Riding the Emotional Wave

Anger, fear, hate, and jealousy are great gifts. Finally we leave the spiritual mirage behind. We are no longer this sanitized being smelling of lotus perfume. We smell like hate. We stink of it. This is reality. This is unity, at last. Transforming hate into love is like putting Saran Wrap over a container of rotting food; it does not resolve anything. We must go to the raw and direct feeling. There is nothing to transform. To transform is to lose the chance that we have been given to look at reality. The solution is in the problem and not in its negation. The problem is a marvelous gift.

Daniel Odier, Yoga Spandakarika

This passage in Daniel Odier’s beautiful commentary on The Sacred Texts at the Origins of Tantra sang out to me when I read them earlier this week. I felt the great breeze of Truth, the scent of freedom in his words.

In Human Design, the evolutionary astrology based on the I Ching, I am an emotionally defined Projector.  To keep it simple, this means that I am wired to receive emotional waves that arise of their own accord without any direct external cause, and like all waves they subside all on their own.

My role is to recognize the wave for what it is and to take care of myself until it passes. Like ocean waves, the emotional wave picks up everything in its path. So it’s good, to extend the metaphor, to keep the beach clean and free of debris.

This morning a wave arose. I could say it’s because I slept poorly and had an upsetting dream. But it’s just as–if not more–likely that I slept and dreamt as I did due to the wave. As Odier says, the gift is in the “problem,” not its solution.

A lifelong transcender of difficulty, I have had a long process of unlearning this behavior. Getting the Saran Wrap off the rot and letting it have its way, do its stinking work of transforming itself. Seeing the natural beauty of rot has been a blessing. What is composed will decompose. This is as true of bodies as it is of feelings.

It’s bracing to lean into this. To be encouraged to let the raw reality of the moment offer itself to us. In my own experience, this allowance has the power to transform, to bring forth compassion and love like flowers out of shit. But you can’t start with the flowers. You have to start with the shit. You have to get comfortable with the buzzing, stinking, rotting of the moment with no expectation other than your own ability to remain.

Earlier in the passage, Odier says, “When we have the chance to become angry or afraid, we feel a gathering of energy followed by a dispersal. It is in this gathering that we can reach the sacred tremor . . . It is only rarely that we achieve a clear awareness of our emotion in the present moment. If this were always the case, there would be no drive to action, no manifestation of the emotion outside ourselves.”

The cultivation of awareness, to be resting always in its embrace, has the power to bring us into unity with the depth of our Being. Let the wave come. It knows that it’s not separate from the ocean.

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Bird Medicine

I had a magical experience here this morning that I could call “two birds in the hand.”

I walked up to the other house on our property recently vacated by our family who left for England yesterday to use the propane stove to boil water. It’s another rare cool damp morning here, humid and cloudy with heavy rain forecast later. Perfect for a quiet cup of tea.

I also went up to feed Frankie, the dog we’re watching who I let out an hour ago. I’d left the door open in case he came back from his morning adventure in the hills while I was there. While the blue enamel pot was cooking, there was a loud thump behind me. I went to the window over the deck to find a robin on its back with its head at an unpromising angle.

It’s important to interject here that I am famously squeamish about dead things almost in direct proportion to my deep compassion for and awe of all things alive. Still, I went outside to see if I could flip it over, see if it was alive, and to my surprise it stood, beak open, eyes half lidded breathing deeply and rapidly, its spotted breast heaving.

I took the moment to observe it as it seemed unconscious of my presence. Saw the red breast with the cream colored spots of adolescence. Its tiny tongue well back in its gullet from the long, pointed, shell-like beak. Small iridescent-winged insects on its back. The long articulated legs like red alder twigs in early spring.

Remembering the tea water, I went back inside resolved to check on the robin again before I left, thinking if Frankie’s toothy curiosity and Devi the sleek exterminator of things small and winged.

That’s when I heard the humming bird fluttering amongst the nick knacks on the window sill.

It was a ruby throat. Shimmering shades of emerald, tiny wings beating, lighting and lifting against the inside window even though it was mere feet from the open door and freedom. I spoke to it quietly as my cupped hands traced its flight.

