Friday, May 20, 2016

Song of Hope and Winged Truth

“Between Istanbul and Pakistan
Born among the roses
limbs drooping around our cousins; 
Apples of our eye, 
Plum crazy about those darling peaches

Harken to our orchard songs
crack our riddles wide open
that our treasure you may reach
Gather Wisdom as it ripens
by the handful, by the bushel
Listen, and we will teach

Beloved of Hermes
Sacred to Artemis
We brought comfort 
to our grieving Phyllis
yet our bitterness can be lethal!
We have fed generations 
through the ages
from humble pilgrim
to pharaohs most regal 

Symbol of Hope eternal,
We reveal Truth
burnt or blanched
bitter or sweet.
Given time 
We will teach you
that Hope, Love and Justice
transcend Death’s great deceit

Murdered innocence
hidden 'neath my roots
inspired me to sing out Truth
Offering healing for grieving hearts
Bringing Justice to the greedy one
who struck down that honest youth

Vigilant soul
Herald of Success
We Awaken 
early each year
blooming with joy
We bear an eloquent yield.
Let Love be your lamp,
Fidelity your shield.“

For those new to the game, each poem in my "singing" series is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; star, stone, animal, plant, element, etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? Congrats to those that named this Teacher! 

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” Buddha

Found in the Family Roseceae which is considered medium-sized at just under 3000 species. This Family contains quite a few familiar faces like roses, apples, pears, apricots, plums, cherries, rowans/mountain ashes, and peaches. The lovely Almond is found in the Sub-family Prunoideae, Genus Prunus Sub-genus Amygdalus Species Prunus Dulcis. They tend to grow no more than 10 meters high and the put out beautiful lightly scented white (typically sweet almonds) or pale pink blossoms (typically bitter almonds) in the early Spring. These early bloomers are often associated with fertility/abundance and Awakening. 

Native to the area between Pakistan and Turkey/Istanbul/Constantinople, the Almond has fed travelers and traders for centuries. Domesticated almonds appear around the early Bronze Age (2000-3000 b.c.) and have even been found in the tomb of Tutankhamen (1325 b.c.). The fruit of the Almond, commonly referred to as nuts, are actually drupes. Drupes are defined as any fruit with an outer fleshy layer contains the seed/kernel. Their closest cousins are most likely the plum, the peach and the apricot. Almonds have many healthy benefits for us, inside and out. 

Almonds have been used as folk remedy for cancers, tumors, ulcers, corns, and calluses, and were even thought at one time to prevent intoxication! The bitter almond is a cousin to the sweet almond we love to snack on. Bitter almond contains traces of lethal prussic acid in its raw state. Although the toxicity is destroyed by heat, unprocessed bitter almonds can be lethal to an adult and as few as seven can kill a child. Once processed, they are used to make almond extract, essential oil (aromatic/scented) and almond-flavored liqueurs. 

Sweet almonds are also crushed for their oil as these kernels are highly valued for use in cosmetics, scrubs, creams, balms, lotions, and treatments for various forms of dermatitis. 
They are a nutritional powerhouse as well; packed with calcium, fiber, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin and vitamin E. High acid forming foods like coffee, meat, soft drinks and sugar can be balanced out with alkalizing foods like almonds, chestnuts, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, eggplant, alfalfa, beets, broccoli, apples, apricots, avocado, peaches, pears, berries, cherries, millet, apple cider vinegar, Reishi and shiitake mushrooms. Most other nuts like walnuts, pecans and legumes like peanuts are acid producing.

Almonds are self-infertile and must be cross-pollinated; because of this, bees or other pollinators are essential to fruit production. Almond trees should be planted early in the year, when low temperatures prevent leaf buds from growing. This gives the roots time to regenerate before budding. Almonds do best in deep, well-drained soil that is reasonably fertile. Almond trees require at least three years to produce, with maximum nut production in six to ten years. Almond trees can continue to produce for more than fifty years. Bees are essential pollinators for this Teacher and should be studied by anyone drawn to the Plant Nation.

