mother stone

algonquin 281we had been invited to gather stones for the closing fire, and as we gathered round the fire that evening, gathering ourselves and each other in, gathering moments of grace, the stones would be used as ‘talking stones’. earlier that evening, as i visited the point where we had howled for the wolves, the stone had appeared for me, half buried in the side of the bank, not fully emerged,  but its rounded contours revealed just enough that i recognized her. she slipped easily from the sandy soil into my hands. yes, this was the one.

i’d had the thought that we might create a cairn of sorts with our stones, to honor the place as sacred, as a marker of something meaningful on the journey, the way in which our ancestors might have for those who followed after.  i recalled the men’s and women’s sacred spaces at the columcille and the way the paths to those places were lined with mini cairns, marking the way, by the many who had walked there before me…how holy that ground felt beneath my feet. i then learned from marti that the arctic peoples created ‘inukshuk’, stackings of stones made in the image of a human being. it was thought that these inukshuk may have marked places where food, shelter, or safe passage had been found.

Food. Shelter. Safe passage. Yes.

Holy ground. Holy waters.

i remembered a story told by rabbi shapiro about how the hebrew name of God, the 4-letter name Y-H-V-H, when written vertically takes on the shape of a human being, how it is that we are literally to be the name of God manifest. all week long the sense of incarnation was so palpable around us, the sacred enfleshed, expressing itself in beauty.

we had spent some time…a long time… following centering prayer, down by the lake, gazing out over the water, hearing and responding with our own noticings, mary oliver’s poem, gratitude (http://www.panhala.net/Archive/Gratitude.html),

what did you notice?

what did you hear?

what did you admire?

what astonished you?

what was most tender?

what would you like to see again?

what was most wonderful?

what did you think was happening?

which ends with the line, ‘and so the gods shake us from our sleep’

now we were gathered again by the fire with our stones, all of this swirling. i didn’t know where it was going. i suppose you could say i was ‘winging’ it, catching the current, letting it take us. as each person held and beheld his or her ‘stone’, which had become something more in the sharing, we began slowly to speak.

what nourishment had been discovered? what shelter offered? what passageway marked?

what was needing to be named as sacred? to be marked as beloved, as a place of spirit?

the stone i had chosen lay in my lap. she had become the mother stone. rounded, pregnant in shape.  she represented the sacred gift i had been given that week, and named in my dream of the previous night when ‘wise woman/crone’ came to my sleep with her reassurance that the ‘seed had been planted’, to not give up hope. she disclosed to me that she, too, had once thought she would forever be barren and just when she’d thought it too late, the child had been conceived. her coming  reassured me of my belovedness, my blessedness and released from me my anxiety, my striving, my fear of inadequacy and worthlessness. like autumn itself, i felt myself let go, relax…. so that the harvest might occur in its own time. almost instantly, in loosening my grip, i felt once again Love’s embrace. the whispered, ‘beloved’, which earlier in the week i had begun hearing again for the first time in a long while, now felt like a song singing in me.  this was re-membered to me, this image of God i am created to be….rounded and pregnant with presence, nurturing and giving birth to something sacred here in this place. Loved and Beloved. Wise.

and so i added my stone’s story to the others, each one re-membering something, gathered from where we each had been scattered, forgotten. and we carried them to the sacred space, chosen by one, neath the protection of a pine bough, and began to sing Dona Nobis Pacem (give us peace) over and over as Dennis’ hands received the offerings we’d brought, and, by the light of our flashlights there next to the dark water, constructed a cairn. there was something remarkable there in those moments. .. a holy hush within the song itself, the movement of hands as if in a choreographed dance, the lights from our flashlights casting their beams.

all of us, together, with one another, through our coming together in this particular way, in this particular place and time, created a container in which the Presence of God in our midst could be known, and our attentive Love-making brought forth and made visible something more of the Presence of God than was previously known. of course, the Holy One was there all along, about us, above, below, before and behind us, within us, with or without our naming or claiming. it is we who are absent, as the poet says. it is we who are in need of remembrance.

