Tag Archives: wonder

Wordless

I have had little to say
For I cannot both speak
And share these silences
Heavy with honesty

Hidden heartbeats
Leaves uncurling
Reaching hands

I cannot map change onto an undiscovered landscape
Describe time’s tides not yet sailed
Or make verses of untold

Fragile possibilities
Nascent and naked
Stretching soft tendrils
To touch a turning world

I cannot choreograph the wondrous waves
Crashing down croppings of rock
To cradle the clay creature I am

Cascading a cadence, playful and wild
As the wind whips them free
Flying, falling, sea strand and sea
Uncertainty churning the breath of the sky

How it cries aloud what could be my name
And how I am leaping, leaping through
Before I even understand

Breathless and smiling
Swept up, gathered close in
Fierce love, bewildered, untamed

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Birth Experienced First-Hand

“Do you want to feel a puppy while it is being born?” my dad’s wife asks me as I sit on a small chair against the wall of the now hot and muggy puppy room. She and my step sister are looking after Kate, a yellow lab who is pushing and panting out her fifth and final litter of puppies who will be raised through Canine Companions as service dogs to people with disabilities. It is April 13, an auspicious day for children of any species.

She has already delivered the first three: yellow male, around eight ounces, whose tiny trembling form sends us many times scurrying for hot water bottles to keep him warm; black female, feisty from first breath and a massive thirteen ounce firey bundle of look-out-world; black male coming in to top his precocious sister in weight by a single ounce, whose low plaintive cries make the eldest sound like it belongs to a smaller dog breed. Kate is, at the moment, fulfilling her motherly duty: taking a rest while her babies keen continuously for her attention.

A hands-on birthing experience? I wonder at the idea, realizing that the possibility to have such an opportunity is making me excited and apprehensive all at once. I get very still and consider the question. It sounds amazing, but would Kate mind? How would she feel about that? It is a strange thought to have regarding a dog, I know. I have been noticing lately that I’ve been taking such considerations far too seriously after attending a conference on minimally conscious people and whether they can participate in medical decision making. Of course Kate won’t be phased in the slightest. And unlike a wild dog, she’s even nonchalant about humans moving her babies away from her to a warmer place to help keep them alive and comfortable.

Even so, I find myself inexplicably feeling shy. “I’m not sure,” I say slowly, as relief mixes with a tinge of regret.

“Okay. Let me know if you change your mind.”

All through the birth of pup number 4 I find myself reflecting on the experience I am having already. I am quite moved, and I feel honored to watch. I am astonished by how such a process has gone on since the first instance of life, and yet for me, a single living individual experiencing just one particular life, I have never been present at a birthing before. How strange and beautiful, I think, to witness the transition of a unity, two lives in a single body, into its division of distinct and vibrant creatures– one with eyes watchful of the ways of the world, the other arriving silent and surprised, already implementing instincts to breathe and cry and move.

I try to imagine what it could possibly be like to be squeezed out into a cold, loud, incomprehensible world. I’d cry. I’d sense and feel and feel and feel and there would be nothing else but the moment, no time or ordering, only the now and now of changing feeling — and rising unaware, the impulse to respond. But this is where my imaginative empathy stops. I admit to myself that I really don’t know what it is like. There are people who claim to have memories of their own birth. I am definitely not one of those people.

When pup number 5 is on his way, I decide to change my mind. I simply can’t pass up a chance to be in the middle of things, literally speaking, and really get a feel for what happens (no pun intended.) I am right there with Kate when pup 5 Is born.

Girl helping to deliver a puppy, it's curled up in the sack it is born in.
Éilis delivering pup.

Puppies are born in a little sack, unlike humans. When they first arrive, they are not even breathing. There really is a fetal position, and pup 5 is in it. I help with taking him out of the sack, and hold him as he takes his first breath of life. In that moment, it is my turn to be breathless. Puppies are born blind, and I think deaf as well. His first experience isn’t the sight of his mother, but me holding him in the palm of my hand. For my part, I am in awe of him.

Like usual, when I attempt to say something out loud in response to the experience, my words hardly convey my internal thoughts and feelings. “Does he have any fur?” I am immediately answering myself in my head. Of course he does, he’s a puppy! But in my defense, he really doesn’t feel like he has fur. He is so slick in my hand that his fur feels like skin. It is only when I get to hold him again after he’s dried off that I can feel his short newborn fuzz. His ears are barely distinguishable from his head. His tail appears sort of wilted compared to the full furriness characteristic of labs which it will grow into as he gets older.

Girl sitting next to round tub with yellow lab mother and puppies, holding a tiny newborn.
Éilis holding a puppy seconds after birth.

I hold him a couple minutes longer while he tries with uncoordinated enthusiasm to crawl around in my hands. I lift him up so he’s more level with the tub which will be his home until he’s big and strong enough to climb out of it, and my dad takes pictures.

