Why is the Google Memo Generating so many headlines? Here are headlines I wish were out there about actual discrimination in the workplace.Read More
At 8pm, two hours into teaching a once a week, four hour class at Portland Community College, all I could think about was being outside, wandering under the full moon, with snowy owls.
“Thinking about” isn’t really the right way to put it, so much as it felt to me like I already was doing it. Like the time between my physical presence in the classroom, and that in the moonlight with snowy owls, was nothing at all. I shook off the sensation, a kind of gravity pulling me strongly out of the present. Or at least, into another presence. I still had class to teach, with an hour or two to go. But there flies the owl, swooping silently overhead, just under the fluorescent lights of the classroom then out the window into the moonlight. I had to get out of here. I shook my head with doubt; still, the Snowy Owls called.
I got home from teaching at 10pm. Including prep time, I’d been working for 12 hours. I felt hungry, and a little wired, but driving 3.5 hours North to the Snowy Owls in Ocean Shores, Washington, felt doable. I had nothing on my schedule the following day until 6pm- that left me a lot of hours to make the trip and enjoy, and still come back for some sleep. But a voice in my head complained, “Ahhh, it’s too late! Go to bed and leave early in the morning” or, “I’m tired and hungry. Just eat a snack and go to bed. Schedule another time to go see the owls.”
These little thoughts were just that – little. The amount of momentum available for the trip felt much greater than the supposed “obstacles” that the little voice offered.
I called my partner to share the news. “Just want you to know, I’m heading out on an adventure.”
“What kind?” she asked. She’d already been half asleep.
“I’m going to see the owls, the snowies, up at Ocean Shores.”
A pause lengthened.
“What? You’re going out with who?”
She didn’t believe it either. She had not heard what I’d said, since what I said struck her, as it would strike many, as an insane idea – to head out on a 7 hour road trip at 10pm at night, with less than 20 hours available to make the trip.
I smiled. I understood her response – I’d had a similar one myself.
“I’m going to see the snowy owls. It’s a full moon, and I want to be out at night with them. If I leave now, I’ll get there by 3am – and then I can stay until the sun rises, and still get back early enough to sleep a bit.”
“Are you sure?” She asked.
“Yes.” This ‘yes’ felt so wonderful – so solid – so clear and unambiguous. “I thought about going in the morning, but when I think about that, it seems all wrong. I need to be there tonight.”
Need. A strange word, yet, true.
Time and space. I moved through it, though I cannot say exactly what it was like. It was like any one moment: like now. Like sitting and typing this story. Like eating a meal. It existed, and it moved, and was gone, and came again. I felt sleepy, and at times worried about that. But then it was three o’clock, and I was in Aberdeen, Washington, trailing a set of taillights from a car filled to the brim with someone’s belongings, dressers and mattresses. They were moving – but where from, and to, and why at 3 in the morning? I wished them well.
In Aberdeen I caught my first glimpse of Gray’s Harbor, and out across Gray’s Harbor, across the bay, there was Damon point. I couldn’t see it in the dark, but I sensed it. I felt it, right in the muscle of my heart, in the energy of every beat. There’s something so resonant about being exactly in the right place in the right moment following a passionate call.
That was when red and blue lights flashed in my rear view mirrors, all of them. An officer halted my progress, but I was not surprised to be pulled over at 3:30a.m. in a sleepy industrial town. I almost felt suspicious of myself.
“Just out for a drive?” The officer asked.
I laughed. Do people do that? Just go out for a pointless drive at 3:30am? “No, I’m going to see the snowy owls at Ocean shores.” I said, as if that provided a more plausible reason for driving at 3am. “It’s a full moon tonight, and I like to take photos. I’m hoping to get out there before the sunrise, and maybe take some pictures in the moonlight, if all goes well.”
The officer brightened. “Yeah, I’ve heard of them! I saw a giant owl up on the ridge but it wasn’t a snowy. Not sure what it was, but I’ve been meaning to go see the snowy owls out there.”
“Oh yeah, it’s amazing,” I said. “I’ve been up once before. It’s a lifetime dream of mine to see snowy owls in the wild.”
I say dream, and realize the tender truth of it. Dream, not in the sense of achievement once it happens. But, instead, an on-going experience of magic, possibility, and transformation.
“Well, you just slow down a bit and be careful going through the curves,” the officer says, handing back my license.
“Thanks officer. I didn’t realize I was going that fast. I’ll definitely be careful.”
This marked the first occasion I’d been pulled over in Washington State and not been cited with an expensive ticket; I felt the shock of it wash over me. As the officer walked away, something happened. An invisible barrier lifted, or, more like a curtain settled down behind me, but not in front of me. It settled in, and every possible block I’d ever imagined to this experience disappeared. There was nothing between me and the moments ahead any longer, just the experience, eager to occur. I felt a rich happiness as I drove away slowly. The officer turned his rig around in a sharp “J” behind me, solidifying that I was alone on the journey. Alone, and welcome to the way forward. I felt that so intensely. Welcome.
The moon shone so bright at the gates to Ocean Shore that I didn't need a headlamp or any other light to pack my bags with water, camera gear, food. Every part of me hummed with expectation.
The clear sky radiated the full moon, a full moon night, the February moon, the last Winter moon before the equinox. As I prepared to leave, one last thought attempted to derail me: “It’s stupid to be a woman alone going out at 4 a.m. to look at owls.”
The thought itself arose out of social training: years of hearing about women attacked by “strange men” in “remote places.” I slammed the door to my truck and shook my head. The more likely scenario for most women would be that a man they knew (boyfriend, date, father) would attack them. The fear wasn’t mine, but others’. The momentum that carried me forward drew with it the power of the waves, of the sea, of the moon, of every soul I’d known, of every love, every tenderness, every courage. In the face of that power, fear evaporated into nothing. No resistance. And likewise, no, none, zero danger.
I closed up the car and left a wish for it to be there when I returned. The moon provided plenty of light, illuminating features of the landscape like short hummocks of grass and dunes of sand, and tiny potholes in the road. I walked towards Damon Point within more light than I knew that darkness could provide.
I walked past the RV park, where a half dozen RV’s stood quiet, their inhabitants resting. Even the dogs ignored my passing. In the daylight, dogs from those campgrounds have hounded and howled at my, or any other human’s, passing. But not tonight. I am not alarmed to be here – and nothing I passed was alarmed by my presence.
