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.

 

Walking to Los Marines

Tuesday, September 5, 2017: a small village of three hundred or so residents located in the Sierra de Aracena within the Sierra Morena mountain range in Andalucia

Crushed leaves of lemon verbena mix with my palms’ sweat, releasing a clean, fresh scent.

Breathing heavy.  Heart beating.

It’s warm nearing hot in these Andalucian hills.

 

We seven star sisters hiked up a creek bed, bone dry and cracked from the heat of a “Lucifero” summer.

Over my shoulder, in the distance, Finca Buenvino glows pink and turquoise in the light shot with sunshine, sparkling with dust motes.

A chirp of birdsong over here.  A roll of truck tires over there.

Pens scratching in little red jot books as we each capture a mindful moment, noticing the beauty of this fine Spanish morning.

 

Finally, a deeper sense of relaxation, a letting go from disappointment and dismay.

Clarity earned from mining deep.

Wise action discerned and taken.

Inner harmony restored.

Presence.

 

The bell tolls.

 

Another From the Little Red Jot Book

Sunday, September 3, 2017: at the old pool in the woods of Finca Buenvino, Spain

Ambling along the wooded path, morning sun dapples.

Gentle veer to the left and a slight decline reveals an old, maybe even ancient, archway.

A threshold into invited imagination.

Broken amphora and tree limbs.

The small square abandoned pool, its once white marble stones now stained from cork and chestnut leaves long dead and decayed.  Its once crystal waters, now dark and stagnant.

What story evoked, mystery imagined here?

She pushes the lattice gate, patina green with age, and enters a space out of time, out of place.  Another era.  Another life.

Walls made of stone and stucco.  Moss fans like sea coral across the surface.

A pool.  Square.  Its surface thick with algae.

Amphora cracked and gaping like a heart that never healed.

She remembers.

A little boy lost.

Following his dog, together running, leaping, caught in a moment of sunshine, lost in the reverie of play.

His mother calls, calls, calls. No reply.

Hot, tired and bitten by honey bees, he follows his dog who, smelling the fresh spring water and overcome by instinct, leaps into the pool below. 

Making his way down the slope, now at the pool’s edge, he wavers.  So hot.  So thirsty.  Overcomes the caution of his mother’s warning.

Splashes. Flounders. Grabs hold of the dog who wiggles out and away.

Kneeling by the edge she peers into the dank and murky depths, mesmerized by memory.

Searching.  Finding.

Lost.  Found.

One From the Little Red Jot Book

Sunday, September 3, 2017: a morning walk on the lands of Finca Buenvino, Spain

The first apple, Eve’s temptation, this golden green orb of bliss.

Quince it’s called today, and many speculate this was the original harbinger of the original sin.

 

“I feel like I’m being taken care of…I didn’t expect that,” she says,

somewhat bewildered,

somewhat bemused,

her words landing softly

so as not to disturb this morning gift of remote stillness,

so different from her hustle-about urban life.

 

It’s what women do so well.

Let our hearts be broken open by love and by care.

By beauty.

Like this walnut, fresh picked from the tree.

This fig warm and honey sweet and sticky.

Juicy like Spanish love on a late summer day.

 

I have arrived, walking now with seven sisters.

Echoes of the Pleiades, that constellation of stars in a black blanket sky.

 

I am here, amidst birdsong and warm breeze.

The song of cicadas and buzzing bees.

 

Even the family’s truffle coloured pup is filled with curiosity.

What now?  Where next?