Close-up of girl holding newborn yellow lab.
Pup number 5, baby boy, in the first few minutes of life.

Afterward, I assume I’ll be giving him to Kate straightaway for tending, but instead we weigh him and put him with the other puppies to stay warm. Kate, it turns out, has one more delivery to go.

Kate's last litter, six healthy pups.
Kate’s last litter, six healthy pups.

Day 3, Three Quote Challenge

The third day of the three quote challenge is almost over! My conclusion is that time is going by too quickly. Thanks again to my awesome friend, Ali Isaac, for inviting me to participate, it’s been super fun!

My last quote comes from a person who I could probably quote all day, both because her words move me beyond being able to find any words of my own for a while, and because she inevitably challenges me beyond any point I could remotely map onto the edge of my comfort zone. Pema Chodron gets at the heart of being human, in all its gnarly and profoundly beautiful intricacies, in a way that, without fail, causes me to grow immediately.

So, I had a hard time figuring out which of her quotes to post, but settled on this one because it makes me think of Caoilte every time I read it.

Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to
inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.

Pema Chödrön,
The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.

To carry on, if she chooses to do so of course, I nominate my lovely blogger friend Helen Jones.

From the Ground Up

The day somberly takes shape beneath
Comings and goings of many errands,
While I sift through shadows
For lightheartedness.

It’s got to be here somewhere.
Where did I leave it last?
Did I put it down, distracted,
Now failing to recall it’s location?

I am not unhappy,
Just strangely subdued,
Humbled by a shifting,
Unsolid world.

A prism of full spectrum feeling:
Beautiful and bold,
Soulful, sharp and fleeting,
Soft joy changing gently.

I interact with others,
speechless somewhere inside.
So moved I am paralyzed,
Returning to the present one breath at a time.

It feels, sometimes,
As if I might dissolve entirely
Eclipsed by a greater, more vivid,
More elusive star than the sun.

Standing on the edge, frontier of my self,
I marvel at its intricacy,
How it completes the puzzle of being
Love, fragile and hesitant.

That line drawn in the sand
I’ve been staring at for hours?
I know I will cross it,
But for what reasons and what time and in what way,

Enfolds itself in mystery,
A crane born from a paper sky,
A question mark with the power
To permanently alter who I think I am.

Transparent as cascading water,
All I sought to hold onto
Becomes fluid.
I am struggling with nothing.

The stars reflected
In the pools of possibility,
Collected in the land’s lost hollows,
Shine almost forgotten.

I gather them in cupped hands,
Hand them out where they’re needed.
This light I share with everyone,
It isn’t mine.

All I’ve held certain
Gets turned on its head
In the blink of an eye,
And I am fumbling in a once familiar landscape.

How am I? Indeed.
And yet, almost inconceivably,
Regarding myself like a child
Has never been easier.

So much room to grow and stumble and wonder,
A space so heart-breakingly forgiving,
It is impossible to fill it
With tears or awe or terror.

Only trust lives here,
The kind that leaves you shaking,
But somehow still safe.
A kind of ground zero:

Where we try ourselves at being,
Over and over and over,
Without judgment,
Without attempting anything.

The ones who continually catch us,
Whether we plummet or fall flying,
Rock us to our foundations
With the caring attention given to newborns.

So that in the moments we let go,
Suddenly we wake
And briefly remember our origins,
Imprinted as they are the heart of us.

Demeter’s Fire

Six months old she is
When I begin gathering her in my arms,
To gently rock her
Within the flames.

I stand by her fiercely
Every night, with love,
Sweep away the ashes
Of the no longer needed.

With ardent joy I watch her change
As the outer shell dissolves,
Her eyes take on a charcoal grey
And raw and radiant, she burns to live.

Stop, stop! her mother cries
Tearing tears from raging eyes,
Her fervent passion rivals mine,
Equal, by the love with which we’re both defined

What are you doing to my child?
I am seeing to her being wild.
Bone deep the memories I set alight,
To the song of the soul I sing each night.

I do not deliver death on one so small,
The smallness itself is all that dies.
Who questions me, when there’s only love behind
what to you appears, at once, harsh and strange?

I, born of eternal light divine,
I lit the wisdom in the child’s eyes,
Set smoldering, her limits, to shine her light free,
Turned resilient and bright all she can be.

Do not tear her from my arms
As with Demeter of old,
Do not misunderstand
Healing in unfamiliar guise.

Do not be mistaken
By what you’ve been told.
Though tried, she will rise
Brilliant and bold.

I know, for I too am self-made
And could not help but recognize
My kindred, spark which can’t be tamed
Which as well within myself resides.

