Walking the Coyote Rim of Love

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“Spirited Coyote” courtesy of the artist: Gretchen Grunt. gretchengrunt.com

The other night, miming the glass-box in the middle of my own vortex, trying to find my way out, I was drawn to Coyote. A few years back, on a lonely, ship-wrecked night, his solitary howl mirrored my own sorrow so well, that I have never forgotten it, and have always been grateful to that mysterious trickster-prowler who paces under a curtain of stars ever since.

I find sometimes the centrifugal force of my own life pulls me into itself roundly and voraciously. It can even be benevolent things that cause this: deeply wanting to help someone I love who is in need, listening intently, attentively, and graciously to another, engaging myself in the life of someone who could use a companion, but somehow I find myself at the center, the vortex, nonetheless.

And then, I remember my friend, Coyote. Dear Coyote. Coyote who walks and wanders at the edges of things. Coyote, who laughs wholeheartedly from the outside rim. Coyote who howls with blood curdling empathy from the hills beyond. Coyote, who knows how to stay out of the center, but at the heart.

This is a good lesson for me. My contribution to life and to people can be meaningful, empathetic, and soul-felt, but also more from a place of holding, arms surrounding and circling, gently observing, edge-walking, rather than swirling inside the center, finding it hard to breathe. I don’t have to place myself in the middle of the drama. I can actually contribute more by being in that inside-outside space. That Coyote space, roaming the hills, looking for ways to help, empathize, assist, but also carving out space for myself, a place to hear the stars breathe, and know the pulse of my own heartbeat.

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Second Rite of Passage Reflection: Ginny, the most memorable moment?

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“When I try to pull moments and events from my 18th rite of passage in order to categorize one or another as the most impactful or the most important, I can’t really. You see, they’re all woven into one experience and to separate them would be to unravel the thread and see something different altogether. So I was stumped, I couldn’t think of what would be the superlative moment; I didn’t know what to pick without picking all of it. But as I started to let the question settle in me the answer reverberated back in patches of color and sounds and gestures that conformed into many shapes, women shapes, Karmyn and Nancy shapes, Mom and Sharon and Jessie, Maril and Tricia shapes. Yeah, they were the best part. I guess I realized that I loved them not only because they were a part of my heritage, my mom’s support that was passed down to me, but that they represented a wonderful, colorful, real diversity of women.

Lately I get paralyzed with the idea of becoming an adult. Suddenly the freedom of choices and opportunity to trail blaze that so enthralled me when I was younger now stare me down and dare me to make the first move; and I feel like I’m shrinking. Like I’m going to implode. Sometimes the pressure around my head and heart is so tight I feel like I’m fighting my way through a birth canal that’s too small, and it is pushing me out regardless, as each approaching season brings another contraction, another inch closer to entering a new country- I don’t know where. I feel trapped by the bifurcation of where I will “inevitably” exist and live in for the next forty years. I know that this is hyperbolic, dichotomized, falsely, I hope, but it still feels that way a lot of the time.

But more than the events and projects, spontaneous dancing and art making, it’s the handful of women around me that gives me courage and better yet, a passion for my adulthood to come. They’re all so different, so dynamic and wholly themselves, creating life around them and for themselves that in their adulthood reflects their own unique passions, pursuits, and persons. Of course they, like everyone else, carry their younger selves in them still, but they didn’t get stuck at 18 or 20, they took her with them and stepped forward through one day at a time, and then they arrived-or rather are still arriving-at this other country called adulthood. It’s their specific and unique lifestyles and personalities that show me that my own life can and will be fashioned into something courageous, beautiful, and my own.”

– Ginny

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Second Rite of Passage: a keepsake

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The next rite of passage offering was gifted by an artist. A chance to play in fields of color; a chance for our hands to dive and swim in mulberry paper and magazines.

On the table, made of oilcloth, Ginny was told to pick out a palate of colors: gossamer blue, feathery green, spring sprout, geranium, Grand Canyon, gentle eggplant, sedate lavender, and jungle trail. Those were the choices she made. The palette was set.

Each woman was given a wooden plaque. “There are a few rules to creating a community art project,” Nancy announced. “And I want to remind everyone, though each will be making an individual piece, it is about Ginny and her palette.”  It will all be unified in the end.

On the table is a sea of wrapping paper. Painted paper. Pictures. Words written 80 years ago in longhand on old letters. Maps. Mod Podge glue. A large well-used paint brush.

There is placing and choosing. Picking and tearing and reconstructing. In an hour or so, we were finished. We then are asked to share with Ginny our decoupaged gifts to her.

“Mine has a swirl in a sea of pink because when I think of Ginny, I think of whimsy. But I chose the words, ‘wonder’ and  ‘a sweet white dress’ in handmade scrawl because there’s also innocence and wonder about her.”

“I chose a plover, because they dig deep. Ginny digs deep.”

“I made a river, because Ginny forges her own path.”

“Mine contains a cross and the quote: ‘when the eagle soars in the endless blue, its shadow races after, far below. Yet space does not divide; bird and shadow are linked. So each act-each choice and consequence.”

“I’m going to bawl. I wrote ‘raised to the light,’ because I know Ginny’s history and I know, she’s been continually raised to the light. When we were meditating, I had the image of a plant twisting upward, to the light, like Ginny.  There were some hard years in her past. She stands before us today, a miracle—a child raised to the light!  I included green growing shapes, and a thrust of color upward.”

“Deliberate. I want to do things in a deliberate way,” Ginny saidregarding the purple and white collage she made with the bits of deckled paper going over the edges.

“Explore. I see the maps and the possibilities and the feather-leaf as light as flight. Explore.”

Nine plates of color, meaning, and collaged interpretations of what Ginny is to eight different women. Soon it will be a centerpiece for tonight’s dinner table.

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First rite of passage reflection: collecting rite words

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a place for inspiration: afternoon light in a chapel in Plain, WA

On my search for the “rite” words to inspire me and others on this creative journey toward a meaningful mentored celebration for my daughter, I wish I would have come across this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

But I didn’t. There were pale samplings of written fare that spoke about painful rites practiced on girls over the centuries. There were interesting menstruation rituals I looked at quite shyly. And there were more luscious ceremonies like those in India where girls are given a new sari, sprinkled with fragrant water, and donned with a crown of flowers. But none of these were traditions embedded in our own experiences, our own culture (and at times, I admit I was grateful). I was looking for something not beautiful and borrowed, but something that resonated in the caverns of our own sense of places and spaces, here, where we are living.

Our culture, or at least my culture, didn’t have a precedent for rites of passage, so creating my own seemed like a good place idea. Perhaps my daughter would pass our new traditions on to her own daughter someday, and on and on until new traditions became established, familiar, even cherished ones. When you start from scratch on most anything, you have to  brush the top layers away until you get to rockbed. And rockbed for me was touched upon by asking these types of questions: what kind of gathering would allow for the sharing of stories to ease the pain of being alone in the adolescent years? what gifts of wisdom would be most worthwhile to Ginny? how can I craft an experience that allows her to walk away feeling loved, affirmed, and more clear-eyed in gazing at who she truly is? how can I provide a fun and exuberant release so our time together is not excessively heavy?

These questions and thoughts were the touchstones to ponder. They would help form the new words I’d be sculpting from. I would eventually collect and add others on: symbol, feasting, keepsake, music, blessing. I would look to these key thoughts to be my inspiration to hold closely in the desire to share extravagantly with my daughter the riches of being a woman at the nascency of this rare and precious journey.

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hand painted peace flags dancing in the wind