Peeking Behind the Gossamer Curtain

Three years ago on this day, on a silent clear night in northern New York, we stood quietly around the suddenly still body of our amazing Mother. She died there in the wee hours, in a gentle handoff from the physical folk to the ethereal extended family. It seemed to me then that she somehow exhaled herself into the next realm. Her arrival was planned, practiced and practical; her fragile body was beginning to deteriorate. Once she could no longer walk in the woods or kayak the edges of water, it was time to move out.

Her Spirit died into the next world while the moon was overhead. Her earthly remains left her 14th story “tree house” for the last time in the mid-afternoon of that same day. Lovingly tended by her daughters, just as our Grandmothers would have done, she appeared little changed.  It seemed she was just finding her new abilities, illuminated, but just so much happier. Dressed in her favorite gown, itself a shiny beige veteran of two grandchildren’s weddings, with warm socks, she held tightly curled fern fronds and flowers from a Spring that hadn’t yet arrived.  She had gone on: “To my next adventure.”

It was our job as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, neighbors and friends to wave good-bye, preferably smiling. If you couldn’t muster that, no worries, she was going anyway. In her last gaze I think she saw all, understood all, felt all, everything that everyone did was all- O.K. in her book. Had she been alive, she would have taken just the tiniest nibble from those ferns, …just because they were so beautiful.

Fernpainting

Fern Carol Martell 2010

“I am ready for my next adventure”

These were the words she used to explain why she was ready to die, and why she would go willingly. I believe she was still smiling when her “earth skin” was slipped into the plain pine box of her own choosing. It was Amish plain pine, freshly sanded and unfinished. By necessity it stood overnight in a funeral home surrounded by gilded guilt and the heavy décor of regretful sadness.

Her casket; if you would call it that, stood proud and simple. Had she still been there she would have remarked about the grain of the wood, caressed it with her hand, her long arthritic fingers seeking the lifeforce, reminiscent of ET’s heart touching scene. Wood grains were a passion with her! She would have found the rough place I remember seeing. That sticky knot that made me wonder if this pine box was still planks when she died?

I remember we opened the dark shades in the “room of sadness.” We opened the top of her box to tuck in bits of memory; tiny flowers and the secret missives from her favorite fans. I recall a flash of future déjà Vu that I would recall that exact moment in the future, which is today.

“My Angels Were Here”

My Mom was unusual in that she welcomed death into her life with curiosity, anticipation and a smile. While others may choose to clutch and cling to their life with the last drug and surgery, she opened the door to the next life with intention. She made her path clear of medical interventions, she asked for comfort and respect, and not much else.

She entertained the angels of transit into the next life quite regularly. She left notes to this effect, found later tucked into “must read” books and under cushions that we would move, “after.” I imagine she offered her visitors a keen interest in the subject of afterlife, and a cup of herbal tea. They seemed to stop in frequently, in her dreams, and at the edge of sleep; appearing from behind what she described as “gossamer curtains.” Those words always accompanied by a graceful arm movement that denoted her feeling the fabric and a subtle sense of the sound of bells.

They came to gently welcome her to her new existence, we mused. It was not unusual in the months before she passed to see her eyes shine in anticipation for her path, and in compassion for ours, as it was revealed. She kept it mostly to herself except when my path crossed theirs at her front door and the mystical mist still lingered about her.

Three years later I have grown skin back over the wound of loss. This is not a victim place, it is the work of grieving. Grief is love that echoes back at us when its target can’t be found. It takes a bit of time before we can scratch out the old address for our loved ones and forward our thoughts to:

Mom, Your Next Adventure, Somewhere in the Ethers, 87503

Now I can look at her transformation with appropriate joy. I can appreciate what a renegade she was; a consummate explorer in the unknown realms. Or did she know exactly where she was going because she had already been there?

Whatever the case, from my current position of safety and observation I can ask:

Where is it written that death must be faced with fear and pain, angst and anguish? At the end of a life, one could choose acceptance. I believe there is another paradigm that exists in parallel to the no hope “Grim Reaper” cheat death scenario. I want to take the Angel option; beautiful beings providing whatever you need for a sweet transition “Into your next adventure.”

Loving conductors, great music and sweet peace? Interested? Ask them.

I think my Mother works there, her name is Gloria.

The Dreamer

It rained heavily last night for the first time in many weeks.  I slept a deep sleep, caught in the sticky web of a dream reality.  I was witness and player in a story in evolution.  Aspects of my day, and layers of my life, colluded to weave an intricate tale that questioned, who is where and what is real?

And what are you trying to tell me?

As in all good mysteries, clues were revealed, heroes intervened, and the main character had to grow or perish. I wasn’t the only witness, there were “watchers.” The less than benevolent crowd assembled in steep ascending layers. A shiny puppeteer commanded from the top, his diaphanous body swaying and snapping like a sail out of trim in a high wind.  I saw his head tilt back in a soundless cackle and I shuttered. I stepped back behind my own eyes and hoped for a more comfortable reality as the story began.

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We were seated in chairs, no talking, no movement. It was hard to stay alert, or even awake. Through heavy lidded eyes I could see a jam-packed room filled with red folding chairs shaped like car seats.  I was in one of them.  The people seemed to go away slowly over an indeterminate time. The room got smaller, the numbers dwindled, but the small space between us never altered.

Devoid of much stimulation or reason to be mentally “present,” I wandered. I became aware that others existed outside of this space. Traveling outside my physical form, I checked in on my Mother. We had planned a family dinner, and she was supposed to come. I got the message through sensation that she was sick, very sick, with an “illness.” She was physically weak, but trying very hard to communicate with me through a sort of telepathy.  The images were like single pieces of a puzzle, each with a word attached. Unable to transmit the whole story, she hoped the pieces were enough. Trying my best to remember each image, we began with ILLNESS.

I was concentrating on this task when something called me back. Returning my attention to my own body, I realized I was in a very strange state. I was only occasionally conscious. “Maybe it is not just the sender that is struggling, the receiver is weakened as well,” I thought.  I understood then that there were overseers watching us in this room.  One did nothing to attract attention.  This would bring removal.  No one saw this, but it happened.  I awoke one dark time to realize, but not acknowledge, that Sulu, the character from Star Trek was sitting next to me. The dream world, being the subconscious “free-for-all” that it is, had determined that this character had what I needed, to do whatever it was that I came to do in this very strange place. I returned to my quest to understand what my Mother was trying so hard to tell me.

RENNET!

The word spit out into the air like a chicken bone caught in my throat. RENNET is a part of cheese. She showed me images of cheese making that would elicit this word in my mind. A remarkable feat because I didn’t know that I knew that word. I didn’t know that “animal” rennet is extracted from the bellies of very young, slaughtered calfs, lambs and goats. Dreams images are like that: opportunistic.  I began to repeat the word like a mantra of remembering. RENNET RENNET RENNET!

Rennet is a combination of different enzymes that help mammals digest milk. Each animal produces a different type of rennet, therefore specific types are used for certain cheeses, such as kid goat rennet to make goat’s cheese and lamb rennet for sheep’s cheese. It is usually only extracted from the stomachs of young animals, as rennet in older animals contains little or no rennin.

https://sciencing.com/difference-between-rennin-rennet-8182538.html

My neighbor Sulu was working on something next door. His mind was busy and loud.  I could hear him easily.

“My wife is next to me on the other side, she can’t hear me. Something is happening here.”

The room remained mostly dark, no movement, no sound. Our numbers were down to about 50 people, a quarter of our original size. Shaking off my stupor, dangling on the cliff of unconsciousness, I listened to his thoughts. I was hearing the voice of George Takei, the omniscient reciter/narrator in Pacific Overtures, a production I had seen a while back.  It was his voice that I heard imparting the history of Japanese coercion by western concerns, giving voice to  those standing in front of the cannon. He had my attention.

Sulu was talking fast, as if in hurry to impart all he could. My mind was spinning like an old 33 vinyl record on a player set to 16, a very ponderous speed.  This alignment allowed me to hear the messages from a place not so far away where I believed my mother sat, unable to move.   I had to leave her to hear him, and that was difficult.

