Bravery is not fearlessness. I have fear. And worry. But I'm brave. Bravery is doing it when you're afraid. When fear settles in and tries to stop you.
Behind me sits chaos. Can you see it? The whirling, swirling of it. The clouds of color and the lack of structure. It moves in contrast to the crispness of me and my dog. The clearness of our image, the calmness of our pose. But you see, just as I manipulated the photograph so there would appear to be something brewing behind me, I manipulate the outward manifestation of me to hide the chaos within. I took this photograph when I was in Philadelphia last week. I went alone.
I'm scared to go places alone.
I don't think people know this about me. I present as having my mojo on. I present as though I've got it all together and I'm really confident and I'm really comfortable when, in actuality, I'm pretty scared most of the time. Times that I sit in my car in the parking lot of the grocery store, just getting it together enough to be able to go in and shop. Times that I'm driving home from somewhere and even though I really need to stop I just won't let myself because the anxiety of having to walk through the crowd is too much.
And so having taken this solo trip across the country a few weeks ago, and then a trip to Philadelphia - walking the streets, seeing the Liberty Bell and Constitution Square - and realizing that I'm doing this on my own, well…this is freakin’ amazing actually.
Of course, it helps to have my dog…
Lately my dog and I have been reading Eckart Tolle's book A New Earth. Well, I have been reading it, and she has been cuddled up next to me, sharing in the experience in that cosmic and connected way that comes easy with her and often not so easy with those spirits that are in human form. The stories that we create about each other, those don't happen with animals. Animals don't do that to each other. And I don't do that with Nava and she does not do that with me. It is as it is in that moment with my dog. She is hungry or tired or playful. She is energetic or just wants to sit close to be pet. And so, when I am with her there are few outside stories that I have to create about my relationship with her. Sure, there are times I may lay a human emotion on her and then get all tweaky that she needs something that she most likely does not. But lately I am quick see that this is my need and then I smile at the need to create the need in the first place. It is all pretty simple. We are just us. And it is good.
So lately I have been taking this concept - the just she and I in the moment of us - and I have been looking at it in the bigger realm of all of life. Thinking a lot about being in the story and so not being in life. I’ve actually been witnessing myself for many months now. The witnessing of rote habits and reactions, the going to the story and missing the present. It’s interesting that I am reading the Tolle book now. As I did not know that it was about just this. The book obviously came to me when it was supposed to. (Though actually I had been told about this book a while ago and I so had no interest in reading it at that time…a whole other story!!)
Anyway...back to the story. Being aware of the habit of it, of going to the story shows me how often I take myself out of the present interaction. It’s subtle and easy not to notice until I notice. And then I notice all the time. In everything
And so now I am the witness. And this witnessing, it is immediate now. Almost simultaneous to the story cropping up at times.
And I have taken this witnessing outside of just noticing my own internal monologue to my interactions and my responses in the world. And I am seeing the stories, the filters, the rote reactions and responses when I am in an interaction with others. It is no mistake that I am here. Having this fall in New England. With my parents. My family of origin. Where many patterns began.
And this witnessing and noticing and being aware, what I am discovering is that I don't think we - as people, friends, lovers, family - I don't think know each other. I think we know our stories of each other. I think we know these stories very well. And I think we think we know what each other's stories are about ourselves. And I think this is common. For couples. For people in relationship. For people we have known for a long time and also for people we may have just met. We sit in the stories. I know I do. I carry them around - these stories about others and about myself - and these stories color what I think. And then, to really enhance the cosmic joke of all of this, I think that this is real. That the stories are real!
But sometimes you wake up.
And so now my rote habits and reactions have a witnessing. And when I am witnessing I am out of the story and into the present happening of all of this that is life. It is a dance, this place of being in the it of it. It turns everything on it's head. And creates such a place of possibility.
It is then that we can look at each other and see. And this is what I see.
I see that the things that I maybe think don't work or don't fit, it is the stories that just don't fit. And because the stories have been around for so long - and we so easily think that they are real, we just accept the not working/not fitting when really we don't really know each other at all. I want to challenge that notion - the not fitting, the not working - and say that maybe what doesn’t fit is our stories.
To say that we don’t fit when we don’t really know who each other is, well that is a loss to me. I want to know you, not my story of you. And I want you to know me. The me that is not my story of me, or your story of me.
The me that I believe has always been there, and is finally feeling that it is safe to come out.
As long as my dog is with me...
