The cult of suffering (or maybe it’s just me…)

The cult of suffering. Or maybe it’s just me…

Nine long weeks had pased since I had ventured away from the homestead. I had been envisioning a day trip to a large waterfall a few hours away, including a short forested hike and hand made ice cream afterwards. Soft, green-blue, watery refreshment, after the anguished existence that the last several months had offered up. A hand full of kids and babies with whooping cough will show you what you’re made of, that’s for sure.

However, a secondary, less glamorous excursion presented itself before the waterfall trip logistics worked themselves out, so I decided to go for it. The dog was going to the low cost spay-neuter clinic in the city and there was the possibility of vegetable shopping while we waited, meaning I could choose my own groceries rather than write up a list and see what mysteries returned… Also, four of the five kids would stay at abuela’s house! Sounded good enough to me.

As typical, we woke up early and I began the long process of washing kids, combing hair and clothes changing. We fed animals, drank coffee and ate quesadillas before piling into the borrowed truck with diaper bags and shopping bags and empty propane tanks to fill. With everyone finally settled, V turned the key… But the engine didn’t start. He tried again and nothing. I should have known in that moment that it wasn’t the day for me to take a trip, and part of me did know… But I didn’t listen to that little voice like I should have. Instead, we got into a little argument about who should have been watching the kids, or locked the doors, so they couldn’t play with the lights- or whatever mysterious problem stopped the truck. Eventually, the engine started, and we left our rancho in a trail of dust and exhaust.

The kids were dropped off with money to buy candies, the gas tank got a little drink and soon we were on the two lane highway, competing for asphalt with combi’s and donkeys and furniture trucks, as we sped towards the city.

We drove through the centro and out the other side. Down a long winding hill and through barrios I had never seen before. We entered a small village called San Pancho and began looking for the addresses. None of the house numbers made sense so we stopped to ask a cab driver where to find the place we were headed to. We passed stone walls that had been built around trees that the trees later grew over and around, a giant church with a cobblestone courtyard and many ramshackle houses with tropical flowers growing in front. It was the typical brightly colored chaos that makes up the cities here in Michoacan. We made many wrong turns and got a full tour of San Pancho before finding our destination. If it hadn’t been for the nice young man in front who waved us in, we would have driven right past.

This was not a clinic in any sense of the word. There was no sign and there were no other business establishments nearby. This was a mid construction, abandoned brick house! Not at all what I was expecting, but I should know better than to expect anything by now…. We took our number, paid the small fee, and entered.

The room was dim and glowing red. It took my eyes some time to adjust, and I realized that there was red plastic covering the large holes where the windows should have been. There was no overhead lighting, so it was just the bright, sunlight filtering in through the colored plastic. The perimeter of the large brick and concrete room was lined with flattened cardboard boxes, similar to a homeless encampment. There were sleeping dogs and a few cats, wrapped up in blankets, with their human counterparts sitting on plastic folding chair above them, focused on their smart phones. The air was thick and smelled like animals. The room was quiet, then occasionally punctuated by a loud buzzing sound that I later determined was the shaver. Every so often, a doctor type dressed in scrubs with gloves and a surgical mask would enter the room through the plastic covered doorway on the other side, carrying an unconscious animal by the arms and legs. The animal would take it’s place on the cardboard, with the others, and the doctor would disappear again. It was surreal and hard to focus, so I left V inside with the dog and sought relief outside in the sweltering ninety degree sun.

The makeshift waiting area was tarped and held a circle of more folding chairs. There was a nervous woman crocheting and a man smoking, so I decided to walk around instead. I headed around the side of the building to see if I could get a better view of the city. To my surprise, I ended up with a full, uninterrupted view of the animal surgeries, as the operating room did not have any window coverings. That was startling and somewhat disturbing, so I hurried around the side of the building away from the open windows. I found some fruit trees around the back and picked a few limas. I was so thirsty and hadn’t thought to bring anything, I assumed we would drop the dog off then shop and return. Not so. We had to wait with the animal.

