emerging from winter

willow grace 001

Begun, February 11.
As I pondered writing this blog, various titles were swimming, circling, bobbing to the surface for a nibble. Would it be ‘Tending Brigid’s Fire’, or ‘Nesting the Crone’, or ‘Crossing the Threshold’, or ‘Ancestor Stones’ to take the bait….

As one who finds so much resonance with the natural world and the earth’s cycles—perennially, I notice myself in the cycles of fullness and letting go, turning inward and stirring to life – I am struck by how potent the specific threshold of Imbolc has become for me during this particular season of my life. Of course, those of you who have been spending any time at all with me here on these pages will know that these years have been marking (and making) a great transition in me as I navigate my way across the terrain from mother to crone in the great wheel that is a woman’s life. That this particular threshold in the earth’s own cycle resonates so powerfully feels fitting somehow.

Of course, it seems that this threshold in the earth’s cycle, though cross culturally bursting with celebration and imbued with great meaning, is relatively unknown in America. Oh yes, we have groundhog’s day, a secularized trivialization, which could in truth provide us a meaningful symbol if we’d approach it with such intentionality (Is it time to come forth or do I require more dwelling-in-darkness time?) Around the world and across spiritual traditions this is the time to look for such signs, to determine if more time is needed for something to die back –become humus perhaps– before the stirrings of new life can begin. St Brigid blows out the fire before lighting the new one, even as the old crone Calleiach goes out in search of wood for the continued stoking her own long winter’s fire. Shepherds look for signs of life in the bellies and teats of their winter flocks, and wise woodswomen look for snakes- feminine symbol of healing and transformation– emerging from their winter lairs. In the Christian tradition of superimposing its story upon the backdrop of the nature-honoring spiritual traditions, this is the date earmarked as the day Mary is allowed back into the temple; it is the end of her 4th trimester and this moment marks her own passage from gestating-and-becoming mother to being one, ready to present her gift to the world. Of course, she is also, according to ancient law, no longer bleeding and so is able to receive seed–she has made the transition to virgin again, time to begin anew. And so, the Great Mother Earth, having given birth to her own fruits in great, overflowing abundance the previous autumn and lain quiet in rest for the winter, is also ready to receive the seeds of spring’s great stirring-to-life as she shifts.

Something has shifted in me and I oft find myself with the nudge to peer beneath and see if the transformed shape is yet emerging. The great draining fatigue of last autumn has passed; the demanded-of-me stripping has freed me; the winter has somehow filled and deepened me. ‘Nesting’ is the word that comes most often to me when I try to name what my experience feels like right now. This nesting energy has been all-consuming — all-consuming in a way I have not understood it before, in a life-giving way, an energizing and vitalizing way. The vultures, however, who roost in these woods, understand it, of course. Their circling reminds me as well of this ancient perennial cycle of life-death-life, of death becoming humus, of the potent need for death to be consumed into new life. Yes, I am all-consumed and born anew at once.

Last Imbolc, I was chasing the snow geese (and the juxtaposition of the two—the black vultures and the snow geese– is not lost on me). I suppose it was something of their instinctual pull for home that beckoned so loudly to me. Then, I was living in what I had known, from the time I had landed there, to be a temporary resting place, and the instinctual urgencies of ripeness, of timing, of NOW were a cacophony, screaming in me. The open sky in that place brought the geese to me daily and I followed to nearby water, watched them lift in flight, in chorus called to home, to nesting, to birth, to ancestral birthing grounds, the longing in me rising with them.

This Imbolc season (for it is a season in me, not merely a date on the calendar), I find myself waking in song, eager, like songbirds nesting in spring. I throw open the door each morning expectantly, thinking that surely the season outside my door will soon catch on to this song in me, that one morning a riot of songbirds, signaling their return to these woods, will greet me at the door. If there is a longing at all in these days, this is it, this subtle wondering, ‘When will they arrive to these new woods of mine? What will they look like’? It comes attached, perhaps, to a wondering, ever so slight, that same subtle nudge to look beneath. “What might it be that is waiting to be born into and nurtured in this nest?”

What is the new life incubating in me, so needful of a nest that it has inspired such a potent, stirring-in-my-belly, creative energy in me? Have those sacred vultures, harbingers of transformation like the snake, at last consumed what was dead and yet clinging to the old — ways of being, expectations, images, ideals — in order to nourish this stirring to life in my belly? Has something at last died in me in this great turning of the wheel of my life from mother to crone so that these seeds, these eggs, might receive such rich nourishment for growth?

