I was so surprised when I stepped outside with my dogs this morning. The air was warm and balmy. It actually caressed my skin. It felt so good. A nice surprise on a late September morning. I’m going to soak up as much of this warm sunshine as I can today. Go for a walk, or maybe a hike. Maybe I’ll throw the kayak on the river. Breathe in this good air. Wear shorts and sandals for possibly the last time. Days like this, this time of year are a gift. Enjoying them is healthy, and good for us. What are you going to do today?
I packed-up all the garbage this morning and brought it to the dump. My little Honda Fit was filled to the gills with Bear’s cast-offs. This evening I met up with my most wonderful brother-in-law, Marty, and he loaned me two motion cameras. (One is a little beat-up from a bear nibbling on it in the woods.) I set them up in my barn with a good view of the trash can. Since I hauled off the yummy garbage, I’ll have to leave out a treat for the bear to see if s/he will return. Feels like leaving cookies for Santa. Hopefully we’ll get some good shots. I’ll keep you posted. I’m enjoying the idea of this mysterious night time visitor. I haven’t had a chance to speak with any of my shaman friends, but I will later this week. If I get any good photos of Bear I’ll be sure to post them. This reminds me of a story series I used to read to my daughters: If you give a bear a cookie…
So I’ve picked-up the contents of 3 contractor bags of trash two days in a row now. That means Bear and I have used 9 huge contractor garbage bags instead of three. So this morning when I visited the fall-out of Bear’s most recent rampage, I decided to just let it lie. I know that sounds gross. And I’m not proud to admit that I’m leaving garbage all over my barn. But seriously? Come on! So I’m using the “wasteful” card. Can’t “waste” any more plastic. That , and the “I just don’t want to pick garbage any more!” card. I’ll pick it all up one last time tomorrow morning, when the dump/recycling center FINALLY re-opens and I can get rid of all the trash. A friend suggested I set-up a motion sensor camera so I can see what Bear looks like. Great idea! Several of my friends use these cameras in the woods to capture images of wild life, so I hope to get my hands on one by day’s end. Maybe I’ll get a good shot or two of Bear enjoying the smorgasbord I’ve left out for her/him.
I invited Bear to join me in my dreams last night, but my exhausted sleep was so deep that I don’t recall a single dream. However, meditating yesterday was another story. I experienced two visions, of sorts. In the first meditating vision/dream I was standing and Bear was walking towards me. S/he circled me on all fours, the stood behind me and placed her/his front paws gently on my shoulders, claws and all. There we stood for some time. After that “experience” drifted away, I was again sitting in Meditation Circle, yet a bear cub walked over to me and laid in my lap, on it’s back. We cuddled, as you would with a toddler human. Both of these “visions” felt like an initiation of sorts. An initiation and welcoming into the medicine of Bear. The journey has begun.
Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have a photograph of my night time visitor.
Garbage, garbage everywhere. The trash can was turned over. Three contractor bags ripped open, their contents strewn across the dirt floor. What a freaking mess! And the smell… I hadn’t even had my tea yet. It was 6am. I was taking the dogs out for a quick morning vigil and planned to hop back in bed with a cup of tea and my iPad. Instead, I was picking up debris and filling three new contractor bags. YUCK. Double yuck. And I was wondering how and when the dogs had gotten into it. My first instinct was, “Bear,” but I quickly ruled that out. Sure, we’ve seen bears in the fields around my house. People in town told me they’d parked on the road in front of my home (along with several other cars) and watched a 400 pounder (how do men always know how much they weigh?) meander across my side lawn. But that was a few years ago. My neighbors take in their bird feeders nightly because so many have been ravaged by the local black bears. But having one in my barn seemed out of the question. So I packed the mess back into bags and went inside, grumbling at my naughty dogs.
But later that day I ran into Mike Bodnar, my neighbor, friend, and NYS Forest Ranger. “Hey, Mandy! We say a bear coming out of your barn last night.” He held his hand waist-high, showing me the bear’s height on all fours. Far out! Pretty darn cool. What’s not cool is that the dump isn’t open again until Wednesday, so I think I’ll be picking up a lot of garbage over the next few days. This morning when I peeked into the barn, I moaned at the mess that had returned in the night. I’m putting rubber gloves on my shopping list today.
