Not so much by relentless hammer blows—
the rubble pound of life,
rather by wind that blows
‘cross water, skipping, skidding, rolling,
smoothing over without care or heed the many edges of things.
Washing past what cuts, what causes to bleed
in sprays and stings, in the steady pulse of waves heading toward land, or in
strong undercurrents without end
wearing things down, leveling them out,
the jewel refined,
the patina rubbed in, shined into the stone.
Change comes slow,
does not relent or flinch, hitherto howls and moans,
sings its wearying song.
All the jagged lines, the gouged holes done in
by the slow increment of time,
the tic toc of year upon year pushing against,
wearing down both stone and skin
And one day, surprised, you wake up
after you’ve become transparent enough,
and the beautiful thing inside,
the truest gem of shimmer and light,
rises up and up and flies.
It seems entirely ironic, yet appropriate that I should land on an old wooden bench flanked by a sign that’s written with the words: “End of Trail”. I am sitting in the middle of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon dwarfed by prehistoric cathedral like rock formations of crimson colored basalt, ashen gray tuff, and weathered copper green clay stone–six million years of history embedded in the stone walls around me. I feel like am being watched.
September here bakes the clay, burns your skin, but for the dry gusts of strong breeze that envelope you and stroke your face, play with your hair. It feels delicious and I am suddenly and overwhelmingly taken with the desire to meditate. I am being seduced and played with as each whoosh of wind pushes itself up against me; as I am sung to by leaping grasshoppers as they chirp happily away in the brush.. I close my eyes. I am near approaching heaven in this one magnificent moment.
Life and death and life again. Breathe and I find myself hurtling back in time from present moment of sixty years on this planet. Back, back through my 50’s and I am sitting with friends blowing out the candles on my 50th birthday cake. Yanked again quickly through years of my 40’s finding my way in a brief marriage, the beginning of long term chronic illness and near death that crossed into my 50’s. Now in my 30‘s asking life who I was, a single mother, life lived on foreign shores, losing my father. I‘m now returned to my 20‘s, a young wife and mother full of responsibility. My life had been neatly mapped out, or so I thought. Answers were easy then. Here I am in my teen years listening to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, sneaking out the back door late at night, writing poetry full of first love, angst and anger and war. A girl now, I am living in my parents house, running out the door to play with my friends, building rocket ships to the moon in a cardboard box, peering into a juvenile microscope in wonder of the world beneath the glass or gazing into the night sky, able to name every star formation while dreaming of time travel and parallel universes. Going further back I am a little girl of two standing in the doorway of a big white house watching men in white coveralls as they brushed lemonade yellow coats of paint on the kitchen walls. And here I am an infant lying in my crib watching my parents and grandmother tiptoeing through my green walled room on their way to the kitchen. Pulled away, I am floating inside my mother’s womb. It is so silently peaceful here, and the whoosh whoosh of her beating heat reverberates throughout me.
All this imagined in the space of a moment or two, I don’t know, I lost track of time as I hurtled out my mother’s womb into the silence of life between lives. Floating again for a time, as if waiting before being yanked back and back past lives and lifetimes of great pain or torture, laughter, aloneness, families, starvation, drought, abundance, death, dying, war–all the million and one things that comprise a life. I am pulled past planets, racing through the Milky Way and galaxies and life ejected from unimaginably hot and violent nurseries of forming stars, sucked backwards in a colossal explosion of light and fire as it reels backwards upon itself into a singular pin point of light.
Silence. Nothing. A void where neither right nor wrong exist, without form.
There is a dream going on, many dreams like plays on multiple stages. Am I the dreamed or the dreamer? Lifetimes and galaxies, universes and all matters of form rolling out in thunderous sharp cracks and deep bellows of hearty laughter, bells in every kind of clang and ring were singing and lightening splintered and split through each dream, each splinter a different dream of form and being. Electric life force dancing, deciding here to become this thing or that, dancing in the wings of a bat, the beating heart, the wind’s roar, the cry of an infant in his mother’s arms. Again and again expanding and animating, contracting in life and death of everything that is.
Everything already exists in this void. Dreams upon dreams upon dreams, coming and going, passing in and out, rise up, fall down again from this primordial soup. It’s all there.
I still feel the wind. I feel the hill I sit upon undulate and roll beneath me, and I give myself to the possibility that ground beneath me might dissolve, that whatever molecules and atoms that hold this whole thing together might suddenly change the dream. And I am okay with this. Rivulets of sweat run down my backside then rapidly evaporate into salty stains. I am not aware of time but I feel the sun changing in front of me while I dream. Not a bug or a fly of distraction lands on my skin, or maybe I just didn’t notice.
