We Are Not Our Small Stories

Outside my window there are planes passing overhead, marching in straight, sleepy lines from one crowded dream into another. When I stop and listen I can feel the tumbling and sucking of the Pacific. 

Until I paused I had been very far away from this prickly, tired city with its now-scarce rolling hills, scrub oak thickets, and dry stream beds. 

I had been seven years old, driving west across the colorado plateau at sunset. Peering out in hushed reverence through the sticky windows of my family’s mini-van, toward a mysterious and beckoning horizon of stacked, crimson sandstone… out across streaming prairie grasses that glowed like tiny lanterns with the exhale of day. 

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These were my favorite times when our whiney restlessness gentled itself to the awe of evening as if something much larger than our boredom, and our petty pestering began to press in through the windows, and whorl up from the vents like the red, tangy dust of this place.  

These were the times when it happened. 

These were the times when the little girl in the van in the springtime of her life slipped through the crack of her own becoming and dreamt an audacious dream. And though it may have looked to my family that there in the same seat I remained, as young ones are aught to do I followed my longing into a world that seemed always to be awaiting my readiness.

In my imagination I sat astride a magnificent stallion - larger than you might have seen before, his great dark body contoured golden and rippling like a night fire on water. I laid flat and bare on his back, slick with sweat and trembling alive, drawing into me his musky, salted scent.

The rootlets of his mane blended with my dark hair, leaping and whirling in tangled eddies along the rivered banks of the wind. I felt my frenzied heartbeat and the wildfire burning in my eyes, as I felt the beast of his animal body pounding the earth like a great drum. 

Each step a thundered prayer.

This vision has hunted me for years. Always returning at sunset. Always in places where water hides, and the blood red bones of rock whisper their secrets of lives made full and rich and holy.

Still, it took me years to know… 

I am that stallion running west into the night. 

I am the golden sun that folds the heartbreak of day into dusk. I am the whipping wind that lashes relentlessly the sweetest of new skin. I am the little girl who dreams of freedom. I am tenderness and beauty, and the terrible immensity of earth and sky.

We are not the small stories that press our days with vacant pettiness. No. We are something more akin to that stallion, running on behalf of life, carrying awe and innocence as a gift of possibility laid bare for all to see. 

I once heard an elder say we, humans, are holy amnesiacs. We forget in order to remember again. When I slip sideways into the sunset, I remember this wildness in you, and in me. 

I remember my own thundered prayer.

I remember the biggest dream.

And when I inevitably forget there is always the twilight that bends toward the simple truth worth living… ever-awaiting our readiness.

On Dying Magnificently

The buffalo carcass had been there for many moons before I found it. From the ridge it looked as if the whole divot of earth between myself and the far forested slope was holding that regal being in the basin of its body...reaching up to support its last and greatest act of generosity. The grass was stamped down in widening circles around the beached ribcage that echoed still with rank breath; curving past a hoof the size of both my fists together, to caress in gentle, pastured strokes the astounding, still-furred-and-horned head.

The air near the clearing was thick with presence as if the trees and the grasses and the little bones that were scattered all around my feet could not un- see the feast they had seen. Made richer, perhaps, or more full themselves having witnessed the stunning beauty of one that left this place in a good way.

I pulled out my flute to offer a song, and as I did so I remembered my grandmother just before she died. Her solid mountain presence...her spitfire and her blaze...and the way she had said so matter-of-factly; “I’m done. It’s been great. Let me die already!” and she meant it.

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When she left this earth I was in Mexico on a beach in the Yucatán. I walked into the waves with my clothes on and remember now how acutely I felt my aliveness. The cool, lapping water on my traveled ankles, the intimate contours of eventide, the steadiness of my heart even in full break...and I opened my voice and yelled out to her - to those who leave this place in a good way - a messy vow that I could never un-say. As ribboned fire streaked the darkening sky, I smiled and nodded.

She heard.

One time on a beach near San Diego I sat and watched a juvenile sea lion emerge like a wobbly Venus from the sea foam. Her deep, pooled eyes caught my gaze and held.

We exchanged histories.

As I walked back to my shoes a surfer gestured her way and told me about the warming water and the scarce fish...he told me that they come to this beach to die. And I looked back at her, and she at me, and I bowed my head and I let the tears come because that’s all I could do. For days I felt alive in my wailing and knew it to be a parting gift.

I have not been able to un-see what I saw in these wild encounters with a part of life too often hidden away.

And I still wonder how I might need to live in order to leave this place in a good way...

How I might learn from the leaves in the autumn, and from the ebb of the waning moon, and from my wild body how to surrender myself more fully to the life that is mine to live with its agony and its ecstasy...how to love the world enough to give it all away...how I might set down my tired smallness to begin to die magnificently.

And that feels risky. And that feels right. 

I belong to this urban wilderness...

The crows are constant companions here on fourth street. They love the large New Zealand Christmas Tree in my front yard, as they love the telephone pole and the great Bermuda palm that knows no end to vertical. The family of squirrels that dart up and down in displays of unwavering courage remain indifferent to their raucous crepuscular cawing…their constant crowding and bullying. The Malaysian Figs that line the street of my Los Angeles neighborhood have grown so tall that their branches reach over the black swath of pavement we call a road to touch each other tenderly. Hummingbirds buzz about the Lemon Bottlebrushes, and last spring I had a long conversation with a Merlin Hawk just around the corner. The first one I’d ever met. 


