Sunday, August 12, 2012

The way to the altar

Maka'ala ke kanaka kahea manu.

Translation: A man who calls birds should always be alert. Explanation: The Hawaiian alii (chiefs) wore beautiful capes and headdresses crafted by weaving in thousands of tiny feathers. The Kanaka kahea manu, the bird-catcher, would imitate bird-calls to attract the birds to catch them, pluck out a small number of tiny feathers and let them go. Once he had called the birds, he had to stay alert and be prepared to catch them quickly when they came near. The saying advises one who wishes to succeed to be alert to any opportunity that should arise.

'Olelo No'eau

We were up early. The forest was cool and sleep was refreshing. An odd dream still lingered with me as I sat on the vardo steps tying my boots up I told Pete about it. "A Japanese guy came to work on my teeth. He wasn't a dentist but was a kind of substitute dentist. We were talking next to a bathtub. In the bathtub was a tree, the guy felt the leaves  The leaves looked like the wild berry bushes that grow all around us in the woods. He said, "I'm not used to being with trees (nature)." He was sweaty from his 'day-job' and said, "Maybe I should take a shower." My mother was there with me and handed the guy a red and white towel and a wash cloth and eyed me as in making sure that would be a good choice. I nodded. I told him, "I'm chemical sensitive so we don't use soaps." He took that in and considered it. Next to the bathtub was a huge pile of clothes (dry or cleaned, I wasn't sure) and I wondered in the dream if that was making a bad impression. The dream went along and I was somewhere else. I remember thinking, "If I'm here and the dentist-guy isn't did I get my teeth fixed? Could it have been done in between and I missed it?

The dream was odd because it was not familiar like some dreams. In the light of today I understand how my mother shows up when there is something to move on with. Handing the strange guy the towels and checking with me to see how that would work. Such subtle messages. Something's missing and no if I'm thinking there was no satisfaction ... there probably wasn't any.

The quiet place where we make our home today is the future we imaged in the cycle of the past -- the years of sorting and moving through old connections and redefining definitions of 'home' and 'responsibility' and 'legacy.' Without dwelling (as in 'dwell in that place') on the past there is room this morning to see how far I have come in stepping out of my history and into my future. Cultural values that fuel Polynesian thinking and philosophy unfurls (makawalu) from the idea 'your future is based on your past ... or, your past is your future.' What happens when a woman like myself with grand curiosity conjunct loyalty to the past does not have clear bridges or pathways to a future that makes sense? Build the bridge. Clear the path. Again and again. One bridge will take you from where you are to somewhere else. That bridge doesn't always work, but the confidence in building makes it possible to build another bridge when you need it. The clearing of paths. Now that's where this story is leading.

Yesterday had a murky start to it. The night before was spent in dis-ease. My restfulness was upset by the too-intense-for-me scent of lilies in bloom. Lilies are beautiful, and while I am successfully retraining my ancient brain to calm and choose actions that are less frightening the lilies caused old triggers to clutter my way to the altar. My peace was disturbed; there was something I needed to do differently. That morning I woke late. I looked at the time and decided it was late enough to call my neighbor. She's the one who grows the lilies. When she picked up she asked, "How you doing?" I told her about the over-powering effect of the lilies. I asked her, "I was thinking about cutting the lilies and taking them into the woods. (quite a ways away) We could put them next to your altar so you could still enjoy them; and I'd sleep and breathe better." She said, "Of course we can cut the lilies, but I don't want you not to be able to walk in the woods. We can cut 'em and bring them into our house." "Okay, wow. Thank you so much."

Before the morning was over the lilies were cut and ultimately taken off to be with a neighbor down the hill; the smell was too much for the lily grower as well. When my friend and neighbor came to tell me how the issue of the lilies was resolved we sat and talked about how differently she and her partner had answer my request. Back to that paragraph about years of redefining home and responsibility. Several years ago, when I was returned to the house, in the valley where I lived as a girl I became progressively sicker with what was diagnosed as multiple sensitivity (MCS). It started with an issue of being sick from a fragrant flower. When I asked about cutting the flowers the response I got was "When did you become allergic to them?" The long lesson that I have learned is that sometimes the questions you ask of people are not the problem. The problem is you might be asking the wrong people. I have learned that moving on is the answer. Healing something means hele (move).

The murky yesterday ended with an elegant and unexpected event. While the sun moved into his setting position from our place in the woods, my husband and I took pruning shears and loppers and cleared an overgrown path. The path begins not far from our neighbors' home and is a short cut to an altar set up on a grand tree stump. Beautiful things, precious to our neighbor who grows the lilies sit on that altar. She was given a wooden bench for her 70th birthday last December. The gently winding path was overgrown with shrubs and windfalls, but the clearing was good hard work. A mound of greenery grew at the mouth of the trail as I make the way accessible. The light and shadows changed during the hour or so while we cleared a path that would be a comfortable walking trail. A moss covered log at the first bend offers itself for sitting on the way down (or back up). The longer fallen tree was easily pulled off the trail, thanks to my trail buddy. Before sunset Pete was able to carry the bench down the trail to a place across from the altar. We sat together on the bench with the sun glowing through the tall stands of fir and cedar on the lower side of the land.

Alert to the opportunities it is possible to clear another way to the altar of your present. History offers up broad shoulders and from them one can makawalu. The trick? Notice.

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Speak from the heart