death

Womanrunes: The Self

Womanrunes: Rune of the Self. Beginnings, Potential. Innocence. May 2013 077

The truth of being may be grander and deeper and broader than you can ever imagine. Look before you and bear witness to the magic, the pure potentiality that surrounds you all the time. Is not your very Self a true miracle? Thinking, breathing, moving, walking, grasping, laughing, loving, writing, talking, holding, birthing, creating. These systems that animate your body, beat your heart, grow your fingernails, circulate your blood, digest your food, gaze at your baby. This is incredible. Incredibly majestic, incredibly miraculous, and incredibly mysterious. What is this process of cell division? What is this process of thought? What is this process of life and living? Where does it come from and where does it go? How does it work? Really work. The language of meiosis and mitosis and synapses and electrical impulses is not enough. We can explain life in scientific terms…sort of, but underlying it is still a fundamental majesty of unimaginable wonder.

Rune of the Self: Potential. Innocence. Beginnings. Just as the acorn holds limitless oaks, the Self has limitless potential. Expanding, contracting, opening, closing, leaping, pausing, watching, knowing, asking questions…

To be a human being sitting on a rock, in the sun, feeling wind, breathing in and out, reaching. This very moment, this very experience, this very capacity to sit and see and wonder, is the soul of life.

Today* my mom and I spoke briefly about my grandma and whether or not her “spirit” is still present. I’ve mentioned that I don’t really get the kinds of “messages” that other people seem to experience after the loss of someone important to them and my mom feels pretty certain that life is over when it is over. So, once again, the Womanrune I drew today felt particularly perfect for the things on my mind.

I’ve thoughts for years that the answers, so to speak, are beyond the grasp of our imagination, beyond the boundaries of our physical experience. Bigger, deeper, broader, and more intricate than we can ever hope to learn or know and that is why, I do not pretend to have any sense of certainty about what, if anything, happens after death. There is too much we do not know or understand about the way the world works, the way the universe dances, to make any sort of definitive pronouncements and I return to subjective understanding, personal experience, and felt reality. Felt intuition. My felt intuition says that energy goes somewhere and that the animating force that runs through each of our bodies in life, stirs us into being, incubates our dreams and hopes, breathes life through us. That force may well remain forever, embedded in the ripples and eddies of time and space. It may remain recognizable, it may remain conscious. Or, it may become dispersed into the larger currents of reality, though having made an indelible imprint and a lasting mark at its place on the ribbon of eternity. These threads, in the Goddess-Earth-Universe tapestry, with which we weave and are woven, hold infinite potential, and are connected in an unbreakable fabric of relationship and wholeness. It doesn’t matter how far away the ribbon unfurls, there is still a mark on it named Mamoo. It doesn’t matter how great and grand the tapestry grows and how far it is woven, there is still a thread in it named Mamoo. And that thread, is interwoven with my own in deep and lasting ways. This place on the ribbon named Molly right now, I like her and I enjoy her company. šŸ˜‰

My mind has been on my grandma all day today. I’ve been working on her memorial ceremonies and looking at pictures and crying and thinking about my speech for her luncheon. Something I realized is that some of the things I admired most about her are interestingly the same things that I am often critical of in myself.

When I came in from my woodspriestess time, I decided to do a guided meditation called Connect to the Red Threads: a meeting with the cosmic mothers from Lunation. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time and even though my to-do list was a mile long today, I decided to give myself the 15 minutes to do it. In the meditation, you descend into the earth and into caves below it, while your “red thread” curls around connecting with the planet. In my “vision,” my grandma and my mom and my daughter all joined me in the caves and we were all connected by the red threads, navel-to-navel. My grandma sat there, holding her thread and smiling, but looking kind of out-of-place and I thought, she would SO have really done this. Even though it wouldn’t have been her thing and she would have felt like it was silly or not really been interested, she would have been game to sit in a cave and hold a red thread with me in real life if I’d wanted her to do that, because if it was important to me, she tried to be interested in it too. When the meditation moved out of the cave, I sort of got swirled out into the atmosphere and I held my grandma’s hand and took her with me. We hovered out in the universe together, her wearing a blue flowered jacket, white shirt, blue slacks and blue canvas shoes (I thought it was the outfit from her obituary picture, but it wasn’t actually) and the 13 “cosmic mothers” of the meditation came out to meet us. They were not easy to perceive—they were basically each a swirly woman in veils of different color, there was an orange one, a purple one, a green one, etc. Then, we went back down to the ground, to the earth and they sat around us in a circle. My grandma and I were standing. We put our hands together, palm-to-palm, and made a kind of circular, sweeping motion. Then she said, “I am still a part of the world,” and touched my face. The meditation ended and the 13 cosmic mothers swooped away and took her with them.

