I’m at a roadside park just off I-94 overlooking a part of the Badlands called Painted Canyon.
The sun is setting to my left. It highlights the layered colors of the sprawling valley below me in intense blues, fiery reds, bruised purpled, living greens and a hundred shades of grey and brown.
The clouds are lit from within on a background that slowly shifts from pale blue to a deep violet capturing all the colors of my imagination.
Just past the edge of this vantage is an ancient juniper with dark berries. Balancing on the edge of its sparse limbs a meadowlark sings. In the distance a red tailed hawk circles.
At my feet are perfect yellow flowers that iridescent green bees suckle at. Ants clamber in the deep grass, carrying supplies to stock their underground metropolis.
A child’s balloon floats by me. A red island drifting on a cool breeze. Dancing with the invisible.
In the distance a child cries. Another laughs. The incessant sounds of man, the murmuring chatterous monotony of high and low and hushed and shouted tones and nearby traffic and all their smells, sweet and masked and dirty, are all broken, drowned in a profound silence that has no name.
Standing at the fence that keeps humanity at bay, separate from the world we were born into, is a young couple, giddy with love, arms wrapped around each other, smiling, content, joyous. Their love shines so brightly that it adds to the glow of the setting sun. A stranger takes their picture, hands the camera back to them with a “You’re welcome” and with no more than a quick glance into eternity and a shrug, walks quickly back to their car. They have someplace to be. An itinerary. A plan. They will miss so much. Too much.
I take in the sight and am filled with a deep peace, with the miracle of this moment. It is captured within me and I am captured within it and it lives forever.
Not in the past. Not as a memory, now, because Now is all that ever exists.
Today I woke to this gorgeous nearly full moon illuminating the clouds from within and was reminded that even in the darkest days there is light.
I took some time to contemplate the shortness of our own days, the divine spark that resides in all of us which lights the darkness from within, and the eternal promise of life renewed, and I silently expressed my gratitude for every second of light and life I am given as well as for those inevitable periods of darkness that make the light so much easier to see and appreciate.
Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The sun will remain low on the horizon for three days before rising back into the heavens. The nights will be long and cold.
This solstice is quite rare because it is accompanied by a full moon that brings with it positive change and pleasant and welcome surprises. The next time we will witness a full moon on the solstice is 2094.
To make it even more special it will be followed by the Ursids meteor shower on the 22nd and 23rd. I have no idea when this triple crown will happen again but I don’t imagine it will be any time soon.
It is quite literally a once in a lifetime event so I hope you take the time to bear witness and celebrate in your own way.
Tonight I will celebrate publicly. I’ve been invited to a Christmas party hosted by one of the companies I drive for that also happens to be a company I have contracted with many times over the years and was an employee of until last year. It will be a comfortable gathering among friends.
Tomorrow night I will honor this time privately by writing down my hopes and fears, my joys and sorrows, and release them all in fire and an offering of the ashes to the wind in gratitude.
Sunday I will connect with friends, family, and Beloved to reaffirm my presence, my promise, my commitment, and to thank them for being in my life.
However you decide to celebrate or honor this sacred time I wish you a happy and blessed solstice!
There is a silence here. A silence in the air. In the ground I walk upon broken with heavy boots leaving the slightest crackle of lightest snow snuffed little by little with each step as my path hardens into firmest ice.
Above me a sky of photograph blue spreads so far I can see the curve of this incredible planet I call home.
Big Sky. Yes. No denying that moniker. I’ve seen many skies and Montana has the biggest skies I’ve ever seen.
Early winters are the norm here. I guess I forgot that having lived so many years just east of the natural weather break the Badlands provide. Here, there is nothing to stop the winds amplified by unimaginable miles of rolling hills meeting high plains.
So here I am. At the edge of what I knew facing the experience of what I will know.
Sounds familiar. Sounds like Life.
Unless we live under the warm blankets of comfort, never venturing out to explore what we may yet know, we fortify ourselves. Build walls.
To never step into the cold, the blizzard winds that tear at us, each frozen tear of the Universe itself falling from heights we really can not imagine like an infantry of icy pebbles, or grains of purest sand that burn our feet with impressions of the memories of worlds that left them, is to never experience the gift that life is.
How fortunate I am that the Divine, both furious ice and flame, has put me here to see with eyes and feel with hands what those with only the machinations or extrapolations of minds may express or experience through words.
The Universe, though largely a mystery, is known to contain billions of galaxies just within our limited view of its vastness.
Each of those galaxies, like our own, contain billions of stars and each star is very likely to be at the center of its own planetary system.
That’s hundreds of billions of planets and each and every one of them has the potential to be home trillions of life forms.
Our galaxy alone could be home to trillions of trillions of life forms.
