Choose Your Resources Wisely

It was misty on the big thumb that is Clearwater Florida this morning.  We live on the inside curve of the Clearwater-St Petersburg peninsula.  In the armpit, if you will, of “old Tampa Bay.”  The bay is beautiful. Shades of watery blue beneath whitecaps and the shadows of Great Blue Heron wings. A clam pot for birds, a safe passage for kayak and paddleboard the Bay lacks the primordial punch of the great womb that is the Gulf of Mexico.

We drove North and then West to the causeway at Dunedin.  We passed through the gate and maneuvered into a parking lot for 100 with 98 spaces left. The thick fog of a bottom-heavy steel gray cloud was just rising as we kicked off our shoes on flour white sand. Bands of blue green water snaked through the opaque ashen waves as the rising sun topped the palms at the edge of the beach. If you want to have color, you have to have light. Without illumination, life is just shades of gray.

 

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Those that show up at the beach on a morning like this didn’t come with sunscreen and a People magazine.  We come to the edge to restore and rejoice, or to soak up “beach time”, before the vacation runs out. Some stand ankle deep in salty water to reclaim dreams, or discover new journeys. Some come to petition the deities of great bodies of water for their divine assistance. Today I wasn’t clear who was doing what, except for one of us.

I saw them coming.  The two women walked slowly towards us wearing ultramarine blue t-shirts in different sizes. The older woman walked on the left. The deep lines of her face framed her expression of deep gratitude.  Clearly this was an extraordinary day for her to be walking here on this thin strip of land between waters, on this March day, with this young woman.  The older woman held her worn-well Keds in her hand as they walked barefoot near the water. She leaned in, listening attentively to the words that flowed from her companion. Neither seemed to feel the sharp shell rubble or notice the few passersby.  They were intent, focused.

Indeed! They were pregnant with change. The younger woman was supremely pregnant, probably beyond pregnant and well into “overdue.”  She walked strong, straight but with great care, balancing a belly that looked as if it might burst open at any moment.

 

“You came to the right place,”

I thought, thinking of the saltwater that filled that belly. Then I realized,

We are always in the right place,”

The young woman spoke fervently, passionately. Her arm movements animated her story and the old women with the wrinkles smiled a quiet smile. We passed unseen.

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It is my practice to stand at the edge of earth and water to check my trajectory and clear the emotional flotsam. Placing my thoughts in fragile shells, I create a shrine of temporal impermanence that holds my concerns and hopes for this day. The Gulf is my resource for reflection on the mud and miracles that happen daily. I imagine the Nereids float silently nearby, offering illuminating advice that wordlessly seeps into mind and heart through the souls of our feet stuck deep in the moving sands.  Their whispered encouragements float down from Tern’s wing,

 “Be brave! Be strong! Live! Live!”

Standing in sunlight and blue water one moment, and chilly wind of storm clouds the next, it’s all here, and it’s all good.

“Look at the sea, She lives there,

and She knows how it works,”

was my silent reassurance.

I walked up the beach a bit and found a message scratched in the sand by a sure hand on a sturdy stick.  It was addressed to the Sea and the Wisdom herein,

“I am ready now

I am ready now Baby”

March 19, 2018

She chose her Resources wisely I thought, as I wrote,

Godspeed!

in the sand with my toe. We are all in this together.

 

(http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Nereides.html)

Photos: Carol Martell, Honeymoon State Park, Dunedin Florida

The Muse

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New growth at Kilauea

January 18 2018   Clearwater Florida

I spilled coffee all over the blue sheets. I reached for the cup, but hand and spirit were not occupying the same space.  I had just that moment come from a place both far away and as close as my skin.  Such infinite dichotomies make it had to juggle coffee cups with unenlightened fingers.

I had sat with my mother in the dusty sand.  She squatted close to the ground with the flexibility of a small child.  Her soft white hair in curls hide her face but there was no mistake. It was her voice and mannerisms, and-her hurts. She easily dug a hole in the ground the size of my coffee cup with her hand.  I watched the sand and the small pebbles pour out of her hands with a movement not of our time and space. The pebbles rolled soundlessly across a frictionless surface.

