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.

Me, Myself, and Compassion Fatigue

Mom Arkansas Golden City 096

Let Rock be Rock and Flower be Flower

This morning as I take the time to cook myself a delicious AIP-compliant breakfast and think about what dishes I need to prepare to be ready for a fast-moving work week, my thoughts shift to the connection between self-care and others-care. You know, that moment when we have the choice of whose oxygen mask to apply first.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the better care I take of myself, the better care I can offer to others (and the better ME I can offer to others!). Whether that comes in physical, mental, or emotional form, the idea holds true. When I take the time, the energy, the effort, to figure out what I really need and give that to myself, I find myself more able to meet others exactly where they are – stretching, stretching, stretching – instead of expecting them to come to me.

This can come in many shapes. When I don’t take care of myself, or listen to my needs, or when I fill my life with the countless expectations of those around me – talk this way (Momma said), dress this way (BFF said), believe this way (Daddy said), love this way (tradition said), earn money this way (Wall Street said) – bending this way and that until my entire life, my entire being is reshaped and twisted into all those other voices, rather than my own – that’s when I can find myself turning and projecting my own expectations on others.

YOU should wear this, say this, think this, be this, because I SAID SO. If you don’t, I may judge you a failure. I may even tell you so. And then if I’ve been claiming what I label as your successes and failures as my own, basking or balking in that reflected limelight, I may take those successes and failures very personally and insert myself a little too deeply in your life for healthy boundaries. Unable or unwilling to walk my own road, I’m unwilling to let you walk yours. It’s a vicious cycle.

But when I step in (or out :)) and break that cycle, starting first with myself (which after all is the only place I can truly effect change), figuring out what I believe, how I prefer to dress, to eat, to love, to live – not because someone else told me to, or even in rebellion against someone telling me to – but simply because that is Who I Am – everything changes.

In the warmth and light of authenticity, I can relax. And as I allow myself to be Me, I can allow you to be YOU. To walk your own path, to have your own needs and interests, your own successes and challenges. Perhaps our paths cross, perhaps they don’t. Perhaps our interests cross, perhaps they don’t.  Perhaps our needs are compatible, perhaps they aren’t. But one thing is clear: You are you, and I am me. And that’s perfectly groovy.

And what a relief – what self-inflicted pressure that can remove from our shoulders. I don’t have to change you. I don’t have to try to save you, which usually means I’ve only gotten lost myself. All I have to do is let you be you and let me be me, turning my attention back to the road before me, walking the good red way.

As I do that, as you do that, amazing things can happen. I don’t always understand the whys and wherefores, and I don’t have to. But this I have seen. Flowers that couldn’t be forced begin to blossom on their own. Chains that couldn’t be broken just seem to fall away. And roots that couldn’t get grounded grow strong and deep, all by themselves.

And somewhere in the midst of all that, that compassion we thought we’d lost – for others, for ourselves – it rises to the surface again. Having refueled and freed ourselves, loved and parented ourselves, we realize we have enough – more than enough, an abundance – to truly share with others. Not in a needy way, looking for what might be returned, but in a giving way, the only way unconditional compassion can truly exist.

And so the circle is complete, ‘round one turn to another. We find ourselves once more, replete, as sisters and as brothers.

Namaste – and enjoy your breakfast.

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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to a slow, relaxing breakfast.

Like a Child

recess

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (KJV Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:11)

Words that keep coming to mind of late… Recess is over, folks. Time to buckle down to the work that needs to be done, to lead the way for the next seven generations that will follow our footsteps wherever they lead – evolution, or devolution.

That doesn’t mean we turn our backs on our inner child, or cease to carry a child-like spirit within. It doesn’t mean we ignore the wisdom of the young, who sometimes see things more clearly because they *do view life more simply. But there is a world of difference between child-like and child-ish, one a form of chosen innocence in all we do and see and say, and the other a form of dangerous naivete.

To me it simply means, it’s time to stand up and be counted, to take charge, to move forward. Quit passing the buck. Stop insisting on being entertained every minute of the day. Quit ignoring our responsibilities – to ourselves, to those around us, to our larger society, to the planet itself. Stop ignoring what needs to be done, that thing right there at my feet. At your feet. We can still have our fun, still have those child-like moments. But in between all the giggles, it’s time to be the grown-ups.

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(C) 2017 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, especially the one to giggle while I do my chores.

Evolutionary Drivers At Work

BirthingFor those who have come to see this time in our country and the greater world as a birthing process, it is helpful to remember that “labor pains” is not a metaphorical term.
 
Many have pointed out that problems are evolutionary drivers. Or as Gran put it, “…breakdowns become breakthroughs become breaks of day.” (Going Home, 2010)
 
And for those new to that metaphor, here’s an brief intro. It’s happening across the board – in each life, each pocket of society, and each succeeding level of the greater whole. The baby has crowned – it’s time for that big push!
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(C) 2016 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved – especially the one to bloom.