Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude AND Togetherness

Happy Thanksgiving!  I turned to anthropologist and gratitude master Angeles Arrien this morning as I drank my coffee and thought about all the things that I have to be thankful for this year.

Here's what she is thinking about this month:

"Every language in the world has the word “and” in its language. This simple word functions in diverse ways; such as joining, bridging, including and adding. It is a word of generosity and simplicity and opens us up to possibilities that we have not considered. For these reasons, Richard Rohr in his book The Naked Now calls it “a shining word”. After the election, and as we move towards Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season, we have the opportunity, individually and collectively, to use “and” as a way of connecting, joining and adding to each other’s experience in the following ways:

“The Shining Word ‘And’                                                                    
“And” allows us to be both-and.
“And” keeps us from either-or.
“And” is willing to wait for insight and integration.
“And” keeps us from dualistic thinking.
“And” demands that our contemplation become action.
“And” allows us to critique both sides of things.
“And” is the mystery of paradox in all things.
“And” does not trust love if it is not also justice.
“And” does not trust justice if it is not also love.
“And” allows us to be both distinct and yet united.”
 --excerpts from Richard Rohr’s book, The Naked Now, pages 180-181
I hope you have a good day wherever you are and whatever you are doing AND I thank you from my heart for coming by here to visit me again and again!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Crafting a Nest

 When the huge pine tree in our front yard came crashing down during the hurricane, it disrupted a lot of lives. “Piney”, as my husband referred to it, was home to many birds and squirrels over the seventy years that it stood magnificently as a landmark in front of our home.  I remember when my mother rescued a baby bird from Siete’s stall, and wearing her soft white gloves, carefully placed it on the broad boughs of “Piney”. The little bird’s mother appeared a few moments later to sit in the tree with her baby.  My mom always gathered leftover bread and potato chips and sprinkled it under the tree, especially in the snow. We always teased her about it. After she moved to the nursing home, I surprised myself by keeping up with the ritual, tromping across the yard to scatter stale crumbs and Fritos so the cardinals and squirrels would have some treats.  Now, there’s only a big circle of dirt that marks the footprint of our popular “bird hotel”.

    As we cut up the tree and dragged the branches away to be shredded, I found this tiny nest on the ground. It is made entirely of horsehair, with one turquoise thread from the string that tied a hay bale.  I brought it in the house to add to my nest collection, and my neighbor told me that she believed it was made by a hummingbird.  It got me thinking about giving some much needed attention to my own nest.  Since I injured my arm in June, I have not been able to do much housekeeping and as winter approaches, I’ve decided that it’s time to thoroughly wash, dust, clean and de-clutter our nest.  I think that it will help me welcome in the holidays, which are bearing down on us with all the force of another hurricane. 

    The one resident in our yard who is really happy that the big tree is gone is the skunk. Almost every morning, when Stella and I get up in the dark and go outside, Ms. Skunk is right there in the dirt, enjoying a feast of grubs. So far, thanks to a serious flashlight that floods the yard, I’ve been able to stop dead in my tracks and hold on tight to the dog on her flexi-leash. The skunk just kind of glances up, “oh, hello, it’s you”, and then ambles off to the safety of the forsythia bush.  My heart pounds, and Stella bounces wildly until the coast is clear.

   I looked up the meaning of a skunk entering your life in Ted Andrews’ “AnimalSpeak” book.  He says that the skunk is a sign that you should demand respect in your life and be assertive. He also points out that even though skunks might have rabies and can eat a cat, they are basically peaceful creatures. I thought about getting a Havaheart trap and trying to relocate Ms. Skunk to the woods on the other side of the pond, but it turns out that it’s illegal in this state to trap a skunk because of the rabies danger.  I found a recipe for spraying detergent and castor oil, which skunks are supposed to find distasteful, and I will annoint the ground where Piney rested and the grubs live. For now, I’m inclined to live and let live, and hopefully, Stella won’t get sprayed.

   This week, I went to the doctor, expecting to have a battle over whether he wanted to operate or manipulate my right elbow some more.  I thought about the skunk and respecting my wishes as I waited in his examining room. Amazingly, he was very pleased with my progress and felt that I had “turned the corner”.  So, he sees almost full recovery in my future as long as I continue to use my splints and do my exercises.  When I saw the skunk this morning, I thanked her from a distance for helping me keep my resolve. Now, I’m going to turn my attention to decorating and feathering our nest. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Facing the Future

"Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future. To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. Whether we stay or whether we go - to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made."

