Tag Archives: Beauty

THE MONTH OF DEEP DARKNESS

December 10, 2017

WISHING YOU A KIND AND QUIET DECEMBER…

…She closed her letter with this wish for us. The words jumped off the screen and lodged themselves in my heart which for days had been stressed, angry, afraid, and lost. Really lost.

I have only written two or three blogs this year. A handful of journal entries. Maybe a writing exercise here and there. What writing I did was mostly focused on writing  curriculum, powerpoints and handouts for the classes and workshops I led, working with educators examining Restorative Justice in Education.

The nature of my work calls me to invite, encourage and sometimes challenge educators to engage in self-reflection and to embrace some deep changes of heart and mind. I cannot do this if I am not regularly looking at the issues in my own life that obstruct or waylay my ability to remain in a heart and mind-state of kindness,  compassion and peace. I have to live very present, releasing resistance and fear, and embrace the Courage to live honestly, and to engage in the change that our world so desperately needs.

As the months of 2017 rolled along, everything seemed to get harder. By August, I was dissolving into tears at the slightest provocation. It became more and more difficult to even read the headlines in the news, none the less the articles. Never-the-less I was scheduled to lead three significant workshops in August. One of them was for 40+ school administrators looking at the attitudes and practices of Restorative Justice in Education — why they make sense and have the ability to transform school climate.

But in September I had no contracts. No longer distracted, no longer having to put one foot in front of the other no matter what I felt like, I rapidly unraveled.

I was lost. Angry. So very, very angry. Some days I didn’t even know what I was angry about. I wanted to climb out of my own skin. I found myself envying my dear mother who just turned 90 and probably won’t have to endure this world too much longer. The darkness was so heavy, I could physically feel it squeezing my chest and churning in my stomach.

I said to my husband, “Imagine if someone was incessantly running their nails down a chalkboard and no matter what, the noise won’t stop…that is how I feel inside my skin.”

Some days were better than others.

One day I was driving my mother to her eye doctor appointment. All day I had felt like a hurricane was battering my insides. It was violent, unrelenting, loud and screaming. But on the outside, as always, I was trying to smile and be cordial and do all the right things. It was exhausting.

On my way to pick her up I’d thrown an SOS out to the Universe…and now, as we drove down the road, a Bald Eagle flew over, briefly following my car… then moving on. In the Indian world of Animal Medicine, this is significant. It indicates that our prayers are being carried to the Creator.

And nearly every day since, some help has come including the quiet kindnesses of my husband and a homeopathic remedy called Rescue Remedy for fear and anxiety! (btw, it works!)

But most of all, this lovely closing wish in a brief note:  Wishing you a kind and quiet December.  In the moment that I read it, peace flowed over me, head to toes, and then began to fill me up on the inside.

It is the darkest month of the year. And given the state of the world, and the headlines in the news each day, it feels like the darkness is so deep that whatever light exists is obscured by deep fog. Even so, everywhere I go there are bells jangling and lights and sales and crowds… And I repeat to myself my new mantra:  a KIND and QUIET (i.e. PEACE-FILLED) December).

Slowly, I feel this heaviness lifting. I offer gratitude for the Light and goodness that is shining in the Darkness. I stood by the stream that tumbles down the bluff behind my neighborhood the other day, marveling at how during this monochrome time of year the water gets to do art. The ice forming along the edges and over the rocks; amazing, beautiful art that will be different tomorrow and the day after.  I released my heavy heart and all my worry and fear and rage into the stream and let it be carried away. And the water reminded me that “resistance is indeed, futile”. That the key is allowing the flow of my life, honoring my life.

I didn’t blog this year in part because I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to be able to write what would bring joy, and courage, and strength to my readers. I wanted to write something funny.

I had so little of any of that to offer.

But now, in the darkest month of the year, during the deepest darkness we have known in this country in a very long time, I offer you this little sip of hope; this little sprinkle of joy; this small peace: please create a kind and quiet December. Do what you need to do to make it so. Maybe if we all would be kinder to ourselves, we could be kinder to our partners and to our neighbors and to the tired clerk at the store. Maybe if we took the time we need to just stand quietly under the trees, or next to the frozen stream, or looking out over the city from the hill — the screaming inside the cells of our skin would stop.

No matter what those who currently hold power do to this world, there are people to love. No one can prevent us from practicing kindness, or choosing gratitude and joy. No one except for ourselves. Myself.

Wishing you a kind and quiet December. Wishing you a year filled with kindness. And may Peace fill up the space inside your bones.

