The Journey


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]



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.



“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

― Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems


20131102-074544.jpgRoosevelt County, New Mexico

To reach this place, one travels through remote, beyond the “middle of nowhere,” and on into no man’s land. A flat, mostly straight road that arcs upward only to pass over the mile long trains carrying mysterious cargo moving West. The track and the road are laid out like a spilled liquid dripped onto the endless Southeast New Mexico plains.

No wonder the UFOs land here in the mesquite and grass north of Roswell. Our infamous visitors from above could very well have entire communities complete with alien Walmarts and they too would be swallowed up and invisible in this vista. This concept of SPACE is unknown to those in the east, this land is boudaryless and measured in miles. Out here every crow has their own ranchette.

A verbal visual

A Small windowless house, set back from the road down a dirt track. A barn, empty corral, silent windmill, and 4 dead trees on each corner planted for shade, and an optimist’s hope of feeling rooted in this ocean of Wind. There is no graffiti on this empty house. What would be the point? There is no one here to shock or antagonize, and color is neutralized into the “Plains Beige” of mid-Fall anyways.
I’ve flown over these places many times, seen the three parallel lines of track, road and power lines and wondered why they huddle together amidst all this space? It is an entirely different experience to be on the ground here. They are close together for survival, for the sanity of those that use these thoroughfares of modern transit. I wonder how one could hold a thought here? Or a dream? Does one set out to live here or get mesmerized until inertia sets in with the howling wind, and a horizon 50 miles away?
Anyone that believes there is human dominion over the earth needs to live here for a month or a season or a year, even a day might humble.

And into Texas

The wealthier, healthier neighbor to New Mexico meets us almost at Clovis. There was of course a detour at this state line. The road quite literally didn’t exist as if the two states couldn’t quite touch each other; they operate on different states of mind. I was driving, so this isn’t a surprise; more an expectation. Instead of a smooth transition into this very different state, we made a 90 degree left turn, then right, over two sets of tracks, thankfully not hosting the multiple miles of trains that we wisely beat into town, and then left onto the 4 lane divided highway 84 that dives diagonally towards Lubbock and Sweetwater TX.

Two images for today will remain in my mental scrapbook. The first appeared on the range by Ft Sumner. A scene from the past and the present, a single cowboy on horseback herding a small corps of doomed cattle down a red dirt hillside to join the gathered herd. This is a classic image from the Wild West that I have never witnessed in10 years of residency in this corner of the West. And in Texas, a modern day hero; World Guy, walked along the side of the road with his dog, pushing a 6 foot inflatable Earth. Both brought this poem to mind;

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

On this first day, of the second part, of Minerva’s journey, I’m grateful to be here.