Into the Valley of Hope: A Five Day Trek Through Athena Graceland

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Yesterday I felt free.  I inhabited my Self and my Life as an Artist– ecstatically engaged in the continuous dance of creation (and creative destruction).  I wonder if this orientation IS freedom….  My hypothesis is YES.  I bet Henry Miller would agree. I also wonder if “Self” and “Life” are actually synonyms… You might not thinks so at first glance… but peel back the tender skin of appearance, and see that they are indivisible subject and object of God “Godding”.  A playful, infinitely looping inversion.  Consider that your Life is a vast, kaleidoscopic, externalized projection of your Self.  Alan Watts would cast his vote in favor of this holiest hypothesis.

And now I shall slip into some clunky moon boots and shimmy on down to the ground, where Life happens.  Where Love masquerades in ridiculous, imaginative costumes for the sheer BANG of it.  Wait– can “Love” be lumped into the club with “Life” and “Self”?  Probably… but Love seems harder to corral and contain, than Life and Self…  Hey!  I think these moon boots are defective!!…I’m still orbiting in obscenely conceptual realms!  Lemme tighten the velcro straps and see what happens…

Okay, that’s better.  Here I am.  Breathing on my couch.  Six fifty-nine am, and I hear soft baby sounds wafting occasionally from behind the closed bedroom door… which makes me feel frantic to get a few more nutrient dense sentences committed to the page before my day gets devoured by the slobbering (and Grace-full) beast of ceaseless, self-less service.  Never mind.  I must retrieve my daughter… Greet her with enthusiasm and delight, gobble her cheeks, breathe in her sweetness, take off her nighttime diaper, and put her on the potty.  How’s THAT for moon boots?

Now it’s a new day.  And my heavy-assed heart is pressing me into the couch like moon boots that have been splashing in shadows.  I hear intermittent sounds from the bedroom, like Serena’s sleep is lightening, but she is not yet awake… so I imagine this will be a brief fling with my writer Self.  But even a paragraph will be the best sex.  My heart hurt so bad yesterday.  I spent a big hunk of the day groping to figure out how to care for my poor, sick mama.  (She has a handful of infected teeth.)  The last couple times I’d seen her, she looked like walking dead.  I conceived of the possibility that she might not live to be eighty eight and four months, like the fortune teller of her childhood predicted.  She might not live past sixty nine.  But then, Serena and I visited her in the late afternoon, and she had a quarter tank of life in her… and I washed with relief and hope.

Hope.  I’ve been meaning to write about Hope for a very long time.  I used to despise it.  I perceived it as wispy and weak.  I “hoped” that it would work out for Ed and I to be together.  But I felt no personal power or responsibility as I peered wistfully through the dirty picture window of my hope-full-ness.  It seemed thin and wispy, like an overgrown weed, reaching determinedly for a Heaven it would never meet.

It’s a new day again.  I probably only have a few minutes before my little Shrimp wakes up.  But I’ll squeeze every last drop of insight and wisdom and gratuitous self-expression out of them!  I used to be the campaign manager for the war on hope.  Because it seemed to imply powerlessness.  And I wanted to feel power-FULL.  I preferred to side with personal responsibility and action, wielded against a backdrop of Faith.  Not that I *took* personal responsibility and action…. but… that’s where I recognized the most potential satisfaction.

But instead of merely casting poor hope, like a piece of scrap meat into a pit of starved wolves, I held it in my curious hands, turning it over and sensing its raw, essential ISness.  Some part of me was determined to make space for it in the over-populated rainbow of virtues that shine from my Insides.  A turning point occurred one day when I shared my misgivings of hope with Gopal.  He was a quick and warm ninja in hope’s defense.  He testified that HOPE was the determining factor between life and death amongst prisoners of war.   This touched the prisoner of war who lives in my own heart…. fighting for that which matters most to me.  I often wonder if I am barking up the wrong tree, so to speak… mis-investing my hope… But… even still… there is something true and beautiful in my hoping.  Innocence.  Yes… hope is a life-line to my precious Innocence.

And now it is yet another day, and again I strive to corral my thoughts and yolk them to the subject of Hope and Innocence.  Yes, I think innocence is the nucleus of this holy riddle.  Because the child in my heart is not “pragmatic”.  She gazes at the upside-down carpet of stars, and bleeds into innate communion with their riveting, unknowable mysteries.  Hope is the sound of her sheer, glittered, neon wings beating the open sky.  She doesn’t give a hoot about civilized notions as “personal responsibility” and “action”.  She is a flowing river of dreams and intuition.  A frivolous, gurgling fountain of experiential revelation and whispering hope.

