Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Feather & Flower, Pattern & Light

Yesterday I awoke with two recent photos I had taken in mind. Actually I saw them close-up in the night. I went straight to my camera where I found what I had seen as soon as I zoomed in. Throughout the day I kept these images in mind, while trying to determine how best to explain what they meant to me. More specifically I was trying to determine how I might explain what I knew without someone thinking me weird. Succumbing to fear, I soon became all entangled in my mind, not a place I recommend anyone spend extended time including myself.

Fortunately words shared by my poet friend Mary Ann in Chicago came to mind. "Write the best you can and let others figure it out." Then at the conclusion of her email she reminded me: "He or she who has ears to hear, let them hear."

So hear with your ears and see with your eyes whatever you may, whatever you might.
I must show and tell what I saw in the night.
Inside the flower danced filaments of light.
While in the feather lay line upon line and I realized
We are flower and feather. We are pattern and light.
We come from Earth. We are winged, taking flight.
We are flower and feather. We are pattern and light.
It's all here in Nature, here in plain sight.

Everything is light, patterns of light. And in Spring, Nature's Show and Tell, it truly shines all around us.

I want my light to contribute to the building pattern of imagination in the world and the capacity to see and hear deeply. To what patterns will you contribute today? How will you honor your light?
-Dawn! the Good News Muse - 04/01/10

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Hawk

Yesterday I held a hawk. I wish I could say it was alive. We had noticed something on the roadside enroute to the hardware store. Returning home, we pulled over so I could get out and see what the animal was. I intended to bury it or at least place it in the tall grass away from the asphalt and cover it with leaves.

When I saw what it was I exclaimed in horror and surprise, "It's a hawk" and quickly grabbed something from the car in which to place it. Arriving home I held the young hawk close like a newborn child in my arms, marveled at its beauty and listened.

We suspected this was "our" hawk, the young one that often perched in the top of a nearby tree swooping down periodically to get one of "our" birds. I had just in the past two weeks made a deeper peace with these offerings in nature. The animals take only what they need. The hawk would take one bird, not six or a dozen as we're prone in our glutinous ways.

We dug a hole and made a nest of leaves. Then placed the hawk under "its" tree.

Later an interaction I witnessed earlier in the hardware store crossed my mind. Three customers stood in line. It was three o'clock and closing time. Looking somewhat rough in his work clothes and boots, the man at the front of the line wanted to pay off a debt. The store owner, ready to leave, was impatient and brusk until he discovered the customer with whom he was speaking was actually the owner of the company. He immediately apologized for his treatment of this man and said, "I sorry. I didn't realize you were Mr. X."

His comment was revealing seeming to imply that he would have continued being impatient if the man were someone of lesser status, not the owner of the company.

Then I recalled my reaction, "It's a hawk." Of the many squirrels and opossums I have driven past lying dead on the roadside, never once have I declared "It's a squirrel or opossum!" My attitude suggests they're of lesser value in the animal world.

Yet Native Americans believe all the animals have messages for us, that every animal has specific traits we need and messages to heed.

The message in the store and along the roadside for me is we are all one. There is no separation. How often I've heard this yet never gotten the picture so clearly.

None of us is better than the other. None of us is lesser than the other. We are all equally and beautifully connected in this web of life. I suspect the hawk lying now under its tree, its body returned to earth, its spirit returned to the stars, would agree.

Oh that we would open to the messages of all animals so they come alive through you and me. Imagine that shift.
-The Hawk and Dawn, the Good News Muse 03/28/10

The Great Shift

Each Spring, Nature annually enacts the Great Shift as things
appearing dead rise from Earth's depths.

This bud, a Shaman presiding over my garden, calls forth life from those depths just as we are called to awaken, to come to life, in this time of Great Shift.
-Dawn! The Good News Muse

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Kissed a Tree Under the Moon in Gemini

Earlier this week, I kissed a tree. This was not part of a tree hugging moment although I've proudly had many of those. I kissed the stump of a fallen tree, a jagged stump about head high, that many would call ugly. I call beauty.