So here I was, picking citrus fruits in an abandoned lot in San Pancho, with the baby on my back. The blistering sun left me feeling parched, so I set off in search of a tienda, down cobblestone streets in a village that was brand new to me, alone. I definitely felt vulnerable, so I told myself I wouldn’t go any further than the big church we had passed. I found a woman selling horchata, but she couldn’t tell me for sure whether or not her agua fresca was made with filtered water.. I decided not to take a chance and walked a little further to a small snack store that sold bottled water. I made my purchase and walked back to the abandoned house, aka veterinary clinic.

I cautiously entered the strange room that seemed much fuller now. A wave of I don’t know what, threatened to knock me over. This place had felt strange before, but now it felt sticky and thick and oppressive, with something else that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. I saw V sitting in the corner, with our dog layed out on a piece of cardboard, watching his smartphone, just like the others. I made my way over there with Orinoco sleeping in the backpack, and my bottle of water.

I was sweating in the enclosed heat and became aware of my encroaching claustrophobia. I looked around the room, through the fuzzy red light, and felt myself shift into another space. The bottom dropped out and I realized all at once, that this is the place where the life force of creation goes to die. Where fertility ends forever. The red room of suffering, disembodied sleep and animal instinct sprawled out on cardboard like bodies after a war. The hushed voices, shallow breath and empty skins made my stomach turn. I wanted to vomit. Not from the heat, or the smell of so many animals, but from the void that pressed up against me in the humidity. The empty vessel that waited, the loss of nature, the human desire to cut and shape the other. It was all so surreal. The low burgundy light that came from tropical sunshine streaming through the magenta plastic sheeting covering the large, unfinished windows. Like blood everywhere. As if I were swimming in it, in this abandoned construction place of flying souls. The scene was beyond me, completely delirious.

~

For months, I have been praying for relief. A cool deep green water to wash these months of struggle out and down, refill myself with vibrant lifeforce energy to fill the gaps and fractures that have made me so brittle. When I was finally granted permissions to access the spaces outside of my own isolation and suffering, I was trapped in an even greater suffering, a suffering shrouded in dark red unconsciousness and uprooted wandering. I had no choice but to stay present and witness this. I did not leave and go buy fresh fruits and vegetables. I sat on a rock wall in the stifiling heat, savoring drops of water from a plastic single use bottle… A far cry from the waterfall I had been dreaming of for so long. In fact, it occured to me that this place was exactly the opposite of the waterfall. It was more of what I had been experiencing only intensified and deeply delusional.

~

The dog took her sweet time returning to consciousness. Like many others, she slept for nearly two hours before coming to. I let go of my vegetable shopping as the heat of the afternoon stole any fragments of my remaining energy. I was drained and shocked out by the time we found the truck again. We wound our way back through strange narrow streets, passed the city and stopped at the propane filling station. We were starving. We stopped for tacos on the way home. Neither of us spoke, we simply ate and drove to abuela’s house to pick up the kids. To say that I was disappointed would have been an understatement…..

The waterfall is still on my short list, but for now, we are still without a vehicle. Or money to throw at an adventure. So I am back to the monotony of sweeping and washing and diapers, on land in the middle of nowhere, with the strange memory of the red room of unconscious suffering…. And how this has attached itself to the unravelling of self, I cannot begin to describe here. Let me just say that there is a reason that this waking dreamspace presented itself to me at this time…..

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Planting

It hasn’t rained in months. In fact, I can’t even tell you when the last waters from the sky blessed this earth. It’s been that long.

This evening, I lit the cooking fires outside for a rare carne asada before the big planting day. Three days of plowing and planting, to he exact. Knowing that the horses arrive before the sun, I planned to prepare extra food that would fill empty morning bellies for those burying the seeds in the long dusty lines.

The sparks flew off my grass fan as the mesquite charcoal blazed and without much warming, the sky overhead turned an ominous black and became heavy with water. Lightning struck the mountain in the distance and the thunder rolled out low and loud through the valley. Metal roofing began to sway and buckle with the wind and V scrambled up the homemade ladder to secure it with ropes and heavy logs that hadn’t become firewood yet. I moved the grill under the roof and braced myself for the coming storm, while continuing to cook and nurse the baby who seemed nervous with all the commotion.

The winds that blow through here will rip up anything that isn’t firmly rooted. I watched the dishes fly and said a little prayer for the greenhouse plastic. By the time rainy season hits, everything is bolted down as we have prepared for mother nature’s fury… But not today. We had our sights set on planting these next days, so this sudden storm caught us all off guard.