One of the things I talked about today with my mom was whether or not the “message” truly comes from outside of you or just from your own psyche, doesn’t really matter. It still tells you something. It is similar to shamanic journeying—it doesn’t actually matter how much of the experience is “made up” or self-created, it still happens and it means something.

For my grandmother’s ceremony, I re-worked part of a T.S. Eliot poem into a responsive reading so we can do it together. The group as a whole will read the part in italics and I read the other parts. I like call-and-response things like this, because it gets the other people actually involved, rather than just listening to someone talk…

“What we call the beginning is often the end 20130507-094336.jpg

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start fromā€¦

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, remembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the appleĀ­treeā€¦

Heard, halfĀ­heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are inĀ­folded
Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.”

In a stroke of irony, since I just wrote about the value of boundaries, my attention was also caught by an old recording I made called Boundless. It is a sort of meditative musing and rather than transcribe it, I decided to do an experiment and I uploaded the recording itself to Soundcloud instead. Let me know what you think šŸ™‚

(*These thoughts were actually collected on May 6, which is the “today” of which I speak in this post.)

Update: this project evolved into a real book!

The first post in my Womanrunes series is available here.Ā The runes and the names of them come from Shekhinah Mountainwaterā€™s Womanrunes systemĀ for which there are no written interpretations available other than the name and one word meanings. Iā€™m engaging in a semi-daily practice of drawing one and then going down to the woods with it to see what it ā€œtellsā€ me–basically, creating what I wish I had, which is a more developed interpretation of the meaning of each womanrunestone.

Categories: blessings, death, family, Womanrunes | Leave a comment

Woodspriestess: Hydrangea

Bless this plantĀ  May 2013 007
that it may grow strong
that it may grow tall
that it may grow with courage and vitality.

May it burst into full blossom
and remind us of the joy inherent
in life, relationships
and in sharing time with each other.

May it draw up the richness of the earth
may it always have what it needs
may it be soaked with sweet rainfall
nourished by that which has gone before
and become an intricate part of the ecosystem
both taking in and giving out
receiving and giving
nourishing
and being nourished.

May it remind us of the woman
in whose memory we plant it.

A woman who was just as beautiful
as these flowers.

A woman who gave us strong roots
and rich experiencesMay 2013 006.

Who stood firmly on the earth
under this same blue sky.

A woman who grew,
who lived well
who shared and tended
and who blossomed fully
in a life that brightened
the world around her.

May it be so blessed
may she be so blessed
may it be so.

Wisdom from the green earth
strength from deep, dark places
blessings of the bright sky
soothing rain
swift winds
and a grateful breath
upon them both.

Today is May Day/Beltane and my mom came home with two blue hydrangea plants that she bought for us to plant on Mother’s Day as memorial plants for my grandma. I’m still in this place of depletion and overwhelm, compounded by the need to plan a major trip to California during this month—lots of reservations to arrange and details to figure out. But, I went ahead and toted my hydrangea down to the woods for a little while and offered it, and my grandma, the blessing above. I also spied some very pretty violets growing in the “weeds” near the house and I admired the lovely, storm-full-feeling clouds. I found a pretty rock with a vein of crystal in it that I’ve admired several times before, but left in its place in the woods. However, today I felt like it wanted to come back with me and have a new home by the hydrangea when we plant it.

