Riachuellos, arroyos, rios… Fluid dreaming

There is a creek that runs the length of the mountain valley in which I was a child.

© Kre_geg  Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos-6155808

We used to play there extensively as kids, my sister, my best friend and I.  We would make forts in the pussy-willows, chop them down like the jungle!  Wade and fall through the water.  And there is a bridge, over which I could hang forever just watching the water rush below me.

We also played on the forested mountainside behind the creek and there was an entirely different and hidden world there at the bottom of the valley.

Follow the creek, about 10-15 feet behind it and through the woods, you pass first through a grove of aspens.  They were already tall then but still young enough to allow for lots of undergrowth beneath them.  — So green and light in that world, with the grasses and wild roses and other wild flowers growing there… It was soft enough to easily and comfortably sit on the ground and the three of us spent endless hours of make-believe there.

If you continue on, you come to a large clearing full of lavender rocks – some kind of metamorphic rock, maybe micaschist, but I really couldn’t be sure.  Anyway, this opening is narrow and long, maybe 12 x 35 feet, a field of these rocks.  They range in size from grapefruit sizes to very large boulders you must weave over and around to pass through.  They completely cover the floor of this space, though they aren’t really found at all on the adjacent hillside or water bank.  Just a treasure trove of this rock, mysteriously deposited there by who knows whom.  Being there at the right time of day, with the right light is like being in a purple cathedral, always with the sound of water in the background.

Finally, if you wander in a little further, you enter the apse of this sacred space.  A tiny opening, maybe 10×10 feet in diameter, surrounded by infinitely tall pine trees, allowing only the bravest of the sun’s rays to filter through…  A huge boulder guards the entrance to this vault and once inside you are held and cradled in its stillness, its coolness.

There is a tree that has fallen across the space and, at least at that time, lay rotting, open and exposed, the wood breaking into those tiny cork-like pieces.  But it was still in that stage, you know, where the life had not entirely left it.  It was orange and soft rather than grey and dry.  You could smell the mustiness of it trapped in that place.  The stump still stood and, in its center, two or three small pines were sprouting.  The horizontal trunk lay split open, angled like a sofa.  I spent hours there as an adolescent, hiding, running from the rest of my world.  I would just sit there in that trunk, reading, writing, crying… and filled with the peace of that space, washed clean by the sound of the creek, ever present.

*********

I dreamt of Him last night but He was a river.  Huge, maybe, in that I had no concept of any banks or borders and there seemed to be no bottom.  And here I was right in the middle of it, right in the middle of Him.

It was all rather deceptive though.  The sound was that of a creek – dancing, bouncing, playing, laughing like only a sparkling, energetic, bright-eyed young creek could do.  And yet I was being swept away by the depth and power of that body of water.  And I felt it as like an enormous and ancient river.  Steady, strong, overwhelming in its authority and direction.

I was left with no idea what to do.  I am a strong and confident swimmer but swimming seemed to be in vain as there was no where to swim to, and at the same time, I had this certainty that if I were to stop paddling I would just be swallowed up by the force of that water, by His force.

My heart was pounding when I woke…

How Good the Light was!

The Feast of the Epiphany , January 6, the last day of Christmas, has always been my favorite holiday.

Church Window in Belgium (Gent)

As a young child, I somehow associated it with lights and delights.  We would camp out in our living room on that night, wrapped up in warm sleeping bags, hot chocolate garnished with marshmallow cream, and the Christmas lights burning bright and joyfully for one more night.

Then later, as an adolescent living in French Breton, I was reminded of the connection to the Magi, foreign kings come to honor the baby Jesus.  Baking and eating gallete des rois (king’s cake), first hiding the Christ figure in the soft braided dough, and then hoping and searching for it on my own plate.

As an adult, the day continued to excite and inspire as I learned to understand the deep significance of epiphanies** and other wondrous revelations of self and life and spirit.

It could seem confusing and that transformation of this feast into so many different  significances was but the folly of my own youth and ignorance.  However, my view of the Epiphany as a gem with many facets is, in fact, reflective of the history of the celebration itself.