“Does being here make you happy or sad, Mom?”

“Sad.” She scooped the earth a bit deeper.

It was a “deep dream.” The rules of time and matter, life and death, are needless partitions in this realm of psyche.  I replayed the dream in my mind.  A faulty bit of rewinding to be sure. Information from this level tarnishes instantly in the light of ego.

I sat at a long dark wood table, not unlike those in the furniture stores I had frequented yesterday.  This one was as long as it needed to be to seat all the family that assembled.  The longer the dream, the longer the table. I stood with a gaggle of relatives in a vast open space.

“How about here?”

I had said, pointing to a flat area beside a cliff with no obstructions to the scenery.

“That’s where Mom lives, let’s sit here.”

I said, pointing to the white mountains to the west.

The view was extraordinary.  Across miles of high desert vista were a trio of mountain edges.  The front row of hills lay low and rounded in a dark blue grey tone.  The back layer was all sharp edges. Ragged rocky peaks that would cut skin, all wrapped in mist and clouds sitting unreachable and unwavering in the background.

The soft white mountains rose up from behind the foreground and before the background.  These were higher than the front range and smoother than then rough crags behind. The white mountains had lived in the world.  Their sharpness had been polished by what had been given, and what had been given up. Pieces and chucks broken off and sanded down by experience, resilience and love.

Even from our far away perspective, I could see that light emanated from this mountain range. The high soft edges illuminated as a glow from a far-away window on a cold, dark night. The lofty elevations sought the sky.  These are ascents too high and too steep for human feet. I imagined it was the light of the spirits who dwelled here.  I imagined my Mother lived there too. Until, that is, I found her crouched right there by our family table in the ethers.

“I keep doing this.”

She said, as she dropped an effigy of herself and another of a divine being into the hole,  covering it with dirt. Moments later as I watched, the sand and pebbles moved back and the statues were once again in her hand, and untouched by their journey into the ground.  I watched this three times before I had to turn away.  I was so profoundly sad that she would spend her days this way.

The trouble with light is that everything is illuminated and it is easy to lose focus on what is important. Suddenly, I was seated at the table with my siblings and other family members too numerous to be counted. It was a long table.  I can tell you it was a walnut table with rustic finish because looking for furniture is “up” in my life right now. Maintaining focus is tenuous.

A drama was unfolding in subtle hues around the “dream table.” Some people seated there were actors in this life scene, others spectators, some critics. We were all quickly consumed by Act II of Human Behavior and Group Dynamics. The beautiful white mountain was glowing a harmonious pink shade of possibility and here at our table, we are hunkered down making big judgements about small points.

I was observer and actor in a vignette of my own life. It was an algorithm of souls dancing with constant variables.  The date changes, the generations mix different equations but the product is the same.  I witnessed the scene with an omniscient perspective.  It was daunting.  It was an invitation to destroy inherited and created coveted constructs of “life’s purpose.” It was a plea to create a life of freedom and creativity, while I can.

Is my Mother really stuck in that enactment of repeating bygones?

bygone /ˈbaɪˌɡɒn/
adjective

1. (usually prenominal) past; former noun
2. (often pl) a past occurrence
3. (often pl) an artefact, implement, etc, of former domestic or industrial use, now often collected for interest
4. let bygones be bygones, to agree to forget past quarrels
Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

The constant burying and unearthing of people and events that should be dead, gone and composted. Is that her holy grail? I hope not.  If so that is hers to sort out and she is more than up for the challenge. After writing this I am sure she came to remind me and I am grateful.

