Saturday, September 22, 2018

It Begins With a Call: The Season Turns (Part 16)


Right now it is Autumn Equinox.  The following post was written 6 months ago at the last equinox.

Tomorrow is another equinox, and something is stirring inside.  I haven’t written here yet about the importance of the oral tradition in my life.  I blogged a poem yesterday that arose out of a dream:

By Heart

The poem is not your friend.
The poem is a pest. 
It gets under your skin and
nestles down inside you.

You would like it to go to sleep,
give you a break,
but the poem tosses and turns,
throwing off its blankets to expose
this line or that.

The poem does not care about you.
It is looking for a home,
and when it finds one in you,
it will move in for good, or at least
for a long stay.
If you ignore it, the poem will pout
and keep tapping you on the shoulder.
The poem will tell you,
“Here.  I belong to you.”

The poem doesn’t care who wrote it,
only who gives it residence.  
The poem will 
pick at your scabs, 
make you cry,

yell in your face.
Then it will pat your back and say,
“There, there.”

As long as the poem includes
one line of mystery, it will continue to
niggle at your thoughts,
tug at your heart,
poke you in the gut.
Repeatedly.

But although it isn’t your friend,
the poem will be
your companion.
It will move you,
agree with your deepest thoughts,
tell you if you are on track.
Even if you forget one of its lines,
the poem will reveal the lesson
in that omission.
The poem will be 
your teacher.
And you will love it.


What is it about the oral tradition that feels so important, especially in these perilous times?  Part of me thinks it is too insignificant to have much impact on the world, but, really, how do we know what impact something will have?  Re-storying/re-storing the world isn’t a small thing, so I need to stop discounting it.  It feels right.  It nourishes my soul and, at the minimum, helps me feel more oriented to what is real and important.  Our big idea is this: We are attempting to restore the soul of the world.

We learn poems by heart because we love them.  Because they become a part of us, and can, in fact, work on us from the inside.  Here’s an example.  I had heard Theodore Roethke’s In a Dark Time a number of times, found it intriguing and deep, but was never moved to learn it.  Then, when at the teacher’s two years ago, it came into my head, and I absolutely had to learn it. Here it is:

In a dark time, the eye begins to see, 
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade; 
I hear my echo in the echoing wood-- 
A lord of nature weeping to a tree. 
I live between the heron and the wren, 
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den. 
What's madness but nobility of soul 
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire! 
I know the purity of pure despair, 
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall. 
That place among the rocks--is it a cave, 
Or a winding path? The edge is what I have. 

A steady storm of correspondences! 
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon, 
And in broad day the midnight come again! 
A man goes far to find out what he is-- 
Death of the self in a long, tearless night, 
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light. 

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire. 
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly, 
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I? 
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear. 
The mind enters itself, and God the mind, 
And one is One, free in the tearing wind. 

If this isn’t a dark time, if I haven’t myself been in a dark time, then dark times don’t exist.  I needed that poem, and right away.  It’s a mystery.  And I have to say, the poem hasn’t let me go all of this time.  I’ve recited it at salons and at Rumi’s Caravan.  I’ve repeated it to myself over and over.  The fact that some lines are mysterious and not totally apparent only makes it more intriguing, and I wrestle with it.  Also, it has one of the best lines of all time – “What’s madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance.”  Brilliant.

My SoulCollage® card for Eleusis - 
Persephone's entrance to the underworld

I have been in the underworld for quite a while.  Years, really.  The world itself feels underworldly and full of mortal demons.  But it is Spring equinox tomorrow, and I feel – maybe, just maybe – a hint of rising.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

It Begins with a Call: Carrying Fire (Part 15)


Left, right,
One click, two.
It rises, it settles,
it shudders like wind
through the channels
of my body –
gut, throat,
esophagus, bowel,
right breast, left occiput.

I went out into some sort of wood
because a fire was in my head.
(Yeats understood.)

It is a fearful thing to carry fire.
If it has made a home inside me
(it has made a home inside me)
I must begin to recognize and honor it,
whether or not I understand
what it wants of me.

Maybe it will incinerate me
like a half-starved Terezin corpse,
like a house in the Tubb’s fire,
like Kalapana in Pele’s wake.
Maybe it will warm me and set me to glowing,
if I can honor it, carry it, lay down offerings
and see who the old woman on the road really is.
The fear, the beauty, the magic.
The necessary.
The elemental.


The Story As Told By Fire



Burning in the Santa Barbara mountains, the sky over L.A. thick with smoke. Heat.  Days of 100 degrees plus, even with the sun obscured by our burning.

Here and there we spark, ignite, causing helicopters to rise up over Topanga.  We permeate all, send animals scurrying, dirty the lungs of mammals, spread here, spark there.

Cars parked, nose out, keys resting on the drivers' seats for a potential quick get-away on the single narrow road threading downhill towards the highway.

Solstice arrives at 3:00 PM.  There is a ceremony outside on a patio covered with many umbrellas that block direct sun but make no dent in the 112 degree heat.

What do you divest, divest, divest yourself of, from?

We pervade, we seep into an unwilling home.  She sees us as a curse, not a gift.  She is deeply afraid, of herself, of us.  We don’t care about that.  We are, we are, we look to rise, we need to burn, we will find homes, invited or not.  We are glorious.

There is an occipital opening in which we take refuge.  Cool air, wet towels, salt in the drinking water, Ibuprofen, do not stop us, or even have much impact.  There is not enough water to balance us.