Slowly I open my eyes. The furnace like heat of the day is settling and the sun casts long shadows across striated green hills. Arising from my position in front of the “End of Trail” sign, I begin a meditative descent on the trail towards the car, as I imagine how easily rooted we become in whatever imagining we each find ourselves. People, tribes and whole nations dream, divided one against the other, aiming weapons and hate at anothers dream. “My dream is better than yours,” we say, “your dream is wrong”. We are all sleeping.
I am taking a lesson this day from the whole of the natural world around me. One tree does not attack the dream of the other, but waits in accepting silence for the axe or the lightening strike or fire. One mountain does not fight over land with another. If there is coalescing of space or place, or life is to be snuffed out like the candle’s flame, it is done in the natural order of things…nature giving up its life when the appointed time of dreaming ends.
Sitting outside the dream for the briefest moment startles me out of my suffering. I do not make appointments with this inexplicable event but am chosen by some cosmic witch doctor who decides I need a good jolt of caffeinated double shot juju to come awake or heal from attachment to another’s dream. Who knows exactly why? Maybe I’ve just been doing a whole lot of going along to get along and need an icy cold cup of water thrown into my face. Maybe it might be my intense suffering or pain that calls it in. Whatever, it always arrives totally unexpected, unbidden, unsought. I am always left changed, shaken out of doldrums and/or a brain run amok. It alchemicalizes my existence from complaint to holy gratitude, it rewires my brain, exchanging the everyday profane for the mysterious sacred. Life suddenly is realized for the Holy Grail that it is, and I can see myself anew. I look into another’s eyes and come to see myself in a different way. It is as if I am arriving on the shores of life for the first time.
Apparently, I am having an interesting life between lives lately. The time between sleep and not fully awake has taken on a life of its own.
Stuff I need to know, I suppose, shows up, talks to me. It’s like I’m in school again sitting at my desk, taking notes, listening. White sheets of paper waft down from some other realm with questions on them. Is this a test? Am I imagining? I hear distinct words in my ear. I see things I wasn’t trying to see. And it takes me by surprise when I was just trying to get in a few more winks before stumbling out of my bed. In those moments, I suddenly get it—it’s an aha or eureka moment where truths become more tangible for me rather than just reading written words on a page.
Maybe these little visitations are showing up in the early hours because I am too thick or opaque in my waking hours while fifty other things muddle through my head; or where there is the risk of poor message recall in my dreams while I play telephone trying to decipher. These understandings, visions and voices are never predictable, but surprising when they do show up.
This morning I was in the classroom again. Today’s lesson presented itself before me as I understood the truth of real self, who and what it represents, and who I am in my most intrinsic being-ness. The ocean appeared, as it were, on the chalkboard, vast, watery and unfathomably deep, and I understood it as metaphor of that which I am where stillness is, where nothing is disturbed–I Am That, while above waves are crashing and black storms cracking. There were a tsunamis rolling across the horizon towards land and life as it was known would be no more. I was not this. I understood in this that the waves, the storm, the spaces in-between—the lulling calm intersecting the waves, and the tsunamis were my life—but they were not me even when I believed they were. I was the one underneath it all watching, observant, aware, quiet. Yet there was complete permission in the experience of the storms and waves. I saw it was okay, the emotional life of my life, its pain, its joys, its numbing, frozen places, the spaces in-between, the everything that was happening. It’s just my life, that I don’t have to fight it all, for whom I am beneath the storm remains undisturbed, holds space for it all. It doesn’t mean I’m less or more than based upon what is happening on topside of my days.
Then another thing arose on the horizon of my listening and seeing, the words, “Your thoughts activate the earth.” I realized deeper I am not my thoughts either, but they hold sway over my world as to what appears or shows up in it. My thoughts like waves that come and go, certain habituated thoughts that create patterns and grooves in my life, in the lives of those around me.
I suspect we are more powerful than we know. That our collective thought patterns when amassed over time and space hold sway as to planetary events, weather patterns, global and earth changes. Maybe the tsunamis that we create with our minds or the literal or metaphoric events that befall our lives are necessary in order to clear the deck for bigger changes to come as a kind of answer to our struggle with letting go of our outmoded, no longer useful patterns in thinking. Otherwise, our lives become stagnated and even stinking.
Our lives like waves that rise up, then fall, rise up again and the cycle goes on, all the happy and sad, the tragic, the comedy, the spaces between our birth and dying. Yet we are not the ten thousand things appearing. It’s just our life showing up.
