Feeling fear

I dropped Blossom’s leash. The heavy plastic handle slapping the ground frightened her… she ran. Dragging the other two pups along, I raced after her, my heart pounding. I yelled “COME” and then “COME” followed by a series of expletives but the fear masquerading as anger in my voice frightened her even more.

Once she stopped, I realized I wasn’t angry. I was afraid. I often get those two emotions mixed up.

When Frankie cat showed up a few years ago, it took weeks to tame him. He hissed and swatted and spit at me. I didn’t judge him for it. I knew he was afraid. Now he is the sweetest of all the kitties.

I see Frankie Cat in myself. I catch myself hissing and bowing up, threatening the perceived enemy when the truth is, I’m afraid. But I don’t like feeling fear. Why am I so afraid of being afraid?

Sitting with my fear

Heart thumping, hands shaking, ringing in my head

I want to escape it.

How does it feel to feel it all the way through? No flight and no freeze…just feel.

I think we all long to feel safe in our fear. Maybe that’s why crazy carnival rides and Stephen King are so popular. We long to feel the fear all the way through and land safely on the other side.

I did a web search for fear and phrases like “overcoming fear” and “fearlessness” top the charts. But what if I just feel fear? What if I don’t push it away, run from it, ignore it, yell at it? How would it feel or taste or smell from beginning to end without any action?

Of course, fear is there to protect us in many situations. But there are so many times that if I dig down under my fear, I find a Pandora’s box of odds and ends.

A silly example but one that is easier to share. My friend and I were talking about salt on watermelon. He likes it. I don’t. His insistence causes me to bristle a little bit. Aha! That’s anger! But why would I get angry? Because suddenly I felt like I could be wrong. I spent my entire life eating salt-free melon, but what if, just maybe, I was wrong. I can cling to my beliefs and habits so strongly that the tiniest push makes me wobbly and afraid. What if now I sit with that fear? Turn it around in my head. Try to understand it. Because under that, there is still so much more…a fear of nonconformity, a fear of being wrong, a fear of being laughed at, a fear of abandonment because I don’t agree with somebody 100%….the deeper I dig, the more I will see. But unearthing each level and exposing it to light, makes it less scary. The monster in the closet isn’t a monster any more once I open the door and see it was really just an old Halloween costume fallen off its hanger.

I’ve lived my life pushing through fear. Cursing fear. Hiding fear. Ignoring fear. But what if I just took the time to look at fear, acknowledge fear, and get to know her. I’ll be working on this!

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.”

— James Stephens

Be Here Now…Take My Hand

When Freddie died, I ran. I’ve always been a runner, but never long distance. My longest run before he passed was ten miles and that only happened twice. But after he died, I had a lump in my throat and an invisible hand covering my mouth, keeping me from gasping and gulping in the grief that I feared would never end. So I ran… half marathons, 30Ks and then two marathons. I was training for an ultra when the arthritis in my feet and knees quit responding to steroid shots and sidelined me. But the act of running – breathing hard, gasping for breath, sweating profusely allowed my whole body – every cell of my being – to cry.

Then I threw myself into the formation of a local nonprofit. I took the love for my brother and carried it to people in my community, delivering groceries to families. The same way I pushed through 26 mile runs, I pushed through days of illness and sadness and family emergencies to deliver these goods. During seven years, I missed one event because I couldn’t get off work.

I spent my money, my time, my love on that project.

Sadly a series of unfortunate events and lack of communication convinced me that I needed to step away from the group. Then six months later the charity as I knew it, dissolved. My heart was broken. I felt lost. I’ve lived from mission to mission. Where do I go from here?

I ran to cry and carried food to love. But there is so much more…

The next step is to BE HERE NOW. Suddenly my world is inundated with reminders that my mission is just this…this breath, this step, this moment, this tear, this heart’s flutter.