After the daylight faded, the lights suddenly went out. I found myself with a grill full of meat, four wild kids, and a stack of tortillas that was blowing away– in the dark. Not just dark, pitch black. The dim light coming off the coals just wasn’t enough. Smoke was flying in every direction. The storm grew stronger as we searched for flashlights and tried to calm the kids. They were becoming as wild as the winds…..

As I ate my dinner in the dark, I couldn’t help but wonder what it meant… The first storm in months, the night before planting. What kind of an omen was this? The strange part about this storm is that the rain never fell. Plenty of thunder and lightning, heavy gusts of winds…. But the water stuck behind the mountain and our plants stayed dry.

Maybe all this wind was blowing away the old and clearing a good road for planting new seeds, new visions and new intentions……

By morning the sky was clear. The horses arrived at dawn. Along with the familiar sound of roosters was the song of the stallions and the clanging of the metal as they fitted the plow. The men gathered at the edge of the field to fill their hip pouches with corn and purple beans while the children jumped around excitedly. They were ready to help plant this year!

The horses dragged the plow, their driver walking in the dust cloud behind them making sure they dug a straight line. As the moist black soil was revealed, the men and children followed, dropping seeds into the open earth. Four corn and two beans. They kicked the soil over the top of those seeds with their boots, took two steps and dropped four more seeds. Rhythmic and ancient, they filled the ground with food and memories. I could feel the ancestors smiling as the highland sun beat down on their sombreros. “Teach your children and we will keep living….” they whispered.

The morning passed quickly. I brought food to the field in a basket and the wives of the men arrived with lunch in buckets- hot tortillas, frijoles, mole….. Everyone relaxed and ate in the shade of the big tree, then went back to work. Row by row. Step by step. Seed by seed. Rural Mexican subsistence farming. The way their grandfathers did. It is a sight to behold, in these modern days, where everything is mechanized.

~

This is life. We are weaving ourselves into the history of the earth, the living carriers of ancient wisdoms that have sustained the people since the beginning. I am witnessing the flame being passed to the next generation…

Days out of time

I slept with the windows open. The hot days and western facing windows fill the bedrooms with suffocating, thick air that makes sleeping impossible. The cool mountain breeze that blows through the valley after sundown wrapped me, once again, in the relief of the watering hole we visited that afternoon~ hints of the lush greens and browns of that watery place carried on the evening wind.

I woke up to the smell of dawn. Roosters and tropical bird calls confirming that another day had come. The air was cold and crisp and the baby was already awake and searching for milk. I abandoned the memory of strange dreams and went outside to boil water for coffee. As I sipped the bitter black liquid I was overcome by the urge to visit the ruins of his old life, a life so ancient and bound to the earth, that I will never quite understand. I dressed the baby in her woolies, strapped her to my back and left with the machete and hot coffee before the sun was over the mountain. I was trailed by a pack of puppies as I made my way through the dew soaked grass that some people call a road.

Soon I was standing in front of the familiar rock pile. It was so overgrown that it was barely visible anymore. I finished my cup of coffee and got to work clearing brush with the machete. It was easier than I thought it would be, even with the baby. I swung the curved blade and tried to imagine people making a home in this place. How did they sleep? Cook? Bathe? My imagination failed me so I just looked at what was. I kept forcing myself to return to the now rather than straining to conjure images of cooking fires and grinding corn on a metate.

Soon the entire 10×10 foundation was clear. The sun was rising over the mountain now, filling the space with golden light. Back home, the children had woken up and come looking for me, followed by their father who wondered what I was doing in the field at this time. He stood and stared at the square stack of stones. Uncovered and glowing in the morning light. He began telling the story and my mind raced with indigenous imagery of an ancient life~way that is slowly dying now.

This crumbling foundation was one of two “indoor” rooms. There were wood posts cut from straight trees in the four corners. The walls were about five feet high and there was a rusty old corrugated metal roof with holes. The kitchen was just above, a wood plank enclosure that housed a cooking fire, black stone metate and buckets of water carried from the river. They walked across the field to the river to wash laundry and take baths. They slept on wood plank beds and didn’t always have shoes. They lived in this little house with ten children. The year was 1990.

