Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the category “Life and Death and Hope”

Starlit Grief

​The moon is not visible from my window
And this is good.
Starlight is more illuminating of grief.

I hold my ceaseless craving for your warmth
Gently these days.
I take comfort now in its omnipresence.

The way the stars of this time and of this place
Are merely hints.
Would that I could see nebulas in their stead.

You and the unpolluted sky are both here
Safe in my heart.
Your absence, like your presence, lights my way home.

Holding Space

It’s not either-or.

We can extend ourselves to understand rather than demonize those who voted another way. We can search for connection to, for common ground with, for a way forward that is more than us vs. them.

We can do that while we circle around those most affected by this shift in politics: The undocumented. The refugees. The non-Christians. The non-cis. The non-hetero. The water protectors. The victims of abuse and rape. The people of color. The poor. The earth herself, and the plants and animals struggling to survive in our man-altered climate.

I am finding my balance in this image. Those of us with strength and privilege in a ring. Behind us, sheltered by our bodies, concentric rings with the most vulnerable at the center. We are resolute in our stance, and yet also reaching out. Holding space for a shared path.

If you’re looking for guidance, I cannot recommend highly enough the work of two brilliant lights: Starhawk and Veronica Torres.

Starhawk’s world-class novel The Fifth Sacred Thing has become increasingly, alarmingly relevant over the years since its publication. There is also a prequel and a sequel, and many many other offerings by her as well, including an amazing children’s book, The Last Wild Witch. Her thoughts on the election are an antidote to fear and hatred. Visit Starhawk’s website here.

I have the immense pleasure of being Veronica Torres’ friend. Her work as channel for Eloheim and the Council directly influences my ability to stay sane, grounded, and engaged in this crazy world. She has a zillion recordings of channeling sessions, a number of books (my favorite is A Warrior’s Tale), and various other offerings (the Levels of Creating is a revolutionary tool for self-discovery). Her Core Emotion Session is what I would give each and every one of you if I could. Visit Veronica’s website here.

Countries

Countries are at once
Too large
And too small–
Too powerful
And too impotent–
Too simple
And too complex.

I long for the village.
The ancient, archetypal
Village in the wilderness.
Answerable only to itself.
Part of no larger plans.

I long for the universe.
The glacial, eternal
Universe expanding.
Answerable only to itself.
Beyond plans.

I am the country
Writhing within my skin.
Arrogant
Insecure
Devastated
Jubilant
Conflicted.

I am the village
Deep at my core.
Self-contained
Cooperative
Minute
Complete
Imperfect.

I am the universe
At the outer edges of my awareness.
Unknowable
Infinite
Inescapable
Intricate
True.

The village and the universe
(In addition to their many other tasks)
Must cradle the country
As a child who has, every day
Knowingly and unknowingly
Done terrible and wonderful things.

Cradle, without condemning.
Cradle, without condoning.

Cradle while seeing clearly
The universe
Far beyond this moment
The village
Deep within this moment.

You Are Invited

This election feels different. The stakes feel very, very high. Turning point in history high. Millions of lives hanging in the balance high.

On behalf of the United States of America, I would like to take a moment to issue an open invitation.

There are no better words for it than those crafted by the renowned Starhawk in her increasingly relevant novel The Fifth Sacred Thing:

“There is a place for you at our table, if you will choose to join us.”


My fellow Berning ones and assorted independents, we belong at the table. We are a sizable percentage of this country and have influenced the creation of the most progressive platform a major party in our nation has ever put forth. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Hillary diehards, you belong at the table. Your passion for Ms. Clinton comes from a good place and we look forward to hearing more of what you see in her so we can catch some of your enthusiasm. Refrain from disparaging remarks. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Moderates and apolitical types, you belong at the table. You have untapped potential to breathe fresh air into a heated room. Share your perspective, mediate, find humor in tense moments, and change the subject when truly required. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Conservatives of all stripes, you belong at the table. So many of your values are ours as well. You want to live in happiness and safety. We do, too. You want to be free to make your own way in life. We do, too. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Whether we realize it or not, at some point we chose to consider one another enemies, chose to exaggerate and vilify and blame. We can choose to consider one another friends. Quirky friends, maybe, somewhat embarrassing friends whose eccentric ways leave us shaking our heads, but still friends.

In our splintered factions, we are not just biased against and bewildered by the opposition. We are also ineffective. If we truly want what we say we want from this life, we will sit at the table together. We will refuse to allow anger and fear and greed to run amok and devastate our imperfect but much treasured home. We will extend a welcoming hand even when it seems, as my friend Pythia says, that our only common ground is that we breathe. We will bite our tongues when necessary and speak our truth when necessary. We will disagree respectfully. We will sit and we will invite others to sit at this table and discuss it like friends even when it is not comfortable or convenient because that is the only path that honors the democracy we strive to be.