I realized then that there were only a few of us left. A door opened in the back of the room where we were, I focused hard to stay present. Sulu was pushing the nearly inert form of his wife through a doorway and reaching back to pull me through too. An image crashed through mind, a thousand birds in a building like this. BIRDS, I heard as we slipped out through the door.

ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD, ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD

We were outside the building, in the world again. It was dark and cool. We were standing on real dirt, drinking in real air. The cool breeze on my face held a thousand elements. The sounds of wind, leaves, crickets, crashed over me and I was awake for a moment.  I could feel the bottom of my feet. My hands began to twitch. I saw a wooden six panel door standing ajar across the grassy alleyway.  We went for the opening and Sulu and wife disappeared into the darkness.

I heard voices then, very close. Stepping behind the door, I was careful to make no sound with my feet or breath.  The boots sounded heavy even in the greasy earth outside.  They dropped something on a broken table leaning by the door and it rattled like a hundred screws in a box.  These were the first voices I had heard in a long time. I didn’t really understand the words but in my mind, I saw a picture of a large bird. “BIRD, BIRD!”

It seemed important to stay alert but it was so hard. Did I imagine that these images of birds of prey swirled in the minds of the heavy-footed beings on the other side of the door?  A raptor like an Owl or Osprey, Hawk or Eagle with talons extended in flight flashed across my mind. I realized I was the prey and I froze.

They had been gone a long while before I moved.  I stepped back to look through the crack at the door jam.  I saw the box of “hardware” they had left on a table outside the door. Small blue balls connected in pairs with small links of tiny chain.

ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD, ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD

I pushed the door closed, closing the hasp on the inside silently.  Clumps of dirt moved out of the way. The half circle of evidence of change was thankfully on my side of the door. I moved deeper into the darkness of this new room. As my eyes adjusted I realized there were two small cots a few feet apart, each with blankets and a pillow. Sulu stood smiling offer me a cot with the graciousness of a host at a Japanese Ryokan. Had it been days? Or much longer since I had laid down on a bed. I was unconscious again almost immediately.

I felt my Father then.  He didn’t have the same type of capacity for communication.  His eyes were closed and it was hard for him to maintain contact. I could see his face, but his thoughts were thready and faint when they reached me. “Through the Father” I heard. I thought I understood this, but instead of a religious icon, I saw the spiral used to represent the trail of DNA as we understand it now. A green snake traveling downward through the cosmos, “through the Father.” GENETICS! I heard.

GENETICS RENNET BIRD ILLNESS GENETICS

I repeated the word and I heard voices cheering.  I saw a scene from the Apollo 13 movie buttressed with my personal experience of a tour through the control room at Kennedy Space Center. Was there a NASA-esque control room somewhere monitoring these ethereal communiques? The thought was comforting and unsettling. The witness part of me wondered, “What is at stake here?”

Mom was back “on my radar” and apparently feeling better. It would still be a while before I came to wonder how someone who has no physical body comes to have a “ILLNESS.” It is all just “grist for the mill” isn’t it? Quickly, more pictures came.  I saw ocean, a rocky coast, a cow and her calf in a field, the small church on the edge of Kennebunkport. MAINE! Got it Mom, MAINE

ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD, GENETICS, MAINE?

When my eyes opened, Sulu was watching me from his cot. He reached out as if to shake my hand, we could just touch. His hand crushed mine at first, he backed off to a more appropriate grasp, then ratcheted up by small increments until the desired effect was achieved. Silently, he told me his wife wasn’t here anymore. I thought about my husband, wondering where he was in this story? Sulu’s eyes changed, with all the body tension and intensity of the Star Trek helmsman he whispered, out loud this time, “We need to go, now!” And just like that we were done with that place.

We were outside then, walking on a path through a temporary encampment of khaki tents and dusty vehicles. We were three: Sulu, myself and another man holding silence, and a tense reserve of quiet authority. We strode quickly through an environment that changed every few moments from dusty open desert, to thick Palm and bamboo forest.  I walked just behind the tall thin man with a 2-week beard, whispering in his right ear when I could keep up with his long legs.  Sulu, easily trotting on the left, corroborated my story, adding his own details.

This newcomer took in the story we told with worried thoughtful skepticism. The plot said he was my husband, but not in this life. I didn’t know this man, he was from a different place, and a different story. I understood he was a scientist.  Our story made him uncomfortable, very, very uncomfortable for reasons that weren’t yet ready to bubble up into his neocortex.

I heard the morning sounds of my home.  The beep of the coffee pot, the dove in the gutter over the open window of my bedroom, all familiar and comforting.  Keeping my eyes shut I backed up, retracing my steps into recent memory. I tracked the path back to the place where the story had ended. Sulu smiled and waved, a swing of a cape, his image faded and he was gone.  The tall thin man was standing in a group of white coated serious minds, unclear if he wanted to remember or forget.  I got out of bed for a pen and paper, and reached for my laptop instead.

The picture on Google today is Maria Felix on her 104th birthday

ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD, GENETICS, MAINE

The dream was done with me.  It joined the world of collective thought quietly, drifting as dust on running rainwater going who knows where?

“The future Dream Society will be the fifth techno-economic system in which humans have lived. The first – the Hunter-Gatherer Society – gave way to Agricultural Society about 10,000 years ago. Agricultural Society began yielding to a third system – Industrial Society – about 1750, when steam engines began appearing in England. About 1950, a fourth system – the Information Society – began to take shape, but it now appears that the Information Society will not last more than a few decades longer before yielding to a society focused on dreams, adventure, spirituality, and feelings.”    Rolf Jensen,

Article from The Futurist, Vol. 30, No. 3, May-June 1996

http://cifs.dk/publications/books/rolf-jensen-the-dream-society/the-dream-society/

Not Pegasus, but not too shabby

I have this day had the opportunity to spend 10 hours in meditation. Airport meditation that is, which is a horse of a different color. The view from the window was extraordinary in its complexity. ATL is the busiest airport in the nation. The “hive” mind is alive and well here, cooperation reigns supreme on this tarmack. This is my photo essay of the day. It is said that in meditation there is a place where reality drops away and we become aware of the sacred forms. I am aware that I am yet 2 hours away from my chariot heading west into the sunset.

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Call in the Valkyries

womaninwavesFor two days it had been blue grey drizzle, punctuated by periodic deluges that slapped at the windows, sending the dogs under the table. The unexpected monsoon shook loose the dead leaves from my live oak and washed them across the lawn into rusty mounds. My potted tomatoes split across their plump half ripe bellies, unable to refuse more water than they could hold.

Without appointments on these days, this discerning being chose to “hole” up at home. I donned socks, curled in a chair, and attended to my extraordinarily patient paperwork. I created dreams of a tidy weather tight home in the North; smugly green and beautiful in it’s efficiency. Our home would be steadfast beacon of comfortable living with minimal planetary impact.

I am allowed the luxury of imagined living in “other places” by virtue of my big brain human-being status. This, and the prevailing postulate of my species: Humans have the right to dominate over all other life forms. This philosophy allows great latitude in our dealings with all other nonhuman cohabitants of the planet, and it’s so convenient! Omnipotence feels great as long as one hums loud enough to drown out everything but ourselves.

do·min·ion noun

sovereignty; control.

“man’s attempt to establish dominion over nature”

supremacyascendancydominancedominationsuperiority,predominancepreeminencehegemonyauthoritymasterycontrol,commandpowerswayrulegovernmentjurisdictionsovereignty,

“at the time the Spartans had dominion over Athens”         (Vocabulary.com)

It was still early, we found only two cars at the beach lot. A deserted beach was surprising on this bright morning in February, at the apex of the Southern Emigration season. It was snowing heavArthur Rackhamily for the second day in the Northern tundra. On this day in southwestern Florida, the sky was an exquisitely clear robin’s egg blue. The southeast winds pushed hard across the face of the Gulf. The waveforms pulsed endlessly, rhythmic heartbeats of a restless goddess radiating throughout her domain. Amphitrite doesn’t miss anything in this; her personal providence. It may be frozen someplace else, but the blood is flowing here, pounding really; pounding in our ears.

