These days serenity is borrowed. To avoid the turbulent waters that try to divide the heart’s landscape of love, I find myself seeking the pause. Stillness, where thoughts cannot ripple the surface. I walk into the rain to find beauty in the gray mist. The tucked heads of flowers pigmented like the sun. Their beauty muted because the eyes can stand only so much glory.
With my belly on the mossy lawn I watch hills of ants and find a sophistication of silent cooperation that is foreign to my language. For a moment, I’d like to be an ant crawling into dug caverns, deeper and deeper into the body of Earth until what remains on the surface disappears from the mind.
The cat studies with me. Delighted. Her purr barely perceptible, she is stingy with her love, but her curled lips betray her. She believes me to be a cohort in mischief and I think perhaps I am. Inside the house dust settles into corners and dishes wait in the sink, but I am stealing more time to listen to bird song and soft sigh of grass yielding to my body.
Here, level with the eyes of the cat, I search the understory of life and find pipes made of fungi pushing through last year’s leaves and I know the fey cannot be far away.
For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt #serenity. Click here to participate in the challenge.
We are lucky if we have one, and I do. That friend that gently grasps the etheric cord of the umbilicus and brings us back to Earth. In these days of uncertainty and heightened paranoia, peppered with more than a fair share of outlandish conspiracies, one can easily feel lost, trapped, or simply over-whelmed. The tribe of belonging can feel tenuous at best as we look around and search for meaning and understanding and find so many who have fallen off the deep-end of fear, anger, and blame.
Thank goodness for these friends who bring us back to Earth. I am thinking of one in particular, and she’ll know who she is so there is no need to put a name on the page. I have known her since our daughters were best friends in preschool, and even though distance has long since separated us, our bond of friendship has not been severed.
She was the first person I had ever met with whom I could really talk. You know, about those things that other people might think you were crazy if you uttered? And, she never thought I was odd. Together we explored our experiences beyond the everyday sense and shared books and ideas. And, each time I felt I might spiral into some sort of otherworldly chaos, I knew she would be the constant to pull me back down to Earth.
It is not easy to find a balance when one chooses to be a “walker between worlds,” yet long ago this was the norm of existence. In this era of “New Age” spirituality now enmeshed in conspiracy, I have seen so many people I know tipping into the realm of paranoia and even vitriol. Many self-proclaimed “Lightworks” are making it a daily practice to spread anger and accusations (as opposed to “light” and “love”) all over their social media pages without a thought to their impacts on themselves and others, making them no different than the enemy they have claimed as their own.
Some of these people were my friends, and perhaps they still are, but I am finding it more and more difficult to feel as though they are still of a tribe I want to belong to. The other day, my friend and I were having a conversation about this, and the only conclusion we could draw from this need to conspire and point the finger of accusation and anger instead of love, in every possible direction, was the need to “feel special.” The need to somehow be privy to information that others are in the “darkness” about. This, in essence, is how conspiracies spread.
I think we must ask ourselves, and I think this friend would agree, the why before the sending out. Why do we feel the need to spread fear if we cannot 100% know it is the Truth? Just because someone you trust told you there are microchips in vaccines, or that Covid-19 is really a virus manufactured by man to kill innocent people, should you be propagating this self-proclaimed evidence without hard, concrete data? We live in a world where anything and everything can be said and spread globally with the click of a button in less time than it takes to form a rational thought inside of the mind. Sadly, most people I know who glom onto the outlandish have not immersed themselves in the science they choose to discredit and thus have no basis for their claims, but simply trust the words of the dissenters.
We cannot know everything, and these days humility and wonder seem to be a precious commodity that is rapidly being lost to arrogance and anger. It is difficult not to feel lonely in this strange, turbulent sea that is humanity right now, which is why I am ever-grateful for these friends who are constants, grounded in Earth, but open to wonder that always spirals back to the source that is love. We cannot love when we are filled with hate and blame. Division is a force that opposes unity. If we cannot understand or truly know the how or the why, should we be fixated on spreading what we cannot know to be true? What means does that serve, but more division?
Even though the hand is not there in physical form for me to grasp, I know it is always extended by this friend of mine. And in this ever-spiraling chaos, I am so grateful to have it to grasp in friendship and the knowing that in her the rational mind is still grounded in love. That when she answers the phone I can find home in the senseless and the knowing that maybe, just maybe, we will all find our way back to unity and the knowing that we all, in essence, are one.
It’s no denying we are living in strange and turbulent times, but alas this is nothing new. We are creatures with a history of chaos and violence that extends through the long lines of recorded history. Then there is that history which was never recorded and extinguished…
But I am thinking of present times and how much the world seems to be tipping on the brink of a major collapse. I am thinking about fear, in particular, and how it has seized the hold of logic and reason, trapping the heart-mind in a suffocating vice.