But mostly, I don’t think about it much. I don’t need to know, nor does it matter…I do not wish to live as if the only good reason for this good moment in me is the next, somehow more significant one. Mostly, I just want to be embodied, fully inhabit this current of joy in my bones, not abandon it to my head. And it has been good to live in my body this way –not spend so much time pondering the whys and the what for’s– to be in the joy of this season without there needing to be a reason, to let this now be enough.

And yet, I don’t want to let it pass by without acknowledging it, without noticing it, being grateful for it. And so, I called to my husband from bed this morning, with an urgency so potent that he scurried up the wrought iron spiral like a squirrel up a tree, simply so that he would not miss it, this moment, when the sun blazed halloween-pumpkin orange through the blackened skeletons of late winter trees. I wanted him to notice, to share in the noticing perhaps, the beauty of this moment, so easily overlooked, if unattended.

Last week, on the eve of Imbolc, standing beneath a deep indigo sky, just after twilight but before the fullness of night, I was similarly struck to pause, to gaze upward, in remembrance of my longing, to find the small V of white geese that was making such a racket overhead, their call to home, like my own had been, so potent and clear. (It seemed quite remarkable that at that particular moment as winter was closing and spring was waiting in the wings that those two.. the vulture and the snow goose… were present at once in my life, a much better symbol for the threshold between the old and the new than the groundhog, if you ask me.) It seems that the plaintive call of the snow goose, beckoning toward ancestral nesting grounds was not so different than mine after all, for alongside this nesting energy I have been likewise drawn to ancestral, lineage, places in me. I find myself being strangely invited to hear the stories of ancestors – both my own biological ones and those of this new/old home, into which I am moving and making my own. (hmmm…consuming in a way perhaps, with all the tearing apart and putting back together that is taking place) From halfway around the world, the invitation came in an email from a distant newfound relative who is exploring our roots. From a century ago, the invitation came in a silver hand mirror discovered in the fireplace wall. I am delighting in stories discovered and spirit uncovered, in peeling back layers to reveal what dreams came before, in treasures found and stories imagined, in secret windows and doors to the past. But of course!, how could I have ever even considered building a brand new home when I have been longing for so long for a connection to the past! How could I even imagine I could live in a place without story?

This morning I wonder, how is it that these ancestral storylines will come together in this place, in me? How is it that all I have been… all that my ancestors have been … all who have made this house their home have been… all of the disparate elements of this house itself have been (stone, and wood, and metal, and fire, and sun, and water, and earth) and of human elements (love and loss and betrayal and joy and sorrow and beauty and pain and healing)… has been consumed, transformed, and knit together again (and again and again) in this particular place within me? What form will it take today in me, tomorrow in my great-grandchildren?

How is it exactly that ancestry and nesting always go hand in hand?

And what does it mean to stand in this moment in time, at the crux between what has passed and what will be, here where all that came before flows through as does all that will come after. I am an intersector of sorts, both a conductor of grace and a healing link in a broken story. Oh, do we not stand in such a moment each moment; do we not hold the universe together by holding this space in between?

heart wound
Coda to the song: March 1

Since I began writing this piece, several weeks ago (almost a month now, could it be?), my life so full I mostly have had no choice BUT to be in it rather than reflect upon it in this way, my family- those who occupy the fuller roundness of my life and my heart – have been leaving some hints as to why here, why now, why this, what next, what exactly is to be born in this place I am nesting.

For some time, I suppose I’ve had the attitude that my life is like George’s Wonderful Life, always sacrificing myself, putting off my own dreams and desires for the sake of the other. Like George, I have stood with suitcase in hand at the station at various junctures in my life; longing for the distant land I imagined was my Real Self, eagerly anticipating the train to Self-Actualization. In the end, I could never quite board that train to fantasyland. Each time, my devotion to one or the other cemented my feet to the place where I was standing. And yes, there were even times when my love for them cemented my feet to life itself, thank Godde. Perhaps on my deathbed (or after) I will finally stop viewing those choices as failures at self-agency and see them for what they truly were, choices for love, for heart, for soul, for good. Now I see but in a mirror dimly.

