November 6, 2012

In the Dirt I Write . . .

Surrender tree

The Surrender Tree
opens me to what I cannot see . . .

As I write in the dirt that
supports its roots:
I release my logic,
my will,
my need to know,
and trust that my small act
of faith,
of letting go,
will create beauty and life
more wild than my imagination can dream.

Looking around,
I see that I am alone.
My ritual is guaranteed.
Today is another day
to speak my surrender
into the air,
while the tree bears silent witness
and keeps my secrets
to itself.

Walking away,
I look back at the tree,
then the ground.
I envision the words, like offerings,
stirring in the dirt,
under the small stones and branches
I’ve laid upon them,
actively in dialogue with
for me.

I cannot communicate the depth
of what my surrender means,
because even I do not understand it.
But the words I’ve spoken out loud
and set into the dirt
by the base of the tree
make me

© 2011 by Jenna Love

This poem came from a ritual I created at a time in my life where nothing I could "do" was changing anything in the physical world around me. My deep need to make things and situations turn the way I wanted, in the time I wanted, only left me frustrated, disappointed, and even a bit faithless in my spiritual journey. I'm naturally drawn to trees because to me they represent groundedness. Their root systems are complicated, entwined, far-reaching, and adaptable. The trunk and branches grow toward the light and seek higher awareness.

Notice in the picture how this beech tree's bark has been carved into by people who have left an initial or a word, a marker of an emotion, a record in history. Well, I wanted my history to be more private, subtle, just between me and God. I wanted to place my words and symbols in the ground right at the base of the tree, as if they would somehow penetrate the soil and become buried, go underground and emerge again in a new, enlightened form. I was seeking for my grief and frustration and hopes to die and be transformed.

Many times a week I performed this ritual. I also placed special rocks I collected, favosite coral fossils to be exact, on the dirt. I wanted to take the fossils home because the coral had become crystalized and they were really beautiful and rare. But leaving them at the tree was like another offering, to go along with my words and symbols in the dirt, to give away the things I needed to surrender: thought patterns, expectations, desires, fears.

One day, though, I brought a stone with me to the tree, which I had recently bought, called chiastolite. It is a stone noted for its distinctive cross-shaped, black graphite inclusions against a brownish background. Symbolically, I connect with the cross symbol for Christian representations, and carrying it with me was a positive reminder of discovering my life mission, realizing that the path to fulfilling it would not be easy. It would require a sacrifice. But in the sacrifice there is the promise of a kind of death that only leads to transformation and the promise of something better. To me, Jesus and the cross is relevant to me on more than just the level of how He suffered for us. It is also a prophetic announcement to all of mankind that our life is a journey that will require a time of coming to terms with our mission, a wrestling with God and ourself (and even bargaining) to possibly have some other option than what we know is our path. Then there's a coming to terms with whatever lies ahead, not knowing for sure where the journey will lead but having a surrendered faith that gets you on your knees and in the dirt of your life for a while, wondering if you heard the calling correctly because it sure doesn't feel comfortable. Next comes some real pain. The death of the old self, the old thought patterns and expectations and beliefs of how you thought your life would be. All gone. Done. In the dirt ready for transformation.

Then some time has to pass. That time is different for everyone. For me, usually things do not transform overnight, but require months and years to bring certain situations full-circle. God is really not concerned with how long we spend in a death/transformation cycle; He's concerned with the outcome, the change it produces on the other side.

When transformation and restoration occur, there is a great respect for the process that was required to enter this new territory of change and rebirth.

But back to the chiastolite stone I carried with me one day to the tree . . . I really didn't want to leave it there, buried in the dirt, but knew symbolically I needed to. I scooted some dirt around and then suddenly it fell deep into a hole an animal had dug, so deep that I panicked that it was out of my reach. I tried to retrieve it, but it was long gone. Just like everything in my head (my worries, my fears, my longings and expectations) that needed to slip away, the rock with the cross on it went first; it led the way for my personal surrender.

I felt a little shocked that the chiastolite was gone so suddenly and was so out of sight and reach. But it confirmed my need to stop obsessing about what I need to leave behind, to just do it once and carry on. Trust that doing it once with certain faith is better than doing it daily with no faith. So, I let go.

About two months later I was at the tree, snuffeling about the dirt, and as I moved some leaves I saw the chiastolite right there on the surface of the dirt. Just right there in plain sight! Not underground in the pit of darkness. Simply there for me to pick up without having to search for it. It was odd, really, to have so much time and weathering occur over the two months---and the area is on an incline. I never expected to see that rock again. I felt it had been given back to me. It was okay to take it home. Because I didn't look for it and dig it up and chase after it, it rose to the surface in its own time. Right then, I realized the clarity I sought in my life would probably follow this same pattern.

