Mea Culpa

 

We walked today, picking fall flowers, dried seed pods and colorful leaves. Chattering like a busy chipmunk, she found pretty rocks in the gravel, drew line after line for us to race from, and marveled at the troops of soldier mushrooms. It was more a meander than a walk, but definitions matter not to a four-year-old. Her thoughts bubble over into words like a flowing well in the flat lands; there is no filter, no pause and the music of it all soaking the earth is innocent and pure.

And it never stops. Ever.

Even in her dreams she is talkative and loud. A social sleep talker, telling her stories and voicing her fears.

But it is a respite to tune into her world, letting it drown out my restless mind that takes eternal practice to quiet for even the rare millisecond. She is my practice. Continue reading “Mea Culpa”

A Thousand Thank You’s

Henry David Thoreau once said, “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

The loud drone of the chainsaw and the silent work of the lopper created a mismatched chorus as we painstakingly carved our way through the dense woods. It was sweaty, heavy work clearing the dried deadfall, the thick clusters of green wiry willow, the wet and rotten trees that had long since slumbered back into the mossy earth.

It was Mother’s Day, and the fact that I ripped tree after tree from her lifeblood was not lost on me.

“Thank you,” I said time after time to the infant trees as I dug the steel blade of the shears low into the earth to cut their sappy flesh at the roots. When Tony readied a large one to fall, I stopped my work to watch both in respect and morbid awe. Old-growth popple, ash and Balm of Gilead were the parents we toppled, and each short-lived thunder as they hit the ground shook loose a pang of sadness mixed with burgeoning  gratitude.

“Thank you,” I sang while the saw sang louder.

It had been a lonely winters’ end here at The Angle. My heart has long ached for a tribe that understands me, for people who think like I do, for women who want to work and laugh and give together. With spring came cravings for a kindredship the lack of which I haven’t known since experiencing Seattle’s lukewarm welcome. There, it seemed everyone kept newcomers at arm’s distance for a set time. But then I met my tribe and the doors of fellowship were thrown open.

Here, it seemed to be my tribe right away. But the years of freezing and thawing, off and on, hot and cold, seem to decay more than what’s left to the weather. It seems no one knows each other at all.Column 57 (3).JPG

“Thank you,” I whispered as the fires whispered hotter. We built piles as we cleared around them, stacking the good wood for winter, burning the brush and the dead. My whispered words were lost in the varied din of our logging, but I kept on.

A Course in Miracles teaches that loneliness is an identification with the ego. The bit of god within each of us yearns unceasingly like a magnet for the rest of its bits. We ache for each other and for our source, for the offering and acceptance of forgiveness at the deepest level of our beings. It is from this illusory separation that stems all fear, all depression, all loneliness. My paraphrasing is greatly simplified, as it would be of the Bible as well, but the sentiments ring truth to me.

To avoid feeling what I was feeling, normally I would throw myself into a project while holding a drink in my hand. But, booze takes more than it gives, and projects, even seemingly altruistic community projects, are a fulfillment mechanism of the ego as well.

My therapy this time would come in the sweating work of clearing land by gloved-hand. Aye, we bought land. The timing and parcel were right, and a piece of paper now says we can clear, build, farm, do what we will on that piece of land. I know at my core that no person can “own” a slice of the earth – though corporations like to pretend as much – but we, my little family and I, are simply borrowing space for a time. My promise in every Thank You that I offer back to the land as I trim her twiggy bangs is that I will leave it to itself as much as I can and that good things will come from my taking.

“Thank you,” I gasped as I wrestled the wicked willows. The earth does not easily give up her own, that is for certain. She hasn’t given up on me either. She lays her shorn back at my feet, my unpracticed tread forming the narrow path that will become wider and stronger as it is used. It’s why I repeat the gratitude. It’s a beginning, a pathway, a thought that I want to dominate my life.

I want to see not what I lack but what I have. I want to see not our separate little lives but a tribe of those who know the land. I want to give not for what it gets me but because I am called to give. I want to work not for the buying of more stuff but for the care-taking of all that needs care.

“Thank you,” I breathed again and again, as I lay down the path. “Thank you,” I sighed, as I sink back into this gift of a body. Thank you, I intone to the mothers of Earth and the Mother of all.

