Cradled: Creating a Safe Spot in Times of Crisis

It’s my safe spot now. I don’t love the dark walnut wood, but I love memories of climbing in bed between my grandparents as a child. After grandpa died, Mom slept in this bed with Grandma Margaret for a few years.  When Mom sold Grandma’s furniture thirty years ago, I asked for this bedroom set.  Now I sleep in Grandma’s antique double bed with a high headboard and a baseboard rounded like a sleigh.  

I’m hounded by anxiety. Part is physical as my brain struggles to process and interpret cochlear implant sound.  With a hearing aid in one ear and a computerized cochlear implant substituting for the other ear, it’s a wonder this setup works at all in this electronic world. I’m grateful I hear better in person.

I’m scared by the state of my country and world. Many of us are, even if fear does little good. I notice fear in the eyes of those who pretend to be in charge. I see despair in their shoulders. They know we’re on to them now.

Every night, I wake up after midnight with a tight belly and pounding heart. My mind drifts to the record 100+ degrees inside the Arctic Circle and the record-sized Saharan dust storm sending a persistent plume of desert dust across the Atlantic Ocean to Texas.

Saharan Dust Storm

Every summer, there are fewer insects in my fields and garden—except for unwanted ones like ticks and cucumber beetles. Remember insects splattered on the car windshield on a summer night? That doesn’t happen here anymore.

My body resonates with the Earth as it trembles and shifts. Our planetary home is in trouble and my body knows it. I’m not scared for myself—not yet—but I’m scared for the young ones and what they face. When the Arctic temperature soared, it barely registered in the news. I found it in an article by Bill McKibben, founder of the climate change group “This scares me,” McKibben said and I imagine he isn’t scared by much. Later I found articles in The Washington Post and New York Times buried by racial justice protests, covid-19, and lies and scandals from the White House.

Grandma Margaret holding my first baby David. (My middle name is Margaret.)

I feel the Earth screaming. When racial equality and voting rights, illegal political maneuvering, covid-19, and economic crisis demand our immediate attention, climate change slips low on our to-do list.

I lie in darkness on high alert before I shift my attention and imagine my bed as my grandmother’s lap. I exhale slowly to soothe the fight-or-flight reflex and feel the silence of the night. Out the window, fireflies sparkle and a cool breeze slides down the hill. Disco’s warm body nestles against my feet. Willow shifts on her bed on the floor. Tears drip on my pillow as I exhale.

In the cradle of Grandma’s bed, I ask, “Earth Mother, have we killed You? Is it too late?”


How do you provide self-comfort and deal with anxiety in this high crisis, uncertain world? For other posts about climate change, see Standing Up for Mother Earth. For another article about Grandma Margaret, see My Grandma’s Juicy Secret. (I’m getting a new computer this week, so may be  slow in responding to comments. I have excellent computer support from my son David at Mansfield Computing Solutions. He accesses my machine remotely from North Carolina and sorts things out.)

  1. Around the summer solstice I usually take a writing break and as it’s that time again, I can’t even distract myself now by writing a new poem. However, what I’ve decided to do instead, as we tentatively ease out of lockdown, is create and then self-publish my second volume of poetry. Why am I saying this? Because I think thanks to reading your lovely post Elaine I’ve just figured out that I’m seeking safety in my life by breathing life into this new project. I’m excited and terrified because I know the task is huge for this poet and her inferior thinking function and what better time (eek!) to explore one’s inferiority than during a time of crisis!

    Talk about sleeping with the ancestors! It’s amazing to think that you, your mother and your grandmother all slept, dreamt and (quite possibly) conceived their children in the same bed! And in a magical walnut one that must be emanating the power of Jupiter all through your home! Hmm, I’m sure there must be many myths and folk tales associated with this dark, handsome masculine wood … although very well balanced out with the Divine Feminine energies of you, Willow and Disco. Oh, I do love the beautiful metaphor of your bed and grandmother’s lap! Sending much love and light across the oceans between us, Deborah.

