A Fresh Morning Perspective from a Friend

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I asked the whitebark pine

 

a question, and he said to me,

“aren’t you glad we don’t all talk?”

And in silence he spoke:

a million voices whining, droning in

each other’s ears like a carnival madhouse?

Each leaf, each tendril, each rooty spine spinning

sounds, yabba, yabba, yabba, yabba.

The quiet madness of the mosquito multiplied

more than a million times over?

Aren’t you glad some of us convey

by bark, by bearing, by Being?

Aren’t you glad some of us commune

in the quiet witness of Living?

 

and in Silence, I understood.

 

  • Gina Marie Mammano

Brainstorming: the creative scatterings of imagination

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

In a few weeks I will share the gorgeous tale of a second rite of passage- one for my girl at age 18. The whole thing was a scrumptiously rich smorgasbord plated with small secret plans and large platters of imagination, but like all good things, it took some healthy helpings of daydreaming. Carving out enough space to let the mind wander and meander is the stuff “genius” is made of. How can a person think outside of the box, if he or she doesn’t even know (s)he’s in one? I say, bust out the cardboard sides, lay the corrugation to waste and let the dreams scatter! That’s what I did when brainstorming how to help my daughter traipse across this second bridge to adulthood.

I was actually in an airport with a friend when the broiling creative stew for this event starting bubbling. I believe the phrase “thinking out of the cage” might be more appropriate as bird-themed images were the ones that kept appearing.

“What kind of wisdom can be shared with a “fledgling” adult, who is gently being nudged out of the nest?” I said . . .

“Hmmm . . .  I’m now thinking of images sprinkled around the house of spreading wings and attempting flight . . .” my friend said.

“What if we created a weekend where there was ‘nesting’, ‘taking flight’, and ‘journeying home’?” I said.

“What if we actually made her a nest!” my friend said.

You get the picture. It may sound a little “bird-brained” at first, but it did turn out to be an amazing event. I’ll share it with you in upcoming posts. But think about it. Today, whether building a rite of passage or a gateway to your own future, what tributaries can you follow that trickle, flow, or gush past your own house of cardboard?

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

Sun-honeyed milestones

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What makes certain moments in our lives, “momentous”? You know the ones- those sun-honeyed memories that seem to conjure up all sorts of good things in the stew of your soul. Deep, simmering, rich with multi-dimensional broth. They are not even necessarily “the big ones”: marriage, graduation, childbirth. Sometimes the times that reign large in our souls may appear smaller, even inconsequential to the rest of humanity.

I think the ingredients may be simple. From my own experience in the wilds of being a soulful human, the common denominators seem to be love, awakening, and beauty. I stare into past moments that I savor as milestones in my life, and ask myself, “was it the deep acceptance? the sincere and loving embrace of friendship? the way the sunlight was distilling gold onto the peeling eucalyptus trees? a new experience of myself? all of these?” And I say in reply, “yes, I think so.”

Milestones aren’t always fluted with royal icing or champagne glasses (although I like that, too!), but can be trimmed with a recognizable understanding from eye to eye, “a long loving look at the real” (that phrase courtesy of a good friend and fellow spiritual director), or the gift of pure presence from a fellow traveller, or from Nature Herself, in all of her constantly changing splendor.

What were some of the sun-honeyed milestones of your life?

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Held: a quiet presence

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When we want to support our teen or adolescent, the three-foot wide air of independence they prefer to create as pillow around themselves doesn’t always invite the gifts of assistance and conversation we want to offer them. Rather, it creates more of a bounce house effect where we find ourselves propelled in the other direction, the closer we try to get to them. Transition is hard, and we want to honor our children’s desires for “self-actualization” as well as assist in those areas that feel far far away from any breath of that lofty idea.

The world “held” has come into my sphere over the past couple of years, and what that has come to mean to me is merely, “holding with loving intention.” I know that could sound a bit “woo-woo”, but really, when you focus on a person, child or otherwise, with confidence and love, you give off a certain quality and thickness of air as well. I interpret this space as “welcome”, “trust”, “availability”, “acceptance”. And in my experience (and believe me, there are exceptions), those moments of “holding” tend to draw in, rather than push away. They create a resting pillow rather than a bounce house.