With stars as streetlights, it's home to life. Insects and lichen live in reciprocity. It's fallen body is now a tunnel, the perfect cocoon for rabbits, fox or squirrels.

This tree or very tall stump, as it would be more accurately called, and I have had a revealing relationship. I've known of its presence for over a year and a half, seen it from my window many days. It appears to have been struck by lightning long before my arrival to its yard. It's top half stretches out in the garden while its lower half remains standing, sturdily rooted in Earth.

Ever since I first made its acquaintance, I've thought the hollow, curved stump was the perfect place in which to sit and hide.

This past winter, I realized the stump was vanishing, returning home as trees do. I was devastated, shocked and dismayed. How had I forgotten even the stump is here temporarily just like me? Maybe that's how I forgot. My temporariness is something I unconsciously avoid. Likewise I stopped noticing the tree.

Until one evening this week....

A year and a half after first having made its acquaintance, a year and a half after I told myself it would make a good listening place, I sat cupped inside, held by the arms of the tree stump.

Tears came for all the opportunities missed. Smiles came as I reminisced. I recalled the magnolia, mimosa and silver maple, climbed in one grandmother's yard and the woods in which I played at anothers. Then there were the trees atop the dirt bank behind my childhood home. Three in particular grew together in such a way that their long trunks, a holy trinity of sorts, made a house in which I played.

Somewhere between fifteen and going on fifty, I forgot trees. I've not forgotten them entirely. Photos in which I've captured their form attest to this. Yet I've not listened, listened deeply to trees.

This night encircled in old arms, tucked away, I hear:

"I have watched you too. You are right. We are not the same from years or months prior. Yet we are exactly where we are suppose to be in this moment, right now, me and you, under Gemini with the crossing moon."

I had forgotten this but I looked up to see the half-moon traveling across Ge
mini, the twins in the sky, my zodiac sign.

The tree continued: "I came here thanks to fire in the soil, fire breaking open a seed. Fire from above split me open, so I now hold insects and you. I hold love.

Both fires are required from above and below to hold the light that is needed for mankind to grow.

Let your roots run deep in heaven and earth. They are primed for these times, times of Great Birth.

And last but not least, when in life you need rest, lie on the earth, lean on a tree."

Held in the arms of the stump, I reach. I stretch my arm and place my hand at the highest point of what's left standing. Hand in hand, the tree and I dance. I hear myself sing, "I could have danced all night." It is not too late.

With the stars as streetlights, I kissed a tree.
With stars as streetlights, I'm discovering a long, lost love. It is the tree. It is me.

With Gemini above and the moon crossing too, I am shown the gem-in-I.
It's not just in me. It's in you.

-The Stump and Dawn! The Good News Muse 3/23/10

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Caves & Kitchens - Pech-Merle in my Pan

The remnants of today's breakfast, turkey bacon, in the pan remind me of drawings on the cave walls of Pech-Merle in Southern France.

The hands of people, we assume people, of 25,000 years ago drew animals on the cave walls, animals that roamed the literal land or the imaginal terrain of their minds. At times I envision these ancient ones in Earth's interior drawing down recipes from the heavens, drawing down spirits of the animals who volunteered to take form for their benefit, for our benefit.

The terrain of the pan that held my breakfast reminds me of the hands that prepared meals for our family throughout childhood as well as the hands of mothers and some fathers around the world preparing the food so hungry mouths may be fed. How many times did these hands draw down love for their benefit, for our benefit to strengthen within?

Caves and kitchens
Drawings on walls
Drippings in pans
Sacred acts
Recipes for relationship
Animal and man
Testament to imagination and story
Love then and now.
What will our minds draw down, our hands create for others to come upon in
10,000 tomorrows?

Imagine that! Dawn - The Good News Muse 03/21/10

Friday, March 19, 2010

Playing with the Tin Man

Look closely mid-way up the slide and you'll see the face of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. I did at least yesterday during my walk and could not resist taking his photo. I imagined the folks to whom the slide belongs, folks I've yet to meet, running out to say, "Excuse me, but..."

