In my years as a strategic consultant, I worked with many companies and agencies to create a set of organizational values. Creation is the easy part. Implementation is where it gets tricky as so often they just become words on a wall. At the moment, this is not how it’s playing out in Ireland.
The culmination of a decade-long consultation with schools and religious groups, there is a new framework on ethos that will require all state school religious events and experiences be reflective of the religions and beliefs of the entire school community. Although this action is the implementation of the equality value, it certainly encompasses the values of respect and community.
For a country with such a strong heritage of Catholic influence, and some would suggest dominance, this is remarkable. Moving from an ethos of monolithic to pluralistic is inspiring, especially at a time when so many in our nation want to move from a pluralistic to monolithic religious ethos. Yet for those who aspire to monolithic certainty, I would offer the monolith of the Golden Rule. One principle that is embedded in so many world spiritual traditions. One principle to which we can all aspire.
It seems the Irish understand this. Religious rites and religious rights flowing from the same universal ethos and value. Ah, Ireland. Once again you got it right…and rite.
Reflections on that stag encounter. Dennis suggested this will be with me for quite a while. As it should be. Such sacred moments are rare and precious.
Wild. All my relations.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know I consider all plants and animals as my relations. And it’s about being in relationship, especially with the stag. Since he was hit less than a country block from MossTerra, it’s likely he was father to some of the fawns and yearlings that live here. Indeed, he might be one of those born and raised here.
Crazy.Always an aspiration.
Some have commented on my courage to stand in the road and sing. But it’s less about courage and more about casting off proscribed expectations for social behavior. And I find there is great leverage in being elder.
As the grandmother said in my favorite scene in Moana, “I’m the village crazy lady. That’s my job.” I find there are so many opportunities for that manifestation.
Thank you for the light that you are. Thank you for the life that you are. Thank you for the blessing you are. You are sacred to me.
I stood in the middle of the road and sang this song over and over. I was loud. I didn’t care that the men could hear me, even the one with the handgun stuck in his pants.
Gratitude is part of every day of my life. No particular time or ritual. It’s just spontaneous. And in those moments of gratitude there is great joy. But not today. Today the gratitude was a gut punch.
On my way to have lunch with a friend, I noticed the men standing in the road. I slowed down. Then I saw the deer. I pulled over. As I approached the deer who was still alive one of the men said, “Careful, m’am. Don’t get too close.” But by then it was clear the stag was not able to stand on his back legs. It was clear his spine was broken. I got closer and sent him the energies of love and peace. The stag stilled and we made eye contact, eye contact he held as I sang the blessing song. At first I sang softly. But then loudly. I was singing to the stag. I was singing to the deer clan. And the stag held eye contact.
Thank you for the light that you are. Thank you for the life that you are.
Around me one man, I assume the man who hit the deer, kept apologizing. Another man was on the phone to the state patrol who we all knew would not respond to this call. There was no one who would respond to this call. I asked one of the men if he had a weapon. “Yes, I do,” he said and pulled up his shirt to reveal the hand gun in his jeans. I stepped back and continued singing.
Thank you for the blessing you are. You are sacred to me.
To their questioning glances I said that I was honoring the spirit of this animal. We must honor the spirit of this animal. I didn’t stay for the fatal shot and as I walked back to my car I turned and thanked them for what I knew would be their honoring of this animal.
Sacred stag. Sacred brother. May your clan gather To take you home.
You are sacred to me.
Deep gratitude for your life.
Gratitude. It’s always important, perhaps especially when it’s a gut punch.
Ancestors. Of course the common characteristic they all share is being dead. Beyond that, they run the gamut from noble to nefarious and inspiring to insipid and not all are worthy of our attention.
The ancestors I write about and connect with share another common characteristic. In life, theyheld a vision of a higher and greater good, of being in right relationship with the Earth, the sacred, and in community. They accumulated and assimilated wisdom throughout their lives and generally gave voice to what they had gathered when they were elders. They were the wisdom keepers and their legacy is a treasure of insight to guide our way in the world.
These ancestors, these wisdom keepers, don’t have to be long dead. Some we are fortunate to have known. Having met many, I’ve come to recognize the light that shines in them.
Michael was a bright shining. He died more than a decade ago but for some reason has been much on my mind lately. Michael and the glass flower.
When I first started staying at Michael and Rita’s B&B in Glengarriff, carry on luggage was not part of my travel protocol and so I had loads of room to take take gifts. It was the year after Mt. St. Helens erupted when many local glass artists were blowing pieces from the ashes. It was one of these, a yellow flower, that I took to Michael and Rita.
I was stunned when, after Michael died and I went to the graveyard to pay my respects, I saw that yellow glass flower placed at the base of his headstone. It was the only decoration which, given that most graves in Ireland hold many, was rare. I was beyond touched. It’s that image that has been coming back to me lately. Why the glass flower was chosen I have no idea. But what comes to me is that there is always a flower of wisdom to be created from the ashes of ancestral wisdom.