Rewiring

Our culture hardwires us believe that we are destined to find a soul mate to complete us. A family to complete us. Friends to complete us.

We have a different approach to plant life. Conventional wisdom says that the needs of plants are important but not more so than our own; we take care of them when life is good and forgive ourselves for not tending to them when life is difficult. We applaud their beauty, respect their longevity, and begrudgingly admire their tenacity, considering them “scenery,” a backdrop that might influence our lives but would never be permitted in the director’s chair.

I am inclined to believe we have our wires utterly crossed.

Imagine a culture that absolutely encourages its people to support their partner’s, family’s, friends’ needs — but not forsake their own. That offers ready forgiveness when one is unable to tend to the other in difficult times. That promotes lavish admiring of one another’s traits but ultimately expects each individual to sit in their own director’s chair, influenced by but not relinquishing control to their loved ones.

Appealing?

hubba hubba


Now imagine a culture that believes that animals and plants are destined to complete one another. Where just being together fulfills the primary need of both. A culture that overflows with manuals, mantras, and workshops on forming a more perfect union with one’s garden. That writes poems, songs, and dramedies about the primal dance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The way each nourishes the other — even beyond death itself, the two merging into one. 

How one will die without the other.

That’s the world I choose to live in. Are you with me?

Our summer solstice circle this year

The Making of a Family

Thor and I are done creating new life. I knew this from the moment Cria arrived with exactly the same certainty I felt after Platypup was born and I was instantly, intensely aware that we had another babe waiting in the wings. Infant pajamas still render me weepy, newborn eyes hold me breathless, but our family is complete.

There are many rational reasons to be done: limited space in our house, limited zeros on our self-employed paychecks, limited sanity in our heads.

None of those are true reasons. You could squeeze six children into our three bedroom house if you really wanted to without anyone calling CPS. We are blessed with funds from deceased relatives to draw upon in tough times. And our missing marbles rolled away before our firstborn rolled over; additional kids just rattle the half-empty drawstring pouch some.

The truth is one does not simply add a child to a family as one might take a fifth towel and plop it onto a stack of four. Pregnancy in and of itself is a tax before any new person emerges, not just on the one bearing the child but also on the partner providing scaffolding and on any existing children whose still-wet clay forms bear the marks of every one of our choices. And every addition — no matter how beloved — every new addition cracks the familial structure wide open. Fractures its foundation, shatters its windows, and requires intense work rebuilding.

We may prefer not to recognize that our bundle of joy is a wrecking ball. But failing to acknowledge a fact never does seem to wither it one iota.

My solitude delighted in and was forever altered by my love for Thor. Our quirky twosome had a gorgeous miraculous iceburg crash headlong into it when our baby was born. The harmony of our family trio and the pea pod coziness of the parent-child duo groaned and stretched and made space for a sparkling quartet. The sturdy balance of our quadrilateral: two grown and two growing, two male and two female, two dependable and two incorrigible, as well as the comforting triangle of two small hands in my two big ones lay in ruins before reforming into the five pointed star we cherish today.

Every prior family unit must be cradled and mourned before the new larger family unit can properly set.

I am lucky. We are lucky. Each newcomer has been welcome, uncomplicated. We’ve only had to deal with increasing in size. All the cracks have been and continue to be painstakingly and willingly filled with copper and gems by loving hands. The choices I made were the ones my heart craved: to wed a person of heart, depth, and wit with whom to bear impish humans. 

I am not naive enough to believe the years ahead do not include their fair share of labor, but I’m no longer willing to intentionally launch the cycle of breaking and mourning and reforming the treasure that is our family. And so we have arrived at one of those moments when it is easy to see how the present alters past and future alike. Now we were always heading towards being a family of five. Now we will be remembered as a family of five even after we are all gone.

The time between

I am an elephant. A cranky elephant. A cranky, creaky, elderly elephant. A cranky, creaky, elderly elephant who needs to sleep more hours than there are hours. And eat more food than exists.

Which is to say, there is likely still at least a month and a half to go until our third baby makes an appearance.

I am ready to nest. And yet who would attempt to nest now, when nesting means wrestling space for clothes and diapers in drawers and closets already full of four people’s things? “Nesting” the third time around looks a lot more like intensive purging and a lot less like tenderly folding tiny onesies.

Today I entertained the notion of never teaching again after this birth (but not with any real seriousness). In almost the same thought-bubble I considered suggesting Thor quit one of his bread-and-butter gigs, because third-hand smoke is a *thing* (which it is, but thankfully I can count on one hand the times my pregnant nose has even noticed that he was in a facility where smoking is permitted). Later, I enthusiastically plotted the new little kid classes I’m putting together for this coming summer.

