A Rose with Thorns is still a Rose

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A rose with thorns

is still a rose.

A wild rose.

I gave up my rose,

She was not good enough,

pure enough, loving enough…

Never Enough.

 

A rose with thorns

gets angry, strikes out

(sometimes unfairly)

gets caught by extremes,

forgives, has to find her way

back to some place

in the middle.

 

A rose with thorns

loves fiercely and deeply.

Familiars

twist her love

until it becomes a weapon.

Scorn is the sword

that pierces her heart.

 

The rose with thorns

finds dignity in endurance.

Bones hollow out,

muscles tighten –

spirit and soul flee

a tormented  body.

Joy becomes memory.

Survival becomes all.

 

Winged Spirit hovers.

Earth Soul mourns.

Innocence is dead.

Thorns become spears, forked tongues,

the fiery Serpent rises…

A rose with thorns

is still a rose, ( a flaming rose)…

After all.

 

Photo credit: wikimedia commons rosa rugosa

 

( 2/ 25 -26/ 2016)

 

The Rose with Thorns – Working notes

I have always loved wild Rugosa roses more than any other and each spring I gather the fragrant blossoms to put in small vases and often dry some petals for sachets. I have used the rose hips to make jam and dried the orange hips for tea. These wild roses have one characteristic that makes them hard to pick. They have very thorny stems.

Recently I was writing about the fairy tale “Rose Red and Rose White” who live with their mother in the forest. Rose White was very sweet and pure and helped her mother around the house. Rose Red loved the wild places and spent all her time outdoors. There is no masculine force in the story until a big bear comes to spend the winter with the little family. The mother is wise enough to know what her daughters are missing…positive instinctual masculine energy that needs to be integrated into the female psyche… She allows the bear to spend nights lying on the hearth and naturally the bear transforms into  a prince and eventually marries Rose White and his brother, (another prince) marries Rose Red.  A marriage of the masculine to the feminine forces in the psyche allows a woman to become whole. Unfortunately the culture continues to tell the story as if it is a tale of literal marriage. This is especially damaging to young girls who are still learning to give away their personal power as I once did to meet cultural expectations.

As a child/adolescent/young adult I  aspired to be pure and good like Rose White to please my mother. Unfortunately I had the wrong temperament. I also aspired to be some kind of unearthly Madonna. (As a small child I was inexorably drawn to Mary although I was not a Catholic and knew nothing about her – what I see now is that Mary was the first goddess to “live” through me).

In reality I was birthed into fire, feared it, and was consumed by it. Fire pulled me out of a body that I was ashamed to be born into. I learned too late that the legacy of fear of abandonment and inherited sexual shame is to abandon ones body … Abandonment came to the surface to be dealt with, the deep dark root of shame stayed hidden. Untouched, the root grew. At 70 the dark man still waits on the threshold of night to strike through my dreams. On the outside neighboring bullies and cowards hide in the shadows, tell lies, and use mechanical eyes to spy on me. I have had these bullies as neighbors for 12 years and they never give up their harassment tactics. A friend of mine asked me the other day why would these people care what I do – a good question that I cannot answer beyond saying that these people are predators that have no lives of their own. If I liked them at all I would pity them.

Accepting that “I am a rose with thorns” has been a life long process and now being one feels just right! It’s good to have thorns. In fact it is great to have thorns! How can I use my thorns to protect myself from bullying and harassment?

This is the question I posed to myself as I wrote the poem. The poem gave me the answer I needed: I allow my instincts to lead (someone in me knows just what to do) as the Serpent of Wisdom rises in all her fiery power. I thought of the myth of Demeter and Persephone, a myth that has been so important to me, one that has helped me accept who I am on a Soul level. Persephone is considered to be a Serpent Goddess in some Greek mythology, and the Serpent Goddess of Crete is also seen as a symbol of female power. Even Mary has serpents at her feet! Serpents represent the life force, and the power of renewal in Nature. I wed Her in myself at 39 by acquiring and wearing a golden serpent ring while making a commitment to stay with and honor my own process. At 70 I still wear this ring and I continue to make this promise…

Yesterday “Spirit” arrived as three female cardinals who came at dusk. “She” was with me.

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White Bear

800px-Polar_white_bear_ursus_maritimus.jpgPhoto: Eric Regeler –  U.S. Fish and Wildlife

 

She came to me

in a dream

under the shadow of a ripening moon.

Wet fur shining

great paw extended

curved claws

gently nudging me

from behind.

 

Fright bound,

I fled.

Hovering over

my shivering body

I watched

sapphires on the run

spinning a crown

over her head.

The space in between

cracked awe and reverence,

above all,

Respect.

 

I felt my heartbeat quicken

as I slipped through

thick fur

the color of eggshells.

The ragged hole

in the Bear’s neck

healed on my return.

We breathed deep

as revelation

struck earthbound feeling.

 

Right relationship is All.

