Be – Friending Our Dragons

( Above: work by Artist Armando Adrian – Lopez  http://www.armandolopez.com)

 

“We are an overflowing river.
We are a hurricane.
We are an earthquake.
We are a volcano, a tsunami, a forest fire…”

 

These words written by Judith Shaw speak to the merging of woman’s anger with Earth’s natural disasters, suggesting to me that women use “natural” violence in order to create change.

 

Violence, not the values of compassion and cooperation.

 

Violence and power over are the primary tools that Patriarchy uses to control women and the Earth.

 

Engaging in more violence will not solve the problems we face.

 

So many women including me are struggling like never before to survive on the edge of a culture that continues to sanction the vicious ongoing rape of both women and the Earth.

 

I use the death of trees as a primary example of the latter. By logging trees by the billions or killing them in “controlled burns” we are literally destroying human and non – human species. Without trees/plants we lose the oxygen we need to breathe.

 

We need “woman – centered” women to say NO!!! WE WON’T TOLERATE LIVING IN A DEATH DESTROYING CULTURE PREDICATED ON RAPE OF WOMEN AND THE EARTH.

 

We need women who are willing support other women – Women who refuse to remain neutral – Women who don’t wait until their mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, granddaughters are assaulted to take a stand with other women – Women who refuse to stand behind their men when those men continue to support the soul destroying culture of Patriarchy with their attitudes (males or male identified women – the latter are often “Father’s Daughters” in Jungian parlance) – Women who refuse to support a Patriarchal system that is destroying us all.

 

Women centered women can change the trajectory we are on if we can unite in spite of differences… not through violence but through sheer numbers, using cooperation and compassion as our weapons. Women are potentially a powerful force to be reckoned with, making up more than half of the population, and yet in the last presidential election 52 percent of white women voted to elect a crazed misogynist…

 

This morning I read a comment about Jung’s work that addressed an issue that is critical to women reclaiming their authentic power. To paraphrase: In depth psychology riding the dragon is still interpreted as the task of conquering and subduing the archaic instincts of the reptilian brain.

 

As a former Jungian analyst who left her practice when she realized that this psychological approach helped keep women powerless and enthralled to Patriarchy through control and subjugation of woman’s instincts, I would argue that women desperately need to develop a loving relationship with their instinctual “dragons” – anger, fear, outrage – because these instincts protect us, and help us to create change by funneling our energy outward in creative ways.

 

To illustrate my point I want to digress into personal story.

 

The day after Kavannaugh was confirmed I found myself paralyzed with hopelessness. As a sexual assault survivor I was so depressed that the only reason I got out of bed was because a very gifted Mexican/Indian artist, Armando Adrian Lopez was part of an artist’s tour that was occurring that weekend, and I knew I needed to go visit him.

 

Armando’s work depicts women in a mythical context, one replete with mystical and (usually) benign images of the goddess. After being around Armando and his work for one afternoon I felt some sense of comfort remarking to him that “today of all days I really needed to be here.”

 

I returned the next afternoon and asked Armando if I could take a couple of pictures of his work. Later when I was reviewing the images I was particularly struck by one of a woman with a dragon at her side, holding a Tree of Life with eyes embedded in her leaves.

 

During the next PTSD/depression driven month I looked at that image again and again, plumbing its depth for a new personal message, eventually coming to the conclusion that I needed to court my own dragons in a more loving way. It is a testament to the trauma that I experienced over Kavanaugh’s appointment that I am only now starting to understand what happened to me.

 

Befriending our dragons speaks to the need to fall in love with our dark sides and allow them to lead us into new ways of thinking and being in the world. The dragons of anger, grief, and outrage have helped me clarify my new position with respect to woman/Earth hatred.

 

Because I have been an advocate for women for so many years, I used to believe that it was critical to be inclusive and include all women in my advocacy regardless of their ability to be present for other women in distress. But some women ‘s support of Kavanaugh (boys will be boys mentality) or their neutral reactions to this man’s appointment to the Supreme Court, a confirmation that sanctions rape once again while dismissing women’s cries of outrage and grief, has created a monumental split in my thinking and feeling. To listen to women who seem to think that rape not a crime against all women stuns and horrifies me. To listen to women who attempt to “compromise” on the subject of rape repels me.

 

For the last few weeks I have been swimming in the sea of confusion and repressed anger. How can I continue to support indifferent women? I struggled with this question just as I struggled to contain my feelings of being betrayed by these same women.

