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A Monday meander: Vulnerability

In the woods, in the world.

Look at everyone around you and see what we have done about ourselves and what is considered our daily victory. We have not loved above all things. We have not accepted what is not understood because we do not want to be fools. We have accumulated things and assurances for not having each other. We have no joy that has not been cataloged. We have built cathedrals and we have stayed on the outside, because the cathedrals that we ourselves build fear that they are traps. We have not given ourselves, because that would be the beginning of a long life and we fear it. We have avoided falling on our knees in front of the first of us who out of love says: you are afraid. We have organized associations and smiling clubs where it is served with or without soda. We have tried to save ourselves, but without using the word salvation so as not to be ashamed of being innocent. We have not used the word love to avoid having to recognize its context of hatred, love, jealousy and so many other opposites. We have kept our death a secret to make our life possible. Many of us make art because we do not know what the other thing is like. We have disguised our indifference with false love, knowing that our indifference is anguish in disguise. We have disguised the great fear with the little fear and that’s why we never talk about what really matters. Talking about what really matters is considered an indiscretion. We have not adored for having the sensible stinginess of remembering the false gods in time. We have not been pure and naive not to laugh at ourselves and so that at the end of the day we can say “at least I was not stupid” and so we were not perplexed before turning off the light. We have smiled in public about what we would not smile when we were left alone. We have called weakness to our candor. We have feared each other, above all. And all this we consider our victory every day.

~ Clarice Lispector, An Apprenticeship, Or, The Book of Delights

“We are because we are seen; we are because we are loved.  The world is because it is beheld and loved into being.  On a silent retreat, while watching a line of ants traveling up a hillside, words came to me that I would repeat again and again in my mind:  I am in the world to love the world.

~ Anita Barrows, in her preface to Rilke’s Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Above, but of this earth.

Have you been reading Kathy’s posts?  She’s been writing/blogging as a “seventy-five day journey to connect more deeply with God, Spirit, Holy, Love…to explore “What the Heart Knows” during the waning days of 2020.”  Her posts are beautiful and display heart-opening vulnerability.  What I mean by that, in part, is: my heart opens as I read and contemplate what Kathy has so vulnerably expressed and written from the openness of her heart.  Judging from the comments and conversations that go with each post, that seems to be true for a lot of us who visit Kathy and read her posts.

When the light plays in the leaves.

I struggle with being that open, that vulnerable.  My walls have walls, my shields have shields.  I often wonder what it must be like to be so open, so heartful, so vulnerable.  Because words are so interesting to me, I took a look at the word “vulnerable” via the handy dandy dictionary and thesaurus.  It is fascinating to note that the word comes from “wound” or “to wound,” and that we generally use it to mean frail, exposed, dependent, assailable, and at risk.  Is there a better word, something other than “vulnerable,” for what I mean?  I’m not sure.  “Open” can mean accepting, accessible, and a lot of “un-” words (unbarred, unblocked, uncluttered, unlocked, unfolded, uncovered).  Perhaps the word I want is “open” or “openhearted.”

Standing in the light of autumn and finding shadows.  (I just now noticed how the vines or whatever that is near the middle looks like a shadowy arched doorway.)

Some argue that the historical and current bloodshed of Western imperialism has transformed the English language into a universal tool of communication. Through centuries of colonialism, neocolonialism, Cold War expansionism, and, most recently, globalization, the West has spread its preferred systems of capitalism, democracy, and moral values. The British, until the beginning of the 20th century, and more recently the Americans, have emerged as the major sources of foreign influence throughout the globe. As a result of this, contemporary English is detached from any specific cultural identity; it is a tool which links different societies in an increasingly smaller world.

~ Anna Corradi, The Linguistic Colonialism of English, Brown Political Review, April 2017

As I learn more Sanskrit in my yoga studies, I have come to appreciate the way the words hold so much meaning.  The English language, it seems to me, is all business with not a lot of heart.  I think, in some regards, that’s the intention (or has become the intention).  With the Sanskrit words, you can break them apart and find so many meanings in just the parts.  (Yes, it’s true that you can sometimes do that with English as well, but more often than not, there really isn’t that much there to take apart.  Not much heart or soul.  You often need multiple English words to express the translation of words from other languages.)

Finding gold.

