"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who Do You Think You Are?

The Shame Voice is loud right now.

"Who do you think you are? Always wanting more. Always thinking about yourself. Never satisfied with what you have."

It's a time of transition and I know Shame is nervous. The Voice is always loudest and most urgent when light threatens another dark corner of Shame's lair at my core.

 Survival is not enough. My heart longs for peace, joy, love. My soul demands that I step fully into the time that is my life. Now.

"Who do you think you are? You need me. I keep you safe. I have kept you safe all these years. You chose me. Without me, anything can happen. You will be hurt. You will be lost. You will make a huge mess of things."

I push hard against the membrane of Shame's safety. A baby bird pecking its way out of the egg. Needing to break through or suffocate. The shell no longer keeping me safe, but instead threatening my very existence.

"Who do you think you are? It's too late for you. You're old, tired, burned out. Stop grasping for the impossible and be grateful for what you already have. Life would be so much easier if you would just settle."

I have wings. I want to use them to explore the sky. I want them to carry me to the sun and beyond.

I have wings, Shame. I claim these wings and the being they are meant to lift.

 I am whole woman with a whole heart. I am perfect-for-her mother with a perfect-for-me daughter. I am teacher. I am friend. I am writer bursting with stories to share. I am all of my experiences. I am my dreams. I am love. I am loved.

I inhabit a strong healthy body that is ready to be borne on my new wings to grand new adventures.

I am my feelings. Rage at my helplessness to be heard. Love for innocence and adventure and undying hope. Sadness for the pain of those I love and for my own. Joy at the sight of a bald eagle soaring overhead on a random morning. Anger at betrayal. Peace under a star-spangled full-moon sky. Fear of the unknown. Excitement of the unknown.

I am all of this, Shame, and I am none of it. I am Light seeking my own kind. You are Darkness. I am ready to take the next step away from the safety of your black cellar and the comforting lies of your non-heart. 

I am a being who will not be caged with wings that will not be clipped.

 I am flight. I am the sky. I am the sun.

Photo by House of Gary Photography

Friday, February 15, 2008

Smoke Clears

I've been having a hard time feeling God. As I grieve the loss of father and challenge my survival beliefs about being loved and lovable, I find that my picture of God has blurred from clear black and white to thick gray smoke. 

The younger parts of me hate God for abandoning them to adults who could not care for tender girls the way they needed. Those same younger parts long for a God who will tell them they are loved in a way they can believe.  How does a loving God allow children to suffer?

The present day me sits in this moment at a beautiful desk  covered with one of my favorite old floral cotton tablecloths, looking out a huge picture window onto my side yard. I see  the smudge and rust of robins shopping for lunch in the dirt. I see junkos, birds in nuns' habits, flocking busily from fir branch to fir branch. I see the bright blue sky flash of a solitary Steller's Jay. The color and the smoke challenge one another. 

I see huge old Douglas Firs that welcomed us here with open green bough arms when this place became home over fifteen years ago. I see the Big Leaf Maple that we planted from a wild seedling our first year here, stunningly beautiful in its stark winter nakedness. I see my Emma cat, born here our first summer, beautiful royal tabby and white presence, overseeing her domain.  The smoke seems to recede a bit more. 

And I see my treasured red oak. 

The oak is still very young, not even ten years old yet. She was carefully chosen and purposefully sited and lovingly planted. She marks the seasons for me, never out of leaf. First liquid Eden green, then deeper Oz emerald morphing to ruby slippers in the fall. As winter deepens her red fades to apricot - the exact shade of Toby right now.

A few winters ago we had the worst ice storm this part of the country has seen in years. I got up one morning to find the world encased in glass and the oak half its previous stature. I was sick to think that the ice had broken my beautiful tree. When the ice finally loosed its hold and we were able to go to her, we were shocked at what we found. She was doubled over, bent without breaking. Whole despite the killing blanket of ice.

Walt staked the wounded half up. Every time I was in that part of the yard, I talked to her, stroked her still baby skin, and marveled at her exuberant growth. Over time the bend that separated healthy from hurt disappeared and the tree grew out of our support. Today she stands proud, nearly twenty feet tall, anchoring that corner of the yard.

 As I look at my oak now, holding last year's leaves while the sap that will create this year's new growth moves up the trunk, there is no smoke at all. I love her more knowing what she endured and survived. I don't see her wounds. I only see her strength and resilience. And enduring beauty.

