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Hobbit was a silly banana a few mornings ago and lept off an eight foot embankment while out for our daily on the trail. I was on the road below on the way to the stream, he and Lily Bean on their way up the trail leading to the mesa. “Hobbs! Get your silly butt down here!”I called, expecting his usual trot alongside me up top until he got to the part where the hill slopes a few yards away from where we were. Nope! Lily Bean, weighing about thirty-five or so pounds, twice Hobbit’s height and far less than half his age of ten years, took a running leap with her characteristic grin.
THWUMP! Skidding and turning all at once as she hit the dirt, she shook herself off, looked at me with said silly grin and goes off to sniff stuff nearby. Hobbit apparently thought this was a grand idea and followed suit. Did I mention the dirt is a red clay mix? No? Um, yeah. With a nifty layer of gravelly sand-wannabe stuff over the top, just enough to scrape Hobbit’s chest as he landed badly on his left side. But not entirely on his side. His left front and hind feet hit first and twisted under him THEN he flumped on his side. He didn’t look too happy about that, but got up anyway, shook himself off and kept going. He kept close to me, but seemed otherwise okay. When I got home from work, he was so two legged lame I had to carry him to his potty spot – which he didn’t use. He seemed to be in enough pain to not only not want to go even after hours of holding it in, but woke me in the wee hours to the sounds of his being sick. Multiple times. Plans of the three of us going on a Big Tesuque hike this weekend obviously fluttered away on the breeze. So did any idea of his going on a walk this morning.
Lily Bean is a treeing Walker coonhound. Coonhounds are NOT couch potato dogs. If your idea of a great time is Netflix and chill after a day of cozy puttering about the house, this is not the dog for you! I like long meanders on trails through the woods, a.k.a. hiking. I live in a place where I can go on outdoor meanders without ever having to set key in my car’s ignition. More than a day of no hiking tends to make the Sily Bean stir crazy and she gets on everybody’s nerves. So, Hobbit or no, this morning we set out on our usual trail walk.
We decided to head up to the mesa. As I crested the trail, a gentle breeze blew my unusually untethered hair (my normal morning look invariably involves a ponytail) and in its tendrils these words were captured:
that tiny thing with broken wings,
nurtured deep within
she can fly again.
I marveled at these words, mulling them over and over, trying to ingest their meaning and flavor, wondering where they came from since I felt no grief that I could tell, though I did feel a kind of dampening, an off sense of sadness. I walked with it and the words and laughed at Lily’s goofiness as we both tried on this walk-without-Hobbit thing. The vague blanket of sadness whispered, caressed and blew around me all day. At some point later in the afternoon, I learned of yet another school shooting, a little closer to home this time. When I first saw Santa Fe high, I nearly panicked. My neighbor’s kids go there! My kids went there, though Lexi left after her freshman year due to the meanieness; she was nervous about the possibility of physical harm accompanying the bullying she experienced. I know a few of the teachers and staf there, too. But no; different state. Still, I didn’t consider us lucky. People died today. There is no good fortune in that for any of us.
I wonder, though: where does the meanieness come from? That deep rot that crawls like maggots all over the soul trying to get in? For some of us, it does get in and poisons our very being, our sense of self, our ability to connect to Life around us, driving us to destroy everything and everyone, human and non and often ourselves in the process – or what’s left of ourselves. When and where will we begin to create sanctuaries to lance the boils and draw the meanieness out so we can all begin to heal? For we all need to heal, all of us, not just those who cave under the relentless meanieness crushing us from every angle, day in and day out, hidden in plain sight and completely invisible. When will we open our hearts even just a crack, put down our weapons and armor and allow “the others” to hold our gaze instead of allowing our eyes to slide away, allow others to see into our souls, to see the wounded parts, the festering, piercing, agonizing meanieness seated at the base our our souls, endlessly hungry and gape-mawed, sucking everything in and unsatisfied no matter how much it consumes, like the windigo of ancient Indigenous American peoples’ tales. When will we allow ourselves to see and be seen so we can all heal? When?