 

 

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

January 19, 2017

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD…

You know the song…

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do
They’re really saying, I love you.
I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll never know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

…Actually though, the music that surrounded me was the whisper of my skis, the happy songs of some little birds flitting about in the sunshine, and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing softly through my ear buds as I glided through the woods…

I keep stopping, just to absorb the beauty surrounding me. Perfectly pristine white snow sprinkled with sparkly glitter stretches smoothly out before me. It is marred only by the ski tracks. Sparkling and blue shadowed, it covers the floor of the woods like a frosted cake–one can only guess what lies beneath the smoothly sculpted mounds and gullies. Here and there I spot the tracks of deer and tinier creatures. A rabbit. A squirrel? Some sort of tiny mouse, his long tail marking where he scrambled.

It is quiet here. The loudest sounds are my skis and the crow singing some happy crow song. Vivaldi is light in my ears, and I glide on. I top a small hill, and as my skis carry me down, my eyes rest on the trees. The white birch, touched by the sun, are like white neon poles standing among the rest of the undressed forest of dignified charcoal greys and browns and black. Here and there small groups of green-needled pine keep watch while the others sleep. As I glide by, I breathe in their breath and I am grateful for them.

The sun and the sky are a watercolor wash of blue and buttercream. A few clouds, thinly transparent stretch across the expanse. They look like they are melting into the icy blue water of the sky.

At the overlook, I lean on my ski poles and look down on the harbor of my city and beyond to the Great Lake of Gitchi Gummi. Such a busy busy world down there with its ships and train yards, tall stacks spewing white steam marking the  industrial plants, business buildings clustered at the center of the long narrow stretch between these bluffs and the water, and houses and highways and bridges spanning the harbor–little tiny cars zipping back and forth. The sun gilds the water golden. It is another water color painting.

“Remember this,” I whisper. “What a wonderful world! It’s so beautiful–so breathtakingly, achingly beautiful! Whatever comes, remember this. Show up seeing beauty no matter where you find yourself. Make it. Create it. Show up with Love. It is all around you, all the time, just looking for a way to flow into the world. Remember this.”

THE PRICE FOR THE FUTURE

December 6, 2016

THE FUTURE DOESN’T COME FREE–THERE IS A PRICE

The storm that snowed-in North Dakota has now blown across Minnesota, spilling into Wisconsin. All night the wind battered at the trees and leafless shrubberies; its howls given eerie voice across chimney tops and rain gutters. I got up this morning expecting to see deep snow piled up in drifts. But the storm split at the point of Lake Superior, just miles from my home. The snow went north and south–we caught only the ragged edges.

As I move through my morning, I am thinking about a quote I wrote down the other day  from the book, The Song Poet. Author, Kao Kalia Yang wrote: “…the price for the future is the present.”

When the week began I continued to carry a heaviness that had begun slowly over the past few weeks, a heaviness that was draining my store of energy. Each morning I stretched my will long…longer, on mental tip-toes, trying to snag the edges of happiness and joy so that I might wrap my arms about them and press them into my body. But I could only brush the edges as they sat shiny on the shelf high above my head. I was weary of the effort.

But Kalia’s words keep repeating themselves in my mind–“the price for the future is the present.”

I cannot retreat. I cannot hide. If I am creating in this present what will be in the future, I cannot stop planting seeds of hope, seeds of wisdom, seeds of truth, seeds of beauty. I must water these seeds–or there will be no harvest. No hope, no beauty, no wisdom born of truth honestly faced to guide us tomorrow. I cannot shut my eyes, but must keep them wide open, searching for even the tiniest gifts of loveliness and laughter that bestow  upon us a little sip of joy. I cannot close my heart, but must keep it wide open so that the flow of love can fill depleted tanks of any who may have need among those with whom I live and move and share my being.

I stretch my will again–no halfhearted effort this time–I snag the edge of Gratitude and hold it close…for the small comforts and privileges I mostly take for granted…for the big things that I oughtn’t ever take for granted. I take myself out for a walk in the grey light of a new winter. I stand by the waterfall where the creek tumbles down the bluffs a few blocks away from where I live. I throw my arms wide and release my little prayers of gratitude, a kaleidoscope of butterflies spiraling up into the heavens.

I smile at the water. I smile at the sky. I smile at the trees. I lean lightly against a cedar. I watch a little squirrel looking for where he buried his morning snack. I listen to the birds gossip. I watch what I think is a Raven playing in the wind. I think of my grandsons. I feel my belly waking up wondering what’s for lunch and remember I have leftover soup in the refrigerator.