    • I’m glad you’ll get your second book together and out to readers. It will include your magnificent Tarot series, I believe. I understand stepping back, but haven’t done that for a while because I love creating my little stories. It’s satisfying and life-giving to work on a big project you love like your new book, so go for it, Deborah. I can’t wait to see the outcome, but meanwhile I’ll miss your posts and comments. Our friendship holds strong no matter what.

      My mom was conceived before my grandparent’s married on the back seat of grandpa’s car (I assume). I discovered this secret when I inherited my Grandma’s papers, including the marriage certificate and saw she was 4 months pregnant with my mom when they got married. My mom didn’t sleep in the bed with my dad. Vic and I conceived one child when we lived for a year in California and the other in Florence. The crocheted pieces on the wood wall behind the bed were created by my paternal grandmother, so the room is full of grandmothers. Vic called it the Women’s Quarters. Plenty of lovin’ happened in that bed. I didn’t know the Jupiter-Walnut connection. I love it!

      • Thank you so much Elaine for your continuing friendship and encouragement! This started two nights ago when a numinous guided me to write my second book. Funny thing is until yesterday afternoon I had no idea at all that I’d be doing this! Yes, the entire Tarot series is to be included, alongside pretty much everything else I’ve written in the last five years.

        Wow! A room full of grandmothers, now there’s another story to exlore! Thank you for sharing the phtograph of the bed. It’s so handsome and I love the sleigh design. Oh, I wish I could tell you more about walnut’s Jupiter connection! Hopefully one of your other readers may know more and share this knowledge. Okay, back to the book, which doesn’t look anything like one at the minute!

        • I looked on line and already learned more about Jupiter and walnut. (It’s a good idea to take poems off line if you wish to use them in your book, so I’m glad you’re doing that.)

  2. “Remember insects splattered on the car windshield on a summer night? That doesn’t happen here anymore.“ I do remember, now. I had forgotten. How loudly the adults would complain!

    There is so much we could worry about; I focus on how much there is to do, to change, to understand. There’s a quote from Maureen Reagan — with her father with Alzheimer’s and she, cancer — that makes me smile during these days: “Denial is a much underrated defense mechanism“. But on those days when reality breaks through, I’m back to belly breaths, staying active, and finding gratitude every day. I contribute to groups organized well to fight climate change. I work towards regime change come November. And I’m actively sponsoring a refugee at our border who has no one in his life, and correspond with two others. My life is full. Oh, and Ive been watching two bluebird families grow, thanks to you Elaine. Here’s to healing as continued growth

    • Contributions and small local protests (at a distance with masks) work for me now, plus I just signed up to write 200 postcards to potential voters. Not telling them who to vote for, but reminding them of the importance of their vote. If I get all 200 done before mailing date in October, I can get more. Thank you for sponsoring a refuge. I can’t imagine how these people have suffered. I’m glad to know we have bluebirds in common, too. Be well and safe.

  3. YOU are my Rx for anxiety, with your regular descriptions of daily life in your magical
    world, and your generous sharing of projects, beauty, and joy as well as fear. We are so safe here (relatively) on the west coast of Canada. But we really are in this together, and
    Canadians are focused on U.S. with terror. Take refuge in your community and the constant love and prayers coming your way. This surreal time feels sacred; the ocean here is so clear, and the air clean. (I stay outside until dark and then digest as much comedy as i can.) No words suffice to thank you…

    • I’m glad you’re in a safe place in Western Canada, Patti. I appreciate your generous heart wishes and blessings. My area feels safe, too. We’ve had 14 cases in my large county and no deaths. 13 recovered and 1 is still quarantined. We’ve had good leadership from Governor Cuomo after a disaster in New York City. I understand looking at this country with terror. I’m with Canadians on this truth. We’re in alarming shape and it’s hard to know what the trickster will do next as voters are turning against those in power. And so much devastation for refuges, WHO, climate, etc. before a changing of the guard–with fear about that change being violent. My particular community may change now that local tourist facilities are opening. The wineries and restaurants are carefully following good practices and rules for safety with most everything happening outside, but there’s still an influx of visitors. Twenty miles from me, people in Ithaca are worried because Cornell University (30,000 students) plans to open again. It’s still not decided whether or not to open public schools. We’ve been fortunate so far (and careful), but there are no guarantees. Thank you for the love, Patti. Keep taking refuge in the ocean, clean air, and laughter.

