Feather and Stone Journal Of A Cross Cultural Traveler

Move Over or Get Moving

Dun Angus Cliffs, Inis Mor Ireland

Though my head is often in the clouds

I’m always tripping up or falling down

I say,

Shed the amnesia

Listen to the forgotten

Live the life you are meant to live.

Because, (as Stephen Hunt said)

If you’re not living on the edge, 

You’re taking up too much space.

Grandmother Spider

Bugs - Scotland - Web

From “The Red Thread” by Jennifer Atlee Loudon…A WFP Iter in Nicaragua during the 1980’s.

Grandmother Spider is fundamental in many Native American lore traditions and spirituality. She was primary in teaching the Human People about fire, pottery, weaving and spinning.

I climbed into the silent darkness of solitude and northern winter, rolling a stone across the mouth of my cave, so no one, nothing more of the world could come in. I wanted to shut out all that I had seen during the war. I wanted to sleep and never wake up. But the stone could not keep the memories out. They seeped in through crevices and welled up from the earth. They came to me in the cave – memories, faces, spirits, the dead. There was no escaping then. So I surrendered. I listened. I remembered. I cried and, with my tears, honored all that had been desecrated. They showed me why I was dying and they told me I was going to have to live again.

They showed me that life is a sacred fabric into which we are all woven. Each of us is a thread inextricably lined to all others. War rips a gaping hole into this fabric. It cuts deeply into the being of those who endure or witness it. It also cuts deeply into those who perpetuate it. War desecrates what is sacred. The fabric of Nicaragua was virtually torn to shreds by the violence unleashed on it during those eleven years.  The sacred fabric hangs in tatters.

During the decade of the I 980s, my life was woven into the lives of the Nicaraguans with whom I lived and worked like a richly entwined braid. The war slashed at this cord, severing friend after friend. The places where their lives had been so gently pulled into mine were cut off- ripped away, leaving ragged, frayed edges.

The task for me has been to begin mending – to reach back into the severed places in myself and reconnect with what was lost. To gather the loose and gnarled threads and begin to touch them, run my hands over them, lay them straight again, generate new strands to attach to what is left of the old, and slowly mend the holes. Grandmother Spider, 7 master weaver, who links past and present, showed me how to work like her – to spin new thread out of myself The future lies inside of us, she Says. We must spin out the pain, the grief; the mourning, the anger, the rage, the disillusionment, the despair. Spin it out until a new thread starts to come – clear, strong and healed – a thread with which we can weave anew the sacred fabric.

In 1988, four years after I’d first come to Nicaragua, I was pregnant and could not keep up with the physical demands of my work in the war zones. I spent the year working for the Guatemalan Church in Exile whose offices were in Managua. During that year, as invisible hands knit a child in my womb, I sat in front of a computer translating the testimonies of Guatemalan victims of military repression, Their stories were brutal, grisly and endless. During that year, descriptions of horror beyond belief entered my ears through tapes gathered by priests working clandestinely in the highlands and jungles of Guatemala. Day after day, I strained to hear soft voices, telling unthinkable stories on crude recordings. I rewound the tapes over and over again, careful to catch every word, every detail, and to work their statements onto paper, into English and out into the world.

In retrospect, I realize that the life being spun in my womb provided a balance to the stories of artrocities that were spinning in my head. Grandmother Spider says that this balance must be maintained in order to survive. New thread is spun even as the weaving is being unraveled and destroyed. Guatemalan women know this. In the midst of genocide and ex the women had one constant request of the international community traveling in and out of Nicaragua during the embargo… Red Thread. They needed Red Thread. Vibrant Mayan Red. The Color of Blood. The Color of life. Even as their people and culture were being massacred, the women are asking for one thing. Red Thread. They had to keep weaving. So I sit at my computer and try to spin and weave. My read is bloodied and stained, coiled tight inside of me. I pull on it gently, coaxing it out. little by little it comes – memory after memory, face after face – with it comes anger, pain, grief; fear, despair… but above all great love. I have to keep spinning it out. I want to get to the Red Thread.

