Together We Rise: Gran and Her Fire Ants

Figure 3:  Close up of the ant raft interface with the water surface

Source: Nat Geo

Gran, with all her light-filled heart and wrinkle-lined cheek, loved to point out the learnings that surround us, every minute of every day, just waiting to catch our eye, our attention, our hope. And boy, am I glad she did, because she taught me to watch for them as well.

These days, as waves of awareness come washing through our societies, our worlds, our minds, uncovering long-buried fears of separation, anxiety, and exclusion, almost drowning us in the light of consciousness, I am reminded of her story of the fire ants.

You know about fire ants, don’t you? Little buggers that swarm like mad, eat just about everything in their path, and leave a blazing trail behind them that you won’t soon forget, especially if that trail happened to be over your big toe or up your leg or down your collar.

There’s something we humans could really learn from these ants, she taught me. They know about survival – including how to survive in almost unheard of conditions.

Like flood waters. Flood waters like we’re facing right now.

You know what they do? They’ve learned to come together. Instead of staying trapped inside their mounds, instead of isolating and insulating in quietly deadly ways, instead of running for cover, running for each other’s throats, or running away with any other reactionary, knee-jerking impulse that would lead to drowning, they come together.

That’s right. As the waters rise, they come together, forming living rafts that float on the water’s surface, great masses on which they carry their larvae, their future, their hope. Clinging together by day and by night, they ride the waves until solid ground again appears.

Today, I am grateful to Gran for the lesson of the fire ants. Maybe not for that bite from last week – but for their lesson in passing through. Passing through the waves, passing through what may seem like the biggest challenges, the greatest darknesses, we’ve ever faced.

How do we do it? By coming together. Finding our strength, in ourselves, and in the group, and in the power of vulnerability – facing our limits and working with what we have – the need for each other, the need for community.

As the waters swirl around us, may we come together. One step, one community, one world at a time. For as the waters rise, we will rise. Together.

Just like in the circles and professional environments we inhabit by day: It takes a team. Thank you for being part of mine.

#TogetherWeRise
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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to rise.

Will You Dance? Taking Off the Blinders and the Band-Aids

Hurt people hurt people.
 
We know that. But are we really listening? Are we acting accordingly? Do we work with what we have and apply what we know, taking that next right step, starting close in, as the poem reminds us?
 
Awareness and action must take place at all levels. If one treats only effects, the causes continue to shape yet another cohort, yet another generation.
 
Have we as a society grown up enough to be able to take the short view AND the long view? To do what needs to be done in the immediate, at the surface, without forgetting what’s underneath and *why? To look for the roots, and focus on radically addressing those?
 
As long as battles rage inside our hearts and minds, inside our homes, our families, our schools, our workplaces, inside our ever-expanding circles of community and influence, battles will continue to rage on the larger scale, in whatever shape has boiled to the surface. As within, so without.
 
Address the acute, yes. But don’t forget to ask why. And if we *really mean it – and don’t just mouth it – to commit sufficient resources to treating the causes.
 
Our world needs no more Band-aids. The ones we’ve applied in times past have grown tattered and worn over the years, while the wounds they cover have festered inside and grown sour with age and infection. And all too often, we may find those Band-aids weren’t over our elbows and our knees this time – they were over our eyes. Some folks might call them blinders.
 
It’s time to take off those Band-aids, however they may have served, however they may have been intended. One person at a time, one wound at a time, if necessary. After all, really, that’s where it begins – on the inside – where, when we find that place of balance, we can begin to weave a dance of change in our lives and in the world around us, and to invite others to join us in that weaving.
 
Over this morning’s coffee, I recommit to removing the bandages I may have applied in my own life, to my own eyes, to facing what needs to be faced, to healing what needs to be healed, and to weaving that dance to best of my ability.
 
And as I dance, I recommit to pausing in front of you – and you – and you – to holding out my hand and asking from my heart, “May I have this dance?”
 
Will you dance with me?
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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to dance.

So Much Love – Just So Much Love

Jasmine_Cropped

Let the jasmine speak.

