About Katharine Weinmann

living and leading with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity

An Equinox Kiss

Sitting here in my spot for the hundredth time,

(not every day, but more days than not, and is that not fine with God?)

 

Same time or thereabouts,

(and soon that will change as we “fall back”)

in the dark as spring-summer becomes autumn-winter.

 

The light by the sofa was on while I wrote of night dreams and morning musings.

But then I turn it off and sit on purpose in the dark, in nature’s light, to observe the coming of a new day.

 

And as I look out upon the trees,

my tree, that graceful glossy green laurel leaf willow,

and then through and across the fence to the neighbour’s golden ash,

and then further beyond to the dark spruce,

I notice, as I do most days,

a swaying of limbs and fluttering of leaves as if those trees, too, are awakening from their midnight slumber.

As if they, too, sense the energy rising now with the sun, amplified now among our long and languid limbs.

 

And as I watch, minute by minute, soon moment by moment,

the ever-changing sky, watch stars and moon appear to disappear,

I wonder, what kind of day this will be?

Oh, I could get up and check the weather forecast on TV or my very clever smart phone.

But I want to remember that more natural, original way of discerning,

by watching the sky and the trees as they awaken into this day,

enlighten me into this day.

 

And as I watch, I feel an exquisite, piercing joy with what I see,

with my life in this moment of life.

And I realize, as I feel a growing pressure on my palate, in my head, and in my heart,

that joy is not in this moment, nor ever,

quite what I imagine it to be.

 

It hurts a bit, brings me to tears a bit,

as its sweet and utter fullness takes hold,

takes me over,

enfolds me,

undoes me.

 

And I wonder, once again, is this the embrace of God?

Cherry Picking: A Story of Community

Sitting in a business meeting, first one back from a summer pause,

enormous heavy rectangle of wood makes circle conversation a challenge.

As is our practice, my partner invites a check-in,

“Share an experience of community.”

Talking piece chosen.  Stories begin.

 

Hearing five thousand international drummers and pipers play on the field in Glasgow.

Having her picture taken dozens of times on the Great Wall by scores of Chinese students, and loving it – this photo shy, tall and fair haired woman.

Witnessing her neighbor’s family bring an experience of “Canadian cabin county”  to the recently settled Syrian family.

Celebrating every summer weekend festival our Festival City has on offer.

 

Mine, a simple tale – embellished here – of walking in my neighborhood and the moment of community that unfolded. 

Usually accompanied by our Annie dog, these past weeks I’ve gone solo as she’s been at dog camp, running to her heart’s content over the prairies.  Depending on our route, I can pass by a bungalow with a beautiful cherry tree in the front yard.

Spring time, my attention is caught by its bursting white blossoms, their soft fragrance adding to the gift of our encounter.

Weeks pass, I’m lost in my thoughts, or noticing the shift of clouds, or the remarkably early tulips and lilacs and forsythia.  Not much happening on the cherry tree I notice, giving it a passing glance, until a few weeks ago.

Suddenly this elegantly shaped tree is now lusciously full of glistening scarlet globes nestled among emerald green leaves, a regal standout against the azure sky.  Evans cherries, a prairie-hardy sour variety, rediscovered a few decades ago just north of here.  Wished I’d had my phone to take a picture. Wished I had an invitation to pick some for a pie.

Then a week ago, just that happened.  I had my phone and poised to snap a picture I heard, “Do you wanna pick some cherries?”

Hand shielding my eyes from the setting sun, I hear before I see,  Janet, the owner of the tree.

“I have a ladder and could help you, if you want to pick the rest of these.  I have my fill.”

Well, I tell her, I’d love to, in fact, this is a dream come true as I’d thought of knocking on her door to ask if I may.  I take her phone number and promise to call before coming over the next day.

Loaded with a dishpan and couple of pails – whatever I could find as good enough cherry containers – I made the three-minute drive and there was Janet, ready to help me pick.

Not like saskatoon berries, or strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, where you could eat as much as you pick, this tart fruit tempted only an occasional taste as we filled the pails, as I filled on Janet’s stories…

…of the old family homestead an hour east of here, and the inherited section she still farms.

…of recipes and tips for cherry soup and jam and jelly and pie.

…of her husband’s short lived retirement because, when all is said and done, he thrives on his work.

…of her daughter returning home with her grandson and loving having him close by, happy to provide refuge for them both.

…of being a traditional prairie daughter, wife, sister and mother who loves her life.

 

When we finished, with fruit still on the tree,

and me as full as the pails,

with love for this woman’s generosity for sharing the bounty of her tree, her life,

I asked to hug her my thanks and my good-bye.

