Saturday, December 18, 2010

5th Entry of Thanks-Giving & Wonder ~ There's No Place Like Home...

"It's the national addiction: warmth on chilly winter nights, innocence on Saturday afternoons, the essence of the hearth, home, and blissful abandon."
~ Patricia Linden ~


Blazing night fire and wee little Harvey
asleep on his bed...

Dear Ones,

I have been sidling up to this entry for many days now. Thoughts float like leaves moving fast downstream and just as I am about to catch one it dances off on wispy waves to distant shores. I sit on the bank of my creek and watch them fade from sight. Sometimes we needn't catch something or box it in to appreciate it's importance in our lives. To be touched, for merely a moment, is to be blessed by an unseen grace. I walk back to the house looking the same but forever changed, and so I have been.

It seems impossible to me that it has been, just days ago, one year since my mother died. It is inconceivable, just yesterday, and yet a million miles away. As the weeks moved slowly on after my mother's passing my own life began what would be a tumultuous and amazing journey, a year of so many changes I cannot yet take them all in and yet I know enormous transformation, down to the cellular level, has taken place. At the end of January I bought a house, the first house I had ever purchased on my own at nearly 56 years of age. A cozy home shielded by a thick wood that slopes down to a creek, a perfect place for one woman and ten animals to take up residence. If you had asked me then, even as much as I loved the house I was buying, and how incredibly grateful and delighted I was, I would still perhaps have told you that it was not my "dream home," perhaps a way station. I have longed for decades to live in New Mexico since I stood in mucky mud up to my ankles in my snow boots on a cold winter's day in Taos overlooking the mountains and enormous sky and knew I had found my spiritual home.

What I have learned is that we don't need to move to our spiritual home, the location, mere geography, we need to hold it inside of us, to carry it with us always, and, most importantly, to follow the trail of that passion to it's source, our own Grail Quest. What was it that caused an eruption of spirit in a specific locale? What was I meant to learn there? By the time I am in this house one year it will be 21 years since I stood in Taos, NM, and cried because I didn't want to go home. The longing in me has been so deep all these years that I have broken down in tears, shaken to be torn away from a place that felt so much like home. I have visited New Mexico several times since that initial visit and I always thought that when I had the means I would move there. When the time came I didn't need to. What had shaken me to my core standing on that hillside in Taos now lived inside of me. It had rooted and sprouted and was growing like a beautiful vine through the four chambers of my heart. It has been growing rapidly through this past year and I never realized the significance until tonight.

I had been e-mailing back and forth with my dearest friend and we were talking about funny little dream homes, underground hobbit houses, and, she introduced me to cob houses and I squealed in delight. I love anything earthy and unusual and these are magical little places. And then...

As I was imagining how it would be possible to stuff one big blond woman, four small parrots, one giant parrot, three little pugs and Big Dog Moe into a Hobbit House, I looked around my living room and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz I chanted, "There's no place like home," over and over with increasing wonder, joy, and a kind of peace I have never known.

The fire was blazing and crackling in the fireplace, the room cozy and warm, lit only by one little light next to me here, and the Christmas tree, glowing with blue lights...

The "friendly beasts" were all sleeping around me, the parrots long asleep and the pugs in their various favorite spots snoring in perfect three part harmony. Big Dog Moe sprawled out in the middle of the floor and I sat barely breathing as I took it all in, and then it struck me... I had finally landed! I thought I would be a restless soul, ever wandering, never satisfied, always wanting to be some place else, but I sat here tonight so filled with gratitude tears ran down my cheeks. I almost had to pinch myself to make certain it was real, this feeling of quiet joy and radiant grace all around me. It was real, it is real, there's no place like home.

In Taos I was a restless spirit and the huge sky and mountains were filled with visions of potent possibilities abundant in my life. Everything seemed possible there, but going home put me back into my life and the confines of living in my own skin at that place and time made me feel like I was going under for the last time. It wasn't because of anyone or anything else, it was the unrest inside of me. Tonight I looked around my little cottage in wonder. Home. I am home, and I have been living my way into this house for nearly a year. Whole rooms were filled to the ceiling with boxes and paraphenalia and slowly but surely, and actually quite suddenly, these past couple of months things have been falling into place, coming together, my house was becoming a home and I didn't even realize what was happening.

I stared into the fire for so long I was mesmerized, my eyes slipping out of focus, a river of calm flooding my body. How was this possible I wondered? At peace, not full of depression and angst, a kind of quiet calm and near ecstatic joy came over me. I turned and stared deep into the Christmas tree, now the ornaments barely visible, the ethereal blue light spreading out on the carpet and up the little staircase. How could it be? I was... I am ... happy.

I got up slowly and put the kettle on for tea, opened the cupboard and took out one of my old vintage teapots...

... and my favorite old vintage mug which I simply adore...