Originating in the Eastern Church, and not celebrated by the Roman Church until the latter sixth century, Epiphany was initially the celebration of Christ’s Baptism by the Holy Spirit as an adult, and then of the Nativity (the birth of Christ), and variably the Wedding of Cana (occasion of the first miracle performed by Christ).  The current importance of the Magi to the event was a much more gradual attachment (a wonderful reflection of the greater meaning of the Magi to the Church is given by NateAddington).

What was never in dispute, however, was that this blessed day was intended to commemorate the glorious manifestation of the Divine in the world, in the many ways in which Grandeur was revealed.

The extraordinary nature of this celebration was one that could neither escape my child’s eye nor that of the young Church.  And its greatness has warranted continued reflection and evolution throughout both of our maturing.

So, as always, I welcome this day with wide eyes and open heart,

Feast of the Epiphany

Celebration of Light and Wonder and Understanding and Illumination

reminder to continued growth and reflection and grace.  And I start with a meditation on Radiance, on how good is the light…

**epiphany(1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

I Have in my Hands…

“I have in my hands the standard manual of human birth defects.”

It is hard to believe that anyone could successfully begin a book in this way, and yet it is exactly thus that Annie Dillard begins her beautiful book, For the Time Being.  She eventually explains her reasoning saying, “For the world is as glorious as ever, and exalting, but for credibility’s sake let’s start with the bad news.”  And with her sublime prose she combines joy and heartbreak, sand and cloud, quest and discovery… in an inquiry into spirit.

IMG_6921 (2) bw2

I have in my hands my heart, as they hover over these keys.  And it would be wishful thinking that I would be able to express to you the beauty of a heart’s pain and bliss as offered by Dillard, for I cannot, but the intention remains just the same.

My intention to use this medium as a way to continue to seek and offer understanding of life and love and spirit, for as she also writes, “The more we wake to holiness, the more of it we give birth to, the more we introduce, expand, and multiply it in the world“.

I have in my hands a hope of harmony and discourse, both within my soul and within the community of seekers, thinkers and believers gathered here, “for the world is as glorious as ever, and exulting”.

Pulled from the Hat…

Well, it isn’t really a hat.  It is a box.  A bucket box, I guess you could say.

We made it together a couple of years ago, my partner-in-crime and I.  A chocolate box covered with pasted, cut-out images and words that give inspiration to our dreams.

Bucket BoxPeriodically, we remember and will sit down to both archive our already shared memories of fun and  adventure:

  • hike slot canyons in the Utah desert
  • attend an Easter Vigil Mass in Valladolid, Mexico
  • raft a class 5 river in Ecuador — on inner-tubes
  • dance in the kitchen

And to record those experiences that we would still like to share with one another:Bucket Box 2

  • learn the Salsa, in Argentina
  • ride a gondola, in Venice, Italy
  • volunteer at a wolf sanctuary
  • ride the Chepe Train through Copper Canyon
  • walk around town with shoes on your hands

They are not listed in any order, either the “Done” or “To Do” lists, but are on separate slips of cardstock, individual achievements and dreams that, when picked at random, always surprise and delight.

I am missing my son this week, as he spends it with his dad, and this was where my mind was when I picked up that box trying to determine how I would be able to order them in any way.  Should I actually try to prioritize them into a list?  Choosing the eleventh most desirous activity I would like to do?  Or should I just pick out eleven slips at random, writing about the last one?

And then I got a call from S, my most precious soul (my son).  “Mom,” he said,”look up YouTube!  Do it right now! Look up Running Errands with my Mom.  Click the first one.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t easily refuse anything my teenager is so excited about that he will call me up, let alone something about errands and moms so, order executed, this is what I came up with:

So, there it is.  The eleventh thing on my Bucket List.  Running errands with my son.  I figure place eleven is a good place to be.  Eleven is where you put something that you aren’t in a necessary rush to do (errands 😦 ), but something that you know you will get to and it will be done.