To counter that vision, I was ten years old at that time, living in a middle class home in a nice neighborhood with 3 bedrooms/2 baths, had a closet full of more clothing than I could wear, shelves full of new toys, pets, bicycles, tv, movies, swing set and play house in the back yard… All of the details of the American childhood… I pictured all of this as I looked at my children’s father sitting in the remains of his childhood home, sipping a cup of coffee from a hand painted clay cup. Duality turns me upside down sometimes……

Eventually we walked back to our home, cooked breakfast and moved through the morning as we always do…. Completely forgetting the reality that once was- for both of us. Time changes everything. I down shifted and he modernized, somehow meeting eachother in the middle. Nothing about this has been easy…. But my guess is that on a soul level, it is all necessary. Evolution of self takes you down strange roads.

~

Tomorrow the horses arrive to plow and plant corn by hand, the old way. Another relic of a past life that still lives on in this forgotten place. I am amazed by what I see here sometimes, and the way that time seems to slide away completely. I really do live inside of the space between breaths, outside of years or dates, where the ancient pulse is still alive and beating like an Aztec sacrificial heart.

And these children…. They are witnessing the ages, their indigenous pre-colonist history, collecting it in their bones. They will rise strong, like the corn. They will remember.

Death and wild onions

We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. How was I supposed to know? I had never even been to a place like this let alone tried to survive in one. Every last detail is different. The whole world as I have known it, for my entire life, ceases to exist here…..

~

Unraveling the cultural ball of yarn, with all of its conditioning and intricacies, is a task that breaks you over and over again. When I left my home in the USA, I left behind my family, friends, community and 99% of my posessions. I walked away from comfort, familiarity, language and independence. I thought I knew what to expect but the crash landing in this developing country annihilated me anyway.

It took me a long time to get my bearings and then little by little, my romantic vision of life in rural Mexico began to shatter. I went from blindly embracing a culture with little real awareness to openly rejecting the same culture. The pendulum swings wide…. I soon found myself entirely alone, on land, with all these kids trying to piece together a life-farm-home. Back to back babies undid me, my health and sanity taking a serious hit. Now that I am finally crawling out of the pregnancy-postpartum time that has engulfed me for nearly a decade, my entire view has drastically changed. I have lived through a lot, sustained a lot of damage and released a ton of old baggage. The new questions that arise in such a state as this are confounding and unsettling. My core beliefs are under the microscope now- things that I never even considered to be “beliefs”, they just were.

We went for a walk to the far end of the valley today. Not far, but farther than I ever go. There is a tiny village over there that backs up to the mountain. A little puebla of maybe 200 people. Homes built of real adobe, rough cut wood planks or cinder block for those families with a little money. Old women carrying buckets of water. Dirty kids playing with old tires and wild looking skinny dogs. Cooking fires and burning garbage. Deep poverty. It was both familiar and shocking at the same time.

We walked to the place where the water enters the valley. There is an opening in the rocks where clean water flows out into a beautiful crystal clear pool. The people maintain this area, keeping garbage and animals away. It is green and lush, like a mirage in a valley of dust and corn and dirt roads. From there, we followed the only road through the puebla, to the washing place. This is a wide, shallow part of the river, with many flat stones that the women use to wash their clothes. It was evening and it was abandoned aside from the several women who came and went with their buckets. I thought about my washing machine as I looked at those stones in the river…..

As we made our way home in the fading light, I realized very clearly exactly where I was for the first time in quite a while. Walking through a huge field with a handfull of small children, an indigenous man and a machete, in the mountains of central Mexico…. Time suddenly became irrelevant. It could have easily been 100 years ago– except that it’s really 2019, isn’t it? As we walked past the crumbling foundation of the home V grew up in, a one room stacked stone hut that has miraculously withstood the test of time despite the lack of mortero, I pictured our sprawling red brick house on the hill with decorative arches and hot running water and a comfortable bed for each person. The contrast almost stopped me in my tracks. The facade came tumbling down and left me in ruins, once again. What if my perception has been wrong all this time? What if “third world rural poverty” really isn’t a bad way to live? Who even said it was bad in the first place? So many modern people are reaching for simplicity and minimilism, natural living, foraging and rewilding and that’s exactly what this all is, without the glamorous earthy photos, weekend workshops or retreat centers (aka wealth and consumerism…. )

So what would happen if I just let go of of all of my first world judgement and patterning and allow myself to die into this world. This now. What if I lay down my guns and let rural Mexico swallow me…. I am tired of pushing against it anymore.