“To thine own self be true”-William Shakespeare

Today, these words of Polonius are pearls of wisdom by Shakespeare on living a good and balanced life.
Meaning of To Thine Own Self Be True
The Elizabethan era audience of Shakespeare was well aware of the meaning of his words, though in modern age, words like “Self” and “True” have different. In fact, this phrase implies multiplicity of meanings. The first meaning is that someone can better judge himself if he has done what he should or could have done. The second meaning is that one must be honest in his ways and relations. The third meaning is that one must always do the right thing. Finally, keeping in view the character of Polonius in the play, many scholars are of the opinion that ‘True’ meant beneficial; therefore, his advice to his son meant that he must think of his own benefit first

https://literarydevices.net/to-thine-own-self-be-true/To thine own self be true

Photo Credit: Carol Martell, Kilauea Hawaii

 

Master Yourself

Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power. Lao Tzu


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Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv Israel

Relaxing in the fine deep white sand, I watched as the last light of this day eased into the Mediterranean. The glowing sun reflected off the clouds, staining the edges of an unexpected thunderhead, to the color of pomegranates. I had just caught site of a stab of lightening in the dark cloud.

“Must be Zeus!” I thought.

The hot “land air” of the day rushed between the buildings. It blew my hair into my face, moving past me to collide with the cool air sliding along the top of the sea. Squinting against the last streaks of red, I saw a silhouette of a tall young man appear over the top of the jetty. He was frenetically paddling some kind of craft still hidden behind the rocks.

Even at this distance I could see his broad shoulders were hunched with the tension of his great effort. The paddle looked meager against the size of the surf. The fast choppy sweep of his arms propelled his unseen vessel amazingly fast against the moving currents. His head rose above the jetty with each wave, dropping from view as the swells crashed against the rocks. The cusp of sunset is tricky, evening time calls out the darkness. Sea air and land air change places, creating circular winds that move water into rolling underwater cyclones. And what about this strange cloud overhead? Here in the cradle of great myths and even greater divinities: anything is possible.

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Had an ancient canoe come around that rocky point, it would not be unexpected.

He jabbed at the water with the paddle designed for a gentle drift along the surface. The paddle board glided through the water between the great piles of rough boulders built to keep beach, and swimmers, safe from the powerful undertow. The wind was strongest, just above the water. He was pitched off his board many times, he leapt back up to paddling, as if spit out of the sea by Amphitrite herself. I felt a maternal “swipe of the brow” as he finally reached the beach. He ran by me headed towards the hotels at the edge of the sand. After witnessing his efforts in the water, I marveled at his effortless sprint through the deep sand.

I heaved a sigh of relaxation from where I was planted. I settled into a yoga-esque “easy pose,” seated comfortably in the still warm sand. I had come out to attend the setting of the sun. The movements of the sun are always sacred. In this place, people order their lives around this daily, pivitol event. Mine was a “sit in the sand, commune with the water, and thanks for the day “sun salutation” of my own design. I was feeling gratitude for the opportunity to be in this place.

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In another place, for another athlete, that workout would have been enough. But this is Israel, and that was just a warm-up.

Looking like the perfect powerful figures from a 3,000-year-old Greek pot, he thundered by me in the opposite direction. He reached the water in three strides. Three more times he paddled out against the wind, circumnavigating the long jetties, charging top speed out into the open water, amidst the crashing waves. Falling into the water, leaping back out in half a breath’s time, he ran his board aground to sprint at top speed, up the beach, circle the palms and back to the water, three more times.

I ground my own feet a bit deeper in the sand, listened for the voices of the present day volleyball players behind me. It was getting dark. There was only one other observer, meditating on a damp towel. Had I been dropped into some ancient arena? Was this a Perseus polishing up his Andromeda rescue skills? That is after all, Jaffa, or Joppa just down the beach. “Is Everyone seeing this??”

On the fourth circuit, I thought, “Certainly he must be done?”

He dropped to the beach, and performed  gut wrenching, core building isometrics. It was these maneuvers that seemed to finally blast out any remaining remnants of being a “mere human.” Then and only then did he stop, to face the dying sun and quietly paddle his board back to the marina. I have never witnessed such endurance. Maybe it’s the water, or maybe the hummus.

There is great strength here.

 

 

The Trust

I looked for this today. It was a file, named The Trust,” waiting patiently on my virtual desktop.  Good thing it’s virtual. The location of the laptop where it lives has been as mutable and mercurial as the air sign of Gemini in a stiff wind. These past weeks I have been in constant interaction with the concrete and friendly entity known as my Dad’s Trust. While some might regard this legacy to be an untouchable resource, I take my lead from Dolly Levi.

Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow. “

We have been doing a LOT of encouraging around here.

I wonder if the abrupt movement of “saved to spent” has been the origin of my recent dreams? In this week’s highlights, I saw Dad etherically ease dropping on a “not so quiet” gathering of his four daughters. Sitting silently, forearms on thighs, he cleared his fingernails with a small penknife. He listened, nodding occasionally; he smiled some, and sighed more.

It was a 3D dream space where we acted out thoughts and stifled emotions while simultaneously witnessing the event. Behind closed eyes in the early morning I reviewed the dream; it seemed like a Psychodrama gone Schizoid. I think maybe it is just my Spirit remembering the task of my life is to live it as no one else can.

But that’s the end of the story this is the beginning.

The Trust” and so it goes:

“Today is June 13 2014.

I am in Flying Star, (pricey coffee house in Santa Fe) reading the packet from Marilyn, trusty Trustee from The Bank. I crawl through the pages, not comprehending the details, but discerning the worry for the future in the “cover every contingency” investment strategy. I can feel him pouring over the Wall Street Journal, stock analysis, and last year’s numbers. Pages of numbers in columns, pie charts and percents all described in unemotional numbers; the reason and residue of my Dad’s life work. Inside this package there is love, there is pride, there is intellectual fun I think, I hope; I think he really enjoyed the game. “

“I can imagine he puts these questions into prayers and asks for guidance because that’s who he is in this life.

I see him lost in thought, concentrating, an unseeing gaze out a long frozen window. In the quiet of his upstairs office room he sits at the giant oak desk, its finish rubbed silky smooth from his flannel shirted elbows. He is there, leaning into see the numbers on the monitor when he learned the mysteries and miracles of the Internet. He removes his glasses, cleans the lens, rubs the sore places on his nose where the too tight glasses rest and digests what he has seen on the screen.”

“We can recall that shortly after his death this desk had to be cut in half by his mourning son in law before it could leave that room. As if it was too burdened with the time and energy of spirit spent there, it had to be halved before mere mortals could remove it. Had the wood itself had soaked up the mysterious emotions of our father? His intentions and feelings were rarely witnessed nakedly, until he was dying.

We can remember further back when another son in law did his daily work on that desk. Despite the dying in the next room, he needed to make a living. He supported our family between quiet requests for help that could only be answered by another man. Miracles happen in these times. Foes become allies. Propriety slinks away to less imperatives places. There is only room for love and laughter anything else seems to be pushed back beyond view. Fear pounds at the door, but if one can stay in the second, there are quiet opportunities to realize the incredible beauty of a life in metamorphosis. We are witnesses, yes, but the view is blindingly beautiful. Sometimes the scene is too raw and ready for those of us expecting to stay a while longer in the land of the living.”

But let’s get back to the desk.

It was surrounded by crayon drawings, photos, school pictures, clay creatures from children, grand children, and great-grandchildren. It was an environment really. I hope it was a reflection of Karl’s heart. It was the land where his children prevailed. We honored him, we threw love at him in seasonal missives and over-taped construction paper constructs.

“On a sad day in April, he gave these back. He demanded the privilege of an elder at the end of life. He wanted all of his precious bits to be returned to their givers. When the quiet flurry of removal was done, his walls were bare and we held our offerings in our hands. I remembered that day with these papers spread in front of me on a brilliant day in Santa Fe.

Hands wrapped around my teapot of Jasmine tea for warmth, I remembered what I had put away for a time when I hoped it wasn’t too sad to recall.

“Images of the creaky desk chair with over worn cushion. His wife’s warm and fuzzy decorating paradigm was abandoned at the doorsill of his office. This room was our Dad condensed. So long missing, so long missed. A desk the size of an average kitchen table. Snow was falling outside the window for the 4th cold month. Failing physical health; worry about last days, unthinkable dependence… Strife in the family; steps and sisters, old wounds rising up like the bubbles in his ginger ale. Red plastic bowls to hide any blood. Exiting his home in the strong arms of two medics in a hammock too reminiscent of a body bag. His cry of surprise or pain when he found himself on the stairs. That giant man saying, “It’s all right Honey.” It would never occur to refer to my Dad as “Honey” but he calmed, relaxed and closed his eyes. So much easier with strangers.