Take the word hridaya, for instance.  It’s often translated as the “spiritual heart.”  Hri means “to give,” da “to take,” and ya (from yam) means “balance.”  So it is “that which gives and takes in perfect balance.”  (Source:  Yogapedia.)  Hridaya is that place within where we connect to the Holy, the Sacred, with Love or God or Presence or The Great Whatever That We Don’t Like To Talk About.  It is a heart connection to consciousness.  Or Heart (Soul, Spirit) connection to Consciousness (Presence, etc.).  But!  There are other meanings and descriptions of the word ranging from the physical heart to true or divine knowledge to the interior or essence of anything.  It is the inverted lotus (the structure of the physical heart is said to resemble an inverted lotus), the source of life (none can live without a working heart), that gives and receives in equal measure when working properly.

Cascade of red.

This morning I was playing with the The Wild Unknown Archetype cards that I mentioned in a previous post.  Today’s card is The Womb.  In the description, Kim Krans (the artist and author) writes that this card “asks us to contemplate the beginning beyond the beginning, The Mother beyond The Mother.”  Our origin stories.

Another contemplation suggested is to “consider that Mother Earth must also have a Mother.  Imagine her.”  It is a card of healing, of returning to love, and of honoring the divine feminine, and one piece of advice is:  “Imagining yourself as loved is a good place to start.”  The Womb is also about darkness.  Darkness isn’t just an absence of light or the opposite of light.  Darkness is a place from which creativity is born, from which we are born, and from which all things began.  Perhaps it should be considered a cauldron of sorts.  Magic comes out of the darkness.

Lots of yellow and gold this year.

In a separate but maybe related subject, I started reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass.  I’ve had it on my bookshelf forever and somehow it got shoved to the back and I forgot about it.  Otherwise, I would have read it a few years ago.  I’m not very far in but what struck me immediately was her comparison of origin stories.  She starts the book with the story of Skywoman Falling, a beautiful origin story about Turtle Island (the land on which the U.S. was founded).  She compares that to the story of Eve (wife of Adam) and writes:

On one side of the world were people whose relationship with the living world was shaped by Skywoman, who created a garden for the well-being of all.  On the other side was another woman with a garden and a tree.  But for tasting its fruit, she was banished from the garden and the gates clanged shut behind her.  That mother of men was made to wander in the wilderness and earn her bread by the sweat of her brow, not by filling her mouth with the sweet juicy fruits that bend the branches low.  In order to eat, she was instructed to subdue the wilderness  into which she was cast.

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories and origin stories, and how they have shaped us.  It makes me wonder if we can be reshaped with new stories, or borrow from old stories (in a way that honors them and is not appropriative) to create something new.  There are movements in that direction.  It will be fascinating to see how they develop.  More than anything, I want those new stories to open up a better world for future generations, if that’s at all possible.

Note:  You can find variations of the story of Skywoman Falling by doing a quick search online.  Here’s one.  It’s a link to a short version so it won’t take you long to read it.  Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote an op-ed piece about her book and about the story for Emergence Magazine.  You can find that here.  It’s not too long and certainly worth taking the time to read.

The softness of autumn’s light.

How was your weekend?  We had a relatively quiet Saturday.  Sunday was blustery with thunderstorm and coastal flood warnings.  The rain went north of us so the warnings for storms didn’t apply, but the wind howled.  It was the wind pushing water into the bay that brought about the coastal flooding.  I got out on my bicycle both days.  Yesterday was quite a workout when I was moving against the wind.  Coming home was a “wheeeeeeeeeee!” experience with the wind pushing me faster than I usually ride.

Trying to touch the clouds.

The coronavirus stats for our county are not looking good.  The infection rate is up to 10%, almost double the state rate of 5.87%.  Our (county) numbers as of Friday were 529 total cases, with 470 recovered, 3 hospitalized, and 8 dead.  The country as a whole isn’t doing too well.  The U.S. has managed to acquire one million new cases in one week.  There appears to be some hope on the horizon with vaccines.  I’ve found small bits and pieces of hope in some of the studies that have been done, too, in regards to treatments and immunity (but there is still a lot they need to learn and that takes time).

Browns and greens.

I reckon that’s about it from me on this beautiful sunny Monday.  It’s quite breezy and there is a little chill in the air.  Perfect autumnal weather.  Let’s meet out at the Point for sunset.  It’s scheduled for 4:50 PM.  Dress in warm clothing.  Layers might be good.  The low tonight is expected to be around 38°F.  Once the sun goes down, it gets cold pretty quickly, especially by the water.

Please be safe, be well, and be kind.

In the heart of the woods.

A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy:  1,606)  Talking with my father for about 45 minutes this morning without aggravating each other with our political views.  1,607)  My father admitting that “his guy” lost.  That’s huge considering how far down the rabbit hole he had fallen.  1,608)  Learning patience.  I’m learning, not an expert at it.  But I’m learning.  1,609)  Porch naps.  It’s very cosy on the porch when the sun is shining out there.  1,610)  Comfort food, especially mashed potatoes.  There is something soothing about potatoes, no matter how they’re cooked, but I particularly like them mashed.