Holding grief and rage in equal balance with love and joy is a high wire act worthy of Cirque du Soleil.

 

 

 

 

SPRING SONG

SPRING SONG

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March 20, 2016

I saw two robins in the slush during our Winter’s final tantrum the other day. They were fighting over what looked to be a worm. It had been raining hard in our part of the city, while snow buried everyone up over the bluffs. Our basement was leaking, proof that the ground was saturated and the earth soft–we knew this because it was easy to pound the metal stakes into the ground to put the deer fence back up around our garden. The tulips were pushing up above the earth–a beloved delicacy for the pregnant does who wander out of the snowy woods into the neighborhood where the snow has retreated, looking for the special treats they crave. So, it might truly have been a winter fattened worm escaping a flooded den. Do worms hibernate in dens? Where do they go when the ground freezes up? The scrawny robin won.

When my children were young, we went for our first ice-cream cone after we saw our first robins in Spring. It was a tradition. But I’ve become lactose intolerant. I bought some fresh strawberries instead that afternoon while it rained, and the school children were at home having a “snow day”.

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This morning the sun came up blazing rose-gold, announcing the first day of Spring. It is streaming in through winter streaked windows, inviting us to fetch our overshoes and go for a muddy trek in the hills. I am making fresh ground-buckwheat pancakes. David is frying bacon. There is a pitcher full of Green Smoothie on the counter filled with pears and pineapple, grapefruit and greens, ginger and celery and cucumber and avocado–we’re getting IMG_3258fortified for our Sunday migration into the bluffs. There are a flock of Redpolls taking turns having breakfast at the feeder outside the kitchen window; getting fattened up for their migration to their summer home in the Arctic–true northerners after my own heart!

I’m going to buy some daffodils from the Market today. It’s a tradition. A vase of Sunshine on my table. Last week we found some pussy-willows just beginning to consider opening up. This week they will be ready. Maybe we’ll find some today as we slog through the mud and navigate the swollen streams in the hills that climb up to the bluffs. From up there we can see our neighborhood laid out like a toy town. Beyond lies the harbor, the bridges, the Lake. We can see all the way to Wisconsin.  We’ll gather some pussy-willows, and fill up our house with Spring. Tonight we’ll go grill steaks at my daughter’s.

Tomorrow we’ll clean out the closets and put away the parkas and the skis.

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LIKE A MATCH STRUCK

November 20, 2015

MORNING SONG

The Earth spins, and we turn from the stars and the deep dark of space into the grey light of dawn. I watch it come, slowly, melting the dark. There is pink now, streaks of watercolor across the dove grey sky. The songbirds are waking up. And then the sun scrapes the edge of the world and ignites the whole sky–a raging flame of orange and rose, shot through with bits of blue and violet. A flock of geese wing their way above the city, dark silhouettes against the flames. Like a match struck in a darkened room, the light flares, and then settles to its task. The flames fade as the Sun leaps over the horizon. The dove grey of dawn slowly becomes a thin, watery blue, darkening and deepening as the Sun climbs into the trees, and then sails over the rooftops of the neighborhood.

It is the fifth day of rain. Piles of storm clouds have sealed off my corner of the world. I sit at my window with my cup of tea, watching the world turn into another twilit day. But I remember; I remember when the sun scraped the edge of the world and the sky burst into flame.

 

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GENTLENESS AND GRACE

June 3, 2015

BECOMING GRACE; LEARNING GENTLENESS

I did it! I completed my 21 day detoxification program! The program required I abstain from eating foods; all nutrition was juiced, or made into healthy, cleansing pureed soups. There were also supplements to take. I stayed nourished and energized, but my body was allowed to focus it’s energy on eliminating built up stores of toxins, and to rest and heal. There were detoxing baths, lymphatic drainage massages, connective tissue healing massages, kidney flushes, a liver flush, colon flushes (colonics)…  It was intense. I went through two healing crisis where I was down for the count for a day; and a few days of lowered energy. Otherwise I felt good. I lost about 15 pounds. I learned a lot.

Because the program encourages ending with a liver/gallbladder flush, my colonics therapist lent me the book, The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse: An All-Natural, At-Home Flush to Purify and Rejuvenate Your Body by Andreas Moritz as it contained much more extensive information and better directions for doing the flush. Previously I knew very little about the functions of the liver. Reading her book I was astounded! Thinking like so many, that my liver is just fine and dandy unless I develop obvious symptoms of difficulty or disease, I had no idea how many small “hints” my body already is showing of a congested and unhappy liver. Having known people who have had gallbladder surgery and witnessed their pain, I did not suspect that I might be carrying around a load of liver stones of my own. I was. It was remarkable to experience passing (painlessly) literally dozens. According to the book, after the initial flush, one should do a liver flush once a month until no more stones are passed. I’m going to take this very seriously after witnessing what I was already holding and just how incredibly important it is to have a healthy liver!

