Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Are the Song Behind the World

Dissolver of Sugar
by Rumi

Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me,
if this is the time.
Do it gently with a touch of a hand, or a look.
Every morning I wait at dawn.  That's when
it's happened before.  Or do it suddenly
like an execution.  How else can I get ready for death?

You breathe without a body like a spark.
You grieve, and I begin to feel lighter.
You keep me away with your arm,
but the keeping away is pulling me in.


Pale sunlight,
pale the wall.

Love moves away.
The light changes.

I need more grace
than I thought.

Good morning, furry life.  I felt the need to jump out of bed last night to type up this Ode to Chicken Song (my title) by Alice Walker, from her memoir, The Chicken Chronicles.  The book is a marvel, in that it is so controlled at times as to be cheap (come on, Alice!  Give us more) but at other times is full of such quiet power, I wonder if I will ever forget its anecdotes.  In any case, it is a wonderful diversion from the wishy-wash days surrounding the full moon as my heart sloshes from side to side.

Ms. Walker writes to her chickens in California while she is abroad in Tibet.  The following passage comes after the author's discovery of the most ecstatic sound she has heard in her life: the buzzing prayers of monastery nuns as they gather in one room, chanting disparate prayers.  Walker writes:

...behind the world, always, there is a song...behind every country's 'leadership' and every country's 'citizenry' there is a song.  Behind Tibet, behind the spiritual 'country' the Dalai Lama...and the Tibetan Government in Exile have formed, there is the song of the nuns, which is the song of the feminine.  Without this song there is no movement, no progress.  It is this song that keeps it all going, though we may hear it infrequently or only by accident.  For millennia and to our detriment, it has been deliberately drowned out.  But it is there, nonetheless...

It is the same with you and with the other animals of the planet.  You are the song behind the world human animals inhabit.  Awww...hohohohohoho....This is the vocal song you sing as chickens, but each animal has its song in its very being: we are our songs embodied; it is the song of all of us that keeps our planet balanced.

I have been thinking about forgiveness lately, or, why I am still thinking about something that happened eleven years ago.  Growing up, I was taught that it is important to forgive, because it is a good Christian thing to do.  The whole Christian Thing To Do fixation cracks me up, by the way.  I wish there were a code for living, by which we could always find ourselves safe.  I find the truth to be closer to walking on a tightrope, when every moment is guided by the winds, and our balance, and our feeling out the next step.  Maybe that is cynical, but it seems to me, the older I get, there is no clear answer to life's questions, except as we can answer for ourselves.  And I think religions help us come to those answers.  At least, that is the case for me. 

As I made my way into adulthood, I began to understand the reasons behind these good Christian ways (etc. etc.)  I mean, the edicts were only helpful as I understood how to practice them in my life.  Without that meaning, they were rigid rules.  And there is nothing less enlightening than mechanically following rules for enlightenment.

Some wonderful things have grown to make sense in my life.  Some of these are cooking, friendship, growing tomatoes, and feeding others. When it comes to the area of forgiveness, however, I have some work to do.  A gifted friend once taught me that forgiveness does not mean, to pardon.  It means, to give back.  There are lots of ways to give back - in fact, one of the ways could be very eye-for-an-eye-ish.  But the way I thought of my friend's counsel was this: I will not hold this (insult, accusation, painful information you have handed to me).  Like a baton, I am handing it back to you.  You learn to incorporate it into your life how you must, or dissolve it through your own process of healing and transformation.  But it isn't mine to hold. 

Sounds easy, right?  Ha ha ha ha ha.

I have been giving back one painful moment for eleven stinking years now.  The missing link in my efforts has been prayer, possibly.  At least, that is my new theory.  In prayer lies the final piece of surrender; and it is surrender that ultimately heals a heart, and thus a life.

But what IS surrender?  (Besides the ding-dang hardest part of life?)  To me, it is letting go of my attachment to outcomes.  It is pausing to say, I don't know how this needs to end.  And then moving forward still - despite and with that uncertainty.

It is the willingness to discover something new.

This morning, I drew a gigantic bunny on my sketch pad.  Its ears rise up behind it, as if tuned into some other planet.  And maybe that is what is called for sometimes: opening up the whole scope of hearing, so we hear not just our own mind's complaints, but the wider world around us.  Not so we tune into those complaints, either.  But so we hear what is always being said underneath them: the prayers for peace, songs and chants for peace, the buzzing, braying truth that what lies behind our suffering is an ability to heal all things.

Last week was full of adjustments and readjustments for me.  I had to sand the wheel of my life that had been turning so smoothly before I went on vacation.  It was a little ugly, in truth - this adjustment period. But it was necessary.  And by Sunday, I was lolling about like a turtle in the sun, finally at peace in my body and life.  Because of this, when a friend came to me that night, and needed to go for a walk in the park, I was able to be totally present with him, and free of any personal distractions chattering in my head while he talked about his life. 

This is the power of the feminine - not only the ability to be there for another, but to be there for ourselves when we are having a rough time.  In fact, we have to be there for ourselves, first, in order to be any there for anyone else. 

I once made the mistake of believing that this presence with myself was hard, or complicated, or time-consuming.  Sometimes it is.  Last week, it felt like a full-time job.  But most of the time, with a little routine maintenance, it is a pretty seamless process.  And when you fall out of routine, and find a big hitch in things, there are others to call in for support.  You, me, the chickens, and the nuns.  We're all in it together.   This is the good news.  
And I thank you for being part of it.

With love,


  1. Just reading this now and loving it. Love the excerpt from Walker's letter to her chickens, this idea of quiet buzzing prayer in such a sometimes seemingly noisy, prayer-less world. And what an amazing way to look at forgiveness!

    p.s. The link at the end there didn't work for me and I'm curious as to what it's to!! xo

  2. Amelia! It's to Mavis Staples & Jeff Tweedy singing You Are Not Alone. It should be fixed now! Sorry, I just caught this.


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