Come forth into the light of things; let Nature be your teacher.

~ William Wordsworth

Believe one who knows: you will find something greater in woods than in books.

Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.

~ Saint Bernard de Clairvaux

Saturday, December 28, 2019

We Are Wild and Divine

We can’t keep out the wild for it is embedded within us and we within it. No matter how hard we try to cover the landscape in concrete and asphalt, the wild bursts through. No matter how civilized and proper we think we are, our reptilian brain rises in the heat of the moment. Our past is ever with us, our nature is nature. The wish to rise above it only brings pain and longing.

We move through our manmade landscape as though lost. We navigate it well enough from practice, but it’s as though we are just skimming the surface and not truly living in the world we made. Our heart and whole body carry a latent memory of another way of being. But when we attempt to go back to nature, we find we are just as lost there. We are beings not at home anywhere anymore and perhaps that is why we seem bent on destroying ourselves and the planet. The only relief from this painful longing is consuming what we long for. Somehow we believe by consuming it, we’ll get back what we lost. But really all we get is a stomach ache and deeper grief.

Maybe we can find home in the eternal. But maybe all we need to do is look within and touch that sore and tender place that misses home. Perhaps we can then grieve what we have lost and in the grief finally open the door we shut long ago. It’s the door to the eternal and present moment. We can’t find our way back by tearing down the world we made or building a new one. We can only find our way by realizing the wild exists next to all that is holy within. They are one and the same. We need not have ever separated them. We are both heaven and earth walking. Dust rising and light becoming. We are life. We are wild, and we are divine. And we are free when we bring them together.

At dusk the other day, a large red-tailed hawk flew by my window. I could imagine it sailing over the valley floor here thousands of years ago as it looked for prey. I could see it gliding on thermals up from canyons. In that moment the past and present came together. In that moment the wild and divine were caught on the wing of that magnificent bird of prey. It was home and reminded me I was as well.

And then it was gone, but I captured it. I captured my feelings in words. Poetry is the bridge between the past and present for me. It’s the way through. It’s the way home.

Wings spanning ages
you grace our street
in this current era.
A shadow gliding
out of the past
becomes ever now.
Red-tailed hawk,
glorious shifter
of time and being
barely glimpsed
caught only out of
the corner of my
eye and mind.

©2019 Joanne Young Elliott

Friday, July 26, 2019

Spider Wisdom

Photo by Hans on pixabay
Spider has often shown up in my life as a reminder to weave words and worlds, to express myself in the way I love most. But recently Spider has taught me something else.

Ants love to come into my house. It may be because it’s hot and dry outside, and when my husband waters, it’s too wet. I’m not sure exactly why the ants come marching in. And I’m not a fan. They don’t listen to reason. They end up dead when they come in. I don’t like to kill them, but where there are a few, hundreds can follow if one bit of grease or drop of food isn’t noticed and cleaned up.

Where there are ants, there are spiders. It is mainly daddy long-legs that bless my home. They move awkwardly on their spindly legs unless they’re scurrying, which I rarely see them do. Mostly I see them wait patiently in a corner on their web. They wait for an ant to get caught in their weavings or when one walks by, they grab it. I thank them for catching ants. It’s why I leave them alone in their corners. There are probably a dozen in this large house right now.

With spiders there is no chase involved. They simply do the work of weaving a web and waiting. Mind you, they seem to choose areas frequented by what they want to catch. There does seem to be some planning involved. But once in the perfect place, there is only biding time to be done.

Being patient works. Within a day or two I see the empty husks of ants lying at the base of webs. The spiders are successful in their ability to feed themselves and they don’t expend a lot of energy doing it.

Life is about planning and taking action, but it also calls for more patience than many are willing to have.

This society is about making things happen. I get caught up in that sometimes. I just want to get that essay done and published. I want to make this coaching thing work. I want to take action and be done. But it doesn’t work that way.

We set our intentions. We weave our web of thought and belief. And we wait for inspiration to come our way. I’ve learned to write even as I wait. The writing is a kind of weaving that catches inspiration. But I’m not writing to get it done. I’m open to possibility and I let the words flow. Patience is needed for the first part of the writing process. Later we build and make.

Whatever intention we set, we must be patient. Patience is akin to being open. Patience is the gateway through which possibility enters. When we lose patience, we slam the door on possibility. It’s like a daddy long-legs spider trying to catch an ant by chasing it down. The spider can’t reach out and catch an ant while it’s running. It can’t jump on the ant. It would have to stop and the ant will outrun it. But by waiting patiently, the spider catches dozens of ants.

So, here I wait. Inspiration already hit yesterday when Spider’s wisdom came to me. Now I’m ready to catch more ideas. I trust they will come to me. I simply ask the right questions, set my intentions and wait.

