A Moment with the “Memory Keeper”

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Another taste of that “good medicine” flowing out during ordinary time is that of visiting the “memory keeper”. Those places in your mind and soul that hold where we’ve been and the lessons we’ve learned. No, not always the big, difficult ones, but the little ones we’ve forgotten we’ve found on the side of the road, like wildflowers picked at just the right moment.

I took a brief trek into my childhood days recently, meandering back in time, climbing up a small hiking path to a white rock at the top of a place in Idyllwild, California, that had some sort of magic or sacredness to it. I recollected the crunch of pebbles against mountain earth beneath my feet, my knees, the feeling of being 11 years old, wide open, and trusting the process, through passages of sweat and naivete. I took the time to try to re-travel that hike from that day, in my mind’s eye, in order to recapture the freshness, the smallness of myself, as well as the places I was and now am in spirit. There was a bit of writing involved as I revisited that moment, and much reflecting, but I found that a side trip with the “memory keeper” was a good idea. It helped re-collect the precious lessons learned at that time and how they translate into this time. It helped me gather some stems of gratitude in my day’s “ordinary” bouquet.

I recommend this. Like staring at clouds, and indulging in moments that others would consider “wasted”, recollecting is making a long term investment in your soul, at least, that’s what I think.

The author, Jamie Sams, once again got me wandering in this delicious direction, and a few words came out of it from my direction:

“In Idyllwild,

was a time we climbed

with scraped kneecaps- tender-boned turtle-shells,

the holy mountain, the white stone, “Skyland”.

We had heard there was a cross there, sacred monument

that scraped the sky and punctured the skin between earth

and heaven. . .

wandering, searching for the intersection of life and death,

the compass rose of sky . . . .

– Gina Marie Mammano

May your memory keeper show you paths bedecked and deckled with wildflowers.

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Good Medicine

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The smooth days of ordinary time are upon us. I’m not talking about a lack of pokes and jabs that comes with the usual surprises of life’s interventions, but on the liturgical calendar we are indeed in what we call “ordinary time.”

I like this. It is a good time, and a great excuse to ponder the ordinary. It is the very reason to nestle into a blue sky clotted with clouds, or indulge in the fine art of slicing and dicing whatever is sitting in your produce bowl with extra attention and hopeless gratitude. It is to me, a reminder, that being human is all of these things, and getting to have the mind to recognize it.

In her book, “The 13 Original Clan Mothers”, Jamie Sams helps revive in me the graceful art of noticing the natural world. Not as chore, but as human delight. In this spirit, a poem was born:

Good Medicine

It is no sin

to sit under the tutelage of clouds

and learn the fine art of rolling and lolling,

your body tumbling under the influence of

a finely-winded blue sky

or shimmering silver

under the influence of rain.

It is no sin

to spend a day with a bag of apples,

aptly fallen not far from its tree, holding each bulb,

taking notice of green skin, yellow skin, red skin,

some mottled, otherworldly. And alternately peel them

for the pot or roll them like bowling balls

into the forest for other wild stomachs.

It is no sin

to massage the fur of a paw-foot friend and stare out into

the sea of nothingness, everythingness,

or to write poems like this one, as the day sinks away.

Somehow, it is in our DNA.

– Gina Marie Mammano

May your ordinary days bring out extraordinary joys.

A wink and a celebration

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Turning again toward the door of autumn, under the lintel of of September, I find it can be an opportunity to seek out celebration. I spoke with a newly made acquaintance the other day who, in the context of learning to live out Pacific Northwest winters, said, “find all the colors in the gray!” A great way to attune your eye to, and celebrate, the awareness of the season you’re living in, I thought.

So I ask myself, what colors can I find in the golden turning of September? Where are the nuances, the subtleties in the spectrum of this new season, or this new season in my life? Your life? The light seems to wink at us this time of year as it passes through leaf-shapes and colors of change. How about a little celebration toward what these changes might have in store for us?

A Celebration Blessing

Now is the time
to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder
of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encourages you to live everything here.

See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.

– John O’Donohue.

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photo by Ginny Schneider

The Threshold Choir: helping others through transitions

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photo by Ginny Schneider

Yesterday, I practiced sitting bedside. There were three of us and our voices created a beautiful moonlike glow of sound all around a friend lying reclined on a living room chair. As the simple songs floated over her, and our voices listened intently to one another, I felt once again even in myself the healing power of song and of creating an ambiance together that helps smooth the path for another from transition to transition, whether it’s from sickness to health, or busyness to slowing down. In this case, we were treating a friend to sweet, calming music after a tiring week, and syncing our voices together to prepare for others who could benefit from this gift.

Music really can help us do that. Our little threshold choir often helps those transitioning from sickness to health, or illness to death, but, really, song has been used for centuries, millennia, to “cover the threshold with flowers”- to lift a child into the realm of sleep, to mark the changes and passages of the day, or to aid a friend, or even ourselves into hopes and reassurances. What song or melody can gently hold your hand through a transition today?

Transitioning into September

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Summer is daintily putting on her September gown, donning a sheath of early winds, as golden leaves are already dropping in small doses like up-dos falling into their autumn tresses. Watching summer transition over into autumn up here in western Washington can be a difficult thing. We waited so long for this warm, bright season, and now we find ourselves bidding farewell to blue skies and longer passages of light, only to wonder when the rain will set in, those long, drippy days, bathed in grey flannel skies.

I found a gentler way to cross this threshold, however, and it includes choice words. Knowing others have tiptoed lightly into September over centuries, millennia, and written about it, for some reason, gives an ounce or two of comfort, and brings beauty to an otherwise dreary passageway.

“The Spirit of Gardening” website at http://www.gardendigest.com/quotes.htm has been just the spoonful of delight that has helped me enjoy this threshold over the last few years. Choose a month, choose a season, and you’ll be treated to snatches of poetry and yummy quotes that hold your hand when nature’s changes come.

How can you resist John Updike’s quote from his poem “September”:

“Like plates washed clean/ With suds, the days/ Are polished with/ A morning haze. 

or “Smoke hangs like haze over harvested fields, The gold of stubble, the brown of turned earth And you walk under the red light of fall . . .” a quote from an Autumn Equinox ritual. How can you not appreciate the turns of season more with such choicely worded offerings!