We are Pilgrims on a Journey

As I sat there listening to music being created right before my eyes, manufactured by human hands up on the stage two tent lengths away, it struck me how amazing the moment was. How lucky I was to be alive and experiencing it. A resounding hum roiling behind my breast bone – the hum of music another om of humanity.

And it is no coincidence that the space music swells is the same place that aches with longing for life, the unnamed.

For where there is a lack, there is also largess.

A void with the ability to be filled.

An ebb and flow

A sacred space that the filling and emptying of reminds us of the balance of life.

For every pain, there will be achingly beautiful joy.

For every time we feel bereft, there will be the overwhelming beauty of belonging, of certainty.

Seeing such music flow from the source brings the magic to life even more. It is the shared experience, the affinity between and among all humankind: a common ache for the sublime, a beatific high when we attain it, and the lonely muddling through when we don’t.

We all are passengers on the same journey, all trying to find our way.

On nights like this, our souls travel together.

"Servant Song" by Richard Gilliard & David Haas

“Servant Song” by Richard Gilliard & David Haas

A Magic Number

 

I think I was brainwashed as a child.  Ha ha, weren’t we all?  But I’ve been meditating on the concept of three lately.  For some reason, it’s cycled back through my subconscious – and this song came up.

A man and a woman had a little baby,

yes they did,

they had three in the family –

that’s a magic number.

Those lines cycled around my subconscious on an endless loop growing up.  It was always those lines.

Apparently I didn’t absorb the other math concepts in the song, because instead of 1+1=3, I decided to go for three kids rather than three total family members.

But three always did have a special connotation for me.  As an only child, it was always three of us in my family and what a nice little tight-knit crew we were.  I was assigned the number 3 jersey when I played CYO basketball for several years.  And speaking of spiritual organizations, there is, of course the ultimate – the Holy Trinity.

Revisiting this song in the context of today’s antiseptic if tolerant culture, I was super-surprised that the lyrics alluded to the mystical trinity.  Whoa.

There is a reason comparable concepts cycle through the universe’s subconscious.  There’s that, and the super catchy ditty that gets stuck in one’s head like an ear worm.  But all kidding and brainwashing aside, there is a magic to the way things grab onto us and won’t let go.  My man and I could have had a little baby and stopped, but I wouldn’t see the sparkle in each of their magical little eyes.

A few years ago for Christmas, I chose a card that said peace, joy, and love to accompany a photo of our three girls.  Each of my girls has one of these characteristics at her essence.  There is no measure to that number.

Native Species

 

The region in which I grew up is rich in Native American history. I waded in the waters at Conimicut Point. I balanced across plank bridges in the Great Swamp. Everyday, I passed places with names like Narragansett, Miantonomo, Apponaug, and Pawtuxet. Along the way, I learned the history and interaction of my colonial ancestors and the indigenous peoples, but the place names became commonplace and part of the fabric of my everyday life that blended into the background.

When my own burgeoning family outgrew our home a few neighborhoods over from the one in which I grew up, we moved deeper into the state; where native history remained vibrantly alive, resisting the squash of suburban sprawl. With signs marking the Narragansett watershed and roads transiting Shumunkanuc Hill, my desire to understand this new land meshed with a desire to better understand the native history and tradition that shaped it.

In an effort to do so, my girls and I visited Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, RI, our state’s only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich cultural heritage of its native peoples. We had a wonderful time, viewing historical exhibits, examples of artwork, basketry, and artifacts. I read the words of Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas in one glossy display detailing the meaning of and pursuit of happiness for modern native peoples. While their home culture and tradition teaches them to be in tune with nature, stewards of the earth with utmost thanks for the gift it is, upholding generational, tribal, and oral traditions, public education counters Native American values and history, forcing an incongruous duality of individuals, students, youngsters.

As I read the poetic description of the aspiration to a higher good we all possess, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to society as a whole. While not all populations in modern society deal with an environment hostile to their ways of life, we all suffer from a sort of disconnect.

We are totally disconnected from the earth, the land.

We can go to the grocery store and buy apples any day, any season of the year – not just during fall harvest. We go to the farmers’ market in spring and balk when we can’t find the main ingredient for our peach pie. We are conditioned like a spoiled child to have an endless supply of food placed before us whenever we want it, with no thought of the hand that put it there.

We are totally removed from nature’s rhythms, its cycles.

We look down the road waiting for a rush of cars when it is the rush of the wind through tree boughs.

We condition our air, we shut our windows tight. We notice not the storm clouds or fog rolling in until the weather report tells us to.

We miss the signal of the birds squawking in the trees or their sweet songs rejoicing in the spring.

We don’t find the hidden places on the back roads because we’re speeding down the highway. We don’t discover the interconnectedness of us all, regardless of background because we’re too busy to talk.

We forget how to, the benefit of, interacting with the world, the people right in front of us, because we’re so intent on interfacing with those halfway around the world through the computer screen.

The sacredness of simplicity is lost.

The elemental forces of the universe are covered over by the noise we humans have created, covering over ourselves.

But on days when we stop to hear a song, shake a rattle, smell the sweet grass, the stories become part of us and there is an elemental shift within – perhaps drawing us all closer to ourselves and each other.

tomaquag

 

Things That Need to Be Said

I have a relative who says things she shouldn’t.

She says the things you don’t want to hear.

The things that make you uncomfortable, that turn the mirror back on yourself in a most unappealing manner.

In a discussion of summer vacations and friends’ doings, I mentioned that some friends had taken their families to Disney.  We lamented the hot weather in Florida this time of year and how trying it must be.  I said it would be trying at any time of year with my youngest being only three.  If I experienced sensory overload and exhaustion at the dawn to dusk days of Disney, I would have to wait until my children were older before I subjected them to its amusing assaults.  I jokingly shared my observation I’d shared with my husband and kids: that I was fourteen years old before I had my first visit to Disney so I was in no rush to get my own much younger kids there anytime soon.  If I had to wait, they could wait.

And that’s when my grandmother dropped her bomb.

There are children in the world who don’t have enough to eat and here we are worrying about what’s the right age to take our children to Disney.

Nothing like the perspective of an eighty-four year old woman to smack you back in your place.

I hadn’t been lamenting my fate.  I hadn’t been saying my children desperately deserved a trip to Disney, but the poor dears weren’t old enough.  Hell, if anything, I was glad they weren’t the ‘right’ age so I didn’t have to go through the whole ordeal.  I don’t see Disney as an obligatory childhood right of passage.  In America, it’s just something a lot of people do and it’s part of our societal subconscious (again, thank you to the ever-pervasive Disney marketing).

But my grandmother was right.

I’d like to think her comment was not directed solely at me.  That it was just an astute observation of the irony of what many call ‘first world problems’.

But it cut to the quick.

In one concise sentence, she cut the wheat from the chaff and crystallized what should be our priorities.  In a world where families can spend thousands of dollars for over-the-top entertainment, others’ can’t afford food for one day.  In a world where I worry about the stress of an over packed summer schedule, there are mothers who worry if they’ll make it through the week.

I didn’t like what she had to say because it made me feel guilty.  But guilt is usually born of some seed of truth deep within our gut.

My grandmother wasn’t trying to nurture that seed.  She was simply speaking her mind in the privileged way that a long life has earned for her.  In her eight decades, spanning two centuries, she’s seen a multitude of changes, not all of them good.  In her evening ruminations, she discovers a perspective the rest of us can’t necessarily see – or don’t because of the frenetic pace of our lives.

I have a relative who says the things that need to be said, things she’s been waiting her whole life to say.

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