Rising Light

Last week I noticed the lengthening days. This is not a surprise – we passed the solstice almost 4 weeks ago. The days had been slowly and steadily getting longer, but in such a subtle way that it didn’t rise to awareness. And then, one afternoon I was coming in from a walk just as the pale pink and orange colors of sunset were beginning to splash across the sky. The afternoon felt newly spacious. Entering the house, I looked at the kitchen clock. It was 4:45! The days have gotten longer.

I guess I didn’t really need to look at the clock to tell me that but it was nice to have my suspicion confirmed. After all, my mind has been subconsciously tracking the passage of the season. Now my body was sensing the rising light and rising to meet it in a new way. The burst of energy brought by the light was doubled by my delight at noticing it as if for the first time.

Last week, I also observed, along with the rest of the world, as the shadowy darkness of American exceptionalism clawed its way into the light. After feeding on a steady diet of fear, lies, and divisiveness for years, an angry mob attacked the US Capitol. As if that were not enough, the institutions designed to protect the Capitol and our representatives failed. This is a disappointment but not altogether a surprise. The dark underbelly of our nation — with its foundations of racism and violence, greed and corporate rule, individualism and separation — is demanding to be seen and acknowledged as it becomes obsolete, slowly but surely replaced by life-affirming ways of doing and being.

Watching news accounts of the events unfolding reminded me of watching the planes fly into the twin towers over and over again during the news reporting on 9/11/2001 and in the days afterward. Then, as on Wednesday last week, my body felt heavy and my mind numb – the only thought I could hold on to was, ‘this changes everything.’ I don’t know what or how or why but it is clear that, just like 9-11, this changes everything.

As disturbing as the picture is, we do well to not look away. These are our neighbors. Can we find our way to hold space to hold them accountable for their actions and also honor their pain? There is real suffering and discomfort involved in letting go of what you thought you knew. Growing and growing up is hard work. Some people put it off their whole lives. It seems to me the entire country is trying to grow and grow up right now. Some people are more ready for the work than others.

The country feels poised, perhaps for the first time ever, to live into its promise of liberty and justice for all — an honest, inclusive all. It won’t be easy and it won’t be graceful, but it is necessary and it does feel inevitable. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that, “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice”.

As I imagine myself lending words and weight to the arc of the moral universe in whatever small ways I can, I am grateful that we are in the arc of the celestial year that turns toward the sun. That is more than poetic symmetry. It feels capable of bringing some alignment between human will and universal action. It is helping me remember how and why and where to offer my own light and my own strength — to being whole and healthy for my family, our community, and our nation.

Meeting the Reluctant Prophet

Last weekend, I attended a workshop on the Divine Feminine with Mirabai Starr. Starr is an academic, a scholar of the mystical path in several faith traditions, and a woman deeply rooted in her own lived experience of her spiritual path and growth. Her ability to communicate the unnameable was inspiring.

Mirabai began the day by introducing the feminine images of the Divine from many traditions – Kuan Yin, Mother Mary, Kali, Tara, Shakti, Sophia…Each one embodies a tender and fierce unconditional love and endless mercy.  She invited us to lay down at the feet of the Beloved Mother something which does not serve us, which gets in our way. I offered up my reluctance to be seen and heard, my hesitation to put myself “out there”.  By the end of the day, the conversation had circled to our collective responsibility to the present moment and the urgent need to use this time to co-create the future we wish to live in. Mirabai spoke of the need for each one of us to find our voices and the work that is ours to do. She spoke of Reluctant Prophet Syndrome – the timidity that causes us to shrink away from using our voices and our hands on behalf of what we know is right.

I felt called out – and also somewhat relieved to know that the paralysis I sometimes experience is not unique to me. She even had a name for it.

As I have drawn closer and closer to announcing the arrival of my new book, Arriving Here: Reflections from the Hearth and Trail, I have been battling self-doubt, wondering if the work has meaning and purpose beyond what it has already offered me.

Of course, I know that it will contribute positively to others. Arriving Here shares my personal stories of finding purpose and guidance, grounding and inspiration. I hope and believe that my story will inspire readers to dive into their own lives with ever greater attention and intention. I believe this world needs each one of us to show up fully to the lives we are here to live. The book is an offering to each individual effort and a recognition of our collective potential.

Last night I dreamed that I was very pregnant. A single sharp contraction told me labor was imminent and then nothing further happened. In the dream, I waited and waited. Eventually, I woke up. 

I’ve had that dream before. It is a reminder to get out of the way – to let the process take over. We cannot be pregnant indefinitely. We can not be at the cusp of significant, or even minor, change forever. It is time to coach the reluctant prophet in me into service for a greater good.

After all, finding and giving voice is a recurring theme in Arriving Here: “I am meant to live in this time and place deeply, to notice, reflect, and share. This sharing is the work I am meant to offer. Gathering my thoughts, feelings, and questions into words to share in blog posts, books, and poems is one way that I can cast heat and light back out into the world.”