"But the Tin Man's hanging out on your slide," I'd say.

The Tin Man needed a heart, right? How often do our hearts grow weary with all our adult ways, looking serious, being serious. We need the oil of play. And I don't mean telling jokes and laughing at another's expense. I'm not referring to playing competitively. Even with me this can morph into shouting. March Madness was not even twenty-four hours old and I had already shared choice words with my team and their coach as they "played" on tv.

I'm talking about the kind of play we did as kids. You know roll in the grass, run, skip, kick a ball, fly a kite, make up silly dances or shake your booty just because you can. So maybe that last thing was from high school. Although a first grade friend and I did do the jerk out the upstairs apartment window over my father's business to "These Boots are Made for Walking." Nancy Sinatra may not have been having fun, but we were.

So whether you see the Tin Man or not, wherever you are on this first day of Spring, get out and feel the shift play brings!

- Dawn! The Good News Muse 03/19/10
Check out "Laughter Yoga" and "Interplay", two great ways to play.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Loving Black and Blue

The seeds for the story that follows were sown a month ago after discovering I am a Mother to Nature.* I therefore shouldn't have been surprised the morning after discovering motherhood to find my children wasted no time in putting me to the test. Although I've had 'loaner' human children, I know this is what 'real' children do. They arrive on the scene to stretch and test their chosen parents, to push the limits of love and prompt adults if they're willing to navigate uncomfortable terrain within and without.

That morning a month ago with coffee and journal in hand I looked out to see two bluebirds atop the bluebird house. This particular house held several birthings last year prompting much anticipation this year, in us at least. The weekend prior as a cold front approached, we looked out to see six bluebirds fly into the same bluebird house one right after the other as if to say, "Mom, Dad, incoming. Make room." This may have been a test for the bluebird parents cramming six now adult bodies in the oddly shaped home, but it was not my test.

Watching the rush home that afternoon was delightful as was seeing the two prospective parents inspect the accommodations. As a story began to form, a story about the bluebird branch on my family tree, another drama was suddenly being enacted outside. Three bluebirds were fighting two black birds who obviously thought they had dibs on the house too. I like to think I'm accepting of all my children but this put me to the test. From my chair I shouted, like they could hear me, "There's space galore out there. Go find a nesting site that's not already taken" to the blackbirds that is.

In a minute at most, the blackbirds flew away and my tension subsided only to see the bluebirds this time going at one another. Two of them were headed earthward in a mid-air dance that didn't appear all that graceful, wings flapping and of course, me indoors shouting, "Cut it out, guys. Don't make me come out there." I later learned that what I interpreted as fighting is mating not unlike some human couples, I guess.

The point of my prologue is this mother felt such despair that she never completed the story of her feathered children. I became discouraged and also grateful that I wasn't a parent while holding a sense of wonder as to how parents do it. I did not forget the story entirely though and the challenge I found in loving the blackbird equal to the bluebird which brings me to another morning.....

A month after the above, I sat coffee and journal in hand with the bird house in sight as two bluebirds arrived. The male, the brighter of the two, perched on the roof while the female went inside. I was hopeful they'd ultimately find the pine needles I had gathered and scattered about for nesting material.

A bit later while passing a window I happened to notice two blackbirds busily going in and out of yes, the same bird house. Maybe it's a time share this year. They went in and out repeatedly then sat on the roof top surveying the surrounding nursery area for their young.

My first impulse was to grab a ladder and remove the nesting material from their house. A temporary flash of actress Tippi Hedren in "The Birds," my favorite childhood movie, prevented this since the potential tenants were in the neighboring yard.

This was not a good idea for other reasons. I had been considering the many ways I've not consciously used my energy over the years. My motives have been good but I've still dabbled in others lives thinking I knew best when I didn't. What was the right and wise use of my energy in relation to the birds, the bluebirds and the black birds?

