Still Here, Still Standing

14557_1308787279173_1215328008_30948435_7422599_nSome days I hardly recognize myself.

It’s not just when I look into the mirror and see some bald chick looking back at me.

Or that I spend an inordinate amount of time laying around and watching TV  because I don’t have the energy for much else, or may be experiencing a low grade depression.

It’s not my preoccupation with what’s going on with my body, or what’s going into my body, or what’s coming out of my body (yeah…maybe a little TMI there…sorry.)

It’s not even that my world has become so very small, cloistered as I am for the most part within the confines of my home.

No.

It’s that so many of the ways in which I identified Who I Am seem to be falling away, like it’s all up for grabs right now.  Everything from my employment to my appearance to my activities to my health.  Seriously, all of it.

And I’m learning to be OK with that, in a very “Shit, are you kidding me right now??” sort of way.

My biggest challenge is to feel safe while going through this disintegration phase. It’s kinda tricky.  A lot tricky, actually.  It’s forcing my roots to shoot deep deep deep into my foundational beliefs.  To actually question what is is I believe in – Who I believe in – and why.  Because right now, these beliefs are my grounding.

I love trees.  I’m a tree hugger from way back, and I’ve always related more to being a tree than a flower. (I started this blog back in 2007 because of my connection with a tree …you can read about that here.  And wrote again in 2010 about identifying as an Oak tree here.)

Picturing myself as a tree is actually beneficial.  As a tree, I remember to bend with the storms of life so I don’t break.  And if something does break off, it doesn’t mean I’m finished.  Dead leaves and dead wood should fall away.  Pruning is healthy for me.  Hardening off my bark ensures strength to endure.   Deeper roots help me to stand.

And this is good.

ONE DAY WHEN I WAS OLD

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years or so old,
I woke up an old woman that morning.
Not quite in body all the way, but close.
And also in mind.
And I thought, “This is good.”
For also, in the face I was changed,
a little bark-chipped and creased,
like a tree long-lived enough
after having been planted so long ago
by some winged bird
accidentally letting fall a semi-sacred seed
into some almost impossible place,
precisely the way most of us came to earth–
unplanned, and yet sticking to the place
where we were dropped,
growing, growing flowers and fruits
set into our DNA–
and this too was good.

I leaned through the window
of my bathroom mirror,
and touched her old, cracked face…
I soothed back her black hair
with fire opals
in its strands of white.

And I saw as I leaned in,
There were permanent diamonds
in her tear ducts,
those gotten from years of use
and pressure in dark places.

And I gazed at the body
she and I share,
and I saw that rubies
had grown into all my cuts
and that tiny mirrors shone
in all my widders and spalls…

and I saw that I was old
and strong
and delicate
and fierce, like a queen
who has ruled the lands within her reach,
not perfectly, but despite brutal winters,
she was still alive,
the heartwood hardened off just enough,
the tender capillaries still able to carry
the juice and the warmth.

And then, twenty-some years later,
I crossed the crone line,
wearing the tissue-paper crown
with the sacred words “Still here,
still standing…”
engraved upon it.
These words of triumph for all of us elders,
these words “Still here… Still standing,”
they’re the ultimate royal “Ha!”,
the ultimate para la vida “Ha!”,
to life, with life, all of life, filled with life.
Us, crossed now, the crone line,
para la vida, filled with life.

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years old or so,
I woke up an old woman that morning.
Not in body quite all the way, but close.
Also in mind, and this was good.
And also in the face I was changed
with all the marks of rings like a tree,
and this too was good.

I looked at my body
and saw that rubies had grown
in all my cuts,
and mirrors shone in all the widders and spalls.
And I saw I was old and strong,
like a queen who had ruled herself
not perfectly, but well.

And I leaned in and touched her old, cracked face,
and I saw the permanent diamonds in her tear ducts
that were gotten from years of hard use
and pressure in dark places.

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years old or so,
I woke up an old woman.
And I have been more and more free
ever since.

