Graduation Day: Taking the (Rocking) Chair

RC4And then there was the time Gran realized she was poised at what might prove to be the most significant crossroads in her existence.

She’d stepped away for a few days to think about things, when her body and heart and mind had all begun screaming at her so loudly that there was no way she could keep from hearing them.

And so she’d found herself on the front porch of a little Ozark cabin, perched just above the springhouse on a south-facing hill. Deep winter it was, but the sun kept peeking through the clouds, reminding her of all the what-ifs that still-could-be.

That day Gran was sitting in a comfortable old rocking chair. She’d decided against the weathered rattan, and the aging swing just didn’t feel right. She’d tried the steps she’d favored in her youth, but they still bore winter’s chill. And so that day, with an acceptance of life as it was and in acknowledgement of time passing, she took her seat in the rocking chair.

RC1

She knew she had a big decision in front of her. One choice would be simpler — well, at least easier — than the other. That was the choice that went the same way round, in that big ol’ deep rut she’d worn for herself over the preceding seasons.

The other way? Well, it sure wouldn’t be easy. And it definitely went uphill. She knew she’d have to pace herself, take it one step at a time, pausing to rest when need be, listening to her body, listening to her heart. This road came with some tough decisions, ones she knew not everyone around her would support. Ones for which she’d have to be a light unto herself. And to be real honest, she didn’t even know what the whole picture was just yet.

She knew a few of the next steps. Those were clear. Those would also be some of the hardest — facing some deep-down fears, with no guarantees in place. Letting go of some things and places and people to which she’d become rather attached. You know, that ol’ ‘better the devil you know’ argument.

But she also knew she didn’t need to know all the answers, see the whole picture, juggle all the balls.

All she needed was that next right step, that next clear piece. And that she could do — just like driving on a dark foggy night — as long as she didn’t overdrive her headlights and her windshield wipers and defroster held out, she could keep on going, passing one exit ramp after another, one cozy hotel bed after another, one mile after another, another, another. And somehow she knew she was a lot closer than she’d ever imagined. Somehow. And hey — if the wipers and defroster gave out, as long as she kept that gas tank full, she could roll down the window, stick her head out, and keep on going, following that dotted line one stripe at a time.

Not to mention the fact that the spirit of potential adventure had once again begun stirring inside her every cell. She could feel it, and oh, what a feeling. This just might be fun. It might be exciting. It might be AWESOME. It might be everything she’d ever dreamed it could be. It just might be the Greatest Adventure Ever.

Just one right step. Then another. And another. And there she’d be, on the doorstep of home. But this time, she’d be on the inside lookin’ out — and waving me in for an afternoon tea.

RC3

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(C) 2018 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to pick my chair.

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Heartprints

Summer 2611 024 - CopyOne spring afternoon found Gran and Mikey at their small town library. A wave of fear had rolled through, riding headlined whispers of childnappers, and to help folks regain a sense of control, the local police had set up a Fingerprint Your Child for Safety day. Always there to assist, Gran had been more than willing to take Mikey down. Mikey, of course, thought it was grand fun, and ohsodeliciously dramatic.

After washing away the inkblot reminders, they’d taken full advantage of that trip to town by stopping at a local hamburger joint, the same one where Gran used to cruise and where, years later, Mikey would cry through her first heartbreak.

Perhaps sensing that this was in the cards, Gran led their conversation that day to the topic of heartprints. You know, like fingerprints, only slightly larger and much longer lasting. She said we always leave a trail of heartprints behind us, whether or not we want to and whether or not we care. It’s a tricky thing, Gran said, and one to which we could also apply that good old rule of outdoorsmanship: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Unlike fingerprints, our heartprints can’t be faked or forged – at least, not with folks who are willing to open their eyes and really look at ‘em. Do we walk gently through life, aware of our power and doing our best to leave only love behind, or do we roll through like a wrecking ball, so focused on our own needs and desires and wants that we don’t notice their effects on those around us, or that crushed heart and broken toe we bulldozed right over three yards back?

Which is not to say that one must always meet another’s need, no matter how delicately or directly it may be presented. Gran said we humans have all kinds of needs – some healthy and helpful, and some downright dangerous, usually in cases in which we haven’t done enough personal digging to realize we’ve become half-asleep puppets, dancing to the siren song of our shadow, and doing our best to act as puppeteer to all those around us. Here: You do this, and you do this, and you do this, and I’ll be happy. Hmm….. is that really true?