... and I made the most delicious tea, a new one from American Tea Room, my new favorite tea company to order from. I first went there some weeks back to find a tea I was longing for, a "Milk Oolong." Oh, it was divine! And I found there what I believe to be the best tea I have ever had, "Brioche." I ordered a few other samples when I ordered more of the two above-mentioned teas and I chose one of the new ones to sip in this space of reverie this night has brought me. Tonight I spooned the leaves into the pot and fairly swooned over the fragrant blend, "Tangier."  (And Oh! what a beautiful tea it is. Click on any of the links to see the beautiful teas and read more about them. I only buy fresh loose teas but some are available in bags.) The description on the package is poetry for the tea lover... "A premium Sri Lankan black tea with apricot and saffron petals that evokes an exotic evening in Tangier." I don't think it's very exotic here and I've surely never been to Tangier but it is a lovely, delicious cup of tea, and sitting here sipping tea by the fire with the Christmas tree lights glowing, a small soft pug snuggled in the chair with me, and the quiet companionship of all of the other animals, well, to me this is bliss.

Home. I am home. I have a place to be me, fully, completely, with no constraints, inhibitions, apologies, or being less than I am to fit someone else's idea of what or who I should be. I am so filled with gratitude, overflowing with thanksgiving, full of tenderness and love that I long to share it with the world.

And so in this time when the world swirls faster than I can take in and the latest, greatest, whatnots are being bought in crushing crowds, I sit here in my cozy little cottage with my tea and feathered and furry companions and I am more blessed than I ever knew it was possible to be.

I will end here and finish my tea while reading, a lovely ending to a magical evening. I hope you can look around you wherever you are and find beauty, peace, and fulfilment in the simple things, for truly, this is where the most beautiful moments will be found, and you, like I, can whisper "There's no place like home," and if you haven't reached this place yet set out on your own Grail Quest. It is there to be had if you believe and never stop moving in the direction of your dreams. It is as Thoreau once wrote, and this has always been one of my favorite quotes...

"I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

Yes Mr. Thoreau, you are exactly right.

Warm regards, and may gentle moments trickle softly through your days ...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Giving Thanks, 4th Entry, Gratitude As A Way Of Life...

The newest member of our cottage family.  A baby
yellow nape amazon I was meant to take. She came
to me in need and I am blessed by her presence...
It is what I pray everyday...

God, use me as a channel for your peace, love, light, hope, and joy. 

It is a deeply profound prayer for me, came to me in meditation many years ago, came to me when I had no idea what it meant, or how this act of grace might manifest in my life, or understood that I was not to understand the way that it was to come to me but that I had to listen to that still small voice within and follow it every day of my life even if I didn't understand the direction in which I was being led. 

It has been, at times, confusing, there were times I didn't trust what I was hearing, feeling, but something in me was able to take that leap of faith and I said it every day, often many times a day. I say it every time I sit down to pray and meditate. Now I just trust this prayer, this willingness to give myself over to God and the path that I am meant to lead, have faith that even when I don't know why I am being led in a certain direction I am supposed to keep moving forward and I do. 

I am led by the light. I am led by the way in which I am ever unfolding. Now I can see it happening and I am more sure of myself. More sure of myself and less afraid of what others might think for my path was not to be, at times, a popular one, and certainly I live a life that most people don't understand, and often I will inspire you and alienate you in one piece of writing, but I am sincere in all that I say and do, I lay my heart open bare so that I might help others even when to do so will turn some people away, I know that others will always come, that I needn't know why, that the table always rises. My heart is my guide and I trust it.

God, use me as a channel for your peace, love, light, hope, and joy.

What have I learned? What am I grateful for in this time of thanks-giving? I am grateful for the understanding that has come to me through these years of pilgrimage. I am thankful that I was given to know that the oft used phrase "an attitude of gratitude" really was not quite the right mantra. We are not meant to have an "attitude of gratitude," gratitude is meant to be a way of life. We are not grateful one day a year, we are not grateful once in awhile when we think of it, we are to be grateful every moment of every day even when we are going through a particularly hard time and feel that we have nothing to be grateful for. I walk through my days whispering, or saying softly, wordlessly, in a place deep inside myself, "Thank you. Thank you God. Thank you." I say it over and over when I don't know why. Knowing is beside the point. Doing is the way to live.

What am I grateful for, despite the climate of the times, and knowing that in many ways I would walk the fire walk? I have been burned, I have been hurt, I have been fired from a job, I have lost most of my friends and at the same time I have found my faith, my heart, forged in the fire of the kiln that this life on earth is meant to be has become purified, if often imperfect. Purified in that I know when I have fallen away and I can find my way back.

I have learned, finally, what a soul-mate really is, an anam cara. We are worlds apart geographically now but my heart beats with hers in every moment. I did not know this kind of love until I found the ribbon of light that kept moving me forward. The day that I said out loud, "I am a lesbian," and felt the earth rumble and shake beneath my feet and split open, my old life and way of being, watching my former life fall deep inside the quaking terra firma, splitting wide open and swallowing everything I thought I knew up to the age of 45, terrified as I swam through a decade nearly drowning at several points, even wanting the waters to close above my head so I would not have to resurface, but then, after several failed attempts, I met her in the most unusual way. She is not what I expected and I know that I am not what she expected, and yet I know as sure as I write these words that it was meant to be, and will be.

