|"The High Priestess art by Vance Kelly Art|
It was the crow that heralded all the changes; the beginning of years of hiding and the tsunami of losses - one after another...the lessons - the hard lessons - the extremely un-fun reenactments of my family dysfunctions replete with my childhood role as the identified problem - this blog. In short, the final orbit of my spot fixed outside the world of fully living my life.
There was a time when I actually thought that what I did for a living accurately reflected who I was. I knew it was wrong and simple so I denied it but it was true. That was what I wanted to be enough of a life for me. For some people who are born into their destinies, perhaps that is the case - to be what you do - but for someone on the kind of life trajectory I was on; someone trying desperately to fit into the world and riddled with doubt and insecurity...it is an initiation cycle of wounding and healing; a design of learning humanity on the fly. It was just a matter of time before all the frail cracks in my idea of myself consolidated into a giant chasm. I was so invested in this idea of myself, I couldn't even afford to question it. So when things happened that were outside the paradigm of my will, I denied them access. I learned to quell my wild imagination. I thought it a discipline of sorts and justified it by hiding the fact that I felt I was always courting an insanity that could arrive at any moment as it had before. Much of the work I did this year in leaving off attachments was an emptying of that tool box to stop trying to fix what isn't broken and own my true nature.
So it was one day in 2005 that I rushed out to go to do this very important work as a clerk and found a large adult crow on its back dead as a door-nail with its feet in the air...right in front of my home. My first thought from my spiritual center was, "oh...oh!" A dead crow in a situation such as this is a powerful sign that warrants one to be very careful; that is...beware...or, more appropriately be AWARE. I can't help but wonder how different my life would have unfolded had I taken the time to heed that long buried voice and just stopped and took a moment. That was not my fate. My very next thought - the one that ruled the day - the one that brings home the bacon and keeps a roof over my head was, "Ah shit! Now I've got to clean up THIS fucking mess!! I need to get to WORK!" ...and with that, my fate was sealed.
...This is the foreshadowing point in the story where everyone but our heroine hears the wind rattle the branches in the trees above as they catch her bold and foolish statement. She was not alone. Wings were there to carry her words to a place so far away from where she stood that day, that it would take her a decade to retrieve them...and then dine on them...
I had forgotten much of my studies but I knew a bit about the behaviors of crows. I knew that they often gathered as a group (called a murder) at the site of deceased brethren. Birds had spoken to me before in mystical ways and I did not want to court disaster by allowing that train of thought out of the station. Science has its ideas as to why crows gather at the side of one of their dead and those facts stand on one level but with corvids - as with humans - there is more than one level that works in the world. That has been my experience of life. It is said, in spiritual circles, that the corvids, like humans, have an access to a collective consciousness of their species like humans. You dis one crow it is not soon forgotten nor forgiven - especially by the local crows in their murder. A shadow is cast - a shade, if you will, that all of the species intuit. I knew enough to sense I was violating my nature when I hurriedly gathered a few pieces of newspaper to grab the dead bird and throw it haphazardly in the trash bin. I thought about it over and over again at work that day and many days afterward. I fought very hard to override my feelings and justify my action. Still, I never forgot that seemingly small act and neither did the crows. They had plenty to say every time I walked down the street. I am surprised they didn't attack me. They sounded like they wanted to.
In truth, whether or not my interpretation of the crow behavior is accurate - my sense that I did not act in accordance to my own spiritual values in that situation is the point. I willfully threw away my spiritual gift. It was a personal betrayal played out with and witnessed by crows.