I also learned a great deal more about colon health. I have paid only minimal attention to these two major organs in my body. But I now realize that they are the two organs most directly linked to our health; the cradle where disease is first spawned, and most linked to the negative aspects of aging. I learned that nearly all other organs and functions and systems in our body depend on these two organs to keep the rest of them functioning and healthy.

I think the thing I appreciate the most about my experience, though, is how much more connected I feel towards my own body-self. I feel kinder, gentler, more compassionate toward mySelf. I feel gratitude toward my body and it’s incredible wisdom and what it allows me to experience and do. I feel contrite at how much I’ve taken it for granted and how I’ve abused and warred against mySelf all these years. This first came forcefully to my attention early on in the program after my 2nd colonic. Determined to make this detox work, I was militantly going to make sure I got all the toxic garbage out of me. Directed to massage my abdomen during the colonic, I aggressively kneaded my colon and went 30 minutes longer than the average colonic. Afterwards, instead of losing weight, I gained two pounds. By that afternoon I was quite ill. The next day I could barely make it to my lymph massage. My therapist is a very wise, intuitive woman. After listening to me she told me that those extra 2 pounds of water had been reabsorbed into my system along with probably a lot of toxins–hence being so sick. She said, “Mary, you were to GENTLY massage…more like just laying your hand on your abdomen to encourage release. The idea is to relax and release.”

I realized then how difficult that has always been for me; to allow my body to do its work rather than beat it into submission. I wasn’t very good at listening and learning when not well. Instead I would be angry and feel betrayed by my body. It is time to call an arms truce and make war no more; to allow the flow of Life in and through me and all around me. To simply let go…  To enjoy who I am and be gentle and merciful and compassionate. I realize how much easier it will then be to be kind and gentle with others.

In her book The Call, Oriah Mountain Dreamer proposes that each of us have come to this Life to learn and then to teach (because after all, we can’t exactly teach something we haven’t learned or experienced, can we?) one primary attribute–one that can be summed up in just one word. Years ago as I read her account I had only to think for a moment and I knew immediately that my special word is Grace. This became a central theme in my personal journey.

GRACE: Favor or goodwill (kindness, kindliness, love); forgiveness, mercy, pardon; gentleness; elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action.

First to learn, then to teach; but I have also learned that the most grace-filled teaching is that which is done simply through living out what we believe.

In Native American tradition, the energy (medicine) of the Deer is Gentleness and grace. Where I live there are a lot of deer in the neighborhood. Often they wander through my yard, and occasionally when I walk in the woods in the hills above my house I will come across a few; sometimes I have even walked unwittingly into the midst of an entire herd of 20, 30 or more. It amuses me that too many times to be a coincidence, deer will walk into my space on a day when I need a gentle reminder to be gentle, to be kind, to be grace.

Now and then some light breaks through regarding having that grace for mySelf. Going through this Detox program was such a time. It was a pivotal lesson. I feel differently toward mySelf and my body. I will care for mySelf in a way I haven’t done before, and I will accept what and who I am with myIMG_7349 glory and my limitations, my beauty and my wrinkles, my strength and my weakness, my successes and my failings, my growth and my ripening.

I am becoming Grace.

And, beginning today, I get to re-introduce myself to chewing real food! Today I made a salad. It was delicious! Tomorrow I get to also have fruit! A mango! An organic grapefruit! And Sunday I get to grill myself a piece of salmon! Oh joy!

You know what though? Chewing salad is a lot of work!

CREATING A NEW WINESKIN

May 5, 2015
(I wrote this 3 weeks ago while traveling to Chicago on the Megabus. I thought I had posted it. Today I began a new post and then realized that I had NOT posted this from 3 weeks ago! Eeeek!)

NEW WINE INTO NEW WINESKINS

My husband and I are preparing to embark on an exciting, but no doubt difficult adventure. We are going to do a 21 day Intense Detoxification program that includes a nutritional component of very healthy green juices, herbal cleansing teas and soups; body work to aid in eliminating the toxic waste that has accumulated and gotten stuck in the organs and tissue of our bodies, and self-care through walking, resting, meditation, stretching, detoxification baths and so on. It’s not difficult once you piece the information together and line it all up on a calendar, but that has taken some research and work to accomplish. Of course, then there is the doing of it.

