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  • Mj Pettengill

When the Stars Are Out of Breath


Starry Night, CC0
Starry Night, CC0

As I sit here writing, I remember that we are in a constant state of becoming. This may be known to some, but not all remember. From time to time, I may forget because it is blurred with the shifting of tides, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the change of seasons. I have to ask myself if I have created a border—field and wood—only daring to carefully venture out to look when the storm seems to have passed. Then, I remember that I am not only the fullest version of myself when I am safe, but I am my best self when claiming my place in the storm. However, I regain my strength in knowing that I am the storm. This way of being is possible only if we are mindful of it, if we are willing to walk into the winds that threaten to sweep us away in a single burst.

Of course, this is not about rage, revenge, or fury. We are also the sweet-tempered bird song, the warmth of the sun, and the greenness of Our Mother. It is up to us to discern when to be fierce and when to be gentle. Yes, our healthy boundaries are safe and defining, offering a way inward. A sacred retreat where we can embrace solitude is vital to our essence. But these edges can also limit us and become debilitating if we lose our identity within their confines. Each morning, I go out to greet my feathered, furred, and leafy brothers and sisters. I sing my “Hello Song,” which may change according to our combined energy. I do the same at sunset, saying goodnight. This is a time of reclamation, merging with my innate wildness and with them. It is an opportunity to recall what was once lost. When I spent time with my son, he told me that I wasn’t fully breathing. He is a creative healer and a beautiful soul. His comment was an observation and spoken out of love and concern for his mother. At first, I was stunned. But I knew that he was right. I, too, have caught myself in that place where I knew that I was just getting by. It’s as if I were slipping away. I had allowed too much troubling information into my consciousness. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been. I know better and am grateful that I passed this knowledge onto my children. There is a return on it, and at that moment, he demonstrated this. Even though we both knew, we discussed how and why this might have happened. I pride myself on research. It’s connected to my life’s work. Of late, I have stood on the shores of our world, facing the turbulent seas, witnessing fellow humans pushing each other off of their makeshift lifeboats. Is this what survival looks like?

I have wilted in the face of division—revenge, hate, and the unwillingness to hear or see each other beyond the surface. I have stood beneath the raging skies—a thousand storms threatening life as we once knew it. Friends, family, and coworkers have dug deeply into their truths, blinded by a plethora of beliefs. Yes, we thought that we knew, yet we do not, not really. What is certain is the level of distrust and breakdown of communication. Can we hear? See? Feel? If not, it is worth striving for some shred of common ground without reverting to an armored state. In the face of it all, I wondered how I would hold these fragments of myself together. Certainly, it could not be steeped in hostility and fear. The uncertainty managed to seep into my bones. My desire for peace and harmony was drowned out in a cacophony of conflicting information—both sides armed and ready to fight until all else fails. I pray, meditate, and look for the lessons. In my prayerful time, I realized that although silently, in my head, I had started to scream at God. All of this had led to shallow breathing and the slowing of my beating heart. It is as if I were holding my breath in anticipation of what was to follow. I had run out of breath.

I asked my son, and I asked my higher self; what would become of us if the stars ran out of breath—or the sun, moon, all wildlife, flora, and fauna ceased to breathe? Where would this breathless journey lead? There is no doubt that a wasteland waited at the end of it. This certainly is not my chosen destination. In my breathing, my being, and light, I will strive to inhabit what is for the highest good, promising to let the rest fall away. We are always in a state of becoming and may not agree, but please, continue to breathe. Rise up to where the path leads without getting lost in the shelter of yourself. You are the storm just as you are the light that follows.