The tide moved on its way out, and as I laid my feet on the pebbly shore, the waves were small, quiet, receding. I’d never considered breakers quiet before, but these were. Short rollers of white, coming onto the shore, reaching only a few feet up the steep slope before resting and then withdrawing. I walked at the peak, the in-between place, of water and dry, in the place where a road had once been. Locals remember when the road extended all the way to the edge of Damon point, made a circle, and came back. In the past 5 years, the ocean had carried the road away. Where the road had once been, now a quarter-mile section of drift logs, fine mud sands, and pebbles strewn about in a gentle curve. The ocean breakers on the West side of the point had been eating away at the more subtle slope of the opposite, Bay side of the peninsula. In a big storm, or on some day when the tides rise especially high, this access point disappeared under breakers and ocean tumult. One day not far in the future, myself and others may come to call the place Damon Island.
Thinking about this as I walked along, I felt a bit like I was getting away with something – getting a pass, a pass onto a changing world that may one day be closed to me. Getting a glimpse of what the next generation might not be able to see or do. But now, the way was open, and I went.
I kept my eyes out for anything bright white: the owls. Or, it could just be a large piece of Styrofoam. In the moonlight, it would not be hard to see white, but definitely hard to tell exactly what the white shape constituted. I walked with eyes and heart open. The Snowy Owls broadcast a clear quality that my heart knows, recognizes first before my eyes catch up. Like enhydro bubbles in Himalayan quartz. I can pick up a piece of Himalayan quartz, move it around, and know, before I ‘see' with my eyes, whether the stone has a bubble in it. Some crystals are created in such a way that they cool around open spaces within which water vapor or other elements become trapped. They are called enhydros when a small water bubble remains trapped within a crystal. Most commonly, people use their eyes to look for enhydros. My body had taught me a different strategy, though I'd resisted the idea that I could possibly find enhydros the way it seemed I could. After sorting through hundreds of Tibetan quartz crystals, it seemed to me that enhydro crystals made a certain sound, sort of, if I can call it that. While I held the crystals in front of my eyes, I'd move the stone around, and there’d be a characteristic kind of “click” that I would feel/hear/sense. At first, I ignored the "sound" - how could that be possible? It seemed ridiculous. Having studied geology in college (a minor, not a major) I definitely never heard of people "listening" to movement within crystals. How could I possibly “hear” or “feel” the shifting of a micro bit of water embedded in a crystal? Still, during the months I spent sorting through a bulk amount of Tibetan quartz, time and again I found enhydros by sensing them rather than seeing them. My eyes told me no, but I could hear/feel a movement, so I'd keep looking, and sure enough, eventually would find the crystal had an enhydro. Time and again, the pattern repeated itself. No enhydro upon visual inspection, but a sense that there was one I could hear and feel - then, eventually, I'd find it with my eyes. I started to accept it the possibility that I could actually hear or feel wanter moving in crystal. Eventually, I found a stone that I felt had an enhydro in it. The stone had the “sound,” but I couldn’t find any bubble in it, no matter how I held it in the light or moved it around and looked at it with my eyes. I looked again and again at this particular crystal, for short periods of time, over months, with no results except “the sound.” I kept the crystal on my desk as a sort of “proof” that maybe I don’t sense things like I think I do, and that correlation is not causation. And then, a year and a half later, I picked up the stone again. Again, I “heard” a movement, and felt it. I looked through it. I stood and held it in the light, twisting it slightly here and there, noticing, for the first time, a certain layer within the stone. And then I saw it: a bubble that shifted within one end of the crystal. Holy crap! The crystal that I thought was proof I couldn't hear water in crystals, turned out to be a strong piece of evidence to the contrary. Now I keep the stone as a reminder that sometimes my senses do work better than I can imagine, and that most of the time, I can trust what my body and senses tell me. That night, walking along Damon Point, I listened, with all of my being, for Snowy Owls.
Even given the season, it was exceptionally cold. Sand, normally squishy and smooth, crunched like icy gravel with each step I took. The moon shone golden, so bright I had to remind myself it wasn’t the sun setting towards the west. The reflected moon on the water created a solemn undulation, the waves lazily coming to shore, barely bothering to build into white foam before crashing into the already beat up gravel and sand.
I’d walked this beach twice before in daylight – the mental maps I’d created on those visits didn’t match the moonlit landscape. Sure, water still stretched out to the right, the west, and also, along the end of the point towards the south. Sure, I knew that if I walked east, I would cross a great “bowl” of grass, drift wood and inlets. These core features remained under the moonlight. All else took on new shape, form, and even meaning. I felt surrounded by new sounds, and listened keenly.
When all the sound and the awe of the moonlight and the crash of the waves and the bitter wind built beyond some benchmark in my senses that I didn’t know existed, I simply sat down and leaned my back against a drift-log the size of a Chevy minivan. It blocked the wind, supported me and had my back. I rested. I breathed in and out. I sniffled. I buried my face in the collar of my coat. I licked my lips, found them cold and dry. Wish I’d brought lip balm. What time was it, anyway? I looked at my watch– 4:45a.m.
I shrugged off my backpack and took out the camera, trained the lens on the moon and the water and the shadows cast in the darkness, snapped photos that captured haunting golds and grays. I smiled. Who knew what I was taking pictures of? I took the photos, but couldn’t tell what they’d become, even with the instant digital preview window. The photos mirrored a feeling. A sense. I looked across the drift logs to my east and north. On the wind, at times, I thought I heard them, the particular screech of a snowy. Ornithologists say they don’t “vocalize” when they migrate, and when they’re young. That’s what they say.
The tips of my fingers grew cold. My chest and torso rattled and shivered for a moment. I put the camera away and began walking. I felt the call of the sunrise, and wanted to greet it on the eastern most shore of Damon Point. I headed inland until I gained the remnants of the road – the one that used to connect to the main road in Ocean Shores, before the ocean took it away, and made the Point accessible by foot and bicycle wheels only. The faintest sliver of dawn began to grow and gather around the edges of all shapes and forms. Ever more daylight rose, gathering brightness until I could see further ahead and afield. I saw tops of trees and specific bushes, more than just masses of things and shapes. Something about the rising light raised my pulse, and I walked faster towards the Eastern shore.
When I got there, the Eastern horizon shone tangerine. Mt. Rainier blocked the rising sun, casting a giant triangle of grey across the landscape, all the way from the horizon to where I stood. Tears fell from my eyes, as much from the cold wind, as from the warmth of what I witnessed, there on the shore of the bay. The sun painted the sky incredible colors, and along with the colors, actual brush of warmth on my cheeks. Meanwhile, Rainier, the great mountain, kept the western shore of Gray's Harbor with its paper mill, and nuclear power plant, in shadow.
After soaking in the first rays of early dawn, I turned around, so the sun was at my back. I watched the last of the moon set over the western horizon. In 38 years of living, I’d never been in such a place – watching the moon set on one hand, and the sun rise on the other, a smile in my being in response to the wholeness of Sun, Earth and Moon. I felt a deep wonder at the mystery of such an alignment, one that occurs most every day, yet I had never seen.
