Equinox

A light snow falls
through the mist.
Across the river,
trees come and go
in fog that drops
and lifts like smoke.
I missed the first day
of spring in the ebb
and flow of human
busyness, crossing
and recrossing
the mountain pass
in forgetfulness.
This morning’s full
of burning things:
winter wood smolders
in the stove, the candle
wick, charcoal that holds
fragrant resin, late the tears
of forgotten trees. It’s cold
in the way of northern
Springs. Deep, clean,
a slow arc breaking
out of the dark.

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Leaning into the Small, Still Place

My recent transition from a Trillium Awakening Mentor to an Interning Teacher has represented a sort of spiritual blossoming for me, a coming to fruition of years of seeking and practice. And yet, I’m aware that, like a blossom, this time of transition will continue to unfold until it rots, dies, and falls away to be replaced by a new bud that will have its long or short turn in the sunlight of realization.

For me, the transition to Interning Teacher is both a culmination and a beginning. It’s both a stage in a process and a culmination. The process is maturation. My journey into second life brought me into a place of newness like an infant, seeing things through recently opened eyes, a world magical, non-separate, and rarefied. Over time, Being led me beyond this infancy to toddling and stumbling on the uneven surface of newly awakened consciousness; a childhood of learning by doing; the adolescence of boundary pushing and rebellion; and finally an unfolding adulthood of deepening realization.

Adulthood saw the emergence of a more stable awakened Being. Greater clarity about my conditioned patterns; dressing, redressing, and nascent healing of the wounds of relationship. Awakening of intuition and a deeper awareness of the paradox of trust in Being. These shifts were facilitated through IAM courses, Deepening in Second Life and Advanced Mutuality Skills, and the peer work associated with those courses and teachers. They helped me to shed the baby-fat of adolescence and young adulthood, hone my discriminating awareness, integrate emerging elements of healthy masculine and feminine, and lean into a developing self-confidence and authority. The paradox of knowing how little we can really know beyond our Self, and precious glimpses of that!

Mentoring showed me how conditioned I was to distrust silence in relating, to “know and show” instead of listening and reflecting. To watch as mentees shared and shed their own stories and patterns or looped around and revisited themes and behaviors or projected their shadows like puppets on the wall of my listening. The awakening teacher in me gained greater awareness of these ways of being in mentees and myself. The deeper my listening and holding, the more evolved my intuition until the light of clarity shone through my heart in a way that said: this can be spoken.

Transitioning to Interning Teacher was made possible by the many hands of my teachers, peers, and mentees. By the infinite patience of Being that gently guides us along our way with occasional pushes, shoves and surprising expulsions and explosions. It’s like watching a tree bud, the slow emergence of new life from the tender skin of branch. How can such beauty not hurt? And yet it is a necessary hurt, like birth itself, the stretching and accommodating of new life.

To be an Interning Teacher is to be a dedicated student of our living dharma; we teach what we need to learn, and we learn by listening into the small, still room of our heart’s loving wisdom. As the American poet Theodore Roethke says in his poem “The Waking,”

“What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.”
I’m ready to go where Being leads me. Will you join me?

On a Morning like This

The frozen silence seems to sing
in this bowl of white that sweeps
up and out toward sky. Not the wind
scouring down from snow, carrying
the northern light, scent of ice.
The ice itself is a music faintly glinting.
Trees, those lone sentinels, exclaim
along the ridge the song of wood
circling itself around a still heart
drinking deep from earth. And the river.
Moving its ever changing self
over rocks, flickering under frozen
eddies like a flame.  Like the fire
popping in the grate, last summer’s
rain in the cut grain of pine.

Poem

Sounding 

August first and the crickets sing

in the late night breeze that slaps

shades against sills. I’m naked

in the dark, hands slipping over

oiled skin, brushing away cracks

and lines white with dryness.

A mosquito bite on my buttock

burns and itches with persistence

of death. My mother lay so long

abed that her skin wore thin

as hospital sheets, ate and ate

so hungrily at itself. “It won’t heal,”

her papery voice said, helpless

and toothless as a child. Lying here

in my sixty year old hide

the hurt is like a hole of its own,

full of wailing grief, black

as the night sky, unfathomable.