______________________

CODA

And so may it be for you.
And so may it be for me.
And so may it be for all of us.
Amen.
And as my grandmother used to say,
“Amen… and a little woman.”

_______________________

“One Day When I Was Old,” a blessing-poem by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Copyright ©1990, 2010, All Rights Reserved, including but not limited to electronic, performance, theatrical, musical, graphic, film, commercial, derivative. Uses: You are welcome to use this blessing poem in non-commercial ways without adding to nor deleting any part, just using the work in its entirety along with author’s name and this copyright notice attached.

Where The Light Is

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“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.  Because she believes in miracles, miracles begin to happen.  Because she is sure that her thoughts can change her life, her life begins to change.  Because she is certain that she will find love, love appears.” ~ Paulo Coelho

I took this photo the other morning while out looking at my garden beds.   Even though I’ve been growing them for years, Milkweed – and their seeds – have really captured my attention in the last couple of weeks.  All of the plants are currently filled with pods bursting with beautiful potential. On any given day I’ll find their seeds clinging to the tomatoes vines, climbing the lemon tree, or sitting on the earth like a little angel, just waiting for Someone to bury it.

To me, these seeds are particularly beautiful with their tiny filaments that help catepillar1.jpgthem “fly”.  How apropos, since they’re the sole nourishment for Monarchs.  Without these common, easy to grow plants, Monarch caterpillars wouldn’t have food.  Without Monarch caterpillars, there’d be no butterflies….and how sad would that be!?!?  Monarches are already disappearing by the millions. So even though I only have a few of them, growing Milkweed is one way I can help them survivr.

Seeds are miraculous.  Take pomegranates, for example.  A single pomegranate seed, planted at the right time, in the right soil, with the right care, will produce a tree.  That tree will eventually bear fruit – lots and lots of fruit – and each of those fruit will be packed with more seeds! Like, an average of 680 seeds!  That’s amazing!

We’re talking about 10s of 1000s of seeds produced in a single growing season from a single tree and it ALL comes about because one little dot was sown.

What mesmerizes me most about this photo (taken with my cell phone and unfiltered) is the little ball of light at the juncture of the filaments to the seed. It’s almost as if the seed is alive with energy.  I’m sure there’s some logical explanation for it, but I don’t care.  To me, this is miraculous.  I literally cannot stop looking at it.

Every seed is programed to become a specific plant, each after it’s own kind.  It’s impossible to plant a watermelon seed and get a zucchini.  And given enough time, a single seed can reproduce itself a million times over, feeding other life forms who – in their own way, and according to their own kind – will produce their seed and multiply.

What starts out so tiny and singular…something that could easily be overlooked, stepped on, mistreated or eaten (smiling)….has the potential to change the world.

Just like a single thought can change a life.

Thanks, Paulo.

When Night Falls

It was the Spring after 9/11, and her inner world was feeling much like the outer world being televised non-stop after the attacks – all twisted rubble and dreams up in smoke.

Losing her religion the prior Fall, little did she know then that she was just entering a Dark Night period would last a year or so.   Her marriage was in shambles, her kids (two rebelling teens and one seriously troubled step-tween) were spinning out of control, and she…

Well, she was one of the walking dead.

Suicide flit briefly across her thoughts on and off over the course of that year.  Why not?  What was left, after the end of everything?   She no longer knew herself,  her purpose, or God….if there was a God.

Surely, everyone would go on with their lives without her well enough.  Feeling too tired and in too much pain to go on any longer, she was also too chicken to actually do the deed.  Rather, she would ponder if there was a way for her spirit – what was left of it –  to just up and vacate her body, and then finally – FINALLY – she’d be free of the misery that seemed to follow her around, a phantom in the shadows ready to pounce.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly in the beginning, things got better.  Much healing happened while walking in those early morning hours when no one could see the tears streaming down her face from behind her dark glasses, or hear the self talk and prayers that babbled over her lips in whispery streams.   Some days, all she could manage was to put one foot in front of the other, moment by moment, and keep moving.

