It’s been a long time since I last wrote here. I’d started a piece on my heart’s response to being in Turkey, how I didn’t really let myself know fully “Why Turkey?” until a kind and gentle Muslim friend asked me over coffee and pastries at the Duchess one morning upon my return. Why Turkey? “Because of Rumi,” was my most truthful, heartful reply, as tears came suddenly. She nodded a deep knowing. For a good month upon my return, I reverberated with that energy, experiencing what another friend recently called “post trip stress disorder,” PTSD of a different sort, wherein we experience a range of reactions to having our paradigms and hearts cracked open. A good thing she offered, because it means we’ve been open to the experience, letting something new come in and touch us. Whew! So much more than just jet lag!
I never finished that piece. I had trouble finding the words to express myself, and then time had passed with more water under the bridge. I’ve noticed that since keeping a journal more regularly, that process holds some of what I might previously written here. How many times I’ve noted there an even deeper appreciation for, a need for the quiet and silence that greets me in those early morning moments, and I sense this has slipped and seeped into discerning, whether or not I choose to write “out here.”
Like around Remembrance Day, I found myself pondering if and how we make space to remember those who fought on the other side, who were “the enemy.” The notion of legitimate-illegitimate grief had been stirring inside for a couple of months, prompted by the passing of my chosen namesake. My paternal grandfather, my opa, was a German soldier killed in action and buried in France. My father knew him for only a few short years of childhood, due to a stubborn estrangement between his parents. Several years ago, pieces came together to help my father finally visit his father’s final resting place, taking with him his mother’s ashes, making for reconciliation, and peace. My husband’s father, too, a young German soldier, taken as prisoner of war to England and Texas, who still eats with military-issued cutlery. How, or do we grant those close to our hearts the honor of remembering when they have been called “enemy”? How do we illuminate this shadowed grief and give it legitimacy?
While questions worthy of posing here, I heeded an inner caution to take time to hold them close inside and steep in their tension. Many times I think about Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, as it reminds me the way to reconciliation and peace “out here,” is to welcome as guest, the “enemy” inside:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Quiet and silence. We’ve been having less these past weeks as our dear Peggy dog, now in her seventeenth year, has developed dementia, compounding her deafness and partial blindness. This means she paces aimlessly through the house, nails tapping on hard wood floors, grating like nails on a chalkboard, or when cordoned off in the kitchen, ceaselessly doing laps around the table. Sometimes we find her standing still, with her head in a corner, or open cupboard, peering into space. Stairways, once agilely manoeuvered, now require our assistance and constant attention so she doesn’t fall. Diapers, baby food to entice her appetite, daily bathing and laundering to keep her clean, rearranging furniture and schedules, all adaptations we’re learning to make to keep safe and attend to this beloved being who has given us years of joyful companionship and wise lessons. “You’re preparing to lose her,” spoke a dear wise woman, affirming my deep sadness, both specific and amplified by the holydays. We anticipate her time will come this year, and I make preparation to welcome that guest into my house.
It’s a grey, flat light morning here on the first day of 2015. Right now, Peggy and our younger dog, Gentle Annie, are quiet and still, sleeping by the space heater as I write and The Scientist peruses financial forecasts. Soon we’ll dress, have brunch, and take a family walk. I’m thinking about my focus for the year ahead, “conscious attendant.” It suddenly popped to mind a few days ago when, after reading my Haligonian heart-sister’s Facebook status, being reminded of her annual practice, I asked for a guiding touchstone. A moment of discouraged disbelief, and then recognition that this so perfectly aligns with how I’ve defined myself “out here”: attending to the inner life, to live and lead with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity, and in which I am growing in comfort and confidence as I practice and value emerging gifts. And to seal it, I discovered this thoughtful post from Parker Palmer about crossing the threshold into a new year. Here, he references a beautiful poem by Anne Hillman, and gives us five beautiful and evocative questions to guide our crossing, and focus my attending:
- How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
- What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
- How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
- Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
- What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?
For the Solstice I wrote this blessing and offer it to you with my sustained love and appreciation as we cross into our new year:
May the gifts of these holydays be yours throughout the coming year…
love of and for your family and friends,
health of body, mind and spirit,
work that sustains and serves,
kindness for self and others, and peace.
May you know and be peace.