Category Archives: meditation

Dancing with the Cranes

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“We did not ask for this room or this music; we were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces toward the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty…. We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance.”

—Stephen King and Bridget Carpenter

Dancing with the Cranes

Fastwrite, March 28: Heart of the Matter writing circle

Prompt: What keeps you from dancing every day and, if you want to, how might you change that?

I’m reminded of the Nebraska sandhill cranes that a friend has been writing about.

The cranes dance, and no one knows why, she said.

She’s filmed them when they arrive in Nebraska as part of their migration, the river flats and fields suiting them perfectly as they make their way north to Canada.

I saw two sandhills cranes once, up close; heard their strange call, saw them dancing, awkwardly, together. It was in Tampa, on the banks of the Hillsborough River, which ran outside my front door in those days.

Funny, now, to think that I was up close to another river there, but undervalued it. And I was so close to the birds, not knowing how obsessed I would later become with them.

I did recognize, at the time I saw those cranes, that this was a special moment—a gift I did not fully understand. It woke up something in me; something stirred, a seed was planted.

I loved loved loved the rivers in Tampa, the deep woods nearby, the profoundly beautiful swamp available to me right from our front yard. It was riddled with pop-eyed alligators with only noses and eyeballs above the water or sunning themselves on the banks, amidst blue herons and white egrets, hiding in plain sight under huge overhanging branches and between cypress tree roots. On higher ground, my favorite sight was the fields of palmettos under tall loblolly pines swaying across the sky just like Lois Lenski drew them in Strawbettery Girl.

I miss that time, of dancing cranes, hanging moss, and dark, still waters. Such richness I knew to love but did not know how.

So maybe the cranes are calling me now, asking me to go dance with them—to follow my passions, to stay close to the river, and yet, find safe ground for myself.

Here,
In the time of the coronavirus.

Reflection: The only thing that keeps me from dancing is remembering how important it is to do so.

 

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Waiting for the Birds

 

 

Return from Yosemite
Journal Entry, June 9, 2017

I’m back in my writing chair, drinking my coffee and waiting for the birds. The feeders weren’t completely empty this morning, but mostly, so I added fresh suet and seed. Now, I wait.

Ah. Here they come.  First, the intrepid blue jay, with his low, insolent whistle. Then a red-bellied woodpecker. Both just stop by to say hello, but not to eat. Then, surprise—the shy brown thrasher, bird of a thousand songs, who lands on a branch with tail cocked high. I step to the window to watch him as he dives to peck at the seeds sprinkled below the feeders, among the grasses.

I watch silently at the window, and Buster, impatient with my ups and downs, hops onto the couch instead of waiting for me to sit back down on my chair.  From there he can keep an eye on me without being disturbed.

Now the jay and the house finch arrive, and their darting movements disturb the absolute stillness surrounding me inside and outside this house. It’s already deep summer here in my Riverside neighborhood, and the heat and the humidity blanket all.  Sunday morning: Not many are out and about.

Ah—my favorite, the downy woodpecker, finds the fresh suet. My wait is rewarded.

What a huge tumbleweed of experiences and images I’ve experienced over the past week!  It’s been difficult to take it all in without my early morning writing time to process it, putting space between the experiences of each day—like trying to read a page in a book without whites space between the lines and in the margins.

But here I am now, in the absolute stillness and quiet, watching the birds return, as do my thoughts, my memories, my experiences of the past week. Each thought a bird, landing silently on the branch to be observed, studied, appreciated, in the silence, as I begin to wonder what to make of it all.

Here.
In the Riverside Garden.

Reflection: It’s like my ears are still ringing from all of the ‘noise’ of this vacation. Gradually, the ringing subsides, and the experiences emerge.