I felt it, even before I saw the refuse. I felt the moan under the waves and the scream in the wind. The water was milky, churned up and opaque. The wind didn’t create this howl; the wind was mourning the losses.

Offshore the sand dredger stood anchored above their next prey. Working day and night for weeks, they had plunged the impossibly huge mouth of the vacuum into the belly of the Gulf. Grabbing all, suffocating all, moving the sand with the empathy of a Giant’s foot on an anthill. It was pumped up to plump up the pricey beachfront that had of late, looked wan and gangly. The hanging roots of the beach grass lay exposed to the sun. The dune barely stood; sliced open by wave and wind.

Seize-The-Despoiler-Rescue-The-Gold-Help-Us-Help-Us-Woe-Woe,-Illustration-From-The-Rhinegold-And-The-Valkyrie,-1910The expensive condos at the legal edge of the dune are winter home to beings with ownership sensibilities and the “wherewithal” to protect their investment. The privilege of living close to a barrier beach had not taught them to see. These condo folk have “dominion,” and a pretty short life span. What chance do a millions mollusks and a some unconscious crustaceans have in the face of such obvious entitlement?

As long as “gravity” holds out on this planet, sand and water will ebb and flow, swirl and sway. They are in perpetual dance; forever and for all time. It’s a perpetual call and response with these two, the mediums of elemental architects.

Form + energy /time=natural forms

We walked amidst deep piles of small shells, small mountains of amorphic sponges drying in the wind, a sea cucumber, even a dead raccoon lay eyeless and rolling at the edge of the angry waves. A red sand dollar just recently alive in a nearby aquatic suburb lay drawn and quartered across the sand. The red color suggested the color of blood. Insinuating, if only in my soul; what if this was a human body? What if we were ripped from our comfy chairs and supermarket parking lots and sprayed out into the universe for some “higher purpose?” Suddenly this clear windy day at the edge of the sea became an apocalypse.

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On this day, life at the edge of the sea was about domination, disrespect and death. This wasn’t a hunt for lunch, protection of young, or survival. What gives us the right to destroy so much?

Call for the Valkyries, there be heroes here. Although not human ones. Valkyries are the mythic women who carry swords they never use, who chose the heroes that will die in the man-made battles, women who scoop up those that will live forever. They are the place where good and evil are not clearly distinguishable, they are the same.

Bring them to Valhalla; it’s not safe here

All artwork by Arthur Rackham (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Rackham)

 All artwork by Arthur Rackham Images from http://www.1st-art-gallery.com
Born 19 September 1867
LewishamKent, England
Died 6 September 1939 (aged 71)
LimpsfieldSurrey, England
Nationality English
Known for Children’s literature

Singing the Solstice Blues

Solstice 2014

We chased the sunset; flying due west across the Southern United States at sunset on the Solstice of 2014. This final day of descent into darkness in the Northern Hemisphere has always been notable to me. In the last few years Solstice prayers and hopes have been etched on heart and they played out their mysteries in the months that followed. It isn’t the darkness that catches my attention. It is the echo of rituals past when people and the earth sang together, danced together in mutual care and respect.

Solstice is an intractable physical event; like puberty or menopause, birth and death. An astrological alignment of sun and earth described in light and shadow expressing constants floating in a sea of other potential outcomes. All this drama played out right here in our own intimate corner of the universe. These behemoth players dance the archetypes of sacred interrelationships on a planetary stage of constant change. For the early watchers, when survival was more primordial, the daily sunset was mortality, the sunrise a prayer of gratitude.

The Solstice is the shortest day, the least light, the final exhale of this solar year. Seems worth a few moments of contemplation amidst digital distractions of pre Christmas cheer. Our 21st century world is not a jazzy hologram or fantastical computer generated image, but a living breathing entity. We the humans, are here, because there is a “here.” All that happens in the physical realm is “that” which allows us a life in the physical. We are all part of this beautiful planet earth and one of her children. It would seem reasonable to listen to “Mom” now and then, give a hand up to those in need, and say thanks once in a while for our ride on this fantastic space ship.

I was reminded this year to mark the darkest day by an explorer in the realms of plant devas. An in-training Anam cara of the apple tree has reminded those of us who listen of the olde practice of wassailing. A sweet and chilly practice of going to the trees that feed us in summer to give encouragement in their hardest and darkest days. The grace of warm breath amongst chilly trees, human voices singing out support, grateful hearts banishing dark spirits who would bruise and maim the creators of food and fruit. Marking miracles makes sense.
Attend the last breath
makes the next breath feel so sweet.

Ghost Crabs and other Fables

Great Blue Heron

You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.  Henry David Thoreau

Early every morning barring serious thunderstorm or domestic demands we go to the Beach. This routine is simple and soothing, wait for the first light, drink some coffee, brush teeth, don bathing suits and go. Some ancient ritual marking the miracle of each day calls us to the edge of sand and water. Empty in mind and belly we seek communion and supplication with “the Shehe” that inhabits saltwater, wind and sand. Beaches are sacred ground, where all worlds mingle, earth and sky, life and death, dreams and despair. These polarities are nothing new or unique, it is just so much chowder in the Pot. Ask the empty Conchs, the turtle eggs, the faster fish, the stealthy Ghost Crabs. The living and the dead, real and imagined mingle freely here, and without apology. Each a foundation and food for the “other.”

Humans come to fish, to soak, to walk, to see, to rest. When we come to the beach we are home. We come to wash away pain, to heal brokenness, to find joy in living and in being alive, to accept death as inevitable, to see the magic in an earthly manifestation; no matter how difficult this assignment may be, on this day or any other.

The sea is the beginning and the end, always and forever.

Look!  Look!  Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.  Albert Einstein

This being summerVbeach in a Florida winter beach town the beach is gloriously empty of people. It is a 3 minute trip in the sand lined and musty “beach car;” my immortal 2004 Toyota highlander. This relic of a different life, sporting New Mexico license, is packed with what most weekend beach revelers might feel essential; chairs and coolers, towels, umbrellas, noodles and sand toys. Through constant practice we have whittled the daily needs to mangy beach hat, bamboo mat and a single wacky noodle. We have several rainbow colors but there is a crusty favorite.

On this day, as everyday, there was magic. The familiar long legged Great Blue Heron; sultan of the fishing pier restrooms was entertaining today. Three heads turned. Size equals aristocracy in the bird world. These three giants feigned deep insult as we passed. They sized us up with a side-eye stare, the only choice really, with their eye placement. No fishing pole=no bait=no interest. Beak in the air, we were dismissed. Turning with their best slow motion “giant step” each hurried off in the Great Heron way, as if the air was molasses thick, a visual of a 78 record played on 33. The Great Blue heron and the Hummingbird must represent the entire Bird Time Continuum.

What compels human beings to stand in moving water, watch the clouds, and feel for the movement of the sea? The universal fraction of change: Movement + Element over Time sings a compelling chant to the bodies here at the edge of water. While one of us walks down the beach talking to fish and sky, another enters the warm water and begins the sacred water healing pipefishritual. Petitioning the sun, practicing unity with wave and wind, the salt water is substrate for the healing of bone and muscle finally relieved of their constant trial.

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  Kahlil Gibran

The clouds were in their most impressive “Thunder Being” arrangement over the western horizon. The sun rose behind the three tall slash pines on the edge of the beach. Their shade reached across the sand and far into the water. Down the beach, a familiar head bobbed on the small waves, far, far out on this very low tide. A nearly full moon reflected the blue sky in the west.

I was well into my Spirit cleaning, calf clenching speed walk down the empty beach. This practice is my own body-mind-spirit vehicle for mind clearing, family support, and personal expansion; whatever is up in my world. Cutting through my walking meditation, a leaping silver fish caught my eye. He leap once, twice, three times, giving new meaning to “walking on water.” I stood in the water, watching the fish take wing, witnessing the life and death dance of “feeding time.”

