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When my brother died last January, I started to walk the willows. It wasn’t until late July that I read our ancestors planted willows for the Dead. And if the branches form a shadow large enough for a grave, someone will die.

My brother was 60 years old. He had a chronic illness that finally got the best of him. There is something sad about a winter willow. In spring, their branches fade into yellows, ochres, and fluorescent lime. Rebirth.

At 8:35 p.m. my mother told me she felt my brother passing and started to cry. By 9 p.m., he was gone. She was miles away. She has the sixth sense. As kids we knew we couldn’t lie to our mother. She recognized the truth on a level we did not understand.

Now I understand. Because I have the sixth sense, too. An empath. Some call it intuitive. Maybe we all have the Gift. But some are more comfortable with it, push it further. You have to suspend disbelief, trust yourself, open to whatever may come.

I woke up this morning with a story in my head, a story about willows. Liz’s mom came into one of my dreams. She is 82 and transitioning in a small western town in Wyoming. We drove 1000 miles to visit her for ten days in May. It was the most intense ten days of my life. Spirits hovered in the air waiting to greet her on the Other Side. It didn’t matter if you believed they were there or not; every night they returned. Guardians, Angels, and people who had already passed, for better or for worse. Liz, her nephew, her sister, and I stood vigil. We banished those spirits who were not there out of Love.

Love. It’s about love in the end. And respect for those who have come before us. If you believe there is good and evil in the world, the Willow protects.

When I was a child of eleven or twelve, we moved from the Deep South to Pennsylvania. My new grandparents had a mature willow in their backyard that butted up against a cornfield. I would swing on the branches at a time when they were strong enough to hold the weight of my body and bones.

There is something I learned about Death this year: the Spirit has to bend, and be strong enough to hold the Soul’s weight.


NOTE: 10 minute handwritten Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — WILLOW, the latest Writing Topic on redRavine.

 

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Gratitude, Mandala Series, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2016, photo © 2016 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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Happy Eostre. #spring

Happy Eostre. The Gift, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2013, photo © 2015 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




season of Eostre:
abundance lives
in the skillful art
of not placing all your eggs
in one basket



___________________________________________

A few years ago, I was getting a haircut when a woman walked in bearing gifts. She carried a basket of hollow, elaborately decorated eggs and asked the patrons in the shop if they would like to choose one to take with them. I had seen pysanky (what we called Ukrainian Easter eggs) before, but had never taken part in the gift-giving ritual. It lit up my day. I took the oval-shaped treasure home and placed it in a raku bowl on my altar where it lived for many months.

There is a booklet produced by the American Folklife Center (1982, long out of print) that gives a brief description of European egg decorating traditions, and explains the techniques (complete with black and white photos) for producing elaborate designs. EggArt can be found in the online collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress (LINK). Here is an excerpt:

Egg Art Cover Image: Easter Eggs Decorated with Various Traditional Patterns. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer, 1982.

Egg Art Cover Image: Easter Eggs Decorated with Various Traditional Patterns. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer, 1982.

Traditionally, the egg, both plain and decorated, has been an object with strong mystical and symbolic force throughout the world. It has been associated with the myth of creation, with the concept of birth, and with the hope for abundance. Eggs have been sacrificed to sanctify the construction of dwellings, public buildings, and bridges in many lands. They are traditionally given at the birth of a son in China, and they have been used for fortune telling in the British Isles. In many Western cultures the egg has become an integral part of the complementary celebrations of the Easter season and of the renewal of life in spring.

It is in Eastern Europe, however, where Christian associations with the egg were grafted onto strong, pagan beliefs which connected the egg with sun worship, worship of the renewal of life in spring, and with rituals to maintain or restore health, that the rich traditions surrounding eggs have remained strongest. More secular traditions practiced in the spring by communities of European ancestry include egg tapping, egg gathering or hunting, egg rolling, and egg tossing contests.

It is said that the Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE), a Christian scholar and monk, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (or Eastre, the ancient word for spring). And that Eostre, the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people, Germanic Goddess of Spring, gave her name to the Christian festival of Easter. After the dark Midwest winter, I find it an uplifting season, and feel grounded in the timing still dictated by the Moon.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, April 4th, 2015

-Part of a yearly practice to write a short form piece of poetry in a Moleskine journal once a day for the next year. Related to post: haiku 4 (one a day) Meets renga 52

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Winter Solstice Fire, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2014, photos © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







Dark December,
the longest night—
rest peacefully, knowing
none of the prophets
are saints.