Maybe, there has been nothing to fight all along except for my own ego….

~

Palms to dust, I surrender.
I will lay down in this corn field and become a wild onion.
There is no other world.

Radical Sabbatical

Be here now. Mindfulness. The art of slow living. Minimalism. Back to basics. Detox and unplug…. All of these catch phrases are trending lately but what does it really mean?

It did not start out as an intentional move towards simplicity or enlightenment, but that’s what accidentally found me. The pertussis prevented me from venturing away from home in the beginning. Coupled with the fact that we still have no vehicle and live in the middle of rural Mexican nowhere, the first month passed without much thought. Money was scarce and with healing sick babies as a top priority, food as medicine became the simple, daily ritual. The complicated and obscure fell away completely in those weeks. Herbal preparations and bone broths became the staples. Sleep evaded me as the days bled together and I held myself together by threads.

As the worst was behind us, I began adding things back into the routine as space allowed. The abandoned vegetable garden got an overhaul that took a good week or more between stretching fences, building new raised beds, stick trellises and planting. I only did a small amount of the actual work, while watching with the baby strapped to my chest. I eventually worked her into a comfortable back carry and found myself a lot more free to move around unhindered.

Now with the baby on my back, I began cooking on the fire again. My new outdoor kitchen was proving to be much more enjoyable than the smokey cooking shack we had built in the first episode of the rural Mexico show. The brick and clay stove was not only efficient and functional, but also beautiful. The cooking smells dancing with the wood smoke are the perfect appetizer in the fresh mountain air, as any seasoned outdoorsman will agree. I soon found that I was only firing up the modern propane stove to boil water for my french press coffee, as the first roosters called for the sun to rise in the blue black dawn.

Now with cooking on a fire, comes the need for firewood. The large stack began to dwindle quickly, so I started heading to the forest to collect an arm load or two as I could. After the coffee ritual, I walk out through the avocado orchard, across a steep winding trail until I am in the wood gathering place. Orinoco rides on my back while I gather sticks from the forest floor. I prefer to go on foot but sometimes push the wheelbarrow depending how low my wood pile is- though that can be tricky to navigate coming back with a full load when the trail is still slick with morning dew.

Once the wood is unloaded, I start the fire and began the sweeping ritual as the comals heat up. Usually by this time the baby is sound asleep in the backpack and I prepare the food, chopping, filling pots, etc. As the fire cooks the meal, I feed and water chickens and wash dishes and tend the cooking fire. We have continued to eat simple fare as we are mostly out of money and are relying on the vendors in the village for our supplies rather than the big stores in the city. I make the list, V collects the goods and carries them back. A daily breakfast looks like fresh heirloom corn tortillas made by the old ladies nearby, smashed beans, avocados and chile. I like to add fermented cabbage or greens from the garden. The children prefer quesadillas or sopita. We finish with fresh tropical fruit of one variety or another~ papaya, pineapple, mangoes, bananas, whatever we have at that time. And water. Plain, filtered river water.

Once breakfast is cleaned up, I hang laundry, change diapers and decide what to do next. Sometimes I sew or spin yarn or do a school type activity… Other days I walk to the forest or the big rock or the river. The midmorning routine varies depending upon the feel of the day. Then nap time for the smallest children, quiet time and moving on into dinner, farm chores and bed time.

A few weeks ago, I found myself frustrated (certainly not for the first time), struggling deeply with accepting the reality that I had created. The entire last year has been a series of intensely challenging events, compressing and compacting one another. I felt anxiety and depression grabbing me and realized that I needed to do something drastic to shake myself out of it…. Those things will destroy you in a place like this. So, I did the only thing I could do in a place with few resources and deep isolation– I turned off my phone.

