Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Equinox Descent Mythologies

Covering beds for the winter
as garden snakes go underground.
The sun retreats from half of the world,
hibernating through longer nights.
“We must carry the dark,” Autumn whispers.
“What do you bring into the dreaming?”

Inanna descends into the Underworld of her own free will. She makes the journey to meet with her sister, Ereshkigal, her shadow self. She goes to face her hidden half and she will be undone in the dark. But when the dawn comes she will *know* herself wholly for the first time, and will re-emerge from the deep in her strength and power. 

What do you see when you face your reflection? What is light? What is dark? Can you breathe in all of the pieces and make a whole image? Do you have the strength to stand naked and unflinching before it?

Unwinding her thread, Ariadne gave her lover the map to the labyrinth beneath the surface of the earth, beneath the surface of her skin. He went in to meet her shadow self, her twin brother chained at the center of the labyrinth. The beast we call Minotaur is the primal darkness within her breast, the animal part of her that she hides. Her twin is made of big bang, the original star. She is betrayed as the hero slays that same monster in order to woo her, to protect her, to impress her. Ariadne’s hero cut out her very heart. 

Do you keep your ugliness hidden from the world? Are you not made more beautiful in the shadow of your flaws? Who decides what is ugly or what makes a thing flawed? Do you have the strength to expose your vulnerabilities? The things that make you different help shape the world. Can you shed those who would stand in judgment of you for those who will embrace you as you are?

Persephone leaves the child of springtime behind her as the sands trickle towards autumn. She steps on the path winding into the hillside, away from her mother’s eyes and arms. She leaves her parent’s home, known and fragrant with summer memories, towards the unknown house of her husband, in shadow, where she shall be lover, spouse and woman. She steps lightly on the path. She knows where it is going though she does not know the landscape and she cannot see its end. As she journeys she grows more sure-footed. She trusts that it is the right path. Either way, she embraces her choice.

What shades of yourself have you shed in your journey? Have you learned to let them go and accept the changes? Can you be a daughter or son to your parents without still being a child? Can you step into uncertainty? Can you keep your feet to your path, though you cannot see the ending?

Orpheus descends to the Underworld in grief, passing where no living being can pass. In his love, he wins Eurydice back. But the path out of the darkness is too long and too quiet and his grief was too deep. Orpheus loses faith that she is behind him even though she promised she would be there. He turns around before they reach the light and she is lost to him forever. 

Can you face the moments when you slip? Can you take responsibility for your mistakes? Can you rise above them rather than sink into embarrassed despair? Can you find faith in those darkest moments?

Oya stands at the cemetery gate as the recent dead descend into the ground. She is the beacon of light calling them to rest. She greets them with a candle or lantern, standing against the flood of their fresh grief. Oya knows the darkness and she guides them through.

That strength lives in you. Do you know how to find it?

The key of the labyrinth is a crossroad of souls. Papa Legba waits in the darkest shadows for a cry, a whistle, a trumpet of need, ready to ferry bargains and deals as we wander through our winter nights. And his hand will be the warmest hand, and he will greet you as an old friend. And he will take what you offer to appease your heart. But you can never have it back.

What would you sacrifice? What have you already given?

Tlazolteotl balances the act of love with the act of defecation. Sacred in, sacred out. She is the flow between connection and release. Birth and death. Life and loss. One follows the other, like night follows day and day follows night. She walks-between for us, holding the memory of light when the darkness overwhelms, and holds the dark so we don’t forget to find gratitude for the light.

What is sacred to you?

The veils are thinning. The darkness is winning favor as we turn into autumn. Our mythologies provide us with archetypes we can use to illuminate ways to navigate the path ahead, that we can move forward. 

What do we learn from these stories? 

We learn to not fear the dark, but to tread gently through it and embrace it. Use your personal dark as a space of transformation. Face your twilight reflection and prepare to challenge and test yourself against the chilled slumber of the earth and the lengthening nights.

