I really should have written, “because of the snow,” because it is the blizzard we received yesterday that has made the landscape majestically beautiful. But, spring officially arrives in less than one week here in New England, and the bulbs that had emerged their bold stalks of green out of the waking Earth in my front garden are now covered in several feet of heavy, wet snow.
Oh, Spring, where are you? Why the long leave before your return? We are pining for you. Our skin, thirsts for the sun. Our feet, aching for the feel of dirt and grass. We have become grounded, or should I say ungrounded, in winter.
I have been bringing stainless steel tablespoons to my yoga classes so that my students can ground their bodies. It has been too long since our bare feet have felt the magnetic pull of of Mother’s Earth, welcoming us back into her body. So, we have to rely upon artificial means. The magnetic properties of metal to align our bodies’ polarity.
I am not complaining, but really I am. The snow is beautiful, and for skiers, like my son who has hit the slopes with his buddies on this school declared snow day, this blizzard has brought a gift of a free day to adventure, once again, beside Winter.
But, I am eager for spring. I am eager to see the return of buds filling with life. The swell of brooks and ponds teeming with tadpoles…and I have been waiting (not so patiently) to forgage for spring fungi. Oh, if I am honest, I have not been so diligent about embracing Winter’s gifts. The repose it offers. The churning of life in the process of building. My middle-grade manuscript sequels sit mostly untouched in their separate documents, surrounded by the aura of excuses. Instead of the writer’s muse, I feel the tug of Persephone’s hand pulling me out of these darkened days.
“Come back to the light!”
Ah, but it is indeed brighter outside, a brightness now magnified by the white masses of moisture now slayed across the branches of trees and pilled into forever drifts beside the walkways. Oh, have no fear, we will find you, Spring. We will find you someday…soon?
Lately, my thoughts about connection have turned to roots. In particular, the roots of ancestry. This is where grief is now pointing me, and I find my eyes eager to fill with the loss of separation when I think of where I have come from. I used to believe it didn’t matter. Later, I believed that perhaps the longing I felt inside of me came from past lives. I think, in part, it does, but that is not the longing that pulls the sorrow from my lids these days. It is the longing to find my roots in this life.
At the end of summer, I will turn 50. Instead of a party, I have chosen to travel. For many week I have contemplated where, even though the longing pulls me to Croatia. Beside me, I can see the ghost of my paternal grandmother nodding her head. Come home, she whispers, Come home to your origins. She is wearing a black dress, as though she is mourning with me, but I get the sense through her smile that this mourning can become a rebirth.
When I search for flights and places to stay, the old gnarled fingers of doubt take hold of joy and start shaking their habits at me. It is too expensive. Be practical. It is too long of a journey.
But, it is my choice to decide to shed the habits of lack that have been with me since birth. It is my choice to rebirth a different belief.
When I think about this return to origins, I think of how I used to believe these origins were never mine to claim. A foolish thought, perhaps, but the circumstances of my life have always told me otherwise. Not ever feeling as though I truly belonged to an extended family, even though I had three sides that I could, in some way claim, has taken a toll on my sense of connection. It has pulled up my roots and left me feeling a thirst that drains my eyes.
It has taken me some time to realize why I no long feel the urgent pull to escape to the ancient lands of Albion to find this connection I am longing for. It is not that the wild places of magic do not call to me still, but they are not the missing pieces I need to reassemble at this time. I need to, I am realizing at this half-century point of my life, rebuild the structure of my DNA. I need to weave the strands back into unity. I need to fall in love with my origins, and realize my origins have never truly abandoned me.
Come home, we are waiting for your return.
So for now, this is a post that waits to be continued. I am not going to question why my paternal side of origin is the one calling for home the loudest right now, because it feels right. It feels like a coming home.
Years ago, I walked into the office of a healer, and before she placed her hands on me she looked into my eyes and asked, “Why are you so sad?”
I recall being offended. I had not felt sadness that day, but rather excitement for this new experience I was about to try. But she was right. Sadness lives inside of me. It always has. This sadness, I am realizing, more and more, is something I need to address rather than ignore. Grief made a home inside of my cell before birth. Some of us are born into loss before we realize we have lost anything. And, so I need to begin at the beginning. I need to begin at the origin of cells finding union before separation.
It was never a secret that I was an unwanted pregnancy. My parents were too young and unprepared to have a family. Yet, first my sister was born, and then I. Sometimes, I find myself wondering what words and emotions my body molded into being as my cells became tissues, organs, and bones. A human molded into form without the tightly woven threads of love to support her came into the world as a girl named “truth.”
Rejection did not take the form of abortion, but of unwanted birth. And in those days before sonograms warned us of sexual organs, I was expected to be a boy. But love found me in a complicated way, and I was not given up. Instead, I was wrapped tightly inside the wants of my mother, who never seemed to understand that I had wants of my own.
