Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Signifiers

Wildy scarf-10
The world will shred your identity like a cat with a silk scarf.

I set two intentions for this year. One was to meditate every day, because I wanted more clarity and less bullshit floating around in my mind. The other was to take a massage every month, to achieve the physical version of essentially the same purpose.

As for the meditation, I’m not doing so well. I set my daily minimum at five minutes, so I couldn’t possibly make the excuse that I don’t have enough time. Even so, in the best weeks so far I’ve only actually sat myself down three times, and I’ve had several weeks in which I didn’t do it at all.

I’m doing better with massages. I actually started before the new year, and I got in my January and February sessions. I get a good price for massages at work, but only if I schedule within twenty-four hours. On Monday I noticed that there were open appointments after my shift at work ended. (Because, yes, I’m still going to work. I can’t do this work from home. To people who say that everyone should be staying home all the time, I don’t really have an answer. I don’t know why I’m still going, but it seems like the right thing to do.) So I thought it might be a good time to take my monthly massage; but even when we’re not in the middle of a worldwide plague, some therapists might not prefer to be called in to work earlier than they’d expected, so, before asking the front desk staff to book me a massage, I texted two people to ask them if they wanted to come in for it.

I immediately got a reply from co-worker Z, asking if I’d been self-isolating. Um, I’m still working, so obviously I can’t say yes, and truthfully, I’d been in public the day before, avoiding being near anyone. She sent a longer-than-necessary message about immunocompromised people and vectors and the curve of infection. It looked like a lecture, but then again maybe she simply felt a need to explain why she didn’t want to give me a massage. Judging from other conversations we’d had though, it probably was a lecture. I thought about getting defensive and decided not to. I like Z. I’m glad there is one person at work who flagrantly ignores the rule about not talking about politics. I like her lefty bent, and her knowledge of issues that many other people don’t trouble themselves to think about. Her intensity is as often endearing as annoying.

So I didn’t get a massage, but today was my day off, and I finally sat down to meditate. I know I’m not supposed to be thinking when I’m meditating, but there was a thought about Z that came up, that none of the things she says are the essence of Z, they’re just signifiers of the person she wants to believe she is. And that’s not a bad thing; the person she is presenting as is a pretty cool one, who is well-informed and cares and is willing to speak the truth even if it makes people uncomfortable. But one of the things we’re supposed to learn from meditation is that we aren’t all those things we do and say, but that there is a more real and enduring self beneath all the layers of identity we put on like sweaters.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the things I do to present myself a particular way usually don’t impress people, and the qualities they see in me that they end up liking have nothing to do with what I thought I was telling them about myself. Since moving to a new city, I’ve had a few challenges to my idea of who I am and what kind of person I am. And I don’t enjoy that, but I am coming to see that that’s okay. I don’t need to be any particular kind of person, or demonstrate anything to anyone else. I just need to be as honest and real as possible, and stay connected to my compassion and love. The rest will come from there.

And what of that eternal self beneath all the layers of identity? Who will be left after I give up all my delusions about myself? I haven’t met that person yet. Maybe tomorrow, when I sit down to meditate.

Whatever Gets You Through the Night

Most of the people I work with these days don’t practice energy healing, or don’t take it seriously at all. That’s okay with me, because I don’t need everyone to share my worldview. I do feel a little isolated sometimes, because I don’t know many people here in Austin, outside of my job. When I get lonely for some company in the metaphysical plane, I read some of the wacky things I see on facebook, or watch videos that youtube has decided I would like. Often the authors of these posts are reporting channeled information regarding the ways that higher-dimensional beings are downloading programs to our energy fields to help us to ascend to their level, or predicting some kind of Event in which everyone and the whole earth will be transformed and it’s coming really, really soon.

Do I believe any of this stuff? Oh, not really. A lot of it seems like a fun story generated through the subconscious wishes of a highly imaginative person. Some is gleaned through hypnosis, using methods that are at times questionable. I read and listen to it more the way I would read fiction, and if you were to ask me why I’m listening to these prognostications, sometimes I would simply say, I like the sound of this man‘s voice.

