Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mad With Joy, Wise With Grief...

"If you can be mad with joy, you can be wise with grief."

~ Marguerite Yourcenar ~

I was reading through one of my favorite author's -- Doris Grumbach, whose books I have read and reread -- books this morning, Coming Into The End Zone, when Yourcenar's quote caught my eye, and I was immediately taken by it. So true, I thought, so true. I have been mad with joy, and now I am becoming wise, or wiser, with grief. When someone you love dearly, in this case my mother, is coming into her "Endzone," you think about many things you never have before. You cannot imagine the planet without your loved one on it, and at the same time you cannot but help to consider your own mortality, and in doing so you realize how tender and precious every single moment is.

I will be babysitting my 4 year old grandson today, and I will relish his innocence, his joy, his exuberance. He is at the opposite end of the spectrum from my mother's place of preparing for that Great Transformation, and I fall somewhere in the middle. My mother's daughter, Lucas's grandmother. I feel the connection of the generations. It is a powerful thing.

When I looked through my collected images today for the right one for this piece, I sat almost stunned to find the one of the butterfly being released into the air. You see, lately I have been thinking quite a lot about just that. My mother is in what might be, metaphorically speaking, a cocoon like state. Her cancer made her go blind a year ago, she is now bed-ridden and going through all of the hardships the human body goes through, strongly medicated for the pain, immobile, unable to care for herself at all anymore. It is a place of stasis, of cocoon time, of being in that resting place before the great flight to the stars and beyond. When she passes, I would like to hold that image, the butterfly, having emerged from the cocoon (the shell of the human body) into the air -- up, up and away! And then I thought of this being a very familiar state for we as humans, for in a lifetime we will go through many small births and deaths, we will enter a cocoon time and emerge a whole new being many times over. These transformations stretch out over many years, but they happen. Often we don't even realize it, caught up in the circumstances that cause these Phoenix times -- death of the old, birth of the new, renewal, ascendance into grace, completely unaware. These are the cycles of life, repeated over and over again. We can see these times, often, only in retrospect, but one day we wake up and realize that we are different. I am different. I am very, very different.

I came out of a cocoon I had lived in for a lifetime after leaving my marriage. It had nothing to do with my dear ex-husband with whom I am still friends today, nor my beloved children, nor anyone else around me. I was like the animal who is growing and shedding it's own skin. I have felt naked for many years -- afraid, closed off, confused. Okay, I'm not that anymore, but what am I? I have been working at figuring out the answer to that question for the last decade.

It is likely simply another form of midlife questioning and growth, leaving that time when everything seemed possible and you didn't really know yourself, to a time when you become more discerning, begin to know yourself more deeply, and celebrate that imperfect-perfect self. Your choices are perhaps more limited but you sink into them more deeply, experience them more fully. I have come to that time. I don't have to please anyone, and I love everybody. My body is full and soft, my heart is wide and open, I live in a deep pool of thought and meditation, floated on grace, I sit like a frog on a lilypad watching the world rush downstream madly like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, always late, always late, for a very important date. Every day is the very most important day, that's what we realize, and we also realize that despite their best efforts, their genuine concern, and most sincere desire to help, no one can walk this walk with us, and no one really know the answers. The Big Answers.

3 1/2 years ago, or so, in February of 2005, my mother was told that she only had a very short time to live, that she should go home and put her affairs in order which she did. She has out-lived everyone's expectations, and been courageous, strong, an inspiration. Too, it has been a time of suspended animation, many times facing sure death, and coming through once more, a little worse for the wear, but still here. We, who love her, have held our collective breaths, shed tears, she made her own funeral arrangements, and still time marched on. Finally, when she and I spoke the other day, it was obvious that she had reached that very quiet, very private place, the place where the dying face their God and do their own final work on this earth. There is no time-table for that. The rest of us must step back, let go, and allow her the right to her own journey.

We are living through a time out of time experience. There is no explaining it, and no knowing anything for certain. These years of suspended animation, from diagnosis to this day, I have experienced every known emotion, and in the process more and more of my remaining skin has fallen away. As she walks through one door I will walk through another, and joy and grief are so intermingled at this juncture one cannot tell one from the other. Both are present, everything is present, and then nothing at all. light seeps into the cocoon, and the process begins, for both of us. The most amazing, awesome, bewildering, grief-stricken, joyous of times. For awhile we slip into a parallel universe while we process it all, and one day, without realizing it, we re-enter life, we go on.