Over the years I noticed that certain things stirred “memories” of Gran and her wisdom more than others. Gran was not a character that could be summoned at will, try as I might, but I slowly began to understand some of the more tempting ways to invite her presence.

Like long, slow rainy afternoons, the smell of chili in the air and just a taste of it in the belly… rhythmic rat-a-tats on rooftops… fog playing can’t-catch-me among the branches…

And there she’d be, knocking at the door like the world’s greatest best friend. How are you, and how could it have been so long? Come in, come in! I’ll put some water on, and I’m sure I still have some of your favorite tea.

Yes, I remember.

Catching up – oh, the stories, and oh, the adventures! Too many words for just one time. Smiles from ear to ear, tears when the moment called, and those true heart hugs. You know the kind – real hugs, with both arms, neither in a hurry to let go, and none of that politely putting on of appearances, here, let me keep my arm or a wall or a million miles between us. No. Gran always was a good hugger.

And so the hours and raindrops would pass, tea bag after tea bag.

I’m not keeping you, am I? Oh, please do – there is nothing I’d rather do than spend this

Sharon_cropped

For those who remember. ❤

time with you. Nothing that can’t be rescheduled, nothing that can’t be pushed off. A visit from Gran was like Love Itself had just walked in the door – and when that happens, you learn to stand at attention and pay close heed, to savor each priceless moment for as long as it lasts.

And when the end of the visit drew near – you could always feel that moment approaching – oh, wait! Did we talk about this yet? Did I show you my other treasure? Aren’t you hungry? Thirsty? Anything? Just like a visit to Mom’s kitchen table – at least one person there is going to draw it out as long as possible.

Oh, those precious memories.

And then the visit is over, each gone on their way, with tears of love and promises of “not so long ‘til next time.” Tea bags grown cold. No lemon cake left. But the seat cushion is still warm, pushed back from the table – she could have stood up and walked away only a moment ago – perhaps just to the next room. Maybe to stir that chili. Not far away. Not really.

Just a thin little veil, as the thunder rolls and the lightning crashes. Just a thin little veil. One easily pierced on lazy Sunday afternoons. Easily pierced by glancing in a mirror and seeing her reflection, if only for a moment, gazing back at you. “Together, sitting by the river, we will shine – because we love each other.”

For now, to treasure that chair, that tea bag, that precious afternoon. Come back soon,

Gran. Don’t forget the way. I’ll pick up some more of that tea, and keep your favorite cushion close.

So much love, sweet one. Just so much love. Can you feel it? The house may be empty, but the love never goes away.

—–

And so it is, my friends. Whatever house you’re contemplating – be it one of brick and mortar, a house of love or worship, or the nebulous walls of one’s creative consciousness – the house may be empty, but the love never goes away.

So much love means you, too, ya know. And don’t you forget it.

From just north of that mighty Big Muddy,

mcb

HarveyII_cropped

Only the Turtle knows for sure.

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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to lazy Sundays.
On the 7th day, we can all rest.

Seeking the Needle

OneNeedleFound

One Needle, Found

Sunday Morning Chewie: A line from long ago keeps coming up lately. “Find the needle where you lost it.”

That line first came a few years ago in a blog post. Specifically:

Stop looking in the graveyard. That time is past. Find the needle where you lost it. In the sunrise, in the sunset. On the playground, on the swing set, playing hopscotch up the tree of life.  (from “Seeing God” in my blog God of Many Faces)

I’m wanting to work with this line some more, to flesh out what it means to me. (I’ll let you decide what it means to YOU. :))

The idea itself is not new. It’s actually very, very old. Many people have heard the Buddhist rendition of the story – the old woman out in front of her house, looking for something in the road, casting her gaze hither and yon.

A neighbor comes, asking what she’s looking for.

Her needle, she replies.

Neighbors gather to join her search. Time passes, the light begins to fade, and nothing has been found.

A needle is such a small thing, one neighbor points out. It will be impossible to find unless you can show us exactly where you dropped it…

Don’t ask me that, the old woman says. Ask anything but that.