and so our little pile of stones commemorates somehow, as does the inukshuk in some instances,  the ‘we were here’. not in an egotistical, conquering, laying claim to kind of way, but in a ‘we were really here’ kind of way. we were fully here. wholly here. holy here. here is where we re-membered the holy One, the holiness of the whole of life, and the holiness of ourselves within it. my rounded stone became one of the cornerstones at the base of the cairn. i like that it is near the earth as it is of the earth. it is grounded, both supported and supportive. and i think it rather ‘fitting’ that at the cornerstone of all of our becomings here in this place, there must be the knowing of the mother…that she is bearing something sacred into life.

lens of perception

autumn 2009 2

algonquin continues to whisper to me its promptings of homecoming; its refrain singing in me, ‘holy, holy, holy one’.   i find myself seeking beauty and belonging here in my backyard, in the midst and mist of where i live and breathe.   since I have returned to this time and place, i have been perceiving my home terrain as sacred space, the way i do retreat space, exploring it with curiosity and wonder, opening to its secret treasures.

last night, i played in the meadow, got muddy and covered in seeds (the earth is so clever that way) trying to capture an image of beauty.   i was delighted by its precociousness, by the way it has exploited a window of opportunity to blossom. right here, right now, at the cusp of autumn it bursts forth, prolific, profuse, persistent. no matter how brief, it blooms.

yet it is not only winter that looms on this parcel of ground. while the plow once visited here annually, in recent years it has been laid open by machines of another sort, the backhoe and bulldozer. excavated, scraped, stripped, hollowed out, piled high, rutted, scarred and tarred, the earth blossoms filling in and around scattered and strewn pieces of cast off equipment.   the down-turn of the construction industry has turned up construction of another sort. no matter how brief, it blossoms.

there is something terribly tender about the abandoned backhoe shovel become a flowerpot, something oddly welcoming about a concrete sewer form offering me a perch for to steady my lens.  and i am back to pondering that lens of perception by which i see. steady and still and open i take in beauty.  grateful, i perceive grace. can i envision abandoned junk with the same eye with which i am awed by the remnants of an abandoned beaver dam, a deserted nest, a forsaken lair.  can i whisper with reverence, look, humans were here?

oh autumn, teach me your ways.

perspective from a canoe

dennis canoeone of the gifts i received while canoeing was a grace-filled acceptance of how very different our perspectives are.   what i would see as the obvious path to where we were headed was often not the same direct path seen by my partner from the front of the canoe.   what caused her to pause and circle back around in wonder, i would’ve paddled right by.   even while ostensibly viewing the ‘same’ thing, our perception of what that ‘thing’ was, or meant to us, seemed to be individual, based upon so many more layers than the ‘apparent’.

no wonder we get in trouble!

there was something about the slowed-down pace, which allowed for me such a graceful noticing.   aimlessness allowed me to let go of  the control, perhaps, which inhabits my days with its rightness and wrongness and tries to disguise itself as a surrogate for Love.   there was no ‘need’ to get from here to there and so there was space… for each of us to focus our eyes on what was most ‘needful’ .   what i ‘saw’ , and then deduced or intuited from that seeing, was not necessarily ‘obvious’ at all to the other, but rather a personal gift and graced interpretation.

oh, i have ‘known’ this for some time, on so many levels, many of them intellectual, some of them experiential, learned through the hard stuff of life—after having walked through a particular terrain that i had determined was dark/light only to see it as light/dark from the other side.   i sometimes have wondered about that yin/yang symbol, realizing somehow that what looks white or black depends upon where you are stand.   certainly, i have witnessed persons hearing something entirely different than me in a passage of verse or of music, a film, or a piece or art….all expressions, as is nature, of Beauty.

these have been part of a ‘whole-making’ for me but too often the learning involved the passage of time and/or healing.    to have noticed it embodied, ‘all-in-one moment’, was a powerful learning.   to feel kinesthetically the ‘all is well’ incarnate in my own body all-at-once, in the same way as i felt the concept of the ‘J-stroke’ when the paddle in the water and the canoe moved in response to my body’s movement, was to become at-one in some way.