Years went by and eventually I moved and then forgot about it...The stage was set for the decade of my having to sort out who I was and understanding what I was made of. I moved further into the drama that I had designed for myself to learn what I needed to learn. It wasn't until I began working in earnest with the the end of life work that the incident with the crow was recalled. This work - the work of a death doula - is an unique calling. It requires a very strong center and an ability to stay with the dying person when they need you to hold space for their opportunity for a good death. It is spiritual work requiring a strong presence. Needless to say, my first exposure to this work - the day of the dead crow - was a huge fail. So, in pursuing this skill the shame I felt around my actions that day returned with such a vengeance that I felt completely defeated by it. Crows and ravens are powerful symbols in human consciousness often symbolizing death*. It was clear to me that I needed to claim my transgression in overriding my spiritual center that fateful day or I would never be able to do this work that I'm drawn to. Once I had let go of many of the attachments I had of my idea of myself this year, I was ready to do so. I now acknowledge crows as my benefactors. Their part in bothering me unmercifully is received in me now as the great gift as it was intended. Through it all, they showed me the way. I was also able to claim my ability to recognize others who are important to me and many other skills I was born with that I denied in supporting the common notion held by the well meaning yet ignorant - inner and outer - manifestations that decided I was insane, unstable and unworthy. May all that ill will fly to find a peaceful rest.
And what of this year with my word of the year "attachment" in my day to day life? I remember being in the aircraft speeding my way back from Phoenix in January, finding this word at the apex of the flight and descending through the thick paste of Pacific Northwest cloud cover; dragging the word into my daily life with me. What baggage I owned! I actually physically wrestled with baggage in July and lost the round. The encounter forced me to slow down and this is what was revealed after all was unpacked and the last of the exquisitely perfect web of attachments were untangled and freed: I was surprised to find my original connection. I was no longer in the mercy seat but holding the heart of my ability to rescue and reinvent myself. My connection was my center in this life; my protector and champion. She who had valued me more than anyone on earth; she who decided to keep me in spite of the fact that, to her, I was a constant reminder of her failure; she, who could not afford me yet went so far as to christen me with her given name; she, who died and left her foundling on September 11, 2005...my mother, Marguerite.
When she left I was devastated to the extent that I could not even understand the actual impact of the event on my life. I was released from who I was with her presence in the world as my psychic mooring; I was abandoned and reborn into whatever there was of myself I chose to claim. There was no other human on this earth in this life who loved and cared for me as much as Mom did. When it was all said and done I claimed my mother's values; her tenacity, faith and courage are to live on through me. That's my job now. Honoring those strengths I inherited.
I documented most all the highlights of my time with attachment as word of this year in previous rambling posts over the year, here, here, here and here. While I have much more work to do on my attachments, it was quite a journey of closure and rebirth. I am experiencing the world much differently as a result. I feel like I'm in love all the time which is a combination of the work I've done on myself and the accumulative experience of my aging to 62 years, I suspect. I'm nearing the end of my life and the end of attachment to this blog, as well. I'm quite tired of my narrative at this point and I'm thinking it is about time to kick it up a notch. I have in mind to begin writing about the work I'm doing regarding death and dying within a culture in denial of its mortality and developing a website towards that end in 2016. I know a bit about denial...and I may have something to contribute to that conversation.
I'm really not sure what I will do with this blog. I may go back to sharing my feelings and thoughts regarding certain music I come upon. For instance this year, I was gifted seats to hear Neko Case. I went and was swept up and so enchanted by the opening band, the Alialujah Choir (the band providing the music to the video in this blog post) that the indomitable Neko Case sounded like a BB rolling around in an empty tin cup to me after I heard their set. I love music and while I know nothing of the skill involved and I've no talent for it, my listening plays a big part in my being able to be in the world with some semblance of joy, understanding and navigation. Finding the music this band plays was like finding a hunger that I was not even aware that I had by having it instantly sated! Did that sound dramatic? Well, it was! Trip with me. Buy their music and revel in it. So maybe I will go back to writing about the music I experience. I suspect, however, that my new direction will be somewhat time consuming as I am still working day to day caring for people in their homes. I will always be a listener, however, whether I write and share about it or not. I'm pretty much in the service of the source these days. Everyday is a new adventure and it is hard to speculate what I will be doing. After all, I wouldn't have any life any other way.
Alialujah Choir - The backstory and the making of A House A Home
*More on women and crow mythology here
Props to Heather Blakey, Vance Kelly Art, Alialujah Choir, The Portland Cello Project,