  4. The photo of the cradle reminded me that a similar one sold at Aunt Ruthie’s sale went to a friend, not to anyone in our family. It had rocked my grandma’s babies and who knows how many before then. When I was a girl, I remember this cradle in the nursery at Bossler Mennonite Church; then it circled back to our family. I was so tired and overwrought at the end of the auction, I didn’t budge when the piece went up for sale. It would have been nice to have it for great-grandchildren. I don’t feel the same way about Grandma’s bedroom suite with the bed, which looks so very like the one you sleep in now. I’m glad it comforts you and can imagine your bed as your grandmother’s lap.

    I too am saddened by the state of affairs in our world now – ecologically, politically, and in most other ways. I cannot let fear grip me; otherwise, I will end up caving in and possibly becoming part of the problem. As I type, I breathe the serenity prayer, knowing so much is out of our control. My morning meditation stabilizes my emotions. As I walk, I look to the heavens and see clouds as “flags to God’s faithfulness.” Elaine, this may sound like a pat answer to you, but this attitude is the frame for my life right now. The world is wacky, the future seems dim, but I rely on hope and help from a divine source, if only for the sake of my grandchildren. Remember this, Elaine, you will have a chance to vote in November!

    You have much to be thankful for: the legacy of strong women, improved hearing, fresh garden produce, David’s computer help. And may you remain cradled in kindness during crisis. Sending huge hugs! ((( )))

    • The photo is of an antique cradle that looks just like one Vic’s mom’s husband made for our first son. It rocked! It didn’t take long for our baby boy to figure out how to climb out, so he moved to a more secure crib. My grandma’s bed is solid and sturdy as can be and the same color as that first cradle which I was glad to give away. I’m surrounded by Grandmother energy in my bedroom and grateful for that comfort.

      The serenity prayer is another comfort. Going to Assisi was a powerful experience for me. I’ve written about it with other pieces I’ve called pilgrimage, but haven’t published any of them on my blog of anywhere else. I know what’s happening in this country is not in my control. The forces at play are much bigger than I can imagine. We’re in Higher Hands. I’m still glad to help in small ways and have a new postcard project to encourage people to vote. New York made it extremely easy to vote by mail, so I did that in the primary election. I also rely on divine connections in Nature and spiritual teachings, Marian, so what you say doesn’t seem like “a pat answer” to me. I’m grateful the Dalai Lama is still on the planet to do his hours of morning prayers for the world and send out messages of compassion.

      I dreamed this week of my first spiritual teacher (1967-84) and was thrilled to see him (dream thrilled). The dream reminded me to stay actively connected to the many spiritual teachers who have inspired me and are still within me. And of course there is Nature. And still that sense of the precarious situation we’re in. I’m OK, Marian. Life has always been tenuous, whether I recognized that or not. It’s been challenging to go through this time without the person who made me feel safest and most loved and could always make me laugh. I still have Love, Nature, and spiritual teachings to lean on and plenty of family and friend support, but it’s a huge time of world transition and I pray we land on our feet and in our hearts.

  5. Dear Elaine, As usual your writing touches my soul.
    I too live in anxiety. My stomach is in an almost constant knot. It is, indeed, difficult for me to ignore or even distract myself from the pain, disease, destruction, loss and corruption on this planet. So much that has been hidden is now out in the open but I know there is more beneath the surface. I choose to remember that there is far more good than evil surrounding and within us. I do that without denying the evil. To deny its existence only means it will get worse. I choose to feel all of those but work hard at not dwelling on what I cannot change. I am learning surrender. I read, I play with Brinkley, I get lost in books, classes on Wisdom, movies and more, all the while wishing I could settle down and make art, or do more decluttering but it seems being productive escapes me. So I let it go. I find meditation more challenging these days but sit anyway. I have mostly given up expectations of not feeling all the pain on our Mother Earth. I feel it all. But I attempt to avoid dwelling on it. There are no magic wands. The reality is we are in trouble. I enjoy looking out at my yard which is lush with growth this summer and quite peaceful because of the lush green growth. Bottom line: there are no answers right now. I have to live in trust that this time of chaos and pain will lead us to growth and peace. I have to believe that as I also know clearly, having lived 80 years, that growth is very slow so the issues we face will very slowly and in cycles heal. But evil will always be with us. I guess it keeps us on our toes challenging us to keep on keeping on. And we will indeed, keep on keeping on. It all starts within me…

