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.

Category: From Rachel

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!

 

Oracle cards, Wolves, the Work In Front of Me

animal cold color fog

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Somebody gave me a deck of Earth Magic oracle cards, and I only kept them because I liked the art a lot. It was created by an assortment of artists, expressing a healthy variety of cultures and styles. Later I saw that Hay House was offering a free class in card reading, so I started watching that, and playing with the cards a bit more.

Thursday I did a lot of running around doing errands and things, and I got really down about how difficult they were. There were some things that went well, or without difficulty, but others just couldn’t happen, and they seemed to throw the whole day off. Later I was at home looking at Facebook and saw a picture of an emaciated polar bear struggling to stand. I’d seen the photo before, but this day it felt like a punch to the gut. I didn’t let it go.

I respectfully request that if you’re going to put distressing pictures in my feed, you give me (at least) one solid action I can take to change the situation.

Otherwise, you’re just asking me to suffer to no end, I replied.

Did I tell you I was lobbing this complaint at one of my favorite astrologers, Rob Brezsny? I’ve been reading his astrology reports since the 90s, and he has 116,000 followers. I may have slightly annoyed him, and he actually posted several replies. One of his replies included a quote from Julia Butterfly Hill: So often activism is based on what we are against, what we don’t like, what we don’t want. And yet we manifest what we focus on. And so we are manifesting yet ever more of what we don’t want, what we don’t like, what we want to change.

“So for me, activism is about a spiritual practice as a way of life. And I realized I didn’t climb the tree because I was angry at the corporations and the government; I climbed the tree because when I fell in love with the redwoods, I fell in love with the world. So it is my feeling of ‘connection’ that drives me, instead of my anger and feelings of being disconnected.

Wonderful idea, but, I thought, my hikes on the prairie and nature poetry are apparently doing fuckall for the polar bears.

Later he came back with this: How can we influence people to stop their extermination of nature? How can we motivate people to stop committing genocide against animal species?

Express smart love for the interconnected web of life.

Celebrate the fact that there are other forms of consciousness and intelligence besides just the human kind.

Embody the hypothesis that spending time in wild places enhances one’s mental hygiene and physical health.

Value the feminine as much as the masculine.

Cultivate the art of empathy, and demonstrate how to make it work in everything you do.

Show what it means to think with your heart and feel with your head.

Stay in close touch with the Mysterium, the other real world that is the root of the material world.

Vow to bring the I-Thou dynamic to bear on all your relationships.

Be as curious about intimacy as you are about power.

I’d been working on my attitude in the meantime, trying to remember how I deal with these kinds of things. It was something about supporting wholeness among the people and community around me, and having faith that the Divine is in control of the rest . . . and I heard a similar message in Brezsny’s advice. But still, if that makes a difference, why are bears still dying?

Finally it occurred to me to pull a card from the Earth Magic deck. What to do, how to live in this world. The card that came up was Wolf, keyword Instinct. When I looked at the card, I immediately thought of a story I’d seen in the news a couple days ago, about red wolves.

Some scientists were studying the DNA of coyotes in the southeast, and they found, to their astonishment, that the coyotes were carrying red wolf DNA, some forty years after the species had been declared extinct in the wild. We thought they were gone, but they were still here, in an unexpected way, transformed into a different kind of animal.

The second story I thought of when I saw the card was about how wolves had been reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park. They were exterminated in the 1930s and brought back some sixty years later. With their presence, the elk began behaving differently, not hanging around the water and meadows all the time, but moving around more, going into the forest for cover. Then the trees by the water grew back, which attracted beavers, which created habitat for fish. The trees also provided habitat for birds. The wolves reined in the coyote population, which made more space for rabbits, rodents, and foxes. Twenty years after wolves returned to Yellowstone, the park had greater diversity of plants, animals, and insects than it had seen in decades.

What I saw in the card, for me this day, was that the wolves didn’t do anything special to bring about this change. They didn’t see a problem and set out to fix it. They didn’t fly up to the North Pole with a thousand pounds of meat to feed the bears. They didn’t organize all the other species and try to get them to change. They didn’t write letters or protest or install solar panels. They didn’t fret over the fact that they left Oregon two years too early to sit in that tree with Julia Butterfly Hill. All they did was be wolves, following their instincts, behaving in the ways that wolves do. Their presence changed everything.

So this is my task, then: to be what I am, to be as honest and present as I am able. To follow my instincts in doing the work that is here for me to do now. To participate in my community. To hold faith that this is enough, that my presence is changing the world in ways that I will probably never know.

Flight of Unknown Birds

Flight of Unknown BirdsI’m very pleased to announce that my new book of poetry, Flight of Unknown Birds, is available on Amazon. Some of the poems in it you’ve seen here at Veronica’s Garden, some have never been shared publicly, and some that had been published here have been revised.

I am very appreciative of you readers here at the blog, especially those who have commented. Dialog and critique are essential for developing writing skills, and several of you are named in the acknowledgements in the book. Much gratitude to you.

It’s currently only electronic, but if you prefer a print book, watch for a print run early in 2019.

This was one of my goals for the year, and it was more difficult than I expected, but I did it! What did you achieve this year?

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