“Thank you.”

(Published in the 5/16 issue of the Warroad Pioneer)

 

 

The Long Division of Fear

Column 37 Published in the October 18th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

My dad saw a moose…a healthy one, here, at The Angle!

That statement, by the way, is The Angle’s version of name-dropping or celebrity-sighting.

But my little mind is on politics, not moose nor life at The Angle. How can I rest in the beauty of our changing seasons or delight in the wildlife on the move when there is a giant orange circus peanut train wreck on every media outlet known to humankind?

My favorite sister gave me a huge bag of soft, fresh circus peanuts for my birthday one year. I ate Every. Single. One. Sickeningly sweet, ungodly orange and a spongey consistency defying all that is natural, I’ll always hold a cavity-like spot in my heart for them.

Speaking of holes in my heart…the three-year old in my life now routinely asks me to quit singing, tells me whatever we’re doing is BORING, and has taken over command of the car stereo. She is also newly in control of her own wardrobe choices, much to the dismay of the matchy matchy dictator in me.

But like my long-gone love for high heels, I’ve learned to let the matching OCD go. After all, in the wilderness this time of year, everything gets muddy, and therefore everything matches.

Mud aside, I had planned a long, philosophical column about having compassion for the many millions of folks who live in fear, i.e., the Donald Trump followers of the land. They are my family members, my neighbors, my acquaintances and many more I’ll never meet. I wanted to lecture and cajole, shame and berate, and tell them the story of when I was sexually assaulted in almost exactly the way Donald Trump described.

I wanted to plead with them about reconsidering their made-up minds, whining about how my little girl would have to grow up in a country that elected a president who thinks it okay to grab women by the ***.

And then it hit me….

I’m acting just as fearful as the very people I thought needed compassion. In fact, every single one of us is afraid. And almost if not all of the time, too.

Better to write about the rain gauge.

Or the squirrel that drowned in the kiddie pool I am long overdue in cleaning out.

Or the gnome home we built near the road in hopes that people would interact with it, and finally they are.

Or the wolves and bob cat and bear and rabbits and deer and wood chucks and the majestic golden eagles I’ve been seeing lately.

Or the excellent crappie spots my favorite fishing guide has shown me.

But those are all distractions from the lesson at hand, which feels like another big one for me, and yep, here it is: What we perceive in others, we strengthen in ourselves.

I’ve been pointing the finger at Fear for some time now but without truly seeing my own fears.

One night when I was awake “wrestling,” as I’ve been a lot lately – six hefty books, a journal and my phone for research on my lap – I wrote down the baseline fears I found myself clinging to:

  1. Harming or “ruining” Iris (my 3-year old daughter)
  2. Not producing that which I am supposed to
  3. Never “knowing”
  4. Losing Tony

I share these only to show value in looking inward. If I’m seeing a fearful world out there, it’s because I’m holding on to fear in my heart in some form. For insane reasons, I must have thought fear would be a better motivator, a better change agent. I had put my faith in fear instead of in love. To me, this is epitomized in believing in the Devil. Our belief in his evil is the only nourishment he needs. Fear wants to survive, and like a malignant cell, it does what it has to do, grasping at anything to keep our belief in it alive.

My fear that I would harm my daughter’s free-spirit, self-esteem, and connection to Source is the very thing that kept me trying to be her dictator, which, of course, has only served to push her away into disconnection and independence.

My fear that I won’t create what I was put on this earth to create keeps me from getting started. It keeps me believing that nothing I do is good-enough, especially for the “grand expression” of whatever my life’s gift is supposed to be.

My fear of never “knowing” is what keeps me in perpetual Seeking mode, instead of resting into the stillness of peace that already resides within.

My fear of losing the man I’ve chosen to love turns my focus away from Giving to him and tailspins me into worrying about what I’m Getting from him.

A Course in Miracles teaches that anything that engenders fear is divisive. It divides us from our fellow humans and it divides us from God.

In the political arena, politicians who preach fear, i.e., “our country is going down the tubes and I alone am here to save it…” are not uniting us, they are dividing us and very damagingly so.

