Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ella's Valentine - Thoughts on Keeping Close and Floating Away

Audio Link to this story HERE.

If I hoard anything it's paper things, notes-to-self, quotes, information, recipes I enjoy reading yet seldom make and cards, the things made of paper which comes from trees.  People use to receive cards in the mailbox the oblong structure on a post in my case out by the street not to be confused with the today's inbox. The cards in the mail box hold personal handwritten text, unlike generic digital text sent and received today.

I recently went through a minor paper-clearing spree and came across one of these cards, a Valentine saved from a few years ago.  It was from one of my favorite families who use to live next door.  The inside of the Valentine got my attention in a necessarily uncomfortable way the first time I read it.  It did this time as well. 

Drawn in pencil, on the left was a crescent moon on a heart-shaped balloon. The balloon floated among clouds.  Written in pencil were the words: "Keep the ones you love close, don't let them float away." Love, Ella

The first time I read this I felt sick for I knew I had let Ella float away.  How had this happened?

Ella's parents moved in next door as newlyweds and had lived by us for several years at the time of Ella's birth. I forget things easily (one reason I keep my journals) but I think I was the first to baby sit Ella so her parents could go out to dinner when she was only a couple of months old.  She was two-ish when they moved a few houses down the street but it still wasn't uncommon for me to knock on the door just to check in or for us to get together to eat just about every week.

Ella and her eventual sister Lily inspired many of my stories from spontaneously making an airplane out of a cardboard box in which to fly to Madagascar to the special woman we met on one of our Christmas eve adventures. 

Then there was the night I will never forget when I volunteered to baby sit while their parents went out.  I don't ever want that night to float away.  Lily who just a baby was asleep. As I tucked Ella in she asked if I'd lie down by her for a moment.  We lay there side by side on her twin bed as she said, "Aunt Dawn, you know my favorite thing about you?"  Certain I was about to hear, "Going to get ice cream" or "When you take me to the Frothy Monkey" I asked, "What?"

Instead this child of four gently tapped my chest with her hand and said, "My favorite thing about you is your heart. You will always be in my heart and I will always be in yours."

A tear ran down my cheek as we lay side by side on her twin bed and I told Ella she would always be in my heart as well. 

This is the child who at my women's drum circle a couple of years later asked if she could say something. She was the only child there. All eyes turned to her as she said, "Everything in Nature has a heart in it."  Then at the circle's close when we were naming specific people we wanted to hold in love in the circle's center Ella asked, "Why don't we just put the whole world in the circle?"

How have I allowed a child of such heart and love to float away?  How have I allowed her younger sister Lily filled with such spunk and spirit to likewise drift?

It's easy to blame the distance on my spending weekends in the country over the last few years and on Ella and Lily's busy schedules.  It's easy to blame this floating thing on adolescence being the stage and age in which things get awkward between kids and grown-ups.

Yet this floating concept in general is used often in our world. Buddhists practice non-attachment because all things are temporary (ie. they float away.). Many Christians look forward to floating away to the sweet-by-and-by where suffering and sorrow will be no more.  Likewise people often use drugs, drink, spend compulsively, and self-medicate to temporarily float away and relieve themselves of trauma and the tension that comes with living.

Biologists, environmentalists, sociologists and linguists can attest to the fact that species, cultures and languages are floating away at a faster rate than at any other time in recorded history. Some say this floating thing is inevitable as Earth is now in the process of a sixth extinction.

My truth is I let Ella float away. In this painful realization I also know I have allowed slices of my life to float away, time that can never be recaptured. More significantly I let my heart, the core of who I am, periodically float away. In my unawareness and ignorance, I have not consistently valued who I am. I have allowed myself to get easily discouraged and distracted. 

So dear, dear Ella, this is my Valentine to you not just on Valentines but everyday. 

"You hold within the most beautiful treasure on Earth for you hold a compassionate, wise and wonderful heart. 

I did not fully recognize the gift you shared with me ten years ago as we lay side-by-side that night because I didn't at the time recognize the full beauty of my own heart. You saw it. You saw my heart as a four year old! And I thank you for that. I thank you so vey much. 

When adults, like your "Aunt" Dawn, don't recognize things within themselves, it's harder to receive these very things as gifts. When you shared your beautiful words with me in the Valentine, I was just beginning to wake up to who I more fully am.  Waking up is a process, for me at least. It's similar to having a dimmer switch inside that turns the light on gradually rather than having an off-to-on switch.

