Reason to Stay

Reason to Stay

A month ago I met my granddaughter. She was born during the plague and circumstances kept us physically apart for over 18 months. This was especially difficult because my daughter’s announcement of her pregnancy gave me a reason to be present in an increasingly chaotic world. A grandchild, like all children, needs every possible adult to be present and bring forth her or his gifts. This was reason to stay, not only stay but really engage with life in a deeper way.

I’ve wanted to write about our meeting, of connecting with my daughter, son-in-law and Max but a long string of events happened that kept me from sitting down with my thoughts…a new job, facial surgery, a flood that severely damaged nearby areas and trying to regain balance in everyday life with the plague roaring through our world again. Finally, two podcasts opened the door to the inner space and ideas that have been working within me so I could put words to the experience.

During those long months of not meeting her, I longed to whisper into her ear…I love you Max. It was on a ride to the local farmer’s market in Michigan that Max and I connected in that place where the mantle of elder hood was gently laid on my shoulders. We didn’t need to say anything. In the backseat we made eye contact and I signed…. I LOVE YOU. She was taught basic sign language and every time I signed…. I LOVE YOU….she did the sign for ‘more.’ In those precious moments, on the inner I asked her how she was….a bit confused, hard to not be able to communicate what I know…frustrating. Through my eyes I told her it was okay and she had awesome parents to help her…and I also reminded her to remember….remember…that place she had come from and to which she still accesses. 

It felt important to make that connection with this beautiful soul. My granddaughter. My daughter’s daughter. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.

After documenting the Gulf Oil Spill for a year, I came out of that experience very bitter and emotionally shut down. A week spent with Joanna Macy in one of her workshops helped but I couldn’t accept pleasure into my life when so much horror happened and people so easily turned away once the well was capped. No matter how much I told the story, through words, videos and images, people had moved on to the next thing. Forgetting the lesson citizens of the planet could have learned had they chosen. So I began focusing my work on beauty. Perhaps that would capture the attention and lead people to care more.

Back when Em told me she was expecting a baby, I had lost interest in trying any more. I was disgusted with humanity and felt it didn’t matter what I did, it wasn’t making enough of a difference to make a dent in the ecological horrors happening. But there was a child coming into the world that needed me to re-engage with my passion for Nature. To step back into That which called me here when I was born. I couldn’t abandon her to the raging insanity of the world. I had to give my all…for her.

It’s hard to care, isn’t it? We see such suffering, such indifference, such insanity and wonder how it could have gotten this bad. It takes effort to remain engaged with what’s happening and stay open to beauty as the two seem to be opposites. But maybe we’re supposed to learn how to find beauty in a broken world…The tender touch of a nurse to a patient dying alone because of Covid. The person picking up trash along the road. The animal rescuer feeding a tiny, abandoned kitten. Perhaps our growing edge as a society is to see beauty within the ugly, to find points of light in the darkness. 

My granddaughter reminded me, even before she was born, that the gifts I have are needed, that my light is needed. Maxine calls me to be my best self, to forgive my mistakes, and to fully engage in the work that calls me.

The day after I learned my daughter was expecting, I saw an otter with two babies on my morning bike ride. I stopped on the boardwalk and listened as she called them and they answered. Otter. That was what I called her until she was birthed and given her human name. Otter, in traditional wisdom, is Woman’s medicine and represents playfulness, laughter, creativity. Maxine’s birth reminds me to embrace this Medicine. She, like all children, are our greatest teachers.

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