Turns out we’re neighbors.   


People ask me how it is to live in a city that does not have four seasons…those people have not walked the beach in the fall, when the coastline becomes a global migratory seabird summit. Little tufted gulls and skipping sandpipers dodge engorged pelicans and the occasional jet black raven…all gabbing, and feasting on seaweed and sandflies, fish, and jellies. 


They have not been swept away by the utter brilliance of the lilac Jacarandas in full bloom in April, nor, do I imagine, have they stood under them when an offshore wind picks up to dance in purple scented flower showers. 


They have perhaps not paid attention to the way the light bends in the winter, diffuse and heavy to the ground, and so entirely unlike the sharp crack of summer’s shine. 


I love it when the fog comes in at dawn when inland begins to broil. Just a few of us are out then; the dog walkers and the surfers running barefoot towards their beloved, and the Bottlenose dolphins that coast lazily along the shore, visible at times through the great tunnels of water that remind all of us just how untamable the Pacific really is, despite our manicured beaches and imported sand.

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Just yesterday a Pygmy Owl, chased by those damn crows again, knocked herself out cold on my window. I wept and sang to her until she roused to touch me with her large yellow eyes. Embarrassed - but not without gratitude, she flew on, and I too felt renewed and alive. 


The earth beneath reminds me how to pray. Her rumblings gentle my heart though it took me awhile to open to the staggering presence of earth here; to stop saving up my awe, and wonder for less inhabited landscapes. I had to learn to let this place into me - the Verbena and the possums, and the little caterpillars that eat my Bougainvillea… just as I have had to learn how to feel my own wildness; to let that one of me touch the world I have created for myself… to let her break my aloneness. 


Sometimes at night I wake up hot and tangled and go to window to press my ear against the screen. The Pygmy owl is there, and the possum. The waves crash in the moonlit distance, louder than I expect. These moments in my stillness and my mess when I just sit and breathe and feel, I know… we’re not so different.


Even here - especially here…we belong to each other.

Wildflower & Wolf Song

I’ve found a backdoor where we can skip the names that keep things small.

This door is worn and rusty. Its hinges screech only halfway - not heard or seen where the sun flirts the land bright-eyed in promise of comfortable becoming, but at night, and under, where the creatures are belly to the earth and amorphous. Where one’s senses become heightened by the thick presence of mystery, and hairs stand on end with the holy.

The door is so ancient it has been swallowed by the landscape around it. To see it you must offer yourself first to the rhythmic swirl of earth where you too will be humbled by the elements that hold shape and structure and allow it to flux and change both.

Behind the door I found the moose skull in a circle of dead cottonwood trees, bleached white from the sun - the skull and the trees both. In the eye socket a tiny purple Pacific Aster gazed yellow and piercing like the wolves here. The skull had been watching me with its flower eyes as I came upon the circle, so stark in death amidst life that it pulled off the impossible task of disappearing in plain sight, and I had to look twice to see. It had been watching me as I danced for those great mountains, whose peaks, regal and dangerous, rose out of the lakes like a rough Aphrodite.

I placed my hand on the skull. The dome of bone sloped up and over, ridge- like, to fit just-so in the trembling hollow of my palm.

I heard a noise behind me and my blood rose. At the edge of the river on the far bank appeared an adult female moose, brethren to the calcified one under my hand. All legs and nose, she was breathtaking in her ironic delicacy, combing the water’s edge for reeds and roots. A riparian beast built like rickety geometries; all vertices and lines and angular slopes, but moving like water, as she has learned to do in her apprenticeship over the years.

Her apparition felt important. The purple flower in the eye socket wavered its consent and from then forth, I carried that skull with me as I wandered the land picking up pieces of me where they lay.

It was in this place of wildflower and wolf song that I was bestowed a task I cannot name well. It slipped into my bones through a hole in my heart, so well guarded I had long forgotten it was there. The way the waters offered themselves in oxbow bends and suck-you-under baptismal currents began t soften the lion I kept inside. And maybe for the first time ever the grief and the rage loosed from their paddock to tumble through the cob-webbed corridors of my body... like the wild and holy emissaries they are. I awakened to my living ache with a moose-mirrored vow - awkward, and awful.

And now, back inside these four walls, woven into the urban wilderness that many of us call home I need to return to the door more regularly to remember...

...to keep my toes in the dark current.

...to place my hand on that warm bone again.

There is a tension in the tasks we are moved to live for. I’m talking about the real tasks that, as Rilke said, come up from the “deep place from which your life flows," that you cannot ignore. These are the tasks that ask you to lay down your small largeness and assume the form of the eternal, inky black with promise. They are the ones calling out to you from behind hidden doorways and in signs and symbols placed just-so like flower eyes in bone sockets and watery moose movements.

These are the tasks that cannot really be explained or ever completed but in whose courtship burgeons a vitality and purpose unimaginable until tasted, radical on the palate, and alluringly dangerous like snow-shrouded mountains at dawn, or the rush of river over moss rock.

I am learning that full living happens in the tension of what is seen and offered, touchable and tangible on the outside for our people, and what is hidden and dangerous, wraith-like, slippery with ecstasy, on the inside.

I am tasked with holding this tension.

And staying true to it. A woman arguably ruined by the knowing of a radically inhabited life. And all I can do is be with the task and sit in silence and smile a small smile when the crows start up outside my window in cacophonous choirs and do my best to let myself feel unbearably awake. It is the path of the untamed, hole-riddled heart.

