Tag Archives: learning

An Ordinary Day _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 10

December 13, 2013

I’m getting ready to start my day, listening to Pandora. Suddenly, Máire Brennan’s song, Land of Youth, starts playing. It is the song recounting the tale of Oisín in Tír na Nóg. I have just been thinking about Oisín, and his own song, the one he wrote for me. For some reason I take the arrival of the song to indicate that I should be expecting Oisín, so I walk about and look for him. I cannot see anyone or anything beyond five feet or so. For this reason I wander around the living room, to make sure I don’t miss seeing him, should he appear.

Silently, he walks to where I am standing. There is only a need for silence. Wordlessly, we share moments almost as though I am a child. As though, perhaps, I am his child’s child’s child… and, how far would that go, I wonder.

He is half a chest and a full head taller than I am, Oisín is, with long curly blond hair and clear bluish hazel eyes. I am gazing up at him, as he towers over me. He greets me with the gesture that to those in the otherworld means both hello, welcome, acknowledgment, and the recognition of who a person is. In the otherworld, you can understand everything about who a person is once you know that you don’t have to put up defenses.

I can’t read Oisín’s facial expression, in part because his face is a good 8 inches above my head. Yet I know it is stern and weather worn, somber, kind. I can only picture a “generic face template” for anyone, embodied or otherwise, so I’m simply told the extra information which I appreciate especially as I never get a chance to know things like this of people in this world.

We stand speaking wordlessly about the far and the near, about the vast and the insignificant, there in the middle of the living room. Alllegro sits a few paces away, intently surveying us quietly and I notice that he’s not shoving a hedgehog at either of us.

I ask questions but there are no answers. Questions like Why? And How? And What was it like when? And I know that now, being as he is in another world, his eternal address is from nowhere.

And as we stand side by side, I understand what must be done: its just to be. Be and go on being. Doing what I am already beginning. Be fully here now, share all I can.

And so I thank him for the song. I gesture as if I could take his hand and tell him how much his words mean to me, though there are no words for this. I ask how he’d like to handle the fact that he wrote the song, but I wrote it down, because of course, I will always be honest and give him the credit in a world that will not accept what happened.

He gestures to put the song into my hands and I protest that it isn’t right, but he insists it is what must be when someone is already not of this world.

Suddenly a commercial careens through the room with its loud incantations of Black Friday sales and Christmas gifts. I am almost certain that Oisín will disappear at this point. I know he doesn’t like commercialism, and is suspicious of modern technology, recognizing it is only helpful as most things are, in balance with the rest of living. Now, I think I’ve been hoping to never see what Oisín or Caoilte or anyone else looks like when angry. But I suppose I have known that I would find out sooner or later. Oisín isn’t angry at me, he’s angry at the hollow meaninglessness surrounding our culture’s obsession with stuff, material substitutes for real connection, and all the falsehoods such a way of life continues. I know this as it is quite easy to read each others’ thoughts.

Anyway, when he is angry Oisín is even more formidable and fierce looking than usual. I realize I have already moved a bit out of the way, but Oisín sees this and puts a light around us. I look up at him expectantly, willing to begin to learn that anger is a regular human emotion and doesn’t have to indicate either that something is wrong with me or be about me at all. It doesn’t have to mean, as it did with my ex partner, that a person will lose control and lash out at anyone in line of fire. Some people like Oisín know how to express emotion while directing it appropriately. That is new to me. Then his anger shifts into sadness.

If he were an embodied person he would sit me down and have the “back when I was young” conversation that my grandpa had with me yesterday and elders always need to have because the world has changed so much, usually for the better but not always.

And then, noticing the sympathy flickering in my eyes, he smiles. He says, “I don’t understand this tradition of your time: indiscriminately blasting messages of little intrinsic point and specious importance at anyone who happens to hear, into houses and around neighborhoods, all in order to further convince people of a ubiquitous deception. There is obviously a great deal of competition involved, but no honor in it. It’s tragic to see and hear about such wanting for the sake of wanting. Why? So much stuff, the majority of it unneeded, vies for the giving of attention to the wrong sort of value and meaning. This is profoundly wasteful and does not forge good character in people.”

