The Thin Light of the Moment

fireThere’s no better time than this moment right now, while that sliver of love is just barely still present in the night sky, to light a fire, to burn off some of the old and extraneous, and make room for something new.

It’s like our souls know this. It’s time again, they whisper. Or perhaps it’s just the souls of those of us who have always been conscious of the rhythms of the universe, those of us who have bled with these rhythms, those of us who know that it is a good thing to shed that which has become unwieldy and far too heavy. Perhaps it is just the souls of those of us who knew, even as children, the comfort offered by a patch of grass and a cold windy dawn, those who have always ached with the beauty of nature and known our connection to the air and water and soil and the process of photosynthesis, which truly and literally are our essence, our life.

Perhaps this sitting by the thin light of a sliver of a moon and a bonfire is only for those of us who know the only hope for our sometimes deeply-eroded and polluted joy is exactly the same one we hold for our broken oceans and lands: take a step back from immediate gratification and remember our origins: We are made of the earth; we are divine cosmic miracles, with an innate ability to renew and heal and create.

So light the fire, and exhale, exhale, exhale. Exhale the heavy particles that have for so long robbed you of vitality. Inhale hope. Trust the alchemy our bodies and souls are capable of in the dark of the night, alchemy that has turned rage to courage and joy before, and can do it again. Trust our enormous capacity to tolerate and survive and gather up the scattered pieces of our lives. We need not fear the ache in our bones and mitochondria; we need not fear our rage; we need only compassion for it in ourselves, and in each other. Though it may be a craggy high place we have climbed to, we need only to keep returning to oxygen, to our hearts, sore as they may be, and we’ll find that even at this altitude we can light a fire, and find enough air to breathe.

So by the light of the fire, we wait. We wait for the sliver of love hanging in the sky to grow into bright and pregnant fullness again.

And as we wait, we’ll find that, even here, our voices can remain both strong and gentle. We’ll find that the words so often stuck in our throats can return to facilitate the transformation that takes place in our bodies when our truth reaches the ears of an empathetic human being who too has sat often by this same fire. We’ll find that as our words land upon the soul of that other, it becomes possible to integrate a little more of what we know in our minds and our bodies. We’ll see that those scattered bits of soul lying all around us are still glowing, waiting to be loved and reintegrated. It is here in the soft darkness that we, like the naked infant in the incubator, grow strong.

Here, in the firelight, we know deeply that we are not kings of the universe, but rather keepers of it, part of it. We know deeply that we carry within us an ultimately indestructible divine essence. We begin to know at the level of our mitochondria that there is no shame in not having filled the soul of another by reflecting exactly what they wanted us to reflect, no shame in not fitting a convenient template. It is here we learn that there is no shame in the ways we’ve found to carry on, and there is no shame in our needs, our thoughts, our creativity, our desires and dreams and feelings. There is no shame in putting an end to mirroring what others are begging us to mirror, no shame in asserting that this, what we are putting forward now, though not what they had hoped, is in fact who we are. There is no shame in having thought for too long we might fill their emptiness. There is no shame in being female, and there is no shame in saying no. There is no shame in the rips and patches in our party dresses; we’re still coming to the party.

It is here, waiting by the fire, that we know the pointing fingers of others simply mean they have forgotten how to see and feel and feed their own souls in the thin light of the moment.

(Photo credit: Marcus Obal, Wikimedia Commons)

All Hallows’ Eve

I held you in my dreams that night, like I used to, when you were afraid long ago. I didn’t know yet exactly the features of the thing that had broadsided me, and then you, but I had seen it’s shape in the dark, and it brought tears even before full impact. And you were so kind, giving to me that afternoon before you felt its full impact.

I’ve known for some time this day would come, a very long time really.  And though I didn’t know its features exactly, not like I know the features of your face, I knew its shape, I knew it would come and land in our house. I thought my fear might stop it, but fear stops nothing.

Now that it’s here, it helps a little to see its face more clearly, its features, its origins. Still, it hurts as much as I feared. How can it not, when the patches have just come from your eyes, the skin off your flesh, and it has reminded me so much of how my own came off? How can it not when I know how it has all come to be, and that it could not be any other way?

But I have to thank you for being the one to hand me the floodlight to see it all clearly this time. You amaze me sometimes.

A good floodlight, in the form of words on a page, or the face of another who is intimately familiar with the features of the thing that broadsided you, can be a wonderful thing. It is how we see fully the dynamic that injured us, and the exact nature of the injury, which of course is necessary to know which bones to set, which medicines to take. It is what is necessary to help us get our bearings, to see exactly where we are, and where we must go next. It illumines the ground on which we find ourselves in the wake of the collision, and helps us recognize exactly what we must mourn in order for our souls to regenerate.

We, all of us in one way or another, stand on a ground of so many losses. They comprise our foundation as much as does the solid, good beauty beneath us. And the losses are as worthy of traditions that honor them as is the bounty we celebrate at Thanksgiving—it has been my experience that it is only in properly honoring them that they can transform from something rigid and toxic into something fertile and sustaining, something firm enough to support both the laughter and the tears.

You have surveyed other crash sites by other floodlights, I know, but this floodlight is perhaps the brightest and most painful yet.

