Transformation in Taos, Part 1

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She eased herself down on the same boulder that jutted out into the water, feeling the rush of the heat of the sun, the ice cold river, and the searing nostalgia that settled in fast. She had been here years before, at the beginning of a journey that has no end. She could always remember where it began.

She remembers the sequence of events as they played out that last time, so closely resembling yet so far away (thank god) from this experience. Both times she had driven up from Taos, both times set up camp at the top of an immense cliff, cooking dinner over a fire and staring at the clearest sky she’d ever seen.

In the morning they’d pack up and descend the arduous trail into the center of the gorge. The differences in these experiences now was remarkable to her, the first time she grew heavier as she plodded down the mountain- safe with a friend she loved but struggling to find the words to express the weight that compressed her chest more and more the deeper she climbed into the canyon.

“This is supposed to be freeing,” she thought, and when they finally arrived at the icy rushing river that had carved time into the hard rocks, they were sweaty and dusty and hot. They stripped off all of their clothes  and waded in, breath catching as they made their way towards two giant, flat rocks perhaps ten feet apart. They sprawled naked in the hot sun, limbs dangling into the ancient rumbling bath around them.

There was enough noise for this to be a private yet shared experience, and as she lay down that first time, feeling her body cradled by the earth, her mind tumbled by the sound of the river, the fear finally left her and she let some of what she had been terrified of feeling rush through her veins. Her eyes mixed their salted grief with the ancient minerals of the rocks, her heart cracked open just a little bit more- not to let in, but to let out the light contained within her. 

~

 

 

 

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Birds in Flight

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There are birds inside of her today, joyfully lost in the forest of her long, soft hair.
They flutter inside her belly, so happy, knowing they are privy to a sacred, sacred place.

They sing their songs, which beam
like sun rays from her pores, bathing her skin
in the pleasure of their music
A gift, she knows, from them to her.

Today her eyes are discs of light, she breathes the scent
of centuries, her mouth
filled with the song of how sad and beautiful it is to live.

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Her body is a blessed instrument,
here to serve.
It changes as the seasons do
as she gains wisdom,
heals scars,
and bit by bit,
remembers her Self.

* Many thanks to Gary Gray for the use of his beautiful photo of Snow Geese in flight in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. His website is here. *

My Mournings of Solitude

Today I almost put olive oil in my coffee instead of honey. I’ve already called my own mother, with the semi-exaggerated plea of “I’m dying,” asking her to come over so that I can get an hour or two of sleep. Ana and I, we are in the trenches. The glorious and agonizing trenches.

the trenches

I wanted to start this blog when I was pregnant with Ana, but I didn’t. All that “not good enough” stuff that I don’t have time for anymore was crowding my mind. I wrote a few blog posts, though, including the following. I remember how wonderful this day was, how aware I was that my solitude was fleeting. I was aware, thankfully, and so I cherished the time I did have.

How unaware I was of how this would change me! How truly unaware I was. I am so grateful to have moments like this to look back on.

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Sometime in May, 2013.

Mondays are my favorite day to be alone. I make no calls, I go nowhere, I stay home in an empty house. John leaves at 6:15am, my brother well before, and neither are home until very late in the evening. I get at least 14 good hours of silence, and only I and the cat break that silence.

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I have never been more excited about anything in my life then I am about becoming a mother. This little baby inside of me already brings me joy and focus that I did not think was possible. As it grows, the joy grows, the possibilities grow, and it feels like my ribs will break outwards- not only from the increasing pressure as they literally expand like bone-wings bound to my body by skin, as they open like the walls of the cave of creation making more room for spirit, but my heart…

My heart, inside my rib cage, it feels like it is no longer inside my rib cage. It has expanded, to fill my body, and sometimes I cannot breathe, for my heart has filled my throat, my eyes, my ears, and it is spilling outwards. I want it to touch pain and transform anger, I want it to spread like balm over the wounds I see in all of the luminous eyes I look into.

 Sometimes I recognize that in this joy and love, there is something I must not neglect to mourn. She is my former self, the one I no longer am but always will be.  I must mourn her nonetheless. In three and a half months more, on Mondays we will invite a new member to join our solitude, and we will care for him or her just as we care for ourselves on these important days.

