Tag Archive | desert

Desert Fire: Befriending the Monster in my Mind

I’m please to share that Desert Fire is finally finished.

YAY!
It is available in print and digital
HERE AT LULU and also on AMAZON.COM should you dare to enter the desert, and the strangeness of my mind. In brief, what do you get when you combine a transplant to the Sonoran Desert with mind-created monsters, living landscapes, elemental impressions, Ayurveda, flower essences, earth-centered spirituality, dogs, history, geography, archaeology, desert denizens, and writing therapy? You get Desert Fire.

I could easily have spent another six to twelve months fine-tuning Desert Fire further,

but felt that its time has come to go out into the world just as it is.

Now I can move on to other writing projects pressing to be heard.

__________________

[excerpt from Desert Fire]

If I hadn’t researched the dogs of the Americas, seeking to understand the history of the tiny Chihuahua dog, I might never have met and resonated with a deity on my own continent who shares some of the qualities of my beloved Artemis. Dogs and forest wisdom are threads that link the Greek Goddess Artemis and the South American Goddess Yampani Nua. In the Achuar, a tribe of South America, they tell of a divine Mistress of Dogs, the “female spirit Yampani Nua.[i] The Achuar are situated just below the equator putting them in the Southern rather than the Northern Hemisphere where I live. Their traditional lands ride the boundary between Ecuador and Peru, and they are far from being desert dwellers. Achuar women held status within their communities, and, similarly, pre-Hellenic Artemis is aligned with the former matrifocal cultures of Greece. The mythical Artemis roamed the wild woods with her pack of dogs, her Alani, and it is not a stretch for me to see Yampani Nua as sister-goddess to Artemis, each representing a different continent. Both are responsible for the care and protection of these remarkable canine Beings that I consider sacred guides for and protectors of humans. While Artemis and Yampani Nua resonate through unique patterns of cultural divinity, their roles are both that of a Mistress of Dogs. Thus, I feel a kinship with them because of their strong relationship to dogs and the forests. [i]. Schwartz. A History of Dogs in the Early Americas. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. Print. Page 59.

