Friday, March 29, 2013

New Website

I am happy to report that this technically challenged poet-forager has completed her first website! Since I have not yet figured out how to add a link to this blog on the site, I thought I would begin with linking to the site from this blog. Please take a look at www.medicinewheelwithin.com. More content will follow soon, but in the meantime it's a look at the ideas I have been developing over many years on Block Island about how self-transformation and cultural transformation can occur simultaneously when we listen to Earth and act on what she tells us.

I will be guiding those who feel called to connect with the earth's stories here on Block Island in a series of workshops this April at The Block Island Poetry Project. The first weekend, April 11-14, I am incredibly honored to be teaching alongside Coleman Barks and Li-Young Lee. From April 18-21 I will be hosting an in-depth exploration of The Medicine Wheel Within path that will also include working together on the craft of poetry. This second workshop will be taught by donation so don't let lack of money stop you from joining me. I will happily take daffodils as payment!


Dream Weaving

One summer I worked as a private gardener three days a week on an estate on the island. It was the kind of job where the owners tell you to make sure you bring your own water because they don't want you coming into the house for a drink. I was so beaten down this didn't even make me angry. That's just the way rich people are, I thought. The water from my house tastes better, anyway. My thoughts were bitter, and so was my heart.

One morning when the homeowners were not there, something happened that is so extraordinary I haven't known how to tell it. I have avoided telling it because I thought no one would believe me. For a time, I felt like it was more important to keep it to myself, that the magic of this even would dissipate if I told about what happened that morning as I approached the blueberry bushes covered in netting that kept the birds off the berries. I never went into the blueberry garden. I was told to leave it alone and did not want to be accused of pilfering berries. But that day as I wandered by, I noticed something was caught in the net: a dragonfly. It was a very large dragonfly, larger than any I had ever seen. Blue and silver, gray and green, colors of the swirling ocean--but with its wings pinned, this dragonfly was still. It looked at me with its enormous, globular eyes and I fell into the blackness inside myself. I opened the gate and walked inside, walked to the corner near the top where it was stuck and decided I had to free it. When I touched the net, trying to pull the gaps wider so it could escape, its trapped body began to vibrate in panic. Its wings were so thin. I knew if it kept up like that, they would tear. I was so scared they would tear before I could get it out I started to cry. When I say I was desperate I mean it. I had no choice. I took my knife out of my pocket and cut the net. The dragonfly shot straight into the air like a rocket and left my crying.

This was one of those days when the weight of grief was so heavy on me I didn't know how people could think I was not about to sink into a hole in the earth right in front of them, but somehow I managed to convince everyone I was normal. After my daily duties were done, I hiked out to the dunes on the far side of the North Light, and lay in a bowl where you can look up and see nothing but sky and sand. If I had been able to cry, I would have. Instead, I wrote two words in the sand with my finger: "Help Me."

Night calms me. When everyone goes to sleep, I awake. It's as if once the day's pressure to be productive is over, I finally allow myself to do the work I am meant for: to dream, to weave, to create beauty. That night I sat reading in bed. Something hit the screen of my bedroom window. Heavier than the usual insects throwing themselves toward my light. I got out of bed to take a closer look. It was the dragonfly. There on my screen, miles away from where I had freed it that morning. Its colors by night were even more iridescent. I was struck again by its size and its incredible black eyes. We looked at each other for a few minutes until I broke the spell to go upstairs to get a field guide. I had never seen a dragonfly at night before. I wanted to look it up. I was strangely calm that I knew it was the exact same dragonfly, almost as if I couldn't believe it, as if I didn't deserve something so wonderful, as if there was no way a dragonfly could care about me, as if magic didn't really exist in the world.

I walked back downstairs, book in hand, and it was gone. What I read in the book still gives me chills: dragonflies do not fly at night. Later, I read that fairies often appeared to humans in the form of a dragonfly, and for awhile I told myself the fairies had answered my call for help. Maybe it was a fairy I freed from the net over the blueberries, but now I can see that it is even more wonderful if it was just a dragonfly. How marvelous that when my broken heart called to the world in two words etched in sand, that a dragonfly came to let me know that someone heard me. That I have ever again doubted that I am loved by the earth, amazes me. That I did not change my life that moment. Maybe some revelations are so shocking that they have to be softened by time in order to be absorbed by our fragile bodies. I was sobbing when I cut it free, terrified it would die before it was loose, that its wings would break against my fingers. I saved its life. It knew it. Why should I be surprised it returned the favor?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beautiful Dreamers

My process, in writing and life, has up until recently, been to make things more complicated than they need to be.  Sometimes I have presented my complications as art. Although I’m embarrassed about this, I have compassion for myself. I was lonely and needed help.  I craved human companionship like water, but there were things I had to learn on my own, without the comfort and reassurance of mirrors so that I could learn to see with my own eyes. At first I became more selfish. Every crow call I happened to hear was a message for my ears only, and I wanted you to know about it. Over time I learned to see how my impulse to share was founded on the need to be seen, not on a desire to see someone and else, which is what it takes to make a true connection. This shifted for me this winter without me knowing it. The shift came either through writing poetry, or I noticed it after in my poems. Probably both, which means I have entered the realm of relationship I longed for.
 Now that I see a bird and not a message, I am less lonely. In not needing to be seen, I see myself, and begin to ask forgiveness for my human arrogance that has kept me separate from the world. This is lucid dreaming I think. I am awake inside the dream, open to participating in creation, instead of thinking I can either control it, or have no control at all.
I once led a group into The Maze, a nature preserve on Block Island with serpentine trails where people who have hiked for years still get lost, for an authentic movement session. Authentic movement is a practice developed by a Jungian analyst to connect to the unconscious through the body. The work is done in partners, with each person switching roles as witness and mover. Starting on the ground, the mover follows the body’s impulses, while the witness holds the container. After the movement is complete, each person writes of the experience, with the understanding that, for the witness, everything written about the mover, is a reflection of themselves, and not just a statement about what they saw. Mover and witness have separate experiences that are also the same.
After we were finished I called everyone together to share their experiences with the group. One woman broke down in tears, telling us how she hadn’t touched the earth for years with anything besides shoes because she was so afraid of Lyme disease. Her grief was not just for this, but that, until she had sat down on the ground and touched it, she hadn’t even noticed.
How much are we not noticing because we’re afraid?  And why are we afraid? The earth meets all the needs of every other creature on the earth. Do we really believe that it’s not the same for us? I invite you to wake up inside the dream of a being without words, whose language comes from the sounds water makes over stones or falling on leaves, a dream that doesn’t need to be interpreted, all of its meaning unto itself.
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