For the first time in a long while, I felt that my acts of surrender at that tree were heard all along. That not one grief cry, faithless moment, plead, petition, or longing had gone out to oblivion. Though nothing had, in fact, turned a corner in my life or had really changed or come full-circle yet, I knew that I was heard and that I was told to keep enduring. The chiastolite cross stone was given back to me as bread for the journey, you could say. An offering to ME this time. A reminder that endurance builds the soul's stamina for the next stage of the journey.

Endurance is a teacher.
Patience and higher understanding are its gifts.
As long as we resist the path we do not want to traverse,
we cannot embrace endurance
as it is meant to work in us
and change us.

May you speak your surrender like a mantra today, then let it go.
May you write words and symbols in the dirt as Jesus did, then let them go.
May you believe in the grace of endurance and the grace of restoration.

November 2, 2012

The Courage to Choose

"To have courage for whatever comes in life
---everything lies in that."
St. Teresa of Avila

I was at Fort Pickens Gulf Islands National Seashore this summer and was amazed at the contradictory sight of present-day, undisturbed beach and an old U.S. military fort built in the early 1830s. It was originally built to defend Pensacola Bay and its navy yard, and is one of four forts built in the South that was never occupied by Confederate forces during the Civil War (1861-65). I did wonder who was held captive there, though, and discovered that Geronimo, a leader of the Bedonkohe Apache tribe (Native American group from the Southwest), was held at Fort Pickens as a prisoner of war in October of 1886 for seven months while his family was held in another location (Fort Marion, now renamed Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, FL). The doors in the picture above are at Fort Pickens, and it is likely Geronimo was inside one of these, paying his price for the freedoms he sought, which took the form of fighting against Mexico and the U.S., who wanted to expand into Apache tribal lands.

I look at these doors and they seem so thick, heavy, impenatrable, and if I was inside by force, as a prisoner, I just might have the will to fight, the will to live, knocked right out of me. But when there is a greater force driving someone, such as Geronimo's fierce loyalty to his tribal culture, often a courageous and daring spirit emerges that is willing to go the distance, no matter the end result. It is noted in history that Geronimo did come to embrace Christianity in his later years while still honoring the spirituality of his culture. Somehow, through his struggles, honor code, pain, and fighting, he still was open to the Spirit speaking to him and not shutting off his divine connection just because life got challenging.

These doors of uncertainty loudly echo the words of St. Teresa of Avila to me, "To have courage for whatever comes in life---everything lies in that." So many times I am faced with either looking at doors, which represent choices not yet made, or I am stuck inside doors, which represent the choices I have made and wish to improve upon or even change entirely. It takes courage to find where the keys are within myself to unlock and enter or unlock and be free. Where does one get this guidance that can make or break one's life course, or relationships, or careers?

Below is a poem I wrote to help me through this process of tapping into inner knowing. I hope this blesses you in a way that leads you to trust when you receive guidance.

The Understanding

I understood
the truth of my soul,
the voice of my ever-patient angel.
I understood.
But I was faithless.

The signposts pointed to a direction
I did not want to go.
I felt the tap,
then the pull,
then the push.
I was faithless in the free-fall.
I was rebellious in the resistance.
I pretended to prefer soul dissonance.
But all along I understood.

The new direction before me glowed and pulsed.
It held both the flame of destruction
and the warmth of the womb, ready for rebirth.
This paradox made me
so I chose the familiar icy path instead.
I remained
for a long time.

But I knew I could not hang on to life

I understood.
But I was faithless.

Life repeated itself in weary patterns.
Reminders that I was still
feigning fulfillment.

My God, my angel,
how patiently they persisted:
opening doors of hope,
whispering words in my heart,
speaking through ancient earth formations,
guiding me through dream scenarios,
and connecting me with like-minded soul friends.

I understood
what was taking place
all along.
Finally, I got too tired
to resist.

 My free-fall became a welcome letting go.
And in the silence of the wind that cradled me
as I went down,
I began to loosen the tight grip on
my expectations
my desires
my fears.

As I descended I became lighter,
which surprised my faithless heart.
Feeling lighter,
faith then filled me.
Its weightless energy drew me up,
overpowering the force of my free choice,
which had allowed me to go down,
into the moment of my greatest
with myself
to let go
of it all.

I knew I was safe.
I felt my angel near.
I surrendered to the moment.
I surrendered the rest of what I held on to
that weighed me down.

And I understood.

I always had.

© 2011 by Jenna Love