I was a total grump when I left the house this morning. Lately, Hobbit’s been kind of a dork. This morning, His Dorkness ended up making me leave for work a half hour later than I’d planned. He decided that after I’d had my shower, got dressed for work and was doing my take my stuff out to the car/take the doggos out to pee routine – normally a five minute thing – he needed to chase the neighbors’ cat up the hill into the neighbors’ yard, then proceed to ignore me calling him back down. At which point I decided this defintely required me to march up said hill to retrieve him from the neighbors’ yard. To do this required dodging dog poop, scrambling through bushes, getting my still-wet hair full of those little brown things from the juniper bushes and getting my barely there balet flats full of soft, sandy dirt, freshly washed, lotioned and still slightly damp feeties coated in said soft, sandy dirt. All while wearing a maxi dress. Lovely.
At the top of the hill, I discover Hobbit’s made a new friend of the neighbors’ little scotty-looking thing. At this point, I was too cheesed off to be charmed by cute (he was cute, I was just not charmed at the time). Shortly after I got up the hill, the husband came out of the house. “Hi! Just retrieving my dog!” I call. The wife pulled up just then and suddenly, it’s introductions time! Seriously? I’m still trying to retrieve my wayward dog, now renamed PITA (Pain In The A**), while wrangling my other dog who tends to go gaga over humans (did I mention I still had Lily Bean with me on this adventure? no? I still had Lily Bean with me on this adventure.) Instead of trying to make friendly introductions requiring me to take my focus off the task at hand – retrieving my dog so I can get back to the other task of getting to work (which I did mention to the couple I needed to do), asking me what they might do to help me retrieve my dog would have been heaps more friendly and helpful. Oh and also, not making squealy play noises and trying to pet and play with my other dog while Mr. Culprit PITA was still at large. It was one of the most surreal situations I’ve ever experienced. Like they really love visitors and almost never see other humans, so seeing one in the flesh was the most exciting thing all month! Asking me about anything other than the task I’m focused on when I’m that level of concentrating is about like asking me the bus schedule when I’m in the midst of solving a complex math problem. You’re lucky if I remember how to speak, let alone understand you’re asking me something.
I eventually did manage to get Hobbs back to the house. I ended up using the other end of Lily Bean’s lead as a makeshift lead for Hobbit, grumbly-grumpy-grinchy stomping in my peach colored dress and soft, sandy dirt-filled shoes all the way back to the door. I still hadn’t started my car. Screw it. I dumped the stuff out of my shoes when I got to the porch. I needed tea. Badly. I hadn’t had any yet, but thankfully
Lilah, my daughter, had already steeped a cup for me and it was inside waiting on the kitchen counter. My car was still not on and warming; the Feymobile really doesn’t like cold starts. At all. Tea accomplished, I made my way out to the car, taking a few minutes to let it warm while I sat in my driveway. Glowering. I didn’t even say my usual goodbye to Hobbit. Half an hour behind schedule. Grinch, grinch, grumble, grumble. Dang dog.
By the time I got to work, I was fine. A tad miffed still, but fine. I’d even gotten the juniper thingies out of my hair. On the way home, I admitted I needed to hug my darn dog and say I’m sorry. I know I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to my dogs. I can be awful, getting myself all worked into a tizzy over nothing much. My dogs are among my greatest teachers in letting go. Yeah, Hobbs was definitely a pain in the butt this morning and the whole situation was kind of surreal in retrospect. But I also need to learn to relax about him doing annoying dog things. He’s pretty awesome most of the time and it wasn’t quite the emergency it could have been had the loose dog been Lily Bean. And no one was hurt or lost. Not even me, though no guarantees on the lost bit. I’m pretty sure I’m always at least a little bit lost. As usual, the Divine managed to get me to smile, even through my grinchy cloud: on the way out of the drive, a small yellow butterfly flitted past the front of my car, the first of the season. The Divine often speaks to me in butterflies. It matched my dress. I smiled. I’m gonna go hug Hobbit now. And Lily Bean, just because. I’m sure I’ve been grinchy with her today, too. I am extraordinarily silly sometimes. Thankfully, my dogs and the Divine still like me anyway.
It’s been a few weeks since Lily Bean joined our household. We’ve all learned a lot about each other. I went from being a grumpy control freak full of expectations (“She’s six months old; she SHOULD be able to X!” ::grinch, grinch, grinch::) to finally remembering, then taking the advice of my oft repeated mantra “Work with the dog that shows up.” The fact is, Lily Bean seems to have had very little guidance in her life until now and she’s doing the best she can. She’s also a puppy. Six months old is definitely a puppy, even though dogs don’t look very cute and baby like anymore. Her legs are long, her feet are big, her body is short, slabby and kind of funny looking and she still has puppy fuzz on her head and ears. She may look like something a six year old drew, but she’s still just a puppy.