 

Working notes:

As a woman with Native American roots and one who is also an animist I believe that humans and all living creatures have a spirit and a soul. The spirit is transcendent, the soul embodies the more personal aspects of the animal or human.

I suspect that the spirit and soul reside in the instinctual realm of the “unconscious” body. In humans having access to our instincts allows us to live authentic lives.

However, in western culture people are taught to suppress instinct/feeling and elevate the mind. This cultural process cuts us away from both spirit and soul on a bodily level. In the process we may lose track of ourselves. This poem is about what happens to one woman who is cut away from her instinctual body as a small child and learns to fear it (perhaps as an infant).

When I finally understood what had happened to me I hoped that the conscious decision to return to my abandoned body/spirit/soul would be possible. It has taken most of my life to heal this split and even today my natural tendency is to leave my body when fear strikes. Unlike humans, animals are  automatically attached to their spirit and soul through their instinctual bodies so it is not surprising that animals, especially bears and dogs have been my most powerful teachers…

A few weeks ago I lost Snowy, a dog that I loved that didn’t even belong to me (see last essay about Snowy). Death always pulls my spirit and soul out of my body. I know it’s happening but I am unable to do anything about the involuntary splitting. During these periods I feel like I have lost myself. For the last three and a half weeks I have not lived in my body. Yesterday I went with my friend to pick up a new puppy. I was not sure if I was ready to see a new dog of the same breed, but the decision was not mine to make. Much to my amazement I immediately fell in love with the new dog who looked like a little white bear. I could sense that she had her own powerful  personality which became apparent almost immediately as I held her in my arms all the way home. We communicated directly through words, unspoken body language and touch. She did not remind me of Snowy, for which I was deeply grateful. When we reached my friend’s house the little white bear dog solemnly approached each of the five children and the three adult dogs introducing herself to her new family. I had the uncanny sense that she knew exactly what she was doing. No one mentioned Snowy. Yet strangely, last night I had a one line dream – a pronouncement which stated: “Snowy is coming back!” In the dream I experienced a moment of pure joy, which awakened me quite suddenly. When I got up this morning I was full of energy; I felt whole, – like myself again. I sensed that somehow Snowy must have returned…

In my experience at the time of death the spirit and soul leave the animal body behind… Depending on the circumstances this process usually takes a few days during which time it is possible to feel the spirit/soul presence of the animal (or person), have vivid dreams or visions etc as I did with Snowy. What happens next is something of a Great Mystery. It may be that if the animal has lived a full life the soul and spirit of that animal moves on, but if the life of the dog is cut short as Snowy’s life was then the spirit and the soul may need to return to help those who have been left behind.

I think the powerful rush of energy that I experienced when I awakened may have been Snowy returning to heal my broken soul/spirit body connection. Her gift to me.

When I next visited my friends I was thrilled to see that the little bear dog seemed fully integrated into her new home although she appeared quite indifferent to me. It was hard to fathom that she had been with her new family for less than 24 hours. I noted that the terrible emptiness that had permeated the house since Snowy’s death had lifted. Could it be that the little “white bear” dog that has joined my friends manifests the more impersonal spirit of Snowy who will remain with them throughout this dog’s life time?

There are no answers here, only more questions but I am adding these working notes the day after I posted “White Bear” and before and after I met the little “white bear” dog….so for me at least, all of this writing is intimately connected.

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Snowy: Tribute to a “Spirit Animal”

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4/10/13 – 1/22/16

What do I mean by the words Spirit Animal? Indigenous peoples take it for granted that each animal has an Elder Spirit who watches over that particular species. Most of the time this Elder Spirit stays in the other world as a discarnate being. But there are exceptions and sometimes these Spirit Animals cross over to our world. Some come as teachers, some come to warn of impending danger, some give their lives so other can live, some come to bless a child or to act as a protector, healer or personal guide, all embody Grace and love with a capital “L”.

I first learned about Spirit Dogs from Samantha, a young black and gray Malamute who came to me as a Protector and Teacher during what was then the darkest period in my young life… I had just lost my only brother to suicide and the trauma ripped a hole in me so deep that I no longer wanted to live. Sam loved me in a way that no one else did; she gave me a reason to go on. She taught me to turn to Nature for nurturance and she stayed with me until I emerged out of the underworld. Sam has continued to act as a Guide coming to me in dreams for 35 years.

When I first met Snowy a fierce white heat seared my flesh as a flash of recognition slammed through me. Here was another Spirit Dog! Snowy was a Great Pyrenees and Malamute mix that came to a caring family with five children and a few other dogs. An urgent question flashed through my mind the moment I first saw her: Who she had come to help or heal? To say that we recognized each other was an understatement. We fell in love instantly, and our mutual devotion to one another deepened with time. Although first wed to her dedicated and loving family, she also welcomed me into her world as her next of kin. We embraced each time we met going nose to nose with each other, rather like wolves do when they meet. She would lick my face with her rasping tongue while I kissed her wet nose and ran my hands through her thick white coat telling her always how much I loved her.

