Ride the Wind

Wind’s gift to us is movement. On days like today with sustained wind speeds between 20- 30mph and gusts of 50mph, its will to remain in motion is taking with it all that isn’t held down or onto. Its willpower is blowing wild and free over the open land. Add to that a 20-degree temperature and the attitudes of folks drop swiftly into negative territory on their gusts of disgust. They fret and fuss over the slightest exposure to the wind’s elemental power to create sacred motion.

Nature adapts and flows with the windy weather. Birds are staying perched in the cover of Spruce trees and my horses are assuming the sturdy, butt to the wind, position. I like the raw edge of a strong wind. It commands a keen awareness of body and mind. We don’t pay much attention to air until we feel it like when our breath is restricted by a cold or illness. Wind’s Spirit forces us to feel what goes unseen and unnoticed. The air is showing itself today and people are taking notice.

Our movement too can be blustery, messing up our tidy plans. Forced action like a wild wind can tangle, tatter and tear. Sometimes there’s no stopping where we are going. We have to let the Spirit of the wind carry us—surrender—to freedom’s rough and tumble ride. If we can do that we are carried to our destination.

To make it through the next wind advisory, hold onto your hat and your heart. Wait-a-day or two, the winds of change will change, everything in sacred motion, even the wind.

Holy Headache

The celebration of Saint Nickolas Day can spin a household and a school bus into a tizzy. The event begins with having to find a place to hang stockings. For those of us without a mantel, it can take repeated reassurances to our little ones that St. Nick can find stockings wherever they are hung.

Then you have to get the much-anticipated night of his arrival correct or face self-inflicted parental guilt until Christmas arrives. Is it the night of the 5th or the night of the 6th? Which is it? A quick call to Grandma and she recites the catchy rhyme I can no longer remember and, after a quick check on Google, the day of Saint Nicholas’s arrival is confirmed. Heaven help us if St. Nick should come a day early, a day late or forget us all together. All three scenarios play out in full production on the rolling stage of my school bus in early December.

Children whose houses were visited by the stocking-stuffing Saint console friends whose houses were mysteriously missed. When that happens grey vinyl bus seats convert into therapy couches as little minds wrestle with impossible reasons for their misfortune. It’s heart wrenching. The crushing blow comes to the empty stocking children when defiant peers conclude that St. Nick isn’t coming to their house at all…ever! Quiet sobs and snuffling filter through the bus’s chatter. Emotions go amuck.

Eager to show and share what was stuffed into those stockings, therapy sessions end as quickly as they started. Backpacks fly open. Crying subsides. Dollar store trinkets rouse excitement and a clamor of “Let me see! Let me see”! echoes inside the bus. The happy distraction lightens the

mood. That is until the last of the cheap Dollar Store trinkets falls and breaks. Crying resumes. But there’s still the candy, I say to myself. Maybe it will last until we get to school….

By the end of the week, most of Saint Nicholas’s gifts have been broken or eaten. The bus settles back into its “As the Wheels Turn” elementary school age daily drama. Or so I believe.

Then this happens:

Giggles burst above the seat behind me, the infectious kind of laughter that raises curiosity and lowers good intentions. A young voice says, “Now put a mustache on me”! I glance up and ask, “You two aren’t drawing mustaches on each other, are you”? Without hesitation the response comes.

“Nope. We’re playing with our St. Nick stuff”. Hmm. Traffic pulls my attention back to the road. The mustache mystery is on hold for now. As I am about to revisit the mustache mystery, a face pops out from the side of the seat and into the aisle. That little face is trying to catch a glimpse of its reflection in my rear-view mirror. Looking up at me is a face covered in what appears to be stamped blue paw prints. Several layers of the stamp cover the child’s upper lip. An audible gasp escapes me. My lower jaw drops. My mouth gapes open. OMG! “I thought you told me you weren’t drawing mustaches on each other”! Response: “We weren’t drawing them. We were stamping them on.” St. Nick, you are giving me quite the holy headache. You’re really “stocking it to me” this year!

My lesson in all of this? If your life isn’t giving you the answer you want, maybe you’re asking the question wrong.

Stuff and Fluff

Soon nature will outfit my horses—Chief Lakota, Duchess and Jazz — with heavy, thick winter coats. During the winter I affectionately nickname them, Fluffy, Puffy and Stuffy, respectfully, of course. Jazz, my mini-Appaloosa, could actually keep his winter nickname all year long. It describes his soft, round physique perfectly! The biggest reason I overlook his aptitude to find mischief is his charming resemblance to a child’s plush stuffed animal. Jazz is stuffed with cuteness!

The change in my horses’ coats is slight at first. It comes one hair at a time, thickening and rising as daylight hours dwindle and the mercury slides further down the thermometer. Slow, gentle change from the inside out is a gift we, whether human being or animal, give ourselves.

Winter’s thick heavy thoughts are right around the corner, too. Like trapped air between hair strands, we insulate ourselves from cold, bitter experiences, their shiver inescapable in the wintry season of introspection. The winter of the mind exposes raw hurt feelings. Their pain can no longer be protected under a blanket of fear. Self -reflection bares our souls; the naked soul is truth’s mirror.

Come spring, the harshness of winter sheds. If we are willing to see ourselves clearly … work through all the stuff and fluff… we will enter the soul’s summer sleek and shiny.

When we open the hurt, the wounds close.