So many people I admire and respect have seemingly gone down a rabbit hole, blindly following the trail of fear in an attempt to defy anything that comes form the place of logic. The enemy, illusive but ever-pursing them further and further into this pit of chaos.
Rarely a day goes by when I don’t receive a video or read a posting that cries out in the language of conspiracy. “Who started this?” I sometimes ask, “And who is this person on the screen?” Rarely do I get a logical answer, as mostly it is unknown, yet freely the noise of conspiracy is passed and as it passes into each field of vision, its message of chaos and confusion grows.
I get it. We are all searching for answer in these uncertain times. We are all searching for a reason for the madness, but does further madness lead to peace and resolution? Logic states that it does not.
We seem to have forgotten one simple fact: Love Begets Love. Fear Begets Fear. At this point, I no longer care why and how these things happen that spark conspiracy, I care that we are spiraling into their abyss. I care that we have fallen into separation and polarity rather than grabbing ahold of that which binds us together.
We are demonizing the other as though the other is not us. It is this that I find the most disturbing. The few that are truly working to pump fear into our veins are seemingly winning. They have taken ahold of our lifeblood and replaced love, empathy, and unity with anything that feeds our separation. This is unsettling.
When I look arounds and see the individual, I see someone searching for unity. I see a person that is not unlike me, searching for meaning and purpose. I see that which binds us. We share the same air, we share the same basic needs for survival. We are share a yearning for love and understanding.
Perhaps the need to go to battle with the perceived “other” is so deeply encoded into our cellular memory, passed on from generation upon generation through our DNA, that we simply cannot find a way to decode it. Anyone who has tried to break a habit knows how difficult it can be. Imagine the multiplying of its force over millenium inside billions of bodies passing the habit on…
It’s mind-boggling and over-whelming. The force it requires to break it apart seemingly impossible. Yet it is also incredibly easy. It’s incredibly simple. We simply need to look at each other and see ourselves reflected back at us. We simply need to turn toward what we share: the need for air, food, water, shelter, and most of all love and empathy. We need to understand to be understood, but we also need to see beyond the trappings of fear and the dark abyss that it is.
We sat in plastic chairs huddled around the flames my daughter had brought to life and talked about ghosts.
“What’s the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?”
I had four teenagers spellbound. Aware with each word I chose I could either feed their fear or help abate it. And what of my own?
Should I really tell them about ghosts?
The thought came and went. And came and went some more as I began the story about the woman in the two-hundred year-old dress seated at the piano with her daughter playing the keys of a past she could not let go of. But that was cheating, in a way. I had not seen her, only heard about her. So I told them how, before I knew better, I had evoked the spirit of another lost soul who wandered the hallways of my haunted school. Learning, in the process that he was a specter not to be feared, but to be pitied.
In turn they told me about their friends playing around with online videos to conjure spirits and enter into past lives.
“Didn’t you have an Ouija board,” my daughter asked as the mom inside of me came out to lecture about using care and caution, and how some things are better left alone and that’s why there are professionals…before I was cut off again.
But what’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I wasn’t willing to go as far as the demons I had battled while my body slept…so I told them about the hair puller yanking me awake in the middle of the night.
“Oh my god, I would have lost it!”
I watched my daughter’s best friend nervously scroll the phone in her hand.
Had I said too much?
I knew she was afraid. And, she knew she could tell me to stop talking, or walk away. Beside her bed back home I could see the half-empty bottle of “Ghost Be Gone” spray I had filled several times for her. You need to learn how to do this yourself…I had told her more than once, but she had wanted just the crutch of the spray.
Without fear can we learn empowerment?
While I told some of my ghost stories, I thought about my four-year-old son calling me awake in the voice of terror, shaking me from sleep in the middle of the night. My husband, telling me to let him learn courage as I held his trembling body in my arms. I thought about my son, a little older saying, “I see strange colors in my room at night,” when I was just learning how to process the truth of his words.
Now fifteen, he sat beside me, slightly removed from my daughter’s friends, but not unwelcome tucked into the shadows of our circle. “Can you feel them?” he asked before he told us the story of being alone in the house with the dog barking at nothing. The cat staring at the unseen. His body knowing what his eyes no longer see.
How could I not seize each moment with care, handling it as best I knew how to, knowing that I was once that child in the dark?
My daughter’s best friend dropped her phone on her lap. “My grandma is always with me, but I don’t like it.”
I weighed each word on my scale of truth, aware that my scale of truth was not the same as others. I was raised on the belief that there was no soul beyond the body, but I knew enough from her stories and her mother’s, that she was not.
What would you have wanted to know? The inner voice kept urging guidance. So I told her about the grandmother who sent me the scent of roses to remind me of the love she struggled to show me when I could see her with my eyes.
