I spend Mondays on email. By the end of the day, I stopped reporting to everyone in the office each strange weather story. There were just so many of them. At first, each description offered confirmation of what we were all feeling. Things are more off than even the predictions of An Inconvenient Truth. By day’s end, it was hard to integrate all the stories. I heard from a Green Hope friend in Switzerland that the Magnolias were blooming in Geneva and in the alps beyond the city, Rhododendrons were in blossom. I heard that the robins had returned in full force to Boston. In New York City, people reported planters of Petunias and Daisies going strong. The cherry trees in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens were in full blossom. Up and down the east coast people mentioned that the air felt tropical, but the light felt all wrong for this warmth. Locally, the maple sap was running. Right in our gardens there were Snowdrops as well as Dandelions. Outside our office windows a Red Wing Blackbird perched in a tree. This is a bird I think of as returning to our meadows at the end of our usual sugaring time in late March. Our relationship with the Earth appeared broken.
However, I am not calling it a day or changing the name of the farm from Green Hope Farm to Green Hopeless Farm. Since the solstice, the Angels have encouraged me to write more about my relationship with them and the Nature Spirits. They offer that conscious community with them is the way through this wildly shifting time to a new beginning. They continue to offer hope.
So I am going to try to share more about how I work with Angels and Elementals.
To begin with I want to tell a story about brokenness, an experience of my own brokenness that shifted me and my life in such a good way that it leaves me glad that humanity is owning its brokenness right now. When we own our brokenness, we can let go and realign our lives in dramatic ways, we can receive a new life that we could never receive without acceptance of our brokenness.
So let me tell you about a particular moment in my life when this was brought home to me in a big way. It was at a retreat I was running at a New Age community in the back of the beyond.
To back up a bit, before Flower Essences became the farm’s primary focus, I worked with the Angels and Elementals to create the farm’s gardens. This creation process was such an amazing experience for me that I spent a number of years traveling around the east coast telling people the stories of my adventures with the Angels and Elementals. I felt very passionate about sharing my experiences. These workshops were my attempt to give back to the Angels and Elementals a tiny bit of what they had given me.
For this particular retreat, I had agreed to come teach for a four or five day stretch at this community. I did not know much about this community and I had not gone to my heart to check with the God within me about the advisability of this commitment. When I discovered the retreat was going to keep me away from home on Emily’s fifth birthday, as well as on the vernal equinox, I still didn’t listen to my heart and cancel the workshop. I was way out of balance with my life, but not yet ready to own this. Not to worry! This retreat broke me open to shift gears!
When I got to the community, I found a group of people very entrenched in a variety of rigid belief systems. I had learned over the years that at any workshop there always would be a few people who would feel called to play the role of devil’s advocate about my work with the Angels and Elementals. Knowing this, I was still not prepared for a whole community to choose that role.
This is what happened at this retreat. Within minutes of starting my workshop, one participant was on the ground beating her heels on the floor yelling at me about my choice of spiritual vocabulary. This incited the entire group to wildly shout at me about my vocabulary, world view, and belief system. I don’t think of myself as belonging to one religion. If you have read the guide you know how difficult I have found it to come up with language choices that don’t leave people excluded. With this group I could find no language consensus. Some wanted me to use the word “dog” to describe the creator. Some wanted language devoid of gender references. Some wanted only one gender used. Some did not want a creator mentioned. And this was just the tip of the iceberg of their complaints about the stories I shared.
In retrospect, I realize that I had walked into the middle of a community drama that wasn’t about me. At the time, I was completely overwhelmed by the rage I seemed to have unleashed. When I asked the Angels for help, they suggested we spend a lot of the time in quiet meditation. That is pretty much all we did, because every time we began to talk together, things escalated to near violence in a Manhattan minute.
Another unexpected difficulty for me was the dietary restrictions of the community. I think of myself as willing to eat anything, but what I had been unprepared for was a community with such a narrow diet that my body would flip out. I was not exactly living a life of anyone’s ideas of pure food at that point. I had been a vegetarian for a few years before I got pregnant with Emily. Ben refers to these years as the dark days of his childhood. His friends had Burger King. He had seitan and tofu. Anyways, once I was pregnant with Emily, I could practically hear this tiny babe within me yell “I NEED MEAT”. And so with this pregnancy our family found its way back to a diet of everything. Ben was never more grateful.
Anyways, this community was eating such an intense macrobiotic diet that I would have feared for my life had I mentioned that an animal food had ever crossed my lips. After a few days at the community, I was deep into a nasty cleanse with a cleanse headache that would not quit. The upper stories of the community had no railings on the hallways. The rooms opened onto ledges that were completely open to a central space below. Given my headache, I actually feared I might fall off an open hallway to the common room below. Young children racing along these corridors overhead during my talks our endless meditations made me unbelievably nervous. I was a basket case.
Nowhere in the community was there any unpure food to stop my cleanse headache. At one point, I went out to my car to search for anything that might stop the headache, if only temporarily. I found a lollipop left in one of the car seats by one of my kids. It was still in its wrapper, but frankly, I wouldn’t have cared if it had had half chewed cheerios on it. Refined sugar was just what I was looking for.