perhaps it has something to do with developing binocular vision, the way it allows for depth perception of what previously had been a one-dimensional way of seeing.   we see through bigger eyes a world of both/and rather than either/or.   when we slip too far into one ‘either’ we get ‘off-center’ and move from a place of Love.   we may slide into fear, control, ego, and discontent on one side.    helplessness, apathy, incapacity, inadequacy, and unholy submission can creep in on the other.   on either side we forget that life (and ourselves and each other in the midst of it) is beautiful as it is, virtually glowing with abundance.

for me, welcoming prayer has become one of the most powerful tools I have found for moving into a deeper, more Loving place within myself.   in a new way, i was practicing welcoming prayer in that canoe.   noticing.  welcoming.   letting go.   the ‘noticing’ may have been my frustration or my joy, beauty or fatigue; the ‘welcoming’- my own perspective or the other’s;  the ‘letting go’- my need to be right or to be seen or heard or even to hold still and savor.   as a result, there was a sacred kind of embrace that i experienced slowly emanating from within.

in this unexpected practicum of prayer, i learned corporeally something real about embrace- this nonjudgmental acceptance, loving-what-is, release of control is not at all a clinging to or wrapping round or holding on as it is a Letting Be.    paradoxically, at the same time, the movement toward binocular vision opens one to a single, deeper vision of Love from a point somewhere beyond the ego.   it is not as if in opening to see through 2 sets of eyes, we see 2…we are somehow  deepened to see One.    certainly the process of loving another…lover, parent, child…is a lifelong realization of the same learning–embrace of the Other opens my heart to the One.

in the end, the welcome for all-that-is, which i seek to practice throughout my days here in this place, as there, changes not the other, changes not my environment, changes not the world, but it does change me.    suddenly, i perceive beauty all around me and  find myself  ‘in love’ with life again.

is it that i attract more beauty by moving into such a place in myself?  i don’t think so.   i think the beauty is always there.   i think it more likely that my own heart is changed so that i see through a different set of eyes.  (some folks think of this as the true meaning of the word repentance…this seeing through bigger eyes).   do i ‘attract’ more loving persons into my life…. or am I simply open to receiving them? ….or is this also a place of both/and?   does my own willingness to greet myself , to simply be where and who i am, allow me to receive the other?   does my desire to be with my own heart without judgment, create a safe place where the other can expose him/herself, and so create a sanctuary where union can create new life…as all unions between two lovers have the capability of doing here in this place?   perhaps ghandi was right… we need to Be the change.

as we canoed in to our little place of sanctuary at the beginning of our week ‘apart’, we prayed that we might approach the land with reverence and gratitude.   we prayed that we might enter with the intent to listen and not conquer.   we prayed that would be welcoming, knowing that we were being welcomed home somehow ….as we departed, we prayed for the same…with thanksgiving for what had been given, yes, with a sense of deep blessing and hope that we had blessed the same,  but as we turned our canoes toward home, we prayed that we would approach our ‘home lands’ with the same sense of reverence, of homecoming, of listening for and welcoming the sacred in our midst, of which we all are ‘a part’.

may it be so.

illuminated goddess? ….or earth mother

spirit gullhmmm..not so sure i’m in sync with that title so much right now :).  while ‘illuminated goddess’ perhaps expresses one aspect of who i am here in this place, it does not express the whole of my experience of self, and embracing the whole of who i am is definitely where i am right now. for better or worse, i am needful of acceptance. acceptance that there are parts of me that may stand glowing with the light,  but there are vast aspects of myself that remain submerged, and that is ok. i am content in being small, but a portion of the light that manifests itself so wonder fully here.

in the center of the lake upon whose shores we camped this past week, there was a submerged loggerhead with just a tip exposed. beneath the dark, reflective waters there remained depths unseen, unexplored, left to mystery.

supportive depths.

upon the tip of this loggerhead, exposed to the light, life itself virtually greened and blossomed. each morning, our spirit gull would glide in to perch upon this tiny verdant island in the midst of the mist. …

so much life, so much spirit, crammed onto such a little space.