I decided to cut the noise and the excess and focus on only what was right in front of me. I weeded and watered my garden, braided hair and sat under the trees. I prepared an herbal tincture blend for myself that I took many times per day, every time I felt the swell of anxiety in my chest. I told myself over and over again that it was ok to do nothing. I started walking. The kids and I set out with big garbage bags and wandered around the valley filling them with discarded snack wrappers and soda bottles. I continued on with the basic living routine, but did so without checking the time or taking pictures or posting to social media or texting or searching… I just sat feeding sticks into the fire box. I simply stirred the pot slowly and smelled the foods combining to form flavors. I watched the clouds move through the sky and the hummingbirds drink nectar from the flowers hanging over my head. I didn’t quantify or justify or seek confirmation. I didn’t dilute the potency of any of these small magical things by spreading them around, I just quietly noticed them and drank it all in.

Once and for all, I needed to fully surrender to the here and now. This place. This time. Not where I came from or where I’m going. Just the ground beneath my feet. The simple now. And that, all by itself, had to be enough.

On about the fourth day, I started moving rocks. Not small rocks. Head sized stones, from the field, all the way up the steep foot path. Under the glaring Mexican highland sun, I rhythmically swung the pick ax with Orinoco snug in her backpack, to create circles under the fruit trees between the house and the veggie garden. I slowly lined those large circles with large rocks and filled them in with manure and leaf litter. One by one in the heat of the day, sweating in a weighted, wiggling backpack. Pomegranate, avocado, mandarina… Oange, lemon, lima… The blueberries, the purple flowery tree….. Day after day…. Next, I decided it was time to improve the drainage areas for the pila and sink, so I dug trenches and hauled five gallon buckets of rocks to create French drains. Shortly after that, I moved on to the herb garden… Trimming, weeding, clearing. All the while, stoking fires, washing hands and faces and dishes. By dinner time, my whole body was on fire and my muscles vibrated from the work. I was covered in dirt and sweat and mosquito bites. And I felt vibrantly alive for the first time in as long as I can remember. Fully present. Awake and aware. Satisfied.

This low tech rejuvenation program is working. Simple, fresh whole foods. Fresh air and lots of exercise. Deep, rooted connection. Simple yoga before sleep. Absolutely nothing extra.

When I turned my phone on for the first time in eight days, I realized that a full two months have passed since I have traveled in a vehicle. That is eight weeks without stepping into a store, buying anything or leaving the land. I don’t feel deprived, rather I feel like this is what I have been reaching for for a very long time. I never knew quite how to get here and never imagined that my phone or a car were the things in my way. Life feels much calmer and more intentional, closer to the visions I hold of a spiritual ayahuasca retreat in the Amazon- minus the medicina of course. I am finding that the more I tend the earth and touch the elements, the more the earth and the elements carry me. And that nothing else really matters.

In one of my earliest entries I wrote about fading into the landscape….. Now perhaps that’s finally what I’m doing. It only took four years to figure out how.

The earth speaks

The earth speaks~

Today, like many other days, inspiration struck me like an ancient bolt of lightning. Amidst the chaos and the children and the cooking fires, realized that it may be the very best time to try my hand at spinning yarn. I have several bags of ready-to-spin wool roving, however, no spindle. Having seen a photo or two of Andean mountain women spinning happily amoungst their flocks of sheep in gorgeous wilderness settings, I decided that there was no reason why I couldn’t just make a simple drop spindle like the women in those photos…. So I went off to the forest with a machete and my baby tied to my back, in search of a straight stick. I found a few that could work and wandered back to the house to peel the bark and whittle the knots away with my swiss army knife. I carved between stirring pots, breastfeeding, filling cups and fetching logs to feed the fire. Very soon I had a smooth stick with a point. Next, I found a round tree branch of about the right diameter, that had already made it’s way to the wood pile. I swiftly sawed off a one inch section from the end. I drilled a hole in the not so perfectly round circle section and whittled the stick a bit more to fit snugly. This whole process was relatively quick and easy.

I layed the baby down for a nap and searched the internet for a quick tutorial on hand spinning. Seeing that there were many varieties of drop spindles, including low wohrl, high wohrl, supported, non-supported, some with hooks, some with notches, heavy, light, fast, slow, plain, embellished…. I begin to feel like maybe this wouldn’t be as simple as I had imagined. As one thing leads to another, I researched the different types, sizes, countries of origin… The types of wool they produced, the best types of sheep for fibers, how to sheer, clean and card the wool…. And THEN…… I began to feel dizzy and was, in fact, even more confused than before I had made my well meaning internet inquiry. So I decided to look for a simple video demonstrating the techniques, as I was more likely a visual learner anyway. Youtube brought me an even greater variety of spindles and spinners, the most inspiring being a Dine (Navajo) woman, with yet another type of spindle that sent me back out to the woods for a longer straight stick!

