“Thanksgiving”

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I am a direct descendant of Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins who came to this continent on the Mayflower. Their son Oceanus, who later died, was born during the trip. Descendants of theirs went on to sign the Constitution.

I have had deeply mixed feelings about this for my entire life. Yes, they were fleeing persecution. So were my ancestors who came later to flee the Clearances in Scotland.

But where does fleeing persecution ever give permission to become a persecutor? When does fleeing death give permission to slaughter others? How does suffering intolerance for spiritual beliefs lead people to be so intolerant of others’ beliefs?

Every “Thanksgiving” since I became aware of the reality, I contemplate the dichotomy that is my ancestry. All I can do is live my life being as respectful as I can possible be of all people and the land.

Water

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Ocean flowing and ebbing                                                                                      sometimes raging and crashing                                                                                  always roaring, though sometimes softly

Water from individual source                                                                                  following ease of flow                                                                                                    slowly changing obstacles                                                                                            of earth and rock                                                                                                            and returning to Source

Sedona, Oak Creek, October 2001

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30th October, 2001

I giggled as I sat down here.

I am at the edge of Oak Creek—the water glides by, carrying the first of the Fall(en) leaves on its surface.  I am dressed for town, not for climbing around on the red rocks.  My giggle (what a great word that is!) came from the pioneer feeling I had as I lifted my course-spun flaxen dress to take off my hook-and-eye laced boots and long cotton stockings.  How many young girls in the olden times stole a bit of time away from the chores and the weaving to play in the cold waters of rushing creeks?

I have “stolen” this time—stolen it away from being “on stage” at my twice-weekly chair massage post.  I need this.  I need the time; I need the place; I need the sound of rushing water and the chill of it on my feet as the sun bakes my back.  The trees and bushes hang low and hover over the surface of the creek.  The greenery–now just beginning to turn color—is thick except for the ledge of red rock where I sit.  The sky is changing from cloudy to sunny and the air just begins to lose its morning crispness and warm to the afternoon heat.

The area looks moderately well-used.  A couple of old fire areas remain and there is charcoal graffiti on the rocks.  I’m sure this is quite popular for summer swimmers. But today, it is mine alone. It can be a special place for me as well—like other places have been in the past: the rushing of Claverack Creek over Buttermilk Falls, the ever-changing Napa River near Yountville, the sometimes gentle, sometimes crashing waves at Long Beach—and the Mother of the Waters at the cliffs of Mendocino.

The Old Ones say that dragonflies are messengers.  They hover around me and I wonder what messages they carry.

I want to jump in the water and give myself a ceremony.  I am held back by fears both little and big– little ones of the inconvenience of wet clothes –big ones of what next?

What really is “next”?  I am at a changing point, the feeling of that is clear.  To work the change, I must release things that, although not always positive, have kept me company over the years.  “Let go. Let go,” I hear myself say and yet I allow them back like the dragonflies buzzing around me.  I allow them back…for the comfort of the familiar.

In testing for a place to dis-robe and enter the water, I slipped on the silt-covered rocks.  It felt as though the water had grabbed me and tried to pull me in.  I was only able to find a place where I could sit with my legs on just to my knees.  So, I bent over and poured water on my head for the six directions.

Right across the Creek from where I sit is a young Sycamore tree.  In its uppermost branches lies a dead, charred branch that was obviously snapped off in a lightning strike.  And yet, the tree holds it—caresses it?—remembers how it was once the top-most part of the whole?—hangs on to it?—entangles it?—supports it until it finally drops away in its own time?—or is shaken down by a great wind?

How significant of me that tree is.

Clouds are thickening again over the canyon wall to the west and the breezes are picking up a little.  The fragrance of the cool, earthy-smelling water wafts across my face.  What sunlight there is, is cast upon the surface of the water.  It plays in a silver dance of light reflecting across my body.

The Hunters’ Moon is tomorrow night.  Kyle’s Lunar Birthday.

A wild duck just floated down stream.  When it got to me, it flew directly west and landed in the calm waters just beyond the partial dam of rocks.

Time to take flight myself, I guess.

Nov 9 2020 (1)

 

 

August, in Drought-Stricken California, 2015

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It’s raining.

Not a heavy rain.

Certainly not enough rain.

The first rain here in months.

The scent of it is sweet.

The sound of it is like a drum gently beating

the rhythm of a blessing

for the parched earth.

It lasted only twenty minutes or so.

Like someone taking a not yet empty plate

or a not completely read book

away from me.

My heart cries, “Wait! I wasn’t finished yet.”

Memories Swirl Like Petals on the Wind

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Because a flower grew and came to bloom last season—last year—many seasons and years ago—

fulfilling its promise of life and beauty, of sustenance, and propagation of seeds for future seasons and years—

fulfilled, and then lost to the seasons of time and changing weather—

the beauty of it lost to the gnarled greenery that overtook it—

does the beauty of what has bloomed since, and blooms now, erase the beauty of what did grow once?