And it is just how many slips I might have to pull out of the box before I find something I really want to do today.

“She heard the clock strike eleven and three-quarters…”

And having recalled that her godmother, above all things, had commanded her not to stay past midnight, she was, thus, already nestled all snug in her bed, with visions of (?) meteors stuck in her head?

LONDON - BIG BEN - NIGHT

In truth, I don’t have many recollections of New Year’s Eve, and not for the reasons one may think.  I do remember Y2K, laying on a futon and cradling my infant child.  And there was the one with family and fireworks and he-who-could-have-been-Prince-Charming.  And another playing board games with he-who-wanted-to-be-PC…

But, in general, the place I most want to be at midnight on any given date is in bed, warm and peaceful,rejuvenating for whatever may come next.  It is true, that presently I am wishing that I were geographically closer to some of those I love, but I would have felt the same way whether it were December 31 or August 31 or…

ancient sundial on the yellow stucco wallFor the first day of the Gregorian Calendar — which was adopted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 and which has a way more interesting history than you would think (he actually ordered the world to skip 10 days that year!  True story.) — just has never been a very important milestone in my life.  I’ve never really celebrated it, I haven’t really celebrated the night before and I haven’t ever made new year’s resolutions.

Upon consideration, I think the reasons are threefold.  First, the kinds of resolutions that are most bandied about this time of year are not very applicable or meaningful to me.  I don’t need to quit smoking or lose weight or give up caffeine or alcohol.  I couldn’t be a shopaholic if it appealed to me and I no longer leave the dishes in the sink more than overnight.

Sure, I can eat more refined sugar than necessary, put off my laundry too long, and too easily talk myself out of yoga in the morning…  But are these the things that I would waste serious resolutions on?  No, I have deeper issues to deal with.  Ones that would require resolve and effort and energy — and ones whose failure to work out because of any lack of dedication on my part could devastate me.

Also, I am a summer baby.  That’s right, born near the Summer Solstice, my year starts six months from now.  A perception reinforced by the fact that most of my life I have been entrenched in some kind of academia.  Thus, all of my memories are cataloged according to school year, either mine (as student and educator) or my son’s.  And most of my life transitions, personal and professional, can be tracked on an academic calendar much better than on our standard one.  Summer is when my life shifts, when I would be more likely to celebrate and commemorate achievements and most likely to plan for change and new goals.

Finally, I was a Catholic baby as well.  And in spite of PG13 (see above) having approved the current solar almanac, the Church operates according to its own time schedule.  In the Roman Liturgical Calendar, January 1 is simply the 8th day of Christmas.  Neither the start nor the end of any particularly significant event.  No, the Church won’t mandate resolutions or personal transformation for several more weeks, not until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.


And I, for one, have always enjoyed Lent.  Of course, as a child, no-one really wants to give up candy or soda for 40 days, but it wasn’t like my mom allowed much of those things anyway.  Instead, she nurtured an excitement about giving to others through such things as Operation Rice Bowl.  And later, she taught me that Lent was not necessarily about giving up, but about doing what was needed to be better.  This may just as easily mean doing something extra or cultivating a good habit or behavior, rather than the opposite.  The time leading up to Lent became an important time of self-reflection and decision for me.

This year, Lent doesn’t begin until February 13.  It seems to have both good and bad timing. We won’t be able to chomp down on those delicious Valentine’s chocolates until they are becoming a little stale.  On the other hand, the Chinese New Year celebration begins on February 10, and will still be in full swing on the 12th, Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras as it is most commonly known), the last day for Catholics to glut and gorge and groove before the austerity of Lent sets in.

However, the Lenten season will not end until Saturday, March 30 which means that if Doompocalypse hasn’t happened before then, we will all be fried up, hungry and hollow, by a raging meteor on Easter Sunday.  Hmmm.  Appears a little more likely now that I think about the Second Coming and the Christian Apocalypse, etc…

Meteor in the sunset

And so it seems that I must be resolute in resolving any resolutions earlier than thought this year.