Puppy behavior without baby puppy looks is hard for a lot of people to deal with. “We don’t have time for her/him” is often code for “the cute wore off, they’re annoying and we have no clue how or desire to fix this”. Sometimes, I forget this very important fact – even after having worked in behavior rehab and rescue. I’m still human and occasionally labor under the delusion that I will magically end up with a mild mannered and easy rescue doggo. Though older rescue pups are rarely broken, they’ve almost always received very little guidance, making them irritating adolescents. Lily Bean is no exception.
Lily’s a smart girl. She’s picked up a lot just from normal daily activities. I’ve been struggling with my energy levels and have done little formal training with her. Even so, she’s almost tolerable both on leash and at doors. She has a good idea of what “leave the cat alone” means and her potty habits have improved considerably; I’m no longer running outside every fifteen minutes or so around the clock in an attempt to avoid “stroll-by peeing”. She has a penchant for eating sticks (Seriously, Lily Bean? Sticks? SERIOUSLY?!?). As a result, she’s also gotten familiar with “drop it!” “leave that alone!” and “ah-ah!” Courtesy of Hobbit, she’s also got a basic understanding of “wait”.
My contemplative practices have suffered, but I was already struggling before Lily Bean came along. I can’t blame Lily Bean for my lack of regular sitting, but she certainly hasn’t helped matters much. Still, I find moments to open myself to the presence and action of the Divine throughout the day, especially on the trail. And I remind myself that my dogs are a gift – even when they’re annoying. Or maybe especially when they’re annoying. After all, I’m the one feeling annoyed and grinchy due to my own expectations, conscious or not. The dogs have nothing to do with that. There are moments of such profound beauty and connection I would never experience were it not for having to get out with the dogs, places and scenery I would never have seen were it not for my constant search for new and interesting explores I search out for the benefit of my dogs. We are a gift to each other, though I suspect I’m getting the better bargain.
I spent a large part of last weekend feeling like a drunken zombie. It was a gorgeous day Saturday: birds tweeting in the trees, warm, gentle breeze, sun high and bright and not a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get out and enjoy it. Though I love hiking and am finding myself ever more deeply drawn to it, I also have adrenal fatigue. Stress of any kind will send me cascading face first onto my bed. The other side of the coin? Occasionally I can’t sleep, which leads to next to no energy the following day. Not fun. I had planned to go hike the Big Tesuque trail on Saturday – finally. My body had other plans. I barely made it to the end of my road for Hobbit’s potty break.
Poor Hobbs. Hiking keeps us both sane. I always know when I haven’t been getting him out often enough. My living room furniture gets liberally marked and I have pee to clean. Thankfully, since we’ve moved to our. new place, getting out for sufficient exercise isn’t a problem most days. Hobbit can handle a day or two of hike skipping.
Our daily hikes aren’t exactly proper hikes; they’re mostly walking along relatively easy, smooth-ish dirt paths near our house. These paths can lead to some amazing views; one goes on forever if you follow the right path. We generally never walk more than 45 minutes in the morning. Most days, Jackson, my son’s twelve year old, twelve pound chimeranian (chihuahua x pomeranian) comes with us, guaranteeing we can’t go very far since he often has breathing trouble and isn’t used to that much exertion. And then there’s that thing called work I have to get to. If I could, I would do nothing more than hike with my dogs, come home and write about our adventures – and somehow manage to get paid enough to make my monthly expenses. Dream job! But for now, I do other stuff to earn the dog food, carrots, sunflower seeds and spring greens that make up so much of my monthly necessities. We do what we must while moving towards that which we love.
The adrenal fatigue I spoke of earlier can be a challenge. Still, I push myself in spite of fatigue, though not enough to do myself damage. Usually, I just end up a little extra tired. One day of poor sleep, though and it’ll throw me off for many days afterwards. I deal with it and explore the edges of my limitations, finding places I can push the boundaries a little further than before. I’m used to having endless energy; getting used to limits on my energy is a new thing. I used to get frustrated, now I find it fascinating. I’m in a new container, albeit a temporary one. Eventually I’ll heal. In the meantime, what am I able to do within the confines of this new container? What comes after the healing? How much hiking can I sanely do and remain functional?
