First Quarter Moon: consolation
For Karlene, and though it goes without saying, Duck Medicine for Mom too
Today is First Quarter Moon, we are one quarter of the way into the first lunation of 2024. At this point in the lunation, we are still at the beginning, so the results of our intention setting are unknown. I have dedicated First Quarter Moon letters to mystery. The timing asks that we hold our wants and desires closely, peering into what has worked out so far and gauging whether more of our efforts will help with the rest. The deal here is to welcome the unknown and mysterious, keep our hearts open even though uncertainty scares the heck out of us.
And I will add here, that it’s a good time to ask for help. What kind of help do we know we need? What forms of help do we desperately want? And what about the kinds of help that we don’t know we need or even that we get everyday? How do we learn to praise them and ask for more?
For more about consolation, read my last post. Much of that writing on consolation is behind the paywall, so if you are not a paid subscriber but would like to read it, let me know, I will share with you.
Words are our consolations, as we know well here in this newsletter. Maria Popova says in the introduction of the book pictured above,
[Words] are living organisms, elastic and porous, feral with meaning, ever-evolving. They possess us more than we possess them. They feed on us more than we feed on them. Words belong to each other and we belong to them.
So for today’s mysterious post, I will console you with a story of how Karlene and I developed Duck Medicine together.
She had an experience early in the summer last year where three animals visited her and John and Eva as they hiked. An eagle, a bear, and a duck. The eagle was majestic, soaring above, and the bear fleeting, crossing the trail in front of them, but the duck garnered more attention, waddling as it was with purpose down the trail. It traveled on its path as if it was not odd to see a duck out of water and so far from water, as if this was like any other day and this duck had a particular place to go.
Eva had paid the eagle - and even the bear - no mind at all, continuing on the hike as if nothing unusual were happening, but the duck, Eva took a keen interest in.
Karlene messaged the healing circle after this hike, letting us know they had a fantastic day, how they had all these animal sightings. She was so ecstatic.
That evening, tragically and unexpectedly, Eva died.
In her grief, Karlene asked me to look up the meanings of the animals they had encountered, wondering what, if anything, those animal symbols had foretold.
Eagle is for spirit and a call to reconnect with the element of air.
Bear is for introspection, finding answers from time spent in hibernation, for digesting the years’ experience, for accomplishing goals and dreams and being reborn in the spring. I sent her photographs of the descriptions, and I’m not sure they provided any solace.
Duck wasn’t defined within the pages of Animal Medicine.
When you encounter an animal that is not in the book the authors invite you to study it and divine your own meaning from what you observe. Karlene and I discussed how the duck they encountered was behaving and Eva’s very interested response to it and decided to watch and see what came to us.
About a week later she sent me an email with the subject line
duck poem ....
Jude shared this poem in her newsletter this week… it’s lovely … I think it may express duck wisdom … 🧡
The poem was The Little Duck by Donald Babcock sent by her meditation teacher. It is a story of a duck floating calmly on the swells of the Atlantic, floating in disregard of the big waves and even with certain repose, despite the churn of the ocean. It was able to rest and be with the infinity of the ocean, of the boundlessness of experience.
We decided that even if it was calmly walking down the path, waddling on earth, it would emanate the same ethos. Unconcerned, just traveling, walking with repose, even while Eva sniffs, remaining as it was, touching the earth with poise, duck-feet on the ground, completely unconcerned that it’s a duck out of water.
We made sense of this through Eva’s happy dog presence no matter what was going on, every day, and even that day, the last day of her life. Eva died so unexpectedly, after being her same present and loving self the whole day long, after which Karlene said, I just realized it can happen so fast.
At that point in her life she had made a commitment to living. She had placed her focus on remaining on the earth with her loved ones, even though her life had been forecast to one to two years, and death, we’d hoped would take time, would happen slowly for her even as it hadn’t for Eva.
A week later, I was looking at the Om symbol and saw a duck floating on massive ocean waves. The symbol had a scooped duck body with head, resting upon waves as they rose all around. The symbol represented the sacred hum of everything, the ultimate reality that everything is connected. And I shared it with her, that the om symbol combines it all, the solidity of being grounded on the earth, whether with wide webbed duck feet or resting in water, and it includes the fluidity of change, the water itself, the duck’s sense of purpose, the ultimate reality of life.
And there it was, more duck medicine. If we were to take the message of the duck to heart, we are to rest in the chaos, be appreciative to still be here, understand that though the relative truth says that both Karlene and Eva are no longer able to connect with us through bodies, the ultimate truth says we will be connected always.
I have one last thing to add to Duck Medicine:
I found an email from Karlene to the rest of the 4Ds yesterday, dated 12/3/14 with the subject line
Thich Nhat Hahn quote
E,T, B: a friend sent me this quote - thought I'd share:
Thích Nhat Hahn:
“This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”
As if in a message from beyond.
May they keep coming.
So let yourself be consoled. To be consoled means to take comfort in the poor substitutes, in the proxies, while filling time as grief has its way with you. Consolations will never be exactly what you wanted but they are meant to help and by their intention may they meet you where you are at.
Integration is what this rotations around the moon is for. We keep our grief separate until we toggle into our experiences, sleeping and waking and remembering day after day, all the different compartments where we have put away our memories and sorrows, until we realize we are always meeting again on the myriad paths of life, duck feet or not.
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