Hyacinth

Your heady perfume fills our home with spring.

Last week, emboldened by March’s arrival, I put into storage several of winter’s coats and toques and boots. I swooned in the late afternoon glow and humid heat of the local greenhouse, its intoxicating aroma of forced spring bulbs – daffodil, crocus, hyacinth.  A subtle pastiche of pastel yellow, pink and purple blossoms, green leaves and stems.

I purchased you, pale purple, already in bloom and full of scent, with two buds hidden like wings tucked tight along your spine. Spring inside if not out, as the next day, another day of snowfall warnings, and frigid temperatures. This in the aftermath of the coldest February in forty years.

But the sun shines higher, stronger now.  And we’ve just begun to reorient our internal clocks to the annual changeover to daylight savings time.

Now you grow visibly by the hour. Miraculous how so much colour, texture, fragrance – how so much life is stored in that small bulb buried in the loamy pot of earth. 

Now you’re leaning over, heavy with promise that, like your ancient mythological namesake, prophesies the coming of spring. Despite a prairie’s caprice.

Wisdom From Dream Time

p1050683I’m sitting in a café, at a small square table for four, with my husband beside me. We’re considering what to order, involved in simple, pleasant conversation. I notice you taking a seat against the wall, at a rectangular table across from us, set for six, with a woman friend sitting beside you. You’ve turned in your seat, and now face me. We recognize each other, so I excuse myself to approach you, to say hello and we embrace each other. I feel a stiff brace on your back, under your clothes, and register concern as I know your health can be unsteady, that you can suffer greatly from a chronic condition. I introduce you to my husband, giving context that I attended one of your retreats. You say yes, three-four years ago, and I quietly correct, this past year, though silently realize, given I’d held intention to attend for several years, how easy to understand all is true.  After a few more words, I wish you well and return to my table to dine with my husband. 

I ponder this dream, register its mood and energy. I think about my time at that retreat, what I learned and brought home. I lightly hold in my palm like a prayer stone, considering me as each dream character, then each as who they are to me. These words come to mind, through my pen, onto the page of my morning journal.

A kind gesture.

A warm embrace.

An acknowledgement

of what and who, a teacher who guided, whose gifts served.

A simple hello.  A simple goodbye.

Now to claim of one’s own gifts.

Now to stand in one’s own spiritual authority.

Feasting with my beloved at the table of our abundance.

Now to nourish the seeds of my own sacred marriage, my own inner teacher.

Now to let blossom my own inner wisdom.

This dream and its medicine revealed, the fruit.

Fiercely Tender Moments

It’s been a season full of travel.  A flight a month since August. Settle into a breath and some. Focus on my work companioning leaders. Tend to home and heart. Then shift back to preparing and packing. One more to go, in mid-December, and then to sink and surrender into the gifts of winter’s cold and darkness.

Already the anticipation of immersing myself in the making of photo books from two remarkable journeys. Slow dinners of roasted roots and braised meats, best with our favourite fulsome reds, cellared especially for now. Wool and down, fleece and flannel, coats and sweaters, hats and scarves, boots and gloves, took over closets and beds on Labour Day, a month early, but prescient given snow that came well before summer went. Though underneath, until recently, the still vibrant and beauty of autumn. This is the wisdom medicine of such early snows, trusting the hidden beauty remains.

P1040136One of these flights included a trip to Saltspring Island, BC. In October the stars and my schedule finally aligned to attend an annual dream retreat hosted by Toko-pa Turner. I’d been intent to sit in this circle, to learn and practice more deeply the artistry of dreamwork, as a facet of my life work of attending to the inner life to live and lead with kindness, clarity and wisdom.  For three days, this multicultural, multi-generational circle of thirty women feasted on the harvest of our night-time dreams, and the meals lovingly prepared from the organic gardens of Stowel Lake Farm, an intentional community and wellness centre.

Pespectives with Panache, 2018Invited to bring a talisman for the dream altar, and for introductions, my initial choice of a small ceramic evoking Sedna of the deep waters was impulsively over-ridden by Athena, the Wisdom, Warrioress and Writer.  A gift from beloved friends and mentors, with whom a year earlier I was initiate in how to be, witness, and serve in shadowed and breaking times, in a complex circle of chaos and conflict.

