Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Laundry Day

Today is significant for a number of reasons.  

First, it's my birthday, and as it seems to work out every year, I'm going to the laundromat to wash clothes.   This is not something I have planned as a tradition - it just sort of happens.  I'm not complaining; I actually don't mind doing laundry, and there's something fitting about getting garments clean to usher in a new age.

I have, in fact, been thinking a bit about clothing.  Eryl posted recently about her appreciation for high fashion, which made me think of the movie The Devil Wears Prada, which I then had to go watch again.  And I've encountered some biblical references to clothing recently that remind me of the theological term I made up a few years ago:  "pantstheism."  This is not the same thing as pantheism, which is the belief that the Divine is within and contained by creation and does not exist outside of it.  Pantstheism is basically an alternative to the word "panentheism," which is the concept that God exists within all of creation but also created it and is beyond it.  The creation of my term was inspired by Psalm 102: 25-27:
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
       and the heavens are the work of your hands.
 They will perish, but you remain;
       they will all wear out like a garment.
       Like clothing you will change them
       and they will be discarded.
 But you remain the same,
       and your years will never end.
The Divine is in the creation the way we are in our clothes.  Our favorite jeans and sweater take our shape, conform to our image, absorb the energy and scent of our bodies.  God is both the maker and the wearer of the garment that is creation.

This rumination has been coming to me in a new way lately, as I've been immersed in contemplating the distinctions between the inner and the outer life.  More than ever before, I'm focused on true inner change, deliberately turning my attention away from outer distractions, whether they be situations or thoughts.  Mostly thoughts.  Why don't I consider these thoughts part of the inner world, you may ask?  Because I'm increasingly seeing this kind of Monkey Mind thought as something that is actually foreign to my true Self, which is why it is so confusing, unpleasant, and even destructive to identify with it.  It's like wearing rough polyester clothing that's garish and too tight.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was dreading Lent - the dryness of the desert, the stripping away.  But I feel incredibly blessed to realize that the reason for this self-denial is to discover a joy and abundance so far beyond anything else that the stripping is a relief.  The analogy that jumps immediately to mind is that if you want to fully experience the ecstasy of physical intimacy, you have to take off your clothes.

But in the moment  before embrace there can be discomfort and disorientation; you are naked, and the room is too cold, the lights are too bright.  You doubt who you are without your clothes, and if you identify with those thoughts, the embrace will be diminished or avoided altogether.  I have had moments like this lately, too.  But unlike the past, I'm finding it in my Self to not become so identified with these thoughts that I go hide in the closet or get dressed again in fifteen layers of confusion.  And a large part of why I'm able to do this is because of blogging - being able to write and share my process with a supportive community that interacts with me by introducing me to wonderful resources or giving me helpful suggestions or simply listening and understanding.

Which leads me to another significance of this day, which is that this is my fiftieth post.  I have been blogging for just over five months, and in this time I have connected with some incredible people and reclaimed my voice as a writer.  I am continually astounded and inspired by the community I find myself part of here and its genuine effects on my life.

And so it's fitting that today I'm accepting an award from Entrepreneur Chick.  I feel somewhat ambivalent about blogging awards for a number of reasons that I don't want to lengthen this post by discussing, but this particular award is one I will be pleased to display on my blog because it's pretty and happy-inducing to look at.  And it has an orange flower!


I hereby dedicate this post and pass along this award to all of my blogging friends, my cross-pollinators.  You know who you are.  Your blogs and your comments have truly pollinated my life and helped me bloom, and for that I have immense gratitude.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Sacrifice of Praise

Life is amazing.  Just when you think there's nothing left, no hope, no color, no meaning, you get a glorious surprise.  We say and we shape and we dance around everything, always trying to reconnect, always working, always penetrating, only to find that we actually did know the whole time what we knew.

I'm here to say that life is good.  Because it's life.  All the horror in the world is to show us the way beyond horror.  All the buttons our loved ones push are to show us the buttons so we can leave them alone.  All the brokenness points to the wholeness that has always and will always exist, and only exists.  Does this make any sense?  Why have a world like this?  It can seem a cruel joke, but the only ripe option is to trust.  To embrace the mystery.  To become the beloved.

