The Tale of the Turtle Bone

I live in a part of the world where people worship the Sun. They go to the beach as often as they can in the summer. They turn all shades of brown and wrinkly. And they genuinely enjoy it.

I do not enjoy the Sun with that intensity.

I like that it’s warm.
I’m glad the growing season has arrived.
But I don’t want to be out in it all day.

(I prefer the rain.)

So, this past summer, I kept envisioning a place where I could take my family and there would be sunny space with some kind of water and also an area that was shaded and full of trees.

I still took the kids to the beach a couple of times. (Bleck!)

But, at the end of the summer, we visited a state park that – tah dah! – had all those things I had been wishing for.

I felt so excited when we found it- finally, we could all go to one place and everyone could have what they wanted. I did a little happy dance.

Another great thing about this park was that it had hiking trails. I dig a good, woodsy hike.

Ferns.
Old trees.
Muddy spots.
The dark, earthy smells.
I love it all.

So, we went hiking the first afternoon we were there and we came upon a fire pit out deep in the trail.

Only, it wasn’t just a fire pit. There was a turtle carcass in it.
Burned to white on the shell, the bones, everything.

 

 

Turtles are one of my totem animals – meaning it holds a special symbol or energy for me. I have loved them (and frogs!) since I was very little.

I could not help but wonder if the turtle had been dead before it was burned, or had some cruel kids tortured it? I tried not to think about it.

Instead, I walked all around the carcass – looking at all the different bones. How some had cracked along particular lines. How some had been dragged away by other creatures. How the vertebrae remained almost complete- and how interesting it looked; like a braided rope.

 

A carcass of a burned turtle.

 

Turtle bones, sitting atop a piece of burned shell and with a moss-covered stick nearby

 

I could have hung out with it for hours.

As it was, I probably spent 15 minutes there, and the kids were getting restless.

I stood and looked out to the nearby pond. I imagined the turtle living there.
And I said a small prayer to it: thank you for your sacrifice,
thank you for letting me look at you,
thank you for living so long.

As I was about to walk away, I saw a picture in my mind of myself holding one of the bones (I don’t know what part it is exactly, but it had a specific shape) and felt a gentle whisper to ‘take the power.’

Now, in all honesty, I am very intuitive, so I definitely listen to the voices in my head.
But I don’t always trust them on sight.
I prefer a few other clues so I can verify the intuitive nudges.

I also felt uncomfortable disturbing its grave.
And I didn’t want to set a bad example for my kids.

At the very same time, and in complete contrast, I also knew that there would be something really, truly powerful about having that turtle bone near me. I can’t tell you why or how. Just a calm knowing, down in my gut, that it would be a powerful item for me to have.

I didn’t pick it up, but as I walked away, I could feel the bone in my hand.

 

I wrote earlier about how I believe everything happens for a reason.

I also believe that, if we pay attention (if we begin to find and create our own language of symbols) the Greater Field of Life will guide us and speak to us through those symbols.

Ted Andrews wrote a very helpful and popular book on the topic of animal symbols called Animal Speak. In the book, he goes into great detail about the symbolic meaning of animals. He looks at their physiology, their ancient symbology, their mating habits, all kinds of stuff- and what those things might be offering in terms of spiritual guidance. He believes that animals can be messengers from the gods (yes, just like the Romans and Greeks did).

He writes about the turtle:

As a group, turtles are more ancient than any other vertebrate animal. There are around 250 kinds, 48 of which are found in the United States. Turtles are usually distinguished from tortoises in that tortoises are landbound. Turtles live in and around the water. Every turtle has at least one characteristic that makes it stand out, and which usually has great symbolic significance.

A great deal of mythology exists in regards to the turtle. In the Far East, the shell was a symbol of heaven, and the square underside was a symbol of earth. The turtle was an animal whose magic could help you unite heaven and earth within your own life. A symbol of the turtle was an invitation for the blessings of both heaven and earth.

Because of its great age and its slow metabolism, the turtle is associated with longevity. Long life and groundedness within life is part of what is associated with the turtle. It does not move fast. It is as if, on some level, the turtle knows it has all the time in the world. Turtles can teach us new perceptions about time and our relationship to it.

Turtles have amazing survival skills and strategies. They hear well. Actually, they sense vibrations in the water through their skin and shell. Turtles are also able to distinguish some colors, and they do have a sense of smell. Turtle totems hold the mystery of awakening the senses – both on physical and spiritual levels.

Turtles carry their home on their back. Contrary to depiction in cartoons and such, turtles can not leave their shells. The shell is actually the backbone and ribs of the turtle. It serves as home and shelter for it.