Let me hold her,
Until she knows her name,
Until trembling, leaping
Through a waking world, she flies,

And with our ones
Who stir the sleeping,
Though she’ll not see
Her world the same,

She’ll be as the sun
Is to the dreaming
Rekindling the hearths
No one thought would blaze again.

Then through this life, let me carry her,
These trials, triumphs to the wise.
There is no loss here undertaken,
She is opening her eyes.

The Gathering

I was you when you cried
All alone, no one there
Cloaked in possibility’s sudden
Severe song of I am here

The earth your cradle
The wind she who rocked you
In the screaming silence
All around you

I made my way
Gathered you softly in my arms
To whisper, there now, it’s okay
Come home, I say

I was you when you arrived
Pink and trembling
Fragile and small
A girl who gripped life

With the passion of the gnarled oak
solid, sapling strength
Unaware of how time would erode
The steadfast soil beneath your feet

Before you knew how hateful jealousy
Could try stealing your light in insatiable hunger
And still, though turned from green to brown
You refused to be uprooted by its thunder

I made my way
Gathered you softly in my arms
Replanted you as you were reaching
To touch the spark of brilliant sky

From a greater light you now are grown
And in the breeze enfolding you
I whisper, it will be okay
Come home, I say

I was you
Sister of my heart
When your stern smile
Broke through the vale

Of a startling world
To gaze quizzically
with clear, sharp child’s eyes
Up at unfamiliar faces

How you wondered, even then
Why you had to hush at all
Solid as the granite rock
Keening after experience

Unquenchable as the wailing wall
You were, not yet trusting
If the foundations would hold
Were the posts to crumble and fall

You became my lighthouse
Not knowing who else would heed the call
Of that ever beckoning spark within
You lived out loud as did we all

I gather you up in my arms
As your reluctance melts away
I whisper, it has always been okay
Come home, I say

I was you
Taking your first breath of precious life
Reaching out to an expectant
Waiting world

Hands eager to explore
To touch your beaming mother’s face
And taste the exquisite solace
Of arms who knew of love

And in the harshness of uncertain time
You encountered and embraced letting go
Tending carefully the light of memory
Which each, crossing over, left behind

I catch you
Leaping wildly into my arms
Laughing, okay, okay
You’re home, I say

I, the one who touched another world
Before I learned to crawl
I reach out
Gather myself in my arms

And through all I am and ever was
I thread the shreds of shattered past
At last to mend them whole
Pull the weeds of grief and fear

So in their place, love and joy
Can once again reseed the grove of our belonging
And then, never more, should our children need
To weep our tears of longing

Around the circle, we join hands
Changed, though just as ever one
Shining through our eyes, the patterns rearranged
Emerge in wonder, it is done

The Door Through

The room fills with people
Here to walk the painted labyrinth
Outlined in lights
We sing the songs of many times and places

And then you stand beside me
And hand over hand
The light that I am,
You are weaving, over and through

Things tenuous now, I tossed into in-between
Again, I part ways with uncertainty
Grown weary of its constant uncoiling
Assessing the world with wary narrow stare

And for a single second
One tick of the clock
Counting, counting down up there on the wall
I decide, step across, let go

Take your hand, our eyes meet
Everything I ought to run after
Around me falls away, dissolving
Even the fear of loving what I could lose

So much lighter now
Only brilliant joy
Welling up, cascading down
Earth and sky, and I

At the center, and from inside out
Around us, everyone is glowing
And it dawns on me, I’ve already answered
Your question at the heart of what we’re singing:

“I have opened a door
A door for you, that no one can close,
Will you walk through,
Will you walk through with me?”

***
Music and lyrics by Lawson Barnes and Carol Barriger

On the Journey Unfolding

Stillness sparkles
Like beads of sweat upon her skin
Overwhelmed with not knowing
Enough, and too much at once

Off the next step of the journey
She falls as if diving
Backward, body tumbling suddenly
Into a network of outstretched hands

Cautiously she peers up, seeking reassurance
In their wise and ancient faces
Gently they explain the why of it
For a second, peace, she accepts

But silence shrouds the when and how
Unsettled by uncertainty
Stars wait to intermittently flicker
Behind the eyes she starts to close

She is a crescent of moon
Surely too small to be prepared
To rise full across the sky
Reflecting the sun

How does light, bending
Coalescing into prisms
Of the named and unnamed colors
Experience living, life dynamic and moving

She could ask them to leave her here
But that would only put an end to growing wild
And what joyful homecoming might await them
Passed the familiar with its running interference

And so, though fear taunts her
Beckons with cold stone stare
She is already changing
One fragile life, they carry her

Where are they going
Needing, again and again at every moment
To trust, letting go into love
That no matter the form, she remains who she is

Light is a shelter woven over her
Light is sharp awe, soft wonder
Seeing herself take shape before her eyes
Recognizing, eyes open, she will mirror the spiraled patterns of being

The Weavers of the Light

I am the song of the light
Singing through you

Chords of colors,
Calling and drawing and shaping you home.