And so I made her my everything, as all babies do who have the privilege of a mother-bond. I followed her through the leavings that became losses as grief began to make an uncomfortable home in my growing body.
The first leaving left everyone I knew behind except my mother and sister when I was two-years-old. That was the spring and summer we went into hiding with the Hare Krishnas. I never knew what it was like to wear PTSD in the body until four decades later when I was in a mantra class for yoga teacher certification. That day, while practicing the “Guru Mantra,” the traumas of the two-year-old girl living inside of me cried for release as my body shook and my mind swirled into the past.
“Why are you so sad?”
The words haunt me with their call for recognition, and so I follow their story and watch a two-year-old girl leave behind her father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. I watch her struggle to unravel the structure of DNA until her genes float unmoored inside of her wondering where they came from. Wondering why there is nothing to tether them home. And, I see her longing grow into a wave that she swallows over and over again until she can no longer swallow it because it has become her.
Grief is the manifestation of lost love, and I now realize how much it has become a part of my cells. It is the ripping apart of connection. A boat unmoored from its anchor, floating alone on the sea. Yet it is a human condition, and not a metaphor.
And, so I return to the two-year-old girl and watch her cling to her mother and the tangle of her wants. I watch her follow the only bond she feels she can cling to as they travel across the country to form a new extended family. Here she finds friendships. Some of which become the untethered loss named grief. Here she also finds new grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, yet their love is complicated, conditional, and not woven tightly with the strands of DNA.
But it is this DNA that complicates their union. Her mother has chosen to love a man that is her cousin’s son. The cousin is her father’s nephew, but they are of the close age that they lived together as unhappy brothers for many years. I have been brought into a family that is not wholly welcoming because of the strains that can be imposed upon DNA. It is a tethering without want.
Yet, love finds me. I grow to love my stepfather who has made himself the sun in our small system of orbiting planets. I dutifully cross out the name of origin that belongs to my father, and learn to separate the strands of DNA inside of me without realizing those strands are beginning to tie knots of ache inside of my belly.
And I learn to love my new cousins that come into being, and their grandparents. Even the one who has a hard time looking at my face, as well as the faces of my mother and sister. I call them my own. All of them. I have a new father. I have a new large, extended family through which I share birthdays, holidays and the long weekend of Labor Day on a tiny island in Maine. But I will lose all of those connections. Another choice made by my mother.
“Why are you so sad?” The words tangle with my grandmother’s “Why did she give you up? Why did she choose him over you, and your sister, and her grandchildren?”
Because she made him our sun.
But I tried to stay in his orbit. Oh, how I tried, even when I watched unhealthy patterns that I experienced as a child take form in the grandparent-grandchild connection. I tried until I could try no more, but long before I let the orbit, my mother decided to disconnect from the family she married into, and so, by this law of attraction I have with her, so did I.
When I left the orbit, my mother stayed.
I have come to realize that reconnection after separation of these genetic bonds we carry inside of us in the form of family is like trying to reattach a limb with nerve damage. But I am trying. The loss of my mother, stepfather, and step-family has come with a re-connection with my birthfather, and some of my paternal cousins, aunts, and uncles. The love we share has deep roots, yet its unearthing exposes the grief of all the losses. All those birthdays, holidays, and celebrations not shared. All the words never uttered, the hugs never felt.
But, how grateful I am to have this reweaving.
I have learned, through grief, to love from afar, even those I have lost forever, because I know forever loss does not exist. In each loss that has led in a death of the body, I have found the reunion of the soul-connection. Each of these soul reunions have felt blessed as they do not carry with them the burdens of hurt. They carry only the light of love.
I wonder if there is anyone who does not contemplate erasure, even if they have never experienced it first hand. When I was a young child growing up in an atheist household, I’d often find myself frozen in a self-imposed terror while thinking about nonexistence when I should have been sleeping. It’s probably safe to say that the concept of nonexistence has driven many lives towards various forms of religions, spiritual quests, and existential crises. After one has experienced existence, the notion of nonexistence becomes a little hard to stomach.
This is not a post about erasure after we die. It is about erasure while we live. It is a story about my personal experience with erasure.
Yesterday, through a Google search, I discovered that my step-grandmother had passed away at the end of last May, at nearly the exact same time my maternal grandmother died. No one told me about her passing. In fact, if you read her obituary, I don’t even exist as a part of her life.
My memory, though, tells a different story. A story of a little girl and her older sister flown across the country to be integrated into a family that wasn’t theirs. A family that struggled, some parts more successfully than others, to accept them. And one of the more successful people with that acceptance was my step-grandmother. She, in my memory, tried the hardest to accept my sister and me as her own, at least for many years. And, my memory tells the story of a girl who loved her step-grandmother and longed to be loved in return. I think I was, at least for awhile.