-posted on red Ravine at the New Moon on Winter Solstice,
Sunday, December 21st, 2014
-related to post: haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52

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Winter Solstice Fire (What I Bring Into The Light), Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Winter Solstice
darkness reigns

light turns a corner




She placed last year’s Yule branches into the ring, shook drifts of snow off the woodpile. Four boots, two drums, two rattles. No wind drifted off the cattails, stiff in the frozen pond. She watched for fox; maybe he would approach the chicken carcass and fatty skin, leftovers from soup stock made earlier that morning. The neighbors’ windows glowed—holiday lights, TV screens, reading lamps. The air was an eerie blue, foggy and wet.

She wanted to let go of the death of her father. She wanted to let go of all the the things she would never be able to ask. She wanted to let go of thinking it was her. Others let go, too, circles upon circles. Drums, rattles, chants.

Morning now. Her hair smells of smoked birch and charred cedar. Her dreams were deep and dark. Her heart is lighter.

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Charred Dreams (What I Leave Behind), Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




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Wheel Of Life, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


ONE: Gates Of Death, Stage 10 of The Great Round, begins the natural process of ending the Great Round cycle in preparation for a new beginning. Experiences that open this stage often come in losses or obstructions that challenge us to question who we are. The first mandala, Wheel Of Life, brings us face to face with the relentless passage of time. The Wheel of Life turns on, sometimes up, sometimes down, urging us to let go.

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, Rainbow Magic pens that erase and change color, Reeves Water Colour Pencils




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Celtic Cross, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


TWO: In Stage 10, we are being separated from that which is no longer needed. Celtic crosses made of tall, silent, enduring stone dot the landscape of Scotland. They stand against the sky, washed by the winds and rains of countless seasons, reminders that even though things change, there is a part of us that lives on.

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils




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Lotus, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


THREE: In mandala three, based on the Kali Yantra of Hinduism, destruction opens the way for creation. The eight-petaled lotus represents the goddess Kali in her nurturing maternal aspect. The inner circle, traditionally colored black, reveals her also as a Destroyer, the dark womb that absorbs all into non-being. The central triangle, ultimate symbol of divine feminine creative energy, holds the spark of new life.

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils




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Gateway, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


FOUR: Stage 10, Gates of Death, opens the last segue leading to the completion of a Great Round cycle, and urges us to walk through the gate into the unknown. It is time to let go of the way things have been and clear the way for a new beginning.

Medium: Reeves Water Colour Pencils, Crayola markers




October Mandalas — Stage 10 – Gates Of Death


The last few months I have been feeling empty, like I am nearing the end of a creative cycle. I have been wanting to shed the old, to wrap up lingering projects and push them out into the world, so that I can open to something new. It’s disconcerting to not know where you are going—a good time to revisit old practices. Yesterday, I spent most of the day in silence and opened the book on mandalas. When I revisited Stage 10, Gates of Death, I knew it was time to sit with the lessons it had to teach.

The mandalas are from the 10th month of a year-long mandala practice that began with the post Coloring Mandalas and followed the twelve passages of Joan Kellogg’s Archetypal Stages of the Great Round. I spent that year taking the Great Round to completion. But there was something I had yet to understand—-it would take until 2013 for events of my life to catch up to the last cycles of the Great Round. Some of the signs of Stage 10 – Gates of Death are:

  • losses or obstructions that challenge us, causing us to question who we are
  • things that once seemed important, seem empty & meaningless
  • bittersweet parting with what was; painful rending from what can no longer be
  • desire to let go of life the way it was, with no sense of what is to come
  • sense of deflation when the connection between Ego & Self grows more distant
  • aware of cycles of decay in nature and the eventual approach of death


Adding to the sense of disorientation I’ve been feeling, I lost a writing friend in July. And in November, I found out my blood father died on October 31st, ending any chance he might have to read the letter I wrote. Death. Decay. Loss. Rebirth. I still believe that anything we take on as a practice takes us where we need to go. It is the time it takes to get there that remains a mystery.



Archetypal Stages Of The Great Round on red Ravine:


Crystallization — September Mandalas
Functioning Ego – August Mandalas (Goethe & Color)
Squaring The Circle – July Mandalas (Chakras & Color)
Dragon Fight — June Mandalas
Target — May Mandalas
Beginnings — April Mandalas
Labyrinth – March Mandalas
Bliss – February Mandalas
The Void – January Mandalas
Coloring Mandalas


-posted on red Ravine, Thanksgiving weekend, Saturday, November 30th, 2013




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Fire For The Autumn Equinox, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






What matters to her,
after all is said and done—

long walks in the rain;
sparks to light the blackened night;
a place to spread her ashes.






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Embers — After All Is Said & Done, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, October 12th, 2013

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