This is not a black and white picture. Neither is it unknowable behind a thick screen of smoke. This picture is the bold, blood red and tender, vulnerable green of life that will not be denied.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Something Else

Sitting on the floor with Toby this morning in our usual spot. He's playing kill the octopus. I'm a prop in his game - the retriever and fellow growler. I'm bone tired and something else. Not feeling playful at all. He's all boy right now. Rough and tumble. Flying helicopter legs. Gaping maw full of puppy teeth driven by emerging adolescent energy. 

Even his soft puppy wool is gone. There are wispy tumbleweeds of it drifting across my kitchen floor.  All that's left of his early puppyhood. His coat is smooth and sleek - the individual hairs coarse. His ears are still soft and sweet, but he won't hold still long enough for me to find comfort in them.

The sweet puppy breath is gone. His once always adoring eyes are frequently full of challenge. Greetings that were once full of inside out pleasure are more often than not manic cartoon dog attacks of insane energy. Hind legs tucked up around his ears. Front legs back by his tail. Eyes glazed with glee.

Pat asked me this week if it's harder for me to love and be loved by a man that it is for me to love and be loved by a woman. 

Yes, damn you.

Men leave. Men hurt you. Men are full of hard unreachable places.

I wanted a male puppy. Three of my four dogs in adulthood have been male. I love their mellowness, steady disposition, big lumbering affection.

I can't ever remember not wanting to be married. Wanting the security and safety  and strength I believed a husband would provide. Not realizing how much that desire was my unfathered girls desperately wanting daddy. I can't ever remember not wanting my marriage to be something else than what it is.

A week ago I heard the father who gave me life tell me to live this life. The joy and hope I felt then has become throat-closing sadness, and something else.

When I'm correcting Toby I can feel a force of energy demanding release. It's not energy his transgressions have earned or ever could earn. I refuse to give it voice. I am reluctant to give it a name.

Cupboard doors that I touch somehow slam. Hard. My shins and toes hurt from banging against door frames that are somehow in a different place than they were a week ago. I step on cat litter in the bathroom and find Sigourney Weaver's Alien suddenly desperately trying to chew its way out of my chest. 

Toby is being what he is - a pup growing into a dog. Marriage is what it is - two imperfect people sharing their journey and becoming together. My life is what it is - according to the voices of last weekend, perfect for me.

So this something else that demands voice - it is what it is. It will be heard one way or the other. I asked for the truth and can't send it back like undercooked fish at a restaurant. It has a name. Rage. It has a need. Release. It has gifts to give. It's time to find out what they are.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Feathers From a Father

I walked in the door Saturday after two nights away. It's the longest I've been away from Toby since he came to live with us six weeks ago. He did not look like the same dog I ruffled goodbye on Thursday morning. He was longer, taller, sleeker.

And I detected the definite beginnings of feathers. Wispy strings of real dog hair lining the backs of his legs. A cowlick of curl in the center of his chest. Longer thicker hair curling around his tail and finishing in a sweet piggy ringlet at the end.

Golden Retrievers are known for their feathers. The lush growth of fur that flows from their legs, cascades from deep chests and plumes from long tails is a standard of their beauty and breeding.

 Since I spent the weekend being reminded how important an impact our ancestors have on the lives we inhabit, I was drawn to look at a picture of Toby's dad, Beckham. I wanted to see the possibility of pup become dog. I wanted to remember the lineage that flows in his veins. 

Beckham comes from a long line of champions. Strong. Healthy. Gorgeous. Toby is well on the way to making his dad proud - if dog dads can be proud.

I learned something about my own father this weekend. The father I never met. The father I didn't even know existed until I was in my thirties. The father who killed himself seven years before I was told the man I thought was my father was not.

Through the loving, empathic and compassionate guidance of Ruth King I heard my father tell me he loved me and that I didn't need to give up my own life to be loved by him. I heard him tell me that he is the perfect father for me and that I am the perfect daughter for him. I felt his arms around me. I felt his love. I felt his blessings.

I come from a long line of leavers. The pain gets too much, you leave. Leave by packing bags. Leave by dying - slow or fast, depending on the level of despair. Leave into the heavy blankets of depression and madness. It's my legacy, and without knowing why,  I've believed that in order to be loved and accepted in my family- in order to belong - I could never be fully in life, fully a-live, fully not dead.

My father told me to live. My father who could not stay because the pain was too much to bear told me to live for him. My father loves me. I heard him as surely as if he had never left me. Every part of me believes him.

My father gave me feathers this weekend. Mine are of the flying into life kind. Toby's are the regal beauty kind. Maybe that's the same thing.

Photo of Beckham from Brown's Golden Delights website