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, April 30, 2014

May Day Baskets

For many years now, I have woken on May Day morning to find a small basket on my stoop. It’s often filled with flowers, stone, chocolates, and fruits. It is the sweetest gift from our anonymous May Day Fairy, and I found that I didn’t care who delivered it. I was able to accept the generosity with simple gratitude. And I felt compelled to gift that quiet joy to others in return, to spread happiness and human kindness. 
There’s a long history of gifting May Baskets to friends and neighbors, though it has mostly fallen out of fashion. In her work Jack and Jill: A Village Story, published in 1880, Louisa May Alcott wrote: “The job now in hand was May baskets, for it was the custom of the children to hang them on the doors of their friends the night before May-day.”
If you are reading this blog and thinking that sounds like a wonderful idea, but tomorrow is May the first, these little baskets can be as simple as a paper cone filled with wildflowers or candy with a note that says “Happy May Day!”
You can recycle baskets, tins, planter pots to make baskets. Or you can make them out of construction paper, weaving strips together. You can fill them with whatever small treasures you have or can find- things to just brighten a friend or neighbors day: small potted plants, flowers, flower seeds, candies, fruit, small gifts, candles, homemade items, etc. The only limitation is your imagination.

Blessed Spring!

Happy May Day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We are All Relations

Mara, descendant of the Little Boy.
I was at the zoo this weekend, talking to the mountain lion, when I overheard a conversation between a small boy and his father.
“He’s sleeping, like me on the couch.”
“You’re not an animal, dad,” the son said.
“That’s true,” dad answered, and they moved on.
But it wasn’t true. We are animals. I’ve always had a soft spot for other animals, seeing them as kin and cousin. We put food out when we have stray cats about. We put seed out for the birds and nuts for the squirrels. When we get mice in the house, we put out humane traps to catch them live and release them to the woods. We do this because we live on the same land they do. We all share this space of city, and we do what we have to do to survive.
We do this because when we put food out, the cats leave our garbage alone. When we put seeds and nuts out, the birds and squirrels don’t eat from our garden. We find ways to co-exist. Relationships are born from kindness, human or otherwise.
There was a black and white stray cat we named Little Boy who was the dominant tomcat in our neighborhood for over seven years. He regularly came by to get some food and show us he was alive. Sometimes he had kittens with him, showing them his route, and where the kind humans lived. He died after a street fight. One of his other regulars took him to the vet and had to put him to sleep. A lot of people missed him when he was gone. How many strangers were unknowingly connected by our concern for this one cat?
We get a lot of strays in the city. When a small black and white kitten showed up on our stoop last summer, it was a familiar sight. She even bore an uncanny resemblance to our old friend and we took Mara in. A week later, a second black and white kitten showed up, same age, though she was slightly longer-haired. A local rescue helped us find her a forever home. And then the third kitten showed up, who might have been Mara’s twin; they had similar markings and the same short, stumpy tail. He also looked just like the Little Boy. We were sure they was a family. We took one in, found a home for a second, and we were watching over their brother, who did not seem interested in people at all. But we were waiting to earn his trust.
Easter Sunday, we went for a walk. I got dressed and took out the garbage. I could hear the crying of a cat bouncing around the rooftops. I turned to see if I could spy the cat, wondering if it was a hungry Little Boy, Jr. He’s been by a lot lately. At the end of our walk, we veered back a less scenic route, and immediately knew why. There was a lump in the street. It could have been a garbage bag. It wasn’t. We both knew it, at the same time. I ran across the road.
It was Mara’s brother.
I cried out. He was dead, but it had recently happened. He was warm, still limp with just a slight stiffness to his legs and tail. The blood was still fresh on the pavement, bright against the road, and he had voided himself. I knew that he was the cat I had heard crying out.
I’ve seen a lot of animals dead in the road. But none whose faces were familiar to me. I said prayers over his body, hulking in the middle of the street, daring the cars to hit me without a word. Because I couldn’t understand why, if I had heard him from my house, the people in the houses across from his body, who came out to stare at me standing in the road, hadn’t come out to help him. Because he was just an animal. Too many people stand on the other side of a closed door before responding, waiting to see if someone else is going to take care of it.
I run to the sounds of people and animals in distress. Because I would want someone to come help me, or one of my cats. I would rather find out I was concerned for nothing than find out later I could have done something.
It could have been one of my cats I picked up off the road, held in my gloved hands, and bundled into a heavy plastic bag. Little Boy, Jr. didn’t have a home. He didn’t have anyone who loved him special and the least we could do was see to the end of his life with dignity.
I would have felt that for any animal I found dead. A friend of ours offered us his woods to bury Little Boy, Jr. in. We labored in the warm sun to carve a hole in clay and stone, digging around and under thickened tree roots. We buried him in a hole between two birch trees with a view of a wooded hillside and a creek running gently beside him. We laid three pieces of silver over his body and burned sage above his grave.
When we listen to the world around us, when we step outside of ourselves, we feel the threads of connection to everything. If you meditate on that web, you feel connected to everything, and you can’t imagine being the cause of pain or sadness in another living being. And magic happens.
We went for a walk, spontaneously. We found his body moments after his last death, before another vehicle could run over where he lay in the road. People who knew his face and cared about him, found him.
It’s not that I think things happen for a reason. I don’t believe in purpose like that. But I do believe that if we can connect to the intuitive world outside of our flesh, we will find ourselves drawn to the places we need or should be. Where we can be of the most help or in the place of being helped... that thing we call luck.