Just Imagine

Human-Tlama

Just imagine that Mrs. Lanza decided to collect guitars instead of guns, and that she took her troubled son to music lessons instead of shooting ranges. Imagine that he spent time playing music instead of pretending to shoot people in video games. I think that world might be a better place, and the families of 28 people might be happier today.

Mrs. Lanza was afraid of something, and thought her guns would protect her family. Look what happened instead. We can all support the ideas that will make our children safer, and stand up for their right to go to school in peace. But isn’t it also worth the risk to put more music into their lives, and less pretend violence?

We can decide right now, without waiting for an act of Congress, that violent pretend games of any kind are not welcome in our homes. Even the youngest children can learn to avoid that habit. Rule #1: “We aren’t going to play games anymore where we pretend to hurt people.” Rule #2: “We will not support the excessive violence in the movie industry”.

We can decide right now to put more music and art into our homes. In doing so we will make this world a better, more compassionate place for our children and the children of the next seven generations.

The Space Between

Last night I clearly saw Salmon…symbol of the ancient Celtic wisdom. Salmon weaves through all knowledge that is and was. Salmon swims the rivers and oceans linking us to sacred ancient mysteries and deep emotion. Salmon is a very wise, magical creature.

“…he is said to “swim in the Well of Segais, eating the mystical hazelnuts that fall fall from the tree.” Salmon is said to be as old as time itself and knows everything past and future and it is through Salmon’s deep and ancient wisdom that connection lives, never fully captured it but always felt. It is a wisdom that requires faith in the mystical and the compassionate realms.

As we rejoice in our connections with others we feel great sorrow when we they are lost. In truth Salmon reminds me that they need never be lost if they are allowed growth. Like air to our lungs, we take it in and let it out…take it in…let it out…again and again for if we don’t…love, compassion and life itself surely dies.

It is the way the cycle of energy that we call life works. One spiral of energy leads to another and traveling through the spirals of life‘s experiences requires us to become centered in space between before moving on to the next.

Garden Magic

It’s a funny thing.

I sit at the computer doing well and with mostly positive things on my mind, then I go outside to the garden and all that is important is really right there. I actually already knew that, but today I know it deeper.

The garden is magic. It’s the song Mother Earth sings if you just take a handful of minutes to harmonize with her. It is extraordinary. Tending the garden is about planting and weeding and watering and harvesting. Yet it is also about altering relationship with the universe and oneself

I look at my tiny garden and am again reminded that every inch of the earth is holy. It is easier to remember that holiness when it looks like the Scottish Highlands, or the beach at Chatham, or Vermont in Late September but really, the Lillies in the garden carry all of the majesty of any of those places.

We humans have lost track of that to some extent and need shock and awe vistas to remind us “Oh, yeah, the earth— it is beautiful!” even though it is right outside the door, at this moment, wherever we are.

Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is why we come together

—we who work and wonder alone.

We come together to ease our isolation
—to check our sanity
—to share power and our sorrows
—to share wisdom and mistakes.

We walk our paths alone
—but that doesn’t require loneliness.

Trail of Guilt

Native Americans lived in a different world before Europeans crossed the ocean. They perceive the world as completely sacred. They respected all life, living and acting in the harmony with their environment. They followed the laws of nature and understood that by violating these laws, they would cause unnecessary pain and suffering.

When asked about their “religion” White Eagle replied, “In contrast to the modern Europeans, they (Native Americans) did not ‘imprison’ themselves in stone houses, were not ‘shackled’ by dogmas about the structure of the world. Indians felt that they were an integral part of nature; their home was the boundless forest, rocky mountains, blue lakes, waterfalls. The state of mergence with nature was very natural”.

Native Americans, do not regard their spiritual beliefs and practices as a “religion”. Their beliefs and practices form a integral and seamless part of their lives. Land and earth and animals, rocks and trees, are all held sacred as creations of the one “Great Creator”.

