For the last month I have been participating in an amazing practice called Wild Writing, a writing approach developed by Laurie Wagner of 27 Powers. The practice involves listening to a poem, and using it as a jump off point to write, straight from the heart and soul, for 15 minutes, no editing, just, as she says, pen to paper, words to page. Today's prompt spoke to me, and so I am sharing a slightly edited version. I think I could write from this prompt for a very very long time.
Where I'm From
Where I'm from is the land of milk and honey, where blood runs in the streets and nation lifts up sword against nation, and all people know war forever more.
Where I'm from, fig trees blossom, waving their lazy hands to the whispering olive branches next door; the heat bakes the stone streets reflecting white and cool on bare feet in the shadow of laughing children.
Where I'm from, prayer is the language of love, sounding as the song of autumn leaves, crunching beneath feet and rising in a swirl of a rogue breeze.
Where I am from, a place to call home was always uncertain. Always welcomed, until we weren't, the option to comply and convert, subvert or flee. Perhaps, where I'm from, some chose to stay but those names and faces are lost to history.
I am from hard-working dreamers and stow aways, building new worlds, forever leaving behind their Hungarian accents, Yiddish language, and careers as doctors and dentists. I am from laundromat owners and linen supply companies, carpenters and basement dentists, and matriarchal home-makers. First-generation Jews in America, trying to find a balance between tradition and transformation, between all that was once known and all that could be dreamed.
Where I'm from day follows night, night follows day, in an undulating rhythm, eyes open as light touches lids, birds and brush call for songs and tending.
Where I'm from, humans might not be welcome, and that includes me. How this can be so is a peculiarity of psyche; a trick played on itself in an endless taunt that it never seems to tire of, much like the playground bully, or a dog with a bone.
Where I'm from, laughter is always desired but rarely found. And what I speak of is the full belly laugh, the roar of the internal tickle that starts with a chuckle and like a spark that bursts into flame, explodes into the cosmos and reverberates across universes.
Where I'm from, the rib cage cannot contain the fullness of expression ready to explode into the mystery of creation and so everyone walks around blooming from every pore, blossoms spilling forth for all to see. And where I'm from, it is only natural for those blossoms to wilt and dry and turn to seed, and this too is part of the reverence.
The Washing of Hands as a Sacred Act
We are being told we must wash our hands. After we touch our face. After we touch a door handle. After we are outside. And if we can't remember the last time we wash, we wash again.
Water is Life.
We are washing our hands much more often and for longer periods than ever before. We are told that singing "Happy Birthday" will give the optimal length of time for removing all traces of the virus hitching a ride on our hands.
Water is Life.
What if, while we scrub and watch the bubbles clearing away and neutralizing harmful microbes, we remember that the clean drinking water pouring out the faucet is precious, necessary, and finite. That we bring to our consciousness how privileged we are to have not just water, but clean, pure drinking water, at the mere turn of a knob and how carelessly we are indifferent to this gift.
Water is Life.
What if, during those 20 seconds, whilst scouring between our fingers and under our fingernails, we were to turn off the flow of water and take those moments in time to root ourselves, to ground, and to send out a blessing and a prayer of gratitude for the water that will rinse away the remains of the microscopic particles waging war on humanity. Suppose, instead of singing and repeating Happy Birthday, an easy ditty that marks time (yet also represents our obsession with the individual), we breathed deeply into the awareness of the water that flows in our own bodies, carrying nutrients, hydrating cells, and giving us life.
Water is Life.
What if we turned off the water, slowed down for a moment as we washed, and offered our own personal prayers of the moment. Prayers for loved ones, for those on the front lines in our hospitals working to save lives, for the planet who is having a moment of respite from our ceaseless consumption, for humanity. What if we all placed our favorite passage, poem, song, or prayer on the mirror over the sink, and recited it with purpose and intention. What if we honored those collections of 20 seconds with the respect they are due, as they very well may be saving our lives. What life would you like to live? The Happy Birthday life as you knew it? Or is there a way to go deeper, to be more connected, more grounded, with a remembrance that we are all of this earthstuff? What if this time is a gift, an opportunity to participate in a shift toward greater awareness of what we are, what we want to create, and how we wish to make manifest our own personal connection to this planet and all that live here.
Water is Life.
Let us honor it.
A beach walk looking out over the endless sandbar of shorebirds. At some invisible signal all rise into the air, a formation sorted by species, and circle the shore before settling a quarter mile down the coast. Tastier treats? A hidden predator unseen my by obtuse human eyes and senses?
One lone gull slowly makes its way along the muddy tidal flats, one leg in front of the other.
Step, step, step.
A long feather drags along its right side, making it look three-legged and unsteady. Or perhaps, a regal look, a slow and intentional walk down the beach, it’s feather train lightly trailing in the the sand.
I think it’s wing is broken, I say aloud. The woman looks contemplatively at me. Your wing is broken, too, she says, and I look down at my arm bound up tenderly in it’s sling.
Indeed, it is.
For me, this is no life or death scenario. In fact, this time given for me to walk the shore, to connect with the sand and the waters, is possibly saving me, the opposite of the likely death sentence that a broken flight feather is to that gull.
