The Three AM Poet

Sometimes when I have had a very busy day, thinking hard and taking things seriously, I can’t sleep. The windmill fronds in my mind are still turning, even with no wind to impel them. Then the faeries take a hand. They think it is very odd that I continue to take things so seriously even when there is nothing left to take. (Truth to tell, they think I take things too seriously, period. They think I should be called Jessica Sirius Macbeth so I could take my black dog with me everywhere — seriously mixed mythical metaphors.) So I sit up, switch the computer on, and write. I do not claim responsibility for what comes out, but I don’t deny it either. Here are some small poems (of sorts) written while the windmill unwinds…

Be Safe

Often in this land I hear
the parting words resound,
“Be safe!”
But what if I don’t want a life
of safety, what if I’d rather have
a life lived somewhere
near the edge —
a life where I can
walk out
take a deep breath
lean out into the incoming air.

What if
being safe is not
what life is about?
What if
there is no safe place, safe path,
safe journey?
What if
we are our own worst hazards
and we are born to danger
like a fish is born to water?
What if
O Universe is only truly happy
when it gets us out there
somewhere
in our underwear
or nothing left at all?

What if…

What if
the Rapture came
in the middle of the night
and in the morning
we rejects went out to find
tinfoil hats
zoot suits
strait jackets
worn red spike-heeled shoes
with one spike broken halfway?
Or a pair of red silk thongs
slung across
tinfoil underpants —
all scattered on the pavements?
Would we realize
from this strange detritus
that we were the crazy ones
and
that what god/dess really wanted,
what she was growing on this world
was the trippers, the daily
roller-coaster riders,
the wild-eyed ones
who wear their clothes backwards,
the oddities, the ones who can’t stop laughing,
the ones who walk through the park, shouting,
“The locusts have stolen my honey!” —
the ones living
on the very edge of glory?

Got It

The other day
I wrote some pagan stuff
and a friend (who sometimes thinks
he is not a pagan) said,
“I didn’t understand what you said —
but I think I got it anyway.”

It has taken me two days to realize
that this is a quintessentially
pagan statement.

I remember one time
the goddess told me
that she wanted me to
give up all of my defenses.
“It’s the only way,” she said,
“To become invulnerable.”

NonoNO, shrieked Logic
YES! O YES! shouted Intuition

It all makes sense
if you turn the kaleidoscope around
and look in its mirrors
upside down
and around the corners.

Corners are
another kind of reality.

Conclusion

Sometimes, when life gets especially absurd,
I look at O Universe and say,
“Hmmm. I see that You are very silly too.”
And I hear,
faint in the distance,
cosmic giggles.

I just wanted you to know that we have a lot of silliness and fun here…

© Copyright 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.
P.S. I guess I should also say that this was written in the middle of the night, but when the windmill finally stopped, there wasn’t even enough silliness left to push “send” and therefore I am pushing it now.

Writing & Other Simple Things

At the end of 2013, I did an inner journey for Yule. In it I really needed to take a look at some things from a different angle — with the help of the fae and Gran’ma Maple.

Some of what I wrote then was: Under my feet the path feels rough, irregular — not a well-worn path, but one that is not often used or has fallen into disuse. I have an impulse to stop and clear some of the clutter — the slippery leaves, the tumbled stones — and to rake it smooth. It will be much more use in the future if I take care of it now. Sometimes these impulses are just distractions but this one feels valid and a good beginning, so I spend a bit of time tending the path itself. There’s no point in having things be more difficult than they need to be.

The path winds between the great trees of an ancient forest, and I’m surprised to notice that clearing a bit of the path affects the whole — the clearness spreads so the entire way is easier to walk. That was easier than expected — sometimes intention is almost all we need. Intention followed by just enough action to fulfill it.

The now-smooth path leads me to a natural clearing in the forest. In the center, there is one ancient maple tree. I recognize her from my worldly life — Gran’ma Maple. How lovely! I lean against her trunk, comforted by her presence. I’m surprised by the amount of tension that drains out of me as I lean against her. And I suddenly realize that one of the things I need to release is the underlying tension caused by feeling that I have to do everything for myself. I don’t. I have help. Why do I feel that I must do “it” all by myself? And can I let that old habit go?

Intention and action… I have the intention, clarity is needed on the action. But first, I want to know more about what I need to release, and I ask Gran’ma Maple what else I need to do. I feel the movement of her silent chuckle. “You don’t think that is enough for now? You think that breaking a life-long pattern and replacing it with a healthy attitude is easy? You don’t think that way for other people — why do you not be as gentle with yourself as you are with them?”

I think about the big difference I felt when I let go of that tension and wonder how much of my energy usually goes into maintaining that “I can do it myself” attitude and self image — not into actually doing things but just into believing my old lie to myself? And then the doing things is even harder sometimes. But doing things for myself when I can is appropriate, while telling myself that I can do everything for myself is not only unnecessary and untrue, but apparently is stressful in many ways.

I get that. Now… I ask Gran’ma Maple about right action. And again, that silent chuckle happens with a rustling of leaves. “Dear! By now you surely have all the tools you need, and if you don’t, you’re perfectly capable of inventing them as the need arises. Blessings on the path!”

Here I am two and a half years later, approaching Midsummer and feeling overwhelmed by all the thing I want to do. I recognize the feeling and know I’ve been here before, but still haven’t quite let go of creating so very much to do and worrying about how little time there is to do it in even if I live to be a hundred years old. I am much better at letting people help me. Not perfect — I still feel guilty and “lazy” when I ask for help. (It would be so much easier if people could magically know what I need and, if they feel like it, just do it, and then I could simply say “Thank you!” but I do realize that this would still give me that uncomfortable feeling of not doing everything for myself.) Lesson not learned! So once more I decide to stop trying to figure this out in my head and see what my heart and soul have to say on an inner journey.

I bow to the Lady and Lord and ask for their guidance (that’s easy — I have gotten some of this asking business right!) and I light the candle symbolizing their presence. I ask them, “What do I need to do at this time to prevent or cope with my tendency to put myself into overwhelm?”

First, I draw a card from the Faeries’ Oracle to give myself a starting place. The card I get is …

She of the Cruach, the Great Yin polarity of the Universe is the many-named Mother of all. She is nurturer and protectress, and in her hands we are safe, secure, and grounded.