Covering beds for the winter
as garden snakes go underground.
The sun retreats from half of the world,
hibernating through longer nights.
“We must carry the dark,” Autumn whispers.
“What do you bring into the dreaming?”

*Original poem, Equinox, by Sarah Lyn.

[First posted as Equinox Mythos & Mystery on September 28, 2011.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Autumn Crossroads on the Equinox

We are turning into autumn and the last of our tomatoes and beans are fruiting. The morning glories herald the dawn in vibrant hues of violet, periwinkle, and fuchsia. White moon flowers twine around the rail, their buds thick and strong. They are ready to burst open and hail the darker days of the year. Silence stills the land here, five years after the horrible flooding that made our city headlines in the news. We’ve moved on but the earth remembers. The first of the geese flying north to south in migration have trumpeted across the sky.
Smells turn crisp and quick as leaves dry, drop and decay, crunching against the bottom of our feet as we walk through the brush. Garden fruit and vegetables that missed their harvest will rot and fall. They become mulch and nourish the earth for sowing in the spring. In autumn, layers of bone, earth and leaves cover the world, dulling the sharp piquant of summertime. We bed our gardens and add bulk to our bodies against the funneling twist of leaves lifting in chillier winds. The beauty of life is migrating onward, disappearing into the earth and ether. The world outside us prepares to sleep. The world inside us softens into rest, too.
We have toiled through the languid heat of our longest days and the changing landscape heralds the lengthening dark that will descend soon upon us. This Equinox is my favorite time of year, symbolized by the crossroads. We stand at the point where the breathing world bleeds into the spirit world.
It’s a place where two conflicting truths can stand equally as firm and where balance is born. It is the place where the gateway exists. It is a gateway that lives inside you.
As the point of balance floats over our land like twilight fog, obscuring lines and blurring edges, we have the chance to touch the other side without walking through it. On Equinox, I pause to catch a breath. I stand between the long days of light and the long nights of dark. I stand at the crossroad and pay homage to those who have stood here before me, to the pause in the passage of time, and to those who will stand here long after I am gone. On this day I can see into the future as far as I can see into the past.

We stand in the tipping point, the grey space, the limbo, the in-between. Equinox is a time for feeling and reflection, a chance to catch our breath before moving forward. This is the time of year when I pause my search for more lines of my family tree. I wrap up my current work and make notes of where to look next. I will spend the winter months researching what names I have, reading old tomes and histories so that I might discover who my ancestors were and what places they inhabited.
The genealogical research is easier for me to do in sprints, following one line through till I hit a wall, then fleshing out that line, giving it form and story. In this way the act alone is a study in my own history and I am the eternal student. By using this method, the names and dates imprint on my memory with context. Every winter my living knowledge of my family grows stronger. In my dedication, the threads between me and my ancestral dead grow thicker.
We are about to enter the labyrinth, going underground like the mythological Ariadne, under and inward. I have been practicing my embroidery, in remembrance of my Great-Grandmother Minnie, and her mothers, whose scraps of sewing craft I treat as sacred objects from a line of women I never knew. In my nightly meditations I have been embroidering labyrinths, moving into the dark to come out of the dark. It takes two full lines, two lengths of needle and thread, in at one end and out at the other, to create the full labyrinth, which is made up of two roads, crossing at the key. In this ancient tool, duality and balance snake into forms that do not lose their symbolic origins.
If I unwind the labyrinth, the four arms of the equinoxes and solstices spread before me. We stand at the crossroad, facing autumn, knowing that as we step onto the road it is already turning towards winter. The crossroad lies near the heart of the labyrinth. We turn inward to find center at Solstice, and roll outward, retracing steps to find the sun again next Equinox. In walking the labyrinth, we move like the waters of our body move to the currents of the ocean, rolling in and out, each turn in moving us closer to healing and wholeness. As life continues through the shorter days and my body moves daily through the world, I carry the peace of the labyrinth inside me, as an anchor of stillness, walking it quietly within while the world moves loudly around me.
As the leaves dry and fall, I find some of this peace in the act of showing honor to those long gone. I often walk the local cemeteries, picking up trash and litter. It is such a small offering made to the memory of those gone before. They may not be my ancestors but they belong to someone. These dead shaped the town that I live in and they had lives filled with hopes and dreams, just like mine. To me the cemeteries feel most like parks, with spirits wandering here and there. They are some of the quietest spaces, full of the grace of those who lived and those still living who remember their names.