I wondered why I couldn't be as happy with two blackbirds nesting nearby as I would be with two bluebirds. For starters, we've no shortage of blackbirds. They're everywhere whereas bluebirds were endangered in the 70's after a 9o% decline, a result of massive clear cutting with the advent of the chainsaw, the use of pesticides and DDT and the loss of habitat thanks to imported starlings ie. my blackbirds and house sparrows.**

It doesn't seem fair to blame blackbirds for human shortsightedness as to the long-term results of pesticides and our develop-or-pave-every-square-inch-of-America attitude. I also shouldn't blame them for reminding me of man's greed, but they do. Blackbirds crowd my feeders scarfing seed the way we've scarfed up Earth's resources. I want to shout, "There is enough, enough! Now share!"

Most curiously in my ponderings, I recalled last summer in France hearing blackbirds sing. My friend Vera tells me they sing in Germany too. Yours may sing. Mine do not. I find this fascinating and intriguing. I wondered if American blackbirds don't sing because we've yet to embrace our darkness. We fight darkness, try to keep it at bay. We deny our shadow, our wounds and end up with compulsions, secrets and addictions. We deny the darkness of grief and even with Oprah and bookstore shelves lined with self-help books, we do not give ourselves permission to deeply cry, to really mourn.

Europeans have their addictions as well as their developers looking to make money from concretizing Mother Earth, but they've been through dark nights of sorrow in a way we haven't. War after war has been fought on their soil. They've suffered a depth of loss unfathomable to us. I wonder if this is why their blackbirds sing. The people of France and Germany have found deep joy amidst many deep dark nights.

I also wondered if our blackbirds are songless because they were brought here, to America along with house sparrows, by humans wanting reminders of home as from their home lands they departed. This actually stirred my compassion reminding me of step-children brought along by adults into new situations in which the children have no say.

I spent a full hour while going about my tasks considering the above and whether to take a ladder to the bird house. If it came to this, I knew what I intended. I would nail a strip of wood over a portion of the hole to make it smaller in hopes this would dissuade the apparent new and larger tenants.

I determined instead to wait until my morning meditation call with Mystery School friends to see if the reading for the day shed light on my struggle. I had only to hear: "...the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise" to know the answer to my dilemma for now at least.***

The blackbird, blue bird and I are all part of the enterprise in my yard as well as the enterprise being worked out within. For the remainder of the day, I allowed the enterprise to unfold and remained open to the teachings of all my children. The thought even crossed my mind that a baby black bird born in this yard might be the first American blackbird to sing.

These ideas temporarily helped the part of me that felt like an addict in recovery working the first step, owning my powerlessness as to which birds would ultimately move into the house.

Night arrived and I still carried tension, torn between my feathered kids knowing I should love both, yet mesmerized by one and upset with the other. I read "Captivating Bluebirds" aware I've never seen a book about blackbirds or starlings. My tension increased as I read of their aggression when occupying another's nest, kin to how we've occupied countries.

The book also confirmed why I am taken with bluebirds. As the underdogs of the bird world, they've rebounded from near extinction. They also represent happiness, deep happiness which captivates me.

This did it. I fell asleep determined the next morning I would ensure the bluebirds had a home. I would be the guardian of happiness while trying to gently, but firmly model for the blackbirds limits to aggression. This would be tricky but I knew it could be done.

The next morning at sun up, I was up and so were the bluebirds. The entire morning passed as the female busied herself flying in and out of the house, dead grass in her beak preparing the nest. The male perched atop the house. His stance seemed to say, "I am the guardian of the happiness that lives here." It was as if they were both saying, "Mom, we'll take care of the enterprise out here. You take care of the enterprise in there, the one inside of you."

I sometimes wonder if that's how we've gotten to this place in human history. Over the centuries the heart of the world has been pummeled black and blue. It has been witness to the pains of war and ethnic cleansings, concentration camps and crusades, slavery and starvation, witch hunts and burnings, the killing of animals and the domination of the earth.