This gives us a secure base to work from so that we in turn may offer her nurturing, patience, and creativity to others through our own attitudes and actions.

It is very important for you to focus on that at this time.

Remember to balance that nurturing with the strength of He of the Fiery Sword and to channel their energy instead of using your own personal energy.

Faery blessings on the being!

Well, DOH!

What I love about asking questions of the fae is that they often fairly clout me over the head with the answer!

Of course I need to ask and allow them to energize these projects instead of Trying To Do It All Myself! It isn’t only humans who are willing to help. I could be channeling the energy of God/dess for the things I’m doing. This would be entirely appropriate as these things are my attempts to work in their service!

I know how to do this — it is just like healing. Each time I start to do the work, I can begin by earthing, centering, allowing the energy to flow freely into the writing. While working, I simply need to continue to stay earthed in their hands, their energy — and not to fall out of it into worrying or hurrying or criticizing myself. And when I find myself falling out of the flow and pushing myself, I can simply stop and rest or stop and reground as appropriate. I can even ask them to nudge me when it’s time to stop for a break — another thing I’m not good at remembering yet.

This is so obvious. I’d feel silly if I didn’t already know how silly I am. I’ve only been doing healing most of my life. This uses the same principles exactly. Now one more card, in case they have anything to add.

From Gran’ma’s Faery Wisdom and Gnomic Utterances: the Oracle:

The Unconditional Elf is one of Santa’s Special Task Force elves. This is the one that makes gifts for people whether they deserve them or not. He also delivers them out of season, so they might happen at any time at all. These gifts are not lumps of coal, unless the people are very, very cold and have empty fireplaces.

The only question about the Unconditional Elf is: is he giving you an unconditional gift or wanting you to help him give one to someone else? Or both? Hmm? What do you think?

There are many Unconditional Elves, and this one is named Fred. “Fred” means “peace”.

Faery blessings on those who give and those who receive! May they often be one and the same!

Quite likely the answer to the question above about giving or receiving’ is simply ‘giving and receiving’. I’m receiving to give, and giving to receive. Marzipan’s Adventures, Gran’ma’s Faery Wisdom & Gnomic Utterances, this blog, the web pages, the prospective e-books are all just energy flowing both ways at the same time.

Filled with enthusiasm (but knowing it is well past bedtime), I bow again to God/dess and thank them for their helpful insights. The candle is blown out with gratitude, releasing the energy to work in O Universe, including me, and I saunter gently off to bed, hoping this will help you, just as it is helping me. Good dreams!

P.S. I was so excited about this that I woke up before 6 AM (after going to sleep just past 2 AM) and I thought, “I’ve got to try it!” And what happened? Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Would you believe that it took two hours of frustration to realize that it was working — just as I’d asked. I was being given first a gentle and then a strong nudge that it was time for something else — time to rest, time to sleep, time to dream. That’s the necessary other side of Getting It Done. Sheesh. Am I slow or what? Yes, I’m slow. I really am. But they are patient and will try to help me, even at my most daft. I’m so grateful.

© Copyright 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Creation & Gratitude

The Universe is trying to spiral up and out. Light wishes to expand. It’s what light does. It shines. It spreads. It moves.

The Fae tell me it is important to say ‘thank you’.

When and why did saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ go out of fashion? I notice on the internet, especially Facebook, that people who want to share something someone else has posted like to say that they are ‘stealing’ it — and yet in most cases it was put there to be shared. So what is the big difficulty in using words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘sharing’ that is so hard that people would rather say they are ‘stealing’ something?

Sometimes others say that they are not going to ‘beg’ for something, meaning that they are not going to say ‘please’. When and why did a small courtesy become a humiliation in their minds?  When did snatching something away from someone become a better thing than saying, ‘May I please have…?’

When I ask people about this, they laugh and say, “I want to be a pirate.” Oh. Or, “I think it’s cute.” Really? (Another of the things the Fae like to say is, “You become what you pretend to be.” But we [perhaps] will talk about that some other time.)

Yet… the Fae keep telling me that saying ‘thank you’ is very important. It gives energy back, keeps that energy from stagnating, dying. To keep it alive, keep it moving. If we say ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’ appropriately, we keep circulating that kind of energy. We channel energy into words and actions, and if that energy is “plus” (charged), it is re-energized and becomes stronger in each of us. Each time we stop, everyone is drained a bit. People who want to grab it all and hold on are just holding onto something that is dying. The only way to keep it charged, to keep ourselves full and overflowing is to keep passing it on.

Now, every healer knows that when you channel energy it fills you as well as filling the person you’re trying to channel it to — unless, of course, you’re being silly and using your own energy for the healing (more about that some other time). There is a lot of energy in O Universe — more than we can imagine, more than we can use in a sesquillion lifetimes. And, if we handle it right, the energy we use becomes stronger — and it circulates.

So I have to ask myself what am I doing to put energy back into the circuit of kindness? Of courtesy? Of healing? Of compassion? The energy that propels the universe — look at a galaxy — it moves. And all the galaxies together move. They comprise the universe — and all the universes together are the multiverse, which (you guessed it) moves.  We are always doing something. Even doing “nothing” is letting the energy become stagnant, leak out. What puts the “charge” or “plus” or “energy” into the system? What keeps it all from running down? What kind of energy are we moving, you and I?

Shall I tell you what the Fae say? They say that the way we add to the creative, healing, compassionate, joyful energy in the universe is by feeling joy or gratitude or kindness. Can you believe that it’s that simple? Every time you generate a truly good feeling in yourself it puts a stronger positive spin on the energy of the universe. It adds that spin to the non-local consciousness of O Universe. It changes the Multiverse. Every single honest smile changes the Multiverse.

Thank you for your help!

p.s. I just looked up at Marzipan. She smiles. Partly, it’s the markings on her face that give her a smiling look. But it’s also the slight pucker of her mouth that pulls her whiskers forward in true cat’s smile. It’s the way her ears perk up, listening for a friendly word, and her head tilts slightly as she gives that cat’s slow blink of affection as she sits erect, paws neatly together, attentive, waiting for a loving response. Utterly charming. You really can’t not smile back. And the Multiverse grows.