Why? Why not? Where did you lose your needle, Grandmother?

Inside the hut, comes her answer.

Then why are you looking for it out here? (A valid question.)

Because it is light out here. In my hut, there is only darkness….

As the creative seamstresses of our personal and projected worlds, what needles have we
lost over the course of our lives? Where have we been looking for them? How have we been distracting ourselves from looking for them? Into thinking we’ve replaced that needle with a perfectly good pinecone? (Not that there’s anything wrong with pinecones – but they don’t function well as needles.)

And why are we so ardently avoiding the darkness inside the hut, where we lost that needle in the first place? Let’s face it – that’s the only place we’re going to find it. Unless, of course, we sat on it in the darkness, and it’s currently protruding from our nether regions – in which case we may feel a slight twinge.

So yes, that’s my morning chewie, something I’ll be working on this week/end as I head into retreat. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What does “seeking the needle where you lost it” mean to you? Have you been able to put that suggestion to use in a good way? Any pointers for all of us still out in the roadway?

Happy Sunday, friends. Enjoy the sunshine – and just in case, keep an eye out for pointy objects.

Spring 2017 017

Pinecones are lovely. True, they aren’t needles – but they may be laying in a pile of them. When is a needle not really a needle?

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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, including the one to use a pin cushion next time.

A Swan Named George

Once upon a time, on a sunny, sandy river bar, there lived a wooden wonder. This wooden wonder’s name was George. You may wonder how he came by that name. Sometimes he wondered, too, but as far back as he could remember, he’d always been known as George. And as far back as he could remember, he had always lived on that sunny, sandy river bar.

Missouri Headwaters, Three Forks, Buffalo Jump 022

Missouri Headwaters, Three Forks, Montana, 2016

Now true, it wasn’t always sunny and sandy. In fact, sometimes it was quite the opposite. Sometimes it was dark and cold. Sometimes it was wet and muddy. And sometimes, especially in the spring and fall when northern neighbors would make their way to southern shores, it would get downright crowded. But sooner or later the tide would turn, the clouds would pass, the migrants move on, and there George would be left, once more he and his sandbar.

Every year when his winged friends would go through, especially the gorgeous, graceful white swans, George would get all excited. You see, he just knew that some year when they took off, he’d be flying alongside them. He knew he was meant to fly, just as sure as he knew the sun was sunny and the sand was, well, sandy. Not to mention sure to add a nice layer of fiber to whatever he happened upon for lunching. George had often heard that fiber was good for you, so he was OK with that.

Swans in flight - www.michigan.gov-images-dnr-tundra_swans_migrating_410274_7

Swan Migration (Source: Michigan DNR)

He was, however, not so good with being left behind on that sandbar every year. Sometimes it was OK, and but other times it was decidedly not. And sometimes, he felt himself turning a less than flattering shade of green as the winged and webbed ones moved through. George did have his heart set on flying. After all, he was a swan. He knew that, beyond a shadow of a doubt. He knew he was meant to fly. And he practiced a lot. But no matter how much he practiced, it never seemed to help, so George had set himself to discovering why.

He thought he had narrowed the problem down to one thing. Wings. Or more particularly, feathers. George did have wings, but they were wooden, like the rest of him. And as near as he could tell, those light as air feathers seemed to be a fairly important piece of equipment.

And so he struggled and strove, doing the best he knew how to transmute his wooden webs into gold-tipped gliders of gossamer, like the ones he saw on friends flying by.  But the more he struggled, the deeper he stuck, the heavier he weighed, and the more he got bogged down in the mud all around him, wedging himself even more deeply into the sandbar he called home.

What George didn’t realize, what he simply couldn’t know in the impetuosity of his youth, was that he was right. He *was* a swan. He just didn’t understand what type of a swan he was, what a special, unique creation, and just what was the stuff he was made of.

You see, George was a beautifully hand-crafted piece of driftwood, carved with great care and love into the most stunning of wooden swans, long neck stretched out, curving so gracefully. As this precious, one-of-a-kind creature, George was never meant to have the light-tipped wings his neighbors grew. George had his own kind of wings, inherent to the element from which he had been shaped by Nature’s walnut-stained fingers.