In Native American traditions, different animals (totems) carry different “medicine” and messages. Not medicine in the pharmaceutical sense. But opportunities, signs, and messages for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth and healing. Hawks and crows have been strong totems for me over the years. Now that I’ve been twice visited by a black bear in as many days, I’m going to take this as a note to investigate the medicine that bear carries. Time for a little research. I’ll meditate on Bear. I’ll draw his/her image into my mind as I meditate. Before I go to sleep, I’ll invite Bear into my dreams. I’ll Journey with Bear. I’ll speak to my shaman friends, I’ll turn to my books, and I’ll troll the internet for information. To me, this as a sign that a new door is opening in my spiritual life. I welcome it. And I’ll try to remember that as I pick-up the trash.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door,
in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back yor heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Flipping through my recent issue of Spirituality & Health magazine I came upon this poem. It was like running into an old friend. I had a copy of this on my bedroom wall for years, and reminded my daughters of it. “You know, the poem with the billowing curtains around it?” “Oh yea,” the said, feigning interest. I was delighted, regardless. When I first pinned it to my wall, I felt in my bones that it was true. Yet, I didn’t experience it, that notion of loving oneself. We’ve all heard it said that we can’t truly love another until we truly love ourselves. I know I have. A bazillion times. When I first discovered this poem I was going through a nasty divorce and found myself raising two small girls alone. I didn’t know how I was going to do this. I was afraid I would ruin the lives of these small angels. Didn’t know how I would financially support the three of us on my own as a massage therapist in a rural town. I felt unprepared. Alone. Beaten-down. Depleted. Exhausted. So I pinned this poem to my wall with the notion that maybe if I read it daily, something would shift. Loving myself felt a bit far-fetched. But perhaps it would at least help to quiet those punitive voices of criticism and self-doubt that ruled my days. I kept going, putting one foot in front of the other. Somehow, I’ve managed to support my family. Miraculously, I’ve raised two brilliant young women. No, we’re not done yet, they’re in their early- and mid-teens. But we’re a tight, loving, pretty dynamic family, if I do say so myself. My daughters are making their marks in the world in their own unique and beautiful ways, and I’m confident they will continue to do so. We’ve done alright. I have done alright. Have I come to truly love myself? Well, I still have a ways to go on that one. But I can look at myself in the mirror with joy and pride, even love. I’ve come a long way from those days of fear and exhaustion and self-doubt. Over the years I have learned how to give myself wine and bread. I am actually feasting on my own life.
There’s been a lot of excitement in our house for several weeks, building over the past few days. It all culminates tomorrow. Marleigh’s attending her first prom. She’s going with a friend. A senior. She’s a freshman. She has her dress. Her new shoes arrived in the mail last weekend. Manicure and pedicure tonight (!). Hair tomorrow at noon. Her date picks her up at 1.
The excitement is palpable. The air is buzzing. Delaney is bouncing almost as much as her sister. There’s a constant chatter, mostly about nervousness and excitement. But along with the excitement and planning, we’ve also discussed the potential hazards that often accompany prom. Read: drinking, partying, and sex. What to do if the situations arise, how to handle them. Exit strategies. We hope she doesn’t have to use them. We want this to be a night of fun and laughter. The stuff of great memories. But if anything uncomfortable should arise, she’s comfortable with implementing our plan.
I’ve received some quizzical looks from other parents. “Ninth grade is too young for prom”, say some of the looks. “Do you KNOW what goes on?” say others. I’ve been smiling, and pretending not to notice their concern. I don’t explain anything to the parents with the concerned looks because I choose not to defend my parenting. Marleigh’s prepared. She’s a confident gal, secure in her own skin. And I am confident that she will have a wonderful experience. If, God forbid, things turn sour I will be here for her without question. She and I both know that.
In a few days her first prom will be a memory. Meanwhile, we’re basking in the joys and excitement of preparing for the event. Jumping for joy.
As I was trolling Pinterest this morning, this quote caught my attention. I immediately heard Bob Marley singing in my head: “Don’t worry, about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing, is gonna be all right!” So I wanted to post this, because I know someone out there is worrying about something. We all need a little encouragement and comfort when we’re worrying. Keep the faith. Stay the course. Everything is going to be alright. Worrying doesn’t help anyone or anything. And remember to take good care of yourself right now.
I have some free time this morning. There are plenty of things I could be looking after at my house and at the studio. Plenty. But the sun is shining. The sky is blue. It’s about 55 degrees outside. My bicycle is just outside the back door…. I’m thinking about that sunshine on my face. The breeze on my skin. My beating heart. The scent of the river, the dirt road, freshly cut grass, the warm air mingling with the cool earth… That’s it. I’m skipping the other responsibilities. They’ll still be there when I get home tonight (sometime after 8pm…). I’m gonna go for a bicycle ride. Gonna seize the moment and the day. Now is the right time to do something good for myself. The time is now. How about you?
Today, my friend Maria and I painted stars on the walls of the Meditation room. The paint is silvery. Sparkly. Etheric. Maria’s an artist. I am not. So we practiced a bit on some cardboard. We laughed. We practiced until it felt easy. Fluid. We made a swooping splash of stars around the doorway. They trailed across the wall of sky. Then we painted another trail across the adjacent piece of sky. We kept switching places, because our styles were quite different. Maria taught me to step back and just look. This was a great lesson for me. I tend to dive in and hold my breath until a project’s finished, not looking at the big picture until it’s over and too late to change anything. But she reminded us both to stop, observe, see where it was headed and how we liked that. It gave us the space to ponder things and decide where we wanted to take this project. I’m going to practice this “stepping back” more in other aspects of my life too. I love the results. I also loved the process. Thank you Maria!
Each morning at Stairway Healing Arts Center begins with a half hour of meditation. When I arrive at Stairway in the morning I light a bit of incense to welcome the day. Then I sit down in the meditation room, light a candle, ring a bell, and meditate for 1/2 hour. These sessions are free of charge and are open to the public. I love days that several people participate. There’s a special, gentle power during a group meditation.
After meditating I feel refreshed. Centered. Grounded. And that feeling stays with me through the day. It’s healthy. I respond more calmly to problems and crises that arise. My faith in solutions has become more absolute. I can’t imagine a day starting any other way.
Join us for daily meditation at Stairway Healing Arts Center. Mondays and Tuesdays at 10:30am, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 9am. Early morning meditations (6 or 6:30am!) will begin sometime in June. Stay tuned.