That’s why Gran said it was important to pay attention to our own heartprints – to do whatever it takes to keep ‘em clear and light and unsmudged by time or lack of attention. And if we ever realized we’d left a trail of fallen dominoes and burned bridges behind us, we might want to take a look at our intentions, to ask ourselves what exactly was going on in our own little heads and hands and hearts. To spend some time up close with a mirror for a while and get real honest with ourselves.

At the same time, Gran said we’d learn to be aware of the heartprints and paths of others, keeping our eyes open, leaving those blinders behind, listening to all the words spoken and all the words not, and making our choices accordingly. Gran said she’d noticed her life got a whole lot better when she started paying attention to all this right up front and listening to her intuition as well as what was shared. She’d paid the price for rolling over all those brightly waving red flags in the past, so intent on meeting one out-of-balance need or another that she’d chosen to ignore sign after sign after sign. And she’d learned about the consequences for doing so.

In later years, Mikey would learn all this. She would also learn about the price one pays when one gets a little too protective about their hearts and that heartprint takes on a two-tone teflon shine, whether it was her own, or whether she saw that sparkle twinkling from someone else’s breastplate.

As chronicler of Mikey and Gran’s journey, I lived my way through a lot of those lessons Patchwork Heart Number One Summer 11 029as well. A decade ago, it took spending some quality time with my brother, who was nearer death than any of us knew, passing too young at only 45, to realize how hard my heart had become, how self-centered and narcissistic my way of life, how arrogant my attitude. He never said anything about it. He didn’t have to. Maybe he had a touch of Gran in him as well. All it took was turning to catch the expression of pain on his face, in his eye – to break me open more deeply than words ever could have. And so began my journey of reshaping my heartprint, and paying more attention to others’.

Gran said it came down to intention, in everything we say and everything we do. Only we know the truth – what may look like our intentions on the surface may be far, far away from what’s boiling beneath. A calm exterior might be raging – or dead – beneath, and a bellowing bull may be crying inside.

Gran said the most important thing was to stay focused on our own heartprints – doing the work to keep them healthy and clear and reflective of one’s truth within. Not distracting ourselves by focusing a little too much on someone else’s – painting over to suit our preference or digging too deeply past that “Buried Lines” sign. We’ll know when that happens, Gran said, right about the time we get that jolt.

Keeping our eyes on our own work was more than enough to keep us busy, Gran said. To stay clear about our own intentions, to keep them focused on highest good. As long as we do that, Gran said, things have a way of working themselves out, taking on root and a life of their own, or melting away in the noonday sun.

One thing I’ve come to realize – how spot-on Gran was when she said it’s not just what we do that counts, but how we do it. There are ways, and there are ways. Someone else talked about this, I’ve been told, a long time ago, about how it doesn’t matter what I do or what I accomplish in life. If I don’t do it in love, it’s worthless. To me, and to everyone around me.

Today, as I do my best to step lightly along the good red road, may I remember to always test my intentions, and then to choose the path that is based on the heartprint of love, strengthened by the backbone of wisdom. In all our ways acknowledge Love, and it will direct our paths.

Summer 2611 008 - Copy
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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to Weekend Breakfast on the back porch

Celebrating Labor Day? Pick up a broom! (Metaphorically speaking, of course)

Love this essay on America’s learnings from August 2017. A grandiose, gut-wrenching grounding indeed.

But it isn’t over. When rugs get pulled back and we see that massive pile of dirt that’s been accumulating, at first we may go into shock. But then it’s time to start cleaning up that mess, one layer at a time. Next, to devise that housekeeping schedule that ensures we don’t revert to the old behaviors that led here in the first place.

If all we do is quietly put the rug back and try to act like nothing ever happened, well… We’ll find out where that leads. Infected wounds have a way of making themselves known.

Happy Labor Day weekend, friends, whether you’re in America to celebrate with us, or elsewhere on this little ol’ planet. The fields are truly white unto harvest. May we each identify the field or fields that is ours to do, and then – let’s get to work.

Much love, from just north of the mighty Muddy.

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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to pick up that broom and get to work.

johannwolfgangvongoethe1

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 those fire ants 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.

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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.