After catching my breath from the stunning first glimpse of dawn, I began a slow walk along the shore, just for the sake of movement. The light became so bright, it felt like full daylight to me. I took the camera out, but it didn’t seem to work. It kept refusing to focus, and refusing to take a picture, so I gave up on it. I chalked it up to divine intervention, the cold weather, or some other reason to keep my gaze away from behind the camera lens.
I continued walking, then, as I raised my gaze to look into the distance, I saw a Snowy Owl, perched on the highest, tiniest little branch of a leaf-barren tree. The owl’s eyes barely registered my presence. He, or she, sat still, facing east. Facing the sunrise, just as I had. I sat down and offered welcome, and offered my intentions, and asked the question of safe passage, with no intention of disturbance. The owl had nothing to say. Much as I expected. We hung out a while, as strangers do, and then I made my way down towards the water, the low tide allowing for a big distance for me to travel away from and around the owl. I felt afraid of disturbing its peace. After I passed it, I turned to watch it again, and again it clearly stared out over the water towards the rising sun. The owl greeted the sunrise, as only a night predator would know how, and as I wanted to learn. I sat down far away from the owl, and watched the tangerine light of the sun turn into blood orange, then golden, and for a moment, a kind of green, before finally settling into a brightness that lit up the world.
The snowy owl kept gazing out at the sea. I felt released from sharing its gaze, and I felt called to cross the island again, and head to the western shore. Cold and slightly tired, I watched my steps, every now and then looking up and around to be sure I didn’t wander into a snowy owl and set it off its perch. It’s not easy to walk across the landscape on Damon Point. The ground is covered with every shape and size of once-water-borne flotsam and jetsam. There’s refrigerators and logs, plastic fishing webbing and Styrofoam. Not ten feet of it high and deep, but enough to make walking a conscious activity, especially in the grey-light of dawn. After one near-trip, I planted my feet and took in a deep breath.
And then, there they were. Four Snowy Owls, One perched on a stump. One perched on a grey colored, 30-foot long log. One perched on a brownish log parallel to the grey one. And one in a rag tag bunch of stumps and log ends, closest to me at about 400 feet. They all faced me. Or, rather, they all faced the sunrise.
I sat down. What else to do? A part of me wanted to run, but that seemed pointless. Run from what? Why did I feel afraid? I felt afraid that I was in the wrong spot. Afraid that I didn’t have a place here. Afraid that my presence would “mess” something up, would disturb an owl who would then waste energy and spontaneously fall over dead. And then, it seemed ridiculous. These owls, who had traveled so far, and who now sat together, perched, watching the sunrise behind me. It suddenly seemed ridiculous to have an “I’m not worthy moment,” not when this moment was exactly what I had come for, and here it was. Just then, an owl flew from behind me into the "bowl" with the other owls, coming from the direction I had just walked. It alighted on the grey log, about 15 feet from another owl. I took a deep breath and crossed my legs. Then, another snowy owl alighted into the bowl from the South. Owl roll call! Six snowy owls sharing space, and me, learning how. They were greeting the sunrise. Gathering, coming together to greet the sun. And two more came. As each one came, they all faced the sun. And faced me, between the owls and the sun.
The space began to feel crowded. My head grew crowded too. Surely something amazing was happening, and I was in the way. How would I get out of here without disturbing them? Especially if more came, and landed closer to me? What should I do? I sat with nearly a dozen owls, a handful of whom had flown right over me to land just a few hundred feet from where I sat. Should I be this close? I’d gotten this close on accident, and none of the owls had alighted away from me, instead, it seemed they had chosen to come join the crowd. But, still, there had to be something wrong. Finally, unable to silence the voices, I began to slowly crawl away from the owls. I headed south, towards the end of the point, and even as I did so, I felt the eyes of the owls on my back. I felt them all, gathering, to greet the sun. I felt my heart longing to join them.
And just then, as I looked ahead towards the path I chose seemingly to get away from disturbing the convening of snowy owls at sunrise, I saw two owls directly in front of me, about 500 feet away. One sat perched on a stump about 5 feet off the ground, almost level with my head. And the other, a fair distance behind the first, was airborne, flying directly towards that owl and, in essence, directly towards me.
I froze all movement. I was surrounded. Any direction I chose, I found owls. And now, they were coming towards me. As the second owl flew closer to the first, the first took flight as well. And as they both flew towards me, I watched them with my whole being. There wasn't room to resist what was happening. No more space to feel fear of disturbing these incredible beings, who chose to fly towards me, towards the gathering of snowy owls at dawn. Suddenly, the two owls flying towards me crossed into the rising, blindingly bright sun. As I watched them enter the light, the brightness erased everything and equated and conflated everything. The owls became the light of the sunrise, and I joined them in that space, heart, spirit, a convening of harmony. I felt all senses in my being change. The moment lasted beyond time and space, an entry into another world of expansive presence, peace, bright vitality. The experience cracked me open into a whole new being, under the sun, with the owls flying towards where I stood, toward the crowd of owls gathering to greet the day. I lived a whole life in that blink of snowy owls in sunrise.
And then the two owls came out of the sun. One flew past me about 50 feet to my left, while the other kept flying directly towards me. The owl made no noise as it flew, its deep, long wings scooping at the air, once, twice, until its face was less than 20 feet from mine, its golden eyes looking at me, and through me, and behind me. I watched the long, thin feathers near its black claws move like the tips of grass swaying in a gentle breeze. I saw individual tail feathers adjust to the left and right with each wingbeat. I had enough mental space to ponder if the owl might sink either its talons or its beak into some part of me, and I didn't care. I felt no fear. A few more wingbeats, and the owl flew past me, less than an arm's span away. I felt the wind generated by its wings. I turned to watch it as it passed. It alighted, with the large group of owls, already gathered, and if I hadn’t heard the welcome offered to me before by the gathering of owls, I certainly felt it now, like a bolt of lightning through my being.
And I knew, then, that any fear I had of being unwelcome, of “upsetting” the beings that I sought to connect with, had no place here. The reality available in the moment involved snowy owls, the sunrise, the ocean lapping against the point, and me, as participant, witness, and student contributor. I sat down again, this time even more deeply and consciously with the Snowy Owls. We all watched the sunrise. Held court on the coming day. Checked in with each other, and joined in ceremony I didn’t realize we could all co-create.
