Seven Streams

Be a provenance of something gathered

a summation of previous intuitions

let your vulnerabilities walking

on the cracked sliding limestone

be this time, not a weakness, but a faculty

for understanding what’s about to happen

Stand above the seven streams

Letting the deep down current surface around you

Then branch and branch as they do

Back into the mountain – from the poem Seven Streams, by David Whyte

I’ve been suddenly captivated (and I word it this way deliberately because this feels very much like being captured by something outside of myself, not at all a pursuit that I followed) by the stories of my ancestors. I’ve ridiculed my new obsession as one more distraction, one more fix in my quest for knowledge, bemoaning my lack of devotion to the spiritual practice I’d intended to walk this season. Gone are the morning contemplative sits, the reading of spiritual books. I am instead compelled by the stories of those who came before me, as if that thirst in me is so parched that it cannot get enough to drink. In writing those words, of course, i can feel the broken connection to my family of origin— my mother and I were estranged, my father died when i was but 28— and recall the longing I’ve felt when pulling out the old photographs given to me by my grandmother when I was a young woman, wanting to know their stories, yearning for an old journal or something.

Then this week, came in my email, a reflection by Richard Rohr on the communion of saints, and the liminal space we enter when we vist our ancestors. (The celts recognized certain thin times of the year when we enter those spaces more readily… All Saints (hallow- eve) and St Brigid’s day (our groundhog day here… the day when cultures across time have begun looking for signs of life in the dark, which is close to when this all began for me) His email redeemed my draw (ok, obsession) into this space. As I mentioned, I’d felt as if I’d just thrown in the towel on any sort of intentional spiritual practice (again) and yet I was so very captivated by it (and isn’t that what they say about spiritual  experiences after all, that you can’t make them happen, they come and grab you? )  In the research, I’ve been aware that there is a sense of loss of time and getting lost in the big story….I guess that’s often the description of a spiritual experience.  There is finding my place in the circle of things and reorientation to place. There is reconnection and a grounding of spirit to place. And it is changing me too … I’ve a new understanding about family, humanity, our people, our country. As I drive through the landscape I’m looking at farms and homesteads differently, as if I am seeing through new eyes what previously felt like looking before from some distant objective viewpoint.

And then, yesterday, I had an experience with one of my children that left me feeling, as often is the case, vulnerable– that old family-iar feeling of both not-enoughness and of invisibility. Uncertain of my footing. Uncertain of my place. Uncertain of my worth… was i /am i enough? Feeling somehow ridiculed (there is that word again). What is this lack, this insecury, I feel?

I’ve noticed in myself the not wanting to admit frailty, or ineptitude, or incompetence, or ignorance, not to mention abject failure….this not wanting to be human? Is that a protective mechanism, a hardening of self with the need to be perfect or proficient, knowledgable and in control, that covers over my heart so, that I attempt instead to lead with my head (doing all the ‘right’ things, knowing all the ‘right’ answers, learning all the ‘right’ ways) Oh, the ways i fortify myself from this felt sense of tender vulnerabilty and brokeness.

And then this morning, in a conversation with a friend, she too noticing her feelings of anxiety around a visit with her adult children, and their overwhelming troubles, I felt such communion with her about what it feels like to be a human mother on this planet.

I thought about a son who is just embarking on this journey of parenthood, downstream from this moment in time. He is the one who inspired this opening in me when he innocently asked about the dates of birth of my parents and theirs for a chart he was creating for his newborn son. How the lineage of Love now flows through him and his brothers, those branches spreading out beneath me as wide as the ones before me. I am, for this moment in time, the fulcrum, the funnel, the moment, the speck of condensation, through which the past and the future flow. I thought about how he too will be imperfectly human, but will pass on Love through his wounds, nonetheless… or perhaps precisely as a consequence of our human frailty.

It sometimes feels too great a task we are charged with here, in this speck of humanity that we are, for all of this Love to flow through our smallness. And then I think of the way all of those generations of Love (and wounds) that we carry merge for the speck of a moment in the hourglass of time with another who is also carrying their own lineage forth … and then branches forth again, and again, in concentric multidimensional flows…. oh, how wondrous is that?

Anyway, back to the poem that came in a flash from this morning’s reading…

Seven Streams

I stand unsure-footed upon this slick rock,

vulnerable as it is to be a human here and now

and always

the gathered provenance of those who came before,

their stories flowing into

flowing through

washing over, filling

passing through

the hardened rock of this

my seemingly singular

human life

through which I’ve trod with so much trepidation

as if falling,

or failing

as if imperfection or loss

of control or capacity

were something to be feared.

And yet, it is the cracks, of course,

as always

that let the water flow,

somehow finding its way through this flawed surface

to emerge in streams of grace

beneath me, branching, branching

seven upon seven

and I see that I am not the rock at all

I am/we are the water finding its way

through this hourglass of time

pouring forth

into children… into children’s children

 carrying water

in the vessels of our lives

for a time,

until the exquisite vulnerability of stone

cracks open

into waterfalls of grace.

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