Turtles are omnivorous. They eat insects, plants, fish, amphibians, and even small mammals on occasion. They are opportunistic. To the Native Americans, the turtle was a symbol of Mother Earth and a reminder that she provides for all of our needs.

It you are drawn to turtles in your life, it is time to get connected to your most primal essence. Go within your shell and come out when your ideas are ready to be expressed. It is time to recognize that there is abundance out there for you. It doesn’t have to be gotten quickly and immediately. Take your time and let the natural flow work for you. Too much, too soon, can upset the balance. Turtle reminds us that all we need for all that we do is available to us, if we approach it in the right manner and time.

 

Given that I have been grappling with my own sensuality, it would seem that this turtle bone might be a helpful reminder of my commitment to integrate my sensual self. And also a symbol of moving ahead with the work we do here. Of course, I don’t know the answer. But the bone still pulled at the edges of my mind, like a small child in a tug-of-war.

Some First Peoples tribes call this kind of interaction a call to the animal’s ‘medicine.’ Meaning that the energy of the animal, or its sacred qualities, can be borrowed to help a human (or tribe) heal. Perhaps it is time for me to hold my own turtle energy.

 

Last week, we returned to the park with the turtle bones. I took a hike, by myself, and went to find the ruins again.

They were still there, with one notable change. The bone I had seen in my hand as I left the first time was now sitting atop the shell. I am quite sure someone placed it there- a human. But to me, it was on offering.

I took the bone into my hand and looked at it.
I turned it over and felt its rough and smooth edges.
I sniffed it. (Yeah, I did.)

And I put it into my pocket.

I stood a few more minutes, listening to the sounds, and seeing the changes only a few weeks had made in the landscape. Beautiful Autumn had arrived.

And now, the bone sits next to me on the desk.

 

Turtle bone sitting on a turquoise colored desk with other office paraphernalia.

 

I don’t know what magic will come from it.
I look at it every few moments and turn it over often.
Perhaps it has no magic.
But I think we have to wait and see.

I do think it is meant to be with me.
When it is no longer meant to be with me, I shall return it to the Earth.
To everything there is a season.

Perhaps I answered my own question back at the beginning of this post: the earthiness I love which was all around me when I first found the turtle bones.

Maybe this is the guide to the season of my own earthiness.
A return to my animal nature.

 

 

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Why You Can Your Trust Life

Despite having regular communication and a relationship with the Divine, I still doubt.

I will entertain the possibility of just about anything.

Angels?
Beings of light?
Energetic properties of crystals?
Suuuuure.

As long as you show me some proof.

I like a little science with my spirituality.
Theorize anything, but show me how it actually works.

I have a tough time extending faith in most situations.

And when there is no ‘proof’- I tend to doubt.

[Of course, the ironic thing we know from research is that the person doing the research influences the outcomes of the research, simply by thinking about it. So, what constitutes ‘proof’ is not always replicable or verifiable.]

 

On top of those two somewhat opposing ideas- believing in the possibility of everything, but also wanting proof- I also believe that everything happens for a reason.

Which is a very faith-full idea.

To believe that everything is happening for some reason is pretty brave and also completely ridiculous.
What could the goal of all this life possibly be?
I don’t even know, dudes.

But I do know that everything that has happened to me had lead me to…my life.

What I chose yesterday has lead me to today.
And today’s pretty okay.

In a bigger sense, every time I stopped for a yellow light,
or hit my snooze button,
or took all day to finish my homework
got me to the day in 1993 when I saw my husband for the first time.

All those insignificant things I did, or felt frustrated by, or which ‘kept me’ from doing something or going somewhere on my personal scheduled timeline- well, they turned out fine. They lead to this cool thing of seeing my husband.

Did I have any idea that’s what they would lead to?
Fuck no.
Not one clue.

But it turned out all right anyway.
And I can point to those things now and think, “Thank goodness all that (stuff) happened. It brought me to this moment.”

 

stoplight in blurry focus

 

The same has been true of some pricelessly shit moments in my life.

Ten days in the hospital with intractable pneumonia.
Got me real clear on what I wanted to do with my life.

The early loss of a first pregnancy.
I was overjoyed when our first child was born- he was truly precious.

Having diabetes.
I take excellent care of myself because I want to live as long as I can.

And Life has lead me to all these places.
Whether I wanted to go or not.
Whether I even knew I was going or not.

It has all turned out okay.

And so, asks you, what if it doesn’t turn out okay?
I’m not entirely sure how to answer that.