    • We’re getting a good dose of the art of surrender, Mary. It seems so much is about seeing what is without denial while holding the good at the same time. And it seems natural, even healthy, for our bodies to respond to what’s happening. We’re having unusual levels of heat and a semi-drought here (we may get substantial rain this coming weekend), but there’s a sense of uneasiness when the wildflowers and streams dry up. I’m grateful for a deep well and hoses to water plants close to the house.

      I’m not good at listening on line, so that limits my distraction possibilities to reading and spending long evenings watching the sky outside. I talk to a Jungian dream therapist and meet with my writing group on Zoom every week so I’m glad I’m working that out after months of computer hassles. I had to get a new computer to do Zoom with stability because mine is too old (and I didn’t know because I don’t download movies or concerts or anything more challenging to the electronics than youtube). The new machine comes on Friday, all set up by my son in NC. I agree with your assessment that we’re in trouble and there are no magic wands or quick solutions. Pandora’s box has been pried open. It’s challenging to live with peace in the not knowing, but the Dalai Lama and Pema Chodron are good teachers for me in that realm. To expect all evil and darkness to disappear would be completely naive. I love your last line. “It all starts within me.” Thank you for sharing your inner searching and kindness.

  6. Thank you for this touching post Elaine. So much that resonates with me. I’ve certainly experienced much stress in my lifetime,but always felt guided to find Peace. Suddenly,I feel unable to get away from the struggles of our planet and our world. I have several health challenges and I can’t seem to find a carefree moment anymore. I often wake in the night as well, having to use all my resources to escape full blown panic.
    My grandmother was my Nana. She raised me and was always my safe place. I grew up in Chicago where we had bitter cold ,windy winters. While waiting for buses,she would stand me in front of her and wrap her coat around me. We were one. Her pictures are all around me,and she is still my “safe place”. Thank you again for the reminder.

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’m glad you have your Nana close to your heart, Dianne. I believe in the power of the imagination to soothe us when we’re afraid. It’s a kind of meditation when we need support. I’m concerned about so many things in our world right now from the environment to covid to racism. I feel helpless to do much, although I signed up to write postcards to potential voters–not to tell them how to vote but to ask them to vote. It’s a small thing I can do from home. I also keep other meaningful photos around me, particularly a revered wise woman from India named Anandamayi Ma. She died in 1982 and was considered a saint in India. There are videos of her, but I’m drawn to her ancient eyes that look to me like they can hold the suffering of the world. Both my grandmas were wonderful nurturers, but Anandamayi Ma has a more universal presence. I need all the strong supportive energy I can find. I think most of us do.

  7. What a great heritage to have not only your grandmother’s beautiful furniture but the heritage of her love. Now that I am the grandma to five lovely granddaughters, I think a lot about the heritage I leave them and also the world they are inheriting. In the big picture, I can’t do much about the world, but I can definitely influence them, which may help with how they deal with the world. During this time of isolation, I haven’t been able to physically see any of them (including two new babies) so I’ve had to be creative about interactions. More than anything, I want to remain a positive, special influence in their lives as they grow.