At last I held it gingerly and let it loose above the clothesline into the gray morning.

The robin still sat in a daze on the deck. I approached quietly and put my hands around it to lift it to a safer place. Immediately, it came out of its stupor. Its feet found my fingers like small branches and held on, wings flapping. I walked it to some large rocks bermed into the hill rising toward the upper garden. It seemed both reluctant to release me and indignant at my interference. But it hopped down and away a few steps to regard me. It was a new bird. More sleek and alert. Beautiful in its gray morning coat, speckled waistcoat and sharp eyes.

According to Native American medicine cards, both the humming bird and the robin are symbols of joy. I held joy in my hands this morning. Attended joy. Observed joy. Released joy into the world to do its work.

In this time,as in all times, of need for healing, it was an auspicious start to the day.

Feast Day of Mary Magdalene

She is known in many ways, most notably, for me, as apostle to the apostles. Today is her day, a day in Catholic terms, to consider the mercy of the Christ. To consider and repent one’s sins.

I don’t go in for sin, per se, instead seeing everything as also containing its opposite. Everything being a continuum of what is. And the teachings from Her gospels also dispel the now traditional meaning of sin. Instead, Yeshua defined it as ignorance of one’s true nature. Ignorance literally means without knowing. You can see how this not knowing could result in the sorts of behaviors Christians think of as sinful. And how Mary of Magdala is conflated with the prostitute at the well.

Cynthia Bourgeault writes in her beautiful book, Understanding Mary Magdalene about the seven sins” cast out from Magdalene by Yeshua as referring to what yogis refer to as the chakras or energy centers, which Yeshua purified in Her to bring Her to Knowing.

This Gnosis is a heady concept–or maybe more to the point an embodied concept. For to Know oneself is to be completely hooked up, at home, all lights on as bodymindspirit.

There’s a whole ‘nother post on the Biblical use of knowing–the garden, the tree–that points to this embodied knowing as sinful. But that’s for another day or another blogger.

Mercy is my interest here. Today, nearly a week since the fires in Washington blazed a path to this valley, we’re getting some relief. We had rain today, more than the usual summer rain that seems to evaporate before it hits the ground but shy of torrents. And no lightning, thankfully. Seventy-five percent humidity. The smoke here up Twisp River Road lifting.

I unpacked the rest of my valuables from the trunk of my car. The handmade mosaic table made by my beloved that I use for my altar. My small collection of art and photographs. I reassembled my altar and lit all the candles and some incense and bowed myself in prayer for this Mercy. To be whole. To be home. To be so blessed.

Mary of Magdala. Apostle to the Apostles. Beloved of the Christ. One in a long line of incarnations of the Divine feminine. In Carnate–in the flesh. God in the flesh. In the body. Thank You all who have come into this human Being to show us the way to Knowing.

Equipoise

Today has felt something like a miracle.

After a day of uncertainty, a lack of concrete information and speculation, we learned in the early evening that the town of Twisp had been elevated to a level 2 fire warning. This level means that you should be ready to leave “at a moment’s notice.”

As dusk fell shrouded in red tinged smoke and flurries of ash, the fires that have consumed over 200,000 acres but have been largely invisible from here became more real.

We donned our head lamps and spent the next two hours winnowing out our most prized or irreplaceable possessions and loading them into the car.

We had two invitations, one to camp in our friends’ yard in Mazama, north of the fires and another to stay in the vacant home of friends down river in a moist, heavily irrigated riparian zone. It was closer, so we opted to move closer to town–and the fires’ edge–for the safety of numbers and a wide green zone.

Once we parked and got out of our card, we saw them. Garish neon ref flames hovering over town like the flames in gas fired stoves. It was frankly a bit terrifying.

We fell asleep to the repeating sounds of sprinklers beating out their irregular tattoo against the shrubbery and windows. My very anxious dog woke me at dawn, only about five hours after I went to sleep. I took her outside into the breezy overcast day and then went back to sleep for another hour.