If I know one thing I know this...and you will know it too when it is your time; some of us are not content to fall asleep while the world, in its wild way, dances on. 

On Wolf and Wildness

 

Picture a she-wolf. Green-eyed, and grey-toned. Her long, lean limbs smattered ombre with mud from the nights rain. Her coat keeps a cadence with the wind as she travels. She catches a scent and lifts her head, a moment of pause. The forest is still but for the birds in the treetops, calling out to one another. Her paws are tender on the earth. 

She is not aware you are watching.

The forest is her world. A land of greens and golds, tawny red and dappled light. At night she sees the moon at its zenith, reaching out past tall pine pyramids. She smells the storms coming a long way off. She tilts her head at twilight and offers in sound the deep place from which her life flows.  Her erie howls are not romantic to her, they are not strange, or rare, or something to awe or fear. Rather her song is simply hers to sing in the symphony of sounds that make her world; the scattering of mice, the hoot of an owl, the soft rustle of a doe at the river bank.

Everything, everything is alive.

The wolf has become an iconic symbol for wild women. Countless lost to ranching, farming, hunting and the wide-spread colonization of her habitat, she is a being in exile. All that she gifts the world trembles precariously on the edge of being and being-no-longer. Maybe its the way she reminds us of what is at stake… and of what has already been lost.

Or perhaps it is her forest habitat that stirs us so strongly. The dark wood of light and shadow, twisting with game trails and hidden footpaths. Here there are too many opportunities to take a wrong turn; and yet still some part of us is drawn like moths to the sweet smell of earth and rot. To the fecund embrace of dark. Maybe we each have wondered in secret longing-terror, is the forest where I belong?

But the terror itself is too-often enough to disavow the still small voice, and stay, however small, caught in the web of consumption and forgetfulness. It’s not your fault. The way we perceive ourselves as separate, and removed from the enchanted world of doe and wolf is a sickness that you inherited of which you are only now coming to understand both the cause and the cure.

The she-wolf turns and looks right at you. You recognize in that instant you share the same color eyes. Green, like the underside of Alder leaves, like the lake in the spring, like the dried and chipping paint off the shed in the yard. You lock in. Eons pass. You don’t breathe, fearing – all of sudden – for your life. You make a small sound that you weren’t aware of making. The moment passes. She moves into the shadows and you, to the light. You’re trembling now, doing your best to convince yourself out of what you saw there in those eyes…just a trick of the imagination, nothing more.

But the forest itself seems to lean toward you, utterly still. Waiting. Waiting? The trembling in your bones increases. You clasp your hands to keep them still. The world around you tilts and some small fissure in the veneer of your village self cracks under the pressure. Then the tears come and you know why you were afraid. This will change everything.

You let your wracked body be an oblation to what remains wild. As you fall a deep guttural sound begins low in your belly gaining in strength and tenor. Despite yourself it leaves your lips, a typhonic force of nature that might only be called love. The wind responds through the trees. You know what you saw. There is no denying it.

Everything, everything is alive.

The War Against the Imagination

The only war that matters is the war against the imagination / all other wars are subsumed in it. - Diane Diprima

We live in a time of uncharacteristic change. A tumultuous moment of increasing complexity that has all of us stretching the way we participate in nearly every life arena. It is a time where adaptability and flexibility are a prerequisite to navigating personal and social change with skill and intention. We face an opportunity to either lean in to meet the emerging future, or regress back to old familiar (if dysfunctional) patterns at nearly every crossroads. We are at the threshold, in a crucible of change - no longer what we were, but not yet what we are becoming.

These are liminal times, and require liminal capabilities.

One such resource that has long been exiled in contemporary western culture is the power of our deep imagination. This way of knowing lends us the archetypal feminine capacity to perceive possibility, to lead from the unknown, and to be in direct, participatory relationship with the forces of creativity. 

It is this window of perception that demands we think outside the bounds of the social agreements that define our cultural shoulds and shouldnts, and to trust our wisdom as women in leadership. 

It is this mysterious force that shapes our development during our early years, and mediates between what we know and can touch, and what we don’t yet know, and can’t yet see. The imagination is the part of us that can build a bridge from our interior world, to our shared experience. It is the imagination that allows for intimacy - in both our human relationships, and with the larger dreaming of the earth. Human beings are designed to be visionary, and to trust the images, and dreams that rise up from under; the intuitions that slip past our strategic minds…

In pre-agrarian, matrilineal societies the individual was understood in the context of a matrix of relationships with both the seen and the unseen. Anne Baring in The Dream of the Cosmos explains that the Goddess was personified as " an immense matrix or web of relationships through which spirit and nature, the invisible and the visible dimensions of the life of the Cosmos, were connected with each other."  

Today, women all over the world are insisting on the recognition of our full humanity, bringing connection and relationship into the conversation in the boardroom, at home, and as a global community. In fact, our inborn capacity to be in communion with another is becoming more and more a necessary part of the wider conversation of conscious leadership. 

Evolutionary cosmologist Brian Swimme reminds us that our longings, fears and desires, (particularly at the crossroads where fear and longing merge), are invitations to consciously participate in the larger unfolding of our time. In other words, our imagination is a mediator between what is arising from the heart of our cosmos, and what is needed here now. To me, this means that our desires, and our fears are not a solitary phenomenon, but an invitation to lean in, be shaped and birth the new.

