Within Stone (or The Altitude of Wu Wei)

My good friend, Nancy Hendrickson of TarotExplorer.com, strongly recommended that I go on an inner journey. Specifically, she suggested that I go to the heart of a stone and there talk to the Hierophant of the tarot and ask him about what the stones are trying to teach me just now — because clearly they are trying to teach me something.

The stone whose heart I’m going into was given to me by a good friend, Jerry George. It came all the way from the high land of Tibet to live with me. He had found several of these small, smooth, pieces of jade and had been surprised to find those particular stones in that place — he knows his geology and they would not have been expected to be there. Where had they come from? How did they get there? No one knew. He brought them all the way back, and for thirty years now he has carried one in his pocket. I carried mine in my pocket or in my purse. (Why do so many women’s clothes not have useful pockets?) Then a terrible thing happened — I lost it. It must be somewhere in my house, but I cannot find it. I feel bereft and ashamed, guilty of being careless of its well-being and special value — unless it ran away, which is also possible.

But tonight I realized that of course I still carry this precious stone in my heart along with many other stones — the standing stones of Calanais, the stones of the blessing cairn here at home, my outdoor altar at home, the cairn on Dun I on the Isle of Iona, Castlerigg stone circle, the huge lump of white quartz that I brought home in Scotland and eventually had to leave behind because the movers refused to try to lift it, and so many others, large and small. I can only begin to acknowledge them all. They live in my heart and sometimes I feel them murmuring in tones too deep, too slow to hear. Trees and other beings live there too, but tonight it is the stones who wish to speak, especially the small Tibetan stone that I have mislaid but that is still with me.

So I begin this journey within at the gate to my own heart. At this moment, it is a small wooden gate with hinges that squeek their own song, swinging loose in the wind. It opens itself for me, and I freely pass through.

The path to the stone is grassy — greenly aromatic, gentle underfoot. The stars in the dark sky above are shining brightly. A soft breeze lazily plays with my hair. Ahead in the darkness the stone rests on the ground. Although the stone I was given is quite small, here it is its true size, as big as a house. In front of me there is a door, the door to the heart of the stone. The door is small, just big enough for me to enter. All around its frame rune-like symbols are carved. The door swings itself open for me, and as I enter in, I see that it is a someone’s home. A bright fire burns on the hearth. On either side of the fire, turned so they both face each other and the fire, are two comfortable armchairs. I sit in the one on the left, and as I do, I remember that the dark column is on the left side of the High Priestess tarot card, so I am sitting in the yin, receiving place.

Faint shadows move in the other chair in the flickering light of the fire, and gradually the hierophant becomes visible. He is dressed like the pope, but in a shimmering cloth that seems to be all colors at once, even white, even black. I am distracted, fascinated by that cloth for a while and when I come back to the present moment, I see that the shadows have solidified, become someone visibly real. It is the hierophant. He grins at me, almost mischievously, as if inviting me to enjoy his neat arrival trick. Without moving, he is here, as if he had always been solidly and really here.

I rub my nose and apologize for having entered uninvited. He both acknowledges and dismisses my apology with a casual wave of his hand. “The first pope,” he elucidates didactically, “was Peter — and as you may recall “peter” comes from petra and means rock. He was the foundation rock of the church. I am not that pope, but I am the foundation, the true rock of the earth. Now, why are you here?”

I’m not sure of the answer — is “I was told to come” a true answer? My mind is a blank. Is this going to be one of those journeys? The ones that go nowhere? I think of leaving and coming back later, but know that only rarely do I come back to the same place again after leaving it. Catch the moment or let it go… which? I feel more like a butterfly than a rock — and how do butterflies communicate with rocks?

I rise from my chair and sit on the floor at this honored teacher’s feet.

“On these journeys of yours,” he prompts me, “you usually ask, what do I, the guide, need from you — remember?”.

I nod. I’ve only been making these intentional spirit journeys for a little under 50 years in this life — you’d think that by now I’d remember how to get back on track when I get lost. Why do I feel so confused?

Ummm. Because I’m not grounded. Here I am, sitting inside a rock, talking to Rock, sitting on the stone floor, and I am not grounded. I try to “sit like a mountain” as I do when I meditate. Not working — I’m still fluttering. How about sitting like a tree, roots running deep, leaves moving in the breeze?

My spirit self stubbornly persists in randomly floating like a butterfly. Why?

The hierophant’s intense dark eyes pin me in place, my invisible, intangible wings still fluttering. To him, to All Stone, I am like a butterfly — light, floaty, ephemeral. As permanent as a mayfly. It dawns on me that I can be nothing else! To the deep stone, I am impermanent, even evanescent. Fizzy me. I stop trying to be grounded like a stone and instead rise gently in the air. The stone I feel most like is a reverse meteor rising slowly up through the air, slipping free of gravity, burning in my moment of bright insight.

I have spent all of these years trying to be grounded. What am I, what will I be if I let myself go free — ephemeral, short-lived, momentary… floating? This is so relaxing. There is no effort in floating. Being a grounded, practical doer is so effortful… and exhausting. I remember with a feeling of d’oh! that I learned once before, long ago, how relaxing and healing it was to just float, just be free, be diffuse and unfocused. I even made a “meditation technique” of it and taught it to others. (At the right time in the right circumstances, this is a valuable skill  — but it is not a substitute for meditation or being well earthed in the right circumstances for that.)

