Feather and Stone Journal Of A Cross Cultural Traveler

Secret of the Solstice

Today I witnessed a little piece of the holiday frenzy!

A jolting reminder,
We are in a very consumptive time of year.
People rushed from store to store
Shopping bags ornamenting their limbs.
Or are they covering some gaping hole in their lives?

To the contrary,
These are also the final long dark nights
Before the Winter Solstice.

I will leave my frenzy,
Turn inward,
Dream of peaceful transformation.

This transformation will gestate
during the winter rest
Endings become beginnings
All things are possible.

When spring arrives
I’ll ride the spiraling beam of energy
Into the transformation I dreamed.

Appreciate Today

Too often we forget to appreciate today until tomorrow.

This morning I spent some time along the Potomac River on my way to
meetings and thought about the Winooski.

It has flowed since before time and for the last 38 years I have shared my life with that river.

I set down roots, bore and raised a child in the community next to the river.
And the river flowed by.
I have nurtured and been nurtured by family and friends .
And the river flowed by.
I healed fragmented relationships and buried my parents.
And the river flowed by.
I have made friends, and lost friends. Some have just drifted away.
And the river flowed by.
I have shed tears of joy and sorrow by the river.
And the river flowed by.

No matter what turmoil I experience the river remains constant – flowing
from wherever its source is, to wherever it goes – touching me with it’s song
of love, patience, peace and healing.

The river embraces what is present, not dwell in it’s past or worry about
it’s future.

When it encounters a boulder it flows around it.
It changes course when it must.
The river flows today. It does not fear tomorrow.
To often I fear tomorrow and forget to flow with today.

Regret Has Fangs And Claws

Corporations in America do not understand the concept of enough. Their survival is dependent on convincing consumers that we need more. They are like tendrils of poisonous weeds, fed by carnal desires that are insatiable. They creep across borders enslaving workers while addicting buyers. Their desire is without compassion. They seduce and rape. Their climax is ferocious and one-sided.

I regret that I ever allowed myself to be seduced. I have experienced the destruction of workers in the sweatshops. I have lived among them, shared meals, held their babies, heard their stories and saw hearts broken. It was as though I used them to wipe away the blood of my own corporate rape yet once the seed is planted it is not so easy to abort.

The work of an activist is never done. It is like squeezing a water balloon — squeeze here and the problem moves to there. As I walked in the woods today pondering this and my decision to leave Witness for Peace, I felt the trees wringing their branches in sympathy, or was it frustration. Their voices were loud and clear. “Don’t let evil happen in the darkness – bring it into the light.”

Knots Over Nots

It’s hard to see forward with my back to the wind.

I am here, bracing myself against the gale, watching remnants of what was, tumble past. I want to reach out and grab the bits of my life as they fly past but I can’t let go of the lifeline. I am living as though I am god directing the actions of my creation, wanting absolute control over each. In my head I know that this is delusional. In my heart I feel helpless.

My hope is my fear.
My lifeline is my fear.
It is dragging me to the bottom.

So I am tying myself into knots over what is not while I continue to stand in the storm watching the past blow by.

My heart clamps down like a vise,
Ignoring the true nature my creations.

I feel like a snail that’s lost it’s shell, naked and exposed and my heart is unguarded.

A Healing Journey; Drumming in Ireland

Enchanted Island

My flights all connected and I arrived in Ireland. My cyberspace taxi driver materialized and whisked me off to Doolin on roads that were far narrower than those in Scotland. I believe he took the back way in.

Since we arrived in Doolin a bit early for the Ferry, he called his sister and asked her to fix me an Irish breakfast. She did, and it was definitely a full meal!

The trip then turned a bit unconventional and the ferry was a bit of an adventure. Tide was low so we had to climb down about 20 narrow, wet steps to a small motor boat that, without warning, twirled 180 degrees and took off like a rodeo pony to the ferry anchored somewhere at sea where we climbed onto another cramped wet deck.

All boarded, the boat lurched off into the fog of the Irish Sea. The tendrils of swirling mists successfully obliterated any sense of time or place and when the veil of mist finally lifted I was wishing I had brought a Gaelic dictionary for I had clearly arrived somewhere else in both time and place.

The workshop is exceptional and the island, Inis Oirr, is a wonderful place to be.

The Energy of Oirr
Every place holds a special energy and Inis Oirr is no exception. I first became aware of it on the ferry. After the all night flight, I decided to capture the moment with a quick nap but when I closed my eyes I was acutely aware of a pulsing blue light. It was distracting enough that I forgot about jet lag.