Presently, I wait. I cry, I breathe deeply and slowly trying to calm myself. I write, I crochet, I sleep with a pug on my person, I make the morning rounds with a parrot on my shoulder, I laugh with my grandbaby, I have quiet talks with friends, and late at night I talk to God, to all that I hold holy and sacred. I prepare for my journey as she prepares for hers, and neither of us knows what waits for us on the other side of the doors before us, but I believe that now we are both prepared, as prepared as one can be.

I put down my pen, I bury my face in my big dog's fur, a tear drops and slides down his silky fur, my arms around him, and he stands stalwart, allowing me simply to be. That is what I need most right now. He is soft, it is good, it's all I need for now.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Every Moment Is Holy, And A Blessing ~ Even If You Are Odd, Have An Alarm Clock Called A Pug, A Parrot Whispering Things Best Left Unsaid, And More...


to be

is a




~ Abraham Joshua Heschel ~
Quote found in Natalie Goldberg's
Long Quiet Highway, 1993

"Every single thing, every possible thing, is holy."

~ Annie Dillard ~

Living the contemplative life takes many forms, and not all of them consist of staring up at the moon, or meditating, or falling on one's knees in prayer. I believe the contemplative life, truly and deeply lived, is in having the realization that every moment is holy, and a blessing.
The most mundane ordinary things are radiant with grace. Though I rarely leave my cottage, and do indeed lead, for the most part, a cloistered life, it is, more often than not, the very dailyness of life that one revels in, if one has eyes to see. I give you my day today, which is much like every other day...

I was awakened this morning, as I am every morning, very early, by a tiny, 13 year old deaf, and nearly blind, pug. Babs' bounces with excitement as she barks continuously and she will not stop until I am up. She also awakens the three other dogs who think it is a swell idea to get up as well, even though I went to bed at 3 or 4 a.m. and it is now somewhere between 6 and 7. Too, there are the six parrots, one a very vocal African Grey Parrot, and one a cockatoo whose screams could deafen everyone on the block if she put her mind to it, but she is covered and amazingly quiet in the morning.

I creep about, wordlessly, getting the dogs out and in, and they know my signals very well. If, by chance, it is later and I am going to stay up, they wait, staring at me, for their morning treat before breakfast. If, in fact, I am going to lie back down for awhile to sleep, the girls (Coco, and Babs, the 2 female pugs), and Moe (Big Black Dog) shrug, go back to their beds, and flop down. Sampson, my velcro pug who always sleeps with me, stares at me wide-eyed for a split second to figure out what I'm thinking, and then jumps back up in his spot, waiting for me to sink back down under the covers and snuggle into the pillows, at which point he snuggles into me, sighs a sigh of relief, and plops his head down and is snoring in under a minute.

Alas, Henry, the grey, is nobody's fool, and he knows that there has been some activity and that I have gotten up. He starts whispering, and then talking, although much quieter than usual. He runs through his litany of everything he can think of to say but his "Come hither..." speech gets him nowhere, and he becomes very quiet and goes back to sleep. I might sleep 2 or 3 more hours and there is not a sound in the cottage until I am ready to get up, and once I sit up, my feet not yet having touched the floor, the cottage creatures spring into action.

The dogs are ready to go out again, the parrots get uncovered, Blossom, the cockatoo, and Henry get out and start talking up a storm, and everyone is waiting to be fed. It takes a full hour to take care of all of the animals, and truth be told, many's the day I wouldn't even get up if it wasn't for them.

Every moment of the above ministrations to those feathered and furred are true blessings, as is the company I keep in the kitchen once they are all up and at 'em. Henry rides about on my shoulder while I make coffee and get the day started, and I try not to trip over 3 pugs while I am frothing milk for my latte in my kitchen the size of a shoebox. Moe, whom I have come to call Big Black Dog, is not about to come into the kitchen and try to eat until the others have finished and, for the most part, cleared out. When I sit down Henry gets a few nips of my protein shake, sneaks some foam off the top of my latte, and then proceeds to try to destroy any pen or small article on my desk. I lift my finger, which he is perched on, and say, "FLY," and off to his cage he goes, though he will fly back and forth a few times. By this point Sampson has settled on my feet, furry warm teddy bear of a pug, and I am sorting through a multitude of e-mails and books and making notes and staring at the blank screen, ready to write. Then comes the time that I sip my coffee and contemplate my navel.