About a year ago I wrote about a west coast, early morning sunrise on a cool, crisp, now fall day. And so, in keeping with this, I thought I'd revisit the theme from this east side coast. My change of location does not necessarily mean a change of routine it seems. Though my east coast early morning sunrise starts out a bit differently.
Here in Massachusetts there is fog on the ground.
Sometimes, the mornings in California would offer up a fog that hung gently on the peaks of the mountains off in the distance from where my walk took me. But here, the fog nestles in against the field of grass that sits below the home I am renting for this fall in Massachusetts. The field is often filled with cows. Both grown and many babies graze along the fence and off into the distance. Just as often they break free of the wire that runs the perimeter of the field and I find cows eating the sweeter grass of my lawn. It is funny when they are outside of their fence. I wonder how they got here. I have yet to see them escape though I have seen them go back into the enclosure. They always do. Go back. They know it is their home. Just as this farmhouse is mine.
The fog is not here every morning. And neither are the cows. But the crispness and the coolness of this now fall welcomes me each morning. To me, this coolness feels like coldness. I am sure it is not that cold to someone who is used to this. But this coolness, I am not used to mornings like this. To me, it is cold. I am cold. Cold in that two-sweaters-and-a-hat-and-mittens-and-my-winter-boots kind of way. But still I am up. With the sunrise. And my dog.
We play ball. Each morning when we wake up with the cool, crisp and sometimes foggy sunrise. We play ball in that way that she always plays ball. That intense, this-is-work-this-is-my-job-in-this-moment kind of way. We play ball and we walk along the dirt road that is my driveway. My west coast walk was just a walk and then the ball playing came later. But not here in Massachusetts. Here we combine the walk and the ball playing/working. As we wish a sweet good morning to the cows if they are here.
The cows. They are much safer than the coyotes that sometimes would join us on our west coast, early morning walks. The lack of them, the coyotes, is a huge thing for me. I walk/play ball on these east coast mornings without worrying. I walk, maybe a bit cold, but only my body is chilled. My heart, it is warm and worry free.
I did not realize just how much I worried about the coyotes back in California. I did not realize how on high alert I was on my walks in the morning with Nava in the orange grove below our west coast home until I started on these early morning Massachusetts walks and found that I was just in them.
There is an ease to my mornings here. A cold ease, but an ease nonetheless. I like this. Not thinking, not looking around, not wondering if something is lurking near to us. Something coyote-like that could hurt my dog.
Not having to notice that the many rabbits are running scared not from my dog but from another kind of canine that is very interested in mine. But only noticing that the cows are on the outside side of the fence, and that the fog is thicker and deeper than it was the day before, and that it is not quite as cold and so I need one less sweater and do not have to make sure to stand in those spaces on the dirt road where the early morning sun hits my face and warms me.
And that the flowers that grow against the side of my home dance brightly in the morning light.
I have a garden on the back of my car. And on the back of my body. And on my hip. And on my wrist. I plant gardens. All over myself. And my things. But not in the ground. Never in the dirt. Which is funny actually since I crave that ground connection. The sweetness and moistness of the earth and the dirt, it pulls me. I need to live close to it. My homes need to lay against the earth and doors need to let me out quickly. The earth and dirt, I need it. I need the grounding to the ground.
I am working on grounding without the earth – a practice of restorative yoga, with chanting and meditation, is in the center of this. For a while I was doing this daily. When I first was gifted this practice – and I say gifted in the truest sense – I practiced it every day. I would take myself to the park near our home. Out on the grass - on the earth, on the ground – and, with the sun on my face maybe or deep in the shade of a great and old tree, I would set my intention and move through poses of breath and connection.
Even though the practice is restorative I would make it flow. With the deep and mindful breath that is an integral part of each pose and the chanting of a word to cleanse myself of all that takes away from deep peace, I added a flowing rhythm much like dancing. I cannot help this. I comes out of me this way. The flow-like dancing-ness of movement even in the poses that are unmoving. The dancer in me needs this dancing in stillness, too.
And so I danced through this practice that is a grounding of poses and chanting and meditation every day for over two months. A grounding of poses that plants within myself stability of heart, nurturing of body and honoring of soul. A grounding of poses that are the seeds of my awakening and the flowers that settle along the paths of my journeying. My internal garden.
And then I stopped for a bit. I lost the practice of this practice. I skipped a day as I skipped through my day. And then another. And then another, still. And I became disconnected to myself again and so was not even aware that I was missing this practice of yoga with chanting and meditation that had started to create a deepening of weight in my core and the possibility of a grounding in my bones. A grounding on my own, not only when I was against the earth and dirt.
