Lupus Alae

Spiritflights, fledgling and ancient


Upheaval and peace

As I sit here, the shadows are lengthening and evening is fast bidding late afternoon adieu. It is the time of deepening darkness and of quiet reflection, sometimes wistfully so.

Last Monday, the 23rd, I received a phone call from my father. Before the phone rang, my hand was reaching toward it, and I knew who would be calling and why -- one of those moments of knowing without understanding how you know. And one of those moments when you wish you knew nothing because there was nothing to know.

All of that to say that that day, my great-uncle began his journey to the Summerlands. Brightest journey, I felt the words come, and with them, a wave of relief that his suffering is now past and he is surrounded by peace and light and beauty.

Words fail to capture the brokenhearted tears that just kept flowing, and the wrenching sobs of grief that left me voiceless and feeling quite ill for a few days...and yet, that sorrow is all selfish. I miss him fiercely; he was an extraordinary person -- and *is* such an effervescent, bright, storied soul. I look forward to when our spirits might cross paths again.

There's so much right now that's hard to grasp -- that I can't ever call him now to hear that "New Joisey" accent that always made me smile. No more letters smelling faintly of his favorite pipe tobacco, and filled with love and warmth and laughter, the serious and silly and mundane all wrapped together in the best kind of present: time.

I've no one to write to now, none left in my life who value the handwritten letter as I do. The other, my paternal grandmother, passed on in 2008. Her scratchy, spidery script and his blocky, thick print...they wove my life with reassuring patterns of family and familiarity, comfort and understanding.

I suppose being pen pal-less is okay right now, as my address may be changing in the next six weeks or so. If my spouse gets the out-of-state job he's interviewing on site for on Thursday, I will be packing up and painting walls and generally in chaos for the next several weeks!

It occurs to me that upheaval is as much a constant in our lives, at least in certain chapters, as stability ever is. And in reflecting on this, I come across a quote in my mind from Gandhi:

"Each one has to find his peace within. And peace, to be real, must be unaffected by outside circumstances."

This, then, is my goal on the journey right now. To flow with the changes, to use the chaos to deepen the serenity at the core of my IS a journey, an ever-changing one, and I am learning to be grateful for opportunities for growth.

Be still

Life is beautiful, tragic, poignant, absurd, fun, and excruciating by turns, it seems to me, and it touches with abandon every place in between. We fight for our chosen causes, scramble to make our voices heard, claw our way up the ladder in career and financial stability, juggle everything we can possibly hold and then some.

"Go and do and achieve and acquire! And if you do not like something, fight it until you find another way to get what you want." This seems to be the message people live with/by, in large part. Perpetual motion, lives going ever faster, round and round on our big blue ball.

It is natural to move forward, to strive to exchange what you have or where you are for the next thing or place along the way, for something or someplace better/different. If I want a better job, I get the additional certifications and I apply for the position I wish to have, for example. We follow our desires. And when something blocks us from attaining what we want, we focus our energy on removing that blockage. We beseech higher powers for aid in our noble pursuits (whether they be noble in truth or not sometimes!). We fight and rail against and bend our will toward changing anything that does not suit us.

To be sure, there are things to be said for that kind of indomitable spirit; you don't get anywhere in this world by rolling over the first time you meet with resistance and letting life pass you by instead of living it, striving for a life that satisfies and enriches.

Yet...there is an even greater wisdom, it seems to me, in learning when to fight and when to be still.

There are those things in life that are beyond our control, as they should be, and sometimes these things are incredibly painful. We naturally want to fight them, to find a way to reject these events and facts and replace them with something more palatable, something that doesn't hurt so much.

My great-uncle and longtime penpal/friend/mentor/favorite storyteller is dying. He is so dear to me that I simply cannot imagine life without him -- I suppose it's more accurate to say that I can, but I don't want to.

We've been writing letters for almost a quarter-century. I'll be 28 this fall and I've written back and forth with him since I was five years old. The things he has taught me would never fit in a blog post. Or a blog. Or one lifetime's recounting.

He has lung cancer. His "year" of time the doctors gave him in June appears to have been incredibly optimistic.

When I first heard the news of his illness, I immediately went into fight mode. Surely there had to be a treatment option they hadn't considered. I asked questions. I researched. I asked again. I cried and railed at life in general. I prayed to the gods for miraculous healing or to wake up and find that it'd all been a dream or a mistake and that he was healthy.

After speaking to him on the phone recently and hearing firsthand how fragile he is and how limited his time (his voice was so thin; the coughs so thick and overpowering!), I had to concede that there is no fix to be had. Not a fix as *I* would have it, at any rate. With tears streaming down after the brief conversation, I prayed again...this time for the grace to accept what is and cannot be changed -- what will come, and on its own timetable, not mine. I stopped struggling and finally held still.

And in the stillness, I felt comforted. As if the universe or the gods themselves paused a moment to say "Shh, child" and hold me close. It strongly reminded me of this verse I learned years ago:

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)

Though my belief system is different from those who carry that particular book around, I see no reason for the wisdom within to be discarded, and indeed, this *is* what I felt. That in the moments of our deepest despair and grief, if we can pause a moment, cease struggling against things beyond our control, we are better able in the stillness to feel the Divine guiding all things. We are not abandoned in our hour of need; we just spend so much time making noise and ramming ourselves against those brick walls that we miss the message.

The hardest aspect of the Serenity Prayer is the serenity part.

Good news!

It does my heart good to see that a judge has ordered that my gray wolf bretheren in Montana and Idaho be put back on the endangered species list, thereby granting them protection from "harvest"/hunting.

In September 2009, I had the indescribably stunning privilege of meeting wolves face to face for the first time, in Lucerne Valley, CA.

And I do mean face to face:

A Mackenzie tundra wolf and yours truly

I love wolves. Always have...they are my totem, my spirit animal, however you want to put it. I know this like I know my name. And I have become more and more of a wildlife advocate over the years, particularly for these magnificent, oft-misunderstood creatures.

When it comes down to it, it's a matter of right to live. That is something we all share, and I am grateful that the gray wolves in these two states have been granted a new lease on life, which should never have been necessary in the first place.
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