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Essence

I am Raven

always hearing

spirit words

a phantom

unbelonging

unmodern

elemental.

I conjure wind

in dry grasses

rolling clouds

and drops of rain

ancient keeper of wisdom.

I am Aniwayah, Wolf,

holding closely

songs of my pack.

She Who  Walks

With the Sun upon

the earth and heralds

morning light.

Whose Clothes do You Wear?

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table. Outside an October rain is coming down in torrents, and I’m reminded of an observation I made about myself years ago. I once said in a journal that I rarely wrote about what happened to me but rather what happened in me. I remember thinking that if someone in the future tried to piece my life together by my journal entries they would find it difficult. However, a person would be able to see a pattern of internal changes and growth.

Through my journals, I can see a spiritual journey and whether we want to believe it about ourselves or not, we are all on a spiritual journey. A part of being on that journey is discovering truth about oneself, true truth, not what the people around you say. My daddy used to say, “People say a lot of things about William Henry.” Then he would get a soft sad look in his eyes and, for a moment, press his lips together in quiet determination, “It don’t matter what people say about him, it only matters what God says about him.” My dad gave me an understanding that has shaped my life, possibly more than any other single revelation.

Everybody has his or her own version of reality and they will try to force you into that version, which may not be what’s best for your spiritual journey and if they are trying to force and manipulate, it’s not best for theirs either. They just don’t know it at the time. Some people may say, “Yes, but this is a good thing.” A good thing is not necessarily a God thing, meaning that just because somebody suggests something or wants you to fulfill a certain role, does not make it right for your life.

In a way, life is like women on a shopping trip. They often travel in pairs, packs or trios. One of the ladies looks at an outfit. She likes the colors, but she knows inside herself that the attire is not for her, so she starts to hang it back but her friends tell her that it’s in style and that it will flatter her figure. They talk her into buying it, because they all like it; they think it suits her. She gets home, wears it once and feels uncomfortable all day. She hangs it in the closet and it remains there until it goes out of style; she ends up selling it at a consignment shop or donating it to charity. She wasted her money on somebody else’s version of what fit her best when she should’ve listened to her own instinct and been true to herself. In life, many people do this. We listen to what others think will “suit” us. Sadly, others don’t always know what suits themselves; much less what suits someone else.

I once had an acquaintance walk up to me and say, “I’ve got an outfit and some shoes to give you. They were my daughters.” I responded with a thank you and pulled the outfit out of the bag. It was ugly. It was the boldest, brightest thing I’d ever seen made of cloth and the shoes were totally not me. In addition, the clothes were five sizes too big and the shoes were three sizes too big, but she was certain these things would “fit” me and “suit” me. She stood there going on and on about how good I would look in them.

I was flabbergasted. Had she not noticed that I was smaller than that? Had she not noticed that I never wore flashy things like that? Internally, I reminded myself that her intentions were probably good, so I said, “Thank you, but I’m sorry. These won’t fit me.” At first she acted a little shocked. Then she said, “Well, can’t you just take them anyway and give them to somebody else?” And I got a little angry. She wasn’t looking out for me at all. She was just looking for a convenient and guiltless way to get rid of her daughter’s old clothes. I put them back in the bag and handed it to her, “Take them to Good Will.”  That lady’s gift was like a lot of things that people try to push on us in life, it was convenient for her agenda and she wasn’t thinking about weighting me down with the unnecessary baggage of something I couldn’t use.  She just wanted to dump her baggage on me and be on her way.

In the same way, people often try to ascribe things to us, project things on us that are not true of us and if we believe them we will find ourselves living someone else’s reality. I think it takes courage to say, “This doesn’t fit me.” There is a freedom we find in the things we leave behind.

October Friday

Janie’s got cancer

won’t live long.

She’s maybe fifty.

I hold her hand

tell her be brave

sing to her.

At work

they fuss over

papers, binders,

reports, phone calls,

bus passes and why

haven’t I finished

that massive mural?

It shouldn’t take

long, just snap

out a masterpiece

already. Outside

clouds have turned

autumn and maybe

I have, too.

If I were Janie

would they hold

my hand? Walk

to the edge of life

with me? Deadlines

are for the living.

I think I am part

crow because all

I want to do

is fly.

I’m about to confess something.

I have habits.

Oh, I mean everybody does, but in the course of my life I have developed some habits. I sometimes fall short of them and get off track for a few days, but eventually I come back to them.

I have a habit of taking walks. Walks clear my mind, help me remember who I am. I talk to my Creator when I walk, talk about whatever enters my mind. Sometimes I just think, but I always come back feeling better than before I left. When it is warm, I often pull my shoes off and walk barefoot across open fields and country roads. I love the feel of earth under my feet. It’s a connected feeling. I just meander and see what comes up, like turtles at the pond, and see what lands, like cranes or wild geese. There is no therapy better than a walk.

I have a habit of doing physical things. I like to walk and hike and garden. I love to train in kung fu. I love to build things and make things.