Brown Thrasher (from Animal Totems: Dictionary of Birds)
When Brown Thrasher appears to you it is time to sing a joyous song of life and all of the experiences that surround you. Coincidences and synchronicities will expand your spirituality in a profound way. He teaches ways of communicating by listening and singing your own song in life along with care and tact in how you speak. He is about following your soul purpose and recognizing innate abilities. Communicating by listening and singing your song, being carefree and open with thoughts, ideas and creativity are part of Brown Thrasher’s lessons. Sensitive to surroundings, he shows how to follow through with your impressions and hunches. Brown Thrasher teaches the art of camouflage, timing, action and inaction. He demonstrates alertness, internal peace, and personal reclamation and transformation. Qualities of generosity and gentleness will bring rejuvenation and beauty to your world. Are you bringing joy and harmony to others? Is it time to lighten up? He will aid in focus and clarity to find balance. His medicine will show how to adapt with a renewed sense of joy. Brown Thrasher has a well-rounded diet; are you eating right? The time period for Brown Thrasher is about 9 days. Rapid developments await you. He will help keep you grounded so that you may sing the song in your heart.

 

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Where have all the monarchs gone?

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Where have all the monarchs gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the monarchs gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the monarchs gone?
Monsanto’s killed them, every one.
When will we ever learn?
Oh, when will we ever learn?

I have not seen a single monarch in my garden yet this year.  Not a single one.

Where have they gone?

Last year at this time I was watching my second batch of chrysalises hatching, their green bodies with golden spots hanging in my garden like fancy Christmas ornaments.  One weekend, I watched 13 emerge in one 48-hour period, each one dropping from its green and gold escape hatch to lower its crumpled, wet wings, hanging there, letting gravity do its work until with one, then two, then a few wing flappings, it was suddenly, miraculously, ready to fly.

I remember one bent-wing one, the tip of its orange and black velvet wing folded, hampering it, so that it could not fly properly.  I tried to help it, putting it on my finger, moving if off the flagstones to a different spot, hoping it would be able to literally rise above its circumstances and fly beyond the garden walls.

It could not.

It died, eventually, its speckled body lying prostrate on the ground, belly up, it’s wings gradually tearing and breaking down further, until Nature took her back again.

I am OK with Nature taking back her own.

What I cannot abide is the wanton destruction of the butterfly garden by unconscious acts that sterilize the earth, kill off the milkweed, and turn Nature into an orderly prison of concrete lines, little boxes and sterile fields.

I read the other day that the monarchs are being killed off because we insist on spraying RoundUp chemicals on roadsides and farm fields, to kill off weeds, and that it’s killing the milkweed monarchs need to survive.

Migrating monarchs used to cover 45 acres in Mexico; now they are down to 1.65. They’ve gone  from 1 billion total the year before RoundUp use to 33 million now. More info here.

And people wonder why I do not spray RoundUp in my yard.

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“War is not healthy for children and other living things,” said the poster in our kitchen on our organic farm where I grew up.

Neither is RoundUp.

Where have all the monarchs gone?
We’ve killed them off, every one.
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Here.
In the garden.

 

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June 3, 2014 · 8:11 am

Poem about last night

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They arrived in the dark.
I’d lit candles all around the house,
except on the big table. Waiting.

Wrapped in colorful coats, holding
purses and journals and expectations,
they alighted on my doorstep.

Bird by bird.

I embraced them all,
even the strangers.

They circled around the kitchen
counter, got their drinks, and
pecked at the snacks.

Names were exchanged,
connections were made,
compliments were shared.

No one questioned why I had
a Jane Austen ball gown hanging
on my pantry door. (until later)

Then we gathered in the circle,
and breathed our collective breath.

Inhale.
Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.

The pens, and one pencil, emerged.
Some timidly, some boldly,
to scribe their words.

They were heard.
Names were dropped into the circle, like seeds.
Words, intentions, hopes and dreams were shared.
The candle flickered, and held their secrets.

They left in a flurry of jangling car keys,
re-wrapped grace scarves and last-minute questions,
and returned to the darkness from which they came.

But perhaps each carried, in their
hearts, the lit candle, a bit of warmth,
a sip of the sacred.

I cleaned up the kitchen,
went to bed, and closed my eyes.
When I opened them again, this time really opened them,
there they were, the birds, on the feeder.
Waiting for more.