Whenever I visited her family she was right there at the house woofing her greeting. As I opened the door of my car she would try to climb in all the while making joyful mewing noises part of her greeting. She was so big that the two of us would be crushed together in the driver’s seat like a couple of sardines! I was always laughing at her antics. When I finally untangled myself and got out of the car she would lie down on the ground belly up and I would have to pet and stroke her beautiful body while she stared trustingly into my eyes. Once inside the house she often lay with her head in my lap while I sat on the floor in her peoples’ kitchen. Snowy seemed eerily familiar and I was never able to shake the idea that somehow this dog was also my Malamute returning to another family in a different skin. It occurs to me now after her untimely death that perhaps all “Spirit Dogs” have similar personalities and behaviors* and that may be the other reason why I “recognized” her. What I do know is that the way she moved her, her long graceful form bounding around the house, her floppy ears, deep chestnut eyes, her black nose with it’s pink flesh, the way she held her head down as she came to greet me were all “familiar” gestures that tugged at visceral memory…

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Snowy’s devotion to her family never wavered. She was the Queen of her pack along with her mother Patty! She was brilliant – not just intelligent but oh, so sensitive to others’ needs. She was well behaved, although she wandered a bit when her family was absent. She loved each one of her tribe unconditionally and couldn’t bear being separated from them. It was normal to see her dad, Patty’s husband Eric, (a king in his own right) lying on the floor with a tangle of dogs spread out around him as he played with his children. Often Snowy became one of the children’s pillows as they lay on the ground outdoors in the grass or inside on the floor. She got along with all other dogs including one of mine, a bad tempered Chihuahua that only this mother could love! It is not an exaggeration to say that Snowy had the temperament of an angel. This quality endeared her to everyone she came in contact with. That she was loved by so many makes it so much harder to have lost her. There is a hole that has opened up in all our lives for those of us who mourn her.

Because she was a snow dog Snowy preferred to be outside whenever possible. Wherever a patch of snow remained Snowy would be lying on it. I often felt her conflict – she wanted to be indoors with her family but loved the outdoors because Nature was her natural element. Her father Eric and son Tommy called her in each night. Sometimes Snowy declined the invitation but soon she would get too lonely without her family and would open the door with her nose (in Patty and Eric’s bedroom) in the middle of the night letting all the heat from the large house escape until someone woke up freezing!

Snowy’s death came suddenly under very mysterious/unsettling circumstances. On the night of January 22nd I arrived for my bi –weekly visit and Snowy was not there to greet me. When I got in the house I was going to ask where she was but got distracted by other conversation and forgot to mention Snowy’s absence. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that this was the only time Snowy and I hadn’t had our time together. I felt a vague sense of unease but dismissed it.

The next day I had a frantic call from Patty. I raced up to their house to discover to my horror that Snowy had apparently drowned in an old well that was surrounded by good-sized trees. Disbelieving, I went down to the well with Tommy, the oldest heartbroken son, to see for myself. My animal senses were on scream. My reaction seemed extreme even for me. I felt like I lost myself. I did not believe then, and do not believe now that Snowy simply fell into that old well and couldn’t get out. She was too well coordinated, too bright, too knowledgeable about the land she loved. I sensed that something was very wrong. Snowy had more work to do and had been torn out of her life before her time. Whatever really happened will remain shrouded in mystery and perhaps this is a blessing. I am grateful that witnessing Snowy’s dead body was not the end of the story.

Later on that same night Snowy came to me in a series of visions, (the clarity and length of which I experienced only once before in the town of Assisi, Italy). This time I was lying in bed unable to sleep when I felt her Presence in the room with me. Suddenly I saw her. We met nose to nose just as we always had done and I could make out every detail of her beloved face. Her chestnut eyes bored into mine, our noses almost touching, and then just as suddenly the scene shifted and Snowy was running around outside her own house her beautiful body bounding with grace. She was trying to let her family know she was all right, that she missed them. I felt so much relief as my worst fear dissipated. Snowy’s body had not been caught in the well. She was free and she was happy and she loved her family. She loved me too. This powerful “knowing” flowed through me like a great river beneath words…The two scenes repeated I don’t know how many times before Snowy’s presence began to fade. I struggled to keep her with me but my time with her was over and I had to let her go.

Snowy will live on in the hearts of all of us that loved her. And because “Spirit Dogs” will continue to crossover to be with people that need them I am convinced that Snowy will one day be making the journey onto what Native Americans call the “good red road” in yet another dog’s skin…

Postscript:*  Just after writing this tribute I had a dream about another of my (dead) dogs reminding me that she too was a spirit dog  that came to warn me that my current dog was ill. Whoops – “Spirit Dogs” come in all sizes and have as many personalities and behaviors as people do! Thank you for correcting my perception Rinkie.