Flourishing Transplants

[the following is a rough-draft excerpt from my nearly completed manuscript titled “Desert Fire”]bougainvilleaagainsthosue One of several Desert Gifts is nearly year ‘round Bougainvillea blossoms! Is there any important difference between the gifts received by being in the desert and those gifts that are indigenous to the desert? The Bougainvillea is not indigenous to the Sonoran Desert (also referred to as Sonora) — it is a South American native though it has become naturalized here — yet its blooming provides great joy through color, profusion, vibrant energy … a transplant that has found a home here and relishes the arid climate, the heat as well as the cooler temperatures of winter’s onset. I am a transplant, too, and my infused creative energy can be mirrored to some extent by that of the Bougainvillea. I can’t remain for long in direct sunlight — unlike the Bougainvillea — but the autumn shifting brings forth a bounty of energy from me likened to the fresh, clean, bright, heather-weight bracts that laugh mischievously among their chaotic community. My recent research has helped me see Sonora through a softer, more accepting lens, to admire her and her Beings of all forms for their ability to thrive and dance! To acknowledge that she isn’t “out to get me” like a bandit who wants to rob me of my juiciness. Instead, she encourages me toward recognition of the need for self-nurture and self-realization of what I need so that I can flourish. Sonora was willing to play the devil’s advocate, to portray herself as the villain, until I could see that the true villain was inside me … my fears and insecurities and lack of self-awareness in certain qualities. She helped me see the wisdom of being able to live anywhere because to thrive comes from inside myself, not from external situations per se. Those without self-reflection can be destroyed whether they live in the blistering heat of the desert or on a tropical island ignoring the lava flowing straight towards them or in the north woods ignoring a tree that is crashing down. So, maybe it’s okay that the Bougainvillea bring me joy in them, myself, and the ability of Sonora to cause them to thrive. Which brings me full circle to my desire for travel, to wisely intuit when I need to go away to absorb the emotional and psychological nutrients I don’t have around me — just as the Archaic hunter-gatherers moved around. Finding my inner Wise Woman, she who guides me not to blame Sonora — or any other external factor — but to listen to how our frequencies sing together at different times. Are we discordant or harmonizing? When not in accord, do we need a little time away from each other? I had been resisting planting Bougainvillea in the courtyard because I didn’t want to encourage bees to be so close by … but does the joy of the visual flowering splendor outweigh the fear of the bees? I still retain a fear of bees though it’s nowhere near as intense as it used to be. Bees — fire, intensity, inflammation, heat, swelling, pain. Again, the fear of these things can constrict my breathing — my prana — more than anaphylactic shock would. A childhood wasp sting — and my bad reaction to it — seems to have elevated this fear of being stung, of having venom pumped throughout my system without my permission or any control over it. In turn, this also translates to my fear of scorpions, a separate desert topic in and of itself. Even mosquitos cause large red, itchy welts to rise up on my skin and stay a long time. My body and mind do not react well to fire … easy and frequent sunburns, severe headaches, photophobia, nausea from any kind of over-heating. That kind of fiery intensity easily overwhelms me. Combine this susceptibility with the hot flashes and night sweats of menopause and what happens? Ash results. However, Sonora reminds me to be self-aware, to either remove myself from exposure at its height or be sure to know the remedial scenarios to dissipate the heat, whether that is silence during an argument, drinking water in the shade, or simply remaining in my home-cave.  During the most intense fires of life, it does not do me — or anyone else — any good to go up in flames and disappear into the vastness of the desert, my bleached bones to be found later tossed around by coyote pups at play in the mirage of life. The key to all of this is knowing, accepting, embracing myself as a non-native of Sonora and reducing my expectations that I can be someone I’m not. Here, I’m a transplant, and my purpose requires a different approach, a different amount of fire — only a small amount of fire that is held gently, cradled close to my heart like a stone warmed to a sweet, moderate temperature that soothes and creates sparks in imagination and spinal fluid so that body and mind flow within the subterranean streams feeding all life in the desert. I say Grace … thank you, Sonora. How do each of us handle the Fire in our lives? Are we comfortable with intensity? Do we, in fact, relish the heat? Or do we shy away from the flames?

Deep Listening, Deep Seeing

DesertDawnSky081114Rainstorm! Thunder! Lightening!

Across the night sky my heart was beating and I heard it in Her voice at play among the clouds in our union. My body in bed relaxed into the moments; whisked away to the inky infinite I was at peace, serenity of mind and body attuned to the symphony held among the stars tossing themselves across the expanse as they danced in a lacy play of cosmological badminton.

A breezy, cool 70 degrees welcomed me on an early walk as the clouds created a soft batting above and I could look directly at the dawning sun — we beamed at each other while the hills were a splendor of rust and emerald, rock and plant. In the opposite distance, the western horizon was blinking itself awake with half-closed eyes in wrinkled pink and violet. 

The air was, and is still, heavy with suspended silken water that absorbs into my skin and, deeper, into my cells — I am fluid, flexible, bending like the slender hop seed branches. The Santa Cruz River is flowing, there are puddles in the Sonoran Desert, and I am full in our Oneness — a well-spring opened.

Solitary, I sit outside sipping chai — no dogs are with me for, being a weekend, they would bark at any noise in the neighborhood. This is part of my new practice of growing a deeper silence: a few moments of only background noise so that the space around me heals, my aura can feel itself gently pulsing, and I can feel me — alone. To grow, breathe, Be in a state of solitude and learn to relish this quiet separation that mysteriously creates total union with all life. A solitary bee is buzzing near my head, off on its own private adventure this morning while a bird flies overhead, cawing — not a crow, a gray bird who seems a little frantic, searching.

I didn’t even hold my usual indoor sadhana … this moment called for me to be in the outdoors, sitting, listening, Being. The thickened air holds scents more firmly and I know the plenitude of dogs in the area by smell as well as sound, one sense that normally doesn’t alert me to their presence since the usual aridness desiccates droppings rapidly. 