Every writer has their own method. Mine begins with the comfort of knowing that all of my animals are cared for, and have now gone back to sleep or on to quiet pursuits, satisfied that I am within sight and exactly where I'm supposed to be, and I sit quietly and smile watching them all. There is nothing like watching a dog, eyes closed, side rising and falling with the slow breaths of peaceful sleep, or a parrot, basking in the sun, eyes closed, taking a mid-morning nap. And though I am thought strange for living this unusual life of mine, there is not a day that I do not feel filled with gratitude. I live with my finger on the pulse of life, from this one little place, unnoticeable to most of the world, and I am at peace. Every single thing, every possible thing, is, indeed, holy. And I am blessed in every moment of every day by this life I have been given.

I look over at the pile of fibers on the table next to me. I am at work on what will end up, I believe, a very large freeform crochet piece. I say "piece" because I have no idea what it will become and I am not in the least concerned. There are piles of dyed wool, colorful, silky, curly wool locks, as well as silky dyed llama. Handspun yarns in many colors. I crochet, adding bits of everything in here and there, and this marvelous colorful 7' long and 3" wide, at this point, something-or-other could just as easily turn into a king sized blanket as one of my Rainbow Serpents of the Dreamtime. I am allowing it to find it's own form and the act of crochet is, truly, for me, a meditation, every stitch all the more sacred for working with fiber from live sheep, goats, and llamas who are loved like family pets, retired and rescued creatures, living out their lives cared for by my dear friend Sandy of Homestead Wool and Gift Farm. Even if you are not into fibers or fiber work, I encourage you to take a trip to her site and see her wonderful animals, lovingly cared for -- there are many photos of the animals themselves -- and read about the magical life (and one made up of very hard work, and very much love) on the farm. I feel truly blessed when I am working with the fibers, whether raw fibers that I will clean and dye, or beautifully dyed sacks of fiber that Sandy has dyed, or bags full of curly locks. To knit, crochet, or spin natural fibers that still bounce with the energy and liveliness of the animals they came from is a gift in each and every moment I am working with them.

My days also consist of very glamorous things like plunging the ever and always clogged up toilet, not to mention the right side of the kitchen sink where once a garbage disposal lived, but died long ago, and any water that leaks or splashes over to that side finally fills the disposal and sink and becomes, well, rather nasty. The only thing that works is a toilet plunger that I have just for that use and keep under the kitchen sink. Holy? Yes, these are the moments of my life, and a clogged toilet and sink are part of it.

Another part of my day is cleaning up after Sampson, my "stealth pooper." I have tried anything and everything that anyone has even remotely suggested. I have read books and consulted experts, including my vet. He will pee on everything in sight outside while the other dogs do their business in both directions, and then, when I am not looking, I realize that he is not here, and I will hear him trotting down the stairs. He has taken a liking to the upstairs landing for his, well, #2's. Sometimes he is brazen enough to walk right in the door and while I am unleashing the other dogs and perhaps heading in to do my own business, he will have pooped just inside the door. There is no polite way to put any of this but it is a fact of my life. All of my dogs are rescues and this little fella was really abused and neglected.

At the Humane Society, where he was before thankfully being sent to the rescue, he was so thin and weak he couldn't even lift his face from the water bowl. I have no idea why he goes inside, but I keep white vinegar, paper towels, and a baking soda solution at hand upstairs and down. I simply clean it up, flush it down the toilet, and don't make a big deal about it. This little dog has suffered terribly in his life, and he will not be punished here, nor will any of my animals, for their oddities and idiosyncracies. I do my best to correct problematic behaviors, but as I adopt older dogs who were likely abused, some things are just going to happen, and after I clean up there is this little teddy bear of a pug with huge eyes staring at me with so much love and a kind of gratitude I can't help but to go soft inside just looking at him. He lies back down on my feet and I go back to writing. He sticks to me like glue. He is indeed a blessing in my life and if I have to clean up the poop every single day for the rest of his life, so be it. Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy, even if you are a stealth pooper.