[Originally posted as Autumn Crossroads at Equinox on September 19, 2012. Some moments updated for the current time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Morning Glories in Meditation

Every year, as spring begins to blossom, I push the base of a wooden trellis into the fresh dirt next to our little stoop. I watch as the small seedlings from the previous autumn poke their way through the earth and unfurl. I weed the bed and water the small beings reverently. As the vines grow, thin and spaghetti-like, I teach them to move towards the trellis. They grow thicker, covered in short fuzz. The leaves grow bigger, shaped like hearts. The larger they get, and the deeper the color, the closer they are to budding.
I spend each morning in a gentle meditation, wrapping the sweet vines around the trellis, and watching them catch on over the days, until they wind themselves, in and out. The trellis is the loom where nature and I create beautiful art together. As the weeks pass, the vines become a green wall, offering us a sense of privacy; our nature guardian.

When the buds first come, they are tight little spirals, growing bigger each day. When I can see the color threaded through them, I know they will open the next morning and it will be a morning treasure hunt to see where the early blooms have hidden themselves.
The flowers are full and thick and brilliant at dawn, staying to the shadows. The beautiful heart-shaped leaves act like umbrellas, extending the lives of the blossoms by shading them. At mid-morning, the blossoms glow with a luminescence that makes them seem otherworldly, as if tiny portals are opening from within the heart of the flower.
This is my favorite time of day to be in the garden, to be sitting on the stoop with a book and a notepad, stirring my own creative juices in their wake. I watch as the bees frolic and pollinate, leaving tiny dustings of pollen on the petals. I watch as the light fades from the petals.
As the day lengthens and the sun climbs in the sky, the morning glory blossoms grow weaker, their petals more translucent. The softening flowers tear easily and stick to the leaves around them. By mid-afternoon those that have survived curl in upon themselves. At dusk, the day-old flowers drop unceremoniously to the ground below.
Every day in the world of the morning glory is a new beginning, a new life. Their beauty doesn’t last because nothing lasts. The nature of life is that it ends. That is the magic of the morning glory for me. They are dead when dark descends, but tomorrow, there will be life again.
In the fall, when the garden withers, small buds of seeds are left behind on the browning vines. They will dry and shrink and loosen their eggplant-colored seeds into the ground. There, they will slumber through winter, waiting to emerge come next spring. So even in their seasonal ending, there is hope. There is always hope. But for today, under the last of summer sun, there is still beauty and joy.

[New photos, 2016. Reprinted September 2, 2015. Originally published August 14, 2013.]