Michael’s wisdom? There was so much that flowed from him. I’ve included below the story I wrote about Michael in my Legacy book. I know many of you will have read this, but it’s always good to revisit wisdom stories. Meitheal. I have hung on to this as Michael counseled and it’s very present for me as I plan for the Doolin Gatherings next September because that sacred sense of community, woven with love and music and myth, is a wisdom we will explore deeply with the elder wisdom keepers and through stories of the ancestors. There will be flowers.
You Might Consider Hanging on to That
I carried that scrap of paper in my wallet for years after Michael died. One word, Meitheal (meh hul), he had written in a shaky hand. Perhaps due to the strength of the local moonshine in the Irish coffees he poured for us. More likely due to the encroaching cancer in his body.
Meitheal: a spirit of community. An ideal he believed in passionately.
Well I remember the first time we stayed at Michael and Rita’s B&B. Their dining room had a sweeping view of Bantry Bay, the sky filled with birds soaring and diving and riding the thermals. So on the second morning, we brought our binoculars with us to breakfast. Michael was delivering two plates of food from the kitchen when he stopped at the end of our table. He looked at the two plates and then at the binoculars. Then back at the two plates and again at the binoculars. “Well now,” he said, “I know we’ve a reputation for small breakfasts, but I’m not thinking you will need the likes of those to find your food.”
That was the first summer of Michael’s retirement from teaching, a decision forced by his declining health. A leaving that took him all too soon from the young lives and families he touched so profoundly in a two-room schoolhouse in the small village not far from where he was born and raised. A scholar, poet, wit, and gentle spirit, his eyes danced when he shared stories from his teaching years. Those generations of children and parents were his neighbors and community, and there were no limits around his caring for them.
Over subsequent visits, Michael and I became friends, spending long evening hours in deep philosophical wanderings. It was during just such an evening with Michael sharing stories from his youth when I asked him if he would have us return to those earlier times. Hard times indeed for the Irish. Times of extreme poverty and harsh social repression. Times he had lived and knew well.
His answer came without hesitation. “Oh, yes,” he said, “because people took care of each other. I think that’s getting lost altogether these days. You see, everyone was considered important. Even the man who was only capable to sweep the village streets. He and his labor were both valued. And when a farmer was sick, the whole community turned out to take in the harvest for him or put a new roof on his barn. Whatever was needed. That was the way of it.”
“That is Meitheal,” he said, writing the word and handing me the scrap of paper. “You might consider hanging on to that.”
They’re back. And apparently they have a lot to say. The sea lions have returned to our part of Puget Sound. Their barking is loud and incessant. As I walk along the water it’s rather charming to measure my steps in time with their vocalizations carried across the bay. I understand it’s less charming for those who have waterfront homes and are enduring sleepless nights. Last night I was commenting to Dennis that I was again grateful for our decision to buy acres of forest rather than a waterfront lot when we realized that even a mile from the water we could hear the barking.
When we hear the natural world speaking, it’s not always comfortable or convenient. I don’t speak sea lion. But I’ve been wondering if, within all that barking, they are trying to tell us something. The natural rhythms in their aquatic ecosystem are changing. The sea lions have arrived, as they do every year, for the salmon spawning. But they are a bit early and the salmon are late. It’s a serious issue for these hungry creatures.
Changing climate conditions are impacting the complex system of natural signals that trigger movement and migration in our Puget Sound waters and all ocean waters. We often leave it to scientists to observe these changes. We leave it to scientists to listen to the natural world. Perhaps it’s time for us to listen.
Looking back, blue birds have been significant in my life. Growing up in a Camp Fire Girls culture, I was a Blue Bird until I flew up after a sufficient passage of time and effort. I thoroughly enjoyed acquiring those color coded beads that signified achievement in activities like reading, academics, basic domestic chores, and even international travel. It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I can’t remember ever getting a bead for cooking.
My other significant blue bird encounter came in a sweat lodge during my first vision quest. Through a guided journey we were to make contact with an animal guide. After the journey, we were asked to name the animal that came to us. Deer, cougar, bear, blue heron, wolf. As these and other powerful animals were spoken in the darkness, I was determined to say nothing. For clearly unlike the other journey experiences, I encountered a flock of small blue birds in a Disney princess animation. Seriously? I hoped that somehow my teacher would forget I was there. But of course she didn’t and when she finally called on me to speak and a meek blue bird of happiness flew out of my mouth I could sense her eye rolling amid the stifled giggles in the lodge. We would explore this again another time.
The blue bird flying through social media has not been significant in my life for many of the reasons it now seems to be in trouble. Basically there’s a lack of information integrity. The tweeted messages often lack veracity, civility, and human decency. You just can’t trust that bird song. It’s sad that so many hang on every note.
There was a time when bird songs were considered to hold valuable messages from the natural world, a time when communication with the natural world was considered essential to the human world. I’ve written about this from the Irish cultural perspective, but it’s a global indigenous perspective as reflected in this message from Grandmother Bernadette Rebienot, one of the Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.
It’s time to ditch the social media bird. It’s time to turn again to authentic communication. With each other and the natural world. In that communication are the messages of hope and peace and possibility we so need in our world right now.