 

One Month Today

How to Grieve

First the stone.  Let it settle

into the soil of your heart.

 

Then something worn—

turquoise set in gold—

 

that adorned her wrist,

square box of her bones.

 

Breathe your sorrow,

a bridge to what never dies,

 

its name the same as Spirit.

Let it test your mettle:

 

Let it fly.

 

And to Dust Shalt Thou Return

I just merged my mom’s and dad’s ashes, putting them back together in this plane. I know they’re together on the other.

It’s been her wish since he died. It was deeply relieving and healing to do it, painstaking and requiring full presence. They’re sharing a lovely cigar humidor which has been my dad’s solo resting place for 32 years, and I put just a little of each into a small brass aftaba from India that my sister gave me, a symbol of the larger one that held my dad’s ashes in our mom’s house.

She takes up the lion’s share of the box they’re in, and it’s fitting in a way. She was here longer, and we had a more complex journey. It’s weighty now. Mom’s ballast mixing with Dad’s fine dust. Maybe this is how they’re mixed in me, too.

A few years ago, I had an Akashic Channeling from a lovely woman named Jen Eramith, and I asked about my relationship with my parents. The message rang deeply true for me and came at a time when I was undergoing some deep healing around my relationship with my mom. She said that the soul contract with my father was very brief. We were friends, peers, it was light and easy, and when he died, our work together was done.

My mother was another story. Ours was a long and complex relationship spanning many lifetimes, and we had a lot of work to do in this one. This came around the time that I moved 3000 miles away from my mother, to whom I had more or less promised that I would stay close throughout the end of her life. She was already fairly diminished at this time, but still, she was a far stronger presence than she was in the last year.

I remember going to see her and sitting on the floor at her feet. She had one of those automatic lounge chairs that lift up to help the sitter stand. It was where she spent most of her day–all of her day except for meals. I felt such a pain in my heart to tell her that I had been invited by my partner to join her in Washington State. It was something that she had dreaded and referenced frequently. But at this time, when I told her that I wanted to go, she said “Of course, I will miss you, but I understand that you need to go.”

Her blessing was important to me. I knew that I was leaving her as she was entering the last of her days. I continued to call her daily and visited twice a year. I had undergone a healing in our relationship, letting go of the story I had lived with in which my mother was somehow to blame for my discomfort in life. There’s a way, of course, that our stories are both true and untrue. We are born into families and social, economic and cultural situations that shape our experience. We may be a disappointment, an inconvenience, a challenge. And yet, in all but the most extreme circumstances, we are still loved.

My mother grew up under Hitler. She was born in 1929 in Bavaria. She came to consciousness under Hitler, and she embodied the German style of child-rearing that is so well dissected in Alice Miller’s book The Drama of the Gifted Child. She was not one for coddling, cuddling or compliments. It was not her nature.

She gave her love in very tangible ways; she was fierce and she was always working, both in the home and out, to provide for us the best that she could. And yet, the parts of me that needed to be seen through my own lens remained invisible to her, or at least unrecognized.

Longevity is a gift in so many ways. If we live long enough, we mature out of the various stages of our own development to a clarity and wisdom . In my fifties, I found my way onto the path of awakening through what was then called Waking Down in Mutuality. I fell deeply into the wounds of my childhood, which are the doorways to freedom. I fell into various circles of hell-fire experiencing and burning away my attachment to the shadow story of my life. I was a disappointment. I was a freak. I was an outsider. I was unloved.

I don’t remember my mother ever saying that she loved me. Once, early in my spiritual path, I confronted her about his (over the phone–not recommended), and she said “I love you but . . .” at which I cut her off.  “There is no but after that mom.” She was stalwart: “I love you but you’re different.” Back and forth we went. It did not help either of us to feel closer.