“Have you seen The Conjuring?” she asked me, tipping the scales back towards fear.
I wasn’t even sure I knew what the movie was about, but I could guess from the title, as I told her I avoided all movies and books that sensationally evoked the darkest side of humanity. I see no point to them, although I’m sure others will vehemently argue their value. I’ve never seen much value in glorifying violence and we all know the adage, “What we feed grows.” I made a vow to myself long ago to grow empowerment over fear in each child, teen, or adult who came to me for guidance.
“How many dead people have you talked to?” another friend asked.
I don’t keep track of numbers like this, and after I reminded them that I wasn’t a medium by profession, I decided to tell them about the visit from the desperate mother. She had been dead only a week or so, but she was already worried about the adult daughters she had left behind. Her human brain, I would later learn, had long lost the ability to coherently remind them of her love, so she had chose to visit me, a somewhat forgotten friend from her daughter’s childhood, before I feel into sleep, to relay what she hadn’t been able to say before she had passed. The story also had an element of mystery. A ring lost to her years of hoarding, stuffed away in a buried box, she needed them to find. Which they did.
While the teenagers wrapped themselves in the intrigue of the story’s mystery, I hoped the were also thinking about how ghosts need not be feared like the ones in their movies.
“I couldn’t live in a house that someone had died in,” someone eventually shared.
So I told them about the man who had died in my children’s first home, before me moved in. Perhaps they were expecting to hear a tale of fright, but instead they heard another tale of love.
“You have complete power over what you let in,” I told them as I started to come to the thesis of my narratives.
They didn’t believe me. At first. But I persisted, even though I could tell I was starting to lose their attention. They were here for ghost stories, after all, and my nudging daughter knew I had an abundance of them.
Instead, we talked about shields of energy and intention, followed by more examples than they cared to hear of how empowered they each were before we finally crawled into our respective beds well past midnight.
I had a feeling they’d sleep well, even though we had spent the night sharing ghost stories.
It was 10am before I heard the first stirrings of movement from the bedrooms downstairs. The cinnamon rolls on the stove had already cooled to room temperature. I lit the flame under the frying pan and began to crack eggs into a bowl to whip them into a scramble.
“Oh that smells good.”
“I’m so hungry.”
“I slept awesome!”
“Me too! Even though I dreamed about ghosts.”
“Yeah so did I! I can’t believe how well I slept.”
Inside I sighed relief. I knew the outcome could have been different, but I was also careful with the scale I had been balancing with each word I let forth from my mouth. There could have been angry texts from parents of scared kids, and any number of unhappy outcomes, but instead I had around me five hungry teenagers eager to go about their day empowered from their night of ghosts.
I had taken a risk when I chose to face fear instead of shoving it back into the darkness. Usually I play the quiet role of the host-mom, choosing to stay in the background, careful not to hover or impose. That night, though, I had been invited to enter the circle around the campfire to play the role of storyteller and I chose to take it. There’s something about campfires. Being out in the night air where the darkness is cut by the flame in the center evokes the desire to tell stories. But not just ordinary stories. The embers stir that which is hidden, calling it to come out and be seen. Heard.
As those five teenagers faced their ghostly fears of the ephemeral world that no longer scared me, my own fears had played through me. My children are at the age of transitioning away from the protection of the hearth fire and the maternal chords are frequently tugged inside of me. Earlier that day, before we gathered around the fire, I had watched from the shore as my daughter and my son struggled to start our boat. Part of me was hoping they wouldn’t be successful, but persistence on their part paid off as they slowly pulled away with friends on board to tube and ski for their first time without an adult on board.
“Stop taking pictures and help me in!” My brave, determined 16-yr-old daughter, who had learned to drive the boat this summer, six months after she got her license to drive a car, was showing me her anxiety about safely docking to unload. And she was showing me she still needed me, albeit with the irritation of a teenager, and so I put the camera down and caught the rope to pull her in.
Before our long day of hiking, Dave and I drove up to Quechee, VT. We stayed at an old farmhouse with a long history. Built in 1793, The Quechee Inn at Marshfield was once the home of Vermont’s first lieutenant governor, Colonel Joseph Marsh. It’s now a lovely inn filled with rooms that hold the charm of its history. I almost wish we had seen a ghost…
After an early three-course dinner complete with wine, we headed out for a walk. Although I was hoping to discover the location of a nearby site purportedly containing ancient stone chambers aligned with the solstices and referred to as “Calendar II” on cryptic websites, it was apparently not meant to be. I am now quite certain it must be on private land, but if anyone reading this knows, I’d love to learn more…
Instead of searching for the illusive stone chambers, Dave and I headed out in search of Quechee Gorge. There is a trail on the road across from the inn that extends 1.4 miles from a pond to the famous gorge.
