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, February 26, 2014

Stewards of the Land

We are born to the earth, we live on the earth, and when we die we will return to it. Just as our planet rotates around the sun, so do we, in our infinite migrations, rotate around the planet. So why doesn’t the Earth sit more fixedly centered in our thoughts? In my life it’s not a choice. I have nieces and nephews. I have great nieces and nephews even. Knowing that they and their children will live on long after me makes living a life of being kind to the earth important to me.
Over the generations we’ve watched our changing landscape spread out, crawling across the open spaces and clearing away the forested ones. We’ve despaired against the loss of green and wild places as animals became endangered and extinct. And now, it is such a state of how we live that we can’t imagine it any other way. We think that we cannot be a force for change, that one action cannot be a catalyst for renewal. But our bones know that we are people of the earth and they know that is not true.
The earth is not just dirt and bedrock beneath us. It is alive. We were born from its matter and our bodies will decay into its dust when we die. The earth is our Mother, a real and tangible parent beneath us. And mostly, in our short lives, we take little notice of the way we affect change to her. When we run out of room for progress, we build our cities out, abandoning discarded industry to decompose. So we build out, carving more space from the wild, and then we complain when the coyotes, bear, and deer wander our city streets.
What we need to do is to protect the green spaces that are left, from those who would wish to develop them. We are too smart to think that more green spaces will be discovered after we have removed them all. So we have to stop now. We have to become true stewards of the land and watch over the plant and animal life that is left.
Many people are already acting as stewards of the earth. And their pursuit of earth-centered actions have had larger and wondrous effects. Like this video of what happened after wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park. Click here to view the 4 minute video How Wolves Change Rivers.
I’m not talking about a total re-wilding of the earth, though I have to confess, I do love images of nature taking the earth back, like in the films I am Legend, Twelve Monkeys, and The Happening. To my delight, I have even met trees already engaged in the process (see the picture at the top of this post).
Be a steward of the land, no matter what that means to you. Where is the place you can make a change? How can you teach your children to have reverence for the world around them? Maybe you will pick up litter, or plant a garden. Maybe you will feed the birds or rehabilitate wild animals. Maybe you will protest environmental destruction from industry. Maybe you will protect the whales in the sea. Maybe you will be a teacher. Maybe you will plant trees.

Maybe you will sit quietly in the forest and its language. Maybe you will call the crow, sister. Maybe you will call the raccoon, brother. Maybe you will hear the earth singing back to you and maybe you will understand that we are all kin, and that our purpose is to walk softly with the natural world. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Prayer for Hope

When my ancestors found themselves in darkened places, where did they turn their prayers? To their god(s)? To their own ancestors? I think it’s safe to say that, despite your religious persuasion, everyone has turned to prayer in their lives.
You turn your face to the skies for an end to the snow or a beginning to the rain. To your car for just 100 more miles on those tires. To the gods of score that there’s one more skein of yarn from the right dye lot so you can finish your project. To the universe for a clean bill of health and a tumor to be non-cancerous. For miracles to happen, for time to turn back, for those who are dead to open their eyes.
What forms do your prayers take?