I once wrote a poem about this complicated love. The poem was about a little girl and her step-grandmother mixing together the ingredients of zucchini bread on a kitchen counter. I couldn’t, though, get it right, as much as I tried to revise and rework it. Which seems fitting, I suppose.
My mind has not erased this memory, even if my muse cannot recreate it. My body remembers the rhythm of the shredding of squash against a grater, the stir of the wooden spoon inside a metal bowl, and the dusty perfume of cinnamon filling my nose. I still use my step-grandmother’s recipe for zucchini bread. I even corrected my mother’s intentional error in the recipe book she gave me years ago, crossing out my maternal grandmother’s name and writing in my step-grandmother’s. Making bread with my step-grandmother is one of my happier memories with her. A memory I have chosen not to erase.
And there are more. The days when she took us on the “fun” instead of the “educational” outings that came with required essay writing. Those rare days when my step-grandmother, my sister, and I would ski through the snowy woods of the White Mountains, or slide with gleeful abandon down the water tubes at Weir’s Beach. My tongue still recalls the sweet pleasure of butter crunch ice cream at the end of a hot summer’s day…
And, that inner child inside of me still wants to be beloved.
Yet, she has been erased. Again. Erased from a life because she didn’t fit herself into it in the way that was expected. A product of conditional love. Still, I refuse to believe my step-grandmother and I didn’t share a love for one another. I refuse to erase the proof that lives inside of my cells. And so I will allow myself to feel this complicated grief, and try as best as I am able, to process its messy, uncomfortable form.
The last time I saw my step-grandmother was approximately 17 years ago, even though we lived, for most of those years, just 15 minutes away by car. I didn’t see her because that was my mother’s wish. Yet, my mother was not erased from my step-grandmother’s obituary. Instead, my mother erased her own daughters.
In the years before my maternal grandmother passed away, she would often talk about my mother and wonder why she had chosen my stepfather over her daughters and grandchildren. I could never answer that question because it was not mine to answer. All I could tell her was that it hurt me. It has hurt a lot of people in many different ways.
Everyone bears their own unique story, but love is the light that threads through all life. Instead of erasing the darkness, it illuminates its shadows and allows us to see them more clearly. I’d like to believe the nudge I have felt over these past several months to Google my step-grandmother was from the thread of love that comes from her. She, after all, didn’t choose to erase me. And, I have not forgotten her.
Here in New England we have one more month of winter ahead of us. The landscape around me is mostly exposed. Our snow has arrived in spurts this year. We’ve had a few good dumps of precipitation, but mostly in the form of rain. When it snows, it lasts for maybe a week before we move into a warm spell. It’s become a disturbing cycle. A cycle indicative of the changes in our climate.
I fell asleep last night thinking about longing for a different world. A world returned to the wild, mostly. It’s a persistent itch inside of me. It’s deep, nearly too deep to satisfy. These days it almost seems impossible. And, it is a longing wrapped in guilt.
I find myself struggling with the desire to leave the house and the place I have called home for 15 years. To break away from the confines of developed normalcy to run to the wild places on Earth. To find home again, in the land.
It is not the same to walk into the woods here. It wears too many footprints. The weight of the past feels mostly too heavy. We are haunted by the ghosts of the past here in this land stolen with force and bloodshed. Now, I look outside and see the imprints of competitions. The striving for more. To be better. To be the best.
I see a blind race to nowhere.
Perhaps I will feel differently, when the green takes over again, softening the bones of the past. Bringing renewal, for at least a few months, but right now, I seek the magic of the land in other places. I long to press my body into the wind and feel the song of Earth bringing my dormant cells back to life. The call of the Mother’s heartbeat itches until I am rubbed raw with frustration.
I wonder if this is what we all suffer from?
Yet, we continue to build and erect our walls. We fill our water with toxins and our air with forgetting. We eat the refuge of our waste as though it were nourishment, forgetting why we are here and where we came from.
We’ve created a precipice upon which we have staggered for too long. It’s become almost impossible to find balance again. To return to the wild places I long to visit, I must consume resources that damage what I seek most. Hope seems to wait outside my lifetime. The sides that divide struggle with our collective future. One embracing more destruction, the other renewal. I do not know if I will live long enough to see one or the other win, but I hold onto the hope that one day we will find that unity again and there will be no longer be an itch inside of us. No longing with conflict. That one day not even doors will keep us from feeling the pulse that drums through all life and know it as home.
I don’t often go on Amazon to check my book reviews, in fact it’s very rare that I do. Today, though, I had some time and decided to give them a look. That’s when I discovered that a cousin of mine had her husband post a 1 star review of my memoir after she found out my grandmother left her out of her will, but not me. I’m now in the process of having the review removed, but it’s been there since July of last year. Shortly after my grandmother passed on and the will was released. Sadly, this is just one example of the retaliation my sister and I have received from angry relatives. I have never once spoken an unkind word to my cousin, and I have never met her husband.
