From Darkness to Light



Winter solstice December 22, 2015

This morning when I went outside to greet the sun, it was already almost halfway up in the sky. I try to go out and greet the sun most mornings. There’s something about feeling sunlight on your face, eyes closed, that just feels so good especially in the winter.

Every morning, well to be honest, most mornings, I greet the sun asking it to help me remember to show up in the world in an honest and authentic way. The gift the sun gives me is an unavoidable reminder that the world is bigger than me. The sunlight illuminates so much around me. Trees, bushes, dirt, the neighborhood I live in, an ant crawling along the ground in front of my foot and an ever shifting shadow – mine as well as everything else’s. Hearing the birds chirp, the hummingbirds tweeting out there impassioned tune is a beautiful, gentle reminder that I get to be in this world exploring and witnessing.

Today is the winter solstice and this year it feels meaningful to me. Not really sure why other than maybe I’ve tried to devote in very simple ways, energy towards observing the world and connecting to nature. I’ve always connected to nature but this year especially with writing the book I’ve been forced to rely on it more heavily than I have ever before. I’ve realized what a source of strength this subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) natural world is.

One of the things I’ve tried to do this year was to greet the sun every morning even if it’s just for a minute. I knew I needed small ways to both connect to myself and a world which is so much bigger than me. I came to the conscious choice to try to go and stand in the sun when I was meditating on simple rituals I could do in my day-to-day life.
Shadows stretch from cacti, Mesquite tree and fence post.  I didn’t really expect much other than I knew I felt good washing myself in sunlight. I know in Mechica traditions and I can imagine hundreds of other traditions, greeting the sun is a spiritual act. I pay attention to what people embrace as bringing connection to Spirit, especially the acts that are simple and doable.

This is the shortest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere, a natural time to notice a transition between darkness and light. This is an opportunity for us to embrace small ways we can connect with ourselves and a world which is so much bigger than us. As the days start to get longer, we have more sunlight/daytime to pause, peel back the layers from whatever our focus is on, step outside and greet the sun.

As we have more time with darkness right now, this is an opportunity to contemplate what we need. This is the time to prepare for the year ahead. You know what you need. You know if you need sunshine, to hear the birds sing or something else. What do you need? Are there things you need to leave behind in order to move into this New Year? What old stories are you telling yourself? In what ways are you being too hard on yourself? How can you let go to create a bit of emptiness in your heart in order to let new things in?

What do you need to embrace as you move into this New Year? What small shifts do you want to make in your life? What ways can you have more grace for yourself? How do you stay with the emptiness and not just grab the first thing to come along, to instead wait for what is right? You know what you need.

The afternoon shadows are already stretching long. I appreciate this time of darkness. I slow down and it gives me time to think. This is the time where I learn to trust that I know what I need. When the daylight comes, I get to try out small acts of growth. I get to learn and try again.

Writing Through the Fog



Picture Description: Stack of printed paper sits next to a coffee cup. The stack goes about half way, about an inch and a half, up the coffee cup. On the cup is a picture of a skeleton drinking coffee. I am deep in the writing process working steadily towards a deadline at the end of January. Last week I printed out a lot of my work and am steadily combing through each chapter and editing, which pretty much involves me asking myself about 50 times a day, “What am I really trying to say?”

For me, the editing process is not easy. I, of course, want everything to sound beautiful but I’m realizing that I’m doing well if my writing is clear, helpful, and grounded in place, body, etc. Journaling about the editing process, I write:

I want to do anything but this work. Search for a Truth is so difficult – like tracking an elusive animal. You know this “Truth animal” when you see it, but the rest of the time is spent desperately seeking signs it’s still living here.

I find myself guessing, “Is this footprint Truth? What about these broken limbs, was it Truth that crashed through here?” Sometimes I feel like most of a Chapter I write just describes all the signs, the wake of Truth as it tramples through the world I live in.

I’m trying to keep going. To somehow push through what feels like dense fog that has covered this area I’m exploring. I can perceive very little with my senses. All I hear is the dense silence that comes when every creature is too cautious to move.

Carefully I’m moving through this fog now, only because I have to. Maybe I’ll move right off the edge of a cliff? Crap! I don’t know which way to go. How do I follow a Truth when I’m unable to chart its tracks?

I pause in my journaling feeling my heart starting to race and my mind spinning out into panic. I pause and go get another cup of coffee. I go outside, stand for a few minutes in the sun, and when feeling calmer I sit back down; pick up my pen and write,

“Truth exists in many forms. My inner sense of knowing leads me to recognize its shape, texture and smell. I carry that wisdom with me. I dare to search. I have carved out space in my life to listen.

Truth. Not THE truth but A truth lives here. Inside this dense forest, foliage and trees, there are so many places to hide, even without the aid of fog.