It hadn’t occurred to me to bring anything but myself and my Angel and Elementals worksheets and slides to the retreat. This is typical of me. I have never been someone with an organized Mom bag. On our first road trip with Ben when he was about six months old, we went on a day trip to see the overrated tourist attraction of New Hampshire’s Man in the Mountain. Ben threw up in the car about fifteen minutes into our trip and I had no change of clothes for him. I can remember carrying him around the lake at the bottom of the mountain with just a soggy diaper on. I think we all had headaches that day!
Anyways, this community was very, very isolated. I couldn’t easily slip away to drive the half hour to the nearest deli-mart to get a bag of sugar to stop my cleanse because I was giving talks meditation sessions all day. Once that lollipop was gone, my headache returned with a vengeance.
I continued on in a state of complete denial about how poorly things were going. I did session after session with a group of people more ornery than hornets. I had asked everyone attending the workshops to bring something from their gardens. Every last person brought a rock. I found it an unusual choice for all twenty or thirty participants, but by the time the workshops ended, I was only glad that these rocks had not been hurled at me.
One night, several days into my crash and burn, I got into an argument with the founders of the community about the movie Shindler’s List. The movie had just come out and everyone was talking about it. One of the many gifts of the movie for me was that I realized Shindler was in a position to do more good than most people because of his imperfections. It wasn’t so much that you’d want anyone to chose moral grayness, but that the God can use this grayness in powerful and unexpected ways. Had Shindler been what most people would define as a good person from the beginning of his life, he would never have had the opportunity to save the people he saved. His flaws set him up to be somewhere he could help and his willingness to shift gears and accept his brokenness opened him to do profound good. Thinking about this movie while staying at this community left me with two thoughts. God could redeem anything if only we acknowledged our brokenness and opened to receive God’s help and pursuing our own ideas of perfection instead of letting go and accepting our brokenness was a kind of hubris that could do a lot of damage.
Floating out these ideas even in a general form enraged workshop participants further. I have blocked some of this weekend, but can remember six or so people all yelling at me about my Shindler’s List ideas during a “celebration dinner”. This retreat was a wonderful mirror for me about the problems with following my own ideas about being the perfect mother, wife, lover of God, friends to the Elementals and Angels etc etc. Watching this community in action, I realized where I was heading if I kept on expecting my own variation of perfection from myself. Shindler’s List was a perfect contrast to this ethos of perfection. Being perfect wasn’t a necessary criteria to love and serve God. Admitting our brokenness and opening to receive help was so much more important.
It was after this dinner, with another thirty six hours to go at the retreat, when I owned my brokenness. It was Emily’s birthday. I had already missed this precious day because of my own confused sense of obligation. When I admitted my brokenness to myself, it was time to tell the Angels and Elementals and the folks at this retreat that I was broken and I needed to go home.
As I began to own my brokenness, I had the joyful thought that perhaps I could still see Emily on her birthday. If I got in my car and drove straight home, I might still be able to give her a kiss before midnight and the official end of her birthday. I asked the Angels if my trip home could be safely done that night. I was six hours drive from home with a wicked headache. They said yes! They suggested I leave at once and drive to the nearest MacDonald’s. They suggested I get a Big Mac and large coffee, and drive home with the windows of the car down. I guess I really needed the worst food available to snap me out of such dietary purity.
It was cold that March night. There was snow everywhere. I ate my junk food and rolled the windows down. Then I took off into the night, singing every song I could remember. My breathe was frosty, but I felt so warm inside. I had escaped, if only temporarily, from my own nightmare of “being perfect”. I had told the community founders that I had made a mistake to commit to being somewhere other than with Emily on her birthday and that I needed to leave. I accepted their fury as my just reward. My ideas of doing the right thing had smashed into my ideas of doing what my heart called me to do. I got home with six minutes to go before midnight. I kissed a sleeping Emily before bursting into tears. Though she only vaguely remembered the moment the next day, for me it was priceless.
This marked a moment when I realized I needed to find a different way to honor my Angel and Elemental partners. I wasn’t even sure any more whose idea the workshops had been, but this was the moment when I told them we had to find a different way to share our work with the world. I couldn’t travel weekend after weekend with three little children at home. What I was really learning was that I needed to surrender all my different agendas about how to be a good person to God and let the divinity within all of us lead the way.
Before that weekend I had been traveling all over the east coast doing workshops. I had been on the road twelve weeks in a row when I went to this New Age community for that weekend of self discovery. After that, I did one last workshop and then I was done. My life became much quieter. With my surrender, I fell into a better balance. I got help to be who I am versus who I thought I was supposed to be. In my brokenness, I was ready to accept that God knew best about my strengths and weaknesses and how best to use them. I was more ready to have God use me for what God needed me to do, not what I thought God needed me for. It was a new beginning.
And what was this new beginning? Green Hope Farm Flower Essences.