I have to agree. Though I appreciate getting material gifts from people, I know our culture takes it out of hand beyond what is healthy or balanced.

Before he leaves, Oisín draws a time line in the air. I stare at it intrigued. Through it he draws an x. I don’t get it. I draw a blank and show him a picture of both of us drawing but not understanding each other.

And then he gives me another picture, one that unfolds that I can read. Change has no schedule to keep. Friendship is not a sequence of events. Living is not a series of completed finish lines. And there is no reward system for waking up in the morning. There is no answer to the question: Am I doing all I can do? Even if I ask the question a hundred times a day, and I do. There is only doing.

Some day a long long time from now, more than sixty years from now, once I cross that bridge that we all will cross, I will sit down with him for hours and we will wonder at each other’s beginnings. We will marvel at how we could be friends, even while belonging as we do to two different worlds. There is no reason to let a simple detail like that put limits on what is already boundless and knows no turns or edges. Of that we are both in agreement. We smile at each other and make the sign for parting before he disappears, and then I go about dropping some airborne into a glass of water and take Allegro downstairs and eat breakfast.

And at the moment there are two or three otherworld people fascinated by what I’m writing and are walking around. I don’t recognize them but they look curious—as in full of curiosity—and seem fine. I keep a pretty good lookout here because since I offered my place for the fianna to come through on the way to other things (surely not thinking through how many of them there are!) I have seen many many more people than usual, some quite modern which means despite my intentions many many otherworld beings can come through here, and not just the ones I intended. This could turn out to be more of a problem than I want to admit.

Sometimes I create a circle so I don’t have anyone coming through, but if not I watch and make sure these are genuinely good people because after all as an embodied person this is my space and I have the first say on boundary creating. Well, and I also have places at my house that no otherworld people are allowed and time limits because they have no concept of time and might, and did, come through at three in the morning with very important lyrics to songs to write down. I mean, I appreciated the lyrics, but not being up at that hour.

So begins my ordinary Monday morning. Well, at least it has become quite ordinary.

The Beauty In All Things

I look all around this world
For the beauty in all things:
It’s in your eyes,
It’s in the starlight in your hair,

It’s in the cries of children,
The murmurings of all that grows.
Sometimes it just breaks me to see so much anger, so much fear,
And the tears we cry over what people’s hands and minds have done.

Flowers do not know despair,
Sitting there so patiently
They never mind the waiting.
I am looking far away, struck by memories almost fading–

For what is left behind when we die, but how we’ll be remembered?
None of the trees, none of the seas, none of the green stands still,
Until pieces of the scars start to be beautiful, make sense,
Bright and radiant, even holding truth at our expense.

How change so suddenly engulfs us,
Forcing us to recognize dishonesty.
How change so suddenly enfolds us,
Transforming all we thought we’d be.

In time I know wounds will heal, mountains fading into sea,
Time smooths over what is real, while conquerors write its history.
In time the children crawl, then stand, to walk life’s mystery,
And I hope this time that I can find the beauty in all things.

Rarely is existence black and white,
As in betweens we have a power of our own:
To magnify the bruises,
Etch the outlines of scars,

Glint in the rain drops,
Shimmer with the echos through the sky,
And bless the dawn with light,
And draw out all the life in everyone.

Sometimes there is too much darkness,
And I don’t know what will become of us,
But as long as I am here, I’ll make sure I’m standing tall,
Taking in all, swaying when the wind blows.

I’ll survive somehow,
Our memories, our dreams they have survived,
Broken pieces of identity,
Often not invaluable enough to save,

Our needs not what they used to be,
In a way there is nothing more to need.
I am here, a testament to love,
What are tides, if we never had changed course sometimes.

It’s hard to say just how I feel,
Harder still to share the desperation in my eyes,
Hardest to admit when I’m afraid
To walk the world alone, unsure of what’s ahead.