At this realization, the rigid Stone around me melts and becomes Tree, branches waving in the breeze, roots reaching into Earthmama. Yet, though I may sit like a tree to meditate — usually — I am not a tree, not rooted. Mobile. Bouncy sometimes. Sometimes I flop down on Earthmama, my heart energy connected with her, sometimes I float on her waters or sit in the branches of trees, drifting.

Looking for my right place between the states of stone and vapor, I find my own specific gravity, the place where I am at home — the place of perfect balance, effortless, free, not holding, not releasing, just being. Sensing, noticing that this point changes moment by moment, like the balance of a surfer on a wave. The surfer, too, is in a medium where he neither sinks nor rises above — his natural place is on the boundary between. He bobs with the waves and with his own breath, a complex single movement flowing from many natural forces.

I have earth within me, solid bone, flesh, and bonded blood, and I have air and spirit within me, boundless. There is bright fire and flowing water too. All of the elements are part of me. My natural place is to be just as earthed as I need to be to do what I need to do at this moment. That’s it. That’s all.

Yet at other times I may need to soar freely to listen — to catch the messages that waft between the stars. Or at other present moments it may be time to be between the ebb and the flow to rest in my own specific gravity place — to rest, to restore, to recover, to recuperate, to regenerate, to re-create. Note that word STILL. Being connected to the universe, to stone beneath and stars above, is important. But it is equally important to allow Self to just BE, to rest, silent, not rigidly straight, not effortfully rising, but a living stillness that is in constant motion floating on the waves of the breath of the universe, letting my own breath be what it is and find its own harmony.

Tension is about holding an unnatural, inappropriate, or unskillful way of being. We know it is unnatural and unskillful because it requires tension to hold us there — how simple is that? Relaxation is about consciously letting go of that tension by focus and attention (“at tension” — isn’t that sneaky?) Both are doing. Peace is the place between, the point where nothing is needed, no action at all.

Wu wei.

Good God/dess, how could I have forgotten that?

Everything around me dissolves, becomes esse, being, even the man who is Stone. Nothing is left but a smile that isn’t even there.

Stones That Travel

jade-altar-stone

Earthquakes. as you know, are the results of the movement of stones, great tectonic plates slithering around beneath the surface of the earth, under the pressures of forces we barely begin to understand. Stones that move. Why? We make up reasons about the “how” but somehow don’t even think about the “why”.

Glaciers move. They are famous for it. And one of the things they move beneath their surfaces is stone. They chew great chunks of stone out of mountains, scraping and shattering and scattering, and they move smaller stones the size of a house or a shop or a bus. They even pick up tiny pebbles and grains of sand. They carry them all, sometimes for great distances.

Have you ever picked up a pebble from the beach and carried it around in your pocket? Why? Because it’s pretty? Because it sparkles? Because it has a unique shape or markings that look like… something? Because it might be precious? Because … just because? Consider flowers and how they attract insects to help fertilize them — scents, colors, even honey, the naughty things! And here we are picking up stones and carrying them around… why?

Suppose you carry a stone home and put it in your garden… what makes you want to do that? What is hidden in you, deep beneath the surface of your mind? More importantly, perhaps, what does the stone want? Is your garden its final destination? Or has it further travels simmering in its slow mind?

I have to admit that I do this. There are rocks in my garden that came from Scotland, from Wales and England, from Mount Laguna, from Hurricane Ridge, and from Pillar Bay. Wherever I go, I’m very apt to come home with my pockets full of small stones — and possibly a shopping bag for larger or more grubby rocks.

When we were about to move from Scotland back to the USA, my husband asked if he could throw my box of “random” stones and pebbles away. Galvanized, I leaped up and shouted, “Let me sort them first!”

“Never mind,” he muttered and packed the lot. We brought them all.

There is a stone in my garden, wild jade. According to my son, it weighs something between three and four hundred pounds — closer to four. It is the altar in my garden. We found it in the decomposed granite soil well beneath the surface where the fir and western red cedar trees grow.

The top of the stone was about three feet down, and it was discovered when we were digging a hole to hold a 1000 gallon water tank. My son put it where I wanted my altar to be. When I moved into town for few years it went with me, and when I moved back into the forest it came back again, my son grumbling all the way. It is smooth, dull green, with jade’s soapy feel but not a precious stone, except perhaps to me. In spite of the fact that I’m about 300 feet above sea level, it has white petrified barnacles (or something that looks so like barnacles that I can’t tell the difference) on one side of it. Is it a glacial erratic?

There is a lot of wild jade in this area, but I don’t know how far it traveled to get here. I know one thing though — if I were to move back to Scotland, it would go with me. It’s my altar, after all. A sacred stone, resting on the ground and beneath the surface of my heart and always with me.

Have you ever considered that all things might be alive? And conscious? Have you realized that our Earthmama is only soft in some places on the surface, and that beneath the surface, she is all stone, molten or rigid? And that she is in constant motion? Have you considered that we call her Earthmother, but we might more rightly call her Stonemother?

What if… just what if she creatively evolved all of us soft surface beings only to help shift stones around? In the distant past there have been several “die offs” where large portions of the soft surface life were eliminated from this planet. Was Stonemother simply clearing the way to evolve better movers of stone? From dynamite to bulldozers to denim pockets, are we (in the grand scheme of things) just facilitators for the movement of stone?

It’s something we have done since we began — simple stone tools, barrows and stone circles, stone huts, pyramids, marble temples, cathedrals, banks, grand homes — all of stone. We arranged the stones in beautiful patterns to show off their colors and lovely textures. We polished diamonds and rubies and quartz and all of the other scintillating, sparkling, seductive, glittering stones, and we wear them everywhere. “SHINY!” small girls shriek, and jewelers’ eyes gleam.