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Shape of Spirituality

For me, concrete belief is the death of spiritual growth. We are students from the moment of our first breath until our last. And possibly beyond even that.
My personal spirituality has been a journey of trial and error, of accepting that what I thought I knew before was… not wrong, but not the whole truth. Multiple times, what-I-knew-as-true was altered by new expansive experiences. This was especially true in the wake of my accident last autumn. Our trials test us, not our deities or divinities. The world happens, and we fall victim to it as it unfolds.
Ten months of walking through pain and regenerating skin cells, of sitting and laying and reviving muscle tissue. Ten months of solitude and self-reflection, and the shape of my spirituality has shifted and grown once more. After a decade, I have finally stopped trying to label it.
Language can open our worlds and it can make it small. Spirituality should never be small. Our world isn’t small. And spirituality is larger than the world we see.
I may not know what it is, but I know where I stand in it. Fool. Witch. Shaman. Animist. Naturalist. Spirit Talker. Dream Walker. Word Knitter. Gardener.
In the beginning my work was all about ghost investigating and forest meditating. And still, the first time I heard the language of the trees, I freaked out. I hit a Wall of the Unknown. Yet instead of denying it, I took a breath, exhaled, and opened my world.
And then I understood that everything has life, even if we do not understand its language. And then I discovered the path to loving everyone, even if it’s from afar, and finding the way to a form of forgiveness that brought me healing. And I began to see the spirit in everyone around me. And my everyday became my spirituality. And when my head spun, when I hit a wall, I simply took a breath, exhaled, and stepped into a larger world.
I hit a wall the day I heard the voice of my deceased grandfather speaking to me in the forest. My heart raced and I broke out in a cold sweat. But I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to lose that connection just because I couldn’t understand it. So I accepted it as a truth I had not known before. And suddenly my idea of world was not limited to just the physical one. Every time I grow, the edges of my energy sphere stretch out more and I feel more immersed in the oneness of the world we live on.
That ability to surrender helped me in my recovery at the hospital. Others might have gone mad in the necessary-drug-induced fog of torture. It’s not that I didn’t fight against it. But when I realized I was smothering beneath it, I took a breath and sank in deeper to the horror of it. And then I saw it for what it was. Necessary. I did not give in to madness. I smiled at the spirits standing around my bed. I thanked the housekeepers for cleaning my room. I told the nurses what it was that made them special. We were all one team whose only goal was to get me better, even if the way there is more painful.

My spirituality shifts with every choice I make. The shape of me flows in to fill that space, like water, and I am forever, and momentarily, altered. And I am at peace.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

I Knew a Boy

Me, the year I kissed my first boy, and my sister.
At my 20 year high school reunion, I heard the same news everyone always hears, that some of the classmates who were absent, were not able to be there because they had passed away. One of the deaths was a shock. He was one of my oldest friends, a childhood playmate. It hurt. It hurt to find out how he died.
Some people were surprised to discover the depth of my hurt. I get it. We stopped really socializing in the tidal influx of new students in Middle School and in High School, no one would have known we ever knew each other. We didn’t speak until the last semester of senior year, when we worked on the senior show together.
We had a moment.
It was always weird before then. When I got to high school I was trying to reinvent myself, to start over emotionally, in a sea of people who didn’t know my early struggles, who didn’t know my secrets. But he knew mine and I knew his. And it was weird.
He lived at the end of my block and we knew each other best when we were still learning who we were, still basking in the promise that we could be anything, anyone. That meant a lot to both of us. I knew a boy who was quick and creative, who was cleverly inventive. We would figure out what we wanted to play and he would figure out how, as if he had mapped the landscape of our neighborhood in his head.
We reenacted Star Wars often. I was Leia and T.J. was Han, because he had dark hair, and another boy, Derek, was Luke, because he had blond hair. We were crafty five year olds, using the back of a garage as a detention center and the secret room beneath a tree fort as a trash compactor. We didn’t know the whole story yet, but we made up our own versions.
He was clever and bright and thoughtful, and once he knew you, he was a good-natured trickster. He was also a boy who liked to do things for shock value, or because he had already deemed them to be another way to get it done, even if it wasn’t the same way everyone else was doing it. Or because he was owning something that was hard for him, before anyone could make fun of him for it. Little kids can be little bastards sometimes.
I know what his home life was like. I was there. He was sometimes in a dark mood, even when we were small, and it always seemed to come from somewhere outside of our wild pack of children running around. But even when he was upset, he was never mean to me. That matters.
In middle school, I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been instead of where I said I was going to be. And so was he. Our paths crossed and we acknowledged each other with surprise. See. in a crazy way, we grew up a family of about two dozen kids on our block. Even though we weren’t friends, we were cousins of a kind. He always kept my secret and I kept his. 