Today the cat and I sat outside on a light blue-green sheet, the color a combination of over-grown grass and sky. She took a sand bath while I read about the Black Madonna in all her lustrous manifestations, and then She lay on my book and loved me with her bright green eyes. Yo sé que soy la que eres, I whisper, as the baby kicked so hard that my blue and white striped shirt fluttered over my belly. Estamos todas en la luz de vida. Estamos todas solas, y al misma vez, La Una.

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The funny thing is, today is Thursday. Monday I watched 5 episodes of Call the Midwife and sat in John’s new recliner, crying my eyes out every time a baby was born. It doesn’t matter what the day is, all that matters are these little things, these glorious moments. They are the stuff of life. 

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And just a little something I realized as I re-read this: What I said to my mother is true- I am dying. Many bits of my former self are dying. Selfishness, laziness, fear of failure- those things are dying. I could really go for even one of those 14 hours of solitude- I believe solitude and silence are incredibly important. But I know those days will come again, and I know that here, in the trenches, I am being shaped into something better than I was before.

Dancer

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(artwork: “Dancing Trees” by Igor Zenin)

She has lost almost all of her clothing now

and is resplendently revealed. She danced so violently last night

that I thought she might snap, but she is stronger,

more supported than before.

As she stares from behind the last threads of orange

she is illuminated by the sky- she is the sun.

She reminds me of Ursula now, her roots reach up like the

tentacles of that giant octopus, reaching beyond herself

for the truth.

She looks like she wants to break free sometimes,

and I realize my love for her. If she were gone, I would feel so sad.

In this and every moment, but especially in twilight,

She is beautiful.

THE PARENTING WARS

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I posted this article on Facebook the other day from The Matt Walsh Blog. I was SO late to the party- I didn’t realize it had attracted a ton of attention already.

The article struck a chord with me, having been home with my daughter for the last (almost 5!) months. It made me feel like someone understood that what I do IS important even though some days I do wonder “What the heck did I do all day?” And sometimes, when people ask me all the inane questions that they do, I don’t know what to say. That, and I wanted some Facebook love, where everyone comments and you feel lifted up even for a moment, supported by your virtual community. Some days, it is my only connection to the outside world (at least it feels that way).

Well, my “friends” had their own party with his article. Many of them wrote encouraging words and their own experiences- whether they worked or not. The point here was not to work or not to work. For me, the point was that at this moment, I don’t work. At this moment, I am suffering in the beauty with Ana on the days when her daddy is at work and we are at home alone.

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I am so lucky, and so grateful that I am able to stay home with our daughter. We have a very unique living situation that allows us to live off of one income for now, but this situation is temporary. We are caretakers of an older home in a nice neighborhood and so our bills are not very high. John works a job that pays well, but he genuinely does not like it and that is a huge consideration for us. We need daddy to be happy, too! Luckily for all of us that he is pursuing a passion of his in school and in a few years he will be able to get a job in a field he enjoys.

When I initially wrote this article, I wanted to give a glimpse of what I do all day. I wrote several paragraphs, but deleted them because, well…they were boring. They were boring and I was frustrated with the war between parents and parenting styles that thrives on the internet like a disease, feeding off of people who are stressed and probably just need some support. To stay at home all day with a baby, I need support. And I don’t need to justify why I do it.

Depending on your viewpoint, the “routine” of our days might not amount to much. Many days I feel like I am just keeping my head above water, while being tossed around in a stormy sea. Sometimes I am so tired I have the words to Ana’s books running in my mind over and over again… “I’m in the milk and the milk’s in me! God bless milk and God bless me!” Some days keeping us all fed and clothed and alive is a huge accomplishment, and I’ve nothing left for anything else.

I don’t understand the parenting wars. The internet is as hurtful as it is helpful, especially for new parents. I already question myself and have a hard enough time without the droves of people sounding off about who does what the right or the wrong way. When I posted the article, along with the encouragement, the thread became an argument about whether or not it is a “job” to stay home with the kids. As I don’t get paid, it is not a job- but the work is 24/7.

in the night kitchen

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

I wrote this post in between “the steaming and the making and the smelling and the baking…” I mean, the spitting and the changing and the cooking and the cleaning. While Ana was napping, I kept thinking to myself about that description of my day I had written. I thought about all of the ways it could be interpreted, about how I should change it, about all the places that invited attack. I realized that judgments aside, it is the truth. I also realized, that put more simply, this is what I do all day:

Wake up, love myself, love John, love Ana, and do the best I can.