- David Whyte
from Readers' Circle Essay, "Courage"
©2011 David Whyte

     Recently, I have been enjoying David Whyte’s generous contributions on his Facebook page. After facing the first snowstorm of the season yesterday, it was really helpful and reassuring to read this entry.  The weather experts expended great energy scaring all of us on the East Coast as the storm headed our way. Once again, I was looking at the trees in my yard near the barn and the house, torn between loving their majestic shelter from the sun and my fear that they will be blown down and crush us. I reminded myself that the wind was no stronger than it had been for countless other times, and happily, here we are intact today.

         I especially like the idea that I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything to be courageous. I just have to stay true to what I know in my heart and “live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences”. Since tomorrow is my birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the future holds for me.  In many ways, I feel like I’m standing at the opening of a new door, a bit hesitant to take the first step.

         Certainly, as I literally stood in my boots and winter parka ready to embark into drifts of snow, sliding down the path towards the barn this morning, I was afraid to venture out.  I can’t fit my protective arm brace under my coat, couldn’t find my “YakTraks” to add traction to my feet, and begged my husband to come with me to feed the horses. Then, as he slowly finished his cup of coffee and looked for his wool socks, I became impatient and annoyed with myself for needing his reassuring presence. I launched out on my own, hesitant and slow as I groped my way down the little hill outside our backdoor. By the time I reached the barn and was greeted by Silk and Siete’s sweet furry faces and noisy chorus of “Nnnh! NNNH!”, I had regained my equilibrium.

         It was a little metaphor for how I felt about getting another year older. I think I just have to keep reminding myself to “stay close to the way that I’m made”.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reflections on the Storm

We are still without power, and our generator died on Thursday morning. Miraculously, my husband got on the phone at 8 am, found a place a few hours north of us that just received a delivery of 90 generators, paid for it on the phone and drove as fast as he could to pick it up. By the time he got there, they had sold all of them – Fortunately, ours was waiting with a “will call” tag, and although they say it may be Tuesday before we get our power back, we are fine.

The devastation and misery in New Jersey, Staten Island, New York and parts of Connecticut is so overwhelming. Our hearts go out to everyone who lost their homes and loved ones. We have only some small inconvenience compared to people who lost everything. Friends of ours down the road had a tree fall on their house and split it in half. Seeing their two-story house crushed made me sick in my stomach. In the heart of the storm, they had been standing in their kitchen and heard a loud cracking noise. They ran out into the blackness and the 90 mph wind just as the tree fell, severing their bed upstairs literally in half and dumping the entire contents of their house onto their driveway in the pouring rain and relentless wind. They said that they both felt an angel guiding them to their neighbor’s house to safety.

 I realized that at the same moment, I had been standing in my kitchen, cooking chili on the stove when the windows began shaking and it felt like the wind was going to blow them in on me. I ran into our living room and asked my husband if we should go to the basement. Then, we were plunged into blackness. At that point, I was so focused on turning on flashlights and making sure that my daughter and the dog and cat were safely downstairs that I really didn’t feel any fear. Three days later, as I stood in front of the beautiful old farmhouse with the huge pine tree squashing it like it was cardboard, the reality of all of this hit me. I can’t stop thinking about it, and how lucky we are.

My husband and I have been through three earthquakes, two hurricanes and countless paralyzing snowstorms. There is no one in the world that I would rather have at my side in a disaster than Mark. I am so blessed to have a partner that is calm, resourceful and able to push me forward if I hesitate or falter.  I hope that we are teaching our daughter how to find her strength when faced with these kind of life and death situations. You’d like to shelter your kids from them, but face it, no matter where you are in the world, things happen. No place is impervious. Last night, as it got dark, our friends and neighbors suddenly began to show up with food and knock on our door. We had a great impromptu dinner, and everyone felt the power of good community spirit as we joined together. I took the dog out at one point and tears came to my eyes as I looked back at where I live. Our house glowed with the light from the generator like a beacon in the black night.

My friend helped us move the horses back home yesterday. Silk got off the trailer and rolled and rolled in the pasture. She was so happy this morning when I fed her breakfast in our own barn.  There is much good that came from moving the horses. Most important, they were safe in the hurricane. I made a new friend with a great horse trailer. The girls were very comfortable in the barn up the road, and the unfriendly mare who attacked them last time actually welcomed them in the pasture. Last year after the hurricane, Siete had been traumatized by the trailer ride back – our neighbor drove too fast, and my little horse was soaked with sweat when we unloaded her. This time, she got over her fear and loaded easily like she always has when we were ready to come home. 

So this whole storm experience reminds me that fear is like a river that just has to be crossed. It is, after all, an emotion that can be replaced by other emotions that will serve me better. I will always feel it throughout points in the rest of my life, pay attention and respect its warnings, but it will never guide how I live.