The year of Light.

2016 was like ripping off a giant, stinking bandage and exposing the raw, festering wound that lie underneath. Both personally, politically and globally.

Now we are all just gathered around, aghast, mouths gaping, wondering what the fuck to do and how could this be. When the air hits it burns. When the nasty, ugly and shocking truth arrives into the light we turn away from it . We let our head fall into our hands, we reach out to try and steady one another.

But it will be there when we turn back. We can’t un-see it. Between denial and grief, shock and rage, no one knows quite what to do yet. Some us will disown it. Others will know the magnitude of the work that lies ahead. Some will know that they’ve been preparing for this. They will know, at times, even when they don’t want to know.

We’ve been exposed.

The devastation is real.

There is no more hiding.

But in that, comes liberation.

Because we didn’t realize until now how much energy and effort it was taking to keep pretending. Pretending individuals were the problem or individual problems were the problem. Pretending our own personal dramas were not inseparable from or even symptoms of a disease from which no one living in this country is safe. Pretending good intentions and positive vibes were enough. Pretending that even the self-help industry isn’t a careful construct to keep you preoccupied with your own vision board instead of looking outside your window, or talking to your therapist instead of talking to your neighbor. Pretending we could change the world without really changing our choices or by fighting battles on social media with opponents whose stories we’ve never heard and lives we don’t understand. Or those who’ve shouted themselves hoarse at ears that cannot hear and will not move out from behind their screens to hear the drum beat of the war song building beneath their feet.

Now we stand face to face with a Truth we’ve created. Not you alone but all of us together. You cannot extricate yourself anymore.

Many will try. Many will cling to indignation.

“I have been wronged,” they will cry, “This is not my world, I didn’t choose this. This is not my fight.”

But we’ve all been wronged. We’ve all been party to hidden agendas and travesties we’ll never fully comprehend. Products of convenience, our own and others’. Sacrificial lambs to the gods of capitalism. Generations of well-fed but malnourished, over-stimulated but soul-numbed, brain dead pop psych spouters.

We are all each the victim, the perpetrator and the enabler.

And there is no where to go.

No one is coming to fix this.

She wasn’t the Answer. She wouldn’t have saved us.

There is no one coming to save us.

No matter who you decide to blame, no one is going to get what they are owed.

The jury we stand before is ourselves, our neighbors, our loved ones living and deceased, our children.

To forgive you, I have to forgive myself.

To forgive myself is to forgive you.

And I don’t know if I am ready.

I am still reeling. I am still angry.

So I keep looking. I keep turning around to look again. I look and look and look until my breath catches in my throat and my stomach turns and I hear my voice from somewhere else shouting “No, no, no, no, nooooooooo…”

Yes. Look. You must look.

We’ve been set up to participate in systematic genocide. They left us no other choice. The Light has been turned on and we are all stained with each other’s blood.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet.

This is not a sentence. This is where we begin to see.

There is no one coming to save us. No one to give back what rightfully should have been yours. Mine. Ours.

Not for the child who was abused.

Not for the family whose home has been destroyed

Not for the tribes whose sacred sites have been pillaged and robbed

Not for the mother who mourns her children

Not for the community who lost yet another innocent Black son

Not for the women raped and left for dead

Not for the daughter who was never protected

Not for the boy forced to endure systematic violence for an imperialist agenda that left him broken and abandoned him when he was no longer useful

Not for the man who can’t go to sleep without battling images of torture and death

Not for the trees that once covered this Earth

Not for the oceans once teeming with vibrant life

Not for the Falklands Wolf nor the New Zealand grayling

Not for the Rocky Mountain locust or the North African elephant

Not for the tropical rainforests of Papau New Guinea or Costa Rica

Or for the victims of the nuclear holocausts of Chernobyl and Fukushima

Not for the refugee who will never return home again

Nor for the exploited immigrant worker separated from his family

Not for the land and water destroyed by fracking across our country

Not for the home and the family I imagined for myself, for the ending of the story that began with such fierce unbreakable love. Not for the other children. Not for how many times my heart has broken.

None of it can be righted. Not of it can be returned.

All we have is this unrelenting Light that now shines upon all. Sometimes this is what mercy feels like. Didn’t you pray for the Light to come? Didn’t you call upon it? I did.