Mindful of the goose droppings littered throughout the parking lot, we admired Dewey’s Mill Pond quilted with water lilies.
A small trail through tall rushes winds through the waterways of Dewey’s Mill Pond and Ottauquechee River. While we walked, goldfinch flitted across our path and tree spirits quietly watched our passing.
It was an unexpected delight to find our path leading to the magnificent Ottauquechee Dam and Waterfalls.
As you can see from the photo, the water level was not high enough to cause an impressive waterfall from the dam, but the impressive size of the rock face is evident.
Each step of the path from the pond to the foot of the gorge is lined with beauty. Soon after the falls, the trail leads into a forest that only partially hides a sharp descent into the gorge.
At its highest point, the drop from Quechee Gorge is 165 ft. The couple of times I have been here in the past, the gorge and its surrounding areas were filled with tourists. It was a bit surreal and eerie to be alone for most of our walk.
One gets the most impressive feel of the height of the gorge from Quechee Gorge Bridge, which is lined with an arched railing and is posted with suicide prevention hotlines. From the pathway beside it, though, you can get a look at its underside.
Had it been springtime, or had we been in the middle of a very wet summer, the gorge would have looked much different than it did. Although signs warn of sudden rises in water from the release of the dam, we saw only a calm stream in the middle of its rocky bed.
Beyond the rocky bed, the water collects into a pond. Here we saw our first glimpse of visitors since we left the dam. A few teens were out for an evening swim. We left them alone and began our way back to the inn.
It was a lovely way to spend our evening. When it got dark enough, we tried to see the comet, but to no avail.
She stands alone in the vast echoing darkness, as she does each day. Her hair ripples a night without stars from her crown to her waist. “Ammon Ra!” She calls through the portal. “Ammon Ra!” She raises her scepter to the apex, heralding the opening. “Ammon Ra!” Darkness slips away to the effortless lift. Stones becoming an illusion to weight. Her body, the channel for the sun, her voice, the gateway. “Ammon Ra!” Dimension collapses into waves of light, filling the great pyramid it searches for the veins. “Ammon Ra!” The scepter meets the floor and gold spills into the ground in a vast web without endings. Below the feet of the priestess, Earth pulses with energy. Tomorrow she will return. And the day after that…
It’s a hot morning in mid-July and I am climbing a mountain that has called to me through the channel opened to the higher self. I am not thinking of Egypt or a long ago time that has rippled back to this one. Instead, I am trying not to think, allowing myself to surrender to whatever will be. It is hot. Airless. Just as it was a year before when I climbed another mountain with my husband on our anniversary because it called me from a place beyond logic.
Instead I have brought a packet of tobacco leaves, as I did when I climbed to see Chocorua. It is not yet time to bring the crystal, now I know why my daughter dug the wand of selenite out of a sandlot six years before I would find myself inside a vision of life that is woven into this one.
It’s no big deal. There are others who call in the opening, collapsing dimension in the path to the stars.
Admittedly, despite the attempts to expect nothing, I am looking for signs along the path. At Chocorua I had several: the ghostly figures of Native Americans watching us walk beside the sacred stream, the white feather fallen upon the path, two snakes, the crow greeting our arrival and the pileated woodpecker, my “feathered seer” calling through the silence. And, finally, the face of the chief in the clouds just before we turned for our descent, not having quite reached the peak of our destination.
Today there are no ravens promising magic, only a woman and her dog who quickly disappear ahead of us and out of sight. I have a feeling it will be a quiet walk and I will be watched more than I will see. This is often how it happens, I am learning. A trust needs to be earned, and I am heedful of my steps and mindful of noticing where I feel the nudge to drop a few leaves of tobacco for the spirits of the mountain.
But the energy is there. I can see the serpents in the stones we pass by and I can feel the lines of water, even though it is nearly dried up.
We find the spring empty of people and I am grateful for the chance to linger beside the stones (who watch us closely) and cool my skin in the cold, clear liquid.
It is a place I’d like to linger longer. Light dances with water here, creating alchemy with color on the stones. The veins feel alive with the pulse of the dragon and the stones eroded in a way that does not feel accidental.
But we have a long way yet to go, and I am determined to reach the peak, unlike last year. I don’t know what to expect, but I am expecting something. Our walk, though, is quiet and intense in its ascent. The path we have chosen gives us few breaks from the vertical climb and the heat is strong today.
Before we leave the waterfall, I notice the metal on the rock. The chiseled words feel, well, perfect.
I take a final look that the stones and the light’s dance on the water. Grateful that it will be there on our return.
Ahead of us is more heat and the rigors of our climb. But we will not rest in one spot for too long. The stones watch us while we walk, and I leave my trail of tobacco leaves hoping it is enough.