I sat for a time that felt immemorial. Spirit measured no time, and I stayed there, in no time, with the guardians of the night, and the welcomers of the dawn. I had shared with them a whole night of darkness. Shared with them a moment of transition, of the last of the moon setting on the western horizon, of the first bright sun glowing warmth on feather and fur and hair alike. I felt connection in that shift from night, to dawn, to day. I traveled it, with guardians of heart and spirit, earth and air, with the ultimate travelers, Snow Owls.
Some while later, I caught sight of a human moving off in the distance, across the opposite side of the grassy bowl from me. The human had a giant tripod and a lens that must’ve weighed 20 pounds. The owls held court, and the jesters gathered. It was time for me to leave.
I decided to take a track that went away from the owls. Leaving felt right, but still I lingered, and sang a gift of thanks to those who shared this experience with me. When I left, I swung out towards the south and then west. As I did so, I discovered more owls – two, in fact, right in the direction I had chosen to travel.
I felt such warmth and love. I thanked the guardians, the brothers and sisters, and kept moving, the other-worldly glow of the owl presences faded into the other-worldly light of dawn.
As a human in the modern world, I am trained to worry. Worry about my impact on the environment. Worry over the details of what I do, or don’t do. If there’s anything that I learned that morning and in the many mornings since, I am welcome to do as I am called and as I dream, and the world will respond as it chooses. In this case, the owls I sought welcomed.
Welcomed by my sisters and brothers.
Welcomed by the sun and the moon.
Welcomed to leave resistance behind.
Welcomed by the life of the bay.
Welcomed by the wind and the strain of the water.
Welcomed by the Earth and the sky.
Welcomed to the gathering of the Snowy Owls.
I’m a fan of free advice. People of all types offer free advice: kids, adults, family members, friends, strangers. My dog even offers free advice, every time he sits in front of me with a ball in his mouth.
The trick with advice is learning how to sort through all of the free advice to find the advice that is the most freeing.
Every now and then, a person will say something so resonant that every bit of my being comes alive. I feel like a bell that has been rung. When I have that experience, I know I’ve just received advice that is freeing. The words, and whatever else makes up the experience, shine full of clarity and a kind of power I can feel but don’t understand.
Take last Wednesday, for example. Last Wednesday, I woke to a foot of snow, a rarity in Portland, Oregon. I did what any sensible outdoors person would do – strapped on my snowshoes, grabbed some poles, and went for an urban snowshoe.
On my snowshoe excursion, I paused to snap a photo of a rufous sided towhee, one of my favorite forest dwellers. As I did so, my ears alerted to the muffled crunch-swoosh sound of a person’s footsteps in the snow. I lowered the camera away from my eye so I could greet the stranger.
The stranger was a woman, probably 20 years my senior. She wore no hat or gloves, despite the frigid 28 degree weather. She passed me on the right, and then stopped two steps away. She seemed to stare at the brambles I’d just been pointing my camera lens towards.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Yes! Amazing, isn’t it?” The woman replied, smiling.
I nodded. The woman pointed at the trees in front of me, where I’d been focusing on the towhees. I got ready to say something about the towhees. But, she didn’t say anything about the Towhees. Instead, she said this: “Isn’t it amazing how the tiniest branch can accumulate so much snow?”
I looked to where she pointed, and saw a series of thin alder branches laden with two or more inches of snow each. She was right. How did such tiny branches accumulate so much snow? Magic. She had said something brilliant. She had offered me advice that I found freeing. I felt my eyes soften, my heart swell, and my toes tingle. I already had been loving every moment of my urban snowshoe adventure, and then a stranger entered the experience and expanded the experience by offering me advice that I found freeing.
The woman’s comment helped me key into another dimension of awareness. I hadn’t really focused on the branches, so much as on the beauty of a snow-covered forest, the incredible expansiveness of the landscape, and the contrast of orange and red birds next to snow. Meanwhile, the woman had been focused not so much on the look or feel of the forest and the snow, as on the phenomenon of accumulation.
Accumulation is a natural phenomenon, one that occurs to both the living and the inert. The challenge with accumulation is first, allowing it to happen naturally, and second, allowing the same natural forces that create accumulation to also take away what is no longer needed. Accumulation is dependent on receptivity, and receptivity is a natural phenomenon as well. The tiny branch accumulates a lot of snow because it is created to be receptive. Branches help a tree accumulate sunlight and water so that the basic needs of the organism are more easily met. The natural processes of wind, sun, heat, cold – will all combine to melt away the snow accumulated on the thin branches in my neighborhood. As those processes work, the form of the branch funnels water and nutrients to the tree’s core.
This week in Spirit, notice the advice that people, place, and spirit have to offer. Just as a branch helps to funnel sunlight and water to the root of a tree, trust your own natural form to funnel all that is freeing to the root of who you are. In spite of the force of effort and will, it’s quite often random pressures and circumstances that truly create shifts and releases in our lives. This week in Spirit – be like a tiny branch, receptive to accumulating snow in a storm, trusting to your natural form to funnel what is most nurturing and freeing to your root.
In an episode of Friends, Ross tries to move a large white couch up the narrow stairs to his apartment. Ross yells the word “Pivot!” over and over again at Rachel and Chandler, as if the word itself would be the grease that would help his friends slide the couch up the narrow staircase. Eventually, the friends give up. At the end of the episode, Ross returns the couch — cut in half, torn, and shredded. The salesperson offers him $4. Ross accepts.
This week in Spirit, consider the “pivot” scene an illustration of the hilarious lengths the ego/mind is willing to go to, just as Ross’s did, to grasp at a self-imposed, singular goal. First, start with Ross’s original intention: to provide a comfortable place for people to sit in his apartment. To fulfill his intention, Ross purchases a large, white couch. So far, so good — Ross has a clear intention, and takes an action in integrity with the original intention. Once the big white couch gets to Ross’s building, though, things go awry. Early on in the couch scene, Rachel says the couch is too big and won’t fit up the stairs. Ross ignores Rachel’s assessment, though. He shifts his focus away from the original intention of providing a comfy place to sit, and puts all his energy towards a singular, self-imposed goal: the couch…will…fit…up…the…stairs!
Ross begins to abandon his original intention (providing a comfy place to sit) towards the singular goal of getting the couch up the narrow staircase. What if Ross had listened to Rachel? What if Rachel had simply walked away right at the beginning, unwilling to support Ross’s couch moving delusion? Driven by the monkey mind, Ross struggles ever further away from his original intention and pours all his time and energy into beating the resistance where couch meets wall. In the process, Ross loses money, time, relationships, pride, and, eventually, the couch. Because the resistance and blocks became his focus (if we could just get the couch up the stairs!) he moved away from an easily attainable intention — providing a place for his friends to sit comfortably — to the impossible task of moving the giant white couch upstairs.