We are all relations, all animals trying to survive in this world together. I treat all living things as I wish to be treated, with kindness and compassion. May we all do the same. May it be so.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Earth Week Challenge

Have bag, will carry.
There are consequences to all of the choices we make. We know this. Give and take, ebb and flow. It’s how life works. We wake in the morning and we go to sleep at night, our energy expended. We eat food to fuel our bodies. We defecate out what is not needed for our nourishment. And, with some animals, that natural waste is returned to feed the soil for growing more food.
I think about this stuff all the time now. When I was in college, one of my shop supervisors worked days at the Shit Plant- that’s what he called it. I learned everything there was to know about what happens to our shit after we flush the toilet. I hadn’t thought about it before then, where my waste went. Most of us who were raised in Western Society don’t think about it.
It was different before modern plumbing, when townspeople had to be aware of the levels of crap in their outhouses. Just a week ago I came across an article about a medieval dig site in Denmark, and how they recently excavated four wooden barrels of human excrement. What they found was the communal shit house. When the barrels were full, they were sealed, covered in dirt, and four new barrels were placed somewhere else, and the external bathroom was moved. And guess what? Seven-hundred years later and the shit still stinks.

We consume, we create waste. That’s what our bodies do. What about the waste we create outside of our bodies? How much waste do you produce, externally, on a daily basis?
Years ago, a friend of mine was on walkabout, working at a foundation in Ireland. We were sending her a care package from the States and she asked us to unwrap anything that was individually-wrapped as there was no garbage service, and she had to carry her garbage around with her. We got creative with the packaging, trying to use filler that could be reused or burned cleanly. And I began to wonder how much garbage I would accumulate if I had to carry it with me.
There is a challenge I encourage others to do for a week, to get the tangible feel for the weight of what we discard. All you need is a reusable bag and the awareness that throwing things in garbage cans is a habitual action you need to pay attention to. Instead of throwing your bits of trash in the nearest garbage bin, put it in your bag. Unless it’s uneaten food, because that’s unsanitary- although that alone could cause you to rethink your portion sizes.
I started doing just that as a personal challenge, to exist in a state of mindfulness about the garbage I produce. At first, I did it in spurts here and there, cultivating awareness. After doing it long enough, I can now be found shoving bits of garbage into my pockets, purse, or backpack, even if there is a garbage can right beside me.
The goal with this exercise is awareness, and to reach it, you have to see the truth of what you discard. From what you collected, sort out things that can be recycled in your district. If you aren’t sure, look it up with your local sanitation department. After the recyclables have been sorted out, what is left to go to the landfill?
What story do the remaining items tell you? Do you see ways you could pare your waste down? Any ways you could buy items in bulk? Be good to the Earth, for we are at her mercy, and it falls upon each of us to leave it a better place for those who will come after.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Prayer for the Passing of a Difficult Relationship

