feel more connected to God and to the rest of this beautiful world better by holding in my heart these stories that we tell.

When Holiday Tradition Compromises the Earth

We recycle.

We compost.

We eat organic food.

I weep at the plight of the polar bears and I pray fervently every time I spot an animal that has lost its battle with an oncoming car.

And tonight, we smiled and laughed and forked over what was probably entirely too much money so that I could have the pleasure – and the guilt – of throwing this into the garbage can:

garbage

Even as the lovely man at the fire station carried our tree over to the sawhorses, I cringed. There was that oh-so-clever contraption that made enormous evergreens fit into humble family station wagons. We barely got any needles in the car and the trunk door actually closed. A gorgeous, full seven foot tree stands in our living room and the netting that will languish forever in a distant landfill sits in our trash after its brief, but ostensibly vital, use.

Life is full of constant compromise. A good relationship is all about meeting your lover halfway. A treaty between differing factions can only be reached through mutual give and take. There is the ideal, and then there is the reality.

Most of us cannot get to work without contributing to global warming in some way, even if we hate that our carbon footprint is growing in leaps and bounds. Those of us who do not grow our own food are so often stuck feeling contrite that the avocado and everything else in our salad has racked up more frequent flier miles than we have. But still we get in our cars, and still we eat lunch that was born in South America, and still we make a million little choices every day that mean the earth is forced to bear more and more abuse all the time.

Obviously we have to reconcile ourselves with our impact on the environment if we continue to live mainstream Western lives, but when are we compromising too much? I cut up that wretched Christmas tree netting as much as I could so that birds and other animals could never become entangled in it, but I am really doubting it will biodegrade even after Santa has made another million year’s worth of trips around the globe.

We work on our expanding our consciousness and enlivening our spiritual selves through meditation and prayer. We try to compromise as little as possible when it comes to the welfare of our souls and the love that we share with others. How do we find the strength to apply this sort of rigor to our love of our Mother, the Earth?

Taking the easy way out when it comes to personal awakening never works. Why do we continue to believe that thinking about the our beautiful, singular planet some of the time could ever sustain the most constant friends that we have, the ground beneath our feet and the air that fills our lungs?

I ask these question because I really have one of the answers, but I have all of the symptoms of being yet another guilt ridden drain on the planet.  In so many cases, awareness is 75% of the battle.  I am pretty sure that being aware of what is in the garbage isn’t helping anyone.

How do we begin to let this awareness really shape our behavior and make the external changes that, in this instance, are every bit as important as the changes we are going through within?

naked tree!