There is nothing like holding a child, feeling its breath move through you and out into the world. It is the essence of hope, and what flows from that is peace – deep peace. I wonder if most of the peace we all feel inside doesn’t really come from the reality of the presence of children, wether they are in our lives or not. Our spirits somehow know, this will all continue, so everything is OK.
It doesn’t matter which child or how old they are. Its their smell, just the feeling of their presence that nourishes this place in me. I think being an Old Dad makes it easier to remember to drink from that well. I catch myself sometimes, laying in the dark, soaking in their extraordinary presence. Sometimes I remember to remind to myself: “uhuh, thats good, drink it in some more.”
I’ve been digging in our soil lately, just before the rains finally came after a year of drought, excavating a site for an outdoor kitchen we hope to build. I spent that year nestled with twin dragons, mercury and gold, way down in my belly. I dreamed of them, egged beings fully conscious, waiting to be born. Then the crush of life, the barrenness of drought took them out of focus. I imagined them sunken deep in the encrusted, tapped-out pressed sand of the Salinas valley.
For a long time it felt like the earth was dying around us, but some part of me knew something different was happening. A hubris was being baked out of the soil, something untrue was being purged. The rains have returned, the soil is soft again. Time for things to move.
Its strange how some of the most powerful spirit-beings of our ancestors are kept alive by our children. Dragons, Santa Claus and his reindeer, even the Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses we study in grade school and high school are the ancient go-to allies of shaman, warriors, and leaders of old. After all, what we call mythology is really the story of how a people managed to survive, their playbook. For some reason we’ve entrusted the real care of that to our littlest ones.
These beings were the spiritual expression of our intimacy with the land before religion and then science changed our perspective. They were the beings we went to in order to restore balance, to maintain a fertile abundant existence. They could bring winds, floods, cause the earth to buck and rumble. They’re still here, all of them, within us and within the earth. We send our children as our emissaries.
I’ve had a grief in my belly for as long as I can remember, I didn’t really understand its purpose until I worked with the Greek Goddess Persephone and later saw this short video clip by Stephen Jenkinson, Old Hands. Jenkinson speaks of a certain kind of grief as the process of life awakening to itself, us remembering what it is to be a human being. The awakening of that grief is not a healing, but the understanding that a healing is needed and through that realization a healing journey is initiated. That essential grief, the grief of the child separated from an authentic experience of life, got seriously bumped by Persephone. She worked with Stephen to reveal its gifts to me.
We are awakening Dragons, all of us, through the chaos we create in the world. We awaken the earths most powerful and ferocious keepers. They will come in storms, in droughts, in heat waves and earthquakes. They will ride on radioactive plumes of smoke, and through rivers poisoned by chemicals. Most of us will want to slay those Dragons, thats what we’ve been doing for centuries and its worked pretty well. I hope some of us will remember that really, its our job to learn how to ride them. Not so they will be tamed, but so that we will learn to understand the world again, as we once did, as our ancestors in spirit do.
I have many friends who have, just beneath their skin, the fur of another animal. Some know exactly what that animal is, others only feel its wildness and know it cannot be approached lightly. These friends are treasure keepers. They have, still very much alive in them, the ability to take on the work we leave to our children, the work of maintaining our relationship with the powerful forces that make our lives possible. I hope we find ways to employ them soon, we need them so desperately.
My son and I talk about Santa often, not just the Santa that gives presents, but the more ancient Santa, the one who bestowed blessings, accompanied the Saami on spirit journeys up into the heavens. We talk about what he thinks of things like compassion, love, and the wildness of the world. When he asked me where I was a few weekends ago I told him I was taking a group of people on a journey into the lower world to receive the gifts of a very powerful spirit named Persephone. “She’s like Santa?” Yes, like Santa, but in a different way.
There are times when that grief Stephen refers to is more like a river with strong currents. Its made up of all of us, those living, those passed, those not yet born. Entering into that river, surrendering to its currents, is not something we modern people do easily. In fact we almost never do it voluntarily. Thats where our children live though, in the river of life. We often forget that, having left the river so long ago. They rightly feel abandoned to its currents. Sadly many of us have forgotten how to swim in those waters and are afraid to go back in again.
I feel so honored by my dreams of Dragons, honored to be visited by them. I don’t think birthing their gifts will be easy as an adult. Who knows if I can even do it. But I am happy to nest with them, breathe with them. In the very least they’ll make me more available to my children, as we all face the strong times that lay ahead.