“Take my hand. We will walk. We will only walk. We will enjoy our walk without thinking of arriving anywhere.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

A return to Peace

We chanted “Love, not hate, makes America great!”  marching back and forth along the sunny Texas sidewalk, carrying handmade protest signs. I was full of self-righteous piety, wearing white not only in honor of the suffragettes but also to reflect the peace and love I believed was my crown.  Then “SHE” touched me again.  Another group – the “OTHERS” — had collected near our protest zone. We’d filed for the first permit but when “THEY” heard, they immediately filed for their own permit that would put them next to us. We’d been warned not to engage but this woman kept touching me. Her fingers, I experienced as claws, on my shoulder, vying for my attention so I could hear her side.  Even louder, as to shatter her eardrums, with all the conviction I could muster, I continued to yell that love would strengthen the nation, while in my heart I wanted to turn around and deck this stranger.

                For weeks after the rally, I could not forget the hate I’d felt in my heart while I was supposedly marching for love.  I remembered how I turned to her, the stranger, and seethed through clenched teeth, “May God bless you and bring you peace.”  It was in a later guided meditation that I saw a truth…I wanted to be a “warrior for peace,” such an oxymoron.  In the dream-like vision, I saw myself instead, sitting cross-legged, peacefully meditating while chaos erupted around me on that same sidewalk.  But instead of fighting and yelling, I just “loved” and “sat.”  In the vision, the scene calmed as I calmed. I shudder even today because I know this is my truth.

                For years after that imagery, I talked about wanting to learn nonviolent action but the courses were always too expensive or too far away or “TOO” something else. I had so many excuses. Enter Covid-19 and a chance click on the Pace e Bene website  A friend and I signed up for the online Engaging Nonviolence class taught by one of the actual co-authors of the Engaging Nonviolence book, Veronica Pelicaric and one of the spiritual leaders in the field, Robert Ferrell 

            We read about the lunch counter protests in the South during the Civil Rights movement.  The protesters were trained to endure all manner of offense, from name-calling to physical assault.  And here I was ready to punch a woman for touching my shoulder. What a contrast! I read the story of David Hartsough, who when threatened with a knife held to his throat by a segregationist, courageously expressed, “You do what you feel you have to, brother, and I will try to love you anyway.”  The man with the knife was visibly shaken and just walked away.  Even typing this now, I find myself sighing and shaking my head, still amazed at the power of love

              

           Veronica  asked the class to reflect on the following thought: “I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.”  I sat there looking at the Zoom images on the screen of amazing individuals from all corners of the world, committed to peace, and I looked over at my dear friend, Deb, sitting beside me, and all I could see was light.  These human souls were divine!  I shared my insight and Robert responded with a quote by Thomas Merton,

“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . .  I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.” 

              No more us and them.  No more good guys and bad guys.  I hope in the future I will look at the stranger grabbing my shoulder and see the light of the Divine in her.

We are all filled with the Light of the Divine, every one of us.

A mind full of hummingbirds . . .

I went in for a routine exam, but my GP wanted to chat. He asked me quite bluntly if I had ever been tested for ADHD. Honestly, I haven’t but it wasn’t the first time it had been suggested. I have no desire to be diagnosed…I don’t want to change the way my brain works. My mind is full of hummingbirds and I never want them to vacate. Those darting thoughts make me who I am. What seems scattered and unproductive is in truth the pollination of glorious flowers of thought.

Several months ago I had my first experience with Hapé and Sananga. Despite my mind’s tendency to acrobatic fluttering, my thinking was pinpoint sharp during that spiritual adventure. I can remember everything I saw, felt, and knew with such clarity…and the experience often returns to me.

Today as I walked my “gurus,” I saw gossamers in the trees with golden light reflecting. I remembered sitting among the cedars, looking up at the sun and being enchanted by the spiderwebs glistening. During that flight, I realized that I was at the center of an exquisite spider web…and that web was The Divine. She held me securely and provided me with all that I would need. Passing under the oaks today, I felt that security and love. I was transported a previous place and time…that time among the cedars… and realized that time is/was this time. There is no separation of then and now. There is only “IS.”