Faery Gifts, Faery Rings

Once upon a time I made a Journey to the Isle of Iona in Scotland. In fact I made a lot of trips there because Iona is one of my heart’s homes. But this journey was special, though short, partly because it was a particularly Interesting Time in my life and partly because it seemed improbable that I’d ever get to go back to Iona again. So, it seemed that I needed something I could carry with me for a memento, though I’m in no danger of forgetting the sacred isle.

While there I looked at all the pebbles on the beaches (well, nearly all). None felt right. The summer flowers were considered and some seeds falling from the tiny purple ones on the nunnery wall were gathered to plant at home, but that wasn’t it either. After looking in all the gift shops at everything, the right choice seemed to be a ring — a silver Celtic ring with endless knotwork on it. Good symbolism. It was a typical touristy bit of jewelry, nothing special, inexpensive, but it breathed “Iona…” And it fit. I was so pleased to have found it! Goal achieved!

I wore the ring as I left the island. Ferry to Mull, bus to Craignure, ferry to Oban… and then rebellion set in. No more public transport for now! I wanted to savor the back country roads on the way back to town. So, I walked up the hill and out on the back road from Oban, a light pack with just a change of clothes on my back, some fruit and water, and a heavy heart. I’d driven it before but I wanted to walk it this time. There were plenty of back roads to get me to Balloch at the foot of Loch Lomand and then back to Glasgow by bus through all the industrial and crowded area. I’d decided to accept rides if offered and to hitchhike when it got late in the long summer day, but to walk as much as possible while still getting back on time.

Walking felt good. Resting when needed and munching apples bought in Oban, I made my way along single track roads peacefully and happily. This part of Scotland has an abundance of ancient stones and monuments — cairns, standing stones, many and varied stone circles. My route took me past a small circle that I’d never seen before. These stones were smallish and low in the grass, the circle not more than nine feet or so across, and not very visible from the road unless one happened to be walking slowly and looking at everything. It seemed to be radiating a strong call to come closer, to linger in the circle for a while. I don’t turn down enticements like that. Over the knee-high drystone wall I went, and stopped just outside the circle, waiting until certain that I was truly welcome into the center.

At last, sitting in the circle’s center I began to feel a subtle pressure to do something. There was, without words, a request — not for something for the Powers of the circle, but to do something that would be helpful to me. I sat and listened meditatively. Reluctantly, but bit by bit, I got it that it would be appropriate and healing for me to put all my past, especially including my time on Iona, into my ring — and bury it in the center of the circle, a small place of power in the network of light that runs from circles to megaliths, to cairns, to standing stones, to whatever else has been rooted in Earthmother with healing intentions.

I. Did. Not. Want. To. Do. This. No way!

Just leaving without gifting anything to the circle seemed quite impossible. Nothing else I had seemed really acceptable. There were disgraceful tears and pleadings. Now I am older and far more experienced, but then, in my forties, I hadn’t fully learned that the only sacrifice that matters is oneself, from the heart. It wasn’t about the ring; it was about me — the ring was only a holder of energy — and I didn’t know that. Finally, I let myself be aware of how much love there was in this asking. It felt unbounded. This was all intended to help me, to strengthen me.

I needed for the ring to be there, just there and nowhere else. Not on my finger but in the earth. I can’t say that I believed this or that it made any sense, but it felt right so I dug a small hole at the center of hard-packed earth of the circle. It wasn’t very deep, but there was nothing around to use to help in digging. It was only a couple of inches down. With a trickle of tears, the ring went into the earth from which it had once come, was covered over, and the earth tamped well down above it so the digging left no mark. Left to my own devices I’d probably have piled a cairn of large stones over it, but that was gently refused. Someone smiled at the idea, but I wasn’t in an appreciative nor grateful mood.

Back on the road, I turned back once to say a small and wordless prayer for what I’d done to be right. It felt like the light had gone out of the day, though the sun still shone. I’d had enough. It was easy to walk to the nearest main road and hitch a lift to Balloch. There I had a fish and chips supper while looking out over Loch Lomand. Walking toward the nearest bus stop to catch the bus to Glasgow, the sun was in my eyes. I almost ignored the glitter of something in the gutter, but the second or third time it sparkled, I became curious and stepped into the street to fish it out of the mud. Wiping off the mud, I stood there transfixed. Silver gleamed and there in my grubby hand was a muddy silver ring — out of the earth and cobblestones of the road.

The muddy ring was the right size and slid easily onto my finger, but the design was different from the Iona ring. Instead of the typical Celtic pattern of endless knots, this ring had stars and moons raised from a dark bed, like a night sky. I had a vague thought of turning it in at the local police station, but though it had gone on so easily it wouldn’t come off my finger. This woke me up out of my shocked daze enough to realize that this ring was for me. With stars and moons in the night sky — something that connects all the sacred spaces of the world, wherever we may be. (Now, of course, I’m seeing that as a symbol of non-local consciousness as well as of faery, but then I only saw the faery sky.)

Some years after receiving the ring but many years ago now, I sat in a barrow in England a few miles from Bath. Sitting there, wearing my faery ring, I made an inner journey to see what was wanted of me at that time. Instead of being asked for things, I was shown gifts. One of them came to me then, but others were in reserve for later. One of the “later on” gifts was a small ginger cat, who was described as “the firecat”. The sword I was given then was placed in my spine, the hilt across the hips. Invisible. Mysterious. Strengthening. The cat stayed asleep in a small curl in a niche in the barrow wall.

Then, years later I learned about Richard’s ring. I was telling the story of my ring on Facebook and Richard, a real life friend as well as a Facebook friend, said, “You won’t believe this… Oh, I guess you will. I think I have a ring just like that.” He took a photo and posted it on Facebook. And, yes, it’s like mine. Of course, I asked him how he got it. I’d never seen another one anywhere. Now I wonder how many people have them and how they happened to get them?

It seems that he was in college at the time, having a difficult time figuring out where he was going in life and why. Especially in question was his spiritual path. One day he was lying on his back on the grass in the sunshine. He felt something under his back, poking at him. When he looked to see what it was, it was the silver ring, deep in the grass. It, too, was a gift from EarthMother, and of course, it fit him perfectly. The same stars and moons on the night sky. Earthmother and the fae. This was the message he needed about his spiritual path.

The word “pagan” comes from a Greek word meaning “arising from the Earth” — but you knew that, didn’t you?