The heart has been pummeled black and blue. Then not so long ago, along came manufacturing, mass marketing and the media selling the idea that the "enterprise" involved stuff. We temporarily forgot the enterprise within. Tired of pain we became anesthetized.

Fortunately the Inner prize, deep love from the heart, is like the bluebird still very much here. It is this love, a mother's love, found in the feminine of women and men, that must hold the tension represented by the black bird and the blue bird especially when doing so leaves you black and blue.

As with 'real' children, this is not the last time mine will push the limits of love, forcing me to mindfully look at my actions and motivations, my stereotypes and judgments. My feathered and four legged children will offer many more opportunities to navigate uncomfortable terrain.

I want to stake my claim in the terrain of deep happiness, in the home that is the heart. I want to claim a home that can hold love for all the kin on my family tree, the black birds and blue birds, even when doing so leaves my heart black and blue.

-Dawn! The Good News Muse
*Click "Where is Your Heart in the World" for the Feb. 19th Musing.
** Facts from "Captivating Bluebirds" by Stan Tekiela
*** Quote from "Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnectedness of Dharma and Deeds" edited by Tucker and Williams.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Deer Whiskers

Deer whiskers make me smile. Don't ask me why. They just do. I didn't even know deer had whiskers until a couple of weeks ago as I looked through my binoculars at one, a deer that is, in the back yard. As it munched on grass, I thought I saw drool. A deer drooling? 'Hmm, maybe,' I thought, 'it's really good grass.' This prompted me to get out my binoculars through which I discovered that deer have chin whiskers.

I've personally been experiencing chin whiskers for quiet awhile so there is something comforting in seeing these animals I so love sporting really long chin whiskers. Let me tell you this deer had no care for length. It actually went with this deer. They belonged on him or her. They were reminiscent of a movie in which a wise old, grandaddy of a deer could talk. I'll have to consult the movie aficionado in my family to see if he thinks I'm making this up...the movie not the whiskers.

I've now evidence that the whiskers are for real. Only two days ago, I went out to leave corn and found a pile of whiskers on the rock where I always place the corn. You would have thought it was Christmas morning with the delight I felt. I tucked a few in my pocket and drove into work.

Entering the grown up world of work, I forgot the whiskers until the next morning, when I went to get a massage. Yes, I had on the same pair of pants. When I reached in my pocket to take out a stone I intentionally brought to the session, I pulled out a few whiskers which I excitedly showed Garth who's on close to the same wave length as me. The four whiskers were placed under the red stone.

Today as dusk falls, I go outside to ensure there's corn and to my surprise there are more whiskers. Although I was trying to practice non-attachment, I had quietly hoped there would be. It's as if the deer said, "Dawn, if you so graciously give us corn while we're awaiting spring leaves, the least we can do is share our whiskers." I in a very grab-all-you-can-get-American way took an entire handful. Or maybe I'm just exuberant in situations like this. I was very grateful.

The whiskers lay by my laptop now as I write. They exude an essence, wise and kind. I want to learn more as to what deer have represented to the many traditions. That time will come. For now I have dear whiskers and right now that is all I need.

Imagine the shift in your life if you allowed yourself to be surprised with delight the way deer whiskers delighted me?
-Imagine the Shift with Dawn! The Good News Muse, 03/17/10

I Saw the Light Even on a Gray Day

This story began during my morning walk, a hoped for antidote to gray skies that have moved in without giving notice of their estimated departure time. Movement usually wakes me, but it wasn't working today. I pushed myself to keep going.

Something shifted though as I rounded a curve and saw a lone evergreen by a lone and empty birdbath in an odd spot. I had never quite noticed these two in this way on prior walks. Today I acknowledged the little tree and my alarm sounded, "Wake up." An act that simple (and some will say crazy) woke me and I did not press snooze. In a split second, I was awake and remembered I was experiencing the gift of walking in the world. The light came on even in the gray and I smiled. My walk was medicine.
As the next two hours unfolded, the gray skies did not lift, but I continued in the words of the old hymn to 'see the light.'