 

And as we embraced, I knew this to be the feeling of community

as she sweetly, wondrously whispered,

“I think I just made a friend.”

Tending with Grace

Quote

Sisters of the heart, my heart.

Each a sweet heart, dear heart.

 

Life

challenging them to dig down deep

inviting them to reach up high

for strength, and courage, and tenacity, and hope,

for clear heads and open hearts, when

 

Cruel concoction of cancer genes crushes newly hatched dreams.

Life long disease debilitates body, mind, speech and spirit.

Wave upon wave of endings tosses family like flotsam.

 

Sisters of the heart, my heart.

Each the eldest.

Knowing what that means, 

responsible, and caring, and achieving, and sensitive, and

 

Juggling onerous professional obligation

with overwhelming personal need

an attuned sense of balance for what is

right and true

good and beautiful

centred and aligned

for thee and thine.

 

I watch, and listen, and wonder

How does she do it?

Tending with grace, the near impossible.

 

How would I do it?

 

“…the ultimate touchstone of friendship is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”

 

Tending with grace, my sisters of the heart.

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Quote from “Friendship,” in Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, David Whyte, 2015.

Tonglen for a Young Robin

Sitting in my sanctuary on a Saturday morning.  Journal open.  Pen in hand to capture elusive night messages.

Dream snippets.  Coffee sips.

Sudden thud on the floor to ceiling, wall-wide window.  Reverie broken.  I rise to see what damage done.

A young robin sits still amidst the tall green iris blades.  Tell-tale speckles on his rust red breast and back.  Breathing quick and shallow.  Blessedly alive though in shock.

I soundlessly kneel by the window and begin the ancient practice, trusting its promise for this fledgling sentient being.

Breathing in his incredulity. Breathing out my living yes.

In and out. Slow and steady.

I take into my heart his frozen shock.  I give out to his heart warm life energy.

Despite the solid glass that separates us, I sense a connection.  He appears to sense my prayerful presence, looking up, then finding me, looking at me.

In and out.  Slow and steady.  I direct my breath to him though the glass. Rising ever so cautiously, now through the open window.

I close my eyes.  He does, too.  I open my eyes.  He does, too.

In and out.  Slow and steady.

Head turns from side to side. Check.

Beak opens, closes. Check.

Wings flutter. Check.

Eyes focus. Check.

In and out.  Slow and steady.

And now I can’t see him, hidden under the ledge.

And now I can’t see him, having flown away.

 

Tonglen is the Tibetan word for “giving and receiving” and is the name of a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice for developing deep compassion and lessening the fear of suffering. Through this practice, we visualize receiving all the pain and suffering of another person (or other sentient being) and giving back to that person (or sentient being) all of our love, joy, well-being and peace.

The Moments I Rescue

August.  That feeling of “one long Sunday night” persists despite being away four years from a workplace governed by the rhythm of summers off, and new starts in September.  That habitual anxiety arising when one thinks of so much to do before the new season is upon us.

Apples ripen, mountain ash berries redden, cottonwoods golden, crows gather, geese honk.  Dawn that breaks now an hour later.  Dark that comes now an hour earlier.  These reliable, predictable portents.

A month or so ago I wrote about that particular morning’s fullness, holding the possibility and promise that comes with the beginning of summer.  The day before, my first “official” mentoring conversation to begin editing my collection of love letters to poets.  This morning, an utter stillness among the trees as I listen to poetry by Billy Collins, he to be included in those love letters.  Hearing “This Much I Do Remember,” I am as inexplicably, as deeply moved today as the first time I heard it.  The moment he had rescued within that poem became inspiration for my collection of moments rescued within this blog.

‘This much I do Remember’ by Billy Collins

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way that stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all of the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all of the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

What are the moments we rescue?

Four years ago, that first summer after I finished work, as an attempt to create a threshold ritual, I began reading through three decades’ worth of journals to notice and consolidate patterns and dreams into a single volume.  A decade in and a month later, I stopped, bored with my self absorption, embarrassed by my chronic complaining, pained by pages of self doubt and criticism.  On a fall full moon, I made ceremony, burned those pages, and released the stories I had told myself about flaws and shortcomings, mine and others.

With remarkable synchronicity, four years later, to the day, I resumed reading and noticing, this time bringing more compassion and curiosity to the task.  Still pages of self absorption and complaining, self doubt and criticism, but now mixed with occasional moments of gratitude, appreciation, wonder and beauty.  An occasional subtle shift in perspective from old pain to new possibility.  Even a foreshadowing of futures to be realized, like when I wrote in 2004 that I’d finish work in 2012, that I’d travel to Italy during the sabbatical seven years hence.