What else can I say, you are shining, ,
You are changing the way I face the things of life.
Holding gently in my hands what time has left for me,
Songs of joy and sorrow, I wish to gather gratefully.

And I hope, despite what life might bring,
I’ll find shelter in some trees,
Look across the seas,
Hear the laughter of my children and with them, wonder at such beauty,
The beauty in all things.

In Difficult Moments: Learning to Let Myself Be Seen

I would speak for you,
I would call the colors, help you name the sadness in your eyes.
I would sing the sky’s song to you,
And hold the space for you that has no words.

But right now, peering through the dark stained glass,
Full of the mists of weariness,
I wish that silence would blow across the marshes of my memory,
Seep into conversation, drowning out my own sadness.

Sometimes there is only inky confusion
Lapping at the shores of my life,
As if a wave could slip onto sand indecisively,
Curling up upon itself just before its journey’s over.

Shame and its isolation wash over,
Conveniently masked by grey tears I wish no one knew about.
We have all asked, but I just don’t know why.
Shifting tides, interrupted flight patterns of birds,

An afternoon of lingering loneliness,
Longing for laughter,
And I’m trembling against sharing the seeds of such sorrow,
That never lets itself be named.

It’s tempting to frame it for you in pretty packaging,
Hoping, halfheartedly, that this time the tenebrous tendrils, fog of forgetfulness
Will snatch the melancholy from my mind,
Before you notice what’s there.

But the icy wind blows fiercely through,
Tossing untried possibilities across the vacant field
Of this directionless day.
And I am haunted by the changes I did not make fast enough, well enough.

Why can I not look inside
And recognize this nameless grief as mine?
Defeated I stare across the divide to where I thought I’d be by now .
Me—–you; place-where-I’m-standing—–place-of-my- longing.

The season is coming to an end,
And I fear I have harvested nothing.
I return empty handed, it seems, but for the tears pooled in my palms
Settling into the lifelines on my skin.

Perhaps, in this way, I can still water my dreams,
While the silent cry, breaking in waves upon the world,
Floods the landscape in its pleading,
Still aching to begin, speaking wordlessly within.

So I stop constructing paper cranes out of my pain,
And unfold the creases, between us its map and the indecipherable key,
The empty spaces for which I have no words.
And we wander the pathways there that I have yet to tread,

Because this is how we remember,
Our lives are but a single thread.
Because this is love that holds us, even if it can’t be heard.
Our raw moments of connection are the knots tying us together,

And it takes everything I have, to step across, reach out,
But when I do, the illusions shatter
And I’m amazed to find that you understand, that the shadows are familiar,
That you too struggle to name them, to share the origins of tears.

I would speak for me:
I feel undone, discouraged, , alone.
Could you surround me in your present, quiet light,
Until the fog clears, until I’m assured once more we’re home?

Please, help me gather these broken pieces
On the edge of this unknown,
Where there is nothing left to hide:
And for a moment keep them safe for me, carry them with your own.

Gratitude

I am counting my blessings,
Listing all that’s gone right,
I recount all the times I have conquered the night.

When I was told I could not,
Still I took flight,
Encouraged by those in the world beyond life.

The threads make their crossing, I am never alone,
Through the paths intertwining, I have come home.
And it’s what they said, words to silence the lies:
They tell me that I am enough in their eyes.

Enough, yes, enough,
I’ve lost count of the times
I repeat I’m enough,
Enough, enough in their eyes.

Until I know it by heart, and take it as mine,
Until no doubt lingers lost
In the maze of my mind,
Enough, I will whisper, mending whole what’s gone by.

And I thought I would never encounter this treasured
Incredible gift to live up to the measure
Of all I am made of simply by being,

And though sometimes I wonder
What within me they’re seeing,
They swear I’m enough
And it’s truth that they’re speaking.

I think I will scream,
I think I will shout
This truth that shattered my world inside out,

Crying my joy, since all I wished for in dreaming,
Now I am living, the world more than its seeming,
Despite so much disagreeing, I am believing,

And incredulously, endlessly ever worth keeping,
I am enough,
And my eyes they are gleaming.

