Saturday, November 02, 2013

October Reverie: Surrendering Enough to Commit


Fall 2000. A cool evening breeze brushes the hillsides of Two Rock Valley. A familiar mist begins to envelop our little barn, a barn that no longer lodges horses or sheep. Now it's a way place, a meeting space for people, open to anyone who decides to come for the ninety minute classes. Those of us who train here feel special, but for no special reason. None of us would be here had not someone else made an effort to extend an invitation or a suggestion. Some of them, those who did the inviting or suggesting, are no longer with us. We gather, we practice, we engage in a self study of physical movement and metal focus. It is intense, even when the pace is slow. In fact the slower the pace the more intense it becomes.   Quite spiritual for some. This evening we are sixteen. At some point our practice is momentarily suspended. The fellow in charge picks up the piece of paper that's sitting by the sliding wood door. He reads:

The Weighing (Jane Hirshfield)

The heart's reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.

About this reading no request for speaking is made, at least not alound. The reading simply hangs there - a mirror to serve reflection, a window to serve vision. Whatever messages that exist are ours to discover. They live already within each of us. For some, the internal speaking will influence physical movements for the remaining minutes of class. For others, it will poignantly relate to a day recently lived, or it will welcome or forwarn a waiting night at home or a tomorrow at work. My speaking is about commitment and surrender and relationships. Over the next thirteen years the "fellow in charge" will read this poem aloud many times - and when he does, a new speaking will arise within me.

Summer 1975. A hot day in a parched valley three hours north of San Francisco. I sit inside a swimming pool cabana recently converted into a classroom. Thirty others are with me - all formally dressed and seated at tables. We are classmates for a week. I'm here from Hawaii where I serve as an Amry lieutenant.

The sliding glass door on the cabana's north side opens. A man wearing a dark blue three piece suit and starched white shirt with French cuffs, steps in, settles himself and begins to speak. As best I can, I listen while drifting in and out of a haze of memories. At some point I hear him say, "There can be no joy without commitment."

Then he begins a story.

The 508 men leave their ships and take up oars to row. Feet step ashore. Their home, Spain, thousands of miles to the north and east, awaits their completed mission and their return. But today with Hernando Cortez they, the 508, stand in Mexico. Mexico, like Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Veracruz, Michoacan and Jalisco, remains an unknown yet to be spoke word. These voyagers are in the land of the Aztec, the land of Montezuma, the land that surrounds Tenochititlan.

Cortez issues an order, "Scuttle the ships." Spain remains a possiblity, though not to be achieved by reversing direction. That option, Cortez has ensured, no longer exists. Only by going forward can anything be achieved. That these men will return to Spain or anywhere else is hopeful but not certain. Cortez' action speaks to a yet to be created history. There is no turning back. There is only going forward. Something past must be released in order for something new to be realized. And so, the 508 proceed. Surrendering to what is, they commit themselves.

October 2010. I'm home. My mobile phone buzzes the incoming text from my friend David. "Bad news Lance. We lost Mr. Mac last night."  I freeze. My thoughts, "I was just at Mac's house; we were just talking with each other; this must be some crazy joke." It's not.

A small stone sits on my mantelpiece. On it, drawn in ink, is a mouse.   Fifteen feet away, framed on my office wall is a beaded white eagle feather. The mouse, the feather, both are gifts from Mac Turnipseed.

The eagle feather came my way in 1994. It was Mac's right as a Native American to have it and to give it. It was my honor to receive it. I had just designed and was delivering a two-day communication, service and leadership program for Mac's family, their businesses and employees. As the program began, and in front of the entire assembly, Mac asked me to stand. He then reached out, placed the feather in my hand and offered, "This is yours, brother".

In the years that followed many classes and consulting sessions were requested by Mac, his mother, his sister and his brothers - all for immediate and extended family, employees, and members of the Puyallup Tribe. Along the way I encountered a marvelous book, Seven Arrows, assembled by Hyemeyohsts Storm. One story called Jumping Mouse particularly stuck me. So on a visit to Tacoma to deliver a program I sat with Mac and read him the story. It speaks of possibility and human nature and commitment ... and to being a person of generocity and service - something called a give away person.

As the story opens we meet Little Mouse. As it continues we observe him gaining the courage needed to step beyond his self-imposed limitations and those of other mice to find his medicine, and from there become Jumping Mouse. He then goes on to realize service as his highest calling. The result of which becomes the realization of his dream.

Briefly, it goes like this. Little Mouse decides it would be great to leave the place of mice and venture off to the mountain. The other mice warn that going onto the prairie in search of such a mountain is to be alone and exposed. They warn that the prairie is filled with dangers and that he will become a quick meal for an eagle. But the pull of possibility overwhelms and strengthens Little Mouse. He gathers courage and sets off to discover the truth and find the mountain.

Along the way Little Mouse meets many creatures including Frog, who teaches how to jump up. This gift from Frog gives Little Mouse vision - the ability to see beyond the grass in front of his face. This jumping is Little Mouse's medicine and his name becomes Jumping Mouse. With newfound ability Jumping Mouse moves out onto the prairie where he meets Buffalo. But Buffalo is blind and dying, and sadly informs Jumping Mouse that his only cure, his medicine, is the eye of a mouse. Overwhelmed with the sight of such a manificent creature, Jumping Mouse is filled with the spirit of service and gives Buffalo an eye. Instantly healed and deeply appreciative Buffalo escorts Jumping Mouse across the prairie to a place beyond which it is difficult for Buffalo to proceed.

Arriving at this place Jumping Mouse becomes excited. He finds abundance never imagined - seed and other things, including a great grey Wolf. But, like Buffalo, Wolf is ill. He sits listlessly dim minded. Wolf has no memory of self or purpose. This saddens Jumping Mouse, yet with the sadness a thought occurs. If an eye could help Buffalo then perhaps another eye could likewise serve Wolf. Without hesitation Jumping Mouse gives up the remaining eye. Wolf is healed. His memory returns and he recalls his life's mission: guide others across the prairie to the mountain. Jumping Mouse, now blind, walks with Wolf acoss the remaining stretch of land to the base of the mountain. There Wolf informs Jumping Mouse that he must continue on alone because Wolf's mission compel him to go back and find others to guide.

Filled with gratitude, but blind and fearing he will become lunch for an eagle, Jumping Mouse says goodbye to Wolf, wishing him well with his mission.

Sitting exposed, Jumping Mouse senses Eagle's shadow passing over him. He shivers and braces for the oncoming shock. Eagle hits, takes his lunch, and Jumping Mouse enters a deep sleep. But soon this sleep wanes. He wakes to a blurry light, followed by sharp bright colors. Jumping Mouse realizes that he can see again! Everything is clear and vivid. He turns his head and notices wings. He has become Eagle.

Of course it took me much longer to read the story to Mac that day. All the while he simply sat, listening deeply and saying nothing. The following day began the next program for the Turnipseed's companies. Weeks later a small box arrived at my home, sent by mail. Inside and without a note was a stone and on it, drawn in ink, a small mouse.  

We all have our heart's reasons and individual unique strengths. We have our ships to scuttle, and adventure filled opportunities that could take us anywhere - incuding back home. We have had our times of being mouse people, surrounded by the discouraging voices of other mouse people. We have shivered in tall grass beyond which we cannot see. We have had the times of meeting our Frog people, there to teach us how to jump, and encourage us to strike out across individual prairies. We have had our opportunities to meet and serve our Buffalo, our Wolves and, yes, our Eagles. The question becomes - to what degree do we, did we, and will we surrender to these reasons, these strengths, these times and these people ... and to commit.

© Lance Giroux, October 16, 2013

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