What Mama’s do

While I attend my body
and clean the house
commute to work and home again
walk the dog and pet the cat and feed the hen
plant the garlic and rake the leaves
dance through the night and lie with lovers and walk with friends
I wonder why the world does not stop?
in the presence of so much suffering
I wonder how I can go on with life?
while you exist in crisis

My Mama-self has declared a state of emergency
she does not go on with the routine
she does not eat nor sleep
she holds constant vigil
bowing and praying, praying and bowing
casting spells of protection
making offerings to the spirits
beseeching our ancestors to stand behind you
I seek counsel as you struggle
to find your meaning
your why for coming to earth

I sense you
wandering too far afar
into the shadows
where hungry ghosts, chaotic consumption, and lurking predators
pull and tug at you
I do not know how this came to be
though I have theories
I scan my memory
searching for the moment missed
when I did not love you well enough
or I said the wrong thing
I search for the moment we slipped off the map
the one I drew in my dreams while you were forming in my womb
cracks and ruptures and losses come to mind
the countless mistakes I have made
I believed, once, it was all up to me
I was so arrogant
I believed I could rule our little world
keep you safe from harm
provide the tools for survival
the inspiration for thrival
the skills to observe and question
a code to live by
the freedom to become and belong
I believed I could create a whole new paradigm
a current just beneath the surface for us to swim
perhaps I still do, believe
only I can not do it alone
and not on chronos time

I am scouring the earth for the medicine
if only I knew what you needed
if only it were up to me
if it were up to me
you would know your worth
you would spark your own fire
remember the bright star you fell from
you would transform your pain into medicine
sharing with others
I trust you will do all of these, and more
centering and manifesting
on your time, in your way
I am no good at sitting still
and yet this is my task
so I will wait
I will live my life
and I will wait,
I will hold constant vigil
and I will be here,
imperfectly, at the ready

A mother’s love

when I open books
on grief
on living beyond loss*
on the wild edge of sorrow*
I find parts of me in every chapter
living with losses
perforated with wild edges
I can call some by name now
traumatic loss
sudden loss
anticipatory loss
ambiguous loss
unacknowledged and stigmatized loss
unspeakable loss
the invisible loss of absence
each one
a chasm
in my heart

where does the immensity
of a mother’s love go
when children are estranged?
does it surround her aura,
a throbbing, aching hum?
does her love multiply,
devouring her from the inside?
does it radiate off of her,
a searing heat?

how does a mother channel her infinite love in times of disconnection?
sing it to the moon?
keen, weep, and shed it each night?
bury it under every cedar tree?
rub it into her lovers’ skin?
light in on fire to signal a rising?
store its nectar away for their return?
apply it to her own heart, making medicine of the pain?

*I make reference to the following two books on loss and grief:
Living Beyond Loss, Edited by Froma Walsh & Monica McGoldrick
The Wild Edge, of Sorrow by Frances Weller
**If you are viewing this on a smartphone, line breaks may not be accurate and this may impact your reading experience.

A reflection…

After sheltering indoors for a week, protecting our lungs from suffocating wildfire smoke and highly toxic air, a fierce and cleansing weather system brought lightening, thunder, rain and wind. I sat in my garden this morning feeling astonished gratitude for simple pleasures–for home; for a lush garden; for fresh air to breathe; for damp earth beneath my feet; for the pleasure of sunlight warming my skin; for the caress of wind; the sight of trees bending and swaying; the rustling sound of leaves and branches; the ability to see the blue of sky; the luminosity of white clouds; for the wide range of aromas filling the air—rosemary and basil leaves, rain-soaked soil, the neighbor’s freshly-cut grass, the sweet-dankness of decaying compost. A week long sensory-deprivation from these basic elements pushed me to a new edge, physically, psychologically and spiritually.

