Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Continuing the Journey Part 2

It has felt strange, and at the same time, right…this spiritual path I've chosen. It has helped me to feel grounded, and yet lifted me out of the mire of my ambivalent feelings toward the café. I had consulted a friend who is knowledgeable about these things back in August. It was she who presented me with my "tools;" she who told me how to use them. She spoke for a long time while I listened and didn't say much. Tried to absorb the things she told me, but in the end, only one or two seemed to stick in my brain. She spoke of acquiring an inner peace; and of maintaining and guarding that peace. In negative encounters with other people, she said, "Don't let them steal your peace."

Inner peace. How that concept appealed to me! I've not known too many moments of peace in my life. My brain just moves too fast; my body tries to follow it. It seems I am never at peace, never still, never quiet. And after the last four years of endless toil, apprehension and frustration, I hunger for that peace more than anything else. Still, the tools and the herbs sat unused on my dresser for months, before my craving for peace overcame my timidity about going solo with the smudging ritual. I did not want to disrespect the ritual by doing it wrong or making stupid blunders. Eventually, I made up my mind that the Almighty would look kindly on my intention, even if I did make mistakes. So, one morning, I just…did it. And, honestly, I felt an immediate blessing. As if the Universe was saying, "This is a good start. We will walk together from here, and you will learn."

As my teacher/friend explained to me, the smudging ritual can be done any time, as often as necessary. She said, "I smudge myself all the time; anytime I feel I've lost my peace. And, believe me, you'll know when you've lost it." Oh, yes…you do know.

I have been doing well at maintaining my peace…going longer and longer without losing it or letting it be taken from me. But Saturday, I could feel it getting away. As the day wore on, I became more easily annoyed; frustrated and depressed. It is an unfortunate fact of our convoluted relationship that the husband is quite often the culprit who steals my peace; and therefore suffers the backlash thereof. By the end of the day I was seeing our marriage from that dark despairing place in which I too often find myself. I was peeved with him because it seemed he had spent the entire day running away from me. I went to bed cranky, slept poorly and awoke resentful as hell. And sad and wistful, and wondering what exactly I could give the man I married that would make him happy with me again. It felt like the beginning of another of those "awash" days, and I did not want to go there.

It was obvious that I needed to perform the ritual…but I couldn't do it as I usually do—standing in my bathroom in front of my vanity mirror. I have decided it's best to keep this a private ritual, and the husband—though he knows of it, doesn't really understand. Or approve. Or something. So lighting the sage and appealing to the Powers of the Four Directions with my sleeping husband ten feet away did not seem…a way to invite respect for the ceremony. It occurred to me that I needed to take my tools elsewhere. Where better to connect with the Powers than my favorite place to commune with the natural world—the path on the dike?

As I scrambled out of my pajamas and packed my paraphernalia, husband climbed out of bed and asked where I was going.

Away from YOU. "For a walk."

"Do you want company?"

Are you kidding? "No."

Ugh! I need to get out of here before I start something that won't be pretty. I threw myself and my things in my van and drove away.

Ninety-nine percent of my problems, of the angst with which I live every day, can be traced back to one fact: I think too much. My mind is never still. Confronted by something bad or difficult, my brain will chew on it and worry it and turn it over and over until I either come up with a solution or go slightly nuts. Much of the benefit I derive from the smudging ceremony comes from the act of attempting to turn off my brain and be present IN the moment. Not praying, or listening, or creating a conversation with the Almighty in my head. It's more a willful turning away from my inward-twisting turmoil, allowing myself to spread outward. Outside of my head. Out into what is larger and infinitely greater than my puny personal battles.

Sunday morning, I tried to pry my brain away from the dilemma of my marriage, and how its problems are inextricably tangled with the restaurant and its problems. I was swirling down into that dark place…I knew it, but I couldn't stop it. I parked the car at my destination, and the voices of a small flock of cranes grabbed me and yanked me out of that downward spiral. They were flying low over the dike not far away, fluting their singular calls to one another, off in search of a good field in which to enjoy their communal breakfast. I hurried up the path to get a better look, my woes temporarily forgotten.

So that was the tone for my walk that morning. I would try to empty myself, to disengage from my inner turmoil. I would walk in silence and calm for a few feet, a few yards, let myself become part of the soft, damp air, the pebbles under my feet, the water and the trees and the sky. But then my heavy mood would drag me away from the endlessness…to fall upon a problem or a worry and begin to wrap myself around it again.

But the Universe was having none of that from me. I had gone to Mother Earth, seeking my peace. And I was going to find it if the She had to slap me upside the head with it. As I walked, my eyes on the ground and my step quick and angry, the normally subdued nature of the wetlands called out to me, insisting on my attention. Tiny juncos and sparrows darted across my path and rustled in the underbrush a few feet away. Always enchanted by birds of any kind, I had to stop and talk to them. Further on, a prehistoric croak from the field across the dike road drew my eyes to a heron in full view, stalking awkwardly across a gravel trail, heading for the grassland to hunt for frogs. I paused and watched him for several minutes; I could feel the knot inside me loosen. I could expand, take in, become one with the natural world, which was not going to allow me to ignore it this morning.

