Wednesday, August 26, 2015

One Heart. One Mind. One Drum.

Yesterday I returned to the trails I used to walk with Ahnung. I walked with the pup my sweet Ahnung led me to ... Ishkode. We walked and we walked and we walked. I was unaware of how far and how long we had walked till we got back to my car -- 3 hours later!! No wonder little Ishka's tongue was hanging out on the side and she was very thirsty! :)

I needed to take time to reflect and to pause and to listen. I needed to re-ground myself. Ahnung taught me so much about just Being .. about listening, observing and being aware of her surroundings. There was a Way about her -- a very wise Way. She is my rez dog and she has led me to my work with tribal nations. Over the past 4 years I have been immersed in working with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota. It has become Home to me on so many levels. I don't know where my life's journey will take me, but what I do know is that must never lose sight of my north star, my Ahnung. I have also come to embrace the Seven Sacred teachings, embraced and practiced by Anishinaabe people and indigenous people.

Humility • DibaaDenDizowin
Honesty • gwayakowaaDiziwin
Respect • manaaji’iwewin
Courage • zoonGiDe’ewin
Wisdom • nibwaakaawin
Truth • Debwewin
Love • zaaGi’iDiwin

There is so much beauty and wisdom in Indigenous Ways .... thank you Ahnung for being my guide and leading me to a people and a nation who have now become my people and my community. 

Ahnung ... I ask for you to continue to guide me and to teach me. 

"If you listen close at night, you will hear
the creatures of the dark, all of them sacred 
- the owls, the crickets, the frogs, 
the night birds - and you will hear beautiful songs, 
songs you have never heard before. 
Listen with your heart.
Never stop listening.”

~ Henry Quick Bear, LAKOTA

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ahnung's 2 year anniversary - Grief visits again

Today is the 2 year anniversary of when my soul dog Ahnung crossed over into the spirit world. I remember that day (August 25, 2013) as clearly as it was yesterday.

As I prepared for that day, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. It helped me walk through and try to find peace when my heart felt like it was being shredded to pieces; it helped me to listen, really listen to the wisdom of Ahnung as she guided me through this Final Walk. I share some old writings as I learned to make friends with Grief, and I write a new one today on the 2 year anniversary ... Sweet Ahnung, you are always, always in my heart:

Anticipatory Grief: Making Friends (December 27, 2012)

Grief walks up to your front door. It’s not time yet, you say. Yet she keeps on walking. She walks past the rose bushes in your front yard. She walks past the boulders you’ve carefully laid in her path. She walks past the detours you’ve planted to steer her around you and away from you. This time She is focused. And the rain is pouring and thunder is booming as the earth shakes and vibrates.

“Please,” She says, “I need shelter. I need to come in -- if only for a moment. “

Reluctantly, I let Grief in. I offer her a cup of warm tea. We sit by the fireplace.

“Why have you come?” I ask. “It’s not yet time.”

“It’s time. I am by myself tonight. Tomorrow I may not be alone. I may bring thousands of Me and there will be nothing you can do. We will break down your door. We will drown you. “

She pauses for a moment.

She strokes my dog Ahnung.

“Sit with Me now.”

We share stories. We cry. We laugh. Ahnung lays between us. A calm breeze permeates the room.

“It’s time for me go,” Grief says.

“But we have so much more to share,” I say.

She smiles. She rises, and Ahnung walks alongside her. Ahnung stops at the front door as Grief turns around to face me.

“I will be return. I may come alone, or I may bring a friend. Now, go be with Ahnung.”

We melt into the breeze coming through the open door.

Anticipatory Grief Visits Again (Mar. 3, 2013)

You came to visit me again last night.

Most days I see the clear blue skies, I catch my breath when I look up into the night skies, and I walk with my feet planted solidly on our earth.

Is it too much to ask for the World? For the Universe? For eternity …. For strings of days to never end with my sweet Ahnung? Is it too much to ask for Cancer to step to the back of the line? Is it too much to ask for the Love, the Wisdom, the Resilience, the brightness of Ahnung to shine on forever?