I still have several volumes to go and I suspect that less-than-conscious pattern will persist. But today, as I take pen to journal, I choose to be more deliberate in noticing what I notice. To more intentionally – without denial but with discernment – rescue on those pages the moments that reveal beauty, that ring good and true, and that tell a story of a life well and wholly lived and loved.

 

 

This Morning Feels Full Today

This morning feels full today, in contrast to the many mostly still and almost silent ones.  A steady breeze stirs the air, sweet and cool and heavy with moisture from yesterday’s mid afternoon thundershower.  Prayer flags strung between fence posts, then sodden, now flutter.  For a few minutes I hear birds, sparrows and chickadees chirping, crows and magpies’ hoarse and scratching, and then notice my favourite robin song is missing.  Errant males must have finally found their mates. 

This morning feels full today, with eager anticipation.  Travel plans, vacation to-dos, home care projects, restaurant and cafes to sample and savour, friends to entertain, hopefully “al fresco” in gardens now flourishing from early spring warmth and summer rain, now flush with fragrant and heady blooms. Two whole summer months of possibility and promise.

This morning feels full today, outside and in.  I finally make sense of the malaise and migraines that have weighed heavy since the first of June.  Like that first peek of sunshine, the anniversary of my own leave-taking four years ago.  Then I thought I knew my place.  Now feeling the precarious straddling on another threshold.  Then and now.  Certain and uncertain.  A new place, what and where?

This morning feels full today, though somewhat lighter, too.

Perfume of a Pink and Purple Prairie Summer Morn

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Top Notes

Cool water fragrant with thin slices of near translucent cucumber.

Tender pink of a wild rose petal.

Tiny teaspoon of lemon ice, softened for a moment by the rising sun.

Middle – Heart – Notes

One hour later, brighter, deeper into the dawn

Herbaceous green of freshly cut grass.

Spicy geranium and day lily, subtly turning their sleepy fuchsia and saffron heads to the east.

Bottom – Base – Notes

Earth damp from the sudden thunderstorm.

Dew drops warming, trailing behind an iridescent veil.

Robin, sparrow, chickadee, even crow and magpie song and call, waft across the barely-there breeze, awakening sense and presence.

Close your eyes and breathe.

Open your eyes and see.

Fallen Angel

Early Tuesday morning in the before dawn light,  I’d just made my coffee, turned on the radio to listen, as is my semi-regular practice, to The Road Home, and settled on the sofa to begin writing in my journal.

Circle of Life by Capstone

Circle of Life by Capstone

Listening to Bob weave, with song and spoken word, the morning’s theme of the Great Mandala.  Pen in hand as I scribble a snippet of lyric, “Take your place on the great mandala as it moves through this moment of time…”

Pulled from my reverie as suddenly a crash to my left. Rising to investigate, I find the paper and porcelain, peach and terracotta angel that has hung for several years suspended from the ceiling by a brass hook, giving quiet oversight, has fallen to floor, taking hook and invisible line with her. Intact except for one broken wing which can be easily and almost invisibly repaired, I begin to resume writing when I realize this inexplicable moment deserves my attention.

Stay together, friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made
of being awake.— Rumi

I think about something dream walker guide Toko-pa Turner wrote in a recent post – “Our purpose is to welcome these refugee aspects of the Self into belonging” – that impelled my reply – “Thank you for this beautiful story. Your words above struck a chord…and I immediately thought of our current global refugee crisis being the macro manifestation of the consequence of our micro, individual repression of the refugee aspects of Self.”

Bringing light and life to shadow.  Bringing our refugee aspects home.

Fallen angel.  Banished from Heaven.  Lucifer, the angel fallen from grace.  The angel crashed to the floor in my living room.   This is what she brought me:

Fallen angel with a broken wing.

Aren’t we all like her?

Aren’t we all stardust from Heaven (whatever that means for any of us?)

Suddenly arriving.

Stepping onto the stage of life, into a play mid-way,

not sure of our lines or the other players.

 

Oh, glorious sweet thing, ashamed and hiding the wound, the broken wing.

When can’t you see we’re all the same

Fallen angels

Earnestly trying

To fly our way home.

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Watching a Full Life Come Full Circle

Circle-of-Life-635x476A few decades ago, once a month for a week for a few years, I’d pack my bag, drive up the road to the Nechi Institute: Centre of Indigenous Learning and co-teach modules for their Advanced Counsellor Training program.  Sometimes I’d be paired with the same staff trainer, making the dance of co-teaching more fluid with time.  On other occasions, when those trainers were taking Nechi’s programs to other parts of Canada and beyond, I’d be partnered with guest faculty.  Always a rich learning experience taking me to my edges as I immersed in First Nations-Metis culture and came face to face with anxiety, prejudice and racism – mine, theirs, ours.  I remember particularly the week I worked with Vera, an Eastern Cree medicine woman.