Recovering a belonging, I thought never I’d find,
Neither selfish nor selfless nor too wrong or right,
There are no conditions, no snares or old twine:
A free person, I greet you, and radiant I shine.

The Vision at the Restaurant Table

It was the summer of 2011, and the girl had just had enough. She’d been dealing with inaccessible websites, prejudice from professors, anger, so much anger. Like its own creature, alive in itself, rage, rage against the night
shout and scream, become a child again in the worst, worst way.

The girl’s dad told her to just let go, forget about it. But the girl struggles, thinking: but aren’t we here to change the world, But aren’t we here to end this suffering, but aren’t we here? The girl, so here, so agonizingly here, the anger creature within herself with nowhere to go, pounding the cage of her own ribs, cannot be reasoned with, has been ignored for so long.

She tells herself, be sensible, be calm, be strategic, rise above it, be wise. But stronger in her is The conviction that it might all be nonsense and for nothing: look away, look away…

Later that night, the girl goes out to eat, and walks into the restaurant, sitting down at the table her father reserved, trying to enjoy the music with the bird in it. The dad asks, “hear the bird?” And the girl hears the bird, but the fog she’s in makes everything so far away.

The girl thinks, oh no, I made some terrible, terrible mistake, not good not good, why didn’t I listen, why didn’t I know what I already know? She is haunted by the old specs of memories of a loved one.

And then they were there, the man and woman, the couple from the otherworld. They reached out for her, to hold her in their arms, but why now, why her, didn’t she not deserve this kind of love, she had not stopped to breathe, she had not even been rational. Why, why? The girl can’t even look at them.

No words, “there are no words,” she says, and he says, “Yes don’t you trust us, don’t you? We didn’t let you stay lost.”

She had not been lost all day. In fact, it started out well. This morning she had gone for a walk through the tree lined sidewalks of the neighborhood, she had gathered the star leaves off their branches, watched life holding on: the green mixing in with yellow and orange. A season turning in all that leafy rustling, the hands of time. The music at the restaurant is now making a slow, spiral ribbon up to the ceiling, she watches its shapes, grasping after them, hoping for something to hold onto.

No words, no words, but would you trade your words for freedom? But would language give meaning to experience? But that isn’t why she can see them and looks away, cowers hidden within the shaded corners of herself. Even though they still know her, hold her there with flashlight eyes…

So now the girl is sitting still, wrapped in spiraling music and the fog. And he’s still standing there in front of her, that one so tall, who she has only seen several times, and then before that only in dreams, and she does not know his name…

She starts to feel like part of her is wrapped in the fog, so far away, wants to stay there, wants to stay angry, justified, she has a right to be upset, to act like she does not deserve to see Not him, not her. But there, somewhere else, she is already straining against something large and dark, to get away, get away, and she does not actually move at all, but she turns, like a tree toward the light, and barely able to see him out of some terrified eyes, she takes his hand.

He says, it’s the first time almost that he’s ever said anything, he says, “Don’t you trust me, I got you unlost once, and I can do it again. Just let go, jump I’ll pull you through.”

And the girl is there, dumbly, still for a moment. The why whines around her mind, like a wind coiling around itself, waiting. She is holding her breath, wondering whether there will be a storm. Will the sky fall, will she fall, is she just like the sky? But the girl once survived death, quite literally, and this is something even stranger and more baffling, simple and beautiful. This is living, the wildness of truly living, it calls her to return.

She’s not sure if she’s simply no longer afraid of dying, because she’s not, Or is simply no longer terrified to leap into living. But all this goes by in a flash. She is holding his hand, she jumps.

Then a moment passes. She is in the air, is she just going to fall? Will she come apart or telescope back into herself? She wishes she wasn’t so apprehensive. Suspended between worlds, she wonders whether, if he lets go, she’ll be lost forever. But no, the moment of nothing is so very short; and then everything clears, as close as being able to see that she can remember.

The world appears sharply around her, in high definition. She is sitting next to her dad at a table, the music is so clear, the fog is all gone, the room is lighter, the people walking up and down the aisles,
are so vivid, even though she is supposed to be blind she counts every single one. She can see shadows of people across the room.

