Nature Dreams

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With the turning of December, I had a powerful dream, the kind I have about once a year that stays with me and seems to carry some specific message that often takes me time to fully understand.

The Dream

I was traveling somewhere unknown and offered temporary shelter in a room inside a large hostel or early 1900s multi-level apartment building. As I was preparing to sleep for the night, I noticed a small worm next to the bed on the floor. I thought not much of it and let it be.  I was tired, so I fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke, I was amazed to find a giant butterfly with malachite wings, each the size of my hand flying around my room.  The wings were like a cross-section of malachite, somewhat like the image above.

I was thrilled and excited!  I went to get some other people to look at the butterfly and show them what had appeared in my room.  “You won’t believe this!  I’ve never seen anything like it!”  I pointed and showed three people in the building and unknown to me in real life.  They all looked at me as if I was a bit, shall we say, one taco short of a combo platter.  No one else could see the glorious butterfly.

A little research later, I learned that malachite (I don’t own any but probably will now) is a copper-formulated stone with metaphysical properties linked to the throat and heart energy centers specifically, transformation, and healing. I found this to be meaningful in that I always experience fear and anxiety and trauma in my body as being in my throat chakra.  The terror associated with being unable to express oneself and be understood.  In addition, I immediately understood the butterfly as the most obvious symbol of transformation I could see.  So my brief dream interpretation tells me that even if the power of this gorgeous object of transformation may not be visible to anyone around me, some type of big shift is headed my way.

Way of Seeing

My daughter was driving us to a family gathering this week, and I tried to articulate a way of seeing.

I shared, “Isn’t it amazing how the natural world is changing constantly? Think about how few moments most of us are observing it– all the time the light shifts, clouds move, animals cry, leaves fall. If I focus on something from the natural world, it always seems to reflect something in my mind or something pertinent to my life, as if it is communicating directly with me.”

Response: “Yes, but that’s something we create in our minds.”

Me:  “I’m trying to describe how it feels like something more than just imaginative creation that’s going on.”

At that exact moment, a family of nine California quails began to cross the road in front of our car. Now I have seen a handful of these birds on the 60-mile island where I live, but I have never, ever seen them in town or block a two-way street while a large family of them crossed a street. My daughter, being keenly sensitive to the sanctity of all animals, thankfully stepped on the brakes quickly, which caused the oncoming traffic to do the same, allowing the family to cross in single file.

Pair of California Quail

Pair of California Quail (source: PurelyPoultry.com)

The family gathering we were attending had nine people in it. We burst out laughing when we realized what I was trying to say had been described in probably the best way I could not even imagine.

I just received this book but had not read in it until this moment, where the description of connection to the natural world I was trying to describe (or indigenous view) is articulated better than I can:

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“What’s incredible to understand is that the heart of our universe is alive, vibrating energy. It is a sea of potential– a void, empty but full of all possibility– communicating with us and within us across space and time.”  (p.18)

She sums up the way most of us see in contrast:  “Western views have become conceptual rather than perceptual, influenced by ideas rather than direct experience.” (p.16)

Practice

I am now going to step away from the screen and desk into the cold winter twilight to practice seeing.  More later.

Harmony

My initial instinct immediately after 11/9 was to sing to my heart.  I still intend to host some casual singing gathering with my aunt’s assistance and myself at the piano which I hope will become a small, regular, non-performance group in 2017.

So when I learned of the intention behind this group half a country away from me, I was blown away.

I hope you enjoy listening to and being inspired by the Harmony Project as much as I have. The director seems incredible, and gathering a group of folks with this level of sound without prior musical experience required is amazing. There is another Harmony Project out of LA that provides instruments to children who cannot afford them, which is equally inspiring.

May all those in the pursuit of harmony go forth and prosper.

 

 

Giving Differently

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Last year’s bounty of hand-knit hats along with 5 hand-knit scarves I’m donating to a local homeless organization.

This holiday season, my family members unanimously decided to give to one another differently and donate to organizations close to each family member’s heart in lieu of more stuff.  We all have enough stuff.  The amount donated can vary and need not be disclosed, simply a note saying, “A donation has been made in your name.” (Or fill in the blank whatever politician’s name of your choice).