AND I received some great advice from a woman in her 80’s in the chiropractor’s office the other day. I was describing this “war” on the internet and how it bothered me. She looked at me with a smirk, said she knew a way to combat it. “It’s simple,” she said. “Shut the computer off and trust your instincts.”

Oh, the wisdom in those words. 🙂

Gratitude Practice

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Over the past few years, a concept has come to me over and over again from a variety of sources. I usually write it down, something like “do gratitude practice,” and then never do anything with it. Some of the most inspirational people I’ve met, books I’ve read, or blogs I’ve come across all seem to mention it at least once.

I recently got a book out of the library called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It’s a day by day guide (beginning on January 1st– I found it on Dec. 31st, felt like fate) to a simple life, a more authentic you, specifically for women. “Ah, this is what I need,” I thought, as I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed by all the changes that come with being the mother of an infant. Simplicity, abundance, authenticity. Great concepts, aren’t they?

First thing I discovered was that I have a lot of trouble reading anything, especially something I like, a day and a page at a time. By January second I had almost read to February. “This is fine,” I thought. “I’ll just read the whole book and then go back and do it a day at a time.” Unrealistic as that is becoming, I did discover something halfway through January that stuck, finally. “Your life will not blossom and flourish without gratitude,” the author says, “If you want to travel this journey with me, the gratitude journal is not an option.”

That was about all I needed, the final call. There must be something to this, right? I went upstairs and hunted down a beautiful journal covered in colorful metallic horses with a magnetic clasp. In the back, a poem:

Mystic horses-all grace and beauty,

these elegant beings…

Strong legs pulsating, pounding

rythms upon the earth

like a drum beating in resonance

with my own ancestral heart.

Is there anything more

sensuously beautiful

than the horse?

…I think not.

-Laurel Burch

In the horse barn

Ana and I in a beautiful horse barn- October 2013

I had never written in it because it was too beautiful- it deserved something really special. It deserved…my gratitude. It has been hidden away for six and a half years now, given to me before I moved halfway across the world. Given to me by a lover in another life. All those who truly know me give me journals as gifts.

Every day since, I write five things, usually before bed or in the morning, unless Ana (or while Ana) is screaming her head off. These days she screams until she’s lying beside me. For sanity’s sake, we keep her in the bed- not out of a desire to follow the attachment parenting manifesto, but because it’s the only way she’ll stay quiet enough for us to get a few hours of sleep, me sandwiched in between her and John, unable to shift on our sagging mattress.

Sure, it doesn’t sound like gratitude when I describe it, but at the end of the day as I beat myself up for giving in once again, I realize how grateful I am- for a healthy, beautiful baby, for her daddy, strong and patient, trying to sleep beside me even while he’s missing the days (that will come again, soon I hope!) where we could sleep entangled in each other’s arms, missing the days when he got most of the attention that Ana gets now. I miss those days, too.

But these days are wonderful in their own ways. I sleep sandwiched in between so much love, two beating hearts, two steady breaths. I sleep in a place that is safe and warm. It doesn’t seem unnatural to sleep next to my baby, and I don’t worry about smothering her like everyone warns me of. She grew INSIDE my body. The first two weeks after she was born it was weird to even put her down, because she is a part of me that has been separated. Don’t get me wrong, I like, enjoy, and need time away from my baby- for sanity’s sake. But even though she takes up most of my time and energy, it’s like she’s always been here.

Though since she’s been here, I’ve been to some dark places in my mind. I’ve gone down with a spiral of negativity more times than I can count. As the one who sets the tone for the family, there have been some pretty bad days, depressed days. But this is not how I want things to be.

The idea is that by doing the gratitude practice, your state of mind will change. If you spend so much time thinking about what you are grateful for, it becomes a habit. You may find an endless list of wonderful things in life to write about, and even on the days that you can’t, there are always the basics: to be alive, to have food and shelter, etc. I imagine you can even be grateful for your sorrow, grateful for your anger. All this is is a shift in perspective.

Boy, am I grateful for a shift in perspective!