And now we build enormous structures: the huge buildings, the freeways and motorways — vast constructions of … cement. Certainly, it contains sand, and sometimes small rocks, but does it count? Have we gone wrong? Have we forgotten our true purpose in life?

We do know that we are facing yet another potential extinction period — is she planning to make room for even better movers of stone? Should we be focusing on this rather than carbon sequestration and changing temperatures?

It’s only a thought — please, don’t let it make you lie awake at night thinking about it. But I wonder, does Stonemother, or do the stones we have carried, know that we are alive and have feelings and thoughts in our own primitive way? Or do they see us as being like mayflies, flickering in and out in a moment, ephemeral? Have they any compassion for us at all?

I'm back…

It has been a while since I posted here. Several blogs have been partly written, but none were finished due to a sudden outbreak of stress and chaos and distress in my life. (There may be more about that later, but then again, there may not.)

As some of you know, I joined the July NaNoWriMo frenzy. (NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month in which you write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel. It has gone international.) Unfortunately, I didn’t frenz — too many distractions, too many things to do. I’d set my goal (you can do that in July but not in November) at 30,000 words — 1000 a day. Even I can do that, I thought. What’s more it would be easy to keep track of, which 1667 words a day last November wasn’t. I was wrong.

It was easy to keep track of, mostly because I hardly wrote anything. Six hundred and ninety-five words the first day and nothing for a week after. And more nothing the week after that. I’d planned to do the whole second draft of Marzipan’s True Adventures but was still stuck on how to sneak in the back-story without becoming turgidly tedious. I thought I might do it with a prologue, but it kept trying to turn into an entire prequel. Arrrgh.

Okay, I thought, I’ll just write the wretched prequel instead, a whole book in itself, and then I’ll do the second draft of the real story. Noooo. The prequel folk simply ran wild, busily doing things and becoming real characters but without a trace of a plot. Entertaining for Marzipan and me, but not probably not publishable. But even with spurts of prequel, the word count remained down in the few-and-far-between, barely visible with a microscope.

I’d so many great excuses, ranging from welcome guests to minor surgery to the now-usual chaos at home to wiltingly hot weather. I began to despair. In fact, I was on the verge of withdrawing from the whole NaNoWriMo thing and digging a deep, cool hole in my forest (like a modern fogou but without the stone walls). But that was too much work in hot weather. So.

All this finally led to a decision to simply give up on NaNoWriMo this time as an act of kindness to myself and to everyone listening to me moan about it, but I drew one of the oracle cards (from my (unfinished, unpublished) oracle in Second Life — actually Marzipan drew it for me) (now that I think about it, I’m a little suspicious of her motives). Anyway, the card very firmly advised me not to give up. So I’m going to change my goal to not-a-word-count-at-all, but to getting a fairly good version of a short prologue. I may be able to do that.

I dunno. Writing short and scintillating and like a sybil is tough stuff! I’ve come near to writing an entire prequel while trying to write the dratted prologue. One intended, concise, sparkling paragraph kept turning into pages and pages of unnecessary detail. Writing short is easier in poetry where you expect to sweat blood over every word. What if I wrote it in blank verse then? KISS — Keeping It Simple, Sweetie. Then taking the line breaks out would… No, it didn’t. It just kept getting longer. And writing a book in blank verse is just not what I wanted to do.

At last, one night several days ago at bedtime, looking for a book to read myself to sleep, I came across Mike Resnick’s Santiago on my bookshelves. Its orange cover glowed temptingly at me. Without wondering why a color I normally dislike looked so alluring, I headed for bed with it and a cup of hot cocoa.

Resnick is an excellent writer. I always liked his writing, but as I’ve learned more about technique, now I can see more about why much of his work that I read before seemed so good (in spite of his female characters usually being either non-entities or bitches). The surprise was that three pages into it I was out of bed again and pacing the floor, muttering to myself. Resnick had done it in his prologue; he had accomplished what I was finding so impossible in my own prologue — a back story/stage setting in brief and with sizzle.

I read it over and over trying to see how he’d done it. Now I’m trying to do something equally as compelling — which perhaps is not so easy when you’re writing about faery kittens and other faery gentry as it might be when writing about bounty hunters and legendary giants on the galactic frontier. Or maybe it is, and I just haven’t gotten it yet.

I’m still working on the beginning of the beginning, but I have hope and a few short paragraphs of a start. It sings to me. It sounds, I hope, like the myth it is supposed to become. My Megan Granddaughter said, “Wow!”

But, you know, even with all this I’m completely delighted to be co-writing a book (or a series) with Marzipan. If you haven’t already you might want to check out her Facebook page though she actually has more followers than this blog does — and gets a lot more comments. She is also much more cute and fluffy than I, but she is a cat and that is only to be expected. I was going to put a photo of her here, but there are lots of both the virtual and the earthly photos of her on Facebook and her own web pages. Happy Tuesday!

When a Typo Becomes a Word

Several people I know like to play with words. Mostly, I prefer to play Hunt The Word, looking for exactly the right word with all the right nuances. But sometimes it seems like there isn’t one in English — or at least it isn’t readily to be found in dictionaries or in the thesaurus. And sometimes there are typos that look like a word, but aren’t in the dictionary. In the space between these two frustrations, new words may be born.