That state of mind brought magic this morning. Despite having two free-spirited dogs on leashes, five separate deer approached us. I see whitetail all the time on my walks but they always run away from us. But today they each ran toward us. With the first two I laughed and jokingly assumed they must be rabid…but then the next yearling ran straight up to us from the south and stopped. She looked at me and I could see the glint of light in her brown eyes. The dogs calmly watched as well.

And as we neared the end of the walk, I looked down and found a smoky quartz crystal – a precious gift. I held it in my hand and aloud thanked the Mother – the Web -who holds us all together.

P.S. – after I wrote all this, I decided to look up the meaning of deer approaching. What I found is in perfect keeping with the vision of the Mother Web loving me unconditionally:

 “A deer approaching you is a sign of unconditional love, heart-centered energy, acceptance of self, and inner wisdom. Deer are wild animals, but just like the wildness of love, it can be tamed when trusted. In this way, a deer approaching you represents love that is on fire.

Source: Crystal Clear Intuition, https://crystalclearintuition.com/deer-meaning

All photos on this site are mine unless otherwise noted and copyrighted as such.

I am Deeper than Spring

I prefer summer to winter: the hot sun to the cold wind. I’ve always tried to avoid the sensations of winter. In the military, I developed a mind over matter trick in which I would imagine standing in front of a roaring fire. This little trick calmed me enough to be able to endure guard duty in -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoidance has always been the name of the game for me when it comes to discomfort. If I can’t physically move away from the pain, I would find a way to do so mentally.

Cupcake Annie and our dearly missed, Winnie, playing
in the snow years ago. Cold didn’t slow them down

But a few days ago, I decided to try something new – I would truly experience the cold, no mind games, no pretend world. The temperature wasn’t extreme, 28 degrees, but far outside my comfort zone. While walking the dogs, I leaned into the cold, allowing myself to feel all of it, acknowledging the bitter sting in my face and the shudder of my body. The dogs were unfazed, joyfully running ahead of me.

Hill country snow

All around me the world continued in the cold – the bare trees sleeping through the frigid morning, the whitetail buck still frisky and looking for love, the meadowlarks gathering seeds, and those grasses pregnant with seed sending their children into the wind. Even the stones waiting patiently for eons endured the January morning, unmoving but watching it all unfold. The Divine Presence that permeates All That Is accepts the winter, accepts the deaths, accepts the perceived discomforts as part of The Whole. It just ‘is.’

“To those who stand naked in the holy wilderness of life, embracing all shadows of self, I bow to you.”

― Earthschool Harmony, Back to Grace

I suddenly realized that this is shadow work: to stand in the cold, with the wind tearing at your face while tears freeze in the corners of your eyes and accept it…feel it…even embrace it. Because I am more than summer…I am deeper than spring…I am darker than autumn…I am winter too.

Thank you to Sylvia at EquiSol Shamanic Healing Center for guiding me to a place of openness. If you’re interested in finding a sanctuary to explore your Shadow, retrieve those lost pieces of your Divine authentic self, and further explore the sacred, I highly recommend EquiSol:

https://www.sylviasitters.com/

Bittersweet, blinding dark

“Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves” – Rabindranath Tagore

Christmas morning I walked my dogs in a dense fog and was enchanted by the hundreds of spiderwebs decorating the wintery landscape.

Spider webs symbolize so many things….the strength of fragility, the wisdom of nature, the patience of the spider and on that Christmas morning, as the world celebrated birth, the webs symbolized the nonduality of birth and death. I say “nonduality” because I realized that I could not honestly stand there, gasping at the beauty around me, and judge the spiders’ efforts to catch prey as “bad.” I only knew that at that moment, with my dogs on Christmas morning, nothing felt more important than admiring the glory of nature. Noticing every web seemed like a holy act.

Several years ago, my husband and I faced a series of deaths that spanned two years. The first loss was when our brilliant nephew decided to end his life. Then a few weeks later, my stepbrother died in a tragic trucking accident. My other nephew died. My husband’s mother died. His brother died. Then my baby brother died. There were others in between – close friends and family, averaging a death every 2-3 months.