While the world recovered, albeit forever changed, she too recovered – forever changed.   And she began to care again.

It was enough.

It may be true that some of us have God hardwired into our brains, because over time, she couldn’t seem to grasp life on Earth without some sort of Higher Power involved.  One upside to leaving the Church with its dogmatic theology and hypocritical leaders:  For the first time in over 40 years, she felt free of any fear, guilt or shame in investigating other faiths and spiritual practices…some that were considered The Devils Work in her old belief system.

As she read and pondered and study everything from Zen Buddhism to Paganism to the rainbow of beliefs in the New Age, she cherry picked what felt right for her from all of them. If a belief system didn’t bring her peace, it wasn’t accepted.  If it didn’t generate a feeling of love and acceptance, it was rejected. If it didn’t recognize the inherent Divinity in all living things – be it human, animal or plant – she left it untouched.

Like a cool breeze blowing upon the one tiny spark left at the bottom of the ash pile of her spirituality, a sense of calm and well being fired off in side of her.  While life was still full of trouble and hardship, there was peace in her soul and a newfound hope that things could be different.

And THAT was when the magic started.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

to be continued….

Growing In The Garden of God

Years ago, a decade or more, I had a friend describe herself to me as a hot house orchid type of woman.  She was convinced that we gals are all like flowers…each of us identifiable with one type of flower out of the plethora of beautiful choices available. A floral representation of our spirits.

When I told her I didn’t feel like a flower at all, but like an Oak Tree, she offered to pray for my self esteem and any feelings of unattractiveness or lack of feminity I had.  And so, with tears in my eyes and head hanging down, I thanked her, because oh!  How I wanted to feel…to BE….beautiful and feminine, exotic and lovely, fragrant and desireable.  And Oak Trees, apparently, weren’t any of those things……

Fast forward to another lifetime.  To Now.

I’m am just finishing the last few tracks of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes CD series on the wise woman archetype called, “The Dangerous Old Woman”.  My God!  If it were possible to fall in love with someone by their voice alone, I am totally in love with Dr. Estes.  She has this amazingly warm, honey-toned voice filled with passionate expression and wisdom.  Sometimes I get so engaged in the sheer sound of her voice, that I have to shake myself out of this ‘zone” I get in, so I can really hear what she is saying.

I don’t have the time to do a complete review on this incredible, life changing work right now.  Maybe I’ll write more posts on it later.  However, let me say this:  For someone like me, who had almost no familial history passed down to her (all of my grandparents were dead before I was born, for example), this series has been gold! For the longest time I felt like I had no “past” to draw upon.  My parents were a somewhat typical 50’s generation couple: dad was a young and upcoming executive for a major manufacturing company and mom was all about creating the right appearances – both in our home and on our persons – to support that.  Even though I had something like 14 aunts and uncles, and more cousins than I could count, half of them were in the Midwest and completely unknown to me. The other half – the California contingent from Mom’s side – were busy doing what they always did at family gatherings:  The adults ate, drank and partied together while us cousins were stashed safely away in another part of the house to play.

It’s been while listening to the stories that Dr. Estes tells in her series that I realized just how much I missed out on.  For eons, peoples of  all cultures, all over the world, have passed down their collective experience and wisdom through the art of Story Telling…the elders to the youngers.  They did this while they worked in the fields, or around the pots hung over the campfires.  They did this while they did handcrafts and woodworking and tool smithing.  There were stories that covered every aspect of the human experience – from life to death to beyond.  I honestly can’t remember any wisdom stories shared with me as a young person.  Well, there was that drunken uncle pinching my newly forming breasts at Thanksgiving one year, offering his bit of wisdom:  “THIS is what the boys will be after!”