Now the question is how to use this sacred and powerful life that’s been gifted us for the betterment of ourselves, our neighbors and the world? How do we activate our life on this earth and become a force for good by allowing the undisturbed self we really are to influence the life we are living?
This was written awhile back after years of caregiving, illness, and death, and the demise of a relationship. Our lives can feel much like a proverbial pressure cooker at times–especially these days on the planet as time seems set on warp speed. Yet intersecting with the grief that can overwhelm us in doing our work, there come unexpected moments of pure release, a benevolence, an answer to prayer, as if to say, “go on, keep moving, you are not alone”. There is sweet grace in not knowing, in our confusion of not having exact answers but knowing they will arrive in the exact moment necessary–and not a moment too late. There is grace in allowing the knife edge of pain to do its best surgical work in our lives without trying to cover it over with the lid of denial. Better to accept our own vulnerability, our tears–there’s a new day coming when we do–even if we are the only one changed.
These are days when grief takes what it takes. When the best I can do is hold myself and cry. I am spent with it, pale and tired, worn down.
Nonetheless it seems right that I should find myself here at the same time when everywhere trees are catching fire, going down in cloven tongued flames of glory, suspended between death and life in a kind of spectral breath stopping splendor—a brilliant colored luminosity that makes you wonder what it is that dying knows.
Sorrow has a way of opening me and ripening me, of letting everything out—and bringing everything in, while the whole world rises to meet me in my solitary pain while I fall. Yet not always so serenely as the dying leaves, while I am choking on the words, “help me, please”, and I think no one is listening.
What comes without predictability startles me—strong arms that gather me up in moments of laughter or surprise. Grief interrupted, I suppose, preempted by grace when the unexpected flare of golden light outlines dark clouds after heavy deluge; or falling words from a stranger’s mouth apprise I’m still here. It’s okay to cry—
or laugh when yesterday, as trick or treating goblins came out— as I went by a dark angel in bright wings receiving a ticket from a sternly posed uniformed man; and further along the road seen were old men in tutus teetering down the sidewalk in high heeled shoes.
These are gifts of pure release, a break in the storm, a kind of benevolence coming into my bones, won’t let go, that fiercely holds on. Laughter and transcendence, marrow building even in what is dying; even while I let go, and life goes on. Even while what needs to come around, comes around, and once again, I find myself spiraling down to my knees.
It is my hardest work in this earthly realm, to tell myself the truth, to tear this mask of pretense off. In this, I believe I am not alone. I am struggling daily to confront my own humanity, to be intently present for myself as I listen deeply. I am discovering as I listen, it has the unintended consequence of changing my entire view of life around me. Allowing this pain sensitizes me the humanity of others in a larger way. Labels about how I believe someone might be are falling away, and I am beginning to see an integrity in the basic goodness of life, no matter the outward appearance.
Concurrently, what comes is the knowledge of where I’ve failed to live up to my own commitments to others, where I’ve lied in order to gain something for myself, and in so doing, deeply hurt someone else; where I’ve failed to say what I mean and instead what I thought someone wanted to hear, the many occasions where my motives have been less than pure, where harm was done to another soul. It hurts to look at the many parts my actor self has played, and to take responsibility for where I have failed the test of my own humanity. It crashes in with a loud thud, and I am grieving also for what I have done at the same time I am feeling relief, a proverbial lightness of being.
Still and always, there are respites that come guaranteed, bring the necessary energy to go on, to see it from above, then the wheel turns instinctually to face me with what needs attending in my life.
My soul that needs its time in mourning, its difficult times of transitioning, the realization of what’s been lost or what was done. And I am tempted to run. Still I can count on my steadfast life of reckoning in the fated events and happenings that show up. It then becomes up to me to find the beautiful truth of what needs grieving? Or what needs loving? What needs amends?
As with everything in this life, this life of mine requires its struggling, it maturing and I am grappling with my relationship to it and my place in the world. Things take time to grow and mature on the vine as in me, to be fully what they are intended to become.
I am learning a certain approbation of the requisite pain, the obligatory difficult work of grieving what’s done. There is a fundamental understanding I cannot summon to myself everything at once. What is trying to be born requires turning over the soil again and again. Like biting into a sour green apple before its time, impatience would have us spit it out, leaving a bitter taste upon our tongue. What is vitally important is the struggle, then the acceptance in the rendering down where the most essential self is found, where the truth of the heart is let out. It is in the stripping away of façade, or the relief of laughter, in the unexpected support we receive, in the surrendering again and again that something necessary and bewilderingly beautiful can finally emerge.