I came into the world wide awake and free. Then I gradually abandoned myself through trying to please others and make them happy. I began to follow the rules of my time and home. Rules like "Don’t let people see you sad or scared for they’ll judge you, try to change you and at times even make fun of you."I so wish I had known that being made fun of was about them, their discomfort and lack of self-esteem, and not really about me.  I wish someone had told me that I had a beautiful heart long ago and that beautiful, open hearts are touched by everything in the world - the sad, the scary and the happy. Over time, I began to abandon my heart which in turn meant abandoning me. As strange as it may sound I floated away from me which brings me to "keeping close."

The most important thing to keep close is to yourself. Stay close to you for this way you are less likely to abandon yourself. You’ll always be true to you. When you are true to your insides, everything will be alright. That doesn't mean that events aren't challenging, trying and sad at times. If you are true to you, if you keep close to you, it will be alright which brings me to “floating away.”

You, I and all on Earth similar to us are the Heart walking in the world. When you’ve a big, open heart, living can hurt. It can hurt so because the truth is people do float away. They float away as they change, move, grow, get upset with us, have health issues and yes, die. Things float away because change happens. The key, and I still have to practice this daily, is to live in a continual place of keeping close while letting go. 

These are opposites of course, which can be hard for adults who learn over time to think in black and white, good and bad, right and wrong. How can we keep close while letting go? 

Children know we can hold close and let things float because the truth is they never float away. You knew that truth at four years old. When we have had someone or something in our hearts as you told me years ago they never really go away. 

So show up. Stay awake. When you catch yourself falling asleep, meaning you feel yourself disconnected from yourself, check-in and be curious about what's going on in your heart and head because you can always wake up again. Honor your heart and let your feelings flow through you. This way they don't get backed up and stuck inside you which is often why we disconnect and fall asleep to begin with.

Love everything. Even the hard stuff. This is still periodically challenging for your "Aunt" Dawn, but I know our hearts are built in finding joy in loving the hard stuff. Keep your heart open and your mind curious as to how even the hard stuff can benefit and help you. Try to love, love, love everything and remember as you told me years ago, I will always be in your heart and you will always be in mine.  Ella, you were a wise child. You are now a wise girl."

I love you, 
“Aunt” Dawn 

There is much good, such beauty, going on in the world today and I believe there is much at risk in these trendy, techy, hip, fast times.

When we don't recognize the beauty of Earth, we allow it to slip away. When we neglect or forget the beauty in the personal whether in the handwriting of someone we love, the sending of a card, the song of a bird, the feel of grass under our feet, the sound of a friend’s voice, the touch of a pet's fur or simply saying, "I'm scared. I hurt" we risk the floating away of our sensory, sensitive, beautiful, vulnerable selves and the exqusitely personal on Earth. When we don't realize the beauty in getting to be here on this profound planet, we run the risk of missing so much. 

Let's not let Earth float away. Let's not allow the personal to float either.

Show up. Wake up (repeatedly) and practice keeping close while letting go.

...and here's a magical story inspired by Lily - The Earth is Magic.
...and the first story inspired by Ella and Lily The Day My Funk Flew to Madagascar. link to "Friendship." to our meeting Corina Christmas Eve at "Gifting One Another."

-Dawn, The Good News Muse 14 February 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Racing Pigeon - Bearing Witness to Freedom and Forgiveness

Audio link to this story is HERE

"Dawn, you are freeing me. You are freeing me in a way 
that is more important than all the freedoms found on Earth."

These are the words I heard as I held a pigeon. This wasn't just any pigeon.

In early September, I sat outside watching the morning fog and noticed a down feather float to earth. "Bearing witness" came to mind as I was the only human to see this feather fall.

“Bearing witness" crossed my mind at sunset the day prior as a lone wren hopped in and out of the lattice around the arbor.  In my small Nashville backyard, I bear witness regularly to Nature's wonders.

This particular fall morning, I found a cicada wing on the steps I walk daily to get to my chair. I love cicadas so I picked up the wing. As I did light reflected in a dew drop reminiscent of a many faceted diamond in the beautiful web of the wing. I had just read the day prior of cicadas representing past life connections.

I held the cicada wing and watched the fog as the feather fell in that sacred moment. Bearing witness took precedence over what I had planned. 

In moments like this time deepens. After a few minutes of what seemed like forever, I walked to the front of the house and noticed something in the the street. 