Many miles to the West, hovering near the tower of cloud, a huge ball of bright Magenta color was forming. As it grew larger and brighter, my mind went at it. Rainbow? Burning boat? Why only that color? Why only that direction? What does this mean!?  A round single color rainbow? Does anyone else see this?tallcloud

But there was no one else.

Thankfully when the not so wise Mind runs out of small individual human thoughts it gets quiet, shuts up, or shuts down. Then the really Big- “We are all connected” thoughts move in, albeit at the speed of a Great Blue Heron. If you wait for it, get quiet and breathe, they always show up.

I imagined that my family in the West was seeing this first color of sunrise. My thoughts were reaching out to children and grandchildren, Family and Friends. Even reaching family so far west from here that it is Far East, the mind warp of living on a sphere! Thoughts and prayers, making their way across the water and the miles, time and distance made meaningless. Love and light travel together is what the fish told me.

I watched that glow of color and connection, swaying with the waves until I realized I was buried in the sand with the coquinas. The gentle relentless movement of sand and water had pulled me back into earth with each wave. I was in halfway up to my knees.   Someday I won’t move my buried feet. I will stay and see if the sea can bury me completely feet first. But this is not that day. On this memorable day, I appreciate the grounding.

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We could explain everything with water temperature, salinity, negative ions, and light refraction, everything except why we all feel so much better after being at the Beach!

Remember the Ghost Crab, small transparent sand crabs that don’t survive beaches with people, because people have big feet.

They were once described as an “occult, secretive alien from the ancient depths of the sea”. There are swarms of them at the beach now. Life is easy and hard, good and bad, dark and light: all at the same time. The real trick is to learn to love ALL of it. The best way I know to do that is to stand in sand up to your knees, let the waves get you wet, and marvel at the beauty of the sky.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. Frank Lloyd Wright

Florida in August is perfect…..

Oak

Florida in August is perfect…..if you are a lizard.

It is the outside air oozing in through an open door, thick and steamy, just this side of liquid.

It is the sun searing the innocence of transplanted leaves, or the unprepared skin of pale tourists. Both have left their genetic comfort zones. Both have grossly miscalculated the desiccating power of unlimited Prana.

It is the drama of turbulent clouds reaching into the Gulf for yet another cauldron of water to pour on summer stagnant swamplands. Monstrous storms move desert lifetimes of water in spontaneous torrents, rinsing and washing, rinsing and washing until every plant comes shiny and clean under a rainbow.

It is the whine of the Cicadas and the cacophony of tree frogs so loud that some days it is unclear if the sound exists inside or outside of my consciousness.cloud

There are Primal forces at work here in the near Tropics and they “strut their stuff” in August.

They bow to no one on these dense days.

These are the Titans, the soul of all life here on Earth:

Sun, Water and the Urge to live. And live they do, in bright colors and with leathery resiliency. The work of Earth will prevail here in Florida, despite our human hindrance and hampering, poisoning and pruning. Life will continue, although the prevalent form may be a lizard

or humans that act like lizards!

It’s all about Adaptation

Humans

Humans scurry to join the Outdoors in the early morning and nearly dark evening, leaving the bright days to pass in the electric oasis of central air conditioning. If you weren’t born to live here, better lay low until later.

The only living that goes on Outside at noon is carbathwindowried on by the professionals; Lizards, Bougainvillea, Palm trees and very hardy Landscapers.

We are the human versions of the sweating ice tea glass, go outside and unimagined amounts of water will begin to roll off your body. The weather calls the shots here, adapt your schedule or “fry.”

Palms, Palms, Palms: every size and every guise

Palms look the way they do because they have done their best to maximize a challenging assignment. Compare a Palm to a Peony and tell me who will be standing in this climate? Tropical sun, Biblical proportion deluges and circular winds of summer’s tumultuous thunderstorms have created the perfect survivor.

Palms can sport thick trunks of spikes and spears, shields studded with razor sharp points or spindly, spongy 60-foot stems holding a single mop of leaves. Somehow, they are all Palms. What they don’t share in shape they share in attitude.

Palm

Their magic is accommodation. They share leaves that bend, split, unfold, and shred as they dance the wind spirit. Leaves on branches that ride the top o’ the gale, always illustrating wind, never “bracing against.” No matter how fierce the blow, they flow in non-resistance. Palms win their survival by yielding; being one with what is present. No good to burn, and hard to get close to, these are tree survivors.

I give them full measure of respect and keep a good distance as they are also- full of

“those that shall remain nameless”…the “insect survivors.”

   Lizards Lizards and more Lizards

There are thousands of lizards in our yard this month, every color, every size and everywhere you look. From out of the ferns they leap; tiny “two inchers,” swinging on a leaf, to the full-grown Grand Poobahs.These behemoths challenge at eye level with a “come hither” throat swell and a raised eyebrow. This could suggest a great deal about the power of a positive self-image. They also remind us all that the human brain is built on this very same “reptilian brailizardn” substrate as well.

It’s all so familiar. The population of lizards surrounding the giant Live Oak suggests the machinery and mysteries of reproduction are in full swing out there.

Our chemical free yard has become a version of the “Whole Foods” olive bar for snakes, birds and any and all creatures that find a lizard tasty. A Red tailed hawk left a tail feather “Thank You” note on the driveway, as did the Blue Jay. The Rat snake was a surprise; he was so full he could hardly muster himself off the driveway. It’s not easy to be “prey.”

The Poobahs and their minions are particularly fond of the car that resides in the shade of that giant “Live Oak. Most will leap off tires and shimmy out of the front grill when the locks click open. There are some that won’t leave, be it territorial or recreational; they stand their ground. Maybe theyfeathers claim dominion over Fords?

They are tenacious despite their diminutive stature. Some of these cowboys have a penchant for riding on the hood, sticky toes spread, gripping the metal, face into the wind. Others, caught napping in the windshield wiper well, climb their way up despite gale force windshield winds, to glare at the driver, clearly irked at the unexpected journey. More than once I have pulled over and commanded them off. I can’t drive safely and watch for raised eyebrows and panicky looks when I have to stop fast. I do wonder how they know where to find the driver? I try not to envision the aftermath for one of these unexpected emigres marooned at the grocery store or the beach parking lot.

plumeriaI’m unclear if I will sign up for the next “August in Florida” Cotillion of sweat and swelter. I can dream and ponder on cooler realms for next August. For the present, seems a page out of the book of palms might serve:

Adapt, Modify, Accommodate.  The Quest?

Bloom where you’re planted.

Fly with Me

 

Air travel is wonderful. 

In a culture that demands space and privacy, the security process alone is therapeutic. There you are, standing barefooted and beltless, questioning what is a jacket and what is your shirt. On the queue amongst strangers, we are all in the same state of affairs. We are travelers adrift in search of sanity in safety. There is eye contact, shared experience, and compassion for the one chosen to play a “bad guy” that morning. Vulnerability is a powerful tool in community building. But that’s the adult perspective. For kids, it’s a horse of a different color.

Traveling with children on a plane can be hilarious. Especially if you are not their parent, and seated a few rows back. I have not yet had a plane trip that was not improved by a few rows of kids, swaggering down the aisle their bulging backpacks of snacks and excitement, whacking any unsuspecting passenger foolish enough to not recognize the size of their joy.  Nothing more giddy and gleeful than “kids on vacation.” It is beyond a good mood, it reeks of unlimited access to parents, relaxed rules and excess ice cream.  I could be biased.  I’m fond of travel myself.

The atmosphere is contagious.  Those who are not kids, or active duty parents, should always have the good sense to breathe in this air of anticipation, and enjoy the view.  I think traveling adults behave better in the presence of traveling children. They smile more, complain less or they move much further back. Who could ignore the sticky face cherub that pops over the top of the seat with the “Is this great or what” smile? Suddenly, it IS great; we are flying!  Those are clouds out there and the buildings are tiny. Talk about empowerment for the not so silent minority!

Most kids address their day with a sense of adventure. Give these cosmonauts a ride in the sky and their worldview has just exploded. We may find it cramped and uncomfortable in 16D.  These mini explorers spend all their road trips strapped into tight seats in the back row.  The view is so much better from the sky, and your parents pay more attention.