Dear Grief, I respect you. I honor you. I know you have a place in this world and in this universe. I know it’s not my place to negotiate with you. Yet when the earth shakes below my feet and when the ground moves and the tremors knock me off center, I desperately grab onto Ahnung. Last night, it was just an earth tremor. How many more tremors will I walk through with Ahnung? How many more tremors can the ground beneath us withstand until the inevitable quake on the horizon arrives? How many more tremors will I be blessed to endure before the ground beneath us splits open and swallows Ahnung? And will I be swallowed too? Will I be swallowed by the pain of You, dear Grief, as I desperately hold onto my soul, my Ahnung, as she slips away from me?

How? How do I accept, with grace, this Final Walk?

Grief looks me in the eye.

“When the earth shakes, and the ground beneath you falters, look up into the skies. Look into Ahnung’s eyes. Look up at the North Star. I gift you with the tremors.”

“Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.”

I hold onto Ahnung as the earth beneath us stops shaking. I bury my face in her thick neck. I hold her. I hold her as tightly as I can. I hold her again.

Anticipatory Grief … Here to Stay (August 24, 2013)

Grief knocks on my door again. Ahnung greets Her at the door. This time she arrives with bags in hand.

“It is time.”

She opens the door, takes my hand and leads me outside.

We get down on our knees. She places one hand over Ahnung’s heart and one hand over my heart.

And she repeats to me what she said months earlier:

Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.”

I look into Ahnung’s eyes.

Grief takes my hand, “It is time. We must begin the walk.”

In the dark, we are guided by the north star and the slow, steady beat of our hearts.

My old friend Grief visits again - August 25, 2015

Grief knocks on my door again.

I let her in.

“Let’s sit on the patio.”

We reminisce. The summer breeze brushes again my skin, and I know Ahnung is with us.

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you” ~ Rumi.

I ask my old friend Grief, ‘Will you ever stop visiting me?’

There is only Silence as Grief looks gently into my eyes, reaching into my soul.

My friend Grief is Ahnung. My friend Grief is a doorway. Ahnung is on the other side, and in the moments she comes to visit me, it is a gift for me to step through the door and to Be with Ahnung.

I answer my own question, “Dear Grief, you are always welcome in our Home.”

I visit with Ahnung. We walk. We are simply there with each other.

“Thank you Grief for the Gift of visiting hours to the Spirit world.”

She smiles as she gets up, and as quickly as She arrived, She disappears … until her next visit.

"Go and find yourself first
So you can also find Me.

Don't run away from grief , o soul
Look for the remedy inside the pain.
because the rose came from the thorn
and the ruby came from a stone."

~ Rumi

Photo by Sarah Beth Photography

Photo by Sarah Beth Photography

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Life's journey - uncertainty, trust, intention, purpose, passion

It's been a while since I have written for my blog. My blog ... my writing ... was such an important part of my journey as I prepared for the eventual crossing over to the spirit world of my soul dog, Ahnung. We are approaching the 2 year anniversary of when I held my sweet girl, surrounded by friends and a community, as she took her last breath and set her body free. It is time to begin writing again.

The pain, the grief of losing Ahnung was so deep but my sweet girl taught me so much about living, watching, listening ... Being. Letting Go. And that first night without her I wanted to run from the pain; my heart felt like it was being put through a shredder. That night, I prayed that my heart would stopping beating so I could be with my Ahnung. I wanted to drink again. I wanted to numb a pain I didn't know what to do with, but then I kept 'hearing' and experiencing and feeling Ahnung's presence and energy and wisdom .... asking me to simply 'Stay. Be.' 

And I promised Ahnung I wouldn't run from the pain and the darkness and the demons that would rear their ugly head (alcohol, old ways of coping ...). My prayers changed, 'Ahnung, I need you. Teach me to feel you when I can't see you. Teach me to listen and to keep my heart open.  Teach me to be okay with standing still, closing my eyes, and trusting, that yes, this pain shall pass. Teach me to ride the waves of grief, to make friends with grief, to honor and embrace that which hurts me and scares me ... Teach me to simply trust, to let go, to Be Okay with having you ripped from my life ... my heart ... just 5 short years after you came to be with me. This chapter has ended, but you tell me, there is still so much more to come in the Book of Life.