There’s always the wisdom of the body: I may think I’m fine to do a lot more than my body agrees to. That’s when my muscles get weak, my speech slurs and my brain fogs up. That’s when things requiring fine motor skills or quick reflexes don’t get done. Heck, sometimes, that’s when just walking may not get done. Ah, well! But still I hike and will continue to do so. My sanity and that of my doggos (I have two; will talk about Lily Bean another time) depends on getting on the trail regularly. To us, my energy evaporating at a moment’s notice on the trail is worth the risk.
Life is good out here in the hills. I have great hiking right outside my door. This morning, I decided to linger a little longer in bed rather than set out on a walk at my normal time because apparently God or the angels or somebody had a leak in their flour bag and there’s a light dusting of white stuff on the ground, mostly in the shadow areas where the sun has yet to touch. And Lexi just informed me that she saw a coyote trotting past our front porch as happy as you please. Hobbit’s twenty-five pounds. The bed is warm, the tea is hot, the walk can wait.
One of the challenges of living on the edge of wilderness is that it has a way of behaving as though you’re not on the edges at all and moving right in with you. You learn to deal with it. Flies, gnats, weird looking bugs invading your house and exploring your walls; squirrels chewing through your floor to store piñon nuts around your furnace? Whatever. Catch them, kill them, block and chase them off, whatever you’re gonna do about them and move on with your day. Deal with it.
Lately, I have discovered some really tiny red mite looking things in my bathroom. Mostly they wander the window sills and panes, occasionally they meander on the bathroom floor. This morning, they decided the toilet was interesting. I figured just a few of them on the pedestal. Squish, squish, leave a tiny reddish splotch to wipe off and no biggie. That is, until I caught sight of the space between the bowl and the seat. EW!!! I guess they decided under the toilet seat was the perfect place for a family reunion or to train the troops or I dunno! Seeing as how they’re so tiny, it must have taken them a very long time to make their way up the toilet and onto the rim. Maybe it was Sunday morning prayer time and had I waited another hour or so, they’d have been done and moved on with me none the wiser.
Normally, I’m totally okay with bugs. Mass collections of them (especially if they’re tiny like little ants or tiny reddish mite thingies) give me the heebies and bring out the buggy exterminator in me. A kind of mad “EW! EW! EW!” squish, squish, slap, slap fever overtakes me until the last little crawly is a flattened memory to be wiped away with soap and water and a modicum of my sanity. Bathroom paper to the rescue and joy that the little buggers were so easily flattened. I’m all for living in harmony with the wild things just as long as they aren’t being too wild in my space, doggos and kittehs excepted. Taking over my toilet is much too wild. I don’t shriek, other than maybe a shouted/snarled “EW!”, but I do kill. Quickly. Without mercy. Sometimes gleefully. Not this morning, though. Just an “EW!” and efficient squish wiping out of the offending tiny creatures. Go commandeer someone else’s potty, you mildly disturbing tiny creatures.
I’m finally in my new place. Not settled, since there’s still so much to unpack and have set up, but I’m here and all my stuff is here, too. Too much stuff, but it’s all mine and in the same general vicinity of me. I can sort through it at my leisure and begin the process of “dump, donate, sell”. First things first: rest up and begin serious healing as I drop the last vestiges of the stresses from these past few years. I’ve been hankering for a simpler life for as long as I can remember. A life centered around the home, nature, wildcrafting and growing herbs and a garden that produces most of my food – easy enough as a plant muncher, since I won’t need to allot any space to animals other than my dog. Hobbit’s away at a friend’s house while we tend to fixing the fence here, but it’s crazy lonely without him. I can’t imagine not having a dog for company, no matter how much I may fantasize a life with no companion animals at all. Walks aren’t as much fun without a dog and hikes even less so.
Tonight, I’m making pea soup. I love pea soup! I figured I’d try out the new pressure cooker. I still have my old one, but it no longer is useful as a pressure cooker since the lock thingie got sacrificed to the gas stove gods. Melted it clear off while we were trying to figure out how best to use a gas stove. It had been awhile since any of us had used one. The new place has a gas stove, too! Lucky for us, we already are used to it, though Adraic checked the new pot to make sure it didn’t have any exposed, meltable parts.
I kept trying to keep the stove clean while the split peas morph into proper pea soup, but alas, it’s a lost cause. I’m surprised there’s any water left in with the peas, so much of it seems to have made its way outside the pot. But sure enough, when I let the pot cool down and open the lid, it looks like hardly any water’s boiled out at all. I guess it’s just marking territory or something. “Mweh-HEH! This stove is MY turf, ya see? Don’t you rice or lentils go gettin’ any ideas!” But, that’s peas for you. At least I can add the carrots and potatoes for some seriously yummy soup later once they’ve turned to mush. Or perhaps just before. Potato chunks can take their own sweet time cooking thoroughly, not that carrot suns* are all that speedy, either.