At that time, I’d just recently found my ring among some old jewelry that had been packed away for several years — this was why I was writing about it and thinking about what it meant to me now. Richard hadn’t been wearing his either at that point. We both wondered, really, what were we thinking? We wanted to have them on all of the time. I’ve been wearing mine since.

Today, sitting here writing, my miniature ginger cat, Marzipan, is on my knee. She watches me type, her eyes wise and wide and deep — like moons. Marzipan was born to be a star. Everyone who meets her knows that she is a natural star, a tiny, fiery cat of creativity and wisdom and mischief. Right now, she is sitting on my knee, but sometimes when I’m typing, she puts one paw on my hand. It’s probably not a co-incidence that she usually puts it right on my faery ring of moons and stars, is it?

Dream (or Stuff I Write at 3 AM)

I blew around the airport.
I’m too old to run
so I let the wind
of other people’s travels
blow me past,
swooping low, soaring high,
tumbling in swift spirals.

There would be an airplane
somewhere for me
in this wild place of portals.
I passed one gate
and could hear a plane outside
whispering machinely,
“Come on, hurry! Come to me!
I’ll take you somewhere
filled with delight
and suffused in wonder…”
But I blew on past so fast
I couldn’t even see its destination.
It wasn’t my gate anyway.

At last the wind dropped me, lightly
on my feet, slightly tipped, but
I soon straightened.
O, yes — a flight to Iona…
does Iona have an airport?
No……….. but…
I could get there from here
if only I knew the names
of all of the ancient stones.

And then a cat jumped on me
and we fell the rest of the way
out of the airport
and into my bed
Home. Warm bed. Cats.

Still, I did tell the cats
(when I fed them at midnight)
that I didn’t want to be
wakened early this morning,
certainly not at 3 AM
for their morning riot.

Yet…

Home, warm bed —
the best place of all.

New Years Past

Okay, a New Year’s Eve story from several years ago. Don’t know why I haven’t told it before, but I haven’t. It’s kind of long for the internet.

A few years back, I was living in a very poor neighborhood — not surprising as I was then very poor and ill myself. There were so many impoverished people around me — some because they were old and not well provided for, some because they were too mentally or physically disabled to work, and a few (very few) because “poor” was simply their lifestyle and they didn’t have any idea how not to be.

It was a bitterly cold night. There had been quite a bit of snow, a brief thaw, and now there was a mixture of slick ice, rough re-frozen lumps of snow here and there, and the freezing cold of the air. It wasn’t late — maybe 7 pm — and I’d suddenly realized that all the shops would be closed on the morrow and I was out of cat food — not mention various important bits of human food. Poor, but I had enough to get cat food and a bit of people food.

So, I went out to the car in a hurry, warmed it up a little, started carefully for the street, moving very slowly as I backed out of my parking space and turned toward the road — slowly, slowly through the treacherous ice. Almost immediately she slid on a large lump of ice in the parking lot and started moving slowly but stubbornly sideways.

Dear heavy old Volvo — there was no stopping her once gravity took hold. She slid toward the ditch between street and house and started inexorably down toward the bottom four feet away, nose-first. I slammed the brakes on hard — unwise tactics on ice, but there was nothing to lose at that point. She stopped halfway into the ditch, badly tilted, and with the front wheels in the cold, thin air of open space. The car frame under me resting on the ground, and the back wheels loosely touching — no traction at all, but gently kissing the earth. Balanced. Just. My foot stayed as hard on the brakes as it could go and the car trembled on her balance point with my every movement, every breath. I hung on. The stars looked down as stars do at such moments with apparent total disinterest.

No one was outside — not in that cold. I waited. And waited, all of my focus on that brake pedal. Eventually an old car pulled up across the street where I knew an elderly woman lived. A pile of men and boys got out. Noticing my strangely precarious parking spot, the eldest in the lead as a string of others followed, all strolled ponderously across the icy street toward me, almost like a herd of peaceful elephants drifting across the veldt toward an interesting but not threatening curiosity. How had they all gotten into that ordinary-sized car? I rolled down my window and Eldest stated matter-of-factly, “Hey, you got a problem here.”

“I know,” I said humbly. “She slid. On the ice.”

He nodded. They ambled around the car, quietly discussing the problem. I sat with my foot hard on the brake. The parking brake never was worth much, but I had pulled it, slowly and carefully, on all the way on as well. Eldest, gray hair shining in the faint light like a halo, gently drifted back to the window and announced, “Some of the boys sit on the back, bring her rear end down to ground,  some push her up and back from the front, and some pull her backwards with ropes up on the parking lot while you give her a little gas. Not much or she just slip. We do it.”

I wish I could do a Samoan accent here, but I can’t so you’ll have to do the best you can with making it yourself. And did you know that some Samoans are BIG people? These were tall and sturdy. I couldn’t count them, milling around in the dark as they were, but the grown ones were massive and both they and the boys were enthusiastic. Yes, it might be possible.

It wasn’t. Even several large Samoans in bulky, heavy winter coats didn’t seem to outweigh the engine and strongly-built front end hanging out in space. (Old Volvos were famous for their strength and toughness.) I wound up six inches farther into the ditch in spite of the vein-pounding, strong pushing and pulling. I was seriously frightened for the ones in the front, who seemed not willing to give up. I jammed the brakes back on.

By this time my other neighbors were out, gathering in shivering clumps, talking quietly to each other and shaking their heads, but not coming near, not wanting to get into whatever trouble might ensue. One woman did offer me a cup of coffee, but for the most part they were heads-down people — poor in money, poor in spirit, pre-defeated people staying back out of trouble.

Eldest came back to the window. I mentioned, not really hopeful, that it might be a good idea to call a tow truck. Eldest shook his head.

“New Year’s Eve, all this ice — tow truck busy everywhere. Not come for hours, if come ever. And if tow truck do come, he call cops and report.” He slowly shook his head. All of them shook their heads like big tree tops waving in a strong wind. “Not wanting cops. Just trouble, cops. Big fines, maybe jail. You not want cops.”

I agreed. I didn’t want cops. Really, I couldn’t pay for a tow truck anyway. I sat with my both of my feet jammed on the brake, one on top of the other — the first leg had long since started to quiver with the strain and needed its mate to help. (It occurs to me now, as it didn’t then, that with the back wheels off the ground the brakes probably weren’t doing any good at all, but even if I’d thought of that at the time, nothing could have made me release them. Opening a window was okay, opening a heavy door, letting it swing its weight forward as it opened was unthinkable in that precarious position.)