It reminds me that the imagination is inherently participatory, as it weaves us into the world of relationships where things are not inert or unintelligent objects, but rather full of life, movement, meaning, autonomy. The same is true for images and insights that rise up from our own depths. If we were able to suspend the reductionistic view that has dominated western thought for centuries, we may be able to admit to ourselves that the source of such imagery is deeply mysterious and entirely autonomous. 

If this were true for us; how may we mold and shape our world?  What capacities could we develop as a species that need be here now, at this precipitous time? 

As Einstein so famously said:

We can’t solve problems

by using the same kind of thinking we used

when we created them.

Women, I encourage you to pay attention to your longings and fears - to the dreams that surprise you, the visions you have at night, and the images that are rising up to guide you. There is an intelligence there you can trust. And when more and more of us say yes to inhabiting the edge of own creativity, which is also the edge of the creativity of the cosmos, we will truly lead from future possibility - the possibility that just may midwife us into a world of thriving - for ourselves and for future generations to come.

 

 

Join Laura in an exploration of feminine leadership in The Red Thread Mystery Journey. The Red Thread is an intimate, application-only yearlong designed for women of all ages and backgrounds that fosters a ritual container for personal and cultural transformation. The portal is open for a select few who heed the call. We begin on the New Moon, April 26th 2017.

Be one of 19 women who commit to exploring what it means to be fully human and fully WOMAN, and who support each other in inhabiting our primary place of belonging.  

This work is NOT for everyone and is not another workshop. It is a vow to leaning in to the way Mystery is inviting you to shift shape and grow so that you can be in your fulness as you offer to the world.

Because there are spaces for only 20 women for the full year, an application and a discovery call with Laura is required. Book here : https://calendly.com/lauralp/redthread/

BE the solution. Offer your gifts to your people. Lead from soul. Call home the hidden gifts of the feminine. This is the kind of leader the world needs now. Will you join your sisters? www.therhythmway.com/the-red-thread

 

Courting the Beloved

A quiet, strong voice, barely perceptible curves its way over my skin like water over moss rock, like red lipstick, like the smell of wet Jasmine.  Beloved….beloved

Inside my heart it is twilight and the shadows long. The last bit of heat from the summer sun radiates off the red rocks of my hidden self. There, down the sandy path, I can make out the day-old tracks of some large animal. Perhaps it is this beast who inhabits my body in breathy pants and guttural moans in moments when I forget myself. This one of me slips out sideways.

I follow the scent of Jasmine, and the large animal tracks, and the lengthening shadows. I feel as I do with a new lover. Both hungry for contact, and terrified. Drawn by a lure much, much stronger than me, farther and farther away from land I recognize.

I realize I can’t stop. I’ve come too far. I’ve fallen in too deeply. There’s something about the way the evening breeze moves through me that warms my blood. I notice - everything - as if it were new. Every bloom and cacti. Every sound. The beauty-shape the whole makes together. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - that could turn me around. I am fully, totally, and completely undone. Naked to the very forces that beckon me onward.

All is foreign to me now, down that sandy path, and around the corner of my consenting self. The twilight has surrendered to the night. I look at my hands. They tremble in the dark. Whatever it is, this force - it’s changing me…slipped past the armour of my heart to touch the deepest part of me. A force I can only call… love.

I challenge you sisters, to expand your capacity for romance to include the world, the hidden corners of yourself, and the longing-pain of your destiny. 

Intimacy is always the invitation at Mystery’s hand… Romance invites us into the cauldron of change, the alchemical fire, and the yearning of the heart to go where we’ve never been. To grow, to be initiated into the Mysteries of the soul, we must enter a process of change so fully it fills our bodies, and cracks us open. The Beloved of you initiates you into both ecstasy and agony…he will break you, and redeem you.

The Inner Beloved is our guide to soul that invites us to romance and be romanced by the world; to follow our allurements, our fears, and our desires into a place of intimacy with all we don't know. Here we turn on in a meeting of equals, in the embrace of forces much larger than ourselves, and in doing so, are guided into profound depths of our own.

Knowing the Beloved will also return to your human partner their humanity. For they, our fellow humans, will never be able to see you to your soul - that part of you is a river, always in flow. Our human partners - our lovers, our husbands, our wives, will never be able to deliver you to your destiny. They will never love you impeccably.  They will never, ever complete you. They, unlike the prince in the fairy tale, will never awaken you to your sovereignty as queen. No my dear sisters, this is not their task. It is yours.

 

Join Laura in courting the Beloved in The Red Thread Mystery Journey. The Red Thread is an intimate, application-only yearlong designed for women of all ages and backgrounds that fosters a ritual container for personal and cultural transformation. The portal is open for a select few who heed the call. We begin on the New Moon, April 26th 2017.

Be one of 19 women who commit to exploring what it means to be fully human and fully WOMAN, and who support each other in inhabiting our primary place of belonging.  

This work is NOT for everyone and is not another workshop. It is a vow to leaning in to the way Mystery is inviting you to shift shape and grow so that you can be in your fulness as you offer to the world.

Because there are spaces for only 20 women for the full year, an application and a discovery call with Laura is required. Book here : https://calendly.com/lauralp/redthread/

More information :  www.therhythmway.com/the-red-thread

The Many Voices of the Feminine

Make no mistake dear one, you are whole.

You have never been broken.

You were never meant to be fixed.

No, you, with the kind heart, and the trembling hands, and the downturned eyes are a force of nature even at your weakest - capable of shaping and being shaped. Without you - the fullness of you, we all lose. 

