Friday, May 27, 2011

Let the Mosquitoes Be Your Guide

I needed quiet time with God today. I also needed a long run, so I dropped my car off to get my snow tires removed (I think it's safe) and headed South on the Appalachian Trail. I wasn't sure what to expect as I entered a field that abuts Route 7. I turned off my music, sure that it would robe me of the total effect. Good choice. I arrived into a magical world, filled with lush grasses and maple trees, pine needle strewn floors and swamps. I traveled from the cool of a grove of trees to the mucky algal water of swampland. My feet were wet within minutes as I wondered just what the eel- like creature I had startled, was. I began to pray. The mosquitoes guided me across the terrain and I gave up on the practice of Ahimsa, wiping my sweaty arms, smearing the bodies as I went. I emerged from a grassy path onto a side road and continued through a field, the only sound was my breathing, sneakers hitting earth and songbirds. Traffic was a distant murmur. I was alone. Not really alone though. I know I was with God and probably a host of other creatures that watched me run by, the heavy footfall a contributor to hip problems and waking every field mouse in the vicinity. Each turn of the trail brought a new world, the only constant were my guides the mosquitoes, their unceasing loyalty to me made me feel important, needed, wanted, loved. The funny thing was, in the quiet, I wasn't scared. I entered the path with a clear mission, to spend time with my Creator. Field, swamp, forest, and on and on. I reached a point where I might have hit the road and continued to my final destination, my partner's house, where I would wait for my car to be ready for pick-up but I chose a different path, I continued along the Appie, unaware of what would meet me up the road, and unprepared, but armed with curiosity and naivete. The trail should lead in the direction of my destination right? More of the same terrain, right? I looked up at the rocky cliff in front of me, a mile from the turn off, my mouth parched and deer fly in tow. It was too late to turn back, or was it? If I had a map I would have known, so I forged ahead and proceeded to climb to the miraculous view shown in the above photographs. Turkey vultures flew overhead, close enough to jump up and reach, I was sure they were waiting for me to fall into the ravine, tired and dehydrated. I forged on, contacting my father for direction once I could text, amazed when he had, that day purchased a book on the trail, which he proceeded to share with me. Three miles until the turnoff that would lead me to my destination, three more mini peaks to go, Mountain Laurel waiting to bloom, Goosefoot Maple, relaying my altitude. Frustration, uncertainty and fear cropped up. Emotions I am familiar with, having indulged in fear cocktail daily for the last few weeks. But I was ok, I wasn't mauled by a bear or fed on by vultures. I reached the intersecting trail three hours and forty five minutes after I had left that morning. Maybe I traveled ten miles in all, many of those however were scaling cliff. But I was supported the entire time, almost four hours with only the sound of my breath and footstep, the rustle of trees and plop of a toad. I survived being the only human traveler, although my buzzing friends do get credit for their tenacity and devotion. I found what I was looking for, a sense of peace and space withing a fear-filled world. I was brought into the land, cradled, rocked and spit back out on the other side, reaching the faucet and plastic cup right in the nick of time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


My son let it slip the other day that my father did not approve of the tattoos I have gotten over the last decade, and said that I was poisoning myself. Typical comment from a concerned parent and I might feel the same way if my own child walked in the door decorated. What my dad doesn't know however, is that each of the marks I have permanently placed on my body have spiritual significance. The practice of marking the skin is not a recent phenomena. The oldest tattoo that has been identified carbon dates to 5,200 years ago. Tattoos have served many functions over the last 5,200 years, according to the Smithsonian, as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and forms of punishment. My reasons vary from design to design, but it comes down to one word, "connection." Connection to the past and my heritage (Celtic knot work,) connection to significant life experiences (the water lily,) and connection to God. The latter, is represented well! A Triskell adorns my arm, representing the Celtic female trilogy, and Great Blue Heron fly up my leg, bringing me into physical contact with the bird that represents my spirituality. This bird lives within all of the elements, water, air, land and, represented by its brilliant orange beak, fire. Last autumn I realized just how much I was connected to these magnificent birds when I felt their migration as a physical loss and they are now with me wherever I go. Today I join 40% of Americans between the age of 26 and 40 who have chosen to get a tattoo, and with that decision comes a connection to history and the Divine.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What's in a Name?

Mother's Day 2011. Happy day to all who are mothers, all who have mothered, and all who wish to do so. Giving birth to a child, an idea, or yourself, these actions, they all seem to blend. I know that labor is painful, I do remember those 20 hours it took on a cold December day, 18 years ago. But I also know that the creation process, whether it be a work of art, thesis, business plan or any other project that uses blood, metaphorical blood, is birth. The expectation, the fear, the excitement leading up to the fact - the pain and  release during birth, and the emptiness one experiences after. I sit here on a beautiful May Mother's day, just having completed three years work of intense undergraduate work, my baby heading off to college in a few short months, and I feel the emptiness, the after birth. Cardinals are singing, the dogs are groaning in their sleep, and I am in the midst of a transition period. A very scary transition period. When you peel away the identities, the names, the labels, mother, student, employee etc, who do you become? When the job of raising a child is over, when the work is completed, when you are left in front of the computer screen, who are you? I think this, can you call it, existential crisis, has me befuddled.

I am about to become officially divorced, and for the last year have been going back and forth about my name. Am I my husband's name, I was married for 13 years, it is the name on my child's birth certificate. Or am I the woman I was before marriage? What does a name signify? Who do I become if I take on a different name completely? Who do I become if I earn that degree? Names and Labels. What is in a name? My last name and my graduation, in the same post. Are they connected in some way? I trust that they are, just as I trust that I will know the answers to all the above questions, when I am ready and open to receive those answers. Right now I am questioning, I am thinking my way through when it might just be ok to sit back and watch the birds. They, after all, don't seem to be upset with their names. Crows and Ravens never quabble, and Great Blue Herons seem to take it in stride. So maybe for today I will be grateful, grateful for my mother, grateful to be a mother (it really was the best Christmas present ever) and grateful to be sitting here, in front of the computer screen, listening to the birds and pondering my name.