Tag Archives: dirt

The Dirt Eater

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I’m still mulling over this month’s story – thinking of the difficulties of parenting, which are really about the difficulties we have with engaging respectfully with anyone we meet.  I even wrote a an essay to post on my other blog , only to realize it was a diatribe and I’d basically said it all here, so why repeat? Instead I turned to poetry, forgot the struggle with words like discipline, punishment and consequence and returned to story, which is the whole point of this exercise.

I did find out in the course of my research that Indian mothers begin to worry if their young children (boys and girls) don’t exhibit a little  saitani (devilishness).

The Dirt Eater

Mother!  Mummy!  Mom!”

All day long, a constant

teasing litany –

complaints, tattles, whines

“He did this.” “She did that”

“No I didn’t!” “Yes you did!”

Ignorance is bliss, I think

ignore, rise above,

find my center, ground…

“Krish’s eating dirt again, Mummy.”

Damn! It’s true.

Mud dribbles from baby lips

streaking towards his chin

like old man wrinkles.

Pica they call it,

eating disorder common

in toddlers, obscurely named

from the Latin for “magpie”

though actually, the word is older.

Long time gone, before Olympus

Picus ruled – Woodpecker God/King

holy shaman, rattler, shape-shifter.

He comes to me some nights;

ancient figurehead of myth and memory;

He-Who-Haunts-My-Dreams, now

locked between closed pages,

boxed books, another life, a previous

consideration, a different vision …

Krish twists away,

impatient to escape my grasp.

Snapped from reverie,

 I jerk him back

squeeze his tiny jaw until

clenched teeth release.

The stubborn pretty mouth I love to kiss

opens wide, becomes a portal, doorway

to creation.  Constellations form from chaos;

dance celestial rounds then fade,

while all around, in between

and through that cosmic

firework display, new avatars

arise and melt in turn.

Awe stuck, I stare

bemused, mystified

but somehow, not surprised.  I think

I’ve always known divinity

resides within each child –

each individual life

a universe –

burning stars, reeling galaxies

impossible to fathom

rich, mysterious, arcane

endlessly fascinating, curiously

accessible, infinitely

out of reach.

Mud, I think.

Alpha, omega;

question and answer

melded in paradox.

I scoop up soil

mound it in my hand

pick out a pebble,

dried leaves, a twig.

Krish licks his thumb, rolls

it in the dirt I offer, cuddles

in my lap and sucks.  Tears

drip through my smile;

all around us

stand his brothers

waiting for the scold.

They’ll wait forever.

Yashoda and Krishna

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Yashoda and Krishna 1

I’ve loved this story ever since the first time I heard it – maybe because giving birth seemed like such a cosmic event to me.  For me this story is about motherhood.  I’ve always felt so entrusted with my children-not in any way proprietary, but rather as if some awesome power had delivered them into my care – mine to love, but never own.  Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese poet/philosopher said it more eloquently than I ever could:

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”

(Sweet Honey in the Rock sings The Prophet’s lyrics)

There’s another story in the Krishna cannon in which Yashoda becomes completely frustrated with her son and tries to catch him and tie him up – to no avail.  In this story too she must come to terms the fact that though her child looks like a little boy, he is in truth a divine being over which she has no power. Reading these stories again, I am struck by the similarity to the stories about Mary as a young mother found in the Apocrypha.  Mary, too, has problems raising her baby god, who insisted on going his own way to the point of actually killing other children who harmed him.

Power may well be the operative word here.  We’ve all heard the saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The child parent relationship can be viewed as a power struggle from day one.  The danger of corruption inherent in this situation between large functioning adult and tiny helpless infant is obvious.  The danger is equally obvious when we see large functioning adults emotionally in thrall to a tiny scrap of humanity.  Happily for us in many families these two situations balance out  into a fairly equitable balance of power.  Still this doesn’t solve the problem of corruption.  That can only be dealt with by a different  kind of power – power that comes from within and is connected to the universe of all -that-is.

These stories seem to question the usefulness of punishment as a teaching tool; especially in the face of that inner power.  We can of course get many human children to shut-up by punishing them, we can even get them to stop acting in certain ways, but are their minds changed, have they actually learned anything?  Or have we really taught cunning, resentment, stealth and prevarication? These stories seem to be saying that the only effective energy one can bring to relationship is love.

They also teach that the sacred is all around us – the Kingdom of Heaven i.e. the cosmos, exists within every speck of dirt and inside every child.