She knows, doesn’t want to know us.  From early childhood, she knew her fires weren’t to be trusted.  Her mother told her so.  She was too temperamental, too angry.  “Damp the fire down, girl.  No man will want you.” 

She knows us.  Born under a fire sign, how could she not?  She damped us down.  But we are stoked again.  How can she be authentic without us?

Friday, August 31, 2018

It Begins with a Call: Wrestling the Snake, Carrying the Fire (Part 14)


I begin morning pages with my curiosity about the surfacing of Hygeia.  Here is what comes out of my pen:
            You are coming to terms with illness, aging and death because these are the things that can stand in the way of the work.  Legitimately.  You will not be able to do as much as when you were younger, and you’ll need to accept it.  This is the snake you are wrestling with.  You must feed it and get a handle on it or it will bite you and control you, driving you into fear.  And in fear nothing good happens except for heightened senses and the need to run.  From this, though, you will have no escape.  This is a huge piece of work that cannot be done in (healthy) youth.



Here is what I am coming to: the knowledge that when fear arises, as it will since it is my habitual tendency, there is a deep core of myself, where my soul resides, that I can deepen into.  I can breathe, lower my shoulders, and be kind to myself.  I do not need to victimize myself with my fears or catastrophize.

I go to a writing workshop with my teacher.  She drums, and we write what arises in us.

What the Drum Calls Forth

Fire voice rising
Fire voice rising up
Dance dance
dance the fire.
Twice, three times every night
Fire rises up and you
rush to quench it, damp it down.
Why do you think it comes to you?
It comes to be danced.
It comes to be honored.
It comes, and where does it come from?
From Spirit, or the root of the body?
From theories or heart song?
From the core of being?

There is no respect for fire.
There is no respect for water.
There is no respect for air.
There is no respect for earth.

But you,
you have the gift of fire,
of fire voice rising up,
of the power of the fire dance.
The flame, the eternal one that burns
in the deep heart’s core,
you cannot ignore it for anything else.
You cannot contain it if
you cannot respect it.
Your fingertips burn,
your face turns red,
your world burns, and you
have yet to own it.

The voice of fire says –
Take me!  Take me!
You know I am yours.
Why do you turn away?
Why do you deny me,
forsake me, let me run out
of control in the winds?
Because the winds are in collusion.
The water is in collusion.
The earth, the earth lies down
before it.
Deny me – fire says –
and your life is a travesty.
Why do you think you are here?
You are here to ignite the world.

Your longing for water is not contrary.
Your love of water, of sky, of trees,
of hummingbirds at the red feeder are not
a rebuttal.
The facet you polish brightens the
whole jewel.
Now, now do you know
why you are here?


The teacher says it is hard and it is interesting to carry something.  If you are willing to carry it, everything changes.  It is not to be healed, but to be carried.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

It Begins with a Call: An Old Story of Suffering and Healing (Part 13)


Speaking of wisdom figures and guides…  This is an old story of suffering and healing.

My second pregnancy did not begin well.  I was attending a dance class at my teacher’s home studio.  Her daughter came down with the German measles, and so I was exposed to a disease, which if caught, could cause my baby to be injured or deformed.  Just when it seemed that I had overcome that hurdle, before Christmas, at four months along, I went for a checkup and my doctor could not detect the baby’s heartbeat.  He expected me to miscarry, but when I didn’t, he decided I needed to have a D&C to remove the fetus.

I was awake in the operating room.  They gave me local anesthesia, but it didn’t take.  I felt every horrific scrape.  It was torture.  They recommended that I take Demerol, but I’d had Demerol when I was in a difficult labor with my son; not only had it not helped with the pain, but I had felt unable to cope because I was doped up.  So I kept refusing, but finally the pain was too much for me, and I gave in.  Thankfully, it worked for me this time.

I don’t know whether the child was a girl or a boy.  They told me they couldn’t tell.  I’m not sure if I remember them saying this or if I’ve assumed it, but there was something about it being pulled out in pieces. (Sorry for the gory details.)

I grieved for that child.  It was a hard Christmas that year, and I was grateful for my two-year-old.  Before New Year’s, I went with some friends to Wilbur Hot Springs to work on healing myself.  Barry stayed home with our son.  It was the right thing to do, the right place to be, in those healing sulfur waters, in nature, in the peace and quiet.  I took care of myself.  I rested.  It was at Wilbur that the thought arose that I should go get a psychic reading with Pam Neal, and maybe take her class.  My friend Janis was studying with her and thought a lot of her.  I had never, until now, been motivated to see Pam.  Suddenly, I knew that this was my next step.

This kind of unexpected inspiration has aways been significant for me, an impulse to act that arises seemingly from out of the blue.  I have learned to listen to those because the messages are always strong and clear, and these flashes don’t come often.

So, I came to my next teacher, whose influence on me was profound and lasting.  It was a big commitment, driving up to Napa from the peninsula once or twice a week.  Pam eventually moved away, and we eventually lost touch.  I know that she died young, and that saddens me still.  I am so grateful to her.  She taught me all I know about energy, about grounding, about intuition.  She helped me heal myself, and she helped me go forward.


My SoulCollage® card for Pam

This is a story of suffering and healing.  The attending grief?  It diminishes, but it never fully leaves. Many women have stories like this.  After you have a miscarriage, you begin to hear them.  

But it took me to my next important teacher and guide.