It’s true, there are undoubtedly aspects of you that less than savory - that cause destruction and pain. There are parts of you that tremble with fear at the thought of showing up as the person you know yourself to be deep down. There are voices of you who have your protection in mind. Who are conspiring right now to go on protecting you from this world - with its harsh need to change you, as Mary Oliver says. These ones of you that show up when you are afraid, triggered, insecure, unsure, powerless…they are holy for having saved your life. 

There are also parts of you that rise up from under…from an ancient wellspring of wisdom known by countless names, and recognized in a myriad of forms - symbolized and mythologized for the power they carry - for what they evoke in you and in the world.  For what they are capable of. The Sophia, the Ancient Feminine, the Goddess, the Great Round, the patterns and fluctuations of Gaia herself, the storm as it moves across the landscape, the sunlight on the seed that cracks the shell. The path the moon makes on the ocean of the soul.

These eternal and formidable forms are nothing you are not.

To believe yourself to be singular is a travesty - one born of a world that categorizes and reduces the realm of the internal/eternal to a science of psycho-pathology. One that fears paradox, contradiction, complexity and potential. One that wants to tell you that if parts of you don’t agree, you are sick. That you need help. That you can’t do it alone. That you need to be “healed”.

But the ancient voices of you, those that are creeping out from behind veiled walls of shoulds and shouldnts want to remind you they are just as much a part of you. They want to remind you of a relational capability you carry in your bones and blood that predisposes you to intimacy. 

They ask that you come to know them, these voices. That you apprentice to them, that you call upon them. That you learn how they move through you. They want to teach you what it means to stand in the world in wholeness, fully resourced from the inside out. They want to pick up and hold the ones of you that still feel you need protecting. The voices that criticize, that rebel, that manipulate, that cower, that are forever encouraging you to escape your destiny. The ancient forces of you, and of this earth, can hold even the ones of you that need to lean in to your rage and your grief and your deepest, darkest wounding.

I call to the Great Mother of you who nurtures the world without giving herself away. I call to the Wild Woman of you who belongs to the earth and her body and to the depth of her emotions. I call to the Maiden and to the Wise Woman of you who can see the big picture and find joy in heartache and pain. I cry out to the Dark Goddess of you who hasn’t been invited to the party in a long, long, too-long time…this one of you who guides you to soul…the Beloved of you that falls in love again and again and again…

Make no mistake dear one, you are capable of much more than you imagine. You are whole. You have never been broken. You were never meant to be fixed. Despite what you may have been told, you are a woven tapestry of voices. 

Won’t you come to know them?

 

Join Laura in calling home the many voices of the Feminine in The Red Thread Mystery Journey. The Red Thread is an intimate, application-only yearlong designed for women of all ages and backgrounds that fosters a ritual container for personal and cultural transformation. The portal is open for a select few who heed the call. We begin on the New Moon, April 26th 2017.

Be one of 19 women who commit to exploring what it means to be fully human and fully WOMAN, and who support each other in inhabiting our primary place of belonging.  

This work is NOT for everyone and is not another workshop. It is a vow to leaning in to the way Mystery is inviting you to shift shape and grow so that you can be in your fulness as you offer to the world.

Because there are spaces for only 20 women for the full year, an application and a discovery call with Laura is required. Book here : https://calendly.com/lauralp/redthread/

BE the solution. Offer your gifts to your people. Lead from soul. Call home the hidden gifts of the feminine. This is the kind of leader the world needs now. Will you join your sisters? www.therhythmway.com/the-red-thread

The Way We Stand Here

Crisis is the lover of creativity

Death is a midwife for beauty.

Division is a threshold that reveals possibility.

There is a gift in every shadow.

My dear sisters and brothers, the question I sit with now is not what will I do in the wake of this election, though always in the recesses of my mind are thoughts that whisper promises couched in fantastic storylines of skipped borders, off-grid adventures deep in the jungles of Brazil, or robed in the temples of Bali, or making art in the chic warehouses of Berlin. My ego squirms here - how vehemently I do not want to be associated with that man!

The deeper question that woke me up this morning, that haunted my dreams, and called me to this desk is in the yet-unknown way you and I stand to be shaped by mystery in the threshold formed by the tension of our division. 

photo by Cadencia Photography

photo by Cadencia Photography

I see myself now, twisting under the strain of crisis, crafted, molded, heart broken, my body soft and malleable, my tears tumbling like jewels to the earth, my skin aglow having sloughed off scrubbed layers of previously hidden muck, my eyes bright with passion - with fire - with vision for the way our people will be needed here now. 

For the way our voices will need to be heard. 

For the way our grief makes love magnificent.

For the way we will learn to listen. 

For the way we remember our mother, the earth, and remain true to her, just as surely as we remember the mystery that brought us here, and the purpose that beats our red hearts alive. 

Just as surely as you and I, mothers and fathers, dream of the world we will leave our children, and their children…

This is a not a time to lose hope. It is a time to remember, as William Stafford says; the way we stand here matters. The way we breathe.

The question I am asking myself now is what kind of experience is Mystery inviting us into, here in the dawn light of a new day - however foreboding?

And how will I, from the depths of my soul, meet that invitation? And be changed by it?