Every once in a while, though, something hits me like an arrow to the third eye, and I know with clarity and certainty that I am hearing Truth. It may not be a truth that everyone needs to experience, but it is what I need to hear now.

This week a neighbor called me out for, she believed, claiming a privilege to which I am not entitled. I had no idea what she was talking about, and apologized profusely for saying whatever I must have said to be so misconstrued. It took me a day to figure out what had happened, and in the mean time I was pretty spooked. Did I unknowingly say something preposterously untrue? Do I know what I am saying and doing? Maybe I’m not even the person I think I am? I should avoid interacting with people, just to be safe. I’ll stay in the house and keep the blinds drawn . . . Then I remembered something I had seen on facebook, and not really paid attention to. I had to go find it.

It was a weekly forecast from Hare in the Moon Astrology. “. . . just at the time we need truth not disinformation, we walk into a hall of smoke and mirrors. . . . It is time for those of us who for years have been in the shadows holding the light to step forward, to come out of our caves and safe sanctuaries where we retreated for fear of not belonging and to become visible as beacons to a world in transition. You are needed to stabilise and anchor these profoundly extreme times and shifts.
You must have a presence, a strong physicality and be willing to attract attention. No matter how flattened, ragged, bereft, raw, heartbroken or exhausted you feel, your very presence makes a difference.”

And that was what I needed to hear. I don’t even care if it’s true, it got me through the night.

Today, on my way to work, I was thinking about my co-workers who inhabit a less-metaphysical paradigm, and an idea occurred to me that might sound ridiculous or even dangerous to some, but I knew with utter confidence that it is my truth. It can be yours, too, if you like it:

The cosmos is so much bigger than we can understand, that our concepts of reality are hopelessly limited. Just as Newton’s laws of physics only hold within a narrow window of scale, any particular truth is only meaningful within a tiny bandwidth of consciousness. Reality is so big that it’s possible for even ideas that seem to be mutually exclusive to be true at the same time. Your truth can be the unequivocal opposite of mine, and they can be equally true and necessary for each of us, respectively, to live by.

And that is perfectly okay.

Willow

I don’t have a picture for this story, so here’s a cat.

 

Forgiveness, the Unspoken

M was a new client, who was telling me about her pain. “I was hit by a drunk driver,” she said, and I could hear the anger and resentment in that statement. The accident was many years ago, and it irrevocably altered the course of her life. She spent much of her teens in hospitals learning to walk again, and countless hours of her life over the decades since in various therapies to enable her to function. Including massage.

She also had impressive athletic achievements, which many fully-abled people wouldn’t even dream of. She wanted to live life fully, and she did, in spite of the constant pain.

I treated her body, like probably dozens of other massage therapists have, and I haven’t seen her again. I keep thinking of her, though, because of what I didn’t do for her. It was partly because of what I learned from S.

Years ago, my friend S recounted to me her experience with some kind of alternative healer who worked with magnets or something. The magnet lady told S that her chronic gut issues and infertility were caused by low self-esteem resulting from having been adopted as an infant. As her friend, and as an adoptee who’s done plenty of weird healing and rebirthing and other stuff myself, I thought that made a lot of sense. But S didn’t like the sound of it one bit. She took exception to the suggestion that she herself was causing all the problems she’d tried so hard to get past. She never went back to that healer, or any other holistic practitioner (including myself), but she did get lots of medical treatment and spent who knows how many thousands of dollars on infertility treatments to get the beautiful children to whom she is now a loving and joyful mom.

The healer, (who probably hadn’t had any training in professional ethics, by the way) had started with what was likely a deep insight, but her delivery of the information had not only not helped the client, it backfired, and drove the client away from alternative healing altogether.