Sure, my mom – who was orphaned at 17 when her folks died a day apart – would frequently wax sentimental after a few vodkas.  I occasionally heard about Grandmas’ sewing, or Grandpas humor.  But no “Stories”, if you know what I mean.   Not like the ones Dr. Estes shares, from her own culturally rich heritage, nor the stories she’s acquired through her studies of indigenous peoples.  For example, the world is replete with fairytales that are shared – as if by magic – by many cultures, with only little revisions here and there.  They ultimately relay the same Truths.  The same Cautions.  The same Hard Earned Wisdom.  My youth was filled with the stories I got from books.  The adventures of Nancy Drew.  The occasional Bible story from children’s church.  And tales of life on the high seas, mostly lived by men like Captain Horacio Hornblower, and Captain Bly.

I’ve found myself soaking up the stories and myths on this CD series like a desert soaks up the rain! They’ve nourished my soul – touching me deeply in places that I didn’t even know I buried, and causing new life to bloom.

Back to being an Oak Tree….which I still feel like is a pretty good representation of Who I Am, only now – years and hard won experience later – I now celebrate and embrace!  Even more so after hearing Dr. Estes tell the story of the old tree from her village…a magnificent 100+ year old tree that – after finally succumbing to an incredible lightning strike that split her from top to bottom – ended up being filled with treasure.  Literally!  Countless numbers of items…from cards to tools to clothing to toys…that had found their way (either by winds or human hands) into the deep crevices of her limbs and trunk and roots over the years.  Some of these precious treasures – spanning entire generations of the village – had wood literally growing around them, as if in the safe keeping of a mother’s palm.

Women, Dr. Estes says, like Trees, are the Keepers of  Treasures.  Women, like trees, mature and harden and grow stronger through wild storms as well as gentle showers.  No longer frail, thin sapplings, the older Tree  – sturdy, scarred, shading, more fruitful – stands like a powerful Guardian of the woods.

Women, like trees, are the holders of Ancient Wisdom….

Last week, I had a dream.  In the dream, I found myself travelling through a village towards a steep hillside.  On the hillside, was a grove of giant trees – like Red Woods (my favorite) nestled close together.  As I got closer, I could see that the red bark on their massive trunks had been roughly hewn away and there were faces on them!  Gentle, heavily lidded eyes and strong, powerful noses.  Lips curled in almost smiles and eyebrows shaped like bridges.  As I climbed, I used these beautiful, magnificant faces as handholds and footholds to help me.  Up and up the hillside I went, my steps sure and quick.

When I reached the very top, I found myself on a path that wandered into the distance.  Within the first few steps, I came along side another tree – a smaller tree with thick greenery – that was absolutely buzzing with hummingbirds!  One particular hummer – as big as a sparrow – left her perch and flew right in front of my face.  I could see that she was an older bird…thicker than the rest…a little scruffy around the feathers, but her eyes were bright and her beak strong.  Her eyes!  They looked INTO me, not at me, and as if making up her mind that I was satisfactory, she allowed me to touch her…practically purring like a cat as she enjoyed my fingertips stroking her.  She tilted her head and pressed it against my palm and then quickly jumped to my shoulder where she nestled in my hair, and became my travelling companion.  I swear she was smiling.

It was here that I woke up, with a lightness of heart and a vibration of such pure happiness, I didn’t stop smiling for hours.  My dream told me a story that night.  An encouragement, of sorts, to use the ancient “wise woman” wisdom that was available to and in me, to  guide and support me as I continue  on my life’s journey.  I felt a knowing that everything and everyone I needed would be there for me – available to me so that I could take Joy with me as my companion.  Never alone.  Never without Help.  That even the Impossible was possible!

With the help of the Wise Old Trees.

Moonage Daydreams

 

Did I ever mention that I was a total David Bowie freak?  Oh Yeah…Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars …the Thin White Duke….Glam rock was one of my favorites looks – Silver eyeshadow, 6 inch plat forms, stand up shags, studded EVERYTHING….man, those were the days, huh?

One of the advantages of not having an internet connection at home is that I am now “forced” to fill in the blank spaces between this activity and that with something that captures my attention for more than – say – 5 minutes at a time.