My Prayer for Hope
When I am knocked down and it feels like every turn holds another piece of bad news, may my feet keep moving forward. When I am teetering on my feet and the floor keeps getting snatched out from underneath me, may I hold my head high. When I can no longer see the light before me, may my heart remember love and a thing called hope. May I not be afraid of the darkness.
I call on Harold Lafayette Riddle and Elsie Elizabeth Durant, who lived and suffered through the financial hardships of the depression, and grew much of their own food. May I find the means to put food on the table. May I learn to be without extras. May my hands grow food from the earth. Their blood runs in my veins.
I call on Silas Parker Smith, Hattie Eva Dutcher, and their daughter Hattie Eva Smith, who came into the world as her mother left it. May I embrace the joy in the sorrow and know that life continues. Their blood runs in my veins.
I call on Charles Evan Ruston, the son of a wealthy landowner, and Ruth Ireland, a maidservant, who trusted in love over everything. He was disowned from his family and they came to the new world together. May I be courageous enough to stand beside my beliefs and heart. Their blood runs in my veins.
I call on Bailey Harrison Whitcher and his wife Ordelia Lozier, who saw their country turn on itself in Civil War and lost two sons to the cause. May I know their fortitude to continue on despite the grief. Their blood runs in my veins.
I call on Peter DeLozier, kept as a Prisoner of War in Tripoli for 30 months and the spirit that kept him alive so that he might survive the ordeal. May I understand that we are forever altered by our experiences. His blood runs in my veins.
I call on Alice, her own family name unknown, wife of John Eaton, known to “have fits” of unknown cause. She handled the household in a time when it wasn’t a woman’s place, much to the respect of the townspeople. Her simple husband was easily swindled by strangers and she often took them to court. May I know such strength to do what needs to be done. Her blood runs in my veins.
I call on Mary Chilton, crossing a long and grey ocean to an unknown place at the age of twelve, to be left without any family after winter came, foraging anew on her own. May I keep one foot in front of the other, always moving, no matter what unknown lies before me. Her blood runs in my veins.

May it be so.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My First Imaginary Friend was a Ghost

When I was a little girl, I had five imaginary friends. But one of them was a ghost. Her name was Amy.
I remember waking in the morning, and she’d be sitting on the end of my bed, waiting for me. I called her Amy, because I had trouble saying her full name. I had a speech impediment as a child. She didn’t seem to mind. My adult brain keeps trying to fill her full name in from scattered memories. Amalia? Amelia? Emmeline?
She was a shadow in the house while I dressed, ate breakfast, and brushed my teeth. We didn’t speak inside but her presence was a comfort to me. We walked to school together every day. She always wore the same outfit, a dress that could have come from Little House on the Prairie, a pale blue dress with tiny flowers on it. Her hair hung in one long braid down her back. It was a light brown color. Her eyes were blue. And always, every day, her feet were bare.
We walked together in the snow, my breath hanging in the air in front of me. Not hers. We would walk together all the way to the corner of Grand and Prospect where the crossing guard stood. Amy would stay on my side of Prospect. She couldn’t cross the street. She didn’t know why. Every day, after school, she would be waiting for me there.
I remember knowing enough to hold my tongue until we were out of range of other kids. And I just accept it was true. Why do I believe she was a ghost? Partly because of all the other spectral encounters I have had in my later life that I know are true. But also because, of all my imaginary friends, Amy was the only one who I couldn’t change or control. She always wore the same thin dress. I couldn’t dress her for the appropriate season like I could the others. She was always barefoot. I wish I remembered the conversations we had, for I know we spoke together while we were walking.
I can’t believe I almost forgot that she was a spirit.
Children, untainted, untrained, unschooled, are open vessels to the world. I know a lot of parents who say their children talk about who they were in a past life, or bring up details on historical events they couldn’t yet know about. There are even children who give details about their imaginary friends that, after research, turn out to be people who had really existed. Kids see things we don’t. According to developmental psychologists, when children reach eight years-old, they begin to conform to what they have to believe and think in order to be part of our culture. And one of the first things they let go of is their belief in magic, and their imagination.
We did the same thing when we were kids. As we age we tell ourselves that what we remember couldn’t possibly have happened the way we remember it. And we alter our own origin stories. We tell ourselves that we couldn’t possibly remember what we did when we were four years old, that we must be making it up. But we must remember that just because we didn’t have the language we needed to accurately identify a thing, doesn’t mean that what we remember is wrong. It’s just out of focus.
I have been both cursed and blessed with a long memory for things that emotionally stirred me. I believed in magic as a child. I remember not speaking to Amy out loud in front of others, even though I didn’t speak out loud with my other imaginary friends. I just had conversations with them in my head. But with Amy, I remember thinking other people would not be able to see her. I remember subsequently hiding myself from the world because I felt I was different. I remember how disconnected I felt when I closed myself off to the natural world.
I believe that act was what caused my decades of unexplainable loneliness. The more I work towards reconnecting into the land I live on and within, the more I chip away at that dark place inside me and the less alone I feel. And the more I accept that the quirky life I remember as a little girl was more real than the one of concrete and asphalt.