I still don’t feel home here the way I do in England, walking the newer lands of America, but I am learning to trust that the pulse that feels like magic beats here just as strongly. Even if it’s not quite as close to the surface. I have noticed during my walks through the mountains and forest paths of New England, that the land here is cautious of my footsteps, as it should be. Our ancestors here have left a troubled path, and my veins do not course with native blood. I am often acutely aware that I am an intruder who needs to earn trust.
Yet, the stones show me their faces and forms when I look close enough, and sometimes a bit of unexpected magic is revealed.
Like the cube of quartz we find as though it has been tossed to be seen, just inches from our feet in the bed of dried leaves. It feels like a gift to be left, but noticed. Not photographed. A reminder of what I will bring with me next time.
Instead I photograph the tiny orange mushrooms that look like a trail of the fey, and we continue our climb to the strange little hut that I cannot imagine falling asleep inside.
“You’d need to bring a pad with your sleeping bag,” I tell my husband as I press my fingers into the unforgiving metal mesh. I’d rather not think of what else might venture inside the opening in the darkness of night.
Did I mention my bladder has felt the need for release before we began our decent? A minor inconvenience that my mind returns to each time I take a drink to quench my thirst. For some reason I can’t bring myself to relieve myself behind a stone. There’s no one around.
Just the stones of a former habitation as we get closer to the top.
And lots of large, curious looking boulders that call for a better look upon our descent. But we are nearly there, the signs promise us our feet will soon reach the peak.
I am expecting, even though I have tried not to expect, a vast rocky face with clear vistas, but instead we need to climb once more. This time it is stairs up to a guarded platform. Here, finally, we meet more visitors and it feels crowded on top of this large mountain.
But I am not wholly disappointed. Up here I can see the peaks beyond and take in the contours of the land from a point not seen from the ground. And, I can see the ripples on the back of the dragon.
But we are hiking in the midst of a pandemic, and others are waiting for the view, so we don’t stay too long atop the constructed tower. Besides, I still have to pee, it’s lunchtime, and the stones below are calling.
Although there is a great deal of the mountain remaining for me to discover at perhaps another time, this place beckons to me. And soon I have an idea why.
It’s not just the stones piled into caves that will have to wait for my eyes to peer inside, it’s the stone in the middle, curiously shaped like a pyramid. In the distance, far beyond sight, a bird calls through the forest. It is a pileated woodpecker. My “feathered seer.”
Life begins with a spark of light entering a darkened womb. The self dividing itself over and over again until it finds cohesion inside a physical form. Quite often birth involves a struggle of forces. The body contracts as it gathers energy to release this new life through a narrow canal of darkness back into the light. We see this pattern in various lifeforms. The seed of a plant, requiring darkness, the compaction of soil, and a protective womb-like shell in order to grow a new self back to the light.
I tend toward the belief that there are few true accidents in life. Things generally happen for reasons, even when they are unwelcome or difficult to decipher. It’s the simple law of cause and effect. These “things” that happen to us can lead us in many directions, and it is in the path that we choose to follow where we gleam insight into ourselves.
When I made the decision to enroll in a mystery school, a part of me was hoping to learn some magic. You know, the sort that you find in the Harry Potter stories. Although I understood this was not the path of study I was to embark upon, there was a longing to uncover something magical to, let’s say for example, defy the gravity of the mundane existence. Like, you know, learning how to fly.
I flew in my dreams, so why not learn to fly the physical body, like Icarus, but with invisible, magical wings, towards the sun? During my last year of study with the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, I embarked upon the path of yoga. The two paths, I soon discovered, were not so separate. In the yoga sutras, which have been widely translated, the mysteries of yoga are revealed as a path back to the true self. In the final chapters of the sutras, the yogi, if s/he so desires to, and with great disciple and practice, can learn how to fly. Literally. Or at lease levitate. It is revealed that outer manifestations of magic are indeed possible if the yogi learns to how to become a master of energy.
But to what true purpose does one gain this sort of mastery? The whim of the ego, or something else? If we don’t first fly through the dark land of yin energy where the self is formed and molded, exploring every curve and fold — every shadow, until it is revealed as a truth to be learned — to what end will flying serve us? The wings burn when the self fails to understand the form of being.
There are so many things we are being asked to give up right now, and rules that we may resist abiding by. Minds are plunging headfirst into conspiracies of darkness, screaming blame in the voice of ignorance as they spiral deeper and deeper into the abyss. How easy it is to deflect and refuse to examine the interior. How easy it is to erupt in anger instead of pausing to breath into the inner discovery.
If restrictions were lifted, perhaps I would be walking the ancient landscapes of England right now and finding that delicious stirring of cellular memory that fills me with the call of home. But I am here, in my physical home, and somehow that is just right. I find I am relishing, albeit not always with joy, this prolonged pause we are all being asked to take. Welcoming it, for the most part, as a gift of the self that I can unwrap into discoveries inside the inner land I have thus far left unfound.