She served me well, that statue forged in her Greek homeland, reminding me of tender fierceness and  fierce tenderness. Qualities to embrace and embody. Needed now. Placed on the altar’s corner, she became a presence of “unselfconscious majesty” reminding me of who we each truly are. Need to be. Now. For the duration, she became witness to our sacred dreams spoken in silence, written in words, sang and danced in sunshine and moonglow.

During our final morning, as homage this circle, these women, our dreams, and to what Toko-pa called our “Holy Helpers,” I quietly noticed and wrote, and then offered to the centre as farewell

Fiercely Tender Moments

One sits under the portico. Eyes closed.

Soft breath attuned to soft falling rain.

A colourful blanket wrapped about her shoulders,

keeping her safe and warm in the early morning cool.

 

Another sits writing down her dreams.

Her turquoise heart gift glows with appreciation for a new-found friend.

I can see her as her twenty-year old self. Imagine a long-haired hippy…strong, tall Scandinavian beauty.

 

Noiselessly shuffling tarot cards.

Clunky wooden bracelets a contrast to her long, elegant, gold ringed fingers.

A grace, a beauty that is remarkable, enthralling even.

 

One, then another, and another circle around the dream altar.

Honey scented candles softly illuminate these simple riches.

Taking in, reverently touching. Bowing before soul-filled symbols. Talismans of thresholds.

What is teacher? Healer? Warrioress? How do they feed and inspire my own visionary?

 

Heads bent over journals.

Pens softly scribing night time dreams, day time visions.

Intentions. Reflections.

 

A pause…

Hot creamy coffee sipped.

Buttered toast tasted.

 

Thick rain pouring steadily down, muting the vibrancy of this autumn morning glory.

Kitchen clatter reminds us of home soon to come.

 

Across the room a smile of morning greeting.

Closer still, a touch, an embrace.

Still the sacred silence honoured.

 

We are power in the heart.

Sweet honey in the rock.

PS – This is my first post since I “freshened up” my website. It’d been a few years and was time to refine the focus. Take a look and let me know what you think. Thanks and kindest regards.

Still True a Year Later

You and Annie come home today.

Annie, who now has a waist, you say,

who’ll be even more persistent in her call for supper,

given the habits she’s learned from the other kids with fur at summer camp!

I’ve made you a pot of beef ‘n barley soup to fill you when I’m away.

I’ve laid out Annie’s food mat and bowl of water to welcome her home.

Annie at Dog Camp

So much water under the bridge since I last wrote you…

We got the news we prayed for: my membership in the 30% club.

Drank a bottle of amarone with a friend to celebrate.

Gratitude and relief deep as its taste as red as my blood.

Now, how easily I’m moved to tears.

An item in the news.

A sunrise.  The birds gathering to fly to their winter home.

The green now golden glow of trees and grass in our backyard, my healing summer sanctuary.

A love song reminding me of you.

Roses at the End of Time

Winding down to the end of the line
And the falling of the curtain
I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine
Of that one truth I’m certain
I will give you roses fair
For every secret you did share
For all your words that flowed like wine
Roses at the end of time

Tonight I bless the hands of fate
That brought you to my doorway
Weary, worn and worth the wait
So willing to explore me
One rose for every vow you kept
One for every tear you wept
For all the moments you were kind
Roses at the end of time

One rose for every dream you dared
One for every wrong repaired
For all that bound your heart to mine
Roses at the end of time
Roses…

Eliza Gilkyson

Last Load of Laundry

In my right ear, the grinding of my neigbour’s lawnmower, slicing blades of grass, chomping on crab apples knocked out during yesterday’s wind. I catch a whiff of their cider sweetness and wonder how the wasps are faring.

In my left ear, the other neighbor’s chainsaw, chewing through remnants of summer renovations projects, this one a new wooden fence. Lumber ends and slats feed the fire pit. Snap. Crackle. Pop.

Behind me, the spinning of the washing machine.  A load of whites to be hung outside in the finally warm enough, sunny enough day. But the sun sure is sitting a lot lower in this early September afternoon sky.

So much for a sabbath day of rest.  Not to be on a Labor Day long weekend, last one of the summer.

A delicate white butterfly passes by.  The sun feels warm on my face.

Grass is cut, smooth and even. Lawnmower returned to the blue grey shed.

Fire still crackling.

Last load of laundry pegged and hung, swaying in the breeze.

Another white butterfly floats by.  Sun even warmer now.  I have to squint to write.

I rest.

Day’s labor done.

Perspectives with Panache, 2018

What Are the Necessary Structures in Your Life?

