Yesterday was my 55th birthday, it was an extraordinary day in so many ways. Thank you universe, you really stepped up this year. Autumn has always been my favorite time of year and not just because I was born in October.
“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve thought about this quote and others of this ilk a lot lately—we are the company we keep and what we focus on grows, what you become, you think…the list goes on & on.
Reading news, focusing on lack or placing blame for for how I FEEL creates chaos in my mind and wastes my energy. I’ve deliberately surrounded myself with beauty in the last week. This is pretty elemental I suppose. However, my mind’s inclination can shift on a dime if I’m not paying attention. This week my screen time is down dramatically and my mood is elevated…seems deliberateness needs to be practiced.
Do I want to be fueled by confusion, fear, and outrage or dumbstruck & gobsmacked by the absolute beauty of the universe?
I was raised by two entirely different ways of looking at the world. Mom and Dad’s individual circumstances, experiences, programming, and natures formed their worldviews, just as it did for their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and of course, their offspring too.
MYMOM: We’re all pretty wretched human beings. However, if we follow divine rules, tamp down our true natures to follow those rules, and constantly seek forgiveness, then we just might escape eternal damnation.
MY DAD: We’re basically pretty decent folks, we all make mistakes, if we can own them sometimes, and be open to a little coaching then we just might learn from our mistakes and do a little bit better next time.
A friend’s mom says, “it’s a wonder it goes”…it seemed appropriate here somehow. Thank you Martha & Marita.
Grandparents, siblings, birth order, aunts, uncles, cousins, ancient ancestors, geography, friends, boyfriends, school, church, teachers, books, music, TV shows, movies, pets, sports, coaches, experiences, my husband, my children, my nature and so much more, all played a part in who I am today.
Who we are and why is so mysteriously layered and complex that distilling ourselves (or anyone else for that matter) down with just a few data points seems woefully inadequate…total bullshit actually.
My daughter, Willa Govoni shot these photos on the beach a few weeks ago. She captured moments of pure joy and goofing off. These feel like the real me or how I would like my great-grandchildren to see me one day anyway. Thank you Willa.
“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun.” —Billy Joel
Dad liked those Billy Joel lyrics and I think he also understood my worldview quite well. Monday, August 30th will be three years, try to rest in peace Big Guy.
We were married May 16,1992. I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time in 1996 after the birth of our son. In 2000, during a challenging twin pregnancy, our doctor thought the babies were good sized (my feet and ankles were also swelling quite freakishly). She thought it was time to induce. Jeff and I could pick the date, we chose to keep our anniversary, our daughters were born May 17th.
From Mother’s Day to May 17th, life’s big events are celebrated at our house. This year Mother’s Day was the same day as my late father’s 82nd birthday. I miss you Dad.
In 2000, the Govoni family had a wedding, four new babies and we lost our much-love patriarch, Lou. That was obviously a very big year. When we talk about it now, new details keep being revealed about that time. Perhaps your family has a year like that as well?
Honoring life’s milestones, and supporting those who suffered loss (especially this year when weddings, graduations, and funerals were put on hold) is what connects humanity. The year really showed how much we need each other.
Our world shifted so many ways this year with the pandemic. Many bonds were strengthened, and unfortunately many fayed (or severed) as well.
When significant change beyond our control occurs, we crave certainty. Life is clearly very uncertain. Learning how to adapt, hell,maybe even thrive with uncertainty is perhaps the key to our survival.
After a year of slowing down, and finally inching toward our new normal, I think it’s time to take stock of where we’ve all landed. First, quietly in our own hearts, and then collectively as a nation.
I want to cut away the thorns from my heart that are hindering my empathy, judgment, or choices. A process far slower than I would prefer…but necessary and well worth the effort.
A few Saturday mornings ago while walking down the hill to the Cape Cod Bay, my daughter, Willa told me that she had never seen a coyote. She’s traveled to South Dakota at least once a year her whole life to visit my family and I was surprised. We stepped on the beach before sunrise and the very first thing I noticed was a coyote in the shadows walking the shoreline. The shape was haunting, and instantly familiar.