I’m writing a book. Some of the people in the book are part human, part faery. After months of trying to think of a name for this sort-of-species, a typo burst on the scene and it was sounded right. In an instant message, someone typoed “humna” instead of “human”. It was just right — almost human, but not quite. So I began using the word in my story.

Then I had a thought. What if “humna” already was a word, perhaps commonly used in another language? And what if it meant something entirely inappropriate? Scary idea! So, of course, I googled “humna”. At first, I didn’t find much useful, but then in the Urban Dictionary I came across this:   (n.) A person who is extremely annoying but lovable as well. Usually Humnas are very unique and odd. They tend to have large eyes and crazy laughs. Humna’s are far from normal and aren’t always well liked. It takes a special type of person to understand a Humna, but in the end they make for good company. A Humna is very entertaining and once you get to know a Humna you can’t help but to fall in love.

Unfortunately, they didn’t give the source of the word, but it will do just fine.

I blame the characterization of “extremely annoying” on the general human tendency to be irritated by anything they don’t understand. And “wild laughter” would have been more appropriate than “crazy laugh” — but it’s all a matter of personal perception of and reaction to the fae.

Wouldn’t it be funny if my book became popular and “humna” eventually crept into the language as a half human/half faery? Or at least, half-faerylike?

Here is a photo of one of our humnas — Marzipan’s Herself, Ceilear. I am undecided about the ears. Should they be human ears or… ? I have sort of caracal ears in mind for everyone, both humna and the chat sith dos, with tufts like caracal ears do have. (You can google many excellent photos of caracal and their marvelous ears.) The ears in the photo still need a lot of work. The chat sith dos will have the best caracal ears I can manage, but what do you think about the humna? Yea or nay?

 Ceilear

Winter Solstice

This is an excerpt from Marzipan’s Adventures, a series of books currently being written about some chat sith dos (tufted faery cats) who live on a world halfway between the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and Tir n’an Og of Faery. This is close to the end of the second book. (No, the first one isn’t finished yet, but these things do happen when you’re doing things with either cats or faeries, and this is about both.) You may wish to know that A’ Ghrian is The Sun in English, and here it means more than just a ball of fire in the sky — it is also the spirit of the sun, a divine being. I plan to add at least one photo to this after the initial posting so check back later for the picture. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from the story, written during the most recent solstice, step by step.

by Jessica & Marzipan Macbeth

Solstice Eve

Solstice evening came early, the longest night of the year. It was cold — colder than Marzipan could ever remember. All of the villagers, all of the people from Hill House, all of the wild chattan sith dos, the cattle, the goats, even the chickens, the wild creatures, and birds — all of them stood silently on the western shore and watched A’ Ghrian falling toward the sea.

As the sun just touched the sea, Riona’s rich voice lifted in slow song — a threnody of sorrow, of deep sadness, of grief and desolation. The light, the warmth of the world was dying. Dairri’s tenor voice joined Riona’s, and soon the silver bell of Aislynn’s voice soared above them both, ringing with Ceilear’s clear soprano. Bram’s bass tones were so deep that Marzipan felt as if it vibrated in her bones. One by one, all of the others joined in, even the animals and the birds, and their voices echoed off the hills. Only Mama Isa and Gran’ma Cait were silent — but their tears were their own songs.

Marzipan felt as if something within her was breaking. She held out her arms to A’ Ghrian as she had done every morning of the year past, but this time was not to help him up, but to gently ease his going. She too sang softly, her small voice breaking, almost unheard in the many-voiced threnody, the song of farewell, of morning.  She sang of all their mornings together, of how his warmth touched her and helped her grow strong, of how generous he was with all his blessings and warmth and light through the year, of how he illumined mind and spirit as well as the world. She sang about the plants in her little garden, who loved him as she did. She sang gratitude and love that pulled at her heart as A’ Ghrian disappeared into the sea for the last time.

He would not return.

The song changed, became A’ Ghrian’s coronach, proclaiming his death, and gradually his requiem — remembering him, remembering the glory he brought in the spring, remembering the richness and abundance of summer, remembering the melancholy beauty of autumn, and the dying of the year… and now his death in the cold sea.

As the shadows deepened into night, all of the folk turned and walked with darkened eyes as the cold stars came out above them, hard and bright. They walked south, then up and across Two Bridges Road, and up the snow-covered Green Road, still singing the slow, heavy song of grief and memory. It was a long, sad walk and some of the smaller creatures needed to be carried part of the way. Sometimes one voice would ring plangently over the rest, poignant and filled with pain, and other times all would harmonize together, swelling and soaring and fading… but never quite silent.

When they reached the top of the tor, still softly singing, the Lady Riona and Lord Dairri paused at the entrance to the old stone circle, more ancient than the world itself. They stood to each side and waited until Gran’ma stepped through and went to the altar stone. She turned and lifted her hands in welcome to everyone. Next Riona and Dairri entered and they also bade welcome to the rest. In ones or twos the others followed and then they all sat on the frosty grass, except for Gran’ma who turned back to the altar fire. There wasn’t quite room for everyone in the small stone circle and some of the wilder creatures were shy about being so close to others. They huddled together just outside and looked in. Marzipan could see the light of the altar fire flickering in their eyes between the stones, and she could see the same light on Gran’ma’s face and in that glow saw how Gran’ma sometimes looked incredibly old and other times very young — and all of the ages in between.