Hope is a lullaby wafting from my soul, even in the darkest hours of my uphill climb through this concealed and arduous dimension of heaven we call “life on earth”.  Hope is a sprawling ribbon of my own soul’s luminous, fractaling body.  Everything does not have to be so blunt and obvious and linear.  Hope blurs the edges of my being into softer scapes of Heaven.  Hope smears my solid-seeming soul into the pulsing Ocean of Love’s warm potentiality.

With YOU as my witness, I am standing tall and proud on my faded, vintage soapbox, and staking a fierce claim in the holy land of Hope.  I am proud to announce that I HOPE I will be a famous writer some day.  I hope that I will find my Soul Mate– a Partner with whom I harmoniously share the rest of my life with… and who embraces Serena as though she is his own.  I hope I have another child with him.  I hope to feel what it feels like for the father of my child to be utterly delighted as I grow a miraculous merging of our love and blood and strengths.  I want to be held and kissed and celebrated as The Goddess as I offer my body, life and heart as a sacred bridge to the New World, where Love boldly leaps in flaming song from every heart, igniting the world AS BEAUTY and limitless, soulful goodness.

Now it’s day five of my linguistic trek through Graceland.  Autumnal cold has engulfed the Sierra Foothills.  My toes are icy.  Baby toys are strewn about the floor that BEGS to be vacuumed and mopped.  I feel melancholy stretching in violin strings across my incredibly tender heart.  I could cry, but instead I am going to publish this blog, take a shower, pick up messes and secretly fan the delicate, pastel rainbow flame of hope that burns in my chest, with every devotional breath I take.  And with each exhale, cascading this shy, under-valued yet essential virtue into the invisible infinite, as sweet sustenance for ALL.

With sincere blessings from my heart,

Athena Grace LMNOP

Life, Death and Loving Loneliness

I’m sitting here staring into space, groping to mentally corral the current textures of my life… Spontaneously, I drew in a deep breath, and I was saved.  Overall, it’s beautiful and abundant and wildly blessed.  And also lonely and exhausting.  One inner dimension of me feels threadbare.  Another, soft and bright like the dawn.  God is vast.

One of the things that struck me about giving birth, was that no matter how many loving supportive people were by my side, (which in my case was Ed, Catherine Stone, Deirdre, Dara, Ken, Cindy the nurse, and Brooke the Midwife… HA!  SEVEN!!!  Jesus… way too many 😉 ultimately, it was a journey that I had to make alone.  You could argue that I made it with Serena and with God… In a way that was utterly true… but at a very basic, stripped down level, I was alone.  No one could take away the immense and constant pain.  I had to dive straight into it.  I shared this perspective with Catherine Stone (my doula) after the fact, and she said dying is the same.  No matter who is by your side, you must let go of the body and walk into the Light alone.

Birth.  Death.  And Life… In Life, (like I mentioned in my last blog, I see Life as a synonym for God, so it’s only natural to capitalize it.) I am surrounded by so many bright and loving souls.  SO MANY.  And yet, often I still feel so alone.  Some people seem to delight in their aloneness…. But for me… it feels wrought with polarity.  I spend a lot of time alone… and I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert.  And yet, sometimes I ache in my aloneness.  I long to be as close with another as two “ones” can possibly be.  I guess that’s why Ed and I spent so much time just holding each other, back in the days when our daily lives were a tighter weave.  Our warm, pulsing bodies entwined, sharing breath, my heart pouring open, feeling the ultimate, intimate sense of Belonging.  But the shadow side of this merged perfection is codependence.  Which has been its own unraveling labyrinth in my life.  So here I am, inside the construct of a Life scenario where I don’t have the option to collapse into default codependence.  Woo-hoo.

