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 30, 2016

Beauty in Grief

Grief. It welcomes itself into your life in multiple occasions of loss: jobs, homes, health, pets, loved ones.

I feel it now, even though the sun is shining outside of my office window. I am sitting in my chair typing, resting my damaged legs after a half hour of standing still. I could feel grief over the change in my health, and I do. But staring at the sun, my heart is sore because I miss my Grandpa.

He died right after the spring equinox. He was a bright light in my heart and the loss of him still hurts. But not as much. Not as sharply, which is normal. It's been over a decade now. It hardly seems possible.

It was gloomy the day he died, and cold still. But you could feel the change of season in the air. The day we buried him, the sun was bright and warm. He would have loved it. I didn't feel that way at the time, but I see that now. Then, I was grieving.

Grief is dark. It's smothering and it eats the oxygen from the air. It manipulates gravity until every push and pull of your muscles is a battle you don't want to win.

Grief is a tool of change and transition. It serves a purpose. Something in our lives has altered incredibly and will never be the same. Grief steals in and colors our world to better sharpen the contrast between what has changed and what remains the same. It reminds us so that our brains can't lie to us. Otherwise it would.

So when I look at the sun on a warming spring day, and my heart hurts, it is a reminder that my Grandpa isn't here to see that sun. But then I think about him. About him. Not the loss of him, but about the life he lived and the people he loved and those who loved him in return.

I tell his stories, about how he used to tell us he made dessert, and even boxed it up special, just for us. For years I thought he made the best coffee cakes, and just put them in Sara Lee boxes. I really did. And he almost had me until he said he grew a cantaloupe in one day... and the whole family thought I had known all along that he was joking about his baking skills.

I tell his stories, and they make me smile. Grief blankets the heartbreak so that it's bearable. And on the other side of it, the light becomes a welcome sight again. Green shoots poke their way out of the warming earth. Flowers bloom and birds return. So do the memories.

What is remembered, lives.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My Mother's Irish Ancestors

The birds are singing their spring songs outside and St. Patrick's Day marks the turning to the equinox. The days are lengthening and in my little garden, the tiger lilies are peeking out of the earth with bright green shoots. I am thinking about my Irish heritage. I was surprised to discover today that all of my known Irish ancestors are buried beneath my mother's family tree.

The first to step on American soil was my 7x great-grandfather David Calhoun, born in Dongeal in 1690. He settled and died in Connecticut. I feel I have to admit that David's grandfather was from Scotland, so his family blood was Scotch-Irish.

Thomas Riddle, also found spelled Ridel, was born in Ireland in 1739. He was my 6x great-grandfather. He hailed from Tyrone County, where he appears on a 1796 list for Irish flax growers. He fought for the colonies in the Revolutionary War as a Private in 1775.

My 6x great-grandparents John Berry, born in 1762, and Nancy Matchet, born in 1767, came to America from Ireland and settled in a small town called Mayfield, in New York. There are still Berrys in Mayfield.

My other Irish ancestors all immigrated to New York, where the Erie Canal was being planned. The unknown parents of my 3x great-grandfather Thomas Burke came to America via Canada, where Thomas was born in 1832. He is listed as living in Lockport in 1855 with his widowed mother Ann. He was employed in "boating."

My 4x great-grandfather Barney Dowd came over from Ireland with his daughters and their families, including my 3x great-grandmother Mary Dowd, born about 1837 in Ireland, as was her husband, David Conners, my ancestor, too.

My Lockportian ancestors all lived in the areas of Lowertown where the Irish who worked on the canal had set up their homes. So in honor of St. Patty's day, I'll set out a bowl of warm honey and milk over bread, and I'll pour a pint of ale for those who left their homelands for a country where they were treated like vermin, but where they persevered and planted roots.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Stone Ally as Healer

My hospital room was up on the sixth floor and I had a small window that showed the brick wall of a building across the way. I went weeks without seeing nature and I went nuts. Even though I knew that beneath the floor, beneath the hospital, beneath the basements, there was earth. But I felt so disconnected. My family brought me two precious things: a piece of birch limb and a flourite crystal.

I'm a bit of a stone geek and rock nerd and I can feel the different energy between different varieties of crystals and minerals. I consider them to be great allies in negotiating the flow of energy. Flourite happens to have enormous healing properties.

When I was scared, or when they changed my dressings, or when I meditated, I often held my flourite to my chest. Instead of trying to reach down beneath the hospital with my thoughts, I held the crystal to my body. It was always cool to the touch, and the way the crystal cleaved inside, and caught the light, it helped me go deeper and deeper into my meditation, into growing new skin cells and helping the grafts knit together.

And it soothed me. When I cried I held it to my forehead. It took the feverish flush from me.

The large stone was colored like a spring day against the gloomy winter afternoons. The sun is coming, it sang. It was born from somewhere in the earth, compressed and colored by fire. By fire. I held onto that. And we healed together.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What Seal Tells Me

In my spirituality, I often turn to nature for wisdom gleaned from its patterns and creative forces. And I also look to the rest of the animal world for qualities I admire or look to emulate. Sometimes I adopt animal guides for a period of time. Sometimes they adopt me.

I have walked/swum with seal since I was a young girl. I fell in love with a stuffed, white seal at a zoo. I called my friend Sammi. She's still with me, though her skin is a dingy grey now. I have always loved water. I have always loved swimming in it. And I saw my seal friend as a guide for me as I swam through my dreams at night.

Other animal guides have come and gone, but Sammi has always been there.

Years ago, I attended a workshop designed to get me in touch with my shadow animal. I totally expected to find myself in the skin of a centipede (and I went anyway). I wasn't prepared to find myself transformed into the guise of a familiar friend, slick skin, flippers, and all. Except I was a seal rock climbing, with no water in sight. And it hurt beneath me, sharp edges cutting at my edges. And it hurt, but I kept moving.

I thought about that memory while I was in the hospital, learning how to walk again. I called out to my animal totem and asked it's spirit to walk with me on my journey. It's difficult now. My skin is different. The shape of my legs has altered. Walking still takes thought and effort. I know it'll keep getting better and someday it will feel normal again, but for the moment, I am a floundering a bit out of my element, like a seal out of water. Like a seal trying to clamber over jagged rocks, only my jagged rocks are stairs and bathtub rails.

In my dreams at night, I swim and dance, and remember two feet gliding easily across the earth. And I ask my seal friends to keep me company, so we can learn to walk together.

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