Lately when on the interstate, I'm relieved to see that what I think are animal remains are actually cardboard boxes and what I fear are bird remains are frayed tire pieces. 

This particular morning I hoped I was seeing trash in the middle of Natchez Trace but I wasn't.  I hurriedly got a shovel and scooped up a beautiful bird bigger than a dove and colored similar to a pigeon. I had never seen a pigeon this close. Its legs and claws were large and strong.

A green tag with lettering on one of its legs caught my eye.

Immediately, I called someone I know at Tennessee’s Wildlife Resources Agency and learned I had found someone's racing pigeon.

"Why would anyone race a pigeon? I just don't get it” was all I could say to the woman on the other end of the call. 

Silence hung between us. 

I don't understand why people race animals. In my anger, I want to shout, "Get out and race yourself and if you can't do that, find a way to race through a video game. Stop using animals to satisfy your needs for competition and your personal lack of potency!”

Yet I felt a sense of urgency. If this were my bird, I would want to be notified of its death. Without a second thought, I found the racing pigeon website to which the woman had referred me.  I could plug in the tag number and find the owner.  I felt a strange and sudden relief to see the tag was broken and missing its numbers.

I couldn't reunite the bird with its owner. In that moment this was more than okay. The birds do not have owners. Intuitively I knew the racing pigeon was exactly where it was suppose to be.

I never gave thought to pigeons until I was drawn to a model of a clay passenger pigeon in a gift catalogue a few years ago. Cher Ami was responsible for saving the Lost 77th battalion of 194 men in WWI. Shot through her breast by the Germans and blinded in one eye, she flew behind enemy lines with her life-saving message in a canister attached to her leg. Profound awe still fills me as I consider the tenacity and courage of this bird. 

Just prior to the encounter on my street, I noticed a reference on my calendar to the date September 1  honoring the death of the last known passenger pigeon.  Did you know it is estimated that when white man arrived on this continent there were 3-5 billion passenger pigeons that filled the skies.  America was heaven on earth and the pigeons of course were shot and clubbed. Now scientists are trying to recreate them. Why? So more people can race, hunt and kill them for food and feathers or for messaging in case satellites go down? 

It was no accident I found this pigeon and it found me. I felt like its midwife and mother.  In a moment of grace, my tears of sorrow became tears of joy as I honored this dear bird here in my heaven on Earth. I couldn't think of a more beautiful stopover on its way back to the stars.

I stroked its head and breast and wondered if its owner cherished it as much as I did. Was it loved for its being or was it loved for the joy it brought its owner when it won, if it won? Was it a possession or a companion? 

This divine creation’s kin saved men behind enemy lines yet men have often been its enemy. 

As I held the beautiful body of the racing pigeon, I thanked all pigeons for coming to Earth and asked this particular one to return only if it could do so freely with joy.  I asked that its kin help it find its way home to the stars and I acknowledged my neglect of the animals until late in life. For this I asked forgiveness.

That’s when I heard:
"Dawn, you are freeing me. You are freeing me in a way 
that is more important than all the freedoms found on Earth."

Freedom is a tricky thing. We fight over “freedoms” yet fighting implies we are more afraid than free. 

Even in that moment I was shown how I was not entirely free because I was judging of humankind and of the owner. 

In that moment, the racing pigeon freed me.  

I felt myself honor the relationship it had with its owner and realized this bird quite possibly enjoyed racing. I sent a message of love through the Nashville skies to its owner in hopes he or she would know the racing pigeon had been found and cared for lovingly.  

Even as I read this story five months after it occurred and see: 

"Dawn, you are freeing me. You are freeing me in a way 
that is more important than all the freedoms found on Earth."

I am made aware of another level to the racing pigeon’s message to me. When you and I can hold those judged evil in our society in great compassion and forgiveness,we are just possibly freeing their souls karmically from a least some of their deeds so they don’t have to live with the trauma that caused their deeds to begin with. 

I looked around my small yard. On this cloudy day, the private, dark corner where no one treads would be this bird's resting place. Its body might be nourishment for an opossum though I had not seen one in our yard in two years. I smudged the area with sage and made a bed of fern fronds and clipped Earth’s gifts zinnias, rosemary, and lavender to place over its body.

I returned to my chair to sit with everything that happened over the last half hour.

