I’m jealous of the birds. Reflecting on my recent readings of Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World, I have been working to be more conscious, aware of my surroundings, awake to what is happening with me and around me on a spiritual level. I’ve been watching for altars in my world that remind me of a higher purpose or focus.

So the birds came into focus this morning. Birds clustered on the wires, as it is cold now, and clustering themselves into groups to stay warm. A bird wouldfly up and move to another group on another wire, and the birds already on the wire would move to accommodate the new arrival. No one was fighting. All of them were just working to stay warm until the sun was up more so they could begin looking around for food.

And I thought about how the warmth of birds together on wires could be an image of people grouping together for survival too. We are a family, we humans. We are genetically linked to each other through so many generations – mathematically, we are likely 16th cousins at least and mostly closer (we are all the descendants of the survivors of so many wars, famines, immigration, floods, diseases and catastrophies) and we cluster together.

Lately, due to what I’ve been watching with the elections, we have been clustering in groups around party affiliation, race and gender, our needs/wantsfor the future and the illusions of personalities, words and actions. And I think about how the birds don’t know any of that, but just cluster with each other until it is warm enough to hunt for food. It’s simple that way for them and I think about how we humans complicate so much. I’m jealous of the birds.

The birds have no “baggage” to worry about – self-contained little bodies that they take everywhere. Yes, they have nest homes to take care of but on this morning, none of them were in those nests. They preferred to be with each other, on a high wire in the cold wind. Chattering away, they were doing what birds do – surviving.

Which led my mind to “this is an altar in my world, a place where trust and survival meet, where waiting for the sun to come up and warm the space keeps us together” and I looked around at the cars surrounding me at this stop light. These birds were the conscious ones. The humans around me weren’t even looking at or acknowledging one another but checking text messages, tuning the radio or staring straight ahead. I was jealous of the birds in that moment and the direct connection of their lives.

I think about my family, our family tree, and the people who loved each other, resulting in me being born. And I wish sometimes that we were more like the birds, gathering each morning to talk, to chat, to share before we took off for the day. We can’t even talk directly about the election and what it means to us without someone getting upset (“don’t talk about religion or politics” I’ve been told so many times!). I long for that probing discourse that permits us the honor and space of saying the deep reasons for why we voted the way we did and why we like a certain candidate or the platform items. I long to understand why the white males around my world are feeling threatened by so much and don’t even care that I have felt threatened my whole life by a society that doesn’t value “female”, let alone a society that sets up white v. black, European culture v. the rest of the world, and more. Or even how my deeply felt beliefs have been wanting expression in the broader world without being told to “get over it” or “move on” when I’ve never even said anything of my beliefs. Not. Ever. Asked.

So the birds were an altar for me this morning, reflecting a simple, direct aliveness that isn’t complicated by politics or religion or personalities or money or status. Just simply beingness ….. just manifesting what’s TRUE … not all of this human complication that we’re seeing. Sigh ….. I am jealous of the birds.

Who Are We?

Genealogy research and the creation of our family tree is an opportunity to explore who we think we are.

Genealogy Forms

When I first began genealogy research, I was only 12. A school teacher, wanting to personalize our study of the immigration patterns in the formation of the United States, gave us a four-generation family tree chart and told us to “find out where your people are from” so I dutifully went home to ask Mom. She referred me to my dear Aunt Catherine who, unknown to me until that time, was the family’s historian and busy letter-writer to the far-flung families of our lineage.

Aunt Catherine was the classic genealogist – three-ring binder with lined paper, penciled notes and connections drawn in her own hand, with references to places and dates for each person mentioned. When I reached out to her, little did I know that my interest and now obsession with genealogy began! She showed me what she knew, we wrote on my four-generation chart and gave names to people that I remembered hearing about at family reunions. I hadn’t had interest in the stories when I was younger but now the stories began to matter. Luckily, I had Aunt Catherine and othersin that far-flung network of family to connect with. Aunt Catherine helped me to reach out to cousins across the midwest and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (our people on mom’s side first came into the United States via the mining communities of Houghton, Hancock and the Keweenaw Peninsula.

And Aunt Catherine introduced me to genealogy libraries such as the incredible Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library in downtown Detroit (now one of my truly favorite retreats on a rainy, cold afternoon) and the wonders of indexes, microfilm and books. I was already a committed reader, but now I became a HISTORY reader. It makes a difference when you can connect your people to the geography and history of the development of our country. Aunt Catherine gave me a
piece of copper and told me about the mines of the Upper Peninsula and how our family was a key part of that. She knew that my great-great-grandfather had been a pioneer in Ishpeming and helped to fell the trees that were cleared to create the first roads in Ishpeming and Marquette.

Sitting in the Burton Collection room in later years, I made my first discoveries of royal lineages through a conversation across the table with a fellow genealogist (and distant cousin sharing the same line leading back to royalty) and began to share with my brother’s oldest child that her ancestors were brave, remarkable people that she could be proud of.

Fifty years later, I’m STILL making discoveries and still excited about genealogical research. I’m more discerning now, working to document by the genealogical proof standards, the lineages of our family. I’ve dabbled in DNA research with samples from my mom and me, and learning more every day. Maybe at some point I’ll feel like I’m “done” but given that I still don’t know my dad’s family’s ancestral name or where they came from (other than the broad reference to Poland), it’s not happening any time soon. So, I’ll stop for now writing here because there are websites and research calling …. get out there and start yours today!!! If you need help, let me know. Giving back to others starting the journey is how I honor what Aunt Catherine began with me.

#genealogy #familytree #LineageJourneys #history #BurtonCollection #DPL

Women and Moontime

Women's Hoop

It’s truly an exciting time – having the opportunity to share with women the wonderful and empowering information about the “Moontime” or menses, bleeding time, “period” or whatever you might call the menstrual cycle. So many of us were raised in a culture that demeaned, dirtied or otherwise made this special and sacred time something negative. I’ve been blessed to have Lakota women teach me how to utilize this time to learn about and from myself, do ceremony that gives me a stronger connection to Spirit and find other women to share with in “Women’s Hoops” so that we can continue to draw from our strength.

This workshop is particularly exciting for me as I’m in the midst of daily ceremony here and some very dramatic changes happening in my life. My “star quilt” career (no, that’s not about sewing quilts!) is developing, shifting, opening and growing in ways that I never suspected or knew to even think about. And now an Elder is