As she aged, like me, the shells of her personality fell away. What was left in the last few years was a sweetness, a presence and relaxation with what was. Sometime in the last year, when I said, as I sometimes did at the end of our call, “I love you,” she said “I love you, too.” And once, only a few months ago, when I told her I was coming to see her before Easter, she said it unprompted.  It was pure nectar.

In April of this year, at a workshop with Trillium Awakening teacher Rod Taylor on “The Personal, Interpersonal and Impersonal Dimensions of Love,” I spoke this truth from the core of my being: My mother has always only loved me.

What a great blessing and relief.

When it became clear that she was declining, I flew out to see her the week before Easter. She was already turning away from the world of the living. Two weeks later, we signed her up for hospice care. And two weeks after that, going on my intuition, I flew home to stay with her until her passing. My sister had told her just the day before that I was coming. Hours after I arrived, the facility called to say that she was laboring–shallow breath and apnea. Laboring is my word. The vigil we sat with her from 3:00 Saturday morning until her passing the following Monday at 8:30 am was so like a birth. The long slow waiting for revelation, for transition.

It was a gift and a blessing to be with her, to share those fifty hours with my sister and her. We slept in chairs with our heads on her bed, our hands and arms holding her the best we could. We ate our meals, checked our emails, told stories, talked to nurses and family visitors, cried, slept, watched, waited.

And then, as Yeats said in a different context “A terrible beauty was born.” Her breathing fell into troughs of stillness.  It was only a touch to feel her pulse that would start her up again.  Ten seconds, fifteen, twenty. Touch. Breath.  Then she took one gasp, paused another half a minute, took another one, and that was the end.

I don’t know when I have felt such pure tenderness and compassion as in those fifty hours. I don’t know when I ever touched my mother so much or so lovingly, like a child, both her and me.

It took me sixty years to come to know the dimensions of her love, which are the dimensions of all Love. It is all encompassing, multi-faceted, sometimes painful and sometimes blissful. It is the nature of God, the absolute. There is nothing that is not part of it.

Grief is a natural part of the death process. It comes over us, comes out of us in the face of death’s mystery. It has its own rhythm, its own logic, its own mystical healing powers. It’s a force to be surrendered to. It’s part of the transformation, the ongoing cycle of integration and disintegration that we may see what is ahead of us and embrace it without fear.

She is at rest, and she is at source. She is mingled in the ashes of my father, and mingled in the air. Remember, o man that thou art dust, and to dust shalt thou return.  It’s a useful remembrance. What lives in us is eternal.

 

Homecomings

I’m sitting at the window counter at Huckleberry’s in Spokane, rainy Easter morning.  Yesterday I flew back from the East coast where I spent a few days visiting my family.  Our mother is dying, not imminently but surely, progressively from the natural process of the body’s dissolution.

It is always a gift to be with my sister and her family, their busy, multi-generational lives. It’s a textured experience of love. Being with her now grown children, my 18 month old great niece.  Aligned with the time spent watching my mother sleep, knowing that she is passing and that her passing will likely come while I am back at home in Washington. 

At home. I moved here permanently almost two years ago after half a decade of seasonal visits.  And it is so completely my home now. Just getting into my car at the Spokane airport last night, my body dropped into a deeper place of rest.  Spokane is my airport of choice for flights East. It’s marginally closer than Seattle and more manageable.  A few trips under my belt, it is its own kind of home with its various tree filled neighborhoods that belie their easy access to and from the Interstate. I know I will find a good meal and coffee and friendly, helpful people.

After a good night’s sleep, a bath, a pile of French toast and a triple shot latte to go, I can set my GPS for “Home,” and drive without heavy traffic or stop lights or towns, even, West to my Beloved, the dog, our home, familiarity.

In Jersey, church is finished, dinner is cooking, the branches of my birth-family tree come together to celebrate not just  resurrection but the deeper, pre-Christian holiday of birth and fertility with bunnies and colored eggs and new clothes. Our mother sleeps, partly from pain management, partly from life’s exhausting regimen. The baby gets passed from one set of loving arms to another. The circle is complete: birth, life, death, birth.  We all cycle through.

The sky’s clearing, sun burning through clouds. It’s time to get back on the road home.