One thing I’m happily getting used to is the quiet. It’s incredibly quiet here! I hadn’t realized just how grating the noise of the city could be until I left it. I’ve slept better here than I have in years. I am a little surprised that I miss town, but I’m okay with that. Here is where I am at the moment, where God has chosen to put me for the time being. I’ve only been here for a few days; I grew up in cities and suburbs. No matter how much I love the country, cities will always feel familiar. That and they’re incredibly convenient places to live. But I really don’t mind the inconvenience of the hills. It’s beautiful and rejuvenating and comforting in ways town life could never be. Silence wraps, envelops and permeates everything and presses against my skin even when I’m indoors. Here is where I truly begin to live.
*carrot suns – what I call carrots sliced crosswise, either full rounds or halves; they look like tiny little suns. My kids thought this was the coolest thing when they were little. They also liked finding the star in the center of their apple and the funny faces the lights on cars make.
Lazy doesn’t even begin to describe my energy levels today. I haven’t showered, brushed my teeth or even really gotten out of bed – which also means I haven’t gotten dressed today (no, Stasi, bathrobes – however fuzzy – do not count as getting dressed). It’s time to start preparing for Great Vespers. I don’t want to go anywhere. Not that I dislike attending church; to the contrary: I LOVE going to church and vespers – great, small or otherwise unnoteworthy – is my second favorite service. My favorite service is Matins, but I have yet to actually make it to Matins, considering how difficult it is to get me out of the house by choice or otherwise before ten. I still need to heal and nourish that ground. Perfect Christian I am not. Thankfully, God likes us in all our wonky imperfections. Being time challenged is only one of my (many) imperfections. Some days when I reflect momentarily on my imperfectness I think God must love me a LOT.
Anyway, slowly, with hot tea in hand, I am managing to get ready for church while simultaneously musing on the merits of urban homesteading and how much I miss being in the country where I can keep my horse (the one I don’t have yet), a few goats just for fun or packing or whatever and maybe some chickens. I can in theory keep chickens where I am currently; I hear roosters early in the morning or as the sun sets. This is OLD Santa Fe, not the fancy-pants, gentrified Santa Fe. People actually do quite a lot of real living here. And part of that living includes keeping chickens.
My chicken conundrum is whether or not to keep full-sized laying hens or my beloved banties. I don’t eat eggs (can’t stand them), but I could sell them. But what to do with the hens that are no longer “good layers”? I don’t eat animals. I end up considering every animal in my care as part of my family. Selling or giving them to others who will eat them is the same blood on my hands as doing it myself and putting them in my own freezer. Only worse because I get to play “pretend I had nothing to do with their deaths” so I can feel good about myself. Not an option. Bantam chickies that are totally adorable are most likely my best option. They can eat bugs, make compost, be cute as all get out and cause me no dilemmas. Or I can just not have any chickens at all. Even if I do think they’re cool and highly entertaining.
I actually did make it to church and nearly on time, too! The funny thing is church seemed that much sweeter tonight, like God was pouring extra favor on me for having overcome my ennui. It was a beautiful, sweet communion and especially so with the Theotokos (that would be Mary the mother of Jesus for those of you who have no idea who I’m talking about). And on coming home, I found myself perusing land for sale, housing in the country for rent, etc. and beginning the babiest of seeds of a plan to get myself out into the middle of nowhere. Even on a super modest income it could be done within five years – with some financial discipline and without a mortgage. In the meantime, urban homesteading is looking like a dream within reach. We shall see what God plops in my lap. He’s been amazingly good at taking care of me, the faithfullest of faithful, always eager to share happy little surprises with me. My life is a magical life!
I took two whole days and did absolutely nothing. No housework, no errands, not even going to church. It’s not that I don’t enjoy such things. I was just tired. Tired of the rushing, the “gotta, gotta, gotta”, the loud busyness of modernity, the measuring of success by how bedraggled and time starved you are. And I’m only on the outskirts of it, though not nearly far enough to said outskirts for my taste. I didn’t even get in my car, though I seriously needed a few groceries. My body and spirit were exhausted.
