Place Settings

A few weeks into quarantine a single Mom posted her strategy for getting the mountain of dirty covid-crew dishes in her house under control: assign one set of dishes to each family member to keep clean and manage themselves. Genius! I ordered a distinctive set of camping plates to use to accomplish this unheard of miracle. When they arrived Truly helped by putting tape on the bottom of each set, writing our names so we could tell them apart.

“Look,” she brought me the last bowl.
I turned it over, she had written “Mom.”
Of course, it was a setting for four.

She sees that empty setting at the table every day, even though I don’t. We are all processing the quiet, ever present void left by Terry’s death, Truly with greater awareness than Tadg and I. She holds the picture of missing Momma up to us at least a few times a week. As school approaches she’s missing Momma more, both Terry and the idea of having a Mom to drop her off at class. Another school year begins with just a Dad.

She has woven that empty space into her play, into her life. I think part of why she stays so joyful is her ability to see that place setting for Mom, honor it, give it a proper place in her world. She never lost hope.

Is hopelessness really a part of grief? I don’t think so. It takes time to resurface, but grief holds the hearts desire for renewal. It is so hard to feel anything from within the ocean of grief, when it does recede, there are treasures to rediscover. Now grief is just one flow of energy within a greater confluence for me. I’m thankful for that easing, especially given the challenging times we now live in.

Choosing inner peace in a time of chaos is not always easy for me.

I awake every night to the sounds of my kids breathing in their beds next to mine. It is a kind of slow tempo song that is incredibly reassuring – I’ve had a lot of intense energy to deal with. Our many layered global and national crisis brings up so many deep feelings, I’m sure the same is true for many of you.

Diving inward I can feel slices of energy, explosions, discordant notes struggling for harmony. I’m used to going through brief periods of this kind of chaotic transformative energy. Lately I’ve been dealing with it constantly, its a solid 6 out of 10 on my intensity scale. 10 is when your wife is dying and you’ve got two young kids.

Not even close to a 10…yet…but we’re headed in that direction.

I first learned to do this when I was a kid plagued by long, sometimes nightly bouts of leg cramps. Left to myself to find a way to sleep despite the pain, I found that if I went into the suffering, witnessed the energies there, I could clear the pain away. As I gazed into the trapped energy bound up in muscles and tendons, other forces would coalesce, easing the blockage. The fear surrounding the light disappeared, the pain eased and I would drift off staring into the remaining glow.

Now there is a lot more to process, thankfully no physical pain. All the baggage of adulthood joins with the energies of our time. I sink into the storm in my chest and belly; unraveling stories, uprooting blockages, holding greater space so the discord can find a bigger song.

This has always been solo work, but without my partner, in quarantine times, it pushes me deeper into the wilderness. I own more and more the differentness of how I process things, digging into the roots of spirituality I’ve been working with for decades, how that makes this time powerful for me – but distancing. But then I wonder if many of us feel that our nation is on a similar journey, into the wilderness, through pain and conflict, searching for a greater whole.

Is a deeper self reflection catching up to all of us?

The Dragon inside my chest is beginning to calm, I search deeper to see if sleep is waiting there beneath its settling tail. My mind starts to drift to current events, imagined battles I might be victorious in, but I have to push that away, returning to the flow within. I am confident that nothing I say or do right now will have much of an impact on the events of our time, however being present for my children, having a peaceful open heart, will mean a lot to them.

Tonight the energy is too great to allow for sleep, I walk quietly through the dark house, picking my way past sleeping cats, a dog and kids to the back door. Night is allowed its full measure here, very little light or sound and filled with the coolness of high desert. I’ve begun to pray by pressing my hands to the Earth, tonight I feel energy streaming out my arms and into the dirt beneath the damp grass.

“Thank you for my life, thank you for the gift of my children, thank you for this healing night.”

I can sense the vastness of the land spreading out well beyond what I can feel. Cultivating a deep awareness of whats going on inside of me allows me to move out into the Earth itself, beyond the limits of my own skin. Its so good just to kneel here in the dirt, breath into it, know that what is going on inside of me is not seperate from the forces of life, that all of my feelings are also a part of the dirt I’m touching.

Its been a little over a year since we moved here, my drive has been to make a good home for my children. I never thought homemaker would be a passion for me in my life, but it is now. I’m only part of the way there. I still have so much to develop and learn, so many connections to make.

Breathe, settle into the Earth, you have time.

And still there is that empty place setting at the table. Mom. I would love to have someone fill that seat. I know its something Truly wants more than anything. Tadg says he likes our family just the way it is, but I know he feels a bit hobbled too. All I can do is work on me, breathing, work with that Dragon, work on our home.

I miss a lovers breath in the bed beside me.

Tomorrow there will be fewer dishes, but still more cleaning to do. Remote learning begins soon, introductory zoom meetings have begun. They will do the important work of being a part of our modern screwed up world.

I will tend my Dragon and pray to the dirt to make this an island of peace.

Blessings to you and yours during this time of great change.