Didn’t you know that when you call upon the Light it will come? Didn’t you remember that what the Light does is reveal the deepest darkness?

Yes, there are those who have been calling in the Light for years.

And it is come. Don’t be fooled. 2016 was not a year of darkness but of Light.

 

We’ve been exposed.

The devastation is real.

But there is no more hiding.

And in that, comes liberation.

 

And possibilities of a new way. For what only what is in the Light can heal. And only we can save us.

The in between place: Sometimes things are just shitty.

I’m in the hard holding space.

The painful, restless, unknowing place of trying to hold more than a human heart is capable of holding without knowing how anything is going to turn out.

The in between space, waiting for each next breath, each next step, having faith that healing can happen, that peace is possible. The world feels so heavy and full of darkness right now. I grieve over the war and violence in the world, I grieve with my fellow countrymen over the unfathomable corruption and devastating policy-makings of our government, over the unthinkable and compounding acts of violence and what it means for the future of our children and our planet.

Violence. Oppression. Suffering. Helplessness. Rage. Grief.

My partnership has been in its own stage of painful metamorphosis. Kind of like how the caterpillar in the cocoon has to completely dissolve before it can change form… you really want to believe its going to be reborn into a beautiful butterfly, but for awhile its such indistinguishable mush. Sometimes your faith can’t help but waver somewhat. I mean, it just looks like mush. It feels like a mess. From your limited human perspective, it doesn’t look promising. From the outside, things look impossible. Except that something tells you “Hold on. You don’t have all the information.” And you have lived long enough now and seen enough miracles to know that they are always happening.

It’s been a hard waiting. It’s been a good while now. Breathing, believing. Praying. And waiting.

There should be a meme out there that just says “Sometimes things are just shitty for awhile.” Because ain’t that the truth of life? It isn’t being negative. Actually it feels quite liberating when you remember that its normal for things to suck for awhile. But then they get better. Then suck again. And then its wonderful. And not everything hard is necessarily something that has to be (or can be) fixed at the moment. Like the world right now.

I’m going to make that meme.

Speaking with a few different friends this past week, it seems a lot of us are cycling through a pattern of feeling totally overwhelmed and checking out. I know that’s been true for me. Because it’s just. too. much.

Last week, I had to log off social media and the news feed for several days. When I came back on, I read first about Colorado and then about San Bernadino. What is happening? And what, oh what, are we to do about it?

To be awake, to be alive is to feel the darkness of the world, the heaviness when it comes, but to be of service to the world is not let ourselves be swallowed up by it. So I teeter back and forth, trying to find my balance when one after another these blows keep coming. We can choose gratitude – and can I tell you how my heart is swelled in gratitude these past weeks?? – We can focus on the positive, we can seek beauty for I have learned that there is always, always something beautiful happening

But we can also learn to sit with sorrow when sorrow is warranted, rage when rage is due, grief where heartbreak is demanded. This is what it means to be fully awake, we can’t choose to be selectively conscious. It is the juxtaposition of feeling these simultaneous polarities. We don’t turn our backs on one or the other, we don’t go back to sleep. It is the seemingly impossible task of learning to hold them both, the light and the dark. To find stillness in the churning sea. In the face of a tidal wave that threatens to wash away everything we know and to still believe that whatever the storm takes or leaves in it’s wake we will go on. We will still look for love.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, neuroanatomist (that’s really a thing), author and stroke survivor (listen to her TED talk here) has said that it actually takes less than 90 seconds for an emotion to get triggered within the body, peak, dissipate and disappear. So anything more than 90 seconds it caused by our thoughts about the emotion. We feel fear, we instantly create a story about why we are afraid and what ifs and how the world is unsafe and we feel out of control, which creates more fearful emotions.

Feelings create thoughts, thoughts create feelings. These become the constructs of our reality.

This simple concept feel especially empowering to me right now. I can breathe through 90 seconds. Hell, I breathed through 22 hours of labor contractions and I learned you don’t waste that sweet spot in between, you take any tiny respite you can.

Breath by breath.