It’s 6:30 am.  I’m on Whidbey Island attending the board retreat for The Circle Way. I arrived a few days early to circle up with and settle into my island friendships.

Stories of inspired travels and its lessons gleaned invited in to send off dear friends on what we each know will be one of life’s momentous journeys.

Kitchen tips about good cookware and the uses of oils passed on as we prepped for our communal stir fry.

Beach walking and eagle gazing.

Seashell and stone gathering. I settled on a hefty, smooth and flat stone that fits between, as if made for my palms, notched to hold my thumbs, the perfect prayer stone.

Breathing in the sounds and colours of a spring yet to bloom at home – robins singing, golden forsythia and daffodils, pink plum and white apple blossoms, coral and indigo hyacinth, red tulips, green grass. The rain-soaked ground smells as good as the morning’s fresh brewed coffee. Even this signature Pacific Northwest sodden grey backdrop holds appeal as a contrast to the vividly awakening palette.

_________________

A late night chat with a friend over a dram of local single malt watered my languishing inner writer. “How’s the writing coming?” he inquired with a genuine need to know, we, having shared during past meetings our curiosity with and commitment to this craft. I admitted to not having written for several months. Revealed to having fallen into the half empty glass of doubt despite hearing, from a trusted and established writer friend, how delightful, fresh and worthy of continued effort my initial foray. Disappointed as my naïve hope that I was almost finished with this first manuscript was a just beginning. Full of excuses and explanations none of which I shared, knowing none of which held substance.

“Just write,” I knew deep inside to be the only way out of the confines of the glass and into creativity’s life-giving stream.

And so, after hearing my friend share for the second time in as many days, the value for him of writing four days a week, every week, to putting into words what he notices as his offering to the world, his recognition that it is a practice that helps him feel good, my inner writer woke me this morning at 5:30 to write.

_________________

As a board, we work in circle, and start every retreat, after our first dinner, with a fulsome check-in. We each received a post card created by photographer Carla Kimbell from her Revealed Presence collection to focus our reflection and words. Mine was a summer photo of farm buildings – grain silos, an iconic red wooden, tin roofed barn and a Quonset – easy to imagine seeing anywhere a few miles away from my home on the Canadian prairies. Titled Layers of Curves on a Farm, it posed the question, “What are the necessary structures in your life?”

An invitation to notice.

A resurrected commitment to write.

Romeria Reina de Los Angeles

(The bitter cold and darker days of late December were the ideal time for me hunker down and create my photo journal of my time in Spain.  Here is the final story of my time at Finco Buenvino and the writing retreat.)

September 8 marks the annual pilgrimage of the Andalusian villages of the Sierras, including Sevilla, of their patron saint, La Reina de los Angeles, to the hermitage site at the Pena de Arias Montano.

The Virgin Mary of each village, ensconced in her cart of local colours, is led by festooned bullock up and down dirt roads and paved highways to converge at the gates and be formally welcomed with staff and banner into the festival grounds.  The procession continues up the hill to the church where she is paraded in front of the Queen of the Angels.  When all the villages have arrived, been blessed by the priest, docked their carts and tethered their horses and bullock, the Queen leaves her cloistered seclusion, and is solemnly led through crowds fervent with passion, heat and drink, to the sound of cheers and pealing bells.

This was an invitation to step alongside and sink beneath the surface of Andalusian life.

P1000468With shawls wrapped tight against the predawn chill, we huddled in the van taking us to Fuenteheridos, the village we’d join for this rite.  Fortified by cafe con leche, toast, cheese and jambon in the crowded local bar, we gathered in the main square along side stately riders in gaucho, girls and women in flamenco, drummers, and the red and white flowered cart holding the guilt Virgin.

A slow pace ensued, and shortly after leaving the town, we made a pit stop at the roadside tent to purchase shots of the local home brew, a curious taste of cherry and anisette.  The first sip warmed, the second, sickly sweet warned of headache and thirst as the day warmed and was soon abandoned or given over to those hardy imbibing at seven in the morning!

P1000599A rest stop at the highpoint overlooking the valley and its villages afforded time for a dance and family photos and flirting.

Another stop at the hairpin curve in the road, and flamenco spontaneously filled the air with music, dance, colour and laughter. Every woman regardless of age joined in dance.  Ahhh, this was duende!