I wanted to donate my hats to the Water Protectors in Dakota who have among many others, military veterans and medical volunteers supporting them, and a Syrian refugee sponsor in Seattle, but both groups are urging knitters to hold on hats at the moment. If you want to give your knits away, here is a state-by-state list of charities that accept them.

I am listing some of our holiday organizations of choice here, in case they call to anyone else, since November 29 is Giving Tuesday where dollars are often matched to double your impact.

www.aclu.org

www.fofmedicalsupportfund.org – helped me out when I needed it!

americansforresponsiblesolutions.org

South Whidbey Food Bank

Rainier Valley Food Bank

www.liveyourdream.org

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

www.earthworksaction.org

Union of Concerned Scientists

Southern Poverty Law Center

ProPublica

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Mindfulness Prison Project

Trevor Project

Northwest Harvest

Kilung Foundation Humanitarian Aid

www.llaa.org

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Many more knits to come. . .

I had recent need to look up Native American tribes who lived on Whidbey Island before 1850, and this Tulalip woman reached out to me.

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Getting to Gratitude

I am holding every person in my heart this Thanksgiving who has taken actions big and small to protect our home the Earth, to support people and animals they love, to be kind to total strangers.

I read about a 5-year-old whose parent asked her one question when picking her up from school each day:  “What did you do that was kind today?”  I am asking that of myself now at the end of each day.

Let us not give up hope.

It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community,
Be good to each other.
Do not look outside yourself for a leader.

There is a river flowing now very fast,
It is so great and swift.
That there are those who will be afraid,
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being pulled apart,
And will suffer greatly.

Understand that the river knows its destination,
The elders say we must let go of the shore.
Push off into the middle of the river,
Keep our eyes open and our heads above water.

And I say; see who is in there with you,
Hold fast to them and celebrate!

At this time in history,
We are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves!
For the moment we do,
Our spiritual growth and journey comes to an end.
The time of the Lone Wolf is over!

Gather yourselves!
Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done,
In a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are all about to go on a journey,
We are the ones we have been waiting for!

-Thomas Banyacya Sr. (1910-1999);
Speaker of the Wolf, Fox and Coyote Clan
Elder of the Hopi Nation

Fear and the American Dream

Reconciliation is a word that keeps popping up in this moment. That we cannot truly go forward respectful of one another until a good deal of reconciliation has taken place to genuinely, empathetically, sorrowfully address the wounds of the past rising up within our own selves through our ancestors.

I am not particularly religious and have a titch of discomfort with the word God though I carry out several spiritual practices. But I always have spontaneous tears when I witness examples of people attempting to bridge some divide, even if they do not fully know what to do or say.

A story crossed my path about two churches in the South attempting this journey with some success of people understanding, some for the first time what the “other’s” experience has really been.

Divided America

Then I happened upon Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon, The American Dream, given 16 months before I was born.  Some of the spoken sermon departs from the transcript, but both feel resonant today. I used the term “schizophrenic” to describe what is happening in America today in my last blog post, and was surprised to see that same word used in his speech.

(I have actually had a friend who suffered from schizophrenia, so I do not think it is literally similar, just a figure of speech to describe the disjointed, disconnected, fearful states we can find ourselves).

Certain things have shifted, namely desegregation in schools since 50 years ago.* And most impressively a first African American president whose inauguration and inspiring family still give me goosebumps today. But in some ways the ideal of universal dignity for all peoples in America can seem light years away. It is still possible for people to live their entire lives in an American city without ever speaking directly to someone of another racial background or nowadays to truly engage outside a technology bubble

*I just learned that schools in the US are as or more segregated than in the 1960s.

Recently, I had a discussion with someone expressing great fear over the current protests. I find myself in the camp that sympathizes with those resisting and see the vast majority of them being nonviolent, but I stayed silent in this discussion. Then it hit me like a flash: We could agree that this year has been stressful for ALL of us, regardless of “camps” or “sides.” And we could agree that both are afraid.

One group fears their security, safety and prosperity is compromised if they don’t make the choice they did. The other group fears their security, safety and prosperity will be lost if they don’t resist the choices being made.

For those living in Appalachia where incomes and access to healthcare are much lower than the rest of America, I can deeply appreciate wanting change.