It has been a journey. The waves of grief almost drowned me but I could feel Ahnung's energy and presence every step of the way. She was my life jacket and my guide through the darkest moments. 

On October 11, 2013 (just 6 weeks after Ahnung's crossing over to the spirit world) and on the 5 year anniversary (October 11, 2008) when I met her for the first time at Red Lake Reservation .. I believe she guided a puppy to me. There were many times I remember saying, 'Ahnung, I wonder what you were like as a puppy.' Ahnung was around 2 years old when she came into my life in 2008 (many thanks to a dear friend and a Red Lake elder, Karen Good, of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue). She had just had a litter of 8 puppies and we soon found out she had heart worm, lymes, coccidia, no front teeth (apparently grinding it down in search of food), and pellets in one of her nipples and in her chest. Karen told me the day she introduced me to Ahnung, 'There's something special about this one, Marilou.' And exactly 5 years later, Karen happened to be at Leech Lake Reservation with me when this puppy was surrendered by a Leech Lake tribal member. The puppy looked so much like Ahnung. I did NOT want a puppy nor was I ready to bring another dog into my household ... but there were too many signs I couldn't ignore: she was the first surrender, she looks just like Ahnung, the day the puppy is surrendered happens to be the exact day (October 11) of when I first met Ahnung. There were actually 2 puppies surrendered but I felt an immediate bond to this one puppy. I had my other Leech Lake rez dog Legacy with me and he does not do well with all dogs so I told myself, if Legacy doesn't like this puppy then I can't bring her home because my commitment is to Legacy. The first time Legacy met this little puppy, they immediately bonded. I am sure not a coincidence .. the work again, of Ahnung. 

As I struggled with what to do, I received guidance from two elders. Karen Good (Red Lake elder) said to me, 'Marilou, sometimes it's not up to us' .... and a friend who is a Leech Lake elder said to me, 'Pray to Ahnung. Ask her to guide you.' 

I didn't feel ready but I asked Ahnung and it was clear I needed to bring this puppy home. She also guided me to name this puppy 'fire' in ojibwe, and so I did .. I named the puppy, Ishkode (Ish-ko-day). 

It became clear to me why Ahnung brought Ishkode (aka 'Ishka') to me and why she wanted me to name her 'fire.' This puppy was a bundle of energy and full of fire. She made me laugh (and yes, made me scream in frustration as she would drag gutters off of my house, dig her way out of the yard, drag shovels and dog houses around the yard ...). Ahnung gave me 6 weeks to grieve, and then she dropped a puppy in my lap. It's almost 2 years now since Ishka has been with me and there is no doubt she has her own personality but there is without a doubt Ahnung's energy, spirit and wisdom sprinkled and in her being. 

I now know why Ahnung brought Ishkode to me. Yes, to help me in my healing journey and to bring joy and laughter into my heart again .. but now I realize that it is also because Ishkode needs to continue the work she began up at Leech Lake Reservation. Ishka needs to continue her work of being an ambassador dog for reservation dogs, to help in healing, and to be a voice for her people ... so Ishkode and I are now working towards becoming a pet therapy team. 

There is a new chapter beginning in our Book of Life. This chapter reads, 'Ishkode: Igniting the fire of passion and purpose.'

In a volunteer capacity, I have been actively involved in animal welfare for the past 9 years. My work and passion have now expanded to being a voice not just for animals but for tribal nations. Ahnung has guided me to take on a new role as Vice President of Community Healing Programs for The Native America Humane Society and with Ahnung's guidance and the fire of Ishkode, my hope is that I can be of service to tribal communities and indigenous people and their animals.

Stay tuned for Ahnung's work to continue, through the spirit and fire of the little Leech Lake rez puppy she chose .... may the adventures begin!! :)

Ahnung - photo by Sarah Beth Photography

Ishkode - October, 2013
Ishkode - August, 2015
Ishkode and Legacy - rez buddies