In Greek mythology the almond tree is represented by the beautiful princess Phyllis. Left at the altar on her wedding day, Phyllis waited for years before finally perishing of a broken heart. In sympathy, the gods transformed her into an almond tree, as a symbol of hope. When Phyllis’ fiancĂ©e returned to find her as a leafless, flowerless tree, he embraces it and the tree burst into bloom; teaching us that not only is Hope eternal, but that Love transcends Death. My personal favorite when speaking about this Teacher is the Grimm Brothers' tale “The Almond Tree” in which a son is murdered by his step mother. His bones are hidden beneath an almond tree and his spirit turns into a bird that reveals the truth to the family  and exacts justice. “kee-wit, kee-wit, kee-wit! I cry. Oh what a beautiful bird am I! It was my mother who murdered me, my father who ate of me and my sister who buried me under the almond tree.” 

Truth and Communication in action are common threads in both Phyllyis tale and "The Almond Tree" though, making these Teachers great friends for those seeking better communication or truth. Almonds in uneven numbers (3, 5, 7, etc) are given at weddings, christenings and other such ceremonies to bring fortune, success, and happiness to the recipient. This Teacher also appears many times in the Bible and in Judaic lore. To the Hebrews, the Almond symbolizes haste and vigilance, as well as the coming of Spring. In ancient Phrygia, the Almond was considered to be the Father of All Things. Almond milk has been drunk for generations by those with a lactose intolerance. Flour made from almonds is wonderful for diabetics as it contains no starch. This humble tree has fed generations of people, is highly prized as an ingredient with a wide variety of uses and benefits.

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” Dale Carnegie

"Hope is much like a cat in the Dark — you only know it's there by the reflection of its eyes — which means there is Light nearby.' ~Terri Guillemets

"Even when all else is lost – love, truth, even life- Hope remains.." this Singer whispers. Almond’s flowering form reminds us that hope is an ever-renewing well from which we can drink at any time if we are brave enough; the only gift in Pandora's box. The Almond cautions us that delusion is not Hope. Saying "I hope my bills get paid" and then blowing your money on anything but your bills, for example, is delusional. Working to bring home operating funds and hoping that the last bill to get paid waits for their turn is a reasonable hope. 

Truthful Almond says that Hope implies work; Hopes are goals waiting for a plan of action. We all need time for introspection, and should not only be working towards goals that are important to us, but should also be setting personal goals that address our imperfections. Hope is that confident patience that given enough time, tools and understanding will come together to get any task accomplished just as surely as Spring follows Winter. Hope gets us through the dark and barren times. The Almond suggests singing at least 10 minutes every day, but especially when we feel burdened, lost in the dark or stressed. Meditating and/or coloring at least 10 minutes every day as well as keeping a journal/diary are also recommended activities.

This Teacher asks us to find our Truth, and then communicate what we have found to those in our lives, take action. We should never be afraid to face or express Truth, to others or ourselves. Truth begins inside with Self and moves out ward to the world around us. Truth is often a narrow path, not nearly as well traveled as the easy roads of good intentions that spiral ever down. The easiest lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves to feel justified. The rewards of taking the roads less traveled  with clear eyes and compassionate heart are many.

The Almond was sacred to Thoth the Egyptian god of Learning, to Attis, Mercury/Hermes, Diana/Artemis The almond is believed to bring inspiration, attract fortune and knowledge, stimulating the Third Eye chakra as well as inner insight and intuition. Having trouble finding the right words? Don’t know what to do with all the love you are left with when a loved one passes on? Feeling like the light at the end of your tunnel is a train? Do you appreciate what you have? Dwell on what you don't have, or constantly focused on what others can do for you or give you? Are you avoiding/refusing to take any responsibility for your situation? Then this gentle Teacher is patiently waiting to come to your aid.