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote an excellent book titled, When Bad Things Happen To Good People. In it he says that random stuff happens. Random shitty stuff. And, moreover, that the random stuff has nothing to do with God. Life happens – good, bad, ugly – but we are capable of dealing with it (and God can help us do so).

In her equally excellent book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron – a Buddhist nun and abbot of Gampo Abbey – tells us that life is basically groundless. That all of life is basically random- there is no rhyme or reason. But if we can accept that life is random, we can then emotionally drop into a place of compassion for ourselves and others. We are all traveling this strange path called life and we can offer solace to one another, whether experiences are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

 

a forest in the daylight with a dirt crossroads

 

Using these perspectives of “life as random” can help us sift through the experiences of life and see what is worth letting go. In other words, do I keep the difficulty that makes no sense and causes me trauma? Or do I let it go and focus on healing and enjoying life?

The idea that life is random directly opposes my belief that there is a reason for everything. As I write this, though, I think they are complimentary tools. One can support the weaknesses of the other. Yin and yang.

When something random happens, I can choose to let go of looking for some meaning (asking the age old question, “why? why? why?”) and move on. When there is no meaning to be found, I can accept an experience as being random and keep going with my life.

Either way, Life becomes trustworthy again.

 

I do believe that we can trust our life. It is an act of faith to do so. (Sometimes a giant leap of faith!)
But if we cannot extend faith to ourselves then we will live in turmoil.

We all wish we knew the future. It would be so much easier to trust our life if we knew.
But it is possible to trust that what is happening now will serve something we can’t even imagine (in the future).

Believing things happen for a reason is a positive act. And we can have faith even if we don’t know what the faith is for. That is the nature of faith, after all.

 

 

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Shortest Wedding Ever

As an interfaith* minister, I get to perform some interesting ceremonies. They are traditional in function: wedding, baby blessing, house blessing, memorial. But they are never traditional in form – which I love.

I have performed more than 30 weddings at this point, but yesterday I officiated at what was, by far, the shortest wedding I have yet done.

From the time I put my car in park, to the time I started it and pulled out of the lot, it was 10 minutes.

That included everything:

  1. filling out the license
  2. walking to the spot
  3. performing the ceremony
  4. walking back.

There was no fluff.

The ceremony was really heartfelt and lovely, it was just short.

In this ceremony, I finally got to say some important things to the couple (they were a bride-and-groom set, although I have done same-sex weddings, too). Wisdom from my own marriage- and watching others fall apart. It felt good to be able to offer them something of value beyond performing the ceremony.

I am including the ceremony below. Because I think it says a lot about marriage and what we want and need to hear on our wedding day.

Of note: This couple needed and wanted to get married with a very short ceremony and on short notice, but they also wanted a more detailed ceremony in a Faraway Land in a few months. There are references to both in this ceremony (don’t want you to be confused!).

 

Shortest Wedding Ever – Text

There are lots of reasons to get married. And today we gather for one of the most common reasons: practicality. Now, that doesn’t sound very exciting, and maybe it isn’t. But the fact is, practicality is a big part of real love.

And it is real love that has brought us here today. If it weren’t for the fact that you – Man and Woman – were able to live together, share space, care for one another’s pets, communicate and support one another, we wouldn’t be here. You’re standing on a solid foundation of love and support and that is something to celebrate.

So, let’s just celebrate the fact that you’re solidifying this foundation today. In the near future you can have an amazing wedding that truly represents you and your love. Today, we celebrate real love, next steps, and taking care of each other.

Now I am going to ask you to turn towards one another, and hold hands. You are going to share vows with each other to solemnize this wedding.

 

Man, repeat after me:

Woman, I marry you today
So that you may have love and safety
Both within my arms and in the world

I promise to remain true to who I am,
To help you remain true to who you are, and
be honest in my love for you.

I will love you and care for you
with my words and my actions.

 

Woman, repeat after me:

Man, I marry you today
So that you may have love and safety
Both within my arms and in the world.

I promise to remain true to who I am,
To help you remain true to who you are, and
be honest in my love for you.

I will love you and care for you
with my words and my actions.

 

[BREATHE.] <—sometimes I have to give myself directions so I don’t talk too fast. :o)

 

I want to take a moment and talk about something that is important- whether you get married today or some day in the next few months.

A lot of people don’t get married because they are afraid marriage will change them. But the fact is, you are the ones who determine what your marriage will be.

Society has an idea of what marriage should be. But, you might have noticed, that doesn’t work for a lot of people. Getting married today doesn’t mean you suddenly have to become a wifey, nor does it mean you have to become husband-ish. What you have done so far has worked- keep doing it.