 

Finally, I emerged on the other side with clarity and a new perspective. Today, I can say that I am no longer willing to support women’s deliberate or tacit support of rape through rational thinking or “neutrality.” When women continue to make cases for the one man who was sexually abused, or verbally attacked by a grieving woman, or the woman who has to stand behind her man because she is too emotionally needy to stand alone I say NO! NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

 

Rape of Women and the Earth are egregious criminal acts and the two are intimately connected.

 

I have made a difficult and painful choice to separate emotionally from those women while working towards developing more compassionate attitude towards them – a new “both and” perspective. I can do this easily when I remind myself that I too am a Daughter of Patriarchy and once exhibited many of the same behaviors…

 

After a month of crushing depression I am courting the red dragon of rage with awareness, embracing her, thanking her for helping me see that I must choose her wisely. S/he can help me survive atrocities by refusing to allow me to collude with those who would betray me, other women, the Earth.

 

I stand with woman – centered women without apology – those women who are in the position to shift death into life. I appeal to all women and men who love women to join us.

 

As if to concretize my thoughts in the material world this morning I discovered my own “dragon” in the form of one of my very friendly house lizards (who live around the outside walls of the house) scurrying across the living room floor! This one is a little female. I think she may want to spend the winter with us. I welcomed her with joy reveling in the synchronicity even as I, oh so reluctantly, released her outside on the garden wall, fearing some unintended mishap with the dogs if she stayed… If she returns a second time I will assume she knows more than I do about what’s good for her and will fashion a terrarium for her to sleep in safety for the winter…

 

In closing, anger and rage are powerful gut (reptilian/serpentine/ dragon-like) emotions that motivate us in potentially creative ways.

 

I choose to embrace my dragon, use the Tree of Life as my staff and guide, keep my eyes wide open.

 

I will continue to protest rape as a crime against all women, advocate for those who are woman centered, choose compassion as a bridge to others, and continue to cry out on the Earth’s behalf.

 

With my new perspective and awareness, I can feel/experience my red dragon as lover and allow her/him to guide me as I re- align myself with Life.

 

Regardless of outcome.

 

 

Afterthought:

 

After writing this narrative I asked myself how I had gotten so stuck in the first place. The answer came immediately. I had fallen into the Patriarchal Pit where anger and rage are unacceptable emotions to express, especially if you are a woman.

How are we unconsciously controlled by Patriarchy? By shame, of course. Because women are denigrated for having these “negative” emotions it’s not surprising that we fear to express them. And we must in order to become effective agents of change in our own lives or those of others.

As I see it now, in my traumatized state I fell into an old pattern of thinking – one with the destructive values of Patriarchy at its core. Today I embrace that daughter with heartfelt compassion reminding her that her conditioning does not this woman make!

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(Photo credit: Iren Schio)

Author reclaiming her power on the mountain

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Fault – Lines

 

Earth cracks in mud

expose unwelcome truths,

the takeover of

women’s minds

by the need for power,

driven by hunger to be loved –

even by unworthy men.

 

Grief for Our Own

sinks beneath the waves

erupts as indifference,

competition,

too much sweetness,

meanness,

the need for control.

Not seeing

the Plight of Woman

as a way of life

becomes the ultimate defense

against abandonment

by the other

within ourselves.

 

It is only by combing

the ground for cracks,

that we gain access

to the truth.

 

Love for Other Women

is the force we need

to shift Death into Life.

Within the raging Fire

of Woman’s Grief lies

Authentic Hope.

And Earth Wisdom

is erupting from her

Fault -lines.

 

Will We Listen?

 

 

Working notes:

 

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours examining cracks in a river – bed to understand the story the bear tracks were telling. When I got home I felt renewed. Some important message had erupted out of the Earth ( via the Great Bear Mother) validating my personal perspective in a way that is beyond my present understanding.

 

“We are living in very dark times” one woman wrote to me today. So many women (including myself) continue to struggle with our collective women’s grief over the continued cross – cultural sanctioning of rape. This time we cannot let it go. We feel that an authentic shift is impossible unless we begin to support women in ways that have been lost to us for millennia…I think the cracked Earth was communicating this message to me yesterday.

Portals…

(portal made of willow fronds)

 

Lately, as I meander around the Bosque and down the paths to the river I am seeing portals everywhere I look. I walk under one made of golden cottonwood boughs, another graced by willows, a few created by rusty iron or wooden gates – all pathways to the beyond.