All morning neighbors have come out of their homes to clean up storm debris, to tend their gardens, to return their space to some sense or image of normal. I see their actions as acts of love, of renewal, of habit. I wondered about my reluctance to engage in this behavior today. I surveyed the damage and neglect, minimal compared to the vast destruction across the pacific northwest. I wondered at the contrast between the desolation I felt inside and the resilient vibrance of the plants and birds in my vicinity. I attributed my reluctance to fatigue, to loneliness, to laziness, to grief. I was in need of restoration after all. I could still feel the waves of toxic-exposure coursing through my body, mind and spirit. My heart was heavy with grief for the destruction of forests and ecosystems I have known for a lifetime, for the loss of habitats, homes and lives. Instead of tidying up, I wept. I wept until I didn’t know what I was weeping for. And then I wept until I knew I was weeping for lifetimes of violence, disconnection, for countless losses, personal and collective. My cat lay beside me, offering a comforting, silent presence. Thinking back, I realize the felines in my life have often been my companions in grief, bearing witness to tears my fellow humans rarely see.

Upon reflection, I acknowledged my innate need to process, to reflect, to be with my sensory experience, to be with my emotions and my thoughts. After a week of living in survival-mode, and after the loss of so many beloved places, I needed time to pause. I needed time to reflect on my awareness of the unsustainability of this way of life, of the futility I often feel in my small acts of subversion, of the impatience and longing I feel for another world, and the longing I feel to live in a community of mutual care and reciprocity. I needed to reflect on my feelings of anger at the centuries spent stealing from generations of youth. I needed time to hold my children in my heart even if I couldn’t be with them in the moment. My daughter is, among other things, a dreamer. From a young age her nightmares have centered around her home or her loved ones burning in fires. My son, among other things, is a seer of truth. His early artistic expressions through drawings and paintings were all of smoke and fire, labeled so by him. Perhaps part of them has always known what was ahead. And now, as teenagers coming of age on the brink of a paradigm shift, in the midst of mass-extinctions, in a world bound for transformation, I observe their fear and doubt of the future, their rage and disbelief at the willful ignorance and cruelty of uninitiated adults, and their resilient determination to love and laugh anyway. I commit daily to doing my part in service of their future.

Sometimes I make meaning through movement, other times I make meaning by sitting with my experience, however painful and messy, by attempting to learn and grow from it. I am my mother’s daughter. She taught me that whenever I am curious, confused, or lost, to ask questions. In the asking, I have learned answers do not abide our constructs of time. I have learned responses come from unexpected sources. In the asking, I have become a lifelong student of attentiveness, of listening, of patience, of non-thinking, of not-knowing. I am questioning everything. I am questioning myself. I am questioning the systems that I am part of, assigned and chosen. When layers of familiar constructions of reality and identity are stripped away, when who I have been before may no longer be relevant, who am I? What parts of me are dying, already dead? What parts are still living, breathing, germinating, or even blossoming despite toxic conditions? What can be resurrected? What must be buried, mourned, transformed? What emergent realities are waiting to be named, to be summoned forth?

Perhaps

you feel time expand and contract,

disintegrate and reconfigure

around and within you.

you have been losing,

letting go,

shedding,

for years.

you wonder if the experience of having

was an illusion.

you have lost loved ones.

some left you crawling on your knees

clawing at the earth

weeping and wailing into the sky.

some, you cut loose

for growth and healing.

others simply floated away, quietly,

seeds scattered on the wind.

you have become so comfortable with loss,

you have forgotten how fullness feels,

how it feels to be held by,

how it feels to be with,

bodies of others.

sitting for hours on end,

in the shade of your overgrown apple tree

you observe the garden that claimed you.

you become silence

surrounded by sound.

you become wordless

in a mind shaped by language.

you are a vessel of breath

dispersing thoughts that want to devour you.

you await inspiration, or instruction,

a moment of wonder…

perhaps the canyon carved into your heart

is an opening into infinity,

readying you

for the greatest love of all.

 

 

A Rough Draft

Lovers of other times

are dropping into my mind,

for cups of coffee, day-dreaming,

recalling:

our dances of magnetism,

late-night philosophizing,

lessons in foreign tongues,

games of chess in the park,

melting flavors of pleasure,

sudden departures,

enduring friendships,

heart aches and heart hooks,

photographs and missing negatives,

love letters and tearful goodbyes–

many seas traversed and worlds gone by.

I wonder, is this the flooding review

that comes before a dying?

If I surrender to the dissolution,

can I carry parts of you, and me, forward?

