Face The Sun [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Brilliant yellow leaves are raining down in our backyard. The pond is disappearing beneath the blanket and although the little fountain has been knocked off center, it refuses to relinquish its duty. November. The temperatures are dropping like a stone.

We were awake deep into the night. We’d given up on sleep. We’d already indulged in a snack and were about to watch a PCT hiking video when we heard the owl. Our neighbor, John, told us it was back but we hadn’t yet heard it. At first, we thought we imagined the quiet who-whoo. Kerri opened the window. Cold air and clear hoots poured in. An old friend returned. We wanted to jump up and dance and clap but refrained. Sometimes quiet revelry is best.

We came around the bend in the trail we’ve come to know so well. The shady parts were cold and the sunny bits felt divine. Warmth to the bone, the kind you drink in through your face and the palms of your hands. Emerging from a shady bend we turned toward the sun when the dandelion caught us off guard. Seasonal confusion? Or, perhaps, dandy-outlier? How on earth was this splash of summer-yellow shining in the late autumn chill?

Kerri knelt to capture the intrepid weed. I thought about her Fistful of Dandelions, a song to warm a mother’s heart. This rebellious single flower was, like me, turning its full face to the sun. A kindred spirit. A weed to warm my hiker’s heart. A spirit-lift in a time of too much darkness.

I’m given to metaphor so decided this hopeful weed with deep, deep roots, was, like the owl, sending me a message. An old friend returned. Offering encouragement. Chin up. Face to the sun. Anything is possible. Optimism need not flee with the onset of cold.

read Kerri’s blogpost about the DANDELION

Sing With Pooh [on KS Friday]

Why does a song suddenly pop-up in your mind and beg you to hum along? Yesterday, for no apparent reason, out of the blue, Loggins and Messina’s song, The House At Pooh Corner, washed over me and forced me to maul the lyrics. At the time I was writing a business blogpost about assembly lines (uff-da). House At Pooh Corner was released in 1971, it’s a bubble from the deep-deep archives.

It changed my day. I made such gumbo of the lyrics that I pulled it up on YouTube. I sang along so I might refresh the muddied words in my mind. In addition to word-recall, it lightened my spirits. Writing about spirit-stripping manufacturing processes, command-and-control structures, had my brows knitted and my brain squeezed. Maybe that’s why Pooh decided to visit. I had a honey jar stuck on my nose. I sang along and laughed.

By the end of the sing-along I was dedicated to taking myself less seriously. I suspect that’s the message and gift A.A. Milne released upon the world with Pooh and Piglet. None of it is as serious as we pretend. Will my knitted brow blogpost about new systems illuminate the world? Yawn. Probably not. Did it feel good to write? Absolutely. I love thinking about a better world. Pooh lives in one – and maybe that’s yet another reason he jumped a bubble and rode to the surface of my thinking. He came as a song. A lovely light-hearted wish. A seed pod of silly presence.

“…So I sent him to ask of the owl, if he’s there, how to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear…Help me if you can I’ve got to get back to the house at Pooh corner by one, you’d be surprised there’s so much to be done….” Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about WISHES

i will hold you (forever & ever)/goodnight: a lullaby album © 2005 kerri sherwood

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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