Life Will Find A Way

Life will find a way.

As I work with the quackgrass, a grass with rhizomes like cordage, a neural network undermining my garden from below, I am inspired by its ability to find a way in spite of my best efforts. That life always finds a way is one of the powerful lessons I learn in the garden each day as I break the surface tension that keeps me standing up, and kneel in the garden. This used to be a harder threshold to cross. Now it is a bit ecstatic – I get to lose myself in something so vast – be part of nature’s great wheel.

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I am not a Buddhist or a Buddhist scholar, but the wheel reminds me of this: Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhists have a beautiful image of the bhavacakra, a representation of the cyclic nature of life. While the wheel has profound symbolic symbolism that pertains to inner liberation, it also refers to the cyclical nature of life itself. For thousands of years, humans have changed their consciousness through finding ways to stand outside of this wheel. As a westerner, I am heir to Western ways of standing outside of it: monotheistic religions, scientific inquiry, and rationalism. There is a part of me – my consciousness – that is free from the wheel. But there is something oh-so delicious about diving back into it because I want to.

I love being out in the garden in the dawn and the dusk. The air is extra fragrant and I can often smell several fragrances at once – rose, honeysuckle, fermenting straw, and the soil itself. Rudolph Steiner spoke of the breathing of the earth. I can feel that the soil is exhaling in the evening, and I love being part of this exhale. Crows and herons go home to roost, and the owls come out, scolding each other with loud hisses.

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My life as a mother is often hectic, too loud for me. The evening is a time of romance in the garden, when the beloved in my heart meets the colors in the sky and a quiet rapture ensues.

I feel small and held. I feel as large as the sky and as small as a seed.

I feel agency, and I know that I am not in control.

I feel absolute belonging to the land. The land owns me. The land is my life.

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how to be of benefit?

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How can we be of benefit to Earth? Is it even possible? Everywhere you look, there is evidence of humans killing the world. It is easy to think that just because we drive a hybrid car, or shop at the farmer’s market, we are being environmentally positive or neutral. In fact, if we truly look at the impact of each item we use each day, from our toothbrush to our shoes, it’s simply staggering.

While listening to my friend and permaculture teacher Eric Conn raise the questions above, I felt that he had touched on something truly important. As the small cluster of us sat chilly in the darkening evening, thrushes wove the air with gossamer threads of song. Herons roosted in the trees. The beauty of the evening touched us in haunting ways as we let these poignant questions under our skin.

How can I be of benefit? How can I give back to Earth? Is a deeply human question, I said. It is an extremely important question. Humans have been asking this question for a long, long time. Too many of us have lost touch with it.

I am fascinated by the world’s indigenous peoples. While I am certainly no anthropologist, I am drawn to every scrap of information I can find. One of the the strands of information that I find again and again in my reading is this question of how can I be of benefit? How can I give back? Indigenous peoples see the ways that they tear life’s fabric, and they know how to repair those tears. In Guatemala and Colombia, gifts are exchanged between the ocean and the mountains in a ritual exchange that keeps the world in balance and brings rain. In Mongolia, offerings of milk are used to thank the earth before moving on. While these gestures may not seem like solutions from a Western perspective, they reflect a basic orientation, the dignity that comes with the sacred burden of truly giving back.

I feel that these questions are deeply spiritual in nature because they have no easy answer. They ask us to dig deep enough in ourselves to actually

Hold to (y)our own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with. (David Whyte)

Our own way of giving back is like a code in our hearts that we have to crack. Like offering songs and milk to the land, it may not look like a powerful solution. It may look like taking a walk at a child’s pace, or doing that dance that only that one dark canyonland can teach us. Yet it is our own scintilla, our own spark, of the earth’s story. Each of us has a very individual journey to find what amounts to our ecological niche. The old adage, the longest way round is the shortest way home, fits here.

As a society, we have a long way to go before we approach the level of humility required to really ask these questions. Yet, I can think of no more organic and therefore lasting way of changing society than to strike our own note clearly.

On my knees, in the garden, a relationship is formed that is different than the one I have when I am standing up. It’s like a membrane that I have to pass through in order to be humble enough to spend my life kneeling. To live inside of earth’s grace requires this of us, but also gives us many gifts. One is simply energy: the green growing energy seems to seep into our veins. Another gift is the dignity of engagement, of relationship, of contact with the questions of giving back.

 

References

Aluna. Dir. Alan Ereira. 2012.

Cave of the Yellow Dog. Dir. Byambasuren Davaa. 2005.

Prechtel, Martin. (2004). Long Life, Honey in the Heart. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic.

Whyte, David. (1997). House of Belonging. Langley, WA: Many Rivers.

Beloved community

The sap is rising this spring and Belovedjuice is slowly growing toward being a weekly gathering. The vision for weekly Belovedjuice gatherings is to create a safe space for those who need to call the Earth their Beloved. A space to revel in body, spirit, darkness, light, moss, stars, owlsong, dance, quiet, voice, dreams, and deep images. A spiritual community beyond naming…the only words that work are Beloved ones. Those of you who are drawn to be in this space, I invite you to be part of the dreaming that is creating it…and feel free to share your musings here…

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Isolation

I read an article tonight that got to the marrow of what is up. Not just with me, but with us…all of us. It is about the loneliness and isolation that is the shadow side of our supposedly ultra-connected society.