A smart fortune cookie would say “you are in no condition to make life decisions.” The word on the back would be “dàn jiǔ” (eggnog).

One of our cats is missing. The shy one. Pajama. The one we took in as a feral teenage waif of a kitten. I spent a whole summer taming her, almost a decade ago now. She barely ever leaves our yard, and she is terrified of strangers.

  
I am hopeful she will return. The only other time one of our animals has disappeared was the last time I was pregnant — also during the winter. Our cuddle-bug Cricket vanished two weeks before we moved. Fortunately our new house was quite close to our old one so we could still patrol the same neighborhood. He was gone a whole month. Thor found him walking down the sidewalk only a few blocks away. He was skinny as all get out, writhing with joy to be home again. Blessedly safe and sound.

So we find ourselves turning the page of the year as one would flick a waiting room magazine. Soon our beautiful baby will make his or her debut. Hopefully sooner than that, if we are lucky, our little tuxedo cat will have made her way back.

Of course, we are hardly just waiting. We are doing all of the living we always do; flipping pancakes, quelling squabbles, making music, collecting stray shoes from the yard before they decompose or acquire residents, brainstorming for our family/businesses/selves, sneaking eggnog from the fridge. On top of it all, we are posting flyers, scanning shelter listings, and taking walks in the dark making real cat-calls that sound something like a drowning bumblebee with an urgent secret. We are meeting with midwives, gearing up for the routine glucose tolerance test, going to yoga, and clearing the aforementioned space for nesting to eventually occur. We are having serious conversations with children about guns, and dinosaurs, and maybe not coming into our bed quite as early in the wee small hours of the morning so mommy can have enough room for her beloved body pillow and therefore just possibly get enough sleep to stay sane.

But we go through it all cloaked in the stuff that makes daybreak so beautiful and at the same time so damn tediously suspenseful that you seriously regret leaving your bed just to see it. I remember my dreams well these days (because I am so often wrenched from them by the incessant need to use the loo) and I can say with certainly that my every hour, waking or sleeping, is draped in dawn’s mauvy gauze.
 

cloaks of a different sort (handmade by Granny)

 
I wish I could tell you that by the third child I know to cherish this last bit of breathing space before the hurricane of newbornhood. I mean, I do “know” it. But actually doing the cherishing is a challenge when your skin, your brain, your bladder all resemble nothing so much as a water balloon filled by a child too young to know not to fill with the maximum amount possible.

Still, there are moments quintessential to this in-between period. Time spent watching my lurching belly. Time doing my witchy thing, wrapping my unborn babe in love and protection, summoning my cat home with an open beacon of a heart. Time making sure my older babies are properly treasured, my marriage nurtured, my body kept healthy and strong — with a side of eggnog and a nap if I can get one.

Because this time around, I know I am preparing the right way. Not by reading every prenatal book ever written, like my first pregnancy, or by planning endlessly for the practical aspects of having two children, like my second, and all the while, both times, knowing there was something more important and yet less tangible I should be doing, but unable to reach it through my pregnant haze.

This time I am focusing on my emotional state, my spiritual exploration, and above all my connection with each member of my growing family. In this glittering stillness between inhale and exhale, I am growing like a weed. A very rotund weed. And I feel certain there is no better way for me to honor this time between.

Valley Fire

Two weeks before the fires, we were there.

We drove on twisting roads through forests, past farms and vineyards and tiny towns. Homes for the humans and their animals, and for the wild ones roaming free.

Those things are gone.

The best caramel swirl ice cream I have ever experienced, in a little shop with a charming set of hand drums cobbled together somehow and attached to a single stand.

Those things are gone.

We bathed in beautiful springs sheltered by gigantic fig trees, splurged and slept in a fairy cabin like it was our honeymoon and not “just” our eighth anniversary. Yoga in a temple the spiral dance could call home. Full moon circle under rippling cloudy skies.

The springs remain. The skies remain. The native plants and fungi in their fire wisdom are still anchored deep, holding the land with healing fingers.

Everything else is gone.

On Bunny Love and Loss

It is such a simple statement on the surface: “rabbits bond for life,” an undisputed fact found in any basic care guide. And they do — to such an extent that it is preferable to bundle two apprehensive critters into a carrier and take them both to the vet when only one needs to go rather than separate the lovestruck duo for an hour or two.

But a “bond for life” only sounds simple, like “till death do us part.” Homo sapiens is far inferior as a species when it comes to living up to those words, but for those who do, be they cunicular or hominine, the end of term often leaves one half of the pair alive and well — in body, at least.

Such is the case with our Leopold, who lost his beloved Autumn this past weekend.