Considering things slowly with my near-frozen brain, I said, “We could do it with a heavy truck. With chains on its tires. And a big chain to pull the car. Because an ordinary rope just isn’t going to do this. But… we don’t have any of this.”

He said, “Yeah, we don’t got, but maybe I know where we get.” He sent several men off in their car on incomprehensible errands and went with them. He left two of the sturdiest to stand guard over me. I don’t know what they could have done if the car decided to tip another inch and go down nose-first into that steep, deep ditch. Then I noticed that two more of the biggest had quietly gone to the back and were sitting on it again. I don’t know if that really helped, but it was comforting.

I saw my cats sitting in the window — waiting, watching, probably wondering what I thought I was doing now. And where was their promised dinner?

About an hour later (it felt like ten, like my dashboard clock was seriously lying — I swear the hands barely moved for long stretches of time) their car came back with only Eldest and the young driver.

“We fix,” he announced, looming over the car with an enormous, gleaming smile scintillating in the starlight.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear but a huge behemoth of a truck lumbering down the road? Looking about to fall apart, but certainly meeting the criteria of big, it pulled ponderously into place behind me with gentle mutterings and rattles. There was still plenty of room in the parking lot. The driver, sized to fit his truck, gazed at the car calmly, considered, nodded once, smiled at me, went to the back of the truck, and began pulling chains out, letting them clank and clatter to the ground. There was a rattle of tire chains as they struggled with these fairly foreign-to-us-coastal-Washingtonians objects. At last, the tire chains seemed in order, and they began rattling and tugging at a much more mammoth chain, stretching it out on the ground. It looked a lot like a massive boat’s anchor chain. They hooked it on to the truck and wrapped it thoroughly onto and around the strongest points under the back of my car (whatever they were) and looped it back to the truck. It certainly wasn’t hitched to the wee metal loop meant for hooking things onto. Nor to the rusted back bumper. With a final jerk and a tug that jolted the car and made my stomach somersault, they stood back. Eldest checked the chain and nodded. The truck driver checked it and nodded. The nods ran through the rest of the watching forest.

Back at my window again, Eldest said to me. “Truck pull, you feel her moving back, take foot off brake and give her little gas. In reverse,” he stressed, looking at me intently to be sure I understood. Feet still pushing hard on the brake, I restarted the engine, let her idle, and put her gently almost into reverse. He grinned and patted the window frame.

I nodded, thoroughly rejecting a sneaky, scared inner vision of the chain breaking under the stress, the truck plummeting into and through the houses on the other side of the parking lot, and the Volvo and I diving down into the hole ahead. Even in the snow, the ditch looked hard and dangerous. I knew from personal observation that it had big rocks in the bottom, and by now that ditch yawned fifteen feet deep in my mind. Or maybe even bottomless. I knew it was three or four, but it felt like fifteen. Or bottomless.

“We do, lady, we do.” Deep voice at the window. Very reassuring. I believed him — by then I couldn’t imagine him not doing anything he was determined to do.

The truck rattled, coughed a few times, and revved up with an uncertain rumble. I noticed that all my other neighbors had silently disappeared. I hoped they were not all in the house right in front of the truck. The chain tightened and the Volvo quivered. I could feel every link in the chain go taut. Go, baby, go! Be a real Volvo!

We began to move very slowly, inching backwards, the car’s undercarriage scraping along the gravelly ground. I took my foot off of the brakes, put her into reverse, and gave her a little touch more gas. The front end started to rise as the wheels began to touch the edge of the ditch. Finally, they were back up on terra firma. Another two slow feet back. Eldest slapped the side of the car and shouted once. A word I didn’t know. The truck stopped. I put on the parking brakes and turned the ignition off.

As I climbed out of the car on trembling and shaky legs — I had been holding the brake down as hard as I could for over an hour with both feet and every bit of strength I had and I might have been afloat on a sea of adrenaline. I was surrounded by huge grins and happy murmurs of approval. There may have been the patting of backs and shaking of hands amid the clank of chains being removed. I reached back in the car for my purse, but Eldest put his hand on my arm, and shook his head “no”. Fiat!

I began babbling, “Thank you thank you thank you thank you” over and over. I hugged Eldest and he hugged me back. I hugged all of them, I think, there in the dark and cold, still babbling. Samoans, these Samoans, my neighbors did great hugs. I needed all of them, giving and receiving in the only currency that met the need of that moment.

Eldest offered to have one of the younger ones park her for me. I said, “Oh, no! I’m going to the store.”

He laughed and slapped the car again. “You go! She good car! You go!” There was a chorus of quiet laughter and approving “you go!” and I went. I must have been crazy — the snow plows had been along the main streets but hadn’t done much good there and had not even attempted anything in the supermarket’s parking lot. But I got the cat food and with the rest of my money I bought the biggest cake, the most lavish cake I could find. It said ‘Happy New Year’ on it in Spanish. That seemed appropriate — good will expressed mutually incomprehensibly.

When I got home again, I fed the cats and went across the road to where the Samoan grandmother lived by herself, though I’d noticed before that she was rarely truly by herself — family was always popping in and out. I knocked on her door, and it was answered by Grandmother herself, matriarch of the clan. I’m far from young, and I’ve my share of wrinkles, but she had wrinkles from here to forever. They got even crinklier and wrinklier as she smiled her eyes into shiny slits and nodded. She knew the whole story from a viewpoint I’d never know. I handed her the cake and said several more fervent thank yous. We couldn’t speak a intelligible word to each other, but we both got it. She hugged me and gestured for me to come in. I could hear a boisterous family party of all ages going on behind her. I was overcome by a fit of unusual shyness and with a final “thank you,” I bolted for home.

It was my best New Year’s Eve ever. I don’t know how many New Year’s Eve parties I’d disrupted that evening, but everyone seemed to think their evening all the better for the disruption. A rescue! What fun! It might have been a lot better still had I been a little braver and less of a hermit. It might have changed my life then and changed my entire perception of my neighborhood. It did change it some, but it might have been a lot more. A revelation. Still, it was no longer seemed a totally unfriendly place of strangers to me. After that, when I went out and daughters were sitting in the sun watching grandchildren play, the daughters and I smiled and said hello. Tall, bulky young men passing on the street waved and lit up with a smile. A gift. A precious gift.

