the first child (9/30)

Write a visual poem. I will attempt to write a poem shaped like a pregnant queen.

shh
she is
stunning
sleeping
small
i
feel
humbled
expansive
feel
all
miraculous
that e— lives
lives inside of me
that we bent creation
that we curved our science
became frantic and fertile
to spark her life in me
all non believers far
we had room to
will this
dream her
whisper &
seed spell
touch &
open &
give
life
again

birthing is divine work (doula reflections)

i got to be a doula this past weekend. i do this work rarely, for loved ones. well…sort of rarely, as i think of all of my work as having elements of doula in there – seeing power in others, calling forth intuition, supporting, listening, turning people towards each other.

but then there is the very tangible specific thing of being a doula to a person full of a child that must come out of the body.

i won’t tell the story of this birth, it is the parents’ story, but i’ll share my reflections.

i love the dynamic between people who have loved each other for a long time and are bringing life into the world. there is a preciousness, a knowing of each other. so much is allowed in the process, and so much happens in their looks, nuanced by years.

in every birth i have witnessed, there is the full breadth of human emotion and behavior available – the fear, doubt, pain, rage, love, exhaustion, hope, sacrifice. and with the actual person through whom the life is coming, there is the deeper calm, up under the pain, that breaks through every time. each time i see it i am amazed at the letting go of the past, even the very immediate past, and realizing the only way through is forward.

i love the skin to skin moment, the hungry way a parent touches and looks at a baby who was just inside the body, and is now on top of it, covered in all the substances of life. and the baby, screaming at the incomprehensible space around it, needing to hear through all the noise that familiar drumbeat of heart that has been the whole dark world for over nine months.

the tenderness i feel for the parents and the babies is good for me. i am a virgo, i can be impatient and judgmental with humans. to see then that there is this foundation of experience we all share, that we came into the world tiny, vulnerable and perfect…it is restorative. and to remember we were all created by people who knew some things and didn’t know others, and there is no right way to create and sustain life. but there are many many right ways to love.

grateful to scott and emily for letting me be a part of their miracle.

birthday reflection: the joy precipice

‘It’s warm, and the sun is out
It’s like my heart’s restored…
And I’m thankful for seeing
Another spring…’
Nina Simone

actually it’s dark, the stars are out, the milky way is massive over me and there are shooting stars. it’s the end of summer and I’m 35.

And thankful.

I get reflective around my birthday, and this year my thoughts are all about how unbelievable my current life is, how I couldn’t have imagined or believed it a decade ago, or two decades ago.

I’m not looking back with longing for any younger time. And I’m not looking into the future to see something good out ahead of me.

I have faith.

I’m standing on a precipice, leaning out and trusting the wind. and everything I can feel and sense is vast, true, impersonal and miraculous.

it occurs to me from my doula work that the most shared experience on the planet is miracle. it’s how we come here.

on a daily basis I am experiencing the fire of the miraculous, fed with my attention. it feels like love, connection, inspiration, choice, health, beauty, and a sense of being alive and awake in the present.

I write, a lot…words that feel familiar to me, words that terrify me, words that come through me looking for release and home. words inspired by the people who surround me, the dreamers and organizers and believers.

I love a lot of people who are emotionally rigorous and unafraid of my love, and babies who teach me how to love while being myself, friends who see my whole messy beauty and come closer, family who watch each other grow with wonder and patience and tenderness on their faces.

my family is healthy, everyone starting new phases of life, grateful to still be here in this journey with each other, to have four generations on the planet together, special and normal and tuning in to the sweet cycles of birth, death, celebration and the blessing of having love through it all, from the mundane daily rhythms to the thrilling transformations.

I have teachers. for this I am so grateful – I am not alone in the world trying to find my way. there is wisdom all around me, and my life gets easier as I realize how little I know, how much I love to learn, and the kind of teachers I need – those who live in vulnerability and honesty and beginner’s mind.

I’m loving myself openly, as a life force…not a genius or a perfection or an observation. I’m loving my own aliveness, my breath, my body, my resilience, my naivete and my lessons.

and now, in this summer of joy, in this miraculous convergence, I can look at the milky way and remember how fleeting it all is, how many things actually don’t matter, how life is on a long arc, but our time here so far is short, a minutia of love and evolution.

in that insignificance, I’m on a precipice of joy, cognizant of the suffering that created this moment. I’m aware of the cycles that teach me resilience, the guarantee of pain, and the gift of feeling anything, and feeling so much.

I’m feeling so much.

And it’s all imbued with gratitude.

Thank you.

Home is Here (repost of Autumn Brown)

(i wanted to share this gorgeous post with you all. as most of you know i spend a week of each month with my sister and her growing family in rural minnesota. here, autumn brown offers a glimpse into the living, rooting, healing and learning happening there.)

Hello good people!

And welcome spring! Maybe you noticed: it’s been awhile since I’ve sent a newsletter. For those of you who follow my writing, I apologize for the long delay. The last seven months I have been in a sort of hibernation, learning the ropes and loving the challenge of my still-quite-new job leading a young non-profit; stoking the fire in the wood burning furnace that heated my new home in the woods all winter long; and growing a new child (Mairead Irene was born on January 19th, at home in a tub, assisted by my sister, my midwife, my husband, and my mother). I was inwardly focused on growth and expansion, and I gave myself the space to fall inward, without commentary.

And as the winter wore on, I felt that my emotional well being was quite literally tested by the weather. Several snows came during the month of April; and yes, that is strange even for Minnesota. I began to have an actual, quite irrational fear that spring would never come.

And then it arrived. Yesterday I walked barefoot between long dead leaves, new grass, and sponges of melting snow, learning the outdoor landscape of my new home, a place I have never been in the spring. We are discovering that our house is surrounded by a carpet of tulips and crocuses that are just beginning to peek through the dirt. We planted our first trees: White spruce, scotch pine, and chokeberry. Mairead had her first taste of full sun, and loved it. Siobhan and Finn ran around naked, covering themselves in mud, and working hard with their father and grandfather to hang a bat box in the tree near our pond to attract mosquito eaters. We are preparing our garden, eager to get our seedlings into the ground: they grow taller every day and begin to smell like tomatoes and peppers.

Today I have that absolute sense of rebirth that I can only credit to having spent a winter so close to the land, and at the mercy of the physical climate. Surrounded by the silence of snow and dormant life, now the sounds of life return to our woods, and I truly feel them to be ours.

So I write to you now from a place of joyful understanding. I can feel myself in the balance, and always this is my experience after giving birth (I can really say “always” now, since it has been true three times). After giving birth, I become keenly aware of my own death and the future deaths of everyone I love, but I am less and less cowed by it. Death is just what is, in the same way that life is just what is. Life is painful and immeasurably sad, and then it is pleasure, release, the taste of boundlessness. Life is fear and not knowing, and then it is sudden immediate knowing. Life is hard. And then it’s not.

What I am feeling now can only be expressed as gratitude, though there is something deeper too. Something this army brat has only ever felt hints of before, but is coming closer each day to knowing: an actual place called home. Home for me has always been migrating. Home is where my family is, or home is where I’ve lived the longest. But for home to be an actual place, a piece of land with it’s own memory – that is a kind of magic I have never experienced. So here it is. My home, all around me. Home is here.

Reflections on miracle work

The most important things in life are breathing, sleeping, eating, and letting go of what you don’t need.

It really works to use the right words for the situation. ‘Yes’ ‘down’ and ‘open’, for instance, are great words, chants, guides for a birth.

Love at first sight is possible, in context. When I first saw her, I saw my whole lineage in her strong body swimming through the tub towards her mama. I started crying because love opened me.

There are ways to be strong even when you can do nothing on your own, even when you need many hands to hold you. This child has dignity, as do her strong and vulnerable parents.

The most radical gift one human can offer another is encouragement to listen to themselves, their bodies, their own knowing.

The beauty of children encouraged to feel – it’s a perfect tender beauty. Watching my nephew and niece fiercely miss their mama as she attends to their new sister, and be able to say so, is emotionally thrilling.

Some feelings are so big they require me to go outside. I keep going to bring in more wood so I can smile in the snow and let my body move around all this massive love in my heart.

Anxiety is not useful in miracle work.

It takes about two hours to heat enough water on a stove to fill a birth tub and have it around 96°.

An apron with pockets is a great uniform for a birth.

Delegation, done well, is an act of kindness. People of all ages and abilities long to be useful.

Patience is a gorgeous feeling. To actually feel unrushed at a cellular level, not urgent in your soul, is healing.

There are so many things we don’t understand. Lately I’ve been worrying about mortality, beginning to feel rushed and anxious about my life and my philosophies. But the patience generated as the baby was coming was a balm. She didn’t know where she was coming to, but still it was time to move beyond the known world. It was an active patience, she was not pushed only, she was working too, finding the way.

I have to think on this more, this active patience, doing my work in abundant time, with a respect for ripeness.

For the moment I am inspired by remembering my central work is like hers, to breathe/meditate, to sleep/rest, to eat/nourish, and to let go/have faith.

Welcome to my new teacher, Mairead Irene Brown Conway.