I lightly brush the soles of my feet upon the still-damp sandstone, feeling its softness, and wonder how far it traveled to be here; does it miss its first home? The sandstone — sandpaper-like against the calluses on my feet — breathes, I can imagine the space between the particles where the granules are splashing in puddles like happy grubby children and a subtle melody, a lullaby, whispers itself into existence unheard except by otherly realms found in fables. While walking earlier, my husband pointed out a rock formation upon a nearby hill — a giant turtle rock. The hills are a bounty of shapes and sizes; a little imagination goes a long way. 

My husband rescued (with permission) abandoned rocks from the shelves of the basement at his office, and they are excited to be out in the elements again, once more soaking up the rain and reflecting the sun and feeling the wind whip around their jagged faces. Liberation! 

RockFaceA rock face guards the agave, his solemn expression reminding me of Easter Island giants or totem pole alchemists shapeshifting. His chin is jade green, his lip line thin and stoic beneath a recessed granite nose, broad and sensing all that goes on around him. Green appears painted around deep-set eyes beneath his broad gray brow. His inner cheeks are rusty brown from too much sun as he holds the space around him in safety. What are the minerals called that he reveals in such solid presence?

I had felt the coyotes watching us during our morning walk; they were safely hidden among the wild buffer zone of mesquite and palo verde and cholla. Motionless, they were undetectable by weak human eyes so I only knew them through feeling their eyes upon us, that prickle on the back of the neck; one that could have been a vibration of past presence, who knows for sure. It doesn’t matter because at least I know they are out there, still stalking, breathing, Being. If I were to stand barefoot on the sand atop the packed earthen ‘concrete’ — the hard caliche of the desert floor — could I feel their paws trotting miles away? Does the dense earth of desert pavement carry their vibrations like the stampede of buffalo were heard miles away by placing one’s ear next to the plains grasses on ground that held the sounds of all life, all movement, back to the beginning of time? 

Is Gaia’s body a chamber of resonance across time and space? We talk of a Field “out there” somewhere, but what about the Field of pure awareness that holds the recordings of all manifest form archived within Her veins, cells, tissue and organs? 

Do our rescued rocks, now reconnected with the skin of Mother Earth, speak of their adventures and send their memories into the chamber of knowledge beneath my feet? 

3RocksEach rock has its own forgotten story of excavation, transport, experimentation, and entombment. A story that is a mere blink, but each one unique. In the palest of sage green coloring, a mere blush of elegant residue, the pyramid stone casts healing rays around the yard, its edges rough yet kind, an ancient symbol of masculine principle transformed into healing the wounds of patriarchal ignorance. Three huge guardians, each of different origin, bump shoulders in a corner: green, brown, gray … they anchor us here, determination and courage in their unearthed exposure reminding me that home is wherever I desire it to be, it’s where love is. To go visiting for nourishment and expansion is wonderful … but my human-rock, my Beloved, is here. He, like the boulders, anchors me in safety wherever I am. 

This is our story … rain, desert, rocks … all Beings.

Thinness of Self

handleafveilbwI had lain in bed at dawn, savoring the taste of silence, appreciating the moment of dark quiet with Widget snuggled against my side and Phoenix curled at my feet. This was a moment of sweet peace, relaxing, breathing in the silence that would sustain me during the rest of the day. A short while later, when I took the dogs outside and we stepped into the dove-gray softness of liminal light, a small bat was flitting back and forth above my head quite near but silent. Gaia’s Grace was tangible.

There is a line that I love in A Book of Silence: “the thinness of my sense of self” (p.17). When I read this, I felt I became intimate with the book’s author, Sara Maitland. I’ve never met her and probably never will, but with this comment, I felt we were kindred spirits. She is writing of how difficult it is for her to sit in silent meditation with others because she is so aware of them it intrudes upon her own sense of silence.

I nearly squealed in recognition of this sensation of “thinness of self” because I experience this when even one other person is in the house with me. I usually considered this due to my personal insecurity, or perhaps embarrassment or discomfiture that I was somehow being “judged” and could feel the judgment oozing through even a closed door. However, I also usually experienced this at Kripalu — though to a milder degree — in group meditation, where it was highly unlikely that others were judging me since they, too, were meditators. Nevertheless, I was often feeling a disturbance of energy in the room rather than my own peaceful silence or the group silence. I simply am not at ease in group meditation. And this went against (which added to my feeling of being an “outsider”) the teachings of all the benefits of meditating in groups to assist with maintaining and encouraging spiritual focus and energy. Occasionally, the meditation was long enough I could reach my own silent center and personal sacred space of nothingness, my core of being. But not often.