Once arrived, the carts parked, horses and bullocks watered, village folk congregated in their designated areas to share song, story and food.  We rested among the trees, on ground baked hard and hollow from the summer heat and observed groups of virile young hombres strut back and forth across the grounds, catching the kohl-lined eyes of the vivacious senoritas.

Languorously, I imagined days gone by, before easy and accessible transportation and communication, when such gatherings, though religious in nature, were a necessary means for village survival, as mates would be found, stories and harvest shared, wisdom gleaned.  For me, an obvious tourist, an occasion to sit amidst community and appreciate.

A Blessing for the HolyDays

May this Holyday season bring time to cherish all that is good and true and beautiful.

May its dark days invite rest for reflection and renewal.

May nature welcome you to its beauty, magic and wisdom.

May good health be your companion, relationships enliven and encourage,

work and pastimes fulfill and affirm.

May strength in body, mind and spirit allow you to embrace life’s uncertainties.

May patience, love and kindness – given and received – be yours in abundance.

(Inspired by John O’Donohue)

Seven Star Sisters

Seven star sisters, each a Venus shining in the eastern morning sky.

 

Skin glows like moonbeams in the cloistered light of the hammam

Soft flesh – thighs, breasts and bellies

Hair loosened, free across forehead, neck and shoulder

Eyes half closed

Surrender.

 

Soaking in the warm and cool

pools of sensuous, history and story, ancient rituals

Tender dreams swirl up and through like the sandalwood incense wafting, scenting, sensing.

 

Exotic music out of time and place

Echoes of flamenco before it came to be

Imagining the route taken before making home in these Andalucian hills.

 

Hot honeyed tea, fresh with mint

a balm of generosity

Dates picked fresh

soft and warm and sweet as this moment.

 

Seven sister stars mindlessly float from hot to cool to hot again

Submerged in an elemental expanse of sky, of water

Footsteps languid on smooth clay floors

Two by two, give ourselves over to firm fingers, strong hands, primal stones.

 

Body aches and heart hurts

Monkey mind of spinning thought and worry

Give way to spacious possibility and healing hope

Up the spine.  Down the leg.

 

Tracing steps.

Following routes.

Coming home.

 

 

Linares de la Sierra

Thursday, September 7, 2017 – another small village in the Andalucian hills, Linares de la Sierra held some exquisite surprises!

Another morning walk through the chestnut and olive forests.  Foot paths cross highways.  Pass garden, wooden bench, abandoned stucco and oleandered home. Silent except for shoe and sandal on stone and soil, dry leaves crunching under foot.  Vistas of verdant green and golden grasses.

Silent still as we enter the lower village and are met by a grandmother at fountain, hand drawing water to her granddaughter’s mouth.  The fountain brings spring water to the village and feeds the communal “lavadero” – laundry basins – slightly downhill.

We make our way up cobblestone streets to the local bar for an early breakfast of toast and tomato, slices of jambon.  “Cafe con leche” and fantas, or my regular “coppa de manzanilla,” that refreshing dry sherry that cuts the oil and saltiness of local tapas.  Time to pass, to enjoy the vistas inside and out, red tiled roofs cascading across white stucco and green hillside, families and neighbors sharing gossip and food.

Meandering alone, I encountered a wagon decorated with white and purple paper flowers for tomorrow’s pilgrimage, the Romeria of La Reina de los Angeles, the Sierra Aracena region’s annual homage to its patron saint.  (We will rise very early to travel by car to the village of Higera de la Sierra to walk the route with its townsfolk, joining hundreds who pay tribute.)  Later, I peek into the 18th century church to see the cart, to be driven by oxen oiled and decorated, being washed and regally adorned, ready to bear the village’s icon.

The old bullring, now a sun-baked patio for tavernas, its white walls festooned with colourful murals made by local school children…the local potter selling her vibrant wares…and secretly tucked down a shady, narrow street, the Michelin recommended restaurant, Meson Arrieros.  Oh, to have accepted the owner’s kind invitation, that despite being closed, she’d welcome us to a lunch of gazpacho!  No substitute, but a photo or two would have to suffice, the downside of group travel and established itineraries!

The upside, however, was our visit to the Hammam La Molinilla, where we bathed and soaked in cool and hot pools, spending several hours in the still splendor of our small group’s cloistered company.  Occasionally pausing for mint tea in the sunny patio, or the tenderly administered massage to legs taut from daily hiking, or backs relieved of the weight of daily urban life.  Another gem of surprise, hidden away down the alley, past debris, around the corner, though the slightly open door.