Every loss and every birth changes us radically. I’ve never witnessed a birth, but the night I stood next to my brother’s hospice bed, holding his hand as he gently breathed his last breath, was as profound as any birth.

My brother died surrounded by family and friends. We stood in a circle around his bed, knowing it wouldn’t be long. One time he sat up and looked into the distance, pointing at a spot where nobody stood and asked “Who is that?” He smiled and relaxed. We talked and sang and even prayed around him. Then his breathing changed. The transition was so gentle…there were longer and longer pauses between breaths. Finally, as softly as a sigh, he was gone.

Symbols of life and death – the living spider, the rising sun, the dead foliage and web’s death trap.

But even with that final breath, I felt him there…his warmth and presence…the way you know somebody is in the room though you can’t see them. He “stayed” for a while…maybe 15 or 20 minutes and then the air changed and I knew that he moved on.

My brother could have possibly lived with a liver donation. I offered to share my liver with him but for a variety of reasons, that wasn’t going to work. After his death I wanted to do something to remember him and make a difference. So I worked to raise awareness for organ donations.

I would run a 30 kilometer race one year to the day he died…”running to remember.” The race was the culmination of a month-long campaign to sign up donors. Because the race’s location was a distance from my home, I stayed at a ranch closer to the event. On the eve of the race…and the eve of his death…several of us sat on the back porch when my phone beeped that I had a missed call. No number appeared but the phone indicated I had a voicemail. I want to mention here that my local cell phone carrier had made sweeping changes the year prior and all my saved voicemails had been lost. The robotic voice informed me that I had one new message. I played the message and felt the blood drain from my face. My brother’s voice brightly wished me a “Happy New Year.” He was sad to have missed me but went on to advise me not to try to call him back because he was going out to party. It was an old message from a few years prior. I played it again…and then I played it for my mother who cried with disbelief. But when I tried to play for the other people on the porch, the message was gone. And yet the MESSAGE itself was so clear. He’d moved on and wanted me to move on too.

One foggy morning in the back of the pasture near Lost Creek.

I have only shared that with a very few close friends but I feel compelled to share it on my blog. I know only two or three people will probably read this but I needed to write it.

His transition showed me how the cycle truly does continue…that spring turns to summer and summer to fall and then in the winter, we think everything is dead…but just under the surface, life is preparing to re-awaken. Yes, cliche and a little bit cheesy but such a profound truth that I still shudder a tiny bit. Death and life are the same. Bittersweet light and dark, blinding me and lighting the way simultaneously.

Side note: If you are not signed up to do so, please, consider registering to be an organ donor. https://www.organdonor.gov/sign-up

A lovin’ coven…a pack of wild women…or a kaleidoscope

We came together under a waning crescent moon, symbol of the wisdom of the crone: a wisdom hard earned and hard learned. The golden hour of evening fluttered, coloring the scene Autumn. Tonight was our Samhain/Dia de los Muertos celebration.

I stepped out of my car, uneasy. I only knew a few of these women. Would this be like a re-run of the 1970’s “Mean Girls with Farrah Hair Laugh at the Tall Weird Girl?” I looked over the crowd…no Farrah hair, no Jordache jeans, and thank the Goddess, no fucking pom poms.

Today I was the Völva, my own fierce version, covered in runes of protection and symbols signifying I was a magical being. I tacked on my fringed veil and placed the antlers on my head. Already I felt safer. Then I grabbed my staff…my masterpiece. One of my talents is that I find bones. I don’t necessarily go out of my way looking for them. I just seem to run across the most perfectly bleached bones while I’m walking my dogs. And this was a perfect wild pig skull. The Universe nodding her head then gave me a perfect branch, almost six feet tall, angled at the top. This staff was designed by Gaia and glued by epoxy.

According to many sources, the Völva was a seeress, a female practitioners of Seidr. The name actually means staff-carrier so the staff inspired the entire “costume.” The blood of Vikings and Germanic Heathens – powerful pagan women – ran through my blood. I’d always known it but in the last few years I was remembering.

