Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I thought of Hitaji, very different than I am, larger than life, unaffected by her overwhelming presence. She studied and embraced her African American heritage, bringing healing and wisdom into her world. I simply did not know what to make of her. When overcome by the spirits, she broke into boisterous chanting and dancing. As a rooted, earthy New Englander, I admired her from afar, not knowing or trusting myself at the time how to react or respond.
Unaware of the possibilities and deeply absorbed in my exploratory study process, I rejected the idea. Agitated at my uncertainty, I wondered what I feared.
Marion grabbed me by the arm and pulled me towards Hitaji, who sat quietly, enjoying her lunch. Marion was not a physical person; her intensity was unsettling.
Hitaji did not look up; she continued eating her lunch and told me when and where to meet her and to make sure that my hands and feet were clean.
I returned to my room and wondered if my feet were clean enough, as I had taken a shower a few hours before. I washed my hands and stared at my reflection in the mirror. What was I doing?
The dorms at Vermont College are very old and traditional New England with bricks, cinder blocks and old tile floors like what they have in hospitals, only these are not shiny. I hesitated as I took the flight of stairs down to the lower level and approached the seemingly empty dorm room. Hitaji sat on an antique wooden desk chair, her head lowered in meditation. I paused.
“Come in, Mj. Don’t be afraid.” Her voice penetrated; I sweat. She knew.
She dragged another chair before her, got up, flipped off the light and returned to her seat. She sat in front of me rubbing lavender oil in her palms. She instructed me to close my eyes as she massaged the oil on my rigid hands. My fear lingered. I struggled to take slow and even breaths until I finally relaxed.
She brought me face to face with generations of women in my family. She asked for their presence so that they would stand with me. Much of my research is based on my paternal lineage of grandmothers reaching as far back as the early 1600’s. I already knew a great deal about them, their lives and interesting journeys through the passage of time. Hitaji summoned them into my circle.
After reaching a relaxing place and state, she then told me that it was time to let go of the fear and trauma of the accident that I had as an infant. She instructed me to advise my inner child that it was okay and that (I) Maryjane, the adult, would protect her. I was floored. What accident?
At the end of the session, she asked me about the ‘accident’, that I encountered as a child. I had no idea. She suggested that I seek answers.
That was it, so I thought. I knew that I did not have any memory of an accident and that no one spoke anything of the like.
During my entire life, as far back as I can remember, I suffered from night terrors. I believed them to be bad dreams or nightmares. I have no recollection of any part of the dream that would offer clues as to their origin – no colors, sounds or specific people. I used to think that my blood curdling screams actually scared the memory of the dream from my consciousness. I could not explain the dreams or terrors, nor could I trace them to any particular event or person.
When in the dream state, I envisioned being in a very dark, silent place, the darkest place that I had ever encountered. It was almost like a vacuum. My conscious self tried to make sense of this, so I labeled it a cellar or dungeon. Sometimes I thought that I was in a coffin because it was so tight fitting that I could not move and felt wildly claustrophobic. The root of the terror was that my life was in extreme danger and no one knew I was in there, hence the loud screaming that often left me hoarse.
These dream events were so common, that people in my life became accustomed to them – sisters, parents, husband, children, roommates…I simply screamed at least three or four nights a week and woke up in a sweat with my heart racing and then I apologized and went back to sleep. It became an ordinary part of who I was.
After my return from Vermont College, I had dinner with my parents and my sister, Susan. I asked them if they recalled any accident that I was in or that I may have witnessed as a baby. Everyone shook their heads no and continued on to other topics of conversation.
Suddenly my father interrupted and looked at my mother. “How about when you were pregnant with Maryjane and you fell down the stairs. You were holding onto Susan and you had to go to the hospital.”
Everyone was quiet. I couldn’t believe that I had never heard this story. However, the science of my parents’ generation was not as advanced as today; they had no reason to think of PTSD in utero. My mother went on to tell me that she fell down a steep staircase with Susan – my older sister – who had to have stitches in her chin and that she (my mother) went to the hospital and remained there under doctors’ care for two weeks until my birth. I was born slightly prematurely because of this accident. Perhaps I was really going to be a Leo instead of a Cancer. Another thought to ponder, although I am a typical Cancer with strong Cancerian traits.
I knew that when my mother discovered that she was pregnant with me, her doctors advised her to have an abortion because they believed it was a tubal pregnancy. Obviously, she refused. I did not know about the accident on the stairs. I talked with my family about the probability that my lifetime of night terror and fears stemmed from this in utero experience. I was proud of my father – born in the 1920’s – for having the insight to consider that my trauma was in fact prior to my birth.
Later on that night, I meditated. I faced my frightened inner child with conscious awareness of the accident. I assured her that she was safe. I fell into a deep sleep.
Since this truth unfolded, I have not experienced a night terror. I have an active dream life; I acknowledge my dreams and record them in a journal. The trauma of my pre-birth accident, which resulted in a lifetime of Post Traumatic Stress, has been resolved.
