top of page

Facing The Squirm

After I recorded my most recent podcast episode, Fox Woman Dreaming, I started to feel a tightening in my stomach. Something wasn't right. Something didn't feel right. A hard, slippery, impossible truth wanted to emerge, but I was too busy to give it the space required to take form and shape and show itself to me.

While working at Symmetry I would get random moments of feeling the squirm. A thousand coiled serpents would start undulating in my solar plexus. This revelation would not wait much longer for my attention.

Finally, a pause. I can sit and listen. Allow the serpents to uncoil and offer their ancient primal forked truths.

In my podcast, I talk about gratitude for all of the beings who gave their lives to sustain my life and the lives of my family. The lives of the Susquehannock people and the Iroquois and Conewago. The lives of the plants and animals and my own ancestors. I contemplated how my bones are made from the bones of the people who have lived on this land for thousands of years and released their minerals back into the soil to be taken up by the plants and become part of my body. I felt all of this deeply and with reverence while looking upon the twinkling sisters of the Pleiades who watch the whole drama unfold from their vantaage point 444 light years away. It was beautiful, but incomplete.

My gratitude is misplaced. It feels undigested. It feels like bypass. None of these lives were given, surrendered or offered for my life. All of these lives were taken. Stolen. Often with violence and tragedy. The Susquehannock people were eradicated in a massacre on December 14, 1763. The Iroquois were destroyed when their involvement in the Revolutionary War frayed the fabric of their cohesiveness. There was no surrender of life, their lives and way of life were stolen and violently destroyed.

The animals that feed me and my family are raised with love and care, and then murdered. The plants that we eat have developed intricate defenses to avoid being eaten, they do not willingly offer their lives. There is a toxic propensity to romanticize the true brutality of life on Earth, and I had fallen into that trap. Luckily, the serpents that reside in my guts would not allow this to pass undetected.

My gratitude cannot be real or true until the actual cost of sustaining my life is seen in its fullness. Until the pain and violence are digested and integrated. This is a slippery slope, one that has delivered me to the tar pits of despair and left me writhing there for months at a time. The serpents want to bring me to wisdom, and the gauntlet of my own mind must be navigated so that I don't become frozen and paralyzed in grief and shame and mourning as I apprehend the reality of what must be seen and understood.

This is the booby-trapped labyrinth that we in the West have not learned to walk. We harbor so much self-loathing, so much shame and guilt, that we are susceptible to self-immolating as soon as we look deeply at what is real and true about our history, and our legacy. For many of us, we would rather stay numb or romanticize the past because we cannot bear the pain of seeing what is real. When someone tries to force us to see, it feels like holding our face to a rotating saw blade, and we panic. We deny. We get angry. We blame and project. We do all of this because we have not learned to walk through this fire. Our way of life is built on repression, avoidance, numbing and performative obedience. How do we allow the truth to tear us open without causing us to self-destruct?

I don't have the answers here, just a lot of ripe questions. I want to live with the gravity of what is real more than I want to live in the fantasy of a romanticized version of a fabricated story. When I sit with our land, I can feel the grief here. This land actively mourns for her people. There is so much trauma and sadness that penetrates the layers of quartz and limestone of this place. It feels like an ocean that could drown me. Is it possible that this ocean could actally baptize me? Could submerging myself teach me about right action and right relationship? Can I let go of the boulders of shame and guilt and instead learn to move through these waters with purpose? Can I learn to navigate the gravity of what is real with a tenderness that comes from knowing that I am in intimate relationship with all of these forces within me? The forces of the destroyer/colonizer and the forces of the primal/wild wholeness are not separate but arise from the same place, the same fertile soil, the same prima materia. I can sense that this path leads somewhere fruitful, this path of acknowledging the wholeness of all of it. Acknowledging that it all exists within this spinning blue sphere, and that all polarities belong to one another.

I am grateful for the tendrils of wisdom that have squirmed within me, guiding me to deeper and messier truths. I am grateful for the willingness to see and feel the discomfort of what is real. I am grateful to this land for showing me how to mourn while still blooming and fruiting and composting. This season of my life, as I close out my fourtieth year, seems to be about learning to see painful truths without being lost to them. I find myself in the current of the story without knowing where we are flowing to, but drinking deeply of the waters I find myself in. I know that all waters lead to the sea, so perhaps I know more about where this story is heading than I realize.

I know in my bones that there are ways to live on this Earth with balance and reverence and sincere reciprocity for the cost of being alive, and I continue to hope and believe that humans will find our way back to that kind of relationship. Swimming in the ocean of grief may be the thing that leads us there.


bottom of page