i think perhaps this tip of illuminated self that i am belies the depths that lie beneath, supporting it, if i mistake the life that i am wholey for the Life that Is. i am not a Goddess. i am a most reverent expression, a tiny island birthed from her sacred waters. i perhaps am made up entirely of Her essence, but i am not wholly Her. She remains at last inexpressible.

yes, perhaps i can manifest that aspect of her that offers a place for the weary to find rest for awhile.  but perhaps my life may simply be a place that stands as sentinel to that which lies beneath. perhaps i am a guardian of the Vast Unknowable, a sacred re-member-ance that invites attention to the wonder of What Is. i don’t know. i DO know that i am content to not know.

about 1/2 way through the week, i crawled into my tent one evening, feeling weary myself, a bit discouraged perhaps, definitely full of self-judgment. i feared that i was failing at my ‘task’. that evening around the fire i had slid into the mistaken belief that it was me who had to lead the group toward some predetermined destination. while i was having some limited success in making the canoe go in the direction i wanted :), i had realized early in the week how much more comfortable i was with meandering, with wandering in the woods, following the trail of dry kindling, or with circling as many times as needed to see something again and again on the water. in truth, often the waters would take us where they would take us as we tried to remain still long enough to capture an image.

that night by the fire, i was also trying to capture something…Something that refused to be captured or named. Something very palpably present, though elusive, wanting to be seen but needing to belong to the Mystery. something Unspeakable, communable but incommunicable. still, the voices in the crowd of my head taunted me.

that night, She came.

as elizabeth to Mary, she came into my dream, telling me the story of her own longing, her own waiting, her own surrender, her own surprise when she finally let go. the child was conceived just when she thought it was too late, impossible. clearly, i heard Her say, ‘ you cannot see, but the seed has been planted’. and then i let go. let go of my need to see, my need to know, my need to be in control. i fell into trust in Something bigger than me and i fell into the embrace of Love.

the story in Luke goes something like that. there is the sudden recognition of a hidden truth, which causes something to leap within. it comes with Elizabeth’s blessing that what has been promised will be accomplished…..with or without our ‘doing’, i am called simply to trust. to trust in something bigger than me. what has been ‘spoken into being’, including my self, will be fulfilled. the beauty that i am will be made real. and so my desire is very simply this. my ‘intent’ is to believe in my blessedness, to trust in the promise, to listen to the whisper in the dark, to rest in the unseen. i need not know.

besides, my experience of life has been that rarely do i know where the path will lead me, and just when i think i know where i should go, Something has a better idea than any i could possibly choose for myself.  my ‘intention’ is to trust in life, to trust in Love, to believe in beauty, named and unnamed, to trust in Something bigger than me. this is what i can bring to life.

i do understand this may not be concrete enough for some, but i have never functioned well in the concrete. i am much more at home in the mystery, dwelling in and seeking beauty….. and yet this is no other-worldly, ungrounded, esoteric ideal, for i find the mystery of beauty unfolding right here and now, in the earthiness of life itself.  i choose to trust in the goodness of the earth and my place here upon it. i am of the earth, birthing what remains unseen.

perhaps what i am trying to say is best expressed like this. as we paddled out on the last day, the rains were threatening, the sky heavy, the water choppy, the wind persistent. and yet, i did not wish to leave without honoring the sacredness of what we had shared, the deep hospitality the earth had offered to us, the blessing of having been embraced by the holy. and so we paddled across to the leeward side of a neighboring body of land. there we gunneled up, beneath the wing of the earth. and floated together in the silence, remembering, thanking, honoring, blessing, being witness to the beauty that embraced us all around, bearing witness to the beauty that had flowed forth from within. the winds and the current united to turn us, ever so slowly round and round and round. directionless, we were led to a place of deep peace and profound blessing …

and somehow togehter we found ourselves singing, ‘holy, holy, holy One”

finding my ‘way back’ from algonquin

algonquin 007dear friends,

as i sat in silent prayer by the backyard pond this morning, closing my eyes, listening, i heard within my heart the sounds of the voices of my fellow journeyers singing. rather, i felt them there, felt the reverberations of the bass supporting the tenderness of blessing. i noticed the graceful interweaving of our melodies, which carried along with them the tendrils of our time together. indeed we wove a most blessed container for the holy. it is said in many cultures that creation was sung into being. even in our christian tradition there is the Word, uttered and outered from the mouth of God, that sings us into being. i cherish this sacred sound in my heart most of all.