We can’t rest in the peace of God while we are divided, while we are hating Donald Trump, or hating anything, for that matter. The Bible says that God hates that which is contrary to love, but either I’m misreading it or frankly, I just don’t buy it. If God is One, God can’t know or hate that which is other than Him, because otherness, contrariness can’t exist in Oneness. Hate stems from fear, and God knows no fear. Fear was made up in our minds to keep us separate from God.

But whoa Nellie, let’s not go there just quite yet. I’m still new to the Bible and I probably shouldn’t preach what I’m wrestling about.

Hey, look! A moose!

To wrap up this not-so-round-about rant, I was afraid of Donald Trump winning, but I’m not anymore. Not because it seems less and less likely, but because I can choose to reside in peace. I can choose love over fear.

Whatever happens in the election, whatever happens regarding my four baseline fears I shared with you, I know that everything will work out perfectly. Fear may seem powerful because it leads to strong reactions, but it is in fact the ultimate weakness. Nothing built on fear can last.

Including presidential campaigns.

And circus peanuts.

 

(Photo by Lauren Garfinkle via her EdibleGovernment Project and Creative Commons content.)

The Task at Hand

 

Column 31 Published in the July 5,2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Well hello there, July. Welcome, and we’ll take you, biting black flies and all.

June, the moody mistress that she was, blessed us with an abundance of variety. Steady? No, not she. She took us from whipping winds and bone chilling wet to sweltering heat that sat heavy and dense like a used towel left to dry in a heap.

A recent June day, I remarked to no one in particular in my otherwise unoccupied vehicle, “You know it’s a Windy day when there are miniature white caps on the standing water in the farmers’ fields.”

I love the long drive into town passing the many fields in their different states of dress and undress. The neighboring farmers are the buffer as we move from our densely wooded community to the progressively more open and populated, albeit still sparsely, outskirts of these rural towns. The hearts of their downtown areas and the bustle of their local commerce is a welcome change to the remote day-to-day life that is The Angle’s.

Our tourism economy here at The Angle gives the impression of busy-ness everywhere you look, and indeed we are a hard-working community. But there’s also a hint of loneliness that hangs in the air just as it does on the busiest city streets.

Peculiar to our species, no doubt, we are seeking. We are aching. Wondering. We get so consumed with taking care of our own egoic pursuits that we often fail to make the heart connections that are so vital to our growth, our happiness.

The tabloid of my life at The Angle: the off and on relationship, the ragged, yet wholehearted endeavors to find my place in our misfit community, the craving and searching for soulful, authentic connections, it all continually points me back to learning about love, forgiveness and God.

A Course in Miracles continues to be an almost daily guide for me. It has reminded me yet again that ANYTHING, if it’s not Love, is fear. If a thought doesn’t bring joy, then it is riding on fear, however deeply hidden. Stress equals fear equals illusion equals false, no matter how fiercely I believe in it. If a thought brings anything other than an abiding joy, it is not of God, not of reality. What a bonanza that knowledge is! I write it again and again solely so that I may continue to learn it. We’ve created all these illusions ourselves, and I can finally see that breaking down the fear-based illusions is my life’s work.

There is a certain peace that has settled in now that I no longer have to strive to learn unconditional love. It seemed such an impossible task even mere months ago. I would fail and fail again at every test, judging this, fearing that.

In fact, “unconditional love” is redundant. If it’s not unconditional, it’s not Love. Fear can create love-like feelings, but it takes only a careful look and I’ll see the cracks in the foundation.

Love is our true nature, and we’ll return to it regardless of our earthly wanderings, our raging Get and Keep egos, our ramshackle life stories created largely on fear.

Recognizing what fear has built in my life is my task now. Perhaps that is why my journey led me here, back to Minnesota, to The Angle, so that I may lead a simpler life closer to family and closer to the land.

It would seem there are less trappings here and that living more wholesomely would be a boon. Oh, but Egos are tricky beasts. They will latch on to anything, wrap their fear tentacles around it and create stress under the guise of achievement. Mine has built the illusion of “so much to do” that at times, I can barely breathe.

I was a steady drinker for two decades of my life because my ego had run rampant. Escaping felt like part of surviving, but in fact it only slowed my recognition. I see now that addictions are so prevalent in our culture because we are so mind-identified. Alcoholism has a nasty social stigma, for sure, but if I’ve learned anything over the past many years, it’s that addiction is addiction is addiction.