I have a habit of creativity. I can never stop designing…curriculums, paintings, projects. I am always writing and thinking about writing and playing music. Creativity flows out of me. It’s not an effort, but it is a habit, and I’m highly addicted to it, so much so that I’m not even a little bit ashamed of it. I am openly a creative-addict. If I’m restricted and not allowed to create I become antsy and snippy…agitated. I was created to create.

I have a habit of quiet time. I need it, everyday. People always ask me where I get my energy. I get it from the quiet times. I get it from moments when I am allowed to re-center myself, to remember to keep the main things, the main things.

Those are a few of my favorite habits.

 

 

 

Not Unworthy

If I could wash the blood stripes

 

from your toddler days

 

I would wipe them away.

 

If I could purge “fat kid”

 

from your memory

 

I would make it so.

 

And the demons? 

 

I’d banish them

 

to desolation.

 

If I had the power

 

I would free your mother

 

from bondage to neediness

 

and your father from slavery,

 

but all I can do now is say,

 

I believe you are

 

a Phoenix.

 

 

 

 

A lot of people comment on my energy, on how much I have. They ask me things like, “What do you eat?” “What vitamins do you take?” They look at me and they see this boundless ball of energy who goes about doing, and doing and doing. What they don’t see is how crammed my schedule always is or the social events that I shy away from. The things I do are all connected to the things that hold eternal importance to me. If I discover that what I’m doing isn’t, in some way, a part of the bigger picture, I’ll quit doing it. 

Still, it’s easy for me to overcommit, to forget that I’m only one person with only so many hours in the day. So, I’ve been doing some thinking and I’ve come up with twelve rules that I live by, for the most part. Some of them, I’m still working on.

Maybe you’re an over committer, too. If so, maybe my ponderings will help you as well.

 

  1. If something can be done in less than a minute, do it. For example, go ahead; put the sweater in the closet. Go ahead; put your shoes on the rack. Go ahead, file that paper right now. That way the “little” things won’t pile up on you. I’ve been bad about letting the little things pile up on me and now I have a lot of piles.

  2. If you don’t REALLY need it, don’t buy it. It will just be one more thing to keep up with and have to take precious time cleaning. And if you haven’t worn it or used it in a year, just get rid of it.

  3. Prepare your week’s wardrobe on Sunday afternoon or at least lay the outfit you plan to wear to work out the night before.

  4. Go for a short walk every day, even if it’s only five or ten minutes. It will clear your head and help you get back on track.

  5. A ringing phone doesn’t have to be answered every time. If it’s an emergency, somebody will come get you. If I’m in the middle of a parent teacher conference and my phone is ringing, I probably won’t answer it. If I’m teaching reading group and my phone is ringing, I probably won’t answer it. Just leave a message and when I have a break, I’ll return the call. IT’S OKAY TO IGNORE RINGING PHONES!

  6. Make a list of things to do and prioritize them. Don’t confuse the immediate for the important. Put things in quadrants based on their immediacy.

  7. Don’t neglect your health. Make it a priority EVERYDAY to turn off the phones, ignore the computer and do something healthy like practice Tai Chi or Yoga or go for a walk (in my case, it’s Bagua). You only have one body while you’re on this planet. Make it last as long as you can.

  8. Make time for spiritual growth.

  9. Make a weekly trip to Goodwill or some other charity and drop off the excess that you accumulate.

  10. Don’t worry so much about being “perfect” when “good enough” will do. 99% of the things we “fuss” about don’t matter to a hill of beans anyway and 99% of the people won’t notice and the 1% who do, well more power to them. Maybe they just have a lot more “free” time and if it’s something that really bothers them, just volunteer them to head up the effort to fix it.

  11. Turn OFF the phone sometimes. Turn OFF the computer sometimes. A lot of people around me have smart phones and they are constantly in contact with EVERYBODY about EVERYTHING, but my brain can’t handle that overload. So, sometimes, for the sake of my sanity, I turn the phone off so I can hear the sound of my own thoughts. But then again, I’m an introvert by nature (regardless of WHAT you may think you know about me). The truth is that there are times when I just want absolute silence so that I can renew my bearings, find my center. Gandhi withdrew every evening, away from the crowds, to sit quietly at a spinning wheel and “center” himself. Mother Teresa found her quiet times by waking before dawn and Jesus is recorded numerous times as escaping the crowds so he could hear his Father’s voice.

12. Realize that no matter what you say, what you do or where your heart is, that somebody, somewhere won’t agree, but they don’t have to live your life. You do. Not every decision is going to make everybody happy. Their happiness is their responsibility, not yours.

Nature touches us the same

but you are blind in my world,

and I am a misfit in your circle

 

of circles, of circles, of circles.

You perceive me as complicated

and deep, but I am as simple as

red earth and blue sky.

 

You self-proclaimed wise child,

look, I wear too many clothes to fit

in among bare-breast middle-agers

and wide-bottom moon gods.

 

My vehicle is too “narrow”

for a wide, multi-lane highway

to deathbed look-backs and women

who wish they had danced.

 

You belong among temple dwellers

and incense drinkers, among searchers

and seekers of the “hidden” while I

am a sparrow’s sister.

 

My mind has traveled with you,

with others. I have tasted eastern fruit

and desert laws, but find my solace

 

in holding hands.

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