I found light along the roadside as I picked up pine needles to be scattered on the ground near the blue bird house. The bluebirds have been checking out our accommodations again and yesterday I learned bluebirds build their nests out of grass and pine needles. Gathering pine needles made me smile.

I found light in meeting a stranger at a nearby spring as we both filled our containers with water. I had two. He had a truck bed half-full. He shared that he'd had water from this spring for fourteen years and now lives two hours away. He returns periodically to get water and check his nearby beehives. I asked if we might purchase some honey since I've heard local honey is best for preventing allergies. We talked about the importance of insects to pollination as I admitted I only grasped this last year as I watched bees buzz about my garden. Then he shared a recipe for combining apple cider vinegar, honey and spring water. which I came home and googled. Sure enough there it was at several websites. Click the shaded area above for one of those sites. What a beautiful, surprise exchange.

I found light while buying corn, actually two really big bags, for the four-legged and feathered beings in my little spot of the world. The willingness of two young guys who gladly loaded a hundred pounds of corn into my car made me smile.

I found light while learning at the local market how to set onion bulbs in the ground even if I don't eat that many onions. I marvel at a bulb or seeds capacity to join with earth, sun and rain to produce not only the vegetable I eat but the seeds within that vegetable that can be kept and planted to continue the cycle the coming year. The seed and the bulb hold the light.

And last but certainly not least, I found light when I removed the cover from my lettuce tent from months past to be greeting by one lone lettuce bundle, still growing as if to say, "It may be gray but I've got the light on in here."

I smile appreciating these simple interactions of give and take, of information and songs, of pine needles, home remedies, planting instructions, respectful give and take, showing me the light that is within and without especially on gray days.

Hmm, respectful give and take. This is how it's suppose to be. Respectful give and take -possibly the primary planting instruction for growing a more harmonious world and a key to seeing light within and without. -Dawn! The Good News Muse, -03.17.10

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Two Brief Ponderings on Birds & Falling Things

How is it a birds chance of surviving cats, squirrels, raccoons, hawks, windows and pesticides is slim yet they've roots in the late Jurassic period alongside the dinosaurs and we all know they didn't fare so well.

I read recently that many scientists now think a monster asteroid hit earth around Mexico causing the cataclysmic shift that did the dinosaurs in. I'm not as curious as to what killed the dinosaurs as to how it is birds lived.

I don't blame the dinosaurs for, "Drill, baby, drill" but I'd rather hear, "Fly, Dawn, Fly." I want to learn from the birds, fragile yet tenacious as they sing the sun up in morning and down each night. I want to take lessons from the birds connecting earth and sky with feathered flight.

I look out the window and see a fallen limb. Lying on the ground it reminds me of antlers. The limb once belonged to a tree. The antlers would have graced a buck.

I think of men and women, who left to serve their countries and did not return. Their blood spilled on the earth in foreign lands yet Earth, She's never met a stranger. She is always taking in fallen things welcoming them home.

We may not yet be fallen, but we are all falling things. We are returning from whence we came. We are returning home.
-Dawn, The Good News Muse 03/07/10

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Scotchguarding Hearts

Remember Scotchguard the product used on our mothers and grandmothers furniture to repel our childhood spills and stains? Tuesday night I could have used a can or two or three to protect the many folks at my nephew's basketball game. Pre-game warm-ups would have included spraying all our hearts to repel what lay ahead. Actually I could have used a case or two or three, one for the team, another for friends and family and at least a half case for me.

His team lost in the tournament's final 1.2 seconds by one point after having led the entire game thanks to a call that should have never been made. A referee who had hardly blown his whistle all night decided to see if his worked. Anyone with basketball knowledge knows you don't make a call especially for an event that didn't occur in the final second of a game when the outcome hinges on the call. You let the teams play ball.

