Swinging on Time’s Gate

Posted by Eliza, January 2nd, 2013

In northerly Scotland, the first person over the doorway on New Year’s Day is warmly welcomed with cake and drink and coal. In Cherryville, North Carolina, the tradition is of a “the great shooting,” involving the Shooters in twelve hours of explosive firing and chanting to welcome in the new year. Noise and bonfire are common hinge time rituals, ostensibly to chase or burn demons and trolls of the past that prevent us from immersing ourselves in the now.

Yes, the old year dies- with a bang or a whimper. And, ready or not, we move on to the next – stuttering when we write the new year’s date the first time. Something in us may sense unfinished business. But the gate swings wide and on we go…

Some of what we aren’t ready to let go of is the savoring of a joy from the recent past– a swim in a new and lovely pond, mastering the snowboard, or finally making that long-dreamed of trip. December can also be a time when our losses drift in from the cold. Familiar as aches, beloved faces hover in the imagination, along with conversations we wish we’d had, and things we wish we hadn’t done. This is a complex time.
Those of us who’ve suffered a recent loss of a loved one, or who anticipate a loss, have an especially hard time during the holidays. New England poet Maxine Kumin writes of the death of her dog, in the poem “Five Small Deaths in May”:

I will not sing the death of Dog
Who lived a fool to please his king.
I will put him under the milkweed bloom
Where in July the monarchs come
As spotted as he, as rampant, as enduring.

In spring it’s so much easier to believe in the potential for rebirth, for transformation.
If we give ourselves the gift of the present, thought, we can feel our way into the future- even in the heart of winter. If we look carefully we can see the reddening buds start to swell on the twigs; peek between the rolls of bark on forest trees and you’ll find the fireflies, just waiting to light their fires again; and there’s the surprising red breast of a robin on warmer days. Light, warmth and familiar promises remind us that life continues, alongside our grieving.

We can learn how to hold, at one time, both our joy and our sadness from the rituals ringing in the new year. The ageless gestures, songs, and sharing can recall us to our inner strength and resilience.

This version of the Metta Sutta, from the Buddhist tradition, offers hope for the year to come:

May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free from misery.
May all beings be freed from attachment and fear,
And may there be peace in all the worlds.

May you enjoy a blessed new year.




Walk a Mile in Another’s Paws

Posted by Eliza, November 8th, 2012

Like many, I’m sometimes deeply puzzled by the behavior of my fellow creatures – how about that texting while jay walking, for example? And humbled, because I’m not always paying attention, either. When we give care- medical, emotional, or spiritual, we do our best to walk with others. Like you, I’m often awed to the point of tears by the resilience, the bravery, and the kindness of my fellow beings. It’s helpful to be reminded of our responsibility to open our eyes and hearts and minds in this work – and our imaginations.

I got my booster lesson recently, the Universe clearly saying you can never know too much about empathy. I was visiting a client with two lovely African Greys. It was my first visit, and they were understandable nervous, so I gave them space and tried moving deliberately. I sat on a couch on the other side of the room, talking to them. After a while I got chilly, reached to unwrap my scarf, and – Whoa! – one of the birds hollered at me. My client simply said “Snake” and I felt dumb. Of course! My beige and red scarf’s uncoiling reminded a bird of danger. The funny thing is, my first instinct was she was warning me – “Look out!” It was coiling around my neck, I suddenly saw. I saw the world through her eyes, clear as day. Of course.

G.M.Serino wrote me recently about having parrots as roommates:
“Brimmed hats are a problem. I’m guessing they trigger a prey response (perhaps a hawk?). The first time someone walked into my living room wearing a baseball hat I had three screaming, growling African Greys hurling themselves in terror around my living room. A delivery of flowers with a balloon; and a T-shirt with a GIANT yellow smiley all triggered a similar response. So, my living room is a hat-free zone…”

With all fellow beings, especially if we don’t have voice or tone or body language to help us, imagining ourselves into the body, heart, and head of another is vital to our caring. It’s one way we can sense and give respect to their being. Walking a mile in their shoes, as my Dad used to urge, or their paws, gives you a Master’s degree in caring.

Ms. Serino speaks from deep experience, so she gets the last word today: “If you can imagine the world around you through the eyes of another you can be a better companion to your pet and a better friend to others. Because I’m a willing student of life I believe my companion parrots have taught me to be a better person.”


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