Category: In spirit


Big dipper hangs low in the northern sky

It’s cup scooping down, offering to carry me away to the land of the stars

“But I am in the land of the stars,” I say

“Yes, here on Earth.

On this beautiful Mother Earth

Where each night I get to look up and see you twinkle

Reminding me of ancestors come and gone

And each month I get to marvel at the waxing and waning of Grandmother Moon

And each year I get to wonder at the rainbow in the leaves, the crystals that fall from the sky, the new buds that swell in the morning dew, and the thunder that promises relief on a hot summer night

This is the land of the stars.”

“Yes, but what about the madness?” you say

“The gunshots heard around the world, the games played with people’s lives, the words thrown as if it doesn’t matter

What about the madness?

Come and I’ll take you away from it all”

“Away from it all where I can watch from on high, as you do each night?

Away from it all where I can watch my fellow Earthlings destroy the beauty I love so much?

Away from it all where safe from the pain I sacrifice too the joys of love, connection, community? The satisfaction of kicking my feet up and feeling the warmth of fire on my damp dreary toes after a hard days work?

I will take the pain. Because I too have hurt and caused pain, and I cannot bow out and leave my brothers and sisters.

I will stay and dance and sing and pray with them under your great sparkle.

I will stay and struggle to grow and feel and open to all that can be felt

I do not wish to hide.

Let me feel the ecstatic, the torturous, the sublime

Let me feel it all.”

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She has Returned

A beautiful proclamation to the shift that is upon us and the blood and tears and scars that have been left as we struggle towards a new and better place…

Tribe of Dreams

The very first time I heard Bernie Sanders speak, I knew who he was

knew the energy he was representing

knew that he was being fed from the same wellspring of evolving consciousness by which so many of us have been being fed lately on this planet.

This wellspring offers the energy of community

fellowship

kinship

unity

wellness.

It offers the energy of equality

equanimity

truth

justice.

It offers the energy of love.

In a civilization that values profit about all else

this energy becomes revolutionary

but it is not by nature.

By nature, this energy is evolutionary.

There is only so long that we can continue to stumble blindly upon the Earth

eating her up faster than she can feed us

and creating so much suffering for ourselves, our kin in the community of life, and our future generations.

So it is not only unsurprising,

but also necessary

View original post 1,064 more words

Home Blessing

Every home needs a blessing. Every space deserves to be honored. Mine is on the inside of one of my upper cabinets and are the lyrics of a song by Peia:

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Blessed we are

to dance on this ground

with the rhythm of saints

to carry the sound.

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We hold a prayer for the Earth,

for the ones yet to come –

May you walk in beauty

and remember your song.

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Remember why you came here.

Remember your life is sacred.

Remember why you came here,

remember this life is sacred.

~ Peia (Ancestral Song Keeper)

This week I finally moved into my little house, and woah does it feel good to finally be making it HOME! It is not totally done but it is livable, especially as the temperatures are, for the most part, warming up (although it has been an unusually chilly spring!).

How to capture what this week has been like….

Monday, May 16th I spent my first night in Mayu (which means cocoon in Japanese). I had spent much of the weekend moving my belongings out of where I had been in ecovillage and into Mayu, but had yet to spend a night there.

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It was a chilly night, but I slept pretty well. On Sunday Parker and I had found a nest of baby bunnies in the field right outside my door and we had put some bales around it to protect them from the cold and our walkings about. We had found the nest after finding two baby bunnies that had passed into the dream world, it seemed from the unusually cold temperatures.

I lit a candle to honor this first night in this creation that I have given birth to and is still growing and forming.

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My candle to honor the space on my first night sleeping there

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The little tiny baby bunnies nestled in the ground. I feel honored to have them as my neighbors!

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And in the morning I got to see mama Hare coming to check on her baby bunnies, as I watched from my loft window! Did you know that the momma generally leaves her babies on their own only returning to feed them in the morning and night? So if you find what you think is an abandoned nest most likely it is not and you should leave them be!

Being in Mayu meant figuring out how exactly I was going to brush my teeth and keep my fridge cool and go to the bathroom and all those little details. These were not big scary challenges but more just trying out and putting to the test systems I had thought about. I was still waiting on my futon that I had ordered and so I slept that first night on my camping mat which I put on top of my tatami mats in my loft and that worked fine! I took my first poop in my compost toilet bucket, and I washed my hands with some soap in a pretty glass bowl I had gotten from salvation army. After a few days this systems evolved…

And now, this is my hand washing station in my bathroom:

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Well, actually this picture is already a little outdated. Things have evolved even more! But it is mostly just aesthetic changes.

And I am very pleased with it! The tap on this glass water dispenser releases water somewhat slowly, which I found a pain for filling up a glass to drink from, but perfect for washing my hands without wasting excessive water. And when the bowl starts to get full I dump it outside on my plants.

Zooming out a little bit here is a view into the bathroom from the door. Of course, it continues to evolve… Like now I have a pretty cloth on top of the water jug to keep dust and other things from falling in. And the shells and other ornaments have moved around a little bit. But it all functions quite nicely and I am loving the way it is all looking.

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The mermaid above the door was a house warming gift given to me by my sweet partner, Parker, and I think adds a beautiful touch. It seems that my friends and I are in agreement that my little house has a boat like quality. I like this boat theme!

Here is Parker wandering around before I had moved any of my stuff in:

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Things have evolved some since then. Take a look!

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Here is my kitchen as it is now. I’ve been collecting kitchen wares from the local reuse stores like Mimi’s attic, Salvation army, and Significant Elements and am pleased with what I have found.

 

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There have been a few delays with my stove and so for now I am cooking on this one burner camping stove but it is working great!

On Day four (Thursday 5/19) we put in our well pump and had water on site for the first time! This was a huge moment as the idea of carrying in water for all my washing, cooking, and drinking needs was not something I was looking forward to.

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Here we are, able to fill up our buckets and do my dishes! This to me was super exciting. And notice the plants in the background all waiting to go in the ground. Now many of them are in which also feels great!

 

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And just in time I had built myself a drying rack right over my sink which worked beautifully!

That evening, as I drove to my friend Nicolette’s house to get my little cabinet which is now in my bathroom I came across a baby fox that looked like it had just been hit on the road. As sad as it was to see this little creature whose life had been taken so soon I also felt there was a lesson in this little fox and the baby bunnies I had found earlier in the week about the cycles of life and death of the natural world. I brought the fox with me and after some thought with two of my closest sisters, Danielle and Rena, we decided to bury these little creature on John’s land where my house is.

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the fox and the bunnies before burial. What does it mean to bury the fox and the hare together? Predator and prey, in one grave.

 

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Nestled in the ground before burial. Rena’s mother had felt called to put some sage in the fox’s mouth, and so we buried it with the sage.

 

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And after burial we planted two little strawberry plants on top, giving a blessing under this strawberry moon and thanking these sweet little creatures for all they had offered and would continue to offer as nutrients in the earth.

Wow, what a day it had been. And all this under an almost full moon.

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That night,Thursday, 5/19, I got to sleep on my new futon, And slept like a baby.

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I was overcome with gratitude as I lay there in bed. Grateful for water, the land, the food that comes from the land, the birds, the fox and the hare, and other animals, my house, and the people who have come into my life… I feel like words and images can’t quite capture it. And it is all evolving so quickly that some of these photos are already outdated, like a new born baby who already a week after birth look so different!  But I hope that I have captured some of it. Perhaps I will close with a poem …

Mayu.

Cocoon.

My cocoon.

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Yes, finally I feel ready to cocoon myself inside you,

Like new lovers too entranced with each other to let go.

Engaging, bonding, nurturing, caring, struggling together

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Water falls onto my hands as I wash in a crystal bowl

Shells placed with care, from tiny to tiniest, like little paw prints in the sand.

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Clothes folded carefully

Each one I ask, “Do I need you?”

And all those kitchen items

Bags of strange white, brown, and yellow powders

Seeds and grains and nuts

The leftovers from cooking in many kitchens not mine

Finally I can put you into glass jars, label you and know

That you will be mine.

Mine to use and refill, and smell and taste, and enjoy

Finally, I know what I have!

*

Checking thrift stores and yard sales I slowly stock my kitchen

With the tools of the home that till now I have not needed.

This bowl feels good in my hands

This mug makes me smile

A ladle is a must in any kitchen

And a little red pot with a chip on the handle.

You, little pot, can have a home in my kitchen

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Even in my makeshift kitchen,

with just one burner and no stove,

I feel my creativity alight.

Food tastes so good!

As aromas fill the little space!

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Sitting on my front stairs I look out

At the beginning of gardens.

My gardens.

Gardens that I can watch grow

Not just this season but next, and next, and next

Gardens where I plant not just annual vegetables

But a tree!

And I may actually see it bear fruit

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I watch my sweet beloved cut the grass with a scythe

And we lay in the hammock,

Hung lovingly by John

Taking in the heavenly bodies

Of the wide open sky…

Jupiter, Mars, Venus

*

Each day is a new day

Each day a great day

Full of possibilities

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November was a month of transitions. Closing one chapter, opening another. New beginnings and bitter sweet endings.

It was the weekend before Halloween, Saturday, October 24th, and Ecstatic dance was hosting the Masquerade Ball. I was going to gather with some girlfriends and we were going to paint each other’s faces before attending together. But things came up for both of them and I found myself preparing to go to the masquerade ball alone. This was not a new experience for me. Sure, going to a social event alone sometimes feels a little bit more intimidating. It can feel harder to get excited and I always get a little anxious before I walk in the door. Will I have fun? Will there be people I know? Maybe I should just stay home. I think many people share these fears. And although sometimes these fears get the best of me and do keep me in for the night, often I have gone out alone. And learning how to do so has been important for me. It has been important for me to learn my own strength, to feel my own independence to know that I am ok and well on my own as well as with others.

And so that night I headed off to the Masquerade ball on my own. I didn’t paint my face but I got dressed up and put on some feather earrings that my mom gave me, to give me some extra wings of confidence, and enjoyed myself. Walking in the door, music brought movement to my body. Eyes closed, I let any lingering self consciousness fall away, beginning with small pulsing movements, then curling an arm out, greeting the air that hummed around me, drawing an imaginary circle with the tips of my outstretched fingers, a sacred protective circle; This was me, my space. And only those I allowed could enter. And so I danced. The orbit of my energy weaving, pulsing, in and out of the energies of others. Both an insignificant planet in a galaxy of stars; alone I am nothing, together we are everything… awe-inspiring. And the most significant star in the solar system of Me; I am the sun radiating warmth and love out, touching those that orbit around me in ways I perhaps will never comprehend. And I danced. Grateful to be alive. To be healthy. To be me.

A curious soul entered my orbit, drawn in by a smile that I was not aware I wore. Like Earth and Moon we danced around each other. Separate but connected, feeling the pull of the other holding us captive. Once I considered spinning away, a comet briefly there but not to stay. Its own inertia keeping it traveling, on its own, beautiful and blessed path. Gracing our skies but for a brief moment with its beauty. But something said “Stay. Keep your heart open. It is safe.” And so I stayed, circling like a distant second moon.

He reached out a hand, and cautiously I took it. With flourishes and twirls I still kept that little bit of sacred empty space between us. A figure eight of energy maintaining my sacred circle and his, connected, and separate, free to go at any time.

When the music slowed I smiled and bowed my head just slightly, hands on heart, signaling love, and a need to end this night of dance on my own. I had arrived alone but felt I may not be leaving alone. But at least I could close this dance feeling just my own energy. What was this I was feeling?

“What is your name?” I asked in the silence that followed. “Parker.” He said. “And you?” “Miwa.” And so something new began.

That night we shared tea, and then I went home. The next night we shared dinner and then he went home. But not before a quick kiss by the car left me standing somewhat speechless, stunned, smiling under the moonlight, as he drove off. I knew it was coming, didn’t I? But still it took me by surprise. Had I dared to hope? Do I dare to hope that I felt the whisper of a ruby?

At first we took our time, communicating a little through the week but not seeing each except on weekends. I continued to work on Tiny. He was busy being a first year graduate student in chemistry at Cornell. He came to Dances of Universal Peace and saw me lead a dance and play violin. I joined him and his fellow grad students on a Friday night and kicked butt playing darts in a college town bar. He came out to Tiny on a Sunday and lent a helping hand on the last wall of exterior siding; the back herring bone.

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Did I mention that it came out beautifully?

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Exterior of my house completely done!!

We talked late into the nights, eagerly getting to know each other, discovering and revealing the truths of ourselves… It was beautiful. And it is beautiful to drink in the sweet nectar of a young, blossoming love.

A new chapter opened, suddenly, unexpectedly, deliciously…

And another chapter closed; I discovered that my landlords cat had fleas and that they had made their way into my room. This discovery eventually lead to the second big transition of the month; a bittersweet decision that it was time for me to move from the place I had called home for over a year. And so I began to pack my things, putting some in storage until my eventual move into Tiny, and put the word out that I was looking for a place to live. And community rose up around me, with offers of rooms to rent, house sitting gigs, and couches to crash on. Despite it nearing the solstice, my inner energy has felt like spring; full of new beginnings, energy to travel and enjoy, to mingle and mix. And so living a bit of the nomads life has actually felt like a fun adventure as I continue to work on Tiny and look forward to moving in, hopefully in early spring!

And the third big transition has been that I moved my house Thanksgiving week from John’s land over to Maria’s, where it will stay for the winter! Let me tell you, watching something as big as a house, even a tiny one, that you have put so much time, money, and love into, roll away is quite an exhilarating experience.  But thanks to Maria and Liz of Hammerstone School and a car jack borrowed from the Ecovillage at Ithaca the move went incredibly smoothly. Here are a few pictures!

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Getting ready to move! Notice the snow on the ground. It was the first, and only, real snow of the season thus far!

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And off she goes!

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Out on to the open road…

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Luckily it was a short trip though. Literally around the corner of a country block….

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And in just a few hours she was all leveled and situated in her new home!

Leaving John’s land came with some sadness but I plan to return there in the spring and know that Maria’s place will serve me well through the winter. John also leaves for the winter, taking off to Florida, and so the site, which is already quite rustic and wild, can become almost inaccessible if we get significant snow. At Maria’s I have easy access to electricity that does not depend on the sun and can set up my tools and things inside her large pole barn. It may not be much warmer than the outdoors but it at least is protected from the wind and provides a roof over my head when it is raining or snowing. And so Tiny has settled into her winter home and I have officially transitioned from exterior to interior work! I look forward to writing about what has been going on in the interior of my house in my upcoming blog posts 🙂

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A beautiful good bye sunset one of the last nights I was on John’s land.

(This post is based mostly on what I learned in a talk given by Jack Rossen, a professor at Ithaca college, at the Ecovillage of Ithaca on Oct. 22nd, 2015. Although I have done my best to present information accurately and with sensitivity to the first nations people of this land I am not an expert and welcome feedback, corrections, and comments and also encourage you to seek out your own truth)

Many of you will know of the Haudenosaunee confederacy as the Iroquois confederacy but Iroquois was not a name these people chose themselves. Haudenosaunee is the name by which these people, who come from the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, and later the Tuscarora nations, call themselves. These are the first nations people of the area in which I now live; They inhabited much of central, upstate and western New York, extending down into Pennsylvania.

The Haudenosaunee are a people who traditionally kept their history through oral tradition, with faithkeepers who are appointed by clan mothers, and stories that are passed down from one generation to the next. For most western, modern world scholars, oral tradition is not to be trusted, a belief that a Haudenosaunee person would find incredibly disrespectful. Imagine you knowing the stories of your family- where they immigrated from, how they ate, what they celebrated, where your ancestors are buried- and then being told by an outsider, a “scholar,” that no, you have it all wrong and since you cannot prove it with written paper documents or artifacts we do not have to return the bones of your ancestors that we dug up and now have in our museum basements. This has been the story of some of these people, including the Cayuga, whose homeland is in the Ithaca area.

One archeologist names Jack Rossen has been doing his best to work with the Cayuga and other Haudenosaunee people to keep their history from being revised by outsiders and give it back to them. And this is the story of one such way in which he is helping them gain acceptance from the wider world for a truth they already knew.

Oral traditions says that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, perhaps one of the earliest known forms of democracy, was born 1000 years ago, around 1000 AD. But most western scholars say the confederacy was founded either only a generation before contact, in 1451, after contact as late as the mid 15,00’s.

To the Haudenosaunee the creation of the confederacy is known through the legend of the Peacemaker, a messenger of the creator who was sent in a time when there had been much conflict for centuries. It is said that the peacemaker traveled in a white stone canoe, seeking out the leaders of the five warring nations, the Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk. In his searching he came across a woman who had no alliances and fed and sheltered all who passed through, including men from all tribes as they traveled to war upon each other. This woman’s name was Jikonsahseh and she was the first person to accept the Peacemaker’s Great Law of Peace and some say she is what inspired the tradition of the Clan Mother, a tradition that still lives on today.

The last of the tribes to be convinced of the Peacemaker’s Great Law of Peace was the Seneca. As the Peacemaker asked them to consider the Law of Peace he told the Seneca to look for a “Sky sign” and legend has it that as the tribe leaders gathered at high sun (noon) when the corn was high (late summer) that the sky grew dark and the stars came out and this convinced them to lay down their weapons under the great white pine.

The white pine has long been a symbol of peace for the Haudenosaunee people and Jack Rossen found and carbon dated a piece of pottery with the great white pine at a Cayuga archaeological site to 1100 AD. This little artifact gave validity to the claim of the first nations people that their Haudenosaunee confederacy was indeed formed much earlier then western scholars have believed, closer to the 1000 year old date that their oral history says.

With needles in clusters of 5, like the five tribal nations that made up the original confederacy, and that stay green and never fall, just as the Great Law of Peace must be able to weather all seasons, the peacemaker made the Great White Pine a forever sacred tree to the Haudenosaunee people.

As Jack Rossen looked to other evidence that would further corroborate his finding and support the oral history of the Haudenosaunee he went and looked back at the records of full solar eclipse, the most likely explanation for the sky sign that the Seneca saw. Solar eclipses are not an everyday event, and to find one that would have been visible from Seneca territory, occurred in late summer when the corn would have been high, around noon, when the leaders always gathered and would have caused the sky to darken enough for the stars to come out seemed like an even more unlikely event to find. But indeed Jack Rossen found one. In the year of of 909, on august 18th, the sun reach full annular eclipse at 17:13 UT which would have been 1:15pm New York time. And so it seems that indeed, the Haudenosaunee oral history is correct that their confederacy was formed over 1000 years ago.

The confederacy is unique for many reasons. One such way is that the Peacemaker established a matriarchal system, called the clan system, to help to bridge these nations that had been warring for centuries. One’s clan is determined by your mother, so if you mother is of the bear clan, you also are of the bear clan. But one is not allowed to marry within the same clan and so through marriage there became members of each clan throughout the Haudenosaunee Confederation. And anyone in your clan is family, no matter whether they are Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, Onandaga, Oneida or any other nation. This allowed one to find family no matter where you were, traveling throughout the confederacy. There are nine clans within which they are divided into three elements; air (Heron, Hawk, and Snipe), water (Turtle, Ell, and Beaver), and land (Bear, Wold, and Deer). And within some clans, such as the bear and turtle clans, there are three different species. Even today, if you meet a first nations person they will often introduce themselves by their tribe and clan name (ei: I am ____ of the Onandaga nation and of the Heron clan.) Clan mothers hold great power in the nations, as they are the ones who appoint chief, faithkeepers and other important positions within the tribe. And they can also take these positions away if they feel an individual is no longer suited for it.

As a modern day resident of these lands I am grateful to be learning about the history of the people that were here before me, and not only for historical reasons but also because they are still alive here amongst us, and their struggles are still current. Two years ago I participated in the Two Row Wampum, an event that asked for a 400 year old treaty to be recognized and honored, a clear illustration of how these struggles are still alive today. Also, as we enter a time of the year where the veil between the worlds is thin and we often honor our ancestors, through holidays such as Halloween and Day of the Dead, if feels right to call attention to the ancestors of this this land that I now stand on and have chosen to build my house on. The Haudenosaunee were and are a wise people from which we could stand to learn many lessons from, about peace and living in harmony with the land, as well as many other things. And they are also a people that need our support, understanding, and recognition as they struggle to keep what is left of their culture alive.

Prelude

Its been almost ten years since I have been to Japan with my mother. I was in high school last we were there together. Not even a legal adult. Since then we have gone separately, my mom almost every summer for at least a few weeks in June and me once with my freshman college year roommate, who had studied Japanese, and then again after graduating from college. But there is something different and special about going with your mom, sharing the experience together, being able to lean on her when certain words and phrases get lost in translation, seeing her in the culture she grew up in, feeling the thread that runs from me to her and through our ancestors back to this ancient and beautiful culture. My soul had been craving all of this for some time now, but life had seemed too busy to make it happen for at least another year.

Three generation of Oseki Women: Me, my Mom, and My Grandma (Miwa, Iku, and Takako)

Three generations of Oseki Women: Me, my mom, and my grandma (Miwa, Iku, and Takako)

But then my grandfather, Jiji, started to show signs of Alzheimers and Dementia. And reports coming through my grandmother and aunt started to sound distressed. He was sleeping through much of the days and losing interest in his food. And some days he was unsteady on his feet. They were finding some support through a day service that they would send Jiji to twice a week, where they would bathe him and do some simple activities with him, but things did not sound too good. Eventually my grandma said to my mom, “I think you should come” and so she moved up her annual trip, leaving before her school let out to go support her family.

Traveling an Ocean

As I listened from afar to what was happening I started to realize Jiji’s time of transition might be near. And even if his physical body held out for a while yet, he may soon no longer recognize me or be someone who I really recognized. I realized I wanted to go too. And I wanted to go soon. The time I had been hoping for, to spend with my mom in Japan with Jiji, Baba, and Hiroko (my grandpa, grandma, and aunt) might have to be now or never.

And so I made it happen. And I am so glad I did. My mom was hesitant at first, saying, understandably, that she wasn’t sure she could be a mom to me and a daughter possibly losing her father at the same time. She wanted me to wait until she arrived in Japan to see how things were once she was actually there, before I bought my plane ticket. I waited. But I knew I wanted to go. And once she got there and I got the ok, and went ahead with my plans.

As I made the more than 12 hour flight to Japan I felt memories rush back as I watched parents, many of whom were one Japanese and one American, like my own, speaking to their mixed race children. My soul recognized the Japanese phrases my mom used with me, and little girls and boys that looked like they could have been my siblings stirred something deep inside. My own reservoirs of Japanese language started to flood back.

This would be the beginning of a trip filled with many ordinary but precious moments; Moments that I will cherish forever.

Konnichiwa! 

Arriving at my grandparents I slipped my shoes off, as we do in all Japanese houses, and gave my grandma, aunt and Jiji a hug. Dinner was ready, of course, a wonderful Japanese style meal, with each person having at least four small plates; A bowl for rice, a bowl for Miso-shiru (miso soup), a plate for salad or vegetables, and another one for maybe some meat or fish and then maybe a fifth small plate for soy sauce or other sauces. Tonight we had some yaki-tori, which is skewers of small pieces of different kinds of meat and some vegetables. It was all delicious.

After dinner I pulled out the few small gifts I had brought them- My theme for gifts was all local and made in Ithaca. A little Ithaca made keychain for my aunt, and an Ithaca made acorn designs notebook for my grandma, and some local honeyed covered nuts for my grandpa as well as some pancake mix that I would turn into pancakes for my grandpa a few days later.

I was jet lagged and tired but glad to be there.

Kanpai! (Cheers!)

My third morning, mostly recovered from jet lag, I made some American style pancakes for Jiji, and my mom made us all some green smoothies. And we toasted. I was glad to be there.

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Some days we laughed. One day we started laughing so hard at dinner we could barely eat. It all started with a “tobi kyuuri,” or a flying cucumber and only got worse as Jiji earnestly asked if he had to pay for the meal or if it really was free. By the end who knows what we were really laughing at. I say it was the flying cucumber and my mom and grandma say it was Jiji and Hiroko says she was laughing at us. But we all laughed and it was good.

Cards

Bracko is a card game I have played since I was too small to hold all my cards in my little hands. They learned it in Brazil and brought it back with them to Japan. My mom made me a clever little card holder out of cardboard to help me hold the cards. And then when I got old enough to think I didn’t need that anymore I would lay some of my cards on the ground under the table when they got to be too many for me to hold. We always played at a low table and I would sit on the ground.

Now I hold the cards for Jiji as we play as one person. Some nights he would get frustrated that he doesn’t understand what is going on, saying that this was the last  time he would ever play. But the next day he would say, “Trampu yaro ka?” (Shall we play cards?). And most days he seemed happy to be at the table, occasionally having a particularly lucid moment where he would point to a card and show me where it went.

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With both our sets of hands we were quite an effective team!

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And cards always makes us laugh

Flowers

Japanese flower arrangements are famous. But I don’t think I have ever seen my grandfather do one, and I don’t know if he ever would have before. But when that was the activity at his day program he came home with a beautiful flower arrangement and we all admired it.

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Kirei na! (pretty, isn’t it?)

Smile for the camera! (mu heart lights up at that smile of his)

Smile for the camera! (my heart lights up at that smile of his)

Ancestors and Memories

Some days, when Jiji was at his day program, we would go into his room and clean and organize. Today we dusted off his buddhist shrine to his ancestors.

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I found a carefully folded piece of paper with the dates on which his ancestors passed was recorded, it looked like going back maybe three generations. My mom said on the anniversaries of those days he would light incense and candles and put fresh flowers on the shrine to honor them. I remember some days when I was young helping him with this. There were also little wooden placards for each of the ancestors buried in his family burial plot, with a few still blank. I know that one day one of these blank wooden placards will have his name on it when he goes to rest in his family plot.

My grandfather was a great Go player and I also found in his room many of his trophies won from Go tournaments. Until recently he would go to the local library where he would volunteer and teach the next generation of Go players.

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He also kept a daily diary for many many years and my mom found two boxes full of these precious writings! I can’t read or write Japanese now but seeing all those diaries gave me motivation to one day be able to. Although my mom says they mostly are probably just documenting what he ate for each meal, I can feel the love and care in them, all carefully kept and written in his careful writing. He was also quite good at calligraphy, and I have memories of doing that with him too as a child.

The women of the household

Being there was special, not just to spend time with my grandfather but also to spend time with my mom, aunt, and grandma. I could feel the strength of their bond and the steadiness of their presence. And I remembered deep in my soul that Japan is deep in me.

Hiroko is almost like a sister to me. We laugh and play together. I drag her to the local public pool to swim with me and makes fun of how I say things funny in Japanese.

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Baba always showers me with lots of delicious and nutritious food. And of course, the occasional no so nutritious, but still delicious treats

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Laughing as the three of us dig into a Matcha ice cream together

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This time with family was truly precious in ways that feel hard to capture in words. But maybe some of what I cannot say is captures in these photos filled with love

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I left with a heart expanded and full of gratitude. Who knows what the circumstances of my next visit will be, but I know I will cherish these memories forever. As my mom and Hiroko wished me well they left me with one last smile from the bus window:

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Apparently it is a joke from a childhood cartoon of theirs. To see these two grown woman doing this on the sidewalk of Japan as a bus full of airport bound people watched… You had to be there.

Back Stateside

As I settle back into life here in Ithaca I continue to process and cherish my trip. The first few days english felt strange in my mouth, as certain phrases in particular would come to me first in japanese. Already I feel some of the language leaving me, or going into hibernation until I need it next, but I feel myself holding on it, as this time in particular, I feet like I appreciated every sound of this beautiful language just a little more. The song-like open vowel sounds, the way it brings back memories of my childhood for me, and the nurturing energy of my mom and all the women who helped to make her who she is today.  I feel a renewed commitment within myself to not lose touch with my Japanese heritage. I desire to keep going back to that country, even when I may no longer have living family there. I feel like I am more aware than ever of the power of those ancestors that stand behind me and beside me and in front of me, as my life is a reflection of them.

Red Sky

Four years ago today I found out that you left this world. With you I danced my first dance of love. And an epic dance it was. Last night I felt your presence as I danced under the full moon. That day four years ago, it seemed like such a final blow; Your fiery red light snuffed from this world at the tender age of 21. But little did I realize the journey had just begun. For you and I, we share a soul contract, its purpose still being fulfilled. Thank you for all you taught me and continue to teach me each day. Thank you even for the lessons hard learned, for there the deepest wisdom lies. Thank you for being the catalyst for much of whom I am today. Perhaps next time you’ll stay longer. But for now may your soul rest in that place of universal love and peace. You’ve been a guardian angel. And I know you always will be. I remember you today, as I do every day. But today I share it with the world because your light is one to be remembered. Stephen Noble Holland, through me and through others your spirit lives on. I love you and always will.

Tonight's sunset out on Cayuga S.H.A.R.E. farm, where I spent the day surrounded by good people and close to the land.

Tonight’s sunset out on Cayuga S.H.A.R.E. farm, where I spent the day surrounded by good people, close to the land.

Springtime Odes

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Fingers tingle from nettles prickle

I look for my reflection

In the last light of dusk

And what do I see?

I see clouds, I see sky

I see flashes of light

And storms a brew.

The tick tock of the hand of a clock

Pointing towards?

 

Tadpoles,

Like sperm they swim

Determined to give birth to the next

Their movement is not random

Yet like birds they scatter

From one central point it seems they pulse

They come and they go

Beating to the rythm of the earth

 

I speak to them

And to the nettles whose sting cleanses me

And to the peas struggling to grow upwards in my garden

I speak to them in sing-song tones

Of my mother tongue.

 

Yes, my Mother’s tongue

The one from the far East

From the only people who have ever experienced

The destructive Might…

Of the Nuclear Bomb.

 

This is the language that comes

When I speak to the Earth.

Speculate, you may, on why that is

But it is.

 

From the warmth of my covers and the soft pillow of my bed

I watch.

I watch the Moon wax and wane as it makes its nightly traverse across the sky

I watch the mouselike critter

With fur that hides any ears to be seen

Plunge its nose blissfully

Into the sweet sunburst of a spring dandelion.

And I listen to the lullaby of a chorus of many.

And sometimes

When sleep fails to call

I sit up alert

For the flashes of spring thundershowers

Or for the sound of the midnight howl

Of the coyotes on an almost moonless night

 

Did you know that the blueberry flower tastes almost as good as the blueberry?

Well it does.

But don’t eat too many

Because remember;

Flowers are the goddesses of Spring

That birth our Fall Abundance

 

4:12am

4:12am

I awake. Was it the rustle of the wind through the trees that awoke me? Or the chatter of the birds? Perhaps the first rays of dawn shining through the window?

“No. It is still dark outside,” say the twinkle of the stars.

“Go outside,” a voice whispers firmly in my ear.

I slide my feet into my sandals. Still in my pajamas, I grab a sweater and quietly open the door, careful not to awaken my roommates. Oh wait, there is only one. The other seems to have not returned from the festivities of the previous night.

All is quiet in the lit courtyard. Not a soul in sight. Not even the early risers. It is that hour of the day when one is not sure whether to call it morning or night. I walk down the stairs, through the courtyard, and across the grass, to the tall Eucalyptus trees that line the shore of the Galilee. There I slip off my sandals. Cool grass on my naked feet. I step carefully in the darkness. The wind seems to whip the water into a frothy white. It seems a storm is near. And yet, I feel invited.

I climb carefully into the womb that is a knot in the Mother Eucalyptus. There I barely fit, feet drawn close, knees to my chest. And there, in that safe embrace, protected from the wind, in the cover of darkness the tears come. Released from the night before, they bless my cheeks. I let them flow, my body sighing into the Earth Mother’s embrace. And soon the tears are replaced by a profound peace. And I rest.

I watch the white caps settle and the wind soften. The clouds clear revealing the same stars my ancestors saw. And now the sky begins to lighten, hinting at the sun to come.

I shift my body, looking to stretch my feet. And a tickle begins. In the predawn light my eyes do not see. But my hands brush away the tickles. And my mind connects.

“Ants! Have they been crawling on me all along?”

I jump nimbly down, and brush some more. But somehow it seems that it was only in my shifting that I had disturbed these little creatures. And soon I laugh at my momentary panic.

“Who am I not to trust that Earth Mother was taking care of me and would allow no real harm to come?”

I walk along the grass and find myself at the playground slide. Here I lie again. And here I stay until the last star fades and the birds begin to sing and the sun rises. Until the first early risers walk out to greet the day.

And gently I reenter the human world. Eyes of others notice me and look inquisitively. Perhaps my pajamas betray that I have been here a while. Or perhaps they wonder what caused such peace in the features of my tear stained face.

As my mind awakens I wonder about the Ants. And so I return to the Mother Eucalyptus. Something tells me, approach from the other side. The South side, rather than the North. And so I do. And as I reach my womb I see my little companions, like disciplined soldiers they march from the South. I follow their line, which weaves around the edge of her sacred womb. And so I see how I curled up safely inside, guarded by her little warriors. But when I stirred, indicating readiness to leave, that had been when I had disrupted their valiant march.

Ahhh, how Mother cares for her kin.

I give thanks to my little warriors, and thanks to the tree, and to the wind and the water and the sun. And the stars and the moon that have since faded. And to the cool damp ground beneath. And with care I step over the Ant procession. And with Awe in my eyes and Peace in my heart I return to the warmth of my bed.

Know, this was no dream.

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