I’ve been each of these characters in the couch pivot scene — I’ve been Chandler, willing to sacrifice my back and limbs to help someone else achieve an unlikely and needless goal. I’ve been Ross, determined to overcome the laws of gravity and physics just to move a couch, when really, I could’ve exchanged the white couch for one that fit up the stairs. I’ve been Rachel, stating limitations I was aware of, but still throwing my energy and body behind another person’s efforts. With a lot of practice, though, I’ve learned what it feels like when my ego/mind is taking the wheel of action away from my intentions. I can stop pouring energy into escalating actions of futility — stop before choosing to chainsaw the couch in half, stop before I have to show up with a destroyed couch and ask for a refund, while my friends still have no comfortable place to sit. With practice, I have a lot more clarity about which actions help meet my intentions, and how much energy each action truly requires. I feel more free and clear, and more nimble in adjusting my own attachments and purposes.
This week in Spirit, I encourage everyone to get better at identifying your couch and pivot moments. People can pour entire lives into couch/pivot dramas, only to find awareness of the meaninglessness of such ego driven machinations right at the very end. Lucky for us, we can just watch an episode of Friends and practice right now. Look around and sort out whether your time and energy expenditures are, in the most direct way possible, going towards what you originally intended. Be willing to return the white couch at the very moment it becomes obvious it won’t fit up the stairs. Adjust your actions to align with your original intentions, and then apply the simplest, most direct means from one step to the other. When you stop trying to force the couch upstairs, you will find that an incredible amount of mental, physical, and emotional space and energy becomes available.
This week, think of the couch in that Friends episode as Spirit. Spirit just is. It’s never too big, or too rigid, or too… anything. It’s never in the wrong shape, or in the wrong size. Spirit doesn’t have any trouble fitting into our lives. All too often, though, our ego minds struggle to accept the dimensions of Spirit. We try to force it to fit into narrow stairways. We create scenarios of struggle. We ask our friends to help us shove Spirit into limiting spaces and purposes. We work harder and harder, thinking that’s what we need to do to get what we want. Instead of working hard, imagine you’re the couch. You are who and what you are. Practice full acceptance. If other people want to move you, let them try. You will not be moved. You are a sacred being, with soul, spirit and purpose. A heart beats in your chest, singing a particular song to Spirit, to your loved ones, through your words and actions. Let these aspects be what they are this week. This is not a week to shove a couch up a narrow staircase. No, this is the week to be the couch.
This week in Spirit — when the ego yells pivot, be the couch.
Dear U. S. voters –
There's been a lot of talk about something many reporters have called “election insecurity”: the feeling of anxiety many people have as they consider what might happen on election day.
Election insecurity is something I know pretty well. Why? Because I was 18 in 1992, when Oregon, and many other states, began to put LGBTQII rights up for popular votes. Local and state-wide ballot measures contained language like, “Changes the state constitution to define homosexuality as abnormal, unnatural and perverse” and “prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding any program or institution that casts homosexuality in a positive light” and “requires all state employees to discourage homosexuality.”
Can you imagine the world in which a law like that passes? I can. Because a law banning protections for LGBTQII workers passed in Oregon in 1988, and other more regressive laws followed on Oregon’s ballot throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Yes, I can imagine a world in which those kinds of laws pass, because I lived in that world. In fact, I came out as a lesbian in 1992 in that exact world. I picked a good time to be gay.
From the time I came out at age 18 until I turned 30, numerous anti-LGBTQII ballot measures occupied election days in Oregon and other states. And each time, my friends and I, my big gay lovers and I, all of us, held our collective breath. Would this be the time a state-wide ballot measure passed and basically made it illegal to be queer? What would it mean in practice? Every LGBTQII person in Oregon had to imagine how our daily lives would be impacted if such regressive laws passed.
Imagination can be very useful in a process of discernment. The Oxford dictionary defines imagination as: "the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.” Notice in this definition that imagination is a kind of muscle to utilize to form a new perspective, outside of, and distinct from, "the senses." Senses like intense emotion. Imagination is not emotion - emotions are what happen after we imagine something.
An emotion-intensive tactic was used by the Oregon Citizens alliance when they tried to pass the anti-LGBTQII community ballot measures during the 1990s and 2000s. They never asked us, as voters, to form new ideas or images for ourselves. Instead, they took very old ideas and concepts, then used those to create ads, images, and other ways of attacking the senses with a thousand versions of hell and damnation – hoping that they could convince voters that what they imagined to be true, was in fact true. Hoping to stir people into primal fear and emotional states of mind. Sound familiar at all?
During the 2016 election, each time I listen to Donald Trump, he doesn’t invite me to imagine – to form new ideas – instead, he feeds his own imagination to me, and hopes my emotions get so stirred up that I’ll forget that it's his imagination stirring me, rather than my own. Trump hopes that his imagination will be so convincing, so stirring to my emotions, that I'll just agree with him, because he will offer me an outlet for my emotion, and also, the promise of further emotional highs.
When I listen to Trump’s imaginary world where all Mexicans are rapists, where he can grab my pussy without consequence because he’s famous (though clearly, he would never do that to me, as I’m pretty butchy as far as lesbians go), a lot of emotions are stirred in my body. Imagination can stir emotion. But remember the definition? “The faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.” Emotions are senses – and Trump uses his imagination to stir up our senses. And for some of us, we just can’t get enough, and we’d even like to have four more years of it via a Trump presidency.
Frankly, I've had enough of election insecurity. U.S. voter, I just want you to know how scary it was for me and for many others back in the 1990s and 2000s during the anti-LGBTQII ballot measure campaigns. Those times were not scary because of our imaginations. No, reality was scary enough. The elections of the 1990s were bracketed by 6-12 months of increased anti-LGBTQII violence, including murders of gay men and lesbians. I experienced a few assaults at the hands of anti-LGBTQII people during those years, too. Yes, in “Portlandia.” I came of age witnessing the stress put on people whose status as citizens was put up for popular vote. It’s awful.
Trump chose to put a lot of people’s lives up for popular vote in 2016, in a way that I think the vast majority of you, my dear U.S. voters, find repulsive. Repulsive, because you do have an imagination of your own. You can imagine what a Trump presidency would do to the social fabric of the United States and the world. You can imagine what a Trump presidency would do to the U.S. economy. To the U.S. concepts of freedom of press and speech. I have faith in you, U.S. voter. Why? Because in Oregon, ultimately, voters rejected the fear and scare tactics of the Oregon Citizens Alliance’s efforts. They rejected the emotions stirred up by the fear tactics generated by the imaginations of the Oregon Citizens Alliance. My fellow voters turned to face people like me, and saw me as I was – a neighbor, a teacher, a student, a customer, a taxpayer, a fairly boring and predictable individual. They used their imaginations to consider what my life might be like if they passed Measure 9, 13, and second 9. In the end, voters rejected an imagined world of violence, fear and conspiracy.