Reach out and fly, encircled by love,
We stand beside you, outstretched hands

And tie the knots four-way,
White with gold, against the stars.

Streaming this tapestry
Over your countless wounds,

From hand to hand,
We weave the way of healing.

Over and under strands of sun,
Brilliant in this wild cry, we are here, we have come.

All night we gather and mend the threads of what is,
Until, everywhere, you spring to life, glowing,

waking with that divine knowing
That has always been ours.

Bringing in the New Year

It is around three in the afternoon, and I’m in bed. Yes, it’s the first of the year and celebrations abound, but I’m not up for any of it. Instead, I am cozy and warm wearing fleecy pajamas and curled under blankets. I’ve been given several free meditations over the past three days, and think now that in fact a relaxing meditation is just what I need to care for myself and recover quickly. I decide on a meditation for manifesting your dreams. I mean, out with the old, in with the new, right? Surely since I’ve done the letting go, now is the time to dream in what I want to bring about in this new year.

I press play and close my eyes. Three breaths, in and out, the guiding voice hypnotizing, and I’m slowly diving into that space that’s mine, to form within my mind the landscape of my life I want to be realizing. It’s all fine until the steady voice speaks these words over the gentle notes underlying her tone: “What is it, this dream, this wonderful thing that will make your life complete? Is it more money, a soul mate, a home?”

I freeze. I stop listening. Words are being spoken over my head it seems. More complete? More complete, I’m afraid to know what that means. And somewhere deep inside screams a truth so loud I have to stop, pause the track, breathe, recenter and reconsider what I might be doing here to the start of my year if I begin it in a state of want and lack and never enough just being here.

Complete is breathing in sunrise. Complete is walking my journey with my ancient family, looking into their eyes, even while a whole world away, and knowing what it’s like to be sincerely seen, and fiercely loved. Complete is lying in bed with a cold and the dog on the floor beginning to snore and then sleep takes me away into dreaming and I am exactly where I’m needing to be. Complete is me. Complete is no longer wandering because I already know I am home. Complete is knowing, in my soul, in the whole of every cell of my being and the silences between the beating of my heart that I am not alone. Complete is finding I am whole, complete is a day lived and another begun, complete is the setting of the sun. Complete is being the sister, the daughter, the woman I already am. Complete is the aching to understand another’s pain, the songs we sing, the laughter we birth into the world to share, the dancing I do when no one is there to watch me.

I cannot think of one external thing, the having of which would finally render me complete. I cannot think of what to add to my vibrantly lived life. I cannot think of a single reason why I am not enough. Why, oh why, do we do this foolish stuff? We do and strive and compromise our ability to take in and devour the moments before us. So hungry for experience, so eager for the awe of the mystery that surrounds and beckons and enfolds us, and yet we’re so worried that we’ll lose that we’ll choose to grab anything promising to shape and mold us. Do we even want what we think we do from the perspective of our immediate and limited point of view?

. I look at my hands, palms up and resting on my lap. I was instructed on doing this from the guided track, and I’m wondering how I can possibly sign the word from the world beyond for receiving, while insisting it’s me who brings my life into being. This openness pulling me back out of the way, I keep nothing to myself, but surrender the need to do things my way. Because I don’t understand, anyway. Because I am a child to the experience that has not made itself my own, because I am growing rather than grown and I have been unable to fathom the immensity of all the wonders that happen to me that help me to heal and bring me back to what’s real even while I remain unknowing. A year ago today I would have made the wrong prediction if I tried hard to envision the vast and wild tide of joy that ripped through knots in which I was tied and left me feeling worthy of being alive. I am not about to go back to taking control when I know that my soul already has other plans of which I am not aware, and if I dare to trust the path ahead I’ll come upon more than any manifestation could have brought about instead.

The living of a life makes it complete. Of course I long: to not live so much in isolation, to find a career that fulfills me, to have a partner that can love without conditions, I long. I long and then let go. I accept, but keep nothing, because I know that in the moment I cease to hold on, I become completely sure that someone holds me still, still and sure, still sure.

This year I do not ask, who will make me whole? I do not ask, what should I gain in order to have enough? For I am where I belong, and no longer find it to make any sense to hope something outside myself could fill any of the gaps between heart and mind. Beneath the shadows that twine through waking, the truth is that nothing is missing. The moment softens into silence, crystallizes and clears, and all there is, it is the now, and in it I am here. Right now, I reach out, with nothing to fear, and like one discovering a friendship, willing to learn from the other who they are, I don’t bother with the manifestation of my desires that can only go so far. Instead, I welcome the new year in wonder. And to the question, what would make you complete, if you could have more than what you think you can, I answer, nothing. I am complete in who I am.