Maybe it’s just me.  Naw.  It’s not just me. 

Have you noticed that the more time you spend on line, the shorter your attention span is?  I’m not talking about a few days here and there – maybe when you’re home sick or closeted in on a rainy day – where you decide to Cyber Surf until 3 a.m. instead of Channel Surf.  Speaking of channel surfing, I’m not much of a TV watcher myself….OK wait!

I’ve been meaning to write this list for some time.  These are my current TV addictions.  In no particular order:

1. American Idol
2. Hell’s Kitchen
3. Top Chef
4.

Oh.  Uh…That’s about it.  See?  I told you I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, well…I REALLY watch.  As in “No, I’m sorry I can’t see you tonight Sir Hunkilicious unless you want to come over here to couch potato with me.  See, Ben just threw Matty under the bus (or so he thinks) and I want to see if the girls are going to throw him back or not.”   Have I told you yet about Sir H?

WHY am I writing about Hell’s Kitchen again?  OH! Right!

ADD

As in my ongoing recovery from Attention (or is it Activity??) Deficit Disorder that was – perhaps – caused by spending too many hours online.  Clicking here, reading this, surfing there, viewing that.  For someone with An Inquiring Mind (and occasionally, too much time on her hands in front of a computer), the Internet is either the Bane or the Boon of existence.

And as we all know, existing isn’t the same as living.

While I am finding it challenging to squeeze in any sort of ‘responsible’ blogging (where did the days of Blogging Without Obligation go, anyway?  Is that even possible?) with emailing my friends and family, and preparing card readings (I got three requests just this week), I AM enjoying the freedom that living Netless on the home front is providing me.  Why, I’m doing things like actually sitting still with one project for more than 15 minutes!  Whoa!  And I’m finishing books that I start (do you know that I feel guilty when I would look at a pile of half-read books?), and going for long rambling walks for no other reason that it’s just a lovely thing to do!  I’m experiencing bouts of spontaneous culinary investigationism, visiting with neighbors more and spending hours with my chin in my hand, looking out through the trees limbs, and creating my future.

Now, I should add that none of this is really “new”.  I’ve been a recovering Over Doer for a few years now.  Ever meet anyone who feels guilty for laying around on a Saturday morning just to read the paper in bed?  After spending 50 hours a week on the work thing, and after 3 trips to the gym, a “fun” class or 2, and a trip to the grocery store, and doing laundry and errands and dinners with Special Someone’s and… Yeah, take a friggin EXHALE, would ya? BREATHEEEEEEEEEE

BEEEEEEEEEEEEE

For a long long time I was so relaxation challenged that it took some body part screaming loudly before I was “forced” to take some R&R that I really needed. Fortunately, I’ve learned – or retrained myself – to enjoy  “Doin’ Nothin” time as an activity (LOL) to be embraced with pleasure and a clean conscious.  Gone are the days of Sneak Napping, Stealth Lounging, and Cloaked Chillin’.  I can actually stay in bed for HOURS on a Saturday morning without feeling much more than a slight twinge of “isn’t there something worthwhile I should be doing?” rippling my skin.

…….

As I read back over this post, I realize something again.  Something very very important.

As technology continues to hurl life into Tomorrow at break neck speed – with our bodies like hosts for freakishly prolific and parasitic iPods and iPhones and Earbuds – it becomes more important than ever before for us to DISCONNECT.  We need to remember to disconnect to STAY CONNECTED.  We need to stop bombarding ourselves with news and music and emails long enough so that we can rest in the arms of Silence and hear our own heartbeats.  Our own breathing.  Our own souls.

Because our souls really are broadcasting to us LIVE every moment of every day.  And as things continue to spin out of control around us, we’re going to need that still, steady CENTERED place within….to guide us safely Home…..

Technology.

THIS is your American Idol

(EDIT!  I had a completely different Bowie song up…but after reading GoldenFeri’s comment, I just HAD to change it!  READY EVERYONE??? You know what to do!