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, March 26, 2014

When You Visit

My Grandpa watching me draw with his great-grandkids on my last birthday before he died.
It’s Saturday. I watch the hands on the mirrored clock, eyes straying to the forest scene held within it, always pulled into those rays of light and their stillness, even as the ticking hands keep their movement. It’s almost noon, every week, my metronome, arriving between 11:59 or 12:01, no earlier or later- unless something was wrong.
The door knob turns and I am in the front room with my lunch, waiting. Your head pokes in first, always with a wink and a twinkling eye. Then your voice rings out a greeting, the magician entering as if his arrival is unexpected and the audience plays along.
“What kind of sandwich are you having today?” you ask with laughing eyes. The stars could be navigated by my predictability.
“Bologna, cheese, mustard, and potato chip,” I reply.
“What kind of potato chip?” you ask, and I was waiting for you to ask. You know salt and vinegar are my favorite but sometimes I like the ketchup-flavored ones that come in the big metal tubs the man delivers to our house. You pretend to be surprised that I am having a bologna sandwich and I giggle. It’s our thing.

It’s Saturday. I remember the mirrored clock that belonged to my parent’s house. My heart still lives in that forest. The digital blue of my clock flickers, 11:59 to noon- at times like this I miss the ticking reminder of time passing.
The scent of your cologne drifts in as the bells on the back of the front door jingle. The doorknob turns and I pour you a cup of coffee. I make a sandwich I barely have anymore, drawing a smiley face on one piece of bread with the mustard, because that’s how the mustard goes on. I hear my younger voice explaining it to you and I smile.  

I pour a cup of coffee I won’t drink and I leave it for you on the table. As I crunch down into my sandwich, I miss you and I love you and I’m glad you came to visit. It’s our thing. I know you’d never miss it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Equinox Cleaning

Equinox is upon us, the mid-point between the longest night of the year and the longest day. We already feel the effects of the lengthening days and we bask in the warmth we finally feel from the light. We’re itching to throw the doors and windows open and air out our living spaces, to shake out the cobwebs and clear out dust.
In our lives we are constantly shedding skins and starting over. Shedding skins and reinventing ourselves. Shedding skins and letting go of what is no longer needed. Every year, at spring equinox, I tackle a room or two of my house, going through my possessions and furnishings, culling out what has gone unused or forgotten. It invariably also becomes a spring cleaning of my emotional house, as I evaluate my attachments to the items I consider letting go of. This year it was my office, my nest. Included in that room was the dreaded storage closet of doom, filled with boxes that haven’t seen the light of day in over a decade.
I re-organized. I put hands on everything. I stopped to read through old letters and cards from specific places of my life revived memories I had previously left to whisper and rest. I am at a crossroad, roughly halfway through the years I expect to live. Sorting through that closet, my life unfolded behind me, mementos of everywhere I have been and everyone I have loved.
I smiled joyfully through most of it, as the memories rippled through me. What a treasure it was to remember, in my body, the friendship and love of such innocent times. It helped buoy the box of painful things that had been tucked away. But those memories didn’t sting so badly this time. Even that box held lessons for wiser eyes, ways to not repeat those mistakes. I read and I culled, and as I culled, I re-organized.
I found the hole the mice were using to get in and sealed it. I found the alien spider’s secret corner of egg sacks. I found a box of crafts and stories I thought had been lost. And I found the last card my Grandpa gave me before he died. Which made me pause again.
He’ll be gone 10 years this Monday and I find it hard to believe so much of my life has been lived without him, when he is such a firm part of my identity as a grown-up. I still have so much more life left to come. I will never stop missing him. I am aware that part of my flurry of cleaning each spring is related to the uselessness I feel in the things I have no control over, like when someone I love dies. Cleaning- the wiping, the scrubbing, the scraping- delivers instant gratification. And it gets things done.
I closed that closet door, covered in grime and feeling elated. It wasn’t just spring cleaning and de-cluttering. It was time travelling. I walked through who I was and the choices I have made, making more decisions about what to hold onto and what to let go of. I shed skins, old versions of me that no longer apply.

I learned more about the person I am now. I learned that I can’t regret the path I took to get here, because I like who I am. I like where I am. It’s another Equinox cleaning come and gone. I’m standing at the crossroads, looking back over my shoulder, while prepping what is needed for the next move forward, weighing the roads ahead of me. Wondering what awaits in the next turning of the year.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sacred Vows