Please note that the essential distinction between “medicine” and “alternative healing,” in this case, is the principle that the mind and body are mutual expressions of one another, and that we are empowered to change our health by choices we make, including changes in the ways we think and integrate our emotions. This is in contrast to the medical paradigm, which teaches that most chronic illnesses are the result of bad luck in the genetic and medical lottery, and only expensive, technologized treatment at the hands of highly trained people in white coats can fix our flawed bodies.

It’s absolutely possible to connect mind and body without blaming people for their illnesses. It’s much harder to convey non-judgement to a person who doesn’t yet understand the difference.

I’ll be honest, I’ve seen MDs as well as holistic practitioners blame their clients for their complaints. “It’s all in your head,” is a version of this. Another is, “I don’t know what is causing your problem, but it’s probably weight-related, so my best recommendation is to lose some weight.” When a doctor tells a patient that, the doctor is saying that they are not responsible for offering any more help. I think sometimes doctors say this kind of thing because they are frustrated that they’ve done everything they know to do, but the patient is still complaining. Holistic practitioners may sometimes feel the same frustration.

But this is not the essence of holistic practice. While the obvious primary aspect of our work is to treat clients, it’s just as important to know when not to treat. Sometimes we refer to other practitioners. Sometimes we refer to doctors. Sometimes we admit that we don’t know how to help a client. Sometimes we don’t tell them what we know, because we don’t have a way to say it that will help them.

What I didn’t say to M was that she needs to forgive the person who hit her. (She probably also needs to forgive herself for being so powerless to protect herself, and that’s another layer of complexity we will save for another post.) Driving while intoxicated was a terrible mistake, and it’s not fair that M didn’t get the life she wanted to have. I have no idea if the driver ever acknowledged her suffering, or felt any remorse at all, but I know that pain is the physical manifestation of anger. Her anger has no effect on the driver of the vehicle, but it certainly affects herself. I don’t know that forgiving would make her pain go away, but I know that as long as she doesn’t forgive, she will be in pain. It’s not her fault that someone hurt her, or that she is in pain, or that she is angry, but she is the only one who can do anything about it. She doesn’t owe forgiveness to the driver, but she owes it to herself. Forgiveness is the only way to freedom.

If I ever see her again, if I figure out how to tell her this, I will.

bag o'roaches

Gotta forgive. Carrying that stuff is nastier than a Bag o’Roaches.

The Vulture In Me

I suppose you’re interested to hear about Austin, what I’m doing, perhaps what lizards and birds I’ve met so far, but no. This is a poem from last year that no one wants to publish. Take it or leave it.

The Vulture In Me

I bought the old Toyota with borrowed money
that I never paid back. Made in 1985,
the year I graduated from high school,
which was even then long past, enough to
show the world that I wasn’t going to
make much of the college education I’d been given.
I felt at home behind that wheel,
Hair flying under the sunroof, hand on the
gear-shift. Crooked seat made even
with a red pillow. Oil leak dripping at every mile.

I’ve never bought a new car, never been worthy
of such extravagance of fossil fuel, knew I’d never
make good the debt to future generations.
I only buy what no one else wants,
finish it off and send it to its grave
after extracting the last bit of use.

These buildings should have been gutted,
but we didn’t. We lived with vintage modernity
and learned plumbing. And clothes, too.
These thrift store shoes have wear left in them.
This chipped plate will serve.
Always a latecomer, mostly by choice,
and I am conscientious about proper disposal.
Recycle, upcycle, repurpose, rehome,
break down and find someone who wants the parts.

Perhaps it is the vulture in me,
scavenger of the discarded, packrat, sin eater,
never the hunter who sees what he wants,
shoots straight, and
takes the best.