The intensity of the light energy increased all the way to the Island. The energy of Inis Oirr rotates slowly. It begins very deep in the heart of the island and spirals upward through depths of limestone.

Tuesday was St. John’s Day, the pagan day of ritual in which the sun is celebrated. Bonfires are lit throughout Ireland as an expression of gratitude and to send an offering of heat and light back to the sun.

Looking across Galway Bay, I see fires every few miles on the beaches of the mainland and I am told they will burn all night. As I experience the natural luminosity of this place, I am drawn to dance with the energy of the moment.

Without Pretense
I have been trying to figure out how to describe Inis Oirr. I think I am supposed to use the word “quaint.” That is what tour books would use. But it is not quaint. It is not some illusionary slice of the “good old times,” nor is it an impoverished indigenous village.

There are a few cars on the island, but threading a car around the narrow walled paths mandates slow driving. There are three pubs which are the social centers for young and old. There is a health clinic and general store and two schools. Inis Oirr is a tight knit community.

There is a slow energy here that allows people to live without pretense. One man said, “We have all the advantages of modern Ireland without the stress and the crime.” It is just a peaceful place to live.

Tomorrow I will return to the mainland.

Soul Drumming
My week of drumming on Inis Oirr has about come to an end of sorts, though the beat will remain for a long time. I am sitting among the rocks that ring Galway Bay awaiting the ferry and reflecting on the Celtic beat.

Four to five hours of classes followed by endless hours of session playing in the pubs leaves one both energized and exhausted. Each night I would commit to a couple of hours in the pub. Without exception my energy would blossom. Midnight would pass and time became irrelevant.

The drum becomes a portal into that mystical energy that speaks to the Celtic spirit energy, transcending time. Each time I play there is a rebirth of some very ancient link to my past and the beat unlocks that part of the mind that brings other realities into focus.

Depending on where the beater strikes the skin, portals open to the upper, middle and lower world and the beats become a spiral dance that connects and heals experiences. Alan Collinson from Wales explained that of all forms of drumming “the Bodhrán is particularly advantageous because of its wide range of tones and nuances. These subtle notes and resonances bypass the logical and language parts of our brain and lock onto the emotional centre which in turn connects directly to our immune system.”

A well played Bodhrán will transport the listener on a journey that is enjoyable and healing.

Back to the Mainland
The next couple of nights I will be playing at McDermotts Pub and tomorrow I will explore the Burren. It is a unique area in the northwest part of County Clare. It is a huge area of limestone. Surface streams and rivers disappear down pots as they cross from the shale to the limestone. Because of this, beneath the pavement the area is riddled with caves.

The Burren has many stone forts and dolmens. It was well settled before the Celts arrived in Ireland. There are 70 ancient tombs in the area, the most famous being the Poulnabrone Dolman.

Monday I will be off to Dingle Peninsula and then Limerick. It has been an interesting trip and so far have not set foot in a tourist shop…just hanging out in sleepy country villages.

My knee is a bit worse for wear but it still holds me up and moves me forward.

Poem to the Burren by Seamus Heaney
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Marathon Tour
One more night of music…this time at Dolins pub in Limerick.

Yesterday was a marathon tour. Tony picked me up at 6:30am and we headed south to the Dingle Peninsula. The weather cleared and the sun smiled which I hear is unusual here. Gary, Connor Pass was a great road…kind of like the road of death in Bolivia, only paved.

Pat…the mail order taxi is good. The driver is not an ex-con from the IRA. We have had a great time. In fact, another woman from the workshop joined us for the long day which definitely helped the finances.

At any rate, after Dingle we went to Lough Gur. That was an adventure because nothing is very well marked. Nearly giving up our quest for the stone circle we quite literally stumbled upon it. This is Ireland’s largest henge – the

embanked arena of Rannach Crom Dubh, otherwise known as the Lios and (on the local signage) as the Grange Stone Circle.

Erected around 2500 BC, it is ringed by 113 megalithic stones and is located near the western shore of Lough Gur, once a significant cultural center and a landscape ‘owned’ by the sun/landscape goddess Aine (pronounced Onya). Grange circle is the largest such megalithic construction in Ireland.

Tony finally dropped me in Limerick around 8pm and he and Eileen still had to drive an hour and a half back to Doolin. As tired as he was, he maintained his humor and said we were the best travelers he’d had in a long while.