Dear U.S. voter, I encourage you to use your imagination, your “faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses” because the use of imagination helps clarify reality. It helps to clarify what information, from which senses, you want to act upon. Imagination helps with discernment, for example, helping to discern what someone’s actions are, in comparison to what a feeling or emotion might suggest.
The thing is, on election day 2016, I want you, my dear U.S. voter, to listen to your own imagination. Don't listen to anyone else's imagination. Instead, use your own imagination to play out what will actually happen if certain decisions come to pass through the popular vote. Use your imagination, because I feel confident it will help to clarify what sort of United States you want to live in on Wednesday, November 9th, 2016.
I know you will make a great choice. Since I lived through the 1990s, I do feel some fear. In 2004, Oregon did pass an anti-LGBTQII ballot measure, which broke my heart. Yet, here I am, in 2016, f’n MARRIED to my WIFE.
Someday, I look forward to sharing a really boring Presidential election with you all. I can imagine two candidates who both have experience in governing a nation of incredible diversity of all forms. I can imagine two candidates, one I prefer, but one whose possible presidency just makes me shrug.
Tomorrow, we won’t have to imagine anymore. Our imaginations will be confronted with a kind of reality: votes.
So, get your ballot in. And imagine just how much warmth you will feel with your fellow citizen when we all say, together, "President Hillary Clinton."
The word “Sacred” in the name “Sacred Stone Camp” is often glossed over in mainstream media reports of the gathering of over 200 Nations and as many as 7,000 Protectors near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Sacred is a word that many white progressives struggle with, and that’s potentially why many progressive white activists and media outlets focus on the technical aspects of the Sacred Stone camp’s strategies, legal battles, and activism: it’s more familiar. But, what is lost when people say “Sacred Stone” as if the sacred element is an after thought, or worse, just a place name?
Part of why the Sacred Stone, Red Warrior, and Oceti Sakowin camps and the #NoDAPL movement are garnering worldwide attention is because of the images circulating of Protectors acting in alignment with the sacred, to protect the sacred. From Nations greeting each other in ceremony over a sacred fire, to horse-mounted Protectors in formation to stop pipeline construction, to women calling on private security guards to stand down, the Protectors of Mni wiconi act in ways that remind people, everywhere, of what clean, bright, resonantly clear integrity with the sacred looks like.
In contrast, when white North Dakota Sheriff’s officers don full body armor and assault rifles to “protect” the pipeline, part of what they are doing is making obvious how little regard for the sacred they have, and how out of integrity their actions are with their stated mission. The Mission Statement of the office of the Sioux county Sherriff’s office describes the office as, “committed to maintaining the public’s trust, providing protection, and professional leadership, by utilizing our skills and resources with integrity.” Clearly, the Sherriff’s office hasn’t protected the people from private security forces, nor maintained the trust of many of the people in the area of Cannon Ball - unless “public” means only white people, and the words “for corporations” were inserted after “providing protection.” The mission of the Sherriff’s office has sacred components, but the actions of the office clearly betray the sacred role they’ve been given.
Sherriff’s officers point guns at people whose hands are locked down to heavy equipment: where is the threat? Why is a piece of iron with a diesel engine more necessary to protect than human beings? It isn’t, and everyone knows that, even those who work for the Sheriff’s office. While the actions of the Sherriff’s officers, and the private security firm employees hired by Energy Transfer Partners, are out of integrity with their stated missions, the acts of the #NoDAPL Protectors are grounded in very sacred forms of integrity. Thanks to social media, cell phones, and the web, millions have been able to witness these moments of confrontation, of differing levels of integrity and groundings in the sacred, from afar. These actions have occurred for generations, yet now, millions get to see with their own eyes and hear with their hearts. The Protectors call all of us to deepen our own alignment with sacred integrity.
While I joined the Protectors at Sacred Stone, I spent time contributing to community and in doing so, heard many people speak and share from their hearts about confronting the lies of modern life and carrying forward that which their elders had given to them, along with their own sense of their gifts and purpose. The experience shifted my internal compass to a truer North, and I know my days will never look or feel the same again. When a woman who is a leader at the camp stood before the community of Sacred Stone and said, “This is a ceremony – act accordingly,” I felt her challenge, and her call. The Protectors call all of us to deepen our own alignment with sacred integrity.
I act accordingly – and invite you to do so as well. My integrity is grounded in the sacred, and from that place, I steer my actions, my responses to people and places, and my approach to caring for the Earth's resources and beings. From where you are, from what you know of the sacred, from what your answer is to the questions posed by the Nations gathered at the Sacred Stone camp – treat your time now as ceremony, and act accordingly. With so much occurring in the social fabric of the United States, bringing awareness to integrity and the sacred will support the best possible outcomes in each interaction. Not everyone has to go to the camp, or change jobs tomorrow, or stop ordering items from Amazon. Do what you can to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. And, in everyday life, follow the call, and act, as you are able, to expand the incredible forms of change occurring at Oceti Sakowin, Red Warrior, and Sacred Stone camps.
Driving out from Oregon through the Columbia River Gorge, I saw orange-vested and orange-hard hatted people working on the tracks that parallel the highway. I thought of the recent train derailment in Mosier, Oregon that sent dozens of freight cars filled with Bakken crude oil shooting across the landscape, bursting into flames. Flames of crude oil, causing thick grey smoke to fill the normally clear blue summer skies of Mosier. Driving East, I passed giant wind turbines dotting former, and current, Columbia River water irrigated wheat fields, golden with the Fall season. I passed a truck whose decal said, "Wind without harm," and had a symbol implying the creation of wind technology that decreases the harm to raptors.
While I am driving to the Sacred Stone Camp, the fight waged by the Protectors at Standing Rock is one that can be found in any square mile in the United States: what is the source of power, of energy, of appropriate use of resources, of sustainable growth for all beings and the Earth. Look where you live: what are your lines of protection that you are willing to draw? Clean, lead-free drinking water? Low or zero emissions vehicles? Organic foods and farming? These have long been considered 'environmental' movements and choices. The Protectors at Standing Rock and Red Warrior camp teach, now, that these are all one movement for the people and the Earth.
I drive East and I say the names of the people whose lands I cross, the ones I know, and I commit to learning the names of ones I haven't learned. Tygh and Wyam, Tenino and Duck-Spus, Wasco, Umatilla, Paiute, Nez Perce, Yakama, Shosone-Bannock. Spokane, Blackfeet, Chippewa, Cheyenne, Crow. I think of all of the people who live in the lands I cross as members of these Tribes, dancing and praying the ways of their people, people whose dances and prayers have echoed in these canyons, grasslands, and mountains since time immemorial.