The song continued, sometimes in one voice, sometimes in several, almost like a conversation, the stories and the memories of the year. Marzipan knew the song in her own heart and how it blended with the rest. She wanted to sit in Herself’s lap, cuddled close, but at the same time she knew this was a time for being alone and lonely in the darkest, coldest night, so she pulled her shawl around her and fluffed her fur underneath it. She was still cold — there was an inner coldness as well as an outer one that she felt as she murmured her song of farewell to her beloved friend, A’ Ghrian, who had warmly blessed her every morning, every day for most of her life.

Just before midnight, the song slowly died. The fire on the altar, which had been flickering lower and lower, went out in a puff of smoke. The wind’s whisper among the trees hushed. For a timeless moment Marzipan felt as if her heart had stopped. Stonemother’s little world was wrapped in deep silence. It seemed like a long forever time in the nadir of the night.

It might have been silent forever had there been no one there to open their hearts, but out of the darkness, Riona’s voice rose again — softly, gently, and this time in a hesitant hymn of hope. Dairri’s voice joined hers, interwoven in counterpoint, voices entwined, rising up to the scintillating stars. Other voices rang in, and it was as if the voices were dancing. The swirl and whirl of the interwoven songs, all coming out of the deep darkness, enchanted Marzipan, both made her breathless and brought her more deeply into the song. Every one sang their own hopes and dreams and wishes, no two the same, and yet they were heart and soul in harmony.

Marzipan hummed in her own purr, thinking of her own dreams. Obviously, she wished all of them joy and her own self as well. Good health to the people and the land, gladness and prosperity to all… but anyone would wish that. What did she wish? What path did she want to walk? What did she want to become?

She didn’t know. Marzipan had reached that strange age where no one quite knows what you’re going to do next, least of all yourself, and at that moment she didn’t know what she wanted, didn’t know what to do. She finally realized that going in circles in her mind wouldn’t get her anywhere, and remembering her lessons, she let her mind grow still and sink deeper and deeper into the song.

Solstice Morn

For just that deeply still moment she could hear the Oran Mor, the Great Song of Stonemother, of the stars, of everything that is — and she remembered. She remembered promising Stonemother that she would try to be the very best she could be — she might not yet know just how or what particular thing that might be, but she knew that was it  — to find the path to her very best. And for that, she would need help — the blessing of A’ Ghrian, of Stonemother, of all of the beings around her — the songs of all of them were a part of her song — and her song a part of theirs. She could feel that wish, that profound desire within her, trying to burst out in a joyous carol, to soar up to the stars and delve deep into the heart of the world. She felt as if something were swelling within her, as if she were a small balloon about to explode.

She stood up, quivering, and far too full to speak. Suddenly she leapt upon the altar where she danced the song she felt. There were no words — just her dance, and as she danced, the fire on the altar re-kindled in a burst of light. She danced in the light, like a living flame. She danced to the song the others sang, and the dance itself was her own heartsong. It felt like she danced forever.

The sky began to faintly lighten in the east, over the sea. She could feel the small presence of the new A’ Ghrian becoming stronger, becoming closer, becoming Himself, the blessing of light and warmth and growth.

Father Eagle soared over them, shouting, “He is coming! Now! He comes!

Somehow, instinctively and without thinking about how she was doing it, Marzipan wove all of the heartsongs together in her dance and entwined them with the light of the altar fire, which was the heartsong of Stonemother, and with the gentle glow in the east. Placing her feet firmly on the altar and stretching out her arms, she lifted A’ Ghrian above the horizon. It was the èirigh na grèine, the rising on the sun. He was born. He lived. He illumined Stonemother’s small world.

And Marzipan held him in her paws as she would hold a babe, a kitten, cherishing him, his tiny and fragile and newborn self.

She could feel her friends beside and behind her. She felt their eyes glowing with the new light within them, and all of them had reached as she did, lifting, holding, loving the baby A’ Ghrian — and all of them were filled with his joyous light. The song rose to a crescendo and ended on a single heartbeat — and yet it went on echoing in the hills, between the trees. Marzipan knew that it would echo there all year, shaping the dance of life in the isles.

Gran’ma stretched out her arms and Marzipan jumped into them, and threw her arms around Gran’ma’s neck and hugged her as close as she could. Riona touched her gently, and Marzipan turned and hugged her. Mama Isa watched, smiling through her drying tears, and Marzipan went into her arms and was gently hugged, then handed on to Ceilear, her very own Herself, and she nestled into her arms — safely home, secure, and almost thinking about breakfast.

Solstice Day

Slowly, smiling, each one left the circle, Dairri and Riona first through the gate, where they stopped on each side, blessing each of their folk as they came out. New sun, new day, new year, new life. Gram’ma Cait was the last out, Mama Isa holding her arm, lending strength. It was a long walk home, north on the white snow of the Green Road, westerly down to the bridge and across to the village. Marzipan got to walk part of the way with Aislynn, who was back from visiting Old Earth, and her chat sith dos, Megan, who was new to the isles. She had heard that they would be home and this would be Megan’s first Solstice on the isles.

Megan seemed a little bewildered — she had never seen so many of her people before. Most of the chattan had gone home from the tor to their own places, but Marzipan introduced her to Jake and Granny Catriona who both welcomed her, but Megan seemed very shy and hid her face in Aislynn’s skirts as she mumbled “hello”. Marzipan tried to be friendly, and was sorry when Dairri and Riona turned off for the Hill House and took Aislynn and Megan with them. She had a lot of questions about Old Earth that she would like to ask Megan. But that was all right — she’d see her later at the feast. Aislynn and Megan had come home and would be here all winter.