Thank you, Hitaji for your gift of healing. Thank you, Dad for considering all possibilities. Thank you, Mom for ignoring the doctors. Thank you, Sophia for your infinite wisdom and guidance.
Monday, June 28, 2010
When stepping into the river, it is vital to choose a stable rock. Chances are, unless the rock is in standing water, it will not be slimy. Luckily, river rocks are not as prone to algae because of the constant rushing water. A well-placed foot causes the current to re-route – white rushing water tickles if you take time to linger.
A pond is an entirely different story. Everything is slimy, a haven where life clings to all surfaces, making the water murky and brownish. If I strain, I can hear a subtle trickle where an underground brook empties into the pond. Today, I noticed two very fat tadpoles sitting quite still on a rust colored rock which begs the question, is the rock rusty or is it the water?
The cattails are now taller than I am. They are a staple of indigenous peoples, still used throughout the world. Dig up the roots in early spring to find delicious sprouts that can be eaten raw. Now, in early summer, the 2 to 3 foot stalks can be peeled for their tasty core, known to some as “Cossack asparagus”, which is consumed raw, boiled or steamed. Beside the cattails are a handful of exquisite wild irises. Their roots look alike, but the irises are poisonous, so it is crucial to identify the stalks carefully and in the presence of established cattails.
I rely on the spirit and energy of water. When my own well is dry, I go to the source, each offering its own unique gift. The pond is closest and it beckons. If I step in the muck, my feet will disappear and I will be unable to move. Today I am unable to ignore the agitated deer fly that circles my head before buzzing deep into the curls on the nape of my neck.
I stood before the pond and waited; it would not work today. The tranquility lulls me to sleep, covering me with a thick dark blanket that is so safe that it becomes unsafe when I cannot crawl out from under it.
Although it is raining lightly, I think I will go to the river instead. The quickening current shouts into the wind and thrashes by, not noticing or taking the time to invite me in. It is up to me to figure out that it is to my advantage to wash away the toxic clutter of the material world that invades my senses. After all, my awareness whisked me away from serene muckiness to invigorating commotion.
The river is clear. The river is cold, so cold that I gasp when I first go under and bathe in her spirit. I am able to focus on the tiniest specks of gold and mica on the endless rock floor. I tread water in the deep, round, emerald pool and rest my eyes on two gigantic spiders clinging to the side of a granite rock. I am not afraid.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
As soon as the sun sets, the bullfrog orchestra warms up, tunes and begins a musical marathon. They are all singing in the same key. They inspire one another. One begins, another repeats from another section producing a beautiful canon.
Some Banjo frogs make a series of swallowy glugs – typically three descending gulps – while the others sort of moan.
When I shine a flashlight on them, they suddenly stop; when I move it around, they start up again. Therefore, instead of cueing those to come in, they stop; it is reverse conducting. With practice, we can perform a symphony. The Duncan Lake Frogharmonic.
They are so loud, it is necessary for me to wear earplugs in order to sleep. This is an attention issue. I am unable to stop listening.
From my memoir – “The Summer at Duncan Lake” July 2009
Friday, June 18, 2010
Red clover is a humble yet magnificent gift that happens to grow abundantly in my back yard and I can safely say that it grows in yours as well. It is indigenous to many regions around the country. Since my childhood, I have been unable to resist the sweet nectar at the base of each individual purple blossom. If you haven’t partaken in this delightful activity, simply pick a red clover – which is actually purple – and pluck a tiny, slender blossom. The base of the blossom is white and contains nectar. Place the white end between your teeth, bite down and brace yourself for an explosion, offering your taste buds a heavenly surge of natural sweetness.
Last year, I suffered from the bite of a brown recluse spider. This was a life-altering event. Although I was fortunate to avoid skin grafts, I was ill for quite some time. I believe that my fast acting application of a homeopathic salve aided in the prevention of the death of the skin around the bite area. However, I took in over 43,000 milligrams of antibiotics in ten days. To say that I was wiped out is a gross understatement.
After the onslaught of antibiotics taken at home and at the hospital, I needed to regain my strength and rebuild my immune system. In addition to a variety of homeopathic supplements, a friend suggested that I drink plenty of “red clover” tea as an effective blood purifier. Upon doing research, I have discovered that red clover is excellent for many ills such as cancer of the stomach, quieting nerves, healing fresh wounds and it makes an outstanding healing balm. (Please note that it is not recommended for pregnant women.)
I dashed off to my favorite health food store and purchased a pricey box of the tea. I spent a good part of my summers chewing on these purple gems that grow wildly in every back yard I have known, so I knew that it was crazy to buy any more “red clover” tea from that point on.
Recently, after several days of rain, the grasses surrounding the house were dotted with both red and white clover. I decided to harvest the red clover for tea, although it is also great for making sweet syrup, lemonade and sprinkling in rice and salads. Are you one step away from outright grazing yet?
