Pun intended. November is such an intriguing month. It starts at a time when many believe the veil between the living and dead is extremely thin. A time when our loved ones, our relatives on the other side, can communicate more clearly with us. In November we vote, and then it ends with a celebration that for some reminds us of how some took over this land long ago and ripped relatives apart and for others brings relatives together at a table with food and drink and hopefully an attitude of thanksgiving.
The weather is cold and blustery one day, driving us inside for hot soup and a good book and then it is bright and sunny the next day driving us outside to soak up what might be that last rays of light and warmth for the year. It's all relative...
Ripped apart...brought together.
Cold and dark....sunny and bright.
The almost schizophrenic mood of November offers us a possibility to dive deep into misty magic, into the unknown, into gratitude and ,if we're lucky, into wisdom.
I was recently at a presentation where the speaker started the entire talk with the famous quote, "We are standing on the shoulders of giants." Each time I hear this phrase, it humbles me. Each time I am reminded that I am here, free, able to vote, to eat and drink what I please, to write a blog on any topic I feel bursting within me. All this because of the countless others who came before me. Many of whom were oppressed, unhappy, worn down and yet unwavering in their fire and drive to keep moving toward more freedom, more discovery, more self empowerment... more happiness.
Digging a little further into this phrase, I found out some of the first records of this phrase came from a 12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury in 1159. Translations vary, but the gist of what he said was:
"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours."
This was 1159... Think about that! That was a REALLY long time ago! And still today it's as poignant as ever... We see , NOT because we are better at seeing.... but because someone (or many someones) paved the way before us. While I can't even fathom , much less list, the many who came before me, allowing me this little blip of life, allowing my sight to be as keen as it is (which, honestly, still has a lot of room for growth!) I can think of a few people for whom I am immediately and directly thankful for.
In honor of Dia De Los Muertos and Thanksgiving both I would like to introduce you to four people whom, had they not lived and loved, fought and won, worked and played - I would not even exist at all. Today they are all on the other side of that thin veil... AND they are also here inside of me. Allow me to introduce you to some of my giants:
I have my Grandpa Woody inside me. I see him in those moments when I have to be a voice in the wilderness. When I know what step would be in integrity and what step would be the easy way out, he is with me when I choose integrity. My Grandpa Woody speaks up to those things in life that just are not right no matter how you color it. He knows who he is, he knows where he stands and he calls things as he sees them. I have my Grandpa Woody in me when I need to get a thing done and there no room for complaint or words like "I can't." My Grandpa Woody is with me when it's time to just roll up my sleeves and dive in and GET THE GOD DAMNED THING DONE! When my car is sparkling clean and my desk is tidy and my bank account is balanced - that's my Grandpa Woody in me. I also have my Grandpa Woody in me when it's time to think of others and lend a helping hand, when right is right and it's time to give selflessly without need of recognition. That's when my Grandpa Woody comes to visit.
I have my Grandma Nada inside me. I see her when it is time to set up a chair on the beach and dig my toes in the sand, squealing at the beauty of it all. When it's time to play with young children and tell stories that are filled with nonsense and toss my head back in unbridled laughter. She is with me in those times when ants carry cameras with flashes and think that I'm famous, snapping my picture on those sparkling side walks. She is there when it's time to learn a new song or folk dance. She's there when it's time to try and dig through the Earth to the other side of the world. She sets up her paints and her easel and softens her gaze on the horizon where the ocean waves glisten in the sunlight and a tiny child touches the tail of a puppy running after the seagulls. She watches dreamily as life goes by and thinks, "I could paint that, or mold that or sing that." I have my Grandma Nada in me when it's time to just savor and drink in life. When the colors and scents and sounds of nature matter more that anything else. I have my Grandma Nada in me when it's time to remember my dreams and reach for them, knowing they will come true. When miracles happen and obstacles melt away and all that is left is joy and peace and love, That's when my Grandma Nada comes to visit.
I have my Grandma D.D. inside me. When life feels so big and overwhelming that I can't wash another dish, can't pay another bill - she is the one who rises quietly from the chair, calmly picks up the laundry and starts folding. She get's it all done without a fuss. She's the one who knows there is no beginning and there is no end, there is just now and now is enough. My Grandma D.D. is with me every time I have to take that next little step, and the next one, and the next one. She knows that freedom and happiness don't come from outside conditions. My Grandma D.D. knows how to keep her heart and soul intact no matter what the world hands her. When it's time to cut the B.S. and get real, my Grandma D.D. is there. When all the things you thought you wanted and worked so hard for fall away and you are still standing there naked, bleeding and vulnerable figuring out how to feed yourself and the kids - how to get up each morning and get dressed and keep going. That's when my Grandma D.D. comes to visit.
I have my Grandpa Jack in me. Every time I play a gig, every time I stay out a little too late, every time I stop everything to listen to a friend in need. When I get into little mischief, when that glimmer sparkles in my eyes, when I flip someone the bird. When all practical reasons point north and I still choose south because it just feels better - that's my Grandpa Jack. When making a joke seems like the only feasible option, when loud uproarious laughter is needed to ease a situation, my Grandpa Jack is there. When I've said yes to the invitation and am swimming in a crowd and the live musicians draw me in. When I just HAVE to follow the music, even if it seems to lead me astray, my Grandpa Jack is with me. He is there every time I board a plane or a train or a bus. Every time I plan a trip or adventure. Whenever I do something that just totally scratches that itch of destiny that so many others ignore. Every time I grant myself permission to write music, to create and follow my muse. When I feel intense passion and play with fire and take risks even if it pisses people off. That's when my Grandpa Jack comes for a visit.
Welcome to my table. These are my ancestors. This is my blood line. These are my people. This is what I am made of. These are my roots and even though I am on my own individual path, their influences, mistakes, inspirations and help from the other side make up my life. I feel them every day and I am so so so grateful. These are my giants.
There is nothing more to do here
That is it
A smile breaks out on my lips
My Grandparents' smile
Through eons of time
All is well here
There is nothing
And there is everything.
As I sit on the shoulders of giants,
I am drunk on this reality
On this life
I am bliss