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Glennon Melton, of Momastery (whom I adore and if by any possible circumstance you are not familiar with her, her blog or her work, please give yourself the huge gift of introducing yourself) gives these instructions on how to respond to global trauma:

“1. BE STILL. Feel it. Listen. Pray. There is a word in my holy text: Selah. Selah means holy pause. The Selah is the space between what happens to us and how we respond to what happens to us. When we don’t take a Selah—we tend to respond from fear. Fear is never a powerful or transformational launching pad.

2. HERE I AM. This is the action after the stillness. This is when we feel centered enough in love to be fairly certain that our reaction will bring light instead of more darkness. We are ready. Love is our launching pad.

Stillness without action is not compassion. It’s more like pity. Compassion means your pain into my heart and back out through my hands.  Action without stillness can’t be trusted. It has no wisdom, no steadiness, no plan. It’s reckless. It’s oil on a fire.”

Let’s look for beauty.  Let’s find a little patch of the natural world and sit in it; by a rock or a stream, beneath a tree or prostate on the Earth. She is very absorbent, She can hold all of it.

Let’s tune out when we need to. Let’s do the things we love with people we love. Let’s do the things we love by ourselves. Let’s look around for someone who needs help and offer what we can for service to others is a great healing balm for the human heart. Let’s stay awake.

And let’s pray, pray, pray. (Or dance, or sing, make art or do what you do.)

Ask ourselves, “what is the next right thing?” and do it.

xo

Here ya go 🙂

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(For more good stuff read here: “What would happen if we let people be broken sometimes?” by renegademama.)

Carry on soldier.

What She had to tell me in the end.

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There is something about Fall. Something about the change of light, the movement of air, the fragrance of earth and bark and foliage that makes my heart feel a fullness it hasn’t felt all year. Something about this season reminds me of the passage of time more than any of the others; the simultaneous coming to a close of one era and the beginning of another. The darkening days lend a mood of introspection, the slowing from the buzz of summer activity, a cool breeze taking the edge of the simmering heat of the last few months – and I find myself sitting still a little longer, lingering by the open window and …watching the sky. I feel time moving.

In autumn, I always feel all of the autumns past. And it is at once an overwhelming gratitude, heartsick nostalgia and a profound awe. It catches me off guard and it always takes my breath.  How far we’ve come.  And all that is passing away as we speak. It almost feels like too much to bear.

Last week I hiked solo to the top of the ridge behind our house, a steep climb through the forest to a spectacular view of the valley with the river running down below and the one main road that leads through our rural community and on out to the sea. At the top of the hill has stood for a few hundred years an ancient, gnarled and sprawling magnificent oak. Whenever I have hiked this ridge, I have paused before Her in reverence; in the wetter seasons, reaching into the well of Her womb for the water that collected there.

“Holy water,” I said, anointing him and then myself. I remember it made him chuckle the first time I did it.  We were new and exploring, I was the wild and mysterious girl from the woods, we were in love and every single thing was pure magic.

We like to say it was She that brought us together.

One summer five years ago, on a whim I emailed this stranger to ask if he wanted to come build a tree house with me and live in it all summer. I said I knew the perfect tree. I was on a very serious kick to sell all my belongings and go and live out of doors, “off the grid”.  I was in that restless place of transition without having a clear idea of what the next stage of my life would look like. Recently I had picked up a book written by this interesting guy – a book which also contained his contact information.  I was bored and curious (a combination I have found leads either to stupid decisions or serendipitous ones!).

He wrote back. Thus began the two and a half years of correspondence that would eventually, finally lead him to my doorstep and “the girl in the woods by the sea” became no longer a mystery but now leading him up a mountain to the very tree that inspired it all, where we carved our initials (and later, a third set). Near Her roots we would bury a list of our heart’s aspirations for our life together as a family.

In the last couple of years, I have had fewer opportunities to visit her.  Days have been full and gone are the free hours when I could go get lost in the woods for half a day at a time. In the shorter walks we’ve taken through the woods with our son, the little Acorn Scout, we’ve watched the Phytophthora ramorum, the sudden oak death, sweep through the forest swiftly claiming one after the other, both the tan and the scrub oak. At first, just a black nodule here and there but within months hollowing them out and felling them like twigs. From time to time, I worried about Her.  I had seen the tell-tale signs high up on Her branches as well. But it was hard to believe that She could not withstand this too, for She had seen so much, She had stood for so long.

