Taste It Fully

ice circles on the lake

ice circles on the lake

We heard the angry barking of crows before we saw them. They were haranguing an owl. It flew into a tree only a few yards in front of us. For several moments, through the ruckus of the crows, we stared at the owl and it stared at us. Time stopped. Nothing else existed. The owl’s eyes, our breathing, the crow’s chorus.

For our wedding gift, H and Teru sent several collections of poetry, “Manuals on marriage,” they wrote in the note that came with the poems. Kerri and I are savoring the poems, reading one or two aloud to each other every day. They are a source of warmth and inspiration during these cold dark winter months. A poem cannot be rushed or read merely. It must be slowly tasted. It is meant to be entered like a meadow; to be experienced. Try to make sense of a poem and you will miss it. Just like life.

She said, “inner quiet is low maintenance,” and I laughed. Yes it is. The trick is in getting quiet. It is not something that can be found or achieved. It is not a place or a state-of-being. It is what happens when you stop looking for it. Like the hermit says to Parcival when the Grail Castle suddenly reappears, “Boy, it’s been there all along.”

For years Sam the poet was afraid of his poems. Like all great art, his poems, his art, revealed the artist, and so he kept them locked up, un-tasted. He came alive and supremely dissatisfied when he finally unleashed his poetry. He let himself want more but also refused to let himself experience more; one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes. To taste fully one must be willing to be tasted.

A snippet of a poem (a koan imbedded in a poem), RELAX by Ellen Bass:

The Buddha tells a story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But, there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice – one white, one black – scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

Taste your moment. Taste it fully.

I wrote in my black and red notebook a simple recognition. The field of possibilities cuts both ways: in your despair you must remember that anything is possible. In your joy you must remember that anything is possible. Tiger above (the past), tiger below (imagined future). Do not reject your moment or attempt to hold on to it – both are methods of missing the moment. Taste it regardless of the circumstance. Taste it fully.




Let Owl Guide You

With the guidance of an elder, I made this medicine shield years ago.

With the guidance of an elder, I made this medicine shield years ago.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. . . . Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Carl Jung

For a few disconcerting moments, I thought the crows had followed me across the country. You will remember that while living in Seattle, I was plagued by crows. They swooped me on a daily basis, picking me out of crowds for a sneak attack. I came to the conclusion that they were trying to wake me up. According to Crow Medicine, crows are an omen of change. When crows are around, something special is about to happen, consciousness is about to change and dis-ease will be dispelled. Since we can only connect the dots backward I can now say with great confidence that I took the medicine and it worked. They hammered me on the head for months before I stepped into the void and allowed new forms to emerge. Needless to say, I have a love-hate relationship with crows.

Yesterday afternoon our backyard was a festival of crows frantically barking. It brought back visceral memories and I went on high alert. As it turns out, the crows were focused on our owl and not me. I haven’t heard the owl since autumn and had forgotten that we have an owl in the backyard. I was happy that the owl was back. The crows were not happy as owls are great nest robbers and also, if hassled excessively, will make a dinner of an adult crow.

A detail from my shield. Owls have been with me for a long time. The owl is the top symbol.

A detail from my shield. Owls have been with me for a long time. The owl is the top symbol.

Last fall I googled Owl Medicine when the owl hooted above my head almost every night. I learned that, as a totem, Owls have great intuition. They follow their instincts. They see clearly (meaning they cannot be deceived). Owls see what others cannot. For instance, Owls see into the inner life of others; generally, they know more about a person’s inner life than that person knows about him or her self. This is why people do not sit next to me at parties! Also, owls are fierce warriors if something dear to it is threatened.

What a fantastic collision of bird archetypes for the crows and the owl to return to my world at the same moment. The owl was mostly indifferent to the incessant crow barking and attacks. There was no contest. In the evening the owl flew away to hunt and I wondered if there might be one less crow barking in the morning.

Both owl and crow are harbingers of change. They both speak to a comfortable relationship with the unknown and an attraction to the mysteries of life. I laughed when I re-read the symbols as I’ve lately been preaching through my book, The Seer (owls and crows are both seers) to cultivate “not knowing” as a necessary step on the path to health and creative vibrancy. In the practice of “not knowing,” one learns to see.

Later in the night, while driving back from Chicago, Kerri and I were talking about the extraordinary and meteoric changes in our lives this past year. She encapsulated my crow and owl commentary when she said, “We make plans according to what we know. It’s what we don’t know that changes us.” Her thought reminded me of another Carl Jung quote. He famously wrote that, “Religion is a defense against a religious experience.” Just so, a life plan is often a defense against a vital life. Adventure and discovery are never in the direction of the known. When you pay attention to the symbolic crow hitting you on the head you can also rest assured that when you step into the void there will always be an owl waiting to guide you.

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