Afterward as we solemnly stood around many with tear-streaked faces I was reminded of how I wish I could take away pain. I did intervene as one teenage girl said, "Don't cry" to a cheerleader who was weeping. I, this stranger, very clearly looked at the cheerleader and said, "You cry all you need" then looked at the consoler and said, "This is very sad." I suspected what the non-cryer was really saying to her friend was "Stop crying before you make me cry."

That night, I awoke several times thinking of my nephew. Each time, I did all I could do. I sent him love and prayers of comfort. I know scotchguarding life isn't recommended, wise or really possible, but I have wanted to ease his pain for fourteen years, since he was four and his parents divorced.

He and his teamates are getting a necessary, but painful lesson. As the first sentence of the book "The Road Less Traveled" reads: Life is difficult. Reading this in my mid-twenties prompted a light bulb experience for me. I was unhappily married to someone who should have remained my friend but became my husband. I cried close to constantly torn over divorcing, feeling so alone. Coming upon this sentence in Scott Peck's book, truly did illuminate something I had known since I was very young but had never had confirmed by an outside source. Life is difficult.

It's easy to say "life's difficult" it's the processing of the difficulty that seems challenging. We as a society don't appear to be doing so well in that department. We use pills, food, tv, shopping, the computer, fill in the blank ______ with your favorite activity for zoning out, to keep from feeling, especially feeling vulnerable, sad, powerless and afraid. This takes me back to Tuesday night's game.

The heartening thing in the heartbreaking loss was just about every young man who walked from that locker room was or had been crying. In a world, especially here in the South where men are suppose to be tough and in control, these young men's tears were a testament to change, a hopeful new time in which men no longer hide their feeling side.

My nephew was immediately met by his middle brother and his father who hugged him, not just a sideways, pat-on-the-back-don't-really-touch-me-cause-I'm-a- guy hug but a full more than six seconds, I'm-so-sorry hug. My sister and his older brother followed then my mother whose forehead comes to Christian's chest. That's when I witnessed a moment I hope to never forget. Granny Dean looked up at Christian and said something then he looked down and kissed her on the forehead.

Seeing my nephew at eighteen unafraid to hug, cry and kiss his Granny in front of God and everybody as 'they' say as well as my extended family allowing themselves to be visibly moved was truly a beautiful unexpected gift for me. After having felt like I was the alien in my family, being the only crier, I knew these people were my tribe.

So here it is, a full day and going into a second after the loss at the game and the death of a dream. Other dreams will die today nearby and even far away. The beauty of life is that in the dying, seeds of new dreams have already been planted. In time, with talking and tears, friends, family and faith seeds sown now will emerge as new dreams, hopes and possibilities. Life will still be difficult and life will still be unfair. We get to choose whether we'll sit on the sidelines or continue to play despite the lost dreams and bad calls.

With this in mind, I realize even if I could repel life's stains and pains, I wouldn't. The scotchguarding of hearts and lives would certainly mean no pain, but it would also rob us of the depth of living that comes with feeling, being connected, caring and sharing our entwined lives.

To paraphrase Shakespeare (I believe), "It is better to have played the game and lost than to have never played at all." I smile knowing my nephew and his team mates will in time bounce back from having played and lost.

In the meantime, to all the boys becoming young men in our world, never be ashamed of your hearts. Your hearts are needed now more than ever. Never fear feeling for feeling is how you know you are not scotchguarded. In the short run, life can hurt like heck. In the long run, the hurt is eventually repelled. Just like the ball on the court, you bounce back. You realize you're still around and you very much alive.

-Aunt Dawn! The Good News Muse, 03/04/10

Monday, March 1, 2010

Grace is a Verb

"It is good to be alive."

I did not think this as the sun sank in the sky. Although Jerry took photos, I lay in bed, achy and tired.

My friend Paula in Blacksburg once said whenever she wasn't feeling well, she practiced surrender, early and often. I've since thought as I've moved from resisting naps to relishing them that surrender through napping is highly underrated, probably a leftover from our emphasis on productivity and not "wasting" time.

