It’s been a long time since I last wrote here. I’d started a piece on my heart’s response to being in Turkey, how I didn’t really let myself know fully “Why Turkey?” until a kind and gentle Muslim friend asked me over coffee and pastries at the Duchess one morning upon my return. Why Turkey? “Because of Rumi,” was my most truthful, heartful reply, as tears came suddenly. She nodded a deep knowing. For a good month upon my return, I reverberated with that energy, experiencing what another friend recently called “post trip stress disorder,” PTSD of a different sort, wherein we experience a range of reactions to having our paradigms and hearts cracked open. A good thing she offered, because it means we’ve been open to the experience, letting something new come in and touch us. Whew! So much more than just jet lag!
I never finished that piece. I had trouble finding the words to express myself, and then time had passed with more water under the bridge. I’ve noticed that since keeping a journal more regularly, that process holds some of what I might previously written here. How many times I’ve noted there an even deeper appreciation for, a need for the quiet and silence that greets me in those early morning moments, and I sense this has slipped and seeped into discerning, whether or not I choose to write “out here.”
Like around Remembrance Day, I found myself pondering if and how we make space to remember those who fought on the other side, who were “the enemy.” The notion of legitimate-illegitimate grief had been stirring inside for a couple of months, prompted by the passing of my chosen namesake. My paternal grandfather, my opa, was a German soldier killed in action and buried in France. My father knew him for only a few short years of childhood, due to a stubborn estrangement between his parents. Several years ago, pieces came together to help my father finally visit his father’s final resting place, taking with him his mother’s ashes, making for reconciliation, and peace. My husband’s father, too, a young German soldier, taken as prisoner of war to England and Texas, who still eats with military-issued cutlery. How, or do we grant those close to our hearts the honor of remembering when they have been called “enemy”? How do we illuminate this shadowed grief and give it legitimacy?
While questions worthy of posing here, I heeded an inner caution to take time to hold them close inside and steep in their tension. Many times I think about Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, as it reminds me the way to reconciliation and peace “out here,” is to welcome as guest, the “enemy” inside:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Quiet and silence. We’ve been having less these past weeks as our dear Peggy dog, now in her seventeenth year, has developed dementia, compounding her deafness and partial blindness. This means she paces aimlessly through the house, nails tapping on hard wood floors, grating like nails on a chalkboard, or when cordoned off in the kitchen, ceaselessly doing laps around the table. Sometimes we find her standing still, with her head in a corner, or open cupboard, peering into space. Stairways, once agilely manoeuvered, now require our assistance and constant attention so she doesn’t fall. Diapers, baby food to entice her appetite, daily bathing and laundering to keep her clean, rearranging furniture and schedules, all adaptations we’re learning to make to keep safe and attend to this beloved being who has given us years of joyful companionship and wise lessons. “You’re preparing to lose her,” spoke a dear wise woman, affirming my deep sadness, both specific and amplified by the holydays. We anticipate her time will come this year, and I make preparation to welcome that guest into my house.
It’s a grey, flat light morning here on the first day of 2015. Right now, Peggy and our younger dog, Gentle Annie, are quiet and still, sleeping by the space heater as I write and The Scientist peruses financial forecasts. Soon we’ll dress, have brunch, and take a family walk. I’m thinking about my focus for the year ahead, “conscious attendant.” It suddenly popped to mind a few days ago when, after reading my Haligonian heart-sister’s Facebook status, being reminded of her annual practice, I asked for a guiding touchstone. A moment of discouraged disbelief, and then recognition that this so perfectly aligns with how I’ve defined myself “out here”: attending to the inner life, to live and lead with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity, and in which I am growing in comfort and confidence as I practice and value emerging gifts. And to seal it, I discovered this thoughtful post from Parker Palmer about crossing the threshold into a new year. Here, he references a beautiful poem by Anne Hillman, and gives us five beautiful and evocative questions to guide our crossing, and focus my attending:
- How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
- What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
- How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
- Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
- What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?
For the Solstice I wrote this blessing and offer it to you with my sustained love and appreciation as we cross into our new year:
May the gifts of these holydays be yours throughout the coming year…
love of and for your family and friends,
health of body, mind and spirit,
work that sustains and serves,
kindness for self and others, and peace.
May you know and be peace.
WELL, I hear you. My advice from my aged wisdom? Allow yourself to enjoy the silence and the nothingness and something will rear its head. It is OK to not be in the midst of achieving a goal. It is OK to just be. It only took me 60 years to get to this point. And it is hard.
Wise words which I appreciate from you, Val. Thank you.
Thank you Katharine – many wonderful reminders to find the glory in each person no matter what they are doing – and so much more to help me journey into this coming New Day and Year! Hugs Laurie
Laurie Hutchinson (formerly Peck)
Ph: 250-729-9155 // Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, dear friend. And I do look forward to seeing you this summer.
Thank you for this beautiful gift to welcome in 2015 with more heart, more loving that comes from more forgiving both self and others. Thank you for being the light.
It is just a lovely journey to read you! Thank you ever so much for writing. You know some of us really do get it, as in, open to have mystery poured all over us. Love you Katharine, KAte
ps. heading south in a few short day…… full steam to get gone…..ziziziz
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2015 19:43:00 +0000 To: email@example.com
Happy New Year, my friend. Thanks for taking a moment in this busy time of preparation. I appreciate you and your affirming words. Ever…
…once again your beauty of words move me. Thanks for providing the 5 questions – indeed a wise way to consider the passage into this new year. (and I’ve just discovered the On Being site myself through a thread to the radio broadcast… I look forward to savouring more of that too! ) May 2015 bring all you dream and more.
Well, yet again you have given me something to ponder. We too, lost our beloved dog a while back. We too, went through the days of pacing, clicking nails and finding him face in the corner and unable to remember to ‘turn around’. We took comfort in the times he so happily sat with us and never forgot to remind us that it was 5:00pm (dinner time). As long as he was happy still being with us, we let him be. One day…..it was time. When you love someone….human or animal…..you know.
As for your other topic…..wow. I am usually so busy trying to digest and process unpleasant emotions and feelings that it never occurred to me to allow the ‘unexpected visitor’ in and accept that it “may be clearing (me) out for some new delight”. I have always felt that it is important to remember people as they were….the whole spectrum of who they were. It is the only way to truly honour them….acknowledging them for the person they were and not some ‘white washed’ version that sounds better. We all do what we feel is best at the time and make the best choices we can given our circumstances. The ‘enemy’ is just the other side of the coin and it takes two sides to ‘make a coin’.
Happy New Year my dear old friend 🙂
When I read your reply, Terri, I thought to myself, “This is why I write.” So once again, thank you deeply for taking the moment. Katharine