By 7:30, there was a small group of friends talking over the news in the driveway. After breakfast we drove to town to check out the generators that had come in at the pipe supply store. We ran to Hank’s for ice, but the case was empty. The parking lot was packed and a number of fire trucks and men in bright yellow jackets rested around the perimeter.

The cooler weather seems to have changed the fire. We came home in the early afternoon to see how it felt here and to clean up from our somewhat panicked escape. It felt great to be home. The sky was high and bright with a feeling like fall. It felt safe and right.

We’ll spend another night tonight sleeping down the road, just to be with our extended family and be closer to town and access to news. To rely on the safety of green grass and wet land.

We’re leaning into trusting that we’re safe here. That tomorrow we can sleep in our own beds. With the cars packed and ready to go if the fire shifts direction, we’re prepared for whatever comes.

What a blessing to have so many options.

Wild Grace

This will be short. The fires burning to the south of us have taken out our power. I’m writing on my phone which, thanks to Volkswagen ingenuity, I can charge even when the car isn’t running.

Even without power, our biggest worry right now is how fast we can eat everything that’s thawing in the freezer. For rawtarians, that’s not a huge issue. But we are the lucky ones. Somehow, our slice of the Valley though surrounded by literal wild fires so far is safe.

We heard from a friend today that the fire is moving 50 miles per hour due to high winds that have come in with the new weather system that brought cooler slightly moister air this morning. That same sweet change has turbo charged the fire. The town of Pateros to our south has been completely evacuated and suffered heavy losses to property. On the fire map provided online, the town of Brewster appears engulfed. And the pale blue arrows showing the wind direction are the culprit.

We’re in a state of alert. All that can be done is to monitor the fire and try to protect “structures:” homes, barns, shops. There’s a chance that by Sunday, conditions will be such that response teams will be able to begin containment. There’s also a chance that the wind will shift and bring the flames to Twisp.

It’s a glaring example of the impersonality of nature. Last night at the meeting at the lovely old Twisp Community Center, the gym was packed to hear a thorough status report. Mingling garrulously in the crowd after the meeting was a man who was in a kind of ecstatic shock, like a drunk man at a church gathering. As he bounced from group to small group, he was met with such love and compassion. Embraced by men and women, young and old.

Later, when he checked out ahead of us at Hank’s, the local grocery store, the checker told us that he had lost his home. As had Hank, the store owner and his children. And yet, there we were buying beer and chips thanks to the enormous generators that keep Hank’s open for ice and water, food and gas.

This morning I had a dream about the fires. I was eating at some sort of gathering place when a crowd gathered around someone who had fainted. When the placed her on my table to revive her, it was my beloved Guru, Amma. I looked down at Her and thought “I should put my hand on Her brow.” And at that moment, She opened Her eyes and gazed at me, that familiar glance, both brief and deep, before turning away to look at the people on Her other side.

What does it mean? I don’t know. Something about the nature of Grace, there in the midst of chaos, and our tenderness toward each other.

Pray for our Valley if you’re the praying sort. Or do some kindness the next chance you get. Life is burning fast.

Fire this Time

I’m in my temporary office on Glover Street in Twisp, Washington watching the view a block away disappear into a haze of smoke from a series of wildfires burning nearby.  Even with the air conditioner on, there is a faint smell of smoke inside.  It doesn’t help that the temperature is 100 degrees with 16% humidity.

Every place irrigation doesn’t reach is ready-made fuel: dry grasses flank the hillsides for miles north and south, east and west and up and down the hillsides.  Everyone along the River Road is watering the lawns that serve as fire barriers around their houses. 

Yesterday, I drove right through the center of the fire activity once in the early morning and then again in the late afternoon.  It’s amazing how the wind conditions affect the fires and smoke.  At 8:00 in the morning yesterday, the temperature was around 70 degrees.  I had the top down on my car, and the air was cool, crisp and clean.  This was along Lake Entiat, one of the towns where fire is burning as I write.  By late afternoon on my return, sometime between 4 and 5, the air was choked with smoke, and as I followed Route 153 North toward Twisp, I caught sight of flames in the billows of smoke that shrouded the hillside.  Overhead, a helicopter with a large water bucket swooped over the Methow River, and small planes were also surveying the scene.

