Sweetness and Strength

Sweetness and Strength

The Boston bombing brought a flood of memories cascading over me last night and into this morning. Suddenly, I was right back in the belly of 911, and deep into the mystery of that unforgettable day. I’ve told this story before, and I’ll tell it again, because stories are meant to be shared again, growing in power in each telling.

On the morning of the 911 bombings, I was hosting a gathering of Kindred Spirits—14 good folk who had come from all over the country for a workshop with a small group of gifted teachers and friends of mine. My little cabin had no radio nor television. I heard of the towers coming down from the participants who were arriving—shocked and numbed—to begin a sacred time together with like-minded lovers of animals, nature, and the Earth.

For awhile, as people continued to arrive, we were all in a state of suspended animation and confusion: What in the world do we do NOW? Some participants wondered how and when they would get home, as the airports had all closed down. Others wondered about friends and relatives back east. Do we continue a workshop in the face of this horrible calamity? Would it be disrespectful? Would it even be possible to focus on our topics?

Somehow, the idea came up to pass the sacred pipe around our circle. A pipe ceremony seemed appropriate. After all, the least we could do was to pray quietly together in the smoke and silence. And so I took out my pipe and moved through the ritual steps of the sacred ceremony and stillness settled around us. My pipe tends to smoke very long, and it made many, many trips around the circle. Above our heads in the cottonwood grove around us, birds sang in full glory. A breath of a warm morning breeze tickled our shoulders. In the background, the towering peaks of the Grand Tetons watched over us like a trio of grey-clad nuns.

When all the tobacco had been smoked, I put the pipe down and waited quietly. Very slowly, we began to speak our hearts around the circle. It became very clear to each and every one of us that praying was not only the least we could do. It was the MOST we could do. It was an intensely powerful thing to do, and it was a healing thing to do. Unanimously, we decided to carry on with our workshop, pausing at breaks to fill ourselves  in on any updates in New York.

The pipe had guided us and centered us and calmed us, but the real wonder of that day came late that night as the stars lit up a night sky in Jackson Hole, free for the first time in memory of plane congestion. Our group was gathered at White Grass Ranch to hear the yearly pageant of the bugling elk, all deep in rut that time of year. The night was dry and clear as glass. The air so sweet, you could taste it.

As we walked, these words spilled out of my lips, coming from somewhere outside of myself: “Out here, nothing happened today. No tragedy happened today. Not out here.”

This morning, I sit looking as I write out my bedroom window to the blooming pear tree where the bees gather and sing. Here, on this plot of grass, no tragedy happened. And what I want to say is that for every plot of scarred and blood-spilled ground, there is another plot somewhere of silence and peace and beauty. For every darkness, another place of light and sweetness. These sweet places hold the energy to heal the broken bits of ground. They are medicine centers, from the tiny lawns with carefully planted pansies, to the mountain meadows. And I believe that if we are blessed to be in such a place, to be in a safe place at a time when horror strikes somewhere else, our task is to remain beautiful inside  of ourselves, so that our beauty and balance can be medicine energy for all those afflicted.

I believe we weaken ourselves with grief that is not ours to claim. Those of us who have lost loved ones, it is our task to grieve. For the rest of us, our task is to walk and speak and pray in beauty, so that others may draw from our soil of soundness.

If you are hooked to the horror of the TV today, turn it off, now.

If you are plugged into the news stations on your computer, unplug now.

If you are crying for people you did not know, stop crying now.

If you are sick inside with hopelessness, stop it now.

Go outside. Sit on the grass. Listen to a bird sing.Hum a song of healing for those who need it. Tend your gardens. Walk your dogs and hug them. Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself smile and be strong. That strength is medicine that will find its way through the power of mystery to all those suffering in Boston. If you are very lucky and grace has fallen over you, you are in a place where “Nothing happened here today,” so show your gratitude with prayer, softness in your heart, and lightness in your step. These gifts will find their way to where they are needed.

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22 Responses to OF BOMBS AND BUGLING

  1. Wow Thank you that was perfect and really really helpful.

  2. Rosemary says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Susan. I, too, have had some of these thoughts during 9/11 and in the days following… and I have the same those thoughts now. I remember voicing those thoughts to friends almost 12 year ago and some were truly appalled by my stance. I thank you for having the courage to say these things now(and in such an eloquent way). Thank you for the reminder that we can choose to step out of the horror into the beauty of the all that is.

  3. kathey says:

    Thank you, Susan. I live in Virginia, rather a distance from Boston, and have been struggling today after having a nasty old migraine…then the bombings in Boston. I really feel must better reading your offering today. My gardens are really quite lovely right now and help me to heal as best I will allow, and reading your words allows me to go to that place of comfort and solace that the gardens give to me….year after year, day after day. If I were in Boston, I hope that I would be helping others to heal. Since I am here, right where I am, then I will do best to work on myself and my little neighborhood of birds, bees, furry animals, and the workers below my house trying to repair our old bridge that was washed out by Hurricane Camille many years ago, and never has been the same since. I revel in how safe I feel living here. And that I appreciate every day.

  4. Mary Hitchcock says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Now I can find a way to handle this seemingly non-stop grief that seems to be so prevalent. Blessings!

  5. Rohana Chomick says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful message. You’re right because in Tampa, Florida, “nothing happened here today.” Instead of being sorrowful and upset about what happened in Boston, Newtown, Colorado Springs, etc., I will from now on be a light of prayer and peace.