Here.
In the garden.

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The Bluebirds Came to Visit Me Today

The bluebirds came to visit me today.  I stepped outside this morning, onto the front porch, and heard their burbling call before I saw them. The male was perched on a feeder, the female was flying around the nest box. They stopped briefly to take a look at me.

IMG_4244Hello, Dear Ones!
Happy New Year!

Their coats are dusty blue, shaded by winter, but still lovely to see.  The male, perhaps conscious of my appreciation, shyly showed his back to me, then, with a quick hop, displayed his dusty red breast on the other side.

The brilliant red of a jaunty cardinal on another feeder provided a sharp contrast. He was lovely against the dull winter browns outside, even here in green Florida. Then the crisp black cap of the chickadee was revealed as she landed on the feeder, chased off again by a scolding tufted titmouse dressed in sharp grays and warm browns.  I fell in love with the tawny stripe under his wing, so vulnerable against the creamy white of his belly.

As I returned to my chair in the living room, I saw that no birds were paying attention to the feeder in the backyard. That’s OK.  I was cheered by the bright tangerine orange of my new cushions on the garden furniture, a treat to myself for Christmas.

So. A new year begins. I am filled with fresh ideas, dreams and plans, as exciting as tangerine orange, but still in development, like the blue on the back of the winter bluebird.

I can wait.
And hope.
And dream.

Anticipating the gifts of the year, like the sudden flash of colorful birds, landing on a feeder.

Here.
In the garden.

p.s. Photo is my slightly edited version of  the latest cover of Bluebird Magazine, which I subscribe to as a member of the North American Bluebird Society. 

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The Happiness Project, Revisited

As I await winter solstice, the nights are long, and the days are short.  This is a variation of Gretchen Rubin’s truism: “The days are long, but the years are short.”

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I will remember these years, of getting the children off to school.  These high school years, when I did it on my own.  Anchored by my chair, and my journal, I have been present for them, preparing breakfast, helping to find socks, watching the time; all the while, they grew up.

I’ve been waiting to see if Matt would get up, without me reminding him again. Waiting to see if Camille made it out on time, so I wouldn’t have to threaten to drive her to school myself the next day. Waiting to see if the birds would come to rest at the bird feeder in line of sight from my chair; I pause to check them out as I write.

This morning, three cardinals came to rest on the iron table under the feeder — a bright red male, a juvenile in dull browns, and a female. How long will they stay?  I wait to see.

Sitting in this circle of light, I am glad to have been Here, Now, available to my children, and my own self, as we each face the day.

Seasons pass.
Years pass.
Eras pass.

Soon, I will not have any children left to rouse, and the mornings will be different.  But today, I’ll be grateful, for the flash of red, for the circle of light, for the honey toast crusts left on the Matthew’s plate.  All the joys, the simple joys, of being Here, Now, in this moment, in winter’s light.

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground, ” says Rumi.

Here.
In the garden.

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The Chapel

Thank you, Divine Mother, for my beautiful chapel, for my red bench pew, for my pine tree altar, as I am attended by the soul birds around me.  (Is it an accident that angels are depicted with wings?)

Sitting on my red pew, drinking my rich brown, morning coffee in the flowered chalice offered by my daughter, I am at one with the Divine, the Good Earth, the way of peace.

IMG_1557The tiny kinglet darts back and forth above my head, playing in the dusty green leaves of Florida’s fall.  The red-capped chipping sparrow eats peacefully at the feeders, unperturbed by my presence.  And far off, the winter-brown bluebird sings, his voice, at least, not camouflaged by the long nights and short days before winter solstice.

Back inside, I light the candle on the piano altar, and two other candles around the room, warming this “inside chapel” of my living room with spirit light.  Gently, my fingers touch the two feathers next to the Tibetan bell, a tiny bluebird feather, a richly colored cardinal feather.

And I smile with the joy of waking up, waking up to the pleasures of the spiritual life, of the clarion call, of the golden circle, of the blank pages of the day.

To love morning.
This is to be alive.

Here.
In the garden.

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