But now I am in this new place. Of lush green leaves and solid soil. There are plantings all around me. A garden with the last few summer tomatoes still on their vines and end of season herbs in planters gathered in the back of the yard. There are black-eyed-susan’s and leftover lavender. And sweet grass and leaves that have already fallen from the trees. The air is cool already as night settles in and in the early morning when I walk my dog. And the sun, though still warm on my skin, will soon not be able to warm the home that keeps me safe during this time.
It is in this good place that I have begun again to practice my practice. Today I brought this ritual of breath and movement and mindful intention to the back lawn of this house that is mine for the fall. I knelt on the grass and took in the warmth of the sun on my face and my skin. I soon had to remove sweaters and a hat that were necessary in the early morning chill. My body warmed quickly as did Nava’s black fur as she nestled against me despite the movements of my body.
I will continue this practice outside for as long as I can. Knowing that when the cool fall air turns to chill I will need to take myself inside.
In the upstairs bedroom this time. A good room. With low ceilings and full windows that let in the light and the both warm and cool air. I will practice my practice on the floor of this room. Not able to be in the earth any longer. Not able to be on the dirt or grass or in the sun or under the shade of a tree. This time I will practice my practice on a solid, wooden floor that is covered with a light tan rug which has, not quite a garden, two green leaves woven in.
I have a caldron. It is pretty fantastic. Like amazing. It's the coolest thing. It took forever for me to find. I looked everywhere. On line at every Witch and Wicca and Celtic online store I could find. And went locally to all the funky California crystal and incense and essential oil places, too. But nothing. And then, behold, a caldron was discovered at... get this... Agri Supply dot com!!! An online farm supply store that offers - along with farm stuff - the best of Carolina Cooker products: pots and skillets and grills and everything else that a farmer will need when out on the range. My caldron, on this site, is called a cast iron stew pot.
But it's a caldron. I know it.
It's with me. My caldron. In my car. Behind the driver's seat. Filled with tennis balls and dog toys and leashes and collars. All of Nava's things. It makes sense to use it for that. To use the caldron for all Nava's stuff while we make this drive across the country. This is temporary. All of it. The use of the caldron to hold my dog's things. And the trip across the country. Both.
The caldron will be emptied soon. Of all things not caldron-like. And will be used instead for burnings. Of Sage. And Lavender. The burning of Sage is one of the oldest and most pure methods of cleansing a person or space. The burning of Lavender is seen as an invitation to the spirits. So I will cleanse my space and myself and invite in those spirits the seek my company as I seek theirs. These will be joyous ceremonies.
I actually have two caldrons. My first one showed up with cracks in her side. Deep edgings into the cast iron but still sturdy. And so this farm site that is really a witch site for caldron seekers sent me a new one. And let me keep my first one also, as the cost to return it back was too much.
I used my first caldron for my first burning before I ventured forth for the east. A burning of things left over that needed to be brought back to the earth and the wind. I burned them in the caldron along with some Sage for cleansing. It was good. And less important than I thought it would be. I pictured ritual. And a deep resonance with the passage of these things as they moved into ash. But it was not like this. It was quick. And I was distracted. And did not chant or pray or honor anything. I merely settled these items I had chosen to burn, scatted Sage on top and around each piece and lit it all with many matches as the first few did not take as easily as I had hoped. And as my things burned I mostly paid mind to the flames as they caught on the fabrics and strings, robes and leather that I had piled into my sacred giant mortar sans pestle. But like a true mortar and pestle, used to ground things up into a fine powder, my caldron held the burning flame until all that was left was the ash powder made from memories.
I then gifted this first one to a wise woman so she could burn and honor and create warrior circles and feminine connections.
It is the second caldron that travels with me.
That I plan to do this, these burnings of Lavender and Sage, during the fall is especially poignant - touching, moving - to me. The fall is a time of rebirth. It's often said that the spring is that time. But I see that is is fall. When the leaves turn those deep fall colors of crimson and orange, reds and yellows with still few greens left. And then brown. And as the dryness sets in, this now fallen foliage begins to settled deep into the earth.
This is the rebirthing, see...
This settling into the dirt to nourish the new growth that will flourish in spring. This is the ebb and flow of life. And it is in keeping with this spirit of things falling - of the shedding of the leaves to make way for the new growth that always occurs when there is space for it - that I will dance on fallen leaves and maybe chant or pray. Or maybe not. Maybe I will just burn. Sage and Lavender. And I will take in the smokiness of it.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Dog and Cat lover.