As they went through the village, all of the purrsons stopped at their own places except Mama Isa and Papa Davie, who had their vardo just beyond Ceilear and Marzipan’s house. They were going to have breakfast together. While Ceilear and Isa lit a new fire in the old kitchen hearth to begin breakfast and Papa Davie lit the fire in the sitting room, Marzipan went outside to visit her garden. Most of the plants were bedded down for the winter in straw, but she lifted up their straw caps so they could see the new sunlight and she told them about the death of the sun and the long night and then the birth of the new sun and the spring and summer that was coming. They seemed excited about the springtime. Then she carefully tucked them back in, and went in to have breakfast and a good nap.

Marzipan knew that later in the afternoon all of the villagers and the wild chattan sith dos and some of the others would gather in the village hall. The chickens and squirrels certainly would come too — they always came to parties for the crumbs and the singing. So did the wild birds — even the owls. The goats liked to come as well, though there were extra-delicious things in the barn for them and the cows and sheep. Goats liked to be in the middle of things.

There would be music and dancing and feasting. There would be presents, handmade gifts to each other. There would be laughter. And over all of it, there would be the warm blessing of the newborn A’ Ghrian. Marzipan thought, “He’s a little baby — he’ll go to sleep early tonight. I must be there to help tuck him in. We’ll all want to go to sleep early tonight!”

The Rite of Writing Right & The White Rose

A few days ago I went to a talk  by William Kenower at the Writers’ Workshoppe, and one of the first thing he said was that it was of primary importance to write what you truly want to write  — not to worry about the expectations of others, not to be concerned with approval, or any of that  — just to write it. And in the class I attended yesterday (also at the Writer’s Workshoppe), Midge Raymond emphasized the importance of blogging among many other useful things. This whole study thing is, for me, about being a better writer  — and indeed, being a published author at all. I know… I am published and all that, but I want to be better at it.

So here is the blog that I most want to write at this moment:

One of those odd little things that happen so often came up a few days ago. I wanted a photo of a white rose for a book cover and for a piece of stained glass in Second Life. It’s September. In Western Washington. Not a lot of roses around probably. None in my garden. The only thing I have is a miniature peach rose that hasn’t bloomed all summer.

But…

I mentioned this lack of white roses to my friend, Raine, and she too had none, had seen none, and didn’t expect to at this time of year. Yet, as we walked out to the car to go shopping, she noticed that my tiny rose was finally blooming  — one blossom only. Looking at it closely, we saw that was white and not peach. The label still says “peach” but the rose had gone for white instead.

I’m dismayed to report that my first reaction was to wonder what was wrong with it. My second was to realize that I had asked for a white rose and here it astonishingly was. My third was to silently grumble that I’d had a big, fluffy white rose in mind (though I hadn’t said so) and that this was “only” a paltry little miniature thing. And my fourth was to be ashamed of myself. Sheesh. Perhaps I need to wash my brain out with soap.

In fact, I then realized that a miniature rose was perfect for my needs — after all, both the book cover and the stained glass are for the chat sith dos, the little people, in Marzipan’s Adventures. What would they want with a rose larger than their heads to lug around?

And then I forgot to take the photo.

And now? Yes, I’m grateful for the tiny white rose, for the little bud appearing beside it, for the generosity of MamaNature, and for her delightful response to my need. You can call it a co-incidence if it makes you feel better, but to me and to many others, it’s one of the little miracles that happen often, and it is a joy to notice and be grateful for them.

#

So, that is this morning’s response to “write what you really want to say.” As Kenower promised, it made me happy to write it. He also told us to ask ourselves when we’d finished writing if we were satisfied that we’d said what we really wanted to say, our real truth, and if we’d said it accurately. I just read this over, and yes, I did and it did. And you don’t need to worry that I’m going to start doing blogs three times a day — I’ve got a bunch of other things I’d just love to write.

Yesterday I went out and lo! The tiny rose was still blooming, and thus photos were made. So, here, larger than life, is the rose and I hope you can enjoy it without the nonsense I went through about it!

A Might-As-Well-Be-White Rose
A Might-As-Well-Be-White Rose

The Faery Ninefold Path

You may have heard of the Buddhist Eight-Fold Path, one of the core sets of principles in Buddhism. I first learned of the Eightfold Path many years ago, and more recently I told you about it in my post here, Buddhism on Wings. Today I was sorting through old papers and files looking for things I want to include in the book I’m currently working on (title unknown, but it’s a handbook for Faery Whisperers, an oracle, a path, a guidebook—something like that). I found my copy of the Faeries Ninefold Path, as they gave it to me.

I have to admit that I’ve no recollection of when and where they delivered it. The usual thing is that I sit up in bed during the night or early morning, bleary-eyed and tousle-headed, grab the laptop, and start typing frantically. And when I’m done, I go back to sleep. This is apparently one of those things—undated, titled Jesa’s List, and just bare bones. I’m putting it here because I’m unsure if I want to put it in the book project, but thought I’d wave it around and see if anyone was interested. So here is the Faeries’ Ninefold Path. It doesn’t contradict the Eightfold Path, but it’s not the same either—a different set of guidelines for a life that works from two quite different sources.