Midway through the search, I felt my anxiety building. I really didn’t have a clue about spinning wool. I had no elders or mentors or fiber artists around me. My internet search made me more unsure and really…. What was the whole point of this crazy project– don’t I have enough to do with a busy rancho and five small kids? Besides, hadn’t I tried this before with a store bought drop spindle and all the free time in the world? Yes, I had. A few times at least, north of the border. I never did figure it out…… So why would I this time with a rustic homemade contraption?

I abandoned my search for a new stick and walked back to the house deflated. Stoked the fire and drank water. I looked over at my original spindle and admired the different colors in the smooth wood. I picked it up and wondered about the women who spin wool all day. Nameless wisdom carriers. They didn’t need youtube or special metal hooks or diy tutorials. Their hands knew the way. They felt the stick and the fibers. They listened…..

So in that moment, I decided to ask the wood and the wool to show me. In the absence of a teacher, I would look to the elements themselves and the invisible ancestors that inhabit the unseen spaces. I waited. Slowly, something began to happen. The weight of the spindle in my hand shifted. I began to pull at the wool, elongating the fibers while ever so slowly spinning the spindle. I felt the wool twisting but still wondered how to keep it connected at the top without a hook or a notch or something to catch it? So again, I asked the wood. I waited. I tried a few ideas but nothing was making sense. I almost gave up and called V to pick up a tiny hook in the city….. But then by some coincidence (or not), my fingers slipped and the new yarn twist looped and held at the top of the spindle! I spun another length of yarn, wound it onto the spindle and refastned the loop. It was working!! For the first time in my many attempts over the years, I filled my spindle with freshly spun yarn.

I have a long way to go before I am anywhere near efficient, but I am definitely inspired to keep practicing.

More importantly, I have learned to tap into the ancient ‘world wise web’ before typing up any future Google searches.

A sunrise

Morning comes quickly after sleepless nights with wakeful babies. One reason or another, for a relentless eight years. Teething this time…. The story says that it’s time to gather firewood again. To light and tend cooking fires, to stir pots that fill all of the empty bellies of the entire world, or perhaps just the army of my children. The soil urchins that call me mom and run through this valley like a pack of wild dogs.

The view from here makes it almost seem worth it at times…. An unspoiled backdrop to wash the chaos and manual labor in deep beauty that reminds me why I came to this place -this life- in those first naive days so long ago. To say I had no idea what I was calling in, would be an understatement.

Now daily, I touch the earth. I live within the cycles and the seasons. I plant and weed and water. I nourish and heal and grow. On the best days, I create and destroy. On the worst, I drown in the difficulty that sometimes comes along with the simplest task. The ebb and flow, the turning tides, the duality.

This valley will soon fill with corn and beans again. Homage to the ancestral life-way and food security in the most primitive reality that I now share. And like them, I will wait. Then I will work. Tortillas over the fire, like so many women have done. The reason my children exist today….. And the reason my great grand children will come through…

This green and brown and gold, freshly turned soil in the jungle at sunrise~ this is what keeps me going. Through sleepless nights for months on end, through isolation and drought and death. The earth speaks and I listen. Even when it’s hard to hear through all the crying…. If I can do nothing else for myself in a day, I connect to the sunrise. I feel the colors in the field, the air, the birds…. I remember the river as I shower and wash the endless mountains of dishes. The vibrant green leaves of the trees that I can almost see breathing out as I breathe in. I smell the woodsmoke mingling with cooking smells and know that this has always been the way, and that knowingness feeds me so much more than the foods bubbling away in theose clay pots.

Most days these elements are the only thing I can hold on to….. Through it all these things are ever present, alive and flowing. So now I am the fires, I am the field and I am the river. The air that comes down from the mountain has swept away all that I ever was, and I have become the air, too. The stars and the rustling of leaves and the black earth under my nails…. I have no choice but to surrender to it all and know that the earth itself will catch me in her soft mossy arms before I shatter. I only have to remember to be still enough to listen.