More from the Craft Clan

1941 postcard

“Dear Leona—I went to the show the other Nite and saw ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ again. I have saw most of the shows coming this onth. As soon as I get to Columbus I will get you a souvenir. Love, Clyde”

Here’s another post from my other blog. This one has letters from my Uncle Clyde to my mom when she was in her teens, and he was serving in WWII. These are from 1941, when he was training.

https://craftclan.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/1941-clyde-goes-to-war/

Genealogy on my other blog

I might have told you before about one of my other blogs, which is dedicated to history and memories of my mom’s family. I hadn’t posted for quite a while there, but have recently started digging around in the old stuff, and that requires posting on the Craft Clan blog again. It’s mainly of interest to the family, but kind of cool to look at these artifacts, so if you like that kind of stuff, you can go on over there.

I used to know how to reblog, but I don’t see the button anymore . . . so I’ll just post a link and a tantalizing photo.

craftclan.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/family-history/

Craft family-1

Fixing the Broken

I knew it would be our last Christmas here, so I pared down the decorations and mementos so that I wouldn’t have to go through them all again before we move. I dug up boxes of ornaments and lights from various disused motel rooms where they’d been put away. I tested strings of lights and donated the ones that worked, I carefully chose which decorations were meaningful to one or more of us in the family, and ruthlessly got rid of the rest. What I saved, I packed as compactly as I could, so we won’t have to move more than one bin.

Every year I make a point of storing all the Christmas things together, but somehow there are always other boxes—even some empty ones— in different places, that I find years later when I’m looking for something else. Some of my favorite ornaments I haven’t seen in so long, I wonder if I dreamed their existence. But moving time is getting closer than ever, so this week I forced myself to go into a room full of junk and take out some boxes for sorting. And there it was, underneath a couple boxes of decorations I didn’t remember we’d ever had, the lost box of tree ornaments. It was labeled, “Christmas ornaments ’06/ Don’t lose.”

box of ornaments

There was also a bundle of tissue. Whatever was inside was surely highly fragile, as it was wrapped in layer after layer which I had to unwind one at a time. It turned out to be a primitive ceramic nativity. My mother-in-law must have given it to us, as she has one like it, from one of those non-profit organizations that employ impoverished people making crafty stuff for the relatively wealthy. I’m always a bit hesitant to get too religious about Christmas, and this thing had been packed away so long that surely it has no particular meaning or sentimental value to any of us. It would be easy to get rid of.

Nestled in the hollow was another tissue bundle. When I finally got it unwrapped, it turned out it was protecting the chunks that broke off the main piece, when, presumably, somebody dropped it. It appeared fixable. Someone had wrapped all the pieces together with great care, and stored them for a day when they could be repaired.

The obvious question is, why not just glue it, instead of making all that effort to save it for later? And the reason is that I was incapable of fixing things then. Much more vividly than these objects, I remember the utter despair I felt as I dragged myself up out of postpartum depression. In winter of 2006 I had a two-year-old, and was newly pregnant and terrified that I would have to recover from a surgical birth with a newborn and a toddler to care for. I was afraid the depression would win this time around. I had no money or insurance and, outside of my immediate family, all my friends were impossibly distant. The unexpected surgical birth had shaken my confidence, and I was unable to make decisions or take on even minor responsibilities. I felt too fragile and broken to fix myself, much less anything else.

But I did fix myself. Very slowly I made connections, I found tools, I found my voice. I started doing things I knew I couldn’t, and succeeded at some of them. I learned to manage my mental state. I rebuilt my shattered self-confidence, stronger than ever. I survived.

Now the two-year-old is fourteen, and the shrimp that was floating in my belly in 2006 is taller than I am. She will soon be twelve. As we prepare to move on to our next stage, I have found and repaired other things, and made new ones out of old things. I fixed this one in about three minutes.

It was almost as if I had some tiny bit of hope, twelve years ago, in my depression: that some day I would be better. Like a letter to my future self, I saved this broken item as best I could, for the time when I would be a person who could fix it. And now I am, so I think I will keep this one as a reminder of how far I’ve come. I’ll find space in the bin for one more item.