“The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.” Anais Nin

"The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.' ~Marian Zimmer Bradley

"Narrow and straight is the way that leadeth to Life, and few are they who enter it. Broad and wide is the way that leadeth to Destruction, and many are they who journey thereby."~ the Bible

Potential balancing energies might include: Insects like Bee, Fly, Wasp, Caterpillar/Moth/Butterfly, Ants or Worms, Birds of all sorts from Owl to hummingbirds to macaws. Mammals like pigs, rodents, squirrels, deer, cow/cattle, cats, etc. Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Storms, Stone People, Other plants like peaches, pears, apples, apricots, plums, cherries, cashews, pumpkins, olives, coffee, clover, dandelion, brambles, barley grass etc.

Key Concepts: Hope, Love transcends Death, Truth, Beauty, Youth, Fidelity, Communication

Associated Gods/Goddesses or Mythic figures: Mercury, Hermes, Thoth, Asherah, St. Valentine, Phyllis, Artemis, Hecate, Zeus, Attis, Madonna, Athena, Cybele, Freya, Kerridwen, Jupiter, Demeter, and Psyche. Archangel Rafael, Almond is also associated with the sun sign Gemini

Monday, May 16, 2016

Let's Get Down to Business

“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.” Heraclitus

“Play allows us to develop alternatives to violence and despair; it helps us learn perseverance and gain optimism.” Stuart Brown M.D.

“Play is a major avenue for learning to manage anxiety. It gives the child a safe space where she can experiment at will, suspending the rules and constraints of physical and social reality. In play, the child becomes master rather than subject…. Play allows the child to transcend passivity and to become the active doer of what happens around her. " Alicia F. Lieberman

Most often it is our own grandchildren, but I do love to watch children of all sorts while they go about the very serious business of playing. I always learn something while watching and new doors of thought open as I contemplate their wisdom at play. She looked so serious when she paused here during a good session of playing, as if she were consumed by deep thoughts whose strength required a moment of stillness and silence before she could return to playing. Like watching dreams pass across the face of a sleeping child, I could not help being fascinated and inspired to travel down my own avenues of contemplation.

“Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” ~ Abraham Maslow

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

The most joyfully content, most creative people I have known in Life are those that know how to keep their inner child alive by making the time to play. More often than naught today, it is the Artist, whatever their medium, that reminds others who have lost this knack in the process of becoming an adult of how vital playfulness truly is to each of us. Through our creations we invite those lost in the cold weariness of maturity back into the vibrant happy world colored by the wisdom of our youth. In many ways, how we play and how we view the importance of this activity defines who we are on a daily basis.

Children are amazing. Hand them shovels, rakes and implements of destruction and they will spend the day ordering the world to their secret delights. What some might view as “work” or even a punishment, children automatically see as an opportunity for fun, excitement, new wonders, and perhaps treasure waiting to be discovered.

I love to watch and listen to children at play, because they have yet to convince themselves that grown ups just don’t do such things. The sounds of laughter, running feet, the creak of a swing, the whispered plans of pirates, the kind decrees of young queens hosting a tea party… these are an artform all their own, wild as the winds and old as the seabed. I encourage you today to pick up your favorite toys, and make a playdate with your inner child. 

Follow the example of these sages of the playground. Stop telling yourself it isn't "productive" to play, please! No need for explanations or feeling self-conscious. What may look to others as silliness or a waste of time is actually vital to our well being; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Play is serious business! Break out some crayons! Find the nearest swing set and try to kick the sky! Who knows what inspiration you may find, what shadows you may snake-like shed, what new worlds you may discover?

“Ritual grew up in sacred play; poetry was born in play and nourished on play; music and dancing were pure play…. We have to conclude, therefore, that civilization is, in its earliest phases, played. It does not come from play…it arises in and as play, and never leaves it.” Johan Huizing

'We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." George Bernard Shaw