stillness and wind

Lying on the end of the dock, I feel like a mermaid on the prow of the ship, the wind blowing my hair down my back as I face the spray. It’s a brisk wind, funneling waves into this tiny bay, the boat tied at the neighbor’s dock rocks from gunnel to gunnel in the surf. Lap after lap the waves lick and leap, kissing the dryness of the dock’s planks.

This early evening I am grateful for it, this wind, for it also blows the black flies back from my face. Or, perhaps, it carries my scent, my heat, my carbon emission, off and away so that I am less detectable. (as i write this, i realize i rather like being invisible like that)

The first morning in this place, I rose early, hours before Don (as seems to be our rhythm of late). Despite what my head knew about the preference of black flies for the stillness of dawn, I too am lured by it. Eager to be out on the water, in it, with it, I lifted my new-to-me solo canoe from the cartop, eased it into the water, the lowered myself to me knees in her open hull with a sigh. I thought she must be as eager as I to be wet once again, after so many months out of her element, in storage.

Off the two of us set into the glassy morning.

Not 50 yards from shore, the black flies were swarming. I don’t know if one signals the next, or exactly how they grow from an occasional buzz that can be flicked aside into a swarm, but there they were. Perhaps I was like a hot-blooded beacon in the middle of a sea of cool water.

I pulled out my headnet and continued on my way, out of the bay, around the bend, into the marshy inlet, which was an unexpected delight to discover on this new-to-me lake. Along the way, I learned that stillness is still possible, even within a swarm, within that headnet of protection. From inside it, I was able to soften into a curiosity and appreciation of their tenacity and their purpose in the cycle of life. Everything belongs. Deep breaths along with paddle strokes— not to numb, but to quiet the tendency to anxienty, worry or panic, to be present in a state of calmness.

Surrendering to what is.

The practice of surrender is the one that has been softening me of late, watching for that inner brace and letting go into Love or Patience, or Trust. That softening, when I can invite it, invites me to see something deeper than the moment of frustration, anxiety, or pain.

It’s easy to brace and panic when being swarmed by black flies while paddling in the middle of a lake with no escape. But I am protected, by a head net and bug jacket. A few get in here and there but mostly it is just the incessant swarming, buzzing that can set off my mind’s panic, if I let it. It’s really good practice for those other nagging places in my life where I might instead tend to panic or brace or overact (or ruminate or over analyze or worry or try to fix – as the enneagram reveals about me) to let go and let be. I am protected by a net of Love—if you will— from which I can respond with grace.

What is the head net of protection beneath which I can be present with grace? Sometimes it is compassion, sometimes it is mercy, forgiveness, appreciation, grace, kindness, forbearance, wisdom… all facets of this jewel we call Love.

After a few hours of paddling that morning, the sun now glaring and my energy flagging, arriving back at the dock was a relief. I was grateful to return to shelter, to strip off the headnet inside of the cabin’s walls. Like prayer, this shelter offers respite and rejuvenation. Peace without so much effort. And through its window, glimpses of quiet beauty are revealed, encouraging me to go back out there.

Waiting now for the wind to pick up a bit is rather an opposite experience for me. Usually I covet still waters, but here and now, I wait for the wind to offer some assistance to the head net.

Now… I wonder what the wind might be in my life?

walking on shattered glass

For a long time now, I’ve been walking in the dark. As seems to be the way with journeys of awakenings, there comes this time of sleep along the way. Sleep walking, if you will – feeling your way through the dark passage.

Paradoxically, that darkness often comes after a blinding light, like the one I experienced near the beginning of this stretch of the journey. (And perhaps ‘blinding’ is an apt descriptor then… after which it seems I lost my ability to see for awhile).

Regardless, I felt abit lost, still going through the motions but not sure where I was headed. After those years of being bathed in such profoundly healing experiences of belovedness, the feeling of intimacy fell away and I was utterly alone.

Al-one? Perhaps. For in the place of those mystical Love experiences, I’d been ‘left’ with ‘everything is Holy’. I saw the sacred mystery all around me, the terrible beauty of it all. But I felt like I was merely an observer, an inconsequential speck in the midst of that infinite grandeur. Prayer felt empty, devoid of meaning, and there was nothing I could grasp to direct my prayer to. No purpose in it.

This year, the light has been making its subtle way back through the cracks. The energy of that light opening my eyes once again to wonder, but also restoring to me the dignity and integrity of human life. What has shifted in me is the realization that I AM also a piece of that grandeur, a vital piece. I AM ‘made’ to receive Light and Love in order to BE LIGHT and LOVE.

I had forgotten that I Am light!

Again, it sounds so trite, ( because human words fail to express it– those words, ‘no hands but yours’) but somehow now I know it in my body in a new way. I am not here, experiencing brokenness, merely to give Divinity something to Love. That seems a cruel fate, after all. I am also here because the Divine One needs me -this humble human vessel that I am, to become Love. There is no Love, Compassion, Mercy, Peace, without us to receive it and to BE it. Those divine energies are merely ideals without the flesh of life to manifest them.

