18 April 2011

sounds a full moon

There was a full moon last night. At the peak of summer, it rises at the head of our street over a stand of tall firs where every year hawks nest. For now, it pushes up behind the neighbors' rooftops before clouds take it.

My youngest child once told me the moon was closer here in the Pacific Northwest than in other parts of the world. That's why it's so big, she said.

Its sound is as beautiful as its size: full moon. Reading poetry this week, and my favorite line is complete with sound:
The moon hung orange as any sun
Just before it faces evening,
Like a flaming breast in the sky
Calling my name, and I walked out

Under it and rubbed the moonlight
All over my face and hands the way
The old folks used to do with sunlight

~ from The Night Richard Pryor Met Mudbone by A. Van Jordan

Jordan knows how to use the sounds of words, make the mundane beautiful, sensual, forbidden.

Have you ever fallen
Into the vowels on a dark

Woman's lips as she blew
A simple phrase like Good Morning
To a man she's just met?

Nothing, maybe, to the naked ear,
But close your eyes and listen
To the dark sounds rounded

Off in the shadows of her mouth—
There lies the secret to end
All wars.

~ from Morena by A. Van Jordan

Cup your hands and press some moonlight to your face on a night like this. Breathe it in. You can do this here where the moon is so much closer.


04 April 2011

fine balance

The tipping point either way is often something so unexpected that you don't notice until you've passed it. Yellow leaves. A shut door. The fine silk of a tulip.

There is light in the mornings now as I head to the office. Even though the progression is the same, the return of light in spring seems to happen more quickly than the winter spread of dark. Perhaps the sun simply draws our gaze.

But I flew too close once and am lucky to have made it back. If you believe in luck.


20 March 2011

carrying grief on the first day of spring

Spring is a time of emotional extremes from the history of my life, times of immense loss and great change, darkness of depths unimaginable and restorative light. Every subsequent year is different. And the same. It's not that I forget how it is the most difficult time of year for me, it's that every year I think, surely this one will be different. But then the dreams come, vivid as ever, and time removed feels like yesterday.

In times of sadness, I have learned to reach back and call on moments that lifted me before—private moments, sweet joys, prayers. The first time I had opportunity to pray in a sweat lodge, perhaps ten years ago, it was a warrior sweat. On the banks of the Columbia River in sacred space at Celilo, I entered the lodge with trepidation and the heavy weight of unresolved family issues. With nothing to compare it to, I could not gauge the intensity of the conditions; I only knew how it brought me to complete physical breaking.

At the 17th stone, I wept. The woman next to me unexpectedly touched my hand and whispered, "Put your face on the earth, your mother." And so I did, and a peace came to me such as I had never experienced. The pain I carried into the lodge lifted in a way of power and beauty and deep personal awareness I continue to carry.

So with sadness and deep regret, I honor the memories of children lost to me, the deaths of friends and loved ones, and sorrows of irreparable harm. Respect the sorrow; allow it to be what it is. Without a tangible place to direct my grieving, I wonder for the first time if I need to seek one out to allow for something different.

At the same time, with gratitude and an astounded sense of awe I embrace this moment, this year, these feelings, my place in this world. After too many "burning down the house" years, my life was not restored—it was begun anew.

Ah, spring. I seek to find its middle path.


"Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved. But it was not grief that Olanna felt, it was greater than grief. It was stranger than grief. She did not know where her sister was. She did not know."

~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun

"The ranks of the stars move in progression, the sun and the moon shine in turn, the four seasons succeed each other in good order, the yin and yang go through their great transformations, and the wind and the rain pass over the whole land. All things obtain what is congenial to them and come to life, receive what is nourishing to them and come to completion. One does not see this process taking place, but sees only the results. Thus it is called godlike. All men understand that the process has reached completion, but none understands the formless forces that bring it about."

~ Xunzi (c. 296 -c. 236 B.C.)