I cross the headwaters of the MIssouri River, saying these names aloud. I think of my own people, descended from Ireland and Austria and Slovenia, immigrated to South Carolina, Illinois, Minnesota. I think of other white identified people whose ancestors came from England, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden in large numbers and forever changed the ways of the people already living in North America. Most progressive white people do not say the names of the lands they originate from, except in small moments of cultural connection. Why? Because so many of us are very aware of the genocide that white people committed when they came here. So many of us are aware of modern day white supremacy and do not want to identify as anything that can be seen as part of white supremacy. So many of us feel the sorrow of carrying that legacy and living with its benefits. So many of us feel the loss of not knowing the ancient prayers and dances of the people we come from, even as opportunity exists to connect with aspects of those stories and ways.
That is the history - today is the history that we make. Each of us. I go to the Sacred Stone camp not only because of this history, but because today's moment will define tomorrow's needs and the lives of the generations to come. Because I know that 150 years ago, there were white people who saw the harms being committed and did what they could to stop it, and fought and raged and grieved when they witnessed so much loss. Because I seek to share that story in the story of my own life. Because I have the chance to act to be a part of the change that the actions of the Protectors at Sacred Stone and Red Warrior camp have lead us to witness is available.
While I will work in quiet ways during my time there, the fire of commitment has long been bring in my heart, and will continue, long after I leave the Dakotas. And while President Obama's administration took an unprecedented step to act to align with the goals of the Protectors, it is a long legacy of the U.S. Government to stall long enough for attention to wane, then allow a project to be built within Native American lands anyway. The larger change must come from, and is available to, everyone.
Back in early June I first heard about the Sacred Stone Camp and the movement to protect the waters and lands of the Oceti Sakowin located in North Dakota along the Missouri river by ending the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Like many, I first heard about this gathering via social media. From the moment I read about the hundreds, and then, the thousands, who responded to the call to come to the camp, I wanted to go. But life felt complicated. What about my business? Who would do the work that requires a solo-preneur to keep projects going and pay the bills? What about activist strategy: is going there the best use of resources? What about race consciousness: is it helpful for a white person to be present? All of these questions quieted the response my heart leapt to, and so, I didn't go in June, July, or even August. I donated money, and I shared news as it came across my social media feeds. Each day, I looked to the sky and the sun and thought of the people on the plains. Each night, I saw the moon and whispered a prayer to the work of the people on the plains. Each morning, I woke wondering what it was like to wake at the Sacred Stone camp.
Then I saw video of white people holding thrashing, gnarling German Shepherds on long leashes as a group of Protectors stood across from them, and as D7 bulldozers tore up sacred lands in the background. I saw a white woman shove her dog into a crowd of retreating Protectors. The dog had more sense than that white woman did, because the dog paused before charging ahead, and didn’t go again until the woman pushed it from behind. I heard the cries of the people, and the shouts of resistance. In that moment, my heart leapt to a whole new level. The call I’d felt way back in June became an extremely loud and resonant gong.
I am going to Sacred Stone Camp. Today.
I am going to the camp to be witness and to contribute what I can. I am going to the camp to clean up dishes and do other small tasks that free up Protectors for prayer and action. I am going with supplies and donations. I am going with humility and recognition of the work that lies ahead for us all as we end the harms of inherited and present day greed, disease, and oppression.
And, for each penny I spend on the cost of traveling to the camp and returning, my spouse and I will be donating items from the Sacred Stone camp and Red Warrior Camp lists of needed items. For us, this is what we can do, right now.
What can you do, right now? Whatever it is, do it. Because this is a turning point. This is the gathering of energies and ancient wisdom that marks a turning point. If you have been waiting, ask yourself, what are you waiting for? Your heart, your spirit, your energy is ready for action. You define that action, no one else. Whether donating money, saying a daily prayer by lighting a candle, whatever level of action will align with the Protectors and create more available catalyst for change.
I feel an intimate connection to the land and the water, as healers and teachers. I’ve been on the path of learning the ways of spirit, earth, air, fire and water for all of my life. I have had many teachers. All of my teachers carried the same essential message: go with love. So, I travel today, traveling East, with love in my heart for the land, for the waters, for the Protectors who create a space of renewal, strength, and sacred gathering for warriors to use what is available to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as other threats to sovereignty and sustainable living. I add what I can to that space, each moment I travel East, across the Rocky Mountains, across the wide High Desert of Montana, all the way to Standing Rock. I add my love into the action of joining, and of providing what assistance I can in action and prayer.
It is my intention to share brief dispatches from the travels to the camp, and the return. I don’t know what is going to happen. If history is any guide, the Governor of North Dakota and the people from the corporation will unleash more than just German Shepherds. But if history is any guide, there are people within the State Police, within the Sheriff’s office, within the holders of state and corporate power, who have hearts that stir like mine do, whose hearts know a limit was crossed not just last week, but last century, and the one before that. They recognize the lines are old and worn, and the only response now is to be willing to put everything you have on the line. Everything you can muster to act differently than people acted before. To act with integrity and strength in service of turning from destruction to protection of life.
I am going to Standing Rock.
I am going to the Sacred Stone Camp.
A gift awaits - slowly unravels
Not through revealing, questioning, prodding or working
A gift awaits - slowly unravels
through the quiet of loving and the trust of opening
The willingness to hear, follow, accept and act
marry passion and courage
over and again
welcoming each with the love needed at the time
in the moment
The design on the front of the greeting card caught my eye as I walked past the nick-knack shelf in my office. A small bird holds in its beak the base of a very large, and very sparkly, flower. The flower spouts out fuscia-colored rhinestones, like some sort of ruby-volcano-tulip. Glitter-green type spells out the phrase: "Find your song and sing it."
I walk by this card almost every day, and most days I cringe when I see it. It reminds me of a time in my life filled with pain and misery. So why keep it, even though it has such a sweet message? I picked up the card to look inside and decide whether there's a point in keeping the card. When I opened it, I found, written in my own hand, the words that began this post.
Not through revealing, questioning, prodding or working.
In 2011, after experiencing chronic health issues for 3 years that limited my ability to eat, exercise, work, and otherwise be a human, I decided to undergo a partial hysterectomy. In 2008, when I first sought help, the doctors offered surgery right away. I told myself, "I'll do anything BUT surgery" to get better. I'd read all the statistics about the large numbers of hysterectomies in western countries, and I'd read the research showing that many were medically unnecessary. I didn't want to be another woman who, from what I'd read, underwent the knife out of supposed convenience.