If you stay true to who you are, as individuals, and true to your relationship, you will have a successful marriage. What you have done in the past two weeks- encountered something new, figuring out what you needed, communicating about it, and supporting each other in getting those needs met- that’s marriage. You already know how to do it. And you already know how to do it your way. Keep doing it your way.

Marriage doesn’t need to change you. But it can deepen you- if you keep being who you are and keep supporting each other.

Okay, off my soapbox.

Woman and Man, you have made vows to one another. You are now married in the eyes of the law, in your own hearts, and by your daily actions with each other.

And so, it is my right as a minister, and also my great privilege to pronounce that you are husband and wife.

You may kiss!

– – – – – – – – – – – –

That was it. They kissed and they went home. And it was just perfect for them and what they needed. Ritual can be a powerful force for good- and that is the joy of being a minister.

 

*Interfaith spirituality looks at all the places where different religions and systems of belief share things. It might be perspectives, it might be rituals, or texts or holy days. It sees religion and spirituality as more of a puzzle, to which we all share a piece- and if we can be compassionate and kind enough to listen, we might all have a better idea about what ‘God’ really is.

I graduated from The New Seminary- where they focus on helping students learn about many faiths (at a moderate level) rather than one faith very deeply. I took the course as more of a personal development thing, but ended up very interested in the deep value of ritual. So I got ordained as part of the process. Interfaith is probably the only path that has really nourished me spiritually.

 

 

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On Resistance: I don’t want to be That Chick.

For a very brief period, I worked at a financial services firm. It was, at all levels, a transitional job.

I learned a lot of things there, but mostly about the excess of banks, and the spiritual deficits of greed. A few months in, I transferred all my accounts to a credit union- monetary absolution and morality necessitated the change.

One time, I asked one of the dudes in the Big Deal Department where all the jokes about the financial industry were- did he know of any?

Really I was asking for someone to recognize the absurdity of the industry with me. The industry was (and is) frightening and laughable, and I wanted evidence to validate myself. Someone must have been making fun of the ridiculous parts, somewhere, right?!? [Note to Self: you don’t need validation for any of your awesome thinkings or intuitions.]

Anyway, he didn’t know of any jokes, so I went looking and found a few cartoons and other jokes that gave me hope (someone else knew this was bat-shit ridiculous!). I forwarded some of them to him and asked something- I don’t remember what- but it had to do with his ability to make fun of the industry. His reply to me was fast and intense: “I don’t want to be That Guy.”

When I read the answer, I felt the force behind it, like when you’re clothes-lined playing Red Rover, Red Rover. I was flat on my back with the determination of his answer. I had unexpectedly unleashed the lion of his convictions.

I emailed back something benign, but the force of that answer has always stayed with me; he was SURE.

When I have thought about that interaction in the past, I always thought the dude didn’t want to be That Guy as a way of keeping his Work Mask on. You know, the persona we bring to the office- which may be partly us, or mostly us, but is still a mask for the most part. Well, who he was at work was Not a Laughing Matter (literally and figuratively).

I also thought he was seriously repressed (jesus, the amount of repression in that place was palpable). He was the sort of guy who always wore khakis and a button-down, even on casual Fridays. I could never imagine him in a t-shirt and jeans- I always imagined him mowing the lawn in khakis and a button-down.

[My projection of his repression made for some awesome characters and interactions in my erotica. But, that says more about me than it does about him, I think. Ha! Anyway…]

The point is: he was sure. Very, very sure that he did not want to be That Guy.

[Interesting note: while I was on vacation in England, I was going up one of those tremendously large escalators in the Underground and on one of the steps above me, was a sticker that said, “THAT GUY.” It was one of those moments that  makes you think: “If I had gotten here 30 seconds earlier, it would have been below me and I’d never have seen it. If I had gotten here 30 seconds later, it would have been so far away that I couldn’t read it.” It makes you wonder if God leaves sticky notes, like “Pay Attention!” or “Isn’t this interesting?!?” or “Hey, look!” but forgets to point you towards the actual topic that relates to those instructions. Sticky notes from God, I think that’s another post, right there.]

– – – – – – – – – – – –

A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor invited me out for some wine with her friends. I said no – it was after a school function and I felt as tired as the kids did. Time for bed, not wine.

They drink a lot of wine, those ladies.
And, in all honesty, they use it as a crutch to open up about their lives.

I am judging here.

Because I see a difference between people (perhaps especially the Drinking Mommies) who actually enjoy a glass of wine (or three) while they are talking, and people who can’t talk without the glass of wine first. Who can’t unwind without the wine.

Those people worry me.