finding our ‘way back’. what does that mean? of course, it could be heard in so many ways, on so many levels. i suppose we could perhaps find our way back to algonquin itself, in memory or even in body someday. or we could be finding our ‘way back’ here, back to ‘reality’, so to speak, somehow carrying the deeper ‘Reality’ we re-membered in that place with us, finding our ‘way back’ to our selves. what does it mean to you to find your ‘way back’ home? is the path narrow or wide?

for me, i think perhaps ‘the way’ lies in spaciousness, finding moments throughout my day to round the corner to discover that surprising space that always awaits, opening out suddenly to beauty. so as i sit, here by the pond, i am fully here. this is true. but i am also there, in that algonquin place within me, where my eyes are welcoming beauty, where my heart is receptive to filling, where tenderness is cherished as nourishment and death is embraced as sacred soil. somehow this feels different than clinging to what has been, for it is a carrying forth. a new body of water, from which i can drink, has been carved in the landscape of my heart. a quiet lagoon of deep peace has become a part of me. a place where i can go, alongside the loons, to play and be fed, as well as to cry out my distress and sing my mournful lament into the dark…..the dark of a nighttime sky where the stars feel so close i can almost reach out and touch them. and you all are a part of that carved out space.

and so i carry it with me, this ‘way back’, as does the turtle carry her shell, and i am at home wherever i go. i have marked the entrance with the stones of our being together, the way to a place of nourishment and safety. and i am no longer alone in that place. we are all-one. the sacredness of our song echoes in my heart. i close my eyes and we are floating, gunnelled up here in this place, being born along by Spirit, who is turning, turning, turning us so that we might experience Beauty.

may you feel my hand upon the side of your canoe, all is well, vicki

turkey feathers

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. –John Muir

As I write this, the cicada brattle in branches that have grown tall enough at last (I can hardly believe it!) this summer to reach my 2nd story window, their percussive insistence a backdrop, or perhaps more precisely a summons, to the song stirring in me. They remind me of the summer my husband and I were married, when they rose from the earth in droves from where they had seemingly slumbered, forgotten, beneath the surface for so many years.

My garden continues to grow, tended or untended. Bidden or unbidden, the source of life, the course of life, flows, expressing itself abundantly. I ponder the way in which a garden is also a marriage-of-sorts between what is wild and what is cultivated/desired, and am aware of the tension between the two that can either create great beauty…or suppress it. There is the necessary honoring of the wild nature of a thing, and the giving it space to grow, to be. Perhaps that is one reason I languor long about this time of the summer, too much tending (in too many places) makes me weary. The garden can take care of itself. I need not control its growth.

I know there is something in me called to reclaim the wild. There is a deep sadness I experience when visiting (or living in) a place that is too man-aged, which makes me long to flee to the woods. (And so perhaps this is yet another reason I languishes, for my spirit has fled to the darkness of the wood, where it is cool and where the evening serenade of the katydid fills me. There is habitat here for winged ones). There is a deep peace, a soul-fullness, which I experience in the wild.

I ponder the way in which I was naturally, instinctively, drawn to planting native plants on this tiny plot of ground, the longing in me to let the earth here grow what it was intended to grow. I am aware that in some way there is congruence here, I am somehow expressing outwardly my soul’s desire to reclaim and express its own native and wilder, its soulful nature. Yet there is an aspect of chaos alive now in the garden, with its bit of everything, much like myself, with so many aspects competing for attention. I wonder, as time goes by, if some sort of natural selection process might occur……

…….And so the cicada have lured me outside. Sitting here now, my back to the willow tree, my cup of tea on the tree-stump side-table, I am breathe in the breeze, which brings to my cheek a stray branch that tickles even as the wind itself tickles the fuzzy-topped grasses in the field behind the yard (returning the favor I imagine for the countless times they are brushed through the fingertips of small children and child-filled adults, who delight in their sensuous touch). Oh how I am disappointed each time the field behind my house is mown. I am most certain that its swaying to some unseen caress nourishes me more than whatever creature is fed its light-filled greenery.