As mentioned, I am not as much for giving up things as I am for getting my self in order, and there is certainly more than a bit of disarray going on.  It is primarily my history that I am concerned with if my future is in any way in doubt.  (Lover of the Wild captures perfectly this sentiment here.)

I wish to be at peace with the people in my life.  Those I love, those I resent, those I’ve hurt and those who’ve hurt me.  I want to offer tenderness to each of us that we may better understand the other.  This will mean no longer being afraid to reach out to some and to admit wrong to others.  It will mean a willingness to give and accept forgiveness and to brave rejection.  It will mean generosity and vulnerability.

I wish to imbue my child with the depth of my love for him.  To wrap him close to my heart so he can feel that I will always keep him safe and warm and gently.  As he is a new-teenager, this will mean not being distracted and being, not just present, but engaged.  It will mean restraint and it will mean compromise.  It will mean patience and trust.

I wish to cultivate a harmony of spirit.  To reconcile the various dictates and instructions.  This will mean time spent in self-examination and in seeking out those voices of wisdom.  It will mean letting-go and it will mean taking-up.  It will mean courage and faith.

~ And so now it’s done.  Written and thrown out into the Universe.  Upon re-reading I recognize that I am always overly-ambitious and that my own perfectionism may be my greatest barrier to success.  But no time to waste on that debate!  With only three months to go, there are some things I’d best start doing if I’m to have my happily-ever-after…

Meet my Muse… name of Nemesis

In Greek mythology there were nine Muses, goddesses of knowledge and the arts.  They both personified and inspired such creativity as song, dance and poetry, and were therefore the source of knowledge passed on, at that time, through these mediums.

Woman at nature

It is both apt and ironic that I would recognize my mother as my muse, and she would laugh to hear me call her by that name.

Still, my mom is the one who exposed me to music and poetry and art.  She is a singer and loves to dance, and though she criticized my abilities, she filled our home with song.  It was years before I ever heard her say to someone that I was a good writer, and yet she had an amazing library where I found and devoured classic literature from Dante to Chaucer to Dickens.  And while I have never explored what I suspect (or dream:)) could be a hidden artistic talent, I knew my way around all of the museums and galleries of the nearest urban center before I could locate it on a map.

My love of knowledge and science and learning also comes from my mom and she did an amazing job at allowing me to seek out and question and discover whatever called to me.  A gift that I treasure but one I fear she may regret, especially given what I imagine to be her great grief at my current apostasy.  For my mother also gifted me with the presence and familiarity of faith, which to her falls primarily in the realm of religion, the Catholic religion.

And for that reason, my mom can also be called Nemesis (“the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris or arrogance before the gods”).  She is responsible for the things I most treasure, including my values, ethics and sense of self.  But she is also responsible for my greatest co-dependencies, my most hidden shames, and my most difficult barriers.

We have struggled always with the stilted dance of our differing wills.  As a child I waged a crusade to prove that I was good enough (for her? for me? for life?).  As an adolescent I fought for my own personhood.  As an adult I walked my own path, but with desperate hopes of recognition.  And as a parent…

Well, the battle, as I continually vacillate between resemblance to and divergence from my mom while working to be the mother I want to be, has been wearying to say the least.  It has not been graceful.  It has included shouting and being hung-up on, having my son witness her slap me and, worse, seeing my knee-jerk reaction as I slapped her back.  It has comprised much silence and the devastation of her actually saying to me, in the fall-out of an Easter morning family argument, that she had decided to no longer be a part of our lives.

I thought we’d never come back from that one.

And yet, as I suppose muses, musees (?) and nemeses must, we have.

The story of my relationship to my mother and my relationship to Catholicism is the same. It is filled with paralleled juxtaposition, with safety and strife, with constancy and contradiction.  It is an ongoing story, one, thankfully, in the process of evolution.

And so I imagine my mom will be a large part of my presence here.  Acting both as Muse and as Nemesis, her presence will surely guide and poke and keep me true.  And in the end, I hope there will be greater peace between not just me and the Catholic Church, but me and the woman who most represents it in my mind.