Then foreigners arrived, some simply to gain riches but many were fleeing religious or political oppression. Unfortunately the persecuted brought their ideals with them…and they brought their fear of what they didn’t understand. Whether through piety, fear or greed, tragedy resulted. Native Americans were deemed heathens and dangerous and Europeans put into practice the oppressive practices from which they fled. Through greed others saw the open land, of which the natives had been stewards, as something to be seized, owned and exploited for personal gain. The atrocities began.

There were whose who tried to bridge the cultures. A minister named Samuel Worchester was arrested by the State of Georgia for treading on Cherokee land. He responded by filing a law suit against Georgia. He lost. The resulting court decision was devastating, cancelling all laws stating that Native Americans were sovereign nations. Andrew Jackson sent U.S. troops into Cherokee land and forced them onto “Indian reservations”.

Jackson had a rationale for this forced movement. In a State of the Union address, he says: “The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites. The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the Westward; and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West, by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to a land where their existence may be prolonged, and perhaps made perpetual…”

This action thus began the famous and painful Cherokee Trail of Tears and eventually placed all Native Americans on reservations. It ended the fighting, but it ruined a culture. Since then they have largely been treated as second class citizens in the land that they had first nurtured. The Native American today is struggling to hang onto his culture in a world that has become foreign.

“When the white man first came to this land, we had the land and they had the bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them again, we had the bible and the white man had the land.” As Christian Americans we have a tragic history with Native Americans. It is a history that can not be undone yet must be acknowledged and not repeated.

Addendum: During the journey, it is said that the people would sing “Amazing Grace”, using its inspiration to improve morale. The traditional Christian hymn had previously been translated into Cherokee by the missionary Samuel Worcester with Cherokee assistance. The song has since become a sort of anthem for the Cherokee people.

The Plasma Of Possibilities

So today the earth tilts toward the sun
though the shift is imperceptible.

I reflect.
Revolve through natural cycles.
Evolve.
Change with the seasons.
Life,
Death,
Rebirth.
Travel the great spiral.

From Autumn Equinox
to Winter Solstice
we enter the darkness.
It’s the time to go within,
to find our light.

Today the sun is reborn.
Days become longer
and nights become shorter.

We enter “the plasma of possibilities”.
We are reborn into the cycle of the seasons.

Lining Up One Liners

No one tortures you except your own nature. Make your nature sweet and love-able; then win the love of all. -Brahma Kumaris

Is this true?
Is it true for those captured and tortured against their free will?
Is it true for those who live with an abuser who in their turn lived with abuse?
Is it true for those who have lost everything through natural disaster or corporate greed?

There must be more to this quote. Facebook abounds with philosophical one liners devoid of context. It is too easy these days, to send along tidbits when the world we live in is predominantly created by our own minds and egos…where ugliness and tragedy have only touch us via the media. It is true that a positive, uplifting nature helps people endure physical and emotional pain but these one liners are dismissive of the damage that cruelty and tragedy inflict.

Facebook “one liners” are like tossing a bill to a panhandler. It may alleviate thirst or hunger for an hour but it has done nothing to solve the underlying problem. We have just lulled ourselves into thinking we have done something “good” when, in fact we have not.

The next time we forward on a philosophical tidbit, stop and think about it. Ask ourselves what we have done personally, to make the world a better place. Are we living our own lives as we are asking others to live theirs?

Holding The Paradox

The year has turned its circle.
We celebrate our friends & family.
We celebrate the harvest.

Are we aware of the hypocrisy,
that this holiday is based on warped truths,
that it glosses over genocide?

Are we aware that the recipients of indigenous generosity
would become the agents of their destruction?

Oh but it’s a bitter irony that, in the midst of this day of plenty,
Indigenous people across this continent from Southern Mexico to Northern Canada
still face racism, poverty, and abuse.

But year has turned its circle and
we once again, spread the tablecloths over our blemished history.
One more time, we give thanks for all that we have
and we feast.

But there, at the end of the day
we are left holding the paradox.
We have swallowed the untruth yet again.