Instead of surgery, I went to work on my health. I tried every form of treatment available, spending thousands (and thousands!) of dollars on herbal, homeopathic, and every form of "natural" medicine anyone can think of (yes, even that one that you just thought about). I watched my weight drop because my wrecked body rejected food. I watched my exercise habits disappear because of the physical pain and inflammation. I stopped visiting friends because I didn't feel well enough to socialize. No matter how much I avoided wheat, underwent acupuncture, drank tons of tinctures, smeared my body with herb-filled lotions, underwent massage and energy work, my body's direction continued down hill, wasting away month after month.
A gift awaits - slowly unravels, through the quiet of loving and the trust of opening.
In May of 2011, I lost over 15 pounds in six weeks as my symptoms ramped up to a whole new level. Miserable, I sought refuge and healing from the sand and the water at Sauvie's Island, with the migrating geese and the ever-watchful eagles. When I got there, I felt pretty shaky, but decided I'd just move slowly. On my way from the parking lot to the river I made it halfway across the sand and collapsed. Exhausted and hit with sudden sharp pain, the sand held me while I focused on oxygen. As long as I have oxygen, I thought, I'll be alright. I inventoried my possessions to keep my mind busy and out of panic mode: cell phone, warm clothes, rain coat, keys, wallet. I counted my in and out breaths. Five minutes later my adrenaline kicked in. I pushed myself to sit, then stand, then walk back to the car. Sitting in the driver's seat, I pulled out my phone and placed a call to my gynecologist. This was no way to live. I needed surgery.
The willingness to hear, follow, accept and act.
At the pre-op appointment, I explained that I really didn't want surgery, but that I also couldn't watch my health continue to fail any further. The gyno doc listened. She had suggested surgery three years before, so she was more than used to the idea. She said, "Well, at least you never wanted to have kids, so maybe that will make this whole thing a little bit easier."
I felt punched in the gut. I never told her that I didn't want kids. I think my doc assumed that because of my gender presentation and sexual orientation (butch lesbian) I must not want to have my own baby. Or I must not feel the longing in my own body, my body's ability to create life. The thing is, I did feel all of those things. I'd felt it most strongly in my mid-thirties. I knew that a life was available for me, if I wanted to create it. I could feel it, just there, on the other side of the veil, willing. I could feel the womb in my body respond with a deep longing. As I looked around my life, though, I felt clear that what I wanted most was to be an Aunty, not a mother. I felt the loss that decision generated, felt the available child drift away. Facing a partial hysterectomy, the finality of my body losing the ability to bear a child stirred a deep grief in my being.
Marry passion and courage, over and again.
I decided the best way to approach the whole thing would be to treat the hysterectomy as a kind of ceremony: a purging of 37 years worth of pent up illness, stickiness, sickness that I'd ignored, out of my own confusion and pain. I prepared my heart and spirit ahead of time for the huge release available through the surgery. I asked for help from the spiritual teachers and healers in my life. I asked for a guide to be with me through the process.
Aware that the hysterectomy would be a milestone in my life, an event that would generate a kind of "before and after" moment that people rarely have the opportunity to plan for, I decided to write myself a card in the days leading up to the surgery. I put it in an envelope and left it for myself on the desk. After the surgery, I'd find it. I would come home to a kind of wish for what I could have on the other side, after the release, after the loss of my physical womb.
What did I write? The free verse that began this post.
Welcoming each with the love needed at the time.
Once on the other side of surgery, I didn't feel instantly better. Instead, I moved slowly and experimented with growth. I learned to listen more deeply to the rhythms of my body, of my ovaries, which still cycle, even though I don't still bleed. Four years after a partial hysterectomy, my body, mind, heart and spirit are all strong and full of a vitality I have never experienced before. The health I enjoy today is not a result of the hysterectomy. It's a result of the jagged edge that the health problems I experienced brought me up against, and the choices I made when faced with that edge. I went to the place where my mind was so attached to a certain rule (no surgery!) and certain beliefs (if I just try and work hard, I'll get better!) and held to these stories while my body deteriorated beyond recognition. To heal required releasing all the stories I had about what it meant to be healthy, and to stoop so low as to utilize western medicine (gasp!). To heal required creating space to separate from the stories of violence, pain, and suffering in my life long enough to release the physical form associated with those stories.
In the moment to grow.
As I read the inside of the card today, in May of 2015, I felt surprised. Wow! That was some wisdom from my pre-hysterectomy self. Why did I forget that I'd written that? Why did I just leave it on the nick-knack shelf and frown whenever I saw it?
I didn't have answers, just habit, so I took Dash out on our usual morning walk through Greenway park. Dash and I were walking along Fanno creek when a coyote ran by, its chocolate coat blending in with the weather-stained cedar fences lining the west side of the park. The coyote jogged onto the paved trail, stopped about a one hundred yards ahead of me, then turned up a trail that led out of the park. I altered my steps until my feet mirrored the coyote's trail. I walked its path cautiously, quietly feeling the quality of coyote.
When I reached the trail junction, I looked up the slight incline and saw the coyote lying at the base of a large cedar tree. I froze, and waited. The coyote watched me, and the street, and the sky. It sniffed, and twisted its head here and there. A biker passed me on the trail, a jogger too, then three more bikes and 4 more joggers. All the while coyote, Dash and me shared the space.
The coyote eventually stood up and walked away, first towards a neighborhood and then back into a more wooded/grassy section of the park. I went on my way as well, looping back towards my house, my heart swelling at the magic of the morning. I turned out of the park onto the neighborhood sidewalk, thinking to myself that I must write about expectancy, and gifts, and the magic of circumstance, and then I saw a hawk feather, on the sidewalk, right at my feet, shed from a newly born hawk.
Post-hysterectomy, I've discovered that although I will never bear a child of my own, life is born around me in every moment. In daily walks around the neighborhood, the earth offers up new life, year round. Coyotes in the morning. Hawk feathers on the sidewalk. Trees, shrubs, and ground cover too many to name, even in the cold frost hours of winter. In relationship with dear friends and family, I celebrate children born into this world. I witness and share the joy of the connection between mother and child, father and child, aunty and child. Post-hysterectomy, I've become a student of that special force we call life, the manifestation of physical form and spirit, in everything around me. I feel life, follow life, listen to life, guard life, nurture life, as I am able, physical womb or no.
I've moved the card off the nick knack shelf and into a more prominent position on my desk. I want to take in the messages the card sends. Every day, I want to look at the front of the card and appreciate the reminder: "Find your song and sing it."
Even when the song is one that I've never heard before, and didn't realize I could sing.