We were studying individual and families.  Drawing from my clinical social work training, my role was to give theoretical credibility to the curricula, introducing established clinical frames.  I looked to my co-teachers and students for help to contextualize this into indigenous worldview.  In this case, Vera helped us see how a life fully lived comes full circle: that we leave the world much as we came into it, small and frail, with the characteristics of an infant, depending on others for life.

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A few weeks ago, The Scientist and I made the trip “home” to visit our families, to celebrate my father’s 85th birthday, to spend time with his parents.  Both in their nineties, in January they made the overnight move from the house they purchased after emigrating from Germany in the mid 1950’s, into a retirement-care facility to support his father’s declining health.  A farm mechanic who finally applied his trade as after serving in WW II and being taken prisoner of war – “came home no longer a boy, but a man who I fell in love with,” blushes his wife – Dad still received calls for help from the Niagara farmers well into his eighties. Two summers ago, still vibrant with a strong embrace and hearty laugh.  Now, small and frail, using a walker, eating pureed food.  When not sleeping, looking around with wide-eyed curiosity, yet less and less present to in-the-moment conversations.  One foot in this world and the other in the next.

As I bent to kiss him good-bye on the cheek, I thought of Vera’s lesson and saw the truth of it in my father-in-law, a man who now was becoming more child-like in appearance and disposition.

As we drove to the airport to make our return home debriefing the highs and lows of our visit, The Scientist said he heard his father quietly say in a moment of crystal clarity, with his family bustling around as he sat at the kitchen table,  “I’m happy.”

The simple, sweet statement of what has always given him joy.

For Old Age

May the light of your soul mind you.

May all your worry and anxiousness about your age

Be transfigured.

May you be given wisdom for the eyes of your soul

To see this as a time of gracious harvesting.

May you have the passion to heal what has hurt you,

And allow it to come closer and become one with you.

May you have great dignity,

Sense how free you are:

Above all, may you be given the wonderful gift

Of meeting the eternal light that is within you.

May you be blessed;

And may you find a wonderful love

In your self for your self.

John O’Donohue

 

Self Portrait Emerging

This year I began writing about my current threshold, transitioning from a career to creative oriented life, another of life’s letting go to let come.  A few posts ago, I framed it as the shift from ambition to meaning, and shared some internal signposts that pointed the direction to this new path.

Since then I’ve gotten a good bill of heart health.  And while my crown and bite are still off a bit (the metaphor isn’t lost), I’m optimistic this will resolve in right time.  I’m feeling rested, waking with sweet anticipation for the day like I did those mornings when I lived in Germany for three months, five years ago. I’ve taken up with a flamenco teacher whose “deconstructed” approach to this complex dance form fits better now at this point in my practice.  I celebrated my echoing day in this new eldering decade.  And to celebrate a dear friend’s new decade, I finally found the way into creating the artwork for a story she had written a few years back.  Ta Da…I finished and sent in for a first draft read my collection of love letters to poets.  Right now, I’m participating in a global online dream walker’s course, reviving a practice I know bears fruit, and a couple of weeks ago I attended a most lovely workshop on poetry and photography hosted by local writer-poet, Shawna Lemay.

During the winter interim after registering for BeComing, I read some of Shawna’s work,   her novel, Rumi and the Red Hand Bag (an alluring title with a deep fondness for both) and her latest collection of poetry, Asking.  There, she introduced me to the “poem-essay,” a form  that totally synchs with my way of thinking and writing.  And not a page turned without feeling a quickening of recognition, a jolt to my senses that here is another who is kindred.  When during the workshop, I wrote and recited my quick reflection to her prompt Wabi Sabi, she looked across the room in recognition.  Sources of appreciation and inspiration discovered.  We draw from the same well.  Again the evidence of an earlier realization: everything I need for a life well-lived lies in my own backyard.

Now, a couple of months later, a new invitation to consider this person I am becoming, in response to taking self portraits to see what is evoked, to dreaming images of light and shadow:

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Who is this person I am becoming?

Feet that carry me along the path

Made only by its walking to

God. Knows. Where.

 

It’s been said that by looking at one’s shadow

We come to see the face

We are before

We. Are. Born.

 

A spider crawls upon my hand

To write a web of possibility

To catch a moment of illumination.

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(Not a poem essay, instead a form borrowed from Alice Walker in her collection, Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth.)