On a recent trip from Florida to New Mexico we were seated in front of a pint size philosopher with the comedic timing of a Borscht belt comedian. I wrote this down. Nothing ever made up by an adult can top a child’s raw experience. As the plane eased out of the gate at Tampa, preparing for the runway, his voice could be heard over the engines.

“Are we there yet??” We left the runway on laughter, even the sincerely cranky enjoyed that classic.

A few minutes later swooping over Tampa bay at a rakish angle. “Sometimes I get scared Dad. Dad?  Did you hear me? Sometimes I get scared!”  Dad, it turned out was a combat veteran; I’ll bet he understood that very well.

“Dad, you have something up your nose.  What IS that up your nose??  We were in the aisles.

“Where’s our hotel Dad, is that Texas? Calla, Calla we’re in Texas!  Dad everything in Texas is so small!  Where’s our hotel Dad, is it that box?” (Circling Houston)

Diagonally we have a small, but fully cognizant being. Impossibly skinny legs in purple knit leggings sticking out from under a flowered ruffled mini dress shaped like a bell. Two pig tails of different lengths, wrapped in rubber bands, sticking out at revolutionary angles.  It appeared as if she had done her own trim recently. She was succinct and cool. Eye contact, appraisal, approval and back to her iPad.  A few bumps, a few mini rolls, and we are all stapled in for the duration, she took it all in stride. Stock Photo by Sean Lockewww.digitalplanetdesign.com

The toddler next door began a sleep song as plaintive and intricate as a Robin’s end of day parable.  She repeated the song in its entirety; same tone, same cadence, same vocables, three or four times before she sang herself to sleep. She created her own song and was singing it for herself. Awesome self-soothing, wish I could be as self aware. How much do we really understand about being a child? And why do we rush to make them adults with sad eyes and nervous hands? Maybe some research into the basis of their wisdom might serve better. Maybe we could sit in the back seat more often.

sky

Children and angels are of the same fabric

They’ve forgotten their guile and

 Left their façade at home

Don’t even try to keep them

From standing too close and looking too deep

They can see you anyway.

Maybe the sea is heaven, Maybe heaven is the Sea

What is a beach? What is the sea? Do I reflect her or does she reflect me?

 

SeaGodsWe went down to the beach early this morning. It is a miracle to have unlimited access to “the beach” in the heat of a Florida summer. Few things feel better than immersion in sun warmed salt water. The Gulf is that; a bowl of gathered water and suspended “stuff” all assimilating into the Atlantic Ocean and beyond. Despite the human need to name and claim, it is not of Mexico, nor of the United States. It is the cupped hands held under the spigot of North America’s rain. Water from the sky holding by force of attraction all the flavors and flotsam of each place and experience on the journey.

The same water that existed on Earth millions of years ago is still here.

But did you know it is all the same water? We are a closed system here on planet Earth, a giant terrarium. Water moves around, as water vapor, liquid water, and ice. Water is a shape shifter, changing its form as conditions dictate. Never lost, only changed.

“Although some matter, such as meteors from outer space, are captured by Earth, very little of the Earth’s substances escape into outer space. This is certainly true about water. Therefore the same water that existed on Earth millions of years ago is still here. The global water cycle dictates that the same water is continually being recycled all around the globe.”

http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/oceanography/ocean-earth-system/ocean-water-cycle/whaleshark7So there I sat on the nearly uninhabited beach, sun drowsy and half immersed at the edge of the water in a yellow beach chair, communing with the fishes. From a suggestion of an unknown source, I began imagining that I could dissolve into that water, let my molecules float across oceans, and still be conscious. I envisioned drifting without fear through Amphitrite and Poseidon’s domain. And what is the beauty of being dissolved? No concern for fear, or pain, or survival, water always survives. Weightless and worry free; “going with the flow,” in the most literal sense.

I wonder if this is what physical death feels like?

I imagined the behemoth polka-dotted whale shark; the vacuum mouth, filter feeder seen here recently. She swept me up but I passed right through her; no harm done. I wondered about visioning such peace at the time of death, on the anniversary of my birth 59 some years ago. Life is just so tricky.

I think I will call it “Aqua Therapy.” Becoming suspended in the Sea is the perfect solution for the raw chafe of human beings and the pesky nymphs of modern living. Too many electronics? Too many miles? Too many words? Go sink in, soak up the magical medium of life on this planet. Mystical, mercurial changer of shape and form, carrier of life and death, water is the ultimate denominator of life here on the Blue planet. She is the ultimate balancer as well.

Is it an accident of creation or invention that all things electronic can’t survive a simple swim? What does it say about our constant E-companions? TVs, phones, pads and pods are all neutralized by our mother liquid. Yet we are that, a structured cclosedsystemontainer of dissolved minerals. We are that: a very elaborate canteen of fluid and form holding tiny beings, vast communities of differentiated cells, infinitesimal chains holding all human memory.

Maya, Maia, Me

Maybe it was the color of the sky, or the warm gentleness of the water. As the chair sunk into the deep shell sand of the shallows, I contemplated the impermanence of my temporary liquid neighborhood. The tiniest of fish moved rhythmically towards beach, back and forth with the breath of the waves. The edge of water and sand renegotiated with each wave, endless infinite shuffling of inhabitants amidst water, wind or predator.

What came next was a “what if” epiphany. For a moment there was a swirl of illumination. We protect ourselves a lot. We focus without pause on the survival of a body that will not survive… no matter what. We always look up to others and out to belief systems in search of our meaning of life, and our “after life” address. Separating death and life with definite parameters, – like having a human body.

What if heaven is like the sea? What if heaven is the sea? What if we are heaven?

In a Google search for an attractive “Water system” illustration I found this; exploding all facts and theories thus far in place on what water can do, what water can be, where water came from.

Deep Underground, Oceans Of Water May Be Trapped In A Crystal ‘Sponge’

by L. CAROL RITCHIE

June 15, 2014 3:27 PM ET

Science teachers may have to add a whole new layer to the water cycle. Scientists have discovered evidence of a vast reservoir of water hiding up to 400 miles beneath the surface.

“The discovery could transform our understanding of how the planet was formed, suggesting that Earth’s water may have come from within, rather than from collisions with large, icy comets.”

The water is trapped in a blue mineral called ringwoodite that sits in the mantle, a hot, rocky layer between the Earth’s crust and outer core. That means the water is not the familiar liquid, vapor or ice, but a fourth, mineral form. We reported earlier this year on a rare diamond containing a microscopic piece of ringwoodite that bolstered evidence for the vast wet zone.

It is likely the largest reservoir of water on the planet, and could be the source of the oceans’ liquid. The study was published in the journal Science.

The study is also remarkable for the discovery that melting and movement of rock occurs in a layer of the mantle known as the transition zone, between the upper and lower mantles, the Guardian reports. Most melting was thought to occur at much shallower depths.

“Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight,” said Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen from Northwestern University, co-author of the study.

“I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades,” he said.

The study relied on seismometers across the U.S. and lab experiments simulating rocks under high pressure, says Nature World News.

“Ringwoodite here is key,” it notes. “Its crystal-like structure makes it act like a sponge and draw in hydrogen and trap water.” It could be a vast amount of water, says the Guardian. “If just 1 percent of the weight of mantle rock located in the transition zone was water it would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans, Jacobsen said.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/06/15/322246690/deep-below-oceans-of-water-may-be-trapped-in-a-crystal-sponge

Nice to meet you ringwoodite.

And where do we go from here?

20140616-230656.jpg

 

 

Maya, Maia, Mothers

Mothers

Not all women are Mothers

Not all Mothers are women

Being a Mother is an identity, a job, a wish, a life’s work, a calling.

Blessed Mother, Mother Teresa, Maia, Brigid, Florence Nightingale, Mother Goose, June Cleaver, Mother Nature.

These are the icons, the heroes, the giants in the care taking game.  We can admire, imitate, even emulate, but these are at best two dimensional. They radiate, but do they participate? What is a real blood and bone Mother anyways?