Guilt seems like a noble cloak to wear in the aftermath of addiction, but it’s not. Guilt comes from fear.

There are many who would argue to the death that what they fear is indeed real. Fear seems real to us because we believe in it and we believe in it because we created it.

I don’t want a life lived in defense of what I’m afraid of. I want a life broken open to Love. Raw and real. Graceful in it’s slow reveal, like the pregnant fields on my drive to town. Like the beauty in my three-year-old’s sly smile as she learns new and better hide-and-seek spots. Like the subdued glory of the pink and white lady slippers that pepper the ditches along our rural highways for just these few shorts weeks this time of year.

I want to see it all. Especially my fears. Bring it on, July.

 

 

(Alas, my lady slipper photo was too blurry. The above photo was pulled from Flickr via the MSFT bank of online photos using the Common Creative content licensing. I don’t know the person’s name to give them credit, unfortunately. So beautiful.)

The Long Goodbye

Column 19 Published in the January 26, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Is the long goodbye a Minnesota phenomenon? A product of isolation? Here at The Angle it’s seems quite natural to keep talking as you stand at the door, hand on door knob, still visiting for an hour after you’ve said you better get going. Then we’ll chat on the front porch, follow you out to the car, and visit through the car window until you finally inch away. Be sure to look back, we’ll be waving as you turn out of the driveway.

Is it comical? Is it sad? People need people after all, and there are a handful of us here who get very minimal social interaction while the rest of us get barely enough to keep us on this side of the sane lane. Interacting with our guest tourists can keep us busy, certainly, but without depth and true connection, it can also drain the reserves.

Our busy winter season is in full swing now that the sub-zero temps have graced us with their presence. Fortunately, they don’t usually adhere to the same extended Minnesota visiting practices.

Locals say we make an inch of ice a day when it’s Cold cold. I’ve resumed my two morning shifts a week at Jerry’s to serve coffee and eggs to antsy fisherman before they hit the ice, but making ice aside, I certainly don’t relish starting a car in the early morning when it’s 25 below zero. Regardless, we’re glad for the cold weather and the social aspect of the job definitely makes up for the O’dark:30 start time.

It’s this time of winter, in combination with the minimal social options available, that allows us time for other pursuits – when we’re not traipsing through the woods on snowshoes, roaring around on a snowmobile, running a resort or sitting peacefully in a fish house, that is. All those free hours in between jobs and parenting and general survival, I’m teaching myself to play the piano. My dad is in a band, the Knight Lighters, and they’ve been patient enough to allow my amateurish ivory tickling on stage with them. Finding time to practice a little bit every day (it’s more like every other day) takes discipline. And I usually have to let my two-year old sing through the keyboard microphone until she tires of it. Our Mary Had a Little Lamb duet is well-rehearsed.

Road Quill Accessories, my all natural (and again, amateurish) jewelry line is another indoor pursuit perfect for winter. It gives me a creative outlet and, as morbid as this sounds, a way to make death beautiful. I use deer antler, porcupine quills, red willow, moose poop, recycled leather and other natural material. I keep threatening to bring some of it into town to sell it somewhere; maybe I will someday.

I’ve also started studying A Course in Miracles. It’s a required course, and I always knew I’d get to it. For years, it seemed too intimidating, a huge undertaking that I wasn’t ready for. Much like parenthood, I suppose: you’ll never be ready until you start. If anyone else out there is studying The Course and wants to connect, look me up on Facebook. I’d love to have conversations about it.

A small team of Angleites continues to work on plans for the most northerly park in the lower 48. It’s a bit of a bureaucratic slog right now, but we’re finding people to be helpful and supportive. When it truly gets off the ground, I’ll certainly be sharing a lot more. We have so many exciting ideas.

I have to mention our Snow Rally as well. The Edge Riders’ club members and volunteers work hard to keep snowmobiling trails in good shape for adventurers and ice-fishing folk. We raise money through the rally each year by raffling off prizes. My roll is the marketing, advertising and social media aspect of the club. It’s a lot of fun, another social outlet and it just plain feels good to be involved. Come see us on Saturday, March 5 at Sunset Lodge on Oak Island. It’s always a good time.

We’ll try not to talk your ear off completely as you inch your way out to your car when it’s over.