  • Maintain expectant gratitude—something good is always about to happen. Something bad may happen as well. Expectant gratitude helps us to notice and see the value in both, and it maintains a harmonious internal environment.
  • Pay attention; be aware—a great deal is always happening. It’s easy to miss the important things (sometimes quite small) if we don’t pay close attention.
  • Note the miracles—they happen often; don’t miss them.
  • Act with integrity—it is essential to inner peace.
  • See what is—observe with clarity and without judgement. Judging clouds the mind.
  • Be kind—compassion is important, of course, but simple kindness and courtesy goes a very long way in creating a world worth living in.
  • Compare carefully—only measure yourself against yourself. What have you learned? How have you grown? How much have you loved? Are you growing?
  • Love generously—risk the heart daily. It gives meaning, purpose, and joy to life. Love flows naturally through an open heart.
  • Be open to adventure—it adds to the texture of life and stretches our definitions of ourselves.

I’ll add a photo to this later if I can find the one I want. 😉

 

In Praise of Chaos & Order

Many kinds of things come in polarities: cold/hot, young/old, male/female, feeling/thinking, believing/knowing, extrovert/introvert, and many others. Some of these things are either/or and some of them form a spectrum from one extreme to the other. Chaos and order form such a spectrum. From the white-hot chaos of the beginning of the universe, wherein all was potential, to the ultimate order of the heat death of the universe (assuming that either ever did or ever will happen), we see a spectrum.

I was talking with Nancy the Virgo the other day, and it became evident that her idea of a reasonable amount of order is much more orderly than mine. Mine looks like chaos to her. We are comfortable at different places on the spectrum. Then I was talking with Michael the Aries, saying that I am rather like Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon strip, except that, instead of attracting dirt like Pigpen, I attract chaos. I can walk by a stack of papers two feet away and they slither down behind the desk. Michael was very sympathetic – he, too, is in a love-hate relationship with chaos.

When the chaos becomes too bad, I become dysfunctional. But when things become too orderly (true, this doesn’t happen often) or when I am in someone else’s super-orderly (by my standards) environment, I feel paralyzed and don’t know what to do until I’ve untidied things a bit. And if I can’t untidy them, I wander around picking things up and putting them down again, doing nothing useful. There has to be a little bit of chaos, maybe quite a large bit, in order for my mind and spirit to move fluidly, creatively, and to find new juxtapositions in old information, new aspects or ways of seeing the pattern. For me, and from what I hear, for many others a certain amount of chaos is an essential ingredient in the creative process.

Yet other people like to have things orderly, and to go on making them even more orderly. They like static patterns, in which there are Answers. Most of us, even we lovers of moderate chaos, are desperate for Answers. Knowing myself, I suspect that if an all-knowing God gave me Answers, I’d probably just argue about them. And I know a lot of other people who would probably do the same.

I suspect that many people were terribly relieved when scientists came up with the Chaos Theory, which, as I understand it, is that there is order in all things but it is much too complex and multidimensional for us ever to understand. This is why your blowing out of your birthday cake candles can be the ultimate prime cause of a storm months or years later in Argentina, which in turn might be in the direct line of causation for the eventual collapse of the (at present nonexistent) federal government of South America. And severe flooding in Alaska.

If things are this complicated, it is hardly surprising that we make mistakes and misjudgments. And we do all make mistakes, which we can regard as a part of our growth process. If we cannot accept this view, we miss an opportunity for creative spiritual growth. We get stuck in a sort of miniature entropic heat-death of our own, wherein we become rigid and deny free-flowing change. Instead of saying, ‘Hot damn!* I wonder where this is taking me?’ we say, ‘Why me, God? Why me?’ We are again demanding Answers – which we would almost surely argue with if we got them.

I suspect that, even when we evolve to several stages higher on the evolutionary scale than humans are, we’ll still make mistakes. This raises an interesting question: does even God/dess (the all-Oneness-that-Is) make mistakes? Or does It just approve of chaos? Because it certainly seems that every once in a while that things just don’t make sense. Is this because God/dess  (in the ultimate sense) has goofed or because It has simply stirred in a little more chaos so that extraordinary things, possibly even miracles can happen?

At just this moment in time, the balance in my home feels absolutely perfect for me. Clearly it isn’t so for the cats and they are working for more chaos. I can handle that. 😉 Do you know your own Right Balance?  Perhaps  that should be #9 in the Eight-fold Path…

* I know ‘hot damn’ is a very old-fashioned expression, but it was the only one I could think of that actually seemed appropriate.

Truthiness, Energy, & Faery Economics 103

I just awakened (it’s 4:45 AM, but who cares about that?) with faery economics in my head again. I don’t, as you must realize by now, fully understand them, so the fae keep trying to explain them to me. This is very basic stuff to them, but full of shifting energies and mystery to me.

This morning’s lesson: It’s all about change and the exchange.

I woke up wondering why the fae want me to write the books I’m working on, because it is my perception that they do want that very much. (I won’t argue with anyone about whether that is objectively “true” or not—my perceptions may or may not be thy perceptions, but—like all of us—mine influence what I do. So I’m working hard on the books and they are coming along well—again, my perception 😉 ). As I think/intuit my way through Marzipan’s story, it is changing my energy/thoughts/behavior in a way that the world could change—if enough of us want it to make it so. And the oracle book is the same, but different.

The thing I’m learning right this moment is that the reason the fae have so much difficulty with the “money thing” (see http://www.jesalog.com/?s=economic for my first two posts on this) is because their perception and methods are so different from humans. Instead of messing around with earning money with which to attempt to buy things that may not even be for sale, they look for a connection of desire-energy with matching desire-energy. For instance, if I want to see the world change in a certain way and if they want to see the same changes, it obviously (to them) behooves us to work together. Their idea of “working together” seems to be about facilitating things in a naturally magical way that will help both of us to do what we can toward that change, resulting in a synergistic effect that neither of us may be able to create by ourselves.