The numbers are beyond calculation or comprehension when we consider how many potential life forms there are in the universe, which may just be part of a larger system of billions of other universes bumping and squeezing into each other like cells in a body that make up something even larger.
We just don’t know.
What we do know, what we are absolutely certain about, is that among all those planets circling all those stars in all those galaxies there is only one you.
You are unique in all the universe.
And it is incomplete without you.
Image from just a tiny section of space observed by the Hubble telescope.
Every cell in your body, every muscle, bone, tendon, artery, vein, capillary, and the blood the flows through them, every neuron that fires thought both pleasant and unpleasant, every memory triggered, every emotion that accompany those memories whether they bring ecstatic joy or mind numbing, incapacitating, suffering, every breath and beat of your heart, has been written by the Divine who has designed your life specifically for you.
Divine Mother, Sacred Creator, you who guide us with pain and joy and fill our souls with love, our bodies with life, and our minds with dreams, I offer myself to you, freely, and ask that you guide me now and always, in whatever manner you choose.
Teach me by your loving embrace or your firm hand. Guide me when I go off course, reprimand me when I need it, envelop me in your compassion when I ask for it, love me as I love you, and if in your infinite wisdom you see fit to send me tumbling from my chosen path then light a new one and tenderly or firmly set my feet upon it and show me the way as I know you always do.
Teach me to love deeper, laugh harder, cry truer, express clearer, to live more in union with our shared intentions and to become more fully the person you have planned for me to be.
When we are born we discover the most amazing things: the world develops before our very eyes and as we grow it expands as if we, ourselves, are the gods that create it moment by moment.
In our teens we discover complex emotions that threaten our very existence: rage, pain, immense joy and sadness, and, for the very first time, even though we may not recognize it for what it is, Love.
We go through school being taught pointless rhetoric: math, science, history. All the while being taught none of those things that could lead us to deeper paths; mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion. Those are supposed to be taught by our parents. Parents who never learned those things either.
Learn them. They will lead you farther than you imagine.
Later still, we discover that we wished we had learned more of those worthless ideas. Paid closer attention. What was that formula for finding the volume of a circle again? That will come in handy later. I promise you that. So pay attention if you can. But there’s more.
We discover the value of money. Of friendship and of hard work and of possession. We go into the world discovering fine food, good company, bright lights.
Too often people don’t make it past those last discoveries. They base their lives on the hedonistic values of life: a big house, a nice car, good clothes, physical pleasure. Discovery ends. Life has been explored and all that it offers has been found.
Those discoveries become empty. Meaningless. Superficial. Life becomes meaningless. Emotions become an intolerable consequence. A side effect of life.
If we are insightful, or have a fortunate predilection for it, or have a loved one willing to force our awareness, or we are just plain lucky, or unlucky, we push deeper. Struggle harder to find meaning.
Our path of discovery narrows to two distinct paths: inward or outward.
The outward path leads us to medical discovery. To miracle cures. To pills that end our suffering. To gurus and healers and shaman. The path can branch over and over from here but it always leads us to the discovery of the inward path though very very few can make that transition.
If you find yourself at that transitional fork in your path I hope, I truly hope, you find your way to the inward path. Reach into that place and you will find a hand willing to lead you farther than you ever imagined. I promise you that.
The inward path leads us to ever deeper discovery: understanding, self love, honesty, acceptance, awareness, unity, Love. True Love.
Discoveries that lead us to higher planes of existence. Planes where loss and suffering are accepted as simply a part of life and where the value of a single breath, drawn long and slow while listening to and feeling the beat of our own miraculous heart connect us to the very soul of the Universe, is beyond measure.
What we discover there can never be fully expressed in words but in that place are experiences outside the realm of comprehension and yet understood as if we were once again children creating, moment by moment, the very fabric of our own distinct, yet combined, reality.
My wish for you is this:
Continue your journey. Never cease in your struggle of discovery, because even further beyond that point lay infinity: a point of chaotic generation and regeneration of life where the distance between infancy and eons are but fractions of moments of the life of a single drop of moisture on a spiders web and all that we have discovered between birth and true life, the life that always awaits, that bekons and welcomes all, are a single reflection on the surface of that dew that shimmers a while before dropping into an endless ocean that rises as mist to condense on the web over and over again.
In that chaos of constant re-creation resides the Divine where She rests on this, the Seventh Day, with arms wide and welcome, to bring us into Her embrace.
It is a place of constant discovery and awe and wonder where a word as simple and complex as “Love” or “Gratitude” can define our very existence.
Though I tend to speak of it in terms of enlightenment and higher planes of consciousness it is not some mythical place reached only through lifetimes of deep meditation and study. It does not require the use of psychoactive compounds or healers or teachers.