This lingering on what has come into sharp focus, I can hear some of you saying, is unnecessary; focus on the positive. I disagree. Because without the searing honesty of the floodlight at the scene of the collision, none of the truth of it—not our fears, nor the ways we found to survive, nor the injuries sustained—will be laid out bare and naked, which is essential if we are going to be able to discern exactly what has been broken, where the flow of blood needs stanching, what needs mending, and later, which muscles need exercise.

This is the reason I need to put into words the darkness and the fact of the collision scenes we sometimes find ourselves sitting at. Words have the power to bring to the surface the tears we need to shed. Words have the power to take that which is within and lay it out where it can be seen, where others can help us pick up the shards and help us mourn. And unless we mourn, we cannot grow the soul and resilience we need to live fully.

It is by the illumination of the floodlight that our resistance is disarmed and we can begin to honor that which we find in the dark and transform it into something new and life-sustaining. It is how we can begin to see that things could not have been any other way, how we let go of resistance, shame, and blame. It is what enables us to stop saying If Only. It illumines exactly how our flexibility and bounce have been eroded, how our backs and kidneys have become fatigued, and how we might heal. It is in the light of the floodlight that suffering can begin to ease, that we find the strength to bury that which must be buried.

Our nights are getting so long now. The ground is spread with red and yellow as striking, in their own way, as the blooms of spring. It’s a good time to honor that which darkness read and yellow leavesrepresents, a good time to be coming up on All Hallow’s Eve, a good time to remember that life and death, joy and sorrow are hallowed, worthy of honor. And it’s a good time to be thankful for light that illuminates the darkness.

And you, heart of my heart, will not be alone as you do this work; you too have an entire tribe of us who have gone before you standing there with you.

Give Thanks

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Time unspools. Colour is more intense, darkness darker, and gratitude both deeper and at times as elusive as ever.

But it’s Thanksgiving in a few days, and the sun is shining, and it is time to set aside that which must still be sorted before it will be gracefully borne. So, for the holy spark of light and love that brought me into being, I give thanks. For the abiding, undying love of my parents, and for the immense sacrifice they made in coming to this country of maple leaves and maple syrup, wide-open spaces, and a brutal language with more exceptions than rules.

For the kisses and laughter and boundless love of my babies. For the hugs of my adult children. For their dreams and strength and optimism and purpose, and the ways they have taken the best from both their parents to make the world a better place.

For those who help us up when we fall, those bring us a blanket, and those who know something of mercy and grace and forgiveness. For the lover who wraps her soul around us when our skin makes contact.

For legs that move, muscles that carry, joints that (sometimes at least) flex, and for the massaging hands that break up the concrete that, from time to time, insists on settling in living tissue. For blue skies and grey skies, for sun and wind and rain and snow, for air to breathe, and lungs with which to breathe. For the strong and brilliant metal that can form, with time and patience and a little pressure, from ash.

For those who make us laugh, and those who help us weep and shed the brine we sometimes carry in our tissues. For those who help us find our way back when we get lost. For deep and dreamless sleep. For the music we carry in our souls, and in our iPhones. For optimism that rises again and again.

For the truth of the soul—love—that rises ever nearer the surface with the thinning and wrinkling of our skin. For these and more, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.

The New Moon

fall trailI’m waiting this week, waiting, waiting, waiting. Preparing to say good-bye to the perfection of bare feet and hot coffee outdoors on fresh mornings, cool air sneaking in under my robe. Making peace with the arrival of yellow wet leaves on the ground, preparing for colder skies on the horizon.

At times like this, with the light getting thinner daily, my body tells me to check the impulse to chase hard after what I want. It tells me—demands, really—I need to take a step back and gather my energies, tidy up, regroup, allow the wind at my back to gain some momentum again, and wait for the images and thoughts crossing the terrain of my brain to sort themselves out a little.

So I cleaned the hard water deposits from the shower glass, and put the thin cotton dresses to the back of the closet, and tied up some loose ends on projects nearly finished. But the big projects in early stages—those that require a clear mind and abundant creative energy—those I’ve put on hold as I exhale and, once again, try to surrender. Surrender to the reality of some mountains now too big to climb, the reality of failures that have left in their wake very real limitations or a club of shame, the reality of nighttime dreams that leave a bruise.

I walked in the cool air, and picked up fresh produce for a fall soup. The beauty of fall is stunning. How is it that beauty sometimes heightens the visibility of tarnish and erosion?

Clear in my mind today are the faces of friends and family, the faces of those bearing fresh wounds, and the faces of those who have lost over and over again, for decades, lines now deeply etched into their skin. The faces of those who have lost—or watched horrible injury to—a parent, or a lover, or a child. The faces of those who have borne witness to, over and over again, those trying to manage these heavy burdens.

Someone reminded me last night that neither our lives nor those of our children are truly ours to cling to with ownership. Still. The faces of our babies sometimes seem as much a part of us as our arms and legs and hands and feet, our beating hearts. We want them joyously alive.

Warmth is thinner now; my skin seems thinner too. But alongside the chill, and equally real, is the warmth of those among us who have a stunning capacity to hold the grief of others alongside their own, literally hold it for a while, for those who need a moment’s rest. I love them for this, this ability to be the moon when the one in the sky is yet too new to be visible.