As one who loves this world so much it hurts, who loves the poignancy and the tragedy of the human condition, who loves even those in her life who chose that man - and justify it. The one whose tears run for the dying sea lions, and the disappearing whales, and the confused and swirling honeybees, and for the vision she has of one little girl, her hair a wild mess, her face streaked with dirt, her eyes…oh her eyes, so telling of the future that awaits us and the way I will fall in the end, a feast for the earth, having done all I was capable of doing, having lived the life I was born to live. How even in the midst of my own ecstatic surrender I will want to defend the hidden gifts of this place.

These are the images that rise up from under, that remind me, as I remind you now, to accept the invitation at mystery’s hand, and to rise up - in the way you know how, to be a sentinel for the silenced ones - to be a beacon of possibility in the narrow corridors of our nation. To be the wild men and women you are as envoys for the earth. 

We will meet what is to come, together.

And we will all be shaped - perhaps more able to meet not only this seemingly distorted crucible with power, but to participate with the future as it emerges in a way we can now only imagine. The way we MUST now imagine.

Sisters and brothers, take heart.

Something new is dying to be born.

The shadow, when first confronted, always looks putrid.

Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.
 
A slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.
 
Suddenly this dream that you are having matches
everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn’t be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.
 
How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.
— William Stafford

 

 

 

 

Leaders, You Inspire Me.

Leaders, you inspire me. 

You inspire me so much it is a shattering. I am shaped by your vision, your dedication, your service, your crazy ideas, and that wily way you have of rebirthing yourself, over, and over, and over. 

You inspire me in the way you lead from the future, and carry your gifts with humility and reverence. The way you hold, with unerring tenacity, your vision of a world of mutual thriving, and unhinged love; where communion and mutual respect with all of life is a guiding value we all hold dear. 

I see you working so hard in your lives, your families, your businesses. Every day you wake up with hope, and creativity and passion in your wild heart and a longing to give it all away. Each move you make you wonder; is this what is best, what is true? Is this what is worth fighting for? Is this all there is? 

You hold yourself accountable to the vows you have made - be them silent, or out-loud, and sometimes that promise asks of you more than you think you have to give. You mess up all the time…and start again.

You let beauty rule, that I see. Not superficial beauty, but bone-deep beauty - the kind of beauty that is not always lovely, that emerges from wholeness and kindness, and a recognition that both light and dark need be here now. 

You are intelligent, and well-informed. Your mind is sharp, but that won’t keep you from a messy howl, a wracking grief-wail, a torrent of unleashed holy rage, a bone-shaking belly laugh.

You make growth a priority, no matter how uncomfortable. You demand it of yourself and you wish it for the world.  You have joined a movement of like-minded women who are called here now to re-member the sacred. To bring soul back into our professions, our relationships, our businesses, our institutions. You resource from Mother Earth, and dedicate your work back to her. You are learning to listen to her voice…to let it come through you - to let it tumble pell mell into the corporate office, behind the lens of your camera, into the words on your page.

In doing so, at one point or another, you have been marginalized for your views. I meet you here now, in the forest of the possible. We lock eyes for a moment and exchange a knowing glance. There is work to be done.  Later, over a glass of wine, we may laugh at ourselves and remind each other, that life is as much mundane as it is sacred. Both are welcome, co-existing. I am inspired by your realness. Your grounded wisdom. Your sense of humor.

You are drawn to what remains hidden. To the Mysteries, to the unknown, and you are learning to be mastered by that fierce and benign paradox. Questions are as juicy - or juicier - than any answers you could be given. You know there is more to this world than meets the eye. You have had experiences in your life that have taught you; magic is real.

Now that you know, the knowing can’t be unknown, so you follow the thread of your longing and your fear on the path of no-path, offering yourself up in service, in the only way you how. 

At the end of day all you really want is to give yourself fully. Completely. Authentically. Soulfully.

Leaders, you inspire me. 

I thought I would let you know.

Don't Step on the Flowers

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

— The Way It Is by William Stafford

 

Photo by Britt Nemeth Photography

Photo by Britt Nemeth Photography

An image that stalks me is of a small, fragile desert flower with violet blooms and an unassuming presence. This flower blooms in all its tender glory in the harsh, waterless, and sun-scorched desert landscape that is its home. It does not grow surrounded by a bed of other grasses and green plants, or in the grove of cottonwood trees. It doesn't seem to concern itself with any shelter or protection of any kind. Instead it grows up out of the sandy wash. Right dead in the middle of it. One tiny, little stem with radial leaves and a violet cap stretching up out of barren soil…one splash of color against crumbled sandstone. One tiny voice, and a thousand unheard stories.

I had been romanced by these little flowers as I came upon them. They were little sentinels of accidental beauty whose very being lit the fire of my imagination, filling me with wonder, with poetry. Their presence reaching out across the space between us to touch me, as surely as if they stroked my cheek with their fibrous, hairy leaves. They were not inert, and unintelligent matter. There was intimacy between us. An intimacy of living image, of Otherness…of infinite possibility in each other's presence. A shared dreaming.

And so on the day I walked out to see this one fragile flower irreverently crushed under the weight and tread of a hiking boot, I felt it as if we were not observed and observer, but one being in two forms. I felt it's wound in my heart. Its little stalk ripped, bent, and weeping white tears, its petals strewn, marked with their own moisture, seeping through silky petal.  I went down on my knees and wave after wave of a very familiar and particular grief poured through.