 

Portals are gateways or doorways into other worlds, or a different way of seeing and it is not lost on me that perhaps I am “seeing” portals everywhere in Nature because according to the Celtic/Native American calendars we are approaching the end of the wheel of the year here in Northern New Mexico as well as elsewhere. Perhaps I need to discover a new way of seeing. I can set this intention for the coming year even as I pass through each gate…Climbing through this mountainous twelve month cycle of steep ascents/descents has exhausted my soul, body, and spirit.

 

All Hallows, the Feast of the Dead, All Souls day, mark the end of the yearly cycle for many including me.

 

Then we will enter the space in between to emerge at winter solstice…

 

Although Indigenous people’s calendars are more fluid, around here, for example, the Tewa speaking peoples will tell you that in November “they do nothing” as one man from Santa Clara Pueblo recently quipped. The Harvest is in. Frost is on the horizon. There are no tribal dances until the winter solstice. Around us our beloved Cottonwoods are slowly losing their golden canopies. The owls are silent. Migrating Sand hill cranes serenade us with their haunting collective cries. Only the tracks and scat of animals remind us that our wild companions are still out and about.

 

image1.

 

Some Indigenous peoples from the North call this full moon “the leaves falling moon” or “the white frost on grass moon” names that seem particularly apt when describing what is happening. I could also name this moon “making tracks in the mud moon.”

 

The period that we are about to enter in about a week is a space where the veil lifts… It is a time of rest and reflection, a time to dream the world (and ourselves) into another way of being, perhaps. A mystical time for those of us who are sensitized to All That Is.

 

It is my favorite time of year.

 

In Northern New Mexico it is also the ‘season of light’. The dance between the sun star and her shadows is a source of ongoing amazement, exhilaration, and deep wonder, peaking at dawn and at eventide with each becoming a portal into the other.

 

As scalloped hearts and bear paw leaves drift to the ground and branches (some curved like claws), stretch their limbs and fingers towards an ever deepening blue or shark gray sky, I watch juncos, sparrows, and nuthatches feasting on fluffy chamisa and golden aster seeds. Last night the almost full moon hid her face behind rose pearled clouds.

 

I create a conscious intention beginning with this poignant and oh so beautiful “leaves falling in drifts” moon to find a way to move through this next year with more grace and less chaos in my life acknowledging that I am not certain how to Earth myself in a more generous way except by developing a new way of seeing.

 

Extremes of every sort have defined my days this year with me plunging into despair and grief over climate change and woman hatred.

 

Eerily, my concern for the Earth has often been mirrored by personal crisis. The veil between Earth and self seems to have evaporated like the mist that rises over the river in delicate plumes reaching towards a now golden sun or ever deepening dusk. I can’t help wondering if this merging might be a natural response to aging and/or my heightened sensitivity, a result of being in such an intimate relationship with Nature?

 

Perhaps as Earth Chaos intensifies I will continue to experience my own extremes even more deeply? If the latter is the case my hope and intention is to carry the awareness that this state is “natural” under the circumstances.

 

To accept what is, might be I the greatest challenge I face.

 

One portal to acceptance as I already mentioned might be to shift my awareness into a different way of seeing. I can create this intention without knowing exactly what I mean…

 

As I pass under the portal of the end of this year entering “the space in between” my earnest hope is that I will not lose myself, even when I stand alone in a sea of humanity whose (personal and political) behavior mystifies me, or that I will not succumb to despair, or make an unnecessary descent into rage or sorrow.

 

I remind myself that to stay with the truth of what is, as I experience it, is also heroic (although I never feel this way) and that others who cannot be present to their lives in a meaningful way will try to dismiss my life as inauthentic (too emotional, too sensitive, too fill – in – the blank, blah, blah, blah,) because witnessing human horrors is too threatening to them.

 

Rape is still rape regardless of disbelief.

 

Like the deer in my dreams who bed down in tall grasses before the open gate may I too surrender to what is, and to that which is unknown. Animal Peace is the gift offered when we are present to the moment.

 

And like the worms living in my compost heap who create ‘black gold’ in the process of living out their lives, may I find a way to do the same… perhaps through a different way of seeing.

 

A lot to ask for, I know.

 

Still, as I pass under this next portal the help I need is near… All I need to do is to follow the tracks of the animals that are so dear.