When I was a little girl, I had five imaginary friends. But one of them was a ghost. Her name was Amy.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An Ancestral Labyrinth Meditation

There are a myriad of different meditations you can use to connect with your ancestral energy flow. The only limitation is in your imagination. There’s one meditation in particular that I use often that involves the use of a labyrinth. My favorite labyrinth is the Cretan, seven circuit labyrinth. It’s a visible representation for me of the Yoruban belief that if you do not know seven generations of your family line you cannot know who you are. It was that thought that prompted the start of my personal ancestor work more than a decade ago.
I like layers to magic and meditation. So when I walk the labyrinth, I am physically moving in spiraling patterns on a horizontal landscape. And at the same time as I walk, I pull my kundalini energy upward through my body on the vertical axis of the seven chakras. When I do this, I become the meeting point of these two planes. And where they meet in me, a doorway to my ancestors opens within my heart center, the mid-point of the chakras.
When I step into the labyrinth, taking my first turn into the track, my energy sits as the base of my spine, in my root chakra, the home of instinct. I think about my parents, both of whom are still living. They are the bridge between me and those who came before them. As I walk this first track, I fill my heart with gratitude for them, for breath, for body and bone.
I turn sharply onto the second track, aligning my sacral chakra of emotion, the house of intuition, with the memories of my grandparents. I acknowledge, first, those four who gave who gave me life. My next breath is for all those who married into the family after death or divorce, who were part of my life. As I walk this second longest track, I think about who they were to me, both good and bad. I accept their flaws and I leave behind what I don’t need.
On the third and longest track, riding the outer edge of the labyrinth, I open my solar plexus chakra, where energy and ego live. I open to my eight great-grandparents, one of whom I was fortunate to know in life. One step in front of another, I contemplate my mortality and the truth that my path will someday be ghost footprints across the earth. Just as most of my great-grandparents were unknown by me, someday I will be unknown to others. There is a breaking and a humbling in this track. One step in front of another, walking the edge of the labyrinth.
At the end of the track, I cross the short bridge that joins the solar and heart paths and turn, opening the compassion of my heart. I accept what it means to be alive. I accept what it means to live. I call forth to my sixteen 2x great-grandparents, who saw the effects of the Civil War and lived the turning into the 20th century. I am grateful for how many of their stories I know. They were people like me, with families of their own, wondering what the future held. Wondering what their ancestors were like.
The shortest path rides the edge of the center. This is the track of the throat chakra, an energy center which sees a lot of action in our everyday lives. I slow my steps and open to my 32 3x great-grandparents, ones who braved wild territory to start anew. I can feel the slip stream of time as ghost steps crowd the path behind me.
Together, we turn onto the sixth track. I pull my energy and breath up into the third eye chakra, just above and behind the eyes, where empathy lives. I invite my sixty-four 4x great-grandparents to join me, and I feel my thoughts sinking deeper into my bloodstream. The fact that I only exist because those sixty-four people lived and loved is overwhelming.
I walk the final turn of the labyrinth with my one hundred and twenty-five 5x great-grandparents. One hundred and twenty-five! I think about all of those people, and the children they had who were not my direct ancestors, and the children their children had… how many cousins might their be that I will never know or meet? For a moment, I imagine I can understand what eternity means, and what it means that we are all part of the same well of energy. I open the top of my crown chakra, prepared to meet them face to face.
When I enter the center of my meditation, I am standing in the center of the labyrinth with two hundred and fifty-four spirits. They are the collective spirits of the first seven generations of my family tree. I am two hundred and fifty-five. I am a pillar of energy. I am walking in ancestral fire. I sit in the center and open to whatever visitations might occur.

When I am ready, I return the way I came. There is only one path to the labyrinth and the ways in and out are the same. As I leave, I pull my energy back down through my body, pulling my awareness back until I am me, in my body, feet on the earth. I thank each generation for journeying with me, for their part in giving me life. I return humbled, deeply connected, and surprisingly sure-footed. 

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