The first step I took in starting my work was to create an altar in my home as a sacred space for my ancestors. To affirm my dedication to them, I chose to make a sacred vow in their name. It was just between me and them, something I wanted to do to prove my intent.
Making the vow was not as important as keeping it. To break a vow taken in someone else’s name is kind of like swearing on your mother’s grave, when you know full well your mother is alive and taking breath. It’s a lie. Lies have no place in what is sacred. Words matter.
Breaking an oath means that you do not have the discipline or willpower to walk your talk. I’m not talking about making a promise to someone and then discovering that you can’t see it through. We’re all human. I’m talking about a sacred vow. I’m talking about something you know you can do that you firm you’ll see through, and not rising to meet it.
We can speak all the words we wish to speak. But at the end of the day, our character is defined by our actions. Not our promises.
A few years ago, when I read the book The Four Agreements by author Miguel Angel Ruiz, one of the things I took away from it was the agreement to “be impeccable with your word.” Maybe it’s a romantic ideal but, it seems to me that once upon a time, people were shocked to discover someone was a liar. Which leads me to believe that it was expected that people’s word was true, that their word was their bond. Their reputation was staked on it. To lie or break your word could ruin you.
That’s not true anymore. We assume that people could be lying, that stranger’s words could be untrue. Even in kindness, we lie to be polite, to spare feelings. We know that just because somebody says they’ll do something, it doesn’t mean they will.
I try hard, and sometimes fail, to mean every word I say. I try not to fall into speaking from a place of fear and anger and releasing words I won’t mean later. I try not to just say things to fill silences. Silences are beautiful. Silences shared are more beautiful yet.
There is a clarity that comes from being able to stand behind every word you say. All of your words have more shape. More volume behind them. I no longer speak in smoke and whispers. Now I speak from my truth.
Words are magic. The throat chakra, Vishuddha, is the energy center that sits at your throat and voice box. As your kundalini energy rises through your chakras, it passes through Vishuddha and opens to Ajna, the third eye and deeper consciousness. The throat is the gateway to a spiritual level. To speak out loud a sacred vow is a strong form of magic.
In making a vow to my ancestors, I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to show my ancestors that, known or unknown to me, they were important. I didn’t just want to open a doorway to them, I wanted to build a bridge. My initial oath was simple and revolved around building that bridge and my awareness of them. I vowed to light a candle on my ancestor altar at the same time, every day, for seven weeks.
The ritual I created was straightforward. I called to my ancestors, reading the names I had. I poured oblations to them, offering them remembered nourishment. I lit a candle to help them find their way to me. And then I spoke my vow. I promised to light that candle every night for seven weeks, as seven is a magical number for me. I promised to perform my little ritual every night at 7 o’clock for seven weeks.

It is the speaking of words out loud that casts the spell around the oath. We should never say something if we do not mean to do it. The strength I found from seeing my commitment through was enormous. It became the firm footing I needed to begin my work. I always wondered at the images from history that show men making oaths on the blade of a sword. As a kid I thought the sword was the punishment for a broken vow, but now I understand the metaphor better. Where personal growth is concerned, the only one truly hurt by breaking a sacred oath is yourself.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Four Years Gone

Time loses all meaning in death. Time ceases to matter to the dead. Whatever comes next does not follow the trail of suns across the sky. For those left among the living, years can pass and still… a word, a song, a smell can open the lid off your sadness. That’s what grief does, it ebbs and flows like tides coming in and out. It’s a natural rhythm, a natural process. The ebb is important because it gives you time.
“Time heals all wounds,” is a common phrase. But until you live it you don’t understand. It doesn’t heal in the sense of you “get over it.” I hate that phrase. You don’t get over death. You don’t get over hurt. It changes you and eventually, it does not sting as hard. You will never again be the person you were before the loss. You may come close. But not the same.
So the ebb is important, because it gives you time away from the reminders so that you can move on with your life, and put feet in front of feet, moving forward. Blindly or not, forward is important. That way, when the flow comes again, and the wave crashes in, it’s not as hard or sharp. The grief is there but it doesn’t break your heart. And one day, when you realize that, that awareness of it will be what breaks your heart. And the next time, it will bring you peace of mind, because you will know you are over the sharpest part.
That doesn’t mean you’re over the loss. You’re just over the spike of grief. Then comes the sadness.
Four years ago, we put a beloved friend and pet to sleep, unexpectedly. Her death and my ensuing grief amidst my ancestor work were what prompted me to start this blog online. Making offerings to my ancestors is easy, as they are mostly names of people unknown to me. When you lose a family member, someone who was a piece of your heart, it’s hard to find any comfort except in the knowledge that you are not the first person to lose someone… but that’s where the comfort ends.
Four years and 188 posts on my ancestor work later, it hurts less to think of her. I can talk about Luna without crying, but not without my heart welling. We’ve lost a second cat and gained another, and the joy our remaining pets bring us holds the sadness at bay. The only defense in the face of grief is love, and to keep loving what is still alive.
I remember how uncertain we were when we adopted Luna, never guessing at what a friend she would become to us. She slept on me and would dreamwalk with me almost every night. She would often appear in my meditations and journeys, only to discover her curled up beside me after I was done. Any time we held a circle, she would run in and sit quietly for the duration. When I am lucky, she comes to me in my dreams still, and I wake feeling her rabbit-soft skin beneath my fingers. I used to cry for grief. Now I smile in gratitude.

This afternoon, Mara curled up for a nap on Luna’s favorite cushion. And it seemed fitting that the spaces Luna enjoyed, sunk her energy into, are enticing places to the other cats, as if those who never knew her can sense the echo of her in our lives and in our home. It speaks to me of the depth that those who came before us walk the earth with us in reverberations of life and love. On the anniversary of one of the hardest decisions of our lives, we put treats and catnip in Luna’s old food bowl on the ancestor altar, and we lit a candle for her, speaking her name... 
We love you, Luna, Lunabelle the Jackalope cat. I still see your ghost turning around corners and curling up in the corner of my eye. We miss you, every day, and we share that love we had for you with other special cats who had no one to love them. We will see you again someday. Until then, I'll meet you in our dreamings.
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