A few years ago I took part in a guided meditation to commune with my feminine ancestors on Mother’s Day. In my vision I found myself surrounded by a circle of women – all sorts, all ages. One in a red dress, dancing and spinning. Several swathed in furs, casting bones. The older women draped furs over my shoulder, warming me. They held me in love…pressing small divination bones into my hands, whispering comforting words I didn’t understand. (and until this very moment as I write this, I didn’t realize the theme of bones that seems to repeat).

And today I was again surrounded by a wild array of women. La Catrinas danced to Nancy Sinatra. A mermaid gracefully swam by to her music. A crystal princess presented me with a magical stone while a lovely witch read my cards. Laughter, the song of the Goddess Iambe, tinkled like windchimes. A group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope… and that is the most appropriate term I could imagine for this gathering of Divine Feminine Forces…a kaleidoscope of feminine energy and color.

The evening grew to night and we danced, ate, and laughed, joining our energies together in a way only women can. Monarchs travel alone but in the evenings they rest together, clustering in roosts to stay warm. Anybody who has ever encountered hundreds or thousands of butterflies dancing together on the wind will never forget the experience. Samhain Eve was like that. Clustered together, my kaleidoscope of swirling, dancing sisters warming each other for the long journey ahead is a memory I will never forget.

Roots

roots2 If you leave a human, a dog, and a chimpanzee on a deserted island, who stands the best chance of survival? Odds are the human will have the most difficult time surviving.  So many other species are much more capable of enduring harsh conditions on their own. And yet humans have managed to thrive on this planet.  What gives humans the edge they seem to have?

This week I learned the largest living organism on the planet is a Pando…no, not Panda. Pando, Latin for “I spread,” is an expansive grove of quaking aspens.  Aspens multiply asexually through their roots and colonize large areas through a shared root system. Because they all share the same genetic makeup, they’re often referred to as clones.  A 106-acre grove of 47,000 trees in Richfield, Utah, all originated from one single male parent aspen (Nace, 2018).  The strength of the aspen comes from its community root, giving it incredible longevity. The Bristlecone Pines in Utah is the oldest known aspen “clone” and is over 80,000 years old (Ettema, 2014).

Redwoods are another great example of the strength provided by a community. These giant trees have very shallow roots, only about six feet deep.  Those shallow roots spread widely, however, and intertwine with the roots of others of its species giving the trees almost supernatural stability (The Redwood Forest and the Role of Water, n.d.).   These giants standing over 300 feet tall endure raging winds and other severe conditions.

Back to our deserted island scenario . . . what if instead of dropping off a single human, we unload a community of humans? Now odds makers would definitely recalculate the probability of survival.  Humans survive as community…humans THRIVE as community.

In these times we admire the independent hero who ventures out on her own. We view individualism as a strength and tout our ability to “MAKE IT” without any help.  But we can’t make it without help. We need one another. We are like the aspens and the redwoods. When humans acknowledge a common root and accept the need to intertwine in such a way to hold each other in violent storms, they don’t just endure, they flourish, succeed, evolve – they RISE.  Humans can only truly soar when they are rooted in community.

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References

Ettema, H. (2014, March 21). Tree Profile: Aspen – So Much More Than a Tree. Retrieved from National Forests: https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/tree-profile-aspen-so-much-more-than-a-tree

Nace, T. (2018, October 18). The World’s Largest Organism, Pando, Is Dying. Retrieved from Forbes Magazine: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/10/18/the-worlds-largest-organism-pando-is-dying/#141dc81d5554

The Redwood Forest and the Role of Water. (n.d.). Retrieved from Exploring the Eel River Valley: sunnyfortuna.com/explore/redwoods_and_water.htm

 

 

 

This…

walk1I see so much anger in the world…so much fear and hate.

But that is not a reflection of who we truly are.  We are all beautiful sparks of a Divine Beloved Light.  This is my letter to my friends who are so angry and afraid right now.