I chuckle, amused, at the people who think it must be lonely eating meals alone. I haven't eaten a meal alone in thirty four years. First I raised three children and now I live with a bevy of animals and a new rescue to come next month after he has surgery on Monday and heals. Another little pug, this little fella in the worst shape of any pug I've yet taken in. His name is Harvey and you can read his story on the stories page of the newest blog I've created, The Puggery Snuggery, later this weekend, written by the marvelous rescue worker and his current foster mother, Tina. There will be pictures of when he first came to the rescue and how he has progressed. That I have been blessed by the presence of animals that others consider throwaways and worse has been one of the great joys of my life. When little Harvey comes next month it will be a very sweet thing indeed. Any little one needing a safe haven has a home with me.

The cottage, on it's best day, will never be photographed for Better Homes and Gardens or any other magazine. My daughter may have put it best when she came in one day and said, "Mom, it looks like you live in a pet shop." We will all be quite happy to move into larger quarters with a fenced yard and big kitchen. Until then I travel narrow paths, strewn with stuffed toys, the floor covered with birdseed that the parrots just will sling everywhere (the shop vac near the cages isn't exactly the norm in decorative items, but I use it daily), and a kitchen never quite at its best. I try, I really do, but I tend to wander through the days like the Absent Minded Professor, writing in my head, tripping over this, that, and godonlyknows what other thing might be in my path, and I always mean to get the dishes done but, well, there is the writing to do and fiber work and dogs to get in and out and bird cages to clean and the garden to tend to, not to mention the orphaned African Violets to repot (I buy the ones shoved to the side in a grocery cart that have bloomed out, look pitiful, and are marked down to fifty cents, bring them home, repot and feed them, and tenderly care for them. Currently there are African violets blooming all over the cottage, some quite large, and most living happily now in vintage teapots. If it's a living thing, orphaned or cast aside, it's almost a sure bet that I will adopt it, animal, vegetable or mineral, and if this isn't true grace I don't know what is.

It is not true that I created a peculiar life just to have something to write about, I am an odd person and I know that, but it certainly gives me plenty of material, and as a metaphorist allows me to jump from a pug to God to weeds in the garden. Birth and death, wonder and awe over the tiny lizards and ladybugs outside, as well as a deep appreciation for a fine cup of tea on a rainy afternoon, or a glass of merlot with a fine meal. And I'll tell you one thing for sure, living "alone," if I can even use that phrase here, is fraught with blessings in the clothing department.

I live in inexpensive cotton caftans from around the world and I have plenty of them. I get pooped on by the parrots sitting on my shoulder on a regular basis which requires frequent changes, morning and night, (all of a sudden I realize that poop seems to be a leitmotif in the story of my life...), I am, for the most part, walking about barefoot, and I always wear clunky odd shoes, whether Birkenstocks or Crocs. I have a collection of shawls that I am seldom without though many have seen better days, and my short blond hair is more often than not askew. It just springs up and has a mind of it's own.

And then there are my meals. I am actually a very good cook, but, well, it is dispiriting, to say the least, to cook for one. So I cook or prepare good food in odd combinations. Tonight I had to eat, but didn't feel like cooking and was very busy writing. I sliced up 2 very ripe avocados that needed to eaten, plopped a big stem full of big deep purple, very sweet, seedless grapes, and had with it the leftover protein shake from this morning. It's not exactly what I'd serve company but it works for me. There are more peculiar combinations as well as things that I "hide and sneak," but I'm not about to mention them here.

All in all it is a grand life and if it is pieced together with mismatched old furniture, vintage quilts that have seen better days, and books and fiberwork everywhere, the dogs and the birds don't seem to mind, and Vincent, the beta fish, never complains about one single solitary thing. There is love here. There is color and life and joy. And I am more than aware that I am blessed and that my life is made of many holy hours and days.

Just to live is a blessing. Just to be is holy. There is not a single moment that I forget that. Love your life, celebrate it, it is passing more quickly than you know.

Warm Regards and Deepest Blessings To All,


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Entrances and Exits ~ Doors Closing and Windows Opening...

“Every exit is an entrance somewhere else...”