The people from the otherworld are gone. She didn’t even have time to thank them, or finally ask who they might be. She is grateful and quiet. She has always lived by, with, because of others. She does not do anything alone.

She spends a great deal of time blinking, blinking, blinking. After that, she goes with her dad out onto the floor and then the two of them are dancing.

And now she sits here in the dark, so late at night, because that’s when no one asks her any questions. And she is wondering if it is just as painful to give birth as it is to be born. Because for quite some time, several years it seems, she’s been at doing both at the same time. Neither ever, ever ends.

And all that love from the otherworld people she doesn’t know, blazing away in the dark is enough to melt all that ice away. It is enough to bring tears to her eyes, and stop her gaze for hours, not sure what to do next. But then, why focus on what could go wrong, If to them you are a flawless child, if to them you are whole, and all this talk of shortcomings just a way to make sure people fear living?

We are more worried about shining then burning out, and have all sorts of solutions and programs for failures, but are so wary of success. It would be heroic to conquer the fear of succeeding. But perhaps good enough for them if you jump anyway.

Citizens of the World

Divided only by stories and space,
Spread across oceans,
We burn to belong.

loyalty takes tributaries,
Flowing water known by many names
The direction, the destination the same,
We babble like brooks about the better ones, the one way.

Monuments to freedom tilt across borders,
Still we stand and throw obligations at each other
As if handling hot stones,
No one owning where they’ve come from.

As long as we are terrified of each other’s thoughts and hands,
We’ll search for differences to divide us.
But you are not separate, only, from a different tree,
And like a leaf, I have fallen with you.

Child, the way has not been clear,
But change aches to be made.
It whispers under every breath,
The first and the last, and those inbetween.

No wonder we hold and no wonder we long,
No wonder we gather our own,
To stall the hunger for each other.

Knotted together is the good for us,
And the good for the world.
Put your hand down. Covering your eyes is not allowed.
Neither is staring. All has its balance.

So much of our tapestry of meaning is at stake,
Its patterns woven along many dimentions,
You glimpse it just beyond these nested, sacred shelters
Where like so many birds, one day every soul will soar, fly free.

I Drempt of Me Who Once Was I

Unsteady with recognition I gaze
Up the steep climb, changed over the centuries
I, both who I was and now am wind
My way like the vines that creep namelessly

Along the track. Around my feet, here and there the branches twine,
And the moon’s three A.M. shadow glides above me silently,
Grasses on the hilltop bending wildly.

So high above the village and the fields,
The fierce wind blows, with a reckoning all its own.
There are many waiting for what future I’ll divine
Much depends on the outcome of the night.

The wise man, does he live still, ailing down below?
The one the troubled turned to, at his hearth fire now they gather,
Folded hands, a day’s work left undone. I keep the vigil with them here.
I call the wind by name, long and earnest tones,

With rising hands I raise the storm,
And at the center, meet its eye.
The swirling wind around me cries,
It is crying, cries and cries,

“The cold that mourns is born,” it cries,
The voices of the storm, they cry,
And rooted where I am, I cry,
Drowning out the wild song, together wind and woman cry.

As if I were a lightning rod
I resonate what shines but is not mine,
I form the bridge of earth with sky,
And through me, they both come alive.

Our hopes and dreams a final time
Are carried far across the land,
And though I hear, I can’t make out the whispered answer
My dream-self, the one who I am now, I do not understand.

Rite of Passage

Every cell within me comes alive, I am,
With nothing left to grasp but the truth I find inside, I am.

I feel, I act, I let go, entrust my life, I am,
Familiar faces are those of strangers in this long enduring night, I am.

In joy and pain I cry, I am,
I face my fears stained red with blood, yet never have I been alone, I am.

Three times I walk the circle of the ancient ones and the fires in my eyes still burn, I am,
Somberly I journey to the center, to meet the maiden, mother, crone, I am.