Ultimately, I WANT to feel so entirely at peace and whole in myself… (sometimes I DO… but those moments tend to slip by in an incognito state of Unity…)   But… there’s a way in which meeting my ache and longing over and over and over and over again feels like slogging through the desert.  Is this why I want a family so bad???  So that I don’t have to feel these arduous feelings of slow burning longing…?  Wow… I thought I wanted a family (“a family”= a husband and two children… and hopefully some furry animals… and I DON’T mean furry spiders, which are abundant around my hOMe and sorta freak me out, even though I mostly love spiders…) because  it was my heart and soul’s Truth.  But what if it was just to avoid these intense feelings??  It’s still inconclusive… but just in case that IS the case, I’m gonna practice saying YES to this experience in it’s subtly excruciating entirety.  I’m sure that the “meaning of my life” is to dare to love everything that arises.  After all, if we are “made in the image and likeness of God”, then this MUST be our highest calling as human beings.  Because God certainly loves the pants off ALL of it.  (Sorta like when I took my jade heart necklace away from Serena the other night at bed time, and her dark, heart-shaped lips spilled into a perfect little frown as a prelude to gloriously impassioned tears… and witnessing this made my heart explode open and I couldn’t help but laaaaugh at the poetic artistry of her self expression.)

I love how easy it is for me to spiral into esoteric, philosophical realms!  I totally meant to talk about super basic dimensions of my life.  Like how Serena is suddenly exploding into so much exponential growth, and she’s becoming more and more of an ecstatic handful, who reaches for and grabs everything.  She (to my surprise) loooooves the water!!  I took her to Cate and Jenny’s pool party on saturday, and I was amazed by her impassioned splashing and kicking.  She became vivacious in the water.  She’s not like that in the bath… When I first put her in the tub, expecting her to be a natural born mermaid like her mama, she looked more like a petrified mouse, about to be seized in the merciless talons of death.  She got all stiff and made prey faces.  But she might have mermaid blood yet!  I also took her for a River quickie yesterday, and was surprised that even though it was COLD, she became ecstatic.  We sat on a rock in the gentle rapids, and she kicked and splashed and explored the nature and essence of the quick, crystalline water.  I remember last September, being nice and pregnant, and going to that same spot, submerging and praying for a smooth, “easy” (ha!) birth… sitting on the smooth, flat rock, as the singing liquid grace poured around me, opening my body to this force of powerful flow.  Time is profound.  Riding the spiral merry-go-round of Life… visiting and revisiting the same locations, emotionally and physically, again and again… yet perceiving them from a constantly evolving consciousness… an aging body, a ripening heart, an unfurling ego.  Reminds me of the book, “The Giving Tree”… Even when she was just a lonesome stump, she was so full of grace.  Ha!  I hope that’s what “they” write on my tombstone…

It’s a new day… and I don’t feel as intimate with the texture of loneliness as I did yesterday… which is a bit of a relief.  But speaking of grace, I really DO aim to be so gracious when that all-too-familiar feeling arises.  Matt Kahn, my “Team Captain”, as Erika refers to him (!!!), says that I can love every feeling that arises like it has NEVER been loved before.  And I know I can!  I have so much love in my heart.  Enough love to saturate this entire world, and watch it be triumphantly restored to the Heaven it has always been.  I’m sure of this.

At six months, Serena is finally growing hair.  It’s in this wildly adorable phase right now, where it is a fine coat of soft fur.  I loooove to pet it.  I love her fat, squishy arms!  (and legs…)  I love the way she gets so still and quiet when I put her facing me in the Ergo carrier… and her serious, inquisitive, wise, (plump, drooping cheeked) and open face just takes in the world.  I have to constantly remind myself that it will not always be like this.  Someday, she’ll be too big to ride in a baby carrier… and maybe someday she’ll even be embarrassed by me.  And yet, we’ll still be on that spiral merry-go-round, circling the same locations, physically, emotionally,  mentally… watching everything change, and yet somehow stay the same.

I don’t feel like I hit the bullseye with this blog.  Like you could read it, and still not fully know me… Though I did offer some rich and true and beautiful morsels… I guess that’s why people write BOOKS instead of just long, sprawling shorties.  I wish I could so graciously empty my innermost self onto this page for you to intimately encounter…  Why?  Because if “Life” is “God”, then “Intimacy” is the experiencing of Life/God.  And all I can offer is ME.  And perhaps this naked me can open you deeper to the raw joy and pain and beauty of your Holy Existence.

Maybe I didn’t hit the bullseye… but I showed up and shared something of myself.  And I will continue to do so, always aspiring to use my Life to illuminate and liberate your courageous, profound and essential heart.  Because I can.

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Making Love to Loneliness

After my recent post, “Letting Love Slice Me into One”, my beloved blogging friend, Arlene (aka spirit2go.wordpress.com) expressed some compassionate concern that I was in a funk.  Yeah… that’s one way of putting it… Well Arlene, I am writing to you personally right now and as well, I want to share this with others because it feels like an important message for me to express to many.  But first, thank you for caring so deeply for me, and for all whom your immense, courageous heart dost embrace!

