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
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Giving Thanks in the Diorama of the Day

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“We are each surrounded by an enormous silence that can be a blessing and a help to us, but from which we often turn away in dread and fear, a silence in which the skein of reality is knitted and unraveled to be knit again, in which the perspective of a work or a life or a relationship can be enlarged and enriched. Silence is like a cradle holding our endeavors, our will and our understanding in ways that allow them to grow and thrive; a cultivated and silent spaciousness sustains us and at the same time connects us to larger worlds that, in the busyness of our daily struggle to achieve, we have yet to investigate. Silence is fearful exactly because in its spacious depths lies both the soul’s sense of rest and its possible break for freedom.”

Taken from Adapted from Crossing the Unknown Sea:Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by David Whyte

If I am carving out silence right now. I am enjoying the patterns of light creating joyful ghosts of illumination on the piano in my living room that the sun in companionship with the remnant storm are making. I am aware of a limited time set up to sit in this silent spaciousness. Awareness feels so important. So does gratitude. I am aware of the green statue sitting across from me- a long-haired lady also being touched by the sunlight, her candle holder glowing this time, not with fire, but with light. I am aware of the shimmering, sizzling shadows created by the shivering tree branches outside.

I am also aware of the potential. A guitar sitting in the corner. A notebook of songs. There is a sacredness here.in the silence. Is this what life is all about?

For this moment, yes. I guess each moment is crafted differently, in its own holiness. I am in the bowl of my living room. A hollow of holiness. It is a living sculpture where light can dance with shadow. It is a shadow box. It is a diorama. And I am in it. I am a living sculpture sitting and noticing the things that dance and play on this stage. Sometimes I will dance, and sometimes I will watch, eyes glowing, heart leaping in the audience. And yet, I still get to be a part of it all. Wherever I bring myself, there I am. The diorama of the day.

What does the Mandala of your soul look like?

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I am gazing at a picture of a beautiful mandala made entirely of stones. Each one is painted differently. Some with curly fronds, others with symmetrical floral knots, but all silhouettes of the natural world. The center is a lacy confection of white designs feathered onto a brown rock, reminiscent of gingerbread. I don’t usually think of mandalas this way. Rock and stone. Silhouettes and gingerbread. I usually see painted glowing swirls of geometrics, looking luminous and celestial on a shaving of paper or a sheet of canvas. But I look at this one and think, “why not?” What does the mandala of my soul look like? What illumination do the interiors create for me and others at this moment? Is it a gingerbread stone, bringing complexity and joy all at once to my own self, then fingering them out through gifts of awareness of beauty to those around me? Is mine a windy labyrinth where trust is illuminated only one footstep at a time, but you can hear the pulse and voice of birdsong over the twisting walls, radiating both toward and away from me? Is it a field of fallen leaves creating an overlapping pattern of both life and death, beginnings and endings, sugar maple red, and rich compost brown, delicately trailing paths of newness and rebirthing all around?

 

What is the mandala of your soul today?

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.

The Threshold of Negative and Positive

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I am looking at a line of trees. Sharp shapes in shadow, fringed and filled in with light. Negative and positive space.

When I look at the beauty of both negative space and positive space, I am taken by surprise. The darkness brings delineation. Line. Shape. In this case, trunks of tall, tall trees in shadow. The leafy tufts themselves are also part of the positive space, but add a tinge of color, a softness. It is the light that is the negative space. White with hints of blue. It appears to hold the space for the line drawings of trees. Both seem necessary. All positive space would lead to nearly pure darkness. All negative space would be formless light. I, too, am trying to understand, or dare say, accept my own positive and negative spaces. The parts I see, the solid, chirping fingers on the keyboard. The internals that sing when I move towards love. The open spaces in myself that I don’t know about yet. The lulls in wisdom. The terrible stillness that somehow leads to peace.

 

May I, this day, embrace my positive spaces, and accept, with open heart, my negative ones.

Timeless in Ordinary Time

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Many Native Americans call those things that are nourishing, healing, and wisdom-giving, available to us in the natural world “medicine”. I like this way of seeing because that implies that a spoonful of cure, a helping of wisdom and encouragement is always around us.

I went for a walk early this afternoon, watching the maple leaves whirling down from their attachments, glowing with autumn sun, and thought, “medicine”. Detaching and surrendering into the free fall, the provision of sun and sky, the knowledge of ground warm and certain beneath, and even playing as you go is indeed medicine.

I noticed the reemergence of blackberries as I continued to walk. A lovely surprise after seeing them dry up and wither at summer’s end, just a few weeks ago. Medicine. The surprise re-gathering of our own juices to produce fruit after a time of dormancy gives me hope.

By the end of my walk, the sun was back in full swing, after a morning of chill and heavy grey clouds. This, too, was an elixir. Not only for my body, but for my soul, during this “ordinary time”. The idea that change is always constant- a grey sky gives birth to a sunny day, and a sunny day can curl up under the cover of clouds- can be encouraging when things aren’t going as we would like them to go. At these times, change can be a welcome friend.

What medicine can you find in your own path today?

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.