I can’t find the part of me that knows if he ever really looked at us again. My head thinks that’s when it was safe to apply himself to getting out of his body.

He had felt responsible for so long what did it take to have the faith that everyone would be OK if he left?

Thoughts on this day:

It is Friday the 13th, from the ancient calendar it is the day to honor Minerva. There is a full moon tonight and most importantly this is the day that my father will be released forever from this burden.

I spoke directly to him then.

“Our hands and minds are capable Dad. We will all be fine. Know that your life’s work will be held, or paid, or spread around. Most of all…deeply appreciated.

We will all create possibility to all issue; present and future. There will be four completely different ways, all good.

Seems a good reflection of your investment strategy, but it is our own expression.

Go ahead now Dad to whatever you dreamed of, or prayed about sitting at that big oak desk. You are free now, no more worries about scarcity or disability.”

Be free Dad, you are loved

It is our job now

The Journey

sunset

The Journey

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,

 though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,

 though the whole house began to tremble

and you felt the old tug at your ankles.

“Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,

though their melancholy was terrible.

 It was already late enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen branches and stones.

 But little by little, as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,

 and there was a new voice

which you slowly recognized as your own,

 that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do,

determined to save the only life you could save. 

                                                Mary Oliver

 

I found this poem again today amidst the flotsam that is my cache of Resource Files. Under that name, I save bits of sacredness according to me, in image and words. Usually relevant to a specific time or place; some feel like lifeboats in a rough sea.

I looked into these files today looking for a landmark or lighthouse to find a path through these foggy times.

We have said goodbye to three parents, one per year and just when it seemed we were done, my Stepmother has died quietly this week. She exited this life unexpectedly and without witness of any of those whose lives were so altered with her entrance.

I was a sophomore in High School when my parent’s expectation of “until death do you part” fell to more modern moirés.  The explosion of divorces that rolled in with the 1970’s took most by surprise; our family was no exception.

It took a decade or so, but I did eventually recognize there was no “wicked stepmother” here.  She was pleasant and pretty, and anxious to please… please our father anyway. Theirs was a loving relationship steeped in a small town world and strict Baptist beliefs. It was a relationship that didn’t have enough space for everyone.wreath

Had another searcher gathered them, my Resource Files would have a physical dimension. This poem might be hand copied, lay in a file folder, held with a paper clip, topped with a post-it note inscribed with the date and source. The precise lines of the yellow legal pad would be ignored completely by the scrawling familiar hand.  The words would turn to cover even the vertical margin spaces.

In another time, these unfermented ideas and inspirations might be shoved into a thick book; tactile and heavy, holding faint odors of dark closets and seldom used hats. The words on the page tightly pressed to their brethren, waiting to be read again someday, by those who would find them, at just the right time.

But this is my life. It is 2014 and my inspirations are stored in a tidy, imagined file box named Apollo who lives in the upper right corner of my sleek silver MAC, a hand me down from the professional computer cowboy in the next room.

The thoughts on paper pages and the emotions expressed there no longer exist except in the liminal space between generations. The space, which right now, feels like the tiny breadth between the living and the dead. It is the map-less uncharted space that prompts this search through my files from the past. I am looking for reminders from my elders-like this poem, to understand how long “limbo” lasts.

For the uninitiated:

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.

During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt.[4] The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.[5] The term has also passed into popular usage, where it is applied much more broadly, undermining its significance to some extent.[6]

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality)

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And we thought our sense of threshold was unique and personal?

As student of ritual, I am in the whirlpool, the paradox.  I am in the stillness, at the threshold, transitioning to my new status.

I will not be bringing the deep pains of the past with me.  Neither will the old fears fit in our new space.

We do however thank you all for the inspiration, the support and the love.

We will keep that in a safe place.  Blessings and Safe Journeys to all that travel.