As fragile as a child, led in darkness hand in hand, I am,
All around me fierce and wild, before the Rífhéinní and the sidhe, I am.

Ignoring such as fear, for rooted tall and surely here, I am,
I do not move or cast my eyes away, intrepid though not entirely prepared, I am.

The kinship of Brighid’s household, dare I seek to claim, I am
To face the Cailleach under Nuada’s watchful eye,I am.

In the world beyond the world, I forge the measure of my name, I am,
As from the depths of me begins to rise a strength I never knew was mine, I am.

I, who pass the trials of the sidhe, I am,
Held within the mystery of land and sky and sea, I am.

Awaking deeply moved, brightly shining, I am
Overwhelmed, in gratitude to those who sought to my becoming, I am.

Full of awe and wonder at the dawning of the day, I am,
And for all I’ve ever been, I will never be the same. I am.

Voices From Cnoc Alúine

Caoilte

I will raise mountains to the sky
I will cover Islands with the sea
And I will gather broken things
And weave them quietly through dreams.

I will sing forgotten songs
And lift my voice, though none join in
And I will come by wind and rain
To see the lost live once again.

Ailbhe

Who will count the landscape’s scars
The path is red, blood of old stones
Shards of time, earth mother’s bones:
Once more found, are we never alone.

I

I will journey on the seven tides
To find the reason for your cries,
And I will sit in surrender to
The sadness welling up in you.

For you who are so very dear,
I will hold the far more near
And shed a single, weary tear
For all the dreams that flew from here.

Oisin

The great conversation is not halted
By the sun burnt desires of the taking
I am here in all that is,
What lies broken, all awaking

Do not cast a cry from the tallest trees
For what was never meant to last
Has not future met it’s origin
Has not the child come home again,

Striving for beyond,
And held the strands of the pattern in weaving between her fingers,
To become the song of sunbeams whose streaming laughter lingers?

In your hand you hold the vast and through it learn to soar,
Patiently within you, for child, it is yours.
There is no turning back, only turning, earth and seasons turning,
A time for growing and relearning.

Time to realize we’re all some mother’s child,
Time to honor and continue to rekindle
The wild look in your eyes,
And the color of belonging, green and blue and wise.

Did you really think there would be a single one
Who would not make it to the other side?
Change, the knot
That cannot be undone, it lies

Between our orchestra of longing,
And the whole with fractured facets rearranging.
And among chords played, between silences, we fly,
Letting go of all that’s left behind.

Life shimmers like a firefly’s light,
Transient and tenaciously, we dance what’s yours and mine.
Life leaps in joy and wonder into everything,
Glowing then for all it finds.

Life strikes out in frenzy through forever,
And for that, ever, ever shine.

*This is in response to my friend Ali Isaac’s post, “Almu, The Home of Irish Hero Fionn mac Cumhall,” which you can read here: http://aliisaacstoryteller.com/2014/05/15/almu-the-home-of-irish-hero-fionn-mac-cumhall/.

Walking the Labyrinth

I, born from the clay and carving rivers,
The star leaf and the seed,
I have seen spirit in motion, felt the breath of fire,
And known the sacredness of a smile.

I, deer’s child, wolf woman,
I have heard the world howling with abandon,
It’s body torn apart, great tapestries unwoven.

The landscape, like a weary heart, broke open,
And out of these crumbled, withered lands I have awoken,
And said the words too long unspoken.

The sweat of everyday living,
Glistens like fairy dust upon my skin.
And in this way I began,
And in this way I begin

To rebecome, transform, retrieve
The unkempt dreams I find within,
The heartbeat of the world I’m in.

Here fear no longer dries the rains,
All that impedes me is gone,
Who I am, unwilling to never make a sound:
My cries rebound across these hills.

Led toward center along a spiral way,
I am learning, reaching out to you,
Every twist and turn, the uncertainty of growing
Those living here before us whisper on the wind.

Spirits of this place who knew to balance, how to be,
Who are we, stranded on the web of life, to work our will?
Here as we are, in this moment of peace when, breathlessly,
Land stirs to hush, lies still.