I’ve developed a persistent need to clear my throat, and a short walk from the grocery store brought on a fit of coughing.  I saw the firefighters yesterday in their gear, leaning smudge-faced and exhausted by their trucks.  I can only imagine what it’s like for them in the heat of the fire under all their protective clothing. 

Sitting at the counter of the Glover Street Market earlier, I heard that there were already evacuations as close as Carlton, just a short drive down the river from here.  Yet everyone is more or less going about their business.  Fire is a familiar for us.  I mean that the way I said it, the way cats are familiars to witches. 

Fire is our familiar.  It’s a destructive and sometimes necessary talisman, the polar opposite of the lush riparian farming culture of our place.  It takes what it wants whenever it wants it.  Like the heat, the fire demands respect.  It demands attention.  The smallest spark, a flash of lightning, a dropped match or flicked cigarette can set it off.  Even with our best behavior, it’s waiting in the dry grass, in the dry air itself, to ignite. 

It’s another reminder that we are only renting here, only resting.  Landslide, flood, fire.  Nature is always in control.

Sun Day

Well, it’s just reached 104 degrees here in Twisp. I’m sitting in my room with the curtains drawn, the window closed and the ceiling fan on, and really it’s perfectly comfortable. Which is a blessing.

I started a load of laundry at the beginning of the World Cup game, which was a bit of a mistake given how long it ran. I dashed outside barefoot to try to get things on the line before it went into overtime. The cement beneath the clothesline was excruciatingly hot, so I dashed back inside for my flip flops, but the game was starting again, so I pushed the basket under the kitchen table into the deeper shade of the house until the next break.

Fifteen minutes later, when I went out to hang a few more pieces, the ones I had hung before the OT were dry. Seriously. It’s that hot.

When I got up this morning, it was 73 degrees, so it rose 30 degrees in eight hours, and in eight more it’ll be back down somewhere in the high seventies. And so on throughout this week and maybe into early August.

This has been a little bit of an adjustment for me. Yesterday, I helped staff a table at the Twisp Market with one of our Board members to meet more of the community and share some of the beautiful work from last year’s classes. We had a canopy, but the temperature went up to 100 by late afternoon, and despite drinking water and lemonade (and later beer and then more water and tea and more water and more tea), I felt pretty ill by bedtime. We’d had a friend visiting from Minnesota, and we went out to a sweet little restaurant here in town. By the end of the meal, I felt absolutely ill and done in. My partner suggested that I had a little bit of sunstroke, and I think she might have been right.

If I could brave the descent, I would be down in the ditch cooling off. Instead, I just used the pump at the back of the house to wet my head before I sat down to write this. My hair, which you may know, reaches nearly to my waist, is now dry. The dog is snoring beneath the bed taking advantage of the cool cement floor. I can feel the sun panting against the blocked windows. I bear it no grudge.

Earlier today, as I drove back from dropping our Minnesotan back in town at his car, I was thinking about the snow-capped mountains in my view, the ones he crossed on his way here from visiting family in Seattle. There’s still some snow on the roadside at the peak he said. And yet, there’s not really enough.

We’ve turned up the heat on this watery world of ours such that our built in air-conditioning is permanently on the fritz. Driving cross-country, the trucks that move our goods from point A to point B were my main companions. What does that cost today? How much more fuel does it use than the trains that they replaced? And the cars, those all-American symbols of independence, each of us dashing around in our pods gobbling up oil and spewing out the gases that are slowly killing us.

So, yes. It’s hot. And maybe it’s hotter than it used to be or should be–whatever that means. As our climates change, we have to adapt. It’s both Darwinian and right.

Once the sun goes down, I’ll retrieve the rest of my laundry from the line. By bedtime I’ll be able to open the window and the door to let in the mountain air, that promise, that nectar that pours down nightly from the heavens. And in the golden glow of the newly waning moon, I will offer up my prayer of thanks for this life that thrives amidst the paradoxes of living.