~ Tom Stoppard ~

It came to me as I was coming back from the grocery store, and walking up to my front door laden with groceries, watching 3 wee pugs and one big black dog hurling themselves at the front door in excitement, that we are always coming and going, always making our entrances and exits, and then I came upon Stoppard's quote, "Every exit is an entrance somewhere else." And it kind of made me wonder. Was it more important that Alice fell down the Rabbit Hole, or that she came back out? Is birth more important than death or vice versa? and then, there are many little births and deaths in life that change the course of our entire lives, setting us off on heretofore unimagined paths. I am teetering on the threshold in many ways in my life. When my mother passes, along with the sadness and grief, a whole new world will open, the earth, as I have known it, will have shifted on it's axis, and I cannot imagine what my life will be like.

I left the house to do much needed errands -- food for the parrots, groceries, mail a few things -- I like to go in the early evening, or on a Sunday afternoon to the little store nearby because there is a quiet and a peace then. I always have that gripping feeling in my stomach as I walk out the door, and always an enormous sense of relief when I get back, and coming back to a house full of animals happy to see you is a splendid thing indeed. As I am unlocking the front door, juggling groceries, keys, and trying not to let a little herd of puglets and Big Black Dog out the front door, I am calling, "Mommy's Hommmmmmme," and Henry, the grey parrot, starts repeating in a sing-songy voice, "Mommy's Ho-oooommmme," over and over, dancing from one little reptilian foot to the other, and Big Bird (Blossom, the Cockatoo) is shouting, "Hi BIRD, Hi BIRD!!!" and all the other little ones are dancing about, and I am laughing and being bombarded by countless paws and eager little faces and yips and yaps and barks and kisses -- beaky ones, and soft furry ones, and I think I have never felt so loved and welcomed. Every time I leave the house, which is seldom, I am greeted as if I am Queen of the World upon my return, and all is right now that I am here. It makes me smile, just to think of it.

I have been thinking, which is natural under the circumstances, about births and deaths quite a lot lately, and the memories of birthing my children come vividly to the forefront of my mind as my mother moves closer to the door that will take her to that unknown "other side." Birth and death are so closely related, one door closing, another opening. One passing out of this world and somewhere in the world a baby takes it's first breath. The first and last breath punctuate a life. Thinking of that leaves me with a sense of awe and a stillness settles around me like a protective curtain, like at the theatre where the heavy curtains hide the actors and the scenery and the audience waits in breathless anticipation. What is on the other side? When will it all begin? And then the lights go down and the curtains slowly open and with a bang the show begins. I am sitting in the audience right now, wondering what is on the other side of the curtain, wondering what the play will look like when I am the matriarch of the clan and my mother has been written out of the script. It is unthinkable to me, but it will happen, just as surely as the curtain will open and the show must go on.

So must this show, and I find myself needing to make myself breathe, realizing that I am stiff and holding my breath. It's one of the wonderful things about the pugs. I sit here smiling as I listen to little pug snores here and there around the room. It's near midnight and the birds and Big Dog Moe sleep soundlessly, while the three pugs snore in harmony. They remind me to breathe each time they snore. I breathe with them, and scrunch my shoulders up tight so that they can fall, fall, fall in waves of relaxation. To have a pug asleep on your feet as you type isn't such a bad thing either.

In the last couple of days I started yet another blog. As I wrote in my Twitter notes in the right-hand column, someone wrote to me today and said, "How do you keep doing all of this (the blogs, the website, etc...) in the middle of everything that's going on?" I understood what she meant, but the blogging and "dropping" entrecards on other entrecarder's blogs holds a kind of meditative grace that keeps me steady. It's as though if I stop I might fall off the edge of the earth. And so I started a blog just about the pugs, the funny-faced, adorable, snoring, kissable, little clowns who are keeping me sane. It was inspired by an entry I wrote here not long ago. The name of the new blog is The Puggery Snuggery.

I swear to you that these funny little dogs came to me as guardian angels, and so they have been for a year, and another will come next month. He was badly neglected and had a lot of health problems so he won't come home from the foster mother's until he's had surgery and more, but he will have a warm welcome and a loving home. It's no longer time for me to be mothered. It's time for me to mother, and my children are all grown and independent people, and while we all love each other and are here for each other always, I believe in cutting the apron strings and letting them have their lives, knowing that you are always there if they need you. It is just as Kahlil Gibran wrote so beautifully about children in The Prophet...