We didn’t speak again until the last semester of senior year. I was performing in the Senior Play and he was working stage crew and tech for it. We were on a short break.
“Why did we stop being friends?” he asked me backstage. I shrugged.
“We knew too much about each other. It was awkward.” He nodded thoughtfully. I could see the little boy in his face. Sometimes for me, the time and distance falls away so easily, and I squeezed his hand conspiratoriously. “We had a good run, playing at war in the summer time. We had fun.”
He laughed. “You were really good at rescuing prisoners from the fort,” he remembered.
“I never got caught.”
He said he got involved in the play because he wanted to be part of something fun before he graduated. He said he understood why I liked it, that it was good people. And, as was usual with him, the weight of what he didn’t say, the weight of what we knew about each other spoke volumes.

The last time we saw each other, I was walking my parent’s dog home on break. He waved and smiled at me, walking over to catch up for a moment. Leather, my parent’s dog, loved him. He was always good with animals, especially frightened ones. It wasn’t something he lost when his eyes flashed dark, so many thoughts fighting for dominance. The last thing I saw was him smiling, the boy I used to know flashing across that smile.
He’s the first boy I remember kissing. We were five years old and he was my first boyfriend. But I hadn’t seen Return of the Jedi yet. In my version of Star Wars, Leia dumped Han for Luke, and Derek became boyfriend #2. We were still five.

I hope you are at peace. I hope you are getting to do all of the exploring you always wanted to do. It’s a vast system of worlds. Happy hunting, TJ.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Don't Stop Fishing, aka Another Bite on Elsie's Line

When Elsie and I first met. And my brother.
I've posted before about my struggle to flesh out my maternal 2x great-grandmother Louise's family tree, in the blog post "Looking for Emma Louise Burnah," in a blatant hope that somebody, someday, would make the same search and find me. Hoping wasn't enough. While waiting, I have kept seeding genealogy sites with names and dates.

A few months ago, I ran one more search on, and I got a hint on someone else's family tree! It listed Louise's parents as Samuel Burnah, born in Ste Madeleine, Quebec, and Mary Fortin. I sent a message.

I waited for a month, checking obsessively, to hear back from them. And then I did. We've been sharing information back and forth. I am currently waiting for my new friend to tell me which of my beloved great-grandma's siblings they relate to.

I am beyond thrilled to discover more members of that family tree in the same world with me right now. There is so much more chance that someone has gotten further than me in their research! And, if not, at least I am not on this journey alone anymore. (More cousins!)

You can't stop looking. The minute you do, someone will discover a room of 1890 censuses that didn't burn in the fire and there will be new information available. It could happen. Don't give up!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Half a Year

Dragon and Phoenix by Nico Niemi
I started my rehabilitation six months ago the Solstice. The longest day of burning sun has a different meaning for me this year, as I drape myself in shawls and hats and gloves to keep out of its eye. I am halfway through my year-long recovery and much further ahead than I anticipated; not as much as I would like.
I feel a stronger kinship with Spirit than I did before my accident. I saw the dead in a way I haven’t before, fairly corporeal. I saw my Great-Grandma at my bedside. I saw scores of other unknowns come and pray for me, lay ghostly hands on me to heal me. The known and unknown worlds moved in tandem. Science and magic were one in the same.
I wouldn't say my connection to Spirit is different than before. It's more like I see it clearly now. I see each of my breaths and all of my choices much more clearly.
That's what knowledge is, what wisdom means, why learned people were both respected and feared. Knowledge is to have your eyes opened. And once you see, you cannot unsee. Once you know, you cannot unknow.
It’s a choice. I always want to know.
There are some things that are hard to bear. I am in pain because I was on fire. It could be overwhelming to sit in that truth. But in application, I was on fire and now I am not, because the body is a fricking amazing animal.
I have new beautifully tender skin that is teaching me what it means to experience the natural world for the first time. Again. I am walking. I am healing. I am transforming and growing. I am the phoenix rising from the ashes. I am the dragon waking from a long slumber. I am the sun emerging from behind the moon.

I know that spirit is always around us. So is life. So is death. We dance with all every day and there is no reason to fear it, only reason to surrender to it. Remember that you are the darkness and the light. Embrace it. Breathe. And live. Every moment is a gift.
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