If I have a choice, I will carry memories of feeling,

of our rare, naked moments when we let each other in.

And to you, you who are on your way,

I have heard you through the distance.

I have felt you in the space between,

flirting on the periphery of time.

you orbit, coming in close, then departing.

Are you a mirage? a soul projection? a mate? a kindred?

When we meet, sunlight breaks through,

casting rainbow arcs and amber warmth.

When we part, clouds gather,

bearing water and blue-grey cooling.

I savor the sensation of the brush of your cheek against mine,

I breathe in, capturing the earthy scent of you.

I long for our embrace,

the heat of our tender friction imprinting us,

the alchemy of our souls forming a new language for the world to come.

 

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When I think I may succumb to loneliness,

art saves me, every time,

as does walking to riverside.

Wildlife draws near,

stirring up some kind of magic,

reminding me I am of this earth.

I am rabbit in the meadow at dawn, vanishing elusive.

I am doe at forest’s edge locked in gaze, awareness pure.

I am crow sharpening black beak on river rock.

I am coyote bewildered on noonday city block.

I am midlife she, crouched, one hand upon knee,

one hand in a sacred gesture, relaxed and ready.

In the dream-time season,

the spiral of descent pulls me inward,

a deep breath,

a pulsing path of shadow and light.

I encounter you there in surprise.

Tell me,

are we ourselves?

or, are we reflections of each other?

Perspective

Today I walked an old familiar path through woods I have known since young childhood. Only this time I began where I usually end, and I ended where I usually begin. Everything looked different, altered on the flipside. I came upon unmarked trails leading into mystery–had they been here before? I had lapses of disorientation. Where was I? Do I know this grove of cedars? …this seasonal pond? this patch of horsetail? this steep incline? this creek? I turned in a circle. The path lay quietly behind me and before me. I felt, more than thought, I know this forest, this compacted earth beneath my feet, this April sunlight illuminating trillium and salmonberry blossoms. I know the unseen presences surrounding. I am known here. It occurred to me then, that perhaps I was undoing a spell cast through years of footfalls, or maybe I was weaving a new one–a spell of spring, one of transformation and renewal.

Parts of Her

Parts of her are held.

Parts of her are held together.

Parts of her are held together by stories.

Stories inhabit her cells

shape her thoughts

form her identity

radiate her heart

haunt her spirit.

 

She belongs to some,

and some belong to her.

Others have traveled from beyond.

All are interwoven,

all are calling,

all are longing,

some are begging–

to be recalled

to be told

to be heard

to be released.

 

If she tells,

who will listen?

If she tells,

who will believe?

If she tells,

who will keep her stories?

 

 

Will her telling be a mending?

An unraveling?

Or, will her telling be an unraveling and a mending?

 

She understands her questions are ancient–

that there is no knowing,

that there will be no reassurance.

The answers will come

when she begins–

and as with all beginnings,

her voice must rise from the dark silence of the unknown.

 

Lest We Forget, a poem for autumn

Early autumn days of waning amber sun,

eyes drawn to the weaving dance of contrasts–

light and shadow dancing through the trees,

shadow and light in a lover’s eyes.

Light and shadow.

Life and death.

Shadow and light.

 

The raw beauty of the world calls us to awaken with every new day,

lest we fall asleep,

lest we forget.

 

Summer’s flowers transformed,

hanging full and ripe.

These silent offerings,

willing to satiate hunger,

await the pluck of tender fingers.

A most primal, humble act of love.

An exchange accessible to those paying attention,

to those willing to act,

to those willing to fulfill the need to be seen,

to be known,

to be complete in purpose.

 

The raw beauty of the world calls us to awaken with every new day,

lest we fall asleep,

lest we forget.

 

Mid-autumn days of misty gray skies,

of flaming yellow, orange and red,

brown decay and evergreen endurance.

Harvests now gathered,

shelves lined with abundance,

and yet, questions linger–

like open, outstretched hands,

half-drawn circles,

tables set for company–

Will you enter into the natural exchange of love for love?

Will you dine in honor and gratitude?

Will you step into the circle offering your conscious, humble self?

Will you remember your purpose and do what you came here to do?