It is now 4 AM on January 1st, anno domini 2016. All of us now still breathing have made it into yet another year. My adventures have been “interesting” in this year past as well and taught me much about community and family, I’m grateful for what this and all of the years before have taught me about what makes people strong, what makes people weak, about family, about community, about people who have it and people who don’t.

If we stand on the solid ground of a cohesive family, a sharing community, it is far easier to reach out to others in need. If our foundations rest on the shifting sands of casual friends who are here today and gone tomorrow, it is much harder to realize that “everyone for themselves” and “look out for number one” are just nonsense, both impossible and foolish. We need each other. At unexpected moments and impossible-to-predict times, we need each other. We can’t just turn our backs and walk away.

And we need gratitude. We ourselves need to know that we have reason to be grateful, even if all we think we still have is our breath and major challenges.

We learn compassion and strength from our families and communities, and that is the key that gives us the ability to stand solid and to reach out to strangers without fear — and without needing to make fantasies and excuses for our fears as we slink away. Perhaps one of the marks of a healthy community is that it can welcome strangers in and assimilate them hospitably.

Living in community and working together in good will through the problems that naturally arise between people generates both a strength and a willingness to embrace others into the sheltering circle. And we all know that a circle is a line that has no end.

Glastonbury Tor, Thanksgiving Eve

This evening as we were sharing Thanksgiving tarot readings, my friend Nancy recommended that I make a visionary journey to Glastonbury Tor. The original subject of our discussion was Gratitude — what has the Lady Gratitude been trying to teach us, and what is right action for us now that we’ve learned a bit more about it?

Basically, the lesson for both of us seems to be the perennial “Trust the Process” but with more detail. For my part, yes, things are tough now (and probably so for a bit yet to come), but life will become less stressful than it has been, better than before in many ways, and I will have even more help with the creative things I need to do — if I’m trusting the process and not letting the temporary stuff get me down.

I wanted to share this journey with you because this is unlike my usual inner journeys in that it doesn’t have a set format. Those of you who have been in my classes and/or read my book Sun over Mountain may remember that we use guided imagery for many purposes. There were a lot of questions for the person journeying to help them understand the images that arose for them. This time, instead, we find me wandering around, looking for my path, and simply allowing it to open before me. This process is more structured than a daydream and less so than guided imagery with a set pattern — and I wanted you to see how it might work for you. Before beginning the journey, the first thing I did was to draw a card from my personal oracle — a blend of the Faeries’ Oracle and my unfinished Faery Wisdom Journey Oracle:

The Bright Mother, who is so loving and nurturing and wise, says…

I am asking you to give up your defenses.

I know, I know, it seems to you that they are what keeps you safe in the worlds, but, in fact, they are what make you vulnerable. Let them go as you find them, and discover how strong you are without them.

Defenses are a much heavier burden than you realize, and it is only by letting them go that you become invulnerable.

If you don’t know how to do this, just ask and I’ll help you find the way. And do eat properly as you go!

Faery blessings on the growing!

And now for the journey to the Tor…

I usually begin these journeys by entering a cave, but that doesn’t feel right tonight. I let my mind wander, looking for a way in, allowing impressions to simply arise in my mind. I gradually realize that I’m surrounded by mist and darkness. I don’t see a way at all. But then a thought drifts by that the theme here is probably about trusting the process. As soon as that dawns (O, the fae are such punsters), I sense myself standing in misty moonlight. Pale in the western sky is the setting Moon. She looks about five days old — more than a slim new crescent but less than a quarter — She is young, full of hopes and dreams and creative energy, and closely following the Sun.

Barely, I see the darkness of Glastonbury Tor outlined against the lighter, but darkening sky. Walking towards the crest of the Tor is easy walking — far easier for me than climbing it in the so-called “real” world — just a gentle upward slope. (Or I’m stronger here, which is something to think about later.) Barefoot, the grass tenderly caresses my soles. Lightly moving upward, I begin to see the silhouette of St. Michael’s Tower against the starless sky. As always, from a distance, there are faint lights moving around the tower as the energy fountains up from the many ley lines here.

No one else seems to be there — no faery, no people, no ancestors, no winds — just silence, so I simply sit on the grass, patiently still. After a while a small, white, short-haired kitten, hight Gwenhwyfar, comes and sits precariously on my knee. She is so young, she is still wobbly. I ask her if she is my guide, and she nods her head vigorously, nearly falling over. She has long tufts on her ears, and they are very charming, waving in the moonlit air.

She hops down onto the grass, regains her balance, and skitters off, racing around the tower — one, two, three circuits deasil, followed by three circles widdershins. She then dashes into the tower, and squeaks loudly to call me. I get up. (Getting up from the ground is also much easier than I’m accustomed to in “real” life as well — perhaps I should come here to live!) Following Gwenhwyfar into the tower, I expect it to be dark — and it is as dark as it can possibly be.

My toes bump against stone. Bending over and feeling the stone with my hand I find stone steps, which I’ve never seen in the tower before. They stick out from the wall, with spaces between them, like the spiral steps in a round tower. Since St. Michael’s tower is square, it provides a larger step at every corner. It’s probably just as well that I can’t see their worn, irregular shapes. Above my head, Gwenhwyfar mews loudly, her voice echoing up and down the tower like an full choir of kittens.

It seems that the easiest thing to do is to go up on all fours as she did. But it isn’t — I hadn’t realized I was wearing a robe, which is now tangling under my feet. Carefully standing erect again with my left hand on the wall and lifting the robe with my right, I can creep up the stones without stumbling. Gwenhwyfar startles me by racing down and brushing around my ankles, saying “Mrrr, mrrrrrr!” which clearly means “Hurry up!”

After several more steps, I feel a soft pressure on the top of my head as if I were pushing against a light balloon. Suddenly, with a pop the pressure disappears and my head pokes through … something. Now my eyes are in the light, but below them everything is still in darkness. The light is silvery-clear and there is something floating in it — dust motes? Faery glitter? Tiny, they are, yet intensely bright. Carefully, but a bit lighter and faster, I continue up the stairs until my feet also enter the light. I’d like to sit down there, but Gwenhwyfar is hooking her tiny claws into the hem of my robe, tugging so hard I’m afraid that she will tumble off the steps. It feels like a very long way down.