When I ask, I receive this response, The pause will take as long as you need.
I am okay with that. Most days. Even when the computer broke, again, and left me feeling strangely weightless. If I lost it all, what would really happen?
Perhaps the load of life would feel a little lighter.
Here I was trying to hold onto temporary things until I discovered the gift of the break and sank my belly to the ground to breathe in crumbled grass and prunella vulgaris, also known by the name “common selfheal.”
I peer through the green blades to study the tiny purple pitchers, imaging the nectar of bees. Through the skin of my belly I can feel the tendrils of life pulsing into the matrix hidden from sight. This is magic enough for me in this moment. I need nothing more. The pulse is strong and reassuring. Comfort dances with gratitude in the moment of connection and the outer hold dissipates in the surrender. This is the magic of life.
“Oh my god,” I thought. “She’s singing it again. Why does she need to keep practicing that song?!”
I was dreaming I was back at school, which is no surprise. This time I was inside a dorm room with some of my high school classmates. They, and my adolescent angst, had followed me to college. I’ve had these dreams before, and just in case I didn’t know why, that famous song from the movie “Frozen” was being belted through the hallways by one of my dorm-mates. “Let it go! Let it go!”
“Oh my god,” I thought. “When will it be over? When will she be done singing that annoying son?!”
When the message sinks in, I realized once I woke beside the satisfied dog who had snuck her way upstairs and onto my bed after my husband had disappeared into the shower.
Least we think it is easy to let go of our stories, we need only look into the mirror to be reminded. If a mirror is not available, or we cannot read the lines our stories imprint for us, we can settle into the weight of our bodies and listen to their moans and groans. Although our cells divide continuously, the new cells are encoded with the memories of the old ones. Sometimes this encoding is a choice.
Before I want to sleep last night, I found myself thinking about how I can hardly remember the two years I struggled with severe IBS more than a decade ago. Those restless nights when I woke to the body’s attempts to expel its painful memories. My digestive system had felt like literal bowels of hell. Bloated with sulfuric gas and knotted in pain. Yet, I can hardly remember those years. I marvel now at the will to hold onto what I no longer wanted. It’s illogical on so many levels, but our cells carry our truths even when we don’t want to hear, see, or feel them. They are the story of us until we rewrite the narrative.
I marveled, also, last night, at how in one night the unconscious aligned with the conscious on a quantum level in its decision to heal and release, finally, what I had struggled to keep. Yet, although my IBS may have vanished in one night, I was reminded once again by my dreams that there are still stories trapped and waiting to be “let go.”
Particularly in my throat. The seat of the voice and our expression of our truths.
I have been struggling these last several days since I watched the choking out of George’s Flyod’s life filmed by helpless bystanders. I have been struggling with irony and injustice, as well as a pervasive feeling of helplessness. I have been struggling with the collective unwillingness to see, hear, and feel truth as I try to come to terms with this unwillingness to “let go” the individual and collective stories to explore beauty and truth beyond the surface.
When I drive to the lake, a place where peace usually washes over me with ease, I find myself troubled by the signs. Passing through rural towns filled with residents struggling to hold onto the middle class sense of security, my eye is drawn too many times to the symbol of irony. Moving through the discomfort of despair, I will my mind to imagine the life inside those doors and why the individuals who reside there are holding onto the notion that the POTUS is their savior.
It took me days, instead of minutes, to remember why my own body struggled for breath when I watched George Flyod’s being extinguished. To remember the white man who used to squeeze the words back into my throat with his hand at the dinner table. It took me nearly two weeks to realize that we all hold the stories of oppression. Even if we are a rare and lucky few to never have experienced the suppression of our own truths, and our voices, our ancestors have. Oppression is so deeply embedded into our collective history that there is no way any of us have escaped its encoding in our cells.
No wonder we are struggling to let go. No wonder we struggle to hold onto what we are used to. The bully reigns upon his mighty throne because we have placed him there. And the bully reigns within because we let him hold the history of our narratives. We have all heard the term “healing begins within,” yet how many of us refuse to look inside and examine the narratives of the self? We may not like what we read inside. We may have the impulse to bring our hand to our ears and shout, “No more! Stop singing that awful song over and over again,” but the narrative repeats until we change it.
The power is not in the holding on, but the letting go. Freedom is the opposite of repression, and ultimately the letting go must begin within.
In my dreams last night, I replayed the narrative of acceptance in the form of my friendships. I was reminded of how much I still struggle, at times, to honor my own boundaries and truths when friends approach me with their own needs. I was reminded that I still carry the narrative of rejection and the fear of being left “friendless,” rejected, and alone.