Nothing to do.
I watch the bird slowly make its way, alone, the others long gone to better feeding zones. Thirty minutes later, as I meander back the other direction I see it again, now resting on a sand bar, belly flat on the sand. Shortly it stands, spreads its wings, flaps once, and, finding its’ wings unusable, unable to function in their intended capacity, the gull folds them back into place and begins, once again, the slow paced movement that now is it’s life.
As for me, my wing will heal, and I will be all the stronger for it. My predators will not find me weakened. This is no death sentence. My life will continue, my broken wing just a memory, a story to tell, for these are not the things that destroy us.
Our damaged flight feathers are not revealed by our physical injuries; they are not seen by the naked eyes of those strolling the beaches. How different it might be would that such things were visible? Would that our limping dreams could be seen by eyes and hearts given to fierce compassion for the fractured bits; could be tended to and nurtured as we do the broken wings of birds, pouring love into spirit that we may one day soar again.
There is still so much growing to do, ever deeper and darker. I thought it would get lighter. Easier. Knowing-er. Wisdom of experience would grow my beautiful wrinkles, lines of laughter would chase away all insecurities and petty follies and fancies of adolescence and youth. Instead they rear up, those ancient horrors and wily snakes. Snake charmers, I become hypnotized, mesmerized again by the desire, the rejection, the “I am not wanted,” “ not funny enough,” not interesting enough,”
As opposed to the embrace of the light of who I am in this incarnation.
But what I want to tell you is about the dream I have of the crone, of the knowingness flowing out without restriction, without critique, only with discernment born of all that is known in every cell of the earth's being, transmitted through our existence of solid body.
I ask this of my soul. My spirit sister who resides with me/ in me/ of me yet who I ignore all too often. You know what I speak of. I am asking to listen.
What am I made of?
Something has been on my mind/bothering me for some time of late. It has to do with the phrases “everything happens for a reason,” and “challenges/pain in life are there to make you stronger.” Both of those notions seem tied to a belief in fate. A destiny that you need to accept, and then find the meaning in if moved to do so. This is what was charted out for you in life, and when you fully come to terms with that, and can move forward, you will be a better person. You will have grown from not only the experience itself, painful as it was, but also from the acceptance of the experience as a stepping stone to your greatness. You see, it all happens for a reason.
What a bunch of wisdom and bunk all tied up in a neat little package.
It's true. Everything that happens, leads us to the next place. That is just a given. I am ready a little earlier than usual and I head out to work. I get about 10 minutes out on the road, and realize I forgot my phone. I have time, so I drive home. I head back out. I get in a fender bender a few minutes from home. There are many “what if”s that can be asked here. What if I'd just left my phone at home for the day? What would the ramifications of that have been? Was the fender bender a “better” outcome? Was I “supposed” to leave my phone at home because I was destined for that fender bender?
Now, let's add to the story. After the accident, I am late for work, and it was my last warning. I am fired and now am unemployed. All because I left for work early (seemingly positive) and then forgot my phone (seemingly negative), and the subsequent fender bender (seemingly negative). Now, the idea of “everything happens for a reason” - what? I was “supposed” to lose my job??? This is going to make me stronger?
And the story continues: while getting the car repaired, I meet an amazing human in the waiting area, and we not only strike up a friendship; not only that, but through them I meet some other folks who have an incredible work opportunity to offer. “Aha!! NOW I see that it DID all happen for a reason...” (We especially love to believe it all happens for a reason when the end result is something that we want).
And so on and so forth.
It just doesn't work that way.
The truth is, that when you look at the things that have happened to you in your life, often you can see an amazing web of connectivity – how this event led to that meeting which led to that heartache which led to years of pain, which led to a breakdown, that led to peace...and interspersed in it all are other threads, threads of connection with friends that supported you, others that didn't, new experiences, relived old ones, and on and on. And, often in hindsight it seems that there really is some reason to it. And it actually makes some sense. And this realization is valuable and something to be treasured. Because it can be a reminder, when times are rough, that something else will come along. Yet, that depth of understanding does not equal the simplistic statement: “everything happens for a reason.”
The idea or belief that everything happens for a reason is not what I am objecting to. Believe it, or not, as you will. It is the use of the phrase as a catch-all, thrown out randomly, as if you are offering some form of wisdom to a person in pain that can be harmful. (Of course, if you do use it, I am certain there is a reason).
The use of that particular statement, where, when the outcome in the moment is dystopic, deflects the experience of the human in favor of some philosophical workings of the universe. This does no one any favors and can create feelings of guilt for being so devastated, and a sense of deficiency and underdeveloped wisdom for not seeing ever so clearly how it all will work out for the best. The concept of “everything happens for a reason,” if applied too soon to a very real trauma, can also serve as a sugar coating, and block the much needed experience of the event to be released.
I have similar thoughts about the phrase, “x, y, z, will make you stronger,” and perhaps will write on that later. But the premise is very similar.
I wonder why you are reading this? There must be a profound reason!!
Let me know...