This is how to celebrate red clover. Gather the flowers in the summer when in full bloom. Blossoms may be used fresh or dried. Check for bugs. If drying, place in the shade, preferably on wax paper. When dry, put them in paper bags and hang in a dry place.
Recipe for Red Clover Infusion
Place ½ to 1 cup of dried red clover into a quart mason jar.
If using fresh clover, remember that fresh herbs are simmered gently in water for a few minutes to break down their cell walls. Dried herbs are not simmered as they have brittle cell walls.
Boil 1 quart of water.
Pour boiling water over the herbs to the top of the jar.
Cover the jar tightly with the lid to prevent evaporation of vital elements, as some herbs have unstable oils that easily evaporate.
Let steep at least 8 hours or overnight. Long steeping increases the potency of the tea, as the water is given time to dissolve and do much of its work.
Strain as necessary, leaving the herbs in the infusion to continue steeping until all the tea is gone.
Sweeten to taste with honey if desired.
Enjoy one of Gaia’s astonishing gifts.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Laughing toddlers with three-day-old orange Kool-Aid moustaches – oblivious to their grungy disposable diapers that should have been changed hours before – dashed in and out of the street. I drove by slowly, trying not to look but unable to ignore the vacant stares of adults who sat slumped on deteriorated steps. The stench of abandonment filled the air.
I parked the car and waited, for what? I didn’t know. She – the resilient purple flower that grows in the crack in the sidewalk – stood beside a gray trashcan flipped on its side, smiled and motioned for me to come. I struggled against the stronghold of gravity and found myself standing beside a corroded El Camino with no tires, searching for the tools to abandon my own sense of abandonment.
The gatekeeper – a dark brown dog – watched from the second story window of a dirty pink house. I hesitated when we locked eyes. He didn’t flinch. Ignoring my initial impulse to meet the challenge, I looked away. I could hear him panting when I walked past the window.
Something smelled – a cross between cloves, pepper and sweat. I couldn’t identify the source or decide if it was good or bad.
I stepped over rusted bicycles, random parts and more trashcans to a small chicken coop tucked against a slanted wooden fence in the corner. The sight of familiar clucking hens – allies – invited tightness in my chest. I bit my thumbnail and watched them peck for bugs in the once paved driveway. They had food, water and adequate space. I exhaled, but not enough. What are we doing here? I screamed silently.
I brushed away the cobwebs of lullabies, apple blossoms and green grasses dotted with bright yellow dandelions. I grasped the delicate tendrils of long forgotten innocence and hope and tucked them back in the box with longing and regret. With the weight of the key pressed against my chest, I gathered faith and carried on.
A woman gives birth. The umbilical cord – never severed – remains intact and grows, invisible to the naked eye.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I sit at the gathering place
Surrounded by the hush
Of the sun-drenched meadow,
Deflowering a daisy with
He loves me,
He loves me not.
Subtle is the sweet grass
Embracing my self.
Yet, in all its silken splendor
My heart wilts
Oh, but to leave the fate
Within crumpled fragments
Of a daisy!
For if I know not,
The intentions of a man,
Surely, he is not worthy
Of plucking from her,
The blissful glory,
Which graces her center.
Who am I to take her crown,
Encircling a brilliant
Bowing only to the wind,
I shall leave the secrets
Never again to
Strip her pride
Petal by petal,
Just to know
If he loves me
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
On unbending stalks, the many sisters reach towards the next day, unaware of time tapping recklessly against delicate folds of innocence. They have risen above the ones that hold tight to the promise of beauty in swollen buds, yet they continue to seduce winged ones and walking ones alike with intoxicating fertility and wild perfection.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
We came from the same womb, the same warm dark place, tucked safely inside with the others. We wait until the last full moon of the planting month, when the killing frosts are no longer a threat before we push through the rich layer of that which separates here from there.
All of we sisters quiver and reach towards the warm sun rising high above, following from east to west, eager to unfold and liberate beauty from within round, swollen buds. The others – tall, slender shoots – come, rush, tower over us, boasting frilly lavender, wine, yellow and white frocks that crumple and wither before us.
We take turns showing our faces – unmistakable papery pink petals surround an innocent, deep crown of purple seeds known to bring sleep and cast a spell on the weak. The spirit of beauty and truth intoxicates those of a divine spark.
When the time is right, my sister and I follow the others, whose spotted silken petals lay still in garden grasses beside enduring hemlock.
We wait and watch the other unravel undying pinkness. Quiet winds urge us to show our faces, which makes the gardener weep. She comes out once and again to watch us and to wait.
After the night and before the day, my sister and I make the last gesture of completeness. In all of our glory, we – two sisters of the earth womb, follow the sun and beguile young men with potent seeds and entice old women to cut for her table – have arrived. We sisters collect dew and call upon butterflies. We watch the others come and go before us and we watch the others wait in bud for our passing. Finally, in one sweet, elusive moment, our decaying petals will lie on the garden floor, proclaiming our memory and lingering on the next miracle.