Mary’s Return

Yesterday I learned (NPR) that a third of the oak trees in this country will be dead within 50 years; I also read that our sugary harbingers of spring, the Maples, are dying confirming my own observations. I try to imagine what fall will be like without fire on the mountain.

When I heard that pink dolphins, those denizens of the fresh waters of the Amazon are going extinct, I remembered their gift to me, grateful that I had been present as a receiver. On the last day of a three – year research journey (early 90’s) I was with my guide returning to a place on the river that I loved. It was absolutely calm; my guide and I drifted along a  serpentine tributary curtained and dripping with scarlet passionflowers, when a circle of pink dolphins surrounded the dugout.

 “I love you,” I repeated the words over and over in a trance-like state glued to the rippling brown water.

Round and round they came surfacing inches away from the side of the boat. Flippers splashing shades of pink and gray.

The Circle of Life was being inscribed in the water. 

When one broke the round to swim away, it was time to say goodbye. I thanked them for their steadfast company during my Amazon journey. 

Each of my many visits had begun with a dolphin encounter. My guides were initially astonished by the way these animals seemed to follow me up and down the river, and by the end of my first stay two of them shook their heads and rolled their eyes while declaring that the dolphins loved me. I believed them. 

Now, many years later I am saying goodbye to an enduring friendship with a species I adored…

Around the world, and especially here in the ‘United’ (?) States the virus continues to spike and another strain has been identified, more contagious than the first. Two million people are dead…

So many in this country have chosen individualism, bullying and brutality over caring for others. That or it’s opposite SILENCE. This attitude of entitlement/cruelty/indifference has split our country in two. Surrendering ego opens the door to relationship with others who are different than we are creating genuine community, but creating this bridge cannot happen unless we have the desire to care for and be with one another – regardless of difference. Bullies hide behind bluffing and guns – cowards at heart – they lie, live in fear, and do not compromise. Meeting in the middle in a respectful way seems to be an anathema to many. I confess that I do not know how to wrap my mind around the culture we have created or how to start a genuine conversation with people who despise me for who I am. 

That my grief overflows is reality.

 And yet…Perhaps the waxing winter Snow Moon is pulling me with her tides into a blue -green alignment…. because with all this horrific news and corresponding grief on so many levels, I continue to renew my commitment to the Earth, my home, and to the Circle of Life.  

Living with ‘what is’ involves coming to terms with the loss of non – human species, our own, and learning to live with uncertainty without too much anxiety or fear. I enter this state every day when I breathe deeply into my belly, and focus on a precious moment in time like the one last night…

It is Christmas Eve and I open the door to two masked loved ones that enter my fragrant candlelit living room. We share laughter, words, and stories and my dearest young friend offers me a gift. When I open the box a hand carved Standing Bear looks up at me. “Oh, he’s a male Brown Bear” the child cries out in excitement. Bears are some of her very best friends. The adult is astonished at the depth and skill of the carving; it’s as if the bear has come to life. I light the candle in the center of the wreath as I welcome my new friend into our home…

Later, after the two have gone, I reflect upon my joy.

 “This is the best Christmas ever”, I hear myself say.

 I have been given precious gifts – people to love and be loved by, the Brown Bear as talisman. I am aware that it is my natural leaning and genuine need, as well as my responsibility, to reciprocate.

And I do, by offering my deepest gratitude to my friends, the tender night, and Mary who has joined me in the room. She, who taught me how to be a receiver a long time ago, and then allowed me to move on…

Working notes:

Mary was my first love. I adored this blue robed Madonna with her cloak of moon and stars when I visited her in secret at the monastery on my way home from school.

It wasn’t until I reached adolescence that I feared that She would reject me. After all, she was virgin – pure and I was made of fire. At that point Mary Magdalene entered my life. For a few years I carried the split Mary’s within. With my brother’s suicide I gave up religion.

When I began to deal with my grief, Mary re-entered my life as the Mater Dolorosa. After my children left home I discovered feminism, learned of the Black Madonna, Tara and many other female deities. Once again, Mary faded into the background. As my relationships with my adult children began to disintegrate I turned more and more towards Nature for sustenance. The non-human world seemed to help diffuse pain that just wouldn’t quit. When my youngest son turned his back on me for reasons I cannot explain I became suicidal, while desperately attempting to create a bridge to an adult who now treated me as badly as my mother once did.

I endured and eventually became sick with a debilitating stomach disorder and then emphysema. I learned that toxic relationships can make a person ill.

I tried physical distance; it didn’t help. Eventually the North Country Woman called me home. How would I manage the winters?

One day last spring a boy came into my life, a boy that talked to trees, a young man who was barely 21 years old… We had so much in common we couldn’t stop conversing even as we explored the woods, discussed philosophy, planted new cedars. Unlike my sons he wanted to help. He built bridges over my brook, dug holes I could no longer dig myself, cut down trees that had died, hauled wood. The list continues to be endless as we become more and more entangled in each other’s lives. The word he used to describe our relationship the first day we met was “kinship.” Feeling truth surfacing I looked the word up.  Kinship is born of empathy, connection, similarity… Spiritually, he has become my son, my grandson. Both of us still marvel over how we found each other. And now our relationship has been extended to include his beloved Kim as well as both his parents. A great hole has been filled.

When the two arrived on Christmas Eve for a visit I felt loved, and it was enough. It wasn’t until afterwards while sitting in the dark that Mary appeared as a golden light inside the glow of the single lit candle; she hovered around my body in the dark on a cloud. Her Presence filled the room and all my senses with another kind of joy. As I looked into the wise and gentle face of the Brown Bear, I finally understood that he had opened the door…We are all connected. 

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