This is not a prescription. It isn't a magic pill. It isn't a miracle cure. But, it just might help.
The flu is rampant this year. I just got sick - and it lasted one day. ONE DAY!
For those who know me, I need not explain, but for those who don't, I am pretty obsessive with the herbal supplements. Even with all the vitamins and herbs I pop, I do sometimes, even usually, get sick for longer than just a day, but here is what I did this time, for those who want to try something new. This is not a prescription! Just something that worked for me. I would exercise extreme caution and go lightly using essential oils with youth. And with yourself, if you don't use them often.
Perhaps most important is at the FIRST SIGN that you are weakening/possibly getting sick, start taking your supplements. And SLEEP as much as possible.
Here is the lowdown on what I did:
Herbal tincture: Virattack by Herb Pharm 3x/day (This is an awesome new discovery for me. It's a great tincture).
Thieves - I rub a drop directly on the back of my throat. I will also rub it on my lymph nodes but it isn't recommended to put it directly on skin - best to mix it in some carrier oil. Not that I do. But you should...
Ravensara - a few drops in a bath along with a few drops of Eucalyptus oil, right before bed. Soak for a good 15-20 minutes if you can. I can't - too restless in the tub, but it is good to let the oils absorb, and breathe them in.
I also put those same two oils together in an aromatherapy diffuser and had it going a couple of nights so I was breathing it in while I slept.
Vit C - I tend to hyper-dose.
Oregano oil - they make capsules. I am hard core about this stuff though, and usually the virus starts in my throat, so I put ONE and only one drop of the oil in a shot of water, toss it down and follow it with more water or honey. It burns. It likely isn't recommended. But I do it anyway. Kill those bastards...
Then I drank hot lemon (LOTS of lemon)/honey/ginger tea, with a pinch of cayenne for good measure, several times/day.
And get SLEEP!!!!
Let this be the year of messy thoughts, messy floors, misspelled journal entries that go on and on. A year filled with random, ill-made crocheted projects and wearables, mismatched mis-shapen legwarmers, colorful granny squares by the dozen, because this is the year of crochet hooks, sketching paper, violin lessons and writing workshops. This is the year of crazy ideas letting loose into patchwork papermache coyotes, ginger marmalade, opanci mosaics and, damn it, maybe even that accent wall. The year of websites and business cards, massages and macrame, pictures finally put up on bare walls, and never worn clothes tossed out the window.
Let this be the year of the alternative, the doing of what has only been wondered about, the being of what needs to be expressed, the creating of whatever flows forth. Let it explode, gush, and ooze into the world with no hall monitor at the doorway saying who gets to go out to play and who doesn't. Let it envelop, engulf, even overwhelm. Pulling you in and even under, tasting its delicious strangeness and unctuousness. There is no detention for mishaps, no rap on the knuckles for swearing during yoga, no scorn for leaving the socks on the floor and dishes in the sink. Messy, raw, vulnerable – this is the year of learning to play all over again and again and again.
Let this be the year of whispering to the leaves, gawking with the birds, and glowing with the sun. A year of continuing the deep dive with all that it conjures, the dark despair, the fear at the pit of the belly that reeks of primal ancient demons of heavy-weight proportions, a density that cannot fathom what the lightness of being might portend, preserved and perseverating into rotten detritus.
... and then maybe, just maybe, to laugh out loud, to laugh loudly, to laugh with abandon, to laugh at it ALL.
There is so much to say, so much to write, and write I will. But for now, this will have to do, this will be enough:
If all I do
Is bring my Joy into the world
It will have been enough.
Since I can remember, every year my family would go to the synogogue on Yom Kippur (not to mention every week, but that is a very different story to tell ...), and we would read from the Mahzor. As part of this annual Day of Atonement, we recite confessions of the sins we have committed, with the "we" referring not only to ourselves but also the greater "we" of humanity. There is one prayer that goes through all of these grave acts, one act for every letter of the alphabet. We abuse, we betray, we are cruel, ... and so on. The last few confessions, as translated in the book I grew up reading, reads: we are xenophobic, we yield to evil, we are zealots for bad causes. I have always taken all of these to heart, and every year I consider how it is that I have in some way, whether directly or emotionally or energetically carried out these "crimes" against others and ourselves. But the word xenophobic - that is something that I read every year and had no connection to. Nothing that really made it stand out, and as a child I forgot what it meant from year to year.
This year, 2016, is the first time I have ever heard it used, repeatedly, in my lifetime, in our country. Not that the sentiment hasn't been there. But it has come to life once again in a very real way. And it reminds me why we do this, why rituals like Yom Kippur exist, and why we need to never forget to acknowledge our own roles in every one of these crimes.
This week I signed up for a writing class. Called Story Slices, it is an excursion into the idea of writing short clips that accompany pictures, capturing a moment in time, a slice of life. I have been having a blast! A little bit too much of a blast to be honest. Sometimes I am so busy thinking about my story slice that I have to climb out of bed at various hours of the night to get them out and onto paper. When that happens, I know something good is taking shape.
I haven't yet figured out how I will share these slices, but I will post one here for a start and see where that leads me.