A moment later, Sun's rays confirmed I had placed the pigeon in the perfect space as light streamed through brightly on that very spot. Then out of the corner of my eye, a fern moved. An opossum ambled among the ferns and hosta leaves. I had been hurriedly making notes in my journal but went inside to use my laptop.
When I returned, all that remained of the racing pigeon were five feathers where it had lain. 

This deep time holds the intersecting of multiple times and lives. The events of these times are like the dew-drop diamond in the web of the cicada’s wing, multifaceted. When we are willing to bear witness and be open to listening with awareness to these events, clarity often arrives.  More importantly when we do this from our hearts, Love and Forgiveness arrive. 

We, like the racing pigeon, volunteer to come and experience Earth. We have the opportunity to engage sacred moments and remember, if we are willing, who we more fully are.

I encourage you to allow bearing witness to take precedence in your life for it is vital that we send out love and forgiveness through prayer or meditation to our world.  Nothing is more important than holding a vibration of love in these times.

-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 13 February 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Grammy Lessons and Granny's Lesson

For the audio version of Grammy Lessons on SoundCloud click HERE.

One the heels of last night's Grammys, I revisited this story from a year ago and found its message even more vital. Here's my Granny's lesson inspired by Jessi Alexander's Grammy lesson.

On Grammy Sunday 2014 reporter and singer/songwriter Peter Cooper wrote of Nashville songwriter Jessi Alexander's journey of "giving up" after a string of disappointments and losses including a lost record deal, the death of her mother and a Grammy nomination that was taken away through no fault of her own.

Sitting outside at a San Francisco restaurant, Ms. Alexander says she "gave up."  In Peter's words, "She decided to write songs every day, to focus on present moments rather than future fictions."  Giving up ultimately brought about a deeper satisfaction than living with the pressure of the music industry machine. And giving up ultimately led to two Grammy nominations for co-writing "I Drive Your Truck" and "Mine Would Be You." 

I have at times resisted giving up and at others have given up repeatedly.  In our masculine, doing-oriented, warrior culture, giving up is often associated with being weak and a failure.

This singer/songwriter's "Grammy Lessons" reminded me of my Granny's Lesson.

My grandmother as I remember her was more quiet then talkative.  Yet for some reason, Granny told me she quit singing late in life and as a result she lost her singing voice. In retrospect I wish I had asked her to tell me more about why she quit singing. I don't recall the specifics nor do I recall my age when she told me this. What I do distinctly recall is my being the one singing as she and I jointly held the hymnal in church. And I remember Granny's lesson to me as she said,

"If you don't use it, you loose it." 

She said this in relation to her singing voice and it stuck with me. My grandmother quit singing.  She gave up.

Granny and I around 1980 
Granny's lesson is true for one's voice, whether singing or speaking, as well as the body's muscle mass and the brains cognitive abilities. Gyms are abundant for the former while the internet is filled with brain-related studies, videos and games for the later.

There is a greater truth of which Granny wasn't aware.  She didn't know and I didn't know to tell her that just because she lost it didn't mean she couldn't recover her singing voice again.  It may not have been Grammy-worthy but that's not the point. The point would have been to sing.

Which is what I did one day a couple of weeks ago.  From out of the blue, I heard myself belting out, "Sing, sing a song, sing out loud, sing out strong. It doesn't' matter if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear just sing, sing a song."

I smiled as this song came from out of the blue. I suspect my grandmother was smiling too because this song came from my heart and that's what really matters.

Jessi Alexander found profound beauty upon giving up and and I would add going in.  I suspect this young woman went inside herself in order to ask the hard questions, then listen, really listen to the answers that came on that San Francisco street.

Giving up and going in - both require the ability to be with the tension of asking what it is that I am on the verge of loosing if I don't use it - whatever "it" is.  "It" may be as simple and profound as loosing the spirit of empathy and kindness by gradually and over time not extending oneself to others. "It" may be responding in tense times with one's truth without judgement and aggression or fear and reactivity.

Whatever "it" is for you (and it may be more than one thing), the world needs what you are loosing and more importantly you, I suspect need "it."

Personally I am regularly on the verge of loosing my voice, my spirit and imagination and I find these things again and again through encounters usually unexpected with people, those I know and strangers, and through Nature.

My voice may not be Grammy worthy, but I'm certain it's Granny- worthy and in my world that's what counts.

What are you on the verge of loosing through forgetting, not practicing or lack of awareness?

Imagine the Shift of finding It and using It again!  

-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 19 February 2014
re-posted 9 February 2015