This has been a difficult year. I’ve been pushing and clawing and going nearly nonstop – not for some fabled and elusive success, but just to keep a roof over my and my family’s heads and food on the table, things commonly known as basic necessities. There were many times when I failed at the food part and I went without so my family didn’t have to. It can make work challenging; hunger brain fog is real, folks. But I’d endure that challenge ten times over to make sure my family doesn’t have to. Truly, there were moments I wondered if I’d be able to afford soap. Thankfully, I always could, somehow.
Recently, in an effort to make life easier all around, I attempted to
move. I found a place, the landlord and I found each other quite agreeable and my bank account found the rent quite nice. At the last moment, the landlord decided he’d rather move to the house in question. I don’t blame him; the place was beautiful! Not at first glance, but with care and love it could be an incredible sanctuary. I felt no malice toward him for his decision. I cried anyway. It felt like my last chance to get free of this seemingly interminable struggle I’ve been in for the last three years, intensifying this last year, had slipped away. I was hoping to be able to celebrate my birthday in a new place with the sigh of relief that comes with the lessening of a great burden. But no. I am still in my perfectly suitable but above my means house, still the same amount shy every month of being able to comfortably make rent and utilities, still in Santa Fe, still likely to be struggling a bit longer. I’d had enough and decided I didn’t want to talk to anyone outside my home, nor did I want to venture forth from said home.
I spent the entire weekend mostly prone, sleeping, reading, eating when I was hungry. I’ve had to make dietary changes so the restful time was perfect for this. I had to return to a raw vegan diet since everything else I ate was making me nauseous. Rest, fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts and veggies, herbal teas and a good bit more rest. No phone (I left it off since coming home from work Friday night), very little internet, sparse conversation. I couldn’t even bring myself to exit my house doors, let alone turn on my car. If it wasn’t in my house already then I would do without it.
In my silence I began to notice my spirit felt like a raw, open wound. I hurt. My body hurt, my mind hurt, my spirit throbbed and ached and probably bled if spirit has such a thing as blood. I. Hurt. A lot. It was like I could feel not only my own pain but the pain of the entire world all at once, all its jagged, pointy edges shredding my soft innards like broken glass on a naked baby. So I rested. I slept. And slept and slept some more. I didn’t know I could sleep so much! And through all of this resting and doing of nothing I began to feel the deeper layers of fatigue. They go deep. Scary deep if I had to descend them on my own. Thankfully, I do not. I just have to be willing to see what’s there, knowing it’s the job of the Divine to heal and nourish whatever we find. As a matter of fact, that’s what was offered during one of my meditations this week: let God heal your heart for you.
The hardest part of healing is the doing of nothing. Especially when you’ve said yes to allowing God to do the work. I keep wanting to “help” – like when toddlers try to help with anything. We find it amusing and sweet but know they aren’t really helping at all. We give them a task that essentially keeps them out of the way but allows them to feel like they’re doing something helpful while we do the actual work. Helping God heal me is a lot like that. I am doing something, the task assigned me. This weekend, my task was radical rest. Not just any rest, but two steps away from complete shut down rest. The only way it could have been more complete would have been for me to be isolated somewhere without internet or cell access, alone. But I am not yet ready for such an intesive healing session. I would be there if that was what God had prepared for me. I need a bit more healing before I go careening off into the actual wilderness. There’s an awful lot of internal wilderness for me to explore and heal in the meantime. Radical resting may just become a regular habit.
During my centering prayer practice this morning, I discovered the scariest of places: my own heart. To be clear, I wasn’t afraid but I could clearly feel my small, egoic self scrambling to get me out of this newer, deeper level I had come across. I could feel its fear and panic: “No, no! This is too deep! We’ll NEVER get out of here! Surely this will KILL me!” Scramble, scramble, panic, fight. I simply sat with it as I do with any thought in centering prayer: no reaction or response other than to gently continue releasing my grip and attention. No fighting back. Just softly returning to the space where my Beloved dwells and waits within me.
My practice has been a bit rough lately with lots of turbulent emotions dredging up from the bottom, stirring and clouding the water. My heart is being purified, the clutter being dredged up and cleared out. This leaves clearer pathways for me to descend ever deeper into heartspace where I connect with the Divine. Having touched this place within myself has changed me. I know it’s there now. I know there are greater depths to descend. I want to explore them all; I need and want more.