In short, George was a wooden swan, shaped from that most buoyant of elements. He didn’t need to struggle to grow his own wings, his own feathers. His wings were already a natural part of who and what he was. Only George’s wings were of a little more earthy type, the kind that would keep him safely and intentionally grounded, like dirty fingernails on a marble statue.

Missouri Headwaters, Three Forks, Buffalo Jump 032 - cropped

View from a Sandbar, Missouri Headwaters, Three Forks, Montana, 2016

In order to fly, all George needed to do was to let go, to quit trying to be something he wasn’t, and to accept who he was, to relax into his own natural way of being. When he did so, he could let go of the mud, and he would rise to the water’s surface, floating to the top, and the winds and flooded waves of time along the river would lift him in their natural flow and carry him to the places that had called from long ago.

But as long as he stayed there and kept fighting who he was, kept trying to be something he was not, trying to be a flesh-and-blood swan instead of accepting that he was wooden, with his own special gifts, well, as long as he kept fighting that, he would never learn the truth of what he could accomplish, and the joy that would flow through the knots and veins of his being, when he simply accepted who he was.

Someday, George would learn this. When the time was right. When his hand and heart was steady. There was no way around it. It couldn’t be rushed, and it couldn’t be avoided – it was a natural part of his path. Someday, he would see. Someday, if he ever stopped struggling long enough, stopped blaming himself and everyone and everything else for what he could not do, George would learn the miracle of being exactly what he was.

And that, the North Wind whispered as it blew down the river, past the sandbar, past George, carrying the newly departing waves of winged ones, would be a beautiful day. And how the river would sing with joy, how the sun would shine with delight, to see this wandering boy discover that he was already home, and had been all along. And then, to lay his wings upon the water, to let himself fly, as none before, and none ever after, in a flight plan that was George’s very own.

And so it was, and so it is, and so it shall be, friends. Wood to water, takes natural form, and all begins again.

George - Missouri River, May 6 2017

Sunny days on George’s sandbar along the Mighty Missouri, 2017

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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to float to the surface.

May we never forget

These are words from some time ago — honoring the passage in which humanity now finds itself. The release of one age, the advent of another. Can we see and appreciate each step along the way, refraining from demonizing or glorifying whatever we now leave behind or walk toward? Can we walk the middle way?

Hard to put into words, but feeling a deep sense of grief right now – for all of us. For the world. For dreams held dear, striven for, oftentimes innocently, perhaps naively, and yet, the best of which one was aware. For all now gone that will return no more, not even the possibility to dream. The goals and visions and objectives that once seemed all important, now spineless points of past, shallow at best, destructive at worst. For the innocence that cultured these beliefs. Even when it proved dangerous, perhaps deadly, how beautiful in its zealousness, its vibrant grasp for life. I cannot believe that most acted in bad faith. Those times are passing, an era gone, dreams long dead. And while this is good so, so very good so, as society’s butterfly struggles to break out, I cannot help but, at least for a moment, to grieve the caterpillar. For surely the caterpillar had its own innate value, in and of itself, if only to munch on crisp green leaves in morning dew, and crawl along on all those little legglings. Like children, growing up, beautiful, good, and yet, what parent does not silently grieve the first time a child begins to suspect that there is no Easter bunny, no Santa Claus, no fairy tale. As that child reaches for the apple dangling from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Beautiful, yes. Necessary, yes. Evolving, yes. But there for that moment, when the heart was in the right place and the world still believed in magic, even in the unknowing, even in all the wrong steps, even then – oh, so very beautiful. May we look back with love, at others, at ourselves. As grown-ups who look back with kind eyes and compassion at the demanding, compulsive children we were, oh, how very wrong in our sureness, and at the same time, so very, very beautiful. May we never forget. (04/13/15)

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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to see and appreciate all angles, to consider the light and shadow in life just as beautiful and essential as the play of light and shadow in art.