The standard Hallmark Mother’s Day archetype embodies unconditional love, and impermeable safety. She is an ever-smiling font of wisdom and unselfish acts. All children know that their Mother is more complex than this cardboard cutout.

Real time Mom is a dynamic entity.  Her emotions and parental interactions impact her offspring for a lifetime.  A really great Mother is not just what she puts into the world. She is equally formed by what the world puts in her.  The “real deal;” the penultimate “keeper of the caring”, has lumps and bumps, scars and fears. She comes fully loaded with plenty of buttons to push.  She is permeable and malleable and as dangerous as a female Grizzly with cubs.

In search of “Mother” the verb

Some Mothers nurture and hold precious and sacred those in their care.  Needs are anticipated, cries answered, and for all time, “Watch me Mom!”  is a redundant request.  For the rest of your life, someone is watching and that person’s name is Mom.

Other Mothers devour their young, feeding on their life force until they are no longer strong enough to leave her willingly. Some women conceive in tragedy, give birth and have nothing to offer their children beyond hunger, fear, and the agony of abandonment.

Enter here, the Mothers who will scoop up those lost babies, and hold them tight forever. From the dark world of lost souls comes a gift so precious that a Mother is born from the longing heart of the child given over to her care.  Why does this salvation matter to the rest of us? A lifetime of love will be deposited into the universe and we will all benefit. Like a good rain in the desert, we all benefit.

So who inspired this celebration of the Perfect Mom?

Ann Jarvis from West Virginia was that Mom.  She pushed and persuaded until wartime medics gave equal care to both Yankee and Confederate wounded in her town. No small feat in the midst of the Civil War.

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30659/founder-mothers-day-later-fought-have-it-abolished

Her daughter Anna, wished to honor her Mother’s lifetime of work for peace. Anna relentlessly haunted officials to make a “Mothers Day.”  That they did, and Mother’s Day quickly became a sensationally successful capitalist vehicle.

Anna was very vocal about how she expected her Mother’s altruism to be honored. Following years of protests against the appropriation of the beauty and power of Mother Love by materialistic endeavors, particularly the floral industry, Anna was deemed “crazy.” She later died penniless in a mental asylum.  No doubt sharing this indignity with other women of the era who couldn’t behave nicely.

Seems a wise choice not to tangle with a Mother, or a daughter

Any Woman really,

We ARE all a force of Nature.

And Where Do We Go Next?

Alabamagreen

 

The Maple’s leaves are pink and light green, curled in embryonic shape at the edge of the McDonald’s lot, someplace in Alabama. Tending to two traveling dogs, I’m a researcher of these hinterland edges. These are the places where swaths of green homogeneous turf meets bramble and wildflower punctuated with overgrown bits of trash. Here at the crease there seems just a whiff, a memory… of past identity?…History? Call it a sense of place of place that lingers at these edges.  Bulldozers with topsoil can only cover so much.  They are weak opponents for that which has lived here a long time. The land will always talk if you stop to listen. Dogs listen, even when I forget.

The golden arches don’t mean lunch to this contingent. McD’s food is untouchable, but the corporate penchant for cleanliness is not. They are the double blessings of good coffee and clean bathrooms without the dingy drama of gas stations.  The magical dog friendly edges are a reliable constant.  McD’s are a Postmodern, Post- Rockwell American icon, like it or not. If you want to know who really inhabits any small town, go look at the table in the back by the restrooms about 9 am any weekday morning.  They are the “real deal” and almost without fail, they give real smiles.

dosnooze

 

These generic oases are a banal replacement for the “search for shrubbery.” In my pre seat belt back seat, shared with three sisters, it was a quick, pink-faced dash to the tree line. When one became too old for the pink potty between the open car doors, there was no other recourse. There was no talk of ticks and snakes, and we could all identify poison ivy at 10 paces.  There was only blessed relief and guaranteed sniggering back at the car. I wonder if my interest in edges is an extension of my past forays into the “almost” wild?

It is warm and humid on this spring evening. A wave of thunderstorms are headed this way, but still a day away in car-time. Settled in to a comfortable car with snoozing dogs and spring colors, we move through the southern towns with appreciation for the soft green and buildings with well-worn edges.

Somewhere amidst the giant Live Oaks and the peanut stands we enjoyed a good conversation. The third party’s familiar voice emanated from the dashboard, the modern equivalent of coffee around a kitchen table. Talk of the past and talk of the future wafted through the car, out the windows and back in through the vents.

Alaroad

 

Past and future; they are the same, stories we tell about the edges,

before and beyond the only sure thing; the present.

It is all such a tricky business.

We know where we are headed, but where we are going is a mystery.

 

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)

 oceanrainbow

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.

 

 

Last Day

panpalm

We have reached the last day of our last week here. It was miraculously spent in a square duplex cottage, built optimistically on stilts, on the apron of beach edging a thin spit of land called, by some: Palm Island.

This is a quiet place, most days the beach sees more birds than people and the prevailing sounds are the waves and the wind. This center section of Don Pedro Island is set apart from the mainland by the inward tracing of the intercoastal waterway, a thin green river lined with impenetrable Mangrove colonies denying access to the casual boating interloper. What keeps this island quiet is a short ride on a car ferry whose $50 price tag for cars really curtails one’s desire to come and go.  You only get to stay, if you have the clams to pay.

ferry

Ours is one of the more modest perches, in a fine position on the sand. We could share breakfast conversation with our right hand neighbors were we to be able to hear them over the sound of the surf. There is nothing so precious as close proximity to the sea, especially to these decade long desert dwellers in the winter. Walking briskly, one can walk from Gulf to Bay in about 4 minutes from this vantage point. Crashing waves and windy bluster on the west side, peaceful green water, manatee and kayakers on the East.  It would be hard to be more one with water without being in a boat.

southbeachBuilt over the past 20 years with typical human hubris, this community is a neighborhood of Beach Houses; human poachers in the land of perpetual metamorphosis.

There are many massive multistory edifices here, many empty and more with For Sale signs than without.  They all stand on impossibly tall Heron legged pilings to keep them safe from the whim of moving water.  We hear from the old timers that those without feet came and went about 10 years ago. These sand castles will stand in this golden and blue-green place…until they don’t.  All barrier beaches move, sometimes across centuries, sometimes in a few days.  Ask those from Long Beach, NY, a place where more than one in our family /friend circle saw the unthinkable happen. (www.businessinsider.com/hurricane-sandy-flooding-pictures-2012-10)

We are grateful to be a visitor, to hear waves all day and all night, to witness the beauty in front of us “right now.” And is that any different from anyone’s life? Is anyone’s existence much different than a beach house with its toes pounded into the sand? Does anyone really have more of a guarantee of safety and longevity than this?

Thinking deep thoughts is easy when time is relative and days defined by sunrise and sunset.  Weather is the mist on your face and the flotsam at your feet. Wind and wave is a whole body experience best studied with wet feet and no agenda.  Each day brings new topography and new shells; the colorful refuse of life out there. Soft white Angel wings, pastel periwinkles and cockles of all sizes are tossed up like handbills for upcoming miracles.  It is nearly impossible to pass up these treasures, except when the dolphin passes by, or the Osprey dives for dinner, close enough to get you wet.

shelltree

Being surrounded by water on three sides washes the soul in its most fundamental element. Standing at the edges is to walk in both worlds of me and us. There is magic in awareness of a single human’s diminutive status in the overall scheme of things, and the coexisting sense of Unity with the flowing body of the mercurial and magnanimous Gulf of Mexico.  Under these conditions, the precepts of present human culture as we know it are “all shot to hell.”

As they should be. Thanks Mama Cocha

Why do Fish Jump?

Why do fish jump?

This compelling question surfaced a few evenings ago in the buttery glow that follows the setting sun in western Florida. WE, the collective inhabitants of this wondrous beach house settled into high and low mismatched beach chairs to bathe in the daily color extravaganza that is sunset on the Gulf of Mexico.

beach

 

Our powers of observation have been honed to a razor edge by days of surveillance of water and sky, sunrise to star-rise. Each day, armed with healthy fruit juice, punctuated with spiced rum and bitters, we participated in the miracle of BEACH. The miraculous intersection of air, water and earth.

