(for Maya Jade)
Long before my granddaughter was born, recurring images of fires, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis began to seep into my dreamscape. I am not an anxious person. I limit my intake of news-images; I have no TV. Yet even without media magnification one cannot ignore the underlying hyper-tension of our world. We all know that catastrophic things are happening somewhere— to someone, some beings. And surely any vibrational SOS’s from our planet are not contained to waking hours alone. I know I am not the only one visited by cataclysmic nightmares followed by pre-dawn deliberations about ‘what’s to become of us?’
Having a granddaughter just expanded that question out about 100 years… Grandchildren bring the future Home. I see Grandparenting as the swinging footbridge that spans from past to future. The ropes may be frayed, so you have to tread carefully as you haul your gifts from one side to the other. Balance is everything.
After baby Maya’s birth, I began to view all landscapes with an underlying distress: What will her calamities —natural or human-made—be? Will there be a Giving Tree left standing? A Red Fish, Blue Fish–any fish in the sea? Will she know Clean Air, Clean Water, or taste Real Food at all? Very quickly I realized, I cannot baby-proof this World. The only real option was to take careful and measured steps away from the precipice of Despair—simply because Maya’s world demands it. “Find a better way!” is the charge, intensified with each new generation.
But real and imagined, the disasters continue.
A recent visit to my family home at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, brought us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cahokia Mounds, a large prehistoric urban settlement dating from 1200 to 600 BCE. Here in the river bottomlands on the outskirts of St. Louis, eighty large and small hand-built mounds rise to tell the story of powerful pre-Columbian civilizations, made up of tens of thousands of people, honing sophisticated religious, political, trade and social structures. The tallest mound at Cahokia, the mound built for the Priest or King, stands 10 stories high, and is the largest prehistoric earthen construction north of Mexico. But that mound is easily over-shadowed by the garbage landfill mound still growing nearby. We watch the trucks crawl up a long slope that did not exist in my youth. How to explain this to baby Maya? Now we are garbage ‘mound-builders’….Our infrastructures reflect our limitations.
What to carry across the bridge from past to future? How to evolve?
Back home, along the Housatonic River after a night of rain (and a nightmare of flooding), I am mesmerized by sunlight sparking off wavelets. In a full-hearted moment, a spontaneous song about Pure Waters fills me. It is a Prayer, a Declaration. A Wish—a wish for this river, for all rivers, and for my granddaughter: May you know Pure Waters. Here flows a river that, notwithstanding, continues. I sing its praises, honoring the Gift of Water, of River. The song uplifts and opens a spaciousness—for hope, for healing. In that moment, I have left behind human scorn and sorrow; I am standing in the heart of expansion…
How to evolve?
I believe that each one can be guided to their own solutions— for self, family, and community—but we need that spaciousness, that wide-open heart, and wild imaginings. For this, I go to my meditation cushion, to my altar. I become more ceremonial, honoring Mother Earth. I light candles, Sing, Dance, Drum, Create Art, Chant, Do Yoga. All to Raise Consciousness, raise up— uplift self and others. Raise the roof— Raise the Spirit— Call on a Higher Consciousness, Open the human Heart—for better thinking, better imagining, better Being. Beings of Benefit… Going beyond what we know now.
Recently I am yanked again from my sleep—sweaty, breathless, heart thumping— it is a stark image: piles of glistening dead fish, rotting on wharves beneath a searing sun, beside a warming ocean. What about the fish? And all the living creatures in our beautiful oceans?
That day I go to town to find the perfect birthday gift for baby Maya— a bath toy shaped like a Blue Whale. In her card, I write: The Blue Whale is the largest animal ever known to exist on Our Planet—its heart weighs 400lbs—640 times the size of ours. It is the Biggest Heart alive… This is something we all need to share, sing about, and celebrate.
This is what a Grandmother does, this is what grandparenting is: We lash our gifts to our heart, and carry them forward.
Angela Vuagniaux is a poet/writer and nature lover living in the Berkshires, as well as a Kundalini yoga teacher and year-round mermaid.