In Praise of my Mother

 

This morning the sun is shimmering through the cottonwoods outside my east window – the light is so extraordinary – the contrast between dark limbs and the earthly radiance that these trees emanate, seemingly from within, as well as from their golden bronze heart shaped leaves, transfixes me. It is difficult to believe that they are not celebrating the end of their season in the most joyous of ways. Have I ever experienced such a depth of wonder?

 

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For the past two days I have had difficulties with people. To be ignored and dismissed has the effect of making me feel invisible and painfully isolated. Reflecting upon my feelings, I reached the conclusion that what I experienced was more about the people involved than me. Even so the aching loneliness persisted…

 

When I am deeply troubled I turn to “my mother” for solace. If I am missing the mark She is silent and I know that I have been taking whatever happened too personally.

 

If not, She manifests in concrete ways to remind me that I am worthy and loved.

 

Yesterday, needing an answer to my question, and needing to feel her presence I walked to a place that is sacred to me, and sat quietly on the ground gazing into the trees and grasses that lined the creek that meandered her way through the valley. The wind was still and the autumn sun felt warm on my back as I absorbed the wheat, rust, touches of gold, gray green, and sage…

 

When I heard them call I knew that She was with me, and that my sadness would dissipate because what had happened had nothing to do with me.

 

Sand hill cranes migrate through Northern New Mexico each fall and what I was hearing was their collective murmurings. I could not see them but I would recognize their voices anywhere. There is no bird song like this one. To my astonishment, a few minutes later another group answered from a different area by the creek. I could only imagine the gathering of these “women with wings” who journey across continents as one, relying only upon each other and the mysterious routes of migration to reach their destination. I leaned into those calls and felt comforted.

 

When I stood up my heart was healing… and with an inner stillness as my compass, I drove home.

 

My next encounter was with the baby house lizard who had taken his parents’ place near the slat closest to the door. He was warming his tiny brown striped body in the afternoon sun…I hadn’t seen him for a number of days so this visit was one of unexpected joy. I sat with him awhile, telling him about the cranes as he watched me with beaded eyes cocking his head while he listened. I could feel that veil between us thinning as his body and mine slipped into that space where separation no longer exists.

 

Later that afternoon when the sun slipped lower deepening the autumn blue sky I walked into the cottonwood forest simply to be with Her. My love for trees has defined my life in a myriad of ways so being with trees is being with a part of myself that loves and mourns… Here too, comfort enveloped me as I stood under her arching boughs and luminous leaves. Together we breathed love into this body that so intimately belongs to Her.

 

A solitary white crowned sparrow sang the song of creation.

 

When I looked up into the cottonwood canopy there She was sitting on a snag looking down at me. I slipped into those pools we call the Owl’s eyes and found even a deeper peace.

 

When the waxing moon rose over the alpine glow of the eastern horizon I sat in my chair by one of the windows that allows me to feel close to Nature even when I am indoors reflecting upon the mystery that is All There Is.

 

How does S/he always know what I need?

 

I thought about women and birds and trees and how we are woven into one miraculous tapestry as I gave thanks for this day.

The Compost Lizard

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(  Top picture is one taken of one of the house lizards a while back – 2nd picture is one of the house lizards sunning himself today (his mate disappears every time I go to take a picture but she’s out too), and the 3rd picture is the little compost lizard in his lair taken at noon. All are sunning themselves as I write!)

 

There is a wily sagebrush lizard

peeking out of star dry flowers

sunning himself on

brittle decaying leaves.

All but two of his

kind have disappeared

since the night freeze settled

kindly,

blackening few tender plants.

How brilliant that he

should choose such a practical

abode, a circular container

warmed by an autumn sun,

full of rotting greenery!

Assured of food from insects

for a while yet,

his eyes are narrow slits when

he slumbers, dreaming his next meal.

Imagine

the variety of bugs

who still visit this

compost heap in

wild abandon,

buzzing madly

at high noon,

oblivious to Lizard’s

canny presence in their midst!

 

It is mid October (10/18) and the mountain peaks wear snowy hats. Here in the valley we have had more rain in the last ten days than we have had all year … the first flakes swirl. The dark eyed juncos have arrived. For the last few days I have been noticing the absence of my house lizards who seem to have vanished with the heat. There are only two left out of the original 6 and these two hide behind the slat closest to the door, slipping out to sunbathe when the sun warms my adobe walls.