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Thank you all for resonating with my own heart. It is a brave thing to move ahead and hold the peace and beauty for all.

  6. This. Is. Awesome. thank you for sharing and you are absolutely correct in my world!!! I got a dose of this wise woman wisdom from my elder female relatives once, who I had barely met at my first palestinian side of the family reunion. They were woken up at 2am by military and told to leave all their belongings and go to a refugee place. They were never allowed back. My relatives made it to California some how, and one of my cousins had made a documentary of the whole thing. At the reunion, I saw the documentary, felt the loss in my bones and the proud suffering of my aunties and grammas and I began to cry suddenly, out of the blue, at one point afterwards. I couldn’t explain it, it was visceral and necessary. Then, shortly, I was surrounded by these women, who had started over in a foreign country, who had lost so much of everything possible, and they looked at me and said “why are you crying? You are young. This is not your sadness to bear. You should be making food, and babies.” Thank you for echoing their intent. Love to you.

  7. Nancy Fuller says:

    Thank you so much – nothing happened here today (Carlsbad, CA). Thank you for reminding me.

  8. aletheia mystea says:

    Susan hi, thanks so much for re sending this, I remember it…and such a warm, comforting, reassuring message and reminder to do this type of activity in the face of earth trauma. The first thing I wrote on GTM page, was Let us pray! You should be moving in this week yes?? Blessings A

  9. Cindy says:

    That was the most powerful and beautiful thing I have ever read in response to a tragedy. I truly believe that living our “good medicine” goes out into the world and touches those who need it most…those who are miles and miles away, worlds apart, people we’ll never know. Thank you, Susan.

  10. Deb says:

    Thank you, that is absolutely a peaceful, effective, powerful way of handling
    darkness. Blessings to all of you.
    Namaste, Deb

  11. Dear Susan, I loved your words, “I believe we weaken ourselves with grief that is not ours to claim.”.. thank you for this healing post. Mary

  12. Carter says:

    I married a remarkable Woman. Awesome really.

    I rise early in the morning. Usually at the first sign of grey. It is my quiet time. As I make the morning pot of coffee, I like to open the kitchen window and listen to a lone robin singing for a mate. Robin’s song represents hope. But the song is also action that the robin takes with hope and faith to find a mate.

    The robin says, to me any way, that a new day is dawning. This little saying is more than a cliche. With the dawn, yesterday is gone. it lives only in our memories. With the dawn we have hope that our day will be peaceful and good and that our endeavors will succeed. .

    Welcome the new day with all of its hope and dreams alive and well. We will do well to quiet the memories of devastated lives and listen to the robins voice.

    Robin calls in the new day let it be as you want it to be. Allow the bad memories to be encircled by Robins hopeful song and allow Robin’s song to carry away sadness and pain. Robin’s song is the present that will carry us into the future, sadness and pain are fleeting. Sadness and pain are hard to bear when they are present. Robin’s song, if we let it, will carry our sadness and pain into a different time and allow our hopes and dreams and happiness into the present.

  13. Debra Saum says:

    Dear Susan, I recently found your blog through Mary Muncil’s blog. I’ve also read your books and am always buoyed by your beautiful perspectives and your obvious connection to nature and animals. Thank you for this beautiful reminder today…..to stay centered in our hearts and to embrace the goodness in all life. As an Animal Artist and Animal Intuitive, I think animals help us every day to stay in the present, listen to our inner compass and trust the divine power of nature and her innate ability to heal. I look forward to more of your posts.

  14. Sally Brechbill says:

    Susan, thank you so much for this very eloquent and moving post. I am profoundly grateful for your insights and the gift you have for sharing these. Nothing happened here today.

  15. Marie says:

    Thank you Susan, wise words, I breath them in.


  16. Janet says:

    Thank you for your words. All my favorite blog writers have commented above – Mar Muncil and Debra Saum–wow – like-minded folks coming together!

  17. Pingback: Conscious Cat Sunday: Appreciate Life in the Face of Darkness - The Conscious Cat | The Conscious Cat

  18. Dear Susan, I found your blog through the Conscious Cat. So happy to find your positive words. I especially appreciated the phrase “we weaken ourselves with grief that is not ours to claim.” I look forward to reading future posts.

  19. Connie says:

    I believe we weaken ourselves with grief that is not ours to claim. Those of us who have lost loved ones, it is our task to grieve. For the rest of us, our task is to walk and speak and pray in beauty, so that others may draw from our soil of soundness.

    I like this.. very much. although on some level we all lost something with each major attack that causes the news media to go into a frenzy. We lose a bit of that trust in the world that these things won’t happen to us… and that is a sad thing. We all accept that a ‘mysterious something’ could happen to us, but with events like this, that ‘mysterious something’ solidifies into something.. Something more tangible, something more real. Is there any more chance I’m going to be blown up by a bomb, no, not really, but the chance of it simply feels more real..

    but then I choose to remember that the chances are very small, and I find a way to go about life.. but claiming grief that is not ours.. this is important to remember. Along with not claiming grief before it happens.. not for my cats, not for my parents.. Grief will come.. it is a part of love and life.. and when it comes I will welcome it, sit down with it and share a cup of tea with it and let it be a part of my life.. but I will not set a place for it before it arrives.

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