This dense fog fills my lungs and I have a hard time breathing, making me move even slower. But… fog is not smoke. Fog carries moisture to the surface of leaves and allows a slow drenching of nourishment for the plants. There is a purpose, even if I don’t think the purpose serves me. Moving slower now, my body has to be fully present to know where I am.

I cannot control the fog, the trees, the wind or the water droplets. I can just be here – me – in this fog moving achingly slow.

Slow and deliberate, but listening.
Slow and deliberately breathing.
Slow and deliberately watching.

Here in this place I am searching for something I already know.


What the Ancestors Want Us To See

Night sky background. Moon and the planets Venus and Mars, which look like points of light – stars, form a triangle in the upper right-hand corner of the painting. In the rest of the painting dots of white create a sacred heart. Dots of green, red, blue and yellow outline the shapes of flames coming out of the heart.  A dusting of paint inside each flame helps the clarify the design of stars creating the shape of a heart on fire in the night sky.
(C) Naomi Ortiz 2015



“What the Ancestors Want Us To See”

If we could remember from before
our first baby breath or
our first love-seeking scream
We could remember all the ways love
Permeates the atmosphere
Flooding through the silence
A gift in every second

“Time – what a funny concept”
The ancestors whisper
So much effort and energy placed
in the pursuit of
seconds, minutes, years
Time births us in and out of life
Yes
But
Time does not gift love

When I allow myself to be contained inside the infinite night sky
I connect
When shrubby desert trees offer my body solitude and security
I connect
When my face is buried in cat’s soft fur
I connect
When her eyes flash sideways to mine and we burst into laughter
I connect

No guarantee of time
Longing does not create more

Luckily, the ancestors leave tokens
like a scavenger hunt of ever expanding possibilities
We only need to notice

 and connect

to ourselves,
to each other
to the dirt - life blooming everywhere


© 2015 Naomi Ortiz
Please do not use or copy image or poem without the author’s permission.

Monsoon Nourishment




Cloudy sky covers mountains. Shrubs and a couple trees grow out of the tan colored dirt which covers the ground.Clouds pile on top of each other from behind the mountains, slowly building, expanding upwards, reaching up and then out across the sky. My favorite time of year in the desert, this unpredictable Monsoon season, with the miserable humidity and soaring temperatures and then sudden explosions of rain bringing cool relief. I never think in the morning looking out towards the mountains that there will be rain. Monsoon clouds build slowly. It’s always a surprise when the bright blue desert sky suddenly is smothered out with dark clouds, the heat, now so unbearable that I’m sending urgent pleas to the clouds asking for rain.

When rain comes, it is never on my schedule. One minute I’m crabby and CANNOT cool off. The next minute rain is pouring down flooding the streets and washes. Like a lot of things in my life - nourishment feels like it is all or nothing. Days and weeks of frustratingly whittling words out of my body and heart, suddenly saturated with great conversations and new tools to dig out the truth. Never when I demand, never when I want, but nourishment comes in its own time. This teaches me something even more important - how to be patient and aware of when I have a choice to receive.

Choice is such a decadent thing. When I have a choice, I savor it, like rolling a piece of chocolate over my tongue, letting it melt and inhaling the flavor. Somehow, I’m not sure if it’s a North American thing or what, but I often think I have a right to a choice. A choice when I can receive help, receive attention or validation. In reality, choice isn’t often something I get a right to, more often choice is created out of privilege (having resources) or out of my own awareness of knowing what I need. Privilege is not something I can count on. Awareness is all I’ve got to access choice.
Sign placed on dirt. Sign says Self-Care is letting go. by N. Ortiz www.selfcareforsocialjustice.com 
Awareness is the slow process of learning what it feels like in my body/mind/heart when I need something. I have to listen and learn a little at a time. One part of this awareness process is to realize when rain is coming down, when nourishment suddenly appears I can make a choice to receive it. This means letting go of whatever I am doing/being when nourishment is raining down on my head. Purposefully pausing to enjoy and soak it up, a choice of letting go of what I thought I wanted - my agenda in the moment, in order to have what I need - random gift of nourishment.    

In the desert when the monsoon storms unleash hard unrelenting rain upon the sandy soil, only so much can be absorbed. The wombs of the desert are dry washes which swell and carry the overflowing abundance of nourishment downriver to areas still dry. Part of becoming aware is my learning to surrender to nourishment when it arrives. If I let go and allow myself to be filled, I can carry this nourishment through me and out to others. I receive enough to share.

·          -  What are ways you receive nourishment from nature?
·         - How do you know you are getting support (from people, animals or nature)? What does it feel like?
·         - When you’ve received support, attention or help, how do you share that with others? (Are you more patient, supportive or fun? Something else?)

(c) 2015 Ortiz