 

When I first met the “compost lizard” I knew he wasn’t one that lived here all summer. Earlier in the season I had a large compost lizard that moved to the south wall as it got cooler. So where did the small compost lizard come from, clever little fellow? A compost heap is a lizard heaven of sorts with all the leftovers watered routinely to keep the worms happy, and with heat trapped in a round plastic cylinder the wind is kept at bay. At noontime I go out to visit him noting his blue belly hoping that he will stay around a bit longer, perhaps fattening himself up for an intermittent winter sleep. I would like to think that he will find a safe burrow in this mountain of debris, and that we shall meet again in spring.

 

I recently read that adolescent lizards are more active in the fall, this might account for the sudden appearance of the compost lizard. I also learned that occasionally lizards will “hibernate” together… I wonder if this might be true for my two house lizards who are currently hunkered down behind the slats and the house… I will be watching to see how long they stay there.

 

Lizards are not active during winter; they enter a state of dormancy called brumation which is not the same as hibernation. With both, metabolic processes slow down but with brumation the lizards alternate dormancy with activity. They need to drink water to avoid dehydration. Lizards build up a high level of glycogen (sugar) that can be used for muscle activity. They also need less oxygen to breathe and this is a good thing because some dig holes in mud where oxygen levels are lower. Other lizards will hide underground in old burrows, in a hole in a tree or under leaves. I love knowing that my lizards will still be around even if I don’t see them!

Beloved

 

My daily prayer begins with kisses.

Rough wet tongues scrape soft skin.

My dove coos three times

coaxing up the sun.

Wiggling tails and feathered

furs fan wandering souls

waving them home.

My three most intimate companions

curled up beside me,

stretched across my feet,

soaring across the room,

remind me that the flow of Gratitude

is the River of my Life,

that Joy attracts,

Love like no other…

 

Working Notes:

I almost never write about my dearest companions because they are so deeply woven into my soul body – the warp and weft of Nature that separation does not exist. Loneliness cannot enter this sacred space unless one of us is distressed or missing…

Paying Homage to Hestia

(one of author’s dogs, “Hope,” gravitates instantly to the heat of the wood stove)

This morning I was kneeling in front of my new wood stove kindling a fire from hot coals when I felt the presence of the Greek Goddess Hestia, Lady of the Hearth moving through the house. The goddess manifests as a crackling wood fire, and when I kneel before my wood stove to coax coals into flames I feel as if I am paying homage to her.

I have spent two winters without a wood stove, and have missed this ritual fall lighting of the fire, and the knowing that I am participating in ancient practice that extends back far beyond the Patriarchal Greeks to the dawn of humankind.

Today I felt her presence in a visceral way as I looked out the window at the first flakes of white snow disappearing into wet ground, and felt the hearth warming beneath my feet.

Hestia symbolizes the importance of creating sacred space within one’s home by honoring the fire that turns wood to ashes and re –kindles itself, resurrecting what was dead. This is also a time to give thanks for every tree that sacrifices itself to keep us warm…

Hestia’s name means “hearth” or “fireplace,” and her status shows how important the hearth was in the social and religious life of Ancient Greeks. Making and preserving fire was essential for early cultures, which made the household fire a sacred element at a very early stage of “her – story.” In later days, Hestia became its embodiment.

Hestia received the first offering at every meal in the household with families pouring sweet wine in her name and dedicating the richest portion of food to her.

The hearth fire in the household was not allowed to go out by any family unless it was ritually distinguished.

In the Greek myth, Hestia was one of three “virgin” goddesses; the other two were Athena and Artemis. I interpret this virgin aspect as being “one unto herself, indicating wholeness which has nothing to do with chastity. Athena was a goddess of war and got lots of attention, Artemis was Mistress of Wild Animals and also a great huntress. Hestia was acknowledged as Mistress of the Fire, and cultivator of the home place. Of the three goddesses she got the least attention, probably because the Greeks were a Patriarchal warring culture that valued men over women, and thrived on conquest, rape, and killing (power over). Honoring any peaceful nurturing goddess of the household was less important.

There is an interesting story about a potential rape of Hestia by a drunken god while she was sleeping. The braying of a distressed donkey awakened Hestia in time to ward off this atrocity and thereafter, on Hestia’s feast day a donkey that wore a garland was included in Hestia’s festivities. This intervention by a loving animal may carry a significance that is easily missed. Animals can represent women who are living in a state of wholeness because they have married instincts to awareness. To become en – souled is a holy undertaking that connects a woman to All That Is.

This autumn I welcome Hestia as Keeper of the Fires into this house asking for her blessing, honoring WOMAN who tends the potentially transforming element of contained fire in her own home or realm.