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As I’ve noted before, I remain amazed by the neverending capacity to notice something new in this same little section of forest. And, I also delight in the relationship with the space that I have formed there, so that my attention is precisely captured by those new things. See this tree?

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Kind of far away, right? But, as I sat there talking into my recorder about hydrangeas, my attention was caught by something different at the fork of the trunk. It was kind of blobby line/bump and I thought: is that a skink with a missing tail? I walked down to look closer and sure enough, I had a new companion in the woodspace today:

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I’m not only an observer in the forest, I am also that which is observed!

Categories: blessings, death, family, nature, prayers, readings, woodspriestess | 2 Comments

Goodbye

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The photo on the left was taken a few months ago. She was 83. One of the ways I will always remember her is wearing zoo-themed necklaces šŸ™‚

She has told stories
she has made memories
she has preserved history
she has created
she has birthed
she has mothered
she has grandmothered
she has been of service
she has traveled far
she has grieved
she has rejoiced
she has loved
and been loved in return

This woman from which I came
this mother of my own mother
she who has been daughter
who has been wife
friend
mother
grandmother
great-grandmother
she has come to the end of her road
to the last stop on her earthly journey

Part of eternity
gave her birth
and she in turn shared that gift
and now she is reclaimed
re-embraced
hugged with the winds of time
and change.

Just a couple of hours after I posted my “last words” post, my grandma did in fact, let go and died during the early part of the morning. I always hope to have dreams about people who have died, to somehow get “messages” from them and the only person that that has ever happened vividly with was my father-in-law, which is strange given our distant relationship when he was alive. I’m surprised I didn’t dream of my grandma at all this month during this terribly short and terribly long process. Last night I did dream a short tiny dream though. In it, she sent a birthday card to my mom—we knew in the dream she’d wanted to make sure my mom still got a card on her birthday (my mom turns 60 next month)—the card came with $20 in it and it was in a homemade envelope. She hadn’t wanted to ask anyone to get her an envelope, so she’d made her own. That was it. Not the enlightening “message” sort of dream I imagine, but at least I had one! More photos and additional thoughts are on my other blog.

Go in peace478397_10200265613655357_366752492_o
go in love
and go knowing that you have left behind
something beautiful
something marvelous
something that matters
The fabric of a life well-lived
the hearth of a family well-tended
the heart of a community strengthened
and a never-ending chain of women
unbroken.

You’re our Mamoo
You’re our grandmother
and we say goodbye
and thank you.

Sink deeply
and gently
into the arms and lap
of time
the great mother of us all

She holds you now.
We let go.

Tonight I went down to the woods at sunset, which seemed fitting. I finished my memorial sculptures earlier in the day and so I took pictures of them there on the rocks. Later, we went back outside to go for a walk and I saw the nearly-full moon rising, so I ran back down to experience the fairly-rare occurrence of a sunset-moonrise, something that is hard to photograph because they take place in opposite directions.

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Generations sculpture

April 2013 009

Sculpture using a rock I found in the woods.

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Sunset

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Moonrise

April 2013 016

Categories: art, blessings, death, family, poems, sculpture, womanspirit | 5 Comments

Last Words

On Sunday, we thought we’d reached my grandma’s final day on earth. I spent the day thinking about her, crying, talking to my husband, and fanatically checking my phone for texts from my mom (side note to those people who write critical blog posts about “distracted” people “glued” to their phones, you may do well to remember that some of those distracted-looking people might be looking for texts about dying grandmothers from their own distraught mothers and that this phone-based link in fact represents connection and not disconnection or distraction). I went to the woods and I sat on the rocks and sang Woman Am I. My mom told me she’d been singing it to my grandma as she listened to the erratic sounds of her breaths, thinking each was the last. My letter did make it in time to be read to my grandma while she was still conscious enough to indicate she heard it. And, on Friday I did a FaceTime call with my mom and she took it to my grandma’s bed so that I could talk to her. She didn’t open her eyes, but she murmured a greeting and she smiled when she heard my little two-year-old say, “hi, Mamoo!” So, we were able to say some final words and goodbye “in person,” which was really, really difficult, but also a gift.

