(I found this image here: http://www.mythicalireland.com/photos/winter-solstice-2007/Misty-sunrise.jpg Enjoy!) Solstice Morning; long past sunrise, of course, for what mama in her right mind would forgo a rare sleep-in and set her alarm for pre-dawn? Not this one, anyhow. 8:32 here in lovely Mechanicsville, Maryland and I am enjoying the sound of rain upon my tin roof, and birds of all manner singing in their shower.
I woke up today wondering about where my spiritual life & practice has gone in these last few years...For it was some 3 years ago that on a morning like this one, I awoke and found I was no longer living in a zen temple. I was free. No 4:30 a.m. wake-up call to kindle the fire in the yurt that served as our zendo; the central heating in my friend's space was cozy and that morning, like this one, I'm quite sure I slept in late. When I finally ventured out, I jumped on my bike and rolled as fast as I could through the streets of the strange, new neighborhood. The tires were loud, I remember. The colors of the street were loud, too. My long sesshin was over and to my joy, I discovered quite plainly and into my bones: The whole world is a Temple.
I lost that feeling, of course, as the months went on and more pressing, mundane priorities took priority, such as earning enough to keep a roof over my head. Yet every morning, some inkling of the sensation returns, and I find myself looking out the window-- whichever window happens to be mine, at the moment-- seeking something, some memory of that moment, some sense of utter, overwhelming thusness.
This morning, being the most quietly sacred of all times (to me, anyway), I sought comfort in my writing and the network of words and images of the web, and I found myself cradled in the comfort of passage tombs. Yes... for last year's solstice at Newgrange was phenomenal-- likely because it was my first time seeing the sun rise over the Boyne-- and as I dig into the memory of walking into that womb-tomb in January of 2006, oh, me. Oh me, oh me. I go there now, again, and I am lost for words.
2006 turned into a busy year, not long after that. I became engaged and conceived my son at spring equinox (yes, in that order!); not long after fall equinox, I was married, and a week after the solstice I was a mother to the world, held in the eyes of my sweet little one.
Now this mother wonders at the power of those tombs, of the world we cannot see, of the offerings we leave in word, deed and hope; and the prayers that are answered, and not ever in the form we expect.
When we were in the tomb at Newgrange, our guide described how they (current archaeologists & the folks who study that sort of thing) were beginning to suspect that the tomb served as a gathering-place of deceased souls, which the Sun would gather into itself as its Solstice rays filled the passage.
As a hospice counselor, one quality amazed me time and again: how very much Death is like Birth, with little line of distinction between them. How there was so much fear, and all the crazy forms that took, in the multitude of days leading to it; and the utter sense of joy-- I can't find a better word just now-- at the moment of release, in all the deaths I was gifted to witness. Joy. Not in a what-next, but this instant, joy.
Birth, at least the process of it on my end, was every bit the same: fear into utter, unexplainable joy.
And there too, I see it in the eyes of those who visit Newgrange, the one monument to the birth-of-death that I can think of.
This day is rainy: in the weeks that have led me here, I've been so very depressed, so weighted-down by the leaden darkness that always seems to come too soon, and last too long. And, I've been afraid for my life, sensing some profound change that is calling on my psyche. I'm in transition no longer; my mother root has taken a firm and nourishing grip into the ground. But for weeks now, I've had the sensation of being barely awake. When these eyes finally open, then, I wonder who I will be?
Quite possibly the most important, and thus most vexing, relationship- theme that has woven through my life is that of how I am and who I am as I relate to where I am. It's a bright cord that often has served as a rope out of the labyrinth, so to speak; and just as often as not has threatened to strangle me, too. I tend to place a lot of weight upon the place where I abide. If I don't like it, if it doesn't suit me, if I don't feel "at home"? I bitch, and grumble, and leave, just like that.
A Zen friend once asked me why I move so much. Why bother traveling? he said. Nothing's different once you leave-- because you follow yourself whereever you go; and the where-in is the real where in which you must abide.