I love and I love and I love.  There is nowhere else to go.  Every blooming thing is a gift, if I know how to unwrap it.  And thankfully, everyone and everything shows me how.  Hallelujah. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alone With Love

Ash Wednesday is almost upon me.  The first day of Lent.  A day to begin forty days of fasting.  What for?  What is the purpose of this?  Self-deprivation.  It's no fun.  I face Lent each year with a kind of dread.  Why do this to myself?

Today is Mardi Gras, the feast before the fast. I don't feel inspired about what I'm giving up this year.  I don't feel ready.  I've dedicated this year to quiet love, and I'm giving up bitching for Lent.  I'm giving up negative expression, but more than that, deeper than that, my goal is to give up negative thought.  So what should my "feast" be?  A bitchfest, no doubt.  Which, come to think of it, puts me in the great biblical tradition of people like Job, who mightily complained to God when things didn't go his way.  

There are so many things I can bitch about from traffic to the uncertainty I feel in my own heart.  But what I really want to focus on is the unfairness of the blindness it seems I'm doomed to wander through life with.  The inevitable pain and sorrow, the intolerable length of time it takes for any real healing to occur, despite my unending attempts to focus on this healing.  The fact that all I've wanted for years is a true partner in life, someone to raise my children and build a home with, and that I still don't have that, and it's increasingly looking like I never will.  One of my children has already grown up and moved out and another one will in a year.  I'm on my own.

Despite knowing what holds me back from the kind of love and partnership I want, I find myself unable to make the changes that would allow this.  At least not fast enough.  And the irony is that these very issues are the ones my last potential partner could least deal with because of his issues, which in turn were the last I could deal with.

Why is life this way?  It's a mystery, a paradox, and very often I find beauty and comfort in this, but, honestly, sometimes IT JUST SUCKS.

And at times like this, it becomes completely obvious that it's all about death.  The destination is the grave for the body and the refiner's fire for the ego.  I can go kicking and screaming, or I can go willingly.  But seriously - who is going to go to the fire and the grave without a little kicking and screaming?  Does it even really matter?

Of course it does.  The grace with or without which I submit to these things makes all the difference in the world.  And I know this, but sometimes it's still impossible to find that grace, to live it.

I look and look for the love that will make me whole, but death reminds me, the fire shows me, that there is no other option but to find it in myself.  The wellspring of love is within me, and I will be comforted and healed by it there, or not at all.  I am alone with love, or I am just alone. 

So this is the purpose of Lent.  To deprive myself of external things that only seem to give me what I want and need, in order to be less distracted from the true source of love.

And while I'm feeling sorry for myself because I'm not in Louisiana for Mardi Gras, and try to find the Mardi Gras Mambo on YouTube to cheer myself up, instead I find something that reminds me in more than one way of how little I truly have to bitch about:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Flower That Killed My Car

This morning, Jenny Stevning's post, because of its use of the word "enough" reminded me of a particular event in my life from a couple of summers ago. I was going to leave a comment summarizing this event, but as I began to do so, I went back so fully in my memory to this time, that I had to pull out what I wrote about it back then. Reading through it, I was overcome with emotion, since I have recently withdrawn myself from the relationship involved. And I see that it's somehow part of my healing to bring forth this writing. So here it is:

My boyfriend Justin and I are driving across coastal Texas in Henrietta, my maraschino red Ford Escort, who was named as a tip of the hat to Mr. Ford himself. We've been camping at Goose Island State Park and are now headed to Austin. As we cruise down quiet green Highway 35, the sun is just contemplating setting. Suddenly, Justin stops the car next to a tall golden field and wanders off into it. When he comes back, he hands me a huge bell-shaped flower, tissue-paper pink with a deep crimson center and little ridges running through the petals. You could easily imagine one of Cicely Mary Barker’s fairies living inside.