Hmmm… if she is a spirit cat or a faery cat or even an imaginary cat, would the fall hurt her? Or would she simply levitate up and bat me on the nose for recalcitrance? Best not to find out any of those things, best just to go to the top and hope for a place to rest there.

Climbing up, the light changes — first to a gentle red, then to pale peach, then a light but warmly sunny yellow, a clear cool sea green, a dreamy blue, crystalline amethyst, and then the purest white I can imagine. We are at the top, no doors, no windows, the narrow openings to the outside are below us, and although I know there is no roof above us, there is a pearlescent something — a mist? An out-of-focus ceiling? It glows.

It was a long ascent upward. I sit on the top step and Gwenhwyfar leans against me. I feel her purring. She climbs up my robe, vibrating busily. Kitten-like, she wants to be on top of my head. Her purr resonates in my skull, echos in my mouth.

The air gradually fills with a wordless musical hum, at first barely audible, then becoming more clear as we listen. It sounds like antiphonal plainsong without words. The high notes are almost the chime of small silver bells, the rich low tones make the tower tremble, the notes between all reverberate, resounding from my bones, from all of the rigid or taut places within me. As they sound the muscles go soft, the notes going through the bones like a hollow flute, hallowed by their song.

I don’t know how long I sit here — or even where I “really” am. The purr chases its own tail within me like musical laughter until my whole self smiles, and I drift away… somewhere, nowhere, everywhere — energy and light singing within and around me.

After I come back feeling much lighter, happier, and more blessed than I did, I drew another card to see what the Oracle had to say about all this.

From the Faeries’ Oracle…

The Singer of Transfiguration congratulates you on the growing and transforming you have been doing! It has not been an easy path and you may not feel quite settled into your new way of being yet, but you’re almost there.

Trust the process!

And a thousand, thousand faery blessings upon your transformation!

In the morning there will be dew everywhere, sparkling in the sun.

*********

For me, there are several points of special interest here, but I think I’ll save my thoughts on them until I see if you have any comments or questions.

And next time, I think I’ll go to the Chalice Well…

Dementia

rainbow-bit I want to understand my sister. I have this deeply ingrained belief that understanding leads to being able to help. BUT!

Without a medical miracle this wish will never come true. Dementia is cruel that way. Understanding depends on things having a reason, but dementia reduces everything to fragments, disconnected from any reason, free-floating in a destroyed brain.

“I don’t know why all these bats are flying around the house making such a racket!” she says.

The cats have been running up and down the hall as cats do, so I say, “Yes, the cats are quite wild just now.”

“NO!” she replies indignantly. “You’re not listening. I didn’t say cats — I said bats! Those black things that fly.”

I’ve learned to say, “O. I’m sorry I misunderstood.” That much is true at least.

About three this morning she came into my room to wake me. I was already awake, of course — the cats tell me immediately when she is up and roaming. She was amused and wanted to tell me about the man and the two little boys who had just come into her room. One of the boys was looking for a dog, but the father told him that the dog wasn’t there, and they left. She thought this was quite funny and asked, “What would I be doing with a dog? Shall I fix you your breakfast?”

(She can find the kitchen now, but as for fixing breakfast, no. She spent twenty minutes the other day trying to bring me a glass of water that she had offered to get for me. I usually say, “No, thank you.” This time I said, “Yes, please” just to see what would happen. The kitchen was ten feet from where I was sitting. She often can’t get that far before forgetting why she has gone there. It took 20 minutes of restarts before the glass of water wound up on the table beside me.)

So, when she offered to make breakfast at 3 AM, I replied, “No, thank you. How about I fix you a snack — peanut butter and banana on toast?”

“O, that would be all right,” she responded glumly. She had visions of I-don’t-know-what — and never will know. She went back to bed and was sleep before I could get the toaster going, so I left the snack on the tray beside her bed. She’ll eat it when she wakes up again in the night. She won’t know or need to know where it came from, and she won’t remember it in the morning. She might ask me why a plate is in her bed, but probably not. It may be inside the pillow case with the pillow. But the food will be gone. It is a bit like making offerings to a capricious god — they are almost always taken, but one is never sure by whom or what.

Our days and our nights have little consistency. Her viewpoint is chaotic, without order, most things forgotten very rapidly and things remembered that never happened. But it’s quite remarkable how much chaos can be created in a house by one elderly, exceedingly slow-moving woman, unsteady on her feet, who cannot remember where she was going or why or what she picked up along the way nor where she put it down.

I yearn for order, for reason, for understanding, for a way to make things better — for her and for me. Even for the cats who are bewildered by her and wary of her slow fumbling traverses of the house. They watch her with perplexed and concerned eyes. So do I. I want to understand her, but it isn’t going to happen. It’s like living with a natural force — a storm, a tidal wave, a fire. Things don’t have to have any reason why — at least not a reason within the scale of human comprehension.

For me this is an intensive spiritual exercise. Perhaps someday I’ll be grateful for having had it. I try to be grateful now.

rainbow-bit

Ol' Mama Karma

I have to tell you the bad news first. I’ve just realized that I know where Ol’ Mama Karma lives. Not for her the big marble palace in the sky equipped with golden thrones and swift-flying horses and an armory full of thunder bolts. No. Not for her all that Sturm und Drang of traveling at a breakneck pace around the world to smite the sinner with her lightning (along with a hapless shepherd or two up in the high summer pastures with his dogs and sheep). No. These days it would drive her wild to have to keep up with all of our iniquitous behavior. She has it all worked out in the simplest, most economical, most comfortable way — for her.

Think about it!

Ol’ Mama Karma lives in the center of every and each heart, where she putters around quite happily as long as all is well. It isn’t our making an error that brings her into action. No. She forgives mistakes — as long as we learn from them and don’t make them again. But the second time, when we know (or at least suspect that we know) better… ah, then!

An error repeated darkens our heart, making it colder, and so for the sake of comfort, she reaches out with her broom, and gives a firm whack on the tender, vulnerable wall of the heart. This reminder sends a quiver and a shiver, a palpitation and a pulsation undulating through body, mind, and spirit. We know when we’ve done wrong. All the denial, all the self-justification, the rationalization, the self-vindication, and the outright whitewashing we do cannot hide us from ourselves successfully. See how neat it is? She scarcely has to do a thing.