As the sun dropped below the horizon, the fish follies began.  From our sandy perspective, the fish jumped like hot popcorn; first 2 then 20 then 100. We questioned the possibilities of all those fish simultaneously spotting an insect snack, or fleeing a predator.

We paused, we pondered and other questions arose. Why do Pelicans glide inches off the surface, with no apparent destination? What compels a mini manta ray to leave his cadre and fling himself into the air? That seagull that regularly plunges into the water at high speed and comes up with nothing is either a poor hunter, or it feels great.

shells

 

 

 

 

The oracle was queried and it was suggested that living things run, wrestle, romp leap and jump as a part of their existence, a necessary expression of energy that utilizes to the fullest extent the physical body they inhabit. Deer leap, dogs swim and birds ride the air currents. They do it because they can. They do it because it feels great.

feet

For this week we can abandon the human notion that all actions must have human ordained “purpose.” I propose that the energy expressed by finding a beautiful shell, feeling the surf as sound, watching an Osprey, is returning a debt owed.  We take in bright sun and clear water, good food grown in dark dirt and we keep it for ourselves. Get out there and laugh, run, smile at everyone.  Jump like the fish…

Owl In the Morning

quietriver

In search of a rare Café breakfast we took a morning walk through the shadows of this deep green swamplands.  This watershed area was designated parklands and built with the efforts of CCC workers in 1938. Timber architecture never gets old. No doubt remote and isolated at the time, it is now a gratefully undeveloped oasis just 15 miles or so from urban Tampa.   We started out from the campsite on the path that wanders along the peopled side of a meandering green river thickly faced by rough palms and pines, elegant Cypress and the sharp points of the palmetto.

The water’s barely discernable flow is remarkable here for its color and texture. Forget the transparent element in your water bottle; this water is something quite different. Thick, verdant and completely opaque after a foot or so, this river holds an entire universe in suspension.  What lies beneath the green screen, only the river knows.  We heeded advice from wise readers and kept feet, human and canine away from the edges. To be within reach of the river, was to risk being sucked into its belly.

This footpath is just barely removed from the behemoth vehicles of recreation and the tiny tents of the optimists neighboring our current camping site. Standing quietly as part of this land of camouflage we lingered, watching a mysterious swirl of green water initiate an easy flight of the white bird to the next hammock. A gleaming 4-foot alligator posed on a dead log.  Smiling from his post across the river, he looked like a decoy for an 8-foot cousin waiting below.

To discern what is here takes time, it takes attraction and attention.  It takes a willingness to become part of the mystery. As we stepped out of the brush where footpath crosses camp road delineated by a striped pedestrian crossing, a Barred Owl called out from the Pine.  We took note of this old friend, and familiar call, and felt blessed by this real life edition of Minerva’s Owl.

riverbranc

Hours later, driving on a mundane errand, I found her there splayed out on the zebra stripes between the fast moving traffic lanes of Route 301. Apparently she was sent reeling from this life by collision of wild raptor and passing car or truck on this busy corridor.

Spotting the striped wings, I pulled to the roadside and stopped.  I hoped it was not an owl, but maybe a turkey?  I watched a concrete truck rush towards us, displacing enough air and space to raise the broken body and spin it above the pavement. In a blur of feathers the body flipped over and dropped back to earth on her back, wings offered outward in a position reminiscent of beloved human martyrs.  Then I knew for sure who she was.

In a rare moment of embracing the rules, I considered the location just off the park grounds, and the hefty five figure fines for possession of raptor feathers by a non-Native.  I considered the road clearing prisoners up ahead and the fire tower to the south. I returned to the park to enlist the ranger’s blessing, hopeful that there would be interest in preserving this beautiful body. I thought of our grandson and his classroom unit studying Owls last Fall.  The subject had piqued his interest, pulled and prodded him to become an integral part of his new class, in his new school.  Owls are like that, they take you along.

I know from experience that it is against the law for Jane Q. Public like me, to have an owl preserved through taxidermy; this is not my first owl.  The Park employee I encountered seemed immune to the possibility of preservation, and I identified this route as useless when she asked me with surprise, “An owl is a raptor?”

I returned to the Spot, pulled off on a turning lane to “no place,” next to the zebra stripes.  A traffic pattern created for an “un-developed” development, this lane turned into nothing but an overgrown barricade guarding acres of cleared, but empty “lots.” It was the only place on this straight freeway of a Florida 2-lane where a fragile body could lay untouched by tire, and I could pull off without danger to life and limb. I asked for a break in traffic, and barriers of will went up at north and south.

Armed with a faded dog towel, I reached for her. The body was painfully soft, limp and fragile to the touch, and amazingly heavy. Certainly she was just hit, her neck broken, the rest of her intact and beautiful. There was the Face of Minerva’s Owl right there in my hands. She felt like family. I scurried across the road into the car as if the Feds were watching from the nearby fire watchtower.

owl

As I put her in the car her head flopped, but her wings folded perfectly back to her sides. Her legs were thick and furred as a cat, with sharp curved talons clenched, and frozen forever in that moment; a predator in pursuit. What I didn’t expect was her presence; the smell of the woods, the feeling of flight, the intensity of focus still frozen there in her legs. I didn’t expect the still animated life force that joined me in the car.  Driving down 301, going to Publix, with an Owl Spirit in the car.  The mundane and the sacred were taking a road trip.

I will take time pondering the meaning of this event. Look at my Minerva Avatar picture chosen months ago, and you will see what I saw on the road. Has she slipped from my imagination, riding on spirit through the ethers into our physical existence?  And for what reason?  Nature wastes nothing, certainly not a life of a wild thing.

We here in Minerva will think deep thoughts about how it came to be that an owl that greeted us in the morning was by afternoon, dead in my hands.  What can we understand from the story of an Owl spirit flying high and focused, taken down in a moment by a miscalculation of timing?  Was she on her way to her Publix too?

We brought her to see our grandchildren so they could see the magic and the mystery that belongs to the winged beings.  The next morning went drove to a trail that became a track, and made a path to the north. We put her at the bottom of a big tree with a nice nesting cavity.  If she died of old age, she might have just plopped there after a long life.

MinervaOwl

There is meaning here, the understanding of which was made more imperative by the owl calling last night so loudly and insistently over our camp that Mac growled in response each time and Bear threatened to do a full fledged howl.   It wasn’t quiet until I rose 2 hours before dawn to write this story.

There is no sentimentality in the divine Minerva, there is only her wisdom as a witness to an epoch divided by each single lifetime.  How then should we spend our minutes of eternity?

Muleshoe, TX

MuleshoeMuleshoe, TX, a note about connections between seemingly disparate peoples.  Yesterday, we passed through a small town of 5,000+ population holding their place in the winds of the high plains by the name of Muleshoe, TX. We bought gas, some dark coffee, and received a gift of remembrance of a forgotten time.

Remember when people respected the profound rituals of life, even if the rituals didn’t personally affect us?  Remember when we all would stop, stand and witness, a show respect for a “life event,” being present as a member of the human family?

Does it really take a profound disaster or personal pain to get our attention? Why is it so difficult to stop and give our undivided attention to another? Are there places where strangers still remove their hats to honor unknown fellow passengers on the ship of life?

We passed through this overtly poor village, surrounded by grain elevators and the peeling paint of abandoned buildings.  I could see the lights of a police car blocks ahead at the intersection. As we crept closer at 30 mph, I saw that it wasn’t an accident; it was a funeral possession.  In front of me, the 18-wheeler, ship of the plains carrying unknown cargo, slowed down and pulled to the curb. To my surprise, all our eastbound traffic passing in the opposite direction came to a stop.

We collectively pulled over and waited for hearse and cars in the procession to pass.  The head and the foot of this procession were county Sherriff cars; all lights flashing. In the middle, a 20 year old hearse and 15 or so cars of varying ages and occupancy moved slowly through town as everyone here paused their lives, just for a moment.