While I'm admiring this flower, Justin turns the ignition and a horrible grinding sound punches from the engine. We don't know it yet, but this is Henrietta's last word, not counting the pathetic gasp that occurs when Justin turns the key again. We momentarily enter that state of denial endemic to the first moments after a death. Henrietta has faithfully escorted me for ten years, over many miles and across many landscapes, never showing signs of illness. This is the equivalent of a major stroke.

We are between two tiny towns in rural Texas during dinnertime on a Saturday. There's no answer at the first towing company. I'm elated when a warm female voice greets me at the second. She assures us that someone will be sent, but from the larger town of Victoria a couple of dozen miles away, so it will take “a little while.”

I admit, I’m not great at dealing with little annoyances. They often seem a personal affront from a god with a mean sense of humor. But when larger obstacles come along, I tend to view them as meaningful, so I'm quick to accept them. Such it is with Henrietta’s death. Justin, however, doesn’t know this about me yet, and I can see him bracing himself for my grumpiness. But I hang the flower from the rearview mirror, dig a knife and perfectly ripe cantaloupe out of the back of the car, and turn on public radio. A show called Art of the Song is featuring a young musician named Meg Hutchinson. Justin and I slurp cantaloupe and listen to this delicious woman speak of her childhood in New England, of attending a little Waldorf school with a garden. How this school gave her “a sense of the interrelatedness of things.” She performs a piece called, “America Enough,” inspired by the notion that “anything taken to its extreme becomes its opposite.” The song is mellow and contemplative, and sends a quiet thrill upon my skin, as she sings:
If there's noise enough, it turns back to silence
If there's crowd enough, it turns back to solitude
If there's pain enough, it turns back to something almost bright...
If there's time enough, there's no such thing as an hour
If there's love enough, the rest of this won't even matter.
And I understand. There is love enough. Justin's face aglow, our flower and fruit, the field, the sunset, and the warm moist air. I am not waiting for anything. Sometimes being forced to stop is the only sweet relief from going on and on. Broken down becomes whole.


It's Sunday now, auto shops closed. We're stuck in Victoria. On the Comfort Inn's lobby computer, I look up the flower that killed Henrietta:  it's a Swamp Rose Mallow. I discover at that the meaning/sentiment of this flower is “Consumed by love.” I also learn that Pliny claimed, “Whosoever shall take a spoonful of the Mallows shall that day be free from all diseases that may come to him.” Well, apparently this magic does not extend to the next day, because yesterday's joy and wonder has shriveled like the flower still attached to poor Henrietta's rearview mirror.

I've learned that the feeling of doom is fleeting and illusory, but if indulged, will bring reality into its pathetic clutches. And so I do what I can to escape it, generally by changing the scenery, getting physically out of where I'm psychologically stuck. Even if it’s just sitting at the top of an outdoor stairwell at a Comfort Inn in a gulf coast thunderstorm, fifteen feet away from the room I share with my boyfriend, who I temporarily can’t stand because he’s chosen the Sci-Fi channel over adventure. Over me.

I'm considering a line from that song - If there's comfort enough, it turns back to sorrow. Last night, when we sat in our broken down car, plagued by humidity, mosquitoes, and ants, I was more comfortable than I am now, lodged in an air-conditioned room with a king-sized bed and cable. There were physical discomforts then, but they weren't important. We had a juicy cantaloupe and great radio. And each other. Now, only partially sheltered from the furious rain and earsplitting thunder, I find more fulfillment gazing over the soggy parking lot of the Comfort Inn than lounging on one of its cushy beds.

An old boyfriend once said I expect too much from daily life. It's true. I want moments of magical transcendence and communion to define my days. This is deeply connected to my desire to travel. In moving from place to place, everything is extraordinary, fluid, and thus primed for moments of transcendence. But just taking a trip is not enough. As Paulo Coelho has said, “God is always hiding hell in the middle of paradise.” Traveling with loved ones inevitably reveals roadblocks within the relationship, the self. And this is a special kind of hell because there are less channels of escape when you're sharing a small hotel room. The swings between transcendence and pettiness get closer together and more distinct. It's alarmingly easy somehow to go from sharing awe over a sunset to cold positioning on opposite sides of a king-sized bed.