Arriving Here will invite new life and new stories into being and, hopefully, it will coax some reluctant prophets into offering their work and words into the world. A reluctant prophet, perhaps, like you.

May we rise like the sun, casting light and beauty onto each new day.

STOP: Dangerous Bridge

About ½ mile into the woods on a trail I have been running regularly since last spring, a rotting bridge straddled the creek. A sign, with a crude stop sign shape and the words STOP: Dangerous Bridge painted in red, was affixed to the handrail. Every time I approached the bridge, I did stop. I read the sign, contemplated the risks and proceeded, picking my steps carefully so as not to fall through the holes or the rotting wood ready to give way at any moment.

My pause before stepping on to the bridge and my slow progress across meant that I had time to look around. I noticed the height and flow of the water. I noticed the rocks that protruded and those that were submerged. I noticed the trees on either side of the creek and the darkness of the forest floor in this particular place with its dense canopy.

And every time I paused there, I had an extra breath to notice that crossing a divide takes time and intention. It can be daunting and it can be exciting – and, usually it doesn’t really matter where the crossing lives on the spectrum between “piece of cake” and “here goes nothing”.  The only way to get to the other side is to put one foot in front of the other until I reach the other side.

A few weeks ago, a group of volunteers replaced the bridge with a new one. The new one is lower, safer and well aligned with the trailbed on either side. It does a much better job of protecting human travelers from accidents and also protecting the stream bank from erosion. The new bridge is comfortable to approach, travel across, and step off. The last few times that I have run this way, I have appreciated the simplicity of the wooden structure and the craftsmanship of the rock cribbing on one side of the bridge. But I have run right through the creek valley without noticing the condition and contour of the earth, the rusty water, or the dappled sunlight. Without the dangerous bridge inviting me to pause, I have travelled through this place caught in the thoughts in my head instead of aware of the presence of the forest. I have not only missed the opportunity to connect with this bit of land, I have missed the opportunity to acknowledge the necessity of making each crossing with intention.

While I miss the pause, I appreciate the uninterrupted flow, the continuity created between the two sides of the bridge. The bridge creates unity. 

I am yearning for this coming together in so many aspects of our social dynamic. We need to tend to the bridges of connection in our communities and nation so that we may better recognize our interconnectedness. Despite our apparent encampment on either side of political or social divides, we are one human family. I believe that we––all of us––are more alike than we are different. And sometimes the bridge is safe and accessible, and the movement feels easy. Other times, the bridge is rotting and dangerous but crossing, and pausing to stand in the middle to take stock of the landscape, is the path to wholeness. 

Crossing

This bridge is a threshold,

a passageway,

Between there and here

between then and now

A place of transition

A posture of possibility

A mode of connection

A practice of trust

Can we? 

Will we?

How do

We cross?

 

We must build

from both sides

With hope

and faith,

Courage

 and love.

We must build

from both sides.

This Lake is a Mirror

This lake is a mirror ~ reflecting clouds, gulls, possibilities, sunsets and sunrises, the crescent moon, a sea of stars, and the shadow of my own face looking back at me.

The lake is a physical place as well as an emotional anchor. For six generations, my family has grown, learned, lived, worked, played, rested, and died here. There are memories everywhere – in the vase with my great grandmother’s initials and in her mother’s garden where I cut flowers yesterday. I remembered my grandfather as I set the vase on the table where he used to sit to do the crossword and I thought of my grandmother as I sat on the pier watching the rising sun splash colors across the water’s surface. As I weed the garden with my mom, I notice that we have been pulling weeds together in this bed for at least 30 years and we will surely be doing it again next year.

This lake is a shroud ~ covering blue gill, bass, lost golf balls, water toys, and secrets with thick layers of mud and plants, hazy water, and the blanket of time.

This lake is a container ~ collecting the raindrops, sweat, tears, laughter, dreams, and memories that fall into its welcoming embrace.

While so much remains available to be revisited and known anew each summer, there are changes to absorb each year also. This year, we greeted family members in the driveway with words and awkward smiles instead of hugs. We created a memorial garden and initiated it to its purpose with a small ceremony honoring a loved one who died this winter. With the help of a computer and an IPad on a nearby stump, those who couldn’t attend in person participated by Zoom. 

This lake is a witness ~ honoring the storms, the calm, the relationships, and the rippling, repeating patterns of the seasons of our lives. 

This summer, our daily conversations about our own homespaces, work, schools, and lives touch into politics, climate, covid-19, and possibility. But our words don’t carry us far; the future holds too many unknowns and uncertainties and there is too much noise, clutter, and fragmentation in our world to posit much. This morning, as we prepare to return home, I am grateful for the constancy and sustainability in this small bit of my life.

This lake is a living metaphor ~ telling the stories of the generations of insects, fish, birds, and people who are sustained here.