Muleshoemural

I have never been a fan of Texas.  Each way, our route through Texas is 600+ miles. Multiply that by three trips, and that makes over 1800 miles of ranches, BBQ places, prickly pear cactus, 100’s of Texas flags and very fast, but well mannered drivers Residents of New Mexico sometimes find the big trucks, big hair and big attitudes tiresome.

I have discovered that crossing Texas three times offers a new perspective, a more rounded sense of these independent folks ad myself as well. I’m not sure how this event will impact my life.

“It was nice to meecha Muleshoe.”

Coming and Going

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” 
― Terry Pratchett,   A Hat Full of Sky

http://www.terrypratchett.co.uk

Time to go…again. My internal experience is different this time. There is no sense of skinlessness from shedding multiple layers of possessions.  There isn’t ego whiplash from closing an office with my name on the door. I realize today, the stop no longer seems so sudden. There isn’t the search for an identity that doesn’t start with, “I used to…” When destiny knocks; answer the door, or die wishing.

Yes Mr. Pratchett, there are so many colors here; a thousand shades of brown! And the impossible ethereal color of the sky. What are missed most are so many of my very favorite hearts. Little hearts that call me Grammie, bigger ones that call me Mom.  Hearts I know, and hearts that are just being shown; one story at a time. Here in this place there are precious friends, colleagues, magical mentors, and my very favorite students of life. They all live here in this mystical and dysfunctional place called New Mexico.

Tomorrow we are “On the Road Again,” ala early Willy Nelson when he still traveled in old cars, and coach seats.  We will miss all that is here in our decade long home place. This is a place where we have no ancestors, no roots. It is a learning place, not a place to grow old, spin wool, and watch our grandchildren’s children.  Everything is a circle, we will be back shortly to the same place but we, and you will all be different.  I hope.Image

Elemental

Of special interest to those in West Virginia, and those of us who drink water.

Cultural Slagheap

My dad, a lifelong firefighter, used to teach Hazardous Materials Response and Safety classes to first responders.  The first informational point he covered at the beginning of the course was how to read the classification marks on transportation tankers—the little diamond-shaped signs, usually mounted on the back of the tank, that announce via numerical code what kinds of chemicals are stored in those transport vehicles, and what levels and types of health risks would be associated with a spill in the case of a wreck.  The first homework assignment he gave was for the firefighters to go home and stand on the main cross street in their neighborhoods and home towns for about an hour, and write down the numbers on every tag they saw pass through that intersection, then go look up the numbers.  Dad said that the next week, when those students came back for class, invariably there’d…

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Vision Quest

It’s been a week to value life. Death walks along our path closer than we think.  Early in the week I heard a local man of my age speak to a crowded room about his life rocking experience of life during death. In our limited understanding of the borderlands of being alive, he died and “came back.” His heart, challenged by an evolving heart attack, ceased to beat and was restarted four times over several days. In our limited definition of physical death, he died four times.

He did not come to speak about fear or sadness. There was no hooded terror with bony hand extended.  There was only peace, warm comfort, a sense of oneness, and a compelling choice given- to go back or to remain. In current vernacular this is a NDE, a near death experience as defined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, http://www.neardeath.com/experiences/experts02.html

or Raymond Moody, http://www.lifeafterlife.cHieom/

He stood slowly, and sought the leading thread of his story through half closed eyes. He found his place in the faces around his, speaking seriously, humbly, of his unexpected journey into frontiers of consciousness. He led us carefully, with well-chosen words, through uncharted waters, and on into the space between life and death. He took this choir of willing participants to the edges of self, the land of less Me, and more Us.

hubblesnail

It was apparent that we were witnesses at the denouement of an ancient ritual.  The Vision Quester returns to tell his dream at the fire circle of his community. Countless eons of humans have increased their collective wisdom hearing the big Dreams of those that venture beyond the edges of collective experience.

And this is the community that will live this knowledge.   This was a room full of death midwives; psychopomps in the old words. These were Hospice folks, PhD’s, MSWs, Therapists for the grieving, bereaved family members and even some other members of this elite NDE club. These are people who have sat at the bed, witnessed the passage, and continue to seek the beauty of the whole of human experience.  Some are willing participants, others drawn by life experiences so painful; they seek and search relentlessly for relief from the pain of separation from their beloved.

Universalis Cosmographia 1507 http://www.learnnc.org/lp/multimedia/6969

Universalis Cosmographia 1507
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/multimedia/6969

Despite the imagined scenario for his family, he described no hair-raising escape from the jaws of death on his side of the experience. He remembered only absolute peace, serenity, limitless concepts of soul, and life on a continuum. I am reminded of the explorers that first crossed the abyss now known as the Atlantic Ocean. Some came back, some didn’t, but the “New World” existed anyways, beyond the horizon and beyond the fears of the perilous journey. Maybe it is finally time to throw out Hieronymus Bosch’s creepy mental constructs of afterlife, and reach for the unknown with joy and expectation beyond our wildest dreams.

Walk Your Talk

road

Here we are in the short brown days and cold blue nights that are January in Santa Fe. I am reading, A Walk Across America, Peter Jenkins’ chronicles of his life changing journey of 1973. If you don’t recall this saga; brave, disillusioned Alfred College graduate follows his existential yearnings to find something, or someone, still “good” in America.  This privileged, former Greenwich, Connecticut suburbanite walks from NY into the deep South fully engaging with the people and experiences in his path.  I noticed the book on my daughter’s shelf, and felt the pull of the “Walk” in the title. As we are currently stationary, I feel compelled to keep some part of me moving. There it was, a chance to exercise my imagination, live an “edgier” existence, and all without the sore feet.

So far, I have traveled with Peter in spirit, up and down the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, in the cold and wet of December. The word dampness was invented here. Think Smokey Mountain mist, at the edge of frozen. His only companion is a dog named Cooper; robust in nature and fur.  Being blessed with a half share of Malamute genes, Cooper is up to the challenge of living “almost wild.”

I had a Malamute neighbor once; a huge bear of a dog. He would stop in occasionally to lay on the sun warmed tiles of our old house in Tijeras.  He presented himself on his own schedule to accept ear scratching as if it was beneficial to both of us. Indeed, at the time it was. I welcomed these moments of ease, in an uneasy time. To look into his eyes was to see the fearless ancestors of the dark north, and a level of confidence and acceptance that could only come from living in a pack.

Peter and Cooper have just passed through the mountainous and mysterious backbone of the Appalachians. I am moved by his courage. We passed through this area on a sine wave of a road this Fall, the easy way; on I-81.  Even on this banal byway, the geography demands vigilance and respect. Once off this human traffic corridor, the trees are tall and the forests dark. I am not a being that would feel at ease in a small tent on the side of a wild ridge.  This is a unique kind of human that seeks this quest! Is he the 1970’s version of a 1670’s Explorer? He is venturing “inward” to country, instead of “outward” to conquer. But wasn’t that the lost beauty of the 70’s, that sense of innocence.

path

I am comfortable and warm, curled up in front of a Kiva fireplace with the high desert winter just outside the door. He is finding shelter and food as they appear before him. There is no GPS, or Tripadvisor to create safety and guarantee comfort along the way.  His whole journey is based on the premise that he will find what he needs, he will get by on what he has….Food for thought in this!

Holding this book, I remember that I have also wanted to go on a “Walk.”  It was seven or eight years ago that walking books began to cross my path.  Mutant Message Down Under, a very fictionalized and potentially disrespectful account of a walkabout with Aborigines was my first “walker” novel.  This was followed by another about an unexpected group of women walking towards themselves, and away from crusty cultural expectations. The title of which, has walked on down the road. I am always a sucker for shapeshifters and skin shedders, they are my tribe.
What is this compulsion to join feet to ground and enter the slow lane seeking a steady path to enlightenment? What is different about Peace Pilgrim, Granny D, and World guy? Who ARE they?
I am quite smitten with walking elders. I hope my knees hold up.

www.peacepilgrim.com

www.worldguy.org/

grannyd.com/

http://peterjenkinsblog.wordpress.com/