After three tense days of coming to terms with Henrietta's demise, we board a bus home. The last leg of our journey is by train, and as I'm gazing out the window another train passes. The view becomes a rapid and chaotic alternation of train, landscape, train, landscape. And a voice inside me says: Don’t strain to see, just let it all pass before your eyes. Let it all be there, and all roll away. I think back over the past few days, about how in relationships, as in travel, it's necessary at times to give up the itinerary and creatively face roadblocks, seeing in them the opportunity to expand limits and face fears. What travel acutely offers is the opportunity to surrender to movement, accept and even embrace unpleasantness in the context of a larger joy. If there's love enough, the rest of this won't even matter. It suddenly hits me that this shift in perception is the true movement of travel.

I reach for the hand that picked the flower that killed my car.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Big Ole Poetry Challenge

I was inspired recently by Eryl's post in which she discusses the meaning of the word "core."  She posted a drawing of the earth with a piece cut out of it to show the red and orange core.  It wasn't until I read this post that I made the connection between the second chakra and what is commonly called the core of the body.

I have also been inspired by Dan Gurney's emphasis on poetic forms lately, so rather than put together one of my usual convoluted essays, I decided to write a poem on the subject of the core.  I chose to make it a sestina, which is one of the most complicated forms to write.  The premise is that you choose six words which you use repeatedly at the end of each stanza, in a certain order.  You can read about sestinas and their intricate ordering here.

I've only written one other in my life, and it was handed to me by the muse in the shower one day.  This one, while not quite as easily given, was still not as hard as it seems like it should be.  I had no idea what I was going to write; I just chose six words that are interesting and relevant to me right now, and then it practically wrote itself.  There is something very freeing to me about writing in a strict form, the way strict choreography makes a dance more fluid.

I would like to challenge any adventurous blogger to play with this form, and then share what you came up with on your blog.  It's really a lot of fun, especially if you're a word nerd like me.  And I've realized that there's something about this form that lends itself to extraordinary magic.

Svadhisthana Sestina

If you're going to start at all, start from the core,
not with singing or speaking, but with quiet
breath.  Inhale and exhale the color orange,
let inspiration and expiration interlace
as the brilliance of the sun becomes the moon.
So begins the dance.  In and out, it spirals slow,

more than can be imagined, as the Earth was slow
to reveal herself, her galaxy home and flaming core.
As she circles round the sun, so is circled by the moon
in this constant looping stillness:  space is cold and quiet.
Look into the night - shawl of stars like lace
across black linen; on the horizon, a sash of mounting orange,

trick of light and proximity.  Thick hot orange
ascends to cold and clears to white, with a long slow
birth up the sky.  Notice these movements; they lace
together all that can be noticed around the single core
of your noticing.  Then refrain from vision and be quiet
in your desire, in your fear, as you moon

over all you feel you've lost.  Whisper to the Moon
and she will teach you.  Now peel and eat an orange,
one section at a time.  This is not a quiet
action; a scream attends each slow
tear of flesh from flesh.  You will find no core
in this, only a tough and tangled lace.

Without washing the juice from your fingers, lace
them together.  You are cupping the moon.
Resting your hands in your lap, close to your core,
simply digest.  The food becomes your blood, scent of orange
your remembrance.  Let your heartbeat slow
until it too is consumed, its work quiet.

Here is the only place there is, this quiet,
where all things emerge and interlace.
You may speak now, but let your words form slow.
They must ever recall the solid moon
and illusive sun, that dismembered orange,
the things you've never touched, galaxy to molten core.