Autumn was my first bunny. I got her almost exactly six years ago as a young adult rabbit (she had been someone’s Easter bunny). I was just barely pregnant with Owlet at the time but didn’t know it yet. She has watched both children grow from rolling babies to animal-savvy preschoolers and has always been as gentle a soul as one could wish to know. Her spunky little lion’s mane lent her a curious expression and even after injuring a hind leg a few years ago she still skittered around with as much joy as ever. She loved Leopold, and he loved her. They spent most of their time snuggled together in the shade of the house Thor built for them, dozing and grooming one another.

 

Autumn died Friday night or early Saturday morning, giving Leopold a chance to spend time with her body and come to terms with her loss. This is very important because the process of accepting a loved one’s death is far more difficult if the dying rabbit is taken to the vet, put to sleep, and the lifeless body is not seen by the surviving partner, who is then left in a state of anxiety, not knowing whether their spouse is ever going to return.

Rabbits grieve the loss of their mate at least as intensely as humans, in some cases pining to death from loneliness. And where a concerned friend might (rightly) hesitate to throw the bereaved back out into the human dating pool too quickly, a concerned pet owner is advised to visit the local shelter for some bunny speed dating as soon as a week later, as the mourning period will last until a new pair forms. (Unless the widowed rabbit did not get to see the remains, in which case a month is sometimes required before a new partner can be accepted.)

With enough companionship from humans and other pets, a rabbit who has never formed a pair bond can live contentedly single. But once its heart has made space for a same-species mate, it no longer beats properly without one.

There appear to be no flings in the rabbit world, no one-night stands or rebound relationships. Just as a bunny mourns with every fiber of its being, as soon as the next mate is chosen, that same devoted little soul will share new love with heart unrestrained.

Thus we head to the shelter with Leopold later this week to introduce him to the adult rabbits available for adoption and see who he gets on with. Rabbits can be very particular, and I would never dream of picking one for him after seeing how clearly he and Autumn chose one another from the moment they met.

I am looking forward to seeing our sweet Leopold meet the second love of his life, shake off his sorrow, and kick up his bunny heels once again. Whomever he chooses will have a special place in our hearts as well.

In Memory of Sparkle Shiny

On the morning of the Fourth, instead of attending a parade like the rest of the nation, we said farewell to a beloved chicken.

Sparkle Shiny appeared to have injured her leg on Friday evening. I called around but there were no emergency vets open on a Friday night of a holiday weekend who took chickens. She was eating and drinking and not visibly in pain, and with no other options short of driving an hour south, we had to wait until the emergency bird specialist was in the office the next morning. I made her a little nest of towels to keep her upright in front of the food and water dishes and hoped she would improve overnight.

Owlet helps an ailing Sparkle Shiny to food and water

In the morning her breathing was labored and she refused food and water. Our whole family piled into the car and headed to the emergency clinic. The vet, a kind and knowledgeable soul who declared chickens his favorite animal, took one look at her and said, “oh, this is not good.”

He examined her very thoroughly (getting pooped on in the process, to which he responded with good humor) and was able to determine that her leg issue was neurological in origin rather than an injury. Given the amount of respiratory distress she was under, he didn’t recommend prolonging her agony. Unless we wished to put her on oxygen and run a bunch of tests and X-rays, the results of which were unlikely to be good, it was time to say goodbye.

I cried. Owlet cried. Thor misted up a little. Platypup rampaged noticeably less than normal.

We held a little farewell ceremony, there in the exam room. Owlet snuggled her chicken and we each shared memories from her short life. How scraggly Sparkle Shiny was as a three week old when we first laid eyes on her. How she ducked through the fence holes in those early days. The first time she ate from our hands. The massive coordinated effort required by the kids and I to get her and Scratchel Diggy out from behind the bunny enclosure. The awkward way she would flutter to the top of the coop or the lowest branches of the fig tree. Her quite recent voice change to a mature “bukaw.”

Then we sang her a song; Owlet chose “I Love My Little Rooster,” which she had taken to singing to the chickens when putting them in their coop for the night. She and I were so choked up as to be nearly useless at carrying the tune, but fortunately Thor was there to pull us through.

And then we handed her to a vet who clearly understood how hard this was. He cradled her gently in his arms and left the room.

I asked my Facebook friends to share any kid-appropriate stories of pet loss with Owlet. Several sweet folks shared their or their children’s first experiences with losing a beloved animal and others offered condolences. One recommended this book by Mr. Rogers. We read their words together and talked. Thor and I had glossed over the whole vet-(humanely)-kills-the-pet issue in the moment, but later we talked about it, and I believe she understood.

Her face has a new sober look when she is remembering her sweet chicken. It is so hard to see that expression but this is just one of the many challenges life will throw at her that I will be unable to do a damn thing to stop. What I can do is hold her, grieve with her, and answer every question she asks, even if all I can say is, “I don’t know why, baby. But everything does, sooner or later.”

 

A picture I drew, by Owlet’s request, of both chickens watching the fireworks together

  

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