One more look up.

Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

18 thoughts on “A Monday meander: Vulnerability

  1. Beautiful photos, Robin, and an interesting post, as always. We got the blustery weather on Sunday, too–it was sounding scary at night with the wind and rain! I’m glad you had a good talk with your father–I imagine it’s been tense. I agree about potatoes. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Merril. 🙂 Four years worth of tense with my father, although there have been times when we’ve managed to have a calm discussion. Usually that involves techniques I’m learning about how to deal with people who are in cults.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely autumn photos, Robin, a pleasure to see once again. We, too, had stormy weather last night with a tree falling across one of our trails. Seems this fall has had lots of windstorms and subsequent damage. And the Atlantic seems to continue to stir up new ones.
    I read Braiding Sweetgrass a couple of months ago and enjoyed it. It prompted me to read the Journals of Lewis and Clark to get a look at what the US looked like before the European settlers invaded it. The discovery that their motivation was dominance and greed is dismaying. They were surveyors sent by a govt. bent on getting all they could before the French, British or Spanish got to it first. Little has changed, greed still rules. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Eliza. 🙂 The more of our history I learn (or re-learn since what I learned in school was more propaganda than history), the more I see how little has changed. 😦

      Like

  3. So much to unpack in this post! And yet I feel we need to sit down with coffee or walk in the woods to do it all justice. Thank you for sharing so many thoughts for me to chew on. And I’ve just followed Kathy’s blog–I appreciate the recommendation!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I almost fell off the chair as I started reading this post! Thank you so much, Robin. Thanks for acknowledging about the vulnerability. Sometimes it’s so very hard to share at that level. It feels like the heart is stretched wide open and anybody could shoot arrows in it. But usually it’s some part of me that shoots arrows in it. Yesterday after writing the “like button” post–which was really fun and entertaining to write–suddenly in the evening a part of the inner self came forward very upset at being so vulnerable. I had to sit and hold that part for a long time, to reassure it, to say it’s OK. If it had appeared when I was writing the post, I said, perhaps it wouldn’t have been written. Finally, this inner part calmed down.

    Feeling so happy for you that your heart opens when you read the blog, dear Robin. It seems to me that both of our hearts have been opening in these past 10-11 years since we started blogging. You shine with such depth. And it feels like you share so much. Of course not all the hidden parts who are still protecting, but so many parts nonetheless. Much love to you, Namaste my dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Namaste and love to you, Kathy. And thank you so much. Yes, we’ve both changed and grown a lot in all those years. 🙂 I think I missed the “Like” button post (although I did notice a post or two without the “Like” button so maybe I didn’t…?). I’m going to go look.

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  5. Robin, someone above mentioned there is so much to unpack here. I agree…and it’s all good. The pictures as usual, are lovely. You have written about words and stories in our history and I agree with you there, as well. I’m nearly finished with Elizabeth Lesser’s new book, “Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes”. You would enjoy it, I’m sure. Take very good care of yourself.

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  6. Such beautiful images as always. I think if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable it opens us up to others we may not have connected with. Vulnerability is associated with weakness it seems, but I see it as being a strength if one is willing to allow themselves to be vulnerable. Has your study of Sanskrit and Yoga taken you to cross paths with Douglas Brooks? He is a childhood friend who has become very well known in Yoga. He is is a scholar of Hinduism, south Asian languages, and the comparative study of religions. He lived in India with his teacher, Dr. Gopala Aiyar Sundaramoorthy, for many years studying and practicing Srividya, Auspicious Wisdom, and the modern traditions of goddess-centered Tantra. Currently Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester, he holds both Masters and his doctoral degrees from Harvard University. Dr. Brooks’ schedule and online courses can be found at
    https://rajanaka.com/

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  7. Your photos, Robin, are simply stunning. I especially love the last one where you look way up into the sky to see the treetops. And I wonder how many of us have had “spirited” conversations of late with family and friends over the outcome of this election!!

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  8. Lovely photos. I agree, it is hard to show or admit vulnerability in our culture because it means exposed or weak. I see they in myself and my aging parents. My father will do anything to not look weak.

    I have been exploring my vulnerability. I had promised some family members that I would create some yoga videos for them. After much procrastination by researching and so on, I just bit the bill it and did it. I felt so exposed. I was not revealed as a fraud and I have received helpful, positive feedback.

    Like

Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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