I find it interesting, or perhaps perfectly fitting, that this dream came to me after a day spent mostly in a state of peace. My body must have remembered lying prone on the ground and feeling the ever-present security of Mother Earth below me. The smell of dirt and crumpled grasses mixing the interconnectedness of all life for me to both witness and be a part of. Yet disbelief must still linger inside the narratives of my cells.
How can it not? We’ve held it so tight for so long. We weave the narrative of oppression and rejection over and over again on large screens that form plays for our eyes, and inside the type-faced print of pages of books, magazines, and newspapers. We’ve read it and watched it so many times and in so many ways inside a world that holds the narrative as truth. Who are we to release it?
Who are we not to?
We must, at some point, let it go and right a new narrative.
My heart hurts. There are tears forming ponds in my lower eye lids. The air feels heavy despite the lack of moisture in the sky. Since the pandemic made its way to NH, I have found myself turning to the garden for peace and comfort. Digging through spring dirt warming with life brings me home inside a world that feels electrifyingly out of control. Most days. Some days everything seems to make sense as the Wheel of Life turns in its continuous cycle of renewal.
In March, I planted seeds on my windowsill. I marveled at the impeding miracle of life as I pressed future broccoli, summer squash, tomatoes, and peppers into tiny mounds of potting soil, then covered them in a plastic roof to mimic a greenhouse inside my home. What a marvel it was to witness those first green shoots pushing past darkness to drink in the light from the window! Life is a continuous wonder. So much potential held inside a speck tinier than sand.
I find myself wondering, too often these days, why there is a turning back to darkness after the touch of light. We don’t see it in the same form in plants, as we do in ourselves, but even nature holds a mirror for us. In my tiny pots, one seed will flourish, while another struggles for space beside it. Outside, in the woods beside my home, burning bushes and bittersweet vines do their best to dominate native species. The vines of bittersweet slowly wrapping the trunks of trees, like snakes, to suffocate the lungs of our forests.
I can’t stop thinking of George Floyd, and how he is just one of the few in too many to want to count, of lives choked into stillness by those that wish to dominate. My heart hurts. Tears collect once again to ensure the ponds of my eyes do not grow arid. It’s the first of June, and the stretch of land that divides the road from the tiny forest in front of my home showcases the efforts of my labor of these last few weeks. On Saturday, I dug out the last clumps of weedy grass and spread mulch over my newly extended garden, nestling new plants into a protective quilt of tree fibers. Death nurturing life. The cycle playing out around me. Yesterday the last of the zinnias and calendula seedlings I grew in my outdoor greenhouse found extended space beside the road. Soon enough they will mature into glorious blooms the colors of autumn.
Some days I can immerse myself so deeply into the land I think of nothing but the joy it brings. I could not do this as I finished my new garden this past weekend. It was my beautiful, privileged, white-enough daughter who spurred me to watch the video.
“Why,” she implored me, “Why did this happen?”
Nearly ten excruciating minutes filmed of a life ended for no reason than dominance.
“His life doesn’t matter because he his black,” I am paraphrasing one of the bystanders.
For eight minutes and 46 seconds white knees press the privilege of birth inside a suit of power, pressing, pressing down on life until it is extinguished. You can feel the lust through the screen as the trail of urine trickles closer to the edge that separates you from what you are witnessing. There is a nervous man, who is at least of partial Asian ancestry, in the foreground, posturing at control. You can read his nerves loosely veiled behind his exposed skin while he grabs at weapons designed to control. Staring, witless, at the imploring crowd of bystanders. He too is drugged by a darkness. Afraid of the power of the white man choking the life out of a black man. He knows it could have been him. In a different moment of time. At least this is what I see.
I don’t want to see a video like this again, but it is more likely I will than I won’t. It’s difficult to reconcile that five years ago a half black/ half white man held the position of POTUS beside his equally educated, equally brilliant, black wife. Impeccable morals exhibited every day for eight years, held to an impossible standard because of skin color. It’s difficult to comprehend how much we, as Americans, have resisted giving up the chokehold of enslavement.
Inside the oval office, a white man now lords over his throne. Every fiber of morality that makes us human, broken. By him, unchecked, as the world watches. Excused by his minions and followers, cowered either into admission, or fueled by their own darkness and fear. Somehow the standards are not the same if you are a white man who feeds on power and shouts hatred in the language of ignorance.
When I think too much, I find myself spiraling inside the chaos that is our reality. I am baffled by the love of a weapon designed to kill, over the love of life. I am baffled by the hatred of skin pigmentation and sexuality that are perceived as other, and somehow lesser to the point of the desire to extinguish life. I am baffled that this is the world we live in. Still.