When I think it is my insecurity creating this inability to feel the silence in a group, I feel negative overtones. But what if this is a “thinness of self” that is naturally spiritual? What if it is the natural thinness that comes directly from one’s soul? Sara Maitland seems to worry, as do I, that this is some kind of “fault” in our character. But is it? Why would it necessarily be so? Why would we assume it is? Is it not simply a trait that is natural? Perhaps our discomfort or inability to rest in group silence is a judgment of our society, even a spiritual one like at Kripalu or a retreat center? A judgment that is more comfortable grouping everyone together and not comfortable with those who are solitaries in their silence? The only advantage I personally could see to a group meditation was that it provided a structure for the ritual, something that says it is to be done now, not put off, not shortened or skipped — group practice can create a sort of discipline if one has a hard time doing this alone. And yet, even if that aspect is helpful in the beginning, it is still adherence to someone else’s control of our path. At some point, will our spiritual path be important enough that we are disciplined by self?

Is it possible that this “thinness” of self goes further than imagined? That it is a gift allowing a permeability of spirit to more easily flow in and out of soul, and that solitude is needed for some of us to lower the barriers we maintain in any group? Is it this “thinness” that can sometimes be perceived by others as a “madness” or a form of dysfunction because it doesn’t adhere to the group mind? Or is it a source of creativity in some sense? At least for some of us? Clearly not for all of us because many people go deeply into meditation in groups or create marvelous works of art in the company of like-minded individuals or even strangers. But, for some of us, why do we automatically assume that this thinness is a fault, a flaw in our constitutional construction?

Some contrasts I feel here with Maitland are, for instance, that I’ve avoided groups my entire life; preferring one or two people at a time to crowds; even being uncomfortable at my own family’s dinner table at times. Whereas Maitland speaks of her joy in the bantering noise of discussions in family and other groups … that she didn’t begin to yearn for silence and/or solitude until later in life. Which shows her to be following a somewhat normal basic inclination — a healthy one — as described by Ayurveda, i.e., the Vata phase of life. Further, Maitland divorced — she began her journey into seeking silence while on her own, without a life-partner to consider, and this allowed her more freedom to fully engage with the Call of Spirit, to deepen her relationship with silence and solitude. I, however, have a beloved husband. Yet we, in our partnership, continue creating ways for my “thinness of self” to be nourished and encouraged.

Our partnership has been built, in part, upon early recognition of my need for solitude and silence. We didn’t call it “thinness of sense of self” though; an easier and more common term, though one just as socially unacceptable, is introversion. Confessedly, moving to Arizona has been a trial in this area, due to some confusion, loss, misunderstanding, and stumbling.

GatesPassHowever, come winter and cooler weather, I will be able to drive fifteen minutes into the desert, walk a short distance, and experience vast silence and that will, hopefully, induce a greater sense of solitude … one where my thinness can breathe more easily — if I can release my fear of the desert. As Maitland puts it, “the silence of the desert has a horror to it, as well as, born of the horror, a deep and joyful beauty. The desert is vast, cruel and very silent” (p. 128). Perhaps there is a way for me to replace my fear of the desert with love for the opportunity it provides in its unique manifestation of silence and solitude? To balance the environmental overwhelm I feel in this harsh landscape with a freedom of expansive space once the extreme heat recedes for the winter? In that silence, what will happen out of the thinness that is my self and the prominent desert elements of fire and air?

I seek a greater spiritual appreciation of the desert. I seek this so that even though my preference is cave and forest, where I feel safe (and, interestingly, another contrast is that Maitland does not feel safe in the forest), I can move into a state of gratitude for this opportunity of spiritual exploration through desert presence. After all, Maitland who lives in the United Kingdom had to travel to the Sinai Desert whereas my desert is all around me. Maybe my “thinness of self” will facilitate my becoming one with the desert silence, and, through that grace, find a deeper peace here?

May Bast guide our journeys to self through silence and solitude.