Still, I am willing to share. All is well.

It smells so green out here.

How I hunger for autumn’s arrival and these past few days are certainly giving tastes of what is to come! As I have mentioned, with the exception of the songs of the katydids, august is typically not my favorite month. I wilt along with the days, feeling abit withered. Typically my energy is about drained by this time of the summer and as we turn into september, i begin looking forward to the great turning inward of winter for rest and rejuvenation.

The coolness (getting out of the oppressive heat), the shortening of days, the revelation of color hidden beneath all this greening, the harvest of goodness that has been growing unnoticed throughout the summer’s heat….these are the things I cherish about autumn days. And of course there is the great letting go of what has grown so abundantly for the sustenance of others. The shelter I have offered falls away naturally and my own roots are blanketed at last in nourishment. May my letting go be like an enchanting waltz so the stars may dance in my branches and may the winds come to strip me should I cling to these clothes to relentlessly.

Even in writing this, I realize that I have begun ‘official’ preparation for the canoe trip to the wild-erness of Canada. Turning inward like this a part of that preparation for me… paying attention, noticing what is here, offering the harvest, trusting that there is great nourishment to be shared simply in being fully present. I am also sensing that this upcoming time apart, listening, will mark some sort of transitional shift in time and space for me, delineating my path in some way. There is much stirring in me, as I ponder this seasonal shift in my life, and i wonder at what might be coming next in my life.

Turkey has been showing up for me frequently lately, from a click in the woods that drew my ear, to a feather at my feet, to a dream, and moments between, she has come to offer her gifts and her lessons. In that space where I first heard her, I was walking a path, a path that represents marriage to me, between the cultivated land and the untamed woods. She, of course, was on the wild side, hidden, but she left her gift in the space in between.

There is something of my wild nature, my soulful self, that has also been hidden, yet seeking my attention for some time. What is the gift I am to leave here in this space-in-between?… this space of union between my feminine and masculine selves, this intersection of my wild untamed-and-hidden soul and its visible expression into time?  The feather left at my feet was a tail feather…one responsible for steering (direction) and balance. I shall keep my eyes open, listening for direction, seeking balance.

In reading more about the turkey, I find her to be a symbol of Mother Earth, of feminine energies, of higher (3rd eye) vision. She represents a coming season of abundant blessings and harvest. (Her power too is strongest in the autumn.) and of honoring 12month cycles. She is a creature of unconditional self-giving and sacrifice, however her energy is limited, short bursts of flight tap her quickly. Balance again is the key….and the giving of self must come from the recognition of all life as sacred, not from a sense of guilt or fear.

I have also learned what a survivor she is, the way in which she has hung on despite loss of natural habitat (her preference too is the forest). Like the turtle, a longtime companion of mine, whose adaptive prowess has enabled her to survive since antiquity (perhaps because she has learned to take her ‘home’ along with her), the turkey seems to be able to live through lean times by staying close to the earth, digging for nourishment hidden beneath the surface. A call to me perhaps to look beneath the surface, to slow down, to dig a little, something I’ve not been doing lately. No wonder i’ve felt so hungry. Sometimes it surprises me how easily I stray from what I know is nourishing to me.

Turkey also finds strength in community (sharing of nests and group protection). I do notice the call to community has been very strong for me lately, the deep longing for some time for a circle of women. I had not realized it was a necessary missing piece for the ‘moving out’ into the world (the masculine expression of soul) that I have also been longing to discover. I suspect the support of women friends might be the nourishing balance I need for the giving-of-self on the other side.

I shall keep listening.

all is well,
vicki

Keep close to Nature’s heart… break clear away, once in awhile, to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. – John Muir

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