I had just come in from gardening until after dark. I was glad to sit down and read an article about a topic that immediately spoke to me. Thus, when my mate walked into the room, I just wanted to keep reading. When he tried to connect with me, I let him know “I am reading an article by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee about isolation, it’s really good, I want quiet for now,” and turned back to the screen. As I read on, the irony of what I had just done began to dawn on me. My beloved, who had begun his evening’s work on his own laptop, was still in the same room. “Do you mind if I read the article to you? It is not very long.” He said yes.

As I read the article out loud, the words became more alive, amplified by shared meaning and creative possibility. The second to last paragraph was particularly so. In it, Vaughan-Lee writes of the necessity of turning toward the ache, feeling the grief, in order for it to shift and blossom into connection. As I read it, I got a flash that this was the material we would be teaching in an upcoming class, our first work together after a long winter of hibernating. When I finished reading, I shared the idea with my love and the flow of the class emerged like an already-formed mandala. It was especially remarkable because after a long cloudy winter of not teaching I lacked my usual bounty of ideas.

The whole experience was like a template of the journey from isolation to connectivity…and it is just the beginning.

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real elders

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I was blessed to sit in circle with indigenous elders this weekend at Women of Spirit and Faith‘s Alchemy conference. It was an unexpected gift I had been longing for all my life. Not knowing much about the gathering ahead of time, I did not know I would get such an opportunity. As I sat with them, I found tears streaming down my face, as I was filled with the poignant joy that it was to simply sit with and share council with true elders such as are so rare the anglo culture.

It was a spiritual transmission simply to sit on the grass with these women. Completely in service, they showed me by example how to be in accord with the true purpose of the gathering. They were so grounded, each of these women, like a grounding rod driven deep into the earth. I found myself in awe, deeply humbled by the dignity I saw in their faces. Oh, the longing I felt when I saw that dignity, to become a real elder like them. Perhaps an impossible task for someone of my cultural background and perhaps not. Certainly not an easy one.

My friend Sheila Belanger says she likes to imagine a bridge between herself and the elder she would like to become. Spending time around these women feels like it makes the bridge stronger. It leaves me with a much-needed imprint of how to listen and learn from someone as well, while being set free to use my wings at the same time. So often we have the experience of one or the other. But in being around these indigenous elders, I saw that to listen deeply and receive wisdom in humility is actually to be given wings to fly. The imprint of how to do this will stay with me always. I will carry it into the relationships in which my independent streak has made it hard to be receptive.

As for the Grandmothers, I will be seeking them out. I will be sitting at their feet. Why? Because I feel like a human being when I do.

cleaning the kitchen first

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I like canning. I also like making soap, lotions, and potions. I like grinding grain and making bread. I like baking cookies and I like drying fruit, and I have a mature orchard to keep up with. My kitchen is always a busy place, but as you can imagine, at harvest time it can easily become overloaded.

That’s why I made this rule: I can do any kitchen project I want. I just have to clean the kitchen first.

It drastically cut down on the quantity of my projects! But of course, it improved the quality.

This past summer, I had a creative upswing. I had been longing for this for years. Dreams and visions inspired artwork. Even more exciting, they inspired me to start doing my work and living my gift. I dove in without a second thought and swam hard with that current. I was more than ready.

But then some things went a little far. Things piled up in the house. My relationship was on the rocks. My kids needed more of me. And when I looked around I realized, though I’d never left, there was a lot I hadn’t been tending.

And so, I have expanded the idea of clean the kitchen first. Now it is: tend your life first. Moment by moment, to ensure that my kids, my husband, my garden, and yes, my kitchen are all at a place where I am satisfied with my tending of them. That is really different than doing it perfectly. But us women, we know in our bones when we have done right by something, given it that something that lets it sing its song. Then I can bring my work to people. Then I can do my artwork. It may look like it is postponing joy and creativity. But it is the opposite! It is infusing every moment with divine remembrance and feminine presence. It is treating every moment as a dance with creation itself. And I get to put first things first and so sleep well at night.

And have more dreams and visions.

And best of all, sometimes I wake up to a sparkling clean kitchen. That day is always extra ripe with sweet possibilities.

autumn as a time of deepening into feeling

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As the weather takes a decided turn from the fire element toward the water element here in the Pacific Northwest, I find myself pulling all the bounty from the gardens, then turning the residues in. Similarly, I find myself harvesting what is most valuable from all the inner growth of summer, and turning the rest in…allowing it to decay and nourish whatever’s next. There is a definite slowing down and turning in going on. Often this can be accompanied by a sometimes uncomfortable need to become more intimate with my own feeling life.
In this culture, we have received deeply ingrained training to override our deepest longings and attempt to fill our deep spiritual hunger with superficial, fleeting pleasure. After 14 years of spiritual practice in which longing is central, I am still shocked at how little I allow myself to fully feel this primal need for the divine. Little wonder, as it is a profoundly transformative force when allowed to flow freely. As I am fond of saying, longing is the key to living with a felt sense of the Beloved at the center of your daily life.
To reclaim the power of longing to realign your life, a really useful practice can be tracking your longings and the ways that you may block that channel. Journaling is a wonderful way to trace these threads and take full advantage of the opportunity for growth that this moment presents. Here are some additional journaling prompts for you to work with. I invite you to write about these topics first in “stream of consciousness” style first, then come back to what you’ve written and develop it further.
 
– My deepest longing is…
– I block my longing with…
– I am being asked to sacrifice…
– The phase of my life that is ending is…
– The phase of my life that is beginning is…
– I am harvesting…
– I feel visceral gratitude for…
– I am preparing myself to receive the Beloved in this way…
– My way of approaching the Beloved is…
– I am willing to change…
– My role in the symphony of life is…
– I know myself as the one who…