Thursday, March 25, 2010


There is always hope. Hope that even the worst of times can spawn the greatest awakenings of human spirit.
We’ve been plodding along our current trails so long the destination has become a blurred spot on the map. We’re equating making money with making a life, and with the economy spiraling downward we’re turning, ever so slowly, and making our way back to our centers, to our source. We’re jumping of the treadmill that keeps us running but takes us nowhere, and coming back to what really matters. Family. Home. Nourishment. Love. Laughter. Creating. What our ancestors knew. What so-called third-world countries around the world still know. After all, economic changes rarely affect those who live simply to begin with. I remember my own Grandmother laughing because her family never even realized there was a Great Depression. They were simple people. For them, little changed during those difficult times.
In order to survive, we must come back to what matters most. We must realize that a happy community might be a worthier goal than a global economy. We must realize that our homes are sacred spaces, our children more treasured than any possession. We must realize the value of nurturing those who love and depend on us. We must realize that less stuff can make for an easier life, and that there are greater goals to focus on than the material-driven ideals of the last two decades. Children are the future, and it truly takes a village to raise them. And village is synonymous with community, a lost concept in our current age. But all around the world, women still harbor this ancient knowledge. We still know. We still get excited over births and baby pictures. We still see promise in the swell of a belly, the smile of an expectant mother.
We haven’t lost our ancient knowledge. It’s just been dormant for a very long time. As the economy changes and we’re forced, sometimes reluctantly, to change our lifestyles and our expectations, around the world, we are remembering what others have not forgotten.
As women and especially as mothers, we must realize that we have to come together as a community to make it through. We have to listen to the soul of the earth the way our ancestors did, to know the cycle of nature, to remember that food doesn’t come from a grocery shelf, but from the soil beneath our feet. We have to remember those who lived before us, and those who will come after us. We must remember the wisdom that our grandmothers were taught, and pass it on to our own grandchildren. And we will. No matter how the great circle of life spins, for the sake of our children and those we love, we will come together and when we do, we just might see that this is where we were headed all along.
Back to center, to source.
Back to community. Back to family. Back to nourishment, love, and creation.
Back to what really matters. Back to looking into the eyes of our children and seeing the children that are still to come.
And remembering.

*I wrote this essay to accompany an art piece submitted to a show with the theme, "The Current Economy." Thank you Cassie for encouraging me to look beyond the obvious!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Sound of Silence

For many years I have craved an occasion of silence. Simple, profound silence. I have read books about monks who go for days without speaking, and studied temples dedicated to silence, sacred places where no human sound had ever been uttered. I have sought silence in the workplace, in the wilderness and within my own home. Now, as the mother of an exceptionally verbose five year old, silence usually eludes me until the quiet hours when my son is resting peacefully in bed. However, even this silence is interrupted by the sounds of modern life: telephones ring; cars race down the road; appliances hum, shake and rattle.
Some interruptions I don’t mind: the low calls of the Barred Owls; the rushing of wind through the leaves; the glugs of bullfrogs splashing in the creek. I even consider these to be a part of the silence I desire, which has lead me to consider what it is I am actually seeking in my pursuit of quiet time.
As a young adult, I discovered that silence could actually be found in a distinct place when a friend and I visited another friend in Alaska. Driving down a remote and winding road, headed nowhere in particular, we stopped for some sightseeing along a clearing. Miles outside of the town we’d passed through several hours before, the three of us were completely alone, and as we walked, our idle chattered died away as the awesome natural beauty of the rugged mountains came into view. Pretty soon, we were all standing quietly, wind whipping through our light jackets, in a speechless state that only the beauty of nature could invoke.
There were no outside sounds, no modern buzzes, beeps, or hums. Occasionally water from a small lake lapped along the banks with the wind. A twig snapped under a foot. Somewhere far off, a Bald Eagle cried to its mate. The mate responded with a more distant cry, and I realized that this was the quiet that my ancestors knew. This was what listening was like in the years before groaning car motors and sirens became etched onto our psyches.
That little nameless stretch of Alaska wild still feeds the hunger that stirs in my soul whenever I see a deer run across the road or hear a hawk’s cry. Some buried part of me wants to run with the deer, feel the wind beneath my own wings. I want to break away from this world and, even if it’s just for a moment, be a part of something wild. I want to spend a day hearing only what my ancestors heard.
When I see the news headlines about violent rampages and the price of gas climbing and how cell phone usage is destroying bee populations across the globe, I want to shake the shoulders of the first person I see and say “What are we doing?” But I don’t. Instead I quit reading newspaper, walk instead of drive whenever I can, and put my cell phone down, reminding myself that it was for emergencies only. And I make time for silence.
What I’m seeking isn’t actual silence, per se. It isn’t even the remoteness of a wild area. It’s something deeper ~ primordial, if you please, and something my ancestors felt each day. It’s the connection to this life-giving earth and all of its sacred beings. But maybe it’s more than that, too.
I won’t lie, I would rather suffer the hum of the rinse cycle than spend a day bent over the washboard, but just how much do the sounds of modern life buffer us from the natural world? And how is it that people can tolerate all manner of electronic whirs, beeps, and whistles at any given time, but let a cricket slip in the house and every family member in residence is launched on a death mission to stop the annoying sound? Meanwhile televisions blare, appliances rock and phones rings incessantly.
In the wilds of Alaska I was over a decade younger. I had yet to delve into any mysteries of the soul, or ponder such things as eco-footprints. But even in my youth, I knew that something stirred deep within me in that quiet place. Something awakened. This something is where I find my peace, whether listening to the sound of baby birds in the holly tree or drifting off to sleep to the sound of rain echoing outside the window. It is the connection to nature that I seek in quests for silence, that feeling of true oneness with the earth that my ancestors knew.
To lose your connection to the natural world is to lose part of the soul. We may wonder what is lacking, why we feel unfulfilled, and why a fistful of black dirt from our patio garden feels so good in our hands, but we already know the answer, because each of us is born with a connection to nature that is as prevalent as our umbilical cords. If not nurtured, however, this connection will recede away into the deep recesses of the soul, stirring on rare occasions, but never realized. And we’ll find ourselves lost and hungry, craving a silence that taunts us like the cry of a hawk.