Does the beauty and the life that was so abundant seasons—years—ago, mean any less, become any less beautiful because it grew many seasons and years ago, and only the memory of it remains like the soft fragrance of a flower on the wind?

Blessing Shotweed

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Shotweed is an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest that, if left to flower and seed, forms spiky flowers that literally shoot seeds every which way when they are touched.  I had been hoping that the clover that is slowly spreading in the turf grass in the dog run had found its way to the Fire Pit area—but a closer look showed me that it is indeed shotweed. It must be pulled out. It is one of those ‘sit and have patience’ garden chores and I knew that it must be done soon before the flowers bud.

I thought,”maybe in the next few days….”

This morning, I was ready to go into town and have a latte and read a book while I waited for my friend to have her hair cut, and then we would seek out an adventure.

And then.

Standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window at the early morning light, I began to feel the recently all-too -familiar sunken mood and panic attack caused by the knowledge of children in cages and non-violent people being killed by those who rule with violence, of those who live unjustly being put in positions to decide what is justice for others.  I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with the feelings of helplessness, the feeling of wanting to escape the trauma reflected in my body—of being trapped inside it.

Shortness of breath quickly became holding of breath. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Slowly. It will pass.

It didn’t.

I announced that I was staying home to pull the shotweed. “But it’s a chance to get out and see some different scenery”, she said.

“It’s over-rated,” I said as I left to go change my clothes for the garden.

Outside. Cool to the point of cold, but not uncomfortable.  Sun still behind the Cedars, but the brilliance of it gave intensity to the garden’s colors.

Me. First on one knee for a while, and then the other, as I leaned over and dug the baby plants out of the gravel-covered soil around the fire pit. My mind recites its litany of my failures, my losses, my struggles, and my inability to fit in anywhere. On and on it drones. All the while, I am hot and shaking from the tension of it. And barely taking full breaths.

If I focus on music, maybe that will stop the internal noise. My earbuds silence the sounds of Nature around me, but they do not silence my mind. Mozart’s Piano Concerto #23 begins slowly—reaching quietly out to me. Breathe with the slow waves of the cadence. Breathe deeper as the intensity slowly builds. It softens again—taking me back to start again—focus. Breathe.

My hands move smoothly at my task. The right pushes the Hori-hori’s point in at the base of the plants.  My left grasps them and gently pulls them free. Shush. Hear the noise for which the tool was named: ho-ree, ho-ree, as it slices through the soil’s top layer and is pulled out again.

Mozart builds to greater intensity. And, my tears—usually so reluctant to come—begin to flow with the sounds of the piano. No…it’s the orchestra in the background that let’s my pent-up emotions release.

On to Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-Flat Major, K452— and the clarinet emboldens my tears, which are then held by the notes of the piano.  All together, we take our breath and let the air out. The musicians make beautiful melody while I make moisture that streams down my cheeks and into the Earth. The rumbling noise of despair quiets in my head now; I start to hear only the music and the soft crunching of metal into gravel and soil.

I finish as far as I can reach around me. I softly stroke the newly disrupted earth with my fingers— caressing it, smoothing it out while checking for bits of plant and root. I am reminded of making designs in the wet sand on the beach of Lake Michigan as a child. It brings a softness in the form of a good memory to my heart: the cool water lapping onto shore, the warm sands, the fresh air and the sunshine. I remember what it felt like so long ago… before.

Moving, I face the Incense Cedar and stretch my back, arching it as far as I can as I sit there. Looking up through the dark green branches against the bright blue sky, I invite its fragrance into me through my breath.

I sit on the ground, legs extended in a “v” in front of me. The earth is cool and damp, and I feel as though it is more than the dampness that is seeping up into me. I begin another patch of shotweed just as the opening notes Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Opus 64 – Fantasy lift into my ears and lift my spirit with them. The tears have been wiped dry on my sweatshirt sleeve. I am softened. I am spent. I am relaxed. I am allowing myself to recognize my connection to what is around— and underneath— me.

I say a prayer of thankfulness and blessing to the shotweeds. Had they not appeared for me, I would not have had this bit of time– this bit of healing in my much-wounded self.

By the time YoYo Ma begins to make his cello sing in Gabriel’s Oboe, I am back to my physical self enough to recognize my hunger.

And, as Heifetz begins to play the Scottish Fantasy, Op 46: I. Introduction, I am on my way in to the house for oatmeal.

As Heifetz moves into the faster, richly Scottish music of the II. Allegro, I stop long enough to create a mandala from fallen leaves on the front walk way.

For now,  I am alright.

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A Plant Grows

A plant grows,
and no matter what one calls it,
whether by a scientific name or a familiar one,
or, how one sees its use
whether decorative, disruptive, or medicinal,
the plant grows into its own intrinsic plantness.

It grows,
perhaps it flowers,
and is fully itself regardless of how it is seen
or what it is called.

It doesn’t care what others may call it,
it is still completely itself.
It lives as a statement
to its own nature and beingness.

So it goes with all flora
and fauna
and mountains
and deserts
and oceans—
all exist
in their intrinsic wholeness
that is the soul of the Universe.