Carol A. Hand
The past two weeks have been a time for clearing clutter – getting rid of things that I no longer need. It has also meant cleaning out old papers from my file cabinets – some old journal articles, syllabi, and confidential documents from past work on boards of directors. I gave my paper shredder away before I moved here, so I needed to cut up piles of old documents with scissors. In the process that gave me blisters, I had time to reflect about dreams that never came into being. Even by hand, it is so much easier to destroy these old papers than it was to create the ideas and hope they signified years ago.
A group of Native American people from different tribes came together to create possibilities for improving the health of Native Americans in Missoula, Montana. We were a diverse crew. It took us time to figure out how to work together on a shared vision. We did learn as we shared ideas, meals, tears, and laughter.
But we didn’t succeed. The forces of destruction came from too many sources – many from without but some within, all in large measure due to the heavy legacy of colonialism – as were the harms we were trying to address. As I shredded the documents that symbolized our work and dreams, I relived the sense of loss and deep sadness. I also thought about the friendship and laughter we shared. I hope they know that I will always love each one of them dearly.
The garbage bag that I filled with shredded paper was still sitting in my living room when my granddaughter arrived earlier than expected for her week’s stay with me. Her eyes brightened when she saw it and she immediately began pulling out strips of paper to create art.
“Ahma, do you have glue so I can put these together to make things?”
“No Sweetie, but I have tape and a stapler.”
So the memory of things lost was transmuted into art and laughter.
“Alchemy is best known for its belief that lead can be transmuted into gold. However, the transmutation of non-precious metals into gold is simply a metaphor for the soul being freed from a ‘dead, leaden state of mind,’ to that of realising its own light nature and that is derived from pure spirit.” (Nigel Hamilton, 1985, The Alchemical Process of Transformation)
It’s a blessed way to greet the solstice and get ready for the new year ahead. May the suffering in the world be transmuted into joy by loving our children enough and honoring the magic they bring into our lives.
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