One of the guiding lights along my path is the twelfth century Persian poet, Hafiz.  The brotha knows what is up.  He’s wild.  He’s free.  And he’s unabashedly drunk on the All Pervading Friend.  I used to have this poem hand written and taped up above my bed, because it felt like something that I needed to remember every single day of my life~

My Eyes So Soft

Don’t

Surrender

Your loneliness so quickly,

Let it cut more

Deep.

Let it ferment and season you

As few human

Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight

Has made my eyes so soft,

My voice so

Tender,

My need of God

Absolutely

Clear.

This is why I did not try to run from or avoid my loneliness the other day.  I want to be carved out like a freaky jack o lantern, lit from the inside with a sweet scented votive and left out in our dark world so that my eyes glow and blaze with undeniable, soothing truth and kindness for all.

It’s an art… to visit that utterly lonely place without getting stuck or stagnant there.  Without making it mean anything, (and I mean ANY thing) about you, about God, about life.  Without judging it as “BAD”.   No… just to BE there.  And then, to recognize when it has passed and gracefully dance with that which arises next.  The mind loves to hold on to everything and create an identity around it.  “I’m Athena and I’m so lonely… I must be depressed.  There must be something WRONG with me.  But at least I know I EXIST!  At least I can avoid facing the Great Emptiness that is always humming from somewhere deep inside me.”

You see what I mean?  And our mindlessly consuming society is built on this fear of emptiness.  “Uh-oh, I feel empty.  I’d better reach outside of myself in desperation to make this go away.  Who or what can fix me?  Here, TAKE my money!!!  Just make this unavoidable human ache subside for long enough to keep me three and a half quarters blissfully asleep!”

Beloveds, do not fear the shadows.  In this silly dream of division and duality, they are vital for recognizing the light.  Loneliness.  Forgetting the oceanic, resplendent, All Pervading Love that we ARE is about the loneliest thing I can imagine.  I LOVE You, Arlene!  And I feel your Love for me.  And because of this, I know the world is infinitely more blessed.

Friends, let your loneliness carve you, artistically into exquisite jack o lanterns and together we shall celebrate the infinite glowing faces of God in this magnificently dark world!

Amen.

Three Cheers for the Illusion of Separation!

I am noticing a pattern.  Every time I place my order at Pizzaiolo, I start to feel hot and flushed.  It’s not too long before I find myself ripping off my sweater and feeling the cool, sweet relief of fresh, restaurant air. (Only to prance my ignited, dreamy ass over to my table and realize that it is actually COLD in here… and proceed to pull my sweater back over my quietly swooning head) The common denominator?  No… not ME… the cashier.  I’m watching him now, from my seat across the way.  He is so engaged with everyone whom he serves.  His face shape shifts through a vast cornucopia of expressions, many of them involving a smile.  Soul.  The man’s got no shortage of this crucial, divinely human ingredient.  Awe!  He just gathered my Italian boyfriend’s empty cup, meanwhile igniting the Italian in a haphazard erruption of laughter.  I think I’ll go ask for some hot water in my travel mug so that I can interact with him again!  Be right back.

He sniffed the contents of my mug (it had a fully loaded tea ball in the bottom) and he said it smelled good!  My heart is all aflutter.  This morning I woke up feeling rather devastated.  Maybe because I’m changing too fast and I can’t keep up with me.  Not that I’m supposed to keep up with anything.  Quite the contrary.  The change is a shedding, and there is less for me to hold on to than I have ever imagined.  I mean, I could easily hallucinate that there was a whole world of “stuff” to cling to… but hallucinations are… just that.

Loneliness.  This year, I have been learning how to accept the loneliness that abides in my heart.  I suppose we all have our “reasons” for avoiding this particular potent nuance of human beingness… Me?  I was occasionally left home alone from the not quite ripe old age of two.  So being alone sometimes casts unpleasant emotional shadows in me.  (I also cherish being alone and do it often, so it’s an experience as loaded as a gleaming machine gun.  But the irony is that when I feel lonely, my habit is to harden my heart and not let Mykael in… Then I feel even lonelier, being near my beloved, but shutting him out.  This morning I had some insight as to why I do this.