Fortunately for us we have been making changes in our diet and lifestyle over the years, so we don’t anticipate that it will be traumatic, nor that we will have to radically change anything once we have completed the 21 days of detoxing and reintegrated into normal eating habits. There will be a few minor adjustments to our diet where we have grown lazy, or where we may notice sensitivities that weren’t apparent in our customary day to day diet. Also, and maybe because of those changes we made over the years, although we are having some difficulties, we are not in the midst of a scary health crisis. I don’t wish to wait until that point.

I have been frustrated with the health issues that I have been developing over the last few years; issues that regularly get blamed on the aging process. Screw that! From what I have read and what makes sense to me is that the reason we experience these things as we age is because our body is wearing out from too many years of overloaded systems. Bodies, like houses and cars and tools, if ill-cared for, or subjected to environments and forces that are difficult to “weather”, will wear out and deteriorate faster than those well cared for and maintained and kept in optimal condition.

With our stress saturated lives and all the unnatural things in our soil, our water, our air and our food it would be difficult to maintain a toxic free body even if our lifestyle and diet deserved an A+ for health consciousness. Recently I began to study more about the symptoms of toxicity in the body, and what to do about it. I am “textbook”. What I am reading and observing in the people around me is that indeed, much of what we attribute to aging is about bodies loaded with natural and unnatural  toxins that it can no longer deal with. Eating “better”, or exercising more by themselves aren’t going to do it. If they could, I would be in much better condition than I am. So I’m going to do something about it. I told someone when I was turning 50 that I refused to “get old”. “Not gonna do it,” I said. Now I’m 60. Still not gonna do it. At least not in the traditional way and just gradually wear away. Or rapidly wear out.

As I was preparing my lists and calendar and reflecting on the benefits I expect to experience from this detox program I thought of a proverb that I am familiar with; “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (New Testament). Old wineskins have been stretched to the limit as wine fermented inside them and then dried and became brittle. Reusing them would risk causing them to burst from the pressure of the fermentation process of the new wine.

Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but it made me think about how often we do this sort of thing–we try to improve a situation without first attending to the underlying cause of the difficulty–digging out the roots, cleaning it up, repairing the foundations.  We “look for love in all the wrong places” because we don’t know how to love ourselves, or are unwilling to do so. We look to the approval and rewards that others will give us to bolster our self-worth without believing in ourselves–so our sense of worthiness is fleeting and can evaporate quickly. We might go buy new clothes to feel better about ourselves, but without attending to the body we are putting them on. It’s like getting all new furniture without cleaning the house. Putting perfume on without taking a bath. Like the ruptured wineskin, the new situation or relationship or purchase is spoiled because we haven’t attended to the underlying issue that is problematic. We haven’t prepared a new wineskin.

I realized that my bafflement with why I would still have some of the health issues I do when I have done so much to improve my diet, my exercise, my attitudes and thinking was directly related to not having helped my body clear out the garbage left from years of bad habits, poor food choices, chronic stress, anxiety, negative thinking, etc. Having developed congestion in body organs sometime past, they can no longer do their job efficiently or thoroughly, and so the toxic waste of my cells, along with the toxins introduced into the body, accumulate and begin slowly to wreak havoc. Despite the positive changes, my body cannot adequately deal with what has fallen into disrepair, and the hidden stores of toxic waste. I have made new wine, but my body can’t utilize it efficiently until I clear away all this old stuff, creating a new wineskin, of sorts.

Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made! I am amazed to realize that our bodies have, in a sense, the same service functions we see played out in the world around us. Plumbing systems, garbage collection systems, super highways that all these cell workers travel on to take care of the business of keeping our bodies functioning at as optimal a level of health and well being as possible. And like those systems out in the world around us, they can develop blockages and traffic jams. Consider what happens to a city if the garbage collection system goes offline or the dump site is full and overflowing! If the superhighway gets congested and the emergency vehicles can’t get through, what then? If the sewer system backs up?

I am learning another level of what it means to love and care for mySelf, honor mySelf–this body that is the house where my eternal, divine spirit dwells. I like to think about the intelligence of these cells in my body, how they have specific purpose and yet somewhat a life of their own, too…choosing at times to do things that are not in the best interests of my body as a whole; or playing the hero and going above and beyond their job description to keep me going. I think about how these cells are me, and I am part of them, and yet, we are also separate. And then I think about being a cell in the body of the Creator, and the Creator being part of me, we are combined together. And I think about the Universe…maybe it is a cell in the great body of an even greater Creator…  how far does it go? Infinity…