This grief, by nature, is generative, and as it swelled into the strange simultaneity of joy, and sorrow both, I recognized these were tears for so many times the tender, blooming of me, the impossible dreaming of me, the wild imagination - mine and and of others, had laid crushed under the weight of a treaded village shoe. This flower roots into a holy crack in the amour of the one of me who has desensitized to a world where uniqueness, expression, and the audacity of flowering is often crushed, without thought. Without words of condolence. Without acknowledgement. Simply stripped away in one fell swoop, leaving a distant memory of another way of being in relationship to the world, one infused with mystery's language of image, and symbol and gesture, and wonder until the part of us so uniquely human - our imagination atrophies, and it's better to not feel, and to not see the world of wild possibility that lies on either side, above and below, the well-worn path to home.

This is the thread I've been following. The one that is mine to hold.

A Special Goodbye

I am 12 years old. I’m sitting on my bed in my childhood home, staring out the window past the brown-gray winter-kissed grasses as far as I can see. There, on the horizon two buttes jut upwards into the sky, just barely disturbing the stern straight plane of the horizon line. A crack in the surface crust exposed the underside of blood red rock, beckoning to me as it always had. There is no development out that way - not yet at least - and I am inhabiting a very familiar daydream in which I wander alone and with a heart full-to-breaking with wonder, drawn mysteriously toward those buttes - into the wilds as if into my unknown future, never to look back. 

I’d often catch myself venturing here in my imagination, terrifying in its impeccable way of dreaming me forward into the potential I sensed I held just under the skin, while remaining young, and not yet ripe. For something to exist at all it first needs to be dreamed and perhaps the most ancient part of me remembered this as I caught the scent of ripening in uncanny moments of reverie - when the light hit the rock just-so, when I would slip between the worlds into something not yet present, or perhaps just forgotten on the edge of my awareness, the silence pregnant and screaming. This is what it feels like to be fully human.

It was in one of these moments of reverie that the name Sunfire, then powerful to me, came into my field and took its seat as if it belonged there and had somewhere along the way, been misplaced. This name was a confirmation of both my great love affair with the sun, whom I would welcome into each room every day with the percussive and abrupt zzzzzzzzip! of the blinds- a ritual I enacted as long I can remember, and to fire, that elemental force that tumbled me down into what was then taboo to me - the curled and inviting pages of the book I had commandeered on western astrology, its circular maps and symbols full of secrets. But fire I knew and it felt dangerous and it felt right.

Years later I picked up a hula hoop and my world changed. This circle evoked from me a permission I could not give myself : it was permission to be somebody, permission to move as a woman moves, permission to trust form and flow - my own, and permission to track the erotic under the unassuming guise of a child’s toy. It was permission to speak, and to belong, and Shakti was the name of my belonging. This name arrived serendipitously at twilight, as I sat on a dune of sand somewhere on the road in middle California, looking out to sea. Water. Woman/Shakti. I did not know these two and it felt dangerous and it felt right.

To name something is in one sense, I have learned, to give it a voice. And to name yourself is to enter into dialogue with certain aspects perhaps previously hidden, or not yet fully expressed.

I see now that I named myself because I felt both unable to hold my own most intimate capabilities and unsafe to wield them in the very unforgiving culture I found myself a part of. Although familiar to me, what Shakti Sunfire represented didn’t really feel like me. It was as if I was looking out again, over the horizon of my life, and there before me, not yet “me” beckoned these buttes who held the essence of somebody I hoped I could be. Some mysterious beckoning whose ‘spell’ was Shakti Sunfire. And it was that spell that had me walking, as a pilgrim not toward God, but toward the Truth at the center of the image I was born with.*

I could never have named any of this then.

Sometimes when I say that self-given name, Shakti Sunfire, I feel the little girl of me come forward. The One of me who didn’t believe in me, who didn’t feel safe, who certainly didn’t belong. Over the years countless people have dismissed the name as a whimsical ‘hippie’ name, at times even I have devalued it so, but I say with all seriousness that this name saved my life. The life I now know is indebted to the qualities that Shakti Sunfire held for me, that I couldn’t hold myself. I look back over the last ten years inhabiting that name, and all the people that I have met, and all the experiences that I have had, and I know too that I needed quite a bit of your support to really be able to support myself. To that I am also indebted to you, friend, for seeing me as I wanted/desired - and perhaps needed to be seen.

The fallout of such a name is a kind of fragmentation, and somewhere along the way Shakti became a social crux, a persona - both me, and also less than me, - both me, and strangely again ’not me’. The last few years have been huge in scope. The power of change, and the unscrupulous ferocity of my soul have asked me to deepen again, to get down into the bones, to welcome even Shakti Sunfire, as a fragment and a survival strategy, home. And so I’ve struggled with this name as I’ve struggled with the question; “who am I now?” 

Equally I know that I have it within me to hold every aspect of myself without the need for a screen. I can hold my eroticism, my voice, my dance, my body. I can take my Place, and I must - we all must. And I do this now not to further reinvent myself per say, but to show up in my wholeness for all that is happening on our planet right now, in our communities and in our relationships. This is me saying, I, Laura, am showing up.

It’s been a long road, and Shakti is tired. It is not simply a question of changing a name like you change a label. It’s not a lateral move, but a sea change. The contents have shifted during flight. The one who steps forward to meet you is no less drawn by Mystery’s horizon line than the little one of me - drawn to the power of the sun and the alchemy of fire, but I can now hold again what is mine to hold as I walk forward with heart and soul. 

So I, Laura, have written this as a ode to a name that has saved my life. And as an obituary for her, both. I bless you and I welcome you home Shakti Sunfire. The spell is broken! May you rest in peace.

