Every once in a while, I just have to leave the city and go somewhere where there are rocks and trees and wind and water. I need to be where there are lady bugs and honey bees and the sound of my shoes in the tall spiny grasses. Today, my friend and soul companion, Phyllis, and I visited St. Francis of the Woods, a place for wholeness.
Even the beginning heat could not lessen the calm and serenity I found there. It is a place for wholeness, yes, but for healing and renewal in a world that sometimes becomes dry and arid as a riverbed with too little rain. I do not know the full story, but it was founded in the early 80's and has been a quiet calm in the ordinary hurry-up world we live in. A lady named Christina Gustavson gave a workshop, "In-versing Your Life." It was about poetry and healing ... and it was the exact right place for me today.
We wrote poems about letting go ... such a hard thing for me - I'm the one who stayed in labor most of five days straight - I give up nothing without a fight! We wrote poems about what we were, what we are, what we want to be. I wrote a poem about the four corners of my heart; the chambered nautilus shell coiling life into a home, the fall dressed maple leaf that represents my middle journey these years. A piece of sea glass, I had never seen sea glass ... it was smooth on several sides, but one side was sharp and raw, and I was reminded of the tumor they took from my breast. The last corner, a rock, sandstone and shale probably, craggy and multicolored, and it reminded me of my grandmother's heart, my own part Cherokee heart, worn smooth by the water and sun and wind of a lifetime. I placed the corners on a green batik heart fabric because maybe my heart is not red, but green, living, growing, and ever changing.
We--and I say we. There were 11 women there, sharing the sadness of our lives, the joys and the secret passions that don't often come to surface in the ordinary days. One lady, an Australian, is also a breast cancer survivor. I think about that sometimes ... how very blessed I have been and how many sashays with Death I have had. Some days, I am aware that this time he may lead the dance, not I. One lady who is a minister hugged me and asked if she could pray for my healing. I hesitated for a bit ... then yes, your prayers are lovingly accepted, but I was akin to the reality that this is not often my prayer. I simply pray for the will of this life, the hands of my friends to hold, and the courage to be really me no matter what. We had lunch there--a marvelous vegetable soup, egg salad sandwiches, apples with a sweet fruit dip. We had crackers and cheese, homemade bread and homemade peanut butter and red plum jam. We had salsa and chips and then, wonderful then -- lemon meringue pie! We ate this meal and learned each other's names by making acrostics of our names. There was Diane, Anna, Cynthia, Audrey, Pat, Jeanette, Sandra, Carmen, Cathy, Phyllis, Marjorie, and me, Joyce. Here is my acrostic:
J just learning to live joyful
O open-hearted, awed by life
Y yearning for knowledge, for touch, for the process
C calm in the storm, cancer, creative, crone, chosen
E ever believing in love, empathic, enthios
Here is one of the poems I wrote as a response to Cynthia's prompt ...I used to be ...
I used to be a stone
moss-edged, lichen covered
from all the waters rage.
I used to be a stone
cloistered by the hill of solitary
fear of the dark
left unaware of love's ease.
Now, I am a stone
cracked and mottled
moss and lichens rich textured
honed, aged, clean.
Now, I am a stone
worn smooth by life currents
the cracks exposing
the brilliant colors within.
This stone of me can touch the sun.
Artwork "Fairy Garden" by Diana Stanley