So as it turns out, even this great move of mine has been a mere 5 miles up the hill, into the woods, though perhaps in some way it has been a much greater move into my self. Perhaps I have not moved on to an entirely new place or a new life at all, but into a new way of inhabiting the life and the place that I have. Though this has been but a small physical distance into the edge of the forest as I move into the ‘forest dweller’ stage of life, I trust it has been a necessary one, a letting go and stepping back that was not about moving away from, but about moving into – moving into claiming the gift and the goodness of myself, into living more soulfully from the deeper roots of my wisdom, moving into honoring my own rhythms, respecting my own instincts, embracing my own loves, honoring my own ways of seeing, my own ways of being, as good, into believing that who and how I am is a gift, and fearlessly expressing the fullness of that gift into this place. The great surprise in the nest, just beginning to crack its shell, is this deep peace in the knowledge that who I am, just as I am, is what I am supposed to be, and an even deeper trust that my very presence here is a valuable thing to pass on, too valuable a thing to be lost in the walls for some future generation to uncover.

This self is the one that I wish to share from this ancestral nest. I have perhaps somewhat resisted the transition to grand-motherhood because I thought that something ‘more’ was waiting for my turn, waiting for me to emerge from the consuming waters of motherhood, that there was some unclaimed, unrealized Vicki separate-than, and that cronedom and fulfillment was something other-than mother, grand or not. And, of course, I am always more-than any role that I play. What I did not understand is that I have been a buried treasure in my loved ones lives, that I AM something other-than, I AM something more-than mother to them. The fullness of who I am has been waiting for me to realize it and move fully in. I am invited to inhabit the homeland of deep abiding, soul-full presence in the lives of those whom I love.

Frequently, over the last months, I have caught myself telling another and another the story of the sage who was asked ‘What did you do before you became enlightened’? To which he responds ‘I chopped wood and carried water’. Then he is asked, ‘What do you do now that you are enlightened’? To which he responds, ‘I chop wood and carry water’. Perhaps Her answer would be ‘I feed babies and read stories’. It is time to stop apologizing for that.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a great lady, my daughter-in-law’s grandmother. I felt how potently her life, grounded in place, rooted in family, left a legacy of love in its wake. Yes, it is possible to create a wake while standing still, to heed the homing instinct by staying in place, without moving at all. Perhaps I was called to build my nest in this place, a mere five miles up the ridge, because my Presence is needed in this place, after all. While dreaming of a life other-than, I missed the great import of the one I am called to live. It is here that my great legacy is to be birthed, nurtured, and given away. It is here that I am to pass on ancestral, grandmother wisdom, here in my own skin, fully shed, but reinhabited…. somehow fuller and wiser than before.

And so, I stand at the crux, as always, at the intersection between what has been received and what will be given. I stand at the threshold of ancestors (with the legacy they have bequeathed) and descendants (with the legacy they will inherit). Life itself flows through me this way, you see. Yesterday, a dear great-grandmother of one granddaughter was buried as another newborn granddaughter was welcomed. Yesterday, my dead father sat beside me in the body of my son attending his young daughter in church. Yesterday, a diagnosis of great fear came for one daughter, a prognosis of great hope for another. Soulfully present, I hold multiplying cancer cells and the multiplying cells of first heartbeats here in my heart. On the threshold, I hold death and life, the old and the new, the humus and seeds, what was and what is yet to be. I hold it all in the fullness of womanhood, in the fullness of heart, in the wisdom of soul. I am needed right here, for I hold a place here, at the center, between what was and what will be, opening the door to it all, holding it all for I have somehow lived it all, of course… deep sorrow, great joy, anxious fear, tender hope, abiding love…I belong right here, in this place where my heart can hold it all, grow full of it all…. and overflow to spill its legacy to those who will receive it.

My new granddaughter came bearing the name, Willow Grace. A good friend blessed me with the remembrance that Willow Trees hold fast the soil of eroding streambeds. And I, who have recently let go of the flailing and striving-for, trying to swim away up on the surface, allowing myself to go underwater again and return to root in the depths where I am most ‘at home’, have not missed that she has come to hold on to this soil in me, and to keep me from eroding into some belief that my rich soil is not valuable enough to be safeguarded at all costs, or should perhaps be dredged up and used for something else. She needs me as I do her. May I feed her roots well, and may she hold me fast in this remembrance of who I am called to be.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Mar 03, 2013 @ 12:47:36

    I’m a lucky guy.

    Like

    Reply

  2. Tammy
    Mar 03, 2013 @ 16:59:50

    Vicki,
    Thank you for surfacing to share this tale of resurrection and transformation from the depths….may there be “happily ever afters” of more resurrections and transformations to come. As always, gracias soul sister.

    Like

    Reply

  3. Carolyn
    Mar 04, 2013 @ 15:48:10

    I am so happy to hear about the birth of Willow Grace. I hold you and your family in the transforming, grace-filled, healing silence.

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    Reply

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