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

When I reread Gibran's beautiful words it took my breath away, because it is not only true of our children, but of our parents. We come through them, not to them, and when it is their time to be the arrow that flies, it will be we who are stable. Or so I pray. I have had wickedly hard days the last couple of weeks, but every single day something lifts me up. I pray constantly, even unconsciously, as I breathe. I sing, softly, sacred songs while I sit with the animals as they go to sleep, I remember being pregnant with my three children and coming into the endzone with the pregnancies. Due dates are but feeble parameters, and death, like birth, comes in it's own time. We can only wait, and bear witness. The processes of both birth and death cannot be held back, rushed, or foretold. And so I wait. All that I can do is pray that when the time comes she may indeed go gently in to that great goodnight, and so now I look out of my windows and wonder when the door will close.

At least, in the meantime, there are pugs snoring to help me regulate my breath, and fibers to crochet, and dishes to wash, and when the dark of night falls the curtains close on the doors and windows, giving me another night's sleep, a warm soft fawn pug like a teddy bear curled into me as we sleep, and Big Moe guarding me, back to me facing outward, and I am taking one night, one day, one window, one door at a time.

I remember days with young children when it seemed there was always too much to do and too little time to do it. Now it seems like the days flow endlessly, one into the other, like looking out onto the sea, unable to see anything but water never ending on the horizon. It's easier to turn your back on an endless ocean that you cannot control, and write an entry in a blog, read a page in a book, wash the dishes or put off doing them entirely, watch mindless t.v., or any of the other myriad things that are mere minutiae in the scheme of things, and yet it is that minutiae that holds one together so that it's possible to pretend that the ocean never ends. But finally you bump up into the continent on the other side, a door opens, and you walk out into a whole new world. That day will come for me but not yet, not just yet.

I am going to take my pugboy and go to sleep, listen to him snuffle and go round and round in circles until he has found his perfect spot. He doesn't care about doors and windows, entrances or exits, he lives in the moment, as all of the animals do. I live in a house full of teachers.

And so I put down my pen, and pick up my little pug. Tomorrow is another day, and no one knows what it may bring...


Monday, August 4, 2008

Oh My Heart Is Aching ~ Opening The Creative Vein...

"We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
The morning lights
The streets that meet them,
And sirens call them on
With a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark'ning dawn..."

~ From Carly Simon's Let The River Run ~

I have not updated this blog for some time. I kept coming to it and trying, but I have been stuck in a place of grief as my mother hangs on by a near translucent thread and the end is coming faster all the time. I think that one of the reasons I haven't written is because I don't like to keep writing the same kind of thing, especially filled with sadness and grief without finding redemption, joy, and feeling lifted aloft by all of the good things in my life, my deep and abiding faith, my children and my grandchild, my animal companions whom I am blessed to share my daily life with, my dear friends, and so much more. But now... now, the winds are shifting. Unable to do any creative work at all as things have worsened with my mother, a ray of light, slim and slanting sideways through the windows at first, entered the cottage. I picked up my crochet hooks, a pile of roving, some handspun yarn, and I have started working again, making a freeform project. Tonight I made a bracelet for myself out of tiny turquoise heishi beads, and I am getting ready to weave.

The spirit is a wise and wonderful guide and teacher, and my spirit guides come from several traditions. Raised Catholic, coming to Buddhism in my 20's and not long after Native American Spirituality, which for anyone who has studied those two traditions know that they go hand in hand. The Dalai Lama met with Native American Tribal leaders when he visited the United States. They are linked in a beautiful way. Even as I changed my name, legally, to the Buddhist teaching of maitri, of love and compassion, I wear a medicine bag filled with sacred stones, feathers from my birds, most especially 2 of Henry's, my African Grey parrot, my familiar; Blossom, the Greater Sulfur Crested cockatoo who came to me to be saved, and saved me at the same time; and a tiny green cheek conure named Emmy Lou. The feathers keep me aloft and rising into the blue skies of my deep and powerful spiritual beliefs, while the sacred stones, feathers, and soft leather of the medicine bag, quite beautiful, made by a Lakota woman to raise money for an elderly tribal woman, hangs around my neck.