Like writing books. Well, I can write them by myself, but that doesn’t get them out to other people. For publication and distribution I need both help and “luck”—cooperation, synchronicity, things coming together in surprising but wonderful ways. Meeting the right people “by accident”, receiving the right help at the right time “by coincidence”. Of course, my part in this is to exercise serendipity—the ability to recognize good things when they happen and to take advantage of them. And to, ahem, actually write down the inspirations in a coherent and (hopefully) engaging form.

In practical terms, from my own side of the experience, this seems to result in many things, both large and small, “working” for me in a fashion that is convenient and verging on the miraculous. “Coincidence” and synchronicity abound.

Even if it turns out that we humans can’t or don’t do our part “successfully” there is still value in what we do—in the energy/action. It adds to the total of that energy/action in our Universe, in non-local consciousness, in the Void-which-is-fullness. If we make the effort, it adds to the force of change—and the fae understand that even when we don’t. It’s the effort that counts more than any illusory “results”. You change the world, even if the human part of the world doesn’t notice.

It’s kind of like the hundredth monkey thing. You know that story, right? The one where there are two islands, both inhabited by monkeys but the monkeys of one island are not in physical contact with each other. On one island, the monkeys figure something out and develop a new behavior. They wash their some of their food before eating it. The new behavior spreads throughout the island, and when the last ( or the hundredth monkey, depending on the version) has learned to wash the food before eating it, there is a sudden jump (I suppose this is where nonlocal consciousness comes in). Suddenly, monkeys on the neighboring island, without physical contact with the first group, begin washing their food before eating.

This story has its problems—like whether or not it is “true” in an objective view of truth as factual information. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect ) However, it has a certain value of “truthiness” for many people. It’s based on something that many feel intuitively is true—that the world can be changed by intangible means—even that behavior can be changed in a widespread group when enough beings adopt the new behavior. It may be objectively true, it may not—we haven’t proved it scientifically either way and we’ve only our internal, intuitive, gut-feeling to go on. It’s about the reality or unreality of nonlocal consciousness, which we’ve talked about before here.

I guess what I’m saying is that it works for me. Does it work for you? (The comments link is at the bottom of the page below the sharing buttons—and your comments would be most welcome!)

The Mountain Shifts, Becomes A Tree…

(I like to put a photograph up here,
but I’m practicing using my own photos—
and I don’t have one of a Giant Sequoia.
So please, imagine, if you will,
a picture here of a magnificent Giant Sequoia
with the rising sun just touching
the topmost branches…)

After all these years, all these many years of practicing shikan taza meditation, I suddenly made a shift that felt quite profound. Part of shikan taza is to “sit like a mountain”. This morning, sitting with a Buddhist group in Second Life, I was feeling chilled, my back felt all wrong and heavy, hurting. Either I couldn’t find the mountain, or when I could find it, it felt… just wrong. Suddenly, like an unexpected gift, it came to me to sit like a tree, like a giant Sequoia, upright, stable, yet… lifting.

I don’t know what the essential difference is between tree and mountain. The mountain has always felt solid, real, immovable to me. Perhaps that is the change—from immoveable to flexible, from stone/earth to living wood. The mountain has always felt alive, but this was still a shift from alive like Earthmama to alive like a tree, rooted in the earth, branches spread wide in gratitude, and mind illuminated with the warmth of the sun.

Looking at the Chinese five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, wood—I notice that earth supports wood, trees grow out of earth. So perhaps this progression is simply a natural one. It feels like that.

The shikan taza meditation, as I’ve known it, was to “sit hard”, sit like a mountain, mind like a cloud, holding expectant gratitude. This different view was still sitting, focused and solid, but like a tree with deep roots, somehow lighter than the mountain—still a part of the earth, but… different. Lighter. Capable of motion, of flexibility, giving with the wind yet being strong. Growing upward.

This ability to bend and adapt seems important just now—accepting whatever changes come, accepting the increasing wear and tear of age, not expecting to be rigid, unchanging. Letting go of the deep roots in the earth. You know, it’s only now I realize how uncomfortable those roots were becoming and how much they needed to change and soften. Accepting the roots of the trees, impermanent, growing, changing, eventually dying, was such a relief! And oddly enough, it felt like gravity shifted, as if something—the life of the tree, the sap rising perhaps—was lifting me up.

As I followed the energy up from the tree roots, the enclosed grateful heart of the mountain became branches spread wide, receiving light, receiving warmth, vital and alive, in deep gratitude.

The “mind like a cloud” became branches at the top of the tree, bathed in the light of the rising sun. Illuminated. While the cloud always felt light, it didn’t feel quite like this, as if infinite warm light was flowing in and through… the most remarkable feeling.

For me, the whole of shikan taza has always been rooted in feeling, not in thinking. It’s a shift of focus from “thinking about” to “feeling” and then to “being”. I don’t know if this is the “right” way, the proper Zen way to do shikan taza, but it has helped me immeasurably over the years. And now this change that feels so profound?

Who knew? I’ve been practicing shikan taza for over a quarter of a century, ever since I first read about it in Roshi Philip Kapleau’s Three Pillars of Zen, and suddenly, sitting there in the virtual world with a small group of people, it shifted. This feels like a gift, a benison of warmth and light.

I am so grateful.