And, so, I find myself turning to what makes sense. The sometimes quiet and sometimes raucously loud symphony of nature, untamed and yet harmonious, outside the doors of my home. I shut the screen of my laptop and open the front door to escape into it. I am pulled into the refuge of birdsong and the silent beauty of the unfolding petal. I am renewed by the hope held inside Mother Earth and her ability to yield to the cycle of rebirth over and over again. I am forever her humble student, trying to find patience and acceptance, as we humans battle our individual and collective darkness.
But it is not enough. To escape is to allow. As helpless as I may feel as a privileged, white, middle-class woman living in country that is being ruled by a bigot; a misogynistic, power-mongering white man, I have a moral obligation to thread light through the darkness. I have moral obligation not just to bear witness to all that is morally corrupt in our nation, but to bring it to the light of awareness in whatever way I can. We all do.
What can we do? We can write letters. We can sign petitions. We can make phone calls. We can find local causes that support justice, and support them. We can vow to do whatever we can to elect moral leaders. And we can also do the inner work. We can dig inside our own darkness and examine our fears and their hold upon us. We can go outside and reconnect with the living land. And we can love instead of hate. The broken web of our humanity depends on it in order to heal. We must try and keep trying to thread the pieces whole, because if we don’t there will be more and more videos showing us the horrors of our brokenness.
We all know the definitions and the way stories portray them. Often there is a villain who spurs the hero into action, saving the victim from an evil fate. The hero becomes the embodiment of the light, the villain of darkness, while the victim hangs somewhere in between, like fulcrum, deciding how the scales will be tipped. Who, then, has the true power?
I have been thinking a lot these days about how and why we choose to be either the victim or the hero in our individual stories and how this reflects upon our collective story of human existence. I have also been thinking about how we define and cast the role of villain in our stories. For some, a villain who fulfills the classic definition of villain-hood is actually lauded as a hero. This casted role depends upon our subjective nature, including how we cast ourselves in our play that is life.
And, must the hero be always wounded first? Would there be a hero without first enduring the wounds? I’m not sure it is possible. We must feel the pain to know it. And would there be a victim without the hero, and a villain without the victim? And, can they all be, in essence, one and the same?
When I think of my own story, I see all the times I tried to become the hero of my own story only to fall back into the role of victimhood. I realize how much my cells have programed the codes of my ancestors. I see how often I have cast people into roles and how these roles have defined them for me. The victim for me was a hero for another. The villain, the victim, and so the cycles goes in an endless round.
So who am I? Last night I found myself inside two vivid dreams. Although they were different scenes, with different players, I found myself embodying a similar role. In one dream, I found myself trapped on an electrified strip of metal while trains raced beside me. One going in each direction, while I scrambled in the middle for a hold. Trying not to get zapped.
In the other dream, I was outside, gazing up into endless blue as I followed the skyline of the buildings beside me. I lay on my back in the middle of a highway, unfazed until I realized where I was. Unfazed until I allowed the program of fear to grip my heart into the belief that I might become a victim if I made a wrong move.
Are we all, in fact playing a game of chess in our lives? Or do we just think we are? One wrong move and we will be obliterated. By what? Fear of the unknown paralyzes our actions as does fear of repeating something from our past. It is hard to reprogram the cells. It is even harder to step into the belief that we can.
Fear is an uncomfortable bedfellow, and yet if we are willing to examine it, to hold it in front of us and look it in the face, it becomes comedic. Its hideous face squishes easy into new forms if we poke and prod it. It’s malleable, because it isn’t really real. It’s simply a shadow of the true self.
Yet how we hold it aloft, knighting it with the mark of hero! So often, we do this, it is impossible to keep track. We need only look at how we hold aloft our leaders. Few are true heroes. Many are villains, and most, if not all, are victims of their own stories, and our collective one. The true hero may be there, but it is deeply cloaked under fear.
Sadly, we are living in a time when true heroism is often overlooked, or even worse, slayed by the villain we like to think is a hero because if we don’t, we worry we too will be slayed. It seems insane, when you examine the play in all its facades, and yet here we are, collectively. Even the darkness resides in those we may think are filled only with light. Should we then be ignoring this complicated, yet simple truth that each role resides in each of us? Should we not acknowledge this truth and work towards compassion for the self and the “other” as we examine how we play each role and how the roles become us?
I think we have no choice but to do so, or the cycle will repeat endlessly in different forms. Otherwise, the victim will never be released from its shackles, forever forced to decide how to tip the scales. The cycle continuing until the victim realizes it is up to her, or him, to remove the chains and realized the hold was self-imposed all along.
At some point we must come to the realization that we are each the villain, the victim, and the hero of our own story. Perhaps we cannot have one without the others, but we can choose which one we will embrace. We can choose what story to write into our cells. And, that story can have a different narrative than the one we wrote yesterday. It’s our story to write. It’s our story to live. It’s our story of life.