They worry me because they can’t stand their own vulnerability, so they open the door with alcohol.
They worry me because they don’t know other tools for opening themselves and sharing honestly.
They worry me because they are not owning the true experience of their feelings and words- it can all be explained and forgiven by the wine.

I understand why they do this.
Being vulnerable is damn hard.
And yet, I feel sad for them.

Any recovering addict knows: covering what’s real with alcohol  (or anything) just makes it worse. Feeling all that we have within us is so much more alive and honest- and not as painful as hiding behind the bottle/credit card/sex/drugs/whatevs.

As I was considering all this, I realized: I don’t want to be That Chick.
I don’t want to hide behind anything.
I wanted to be alive and honest and vulnerable and ALIVE – without a crutch. (Or, only a few crutches.)
With the same force and vehemence as that dude: I was sure.

 

Never have I death with anything more difficult than my own soul.

 

The funny thing is, I am very scared about parts of my life.

Despite all my openness and willing to experiment, I am scared.
I am afraid to open up. To be vulnerable. To feel it all.

I think I have a lot to give this world (I believe we all do), but stepping into that ‘bigness’ scares the shit out of me.

I also want to feel really alive- do to things that make me light up from inside.
A lot of them.

But I shy away from them because: security, fear, mommy-ness, it’s new, I don’t know how, change might fuck things up. Et cetera.

I resist.
I resist my own desire for life.

 

Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes. Quote from Jung.

 

There are two things I know, now that I’ve grappled with life a bit.

The first is this: resistance is a shadow with two bright spots.

The first light/truth is that where you resist you probably need to go. Whatever I am resisting is probably a place of deep healing, understanding, energy, and power. I am subconsciously frightened to go there precisely because it is so amazing (and, dang, we fear our amazingness!).

But if I do not go there, the resistance will subvert and confuse and fester. Not going into the places I resist will actually kill me, as opposed to thinking it will kill me if I do go there.

My life will grow and open if I go towards what I’m resisting.

Stephen Pressfield says that the more we resist the thing, the more we need to go there. I know this to be true.

 

The second light/truth of resistance is that my resistance is my own potential pushing back at me.

Yeah.

It is a corollary to the first truth- however much the thing I’m resisting scares me, or just how much I am resisting, is an indicator of my own potential.

The more I resist, the more energy there is to move forward with.
Less resistance, less energy, less potential.
More resistance, more energy, more potential.

That’s some scary shit.

The second thing I know, having grown older and done some stuff, is this: my desire to live is stronger than the screaming of my fears.

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) wrote on her Facebook page this week (it’s the entry for September 19th, 2014) about how boring our fears are. They are not precious. They are just the same as everyone else’s fears. A dime a dozen. (I can’t link to it- go find it, it is grounded truth.)

Fears are boring. And loud.
But that doesn’t mean they’re useful.
They’re just loud.

If I turn the sound down on them, my desire to be alive – with as few crutches as possible – is much louder.
And more appealing.
(Sexy, I might say!)

I want to be alive.
I don’t want to resist anymore.
I don’t want to be That Chick.

 

When I understood and accepted my own darkness, I was consumed by my own light.

 

All of this is to say: I hired a sensuality coach.

I hired one because I want to be more myself and I want to make more love with life.

I want to feel the way Sophia Lauren looks.
Full of herself.
Sultry.
Sexy at every age.

I want the kind of mature sexuality and sensuality that only a few women possess.

I know how to ask for an orgasm, and to get one, and to direct one.
What I want is the inner flame and knowing smile that comes from the inner orgasm.
The deep, sexy connection to myself.

That.

I have learned and read a lot, but it’s time for help from an expert.
My coach is further down the road, and I’m ready to be a student.

To lay down my resistance.
To surrender.
To begin a new way of being myself.

sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free

 

 

Edited to Add: It’s funny, you know. You get your nose rubbed in things sometimes. Like, being judgmental. I just found out that one of the mommies I mentioned in this post does actually have a way to be vulnerable and authentic without the wine. It’s a secret Facebook account. Wish I’d thought of that! Props to her!

 

 

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Psalm 2

Blessed is she
who touches mystery,

who is not caught and held
only by what she knows.

How can she know the ways of the sun
if she does not know the ways of the moon?

Sunflowers need not count their seeds,
nor bees reveal the secrets of their hives.

She goes in peace
who listens well.

The planet turns
on one long, perfect tone,

and Woman’s song
echoes the planet’s turning.

She is secure in Love
which is the other Name.

Blessed is she
who learns the mysteries.

 

Psalm 2 by Caryl A. Porter
from Women’s Uncommon Prayers: Our Lives Revealed, Nurtured, Celebrated

 

 

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