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Chicken Badger Both

Never Alone
Artwork by Maureen Carlson

This past weekend I attended a Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea workshop about Calling a Circle and Listening to Story.  Afterwards I was talking with a friend about some of the issues that came up in me during the workshop.  She asked: Why do you think that we keep ourselves small?  In answer to her question, I wrote:

For me, the question has now become, as of this moment: Why and when do I choose to SEE myself as small? 

Yesterday I wrote this story: 

Once upon a time there was a chicken just walkin’ on down the road … pecking at the seeds.  She looked into a puddle, there, just past that pile of corn that the farmer had spilled.  She thought that she was just looking at corn, but she had, indeed, looked into the puddle.  Her reflection caught her off guard, so off guard that this time she actually saw herself.  Black stripes.  White mask.  Little ears. Flat head.  She looked just like a badger.  She picked up one leg and looked at her clawed feet.  Clawed feet?  Uh huh.  Feet that turned furry right before her eyes.  She turned and looked over her shoulder at her butt, and there trailing behind her was a long, furry tale.  She reached around, picked it up and chomped down on it with her long white teeth.  Hard.  Yes.  With teeth.  And it hurt. 

She stopped.  Stood very still.  And then she claimed this new image of herself and looked back into the mirror at those black beady eyes which were so familiar. 

I thought about this when I got home, and decided that the chicken is indeed a chicken, but not just a chicken.  And she is indeed a badger.  But not just a badger.  The advantage of being both is that she can now put on either face, as long as she is free to pull out either suit as the occasion warrants.  The secret to it all is the freedom piece.  And the more that she learns and understands when it serves the Work best (yes, not her, but the Work) to be a chicken, she’ll be a chicken, and she’ll peck for seeds and cluck and be cute and funny and busy.  But when it serves the Work best to be a badger, she’ll be that.  And, sometimes, maybe, she’ll be a chicken with a long furry tale or a badger with a decided cluck and bob to her head, and that will be OK, too.  Might even keep her dancing along that edge where the mystery and the magic and the sacred dwells.   

Now, to undestand this story, it is helpful to define the word Work.  For me, Work with a capital W means that thing that fulfills one’s purpose in life.  And what occurs to me now, right now, as this is typed, is: What is the Work that will keep her (me) this focused?  This centered?  So aware of the Work that I forget to worry about how the world is seeing me?  So passionate about the Work that I’ll risk discomfort, embarrassment, disdain?  What is my assignment?  It seems important to find an answer to that question.  And to act.

I think that my work has something to do with listening to people tell/share/envision/create and inhabit their stories.  I’ll learn more about that as my own story unfolds.  

This change in thought, from concentrating on myself to concentrating on the Work, has come out of my realization that no one is small.  We have different functions and different dreams and different assignments in this world, but none of us is small.  We do, however, sometimes refuse to live out our dreams or pick up our assignments or turn them in on time.  And we have differing amounts of influence and power.  I believe that influence and power are material goods, though.  They are bought, sold, earned, shared, gifted and taken.  But they are just material goods.  They are transient.  Temporary.  Borrowed.  They do not affect how big or small the story is or how big or small the person is. Being big or small is a spiritual attitude that comes from inside.  
 

I can’t make myself small, but I can act as if I were, and I can make myself invisible.  I can act as if I have no right to be in a given situation.  I can stumble over my own ego and get wrapped up in comparing myself or my accomplishments with others.  What, I think, will bring me back to center, is to remember what Work it is that I am called to do, and then to focus on that Work  What’s intriguing, really intriguing, is to begin to understand that each person’s Work is equally important.  Now that’s a pretty elusive thing to wrap my brain around, but I’m starting to get it.

A book that goes along with these thoughts is the Tolstoy story of the Three Questions that was told and illustrated as a chidren’s book.  You can find info at:

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Questions-Based-story-Tolstoy/dp/0439199964

 The three questions are:

When is the best time to do something?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?

I’m putting this book on my shelf as a reminder that I know this story, and that I know the one about the chicken and the badger, too.  Help me remember.

Maureen Carlson

PAR

Photo Styling by Susan Lumoto of DailyArtMuse.com

On par.  Up to par.  Is par.  At par.  Above par.  Below par.  Par.  Par was my “word of choice” for 2011.   I gave myself permission to be.  Just to be.  There were a few months there where I actually forgot what my word was, so I had to come back here to my Jan 2011 post to look it up!  That strikes me as funny, definitely a below par sense of memory there!

 But the word was in there, in my unconscious, doing its thing anyway.  Perhaps it’s a little like the riddle over what comes first, the chicken or the egg, because I’m pretty sure that I chose that word because the riddle of its meaning was already present in my life.  Now was just the time to delve into it a bit more deeply.

So, did having a word affect my approach to 2011?  Did it make a difference?  I think it did.  Not in any magical way, but just taking the time at the beginning of the year to think about what was important to me put an intention out there.

 Par is a good word in and of itself, but it is also an acronym for Playful, Authentic and Responsible.  Choosing the word “playful” gave me permission to play in a deeper, less self-conscious way.  Paying attention to being authentic meant that I looked more closely at my behavior as I peeked behind my masks.  And I definitely noticed myself stepping back and being less driven about doing things in my normal “must be perfect” way.  In fact, a lot of things I didn’t do at all!

The problem came with the word “responsible”, for that word raised lots of questions.  Responsible to whom?  And for what?  And why?  And what really mattered, anyway?  That’s the part of par that I’m still trying to figure out.  Which brings me to my word for 2012: embrace.