Happy Thanksgiving

Let us feast on gratitude on this happy day of giving thanks!

“If the only prayer we ever say in our lives is “Thank you,” that will be enough.”
~ Meister Eckhart

 

Ever Green

Crumbling colorless leaves blanket the ground in a thick layer, giving our woodsy path a spongy surface for my boots to land. Wet from the steady cold rain, some leaves cling to my soles like a frightened child’s arms locked around its mother’s neck. Familiar shapes of Maple, Oak and Poplar now unrecognizable, a few weeks ago their flaming colors burnt up the skies’ blue. Then November’s wind of change came blowing the fire out of the trees spreading it onto the ground. The brilliant sparks in hues of orange, red and yellow exploding into the air, landing on the forest floor like confetti, signaling the end of fall’s magical celebration of transition.

Distorted by the elements, our woodsy trail is now littered with the colorless season of death and dying. I love the earthy smell during this time of transition. It focuses my senses on the renewal and not the rot. Transitions can make us feel like that —colorless—empty. It’s in these moments that I look toward the Evergreens, White Pine especially, my favorite variety.

Seeing their burst of green on late autumn’s dull brown landscape always brightens my spirits. When winter’s white blanket is drawn up close over the sleeping countryside, those scattered patches of green give me strength to endure and hope for the future. Evergreens face the fierce north wind and heavy snow burden of Wisconsin’s winter storms without complaint. If only we could offer forgiveness so easily to our burdens and have faith in our spiritual roots to hold strong against all those things that make us squint.

Two lungs full of a Pine’s clean fresh scent washes the dead right out of winter. I admire the Evergreen family and its unique ability to grow green through all the seasons. How splendid that must be to pass through all of life’s seasons feeling ever-green. It’s no wonder that the designated color of our heart chakra is green. Green energy is the healing force abundant in nature. Our hearts feel peaceful when we connect with nature’s green world. That color carries with it soothing, calm energy. Like the Evergreen, we often use our hearts to shield us from the world’s harshness, creating an interior privacy screen  when we need to go within, holding inside healing images contained in nature’s beauty. At times like a breeze stirring through those Pines, I imagine my heart whispering, “Let the flow of life continually fill you.”

 

Barn Raised

The weathered grey skeleton stood proud against the farm country’s bluebird sky. The iconic brilliant barn red painted boards stripped nearly bare of color by the hands of time. The crumbling fieldstone foundation slowly being consumed by a Virginia Creeper Vine, a lone piece of rusted bent tin on the roof flapping in the wind like a lover’s perfunctory wave goodbye. The barn’s door left open for a generation, hangs by a single hinge at the top, I love the stories old barns tell. They hold on to their majestic beauty and charm to the bitter end. Age comes to them with dignity and pride.

I can say with pride and privilege that I was barn raised. Growing up on a dairy farm means half your childhood is spent in a barn. Created inside a barn is a world of its own making. You sense the unity of family, the separation of seasons and the guidance of spirituality, a universe of swirling scents punctuated by the sharp freshness of clear thoughts. Chores become a meditation.

The rich textures of rural life are vanishing along with the old wooden barns. Farming and barns have evolved with technological advances. There is a haunting sadness that one day they will all disappear, taking their sacred stories with them.  Oh how I wish barn boards could not only talk but write.

The barn of my childhood has been repurposed several times and its breath no longer smells of those scents from a past I remember, when cows called the stalls home and playful bawls of calves echoed through the center aisle. Still the feeling of protection and shelter lingers. Being barn raised build my body timber strong, taught me family included the livestock, the weather, the soil and the seed. The old barn was my church, my dance hall and my sanctuary. You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of her blood or the barn out of a heart. 

“Man, despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication and many accomplishments, owes the fact of his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.” ~John Jeavons

Choked Oak

For a very long time, the sight of this Oak tree draped sadness over my heart. Later, anger for the person(s) that long ago forgot the heavy chain wrapped around its trunk. The tree was a solid anchor for the chain length stretched across the driveway, keeping unwelcome trespassers from easy access to the fertile hunting land. Nailed midway up into the tree’s trunk, a sign hung with the words, “KEEP OUT”. The unforgiving rusty chain had tightened around the majestic Oak’s trunk. So merciless was its choke-hold that the chain, barely visible in some areas, had become embedded in the bark. I imagined a slow painful torture, the chain and tree no longer separated from each other. How like life, I thought. We all have things we can’t free ourselves from but they don’t have to keep us from growing.

I knew the reality of the situation. No longer could the Oak tree free itself from the embedded chain. Doing so would kill the tree. The bark is what transports the water and nutrients through the tree. If the circumference of the tree trunk is bare of its bark, the tree dies, unable to transport nutrients and pass water through the wounded area.

When a growing tree encounters something in its way, the tree has two choices. Grow away or grow around. There may be a slowing but there is no stopping a growing tree. The choked Oak is a testament to that. In time, the Oak will entirely consume the chain, a graceful melding of acceptance over restriction. Hidden beneath the bark, the Oak’s unseen wound will give no indication that there was ever anything that tried to stop it from reaching its full potential

People put their own mental and emotional chains across the paths to their unlimited potential, anchored deep in the unforgiving restrictions of a closed mind or closed heart. Simply choose a direction to grow and you will create an opening for the mind and heart to expand. Don’t let a chain of regret choke your dreams.