Being a lesbian was not simply about finally coming into my true, authentic self, about finding love, it was about the work that I was meant to do after I came out. I started a website for lesbian women. It was a very gentle, non-sexual community of women who needed to understand, to be understood, to be accepted for who they were. It is said that we teach what we need to know. I needed to know. A professional writer for over 2 decades at that point my writing became the vehicle for bringing a message to these women. "You are exactly who you were meant to be, you are beautiful just as you are, you are accepted here without judgment, with compassion, with loving kindness. Thank you for being here with us. Namaste."

We laughed together, we cried together, we came to deep understandings that brought us very close and we had disagreements that tore the fabric of what I had tried to create. I was an imperfect light-bearer and sometimes my torch went out, but I learned so much from these women, from very young to what is considered old. I named the website Dragonfly Cottage, the name that I had chosen for my home, my haven. I wanted to offer safe space for other women. Before our time together came to an end my divorce was finalized, I had taken the name Maitri Libellule as a spiritual name and guide through life, and I had met the woman I have been close to for nearly a decade. Even in the absence of her presence at the current time I am moving forward with the lessons that she taught me, and I wait eagerly to learn more and to share what I can. Life and the people we meet in it change us in unexpected ways. She was certainly unexpected!

During the years of Dragonfly Cottage as an active web community something very unexpected and wonderful happened. People started writing to me from all over the world. I had touched a nerve. Not just lesbian women but gay men. Transgendered people. Not just people in the LGBT community but straight men and women, and I think the thing that touched me the most was the day I heard from a Catholic Bishop in Chicago. He, though straight, was working with gay men and women to try to bring them back to the church from which they had become outcasts, made to feel unwelcome. If they wanted to come back he wanted them know that they were accepted and loved and that the door was open. He found my website and felt it was a wonderful vehicle to bring hope and understanding to his community. At the time I was struggling terribly financially and I paid for the website and all that I offered out of my own pocket, dedicating most of my waking hours to answering people, often hundreds a week, and the Bishop sent me $50 a month to help me keep the cottage open. I cried. We never know what is just about to come our way. Those were the years that I realized that being suicidal was not an option. I had too much to live for, I had work to do and I was willing to do it. It was then that I knew I was meant to live a life of service, in a most unusual way. And so my new life began when I could not possibly imagine what it was meant to be.

When I was ordained a minister in January 2009 I knew that I would never have a church and an ordinary congregation. Due to long-term abuse as a child and with a cocktail of diagnoses that made, at times, each day a cross to bear, I learned that I was meant to not only bear that cross but one day put it down and help others with what I had learned, gone through, experienced, but I can barely leave my house and I seldom do. My work is done through my writing, through helping others from where I am, to taking in the numerous animals who have come to me in need and loving them and caring for them with all that I have in me, to plant seeds of thought, never knowing if they will sprout, but that is not my business. My business is to carry the message, the teachings that I have learned along the way and hope to help someone here and there. It is not earth-shaking work, it is simply my work.

And so now I move forward. I still pay for everything and am not paid, in dollars and cents, but the harvest of blessings that I reap is beyond the realm of money, of "salary" but a life of gratitude, of giving and receiving, of keeping on despite the odds, and of praying that one day my books will be published and find their way into the hands of those that I might help. And still, even in that, I am not driven toward a specific goal. I wake up every morning and care for my animals and spend my days in prayer and meditation, in solitude and silence, reading and writing and doing my fiber work, and answering the people who write to me for help, because they need someone to talk to, to listen to, and I am here.

My "congregation" includes the world at large as well as the animals that I care for and share my life with. I didn't know that when I got up Wednesday morning I would have this sweet little amazon parrot by Thursday night. I did not know, two months ago, that a gigantic macaw would come to share my life. I did not know when I adopted the first tiny little elderly black pug that I would have two more coming quickly on the heels of her arrival and another one nine months later, and yet it is perfect that they are here. I did not know that I would marry my beautiful daughter and wonderful son-in-law on the beach at sunrise over a year ago. That, too, is part of my ministry and one that though I may never repeat changed me forever and took me deeper in my faith and on my path.

The last year has been a crucible of sorts from my mother's death nearly a year ago -- in less than two weeks it will be a year. My life has been turned inside out and upside down and I am still learning what this life is meant to be, but with twelve years of learning and growing behind me, I know that I will cross this threshold and my work will deepen in untold ways. I am ready. I am grateful. I am living a life of gratitude and hope that I will have the help and strength to continue on. I believe that I will.

And so now in a dark house full of sleeping parrots, snoring pugs, and Big Doe Moe sleeping silently in his bed I will make some tea and continue on with my work. How thankful I am. What a wonderful life this is. And I thank God for all that has been given me as well as all that I am led to do every single day.

Namaste. I bow to the Divine within you. You will find your way...