Willow Wonderings

Stories from the Ranch

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If there is one thing I have learned from the desert, it is that words are insufficient to describe the sacred. My time at Ghost Ranch has so far been indescribably exciting, exhausting, and spirit-filled. In the past two weeks, I have weeded and planted vegetables with youth in gardens across the region, spent time in retreat at Casa del Sol, made sand art with preschoolers, prayed with Navajo brothers in a Quaker meeting, cried around a campfire, sung songs in pouring down rain, performed poetry, heard stories from an indigenous women’s group, and meditated on spirit animals.

Praise God for the majesty of the desert.

I feel incredibly grateful to be here, inspired by the sweet desert landscapes, the unpredictability, and the beautiful people around me.

Here are a few poems and stories I would like to share:

1. Coffeehouse

Every Thursday night, we gather as a Ghost Ranch community around a stage with lights, many treats, and inspiring acts. Last Thursday, I wrote a poem during the show while watching a thunderstorm. I hope it connects you to this place.

This is for the Facebook generation.

Tell me your story. Click click type one hour at a time: the facebook timeline. We live in a linear society who posts on your wall with timestamped photos that one time you ate really good ice cream, right before your best friend tweeted an article to you about the new best froyo she found on yelp. We can’t help it – the news feed is like our favorite sugar cookie and we won’t admit we’re addicted – because I need you to like me, I need to tell you my favorite movie is Juno, I need you to know I finally got a summer job even when everyone told me religion majors are worthless. What’s your digital address? Count your friends, count your likes, count your photo takes until that moment comes

there’s no red number to greet you hello

so you stalk your friend’s photos from last night until her black dress makes you feel that depressed and less-than-facebook worthy.

Tell me your story.

When I ask my grandmother to show me her photos she pulls out those black and white polaroids of back-and-forth porch swings where her grandpa played with her hair until she fell sound asleep, for years, until she fell in love and moved away. And there was no timeline to say her direction.

Tell me your story.

No, not your status – tell me about the time you sang Hallelujah to lightnight in the clouds flashing, you break danced to get the whole crowd clapping, you strained your lungs to salute the sun until she sang back. I want to know about the time you let a five year old stare you in the eyes, you prayed until you could finally say goodbye to addiction, you stopped answering to the phone ringing and stayed in bed on Saturday morning, you climbed the mountain before sunrise to the sound of rock tumbling. You wouldn’t stop your heart from stumbling because you refused to stop loving.

I refuse to believe

that your webpage can contain the story of your grandmother’s rocking swing, the sound of your veins ringing with the ocean breathing through your blue body

I’m not interested in your timeline

I want to know what makes you come alive, the times

when clocks stop and words fall away.

I’m not interested in what Facebook will say.

For the glory of the stars and the dust you are made of,

tell us your story.

 

2. Hummingbirds

My mom loves hummingbirds, and before coming to the Ranch, I had never spent time noticing them. When I arrived and found my meditation spot next to the arroyo, I began watching them daily – and they began speaking to me in ways I never expected. On Sunday, I watched six hummingbirds flying at Casa del Sol and they kept landing on a feeder I thought was empty. I found this significant to my own search for living water in dry places. That night, I sat in a Quaker’s living room in Cuba, New Mexico with my chaplain, Marissa, and three Navajo friends. The spirit moved me to speak about the hummingbirds and their impact on me. At dinner, the men shared their own experiences with hummingbirds and spirit animals that absolutely stunned me. The indigenous wisdom still alive today – in medicine traditions, prophecy, agriculture, spirituality and ceremony – is what our world needs.

The hummingbird kept speaking to me until I wrote this poem:

Love like a hummingbird

in the vast magnificence of the world,

soar in your own smallness.

let the patter of your heartbeat synch with the flutter of your wings,

your own song: soft, and faithful. awake before sunrise

and delight in the nectar you find

playing flight and seek.

surprise the one who is watching you

by never giving up, ever fervently playing.

being attached to nothing, not even air,

let yourself swim in the circular beams,

rounding your steps, one at a time

like a child first learning to dance.

 

Here’s the crazy part: this morning, I was praying by the arroyo to open to the lights of encouragement in my life that allow me to deLIGHT in the beauty around me. To be open to life, whatever it brings, and like the hummingbird rise above to fly in faith. When I looked up the meaning of the hummingbird in spirit animal readings today, I found it means to enjoy the sweetness of life in playfulness and joy. It told me to be swift and flexible, while maintaining my sensitivity. The land here is speaking – and I hope to continue listening.

 

These are just two short stories of a plethora of daily miracles – and lastly, here are a few questions that come to my mind from these past weeks.

Who am I at the core of my being, and what opens me to unfold in the light? What are parts of me that are hidden and long to be freed?

What are the weeds of addictions in my life? How can I sacrifice perfection for wholeness?

What are women of the Earth called to do in light of the environmental crisis? How are our bodies attuned to and reflected in nature?

 

May you find peace this week, and look for the hummingbirds speaking!

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2 thoughts on “Stories from the Ranch

  1. Darling Elizabeth,
    Congratulations on another fabulous post! Just popping in to say thank you for the letter and painting. It reached me at the end of long day, (and provided as much respite as water in a desert!).
    If you get a chance look up Gordon Hempton..he’s an acoustic ecologist, and somehow he made me think of you.
    More later. M

  2. Your words bring such joy to my heart, my dear Elizabeth!! Thank you so much for sharing – it is such a delight to read your blog! I am thinking of you and sending you all my love.

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