Because the on the other side of this plagued coin that tinkers around inside hollow me, is this nasty compulsion to be saved.  I love casting my man in the role of Savior.  (And, coincidentally, I pick the men who love to play Savior.  Except when they DON’T…)  But throughout my two years with Mykael, I have had a plethora of gut wrenchingly disappointing moments when I have sent out urgent SOSes, calls to be emotionally, spiritually saved, and he stands before me, unwilling and unable to save this damsel who doesn’t even really need saving in the first place.  If only she knew this in her bones.  Maybe she does.  But then, her bones need to spread the word to her brains.  Anyway, I think this has something to do with why I hold myself in when I feel lonely.  Because I don’t want to meet head on the disappointment of that gap where no saving dares to dwell.

Tears drizzled my cheeks as I made my modestly greasy way to the shower.  I thought about oneness.  (I FINALLY finished watching the movie One last night.  I loved it so much and I was absolutely confounded as to why it took me like two fucking months to finish it.  Brilliant.  It was absolutely brilliant.)  Ahem, oneness.  To realize the truth of oneness implies that there is only ONE of us, right?  Well, that sounds pretty fucking lonely to me… even in its sublime profundity.  I could see why the One would dream of the multiplicity.  Duh, to feel less lonely.  Come on, what’s better than good company?!  Usually, when I contemplate the illusion of separation, I feel like I am drowning in an overwhelming sense of boundedness and isolation.  But today, I feel blessed.  I look around at Pizzaiolo and I see my implicit community.  I see fellow humans loving life.  My Italian boyfriend, my valiant, beloved, blush inducing cashier, my choir director, my ancient history crush who I made out with in the back room of the Real Food Company in the year 2000, the chubby, asian baby with enchanted eyes, whom I believe belongs to someone who owns this place and makes me want to have a child of my own every time I look at her warm, lunar luminosity.  Not to mention all these other unique faces, these imprints in the palm of a very generous, expansive and all pervading God.  Even if their bodies are outside me, and no matter how feverishly I pressed my body to any one of theirs, we would never fully merge, I still feel magnificent relief to be here with them.

Ahhh, today is one of those annoying days where I am too hot with my sweater on and too cold with it off, so I keep pulling it off, on, off, on, off…

This is totally unrelated… Or IS it?  I had been wanting to write about my name recently, and then Michael J expressed his curiosity about the very subject I intended to broach.  Is my name *really* Athena?  My name at birth was Dawn Athena Horwitz.  I’ve always adored my first two names.  But the last one?  Never dug it in the least.  It has always felt like HEAVY baggage to cart around.  Which is why when I was twenty, I changed my name to Dawn Athena Grace Kourage.  It stuck like to me like a sparkling, spirit gummed up jewel.  Until I was twenty eight.  At which point, a piece of my path involved shifting gears from the “airy fairy” aspect of my selfhood, into a more rooted, earthy power.  When I spoke the name Dawn, I felt like the word its self drifted up into the etheric stratosphere like a dreamy, rebellious balloon meandering aimlessly on God’s sweet breath.  Whereas when I speak the name Athena, I see and feel a thick, powerful staff rooting into the earth from the very center of me.  No offense to beloved Dawn.  I was born at six oh two am, and I am the dawn.  I am the dawning of something crucial that I can not see in this thick dark hour before my light is visible to that which it is destined to illuminate.

Athena Grace.  With a silent Dawn.  Horwitz?  I suppose I ought to make peace with my ancestry.  Word on the street is that making peace with one’s ancestry is the new rage.  Gone are the days of eighties Tupperware parties.  Here are the days of ancestral healing, recognition, gratitude and my favorite F word, FORGIVENESS.  I must also report that I FINALLY met someone on Saturday night, whom I told my name, to which she jubilantly exclaimed, “the Goddess of War!”  I told you that everyone mostly leaves that crucial facet of Athena-dom out, exclaiming, “the Goddess of Wisdom”.  Yes… and…

The Goddess of War.  Strategic war.  When I talked to my dad last week he told me that the first time he saw me, he saw Athena on my face.  He saw an ancient wisdom glowing from my fresh baked baby countenance.  Hearing that made me reverberate with glow in the dark tickles.  (I always imagined that my dad didn’t truly see me.  Recently, every time we talk, he says something that makes it entirely apparent that he sees me as clearly as anyone… and still… each time I am astounded and gleeful.)

God?  Please help us all love life and ourselves exactly as it is, as we are IN THIS PERFECT AND PROFOUND MOMENT.  Amen.