“In Plains Indian stories, Coyote nearly always takes the shape of a man. He is clever but reckless and is constantly getting himself and the people around him into trouble with his socially inappropriate behavior like greed, boastfulness, lying, and chasing women…
Growing up in South Dakota I frequently heard coyotes howling outside my bedroom’s eastern-facing window that overlooked acres of the uninterrupted prairie where my horse, Honey Bear lived.
Like the mystery of fog and the way it makes me feel, coyotes also hold a similar sacred space. They are a tether to the wide-open plains where I grew up and the inner wildness instilled by the freedom I was granted to roam that spacious landscape. Coyotes, I’m now realizing are part of my interior geography.
In Native American storytelling, the coyote plays a crucial role. Interestingly enough though, the coyote is seen quite differently from nation to nation, region to region. The familiar thread is that the coyote is generally viewed as a trickster meant to serve as a example of traits that don’t always serve the community. The flip side though is that the coyote’s cleverness can often get them out of certain pickles and predicaments.
When I got out of college, I wanted an adventure. In September of 1988, I went to Auckland, New Zealand to volunteer in the public relations department for a non-denominational radio station, Rhema. While I was there an American man who claimed to be a prophet arranged a visit. I don’t remember his name. He wanted to pray with us all right away when he arrived. I was the only American on staff.
He gathered everyone in a circle, my hair stood up on my neck and arms. I was so certain he was a fake. He singled me out and said, “come here, Dakota, please join us”. I said “no” without any explanation. My colleagues were surprised, but not pushy and let me hang back. Kiwi’s are wonderfully respectful and polite. I looked up while they prayed and watched his body language closely. He opened his eyes to look at me. I didn’t blink.
Of course, the American Prophet wanted the only other American to lend authenticity to him and help advance his narrative. He was seeking, as many before and after him, donations of course, and a larger platform to spread his message about what those donations could do for his personal cause and humanity.
$ I grew up in a household with Tammy Faye and Jim Baker on in the morning. I saw the tricks used to get donations, create false narratives, and get people hooked into the drug of magical thinking—a high that is never ever enough.
As a 22-year-old, I knew that American claiming to be a prophet was a snake oil salesman. I’d been in training to spot what’s inauthentic from a very young age, not the message intended by watching the PTL Club. However, an education I now find myself quite grateful for in hindsight.
This story was a pivotal event in my life. This was when I realized that I no longer had to accept the dogma of my childhood. Or at least that I could personally reject what felt inauthentic to me and navigate the world in a way that honored my inner knowing. I also understood, with maybe even more significance that I could handle the fall out if others thought I was wrong.
“Coyote is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans; in others, he is a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance; in still others, he is a comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out. http://www.native-langages.org/plains-coyote.htm
This morning I awakened at five, it was still dark and there was a bit of coastal fog in the air. I sipped my coffee outside and watched the light shift over the bay. In my head, I walked through what I would do if I encountered a coyote on the beach or during the half-mile walk down the hill this morning. I imagined I could be the trickster and outsmart him…magical thinking indeed, Lisa.
I arrived at the beach to pick up garbage and scanned east then west. There was now enough light to see the coyote. I didn’t. I was a little disappointed at first, but then I felt safe to walk the shoreline.
I started noticing the tracks in the sand . I never felt this way before. I had some unfamiliar energy and vigilance.
I thought about my northern Quebec ancestry…fur trappers perhaps? Maybe I should become a wilderness guide or a private investigator? I was heady with possibilities as I walked along.
Then I came upon these sandals and I got a little concerned.
The potential coyote tracks awakened my curiosity today in a way that led to further investigation. I don’t feel tricked. I feel sparked and pretty damn grateful.
PLEASENOTE: I’ve tried to identify online the difference between tracks. I’m well-aware that I could be wrong, but without human prints closeby, it seems to me these are coyote tracks and not those of a large dog. Please let me know. I would like to learn how to easily discern the difference.
As I age, it seems much of life is experienced within the gray areas of uncertainty. Thankfully, now at fifty-three, I’m finding not knowing is sort of interesting, perhaps even a bit wonderfully mysterious.