For me that word means moving past observing and noticing things, which I’m pretty good at, into wrapping my arms around them and engaging with them.  I looked up the definition and found words like seize, embody, accept willingly, receive gladly or eagerly, to clasp.  Hmmm.  Sounds a bit dramatic for that part of me that tends to step back and watch a while before making a commitment to action.   But here I go.

I looked through my picture files for something that embodied the word embrace.  The closest that I came was the feeling of love with which the Pippsywoggin, Winnie Viola, holds close to her bosom her cup of warm tea.  Switch that beverage to coffee and I can feel it!

Who knows, I  may even get so I LIKE the sharing of hugs at my spiritual community’s weekly gathering …

Jeff Rouse of OurStoryMn.com

Chances are that if you’re reading this blog, you’re a person who identifies with the word  “creative”.  And if so, you’ve surely had someone say to you, “It’s all in your imagination!”, as if that’s a BAD thing.  Gets old, doesn’t it?

It seems to me that the mythical place of imagination is where ideas are generated, where creativity is nurtured, where visions begin to take form and where yesterday’s magic becomes tomorrow’s routine.  The ideas that are brewed in this “land of imagination” become the events and productions and goods of tomorrow. Without imagination we’d still be copying books by hand, harnessing horses to buggies and spending a good portion of each day growing and gathering and spinning and mending.

And, to be honest, I don’t believe that would be ALL bad.   I think we are in risk of losing touch with our connection to the Land and to Source.  I am a believer in the concept of simplicity and love and face time with self and neighbor.  But I do love it that with the click of a key I can talk via email or phone with my friend Iris in Israel or Dayle in California, those wonderful grandkids in Wisconsin … or, when we’re both busy, busy, busy, my partner husband, Dan (Hi, Dan), who is at work in his office downstairs.  Imagination at work has allowed us in the 21st century to stay connected with our friends and family in ways that our immigrant grandparents never, ever experienced.

Despite my ambivalence about the results of imagination, for me, imagination is Sacred.  It is more than coming up with a beautiful sculpture or a clever rhyme.  Imagination IS the rhyme. Imagination is both sender and receiver.    The rhyme isn’t clever until our receptive energy interacts with the written word.  Sort of like how air isn’t breath until a living being takes it in and interacts with it.  For me, Imagination is the Sacred Mystery of life itself.  The spark.  The energy.  The wave and the flow and the pulse that makes us – and keeps us – alive.

So, in honor of imagination, I’d like to tell you about a remarkable Imagineer who is sparking connections here in the MidWest.  Jeff Rouse, pictured, has started a business called Our Story Minnesota.  You can see his work and that of his partner, Denise, plus their platoon of volunteers, at OurStoryMn.com .

Dan and I were fortunate to be able to spend an evening with the Our Story Minnesota people a few weeks ago when I was interviewed on their Women of Sweet Swine County program.   Yup.  Sweet Swine County, their version of down-home midwest tongue-in-cheek fun and play with a healthy dose of marketing and info sharing thrown in for good measure.

The segment that we taped isn’t yet on-line, but do go check out past offerings.  As you smile, or laugh, or grin in recognition of one of the corny jokes or clever phrasings, your receptive energy becomes part of the creative circle without which there would be less energy and less joy and less reason for any of us to get out of bed every morning.

http://www.OurStoryMn.com

What’s Next?

PAR 1

I feel blessed this AM.  Do we ever get too old to love winning a prize?  To love the unexpected gift?  To feel opened up by the generosity of another?  I don’t think so, at least I hope that I never become jaded to the sheer joy of receiving the creative offerings from fellow travelers along this journey of ours.

A few weeks ago I posted my word for the year on Susan Lumoto’s fascinating blog Daily Art Muse . Her idea was to give a forum within which people could share their word for the year, then she would pick 3 people’s words to feature in a photo styling presentation which she would then gift to them.  I love the topic, so I posted, and I won!

Here is an image that she created for me.  I love it.  Makes me smile.  Makes me laugh.  Makes me want to run along the beach, gather stones, and just see if there is a little alphabet soup factory there somewhere among the waves which throws up food for the elves.

One of Susan’s business offerings is that she’ll create personalized/customized  images such as these for people.   Sound like fun?  Check it out: Daily Art Muse

Up to PAR

PAR.  That’s my word for 2011.

A few years ago I received the idea of choosing a word for the year from Amy Crawley (who was inspired by Christine Kane ).  I love words, so the idea of following one word through the whole year seemed perfect.  I’ve already forgotten the word that I used the first year, but last year I chose “circle” and the word for 2010 was “tone”.

I chose the word PAR because it’s an acronym for the words playful, authentic and responsible, all key words for me this year.  Then I thought more about it, looked up the word par, and decided that the meaning of par was pretty important to me, too.

Par, according to the on-line Free Dictionary, means “an amount or level considered to be average;  a standard: performing up to par”.  At first I resisted the idea of that, that thing about performing at an “average” standard.  I thought about my immediate, almost violent reaction to the word, and decided I needed a little self-therapy about that one!!!!  How does one get to be 63, and not go crazy, or become paralyzed from the pressure of it all, if all things that matter must be above average?

I’m breathing a small sign of relief just thinking about thinking ….. and that’s as far as I can let myself go right now!

Mind Mapping

Calendar says October.
But the Morning Glory
that creeps its way
over the garden arbor
just says “Good Morning”.
Doesn’t seem to know
that any day now
there’ll be a frost.
Or maybe it knows
and chooses to bloom anyway?