What are you waiting for? Think about what you want. Ask “what if” questions. Ask to know what is rising up within. Believe in possibilities and then wait. The idea, the next step will come to you. But first, have patience. Keep the door open and the muse will fly in.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lessons from Lizards and Seasons

Photo of an earlier lizard visitation by Charles "Beautyseer" Elliott

Just in case I didn’t get it, another lizard scrambled up the side of the house and was making a racket outside my office window. Just a little earlier, there was one doing pushups in the driveway when we got back from our morning walk. It seems it’s time to pay attention.

Lizards symbolize regeneration and risk taking. I have new ideas I’m getting ready to implement. Lizard may be trying to tell me to keep going. It reminds me to take risks and know that I’m ready and even if things don’t work out, I can recover. I’ll take Lizard’s appearance as I sign of good fortune as well as an indication I need to take a moment and make sure I’m following my heart.

Spring, butterflies, wildflowers, wasps, lizards all remind me of the return and rebirth principles of life. Sometimes I get down and feel as though I’ve missed my chance. But, this season, these creatures remind me that all rises again. When we’re in the flow we can’t help but know all returns, all rises again. We need only look to the day and the cycle of the sun. Opportunities are never lost. Another chance always comes around. We simply make ourselves ready.  And when our opportunity comes back around, we begin again.

Those around me will tell you it seems I’m always beginning again. As I wrote that line a hummingbird came up to my window. It keeps coming by. Hummingbird’s ability to fly backwards can be seen as a reminder to step back and get a better perspective. Something Lizard is reminding me to do as well. Step back and take a look at why I’m always beginning. Of course, the joyous hummingbird could also be reminding me to look up and not brood over it.

So I’ll step back for a moment and wonder instead of ruminate. When I do, I see a pattern of stop and go, but I also see that each beginning was not a start from scratch. I don’t have to see it as always starting over but taking another step on the path. Spring comes around every year, but it’s not the same as the last. The trees have grown a little more. The creatures birthed last year are now giving birth. Through time and season we grow. We return a little wiser, a little stronger and a little more able. Like the sparrow on my balcony, singing its song, I’ll feel the breeze and leap into the flow, letting it take me where I want and need to go.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Feel the Wind. Feel the Rage.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Rage like wind blows through the land. It is powerful. It is mesmerizing. You only hope that when it’s over that the damage is minimal. But right now as it rages, you wonder.

The Santa Ana winds are blowing today. Out of the Northeast they race down my street, blowing the trees to bending and rattling the awning above my window.

I usually love the wind, the way it wakes me up and energizes me. That was the wind I grew up with, the cold, wet nor’easter or the wild stormy winds from the west. But here, the wildest winds come from the desert to the east and are warm and dry. They are unsettling. They make me anxious. They often increase the risk of fire in this arid land.

This country has become arid, unable to hold the moisture of compassion, the fluidity of uncertainty. Will the rage that is blowing now enflame us all?

The wild Santa Ana winds can wreak havoc. The damage they do may be a few downed trees or raging fires. But they also clear the air and make it easier to breathe as long as fire doesn’t rise.

Maybe it is time to rage like the wind, to call on Santa Ana, the mother of Mary, the grandmother of Jesus. We could use a powerful mother and grandmother right about now. She has long been the patron saint of my family. We went on pilgrimage to her shrine in Quebec every year to ask for healing for my brother. And he was healed. He never exhibited the worst symptoms of his condition.

Rage ignites us. We feel it because something is terribly wrong. We can no longer let ourselves or others be harmed. We can no longer allow the Earth to be damaged. She has her own rage and it knows no mercy. The raw power of Nature has been unleashed on Earth and within the women. The unheralded cry of the banshee whips through us, through the land, through the construct we live under.

Feel the wind, feel the rage. Let it clear the air. Let it blow through and let it make your eyes water. Let’s turn this storm into one of tears. Let our rage rise, let our passions be roused so it may reveal the compassion that is waiting just behind the pain. The wailing of the banshee need not herald our deaths and the death of the planet. It can be a cry to take down the destructive construct of patriarchy and our interior walls of hate and shame.

The wind continues to rattle and rouse everything on my street. My rage continues to rattle my heart and rouse my soul. But the tears are what will prevent the all-consuming fire and bring healing. And when they flow my world works again. Eyes and heart wide open we can face what we’ve become and know it is not who we are. We are ever becoming even as an eternal flame, steady and strong, burns at our center.

In the wails of the banshee I hear her heart sing, “You are wind. You are fire. You are earth. You are water. You are One. Don’t try to contain anything. Let it flow. You always dance on the edge of creation. When you take your next step, who will you be?”