Ceramic nativity-2

Good Friday Conversation

I never intended for this blog to be about Christian theology; there are tenets of Christianity that I can’t get comfortable with, especially this time of year. I find a magnanimous, rabbit-consorting Goddess far more appealing than an old guy in the sky who favors human (or animal) sacrifice.

Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 11.54.31 PM

I got this image from the atheist guy, who couldn’t be bothered to credit the artist. In the middle of the night I remembered where I’d seen it before: on the Earth Magic Oracle cards, by Stephen Farmer. The artist is Helena Nelson-Reed.

 (Though this guy says there never was any such rabbit-consorting Goddess, for what that’s worth.)

But, things happen. I don’t want to go into details right now. Suffice to say that I spend a lot of time in the company of Christians of various brands. On Good Friday I had a conversation with a sweet, devout fundamentalist Christian lady. As our conversation ended, I said, “Happy Easter,” to which she replied,

“He is risen!—almost.”

I said, “Yeah, he’s still up on the cross right now. We can’t celebrate quite yet.”

And she said, “Yeah.” And she looked downcast for a moment, then said, “I feel bad. Do you feel bad?”

“Yeah, I do, but I also feel bad about the thousands of children who starve every day, and—” I thought about mentioning families separated at the US-Mexican border, but decided not to go there. So I just finished with “—there are a lot of things in the world to feel bad about.”

As I said that last part, it suddenly came to me, that when we are willing to let ourselves feel the suffering of the guy on the cross, we open ourselves as well to compassion for all who suffer. Being present with Jesus and the atrocity of crucifixion means that we are more present and aware of atrocities and tragedies everywhere, and that awareness can, and should, inform our actions and choices in this world. Patti Smith was right all along.

So after “There are a lot of things in the world to feel bad about,” I added, “That’s the point, isn’t it?”

And sweet fundamentalist Christian lady said, a bit uncertainly, “Yes . . ” and then, with confidence, “and fellowship with God! Eternal life!”

And before I could ask, “Why would I want to hang out with that guy?” or, “Who wants eternal life when 15,000 children starve every day?” she was on her way.

Happy Easter, friends.

Crying in Church

I cry in church. Not necessarily every week, but I’m an easy cryer in general and the setting is conducive to introspection. I don’t see it as anything bad, and I don’t need anything from anyone else. It’s more a sign of a place in me that needs my attention.

Today I was there in the pew and a couple rows ahead there was a little baby waving a toy and telling everyone about it, and her dad was watching and smiling. Right then the preacher was talking about the prodigal son, and how his dad was so filled with love and joy and pride to have his son back. And the way these parents were with their baby seemed like a beautiful illustration of such love and pride. I know it well, as a parent myself. There is probably nothing my children could do that would make me not love them. When they do things I don’t like, I don’t hesitate to tell them what I think about what they do, but even so, they are beautiful and brilliant and I am proud of them every minute.

So there’s no reason for what the preacher said next to be a surprise. I kind of saw it coming myself, but it got me anyway: Naturally, the way we feel about our children is the way God feels about us. Oh my. I’m used to being forgiven, I count on it; and I’m not surprised when I feel Divine love in and around me; but God is proud of me? Really? I’d been feeling more wretched than usual this week for reasons that, in retrospect, don’t  seem to be that big of a deal, but my petty failings, my unremarkable life, my squandered potentials, all add up to something to be proud of? Impossible but undeniably true, because love is the best part of us, and when we are in a state of love is when we are closest to the Divine. That which comes of love must be of God.

That was what made me tear up, and it surprised me how hard it hit me. It took the rest of the sermon, two hymns, and the offertory before my eyes stopped leaking.

So God is proud of me. I don’t know why, I don’t understand it, but I will do some more examination of this concept and my feelings about it, and see what I come up with.

Do you cry in church?

adult adventure baby child

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Spring Checklist

Turkey vultures are back.

Tiny Veronica has opened her blue eyes.

Ashes raining from the sky.

It’s spring in the Flint Hills! Woo hoo!

 

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