Wandering in the liminal spaces, walking between worlds, we meet her. She is the womb of all life, the essence of mystery, the resting place of souls. She is the undercurrent of rivers, depths of sea, eye of storms, the cavernous earth. She is both the soul of deep shadow and the wellspring of inspiration.
The Tao Te Ching sings of her this way:
The valley spirit undying,
ever dark her womb,
ever open her dark womb,
mother of earth, mother of heaven.
Her shadowy veil is only barely seen,
Translation by Caelan Rowan McCuen
It is hard to see what is barely there, but she is always with us. It is hard to keep one’s bearings at the liminal times, but that is when she guides us. She is not to be feared, but cherished; not resisted but embraced.
River’s are powerful, their currents deep, unpredictable.
It’s no wonder they gather myths around them
like clouds around mountain peaks.
Have you ever looked into the abyss, into her eyes? Maybe you have seen her in a terrifying dream, or at a moment of imminent death. Maybe it was in the grip of mortal doubt, or in that most dreadful gap of irrevocable loss. She comes to us in these ways, plays no favorites. How small we are in the tides of her presence.
The sea, the most mysterious of realms,
and all her waters, are inexpressibly beautiful.
When in movement they are passion;
When still, they are a soul mirror.
But what seems dark at first is often just the raw passion of our world, the same that quietly supports us in the calm. Yet whether in calm or storm, the beautiful giving earth is ever she who receives us as we are. We must love her as she is!
Waist deep in the frigid ocean, pelting rain coming sideways,
I saw nine pelicans, weaving, dipping, above gray-turquoise crests—
and seeing them was freedom.
Oh, but the things we do in our blindness, when we don’t even see the world…and yet the she goes on expressing herself, unmoved, ever-giving. It is not any profound subterranean darkness in our beloved world that we ought to fear, but the darkness of seeing only ourselves.
A Buddhist sage once wrote, “The virtues I practice are not my own”. Whose virtues can any of us practice? Certainly not our own—they are the earth’s.
They are always with us, mothers of myriad worlds, lighting countless nights, each the pivot of her own system, pouring out her own flame whether there be a planet there to catch it or not. They are patterns in the sky, bright orbs, guiding lights, shining spheres—our own compassionate sun a sister among them.
I’m so happy for the touch of the stars in my life,
even if their touch is the touch of sorrow.
A star, though equally exposed on all sides, cannot be taken from behind. She is fully herself, so transparent one may not look on her long: a beautiful picture of empowered vulnerability. She illumines all her own, effortless in her generosity, as each shines for her sisters of her mother’s light. Once, upon seeing our own world’s sister (the morning star), the Buddha said:
I and all beings together on earth
attain enlightenment at the same time.
It is lovely to know the stars at the Summer Solstice, just as the sun dips below the Northwestern horizon, and before the moon rises high and bright to add her own magic to the clouds. We can see them only in the lee of our sun’s bathing light, hid behind our own world’s shoulder…oh for the beauty known only in the shadow of the earth!
You must know the number of last night’s stars,
the number of the drops of this morning’s rain.
How well do you know the touch of the stars? Have you ever pondered their pattern, felt their tides of sorrow or joy? Have you looked for them late in the evening, or come out to them before dawn? Have you let their light reach you?
But the touch of the stars is the song from which all things were made. It is the fire of all suns, a chorus of radiance, the music of their tug upon one another, their worlds, and their beings. It would be a sorrow to have lived, and to have missed it.
Tension is the nature of diversity, and diversity is beautiful, whether it resonates of harmony or dissonance. Harmony is itself the resolution diversity asks for, and dissonance is the asking. The I Ching says it this way:
After seeking harmony, all things respond to you.
I Ching, Hexagram 14
But harmony is only possible after there has been a parting, and dissonance, the agony of desire, only intensifies as resolve nears, yearns until unison is found. Songs are born of them:
My heart aches,
my grip weakens…
as the world grows more beautiful to my seeing eyes,
and I grow more weary looking through them—
standing here, embodied…
and so far apart.
Genders diverge this way, then long to meet. They are diverse and expressive as they evolve within individuals, cultures, and species like language and thought. They are an expression of who we are through what we are made of, the shape of our own restless flames: they have never been confined to Male and Female.
In our own gestation process, Female is first, Male comes later, a specialization. But they are not two, not only two: they are as fluid as the process they are born from, like the path of water pulled from sea into cloud, then drawn from cloud back into sea, forever in dance whether in sparkle of dew or turbulence of storm. They are like the romance of Sea and Sky.
But in between they are beauty and mystery, neither Sky nor Sea, expressing our world. They are mists rising from rivers, clouds hanging between hills. They are the dust of falling flakes, the flare of sun showers, bouts of cloudburst; they are tricks of hovering haze, spells of steaming hot springs, and plumes of erupting geysers. They are colors of coming and going, songs of departure and reunion.
We are born just as we are into the heat of such tension, springing brightly as sparks from the blaze, leaping lightly as melodies from taut strings. Embrace it, for it is from the chaos of tension itself that harmony is born.