There is something reciprocal about the flow of Love in this way. I am Loved, I am Love. I receive, I give back. I am fed. I feed. Love grows.T

To pray in this way is to take a bath in Love, in the wonder of Light becoming flesh all around me, and within me. To fill up in order to Be Love.

I dreamt the other night some new words: “This human journey (to be human) is to walk across a field of shattered glass” As I gazed out upon that endless exquisite field, I was taken by the beauty of the sparkling colors, even as I felt the inevitable cutting.

The human journey is fraught with pain. It is fraught with Beauty…all that broken glass, like prisms, imperfectly reflecting the light, the Divine One shattered into so many pieces in order to Become.

I am a piece of that broken glass, as are you. Reflecting beauty. And in my broken bit I will be imperfect and I will inadvertently cause suffering and pain to those I love, and that suffering will cause compassion to become real… and to grow. As best as I can my job is to polish that glass here in this ocean of Love , to dive deep and bath in it , swim in it, be tumbled by it, allow it to knock off these rough edges, and to shine.


PS . To those who companioned me along this journey of returning light this long year (you know who you are) Thank you!  Our relationship has so sustained me. There has been such Love. There has been grace. There has been mercy. Thank you for being a mirror.

‘Left to my own devices, I had fallen asleep and forgotten who I am’ Thank you for gently blowing on my embers in the midst of that darkness, and reminding me that I AM light.



becoming old

Recently, a young child looked at me and said, “wow, you have a lot of hairs to pluck!” It seems his young mother has a few white ones and that’s what he’s seen her do. I said, “Oh no, i love my white hair! I keep them all! White hair is so beautiful.” To which his baby sister said, ‘but…white hair is old hair!” As if that were a bad thing? Being old? I simply replied, “oh, but I couldn’t wait for my white hair to grow in”

Ladies, (and gentlemen..I am blessed to have one of these in my life, who actually suggested to me when I was 40 to just let it grow out) we must redefine what beauty looks like. It is not dependent on hair color or age. Teach your daughters and sons, by modeling for them, that you see beauty in many ways and stages of being…including yourself. I find your thick dark hair lovely too.

But mostly, take care with how you see yourself. Your youth is not slipping away…you are Becoming More. You are not losing, you are gaining. The secret that nobody tells you in our culture is that growing old is a beautiful thing. Looking old is not an insult, it is a blessing. Aging can truly be Grace. In it, there is deepening joy and peace.

White hair is like the butterfly’s wings, emerging from the chrysalis of the first half of life. (and I understand that transformation inside that confining chrysalis, the body of what had once been the caterpillar’s way of being and moving in the world being dissolved, and the final emergence, is also a painful one). But these white wings of mine give me freedom to fly, and taste the sweetness of life.

Hemlock trees and me

Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrongdoing there is a field, 
I'll meet you there.

Overlooking the patch of woods before me, I sit to pray in the quiet of this morning, surrounded in stillness and bathed in grace. My eyes light upon the flush of green at the tips of the hemlock, and I smile, brimming with hope and delight.

When we first moved into this cottage eight years ago, the Hemlocks were already devastatingly diseased. Matriarchs and adolescents alike had been infested by the Woolly Adelgid, which had infiltrated these woods decades ago. These invasive insect pests draw sap (the life-juice of the trees) and interfere with the trees’ ability to take in nutrients. As with other invasive species that have done such damage, often widespread and irreversible (think Chestnut blight), these trees had not co-evolved with those insects, which were accidentally introduced to their environment all at once (by the standard of earth-time) and so they had no natural defense against their assault. Nor were there critters here that had evolved to consume them. By the time we settled into our home here, the green flush of needles was long gone from limbs, branches were brittle and dying, and many of the trees were gray skeletal remains of what they once had been. I was told that many were too far gone and should be given up on.

Indeed many were, but I began feeding the roots of those with even a trace of life. The nutrient substance I used also contained small amounts of a systemic insecticide that the trees could draw up to provide some defense (My trees are not near any water source, nor does this land drain onto the street where any runoff might enter the stormwater drains). With the infestation in check, the trees have been able to once again take in nutrition – sunlight, minerals, water– and begin to heal themselves.

This week is the time of year when those bright green needles flush at the tips of the limbs. Their midspring appearance fills my eyes with delight, and I feel enveloped in hope. Here is a sanctuary and shelter not merely for my heart but for beings who will nest in their branches, take nurture from their cones, grow in the coolness of their shade, and make burrows in their roots.

Somehow, I have loved them back to life.