 

* Line from What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte

In My Imagination

In My Imagination

In my imagination I hear the land speak to me of things. This is not to say I make them up. 

There are no phrases, no names - no words at all, but a spontaneous upwelling within that has me dancing on the trails, far from curbing eyes. Speaking back in the way life has always spoken; through the movement of form, the shaping of a hand or tail, or fin, the slide of rock into water, the dry cracking of soil under a Tuscan sun. 

Accidental Beauty

Don’t step on the flowers!

They are as your heart.

Tender sentinels of

accidental beauty.

 

In blooming they have

already decided to

give it all away.

 

They do not need your help.

 

Weighty and rigid

the unnatural tread

of your shoe

rips fragile blossom from stalk.

 

But even that violent end

preferred

to your hardened eye

Immune to their surrender

and their final and

broken love-shape.

 

Death throes of

honeysuckle scent

given selflessly

to the wind

 

smells a little

like heartbreak

as you pass them by.

 

-Joshua Tree National Park

4/4/15

Selling (out) the Feminine.

Selling (out) the Feminine.

Last night I stumbled upon an aptly-timed post by Sera Beak, the author of Red, Hot and Holy, that incited a flurry of feeling. This “fire-hosing” critique was a bare-all body slamming wrathful wake-up call for awareness inside a growing movement where the feminine as a long-exiled Way of Being barrels out of Her cave pell mell into a dying industrial-age world. Those of us who find ourselves curiously poised to receive her culturally disruptive, societally-inappropriate, and wildly beguiling Love Bombs dance with Her, as the face of liberation, AND necessarily as the shadowy and serpentine wraith of old, no-longer working (did they ever work?) systems. Of course. One cannot dance this dance of Remembering without coming face to ugly face with the war into which we were all born subsumed. Namely; hierarchical, industrial, scarcity-focused, (and yes), insidiously patriarchal ways of thinking, creating, seeing, and ‘producing’. 

The result? Female competition, name-calling, pointing fingers, bad-taste-in-your-mouth pain-point marketing, outrageous tuition prices, work at the expense of intimacy, smoke’n mirror posturing (join me and ‘find your power’), and self-aggrandizing guru complexes abound in this fragile sphere of the ‘awakening feminine’. And yes, She IS pissed. Let’s just say it like it is.

Wildly.

Wildly.

The kiva, moist and dark in the high desert of the Colorado plateau, drips with its own kind of earth-meets-human musk. Belying thousands of years of ceremony, rhythms of use and disuse, repair and disrepair, death to one generation, and birth again to another, the ritual space sits temperate and even-toned, stoic and impassive. Even after the sun had set over the peaks and troughs of Sleeping Ute mountain and the first stars made themselves available through the little square hole overhead, the kiva, and its atmosphere of ancient didn’t so much as gesture its compliance. The ear of the earth and the great womb of the ancients need participate little in the affairs of the above and the cycles of night and day. It simply watched and waited and held and hungered. Fulfilling a promise that had begun long before the Pueblo people of old awoke with the dream to shape the walls and feed the mouth of the Mysteries.

Lessons From the Ocean Current

Lessons From the Ocean Current

Hawaii. This place where the sleepy parts of me — those that hide under where concrete covers the song of the land and there is no soil for burying — are stirred to the bone… roused through flower scents, little feral piglets, and Koki frog lullabies.

This place that births through fire and threatens the very patch of land I find myself nestled and fed. Where the ocean is a force that demands reciprocity or else.

Where our kuleana — our sacred duty, is like the ocean current, subtle and strong, and underneath, hidden and a gift, and only reconciled by releasing the struggle of everyday to glide along the path of least resistance. Everything else, and every other effort, is futile and exhausting.

Crow Medicine

Crow Medicine

I felt ungainly, awkward next to this creature, as I had been for weeks, grappling with self-directed and deprecating apologies for not enough.

This not enough story was in the final throes of its struggle, reconciling months — no, years — of painful disregard for the fulness one possesses at the center of things, that leads us always… sometimes into those dark spaces that smell of decay.

For this reason, the crow modeled a surrender I was yet to find and longed for under surface composure and Holiday wishes.

A Fearless Heart : Trust What you Came Here to Do

A Fearless Heart : Trust What you Came Here to Do

My mother gave me a necklace on the day of my first moon blood.

September 19, 1996. I am 14 years old. The last of my girlfriends to initiate into womanhood. I don’t remember caring so much. “You’re a woman now,” my mom said, riding in the family van to horse-riding lessons — our weekly mother-daughter pilgrimage to what is wild and free on the inside.

I thought of how being a woman meant mess, and uncomfortable scents and limitations to the frivolity of childhood play. Whether that moment was fueled by a barrage of hormones or a deeper lament for the passing of time I do not know.

The Rhythm Way

The Rhythm Way

The plains of Navajo sandstone spread their great wings over the land.

Gnarled piñon and juniper trees dodge their Goliath reach to root a tenuous hold in the waffled crypto — sand-swept soil. Gathered ’round their elder council, two little flowers the color of fire, one honeybee, and a thousand unheard stories.

Brother wind, sweeping in great and grainy gusts, travels along the swirls and eddies of ancient rock flow, twisted tree, and made-to-fit stone-washes, continuing his time-honored task of stripping flesh from bones of all who pause in the shadow of forgetfulness.

I am a guest in this harsh landscape.