REMEMBER…

THIS…this is not who you are. This anger, fear, hate are not true parts of you.

Remember who you were before the pain of the world hardened you…

Remember when you rescued the fledgling and tried so desperately to save the fragile little creature… you cried real tears when it died…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Remember that time, once upon a time, when you didn’t know what bigotry was and you didn’t notice color…Remember when you didn’t even know there was a difference between girls and boys…and you just accepted people as people.  Remember the time before you knew of borders and boundaries and “us” vs “them.”

Your beautiful heart was so free…unbounded by fear and hate and greed and anger…

BUT that amazingly exquisite unfettered spirit still lives within you…you are a spark of LIGHT and nothing can ever change that. Only fear is the cage that confines.  Break free.  Be the LOVE that YOU ARE!

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Butterfly Navigation Systems

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Monarch and Queen on Zinnia taken in Voca

October saw the beauty of migration.  What seemed like millions of monarchs floated overhead on their long journey to Mexico.  They were like feathers on the wind, so graceful.  I am always astonished at how such seemingly fragile creatures can endure so much and travel so far.

I wondered how far they actually travel and found this record:  “A tagged male monarch (Danaus plexippus), released by Donald A. Davis (Canada) at Presqu’ile provincial Park near Brighton, Ontario, Canada, on 10 September 1988, was recaptured on 8 April 1989 in Austin, Texas, U.S.A., travelling an estimated 2880 miles, making this the World’s Longest Butterfly Migration according to the Guinness World Records Ltd (Davis, 2005)

 But usually a single monarch doesn’t make the entire trip.  Monarch butterflies may take as many as five generations to make it from Mexico to southern Canada and back again (Main, 2013).  Each generation is made up of four distinct life cycles – that’s 20 separate states of being.  

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Which came first the monarch or the egg?  (The Science of monarchs)

 So, this is where it gets spiritual for me.  Somehow the knowledge of the journey gets passed not from one monarch to another but through an evolution of existences.  There is a ONENESS…from the butterfly to the egg to the caterpillar to the chrysalis to the butterfly.  Five monarchs, five times in an egg, five caterpillars, and five times in chrysalis:  the journey just continues.  Is it really five different monarchs making the trip or the spirit of one monarch just trying on new outfits along the way?

And then I think about the swarms of monarchs making the trip…this knowledge…this “TRUTH” is within each of them.  I don’t know how they share it or how they hear it, but they all just KNOW.  Could the swarm of butterflies really be part of a greater being…all butterflies are truly one? 

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In the Elm Tree across the Creek from my House

 

What is this monarch navigation system? How quiet the mind of a monarch must be to hear this mystical guide!

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Sunning in the field

I was on the phone for an hour Saturday with somebody I dearly love. It’s funny because I NEVER talk on the phone…nonetheless for an hour. We talked about how we both suffer from relentless voices in our heads…there is never quiet…never space.  The voices drive us and push us in directions we think we SHOULD go.  We hear the directions society, our parents, our bosses, our lovers believe we should go.  They chatter, like multiple GPS guidance systems talking at once, constantly recalculating new routes.

I believe that like the monarchs, we don’t need a GPS. I think we are all born with monarch navigation systems that gently whisper the directions.  But the voice is gentle, never forceful.  So, I must learn to quiet my mind to truly hear.  I know there is a whisper for me…I can feel the loving call.  I just have to be quiet enough to hear.

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I constantly try to photograph the butterflies in flight…this was closest I got that day

References

Davis, D. (2005, September). Meet Canadian Naturalist. Retrieved from Journey North: https://journeynorth.org/tm/monarch/DavisDonBio.html

Main, D. (2013, August 13). Monarch butterflies may take five generations to migrate to US . Retrieved from NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/sciencemain/monarch-butterflies-may-take-five-generations-migrate-us-6C10910055

The Science of monarchs. (n.d.). Retrieved from Chautauqua Bird Tree and Garden Club: https://www.chautauquabtg.org/life-cycle-anatomy/