Go Spelunking [on KS Friday]

Arnie is among my team of wise-eyes. In response to a recent post, he wrote that he was relieved that I was stepping back into the light. “Darkness,” he wrote, “has never been the place from which I observed you to start.”

I am also relieved to be stepping back into the light. And, I am most grateful for my foray into darkness. It was necessary. It was useful. “The anger burned off a resistant layer of the onion.” I wrote in reply. “It burned away many of the resentments I was carrying, opened a channel to the voice I was withholding. Nature is not balanced in a world that makes room for light alone.” I was out of balance and needed to walk into that dark cave. Again. There is great power to be found at the dark center of the earth. After defeating the monster Grendel, Beowulf had to go into the dark forest and dive into the dark bottomless swamp to confront a more dark and terrifying monster, Grendel’s mother. He emerged victorious and forever changed.

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

As the night the day. The day the night. Darkness is necessary to perceive the light. It is not possible to thy self be true without a good grasp of the whole truth, including the bits we ignore and deny. I’m only now understanding that this dance in the dark has been central to my lessons and my non-stop-pondering these many months. It is neigh-on-impossible to be true to yourself, to be whole, without embracing the full spectrum of your self. Without both sides of the moon. Self love, it seems, requires a love of ALL parts of your self. Dark and light. There’s plenty of room at the table.

Nature, your nature, is not corrupt or bad. It is nature. There is no judgment in nature, just interrelationship. Cycles and dances. Seasons of growth and rejuvenation. Birth and death. Rather than applying a scalpel it is more useful to go spelunking.

There is no denying we are living through a very dark time. It is the understatement of this young century to suggest that we are finding – again – a host of monsters in our very dark cave. We can, as we have in the past, run from the truth that we find, or, we can at long last pull up a chair, sit with our monsters, and have a chat. Monsters tend to transform when given some time and attention. When light is brought into darkness and darkness is led into light.

It is symbolically perfect and appropriate – deeply human – that the darkest night of the year is the time when many traditions celebrate the return of the light. It is natural, this progression into darkness. It is natural, this journey into light. Roots gather energy during the cold dark months. We rest, knowing that, with the return of the light, there will be much work to do. New crops to plant. New thoughts to harvest and share.

read Kerri’s blog post about NATURE SETTING THE STAGE

find all three of Kerri’s HOLIDAY ALBUMS on iTunes.

Paddle On

photo-3We’d been out in the canoe for more than an hour. The morning was warm and the water was still. We hugged the shore, cruising the lily pads. Dan told us some of the lily pads were over 150 years old. I was amazed at their capacity to reach through time but also reach through long stems to the water’s surface to drink the sun.

The turtle emerged from nowhere. It appeared from the depths, through the lily pad stem forest, and rose to within inches of the surface. It was big for a lake turtle, perhaps the size of a dinner plate. I let my paddle trail in the water. It was so close I could have reached into the water and touched it. We glided forward and turned the canoe so Kerri might see it but the turtle had already disappeared.

the view from the canoe

the view from the canoe

Turtle is perhaps the oldest known symbol for the earth. In many traditions, turtle carries the world on her back; the earth is her shell. She is a great reminder to go slow and persevere, to live grounded amidst the chaos of life. She symbolizes patience and ease. I was struck by how similar are the symbols of turtle and lily pad. Peace. Ease. Both are extraordinary symbols of grounding or rooting. Both cross the boundary of elements: the turtle lives in water and land. The lily pad reaches through the water to find air and sun. Both inhabit the depths and reach to the surface.

It feels as if I came into this world with art already in me. From an early age I drew pictures, not because I wanted to but because I had to. Like the lily pad, I was reaching for something unknown. I drew the same images over and over again: a cabin in the woods, eyes, clowns. I wasn’t drawing to master the image, I was drawing and painting in order to reach beyond the image. There was something there, beyond, deep in the depths, a root, rich soil, the void. There was a force behind the image that pulled me. My artistry felt like a descent into the caves of the ancients, a search for sources mythological.

Sometime during these past few years, the direction of the pull reversed itself. Like Orpheus in the underworld, I turned around. I walked toward the surface. In essence, the pull to the depths became a reach to the light. The sun called. Balance, in this life, at long last necessitated light and warmth.

Tom once told me that inheriting his family’s ranch and subsequently finding a trunk hidden in the wall of the house containing his ancestors possessions served as an affirmation that he had finally come home. Sitting in the canoe, the turtle rising by my side, I felt the affirmation. I am now only inches from breaking the surface. I drink the light because I know the depths and am adept at walking in the dark unknown.

the first layer of  under-painting for the next piece

the first layer of under-painting for my next piece

I am working much slower now. I am in no hurry to get anywhere. And my art, my life, is the better for it.




Say What You Mean

643. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

One of Don Miguel Ruiz’s 4 Agreements is to be impeccable to your word: say what you mean and mean what you say. This, he writes, is an act of self-love. It is the greatest act of self-love.

I have been thinking much about this agreement particularly as I step through another threshold and leave behind all that I know. I find that am often NOT impeccable to my word. I am not so concerned with my honesty with others. I edit myself, I soften the impact of my words, and I manipulate my meanings; I am human. I’m not sure what it means to be honest with others because I am not sure that I am honest with myself. Impeccability with others is only possible if I am impeccable with myself.

Someone once told me that the best part about me was that I tell a great story and the worst part about me is that I tell a great story. I have exercised my capacity to see the light side to such a degree that I sometimes make light of the darkness. A friend once asked me, “Why is it okay that these things are happening to you? Where’s your rage?” It was a great question and, in fact, opened my eyes to my lack of impeccability with myself.

Say what you mean to yourself. Mean what you say to yourself. It is a double-edged sword. Like me, you are not impeccable when you call yourself names: are you truly an idiot? Neither am I. Do you mean to diminish yourself? Neither do I. Do you mean to diminish others? Do you need to push others down to elevate yourself? Neither do I. These are the easy misalignments to spot. Suspend your judgments and you will return, at least partially, to impeccability.

The more difficult stories to catch are the stories of, “It’s okay.” Is it truly okay for you to give up your needs to fulfill the needs of others? Is it okay for you to give away your voice? Are you sure it is not important if you let go of your dream? Are you certain that is doesn’t matter if the world steps all over you? Impeccability comes when we say, “That’s not okay.” Boundaries and impeccability go hand-in-hand. That’s why, to Don Miguel Ruiz, impeccability is an act of self-love.

Recently, a woman in class, who lost her house to Hurricane Sandy, said that she was “investing in her darkness.” She was telling herself the story of “everything is ruined.” Certainly the house was ruined. She realized that she was not ruined; she was alive. She needed to feel what she was feeling; she needed to grieve so she could move forward. So, rather than telling a story of ruin, she began to tell a story of grieving so she could reach the story of “what’s next.” She said, “ I realized that we need the light AND the dark. We need them both…it was all okay when I allowed that it wasn’t okay.”