This morning I see that they are returning the gift, reminding me that I too can stay green if I take care to tend my roots with the right kind of nurture and be vigilant about what I allow to invade my spirit that might prevent me from taking in (and seeing) goodness. They are gently reminding me that it is never too late to nurture myself back into life, and that what I choose to feed myself will make a difference in how my own branches reach out into the world. And they have made me ponder the negative toxin that has entered my own internal landscape, which has threatened to dry and brittle my heart.

This has been a difficult year for many of us. And yet, my experience has not been that the corona virus has been the devastating event. Rather, my dis-ease has been the associated slow creep of a hardness that has come from that other viral invasion of our day– the mass infestation of divisive negativity in a world where judgment of the ‘other’ has gained traction and gone viral. While this has been a slowly spreading infection of human culture for several decades now, it seems these last 12 months, as it mutated from issue to issue, have reached a tipping point where it’s widespread corrosive effect is becoming more visibly evident. ( but of course, this human tendency to demonize the other is not new, else the caution to ‘judge not’ would not have been so needed 2000 years ago, else genocides and slavery would not have been able to take place. It just seems that today, the capacity to be bombarded by mass waves of negativity is so much greater. We have not evolved to withstand that kind of overload).

In these divided times, we all have been challenged to understand the heart of the “other.”( and who we perceive as ‘other’, of course, depends upon where we are standing.) But as I noted here, over a month ago, I had become aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that bitterness and anger, cynicism and judgment, name-calling and even disdain had begun creeping their way into my heart, drawing life-giving sap from my spirit . These feelings infesting me threatened my well-being far more so than that other virus, making it difficult to keep myself rooted in Love, and had begun making me feel a bit brittle. My stop gap measure against that onslaught had been to desparately seek understanding in an effort to keep my mind open, my heart soft…myself green, if you will.

But, in the end, as is often the case for me, a dose of nature heals, and trees are often my teachers.

Twenty years ago, I was graced with a dream. I guess that is what you would name it, though it felt more like a visitation to me at the time. I was in a great deal of pain at the time, and in a very dark place. I have written about it here in the past, but from time to time its message resurfaces for me, shedding new light each time that it does. I fell to sleep sobbing that dark night, and the Love that came to enfold me is like nothing I have ever experienced. (so much so that when I awakened the next morning, I wept once again as my feet hit the floor, yearning to return to that place). While being held in that Love, a voice told me to gaze upon what i was being shown. There was a great tree/cross being poured into from above by a brilliant LIght. I was told to let myself be filled that way, to notice the roots of that tree/cross and how the Light was also flooding those roots. Then I was asked to see that the tree was being filled from those roots, light being drawn up the trunk, where the it was naturally, effortlessly overflowing from its outstretched arms/branches. There was nothing more I needed to do, the voice had said, but to let myself be filled that way, with Light and Love. At the time, i was suffering alot from feelings of unworthiness, rejection, abandonment, unlovability and loss.I thought i had to do something/change something about myself in order to earn Love. The message that I was Loved and Beloved just as I was was so healing for me at the time.

All these years later, the dream is still vital, however its message has subtly shifted for me. No longer is it one of individual belovedness for my own healing, but has become a lesson in how I am to receive Love, to stay aligned with it, to keep myself grounded firmly in it, so that I can Be Love in the world. I am not here to merely receive Love, but I AM here to Be Light. We humans are meant to be manifestations of Love– to make the sacred qualities of compassion, mercy, beauty, peace and hope Real. (As trite as it may sound, there are no hands but ours.) Without us, Love is just an ideal, an energy perhaps, but not a tangible reality. The dream was a message of what it looks like to incarnate Light, of what I am called to do and to Be.

Sitting now, at the feet of these wise trees, that dream is recalled. They too are taking in light and transforming it into something corporeal and beautiful. They too are drawing that energy to the earth, sending it deep into their roots (where we now know they also transport it to others) They too are breathing out that which others need to survive and to thrive, and extending their greening limbs in offering.

I understand now that I must take care to feed my own roots and ground myself in love. I must safeguard my heart by making myself inhospitable to infestations that threaten my own life-giving verdancy- infestations of negativity, cynicism, judgment, hatred, and “othering”, which make me brittle and grey.

I imagine myself drawing in goodness, letting it fill me, sinking it deeply into my roots. I imagine it flowing up and out through my limbs in offering. I seek to align myself with Love, so that when i open my eyes that is how I see, when I open my arms they will be opened with compassion and grace and forgiveness– for not only those ‘others’ who know not what they are doing, but for myself too in the ways that I will fail to see and Be Love.

A daily practice such as this makes it possible for me to draw from that well in my ordinary life, making of my mundane existence something sacred. In places where my outstretched limbs might offer welcome, shelter, nurture, or shade to another, I become a place of sanctuary in a bedraggled world. And I do feel it softening me. I feel a softening of my reactions, a softening of my gaze, a greening of my compassion. It has become an antidote that I can return to again and again when I notice those old patterns and new nagging negativites threaten to overrun me or block Love’s flow.

May it be so for you too.

%d bloggers like this: