Tuesday, August 26, 2008

caterpillars and honey at oceans tide




One night a few years ago, I had a dream ...…..

The atmosphere was ridden in grey. Shapes were dull and indistinct. The sensations I was surrounded by were ashy and powdery at best. As I journeyed indiscriminately in this non-space, a creature began to solidify out of the mist. In fact, not only did it solidify, but it was also emanating an incredibly bright and happy light. It began to bounce as it drew closer and as it did, I discovered that it resembled a caterpillar, but not any kind of caterpillar I've ever encountered in waking life. It was somewhat cartoonish in appearance, and it looked like a fat, bobbing string of neon colored balls arranged in rainbow order.... sweet happy pink, followed by a lively pulsing orange, followed by a shimmery incandescent yellow, a crisp, verdant green; and an electrically brilliant blue ball followed by a tiny little tail. Each ball pulsed with a light coming from the center of them making the greyness surrounding the creature that much more unreal. Topping off the bright light, which was this creature, was an immensely comical happy face... in fact, it reminded me of those buttons people wore in the 70's. On top of its head bounced these sprightly antennae.

It turned its head to look at me and smiled this incredibly broad grin, then turned toward some object in the distance and began making its way towards it. It wasn't walking so much as it was floating in space... or so it seemed. I had the impression I was supposed to follow this funny and amusing creature, so I walked behind it. As we continued along.... light began to push back the grayness surrounding me and I found myself walking on sand, on a beach. To my left, water was crashing not far from my feet and as I looked out over the water, the sky surrounding me lightened and brightened. Flicks of light shimmered off the crests of waves and it felt as though everything surrounding me was laughing and beckoning me forward. There was nothing angry or crazy about the ocean, but instead a gentle undulating rhythm that seemed to push itself into and underneath my skin and muscles.

As the energy increased, my eyes turned toward a luminescent golden object lying partially in and out of the water. I noticed that the colors of the water deepened and intensified closer to the object. It was at a bit of a distance, but as I drew up upon it, I discovered it was rather large and resembled bars of gold stacked one upon the other in the shape of a pyramid. Each bar appeared to be perhaps 20-30 feet in length with a circumference of about 6-7". Altogether, the stack rose about 10'-12' in the air. From the side, it appeared the greater part of its length lay submerged in the water, but the last few feet of length arose out of the water and onto the shoreline. Like the caterpillar it was putting off its' light from the inside, rather than the outside. As I drew closer I discovered they weren't so much bars of gold, as molded honey that glinted with diamond filaments blended into its mass while exerting a softness that belied its crystalline appearance. How to describe its color? It was as though the softest, palest and lightest of yellows were blended in perfect harmony together with peach, tenne, nectarine, and various other vibrant oranges. At each bars center a circular hollow core had been bored and pouring out of these cores onto the beach were hundreds, if not thousands of tiny baby caterpillars that seemed to be singing some tune I've never heard of before. It whispered around my ears and sounded like a thrumming echo coming from a distance, while at the same time enveloping the air around the object and myself.

As the sound increased, more caterpillars poured out of the honey and many of them began seeking me out, then crawling up my legs. As they did so, the large neon-colored caterpillar spun itself a chrysallis, then morphed above my head into a very large and even more brightly colored butterfly. A rhythmic pulse of light and vibration buffeted outwards from the bars of honey and as it increased, the butterfly took flight and shot towards the heavens like a falling star in reverse. Somehow, I found myself attached, then absorbed into the creature as we climbed in altitude and into space. Morphing into a starlike material, our speed picked up as we flew past galaxies into the farthest reaches of the universe. As we began to reach what seemingly could be its' end and the density of pressure intensified, everything began to shimmer and burst in upon itself…. a supernova.

I awoke laughing

Harbor


Sometimes
When the light
Fades into night
I wonder what will come
Tomorrow

Will I go
Towards heaven
Till quarter past seven
My promise left dry
In the meadow

Then I turn to you
And breathe a deep sigh
Did you know
My patience is idle?

You hold me
You love me
Guiding me closer to you
You move me
You take me
To the harbor of His love…..

Shark Bait


(this is an earlier blog from Apr.13- a special day for my mom, but as I'm a water baby, thought I'd repost it. All my posts have double meanings (if not more). Can you figure out what this one is?)

It's cooler today. After the tornado watch of yesterday, the heat broke and an icy breeze is cutting through the streets and freezing our toes. Nevertheless, spring reasserts itself and turqoise colored flip flops come out to challenge the cold air.

My own toes bore a bit of that brunt as I ventured out with cheery thoughts to meet my friend Midori regarding some project ideas we're working on. Notebooks out and pens at the ready, we were settling into a booth at Qdoba when we ran into a bunch of other friends. Standing around and trading comical stories, I flashed upon a memory that seemed disconnected to what we were talking about. After leaving, it occurred to me it might not be.

When I was younger I used to spend my summers in Hawaii..... Now, don't get the wrong idea. It's not that we were super wealthy or anything (though, we certainly had enough). Simply, my mother is from there. She was born and raised by a sugar cane farmer on the tiny ....island.. of ..Kauai..... Much of my maternal family is either directly from the Phillipines, or situated throughout the islands. She moved to the mainland when she came of age and for the most part didn't return there unless she was visiting (or for the brief period of time when she and I moved there when I was a child).

Like any other child during summer vacation, I was carted off to visit the relatives. It just so happened that my vacations were spent running through Grandpa's sugar cane fields, watching illegal cock fights(hey, I didn't know that at the time!), leaping over lava rocks and splashing in the water 90% of the time. From the moment my cousins and I awoke, it was sheer play time. Shoes became obsolete. To say that we got a little dark would be an understatement. Pidgeon became my third language. =)

Being island kids, my relatives are natural fishermen. My Uncle R. would deep fish as often as the weather permitted. He'd rise at ..3am.., stock up the truck with gear, guzzle back guava juice, grab a few nephews and head out to the marina to release the boat into the great deep blue. As a child, I wasn't allowed to go. Also, it was an all-boy activity. Nevertheless, I found a way to weasel myself into the pack. This consisted of harassing my aunties and uncles, as well as the staunch belief that I could go anywhere the boys could. Finally worn out by my continual attacks of "Can I go? Can I go? I'm just as strong as Craig/Jamal etc. Please... please.... I'll do ANYTHING!!!".... they finally relented. I was 12 by that time, and assumed to be a bit more responsible and mature. However, the first time I went out I jeopardized my chances of future trips.

The morning began with the shaking of my shoulders in the darkness of 4am and a rough "Time to get up. Let's move it. If you're not ready in 5-10min?....." Thinking ahead the night before, I had gone to bed dressed for the trip. All I had to do was brush my teeth?? Nah... who needs that? (note: ah..to be a kid. My dental hygiene is 1000x's better now!! Perfectly straight and white.)

So launching out of bed with my hair flying, I hightailed it to the truck and wedged myself into the tiny space behind the driver's seat in a position where even if my Uncle had changed his mind, he wouldn't be able to pull me out. With my auntie's assistance the night before, I had packed a bag of munchies for the day. I was set and ready to go.

As we made our way to the marina on the southeast side of the island, my uncle began running through the list of do's and don'ts. Now, there is a strong chance I didn't hear some of it. I was just so excited to be there. As it was, I often operated under the assumption that if I needed to know something I'd figure it out. I always did after all. (brother… what a pain in the neck I was!! or am... was... am??)

It was early morning. The air was warm, lightly scented and velvety fresh. An island dawn was breaking. The clouds danced in various formations and colors began breaking across the sky in vibrant chorus. It was brilliant and clear. All of creation was conspiring to open a day full of promise.

When we got to our destination, I ran onto the boat uncle pointed out and quickly began following instructions. Anything to speed up the adventure. There had been concern that I would get sick going out (a common problem when going out that far), but as providence would have it, I didn't. In fact, the rocking motion of the boat cutting through heavy waves almost put me back to sleep. I had to pop candies into my mouth for a quick sugar rush.

As we raced towards our destination, I hung myself over the edge and watched the colors change and intensify as we progressed into deeper waters. Spray dampened my clothes, and my lungs filled with the scent of ocean. Different shapes and sizes moved and crisscrossed underneath us. One of my cousins began identifying some of them for me. Mahi Mahi. Blue Marlin. Different kinds of tuna. Squid. Sharks.

When we reached the 3-4 mile mark off the coast, my uncle cut the engines and coached me through the process of strapping on the belt that anchors the poles around my waist. Then he showed me how to cast correctly and pull in. Being little, it was important that I concentrate on leverage and cementing my center of balance so I could reel in the larger fish. (This can cause some intense bruising to the solar plexus, I might add)

As luck would have it, I caught one on my first cast. I needed help reeling it in though, because it was rather large for me… about an 18 pound Mahi Mahi. Leaning my weight into my feet, angling my body, and positioning my arms in a certain position prevented the pull from being more strenuous than it needed to be. Combined with my uncle's strength and skill, we landed the fish in the boat. Admiring it's bluish-green sheen in the dappling sun, I was ready to take on the ocean.

Flushed with success, I spent the next few hours happily catching a few more fish. Sometimes, they were small enough for me to reel in and other times, no. (my largest was about 28 pounds.) When they got larger than 14 pounds (and believe me you can feel the difference) or were feisty Skipjack Tuna that refused to be guided into the boat, my uncle would take over and pull them. I lost a gorgeous and spirited marlin to him, which took awhile to reel in as it was flying all over the place. How he didn't lose that one I have NO idea. Chalk it up to fisherman's expertise.

As the morning wore into afternoon and the sun rose higher, we began stripping off our layers and pouring water on ourselves. Sunscreen? What's that? After a few hours, the heat and the hypnotic colors of the water began wreaking havoc with my equilibrium. It felt like this force was exerting itself to compel me to come in….. just come in. My cousin J., seeing my eyes widen with the anticipation of diving into that sweet, cool water… began teasing me and daring me to jump off the 2nd story ledge of the boat into the water. Getting my uncle angry didn't register. All I could see was that I needed to … swim… just swim and disappear into those deepest shades of blue. When I saw my uncle was distracted with flushing the deck, I climbed up by the driver's seat, stepped onto the ledge… prepped myself, flew into the air, then jackknifed into the water.

Slicing through the water in a clean motion, my heart screamed in silent celebration relishing the sensation of perfection. How to describe those first few moments in an alien environment? Initially, there was a moment of discombobulation… an unsurety of which direction was up.
Blinking my eyes underwater and moving past the sting of salt, I began to see movement all around me. Dolphin kicking downward, the water felt slick, heavy and peaceful. Quietness pressed in upon me. Fish brushed past my feet, as my hair floated in the undercurrent. If I could've stayed down there, I would've stayed down there forever.

Looking up through the water towards the boat, I saw my uncle gesticulating wildly for me to get out the water. I tried to stay underwater for as long as possible, but my lungs craving for air propelled me towards the surface after a time. My uncle looked like he was going to have a heart attack. Or maybe he was? Poor man. The moment I drew closer to the boat and reached my arm out of the water, his hand flew out and wrenched me back into the boat with a force that pushed any remaining air out of my lungs. Sprawled on the deck with my shoulder stinging and still clueless about the fear written all over his face, I turned to my cousins for answers. The one who dared me to jump had his eyes fixed on the surface of the boat at his feet as though he had never seen anything more beautiful in his life. Everyone else's jaws were hung open like so many jacks in a box.

As my uncle walked away to catch his breath and recover any sense of control, my older cousin Craig walked up to me and kindly began explaining why what I just did, was ...the .....STUPIDEST thing anybody could've done. CHUM…. Shark bait. I almost became shark bait. It turns out that I picked the worst possible time to go in. For those who don't know, "chum" is leftover fish guts left from cleaning. It's used to attract more fish. Naturally, with the fish .... come .... the sharks. It was still being washed off the boat at the same moment I hit the water. Running to the edge, my uncle and cousins saw 2 separate sharks circling the vicinity. Whoops.

Needless to say, I was banned from the boat until I could prove myself more trustworthy. My uncle was so traumatized from the experience he couldn't look at me for at least a week, let alone talk to me. In a spirit of conciliation, I learned to like all the seafood I had refused to eat prior to that time. Squid… yeah, sure… love squid. Raw fish… yeah, sure I'll try it. Picky eater? Who's the picky eater? Not me!!

My uncle and I gradually worked past that mind-numbing fear. In fact, it only took a few years before he consented to me staying under his roof again. =)

Looking back now, I understand more deeply why he reacted so strongly. Naturally, he was concerned for my welfare. Of course. But I'm sure the thought of telling my dad didn't exactly inspire a lot of internal peace. Lesson learned. On reflection, I'll admit I find it pretty hysterical. My poor uncle.

Word to the wise…. If you're ever on a fishing boat, in the middle of the deep blue sea… and chum is being washed off the deck… DO NOT… under ANY circumstances, get it into your head to cool off with a nice little dip into the sea. No matter HOW inviting.
On that note, the same can be said of certain kinds of people and relationships. Shark bites can be deadly. =)

Protection

In spirit's womb light fills a cavern

unbound by reality's confines

freedom's breath its walls

pillowed strength its halls

its limits unbroken passages

paving a sky without constriction

sinking into the tenderest oblivion

light eclipsing the brightest sun

Sweetness melting the hardest heart.

Liquid Fire


I once walked
A quiet road
With nothing much to hear

And then passed
A quiet storm
Then everything was clear

A light shines
A love pines
Awakening desire
A heart breaks
A soul makes
A quickening of fire

Your love rages through me
My heart's in awe of you
And when the night
Grows cold
You run through me
Like liquid Fire…

(in honor of the feast of Pentecost)

Visitation- Guadalupe and the Star of the Sea


Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a little town called Cuauhtitlan (or "the place of the Eagle") not far from Mexico City, there lived a sweet, gentle and devout man by the ironic name of Juan Diego. (I say, ironic, as the english version is John James. St. John, the apostle is considered the eagle of the gospels, the brother of St James, as well as enjoyed the distinction of being a special son of Mary.).

Born into the middle class of his day, he grew up in relative comfort, inherited land, worked in a decent trade, and married. Unfortunantly, his wife died much too early and in a desire to assuage his grief, he drew closer to a last surviving relative, an uncle. Juan Diego, being a religious man who had turned to the faith many years before, made it a habit of walking the distance of 9 miles to the local church on Saturdays and Sunday. For us, this might be a bit far, but in that time and place, it was not unusual to willingly make such a trek.


Not long after he had lost his beloved wife, he was making this journey on a particularly special feast day. He had drawn closer in devotion to Mary since his wife died, and wanted to give her his attention and care. As he walked, he heard a voice call out to him.

"Juanito, Juan Dieguito."

The story I'm about to recount, has been told many times. I'm nowhere near capable of giving it justice. Nevertheless, I will share what I can about what I have found to be ...one of the sweetest, tenderest, merciful, and haunting calls to love I've ever encountered.

The image that we're given as the result of that call, is a portrait of a lady, in middle Eastern dress, between 6-7 months pregnant, draped with a map depicting the night sky emblazoned on her mantle. The images that cover her dress flowed out in a poem understood by the natives of that time, as describing truth, poetry and philosophy; the very things considered doorways to the divine- "flower and song". In loveliness and beauty, God is recognized.

In reading her dress, the natives would understand the truth of what Juan Diego was soon to convey. They tell the story of the fire of new life offered by a God who beckons and pleads for the hearts of men. They speak of the Morning and Evening Star, the one whom they understood to be the figure of the one who sacrificed himself before entering into Heaven.

Isn't it ironic that in an image that to this day, is a mystery to those who study it, this woman is presented to us in the figure of the Lady of the Visitation, ... pregnant, traveling a long distance to encounter those whom she carries in a deep and intimate place in her heart. In the same way that she approaches her cousin Elizabeth, she approaches us.... unweary, unflagging, bright with the Presence that resides within her, causing our weary souls to brighten, and find new courage.

Will we recognize her Son in the same way that John the Baptist did, leaping at the sound of her voice? Excited knowing who we're in the presence of?

Over her womb, one flower, a Quincunx, the "flower of the Sun", as well as the Constellation, Leo, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Over her womb, the symbols that convey the message of who resides WITHIN her, as she speaks to us. Not off to the side, not in the sky, not behind her, not below her... WITHIN her. Completely vulnerable, completely dependent, completely transparent, HE chooses to approach us WITHIN her. The God of the universe approaches us not even as a child, but as a baby that is totally immersed in His mother.

This tilma, which carries this image, should have deteriorated hundreds of years ago. There is no chemical, there is no preservative, .... only a miraculous Image that reveals and makes transparent our hearts, our intentions, our fears and most importantly our hopes. In a time, when the natives of what we now call Mexico were on the verge of violent and open revolt against the European invaders who engulfed their land, there appears a mediator,.... a simple woman, whose unequivocal "Yes" to God long ago, ushered in the truest revolt against all that wishes to destroy humanity, in order to reassert who is truly Creator and who is Created.

In a place of violence, of that hatred, of that anger... there appears simply a mother. Patient, sweet, gentle, loving, nurturing, tender, entreating... mother.

In the image of the visitation, she doesn't approach out of her own need. In a time when most mother's are holing into their homes and nesting,.... she takes it upon herself to make an arduous journey to minister ... to someone else. To assist someone in THEIR need. To give of her overflowing abundance of grace, care and love which literally pumps through her own veins, from the child that plays in her womb.

She approaches us, in this image… with the same intent, and the same overwhelming understanding of what we need. She approaches us as …. Mother.

"Behold thy Mother."

The last command given by Christ on the Cross…. Behold…. Thy….. Mother.

The Lady of the Visitation, the Lady of Guadalupe…. Is Mother. To us.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have two mother's. One, physically brought me into this world and gave me a deep appreciation of the hunger of life.... , and the other…. I've described above.

I didn't fully realize how much this was true until about 2 years ago, February 2006, my consecration month. In one moment, I pieced together many seemingly disparate events and situations that have occurred since my youth…. Into one cohesive whole.

Many years ago, when I felt called to consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary, (and that's a literal description, because at the time it didn't make ANY sense to me), I was given the task of praying one decade of the rosary to be prayed every day for the rest of the life. I was given the Visitation. I often wondered why that was as it was the mystery I understood the least. It was a mystery full of joy, connection and intimacy. At the time, I knew little about all three. Yet, soon after that, I discovered this mystery kept following me. Priests and nuns I knew were always giving me the Magnificat to pray. And the image of Guadalupe began appearing…. Everywhere.

Time would pass and the frequency of both along with the image of the SeaStar would ebb and flow consistently throughout my life. Even my middle name which I THOUGHT was of my own choosing, prior to any knowledge of religious things, turned out to be little more than Divine intervention…. AGAIN. (let's just say it has to do with Mary and sea stars)

2 years ago, I found myself being surrounded by all three, almost on a moment to moment basis. In exasperation, I finally went into the Adoration Chapel and knelt with the complete intention of asking God what He was trying to say through all three. I went into a pew, looked down, and immediately in front of me was a large book on Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As I read… I had an experience. I don't know how to describe it. But let's just say, that sometimes in life we can all have moments where we realize that all that we thought was of our own doing, really wasn't. My name, my mother, my father, my childhood, my decisions, my choices, my hopes, my dreams….. my interpretation of all of it…. Was little more than a response to an invitation initiated by one who for all intensive purposes, could've easily overlooked me.

Instead, what I found was that every detail, every small coincidence, every thought and feeling I have ever possessed …. Were all allowed so that I could recognize who I really belonged to…. Who I was really formed by. I had often wondered how it was that I could be who I was. Anybody who knows my family, is often bewildered when they look at me. I look like my mother, but who I am…. What I am…. Is an enigma to her, and to my father. The choices I make, the way that I think, is …foreign to them. There was a time, when I felt like an orphan…. Without sanctuary, without roots. I love my family and want so much to share with them many of my experiences and thoughts in life, but it's like…. We're of different places, times, beginnings, … almost everything. I share memories, but little else. It's clear someone or something else took over, but …. It became very clear in the chapel that one day, who, what, how and why that happened.

The world became silent. Time rolled through my mind and heart, and I finally began recognizing His and her hands in ALL my life. I was physically alive ... because of her protection. And I needed to know that. I needed to know who my Mother was. There's a long story behind that one, but suffice it to say, in one blinding moment, I didn't just think she was my Mother… I KNEW she was my mother. I felt her as my Mother. And I never had felt that experience…. Ever…. In my life. I finally understood what it meant, when I would hear my friends talk to me about their mothers. I finally knew what they FELT. Safe. Protected. Covered. Connected. Real. Clear that no matter where they were or what they did, they had a sanctuary to come home to. For how can one be a mother, if they have not been a beloved child first? If they have not been allowed to be that "little one"? Little ones, are unafraid of looking you in the eye. They can love and be loved. They know how to give. They know how to receive. They swim without fear in the ocean of His mercy.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Merciful Mother, the carrier of the Sea of Mercy, which is her womb. In her, all is received, all is given. She is the Star of the Sea of Mercy. She is ... home. If she is home, it doesn't matter where we go, because Guadalupe is the quiet place that resonates with the sound of His heartbeat.

Guadalupe... thank you for being my mama. Please help me be a better daughter. I have so much to learn.

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From the meditation before Mass on this day:

Unlike a simple visit, a visitation is different owing to the purpose intended by the get-together. A visitation aims to accomplish something. Specifically, a visitation is an encounter that carries within it a meaning that is exceptional. In the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that meaning is not a "message" but rather the exceptional presence of the Son she carried within her womb. We can be certain that the mystery of the Visitation is effective in our life if we do now, before Jesus is born, what Christ will command us to do as he dies: "Behold your mother."

Without You

Rain scatters on the pavement

And my mind runs slipshod over memories

When it was hard to find you

I'd slip and hurt myself on the walk

Saying I could do it without you…

Has always been a lie



There was that time, one among many

When I'd dive into the deep-end

For the millionth time

Only to discover the water was shallow

And all I'd end up doing without you…

Is hurt myself once again




Without you, I'm a fool

Without you, I'm slipping in the rain

Without you, I'm falling down the mountain

And I'll sit and cry out till you pull me up once again



Finding you was never so hard when I realized you found me....