Spent now is the slow night with its quiet
shades, and once again the moon dissolves like ancient lace
into blue sky, green earth, orange sun.  Into your fiery core.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Slow Waxing of Light and Life

This is such an awkward time of year. I'm tired of winter, being housebound, being cold, and I'm still immersed in the inner world of contemplation, to the point that I am fairly grumpy with anyone who wants to distract me from it, which is mainly my children, of course.  Rumi said, "My worst habit is I get so tired of winter I become a torture to those I'm with."  I relate to that bear in hibernation.  Just leave me alone and let me dream.  Let me focus on my sap rising, but don't ask me for any of it yet. 

Alas, that is not the way it works in Real Life, is it?  It's hard to slow down when the world doesn't want you to.  And we don't get days off for Tu Bishvat, or for Imbolc and Candlemas, the other two holidays that have occurred recently:

January 29/30 - Tu Bishvat (I discussed this here.)

February 1 - Imbolc.
A day to celebrate the Celtic Brigid, who is goddess or saint, depending on your tradition.  In typical Celtic fashion, the goddess and saint stories blend; she was said to be the foster-mother of Jesus.  I adore her; she is my divine soul-sister, associated with poetry, the hearth-fire, metalsmithing, midwifery, bees, and sacred wells.
February 2 - Candlemas.
A Christian celebration of the return of the light, involving the blessing of beeswax candles, and officially ending the Epiphany season.  Traditionally, people would leave up their Christmas greenery until this day.
All three of these days celebrate the return of life to the earth, the very beginning of spring's return, the waxing of light.  The planting of seeds is a common ritual for all three celebrations.  Imbolc and Candlemas are closely associated and the focus is on purification and renewal of vows, rededication to the Path, refocusing, taking new action.

This ties in nicely for me with Yesod's emphasis on actualizing spiritual concepts.  My sap is rising up the Tree, from Malkuth to Yesod, but I needed a jumpstart.  These holidays provided me with it.  However, the not getting days off really irked me.  I ended up spreading my celebrations and rituals out over an entire week, just to fit it all in around my schedule.

My plans were elaborate; I was going to:
  • burn my Christmas tree which has been standing forlornly in my backyard since Epiphany
  • take a meditative orange-tinted salt bath for purification (using kosher sea salt and the Elmo fizzy bath colors Eliana got for Christmas - one yellow and one red)
  • begin my Svadhisthana exercises
  • bless the orange beeswax candles I bought at Cid's
  • then fill the whole house with candlelight, while I 
  • thoughtfully write out and then recite my spiritual vows for the year
  • plant an indoor herb garden with the kit I bought, focusing on the meaning and fruitful fulfillment of my vows (Basil - for love, exorcism, prosperity; Rosemary - for love, purification, and faithfulness; Thyme - for courage, health, and strength)
The first day I tried to do all these things, I had to begin by cleaning the house, which is obviously part of the purification process.  I mopped all the floors, which was a wonderful way to start, but by the time I had wiped down all surfaces, picked up everything off the floors, then swept and mopped, half the day was gone.

I then went through my new exercises for the first time, while listening to The Bee Priestesses, which was remarkably energizing and empowering.  After that, I took my ritual bath, which was also a powerful experience, but by then, the day was winding down to the time when the kids come home, so I had to stop there.

Then the boiler that powers my baseboard heater system went out.  And I became very aware that elaborate rituals and celebrations are a luxury when you're too cold to function.   I was forced to slow down, then.  One day I was so cold all I could do was take a bath and get into bed.  I slept all afternoon, which was a luxury in itself, and one I haven't indulged in since I can't remember when. 

During that period without heat, I thought about homeless people in cold places like New York and Chicago, and I thought about people who don't have any time to themselves because they're too busy surviving, and I felt that strange tension between gratitude and guilt that seems to be a characteristic of citizens of western industrialized cultures.   

Am I being frivolous, self-indulgent by doing these things when I "should" be working?  This was the question I kept pushing away when I started my celebrations.  But after the heater broke, the question was irrelevant, because I was involved in a more basic existence issue.  Even being able to ask questions like the one above is a luxury.  A privilege, a freedom.