Well I am off to somewhere, maybe Bunratty folk park. I am told to have lunch at Dirty Nellies Pub….Hmmmm. I wonder if she is related to Nervous Nelly in Maine.

Last Email Exchange
Richard: Does everyone speak in limerick in Limerick?

Joanne: It’s a city, no one speaks. They walk around with IPods or cell phones to their ears. People are clad in armor and prefer not to be talked to. I was on a bus today and asked the driver where the stop was for my destination. He grunted something and stopped after a few blocks. I guess it was close enough. I would much rather be in the country.

Richard: This is not a limerick. It’s a limerichard.
‘Tis the way of corporate wealth,
to rob us of our mental health;
securing us with privacy
while ravaging community.
So keep away or find a way
every thing’s up to you;
to fear the swine or drink the wine
and open up the flue.

Joanne: Last time I opened the flue a Blackbird flew into the living room.
Richard: What did you do then?
Joanne: Opened the back door. What would you have done?
Richard: Fool that I am, probably sing it a song until it flew back up the flue.

The Universal Language
Well, actually, people do talk in Limerick.

I found my way to Dolin’s with my drum and was offered a seat at the table. After the second tune one gentleman put down his instrument and said to me. “Aye lassie, you are a tasteful drummer.” By midnight, they were offering me solos and whisky.

Music is the universal language and a well played drum will always carry the journey.

…love those Irish Pub Sessions!

Peace, from The Vagabond

Vocabulary Of Peace

– Identifying with another
– Unity, not uniformity
– Listening without interjecting

Going to that place where souls meet and separateness falls away

Space and time altering advances by the ever increasing economic and political connections between nations

Not about filling pails but lighting fires

Is someone to be – not someone to follow

Is not success but knowing that we are trying

– The challenge of testing our vision to 1st make sure that it will promote true and total peace for all
– That one is neither favored or exploited
– To craft and recraft the message in a way that converts the hearts of the exploiters and empowers all others
(when the heart is converted, the brain will follow)

To understand the path to peace, we must first read the wrinkles in our grandmothers’ face.

Balance Or Equilibrium

There is a difference between maintaining balance and maintaining equilibrium. Balance is life at the far edges with the gulf in between. Equilibrium is living in the center of life, constantly making little corrections that prevent the gulf.

• Trees create their own equilibrium.
• Trees grow toward the light.
• Trees send roots deep within the earth.
• Where there are obstacles, trees grow over or around them.
• Where there are gulfs, they create bridges.
• Trees live firmly rooted in the earth.
• Their roots embrace the hard places.
• When their life is complete, they lay down to provide the nutrients for new growth. It makes no difference whether they are growing another tree, a mushroom, a fern or a potato. All that matters is that life cycles on, and grows toward the light.

Aboriginal Innocence or Primal Fear?

I guess I’ve never kept a journal because I never liked to share my thoughts and feelings with others. When I would occasionally test the waters, I would be corrected for my different thinking and be set back in my box. I would try again to conform to the ways of the world. I feared rejection and my sense of self hibernated.

I was born with a few handicaps. The first was an inability to recognize skin color. The second was to hear the inner voice of conscience. The third was the desire to enjoy life.

I was also born during the time of the perfect family, into a time when what you were, seemed to matter more than that you simply were. What you achieved earned more points than what you felt.

It was a time of wealth inequality and class polarization. I challenged my family’s sense of decorum. I adopted stray friends and animals. I wandered alone in the woods, climbed trees and was more comfortable in a barn than a house. These were not acceptable qualities.

Young girls were bred to shop, dance, cook and set the perfect table. Despite the salad fork, the dinner fork and the dessert fork, I used my fingers. I shed the dance shoes for bare feet. Instead of sitting like a lady, I would straddle a tree branch. Instead of walking the path, I wandered through the brambles, dangerously close to the edge of the pond.

I probably terrified my parents. They feared for my safety, of course, but they also feared loss of the perfect family. As I approached my teens, I questioned all authority and squirmed under its restraint.

I formed friendships based on heart meeting heart. Parental pressures leaned more to class meeting class. Friends suitable to the family made me uncomfortable. Friends suitable to me made the family uncomfortable.

As unconditional love became more illusive, I settled for conditional love. I turned off happiness for logic or lost it for pride.

I wonder what is lost in a culture where children no longer feel connected with the natural world or rooted in family and community. Today I try to release logic and pride and tap into wisdom.

As a society, will we allow heart to recognize heart, or will we dutifully tuck our hearts away and function from fear and ego?