Sometimes when people pass, we find ourselves at a loss for what to say, suffering from conflicting emotions. What happens when we are not saddened by the loss of the person, but saddened by the loss of the chance to change the unsatisfying relationship? Can we find it within ourselves to honor the end of their life despite our ambivalent hearts? For me, the answer has become yes.

I Hope You Knew Peace (Sarah Lyn, 2014)

Wherever you were, whatever you were doing
in that last moment, I hope you knew peace.
Things left unsaid will find their way into the world
as whispers on the winds.
Things left undone were not meant to be done.
Or perhaps they were. Let other hands take up their toil,
let them fade into ether.
The end of this journey is the end of this story.
Now it’s time to start a new one.
May your heart be lighter it’s next turn.

There is no need to hold onto the bones of the earth.
There is no need to hold onto the bones of your flesh.
Those you left behind will follow you.
Those who passed before will be waiting.
Let the living unravel the tangle of your loss.
At the end, it weighs no heavier.
May what is leftover fall to the earth
as you become one with the starry sky.

You are free from pain now.
Be free. I collect letters from language,
rolling them in my hands, forming words…
My hands pray your name. I honor who you were to me.
I speak your name into the waters. I honor that you were.
I speak your name to the earth. I witness what remains for those left behind.
I speak your name to the air. I take in the last breath you released.
I hold the gate as you walk towards ancestral fire.
May you be at peace.
May those who remain find peace.
May it be so.

It is for my own heart that I release residual anger. It is for my own self that I understand that we make choices from places of joy or fear and some people cannot help but choose fear and it is not meant to be personal. It is for my peace of mind that I wish things could have been different but accept them for what they were, for what they are.
I believe everyone deserves a moment of kindness at the end of all things. So I wish them peace, all of those who died alone, all of those who passed with things left unfinished. I wish them peace and a continuing journey. May their spirits cross over, and leave this earthly plane. Ase.

This week I honor the passing of Paul L. Slomba (Oct 4, 1939 – April 2, 2014), the last of my grandfathers, after battling a difficult cancer. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Before Dreaming

Connecting to those who have crossed over can seem difficult because of the longing in our hearts to be close to those who are gone again. That weighted emotion will be the biggest hurdle in your path. When that quality is softened, opening to spirit world can be like prayer. I always suggest those who are interested start by attempting visitation in dreaming, when our brains are open while our eyes are closed.
We are used to perceiving the shadows of night as other objects and entities. We soothe our minds with the self-told tales that these perceptions are simple imaginings. It’s because of this survival tactic that we accept the appearance of shifting forms more easily in the dark.
If you are longing to speak to someone who has crossed over, try this gentle ritual. Think of who you want to speak with and put a photo of them next to your bed, if you have one. If you have any items that belonged to them, or items they gave to you, put those beside your bed as well, as if you are creating an altar. Because you are creating an altar. Make the space sacred.
The best way to create meaningful rituals for yourself is to use exercises that are habitual for you and require little forethought. My most powerful dreaming ritual is the simplest. When you are ready to lie down, go to your front door, open it, and call out the name of your spirit. Invite them to come in. Invite them to visit with you. Take a deep, slow breath and then close the door.
Carry that air and the energy of that invocation and let it sweep you into bed. Focus on the items or photos next to you as your eyes grow heavy. Repeat their name in your head as you fall asleep and open yourself up to what is to come.
You may not remember your dreams at first. In the morning, pay attention to the quality of your heart. Pay attention to your waking thoughts and emotions. Don’t be afraid to speak to them out loud. Don’t be afraid to speak to the air. Wherever your loved one’s spirit resides, words are carried on the winds and will reach them.

Sweetest dreams, fellow travelers.
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