For those whose ancestors endured the homegrown terrorism that is slavery, I can barely imagine, no actually I cannot imagine what the level of that trauma is. My ancestors experienced persecution inside an authoritarian dictatorship. That is the fear that I innately respond from when I recognize echoes of it.

If we all want security, safety, and prosperity but we see only threat from the other side, wouldn’t it be wonderful to practice listening to what in someone else’s experience causes them to have their fear?

By Erin W Tagged

Studying Fears

As part of talking myself down from my own perpetually rising ledge (lifelong work in progress) I am participating in a Fearless Challenge.

I’ve done this type of work before, but fears are endless, some shifting, some chronic, and any excuse to shine light on them is positive.

Spending just five minutes a day observing my own fears makes me at least feel like I’m doing something with the fallout from the not so kind and often confusing world outside myself.

I mean, what could be more schizophrenic than an Ivy League-educated African American president with family descended from slaves handing off leadership of a most impactful country in the world stage to someone whose campaign succeeded with help of an Orthodox Jewish man, while simultaneously being praised by the KKK?

A few insights from studying my own fears:

  1. My biggest fears cause a static hum like a poorly tuned radio station always running in the background that helps create lack of clarity. These are my fears of catastrophe in no particular order: nuclear annihilation, super quake in my region, vast destruction of sentient beings by mankind, suffering caused by white supremacists or anyone espousing ethnic superiority in positions of power.
  2. What all these catastrophic fears have in common is their occurrences are far beyond my control. So why do I cling to these fears?
  3. Despite the fact I have linked each fear in my list to evidence that makes them seem rational as opposed to phobias that are by dictionary definition “irrational,” (I do not agree and believe phobias too have a rational root) I am reminded when I study fears that I cannot and do not know everything. Complexity exists everywhere. Can I let go of the burden of this constant static? I sure would feel a lot better if I could.
  4. What helps me let go is to focus on where I do have control. Can I try not to harm any sentient being in my path? Yes. Can I try to stand up for anyone suffering thanks to the insecure superiority complex of another? Yes. Can I relocate away from a quake zone or at least accept living with the uncertainty? Maybe.
  5. One thing I see so far is that all my grandest fears are sprouted out of love for all that is life and aching for the disruption of that life force. So I can feel compassion for that part of me that feels the love. I have many more fears to study and am grateful for the moments I attempt to look them in the face, no matter the outcome.

 

 

 

 

By Erin W Tagged

Gratitude to Mystery

I want to stop feeling empty.  This is the habit I am trying to look at this month.  I don’t see tremendously bad stuff I’m filling the emptiness with (except possibly compulsive knitting?) but I do want to stop the emptiness.  Or live harmoniously with it.  Lean in, as wise counsel says.

It is pointless to spend time regretting the past, but I do want to harness the energy of this person from 20 years ago when she still created and believed in dreams for herself.

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I was already feeling despondent about marking a half century and not thinking I’ve done enough. I was asking myself how it is I could go from being a person with a network of authentic friendships to someone who, after 15 years of working from home can’t think of a single solid non-virtual friendship (the kind of friend you’d call in the middle of the night if you needed to).  When I passed an apparently kind and pleasant person on my daily walk in the woods WITH A DOG, my anger was fueled about how much my allergy to dogs has impacted my ability to form friendships, let alone my 7-day work schedule.  I know I created the latter, but I don’t know how I created the former unless I did some karmically horrific thing to a dog in a former lifetime.

Then the election fallout happened in the form of ongoing spontaneous tears and anxiety spikes, grief, sadness, anger and hopelessness.

Then I attended an informational presentation about “The Future” for high schoolers which included a rational explanation of how a teen might choose a college and a career path.  The chart included a scale of average incomes one could expect with various degrees.  It all sounded so methodical, so logical, so rational.  You choose how you wish to live and you go after the thing that will bring that to you.

Apparently the average income range for my level of education is $20,000 more per year than I have ever earned in 30 years post college, despite working 50-70 hours per week most of my adult life.  My teen said I wasn’t helping her feel much hope about her prospects, and I left the room with a big scarlet F on my forehead for Failure.  Never mind the wonderful folks with Ph.D.s I’ve met over the years who were washing dishes or waiting tables.  You go, you overeducated brothers and sisters!

