good morning, spirit helpers (elk)
the day i brought quinn home after our 3 weeks and a day apart, we happened upon our local elk herd, grazing peacefully beside the road. this has happened to us about 20 times in the past 3 months, as well as everyone else with the same commute, so that doesn’t necessarily mean we have elk medicine, right? yet somehow all those mamas and their gangly teenagers and young children and pregnant friends felt like kindreds to me that day more than any other. yesterday we caught them as they were crossing the road and got to see the whole herd up close again, watching us as intently as we were observing them, and as usual a little voice in the backseat greeted them, “good morning, spirit helpers!”
as with all borrowed spiritual ideas, “spirit helpers” has been a concept we have had to try on, and break in, and feel our way through understanding and applying it to our own lives, or choosing not to, if it didn’t fit. it turns out, it does fit. and i know there are folks who think borrowing from native traditions is a no-no, but i am this way with my whole spiritual path. very little of it is my own original thought. after all, religion, as joseph campbell pointed out, is about “linking back” or connecting ourselves back to something bigger, something before (campbell used the latin religio to define it thus). and so for my own personal journey, i feel like borrowing and trying on is ok. it is the only means i have of making a connection back to so many of the world’s spiritual ideas, but i want to embrace whatever tools and concepts can enrich or lives, whether or not i was born with some sort of entitlement to them. (does anyone really have a claim on the natural world, the source of all of these spirit helpers, anyway?)
so what is an elk spirit helper all about? i like to think of spirit helpers as friends on the journey who remind us of who we are and why we’re here, to help remind us of traits we strive for, and help us celebrate ones we already embody. watching this herd of mother elk banded together, i am brought right back to here and now, where i am doing the hard work of mothering in the face of many threats, but not alone- i have many other mamas on my side. for the elk, spring is birthing time, and the elk mamas support each other, just as we might bring a pot of salmon chowder over to our human friend who has just given birth. mothering, at its best, is non competitive. it’s a cooperative effort- it takes a village, a community of friends, reminding each others’ children to speak with kindness towards their mama, or take their muddy boots off when they come inside the house. our children thrive from hearing from the chorus of women’s’ voices rather than one lone mama singing solo. and we mamas, we elk women, are a force to be reckoned with when threatened. don’t let our peaceful grazing and child rearing fool you. there is incredible strength, stamina and nobility behind all that soft, fleshy, motherness. we mamas got each others’ backs.
we’re also tapped into the spirit realm. though the bull elk are the ones with the big antlers, the mamas are also sensitive to the energy out there, able to pick it up on our receivers, though they might not be as big or obvious. there is nothing like a mama’s intuition to guide her through the tough times.
good afternoon, spirit helpers (hawk)
driving along the willamette valley to get to and from track meets, i have been spotting hawks like crazy by the sides of the road. i’ve always had a pretty good eye for wildlife, but with the hawks it has gotten kind of disproportionate, to the point where they are blatantly obvious to me, even though no one else in the car, even self-proclaimed hawk people, are missing some of them. as though they are there just for me. which they just might be… there has been a huge focusing of the collective consciousness around quinn and my coparenting/custody situation in the past few months, taking many forms such as prayer of all varieties. over a span of years i have been attempting to sift through the aspects of christianity (the religious tradition that i was born into) that work for me, vs those that do not, in an honest attempt to not throw out the baby with the bathwater. my own spirituality is its own unique blend of things that work for me, collected from everywhere and from within my own self (and i would submit that for all of us this is true…). while rejecting the whole of christianity (baby and bathwater) felt right for a time, i am no longer in that place (for me, there’s still lots and lots of bathwater. i am still in that place). i gotta say, some christians take prayer seriously, folks. and i like that about them. i like prayer. it has taken me a long time to arrive at a place where i can say that, but here i am. whether you are sending it out through a smoke ring released from a sacred pipe, or kneeling at an altar, or simply focusing your consciousness while you’re doing whatever you’re doing, i have come to the conclusion for myself that prayer is a powerful act. when all those people all around the country (christian, buddhist, pagan, and too many others to be named) all pray with one purpose in mind, it is a pretty profound thing. and sometimes the answers we receive come in the form of fleets of hawks, their sheer numbers overwhelming us with the power of it all. they circle around the sky, carrying prayers upward and outward and cycling back again with the comforting message that i am not alone in all of this.
hawks have keen long range vision and they soar above it all, or perch high above in a tall tree, soaking in the big picture perspective. insights flow so much more freely from that vantage point. and while it’s no good to always be zoomed way out in a wide-angle view like that- there are plenty of little details that require a mama to zoom in on them each day- the ability to take a step back from a particular event or emotion or reaction is often quite quite useful. thank you for that wisdom, hawk.
sometimes taking the long view of things means we put our reactiveness on hold while we prioritize the more important lesson to our children. rather than telling my son what i think about something his dad has said to him about me, and making sure to point out his wrong and making sure to get my side of the story in edgewise, the lesson i am really trying to impart here is think for yourself. not listen to dad, nor listen to me, just… listen to you. please, my son, never lose track of the you in there, the person inside, your compass bearing of true north can never come from any of us, even if we are your parents. you are the guy who has got to find truth for you. hawk helps me to hold onto that larger need, that overarching goal for my son, and let go of the pettiness and the need to vilify my coparent or boost myself up in my son’s eyes.
just as elk share safety in numbers, hawk is independent, hawk’s insights are its own. although hawk is soaring above it all, she trusts her intuition and before looking outward, seeks her own answers from within. soaring full circle, spiralling inward, outward, upward.
good evening, spirit helpers (owl)
as hawk is to daytime, owl is to the darkness. owl sees in ways that other beings cannot, through the black night. owl is still a mysterious spirit helper to me, though i have been aware of it as part of my make-up for a while now. owl is stealth, flying on silent wings, going silently and subtly. without a fuss, without reactiveness. coming home a couple weeks ago after dark, an owl swooped low directly along the center line of my car, scaring me “half to death” (interesting how owl is the totem associated with death), and flashing a blaze of feathers at my windshield before veering off just as suddenly into the dark void. (i’m scratching my head as to why i am driving every time i encounter my friends lately- obviously i am driving too much!) my sleeping son in the backseat did not get to say good evening to this spirit helper, but i have been aware of owl ever so much more in my life since quinn came into it (if a mama can presume to be aware of her child’s spirit helpers). thinking of the death aspect of owl can be especially scary given that owl flies close to my son, but as with every aspect of spirit helpers, there is a flip side to each trait. owl also reigns over rebirth, renewal, healing. there is deep healing in owl’s silent wings. and nothing else about mothering has been more central to the experience than how closely birth and death are intermingled, starting from day one when my son was whisked into a nicu ward. being a mama is being given a gift so huge, and yet being vulnerable to lose in ways that devastate beyond comprehension. the magic of the owl’s realm of night time remains a mystery to me, in spite of having owl for a friend.
as a mama there are so many thoughts (like ones about mortality) running around like squirrels and being generally unhelpful. it’s a good thing i have owl on the path with me to keep down the squirrel population in my head… 😉