Being “held” can be in itself the loving gift placed on their pillows or tucked into their bedsheets. It doesn’t take the place of meaningful and essential conversation, but it does blanket the spaces in-between with a warmth that oftentimes they can feel during these thresholds of their lives. . . .

Boys to men: “enough is as good as a feast”

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Sometimes a child is more ready for a small, satisfying meal than a banquet. This was true of my son at 18. A meaningful afternoon seemed a more fitting tribute to his growth and the contributions of his mentors, than a weekend away. By creating an event within the parameters of a limited time frame, it was important to think of how to pack those few hours with meaning and affirmation.

First came the guest list. By this time in his life, my son had connected with important people that were from both genders. I thought out of the box (of my usual gender specific rites of passage) and decided to choose men and women. Because he knew about the event, I checked in with him on this one, and he approved.

“What would make a rich impact at this time in his life?” I thought. What came to mind was for these loving and accomplished people to give him two things: an object that symbolizes transition, and a thought or two about who John is now and who they see him becoming. The wonderful and the wildly adventurous showed up: a carabiner that hooked meaning and connection on the side of a cliff for his step-dad and mentor, a bark covered journal brought lovingly from a friend’s native New Zealand to record John’s thoughts, an empty notebook to write down any question at this time in his life to share with a ready and willing mentor/friend, a savored movie that opened up the worlds of meaningful conversation and art and the hope it could do this for my son, too.

And that’s really all it takes. Time. Memory. Meaning. And an extension of ourselves. These are all it takes to set the table for another person’s soul.

White Owl: a poetic song of thresholds

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I sit here in northern New Mexico, while standing on the lip of the end of the month of April, experiencing with you this month’s poetry of the human story, both tragic and triumphant. I reflect on these things while in this great land of red clay and shadow because I, myself have just crossed a threshold. The two year journey of my formal spiritual director’s training has come to an end, and I find myself joined into the larger journey of providing rich opportunities for the safe and the sacred- lovingly held spaces for people to mine the gems of their own souls. The threshold of new vocation or pathway is also a sacred “rite of passage”.  I’d like to share with you a portion of the lyrics from a Josh Garrells song, entitled “White Owl.” It is a song (and a poem) that has became dear to me as I have gingerly tiptoed across the many changes occurring presently in my own life.  Enjoy and dip into the imagination of the colors of this song and your own current threshold; “take the flame tonight.” For an even richer experience, check out the video as well:

White Owl
When the night comes,
and you don’t know which way to go
Through the shadowlands,
and forgotten paths,
you will find a road

Like an owl you must fly by moonlight with an open eye,
And use your instinct as a guide, to navigate the ways that lay before you,
You were born to, take the greatest flight

Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love
To carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow
Every hollow in the dark of night
Waiting for the light
Take the flame tonight

Child the time has come for you to go
You will never be alone
Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm

Like a messenger of peace, the beauty waits be released
Upon the sacred path you keep, leading deeper into the unveiling
As your sailing, across the great divide . . .

Be wrapped in the warmth of love and peace . . . .

Small Rites Bites: poem, to be 13

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photo by Ginny Schneider

Another great “rite of passage” poem added to my collection, perhaps now to yours. It captures the vulnerability of that in-between time, that liminal space, that threshold between childhood and adulthood. The awkwardness, the newness, the silent floating question, “so, do I now sit at the kids’ table or the adults’ table?” We all know that moment deep down inside, Bruce Guernsey has been able to capture a bit of it for us . . . .

June Twenty-first

Bruce Guernsey

My mother’s cigarette flares and fades,

the steady pulse of a firefly,

on the patio under the chestnut.

The next door neighbors are over.

My father, still slender, is telling a joke:

laughter jiggles in everyone’s drinks.

On his hour’s reprieve from sleep,

my little brother dances

in the sprinkler’s circle of water.

At fourteen, I’m too old

to run naked with my brother,

too young to laugh with my father.

I stand there with my hands in my pockets.

The sun refuses to set,

bright as a penny in a loafer.