This is how it often is with me and the Divine: I catch a scent of It, a glimpse, get a taste and instant craving, yearning springs forth, sometimes overwhelmingly. I want to reach out to every heart and spark the same as I continue seeking more of my Beloved nestled secretly in every human, animal, rock and tree. Flowers whisper Her name, water carries the hymns of grace and sometimes I get to hear it even if my ears are out of tune. The Beloved is everywhere and nowhere, inside me and not. And all I can do is keep pursuing, seeking, hoping for the grace of ever closer contact.
In my lust for greater closeness, I’ve begun to see all of creation as the face of the Divine. Touching anything in any way becomes a vehicle for me to connect more deeply with the Divine. Losing that sense of God permeating everything is a profound loss for me. I find myself feeling unmoored, sometimes cranky. I am definitely more prone to tears. I wade through the marshy bog of my desolation and despair seeking land. The bones and snags of my own meanienesses and fears laughing and tearing at me, doing their best to suck me back into the muddy muck, keep me out of alignment and confused. Eventually I find land again, dragging my exhausted self onto it with my remaining strength. And there will sit my Beloved, waiting for me, welcoming me. I have found home once more.
Life for me currently has lost something of its meaning, its savor. The world seems a faded, washed out place. I’m having trouble finding the motivation to do anything at all aside from stare blankly at walls or perhaps sit in the woods or in a park. Just sit. No thought and certainly no talking. GAH! Right now, I absolutely abhor talking! Strangely enough, I love the feeling of community. As long as we’re all doing something together other than sitting around talking. Cooking, baking, gardening, cleaning is all fine in proximity to one another. Just sitting around visiting? No, thank you. Not right now. Everything grates. I can’t stand the flourescent lighting in stores, the jarring, saccharine notes of pop music, the sound of crying babies, barking dogs, voices, voices, voices! Everything is too loud: people’s presences are too loud, their thoughts are too loud, the energy of the city is too loud. It often feels like most people are moving through the world randomly shooting off quills from themselves. They hurt, so I hurt. Somebody PLEASE SHUT IT ALL OFF AND FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE, STOP TOUCHING ME!!! In many ways it feels like I’ve just come through some severe trauma. I feel raw, scrubbed out, bland. The strangest things will scare me or set me on edge. I feel vulnerable and exposed, both empty and in need of emptying myself.
At the same time, there is a stillness, a sweetness, a something (or Someone) holding me. If this is what is meant by dark night of the soul, it doesn’t feel very dark at all. I could see all around me just fine if there was something to see besides endless, shifting mists. I’m not in darkness; I’m just waiting. The only thing that brings me pleasure is connecting to the Divine in any and every way It chooses to share Itself with me. That’s where the colors come from, the world comes really and truly alive then. It surprises me that most people completely miss how sweet and playful the Divine is! I wonder how millennia of humans have mostly missed out on this very important knowing in favor of some bleak, pinchy-faced, big meanie with a perpetual grudge and toothache? I suspect most humans have not truly met the Divine at all, or at the very least haven’t spent much time with Him. It’s as though we’ve crafted our world to put as much space between us and any chance we might have of encountering the Divine. But It is crafty, the Divine. It breaks in where It wills and boops us anyway.
The in between feels more like unreality. I don’t feel bleak or numb. It’s more like being in suspension. I am here. No thoughts, no emotions most of the time. Soft, gentle, catching glimpses through out the day of the world through very different eyes. Sometimes I hear through my eyes and breathe through my skin, I can taste things, hear things, touch things just by gently placing my attention on them. I recently discovered that the leaves of aspens tinkle like tiny, shimmering bells. Beneath all the hideousness of modernity, the World has the most beautiful fragrance! And the sparkly, golden glow
that surrounds and emanates from everything…. I wonder is this is what Jesus meant when He said you must be made anew, you must be reborn? Either that or I’m going crazy and none too slowly.
So what to do while all this happens? Wait. That’s what I’m doing: waiting. Not like there’s anything else for me to do, anyway. Since what I had has become pointless, I’m waiting for the Divine to give me another meaning. I’m waiting for another dimension to open for me, some new or already present thing to take shape, stand out and point my pointlessness in the direction of a new reason to be here. Until then, I find myself barely able to function in any normal way. I often sequester myself away to do quiet things like practice with my drop spindle or learning crochet. I frequently read, though I have to be careful since not only the topic but the feel of the author can be jarring. But I wait. I practice letting go of everything that doesn’t serve anymore. When my Beloved is ready, I will begin again.