If nothing else, this is a reminder to look inside ourselves to discover the source of our pain instead of inflicting it upon others.
I wonder if any writers out there have similar stories?
I am going to share a spoken poem with you. This is a first for me. Recording my voice to share my poetry in a public way. Why did I choose this particular poem to share? It was recently published in an anthology called Hidden in Childhood, which is a collection of more than 100 poems by different authors compiled and edited by Gabriela Marie Milton.
A few days ago, I discovered that Boz Bozeman had chosen my poem, “The Girl Who Should Have Been a Boy” to read aloud during a poetry event. Thank you, Boz. I’m not sure I can express how much this impacted me. If someone else can speak my words, I realized, so can I. If you’d like to hear my recording, you can listen to it here:
If you are curious how the poem came about, I will give you a brief history. To put it succinctly, I was supposed to be a boy. My birthfather made this clear before I was born, and my mother shared it with me often when I was a child as an example of his rejection. When I was became a child of my stepfather’s, my being a girl became his disappointment. He did not shy away from sharing it with our family, or people we met.
Thus, I adopted the rejection of not being a boy, and never quite feeling like I could be loved by my two fathers because I was born into the body of a girl. I became convinced this was a primary reason my birthfather gave us up, and why my stepfather gave us conditional love. My sister and I spent many hours trying to pretend we were the boys he wanted, pushing toy trucks in the dirt, watching him working at his workshop…but they were not happy hours.
I imagine this poem has a more universal truth to it. Many, if not most, of us have experienced rejection for not being the way someone else, or society, would like us to be.
I wasn’t exactly dreaming, in fact, I wish I were at the time. It was the middle of the night, or rather the wee hours of the morning long before the sun rises over the crest of Earth were I live. And, I was awake, too awake. My mind had become a playground for my thoughts, which ran amok in wild abandon, swinging from the neuron’s of my brain like defiant children refusing to go to bed.
As a teacher of yoga, you’d think I’d know how to tame these wild beasts into submission. I have plenty of tools tucked away in my yoga toolbox, but on nights like these I often find myself on the losing side of the battle. When the stress of life overwhelms me, I am reminded of how much I have become attached to worry. And, usually that reminder arrives around 3 am.
So, there I was, with my eyes closed upon the pillow encased in a womb of stillness, and a mind ablaze with color and action. Then, suddenly, in the midst of it all, the truculent children of my worries dispersed and a metal fortress began to take shape. The metal grew behind my closed lids in breadth and height until it was all that I could “see,” then wrapped itself into a half oval. It was, I realized, a mighty bunker so large and impenetrable I was sure it must be holding the most powerful of weapons known to humankind.
I was right. Even though what I saw inside was not what I had expected.
Floating within his own aura of light, sat a monk. His eyes were closed, his brow unfurled into a smooth canvas, and his lips lifted into the slightest of smiles. The armored shell that I thought was encasing him was nowhere in sight. Instead, all I saw was the monk, floating in his bubble of light.
The angst outside that armored fortress had disappeared and a pure, unfettered peace had taken its place, dissolving that false sheath that seems so real at those times when we succumb to our own distress. And that’s when sleep found me and welcomed me to rest.
Is it a question you have ever considered? Or, perhaps it is your customary way of interacting with the world around you. For most of us who are no longer living inside the bodies of children, I think, living with wonder takes a bit of effort. Or, more aptly put, a fair amount of surrender. It is a mindful act of welcoming the magic of life back into our awareness.
In February, as part of a 4-day a yoga and book club series of events based upon the lessons from my middle grade metaphysical fantasy book, The Labyrinth, I will be guiding a “walk with wonder” at a local hiking spot. This idea has been playing around inside of my mind for some time now. And, as many of you who read my blog on a regular basis will know, it is not a concept that is foreign to who I am. I am an adventurer my nature, and love nothing better than getting outside and exploring the magic it has to offer up.
I can’t say that every moment I spend in nature is an opening to wonder, but when I allow that conscious, mindful surrendering to occur, I am never disappointed. Sometimes the results are familiar, sometimes they are a surprise. You never quite know what you are going to encounter with your senses when they are tuned to the world around you.
And so, as I thought about what it means to “walk with wonder,” I found myself scrolling through some of the photos I have taken during my walks over the last few years. Finding, you might say, the proof in the pictures. You don’t need a camera to capture the wonder around you, you merely need a willing heart. Sometimes, in fact, the camera is a distraction. To fully walk in wonder, it is probably better left at home, or in your pocket if it’s attached to your phone.
Nonetheless, here are a few things you might find when you walk with wonder: