To be

sun-rays-under-water

The first time I ever slunk up onto the dock without a swimsuit, I wore bravado to cover up: “I don’t care if anyone comes; I’m a middle-aged woman for goodness sake.”

Moments later I chaffed my bare skin by rolling across the rough wood slats after hearing the click of a car door.
(No one came.)

This time… is different.

Yes, I am still middled-aged.
Yes, I am still in the nude in the middle of a lake at mid-day.

But the dock is so warm,
and the water so crisp,
and the last rays of summer sun so delicious.

I roll this time too,
but I take it slow–

Turning across the floating dock from front
to back, and back to front, and front to back
So that one side of my body is warmed by wood
and the other by sun

I roll like this for a good, long time,
anxious that someone will come,
but too delighted to let the luxury of skin and water and sky and sun…
end.

For a moment I question whether my nudity is an invitation
to assault.

I hear the vulnerability
of women
whisper to me
through the ages

And so, I remain still.

Claiming our space.

When every last drop of moisture has been kissed by sunlight
I turn onto my belly once more,
Lifting my head to look out into this world…

Yes, I am exposing breasts,
but there is also this–

A reflection
in the water
of–me.

A silhouette of my
head
surrounded by
rays of light,
streaming in from all sides.

No matter who comes now,
I know that I’m right where
I’m meant
to be.

What Solstice Means to Me

woman bed, reaching toward lightFuessli
Fuessli

I have always been a woman of faith. Of many faiths. As a child, I lived in Philadelphia, New Port News, Denver, West Point–and in each place I came across faith–from shades of Christianity–Southern Baptist and Mormonism–to Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

I grew up tolerant and curious.

When I had my own children, I wanted to share the rich world of faith with them, but I didn’t know where to turn. We joined a Native American Prayer Circle, a Wiccan celebration, a Unitarian Universalist Church and an Episcopalian congregation. Each had its own gifts, but none felt entirely like home.

Eventually, I resigned myself to home-churching my children like some do with school. I created ritual and tradition from all that had been vital to me on my own spiritual journey: poetry, silence, reflection, candles, music, dance, yoga, community, service, contribution, stewardship, teachings, conversation, questioning, birth, death, rites of passage, devotion, understanding, love.

In this way, I’ve come into a deeper relationship with myself, and the seasons inside and out… as the wheel turns. It’s too soon to tell if I’ve served my children well. This morning we shared a Solstice Brunch before they left for school. There was a quiche from our neighbor’s eggs.  There were orange bees wax candles. There was a poem and a teaching about the importance of the darkness. Of balance. Of rhythm. Of rest.  And then they hurriedly removed their plates and rushed out the door.

In the silence of my home, my thoughts turn toward the massacre of a week ago this morning. I remember a Pema Chodron quote I read yesterday and make a mental note to ask my boys what they think of it:

To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.

I don’t know what this world will render of my men.  I know I will learn from them as they expose and improve upon my weaknesses and strengths. But neither will be central to me, as my job will be to continue my walk with faithfulness–steeping into the seasons, learning from what comes, growing when I can.

This is one of the first years that Solstice has been especially significant to me. Of all the holidays that I love, it’s the only one that is not made up, not assigned a time or meaning, or laden with traditions and expectations. It’s just the Earth, right outside of my door, tilting as far away as it can from the sun, as Winter sets in.

The older I get, the more I appreciate all this tilting and turning, and the more I understand it–in my bones.

That’s where I like my religion.

Up close.

Solstice
by Lloyd Meeker

Of my blood, my generation’s now the oldest, the link
between the lives before and lives unfolding behind me;
carries a slow simplicity, imperfect and complete.

Ancestors circle, surround me tonight, I hear them
more plainly every year. This night they ask
questions that have no words, and no escape.

Tomorrow when the new year’s sun
strikes the keystone of my heart, what light
I’ve kept alive, all I have to give, will answer.

Kelly Salasin, 2012

I Hate You

In the therapist’s chair, I’m dismayed to discover that I feel…

hatred.

Me.

Non-violent communication me.

Yoga me.

Good-natured me.

Sunday school me.

The realization that I am this…

ordinary,

Stings

and bruises

and discourages…

Until

it sets

me…

FREE!

Kelly Salasin, Full Moon of April, 2012

Yesterday when I was less clear about how I really felt, I posted a gentler song. Here’s the real thing:

The Fire of Love

Hero's Journey, Kelly Salasin, 2003 (visual journaling)
Say your prayers, be they literal or metaphorical. Let today be the day you say yes to the light within & lay down your sorry attempts to stay small. Yes, I will serve & allow my invincible love to blaze past every limit. And so it is.
~Tama Kieves

This week I’ve walked through fires.

Brush fires and infernos and the 5 Alarm kind.

I’m covered in ashes…

and smouldering still…

I can’t get enough of the shower,

and the bath,

and the flannel covers.

This is what we do for Love.

This is how we claim our lives.

This is where the world is made new.

Kelly Salasin, January 2012

(That was bullshit. Here’s why: Just Say No )

the deva in the darkness

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me–a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic–or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

by Denise Levertov

Fuessli, visipix.com

I wonder why we’re so quick to reach toward the Sun on Solstice.

Why do we dismiss the gift of the darkness?

Sipping margaritas under the summer sun is simpler. Much simpler.

I’ve read that the days leading up to Solstice are the most feminine of the year–a time of pause, of rest, of surrender. Winter’s yin to summer’s yang.

I need that.

Why do I fight it then? (Curse it, even!)

Why do I place a higher value on the expression on my yang than on the yin which necessarily conceives it?

This Solstice day is a dark one in New England. I’ve lit my tree and my staircase and my wreath to make Holy the darkness. In this week before Christmas, I’ve opted for extra yoga classes instead of the gym–seeking that which is slow and restorative to anything more invigorating.

My doctor calls, suggesting an upgrade with my progesterone cream–offsetting the havoc inflicted by my shifting hormones.

I’m hesitant to claim the relief.

Do I not deserve it? Wouldn’t I prefer to be my usual, satisfied self?

These are the questions I ponder in my therapist’s chair.

She tells me that some women say that it is their PMS self that is their truest reflection.

Am I an edgy, agitated, easily-irritated woman?

I can be.

Do I want to be?

I’m surprised to discover that, right now, I do. I prefer her. She fits. She has something important to say.

Annie Dillard writes that, How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

This morning I wake in self-love, the first I’ve felt in weeks. Gone is my fractured mind and my ever-present angst. My body is tired, but I feel whole. Still. Contained. Embraced.

I open my computer, and watch as that changes. With each click of the mouse, my mind wakes to the day. My fingers speed over the keys, delighting in the rapid succession of taps. Despite this engaging stimulation, my wellbeing begins to fray.

When I click on my browser, I am at once overwhelmed by how many pages I work at one time. I close all but one, and then suffer the lack of efficiency.

I resist the urge to check email while a page is loading. I don’t scan Facebook. I stay present to the site that is open in front of me. Even though nothing is happening. Even though I am bored. Even though this is impractical.

I witness how my thoughts race ahead of my body. I bring them back. I am gentle.

Slowly my sweet sense of sanity fractures away. The phone rings. An email comes through. A Facebook chat chimes. The Christmas cd skips. I have to pee.

Had there been sun–or hormones–I wouldn’t have noticed any of this…

This is how I live my life.

This is its cost.

This is the darkness illuminating the price tag.

Kelly Salasin, December 21, 2011

To read more on self & the holidays, click here.

To read more about the Sun and Winter Solstice, click here.