    • Thanks for your comment and perspective, Ann. How lovely to have 5 granddaughters. I don’t have grandchildren, but celebrate when my friends have a new baby in the family and my nephew just had a baby boy. I’ve seen photos, but can’t see him now because of covid. I’m sad my brother isn’t alive to meet his grandchild. Yes, I agree you can do much to support and affirm your grandchildren and be there for them in unique ways. I’m sorry you haven’t seen two new babies and I’m curious about your creative interaction with them. My friends see the little ones on social media and one with a 3 year old grandchild plays games with him on Zoom or Facetime so her daughter can take a shower.

      When my husband died, I realized how important it is to leave love messages in writing. He did lots of that and those messages dating back to before we were married have been important to me. I have them in a file, the old manila kind, but haven’t re-read all of them since his death because each old message takes me on its own tear-filled journey.I wrote about one of those letters recently and plan to share it as my next blog. I believe it would be similar if I had loving personal letters from my grandmothers.

  8. Oh Elaine you speak of what is on many’s forefront these days, whether said or not. Scary times for sure. The world is praying for the blue tsunami to bring back law and order and maybe one day compassion. Stay safe and well, and turn off the noise. Hugs 🙂

    • Thanks, Debby. The outer noise is turned off for me at night, but I read news. It feels essential to do that and I’ll also write postcards to potential voters urging them to vote since a key strategy for those in power is to stop voting by mail. Fortunately, it’s easy to vote by mail in New York State and we were sent forms without even asking for them. I signed up. It’s the inner noise that’s exhausting and can be relentless at night. It’s a hard time to be a citizen of this country and watch all the damage being done. Be safe and be well on your side of the border.

      • I know it Elaie. I follow American politics very closely. I live 90 minutes from the Buffalo, NY border, so I make it my business to follow, and post on my FB page for those who choose not to want to know. Stay safe, November is coming <3

        • Hope for November with some concern because of the lawlessness #45 and his team are willing to use. My prayer is that citizens in this country will collectively say No. I think the vote will be clear if it’s allowed to happen.

  9. What a beautiful bed you have.

    I deal with anxiety, too. You’re not alone.

    • I know I’m not alone, Lydia. My whole country swings between anxiety and depression. At least anxiety has energy to make changes.
      I love my grandma’s bed. It’s the right size for me and my young dog. (I’ve never allowed a dog to sleep on my bed before, but it’s been another comforting experience and she’s a rescue who needed comfort, too.) My grandma wouldn’t approve.

  10. I love your beautiful example of how warm memories associated with beloved objects can be of comfort in times of stress, anxiety, fear, and grief. We used to have a bed exactly like this one at our North Carolina Cabin. It made me think of my beloved grandmother. I spent many Michigan summer nights in it under a quilt my grandmother made. It was made of scraps of cloth from some of my mother’s and aunt’s old dresses. Talk about comforting! I’m smiling as I remember this. The feeling is very soothing.

    Thanks, Elaine! Another honest, original piece that sings your soul’s song. 🙂 Jeanie

    • Jeanie, I remember those quilts made by our grandmothers from cloth scraps. Who knows what happened to those quilts? They didn’t waste anything. One Grandma did beautiful embroidery and I have a few of her pillowcases. The other crocheted, and some of her crochet art is on the wall behind my bed. When we remodeled this old farm house, I kept the dark wood wall made of barn boards as a place to enjoy her crocheted mandalas.

      Your book is coming soon! I have many Jungian articles written and ready for something, but I can’t get inspired to do final edits and move them out right now. A recent dream suggests that will happen later, but we’ll see. For now I’m staying close to home physically and in writing, close to butterflies, birds, and flowers. It’s the best way to stay centered and calm in a jittery world. I’m grateful I don’t have to travel anywhere far. A 20 mile trip to town feels like a long journey now.

  11. I don’t know how this post passed me by Elaine but I’m glad to have ‘found’ it. It brought me a measure of ease reading it and the comments as well with your responses to them. Every now and then I feel a prick of fear about everything which I find alarming as it not a good feeling. But it wakes me up, if not in my sleep but to the reality of the world.

    One day at a time – this cannot go on forever. Things are pretty dire in my country. Today is our late President Mandela’s birthday so this brings a welcome reminder of all that he stood for. I also hear that John Lewis died, and he too seems to have been a reminder of the need for standing up for ideals.