This lake is a refuge ~ grounding me in the same love, flexibility, and integrity that guided my ancestors and will support my descendants.

May my words and my actions honor this legacy.

Orchid Blooms

An orchid sits on my desk next to a window that draws my gaze outside from time to time as I work. My Dad chose this plant when I took him to the florist to pick out some flowers to celebrate his 71st birthday. One stem at a time, we constructed a huge bouquet to give to the residence where he lived and, only after I begged him to choose something for himself, he picked out a purple orchid in a square green pot. It reminded me of the orchids his mother (my grandmother) used to keep on the windowsill in her kitchen. When I asked Dad why he had chosen that particular plant, he replied, “I just like that kind of flower. I always have. Do you like it?” I assured him that I did. I liked that it elicited memories and that it felt both delicate and exotic as well as strong and durable, comfortable and familiar. I wondered if it held memories and emotions for my Dad also.

I watered the orchid each week when I visited Dad and its delicate blooms lasted for months. As summer turned to fall, the flowers died and the stalk which held them fell off too. When Dad died that winter, I brought the orchid home to my house.

For the last 3 1/2 years, I have moved this sturdy green plant from surface to surface trying to find the right combination of heat and light to nudge it into blooming once again. I have repotted it twice, watered regularly and offered orchid food. Then, in February of this year, as the hours of daylight began to grow longer, a promising shoot emerged and began to grow taller. Eventually little purple buds appeared and began to grow. As it grew, I began to imagine it would bear flowers by Dad’s birthday in April. When that anniversary came and went, I set my sights on Father’s Day.  By that time, there were more balls of flowers-to-be, but they were still closed tight.

Meanwhile, outside the orchid’s window, the lupine has popped up, blossomed and is now going to seed within a span of 2 months. I do not know about the botanical construction of either orchids or lupine but I trust that each plant is living out its cycle as it is intended. I am drawn to the contrast between the spare orchid and the lavish lupine field. I am struck by the dramatically different growth patterns, paces, and displays. And I am intrigued to notice that the plants elicit different emotional responses in me.

The wild, abundant, and frenetic lupine patch engages my senses and my sense of urgency. It seems to call me to action and ask what’s taking me so long. It urges me to take advantage of the energy of the season by giving my own energy to full participation in the explosion of potential. Considering all the world needs that are on my heart and at the forefront of our collective consciousness, the lupine’s call is alternately invigorating and exhausting.

Meanwhile, the molasses-slow orchid invites me to slow down and pay more attention. Its movement and growth are so slow they could be imperceptible. I am reminded that just because I can’t perceive the changes doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty happening. As I witness the protracted growth of the flower stem and buds, I recognize my own inner blossoming. Given the personal work that needs to be done to support our communal development, the orchid’s whisper is inviting and steadying.

Today, the lowest two flowers on the orchid have opened. I have been waiting, sometimes impatiently, for this for months. Now that it has finally happened, it all seems just right. The hummingbird is looking longingly through the window at the delicate new blooms as I admire the memories and teachings that they carry. Each flower has a delicate heart shaped center that must have been developing all these months, carefully protected by the outer petals.

 

May I always recognize that the teachings of the earth are teachings of the heart.

May the unhurried beauty and peace in these flowers support the beauty and peace within us.

May our own wholeness bloom in due time.

Solstice Blessings

At the solstice, I am awash in summer’s sensory bounty.

I follow my nose through the yard, inhaling the fragrant blooms of peony, rose, and lupine. Walking the freshly mowed paths through the field, I run my hands through the waist high grass at my side, tenderly touching and touched by the soft and gentle seed pods. Birds sing anthems, hymns, and chorales from balconies hidden by leaves of yellow and green.

I am dissolving into the familiar abundance. Surely, this is how life lives itself to death.

At once, something startles me to awareness. Little droplets of cool water kiss the skin on my hands and face. I pause to notice more fully but cannot really see or feel real moisture. The sky is clear, not a cloud in sight. The air feels dry, save for these curious and delightful pinpricks of coolness that fall here––and there––and there.

I often see and feel water vapor as rain, fog, snow or sleet but I have never felt it just suspended in the air. Yet, that is the only explanation for this sensation. On this crystal clear blue sky day, I can feel the micro-droplets of life-giving moisture in the air. These tiny, gentle blessings are so slight they might be imperceptible on another day and in a different frame of mind.

But today, with my senses alive to the season and my heart tuned to the mystery of life’s unfolding, I receive them with full awareness. What a gift to be invited to this mystery, to feel the cool water that enlivens this abundance.

The snap peas have grown another inch. The tadpoles have sprouted their back legs. The dragonflies have emerged. The peonies have bloomed and fallen to the ground in a single day. All this life is being nourished and, still, there is some for me.

In gratitude, I raise my hands and bow my head to receive this watery blessing, Invisible and Unknowable, Certain and Sacred.