I have rosaries from my Catholic youth, malas from my Buddhist path, and pendulums which some people fear but I use to connect with God and be guided by. All are tools of the spirit, of all that is good and holy, all are related to prayer, communion, and guidance, and all are my constant companions.

And so I have been in a very quiet place, meditating, communing with all that is Holy to me, I have been finding my way back to my hand-carved crochet hooks and my Navajo weaving tools, my hand-spindles and my roving to spin yarn to work with, and the light, today, seemed to stream into the cottage full on. It was time. I could return here and tell of the winding path, the tender emotions, the ebullient joy of finding the river of creativity running through my life again, and all of the above have made me whole.

My mother is not afraid to make her transition. She is a devout Catholic, and she has told me many times that she is not afraid to die. I will mourn her, I will grieve, but I will also feel, with her, the release of her spirit leaving the body that for 3 1/2 years has degenerated into blindness, weakness, surgeries, countless drugs, pain and more. When she dies she will be free.

I was thinking, today, having talked to both of my daughters, and feeling that tug a mother feels in her heart when she hears their now adult voices, finding their way into their lives, in their 20's and my eldest just 31 this past January, that they, who are very close to their grandmother, will have a harder time than I when she passes. You see, they were born to parents who were lapsed Catholics, a father who was an agnostic all through their growing years, and a mother seeking a spiritual path that fit. Mine is a blended path, and one that can only be found through time, study, and being led by life into areas that giving you "knowings" that are not easily explained but powerfully felt. None of my children follow any traditional spiritual path, and this worries my mother, who wishes if they weren't Catholic, at least maybe they'd be something! I am not in the least bit concerned, because I know that Spirit will find them as it found me, and it may not manifest in their lives the way it has in mine, but they will find their way.

So today, thinking of my children, I realized that while they are adults, they are still, while maturing more each day, each year, young, when it comes to the life path. I think you have to have experienced birth and witnessed death. For me being a wife, a mother, coming out a lesbian, living through many painful transitions, now a grandmother, a woman who loves with her whole heart, a heart wide open, non-judgmental, accepting those of all faiths and spiritual paths that are centered in loving kindness and compassion, all of these things will help me weather the death of my mother. I'm not suggesting that it will in the least be easy, my heart will be broken and I will grieve. But in my grief I can know, in my heart, the blessing that my mother will have experienced in leaving a very ill and tormented human form, to transcend all that is earthly to that place that, whatever our faith, is beyond our knowing.

I have been asked, by many people, why I adopt these precious little pugs, the ones that are elderly or infirm. Won't it be hard to have them such a short time, they ask? Isn't it terribly painful to live through their deaths? I don't think of their deaths. I think about giving them all the love that I can while they are here. I think about what a blessing and what powerful teachers they are. I am amazed at their psychic connection with me. As I have sunken deeper and deeper into depression and despair these last few days, not just about my mother, but having received some devastating news, my animals would not leave me. Henry flew to me and sat on my shoulder quietly, sometimes for hours, just to be with me. The dogs circled me, the other birds sang to me, or as I kissed them and stroked their feathers I felt their healing energy emanating from their small fragile bodies. Birds are amazing, truly amazing. I always think of Emily Dickinson writing...

"Hope is the thing with feathers -
that perches in the soul -
that sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all."

They know something that we don't know. They live in tune with Nature and die without regret. I stop, here, for a moment, and look around the darkened room at my sleeping birds. I lay my hand over my medicine bag filled with their feathers and I feel them with me, always, in my heart. And the Dragonfly, my totem, visits me in the garden. The wing-ed ones came to teach me about flight. The dogs, unconditional love. My tiny beta fish, Vincent, has taught me that the tiniest, silent creatures are vital and alive. I communicate with Vincent. He swims to the side of the bowl and stares into my eyes. As he slips away back through the stems of bamboo in his large bowl, my heart lifts. Even tiny Vincent is a healer.

All day long I have been singing Carly Simon's "Let The River Run." It's a song that rises often in my life, just at the appropriate time, and I can never sing or hear it without crying. They are tears of joy, of seeing the magical miracles abundant if only we have eyes to see -- walking on the water, coming through the fog -- and yes, it will be the dreamers that wake the Nation.

Come, a new Jerusalem.

Warm Regards and Deepest Blessings to All,