She is not some vengeful, sour old woman making up silly rules about shellfish and sex for us to break so she can scold and torment us. No one but a psychopath would want to spend their days doing that.

And speaking of punishing, not only do we recognize our own wrong-doing, but we instigate our own chastisement as well. We know just exactly how guilty we are, and we put ourselves in the way of our own penance. She might prefer that we simply learn something so we’d actually do better next time, but by her own rules, she sits and watches, knitting and nodding (or shaking her head), often with a tiny smile on her beautiful, ageless face, as she practices the natural magic of letting things happen with just the least little nudge.

It’s a system that has worked nearly effortlessly (for her) for eons — possibly as far back as the first amoeba, perhaps right back to the hearts of the miniscule molecules of the precursors of life. She is in our own hearts, as much a part of us as the beat of them and of the breath that keeps them going. She simply lives in our hearts. Just that.

So the good news is that it’s in our own hands. And perhaps that is the bad news as well. What do you think?

Cuckoo's Story

I wrote this story a number of years ago when I still lived in Scotland. It is based on an old Celtic legend. I wanted to post something here today, but none of the three things I’ve been working on are quite ready, and this is one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Do you know the Celtic legend of the cuckoo? As I write this at the end of June, the cuckoo is calling in my back garden. The West of Scotland is magical country, suitable for a magical bird, and we hear the cuckoo’s call to tell us that spring is truly here, regardless of what the weather may be doing.

It seems that the gods decided (for godly reasons, no doubt) that they wanted to stop the to-ing and fro-ing between Tir-nan-Og (the Land of Eternal Youth) and the mundane world. Probably having so many mortals (heroes and druids and suchlike) rollicking about lowered the property values. Anyway, they told everyone in Tir-nan-Og, including all of the animals and all of the birds, that they would have to choose which world they wanted to live in – the world of immortality and stasis or the world of mortality and seasons, of growth and decay. They forgot to tell the bees who, ever since, have simply ignored the whole thing and done as they pleased, but that’s another story.

Everyone made their choice except Cuckoo. She thought and she thought, but she couldn’t decide. The gods probably said, ‘Come on! Hurry up!’ They probably tapped their toes impatiently. I don’t know for sure, because I wasn’t there, and she who reported what happened didn’t say, but I expect that they did. It would be just like them. And I most definitely wouldn’t like them tapping their toes like that at me.

Poor old undecided Cuckoo just couldn’t make up her mind. At last she told the gods that she couldn’t bear to live without the beauty and magic of Tir-nan-Og, but neither could she give up growing and changing, living and bearing and someday, but please not too soon thank you very much, dying. She begged and she pleaded and she argued. She just wouldn’t give up or give in. The gods got fed up with this and put their heads together (gods can do these things; the rest of us would probably get our brains all mixed and mushed up).

After a certain amount of argument and cogitation, they made a decision. They said to Cuckoo, ‘Right. You can continue to travel between the worlds. But there are conditions.’

Poor Cuckoo’s heart sank. You know what sort of things that gods tend to think up when they start thinking about conditions.

‘First, you must agree to serve as our messenger between the worlds, carrying our messages to mortal creatures.’

‘Oh, yes,’ Cuckoo interrupted happily, her heart bobbing back up. ‘I’d be honored to do that, Great Ones.’

‘That isn’t all,’ they said grimly and smugly at the same time. Cuckoo’s heart sank back down again, even lower.

‘You must never build a nest in either world. You must lay your eggs in the nests of other birds to be hatched or not hatched by them, as they will. For this you will be castigated and vilified and blamed. If ever you build a nest in either world, you will be confined to that world evermore.’

Now, when humans say ‘evermore’ it only means ‘until we change our minds’ or ‘until we forget about it’, but when the gods say it, they really mean it. Poor Cuckoo’s heart fell on the ground and cracked.

‘Does this mean,’ she asked sadly, ‘that I would not be allowed to feed and care for my own children, to nurture and protect and teach them?’
‘Yes,’ said the gods.

‘Does it mean I’d have to depend on the charity of other birds for the well-being of my little chicks, for their very lives?’

‘Yes,’ said the gods.

‘Does it mean that I would never know my own chicks, and they would never know their own parents?’

‘Yes,’ said the gods.

Cuckoo thought and she thought. Her wings drooped sadly, and her heart felt as though it would crack forever in two. At last, she asked, ‘But does it also mean that my children will have the freedom of both worlds, forever and evermore?

‘Yes,’ said the gods.

‘You swear? No games, no tricks, and no more conditions?’

‘Yes,’ said the gods, squirming a little because they had been thinking of a godly trick or two. (I certainly do hope that the gods feel at least a little bit guilty and ashamed about this whole thing, because it was a terrible thing to do to anyone, least of all to a little bird with a loving mystic’s heart.)

So that is how cuckoo became a career woman with an important job to do. For this she paid the huge price of never knowing her own children, never being able to feed them and cuddle them warm, never feeling the pride of watching their first flight, never… never… never… But in exchange for the things she lost, she gained them free entry to the Land of the Forever Young.

Nowadays many people think that cuckoos migrate to Africa or somewhere every winter, and they are right. But on the way to and fro, they detour through Tir-nan-Og, where they rest for a while, refresh their spirits, and pick up messages from the gods for delivery.

This is why spring, when the cuckoos first arrive, is such a magical time and everything grows so fast. They not only bring messages, but caught in their wings, they also bring a bit of the air and the magic of Tir-nan-Og to a bereft mortal world.

And this is why their song has such a mournful note.

This is also why it is most unlucky to harm a cuckoo or a cuckoo’s egg. It’s every bit as bad as harming a wren, and you know what that means, don’t you?

This is also why it is important to listen, listen, listen with all your senses, inner and outer, when you hear the song of the cuckoo. There is always a message from the gods in it for you. And as exasperating as they can be at times, it’s just as well to pay attention to the gods when they deign to speak to us.

I know these things are true, not only because they are Celtic legend (which is the best and truest kind of legend), but also because the cuckoo swears they’re true. And if you can’t believe a messenger from the gods, who can you believe?

© 1995 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.