After singing on the rocks, I then spoke aloud to her, those final words that didn’t really come in a letter or on Facetime:

April 2013 038

Unfinished new grief sculpture…

We have learned from you
we have loved with you
we have heard you
we have seen you
we have hugged you
and held you
we have mourned with you
we have mourned for you
we have been dazzled by your radiance
inspired by your adventures
and touched by your generosity.

Three generations of women
have sat in your lap as little girls
have been covered by your quilts
and zipped into your sweaters
you carried each of us on your hip
and held us each in your heart

We respect you
we cherish you
we appreciate you
we’ve learned so much from you
we’ve laughed with you
and lived with you
and traveled with you

and now
we open up our hands
we open up our hearts
and we let you go.
Be free.
Continue your travels
on the currents of time and space…

My grandma was a beautifully active, vibrant woman and her quick devolution due to advanced and very aggressive pancreatic cancer is a harsh blow to our family. I’ve always admired and respected her and been proud of her for all of her accomplishments and activities. She was not a particularly emotionally demonstrative woman, but it amazing to think about all the ways her presence is woven through my days even though she lives 2000 miles away–the sweater I put on every morning is one she knit for me, her quilts are on my kids’ bedroom walls and on all our beds, magazine subscriptions she gifts us with are in the car and bathroom…we’re connected in many ways and I don’t know what life will look like without her in it.

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My “three generations of little girls” thoughts made me create this not-finished sculpture. Little boys are part of the generations as well, but not in as direct a line as the girls—I’m the oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter (and my own daughter is an “only daughter,” so while she’s my youngest child she continues a line as the first daughter of a first daughter of a first daughter of a first daughter).

My dad also brought over the last four beads for my woodspriestess necklace and so I took a new picture with them too:
April 2013 049When I came back in, I drew a Crone Stone and got, no joke, She Who Knows: The Grandmother of Time:

April 2013 052I have had some really amazing experiences with these stones and I was in awe at the cosmicness when I read, Wisdom is the inner knowing we already possess. How is it our bodies know how to menstruate, to ovulate, to cease menstruating, to breathe? I thought at first reading it said to cease breathing and I thought it was so perceptive because of my mom waiting and listening to my grandmother’s slow, labored breaths. Then, I re-read and saw it was only “to breathe” and then it felt less cosmic. Ah, well.

Categories: art, blessings, death, family, poems, prayers, womanspirit, women | 6 Comments

Woodspriestess: Grandmother Prayer

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Today we texted her this picture, because that is instant–no waiting for mail.

Prayer for my grandmother
sweet wind carry it
hope guard it
love keep it
peace bless it

carry my gratitude
straight to her heart
fold it into her hands
nestle it in her body
where it will take root
and blossom

may she know she is loved
she is appreciated
she is held

in the great grand web of incarnation
the unfurling of genetic memory
in shared silence and story
in unfolding legacy

Peace hold her
love enfold her
life release her…

(4/15/13)

When I found out last month that my grandmother was sick, I immediately knew I needed to write her a letter. It was hard to figure out what to say and how to start and so I waited. Finally, Sunday night after getting a not-promising text update from my mom, I got a card and wrote in it instead—I think my problem had been in part related to trying to type it out. Handwriting worked. There were no pearls of wisdom or geniusApril 2013 076, but there were words from the heart and in my own sloppy-writing hand (it has always bugged her that I don’t have better handwriting!). I got the kids all to sign it in the morning and trudged it out to the mailbox and started fretting that it won’t make it to her in time. I went to the woods and spoke aloud. As I spoke, I became aware that I was wearing a sweater she knit for me and felt that in this way we were each wrapped in a prayer of love and thanksgiving.

The mayapples are unfolding their little umbrellas in the forest and today I spied some still-green-edged dogwood blossoms getting ready to put on a show.
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Categories: blessings, death, family, nature, prayers, theapoetics | 2 Comments

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