I approached the turn-around point of my walk—the old wooden utility scaffold crowned with an osprey nest. I had decided that would be the place that I would draw out my sage and my matches and perform my ceremony. A few yards from my destination, an unusual voice floated across the channel. A melodious, hooting call I had never heard. I thought it must be an owl; but, then, owls don't travel in flocks, and there were several voices hooting. As I scanned the shore for the source, a group of large, light-colored birds emerged from a thicket of trees. The main body of the flock flew east toward the interior of the island, their white wings flickering against the dull gray sky. A small group of a half dozen or so birds broke off and flew toward me, over my head and on to the grazing lands to the west. Fat white birds with long necks and graceful wingbeats.

Swans. Mother Earth had given me swans. I thanked her as I stood at the foot of the osprey tower and prepared my ceremony.

I lit the sage, purified myself, appealed to the powers of the four winds to help me find my peace, to help me protect my peace. I decided this would be a good place to purify my crystals as well. I drew the stone hearts out of my pocket and held them in the smoke. First the amethyst, and then the rose quartz. Rose quartz. The mineral governing the heart and relationships. I held that pink heart in the sacred smoke and the thought sneaked into my mind. What can I give my husband that will show him…show him that I love him? It was just a thought, a question. It passed from my mind as I extinguished the sage and packed my things away, but, I think, it hung in the air just above my head. A few yards down the path, on my journey home, these words formed clearly in my head. Almost as if someone was standing next to me and spoke them aloud.

"If you love him, leave him alone."

Not precisely what I wanted to hear. But I knew exactly what it meant. Quit badgering him. Quit trying to "draw him out" about the things going on in your head, in your lives, in your marriage. That is not his way. Yes. I get it. And it makes perfect sense, actually.

I would finish my walk with a much lighter heart and a new resolve…though a resolve to what, I can't really say. Perhaps a resolve to stop despairing over and trying to "fix" our relationship, and to just let it be what it is. That is the path to greater happiness for us both, I think.

It was good to feel I had come to Mother Earth for refreshment, and I had received it. But She was not done with me yet.

As I neared the end of my trail, I heard loud, piercing screeches echoing over the marina. Not gulls. Louder and deeper. I scanned the sky, searching for the source, and saw four huge, dark birds wheeling and cavorting, chasing each other from the trees, out over the water and back again. As I drew closer, flashes of white, heads and tails, identified the screechers: Eagles. I slid down the shoulder of the dike and stumbled to the water's edge. Two of the birds broke away and flew right to where I stood on the bank. Sailed directly over my head, almost close enough to touch…wheeled and returned to their game above the water. As if they had seen me…ME…and come over to greet me.

I said "hi" back. And thank you. With tears misting my eyes and trickling to the end of my nose.

The spirit guide I thought had deserted me, returned—four-fold—to show me I had not been abandoned. That I would not BE abandoned. Ever. To show me I was SO on the right path, and I would not be walking it alone.

No experience I had ever had in the context of traditional religion had ever left me feeling more known, more cherished, by a Power far beyond myself. And with a knowledge that I had indeed received something great and precious this day from the Almighty.

Fitting, I suppose, that it was a Sunday morning. The first day of the week. A good day to start a journey.


  1. Lisa - This story overwhelms me in its power and significance. I'm completely at a loss for words (because it feels SO big) except to say how happy I am for you that you're finding your way to spiritual connection and peace.

    Sending you love -

  2. Just awesome...that Holy Spirit shows up just the way we need her too and speaks the Word of the divine into our hearts and minds and lives...all we have to do is open up to hear - and clearly you are doing that. What great wisdom about your marriage. Will be a bit more challenging to live into for awhile, but in time...

  3. Mysterious ways, my dear friend, mysterious ways. Reading this has made me feel deeply, quietly happy -- for you -- and for the possibilities out there for me and (less selfishly) us all.

  4. I've been with you all the way, Lisa. I think you've come to some very wise conclusions. The restaurant experience, while interesting, has been all consuming, all exhausting for you. Time for some fun and freedom, don't you think?

  5. Absolutely, Meredith! (So nice to hear from you!)

  6. What a wonderful renewal of spirit. I so agree with your view on religion. By nature, I too am a fixer, but I choose to be content in peacefulness. It is still more difficult at times, but there continues to be growth toward that state. Once upon a time as the wars were lurking my ds was in military at defensive language school. At the time I was obsessed with walking 6 miles EVERY day. As I walked this day, mulling, churning, grieving over the thought that ds may be called into active duty, that 'voice' you mention said, "Haven't you pleaded this before? Give it to me, and leave it alone." I honestly tried my best not to worry again, and within days he was out and coming home. Continue on your path, we can ALWAYS grow. Thanks for sharing yours so well.

  7. Such a beautiful morning, experience, and piece of writing. Thank you for this lovely connection to Creation.