~

Last week I made the trek up the mountain for the first time since Spring. With the change in temperature, the bright red leaves of poison oak plant have begun to wither and recede again, making the way less perilous. I made my way up the mountain slowly, pausing to notice the filtered sunlight, the shift in temperature as I rose higher, the breeze as it sounded through crisp and drying leaves.

Reaching the summit, I came around the familiar bend and suddenly —

there She lay.

Half of Her tremendous weight collapsed across the path before me.  I could still see the freshness of Her wound where She split, taking smaller trees down in the power of Her wake. I stood unmoving.

Who knows when it had happened exactly, when the moment had finally come, when it was time to let go.  Had the forest mourned? Had the trees reached out their arms to soften Her fall? Had they bowed their heads to the great Matriarch, now Herself riddled with the disease that she had watched claim each of Her children?

How long had She stood watch over this hill? Hundreds of years of roots were not enough to protect Her. How long had She had stood with dignity even as the black death slowly ate Her from the inside and hollowed out all Her limbs? Now from where She lies upon her side, I can see how She held out to the very end. While I lived my life out below, She watched and waited patiently for the end to come. Lichen and moss still cling to Her like royal adornment, the emblem of our names now blighted with bulbous growth.

And I want to cry but I can’t and I am filled with shock and sorrow and I want to understand what it all means and I think of my partner and how hard and painful things have felt between us for awhile and how much we’ve grown since it felt like we were children clambering up to sit in Her branches. When She held us. When it felt like we were just beginning.

And I think of all the teachings. About non-attachment. About the impermanence of all things.

I want to cry but I don’t have any tears. So instead I find a foothold and lift myself up to rest my body against Hers. My hand runs along Her mossy trunk and I close my eyes.

Deep deep down, Her pulse still echoes. I slow my breath to listen.

She says: I am not gone. It’s just time to transform. My time in this form has come to an end, that is all. I am only changing form.

And then I see.

The forest does not know loss or grief. It only knows change. It only knows transformation.

It doesn’t know death, only surrender. Only becoming.

And I see.

That the sadness comes from the holding on. From the clinging to the old form past the time when it’s been worn out, expired and no longer of service.

It’s just time to transform. I am only changing form.

I am too.

We are.

And I want to cry or laugh or, or – something. But I can’t. My heart is too full.
So I just be still. I just be still and know.

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Don’t Go Back to Sleep.

Photo credit: skyand telescope.com

Photo credit: skyand telescope.com

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
~Rumi

 

I’ve been waking between 3 and 4am often for the past few weeks but not for the usual reason. My baby is sleeping soundly. It’s funny how this happens. On the nights I have the opportunity to sleep solidly through, maybe even 8 hours, something else wakes me. Sometimes it is just my mind in a random tumble of thoughts and I can slowly, eventually, find my way back to sleep again. But sometimes its more than that. Lately, I fall asleep thinking about my friend and at 3:30am in the morning I am awake again thinking about my friend.

My friend’s name is Orion. He turned sixteen a couple months ago. He is dying of cancer.

Each one of these days that slip away quietly into the night are among the last few he will spend here. Each of these dark hours that eventually lighten with the sun again, they are counted. They are limited. Each one matters more now to Orion and his family than they ever have. Because there is a deadline that is tangible and terrible and real. Most of us don’t get to know our deadlines even though we all have them. I’ve though a lot about what this means.

 

So I don’t try to go back to sleep. I get up and I go and sit. I sit with my friend Orion through the early morning hours.

Orion lives nearby but in my own living room I light a candle. I think of it as taking my shift. Sometimes I pray, though I really don’t exactly know how to define prayer. My heart talks without words. Though the purpose is unclear, I feel this is my work. To sit and breathe with my friend as he prepares to transition, to hold vigil, to hold space. And somehow this feels like the most that I can do.

And so I sit. And I wait for the sun.

And when the first light hits the tops of the trees across the ridge and I hear my son begin to rustle in his crib and let out those first small whimpers that tell me the day has begun again, I am so glad I didn’t go back to sleep. They are the most miraculous sights and sounds I could ever imagine.

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