Saturday, May 25, 2013

What transforms us?

It has been a long couple of days for me. I've been starting with new positions a little farther from home, and I've been working hard. I love my work, mind you, so it's definitely a pleasure, but it is hard labor nonetheless. To top it off, something I ate today has had me feeling, this afternoon, like, well, like a ticking bomb. Sorry. Too much information, I know.

Then I went to meet a good friend for a meal and a nice visit to catch up a bit on each other's worlds. After dinner the sun had already set, but it was still plenty light, so we walked in the local community garden, where she had started working a plot and I recently inherited one that desperately needs my attention to get it up to speed. I was walking uncomfortably around the garden - I have never experienced quite this type of sensation before so it was fairly distracting, and I couldn't help thinking how I would really not want to have to go to an ER on a holiday weekend (ok, I have a hypochondria streak).

As I was turning the car around to take my friend back to her car, I noticed the wall up the hill from where we were. I had to get out of the car and go take some photos. "These," I told her, "are the photos I started with," meaning the first photos I ever took. In the beginning it was all about the transformation of decay in various forms. This has always be the case. I imagine it always will be, in various iterations and of various stages of transformation and decay.

After I captured these images, I got back into my car and realized that I wasn't thinking about my guts at all. Isn't it funny what art can do. Getting into the state of "flow"- as Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined it - is so powerful. It is one of many ways to inspire our bodies to slip into parasympathetic nervous system state (which massage also invites). It's amazing how simple that is. Completely the opposite of what my body did as I sat at the dinner table trying to figure out just what exactly was going on inside all my tubes and organs. Just taking some photographs, riveted by beauty, turned my system around.

On the way home, the last pink and dark violet wisps of clouds were barely illuminated by the already set sun. They looked a lot like some of these photos.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Take off your shoes...

Three days after my recent post, I came across this image on Facebook (I really hope I can find a way to post it here). I was struck by the image that also conveyed something that I was addressing in my post. I did in no way plan the post. I sat down to write about my afternoon and how it struck me, and the post is simply what flowed.

Then, days later, I saw this image. I saw the little shoes there, just outside of the line demarcating "Mother." The sacredness this child (perhaps subconsciously) attributed to the idea/image/representation of her mother. Our mother. How can we separate these? She removed her shoes before entering the container of the mother she has never met, and lay down to rest in the imaginal womb, in the place of the Heart.

Only the wisdom that is simply natural within our spirit would know how to do this. We cannot claim this wisdom as our own. We can simply feel the reverence and fall into it. I am so grateful to feel this just enough to fall into it - on occasion.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Walking the Sacred Cove

I take off my shoes and socks before alighting on the trail into the sacred forest. Today this forest is almost overwhelmingly fragrant. It is so very quiet around me, save for birdsong and the occasional mysterious wail of one tree’s rubbing against another, both shifting in gravity’s pull. Joe would always get excited and exclaim, “sounds just like a woman moaning!” But I hear something else in it - something more like a gentle sigh or a stretching creak. Sometimes it’s a sharper sound, like a squeaky door.

(It was this tree, for whom Joe lovingly scraped paint off of its bark. When I am here, I remember Joe, and sharing chocolate and oranges. I remember taking his photo one year ago right in front of this tree.)

The only other sounds I am noticing come from underfoot. The soft crinkle of papery leaf litter and duff, the muffled crunch of tiny twigs under those leaves under my footfalls. I feel the soft clay, firm but not quite granular and just cool enough to differentiate from the warmth of my feet.

As my soles meet this clay it’s more like meeting the flesh of another. We meet each other. I am not walking on the ground. The clay and I are greeting each other. We welcome each other with some vague knowing that we are related - deeply so.

I move slowly through the forest, deliberately and gently. I allow myself to be called by the beauty - by the pink Trillium, fading fast, its cousin whose burgundy hue is so dark as to appear black in contrast. I am called by the gently flowing water, right over the path. My feet find clay under the water - black clay. The soil in this cove is rich and dark - the blackest brown I know. The water surprises my feet with its fresh coolness, flowing across my toes in ripples.

I step off the trail up into the spring ephemerals, sinking into the loose earth. I imagine this rich dark soil is a result of the graceful decay of a natural forest, largely left alone and unmolested by the hands of men. Each time I return, resting logs have melted further into the earth, acorns resting around and on top, litter of the little critters of the wood. Each time new deadfall and this time a young black cherry laid open in a storm, bright with shades of warm fire in its flesh.

My favorite ancient Black Gum tree lives along this trail, a spry youngster standing close in reverence. He is so old that clumps of bark have dropped away, leaving smooth expanses accentuating just how deep and thick is the bark that remains.

Meandering through the soft filtered light of the end of day, I make my way to dinosaur rocks who feel like ancient beings to me - sometimes whales, sometimes the spine of an unnameable creature, alive and breathing so slowly as to appear stone still. I walk out on the narrow bridge of this boulder, its aliveness meeting my feet - almost as if it reaches up through me just to look out through my eyes - maybe even to show me things.

As the sun is dipping lower behind the ridge, chartreuse and vibrant greens shift toward muddy grey, and I know I should begin my return back down the mountain. I make my way down below these silent giants, through the slightly drier, more westerly slope, back north toward the trail.

I had hoped to glimpse a Yellow Lady’s Slipper today, among the Foam Flowers, Umbrella Plants, blooming Blue Cohosh, Trillium of various colors, white Clintonia just opening, Blood Root leaves still standing and not yet blooming native Geraniums. I wonder if something has eaten them or if someone has taken some away, but having been away so much this Spring, I figure I have simply missed them. Of course sometimes they simply hide there in plain sight, how I think some species, people, places find a simple grace of protective invisibility.

I look further across the wildflowers and decide to step lightly back up to the trail. I don’t want to disturb any more delicate plants, as even in my bare feet I know I can. As soon as I shift my gaze back toward the trail, there she is. This lonely lady with long tresses and an intensely cadmium yellow slipper. She greets me as if to say “thank you for caring where you step - now you may see me.” I turn and look back down the slope and see a plant I don’t remember ever seeing before. It shows up like a trillium, but without a flower and with 10 instead of 3 leaves. I wonder if this is a fluke of nature or maybe a rare plant. Continuing along, now I am called by a Showy Orchis with 5 flowers on its stalk where I usually only see one.

There are other treasures on the way back to the trail, and I gently step back onto the path out of this sanctuary, through the sweet fragrance and melodious birdsong, past the sighing trees, down past the rushing branch - full with recent rains - and into the warmer air on the southeastern slope back down to the car.

There are truly no words or images to convey this experience, so I heartily encourage you to slow down. Take off your shoes and socks. Let your toes find the earth - if tentatively - and remember what else these feet are for.

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