Through the bedroom window, I saw what may have been the most beautiful sunset of my life yet I was aware I could not take it in. I thought of travels past to Yellowstone, Big Sur and Glacier National Park surrounded by vistas so grand yet having the sense I had a wall between me and the beautiful land.

Then without my really knowing it, the wall slowly vanished, but not by the flipping of some switch or Universal remote control. On second thought, maybe it was a remote controlled by the unseen hand of the Universe for the wall began to yield as my father began to die.

Actually it started just prior to his diagnosis. I didn't know it at the time. The Universe, my sub-conscious, call it what you will served up two scenes in my sleep as if to say, "I'm gonna help you out here." In the first my father sat at a potters wheel his hands around a vessel where he worked with clay. What made this scene most strange was he was covered in clay from head to toe. I only knew it was him, because his were the eyes looking at me from the moist brown earth. The saddest, tear-filled eyes I had ever seen looked out at me while he was encased in clay.

A few nights later, a second scene arrived. I sat alone in a nightclub, ribbon-like smoke swirled around me. On stage in a lone spotlight was a man dressed in a white suit. He sang. He sang one line "Grace is a verb" over and over again.

I laid these scenes to rest in the pages of my journal where I excavated them from time to time, turning them over in my mind. It was more like I wrestled with them off and on. These dreams haunted me in a way.

It never occurred to me to tell my father of the dream where he was covered in clay. He had had his own wall with which he lived. A revelation of the dream-sort at least from me would be met with something gruff and condescending. I had learned building walls indirectly from him. He learned the skill I suspected at a really young age to keep his own father at bay.

Walls beget walls beget walls until if one's fortunate opportunities arrive that usher in the fall.

The last time I saw my dad mobile and walking on his own was a Friday. I had just learned he was having seizures, a sign the cancer had found a path to his brain. I dropped what I was doing and went to see him and my mother. I spent the night, stayed until late morning the next day and left while he was taking a nap. My mother told me later that when he got up he asked for me. Upon learning I had returned to Nashville, he said, "Shit" or "Damn" something I was not accustomed to my father saying all that often. I've since wondered if he had something to tell me and if so what might he have said. Was I about to glimpse the man behind his wall?

The next week as he lay in bed, I sat beside him acknowledging things he had done for me or given me. As the days progressed, I sang to him, sat and held his hand. I thought I had done it all, but it wasn't until after his death that I realized I never fully let down my wall. I never completely exposed my heart with him. How is it something so simple could not be said? Fear of judgment kept me from saying, "I'm so sad" to the frail man held hostage to a bed, the man who was still my dad.

On two occasions early on, I caught him looking at me. For seconds that seemed minutes, our gaze locked, the walls were down, and his were the saddest eyes I had ever seen. I missed an opportunity to say, "I am so sad. How are you?" and instead heard myself make the most random of comments about something non-threatening like food.

Then while reading through journals months after he died, I came across the scene dream about my father's eyes. I immediately knew those two times, those were the eyes looking out from the clay, looking out at me and in real life I could only say, "Do you want anything to eat?"

I then read the second scene and realized in his last weeks, I had been getting opportunities to experience grace, grace as an action like speaking, sharing and showing my heart, grace as a verb. How could I have been so blind to the most beautiful and obvious of these opportunities?

I wonder to this day what my father would have said to me that morning if I had stayed. Then the thought crosses my mind, 'Maybe the Other Side is just another dimension of Here'
and I hear: "Open your heart in a way I did not. Love life, love nature, love people and don't hesitate to show them your heart."

That's one reason I write then share on this blog, I'm excavating my heart which for so long has felt like a rock.

The following morning after the beautiful sunset above and four years after my father's sunset, I could joyfully feel and say, "It is good to be alive" for grace wasn't a verb just as my father died. Grace is a verb offered continually each day.

How often do unseen and unknown walls keep us from taking in the beauty in nature? How often do risk and vulnerability keep us from showing one another our hearts? Imagine the shift in your life if your walls came down and grace was the verb in your journey.

-Dawn! The Good News Muse, 03/05/10