    Thank you for this lovely post.

    • I’m glad it made you feel a little more at ease, Susan. It helps if I use my imagination to hold an image of a better time. I don’t have fearful images or dreams, but I wake up with a tense belly and a sense of foreboding. The world is hard, but probably much harder there than here. And of course much harder in crowded cities than where I live in the country. It’s reassuring to have my son a 5 minute drive away and also good to live in an area where we have very few covid cases and little political strife. I hope President Mandela’s birthday brought peaceful gatherings as he would have wanted. John Lewis was a beacon of social justice and kindness since the times of Martin Luther King. I think of Rumi’s poem “The Breeze at Dawn” with the repeating refrain, “Don’t go back to sleep.” Be safe and well, Susan.

  12. I cradle myself in my sweet house and the grounds around it. After months of being home, and hardly anywhere else, I feel very protected here. I’m grateful to have a home that hugs me. It has only a little history, memories of the times when kids shouted from end to end of the place, and ran up and down the stairs. No grandparents or ancestors but maybe a ghost or two. It used to be the place I would return to and then leave as soon as there was something going on in the world to escape to. Now it has become my hideaway, the place I want to stay in forever and always. When there are Finally no more restrictions and dangers outside of here it will be quite a challenge to tear myself away, I think.

    • I feel the same at my home, Robin. I’m hugged by Disco and Willow. Now I’m being entertained by the Monarchs (many butterflies in the Zinnia garden, 16 chrysalises in my crates, many tiny caterpillars and eggs yet to hatch). I love witnessing and participating in their miraculous transformations. I’m not very disciplined about what I read, making comments, posting things on social media, vacuuming the dog hair. It feels like the main thing is to enjoy summer beauty and stay calm. I can hardly imagine a world where I leave Hector. I’ve been to Ithaca once since March, although I’ve been to Watkins Glen or T’burg a few times. I’m not restless to leave here, but we’ll see what winter brings. I’m glad you have a beautiful place to shelter. It’s hard to imagine what will happen next, because who could have imagined this?

  13. You’ve done it again, Elaine ~ there’s so much you’ve written that resonates with me (and your other friends and followers). Imagining your bed as your grandmother’s lap sounds lovely–just as long as you don’t tell her that Disco is on the bed with you! The anxiety is such a hard part of living in these times, and I find myself using the same tools you and others have mentioned–deep breathing (with long exhalations), as well as mantras I repeat to myself in rhythm with my breathing. One of my favorites lately is: resting in this moment; letting go into love; there’s nothing that is wrong; everything does belong. When I really find myself in the grip of fear, I repeat a sequence written by Loch Kelly:
    I am scared.
    I feel scared.
    I am aware of feeling fear.
    From awareness, fear is welcome. (I still have to pretend this part.)
    Fear is a wave in the field of awareness.

    I have been journaling in the mornings and ending each entry with the reminder: surrender and gratitude.

    It makes me smile to think that you already have 16 chrysalises in your crates, along with many tiny caterpillars and eggs yet to hatch. Thank you for sharing so generously of your life–from the magic to the fear. It helps me remember Rilke’s words:
    “Just keep going
    No feeling is final.” with gratitude, anne

    • Grandma would not approve of a dog in her bed. Disco lies on her own sheet on top of the covers, because I learned fast that she might look clean, but my blankets don’t look clean when she sleeps on top of them. (Vic wouldn’t want a dog on the bed either, but this pup changed my mind.) I love the sequence by Loch Kelly. My appeals often go to Divine Mother (represented by many figures, including the Dalai Lama and the Virgin Mary). Making fear welcome is a hard one. I’ve read a series of articles this week in Lion’s Roar about dealing with these frightening times, and I don’t expect them to become less frightening at least until 2021 and maybe not then. Journaling and writing help me so much. This piece began as a journal entry about places where I’ve felt safe in my life. In general, I feel safe in my home and that’s good fortune. And I love your quote from Rilke, too. He’s been a powerful guide. Sending gratitude to you.

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