I ignored him, of course, and on I went; and on, and on, and on.
And now I am in a new went, gone to a new arrival, and lordy lordy am I having a fight to figure out just where in the world am I.
Southern Maryland is a strange place... Er, probably not to the folks who live here I'm sure; for them, it's all quite normal. And I ought to clarify: strange not in the sense of wild-life San Francisco "strange" or wildlife Taos "strange", both of which I've enjoyed. No, more "strange" in the sense that I can't grok it and it's quite different from the slow-and-normal scenes of mainstreets and shop-corners. There are none of these things... for when time began in southern MD, the forests were thick and the riverways were plenty. So the settler of the 1600's, fresh off the boat and hankering to make money for the sponsor back in England, made his home by the water to navigate by boat, neighbor-to-neighbor and shallop-to-ship. It was far easier than cutting roads in the dense woodland, to be sure. As a result, presently there is no here to here; only a spare network of manor houses set beside the Patuxent, the Potomac and the Choptank, to name a few of the rivers that reach like spiny fingers out of the mother-of-all-estuaries, the Chesapeake Bay.
Rather than simple town squares branching into modern roadways and interstate highways, the highways are the roadways and simpler roads branch shallowly into the thick forests to deliver one to even simpler gatherings of homes, which I cannot call neighborhoods for there is no neighborly sense to the large spaces that separate the houses.
Large fields are gorgeous and the land is punctuated by the sad melting of centuries-old tobacco barns, long lost of their useful purpose, now left to the goddess of Entropy to see fit that wood returns to soil.
Lacking a network of neighbors or gathering-spaces, I'm left to wonder just where in the world I am; and lacking that knowing, where do I find my reflection in a bleak landscape, whose beauty haunts like the howl of old slaves, or the alarming quality of the goose's call? I love my home, and seem to find myself within its sweet walls too much of the time. Yet, I remind myself, winter's eve is the time of preparing for hibernation, is it not? What a splendid opportunity to allow my introversion to work its magic...And come spring, we'll see what new, strange thing pops its beguiling head from under the soil.
Ah, time. Nothing like the chill of December to really draw our attention to it: the lack of it, when we realize how few days are left 'til Solstice or Christmas, and how many love-expressing projects we've got to get through; or the too-muchness of a long, cold, slow day. But this day, my hearth is warm and my head renewed from a much-needed nap, I decided to plunge in and see what could be written. It has been hard to reach my heart, these days, and I don't know why. I feel withdrawn, grumpy, even brittle.
Perhaps it is because a stellar year is ending? At the start, I felt something great would occur in '08, and Obama's election summarily fits the bill. Now perhaps I'm feeling the pinch of what's to come: the hard work of rendering "better" from "hell".
Or is it because at last, the little family which seems always on the move is-- at long last-- settling? My edginess has come from a two-year sense of panic, as no one home seemed to last too long. Now that we are unpacked, there's time at last to feel the pinch of all that propelled us forward, along with all of the emotions we were forced to supress just so we'd have the energy to make it to the next place...
Whatever it is-- and it's a full range of everything in between, I'm sure-- the little projects that keep piling up on my desk continue to grow. I feel a sense of longing for time...just a little more of it, please. Just a little more opportunity to grow...
The days grow late; the dark grows long. Even the sun seems sharp, and icy. Yet there is beauty in it. It takes my breath away.
Oisin G'Dea's mama, wife of an Ruaphok Gaiscíoch; lover of the creative life, nomadship and stewardship; zen priest, gardener, artist, writer, herb-crafter, counselor and dreamer... I've lived in the inspiring high-desert, mountain-punctuated New Mexico & Colorado ~ misty redwood-coated coastlines of Northern California ~ strangely elegant riversides in Southern Maryland ~ snowy, busy Greater Boston ~ lovely and welcoming Hilltown Massachussetts.