Indeed, what might be possible if we were to listen to those songs? I would suggest we would find tweets of true wisdom.
In the great question of cause and effect, I don’t know whether it was watching Pollyanna that sparked a sense of optimism in me or whether an innate optimism sparked a resonance with that movie. I suspect the latter. But either way, a sense of optimism has stayed with me and, according to friends and family, so has the Pollyanna archetype.
Election Day. Seems a most appropriate day to share this. Intense energies flowing through this day including a full moon, lunar eclipse, and Samhain. Yes, I know most folks celebrated this a week ago. But in the more indigenous calendar calculations, it’s today. Add to this the prayers of so many who hold and work with the Light. Huge power.
Some suggest that optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable. Some counsel us to choose optimism because it just feels better. Others view optimism as the one quality more associated with success and happiness than any other. It seems all are true. In a word, this word, there are so many energies. And all are reasons I choose to be optimistic.
Who knows how to get us out of this mess? It’s a question so many are asking. Beyond the ridiculous claims and promises of political rhetoric, who really knows?
Well, the ancestors do. And we do. This was my immediate recent response to this question. The knowing of how to shift this narrative of anger, fear, and enemy conscious is in all of us. And the wisdom in this knowing comes to us through our intrinsic human nature, our ancestral heritage both biological and soul force, and the ancestors themselves. Through the ages there have been voices of wisdom about how to be in right relationship with the earth, the sacred, and each other. These times are an urgent invitation to deep listening for that wisdom to fire our creative imaginations.
With the elections tomorrow, this piece below, which I believe I’ve shared before, seems incredibly relevant. Irish culture is based in the Brehon Laws and the underlying principle that everyone has value and further, that communities thrive only when that value is recognized and appreciated. It’s basic civil decency.
A person’s honor and honor price were no small matter and the sums were significant. We know in Irish history that satire pieces were written, generally by the Bards, as punishing commentary on someone’s bad character or behavior. The belief in the power of satire was so strong that painful boils would appear on the face of the subject of the satire. This was considered just satire. The unjust would pay a high price.
There were no police to enforce these laws. No police were necessary. It was shared community consensus that this was how they would live together in right relationship, and shared community cooperation was all the enforcement necessary.
Ancestral wisdom. Welcome reminders of what is possible. And this is what I choose to feed my creative imagination. Because…who knows?
I fell asleep last night crafting the most amazing sentence to describe the current state of our nation. But I don’t think you need the metaphor of a raging fire fueled by fear and anger. We all know the state and story of this nation is not good. And we also know that no mid-term election, regardless the outcome, is going to change that.
In these final days before the election we are being asked by both parties to imagine a dark future and they are more than willing to provide the dark details. Yes. I get it. It’s looking grim. Yet this is not the time to surrender the focus of our imagination to fear and anger.
Imagination and creativity are sacred gifts. Individually and together they are powerful. As story tellers, we hold this power to imagine a different future, a brighter future. As creators, we hold this power to shape and manifest that story.
So. Am I oblivious to the disaster narrative flowing through our nation? Of course not, and it’s important to keep an eye on what’s unfolding without being consumed by it. Am I worried? Of course I am. This raging fire will continue to burn.
But worried or not, it’s time to claim the integrity and sovereignty of our creative imagination. Because it’s time for some inspired and radical imagining.
I don’t know when Alan Rickman offered up these insights. But they echo a very strong resonance for these times.
As an actor, he took his role as storyteller seriously. He once commented that the power of a story was directly related to the power of the storyteller. And he was a powerful storyteller.
He knew that stories hold the seeds of insight and inspiration, ours to nurture in our lives and for our lives. Seeds sown and seeds planted, that we might be storytellers and story keepers, holding and sharing the stories we need to tell each other. And ourselves.
I have such a vivid memory of sitting at my grandmother’s dining room table when I was young. With tears welling up, I was dismantling the rubber fruit from the bowl placed as a centerpiece on her lace tablecloth. For some reason I especially remember the grapes. I was dismantling her fruit as she was trying to dismantle my dream of being an actress by telling me I just wasn’t pretty enough. Her admonishments caused tears, but they didn’t stick. Years later I would star as Pegora the Witch in a high school play of the same name. Seems rather prophetic as I look back.
Perhaps more prophetic was nature of the roles I dreamed of playing. Anything by Julie Andrews was a favorite. But at the top of my list was Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker. I was absolutely carried away with the idea of bringing people out of darkness and into the light. Well, that’s how I can see it looking back with the clarity of hindsight. I seriously considered working at a school for the blind and even learned sign language, which did get me into trouble with my middle school science teacher when I taught enough of it to my best friend so I could give her the answers during a test.
Prophetic. Now, almost sixty years later, I’m encouraging people to celebrate and manifest they Light they hold. I’m a storyteller. And many would very much consider me a witch.
Seeds planted and seeds sown. How amazing is this unfolding narrative of life. Through the stories we tell to ourselves and each other, so much is possible.