But no.  It is not frivolous to do these things if they help me to center and be healthy and grow.  It is, however, a luxury, a privilege, a freedom - not to feel guilty about, but to be grateful for.  And so, the heater breaking factored into my vows, which hadn't been properly written yet when it happened.  I made several vows related to different areas of my life, but the most important one, resulting from my heater ordeal, was to offer gratitude and praise for everything, not in some vague general way, but for specific individual things and people and events as they come into my field of vision, and thus to grow in my awareness of them.  Even when they're unpleasant and I don't like them.

So with the burning of the tree*, I let my guilt becomes ashes to feed the earth.
With the blessing and lighting of candles, I awaken my awareness of blessing and light.
With the burying of seeds into earth**, I plant my intentions, and as the seeds die out of their form and grow into something new, I will express my gratitude for the death of my old shell and limits of perspective, and I praise the earth and light and water and struggle that bring forth new life.


The unexpected completion to my celebrations:
Jenny Stevning posted this drawing as a page to print and color
in response to my mention of her in this post.
Thank you, Jenny.  Coloring this was most fun!

*The tree burning actually didn't go too well.  I had forgotten how long it takes wood to dry.  I did manage to singe it a bit,  after a half hour involving a lighter, copious amounts of newspaper, very cold hands, and more starter fluid than I care to admit.
**I mixed the body of the dead bee I found at Epiphany into the soil.  It just seemed like the thing to do. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Color of Quiet Love

On the heels of yesterday's post, I read this Rumi poem in The Essential Rumi, which I bought recently at my favorite thrift/consignment store, Pieces.


Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side.  Die,
and be quiet.  Quietness is the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.

The speechless full moon
comes out now.

(translated by Coleman Barks
in The Essential Rumi)

I love the way it ties in with quiet love, the exploration of color, slowing down, and the deathlike experience of winter that so many people seem to be having right now. The line "become the sky" reminded me of one of my favorite songs, "I Am The Highway," by Audioslave.  This video oddly but beautifully combines the song with clips from the movie, Into the Wild, which happens to be one of my favorite movies:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Year of the Trees

I have a wonderful fat little book called Earth Prayers, which contains earth-centered prayers from many different traditions. There's an index of special days throughout the year, connected with different prayers in the book.  This is how I came to learn about Tu Bishvat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, which takes place on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat.  Which happens to have been last weekend.

I found many detailed resources for this celebration online.  I think the thing I love about Judaism the most is its emphasis on elaborate, meaningful, home-based ritual.  I also love the fact that Jews celebrate four different New Years, in different seasons.  This makes so much sense to me - the year is a circle, which begins and ends anywhere and nowhere.  It's not a line from Point A to Point B.

I printed out a rather long booklet of the haggadah for the seder meal to be performed on the eve of this holiday.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get it together in time to actually go through the seder, but I did read through it, in the manner of Lectio Divina.  The symbolic gestures (even when only performed in the imagination) and Hebrew prayers are quite beautiful and affective.

This holiday has had an interesting evolution (which you can read about extensively if you explore the link for Tu Bishvat above) but one of its primary associations is with the Kabbalah and the Tree of Life.  In Kabbalistic wisdom, there are considered to be four worlds, corresponding to different levels of reality, from the physical to the purely spiritual.  The Tu Bishvat seder symbolically takes you through those four worlds (up the Tree) with the eating of different kinds of fruit and the drinking of wine.  Reading through the haggadah, I realized one would probably end up slightly drunk by the end of the meal, with the ritualistic drinking of four glasses of wine.  But I suppose the tradition is to make the meal a long, relaxed affair that could take hours.

All of this got me thinking about trees, and I started  looking through my library for anything interesting to read about them.  I pulled out a book I bought for homeschooling purposes called Keepers of the Earth.  It's an amazing resource for anyone teaching children (Dan, Jennifer - I sincerely hope you have this book).  Using traditional stories from various Native tribes, it teaches children about ecology and other sciences, as well as Native American culture and history.