I could blame my income on the bad taste marketing leaves in my mouth and on my skin, or countless other perceived limits.  (And yes, I have done a crapload of work on understanding to reject limits and give myself constant reminders to embrace the present moment with gusto with little more than transitory experience of freedom.  Which could be more evidence of failure if I didn’t see through you, story!).

Here is where the Gratitude for Mystery comes in.

  • I honestly don’t know completely how I have managed to meet all basic needs for 30 years without relying on public aid (except during 2 years of crisis preventing me to work full-time), but mysteriously I have.
  • I have had opportunities to travel despite everything.  I am 100% convinced travel angels are real when you are in an unfamiliar place, don’t speak the language, and are scared.  This has broadened my perspective and education tremendously.
  • I have no concerns for my teen’s ability to carve a future for herself that far exceeds mine, because she already has surpassed me by light years.  Genuinely I am humbled and awed by her most of the time and wonder sometimes if the Mystery did some magic juju to have her fall from this tree.
  • I have spent the past 15 years fully engaged with supporting and protecting the apple that fell from the tree, and as she moves toward independence, the emptiness rings louder and louder.  Was nurturing this apple my life purpose and can I be content with that?  It feels more accidental than purposeful.  I was doing what came naturally.
  • It is clearly time for a change for me sooner than later.  It feels important for my survival that I leave the nest in some way.  I just don’t know how or where to fly yet.  Even at 50.
  • Mystery, I see you, I thank you.  Fill me up.

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(not much change in 20 years, except everything
in my work reference books is now on Google, my screen is flat,
and Bill Clinton was president )

 

Safe Passage

Everywhere I hear my ancestors whispering. We must not go back.

We cannot say it is okay to live in a country where entire groups of people are “wrong” by virtue of ethnicity and birth overnight. The fires have been stoked, and I’m not sure saying “stop it” on 60 Minutes will help.

Nothing wrong with wanting economic improvement, family-supporting jobs not requiring a college degree, and societal security. But if those things come at the expense of many people’s personal safety and freedom to choose what happens to them, rights that took decades of strength, struggle to make possible, human rights that built the foundation of our country, then the trade-off is not worth it.

While awake at 3 am from night terrors, I looked for signs of hope and found one:  Safe Passage for those commuting in New York who feel afraid for their personal safety. It would be wonderful to see this idea replicated in every city, every town.

Many people are trying to figure out what we can do. Those of us who don’t have means to relocate will need to be there for one another.

I’m just an often-confused-about-my-purpose, often-feeling-alone, middle-aged, single parent working 7 days a week to support my family. But I would gladly stop what I am doing to accompany someone who feels afraid for their personal safety, regardless of skin color, gender, age or background. Or stop to lend a hand if someone needed my help.

I live in one of the most progressive leaning states in the union, so eroding rights may come more slowly or be fought with more strength where I am. But I know I will be up for the Women’s March and will host singing gatherings in my home to participate in comfort and inspiration that only music can bring.

It is clear I will be needing herbal support for sleep. I refuse to support big pharma and disrupt my brain with antidepressants anymore, a habit I gave up years ago, but I will look to Valerian root, lemon balm tea, and melatonin. It is super important to take care of ourselves when we are troubled, and sleep deprivation does not lead to productive action.

For an interesting psychological take on the election, I found this post to be salient. In addition, if there is ever to be understanding rather than war between the 50% and the 50%, it would be helpful to have more attempts at listening to one another beyond talking points, as Van Jones displayed with his pre-election project The Messy Truth.

I end with a pile of beautiful vegetables from a happier moment in time, just to have something healthy to look at.

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Sing to Your Heart

One of my fondest memories of early parenthood was a spontaneous nightly ritual of singing or humming to my young child. No one told me to do so. It simply arose from my heart.

It feels helpful in dark times to do the same for our own hearts entrusted in our care.

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Amid despair and uncertainty for our planet and signs that America will be the first country out of 99% of countries on Earth to disavow climate change treaties and take the P out of our Environmental Protection Agency, it can feel like all our past actions on behalf of our common home are flushed down a toilet. We only need to sing to our hearts to know no action in love is ever wasted. Take heart. Be heart. Know one way or another our hearts are joined, singing a way forward.

By Erin W