I read the story in the section on trees, called "Manabozho and the Maple Trees."  This story is from the Anishinabe, in the Great Lakes region, which is also where I grew up.  The gist of it is that maple syrup used to come straight from the trees year-round, but people got lazy and started lying under the trees all the time with their mouths open.

So our hero, Manabozho, went up to the top of the trees and poured water into them, making the syrup thin and barely sweet, and the Great Spirit made it so that the sap only comes at the end of winter and the people have to work hard to turn it into syrup.

This story made me think back to my childhood in Toronto, when we would take school field trips to the maple farm in February, and watch the sap drip ever-so-slowly into metal buckets, and then go inside to see how they filled huge vats with sap and boiled it for ever so long to turn it into syrup.

And I realized that it's just perfect to have a New Year for trees just when the sap is beginning to flow.  And I also began to think about slowness.

Dan Gurney recently posted an article he and his wife wrote for their local newspaper, a plea for the people of his town to slow down when they're driving.  This post really humbled me because I'm almost always in a rush when I'm driving, and frequently get irritated with people on the road who drive under the speed limit.

And then, Lucy posted about slowing down enough to take good care of ourselves.  One of the things I want to develop this year is the ability to truly relax, not just every now and then, but as a more constant state of being.  Dan's and Lucy's posts, combined with contemplation of the slowness of the maple syrup-making process, made me realize that if I want to be more relaxed, I've got to learn to slow down.  Be patient.  That relaxation and patience are in fact two aspects of just slowing down.  And that paradoxically, this will lead to a quickening of body and spirit, increased energy, a less rushed sense of time.

The story of Manabozho has reminded me that being relaxed and slowing down doesn't mean lazing beneath a tree with syrup dripping into my mouth, but is a manner of working and spirited living, being an active participant in turning work into a sweet gift.

And when I begin to slip into my familiar sense of rush and tension, I need to call to mind the maple with its slow gift of sap, or the luxurious live oak with its lazy swaying moss, or my favorite - the slowest and most spirited of trees, the patient redwood.  I would marry a redwood if I could.

Ah, trees.  My favorite teachers.  Thank you for reminding me. 
Happy New Year, dear trees.

How surely gravity’s law
strong as an ocean current
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child—
is held in place
Only we, in our arrogance
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrender
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things
because they are in God’s heart
they have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us
to fall
patiently to trust our heaviness
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.


(Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God,
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


In trying to sort through the now vast array of information I've gathered about the color orange and its symbolic extensions, I neglected a few things in my last post, such as returning to the discussion of Eryl's orange wind tunnel.  I actually forgot about it completely until yesterday morning, when it floated back into my head in that half-awake state before I got out of bed.  What I wanted to say is that the associations of both Svadhisthana and Yesod with the Moon and by extension dreams, and also with the birth canal seem very much in accord with the wind tunnel image.  Eryl experienced this when she was in a dream-state induced by morphine, and was in the hospital experiencing what I can only imagine must have been a death/rebirth sort of ordeal.  (Please correct me if I'm wrong, Eryl.)

I also wanted to give credit to the other bloggers who brought the color orange into my sphere. (Aside:  I find it amusing that Blogger's grammar-checker underlines the word "blogger" as being a non-word.)  There are more than just the ones mentioned here, but these are the most noteworthy. 

One of the more amusing orange-related posts came from Kat, at The Bobwhites, and was titled Oh Noes! The Dreaded Orange Spot.  Kat had been venturing into soapmaking, and this post was about "DOS" - which is what soapmakers actually call it - and it is something mysterious that happens when your soap doesn't quite come together as it should.  Somehow, Kat and I ended up in a conversation about a children's book we would write together about a young bar of soap that has to battle with Spot, the Dreaded Orange Dragon.  Proof positive that orange is the color of silliness.  As well as soap disease, apparently.

And finally, I would be remiss if I did not also mention the lovely Jenny Stevning, who frequently uses orange in her WONDERFUL artwork, which is often achingly vibrant and moving.  Visiting her blog has been a regular source of joy and inspiration for me.

There is just so much goodness in this orange blogosphere of ours, no?


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